AN EXAMINATION AND REFUTATION OF 16 PROPOSITIONS AGAINST SABBATH KEEPING, PART 9
RESPONSE TO CHAPTER 9 OF “THE SABBATH: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.”
by Edwin M. Cotto
Advent Defense League
Unless otherwise noted, scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
This is a response to chapter 9 of the antisabbatarian book, “The Sabbath: What you need to know: 16 Propositions Against Mandatory and Salvational Sabbath-Keeping.” Please keep in mind that as we publish responses to chapters, changes may take place without notice to anyone. Please revisit this page often for updates as the goal is to reply to all 16 propositions. Responses to each chapter will continue to be published as time goes by. Visit chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
Response to Chapter 9:
The Sabbath, the Gospel, the New Covenant and Acts 15
In this chapter, Elce seeks to prove that the Sabbath has nothing to do with the gospel and that it is not a “moral obligation and standard for Christians.” He tries to do this in two ways. First, by quoting various New Testament texts that speak on the gospel but do not mention the Sabbath, and second by treating on the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 which proves, according to Elce, that “gentiles did not have to keep the Sabbath to be saved” (page 25). There are various presuppositions in this chapter that color Elce’s interpretation that we will be responding to as well, but here are the two main points that summarize Elce’s ninth chapter:
- Point 1: The Sabbath is not an integral part of the Gospel.
- Point 2: The Jerusalem council in Acts 15 proves the Sabbath did not have to be kept.
RESPONSE TO POINT 1: The Sabbath is not an integral part of the Gospel.
Elce begins writing that “the Gospel can be defined as God’s act of saving sinners through Jesus’ vicarious atonement on the Cross.” (page 24). In support of this statement he quotes Mark 10:45, John 3:16, Rom. 5:8, along with Eph. 2:8-9, 1 Peter 1:18-19 and 1 Cor. 15:1-4, and then concludes that we do not see in any of these passages “the keeping of the Sabbath or any other days” as “an integral part of the Gospel nor of faith in Christ.” There are two problems with this method of interpretation. First, while it is true that these texts do not mention the Sabbath, they also do not directly mention commands such as respecting God’s sacred name, not making images to bow down to in worship, or not killing, stealing or lying. Of course, the gospel pertains to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, but not at the expense of these things. For example, Ephesians 2:8-9, which Elce quoted, mentions good “works” in verse 10, which follow as a result of that saving grace, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” While it may be obvious that these things are required, yet pointing to verses about the gospel to say that the Sabbath was not “an integral part of the gospel nor faith in Christ” can equally be used to say that the third commandment was also not “an integral part of the gospel nor faith in Christ.”(1)
The second problem with Elce’s interpretation is that neither of the texts he quoted negate the Sabbath. On the contrary, each of them or their particular author in one way or the other affirms the Sabbath and the rest of the Decalogue. First, Elce quotes from Mark, yet Mark recounts when Jesus said the Sabbath is a creation ordinance originally made to serve man (Mark 2:27). Elce then quotes from John, but elsewhere we read that John had a visionary experience “on the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). This text implies there was still a day that belonged to the Lord.(2) Contrary to popular belief, that was the Sabbath day, and not Sunday, since Sunday is always referred to by John himself simply as “the first day of the week,” while the scriptures he studied identified the Sabbath as the Lord’s day (Isa. 58:13, Exo. 16:23, 20:9, 31:15, 35:2, Lev. 23:3). In fact, no doubt in John’s very presence, Jesus declared He is “Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). He is greater than it, as He created it, and thus it belongs to Him. John also highlights the victors over the mark of the beast (Rev. 12:17, 14:12, 22:14). Whether one believes these texts to be eschatological or not, God’s people are, nevertheless, commandment keepers. Critics typically insist that “commandments” do not refer to the Ten Commandments, but Revelation is littered with allusions and references to the Decalogue. For example, chapters 12-15 belong to the central portion of the book, and the introduction to this portion is the ark of the covenant, seen by John in heaven (Rev. 11:19). The implication is that John is seeing the Most Holy Place. Since the context mentions the “commandments”’ in various places, one need only ask which commandments. According to the ancient type, the commandments inside the ark were “Ten Commandments” (Heb. 9:4). Thus from the beginning of this section the reader has the Decalogue in mind, and as he continues reading, the very next thing he reads is God’s church being obedient to His commandments (Rev. 12:17, 14:12). As if to close off this middle section, we then have a reference to the tabernacle of the testimony (Rev. 15:5), a word typically referring to the Decalogue (Ex. 25:16, 21; 32:15, 16). There is no doubt, therefore, that it is the Ten Commandments that John is seeing the people observe, and the Sabbath, of course, is one of them.
