Let Go of Days, Take Hold of Christ
Is it necessary to observe holy days and rituals in order to gain eternal life?
The following is a transcript of a message given not too long before Earl Williams disassociated himself from the Worldwide Church of God. (Be sure and read The Earl Williams Factor which goes into detail concerning this period of time.) It does not cover control or manipulation tactics, which were used on members, nor does it cover recovery from high demand groups. For more information on these subjects, go to Understanding Mind Control & Exploitive Groups and our Booklist.
Someone once said that if you are not moving forward, you are standing still. I think that is true, but I also would like to add to that. You can't move forward if you are holding on to the past. Momentum by its very definition requires you to give up your present position and to walk forward.
I like circuses. Perhaps some of you have been to a big top Ringling circus. And if you had monkey bars, perhaps you have swung from one to the other, just going and releasing. I was especially thrilled as a youth (and to even to this day) seeing performers way, way up, maybe 50 hundred feet swinging, and they would release one and catch another. But have you ever stopped to think what would happen, as they held on to one and were swinging to reach the other, if he grabbed the other one and held on to the other one? He would dislocate his shoulders. Now that is simply an illustration of physics. How much more the mind. If you are moving forward and you are holding on to a fixed position and you grab something else, trying to hold on to the old, guess what is happening? You are going to ring [turn, twist] your mind and your spirit. You're going to have emotional upset, because you've got to let go of A to get to B. That is quite elementary.
Many of us cannot move forward because we are holding on to days--Sabbath days and holy days--and we cannot go forward with Christ. Some of us are trying to do both and it will ring you. We need to stop serving days and start serving people. Many of us have had our whole lives wrapped around putting our energy, our money and our time in busy dates. We would save all year to observe dates. That's a lot of energy, time and focus. When you let go of days and grab hold of Christ, what you find is that you will start serving people rather than days. Your time, your energy, your focus will be where Jesus' focus was, which was on helping people. The Christian life is about faith in God and serving people. We need to let go of symbols and shadows and embrace the reality, which is Jesus Christ.
The Old Covenant Served its Purpose For a Time
Let's look at some things as we swing forward and as we let go of the old. I know it's easy to feel comfortable with certain things. It's amazing how nostalgia works. It seems that the past and the old just seems good to us, and I think the reason for that is because the mind has a way of blocking out, or canceling out, those painful things--like the time you lost your job, the time your kids flunked a course or two.
I remember when my son was one year old, and he had this blue blanket. He couldn't talk very well, but he'd say, "I need my blue blankie." But he would carry that blue blanket around with him everywhere he would go, and it was fine when he was one year old. But when he became five, it was a problem for many reasons. First of all, he was too big for it; it wouldn't cover him all the way anymore. Secondly, it was obsolete. It had so many holes in it that it just needed to fade away. Now it served its purpose for a time--if you know what I mean--and so did the old covenant and its symbols. It served a purpose for a time. But there came a time when it didn't fit anymore.
Now, perhaps in a sense, there are certain things which we have done that we were very comfortable with and very secure with, and we have a lot of emotions attached. But when the Gospel of Jesus Christ burst on the scene over 1900 years ago, certain things had served their purpose. The old covenant had ended and its symbols. This gospel cannot be contained in the old symbols or in the old covenant. It is in need of new wineskins. [Matthew 9:17] So we need to let those things go. If we don't, we become as James said: "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8) If you try to hold two opinions, not only will you be double-mind but, as any psychologist will say, you will be in a state of cognitive dissonance. That means that you hold two opposing opinions at the same time. You can't have the old and the new, and you can't force new things into old.
II Cor. 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
Jesus Fulfilled All Things
Some will want to say, "Well, you talk about days and symbols, having let them go, aren't there prophecies such as Isaiah 66, Zechariah 14, about the Sabbath and the holy days and their being in the future?" Let's understand something, brethren, that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of Israel's hopes and future, which were described in the prophets. Jesus made new and transformed everything in the Law and the prophets; He fulfilled all of that. When He burst on the scene, prophecies became fulfilled, and Jesus replaced these things with Himself.
[Note from ESN: More on Zechariah 14 is covered in our article, "Must We Keep the Law for Salvation?" under: Doesnt Zechariah 14:16 prove we are to keep the Feast of Tabernacles today?]
