Part Three  

Legalism and the Sabbath
By Nick Bibile

We are continuing on the fourth commandment.  On part one we studied the Sabbath day, the ceremonial part, the Lord Jesus Christ abolished the external part on the cross. Then we clearly saw the moral part of the Sabbath still continues.  Then on part two we saw the in creation how God blessed the Sabbath Day and made it holy. We saw the blessing was from the greater to the lesser, from God to man. Then we saw Sabbath was made for man. Then the blessing came from the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Sabbath Day was set apart from all the other days, it was a future event of the redemption of God's elect through Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and as the Lord of the Sabbath lives the moral value of Sabbath still continues.  When you speak on the Sabbath day to a dispensationalist they will brand you as a legalist.  They are so ignorant of the word of God; they do not know how to distinguish between the ceremonial law and the moral law.  In this lesson let us see very clearly see what is true legalism and how the Lord Jesus came against the legalist of his day, but yet how he did not break the Sabbath but observed the Sabbath day in the right content. He did not break one single law but fulfilled all the law. (Mat 5:17)

Opening Statements of Jesus.

Lu 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Again we see the opening words of Jesus in his ministry, is that he is anointed by God, as the seventh day was different than the six days. The seventh day was sanctified, separated from the other days. Jesus the very God became a man, had the same temptations, feelings and emotions and lived among men yet he was different, he lived among the sinner and yet he did not sin as he was holy and above the sinners, just like the Sabbath day was different than all the other days Jesus was different than the rest of the men.  The seventh day was a blessing to man, so Jesus was a blessing to man  and he came to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance and give sight to the blind. He did most of his healings upon the sick on the Sabbath day; he did many miracles on the Sabbath day.  He came to redeem us and to reconcile us back to God.  He spoke these words on the Sabbath day and said, today this scripture is fulfilled.  The Lord of the Sabbath is here. He is the holy one who can redeem us and sanctify us for his glory.

Legalists Add to the Word of God.

Mt 12:1  At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were a hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
 3 But he said unto them, have ye not read what David did, when he was a hungred, and they that were with him;
 4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
 5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
 6 But I say unto you, that in this place is one greater than the temple.

This incident happened on the Sabbath Day. Here we see the disciples of the Lord were hungry and they plucked some ears of corn. They rubbed between their hands to get the husk out so they can eat the corn.  According to Pharisaic interpretation, to rub an ear of corn is a kind of threshing, and, as it is very wrong to thresh on the Sabbath day. This is a kind of works, as work was prohibited, as per fourth commandment Even if you are hungry you cannot rub the ear of the corn. This was their version of the Sabbath law. The Pharisees were intent readers of the Law. But our Lord carried the war into the enemy's camp and asked, "Haven't you read?"  The Pharisees were legalists. Legalism is adding man's laws to the law of God.  It is an outwork of man's law, which God hates. Legalism has to do with man's traditions, which overrides the law of God.  In here we see how the Lord dealt with the legalists as he went back to the scriptures and said, haven't you read?  Because scripture is the final authority over tradition and legalism.

Mt 15:1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
 2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
(These traditions are doctrines of men, and not of God.)
Mt 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

The legalist love to observe the external part of the law.  And they are very proud of it.
The Pharisees diligently observed the ceremonial law as they brought their offerings and sacrifices to the temple. They were perfect when it came to the outward appearing of the law. But the principal was wrong, as their hearts were far away from God. They had only the outward form and the customs. They also added their own doctrines and traditions to the outward law to make them look good. Their hearts were not there, the internal worship was absent only the outward was there. This is legalism, as they put a heavy burden on the people with their own traditions and doctrines.

Mt 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto white sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Distinguishing the Ceremonial Law of the Sabbath.

It was the legalists who keep the ceremonial aspect of the law. The reform teachings clearly identify that the ceremonial aspect of the law is being abolished on the cross.  But the ignorant Arminians who cannot see the black and white, for them the ceremonial and the moral seems to be the same. So they brand the reformed teachings of the Sabbath as legalists. Now let us correct the Arminians and see clearly in scripture how the Lord Jesus Christ abolished the ceremonial law of the Sabbath.

Gal 4:10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
 11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

We see again some false apostles crept into the church and wanted bring back the bondage of the ceremonial laws back into the church. They wanted the church to go back to the seventh day Sabbaths, the Jewish Sabbaths and not on the first day of week.(Sunday) These were more important to the Jews.  In the Old Testament law there were sabbatical years. Every seventh year the land had a rest, no plowing or sowing done. There was the general release of the debtors. Every fiftieth year was a jubilee to the Lord, when freedom to slaves and debtors was proclaimed throughout the land; it was a time of sabbatical rest.

Ga 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

It is very clear the bondage is the ceremonial law. Matthew Henry in his commentary on this scripture said, "How is it that you, who have been taught to worship God in the gospel way, should now be persuaded to comply with the ceremonial way of worship?"

Ro 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

Here again Paul is speaking meats and days according to the Jewish dispensation. We need to understand that the church in Rome consists of Gentiles and Jews.  The Jews were trained to observe the ceremonial aspects of the law, when it comes to meat, days and other Jewish ceremonial laws. Concerning days, Matthew Henry in his commentary points out, "Those who thought themselves still under some kind of obligation by the ceremonial law esteemed one day above another, kept up a respect to the times of the Passover, Pentecost, new moons, and feast of tabernacles. Those who knew that all these things were abolished by Christ's coming esteemed everyday alike.  We must understand with the exception of the Lord's Day, which all Christians unanimously observed. The apostle seems willing to let the ceremonial law wither by degrees, and to let it have an honorable burial."
The ceremonial laws were nailed to the cross and the substance of the Sabbath still continues, as the veil of the curtain is torn down now we can come boldly to his throne room without and any ceremonial laws.