Moving on, Elce quoted Romans 5:8 regarding the aspect of the gospel pertaining to the death of Christ, but here too we have support for God’s commandments. Some verses before we read that faith does not “make void the law,” but rather, “we establish the law” (ibid, 3:31). Fast forward to chapter 8, and we read this, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” (Rom 8:7) As has been mentioned various times already, the inference is that the spiritual mind is subject to the Law of God. Since the law of God is spiritual (ibid, 7:14), only men and woman walking in the Spirit can fulfill its requirements (Rom. 8:8-11, cf. Gal. 5:6). So, even here in Romans, we have support for God’s law. I am aware of Elce’s interpretation of Romans 14, however. I will respond to that when the moment arrives.
Eph. 2:8-9 and 1 Cor. 15:1-4 were two other texts he quoted, yet the former is heavily pro-commandments (Eph. 4:25, 29, 31, 5:3-5, cf. Psa. 119:96), even directly quoting one of them (6:1-3). The latter may be the clearest reference to the definition of the gospel, yet Paul, who also wrote the verses we just saw in Ephesians, commanded commandment keeping. Moreover, a few chapters prior in 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote that circumcision matters nothing when compared to the keeping of “the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19). In context, Paul is primarily advising them on how to best avoid “sexual immorality,” a sin directly related to the seventh commandment,(3) and considers marital sex a deterrent for sexual sins (see verses 2, 5, 8-9).
Some critics argue that “commandments” here refers to the commandments of Christ, which was to love. But there is no dichotomy between the “commandments of God” and the “commandments of Christ,” which according to these same critics, the former is the Decalogue and the latter is the law to Love, since love is the very essence of the Ten Commandments (cf. Rom. 13:8-10). What’s ironic is that critics such as these presuppose that every reference to “commandments” in the New Testament refers to Love while accusing Adventists of presupposing that every reference to “commandments” in the New Testament refers to the Ten Commandments. The double standard! But to make matters worse, if “commandments of God” refers to the Ten Commandments which some of them feel no need to keep, while the “commandments of Christ” refers to God, they then disqualify themselves from being a part of that end-time group which “keep the commandments OF GOD and have the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). You can be sure you’re in error when there are contradictions in your theology. But when we grasp the intrinsic relationship between love and commandments, that the former is the summary and expression of the latter, we have no contradictions.
Finally, Elce quotes 1 Peter 1:18-19, a beautiful passage contrasting redemption between temporal, worthless traditions of man with what actually saves, “the precious blood of Christ.” But the bible has to be taken as a whole. Peter also warned against being “led away with the error of the wicked…” (2 Pet. 3:14-18). The Greek ἄθεσμος translated wicked mean “one who breaks through the restraint of law and satisfies his lust.”(4) As in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot was daily vexed with the “lawless deeds” of their inhabitants (ibid, 2:7-8 NKJV). Of course, the topic at hand is the fourth commandment, and some critics actually do believe in keeping the other nine. The point is that each one of the references Elce shared support, in one way or the other, commandment keeping. But the idea that the fourth one is excluded is foreign to the apostle James, an associate of Peter, who wrote that if you break one of the commandments, you have pretty much broken them all (Jam. 2:10-11). So, while the critics want to discriminate against the fourth one, this is not something that the authors of the New Testament do.