Many people try to build their theology, their practice and doctrine on the Old Testament. That is incorrect. Do you know why? Because Hebrew 1:1 tells us something very important. That in times past God spoke to the prophets and our fathers in different manners and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. Jesus is the final word, not Isaiah and not Zechariah. They only saw fragmentary pictures of the future. But when Jesus came, He was the eschaton man. Eschaton means "last things." He fulfilled and replaced those things.
On the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17 there appeared Jesus glorified along with Moses (symbolic of the Law) and Elijah (symbolic of the prophets).
"Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matthew 17:4-5)
They wanted to build tabernacles for them and the word said, "No. Listen to my Son. Not to Moses, not to Elijah, who represented all the prophets, my Son has the last word about what these things mean."
So let's look to Jesus and look to the Spirit of Jesus in Paul's other epistles as they explain what these things meant, and then we will see very, very clearly that the old covenant and its symbols of Sabbaths and holy days were fulfilled and replaced by Jesus Himself.
The Sabbath and holy days are not required for salvation. What God requires (as it says in Galatians 5) is faith expressing itself in love. This is what God wanted from the very beginning. This is why there can be other Christians who do not observe the Sabbath and the holy days. They understand that Jesus replaced them. Am I saying that it is wrong for you to do them? No. I am only saying that it is not required for Christian living. Am I saying that we don't need a day to come together and worship? Yes. But just because I choose one day and my brother chooses another does not make any one of us any better in God's sight, or doing better, or living better. What we are not to do is try to force these things on others and say "you must do them."
I am going to share some Scriptures with you in a greater depth than I have ever done before. I think it will become very clear. Once you understand the basics, the questions you may have about "what can I do on the Sabbath?" and "for how many hours?" becomes moot. Keep in mind that you cannot move forward by holding on to the past. You've got to let go of one ring to move forward to the next one.
Weak and Beggarly Elements
Jesus spent a lot of time with Paul personally and taught him these principles.
Galatians 4:1: "Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all."
Israel, before the coming of Christ, is looked upon as a child, as a one year old with their blue blanket. As long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave. What he is saying is a slave must be told everything to do. It must be written down for him or given verbal instructions. So it is with a child. A one year old does not have much internalization, nor discipline, nor self-control. He has to be told everything to do. Although this child owns the whole estate and is heir to a huge fortune and may have in his inheritance a jet, yachts, power boats--all the rest--he can't use that because he's immature. Little children must be governed by all kinds of rules.1 Paul likens the Law here to guardians and trustees who tell the child everything to do. That is what the Law is likened to.
Verse 2: "But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father."
He is subject to these until--notice the word "until." The father of the child never intends this little child to keep on being told when to go to bed, when to brush his teeth, when to rest, when to play, when to work. This word "until" was also used in Galatians 3:19:
"Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made..."
The child is under these trustees/guardians--by analogy "the Law"--until the time set by his father--a time when the father says the child is mature and ready to take on responsibility and self-discipline. This is temporary.
Galatians 4:3: "Even so we, when we were children..."
When we were children, the Law told us when we are the rest on the 7th day. The Law told us when we could work only on six days, when we were to worship only the 7th day, what we were to eat and not to eat, when we could till the soil and when we could not. It's not necessarily saying those things were "bad," but it was regulated under the Law.
"...were in bondage under the elements of the world (Gal. 4:3):
"Elements" means the basic principles. They were elementary, kindergarten, or ABC's. Law told everything to do. It is interesting in verse 9 that Paul calls them "weak and beggarly elements":
"But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?"
The Law was weak in that it could not change a person's heart, nor could it empower the person to do what was right. There was no internalization. As long as I'm telling you what to do, be it by virtue of Mount Sinai, or whatever, you are being told what to do. It doesn't change your heart. It doesn't give you the power to do that. It will force you, it will give you penalties, and you will do it out of fear.
Verse 4: "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."
These elementary things told when to rest, when to work, when to worship, a specific place to worship (in a temple), of circumcision, of tithing. They were told how much to pay. It wasn't out of the heart.
Jesus came to redeem those that were under the Law, not to leave them there, not to make more rules, nor to make them more binding. That's a misconception to think that Christ came to make it more binding. He has come to buy [redeem] us from under the do's and the don'ts and the ABC's.
