I Am (Again) Savaged by Sabbath Legalists!

Under Assault From Sabbatarians - But I Get Used To It!

The Meaning of Hebrews 4:9...

Hebrews 4:9 is not always adequately translated into English. It should read thus:

'There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.' (NKJV).


'There remains, therefore, a Sabbath rest for the people of God to keep.' (ISV),

is confusing and well short of being the ideal translation. For instance, nothing in the original Greek justifies the use of the word 'keep.'

This verse of Hebrews 4:9 is not talking about 'keeping' the Sabbath day at all, it is discussing the real meaning of the Sabbath. A few Sabbatarian zealots (such as Herbert W. Armstrong) seized on this because nowhere else does the New Testament advise Christians to keep the Sabbath. Unfortunately (for Sabbatarians, that is), not a single word in the theological New Testament epistles can be employed as a command for Christian Sabbath observance, so maybe there is some sense of desparation when this verse is used, or abused, in such a manner. Okay, let us look at this:

In his consideration of this verse the late Herbert W. Armstrong claimed that it is interesting that the writer, in considering the subject of 'rest' (Hebrews 3:11-4:11), suddenly, in verse 9, switches from the use of the Greek word 'katapausen' (rest) to the use of 'sabbatismos.' Armstrong claimed that 'sabbatismos' was a reference to the weekly sabbath day and, therefore, Christians should still be keeping the sabbath day. Sadly, he was just plain wrong. Truthfully, neither Armstrong nor the writers he used were really conversant with New Testament Greek. So this assertion is just plain wrong!

In fact, the Greek word which refers to the sabbath is 'sabbaton' (word 4521 in Strongs). 'sabbatizmo' refers to sabbath-keeping. However, 'sabbatismos,' (as used here), is not a grammatical variation. The closest meaning is a 'sabbatism,' 'a rest,' or - in ultimate meaning - 'the repose of Christianity.' Here the writer is getting at the true and ultimate meaning of the sabbath and is unconcerned about specific days.

Why does the writer of Hebrews suddenly switch to this word? Simply because while earlier writing of the 'rest' which Christians must enter into through Christ, with earlier references already made to both the sabbath and the promised land as types of this true rest (verses 4,8,10) now the writer becomes more specific with a play on the word 'sabbath.' He uses the concept of a 'sabbatism.' He is stating that an eternal 'sabbatism' awaits Christians in Heaven and in the Eternal State.

Interestingly, the expression, 'the seventh day' (Gk: 'hemeron hebdomen') already occurs in this section (Hebrews 4:4), here is a reference to the literal seventh day and if the writer of Hebrews is suggesting that all must continue to assemble for worship on that specific day it seems highly likely that he would have made this clear by using this very same expression again. But, on the contrary, the writer spiritualizes the meaning of the sabbath, introducing the concept of an eternal 'sabbatism.' We find our true rest in Christ alone (Matthew 11:28-30). So Hebrews 4:9, far from being a plea for Christians to assemble on the seventh day, goes beyond any such approach and refers to the final Eternal State of rest in Christ which all Christians should aspire to. This understanding of the spiritualizing of the sabbath in Hebrews 4:9 into its true and ultimate meaning (the rest and repose of Christ and eternal rest in Heaven) is supported by most of the major Bible commentators.

16. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17; NIV).

Robin A. Brace. April 14th, 2016.

The Seven Noahic Laws

(Sometimes called 'Noahide Laws')

These laws are touched upon in the early chapters of Genesis. They preceded the Ten Commandments and are for all peoples, rather than primarily Israel. They are based on oral traditions as well as on the scriptural exegesis of Genesis 2:16 and Genesis 9:4-6. The seven laws (commonly rendered as 'Sheva Mitzvot Shel Bnei Noach' in Hebrew) are:
1. Do not deny God.
2. Do not blaspheme God.
3. Do not murder.
4. Do not engage in incest, adultery, pederasty, or bestiality, as well as homosexual relations.
5. Do not steal.
6. Do not eat of a live animal. Ensure all blood is drained of a slaughtered animal.
7. Do establish courts and a legal system to ensure law and obedience.

