The Sabbath & The Ten Commandments


Sabbath & 10 Commands

The Sabbath & The Ten Commandments


One of the arguments often used in imposing the Sabbatical Law upon Church Age Saints comes from a common misconception about the Ten Commandments. It is held by many that the Ten Commandments were given by God to all people in all times. Therefore, they are just as binding on the Church Age Saint as they were on the Jewish people of the time of Moses. Since the Sabbatical Law is part of the Ten Commandments, then it ought to be followed by the Church Age Saint. A closer examination of the Ten Commandments will reveal the flaw in such a conclusion.

First of all, let us note the Ten Commandments were given only to the Jews. We saw in our first segment these commandments were given as part of the Covenantal relationship between Israel and God (Exodus. 20:1; 31:12-18). Probably the clearest testimony of this fact is found in Moses’ review of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 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. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. The Lord talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. 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.” Deut 5:1-5 (NKJV)

At this point some will object to this fact by pointing out that the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament as well. This objection, however, does not hold up when we compare the 10 Commandments as given to Israel with the teaching of the New Testament. There are at least two things that make the Ten Commandments given to Israel unique from any thing given at any other time and to any other people.

I. No Duplicate: it should be noted that this group of 10 commandments as a unit of ten is not given before the time of Moses nor after the time of the Resurrection of Christ. No where outside the Old Testament will you find any passage that groups these10 commandments together. In fact, as we saw in the second segment there is no reference in the New Testament commanding the Church to keep the Sabbath nor is there any NT reference of the Church worshipping on the Sabbath. The absence of a duplicate 10 commandments given to a new group of God’s Saints, the Church, indicates that God did not expect the Church to keep the 10 commandments as given to Israel through Moses.

II. A Different Animal: there are principles of godly human behavior, given by God at Creation, planted in the heart of unfallen man, and binding on all humanity regardless of race and time. In Genesis 1-4 God laid down all the principles found in the 10 commandments in addition to many others found in the Old and New Testaments. For example God speaks of the fact that He is the only God who exists and as Creator is deserving of man’s worship. God establishes marriage as the union of one man and one woman for a life time. He sets a pattern of a seven day cycle with six days of work and one day of rest. Through Adam and Eve He shows the outcome of lying, stealing, and coveting and through Cain, the consequences of murder. However, just because these universal principles are found in the Ten Commandments does not mean that they are one and the same. As we are about to see, the 10 Commandments as given to Israel have unique rules and penalties attached to these universal principles that are not binding to any other people or time. Though the principles are binding to all generations, their form in the Ten Commandments is only binding upon Israel as a part of God’s special covenant relationship with her. Let me illustrate this point by reviewing the Ten Commandments.

A The Ten Commandments as given to Israel through Moses add specific and harsh punishments to the universal principles of God.

1 One: You shall not have any other gods before Me. Penalty is death: Deut. 13:4-5

2 Two: You shall not commit idolatry. Penalty is death: Deut. 17:2-7

3 Three: You shall not defile the name of God. Penalty is death: Lev. 24:16

4 Four: Remember the Sabbath. Penalty is death: Ex. 31:14

5 Five: Honor your Father and Mother. Penalty is death: Ex. 21:15; 21:17; Deut. 21:20-21

6 Six: You shall not murder. Penalty is death: Lev. 24:21; Num. 13:5-9

7 Seven: You shall not commit adultery. Penalty is death: Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22-24

8 Eight: You shall not steal. Penalty in some cases is death: Ex. 21:16; Deut. 24:7; in other cases special instructions of repayment: Lev. 6:1-7

9 Nine: You shall not lie against your neighbor: Penalty involves special instructions: Deut. 19:15-21

10 Ten: you shall not covet: Penalty is not specifically given however coveting can easily lead to sins that do require the death penalty such as rape (Deut. 22:25-27), Murder (Lev. 24:21), Kidnapping (Ex. 21:16), and Adultery (Lev. 20:10).

