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Part 2d: What Are the Terms? Continuity/Discontinuity

Glossary 21 Continuity/Discontinuity (of the Law)

Continuity/Discontinuity.  This is an important theological discussion point—indeed, a Gordian knot—that addresses the relationship between the old and new testaments. “The first question in the interpretation of Scriptures after acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus Christ is how to relate the Hebrew Scriptures to the ‘New’ Testament.”[i] “Any true biblical theology must recognize the centrality of the relationship between the testaments.”[ii] The answer to this question will ultimately affect your understanding of an array of key biblical concepts and topics, such as soteriology, the law and the gospel, Israel and the church, and eschatology.

There are several contemporary systems of thought that attempt to define the relationship between the testaments, the prevailing views being covenant theology and dispensationalism.[iii] These systems have developed over time and as a result of continuing biblical studies and dialogue a considerable variety of thought exists within each hermeneutical structure.[iv],[v] Both camps agree that certain aspects of the OT are discontinued and other aspects do continue; however, they may have different rationales behind any agreement. And, of course, the differences are preserved because the adopted systems 1) color the interpretation of key verses, 2) affect how biblical terms are conceived (i.e., “commandment,” “new,” “law,”), and 3) introduce constructs that delimit more freedom of thought (i.e., “covenant of grace,” “church as a parenthesis”). Covenant theology claims a position that favors “continuity” and dispensationalism adopts a position tending toward “discontinuity,” but these terms are rarely defined. What does continuity or discontinuity look like?

  • Continuity describes something that changes little or not at all over time. There is a connection or succession in its state over time. Its state is uninterrupted, while at the same time, there may be progression and improvement, even arriving at a state of completeness or wholeness. Unbroken, consistent. The office of the President of the United States demonstrates continuity, though different individuals have held that office with differing political goals.
  • Discontinuity embraces the idea that breaks or gaps occur, that a loss of cohesion takes place. Something comes to an end or arrives at its termination, often to be replaced by something new and different. There are jumps, intervals, separation, or breaches that upset the status quo. Things change in significant or radical ways, or something revolutionary appears for the first time. The Declaration of Independence marked the end of the colonial period and the beginning of the autonomous rule of the United States.

From these definitions, it is apparent that God is best described under the rubric of continuity, for He does not change or vary (Heb 13:8; Jas 1:17). Yet He introduced discontinuity into His eternal state with a six-day creation-fest. He didn’t change, but there was something strikingly other. Next, the fall of Adam marked an early and significant discontinuity in the perfection of God’s creation, yet God remained true to His holy character. The fact that we recognize the covenant with Noah and the covenant with Abraham as significant events is because of the discontinuities with what went before them. Heating water demonstrates a continuity that can be measured in degrees, but upon reaching its boiling point, a discontinuity occurs even though it is still dihydrogen oxide (water).[vi] When something significant happens in history, it often marks a discontinuity because of the radical changes that follow. The promulgation of the Law of Moses was a discontinuity for the life of the Israelites who previously were subject to Egyptian rule (Deut 4:34). The enthronement of King David was a discontinuity in the regime of Israel, replacing the period of judges. Jeremiah prophesied a new covenant, “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers” (Jer 31-31-32), that conveys the sense of a radical change. While there is a premise of continuity as it pertains to God’s gracious character and the progression of biblical history, there is at the same time marked discontinuities evident in the outworking of His will for His people and mankind.

The ideas of continuity and discontinuity are also discussed in psychological theories dealing with the maturation of a person from birth to adulthood. The viewpoint of continuity is likened to a positive incline—a wheelchair ramp—whereas discontinuity is likened to steps. As an outsider to the theories of developmental psychology, it would appear that the maturation of the individual contains elements of both continuity and discontinuity. Many biblical scholars would admit the same seemingly bipolar relationship of the OT and NT. Interestingly, the NT describes Israel’s relationship to the law as a temporary tutelage or guardianship that would be changed at the point of maturity (Gal 3:23-25). And now that Christ has come as the mediator of a new covenant, the language of Scripture employs the metaphors of human growth, health, status, and maturation to describe the redemption of souls effected by the work of Jesus Christ. Salvation is likened to a new birth (Jn 3:3), a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), or the adoption into a new family (Gal 4:5); vision being restored to the blind (2 Cor 4:4) or a debilitating defect being healed (1 Pet 2:24); freedom being granted to the enslaved (Gal 4:7, 31), the release from the oversight of a pedagogue (Gal 3:25); the attainment of great spiritual riches (2 Cor 8:9) and indeed, coming to spiritual life (Col 2:13). None of these metaphors can be compared to an adjustment of but a few degrees or a simple change of administration. These describe sweeping, monumental changes, and markers of discontinuity with what went before. Clearly, it would be a distinct step, or discontinuity, for a Jew to adopt the phrase “the law of Christ” in favor of “the law of Moses,” or to subscribe to the conditions of the new covenant while relinquishing the demands of the Sinaitic covenant. It is doubtful anyone can be a member of both covenants simultaneously (Gal 4:8-14; Heb 2:1-4; 10:29). If Peter stumbled at this, then we can be assured that this was not a smooth transition for the Jews.[vii] Hendrickson, commenting on this passage noted, “The clear revelation of God’s love revealed in the birth, teaching, suffering, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and coronation of Christ and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was necessary to bring about a mighty change on earth… Compared to the rivulet of grace during the old dispensation there was a mighty stream now.”[viii] Whenever something “new” happens there is some discontinuity with whatever came before. “We do not have a situation in which a variety of new perspectives are added to the staple of old things that constitute Judaism, causing only minor readjustment. On the contrary, the new that comes is an eschatological turning point in the ages, of such great consequence that we must be prepared for dramatic shifts.”[ix] Calvin is even more direct in delineating the discontinuity of the law: “Paul compares this law first to a prison, and next to a schoolmaster. Such was the nature of the law, as both comparisons plainly show, that it could not have been in force beyond a certain time.”[x]

Baxter wisely begins his commentary affirming the unity of Scriptures—“one in the progressiveness of the revelation which they collectively unfold, one in the harmony of the structure which they collectively constitute, one in the spiritual unity of the message which they collectively declare.”[xi] But the unity of Scripture does not necessarily mean the operational continuity of every legal aspect of the Mosaic covenant with the new covenant. “The new covenant has some similarities to the old, but it is a new covenant.”[xii] Nor does it mean that the promises of God in the OT will be fulfilled precisely as they were understood in their given context.[xiii] Because scholars maintain different concepts about the OT/NT relationship, they vary in their approach to identify the basis for Christian morality, ethical norms, church life, and holy living. The following chart displays four models regarding the relationship of the Mosaic covenant to the new covenant in terms of God’s commands (Mosaic law). Each model takes on a different hue when answering the question: “How should we then live?” The focus of this discussion is how the [Mosaic] law/covenant is affected by the introduction of the new covenant.

A.      The Mosaic covenant continues concurrently with the new covenant, either in full force or to a modified extent. For example, the promises to national Israel are still in effect literally, which will impact the future of the church. Jews are still bound by the Mosaic covenant if they are not in the new covenant.

B.      The Mosaic covenant comes to an end; however, aspects of it continue in force as part of the new covenant (or alongside the new covenant), such as the Ten Commandments, civil laws, all moral laws, or the promises to Israel.

C.      The Mosaic Covenant, all preceding covenants, and the new covenant are all parts of the construct called the Covenant of Grace and are therefore continuous with one another and essentially the same, except for their “administration.”

D.      The Mosaic covenant comes to an end when the new covenant is established; however, there are features of commonality between the covenants because they are consistent with God’s holiness and His eternal and gracious plan of redemption. The new covenant will draw upon the OT as it conforms to the law of Christ.

Besides the above concepts, there are two other factors that impact our understanding of the relationship between these two covenants: typology/fulfillment and the categorization of the laws and precepts. Various laws foreshadowing Christ, His work, and His people were fulfilled with His advent, and therefore are no longer required because they possess no spiritual value (i.e., circumcision). See Ceremonial Laws. Fulfillment, then, must be examined to determine its effect on Mosaic law(s), not only cultic, ceremonial, or external laws, but moral injunctions and the covenant as a whole. See Fulfillment.