Jewish Rabbis Understood When the Law Would End
Many Jewish Rabbis understood that once Messiah would come there would be an end to the elementary Law. They understood more than some Christians understand (except they don't feel He's come). They understood that the rule of Law in days would end with the reign of the Messiah. I would like to quote from a Jewish journal, The Journal of Jewish Studies, page 106:
"If the days of the Messiah have commenced, those of the Torah came to their close. On the other hand, if the Law, the Torah, still retained its validity, it was proclaimed that the Messiah had not yet arrived."
I ask you, has the Messiah come? If He has come, even the Jews understand that the reign of Law and Torah has ended and now we follow the reign of Messiah. In other words, you can't have the Law and the Messiah at the same time. It will tear you apart. It doesn't mix. It is not a matter of Law and grace. It is grace. It is Christ. To hold to the Law is to deny that Christ has come. It is almost a form of anti-Christ. That is cognitive dissonance to hold onto two opposing principles at the same time. That's being double-minded.
Christ has come to redeem us from that, so we can grow up.
Galatians 4:5: "To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons,..."
No more children, no more one and six. No longer does God have to tell you when to rest and worship and work.
Verse 6: "God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son in our hearts. Notice now it's in our hearts, not external. Not on tables of stone. The Spirit that calls out "Abba, Father" ("Daddy, Daddy"). You are no longer a slave that has to be told every little thing to do, but a son, and since you are a son, God has made you also His heir. You have inherited eternal life.
Paul was trying to convey to these Galatians, who were being encroached upon by the "Judaizers" who were telling them, "Yes, you've got Christ, you go to Christ for salvation, but you return to Moses for the Law"; "You are saved by faith, but you've got to do these days." That's called "Galatianism"--a mixing of Law and grace. So to counter that Paul is telling them, "You are no longer little kids, you have come to Christ, you are grown up, and you don't need to be told (as they are telling you) that you must do this at this time and that time."
The reign of Law had ended because Messiah had come. Now we follow not the Law, but the Lawgiver. Now it's not by the book and the rules, but something more powerful and higher--which is Christ. And which, in some cases, we may even do things differently than the book says. Jesus had His Sermon on the Mount2 and Moses had His. Which will you follow? Jesus said "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth"--He totally contradicted that; he said forget that and love your neighbors. Love those who do evil to you.
No Longer Slaves to Laws and Rules
Here is an analogy to help you out. You go down the street; you are a law-abiding citizen. You follow all the traffic laws, you drive 55 mph, and you stop at every red light. You get in the habit of doing that. But one day you come to the corner of such and such and the light is red and there's a traffic officer out there telling you to go through. Now instead of following the traffic light and traffic law, who are you to follow? You have a problem now, because you are holding on to what the Law says--that you have to stop at a red light. The officer says, "No, come on through" and you are saying you are going to stop and obey the law. The person who would stop at a light like that doesn't understand. They're not free to follow Christ. I'm not talking about free to go into immorality. I'm talking about free to follow Christ. If you believe that you must stop, you will hold up all the traffic and the officer will write you 79 tickets for not coming through the red light. And there are times he is going to tell you to stop when it says green and you try to go through and say, "No, I am going to obey the law" and you run over him.
We are not under the traffic light anymore. We are under the Traffic Officer [Christ] who sees the whole panorama of human life, needs, and circumstances. You are not under the ABC's, the rudimentary elements of the world. You are following a living Person. Notice obedience is still there. [See Rom 6:12-14] This is not talking about licentiousness and total wickedness and disobedience. Now you are obeying a Person, not just rules. I hope you see the point.
Verse 7 & 8: "Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods."
They were slaves to laws and rules; to worship at certain places, certain days. Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath and Jesus is our Sabbath. The "Judaizers" wanted to extend the tenor of the guardians of the Law. They wanted this to continue on, to keep it going, but God says the time is up when Christ came - "until." Over 1900 years ago, on the cross, Jesus said, "It is finished." (John 19:30) (We can see what He meant by "finished" and what was finished when we read Colossians.) To extend the guardians--the Law--beyond the time the Father said it was ended is to lose sight of Christ. As Paul said in Galatians 2:21: "...if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." In Galatians 4, verse 9 we see a return to bondage:
"But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?"
Can't Go Back to Elementary Things
He asks if they wish to be enslaved by these things all over again? Mankind in general is prone to be religious and to always want to look to taboos about food and drink, about sacrifices, superstitious rites, holy shrines, lucky and unlucky days, etc. God didn't bring a religion; He brought a relationship.