As a result of our examination of the texts above, it becomes evident that the commandments of God, including the fourth one, do in fact form “an integral part of the gospel and New Covenant faith in Jesus Christ.” Of course, observance of the commandments is not a means to salvation. Observance of the commandments is a fruit of salvation and no sensible person would argue that it is ok to break any of them under the gospel message and the New Covenant. The problem, of course, is always with the fourth commandment. Yet the Sabbath is an integral part of the gospel both because it forms a fraction of the Law that would be placed in the heart and also because it represents the gospel:
THE NEW COVENANT AND THE SABBATH
The prediction of a New Covenant was made by Jeremiah. We read there that God would place the Law in the hearts of believers (Jer. 31:31-34). Thus the Law is not abolished under the New Covenant. And since the Old Covenant contained that which was written on tablets of stone, the Ten Commandments (Deut. 4:13), and the change was in the location of those contents from tablets of stone to tablets of the heart, it follows that the Ten Commandments were also not changed. The only change regarding the Decalogue was in location. We know for sure that it’s the same contents of the tablets under the New Covenant because Paul, in speaking of the New Covenant, references those tablets of stone (2 Cor 3:2-6). Therefore, the Sabbath, the fourth of the Ten Commandments, is definitely “an integral part of the… New Covenant” as it would also be written in the heart and manifest itself practically like the rest of the Ten Commandments would.
THE GOSPEL AND THE SABBATH
In the New Covenant the Sabbath plays a special role as a symbol. This is clearly seen all throughout scripture. Literally, the people of God have always been promised to enter into rest from sin and toil, and every object of rest directed their minds to this ultimate purpose. After Adam and Eve sinned, the children of Adam rapidly became degenerate, and God called a man whose name means rest,(5) Noah, to bring comfort from “work and toil because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed” to preach righteousness to anyone who would hear (Gen. 5:29, 2 Pet. 2:5). He and his message was refused by all except his immediate family, but God was not done trying to direct humanity’s minds to His rest. After many years in Egypt, Moses arrives with a message of rest (Exo. 5:5) and after the people leave Egypt, they are given various things to demonstrate the rest He would have them ultimately experience. He gives them the original seventh day Sabbath (Exo. 20:8-11, Deut. 5:12-15), along with various festivals upon which they also had to rest from labor (Lev. 23). Every seventh year was a literal rest (Lev. 25:1-6). No toil, no sowing, no reaping. Just rest. God would produce so much produce during the sixth year that it would last them three years (ibid, verses 18-20). Every fiftieth year was a year of liberty, also a rest (ibid, 8-17). The promised land, the land of Canaan, was a land of rest (Deut. 12:9-11, 25:19, Psa. 132:13-14). In the midst of all of this God wanted them to experience a spiritual rest in communion with God and free from sin and the worries of the world. It was a neat combination of physical rest and spiritual rest, but in the same manner they often broke the physical rests, they also, quite naturally then, broke the spiritual rest. Israel was offered spiritual rest, but they refused it (Exo. 33:14-17). Judah was offered spiritual rest, but they refused it (Jer. 6:16). Their constant murmurings and disobedience severed them from the author of rest (Isa. 59:2). So, God plans to make a New Covenant, an “everlasting covenant” (Isa. 61:8, Jer. 31:31-34) and foretells of a coming savior bearing that ultimate, spiritual rest which they refused (Isa. 11:10-12, 28:12). He would “preach good tidings to the poor… heal the brokenhearted,” proclaim “liberty to the captives,” and open the “prison to those who are bound. He would “comfort all who mourn” and exchange “beauty for ashes” (Isa. 61:1-3). Such terminologies seem derived directly from the various rests the people had, and Jesus applies it all to Himself on that wonderful Sabbath morning in a humble synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21).
It seems as if all the rests of the Old Covenant came to an end now, and believers are left with no outward, practical lesson of Christ’s rest. Are God’s people no longer given rest from toil, as an object lesson for that spiritual rest? While Col. 2:14-17 puts an end to the various festivals and special sabbaths (we will delve deeper into these verses soon), Hebrews 3 and 4 does something different to the seventh day Sabbath. Beginning in chapter 3, the author remind readers that the original escapees of Egypt lost the opportunity to enter into the land of rest (Canaan) due to their unbelief, and warns that believers should, on a daily basis, remind themselves not to fail in unbelief like they did, or they would perish without rest, as they did (Heb. 3:8-19). In other words, the experience of the Hebrews serves as an object lesson of how one can fail at receiving the rest of God, and since those original Hebrews to whom the promise was made never entered that rest, it “remains.”
