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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Which Day?

You may have noticed that we haven't been posting much lately. Everyone is so very busy! I haven't had any time at all to sit down and do the writing that I enjoy. Martha has a busy schedule as well, and finds plenty enough to keep her occupied just in daily life. Good thing we have guest authors! Child Survivor wrote a post for us a few months back and liked contributing so much that he's back for another go. We're always happy to hear from our readers.


On social media, in this case Facebook, I keep reading posts by Adventists and previously by the few remaining followers of Herbert W. Armstrong that accuse anyone who doesn't observe their version of “sabbath law” of being “followers of the pope”, “Babylonians”, “lawless”, and “commandment breakers”.  As a “child survivor” of Herbert Armstrong's cult, the Worldwide Church of God, granddaughter cult of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, I will continue to tackle this subject until I know I need to move on.  But regarding some of these accusations from sabbath keepers,  that we are essentially “Commandment breakers” meaning you couldn't possibly love Jesus if you don't “keep His commandments”,  keeping His commandments is ALWAYS about keeping the sabbath.  And I would remind everyone that Jesus never once instructed sabbath keeping, but that's an argument for another day.  My favorite accusation, however, is that those of us who attend church on Sunday are actually “worshiping the sun” or “following the pope”.  That is what I wish to zero in on with this post.  Does the day you congregate on in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord REALLY make a difference with God?  What was the practice of the early church? Did the early Christians keep the sabbath as modern Adventists claim, did they keep Sunday, or were days of the week a non-issue with them? Does the preaching of the word, prayers, singing, and mutual edification Christians experience all go straight out the window because of the day of the week they're doing it?  Let's look deeper.

First thing I wish to start with is a humorous but also sad illustration.  When I was 12 I remember watching the original airing of an “All in the Family” episode. (I'm 53 to save you from having to do that math).  This episode involved Archie's desire to see his newborn grandson, Joey, get baptized.  When he approaches his daughter, Gloria, about it, he begins by reminding her how religious her mother is and that she prays “every day, even when it ain't Sunday, when the Lord ain't listening”.  That remark brought quite the laughter from the studio audience.  While I believe it was intended as humor toward Archie's ignorance and not an attack on religious people, it reminds me of the mentality that is very much alive in sabbath keeping circles that God only acknowledges corporate worship on Saturday.  It brings me to ask this question that I have asked again and again and again and have never once received a straight answer from Adventists, Armstrongists, or any other Sabbatarian.


Before I dive into the scriptures, I just beg you to consider the accusation of “sun worship” simply because the day of the week is called “Sunday”.  One person recently told me that's how Sunday started as worship of the sun.  So that makes any religious gatherings “sun worship” simply because allegedly thousands of years ago, extinct religions supposedly worshiped the sun on that day, makes ANY gathering guilty of the same thing?  Are we to assume “once pagan, always pagan”?  If so, then why isn't the same applied to Saturday which was supposedly the day the god Saturn was worshiped?  Why is that day immune from leftover pagan influences of literally thousands of years ago?  I also wish to let you know that I have been attending Protestant worship services almost every Sunday since my conversion from Sabbatarians to Christianity in 1980.  A typical Protestant service involves singing praise to God with either traditional hymns or contemporary songs (which by the way modern Adventists and Church of God Seventh Day congregations use with extreme liberality), prayers offered, offering taken, reading of scripture, a message or sermon from scripture, and either on a monthly or weekly basis, communion.   In the typical Catholic mass you have songs sung, much, and I mean much scripture read from the pulpit, prayers offered for those in need and for the world around them, usually some sort of message, much liturgy which is usually directly from scripture, and communion.  Again, in both cases, does all this count for nothing more than pagan worship simply because of the day of the week it falls on? Especially since Adventist services have so many similarities with Protestant services?

One question I have asked on occasion and only got a response once, was “what if I rest and read scripture on Saturday, but attend a Baptist worship service on Sunday morning, is THAT ok?” The only one who ever responded to that was a pompous Armstrongist who began by saying “while I have ISSUES with Baptists, I guess that's ok”.  Really?  But at least she answered me.  I've also asked the question about Catholics and Evangelicals who are in and out of church before sunset on Saturday, if THEY kept the sabbath?  Only one answered me with “it depends”.  Ok.  But if it is not assumed that if these people who attend church on Saturday at 4pm are not keeping the sabbath, why has it been universally assumed by these people that Paul was “keeping the sabbath” in Acts 13 and 17 simply because he was in a JEWISH gathering on a particular sabbath?  And I would add that these passages simply say what he did on those days, they NEVER tell us that Paul KEPT the entire day, or any part the day at all.  He was just in a place where Jews were gathered to bring the gospel of the Messiah to them.   If being in the synagogue on the sabbath meant Paul and the early believers “kept the sabbath”, then you have to grant the same credit to Christians today who go to Saturday evening services of their “Sunday keeping churches”.  But you never do, ever.  So to be at all credible with your beliefs you either have to drop the argument from Paul's so-called “example” or grant the same credit to millions of Catholics and some Protestants around the globe who are doing what you claim Paul was doing.