God went to the Jews and He gave them Laws and regulations as a concession to their infantile stage, in order that He could eventually lead them out of that to Christ. By concession He gave them days; by concession He gave them rituals; by concession He gave them shrines and buildings and special cities; by concession He gave them gorgeously robed priests; by concession he gave them a calendar based on the arbitrary movement of the bodies of the heavens. A very intricate calendar.
In Isaiah 1:11-14 God says, "I don't want these days; in fact, I'm sick of you bringing these animals in here. He says I hate your Sabbaths and your new moons."3
Verses 12-13: "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them."
God tells them that what He really wanted was to bring justice to the oppressed and to have mercy.
Verses 16-17: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
He used these things to show them the coming of His Son. Hebrews 9:10 says:
"Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation."
Notice that key word "until."
You see it in Galatians 3 and 4 and you see it here in Hebrews 9. "Until the time of reformation" -- it began when Christ came, at His death, burial, and especially His resurrection.
"Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years." (Galatians 4:10)
He asks them why they have gone back to that--the ABC's, the elementary things. "Days" refers to Sabbaths and holy days, "months" refers to new moons, "years" refers to the Jubilee and Sabbatical years.
I would like to quote from a commentary called The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia. It says:
"Paul's argument is entirely directed against Judaism. The days refer to the Sabbath and holy days, months to the new moons, and the seasons to the Jewish feasts, years to the Sabbath and Jubilee."
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states:
"Days of Galatians 4:10 are in the first instance Sabbaths, though they also include other days, such as the Day of Atonement."
Now I know this might sound shocking to some, and I realize how it feels when something you are used to is put in a different light. I don't stand here and give this, not realizing the impact of this truth. There are things I've been used to, things that tear at my heart and that I have believed for years; things I was given other explanations for than what is literally here. That hurts. Am I saying that it is wrong to do these things? No. But if you feel that you have to do this because it makes you a good Christian, or you feel that someone else that doesn't do it is a bad Christian, or you don't want to do it and there is a guilt trip on you, that guilt is not necessary. It is wake up time and it is time to move forward. It is time to focus on what real Christianity is all about.
"I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." (Galatians 4:11)
I fear that you have turned back to the ABC's and you're missing Christ, that you are complete in Him.
Colossians is a parallel in one sense, in context into what was happening both to Colossae and at Galatia. You are having "Judaizers" (Jewish Christians) who were coming in and saying, "You have to keep these days. If you don't, shame on you, and you ought to feel guilty because you're not."
I know people who have gone to the Feast of Tabernacles and they didn't have money. They felt guilty all year because they couldn't afford to save second tithe. But they felt they were commanded to be there, so they would go, take their last check and their credit card, and sit there in guilt, hoping no one would ask them. They were also fearful and under guilt because they knew for the next twelve months they would have to catch up on those credit cards, because in their minds they thought this was what God required. You probably know people like that. It's a vicious cycle of guilt and debt. Well, God wants us to be free from that.
What do the Scriptures say? Are these things required? Are these things that you should be judged by? Galatians plainly says that they are ABC's.
Colossae faced the threat of the Judaizers as well, but there was a little bit different group there. You had the Essenes (Gnostic Judaizers) who were even stricter and who were trying to force on the Colossians that they had to do these days and these things. In Colossians 2 we see the same problem. People were trying to convince the Christians that they had to do this, plus something else; that it was Christ plus.
"For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power" (Colossians 2:9-10)."
The fullness was in Christ. They weren't lacking anything because they weren't doing the days. Because there were who "sat in Moses seat" and tried to lay a guilt trip on them, Paul tells them the authority is Christ.
"In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" (Colossians 2:11).
If you want to be consistent and hold on to the days, you have to be circumcised also. The Law is a package. The old covenant had as its sign the Sabbath and the holy days, and another sign that was even bigger than that was circumcision. It was a package deal. WCG was very elective. Out of the approximately 613 laws they chose this and chose that. Paul says in Galatians 3:10 if you are going to do the Law, you have to do the whole Law.
The Law can only apply to a living person. The Scripture says we have died in Christ:
Verse 12: "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."
When you were dead in your sins, and uncircumcism under the sinful nature, God made you alive in Christ. He forgave all your sins.