The other important factor is how the laws of the Mosaic covenant are classified—if they are to be classified at all. Brogden does not find the terms of the tripartite division helpful because they imply the non-morality of so-called ceremonial and civil laws[xiv]: “A Jew obeyed the law of God in its entirety. He did not make sure to keep certain laws because they were on the moral list, while not worrying too much about observance of other laws because they were on the ‘ceremonial’ list.”[xv] While acknowledging that the [Mosaic] law should be recognized as a unity and infused with the righteousness of God (Rom 7:12), it is apparent that certain laws are of a different character than others; i.e., not eating shellfish (Lev 11:10) compared with not having sex with your granddaughter (Lev 18:10).[xvi] “Assigning priority to the moral aspect of the law over both its civil and ceremonial aspects can be observed in a plethora of passages found in the prophets.”[xvii]

Some would also distinguish civil laws and induce from them societal norms and values incumbent on every culture.[xviii],[xix] For example, the law of the parapet (Deut 22:8), literally understood, positively commands the building of a parapet, or fence, on the habitable roof of one’s dwelling in order to prevent accidental injury or death. Maimonides inferred from this law that homeowners are responsible to ensure the safety of their guests by removing any object that could potentially cause injury.[xx] Some Christians advocate “continuity” of this law, albeit as a principle. Others would argue that this particular law is discontinued because the whole law has been upstaged, but that the royal law of love requires the same thing, and this particular law is merely an example of the love for neighbor contained in the [Mosaic] law. As this example shows, the terms continuity and discontinuity are meaningless if both groups end up agreeing on the practical application for the church. “Christians have long debated about what parts of the OT law, if any, carry over into the NT. Many in the past have categorized the law into three parts: ceremonial, civil, and moral. Although this has no exegetical basis, it is a broadly helpful way to conceive of the law. Many scholars disagree with such a tripartite classification of the law and see it as being overly simplistic. The attempt to fit the law into these three categories is indeed a complex issue, and it needs more nuanced argumentation…”[xxi]

Lastly, the primary reason for studying this topic is practical—How should the NT shape and define the normal Christian life and what laws from the Mosaic covenant appear to apply and if so, in what way and to what extent? The New Testament validates the practical necessity to engage the narratives of the Old Testament (Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11; 2 Tim 3:15-17; Heb 4:11), therefore, a “New Testament Christian” should be well-grounded in Old Testament history. Indeed, the Christocentric motif of the OT is able to effect spiritual renewal (Matt 4:4; Jn 5:39-47; cf. 2 Ki 23:2-3). In addition, Jesus repeated two Mosaic laws (Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18) that epitomize our spiritual duties to God and fellow man. These laws were for the nation Israel while they were in the land, and obedience to them would bring personal and national blessings, but they are authoritative even for [believing] Gentiles. James claimed that believers would also reap blessings contingent on their obedience to this “royal law” (Jas 2:8). But equally significant is that the apostles did not urge obedience to laws such as: the prohibition against mixing materials in clothing, scourging a man for having sex with someone else’s concubine, the prohibition against eating the fruit of a new tree for three years, the prohibition against shaving or making tattoos, keeping the Sabbath and reverencing the sanctuary, standing in the presence of an old man, and the like. Certainly, for the follower of Christ, the relationship to Mosaic law is profoundly different. There is a picking and choosing of OT material as it suits the mission and goals of the new covenant, and there is a right way and a wrong way to relate to the law. Paul reminded Timothy that the purpose of the commandment is to “love from a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith,” and that some supposed teachers of the law fail to understand it and focus their attention on unedifying topics. Furthermore, the law (as a moral mirror) still identifies sin so that the gospel may save sinners (1 Tim 1:3-16), yet Gentiles may still be saved without its use (Rom 2:12-16). “Nevertheless, the Gospel is a glorious superseding of and advancement over the Mosaic administration with its ceremonial ordinances.”[xxii]

Most outward Christian activities are affected by the answer to the earlier question, either consciously or subconsciously. Should a Christian vote, join the military service, or promote Israel? Should the church baptize infants, organize denominations, make religious art, or build elaborate structures for worship? May a Christian own a slave? Are Christians required to pay a tithe to the church? Are there roles for men and women both in church and in their community? Should children be present during the sermon? May our children marry at age 14? And, of course, are Christians required to abstain from all manner of work on the seventh day of the week? “As sure as it was His (Jesus’) to win and ascend the throne, it is His to prove His dominion in the individual soul. It is He, the Living One, who has divine power to work and maintain the life of communion and victory within us. He is the Mediator and Surety of the Covenant—He, the God-man, who has undertaken not only for all that God requires, but for all that we need too.”[xxiii]

In the context of continuity/discontinuity discussions, covenant theology (Reformed) generally favors the continuation of the Sabbath while dispensational theology (Evangelicals) does not. However, there are exceptions in both camps. The point is that neither system logically compels its supporters to adopt a particular view about the Sabbath. However, once someone identifies with a system, they are generally obliged to embrace the consensus or doctrinal position of that system. In other words, people accept the historic position of their denomination as a settled matter, assuming that its position is consistent within that theological framework and with the teaching of the Bible.

One argument for the continuity of the Sabbath comes from the maxim that OT laws continue into NT times unless they are specifically abrogated. For example, Bahnsen contends, “Indeed, the Bible teaches that we should assume continuity between the ethical standards of the New Testament and those of the old, rather than abbreviating the validity of God’s law according to some preconceived and artificial limit.”[xxiv] Of course, the Bible doesn’t explicitly teach us to assume this rule. It is merely a man-made rule to bolster the position of covenantal theology. If anything, one could reason that because God is a moral being who does not change, we should not expect His definition of morality to change from one covenant to another. Additionally, one could reason that if God commands anything, it would always be a moral command. Therefore, none of the laws of the OT should change with the institution of the NT. However, the Bible does teach us that the NT introduces phenomenal changes respecting laws of the OT, leading others to advise, “When we read a command given to the Jews, we do not assume that we must do it, too.”[xxv]

Bahnsen restates his position, “Our attitude must be that all Old Testament laws are presently our obligation unless further revelation from the Lawgiver shows that some change has been made.”[xxvi] Of course, were it not for the explicit NT teaching that the OT law of circumcision is now nothing, we would not be faced with the idea that any OT [formally considered moral] laws could change. In fact, it became immoral to require circumcision of Gentiles. This paradigm shift requires believers in Jesus Christ to redefine “morality,” so that even Jews could be free from laws that were previously considered moral obligations for a holy people. To explain this change, the earliest Christian apologists recognized that a parcel of OT laws were prophetical or eschatological in nature and were fulfilled/abrogated with the coming of Christ. So, our attitude must be to recognize at least two classes of Mosaic law: those that reflect God’s holy will from the beginning (i.e., moral, universal, or natural) and those that were introduced on a temporary basis to foreshadow Christ (ceremonial, cultic, or Jewish). The apostles distinguished between “royal” (Jas 2:8), “righteous” (Rom 8:4; Php 3:6), and “spiritual” laws (Gal 5:22-23), and another breed of ”fleshly” (Heb 7:16), “partitioning” (Eph 2:14-15), “weak and beggarly” (Gal 4:9), and “shadowy” (Heb 10:1) laws. For a first century Hebrew-Christian this realization must have been a jaw-dropping experience.

McKay reiterates, “The laws of the Old Testament are to be assumed to be fully in force unless there is a specific indication in the New Testament to the contrary.”[xxvii] In other words, would it not be wise and pious to err on the side of observing all OT laws that are not specifically annulled by a doctrinal argument in the NT? But those who state this rule cannot live with its application because great specificity is required to remove the force of a Mosaic law. None of the theologians who regurgitate this rule wear tassels with a blue cord even though great spirituality is associated with this law (Num 15:38-39). They don’t let the land lay fallow one in seven years even though the Lord punished Israel severely for ignoring this law (Ex 23:10-11). And they have no qualms about lighting a fire or driving for miles on their “Christian Sabbath,” let alone finding a NT teaching specifically moving the Sabbath to Sunday.

“Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law” (Heb 7:11-12). The people received the Mosaic law under the authority of the Levitical priesthood, and the church received a “changed” or new law under the priesthood of Jesus Christ. “This text may suggest that in the mind of the author the law as a whole is bound up with the priesthood.”[xxviii] “The priority of priesthood over law is thus clearly affirmed.”[xxix] Indeed, Christ was not eligible under the [Mosaic] law to act as a priest for Israel. God the father appointed Jesus Himself, as High Priest for the new covenant (Ps 109:4). Whether the Levitical priesthood was the condition necessary for the giving of the law, or the law itself was the source of authority for the Levitical priesthood, the relationship is inseparable, such that the imperfection of the priesthood implies the imperfection of the law,[xxx],[xxxi] which in turn necessitates a change of law. “The best that the old covenant could offer was not good enough.”[xxxii] The end point or goal of the [Mosaic] law was the perfection of the people, but being unable to achieve that, a new priesthood and law were necessary. “With the appointment of the new order, the old is abrogated.”[xxxiii]


[i] Peterson, Rodney. “Continuity and Discontinuity: The Debate Throughout Church History” in Continuity and Discontinuity, ed. John S. Feinberg; p. 17. The ‘New’ Testament is also “Hebrew Scriptures.”
[ii] Osborne, G. R. “New Testament Theology” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed. ed. Walter A. Elwell, p. 835.
[iii] To these very broad categories could be added the distinctives of Catholicism, Lutheranism, Messianic Theology, New Covenant Theology, Federal Vision Theology, Reconstructionism, Covenanters, Hyper- and Ultra-dispensationalism, and who knows what else.
[iv] Blaising, C. “Dispensationalism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed. ed. Walter A. Elwell, p. 344.
[v] Karlberg, Mark W. Covenantal Theology in Reformed Perspective, p. 341-352.
[vi] And yes, science nerds, I know about super-heating. This illustration relates to the ordinary physical properties  that people can observe and measure when boiling water.
[vii] Kruze, C. G. “Law” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology; T. Desmond Alexander, et. al., eds. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000) p. 635.
[viii] Hendrickson, William. Commentary on the New Testament, Vol 9, p. 147. (Gal 3:24)
[ix] Hagner, Donald A. “Paul as a Jewish Believer—According to His Letters” in Jewish Believers in Jesus, p. 118.
[x] Calvin’s Commentaries (repr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), Vol 21, p. 106-107 (Gal 3:23).
[xi] Baxter, J. Sidlow. Explore the Book, p. 12.
[xii] Morrison, Michael. Sabbath, Circumcision, and Tithing (Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press, 2002) p. 40.
[xiii]Berding, Kenneth and Jonathan Lund, eds., Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.
[xiv] A moral law is not ceremonial or civil; a ceremonial law is not moral or civil; a civil law is not moral or ceremonial.
[xv] Brogden, Stuart L. Captive to the Word of God, (United States: Parables, 2016), p. 105.
[xvi] I was going to say “sex with your daughter” only to discover that Mosaic law does not explicitly condemn it. It may be inferred, with good reason, but at the same time, it is not specifically proscribed.
[xvii] Kaiser Jr., Walter C. “God’s Law as the Gracious Guidance for the Promotion of Holiness” in in Five Views on Law and Gospel, p. 189.
[xviii] Bahnsen, Greg L. “The Theonomic Reformed Approach to Law and Gospel” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, pp. 93-143.
[xix] Rushdooney, Rousas J. Law and Society (vol. 2 in Institutes of Biblical Law; Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982)
[xx] Sandberg, Ruth N. Development and Discontinuity in Jewish Law, Lanham, MD: University Press of America 2001, p. 144-145.
[xxi] Beale, G. K. A New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), p. 871.
[xxii] Bahnsen, Greg L. “Theonomic Reformed Approach to Law and Gospel” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, p. 99.
[xxiii] Murray, Andrew. The Two Covenants and the Second Blessing, London: James Nesbit & Co., 1899, p. 91.
[xxiv] Bahnsen, Greg L. By This Standard, p. 2. (emphasis in the original).
[xxv] Morrison, Michael. Sabbath, Circumcision, and Tithing (Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press, 2002), p. 9.
[xxvi] Bahnsen, Greg L. By This Standard, p. 3. (emphasis in the original).
[xxvii] McKay, David. The Bond of Love: God’s Covenantal Relationship with His Church, p. 192.
[xxviii] Moo, Douglas. “The law of Christ as the fulfillment of the law of Moses” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, Wayne G. Strickland, ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 374.
[xxix] Ellingworth, Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews, NIGTC, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), p. 373.
[xxx] Ebrard, John H. A. Biblical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, John Fulton, trans., 1853 (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2008), p. 227.
[xxxi] Johnson, Luke Timothy, Hebrews (New Testament Library) (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006) p. 185.
[xxxii] Morrison, Michael. Sabbath, Circumcision, and Tithing (Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press, 2002), p. 52.
[xxxiii] Macaulay, J. C. Expository Commentary on Hebrews (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978) p. 105.

Part 2d What Are the Terms? Liberty.

Glossary 20 Liberty

Liberty. Liberty is not freedom from God (1 Pet 2:16); and true liberty is not what the State grants (Jn 8:36). When Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, they were not free. The matter is not whether there is relative freedom to live as one chooses, but that one’s choices are not free of a sinful nature (Rom 7:15-24). “In the NT it is evident that freedom is not absent because there is inadequate control of existence but because there is no control of it at all.”[i]

The Exodus bible story  from 1880 journalThis is the grand lesson of the OT pictured in the lives of the patriarchs and the life of national Israel. The sons of Jacob fell into Egyptian slavery (Gen 46:3) and when they had fully gestated as a nation of slaves, they were ready to be delivered from bondage (Deut 4:34). Free from the grasp of a human taskmaster, they entered into covenant as treasured priests of the divine liberator (Ex 19:5), who, though forbearing and merciful (Ex 34:6-7), was also to be feared for His anger (Deut 4:24-26; Lev 26:14ff; Heb 10:26-31). Unfortunately, but predictably, the ensuing history of Israel is filled with one breach of covenant after another (Ps 78:10, 37; Josh 7:11; Jdg 2:1-2; 2:20-22; 1 Ki 11:1 1; 19:10; 2 Ki 17:15; Ez 10:2-3; Neh 13:29; Jer 11:10; Ez 16:59; Hos 6:7; Mal 2:8, 10). But why? Because they were still slaves to their sinful nature (Hos 4:11); their hearts were uncircumcised (Jer 9:26; Acts 7:51), inclined toward spiritual harlotry (Num 15:39) and in stubborn pursuit of their own interests (Jdg 2:19). “The main idea is always the same: God exercises his right of ‘recovery’ and the Hebrews, previously under the rule of alien tyrants, return into the hands of their true sovereign.”[ii]

The Mosaic covenant was designedly inadequate to deal with the sinful nature of Israel, but preparatory for the new and better covenant to come through Jesus the Messiah (Isa 42:6-9; 49:8-9; Jer 31:31-33; Lk 1:68-75; 22:20; Heb7:22). Jesus claimed that He is the source of this new spiritual freedom in an exchange with professing Jewish ‘believers.’ “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:31-32). But some of them believed they possessed all the freedom they needed as descendants of Abraham (Ex 4:22; Lev 25:39-43). The contrarians were mistaken on several levels (Deut 9:5; Ezek 33:24-26; Isa 64:6; Ez 9:6-9; Mal 3:13-15; Jn 8:33-34;). Ignoring for a moment their national history of subjugation to other nations, not all descendants of Abraham are children of promise (Gen 21:12-14; Gal 4:21ff.) and even those who were could fall in the Lord’s displeasure (2 Ki 17:20; 1 Cor 10:12). These self-satisfied disciples would not believe what Jesus was teaching but preferred to cling to a false hope that masqueraded as truth. God takes pleasure in a clean and contrite heart (Ps 51: 10, 17), a circumcised and grateful heart (Deut 10:16-22), a trusting and believing heart (Ps 22:4-5; 27:13-14). “In short, Jesus resorts to a moral and ethical notion of descent as being of far more importance than merely physical descent, and as being already supported by Scripture.”[iii]