This is where chapter 4 comes in. The message the Hebrews were given, according to Hebrews 4:1-2, was the gospel in its very essence. The gospel brings rest, and what do believers in the gospel rest from? Since the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes” (Rom. 1:16), believers are resting from sin and death. Verse 3 is clear that those who believe the gospel “do enter that rest…” Evidently, that land of rest represented a deeper, spiritual rest that believers can forfeit through unbelief now, as the Hebrews forfeited the land of rest through unbelief back then.
Hebrews then introduces the Sabbath into this equation, “‘… they shall not there My rest,’ although the works were finished from the foundation of the world” (verse 3). I appreciate how the NLT translates this text:
“For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said, ‘In my anger I took an oath: They will never enter my place of rest,’ even though this rest has been ready since he made the world.” (New Living Translation).
That rest of the gospel has been available from the foundation of the world! The gospel, you recall, is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for our sakes (1 Cor. 15:1-4), yet Jesus is the lamb “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). Now the author of Hebrews connects the resting that God did on the seventh day with that spiritual rest!
“For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.” (Heb. 4:4-5)
Thus the seventh day Sabbath is also an object lesson pointing to the spiritual rest found in Jesus and His gospel. And “since therefore it remains that some must enter it” because the ones to whom it was first preached didn’t enter it, leaving it available (verse 6), the call to enter that gospel rest can be done “today,” that is, on the present day when you hear the gospel. Joshua never gave it to them. They refused that gospel rest, but if you believe, you may have it even now (verse 7-8).
Most critics arrive at this point in the story and conclude therefore there is no need for the weekly seventh day. But that is not the conclusion reached by the author of Hebrews. As mentioned various times in our response, some practical object of observance is needed to help internalize and conceptualize the reality of that spiritual rest. For example, Communion contains deep spiritual significance, but that does not negate the need for literal bread and wine during the service. Marriage also contains deep, spiritual significance, representing our union with Christ (Eph. 5:31-32), but that does not abolish the literal institution. The same can be said of baptism. This is how the author of Hebrews treats the Sabbath in the next few verses:
“There remaineth therefore a rest (Gk. sabbatismós) to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” (Heb. 4:9-11)
That gospel rest therefore remains for God’s people, but here the author calls it a “sabbatismós” meaning “a keeping sabbath,”(6) a term derived from the typical Greek word for Sabbath (sábbaton). Much debate has gone into this word, but I believe the next two verses fully explain it. Verse 10 says that whoever is experiencing that sabbatismós has “also ceased from his works as God did from His.” The word “also” is a conjunction, connecting two things. Whoever has that gospel rest, or, whoever has that sabbatismós (a keeping sabbath) is someone who will also cease from their word “as God did from His.” In the context, God did not cease from spiritual works of the flesh, as some critics have interpreted this to mean. Verse 4 tells us He ceased from physical labor on a physical day, the seventh day. If therefore verse 10 is saying that God’s people will act as God acted, they will also cease from physical labor on the physical seventh day as God did. It is really that simple. And verse 11 actually commands that believers experience these two things, the daily spiritual rest along with its outward, physical representative, the seventh day Sabbath. Therefore, since that spiritual rest evidently manifests itself in observance of its physical representative, the Sabbath, anyone saying you can break the Sabbath and still have that spiritual rest is not explaining it the way the author of Hebrews has.
To conclude, we can see that the Sabbath is definitely an integral part of the New Covenant and the gospel. For the former it is a part of that Law which is written in the heart and manifested outwardly like the rest of the Ten Commandments, and for the later it is a representative of the gospel and anyone who has the gospel’s rest will “also cease from their works as God did from His.” Why then does Elce write that the Sabbath is not “an integral part of the gospel and New Covenant faith” in the Lord?