Three Great Enemies Defeated
Christ defeated three great enemies at His resurrection:
- The Law
- The powers and authorities
You should follow and be led by the Holy Spirit. I may lead if you want to follow, but I can't have any authority. Christ condemned the Pharisees for claiming they sat in Moses' seat. I don't sit in Moses' seat. That is over with. The only authority I have with you is what God gives me as I speak His word. If I speak not according to this word, I have no authority. As a leader gives up authority, power, and control, his influence increases, because he turns people to God if he is following God. Christ said don't be like the Gentiles who exercise authority (Matthew 20:25-27):
"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:"
When Jesus died he stripped all of authority, and the tools of manipulation, Law and sin and guilt.
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Colossians 2:13).
Sin (and the power of guilt) is the first defeat. All your sins--past, present, and future--are not held over you if you have accepted [placed your trust in] Christ.
The second thing he defeated was the Law.
Verse 14: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances4 that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross"
Do you know why it was against us and opposed to us? Because you couldn't keep it. It brought condemnation. It could only convict you and condemn you and sentence you.
When I was at Ambassador College, we were told that the word "written code" [i. e., "ordinances"] meant a "document of sin." It doesn't. It simply means "any written document." It is not talking about your sins here. Verse 13 talks about your sins having been forgiven. This word in Greek can talk about any written document, and to know which document it is talking about must be determined by the context in which it is used. So it simply means "written code"--any written document. But the context of this verse shows which written document it is talking about. The word is dogma in Greek and it is the same word used in Ephesians 2:15 for the law of God.
So in the same verse it tells us that the "written code" [i. e., "ordinances"] is the law of God. By the context of what is written before verse 14, in verses 10 through 12, one can see the subject is circumcision, something written in the law of God. The verses after verse 14 deal with Sabbaths, new moons and feasts. That's also a written code concerning the Law of God. The Jews were not talking about just any written document, they were there to force on them the written document of God. The Greek is speaking of the law of God. For years [HWA] said, "Oh, the Protestants say the Law was nailed to the cross."5 They were right. But because of [WCG's] little bias that anything Protestant had to be wrong, they constructed their own theology. Just make the Word of God say something it simply didn't.
"Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace";
Paul goes on to say, and let's read it again:
"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross"; (Colossians 2:14)
So the second thing He defeated was the Law.
The third thing He defeated with His resurrection was the powers and authority:
Verse 15: "And having spoiled [disarmed] principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it."
The picture is of Roman warfare where a captive (defeated) is stripped of all his armaments and power and stands there weak and powerless. He speaks here primarily first of angels (vs. 18) because these Jews were enamored by angels. Much of the Word of God in the Old Testament was administered and sent by angels. (See Hebrews 1:1-2) Also, behind the angels are human authorities who try to use sin and the Law as a way to manipulate the people back under this. Paul says Christ defeated all of that.
[Note by ESN: Christ also destroyed the works of the devil: "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." (I John 3:8)]
Days Were Shadows That Pointed to Christ
Verse 16: "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:"
This "therefore" is saying "because of what I have just said in verse 10-15, because Christ has defeated the Law, defeated sin and those who would use those things to control and manipulate you; therefore, do not anyone judge you. They were using these things to judge these Colossians Christians. Paul told them you are complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:10) Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat, what you drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a new moon celebration or a Sabbath day. I have no authority, and no one has any authority to force you to keep a Sabbath day or a festival, or to judge you because you do not. These are a shadow of things that were to come. The reality, however, is found in Christ.
Verse 17: "Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [sōma, lit., "body"] is of Christ."
Has Christ come? If He hasn't, the shadow is still there. Once you see a shadow it automatically leads us to the person. When we see the person, we leave the shadow alone. Christ is the reality; these days are shadows. That is why I am saying, let go of the shadow and embrace the reality, which is Christ. Don't put all your energy and focus in the day; focus on serving people. That's what real Christianity is about, not these ABC's, not when to rest and when not to rest; not when to work and when not to work.
[Note by ESN: Chapter 15 of Seventh-Day Adventism Renounced by D. M. Canright covers Colossians 5.]
Jesus came to redeem us from the Law to Himself, as Galatians 4:4-5 says:
"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law..."
Redeemed us to serve Him, not days. Jesus was not trying to reform the Sabbath by His miracles anymore than He was trying to reform temple worship by telling them how to worship in the temple. Jesus, by His miracles on the Sabbath, was telling them, "Stop looking to that day; look to Me. I am the Sabbath. I have replaced it." Jesus is the Sabbath and the Sabbath keeps me and all those who believe in Him. Under the old covenant you kept the days; under the New Covenant6 it's the Person who keeps you, directs you, leads you and guides you. In the old covenant it was one day you were to do good and to worship God. In the New Covenant it is every day because Jesus said in John 5:17,"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." The thing that is holy is not that time. The thing that is holy is that God called Jesus.