While these spiritual truths are present in the OT, the new covenant was still necessary to provide complete and eternal redemption (Gal 4:5). Jesus instituted the new covenant through His blood sacrifice (Heb 9:15), and then gave commission to the Twelve to bring the good news of this covenant first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Rom 1:16). God provides an amplified liberty concomitant with the exceeding glory of His new covenant (Rom 6:22; 2 Cor 3:9-10), as conveyed through the message of the gospel (Eph 3:1-7). So monumental is the freedom to come through Christ, that even the law is pictured as binding and ruling over Israel (Rom 7:6; 2 Cor 3:14-17; Gal 3:23-24; 4:3-10; 5:1).[iv] Yet, the disciples of Christ are not without a law (Matt 28:19-20). The law associated with this new covenant is variously called “the law of love,” “the royal law,” “the perfect law of liberty,” or “the law of Christ” (Jn 13:34-35; Gal 5:13-14; 6:2; Jas 1:25; 2:8, 12; 2 Jn 5). But at the same time, certain accounts (1 Pet 3:1-6; Jas 5:16b-17), OT laws (1 Cor 9:9; Heb 10:28), or theological statements (Rom 9:15) are cited as ethical or doctrinal norms. At the same time, many commands of the NT are without parallel in the OT (Rom 12:9-18; 1 Cor 8; Titus 1:5-9). God is bound by His new covenant to write His law on the believer’s heart. Given the uniqueness of the Christian standard of conduct, the law written on the heart cannot be simply the Ten Commandments.

The believer in Christ is free indeed because he continues in Christ’s word and truth. Obviously then, the liberty of a Christian could be undermined by the entrapments of false teachers (Gal 2:4), submission to sin (Gal 5:13, 1 Pet 2:16), an inconsiderate heart (Rom 14:15, 1 Cor 8:9), or failing to apply God’s word (Jas 1:25). “[Paul’s] task now is, first, to guard his God-given liberty against any who would tell him that faith in Christ alone is not enough to save him and, second, to put his liberty to the best use by letting the Spirit lead him into responsible fulfillment of the law of love.”[v] Freedom in Christ allows one to live fully in truth with the caveat that the freedom it gives is not used to offend a brother in Christ whose conscience has not yet been fully informed by truth (Rom 14:1, 13, 19-23; 1 Cor 10:23-33). Paradoxically, our freedom is to be as a slave motivated by love to love, to the glory of God, just as Jesus was a servant to all (Gal 5:13; 1 Cor 10:31; cf. Isa 42:3; Lk 17:2).

Liberty is contrasted with slavery and imprisonment, which, at least metaphorically, preceded the freedom of redemption. Hence, Christ inaugurated His ministry as a proclamation of fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1, “to preach deliverance to the captives” (Lk 4:18). The liberty of Christians is foremost to be found in the benefits of redemption, to wit, freedom (Gk. eleutheria) from the guilt and condemnation of sin (Rom 6:18-23; 8:1-2), from the domination of Satan and this world (Eph 2:1-5; Col 1:3), from the sting of death and the grave (1 Cor 15:54b-57),[vi] and instead gaining freedom through the gift of the Holy Spirit to access God’s throne, to address Him as Father (Rom 8:16-21), and to have the hope of the resurrection and the restoration of the creation (Rom 8:21-23). “This is full liberty—that Christ has by his blood not only blotted out our sins, but every hand-writing which might declare us to be exposed to the judgment of God.”[vii] Liberty is also the consequence of seeing and knowing the truth as found in Jesus Christ, a truth that can set one free from darkness and falsehood and give a better understanding about the Old Testament (Jh 8:31-36; 2 Cor 3:17).

Liberty for a new covenant believer also involves freedom from obeying Jewish ceremonial laws.[viii] Paul describes his visit to Jerusalem where false brothers “came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Gal 2:4). At issue was whether the Gentile Titus should submit to circumcision.[ix] On this, Paul would not yield. “Paul has not changed religions, but he now has a new center—the crucified and resurrected Messiah, who has inaugurated a new era in salvation history and brought a new dynamic to his existence. He could no longer have felt comfortable in his former Judaism.”[x] “Under the New Testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected.”[xi]

Paul has grave concerns for the church at Galatia. “How is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. (Gal 4:9-11)

“Let us not grow weary in well-doing” (Gal 6:9) and “Stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free” (Gal 5:1) express two prongs of Christian obedience. On the one hand, a Christian must obey in faith the law of Christ to love one another by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:18-6:2), and on the other hand, he must protect himself from doing anything unnecessary or compromising, even though some minister or authority proclaims its importance (Gal 2:11-16). Christians, therefore, are as obligated to disobey the commandments and traditions of men as they are to obey the law of the Lord. History and experience convince us that this level of obedience is not that easy to attain. “Men still insist on the right of making that sin which God does not forbid; and that obligatory which God has not commanded.”[xii] In view of the power some have over others and the willingness of some to submit to their demands, Paul’s advice is crucial to living life as a new creation and as the [new or true] Israel of God (Gal 6:12-16).

Paul mentioned the motivations and behaviors behind those Jews who attempted to compel Galatian believers to get circumcised (Gal 6:12-13): 1) they wanted to avoid the disparagement of other Jews for associating with uncircumcised Gentiles, 2) they wanted to be able to boast that they were instrumental in achieving a perceived good, 3) their focus was on the flesh, 4) they are unable themselves to keep the law, and 5) they misunderstood the radical nature of the new creation. “Circumcision signifies the intention to put oneself under the law of Moses and therefore to seek to secure one’s status with God in terms of that law.”[xiii] Worse is the effect of agreeing to circumcision (Gal 5:1-5): 1) it entangles one with a new yoke of bondage, 2) Christ will longer be a profit to them, 3) it obligates one to keep the whole law, 4) it estranges one from Christ as they seek another source for justification, and 5) sowing to the flesh will reap corruption. “The more mercy God has shown to any, in bringing them into an acquaintance with the gospel, and the liberties and privileges of it, the greater are their sin and folly in suffering themselves to be deprived of them.”[xiv]

Sabbatarianism casts its demands in terms of well-doing—behaviors that all humanity (or the church) is morally obligated to perform—and to object to them is “antinomian.” Non-Sabbatarianism considers those demands unnecessary, even to be avoided, and to teach them is legalistic, Judaizing, or even heretical. As such, there is no middle ground that the various interpretive camps can agree upon. A Sabbatarian will do all he can to comply with what he believes is morally binding, and a non-Sabbatarian will do all he can to be free of what he believes are fruitless obligations. One would have to make a paradigmatic shift to adopt a different view. This can happen when people ask themselves the right questions and study the Bible for the answers. Colleen Tinker was faced with the disparity between what she had been taught as an Adventist and what she observed as reality.[xv]


I knew “Sunday Christians” who believed in Jesus and lived godly lives, but they felt no conviction about worshiping on Sabbath. I saw in the New Testament that God said He would write His law on the hearts of His people and that when He did, they wouldn’t have to teach each other to know God. I could see that “Sunday Christians” were convicted of nine commandments out of the Ten. They loved God and despised idolatry, and they would never defame His name. They honored their parents, would never kill, commit adultery, or steal. They even had soft hearts that believed they should not covet. Yet one thing puzzled me: these earnest, sincere, godly “Sunday Christians” had no heart conviction that the Sabbath was holy. They had to be TAUGHT that Sabbath was holy. This fact confused me. If the law was written on their hearts, where was the fourth commandment?


