Saturday, August 12, 2017

Parties to the Covenants

Back in October 2014 we wrote the article Confusing the Covenants which addresses the confusion in the Sabbatarian doctrine regarding the Old and New Covenants. Today we have somewhat of a follow-up.

The whole of Sabbatarian doctrine is based on the idea that the seventh-day Sabbath is binding on all people everywhere. Sabbatarians ask, “Why would anyone want to change that?” The problem with that is the Sabbath has never been binding on anyone but Israel. Non-Sabbatarians ask, “Why would you want to change that?

Here is a brief summary of the Sabbatarian thinking – 1) The Old Covenant preceded the New Covenant so it applies to everyone, 2) the Old Covenant Law is God’s Law so it applies to everyone, 3) I want to be obedient so I keep the Old Covenant Law in the New Covenant.

Here is a brief summary of the non-Sabbatarian response – 1) The Old Covenant never applied to any Gentile at any time; it only ever applied to Israel, 2) the Old Covenant was abrogated by God so it applies to no one, 3) I want to be obedient so I keep the New Covenant law of faith and love.

We can refine it down to these two basic claims:

Sabbatarian – the Sabbath applies to everyone, so you have to change the law to avoid the Sabbath.

Non-Sabbatarian – the Sabbath never applied to anyone but Israel, so you have to change the law to observe the Sabbath.

Clearly, someone needs to answer the question, “Does the Old Covenant law apply to everyone or not?”

It’s a tricky thing. One can’t comprehensively answer it in one blog post, or even one book. So we have been trying to answer that here, post by post, for close to 10 years.

Back to the intro paragraph regarding covenants. Our friend Larry Dean has helped us put another piece of the picture together. Larry has studied law and approaches the law from the perspective of a lawyer. His post is about who the law itself defines as the people to whom the law applies.

Okay kiddies, we are going to have a rudimentary class in "statutory construction." We are going to learn how to read a section of law. This is the kind of stuff first-year law students learn, in their first semester of law school. Remember the movie "The Paper Chase?" No? Well, here is a reminder. Its the kind of hellish story that lawyers love telling each other. They like to brag about the abuse they put up with in law school. Lawyers LOVE nursing grudges at their law school professors:

Just kidding.

But it is true. Law school is where you enter as a normal happy-go-lucky human being, and then three trauma-filled years later, you leave angry and bitter, ready and willing to sue the snot out of people.

I can hear you mutter: "Who does he think he is, muttering such bigly-syllabled words, as "Statutory construction?" Don't worry about it. We are going to unpack a mystery. We are going to be sleuths. We are going to find meaning. We are going to look into each other's moist eyes, full of longing and passionate-desire and............

We are going to uncover who the mysterious "you" is in Exodus 20:8-11. One always start out legal analysis by posting the section of the statute that you are quoting from:

Exodus 20:8-11

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days "YOU" shall labor and do all "YOUR" work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord "YOUR" God. On it "YOU" shall not do any work, neither "YOU," nor "YOUR" son or daughter, nor "YOUR" male or female servant, nor "YOUR" animals, nor any foreigner residing in "YOUR" towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

I count three "YOU"s and five "YOUR"s. That is a lot. But who is being referred to as "YOU" and "YOUR?" Adventists insist that "YOU" is all mankind. But that is not how you read a statutory section. You must go to the Preamble to find who "YOU" and "YOUR" is. God gave out some big hints. The Preamble is Exodus 20:2. He wrote it with his finger on Tablets of Stone. And in this case, Exodus 20:2 has been interpreted by the Jewish Courts to be both the Preamble of entire law, AND the First Commandment as well. You can see how the Jewish Courts interpreted this verse in the exhibit below. The whole law rises and falls on this one verse. You have to know who the law applies to. Those Jewish Courts were given that awesome and exclusive power in Deuteronomy 17 to render a definitive statutory construction. And they did. But first, the First Commandment:

"I am the Lord Your God, who brought "YOU" out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."

That's pretty specific. It tells us the mysterious "You" referred to in verses 8-11 is the group of people that were "brought out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." This is only six verses apart. That is what is known in the law as a "defined class" of people. Even better, in this instance, there was a court with exclusive sovereign jurisdiction that has rendered a binding interpretation. Not that this is even a close call. For anyone trained in the law, anyone that has survived the hellish brainwashing of law school, that is the end of of the story. Or as they say in the mining towns of I-DEE-HOE where I live and learned my cowboy accent, that is "all she wrote."