Come to Jesus for Spiritual Rest
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
Jesus was telling them it is not the day that I want you to come to, it's Me. The focus [in this verse] is not so much on the physical burden and rest, but on the spiritual.
Verse 29: "Take my yoke upon you..."
Those days were looked upon as a yoke of bondage as Acts 15:10 says:
"Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?"
Jesus says take My yoke, not that yoke upon you, and learn from Me, versus learning from the Law.
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matthew 11:29).
Learn from Me, obey Me. Obedience is still there, but it is obeying Christ.
"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (vs. 30) Jesus is Greater Than the Sabbath
Jesus is Greater Than the Sabbath
In Matthew, chapter 12, we see Jesus doing what the Pharisees said was "unlawful." He picked the grain on the Sabbath. Then He answered them and said,
"Haven't you seen what David did? He was hungry and he ate." (verse 3)
David entered the house of God and he broke the Law because he was obeying the Law-Man, the officer that says, "Come on through this light."
Verse 5: "Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?"
And the Jews felt that the temple was holier than the Sabbath. Jesus takes their chain of reasoning and says:
Verse 6: "But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple."
And if greater than the temple that they held up above the Sabbath, then, therefore, greater than the Sabbath. Jesus is greater than the Sabbath. He said, "I am this day. I am what this day is all about." It's not the 24 hours; it is a living Person that is holy. It is no longer holy buildings and holy time, hours and minutes till sunset, and then you go and do what you want to do. It's now a holy Person called Jesus, who should live in your heart always, whom you should obey--whether you are worshipping on Sunday or Saturday or Monday. If God tells you to rest, you need to rest, whether it's Saturday or Wednesday. If you have been working too hard, you need to take a break. "Oh wait a minute, it's not the seventh day." No, you follow Him. He is in control of all time, not just one day a week.
Verse 7-8: "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day."
We are told that the Sabbath rest is in Jesus:
"For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." (Hebrews 4:3).
Yes, it says there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God:
"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." (Hebrews 4:9)
Do you know what that is talking about? Jesus. Because it says today, if you will hear His word and believe:
"For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest...To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." (Hebrews 2,3,7)
In verse 7 it talks about if you will not harden your heart today, and if you hear the Gospel. The Sabbath rest is entered in through the Gospel through faith. That is the rest--Jesus--that is left for the people of God. (verse 9)
Galatians 4 and Colossians 2 form the basis of why one could work on the Sabbath--because we are in Christ and no longer under Law. The Law was replaced by Jesus Christ.
Questions and Answers Regarding Certain Scriptures
"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
So if the commandments, in Christ, are done away with, then what is this verse talking about?
The word here for commandments does not mean Law. The Greek word for Law is nomos. The Apostle John uses the Greek word entole which means "teachings." These are the people who follow the teachings of Christ. When John, in his writings, whether in Revelation, I, II, III John and the gospel of John, refers to "Law," he usually connects it with the Jews. When he refers to "commandments," he connects it to Christ's teachings.
[Note by ESN: See this part on our site which mentions Revelation 12:17.]
"And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us."
Notice it is "He in them" that accomplishes this--these two commands [belief in Jesus and love for one another]. We have examples throughout the New Testament of how this works. Galatians 5: 19-23 tells us what the fruit of the spirit is and what the fruit of the flesh is. In the New Testament we are given approximately 22 sins of the spirit. Sabbath and holy days are not mentioned amongst them. [See Romans 1:29-31 and Colossians 3:5-9 for a mention of these sins.]
Does the Sabbath command pre-date the old covenant?
First of all when you read Genesis, chapter 2, there is no command to keep the Sabbath. Some assume it is a command, but it simply says that "God rested." He didn't rest because He was tired; the rest was because of completion. He had done all the work and that was it. Secondly, throughout the book of Genesis there is no example of the people of God observing the Sabbath. It's just not there. You look at Jacob, Noah and Abraham and there is not one mention of the Sabbath being kept. If it is such a mandatory thing, those people would have shown by their example that they were observing it, but it is not there.