Her observations about people, confirmed by biblical and familiar history, evince that the Sabbath was not and is not written on the hearts of the Jews nor the rest of the Gentile world. Was the supposed Sabbath switch from Saturday to Sunday something that the whole world wholly welcomed? Of course not, otherwise all Jews would have felt the internal struggle to reassign synagogue meetings to Sunday. Likewise, the Lord’s Day on Sunday is not written on the heart of Christians. The Jews were given a novel ceremony (Sabbath) by God as a sign of the Mosaic covenant by resting on the seventh day (Ex 16:29; 20:2, 8-11; 35:1-3; Deut 5:14-15). And Christians were given a novel ceremony (Lord’s Day Sunday assembly) by God as a sign of the new covenant by gathering together to proclaim to the world the gospel of Christ with unity and love (Jn 13:35; 1 Cor 10:16-17; 11:7-34; Heb 10:25). It is merely incidental, but understandable, that these two ceremonies share a weekly pattern, after all, the Lord thought of them both, and endowed both with the symbolism of creation—the former as a rest in the work of God for Israel and the latter as a new creation for the church. But Christian Sabbatarianism—both Sunday and Saturday expressions of it—is the new kid on the block. Christianity was fine without it for 1500 years and Christians may rightfully stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free.


[i] TDNT “ἐλενθερόω” p. 496.
[ii] Daube, David. The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism, p. 273.
[iii] Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John (PNTC, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991), p. 351.
[iv] Johnston, Wendell G. “Freedom” in The Theological Wordbook (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2000), p. 132.
[v] Packer, J.I. “Liberty” in The New Bible Dictionary, p. 734.
[vi] Due to the association of sin and the law, and the victory in battle that earned freedom.
[vii] Calvin, Commentaries, Vol 21, Col 2:14, p. 190.
[viii] There may be a subtle implication that the reason for ignoring the food and diet laws contained in the Mosaic covenant (1 Cor 10:23-33) is because they fit in a class of commands that by (my) definition are no longer valid having been fulfilled by Christ. But the context of Paul’s argument here is different. Under the new covenant, the earth is the Lord’s and all (edible) foods are legitimate to consume. The old covenant is undone. Also, under the new covenant, the law of liberty compels him to consider the conscience of believers in order to bring glory to God and salvation to the world. Paul does not ground his freedom from Mosaic regulations on the “fulfillment” of those typic regulations in Christ. However, he does elsewhere (Col 2:16). Also note that when a Jewish contingent attempts to derail the faith of Gentile converts, it is not because they are advising Gentiles to refrain from stealing or to honor their parents; it seems to always focus on cultic laws that separated national Israel from the other nations, i.e., circumcision, dietary laws, and calendar laws.
[ix] Moo, Douglas. Galatians (BECNT, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), p. 127.
[x] Hagner, Donald A. “Paul as a Jewish Believer—According to His Letters” in Jewish Believers in Jesus, p. 102.
[xi] WCF (1646), reprint Free Presbyterian Publications, 1997, (Ch. 20, para. 1), p. 84-85.
[xii] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, Vol 3, p. 263. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI, 1968.
[xiii] Moo, Douglas. Galatians (BECNT, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), p. 325.
[xiv] Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 6, p. 536 (Gal. 4:8-11).
[xv] Tinker, Colleen. “Knowing the Covenants Puts the Sabbath in its Place” online https://blog.lifeassuranceministries.org/2019/08/16/knowing-the-covenants-puts-sabbath-in-its-place/ (accessed March 19, 2020)

Part 2d: What Are the Terms? Abrogation

Glossary 19 Abrogation

Abrogation. To formally annul or nullify a legal agreement or parts thereof. Laws, treaties, provisions, stipulations, jurisdictions, institutions, ordinances, and the like, are usually the subject of abrogation. This is fundamentally an authoritative act, for instance, when a new regime invalidates or overrules laws of a predecessor. Abrogation removes the authority and power of a law to effect or hold accountable, “For where there is no law, there is no transgression” (Rom 4:15). A variety of Greek words convey the idea to cancel or dismiss, to do away with or abolish, to revoke or repeal, to bring to nothing or make void. Examples: The Pharisees nullified [Gk. akurro “no authority”] God’s commandment by [the authority of] their own traditions (Matt 15:6). God’s promises cannot be disannulled, repealed, or made void [Gk. atheteo “to set aside”, Gk. akurro “unauthorized”, Gk. katargeo “rendered useless”] by men (Gal 3:15, 17). Faith does not invalidate [Gk. katargeo “make void” or “destroyed”] the law (Rom 3:31).[i] Christ made peace between Jew and Gentile by His death, having abolished [Gk. katargeo “rendered useless”] the law of commandments contained in ordinances (Eph 2:15). The glory of the Ten Commandments is done away with [Gk. katargeo “abolished”] by the exceeding glory of the new covenant (2 Cor 3:6-14). The law that was delivered through the Levitical priesthood is changed [Gk. metathesis] and annulled [Gk. athetisis “to set aside”] by the oath of God to establish Jesus as a priest forever with His new covenant (Heb 7:12, 18). Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant intimated that the Mosaic covenant would become old and disappear [Gk. aphanismos “vanish away”] (Heb  8:13).

Abrogation is the net effect of Christ’s fulfillment of the OT, by means of His incarnation, lifetime, death, resurrection, and ascension, on both the [Mosaic] law as a whole and specifically on the legal ceremonies and rituals of the law. Personal types (such as Joshua foreshadowing Christ) may be fulfilled, but these are not subject to abrogration, annulment, or abolishment—only legal types that constrained the Jewish nation to act out prefigurations of the person, work, and benefits of Christ’s redemption. “He says, therefore, that it is not in the power of men to make us subject to the observance of rites which Christ has by his death abolished, and exempts us from their yoke, that we may not allow ourselves to be fettered by the laws which they have imposed.”[ii] By the authority of Him who once gave those laws, they are now abrogated or done away with and rendered inoperative. Jesus intimated as much by claiming to be the Lord of the Sabbath—He may say what may or may not be done on the Sabbath, but the Pharisees have no such authority (Mk 2:28; Lk 6:5). As Calvin eloquently reasoned, something must be rendered void, either the ceremony or Christ: “Hence, the man that calls back the ceremonies into use, either buries the manifestation of Christ, or robs Christ of this excellence, and makes him in a manner void.”[iii] “The ceremonies, by which the distinction [between Jew and Gentile] was declared, have been abolished through Christ.”[iv] “The author here, as indeed everywhere throughout the epistle [Hebrews], designs to impress upon his readers the consciousness that the new covenant is not worse than the old, that Christianity is not something superfluous, something with which, at any rate, they might despise if only they have their beloved Judaism, but that the latter [the old covenant] rather has be made dispensable by Christianity.”[v] The fact that God abolished the old covenant and replaced it with the new gives us assurance that we belong to God as his children and that he accepts us in Christ.”[vi] The key to the relationship again is “fulfillment”—bringing to completion everything that was originally intended by God. The sacrifices will clearly be abolished, fulfilled once and for all in Christ’s death, while many moral principles will equally clearly remain unchanged.”[vii]

The fact that the Sabbath commandment is contained in the [Mosaic] law and/or in the Ten Commandments leads some to claim most emphatically that the Sabbath could not be abrogated by the new covenant. For example: “If Christ came to fulfill, and not to destroy, the law, then the commandment of the Sabbath is not abolished by Christ’s coming.”[viii] “Jesus’ New Covenant was not a completely new beginning. God did not send his Son to rescind all former covenants. Messiah did not entirely demolish the Old Testament and start afresh.[ix] “Jesus, therefore, does not abrogate the careful observance of the Sabbath but lays down principles by which we may properly keep the Lord’s Day holy.”[x]

Jesus said He did not come to destroy the law [Gk. kataluo, “break down” or “dissolve”] but to fulfill it [Gk. pleerosai, “fill up completely”]. Christ was not at odds with the law of God that He must bring it low. He is its author, not an illegitimate usurper; He is the Living Word, not an outside contrarian; He is its foremost interpreter and exemplar, not a foreign rebel and combatant; therefore, He must make it full, take it to completion, and achieve its intended goal. Jesus did not use any of the words that Paul used to describe the effect His death had on the law of Moses. His death did not destroy the law, but it did render aspects of it useless, since he fulfilled those parts. “It seems best to understand Jesus’ statement about coming to fulfil the law to mean his bringing into being of that which the law foreshadowed.”[xi] The following chart demonstrates the difference between destruction (what Jesus said He would not do) and fulfillment (what Jesus said He would do).