RESPONSE TO POINT 2: The Jerusalem council in Acts 15
proves the Sabbath did not have to be kept.
In this section, Elce writes that as the Gentiles began responding to the message of the Gospel, “the Pharisees sought to do the same thing–add works and law-keeping as part of the Gospel and New Covenant faith.” (page 25). There are three presuppositions here. The first is that the Gospel totally excludes works. We looked into this previously but it’s worth repeating it briefly. Works are a natural product of the empowering grace freely bestowed upon believers. It is never a means of gaining salvation, but rather a fruit of the Spirit manifested outwardly in true believers (cf. Gal. 5:16-26, 2 Cor. 4:10-11). The famous and often quoted text regarding free grace in Eph. 2:8-9 is followed by the fact that God Himself originates and gives the recipients of that grace the works that they should live out (verse 10). In other words, works, like grace, come from God, and should never be a production of man’s own efforts. Everything, even our efforts, should come from above (cf. Jam. 1:17). In Titus 2:11-13 we read that grace first saves, then empowers believers with works of righteousness, even though those works are not to be confused as the means of salvation (ibid, 3:5). James wrote that faith without works is dead, and as an example demonstrates how Abraham himself was “justified by works” when he obeyed God’s command to offer up his son as a sacrifice (James 2:17-26). Contextually, those works were services towards your fellow man (verses 15-16), but also the works of obedience to the Ten Commandments (2:8-12). Is James saying that works are the means of salvation? No, Abraham first had to believe, then act on the power of believing. Thus his faith was “working together with his works” (2:22).
The second presupposition is that the Sabbath and law-keeping are works of salvation. Though somewhat answered already in the last paragraph, the idea that the Sabbath and the law-keeping are works of salvation does not jive either with the New Testament, which commands law-keeping (see, for example, Eph. 6:2-3), nor with the Old Testament. When God spoke the Law and the Sabbath from Mt. Sinai, He first described how they were saved by His grace, “And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage…” (Exo. 20:1-2). He didn’t do it because they were some great people that earned His favor, but because of His love and promises to their ancestors (Deut. 7:6-8). So, He saves them freely by grace and then commands them to obey His commandments. We’re even told that one of the purposes of saving them was so that they could keep His commandments (Psa. 105:42-45).
Finally, the third presupposition is that the Sabbath is all about works. True, it is a commandment, and true, it commands physical labor during six days out of the week. But the focal point of the command is to actually rest. That is what the Sabbath was about, resting. How critics interpret resting to mean working, I cannot explain, but if there ever was an institution that has less to do with works, it would be the Sabbath. Recall that if the Sabbath symbolizes that rest we find in Christ (Heb. 4, cf. Matt. 11:28-30), how could it ever represent works of salvation?
When the legalists came to Judea to enforce law-keeping, it was not in this manner. They were not teaching that keeping God’s commandments was a natural outcome of being led by the Spirit. They did not teach that salvation comes first by grace, and then God pours preordained gifts of works for the believer to walk in. No, here is what they specifically said, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved… it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:1, 5). What they were teaching was that works were a means of salvation, or the manner in which they need to be saved! To this the apostles Paul, Barnabas, Peter and James specifically respond. Keep in mind that three of these individuals actually promote law-keeping. For example, Paul writes (to Gentiles, nonetheless) to obey the fifth commandment, among others (Eph. 6:2-3). Peter warns against those who would misinterpret Paul’s hard writings to mean they can live without God’s Law. In 2 Peter 3:17, Peter writes to beware “lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked (Gk: ἄθεσμος), fall from your own steadfastness.” That word “wicked” in the Greek literally means, “one who breaks through the restraint of law and gratifies his lusts.”(7) And James, as we saw above, wrote that breaking one of the Ten Commandments essentially breaks them all, and therefore believers should act as those who will be judged by it (Jam. 2:10-12, cf. Rom. 2:12-13, Psa. 119:45). Evidently, they would not, at the Jerusalem council, tell Gentiles they can break the commandments, even though they acknowledged that salvation was by grace (Acts 15:11).
