I was recently visiting with an acquaintance who asked what church I attend. When I identified myself as a Sabbath-keeper, he replied that “we are not under the law”, a common response that all Sabbath-keepers get. This is a partial quote of Paul’s writing, found in Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” For context and clarity, here is the next verse: “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Clearly Paul is not teaching us that we are free to sin (sin is defined as a transgression of the law in 1 John 3:4) because of the grace of our Saviour.
In my last column (click here to read) I made a case for the fact that Paul’s statement in Romans 6:14 that we are not “under the law” was not a valid reason to break any of God’s Commandments. In it, I promised to explain what this verse is really saying, by looking at it in context.
Peter was known for engaging his mouth before his brain from time to time, but he sure said a true mouthful when he declared in 2 Peter 3:16 that some of Paul’s writings are hard to understand. One passage that is especially confusing to people is Colossians Chapter Two, which talks about what Jesus nailed to his cross. People who are understandably confused by this passage tend to make a serious mistake, in that they conclude it was the Torah based on verse 14 or the items listed in verse 16 that were nailed to the cross. Not only is that interpretation incorrect, but it has several major unintended consequences that don’t square with the rest of Scripture.
Somewhere through the centuries, people have come up with the idea that the differences between the first covenant (Old Testament) and the renewed covenant (New Testament) are law versus grace, obedience versus faith, and an angry God versus the gospel of a loving Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. You will find law and grace, obedience and faith, and the wrath of God and the gospel of Jesus in both testaments. This is because there is one consistent God throughout all of scripture, throughout all of eternity.
We have one God, a consistent God (Malachi 3:6) who states that he will not alter the thing that comes out of his lips (Psalm 89:34). One easy way to see his consistency is to see how all ten of the commandments he gave at Mt. Sinai still appear in the New Testament. One of the first words from the lips of Jesus was that not one jot or one tittle of the law would pass away until heaven and earth passed away (Matthew 5:18). In fact, Jesus amplified many of the commandments during his Sermon on the Mount.
Paul’s writing can be difficult to understand, as we are told in 2 Peter 3:16. Some of his writings are frequently cited among people who believe Scripture teaches that the Sabbath days (weekly and/or annual) are now invalid. Scripture teaches that Paul taught everything he was shown to teach (Acts 20:27), that he never taught against Torah (Acts 24:14, 25:8, 26:22, 28:17), that he kept the feasts with Christian converts (Acts 18:21, 20:6, 1 Corinthians 5:7, 16:8), and he was not a hypocrite (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that his confusing passages are not teaching against Torah and the feasts, and we need to study them more carefully to see what they actually do teach.
In the course of my Bible study, I’ve run across articles that give reasons why Christians today no longer need to keep the seventh-day or annual Sabbaths. Most of them use writings from the Apostle Paul, who authored much of the New Testament, as their reasons for believing that God’s appointed times are no longer relevant.