It is the viewpoint of non-Sabbatarians that Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath laws by His life, death, and resurrection, and this in turn made Sabbath-keeping of no effect. This is not antinomianism—a decision to shun legitimate laws for self-gratification or self-promotion—but anti-Judaizing, a decision to shun illegitimate laws for the glory of Christ. For all that “rest” is, as presented in the OT, is to be found in perfection in Christ, who assured all who come to Him to find in full measure for their soul. Jesus makes full and brings to completion all that the Sabbath entailed for the Jews. As it was given in Exodus and described throughout their history, the Sabbath institution is entirely ceremonial and foreshadowing in its design. This is the only way that such a law can be fulfilled typologically (and annulled), and only Christ has the authority to do so. One may fulfill the requirements of a law in a legal sense (Ex 5:3; 1Chr 22:13; Jas 2:8), meaning observing it properly, but this “fulfillment” at the human level has no power to annul. Only by bringing in true redemptive rest can the ceremonial Sabbath be divinely fulfilled and authoritatively abrogated.


[i] Our faith is not an act of authority that gives us power to decide for ourselves how to live before God, but an act of submission to the authority and faithfulness of God. Our assent that Christ has fulfilled the law, and that we do, by God’s grace, follow Christ, we are in fact establishing the law. The defensive statement nearly echoes Jesus who asserted that He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. So, the sense of “establishing” the law must carry the idea of the primacy of faith as a response to the faithful outworking of God’s will as recounted through the whole law; and that by virtue of our union with Christ, His relationship to the law is our relationship. This verse hardly gives the impression that Paul is holding up the works of the law and the work of faith on equal footing.
[ii] Calvin, Commentaries. Vol 21, Col 2:16, p. 193.
[iii] Calvin, Commentaries. Vol 21, Col 2:17, p. 193.
[iv] Calvin, Commentaries. Vol 21, Eph 2:15, p. 237.
[v] Ebrard, John H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews in Continuation of the Work of Olshausen, John Fulton, trans., (1853), Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock (2008) reprint, p. 141-142.
[vi] Brown, Michael G. “Dawn of the New Creation:The New Covenant” in The Outlook, 68:3 (May/Jun 2018), p.20.
[vii] Blomberg, Craig L. “Matthew” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, eds. () p. 20.
[viii] Thomas Shepard. Theses Sabbaticae, p. 153.
[ix] Chantry, Walter. Call the Sabbath a Delight, p. 63.
[x] Pipa, Joseph A. “The Christian Sabbath” in Perspectives on the Sabbath, John Donato, ed., (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2011), p. 144.
[xi] Kruse, C. G. “Law” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, T. Desmond Alexander, et.al. eds. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000) p. 634.

Part 2d: What are the Terms? Typology

Typology. “Adam is a type of him who was to come” (Rom 5:14). Typology is a hermeneutic technique as conveyed by Paul’s insightful understanding of a forward-looking analogy between biblical history and its culmination in Jesus Christ. Ty030120_0047_2.gifpology includes the terms type, typical, typify, typological, antitype, antitypical, prototype, and archetype. From Gk. τύπος (tupos) it suggests a copy or imprint made from a die, the negative space from a nail (Jn 20:25), or a structure from a model (Acts 7:44; Heb 8:5). By extension and as related to human conduct, tupos can be a pattern of behavior to avoid (1 Cor 10:6-11) or an example to follow (2 Thes 3:9; 1 Tim 4:12).  “The word ‘type’ means to strike, as with a seal in soft clay to leave a certain figure.”[i] The concept of typology is also expressed as the connection between a shadow and the body (Col 2:16-17; Heb 10:1). In both cases, the imprint or shadow is known to have been derived from some other object, which then draws attention to the original rather than to the copy. The antitype[ii] is the form (body) from which the pattern (shadow) was made.  Based on these concepts, typology identifies aspects of God’s work in redemptive history in the OT through such things as persons, situations, objects, laws, and institutions and relates them by analogy or correspondence to NT fulfillments. Typology is therefore grounded on the forward-looking message of the OT.[iii] Greidanus reviews the history of thought about the relationship of the two testaments and concludes, “Since the heart of the New Testament is Jesus Christ, this means that every message from the Old Testament must be seen in the light of Jesus Christ.”[iv] Besides explicit prophecies of a coming Messiah, there are subtle prefigurations of the Messiah and His work of redemption in OT figures, events, and laws. 030120_0047_1.png“A type is an Old Testament institution, event, person, object, or ceremony which has reality and purpose in biblical history, but which also by divine design foreshadows something yet future.”[v] The term “antitype” describes the fulfillment or realization of the type. “The antitype was not designed to give a hidden meaning to the type or to change the meaning originally intended by it. Rather it is the anticipated event, person, object, or institution which corresponded in some imitative fashion to its earlier type.”[vi] “In Col 2:17 the law is called the shadow of future things; contrasted with it is the eschatological presence of the body of Christ.”[vii] “Matthew sees in Jesus the fulfillment not just of specific texts but also of historical resonances of type to antitype.”[viii]

Biblical typology is an interpretive method that recognizes patterns and analogy in historical events that were designed and intended by God to foreshadow future, superlative, and escalating events regarding redemptive themes. For example, Paul stated that Adam was a type (Gk. τύπος) of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:14) in that Adam foreshadowed one to bring righteousness to many. In the book of Hebrews, the author asserts that the sacrificial system of Israel was a shadow (Gk. σκιἀ) of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Heb 10:1). We know God provided a type or pattern in the past because in this “present day” God brought and will bring the final events to pass through His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 10:11; Eph 3:1-7; Col 1:24-27; Heb 1:1-4). The imprints of God’s work in redemptive history look forward to His culminating works through Jesus Christ. “The same God who revealed himself in Christ has also left his footprints in the history of the Old Testament covenant people…”[ix] Now that we see the reality, the previous types and shadows are now understandable. And in the case of ceremonial laws, Mosaic institutions, and cultic objects, their fulfillment has rendered them inoperative and useless for believers in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:15; Col 2:14-17; Heb 9:1-10).

While typology seems to overlap the concept of metaphor, in that one thing is analogous, similar, or correspondent to another, it advances instead a divinely premeditative act, purposely realized later in history by the outworking of the Lord’s will. Likewise, typology may seem like prophecy, however, the type could not be understood until the antitype was revealed (2 Cor 3:14-16). Typology dovetails with the concept of fulfillment. “The Mosaic or law-covenant looked ahead to the coming of the Savior, thus administering God’s covenants by means of promises, prophesies, ritual ordinances, types, and foreshadowings that anticipated the Savior and his redeeming work.”[x] “In the hermeneutical τύπος passages we find the prophetic structure and additional aspects of the historical structure, namely, historical correspondence and progression. There is an historical correspondence between certain OT and NT persons, events, and institutions. By divine design the OT realities are advance-presentations of corresponding (but absolutely ‘escalated’) NT realities, and there is a devoir-être relationship between the OT realities and the NT fulfillments.”[xi] “Typology is evident in the OT, both in prophetic texts and in historical and descriptive material.”[xii] Therefore, there will be correspondence and analogy between the two testaments. “Thus NT writers may, in places, explain phenomena in the new Messianic era in terms of their OT precursors.”[xiii]

During medieval times, typology was unfortunately linked with allegorization, an interpretive technique that often led to fanciful ideas that had little to do with the text. As a result, some Bible interpreters are understandably cautious about making typological connections beyond what is already and specifically exemplified in the NT. Certainly, care must be exercised in drawing a typological connection between an OT passage and its NT fulfillment.[xiv] “The dangers of reading things into the Old Testament text, however, indicated that typology must be carefully defined and even then handled with great care.”[xv] Fortunately, the NT gives multiple examples, enough to develop criteria for making valid, biblically based, Christocentric connections between type and antitype. This aspect of typology will be examined later.

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There are two important considerations attendant to typology: 1) the implications of a fulfilled type, especially a Mosaic institution, ceremony, or object, and 2) the seat of authority to bind or release a Christian from the obligation to observe, practice, or use fulfilled ceremonial laws, institutions, or objects. These are the vital concerns regarding the relationship of believers to the OT Sabbath.