That said, how was the matter settled? We read:
“Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” (Acts 15:19-21)
Elce comments on verses 19-20 saying that the “prohibitions enjoined upon them were to facilitate table fellowship with their Jewish brethren…” To this we agree, but he neither quoted nor commented on verse 21, which mentions the Sabbath. Why? Instead, he wrote, “what this conclusion meant was that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised to be saved, therefore they did not have to keep the Sabbath” and goes on to say, without providing any proof, that circumcision was the entry sign into the Old Covenant, Law keeping, and Sabbath observance. I will respond to this last point in a moment. But the reason why verse 21 is ignored is likely because it is supportive of Sabbath keeping. Note that the Gentiles were commanded merely four things that would allow them to fellowship with the Jewish, who had certain scruples about those things, but other important, moral precepts are missing from that list, such as honoring their parents, respecting the Lord’s name, and others. Evidently, the list was merely the start of what they will continue to learn… as they continue attending the synagogues on the Sabbath days and learn from the hearing of Moses! The expectations of the apostles is that they would continue to keep the Sabbath right along with their Jewish counterparts! That is of course what continued to take place. In Acts 17:1-12 we read of two synagogues containing Greeks which heard the messages of Paul and Silas for several Sabbaths. In Acts 18:4 we again find Gentiles on the Sabbath in the synagogue hearing the gospel. Incidentally, Elce concluded that from then on, after the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, “we will never find where the keeping of the Sabbath or days is a part of the Gospel and New Covenant faith in Jesus.” It’s almost as if he expected the reader to not go back and read these chapters.
Previously, Elce wrote that the circumcision was the entry point or sign to keeping the Sabbath, implying that one cannot keep the Sabbath without literal circumcision. But this is negated by the fact that Sabbath keeping continued to take place after the requirement for circumcision came to an end. First, we saw even here in Acts 15 that the apostles correctly assumed that Sabbath keeping would continue to take place among the believing Gentiles despite the fact that they ruled circumcision was no longer required (verse 28). Essentially, Sabbath keeping was still a part of the faith even among those who did not have to get circumcised.
Second, Sabbath keeping extends even further into the future. Jesus’ prediction implies it in Matthew 24:20. Believers were warned to pray that their escape from the onslaught of the Romans upon their city takes place while it is neither winter, pregnancy nor Sabbath (cf. Mark 13:18, Luke 21:23-24). Critics often claim His warning regarding the Sabbath was due to the Jerusalem gates being closed on the Sabbath, an ordinance established decades prior (Neh. 13:19). But this argument disregards the fact that Jesus was talking about all of Judea, and not just the city. “Then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt. 24:16). Therefore, closed gates would affect merely a portion of the believers.(8) Essentially the warning is given because the disciples would be keeping the Sabbath, gathering faithfully in clusters of assemblies every week as commanded in the torah (Lev. 23:3), increasing the chances of being captured and killed. Additionally, Rev. 1:10 says there was still a day that belonged to the Lord, more then 50 years after the cross (assuming Revelation was written in AD 96)! Elce deals with the Lord’s Day in chapter 16 of his book, and we will respond accordingly, but it is quite evident that even if Sabbath keeping was dependent on circumcision during the times of the Israelites, it is no longer the case under the New Covenant.(9) Therefore, Sabbath keeping is not dependent on the rite of circumcision.
In this chapter we explained that the Sabbath is definitely an integral part of the Gospel and the New Covenant, but not in the sense that it is a means or method to salvation. The Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments that was prophesied to be written in the heart under the New Covenant, making it practical in the Christian life as would any of the other 9 commandments be. The Sabbath is also a symbol of the spiritual rest we find in Jesus, making it a constant object lesson for all believers of the rest they have in Jesus. So then, the Sabbath is an integral part of the Gospel and New Covenant, and it is strange to read someone saying the contrary.