These laws are for all mankind. But do converted Christians stand under these laws? No, we are under a higher law, the Law of Christ, which goes beyond any concept of a few numbered points. The Talmud states: "Righteous people of all nations have a share in the world to come" (Sanhedrin 105a). Any non-Jew who lives according to these laws is regarded as one of "the righteous among the gentiles." Maimonides writes that this refers to those who have acquired knowledge of God and act in accordance with the Noahide Laws out of obedience to God. According to the Talmud, the Noahide Laws apply to all humanity through humankind's descent from one paternal ancestor who in Hebrew tradition is called Noah (the head of the only family to survive during the flood). In Judaism, B'nei Noah (Hebrew, "Descendants of Noah" or "Children of Noah") refers to all of mankind.

Robin A. Brace. April 16th-21st, 2016.

M y article of last month on needing to be aware of the failings in Christian understanding of the 'Jewish Roots' movement (sometimes called the 'Hebrew Roots Movement'), brought a sadly predictable response of outrage from some seventh-day Sabbatarians. I am really sorry when I offend anyone at all but I can't pretend, nor cover up what I believe to be the truth. It is not as though I have not studied this matter at depth in the past. As many of you will know, in the distant past, I myself was, of course, a seventh-day Sabbatarian, only turning away from it after studying the matter at depth and also having personally witnessed the terrible hypocrisy and judgementalism which so often are part and parcel of the whole thing. Yet some - still too many - affectionately continue to cling on to the approach (although compared with the entirety of the Christian world they are a very tiny grouping).

Look, people can worship God on any day they choose, or every day for that matter. My problem with 'seventh-dayers' is the anger and venom they feel towards any who disagree with them. They put themselves into a superior class of believers, more than that: they identify true believers according to their preferred day of assembly; their 'first love' is the sabbath and they tag Jesus on to that, whereas Jesus should be at the centre of everything.

Seventh-Day people are often heard to say things like, "You can tell that he was a true Christian because he never stopped keeping the Sabbath." I used to hear such things spoken frequently, moreover - horror of horrors - I probably once said such things myself! Seventh-day people just don't seem to know how absurd such a comment will sound to other Christians. They will, for example, rarely be heard to say something like, "He was a true Christian because he continually gave to the needy. He was committed to helping all." Oh no, for them "true Christianity" is measured by Sabbath observance.

Before putting this topic to bed for the present, here are just a few 'if they are right...' points:

* If they are right, Jesus should have commended the Pharisees and Scribes for their superb Sabbath observance. Ever notice that He didn't?

* If they are right, the Jerusalem Conference of circa AD50 should have come to different conclusions. The reader may remember that this conference was called in order to decide which laws (if any) those Gentiles who were coming to Christ should be made aware of - the Sabbath does not even get a mention! Read that last statement again: the Sabbath does not even get a mention! You think I am wrong? Then read Acts 15 for yourself!

* Again, if they are right, why did the pre-old covenant 'laws of Noah' (which were intended for the entire world, not just one nation) not contain a Sabbath command? These laws are touched upon in Genesis 9 and may be found in Jubilees 7:20,28-32. The Jews have also kept a record of these laws in Talmud Sanhedrin 56a. These laws are based upon oral traditions as well as a scriptural exegesis of Genesis 2:16 and Genesis 9:4-6. Judaism has willingly admitted that these laws contained no sabbath command (see my second inset article across the page from this). These are the laws which Abraham had obeyed dilligently in his day (Genesis 26:4-5). Much later the old covenant which was ratified at Mount Sinai - an agreement between and the Lord and the people of Israel - did contain a Sabbath command. The old covenant sabbath, it seems, was for Israel and for any peoples who went to live among them but did not apply to other nations.