OT persons, institutions, ceremonies, and objects are presented in the NT as fulfilled types of present realities. The author of Hebrews establishes the existence of an historical type, draws implications from the fulfillment of that type, and describes how that fulfillment affects life under the New Covenant.  Type Established. Melchizedek of Salem is shown to correspond to Jesus as a king, a priest, and one to whom is paid homage (Heb 7:1). His name means “righteous” and his city of origin means “peace” (Heb 7:2)—attributes assigned to our sinless and peace-making Savior. Even the absence of Melchizedek’s pedigree corresponds to the timeless existence and transcendence of Jesus’ life and ministry (Mic 5:2; Heb 7:3, 6). Furthermore, Melchizedek was a priest of God before Levi or Aaron were ever born, thus qualifying Jesus, from the tribe of Judah, to be a priest of God (Heb 7:14-16). Implications. The implications of this typological fulfillment focus on Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham, that “beyond all contradiction, the lesser is blessed by the better” (Heb 7:6-7); that is, Jesus is superior to father Abraham. The next implication focuses on Abraham’s voluntary tithe to Melchizedek, that “Levi…paid tithes through Abraham” (Heb 7:9-10); that is, the institution of the Levitical priesthood is subservient to the priesthood of Jesus. Because the Levitical priesthood is inferior, weak, and unprofitable (Heb 7:18), and typologically looked forward to the enduring, effective, and unchangeable priesthood of Christ, the law(s) associated with the Levitical priesthood must also be changed (Heb 7:11-12). That is, a new covenant has been enacted for the people of God (Heb 8:7-13). Present Obligations. With the old covenant becoming obsolete and fading away, there is an annulling of the former commandment (Heb 7:18) which includes the gifts and sacrifices offered (Heb 7:27; 8:3), the altar (Heb 8:13) with its divine service (Heb 9:1), the tabernacle (Heb 8:2, 5; 9:1) and its furnishings (Heb 9:2), the Sabbath showbread (Heb 9:2) and tithes, and ceremonial laws affecting food and drink, washings, and fleshly ordinances (Heb 9:10). Jesus is not mortal and does not count on tithes to support Him. He ministers in heaven itself and does not need an earthly tabernacle, which was a shadow anyway (Heb 8:5). He is the mediator of the new covenant (Heb 9:15), so we pray directly to Jesus (Heb 10:19-23). Our fellowship with one another extends to heaven so an earthly building or focus of religious power no longer defines our worship (Heb 9:11). We gather together not on the Sabbath, but on the first day of the week, and share with one another and give praise to God, because these are now our spiritual offerings (Heb 13:5-16). The author of Hebrews gives no indication that any of the former laws concerning worship should be continued. The argument developed from Ps 109:4 (a priest forever) and Jer 31:31-24 (a new covenant) follows the earlier argument made from Ps 95:7-11 (Today, enter into rest), that there would not have been given a future promise unless the former institutions were inadequate.[xvi] Given the author’s earlier typological elucidation of the Canaan rest, the Sabbath rest, and the creation rest as prefigurations of Christ’s redemptive rest, there is no possibility that the land or the Sabbath have anything “real” to offer us beyond what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf. The real soul rest, the real everlasting priesthood, and the real new covenant have fully provided what the previous figures only dimly portrayed. His salvation rest is even better than God’s transient rest following creation.

“For example, we know that the laws concerning sacrifice were fulfilled in the final atoning sacrifice of Jesus. We need not, and ought not, sacrifice animals for the forgiveness of our sins. But the principles of old—acknowledging our sin, repenting, and trusting in God’s provision alone (Jesus)—remain the same.”[xvii] In the same way, we know that the laws concerning the Sabbath were fulfilled in Jesus’ sabbatic sleep of death. We need not, and ought not, stop work for 24 hours on the Sabbath to demonstrate our trust in God to provide for our salvation. But what remains are the principles of maintaining trust in Christ’s work of redemption and sanctification, refusing to trust in ourselves, and waiting in hope for God’s final redemption of us. “In the Old Covenant administration, the eighth day or the first day of a new week typified the redeeming re-creative power of Jesus’ death and resurrection.”[xviii] “The first day as the day of resurrection was not arbitrary but fulfilled typology and prophecy from the Scriptures.”[xix] This commendable statement from Schwertley summarizes the authority for Christians to assemble on Sunday rather than Saturday. First-day worship was not decided by the apostles ad hoc or by lot, but by the will of God who both typified and fulfilled it. The apostles merely acted upon their understanding of the implications of Jesus’ resurrection, His pre-ascension appearances, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which made full that which was typified in first-day (eighth-day) ceremonies in the law. Christ-followers could not have come to exclusively assemble for worship on Sunday unless they eventually understood that the Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ and consequently rendered inoperative. “[Matthew’s] elementary education and subsequent synagogue attendance, even if abandoned at some point in his adult life, would have steeped him in the contents and interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures.”[xx]


[i] Buchanan, George Wesley. The Book of Hebrews: Its Challenge from Zion, p. 459.
[ii] Though in Hebrews 9:24 the temple is described as the inferior “antitype” of the heavenly temple model. While the NT may use the terms more loosely, we attempt to be more precise by assigning to “antitype” the figure to which the type was pointing.
[iii] McCartney and Clayton. Let the Reader Understand, p. 163.
[iv] Greidanus, Sidney. Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 51.
[v] Campbell, Donald K. “Types” in The Theological Wordbook” p. 363.
[vi] Buchanan, George Wesley. The Book of Hebrews: Its Challenge from Zion, p. 12.
[vii] Schulz, Siegfried. “σκιά, ἀποσκίασμα, ἐπισκιάζω” in TDNT, Vol. 7, p. 398.
[viii] “Knowles, Michael P. “Scripture, History, Messiah: Scriptural Fulfillment and the Fullness of Time in Matthew’s Gospel” in Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament, Stanley E Porter, ed., p. 78.
[ix] Von Rad, Gerhard. “Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament” in Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics, p. 36.
[x] Bahnsen, Greg L. “The Theonomic Reformed Approach to Law and Gospel” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, p. 97.
[xi] Davidson, Richard M. Typology in Scripture, p. 397. Emphasis in the original. “Devoir-être” is taken to mean the inevitable, necessary outcome—a divinely destined certainty—rather than a vague future occurrence (p. 309-310).
[xii] McCartney and Clayton. Let The Reader Understand, p. 164.
[xiii] Klein, et. al. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, p. 183.
[xiv] Klein, et. al. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, p. 207. McCartney, Dan and Clayton, Charles. Let the Reader Understand, p.162-169.
[xv] Greidanus, Sydney. Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 254.
[xvi] Johnson, Luke Timothy, Hebrews in TNTL, p. 186.
[xvii] Brickner, David and Robinson, Rich. Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, p. 215.
[xviii] Schwertley, Brian, “The Resurrection and Post-Resurrection Narratives” ch. 2. Online: http://www.reformedonline.com/uploads/1/5/0/3/15030584/resurrection_book.pdf , accessed 1/12/2017.
[xix] Schwertley, Brian, “The Resurrection and Post-Resurrection Narratives” ch. 2. Cited above. Schwertley knows that a type fulfilled is a type annulled or rendered inoperative. But look at this following statement: “Under the Old Covenant, God’s people looked to the seventh day, when Jehovah rested from His creative labor, as their day of rest and worship. But under the New Covenant, our Sabbath is on the first day to honor the Savior’s redemption and recreation of all things.” Even though the Sabbath is fulfilled by Jesus finishing the work of redemption and resting from that work on the Sabbath, Schwertley couldn’t help but refer to the first day as a Sabbath. He seems to forget that the Sabbath was fulfilled on Saturday just as much as the wave offering was fulfilled on Sunday. The grain that falls to the ground and dies will spring forth with renewed life (Jn 12:24). Both feasts anticipated the Lord, even if in differing aspects of His ministry, and both were fulfilled, rendering them useless since the antitype has arrived.
[xx] Blomberg, Craig L. “Matthew” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. Beale and Carson, p. 1. Even if this is a supposition, it is certainly plausible.