We also learned a little more about the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 that Elce failed to include in his explanation. A deeper study of the context and the individuals specifically mentioned in the chapter reveals that they are not against commandment keeping at all. Each of them, in one way or the other, writes to believers to obey God’s commandments, and the context itself assumes Sabbath keeping will continue among the Gentiles even after negating the requirement for Gentiles to get circumcised. We see this implied in verse 21, and confirmed in Acts 17:1-12 and 18:4. In a book dedicated to explaining all about the Sabbath, it was also strange to notice Elce not even mention verse 21.
Finally, we learned that Sabbath keeping is not dependent on being physically circumcised, even though Elce wrote it was. The primary reason for this is found in the very chapter we are studying, Acts 15, which supports Sabbath keeping while no longer requiring circumcision, along with the fact that Sabbath keeping continued thereafter. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 7:19 that, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God” and this was written in a context primarily advising on how to best avoid sexual sins, particularly adultery, which breaks the seventh commandment (verses 1-7, 10-16, cf. Matt. 19:9, Exo. 20:14). Since James 2:10-11 explains that how one treats one of the Ten Commandments affects the other commandments, the fourth commandment is included as well.
Elce’s criticisms of Sabbath-keeping groups such as Seventh-day Adventists and others may seem convincing at first, “until his neighbor comes and examines him (Prov. 18:17). A closer look reveals that things are not being rightly interpreted, key verses in the context are ignored, and the rest of the scriptures which have a bearing on the subject at hand are not being considered. Hopefully, readers of his book can see through reading this response that there is much more to the story then when the pages of his book meet the eyes.
CHAPTER 9 FOOTNOTES:
1) Elce would likely argue at this point that while these commands are enjoined upon Christians in the New Testament, the Sabbath is not because, according to him, it is not repeated in the New Testament. We will address this in our response to proposition 11.
2) In proposition 16, Elce tries to make a case for the “Lord’s day” being the first day of the week, indirectly admitting that there actually was a day at that time that belonged to the Lord. We will address his arguments soon.
3) One of the problems of the critics is that they do not see any relationship between sins not mentioned in the Ten Commandments and the Ten Commandments themselves. They have a very limited, surface understanding of the Decalogue, and due to this they argue that the Law is not perfect (contrary to Psalm 19:1), because it does not mention since like bestiality, incest, unjustified anger, etc. However, David observed that God’s commandment is “exceedingly broad” (Ps. 119:96 NKJV). A few examples should suffice to demonstrate that every sin, in one way or the other, is related to one or more of the Ten Commandments. In other words, there is more then one way to break a commandment of the decalogue. Rebellion and stubborness, for example, are a sin not directly mentioned in the Decalogue. And yet, Samuel connects both of these to witchcraft and idolatry, which would be a violation of the first and second commandments (1 Sam. 15:23). Favoritism is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments, and yet James tells us that if you show favoritism you are breaking the Ten Commandments (James 2:9-11). Jesus takes the seventh commandment and demonstrates its broadness, explaining that even lusting can break it. He does the same with the sixth commandment, saying and unjustified anger is the same as murder (see Matt. 5:21-30). In a similar fashion, breaking either one of the Ten Commandments automatically means you have broken the other nine commandments. For example, God compares Israel’s idol worship to adultery (Jeremiah 3:9, Ezekiel 22:37), Paul said that covetousness is the same as idolatry (Colossians 3:5), and that stealing also violates the second commandment (Romans 2:22). No wonder James 2:10-11 tells us that breaking one commandment causes us to actually break them all. Therefore, although the Decalogue may not mention sexually immoral sins like fornication, bestiality, etc, all sexual sins related to the commandment that protects sexual activity strictly between a husband and a wife, the seventh commandment.
4) See: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g113/kjv/tr/0-1/.
8). For a deeper study on this subject, see: Matthew 24:20 and Closed Gates on the Sabbath, by Edwin M. Cotto. Link: https://adventistdefenseleague.com/2020/04/matthew-2420-and-the-flight-on-the-sabbath-day.html.
9) Additionally, according to Jesus’ treatment of marriage and divorce, institutions dated from creation and before sin trump all regulations that came after sin (Matt. 19:8). Like Marriage, Sabbath keeping always had, and will continue to have, the preeminence.