If these Ten Commandments or laws are identical to the universal principles they are founded upon than these penalties must still be in effect today. We as Christians would be mandated to put the adulterer, the idolater, the blasphemer and the parent abuser to death. However this does not match the will of God as presented prior to Moses nor in the New Testament. The Ten contain the universal principles but are more than the universal principles.

B The Ten Commandments as given to Israel through Moses added specific and unique rules to the universal principles of God. 

1) Commandment Four: remembering the Sabbath. God gives the following special instructions to Israel in the keeping of the Sabbath.

a No preparation of food on the Sabbath (Ex. 16:23-30): all the food to be eaten on the Sabbath was to be prepared on the 6th day

b No starting fires on the Sabbath (Ex. 35:3)

c No gathering of sticks on the Sabbath (Lev. 15:32-36)

d No preparation of bodies for burial (Luke 23:52-56)

e No making of anyone else to work for you (Ex. 20:10; Deut. 5:14-15)

f Limited distance of travel (Acts 1:12)

g It was to be kept from Friday at 6:00 PM to Saturday 6:00 PM or the Jewish Saturday

h It was to be kept on the first days of Sacred Holidays (Ex. 12:15-16; Lev. 23:7, 24, 35, 39; Num. 1:18; 28:18; 29:1; Jn. 19:31).

2) Commandment Five: Honoring parents

a If a child strikes his parents he is to be put to death (Ex 21:15)

b If a child curses his parents he is to be put to death (Ex 21:17)

3) Commandment Eight: Stealing

a If a man steals he will restore what he has taken plus an additional 1/5 the value of the item (Lev. 6:5)

b If a man steals he is to offer a trespass offering, a ram (Lev. 6:6)

c If a man steals a sheep or ox and kills it he will return 5 oxen for one ox or 4 sheep for a sheep (Ex. 22:1)

d If a thief has not the resources to pay back what he has taken he will be sold into slavery to pay off his debt (Ex. 22:3)

e If a thief takes articles or money from a home he is to pay double back (Ex. 22:7)

4) Commandment Nine: False witness: if a person seeks to bring false charges to bear against someone else, the false witness will have done to him what he sought to have done to the other person (Deut 19:15-21) 

If these 10 commandments are identical to the universal principles of God than these rules must still be in effect today. We must keep them as Israel was to keep them. For example, if we are to follow the same Sabbatical Law as given to Israel then we are bound by God to do the following:

1) We will have to keep the Sabbath from Friday 6:00 PM to Saturday 6:00 PM

2) We will not be able to kindle a fire making it impossible to drive our cars or trucks, to cook our meals, heat our homes.

3) We will not be allowed to cause anyone to work on the Sabbath: we will have to cease using electricity, television, radio; we will not go to restaurants, do any form of shopping, or pursue anything else that involves the labor of others.

Likewise, if we are to follow the same law on stealing as given to Israel in the Ten Commandments then we are bound by God to do the following:

1) We will have to restore what we have stolen and add up to five times the amount we have taken.

2) We will also have to offer a sacrifice of a ram to atone for our sins

3) We will allow ourselves to be sold into slavery if we can not repay what we have stolen.

We, therefore, must draw the conclusion that the Ten Commandments as given through Moses to Israel contain universal principles given to all men however they also include addition rules and restrictions intended for the nation of Israel only. Since the Church is not Israel, the Ten Commandments are not binding upon it however the universal principles behind them are. Therefore as followers of Christ, we should follow these universal principles as God gave to the whole of humanity not as they were given to Israel. For example, we follow the principle of the day of rest as set forth in Gen. 2:1-3 by keeping a 7 day cycle of 6 days of labor but one day of rest However, we are not bound by the Ten Commandments to make the day of rest a Saturday or Jewish Saturday. As Christ followers living in the Church age, may we no longer be bound by the law given by Moses and intended for the Jewish people. Let us go forth in the liberty we have in Christ.

2 Cor 3:14-18, “For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” NKJV

Gal 5:1-6, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." NKJV

Sabbath & 10 Commands