You Are Not Under Law: The Sabbath
Yesterday I taught our congregation that the phrase “not under law” in Romans 6:14 means not only that we are not under the condemnation of the law, but also that we are not under the commandments of the law of Moses.
While many Reformed people say that the ceremonial law is abrogated but that the moral law of Moses is still binding on Christians, I believe that the biblical way of saying it is that we are not under the law of Moses, but under the law of Christ.
One of the strongest evidences in favor of my view is the way the New Testament deals with the fourth commandment. The other nine of the ten commandments are reasserted in the New Testament. But of the Sabbath Paul says, “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” (Col 2.16) And in Romans 14:5 he says, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”
How could Paul say these things if he believed that we were still under the binding authority of the Ten Commandments?
Some would argue that the fourth commandment is a part of the ceremonial law, but that just shows just how artificial this moral/ceremonial distinction can be.
Most Reformed folk would not say that the fourth commandment is ceremonial, and so they have to find some other way to explain Col 2:16 and Rom 14:5 so that they can say that we are still under the law of the Sabbath. And then all the shouting starts about whether you can go shopping or watch football on Sunday. Or maybe we even got the day wrong! It should probably be Saturday because Moses said the seventh day and we can’t relax even the least jot or tittle, right? But since NCAA football is so much more exciting than the NFL, we should definitely keep doing church on Sunday.
All this silliness is eschewed in my view. We’re not under the law of Moses, not even under the Ten Commandments. We’re under the law of Christ.
But I still love to keep the Sabbath holy. That doesn’t mean I worry about how many sticks I gather on Sunday, but it does mean that as I have sought to be obedient to Christ, serving in the new way of the Spirit, I have meditated on the teachings about the Sabbath in the law of Moses (and elsewhere in the OT) and have discovered wonderful things about how God values rest and the priority of worship. The Sabbath is a blessing (Gen 2:3). The Sabbath is a delight (Isa 58:13) So maybe I won’t watch TV on Sundays and instead I’ll use the time for fellowship, or Bible study, or a nap. That seems like the kind of thing a wise, godly man might do on a Sunday, even though he’s not under the law of Moses.
The heart of the Sabbath commandment is the priority of worship and humility to admit that you’re not God and you need a break. I shouldn’t put words in Jesus’ mouth, so let me say this with caution and humility: I think that if Jesus had included the Sabbath commandment in his sermon on the mount he might have said something like this: You have heard that it was said ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy’ but I say to you that if you’re ever worrying about work when you should be delighting in worship, then you have failed to love God as you ought.
And, of course, we’ve all failed to love God as we ought. So whatever you think about whether or not we’re under the commandments of the law, let’s praise God together that we’re not under the condemnation of the law.