* Again, if they are right, how on earth could Paul the Apostle have written this: 'One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.' (Romans 14:5). It seems that, for Paul, nothing is unclean of itself, neither is any day more holy than any other (read the whole of that chapter for more information). But could Paul have written in such a manner if hard-line sabbatarians are correct? Hardly! Let us remember that Paul also wrote this:

16. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17).

Okay, to conclude about three final points.

Poor, Patchy and Selective Bible Understanding and Balance

Let's briefly consider Hebrews. The Book of Hebrews was written in order to explain to Jewish Christians that it was time for them to put the matters of the old covenant behind and to place their full trust and confidence in Christ. It includes quite a long section showing how the Sabbath is fulfilled in the work of Christ and in the promise of Heaven (Hebrews 3:11-4:11). See my inset article on this!

Seventh-day Sabbatarians will keep coming back with comments like "The sabbath must still be in effect, look how many times it gets mentioned in the Old Testament!" I might then say, "Do you want to live under the old covenant or the New Covenant? If it is the old, you do not have Christ; you are relying on the law to save you - even though the Bible is clear that the law cannot save you - Christ is needed for that." I'm afraid it sadly demonstrates the old saying, 'you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.'

I really want to help these hard-line Sabbatarians and, by the grace of God, I believe that I have helped a few, but far from all. Another of their great failings is that - due to poor teaching - they have never read the New Testament right the way through; their primary area of Bible knowledge is the Old Testament, some of them are real experts on parts of that. For the New Testament, they can quote certain Scriptures (which appear to fit in with their teaching), but they don't know whole chapters or books like the back of their hands, so they never get the full teaching. I, like many Christians, have read books like Romans, Galatians, 1 Corinthians and Ephesians right the way through many times, so have many of you, but most of these people have not and appear to have no wish to do so. Again, this is due to the poor and unbalanced teaching they have experienced.

Being 'Emotionally-Wedded' to the Sabbath is a Bad Thing

Many Sabbatarians also seem unable to separate a warm, cosy and emotional attachment to some idea or concept from careful and unprejudiced Bible study. They feel 'emotionally-wedded' to the Sabbath, they seem to look upon the Sabbath as their 'first love.' About two years ago one Sabbatarian actually accused me of leaving my "first love," of course he meant the seventh day Sabbath. I tell them that their 'first love' should be Jesus Christ and none other. They are, of course, also highly suspicious of Paul the Apostle since he made many comments which they feel very uneasy about, nor does he ever write something like, "...above all, you must all take care to continue to keep the Sabbath at all costs." Nope, it is just not there. In fact, it has been said that the fourth commandment (sabbath observation for the people of Israel), is the only one of the ten that is never found in the New Testament; all the others appear in some form or other. No, we should not be emotionally-attached to the Sabbath, but to Christ alone.

Is the Sabbath the "Sign" - or "Seal" - of Christians?

Some Sabbatarians have claimed that the seventh-day Sabbath is the 'Seal of God.' But the Seal of God is certainly not the Sabbath. The Bible tells us clearly that the 'Seal of God' is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 says,

"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory."

Ephesians 4:30 warns,

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

Moreover, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 states,

"Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge."

Could that be any clearer? Again, the sabbath gets no mention here. It is not the 'seal' of the Church of Jesus Christ. Now the Sabbath was certainly one of the signs, or identifiers, of physical Israel and - to a degree - still is. Of that, there is no question. But wait: is there some other more physical or outward 'sign' by which Christians can be identified? Is it the Sabbath?

No, it is primarily the very name of Christ which we take, uphold, and disseminate:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14).

Christians are known, and always have been known and identified, by their identification with the Name of Christ and their insistence that understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the first step to solving the problems of this world. This is why we are called "Christians." But Jesus also gave another very physical way in which we would tend to be be noted:

34. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35).

Robin A. Brace. April 15th, 2016.

See Also: Book Review: The Sabbath Complete


(A complete yet concise exposition of Revelation, chapter 20)