Now let's look at the scriptures.  I think everyone reading this KNOWS that there is NO prohibition against gathering to worship collectively on ANY given day in scripture, but most Sabbatarians will never admit it.  But the fact that you know is good for enough for me to continue at this point.  Again, with scripture we begin with the birth of the church from Acts 2:

“Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all in one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat on each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” vs 1-4

Now you see, the Holy Spirit came in power on Pentecost.  When was Pentecost?  THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK!  Armstrongists would argue for holy day keeping here, but the fact remains, this miraculous event empowering the followers of Jesus and saving 3,000 souls (read the rest of the chapter for that) COULD have happened on the weekly sabbath, it would have set a precedent...but it DIDN'T.  It happened on what we refer to today as SUNDAY!!!  Is this significant?  New Beginning?  First fruits?  Our Lord's Resurrection?  Take your pick!

Now if you keep reading in Acts 2, you will see what the practice of the early believers was starting in verse 46 “So continuing DAILY in one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor  with all the people.  And the Lord added DAILY those who were being saved”.  Vs 46 & 47

Do you see the word DAILY here?  It doesn't say “weekly” or “from sabbath to sabbath”.  It clearly does not distinguish any day from another.  The church met as often as they could and that would have definitely included what we now call Sunday and yes, Saturday as well.  But days are not emphasized or distinguished, at least not anywhere near to the point that Adventists do.

Another passage from Acts that sabbath keepers absolutely love to rip apart is..from Acts 20 verse 7 “Now on the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight”.  WHOA, He preached until midnight?  No wonder poor Eutychus dozed off!  But attention spans were longer then. But that's beside the point.  But do you see?  Breaking of bread (Lord's supper) and preaching, all on the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK.  This is a Christian gathering and no pope was around to bless it, and it was 300 years before Constantine.  So not only did the early Christians meet daily, but the first day of the week had a special significance and it's recorded in scripture!

Further on in the New Testament we have from 1 Corinthians  16:1&2 “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come”   I have read Sabbatarians refute the notion that this is promoting meeting on the first day of the week by insisting Paul was telling people to start storing up their offerings on the first day of the week so at the sabbath they would collect it.  Problem being, that's not what he writes.  He tells us that this is the “collection”, not individual storing up.  He's also addressing Christians collectively, not individually...”given orders to the churches..”.  While Paul does say “each one”, the context is still a collective instruction to a group.  The exact procedure here is a bit fuzzy if you ask me, but we are dealing with a culture from 2,000 years ago.  But either way, it goes without saying, the first day of the week is associated as set apart and for an act of Christian worship..offerings.

To sum up, I am not advocating the notion that the sabbath was changed to Sunday.  The sabbath, like the rest of the law was nailed to the cross , Eph 2:15 & Col 2:14-17.  Christians are not obligated to keep any day holy.  Christians have traditionally assembled on Sunday, the first day of the week to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  It has traditionally been a “celebration”, not an “obligation”.  Can you understand the difference?  While I do acknowledge that some Christians have applied the 4th commandment to Sunday, I believe they have done so in error.  The Catholic church made every Sunday a “holy day of obligation”, but that simply means they are required to attend mass on that day, not keep it as a “day of rest”.  I also know that some fundamentalist Christians over the last 100 years have erroneously put strict requirements of “keeping the sabbath” meaning Sunday.  While I believe their motives are arguably well-intentioned, their methods in both cases have been misguided, just as I believe modern Sabbatarians are misguided about their  understanding of the sabbath, law, grace, and salvation in general.

I pray that this will not fall on deaf ears.  I so hope you can come to grapple with the following realities..

1.  There is NO PROHIBITION against congregating any day of the week in scripture.

2.  There is no command to keep the sabbath ANYWHERE in the New Testament

3.  Scripture does not have the early church meeting exclusively on ANY day of the week.

4.  There is no mention of the early Christians keeping or meeting on the sabbath.

5.  And finally, keeping ANY DAY will never save you nor help you STAY saved.  Salvation is a gift from God completely unmerited for all of us have sinned and fall short of God's glory.   Rom. 3:23

However, if you can show me any scripture at all that answers my original question, which I will repeat for those of you with short memories...



And I would like to add, quotes from Ellen G. White or Herbert W. Armstrong do NOT count as scripture.

Thank you to all of you Christians and Sabbatarians alike for reading this post.  May God enlighten us all with His perfect revelation.

God bless!

Child Survivor, thanks for contributing. Hopefully this provokes some thoughts.

And, hey .. if anyone wants to post a guest article, just reach out. We're always willing to at least consider your piece.

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