It is also assumed that the Sabbath was a 24-hour day of creation. You will find that with every day [in Genesis 1] it says "the day and the night were the first day." (light and darkness) When you come to the seventh day, there is no beginning and no end. That Sabbath was a time, or a period, or relationship that God wanted to continue to have forever with Adam and Eve. There was no beginning or end to it. Man sinned and that brought the end of that Sabbath rest. The Sabbath is still the 7th day of the week, but it has been fulfilled and replaced by Jesus. In Matthew 5:17-19,7 when it says "till all be fulfilled," the word "fulfilled" means to bring it unto Himself. Christ is the fulfillment, the embodiment of everything the Law was after.
Also, when you want to build a theology, doctrine or practice, do not start with the old covenant or Old Testament. Again, Hebrews 1:1-2 shows that the Old Testament is a fragmentary presentation of the will of God. The last word is Jesus.
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds";
Someone once said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed in shadows, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. If you want to understand what God's will was, you must look at the New Testament to interpret the Old.
I want to apologize to you for teaching such things [that we had to keep days and laws]. I personally didn't know any better.8 But, nevertheless, the hurt and the difficulty that it caused is still real and I apologize to you.
We talk about loss and the things that we lost because of this [blindness], but the biggest loss was not monetary or jobs or careers that many of us grieve over--and I know you grieve, and it's good and right to grieve as we move towards healing and resolution--but the greatest loss we had was Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him. If there is anything at the top of the list that we should grieve over, it is because all these years we focused on days and not on Christ. That, to me, has been the greatest loss that we have experienced in this spiritual journey.
Focus on Serving People, Not on Religious Duty
In the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30 a person lay on the road bleeding, injured, and you had three people pass by. You had a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan. Could it be that the reason why the priest and the Levite did not stop was because of their focus? Could it be that they were so involved in being religious? Because, obviously, the Levite and the priest served in the temple. They had religious duty to do. Jesus could have chosen any Jew, but he chose a Levite and a priest because they had duties, they had days, they had a shrine and a city and a place. They had their energies focused toward their religious duty. The Samaritan, on the other hand, wasn't focused on days and his religious duty. He was freed from the other so he could focus on people. He stopped and he helped somebody. Jesus asked, "Which one of these persons obeyed the Law? Which one was justified? Which one of these persons was a neighbor?" I ask you, where is your focus? I say to you, let go of days and take hold of Jesus.
By Earl Williams
Transcribed by AJW
April 10, 2003
Exit & Support Network™
"The Law is not the Gospel; it is the very antitheses of the Gospel. In fact, the Law was given by God to show men their need of the Gospel." ~H. A. Ironside
Footnotes by ESN:
1 Mind control techniques work best of those who become like children.
2 Herbert Armstrong continually emphasized the Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon Jesus elevated the Law to show that no one could keep it. Listen to: The Sermon on the Mount by Aaron Budjen (excellent series) [offsite link]
3 The days that God gave in the O.T. were meaningless when they were not done with the right attitude and instead were carried out with hypocrisy and sin.
4 S. E. Anderson shows that the Ten Commandments were the handwriting of God written on stones (Exodus 31:18; 32:15,16). He says: "The 'ordinances' here (dogmasin) are identified in Ephesians 2:15. ... That is, on the cross the OT law was fulfilled and thus abolished; this broke down 'the middle wall of partition' between Gentiles, Jews and God, thus making one new entity--the church (Eph. 2:11-18)." (Armstrongism's 300 Errors Exposed by 1300 Bible Verses by S. E. Anderson, p. 49.)
5 This passage, in so many words, is stating that it is as if Christ were nailing this certificate of indebtedness to the cross with Him when he died. Matthew Henry in his commentary on Colossians 2:14 says, "He vacated and disannulled the judgment which was against us. When he was nailed to the cross, the curse was as it were nailed to the cross." Also read: Could you explain Colossians 2:16-17? (Q&A)
6 "The new covenant prophesied in the Old Testament [will] have its primary fulfillment in the millennial kingdom. ... The future salvation of Israel is promised under the unconditional new covenant (Isa. 27:9; Ezek. 37:23; Rom. 11:26-27). This salvation will be accomplished only on the ground of the shed blood of Christ." (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes, p. 146, 148)
7 For more explanation concerning this verse see: "Doesn't Matthew 5:17-20 make it clear that the Law is still binding?"
8 Falsehoods were taught because Herbert Armstrong deceived members by teaching that these doctrines were "truths" and were personally revealed to him from God. Read: Herbert W. Armstrong's Religious Roots.