The Sabbath was given to the people that God delivered from Egyptian bondage. But there is more. Deuteronomy 5:

"5 And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in "YOUR" hearing today, that "YOU" may learn them and be careful to observe them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with "US" in Horeb. 3 The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. 4 The Lord talked with "YOU" face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. 5 I stood between the Lord and "YOU" at that time, to declare to "YOU" the word of the Lord; for "YOU" were afraid because of the fire, and "YOU" did not go up the mountain."

Wow. That is even clearer. "You" is "Israel." It was Israel that was delivered from Egyptian bondage. Israel is the blood-descendants of Jacob. And these blood descendants of Jacob were all assembled within earshot of Moses, on one day! Moses made it clear that the covenant was not with the "fathers" of the people standing within earshot of Moses. It only applied to people who could hear Moses's speech, live. On ONE DAY! Moreover, it was the people that God spoke to "face to face." That's about as specific as it gets. But it gets even better. IN verse 15 it very pointedly sums up who the "you" is:

"15 And remember that "YOU" were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord "YOUR" God brought "YOU" out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord "YOUR" God commanded "YOU" to keep the Sabbath day."

Well, that was a short class! But God apparently wanted to pile it on. He wanted to spike the football in the end zone. He wanted to leave the varsity in when He already had a 60 point lead.......

Enough with stupid sports analogies. Let's go to Exodus 31:

"12 Then the Lord said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘"YOU" must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and "YOU" for the generations to come, so "YOU" may know that I am the Lord, who makes "YOU" holy.

14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to "YOU." Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.18 When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God."

That merely restates that it is the Israelites are the "YOU" who are to keep the Sabbath. They were the blood descendants of Jacob that were delivered from Egyptian bondage. It says that is the Israelites that are to keep the Sabbath three times, just for good measure. It says nobody else. Reading Deuteronomy 5, Exodus 20:2, and Exodus 31 together is airtight and bulletproof. There is absolutely no wiggle room. This is a solid case.

The Sabbath was given only to Israel. It was given only to the people in earshot of Moses, gathered in one day. It was given only to the "you" who were delivered from Egyptian bondage.

-Larry Dean, on Facebook, 8/12/2017, borrowed by permission

So, the parties to the Old Covenant, and therefore the Sabbath, were God and Israel. The Sabbath only ever applied to Israel. This is the law according to the law.

As we've emphasized over and over and over again the Gentiles were strangers to the Covenant and excluded by law! Never at any time or place did the Sabbath apply to Gentiles. If a Gentile wanted to participate in the law - for example, if they wanted to participate in the Passover - then they were required by law to become an Israelite.

By law, a Gentile had to stop being a Gentile in order to participate in the law. For the Sabbatarian doctrine to apply the law to Gentiles, they must change the law. It is not an unchanging Old Covenant law that applies to all people, but a fundamentally altered one. If one wishes to say "God changes not therefore the law changes not" then the law does not apply to Gentiles, never has, and never can.

We have many articles to further help you understand. Try our FAQ and Categories pages for more. But highly I recommend these two articles in particular:

Lying For God v8 PartI pp4-9

The Sabbath Rest of Hebrews 4

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


Ekklesia said...

Yet, what of those that were not alive when the covenant was made and later went into bondage for such things as Sabbath breaking? You can't be tied to the terms of a covenant your great great great grandfather made.

Neh. 9:14 states "And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:"

These people were not present when the covenant was made, but it seems that it is in effect for those that want to serve the Lord.

I believe the COGs did a disservice to the Sabbath and serving the Lord. Their hierarchy of men created rules and exceptions that added an arbitrary and judgmental element to their dogma. Our loyalty is to the Lord not an organization.

xHWA said...

We didn't really go into it in these two posts but covenants have a familial component. A covenant in the Old Testament mind had the effect of making strangers into family. You can see it throughout in the language used. The familial component naturally was understood to pass down.

But what's more than that the Old Testament throughout is filled with language making it clear that the Old Covenant was from generation to Generation. For example, Exodus 31: 16:
"The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant."