We see in the Old Testament there were various sacrifices, offerings, fleshly ordinances, foods and drinks and all these ceremonial laws. There was the temple. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, what happened the veil of which separated the people was torn in two from top to bottom.

Lu 23:45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.

Then in 70 AD Titus the Roman Emperor with his army totally destroyed the temple. There was no temple and no priests.  But our High Priest is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. The earthly tabernacle was destroyed, the ceremonial laws were nailed to the cross but the true tabernacle still exists. Let us turn to scripture.

Heb 8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
 2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

All the ceremonial laws and the tabernacle were shadows, and were pointing to the true tabernacle the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is the true tabernacle; the ceremonial laws existed until the coming of the true tabernacle the Lord Jesus. Lord, which brought redemption.

John 1:14 in the Greek it says, "And the Word flesh became and tabernacled among us, and we beheld the glory of him, glory as of an only begotten from father full of grace and truth."

Heb 9:10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Christ delivered us from the outward form of the law. They were only shadows to come, and were nailed to the cross. The ceremonial aspect of the Sabbath does not exist anymore as it was nailed to the cross. It becomes clearer as we go to other scriptures.

Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
 16  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

There were Old Testament Sabbath Days ceremonial laws.
Numbers 28:10 This is the burnt offering of every sabbath, beside the continual burnt offering, and his drink offering.

Paul had to explain this to the church as there was some legalist Judaizers who were teaching that in order to be saved you need to keep the ceremonial law, and Paul exposed through scripture that this is a false teaching. The ceremonial aspect of the Sabbath was nailed to the cross.

The word blotted out means cancelled or erased in Greek. The ceremonial law is abolished. The word shadow here is skia in Greek and the word body here is soma in Greek, which means also substance.  So the external rituals of the Sabbaths were the shadows but the substance of the Sabbath is in Christ Jesus. The substance of the Sabbath still exists. Let us turn to Ephesians chapter two.

Middle Wall of Ceremonialism is Broken.

Eph 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

The meaning of Paul's words are very clear as the middle wall was a hindrance of making the Jews and the Gentiles to one body in Christ.  The Old Testament was of the ceremonial and the moral law where the Jews were obliged to keep. In the New Testament we see the gospel spread to the Gentiles and do they have to keep all the ceremonial laws? No we are saved by faith alone, the wall has to be broken down so Jews and Gentiles will be in one body or else there will be enmity between the Jew and the Gentiles.  Now we see the law of the commandments, which contained the ordinances. The wall is metaphorically used to express the plain meaning of the ceremonial law. God required a circumcision, sacrifices, and washings, abstaining from certain kinds of foods were all ceremonial laws were abolished in Christ Jesus.

Heb 9:10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

The moral law is not a wall of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Arminians are wrong as they are erroneously teaching this false doctrine to the church saying that the moral law is abolished. There is not one single scripture to support this view in the New Testament. What a joy! the middle wall of ceremonialism is broken and now Jews and Gentile believers are all in one body of Christ.

 1Co 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

 Ga 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

The dispensationalist Arminians believe in 'Antinomianism' which means they come against the moral law of God.  According to the New Dictionary of Theology,  "They stresses that the Christian freedom from the condemnation of the law that it underemphasizes the need of the believer to confess sins daily and to pursue sanctification earnestly. It may fail to teach that sanctification inevitably follows justification.  In the 19th century the dispensationalism of J. N. Darby was another effort to void moralism. Law was identified as the way of salvation in the Mosaic dispensation whereas the gospel of grace was the salvation in the NT dispensation."

Of course we know that dispensationalism is wrong, as there is one God, one savior and one faith. The people in the OT were saved by faith looking forward to the cross and not by keeping the law.

The Sabbath day was changed, after the resurrection of the Lord to the first day of the week.  The first day of the week Sunday is the Christian Sabbath. Sunday was observed as a day of worship, and in special commemoration of the Resurrection, whereby the work of redemption was finished (John 20:19,26; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10).

The Lord's Day brought us freedom to worship, without any ceremonial laws. The freedom was given to worship him and not to have fleshly pleasure.

2Co 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

The Arminian dispensationalists are wrong when they brand the reformed doctrines as legalists. Before the reformation the people were under the bondage of Roman Catholicism.  There were no proper worship, only the priest was allowed to teach and the people were not allowed to read the Bible. The common people were kept in darkness. With the Reformation came the light of the Bible to the people.  The Reformation broke the bondage of Romanism and brought freedom to worship the Lord.  Worshipping the Lord on the Lord's Day is not a burden but joy and a delight! Now we can worship the Lord in spirit and in truth..

Freedom for the Armininans is to have worldly pleasure on the Sabbath day. Freedom to please the flesh and not the spirit.

Remember the Sabbath is made for man. Just because you to church on Sunday and do your offerings and sacrifices to the Lord, then after church you go and watch the football games, and your favorite movies, go to the mall and spend your time for the flesh is not going to please the Lord. Just two hours in the church and then the rest of the day for you. Listen what the word of the Lord has to say.

Isa 1:10  Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
 11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
 16  Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

When Jesus came, the Sabbath was a blessing to man, as he did well on the Sabbath day, he brought justice, and relieved the oppressed, healed the sick on the Sabbath. We need to remember the Sabbath was made for man.  It was made for man to do what? Not to have carnal pleasure but to worship the Lord and to serve him.  If you see someone hungry on the Sabbath day it is okay to cook a meal and feed him.  As the Sabbath day is made for man there is acts of mercy. But the Sabbath is God's merciful appointment for the common benefit of all mankind it was "made for man" (Mark 2:27). It is not a yoke, but a blessing. It is not a burden, but a mercy. It is not a hard wearisome requirement, but a great benefit.