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We’re Not Under the Law

Posted in Law and Grace

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.

I wonder if people who respond this way have ever thought through the logic of what they are saying. They believe that with the death of Jesus on the cross, the law of God no longer applies. I find it interesting that I have only heard that response with regard to Sabbath-keeping, the 4th Commandment. Never once have I heard the same people argue that Jesus died on the cross so that we could have other gods before him (1st Commandment), or so we could worship idols (2nd Commandment), or take His name in vain (3rd Commandment). When was the last time you heard the family of a murder victim proclaim that the murderer should go free (6th Commandment) because we are no longer under the law? I don’t recall anyone standing up for Tiger Woods because we are no longer under the law of adultery (7th Commandment). Certainly no business owner would say I wasn’t “under the law” if I stole from their store (8th Commandment). And the last I checked, perjury was still a punishable crime, without any outcry for doing away with the 9th Commandment about being a false witness. Same with honoring our parents (5th Commandment), and coveting (10th Commandment). So apparently, the only law that we supposedly are not under is the 4th commandment to keep holy the day that God sanctified and set apart. In other words, by this logic, the only commandment that it is okay to forget is the only commandment that begins with the word “remember”.

What proponents of this interpretation must also overlook is the plain and repeated words of both Jesus and Paul. Take for instance, some of the very first words out of the mouth of Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets.” And “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” What about John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus tells us in Mark 7 that we worship in vain if we lay aside the commandments of God in favor of the tradition of man. (Sunday keeping is a tradition of man.)

Consider 1 John 1:3-4, which states that you can tell if someone knows Jesus by whether or not they keep the commandments, and even says that you are a liar if you claim to know Him but do not keep the commandments. Consider also James 2: 10-11, which teaches that if you keep all the law except offend in one point, you are guilty of all. Perhaps the most important verse in this regard is Revelation 22:14, that it is those who keep the commandments who have the right to enter into the New City and inherit the Tree of Life. I don’t see a Sabbath exception in any of these verses, or anywhere else in the Bible. I could literally fill two pages of this newspaper with similar quotes. The overwhelming evidence of Scripture shows that the law is valid through eternity.

God inscribed the Sabbath commandment in stone with his finger. It was the Sabbath that he said was to be a sign, a perpetual covenant, throughout all the generations (Exodus 31:12-17). This is the same God that says “I change not” in Malachi 3:6 and is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” in Hebrews 13:8. In fact, consider this point carefully: if God could change, and his law could be done away with, then why would it even have been necessary to send Jesus to die for our sins? God could have just changed the law that Adam and Eve broke, or any other laws that His people find inconvenient or impossible to keep.

What about Paul’s example? He repeatedly kept all Sabbaths, both weekly and annual. In fact, he even said in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 that of the times and seasons (a reference to all of God’s holy days) there was no need to write about them. Why would he have to write to them about that which they knew so clearly? Just like I don’t need to start off a letter to my parents telling them who I am and how they know me, Paul didn’t need to write to the churches about a known commandment, one which they kept with him on a regular basis.

Because I’ve run out of room, I’m going to take this up next time with a study of what not being under the law really means. But until then, you can rest assured that it does not mean that any part of the law of God was done away with at the cross, not even the 4th Commandment, something that He desires we consider a blessing and a delight (Isaiah 58:13).

(Please go to the next article "What Does it Mean to be 'Under Grace?")