God was making a special people, set aside to be the group through whom Jesus would eventually be born. Passing it on to the next generation is kinda critical here.

Even with all of that said it never at any time applied to the Gentiles, who were strangers to the covenant and were not members of the family of Israel.

xHWA said...

I don't really want to get into the hierarchy or organization topic here. Just wanted to politely remind everyone that Jesus created a church, by definition an organisation, and that church is His body here on earth. Then He set a hierarchy of Apostles over it and had them anoint elders and deacons in every area to guide and shepherd it. I understand it's very popular in certain parts of the world these days to denounce organizations, but that really isn't something I personally see as supportable from a Biblical foundation. That's all I wanted to say.

Ekklesia said...

What should one draw from your comment about hierarchy and organizations above? Which organization are you following the Lord under? Are you a part of the guiding and shepherding or are you being guided and shepherded by some other elder? I believe that those early to the faith and those that are young are almost exclusively the ones that are guided and shepherded. Paul asks those in Corinth "should you not be teachers by now?"

Hierarchy and an organization having spiritual authority over established and mature individuals is very hard to justify and is not evident after the giving of the holy spirit. Further, how does one determine today which organization has the Lord's stamp of approval. I suppose all I am saying is the COGs try to control mature members and diminish them in comparison to those in their chosen hierarchy. If you are simply saying that there are those that have the gift of being elders that can serve, exposit, and encourage others, then I agree. If you are saying that it is best for Christians to have a fellowship, I agree. If there are those that apparently have Godly gifts and abilities that can help the congregation then I believe those should be used. But, those gifts are not exclusive to one or two in a given congregation. I am convinced that local people getting together locally and growing and allowing the holy spirit to have its work so as to reveal gifts and thus grow faith is preferable to most organizations I have seen.

xHWA said...

I'm sure we can just imply right off the bat, after 9 years of blogging polemics contrary to Armstrong, that I an not now suddenly in favor of their abusive governing style. And that is exactly what it usually is - abusive (not in absolutely every case, but mostly).

But I've always given credit to Armstrongism where it has stumbled across something that I actually agree with.

"If you are simply saying that there are those that have the gift of being elders that can serve, exposit, and encourage others, then I agree. If you are saying that it is best for Christians to have a fellowship, I agree. If there are those that apparently have Godly gifts and abilities that can help the congregation then I believe those should be used."

I wouldn't say I'm "simply saying that" because there's more to it, but yeah, those are things that I am saying. It is good to be in a fellowship and use your gifts for the benefit of others.
The more to it is that there actually was a structure. It's not just about who can teach or has gifts, it's also about avoiding chaos. A structure is something that I read about both in the New Testament and in the early church fathers and that I see in the archaeological discoveries they are making these days. Even when you get together locally, it would be disruptive to have someone singing when it's time to read scripture, or teaching Armstrongism unchecked because no one believes in authority structures.

I hope to always be guided and shepherded. I've met men far wiser and deeper in faith than myself, and I enjoy the comfort of their shepherding. And I've noticed that they always have someone that they look to for guidance and shepherding. It's not something I feel is a mark of immaturity at all. Quite the contrary.

Ekklesia said...

Yes. Obviously, singing during scripture reading is generally not desirable. Yet, not having a particular person as the leader does not mean chaos either. If people are spiritually mature, various people can take the lead at various times when needed either by agreement or through the action of the Holy Spirit. Meeting with wiser men that can provide guidance is wonderful and those that take keen interest in your walk are to be treasured. You are blessed to have that.

Miller Jones/Lonnie C Hendrix said...

Excellent points about the legal aspects of the terms of the covenant with Israel, and these arguments should be especially persuasive to folks enamored with legalism. However, as you know, this argument (law vs grace) is as old as Christianity itself, and it is doubtful that many Armstrongites will be persuaded by your piece. As the old saying goes, "one convinced against his will is of the same opinion still" (I seem to recall someone named Herbert using that line fairly often).

xHWA said...

Yeah. I agree, Miller Jones. It will persuade almost no one. That's a very frustrating component of having a blog like this.

We have seen that most people are not intellectually legalist, they are emotionally legalists. The reason people leave is emotional. We can't give anyone that. Best we can hope for is to help people give themselves license to doubt the official narrative.