Part 2d: What Are The Terms? New Covenant

New Covenant.  The concept of covenants is part and parcel of the OT, and this includes the “new covenant.” Within the historical context of the Mosaic covenant, Jeremiah prophesied of a new covenant the Lord would establish with Israel (Jer 31:31-40). The writings comprising the NT describe the events leading up to the inauguration of the new covenant/testament and its significance for Israel and the world.

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The Lord of hosts is His name): “If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the Lord, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the Lord: “If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the Lord. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that the city shall be built for the Lord from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The surveyor’s line shall again extend straight forward over the hill Gareb; then it shall turn toward Goath. And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the Lord. It shall not be plucked up or thrown down anymore forever.”

The Lord acknowledges the sinfulness of Israel (v. 37) and even though they are undeserving, the Lord God is absolutely unwavering in His commitment to them and the land. But the Mosaic covenant is not enough, there must be a new covenant that supersedes it, loftier in its attributes and consequences. When God choses to enact the new covenant, a faithful Jew would be a fool not to enter into it through a new blood vow. In other words, a Jew could not hope to continue in the former [Mosaic] covenant and please God when the better covenant is placed into effect. The benefits of the new covenant clearly lay in the relationship between God and His people. They will have an inward compulsion to assent to and obey God’s law [What law would that be?]. There will be a new means of knowledge and understanding of who God is [What means would that be?]. The people of the covenant will encompass all classes [Who can they be?]. Sadly, the people will continue to sin yet find complete forgiveness [How can this be?]. Finally, the people of God will dwell in a larger region of holiness untouched by human warfare [How can that be?]. Because this covenant will remain forever, there is no covenant that could ever surpass it. In other words, the new covenant is the final and fullest covenant that God will make with His people, surpassing and completing all the covenants that have come before. At the telling of this prophecy, God determined that a new covenant is necessary for Israel; however, He would wait until a particular time to ordain it [When would that be?]. The Jewish sages could only wonder about the answers to these questions and hope in their God until he brought it to pass. However, when the Lord did enact the new covenant, the years of speculation and expectation made it difficult for law-entrenched Jews to comprehend the simplicity, grandeur, and grace that characterized it.

The four gospel narratives of the NT joyfully proclaim the events leading up to the institution of the new covenant and the remaining literature describes the implications and outworking of the new covenant for the people of God living in the world. The gist of Jeremiah’s prophecy is one of contrast: “not according to the covenant made at Sinai.” However, since concepts contained in the Mosaic covenant appear to remain constant—such as Israel (the people of God), God’s law, sinfulness and the need for forgiveness, holiness (by virtue of God’s presence) and the land—the difference appears to be a contrast of superiority. But even then, the eventual revelation of the new covenant was strikingly different than what the Jewish people had expected (Rom 16:25-26; 1 Cor 2:6-10; Eph 3:8-11; Col 1:24-27). So it is no surprise that even Christians arrive at differing conclusions about the relationship between the Mosaic covenant and the Christic covenant.[i] Furthermore, Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant is specifically contrasted with the covenant made with Israel, and seems to leave intact and unaffected the covenants with (Adam), Noah, Abraham, and David. As such, the NT teaches that the new covenant 1) makes full the covenant with Abraham, “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal 3:14), and 2) makes obsolete the Sinaitic covenant, “Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away (Heb 8:13).

The term “new covenant” occurs in six NT texts (Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:8; 9:15; 12:24) and it is clearly addressed by Paul in Galatians (Gal 4:19-31). Allusions to the prophecy of Jeremiah have also been acknowledged by commentators in Matt 26:26-30; Mk 14:22-26 (institution of Lord’s Supper); Jn 6:45 (Jesus as teacher); Jn 8:37-47 (knowledge of God); Jn 16: 7-14 (gift of the Holy Spirit); Acts 5:31 (forgiveness of Israel); Rom:11:27 (forgiveness of sins) Gal 3:14 (gift of Holy Spirit); Heb 7:22 (better covenant); Heb 9:16-22 (related to first covenant); Heb 10:16-17; Heb 13:20 (blood of everlasting covenant); and 2 Thess 2:1 (future gathering). These and other NT passages help answer the questions that derive from Jeremiah’s prophecy.

OT Concepts

Question for the New Covenant

Answer/Fulfillment

Israel: a nation Who can they be? The nature of the people of God. Church comprising both Jew and Gentile
Matt 16:18 I will build my church
Jn 18:36 My kingdom is not of this world
Rom 1:16 to the Jew first and also to the Greek
Rom 11:7 Israel has not received, but a remnant has
Gal 3:28 you are all one in Christ
1 Pet 2:9 you are a holy nation
Torah: written law What law would that be? The nature of the law Law of Christ/ Liberty/Love
Jn 8:36 Son makes one free indeed
2 Cor 3:6 not of letter but spirit
2 Cor 3:17 liberty with the Spirit
Heb 12:25 speaks from heaven
Gal 2:4 liberty in Christ from circumcision
Gal 5:14 loving neighbor is epitome of law
Gal 5:1 stand fast in liberty
Gal 6:2 loving neighbor is Christ’s law
Jas 2:8 loving neighbor is royal law
Heb 7:28 appointed by oath after the law
1 Jh 3:11 Christian gospel begins with love
Prophets/
Annointing: ad hoc human ministers speaking for God
What means would that be? The nature of knowing God. Christ the Prophet and Mediator/
Annointing of the Holy Spirit
Lk 4:18 Christ anointed by prophecy
Jn 6:41-51 To know God is to know Jesus
Jn 8:31 Jesus speaks truth from the Father
Jn 14:9-10 Jesus has authority from God
Jn 16:7-14 The Spirit of God takes Jesus’ place
Gal 3:14 receive the promised Spirit through faith
Eph 4:20-24 new man in learning Christ with Spirit
Heb 7:25 come to God through Him
Heb 9:15 He is the Mediator
1 Jn 2:20-27 believers anointed with Holy Spirit
Forgiveness: by blood atonement How can this be? The nature of fellowship with God. Blood of Christ
Lk 22:20 covenantal blood
Acts 5:31 Jesus gives repentance and forgiveness
1 Cor 11:25 both priest and sacrifice
Heb 7:27 sacrificed once for all
Heb 10:18-18 no more offerings, boldness to enter
Heb 13:20 complete through the blood
Land/Holiness: specific boundaries and place worship How can that be? The nature of the kingdom of God. Spiritual/ Eternal Kingdom
Jn 4:23 day coming of decentralized worship
Jn 18:36 My servants would fight if worldly kingdom
2 Cor 3:11 more glorious
Heb 9:8 way into Holiest revealed
Heb 11:16 a better country, a heavenly one
Heb 12:28 receiving a kingdom
Gal 4:26 Jerusalem above is free
Restoration When would that be? The nature of eschatology. Two Advents/Already and Not Yet
Rom 8:30 predestined to glorified
1 Cor 11:28 til He comes
Eph 2:5-6 we are raised and sit in heavenly places
1 Thes 4:14 Christ died and rose, and will come again
2 Thes 2:1 man of sin first, then Christ will appear
Heb 9:28 He will appear a second time

There is a new balance and emphasis when it comes to the concept of “law.” The OT Scriptures are cited to reinforce the ethic that derives from Christ’s ultimate sacrifice not just for sin, but for people. This sacrifice is founded on the love of God in sending His Son (Jh 3:16) and the love of the Son for His friends and brethren (Jn 15:13). And this love should also extend to enemies, for even we were once enemies of God (Col 1:21). The law of Christ begins with love, and just in case the pious Jew is confused by this, there are examples of godly love commanded in the Mosaic law that are consistent with the new emphasis now that Christ has come (Ex 23:4-5, 9; Lev 19:18, 34; Deut 10:18; 32:35). It is not just an external commandment in a code book that we are to obey, but now we are internally compelled to demonstrate love because we have experienced first-hand the ultimate expression of love. The Israelite was told to reflect on the fact that he was once a slave in Egypt, but this mindset reaches its pinnacle in the Christian’s reflection that he was once a slave to sin and now made free to serve Christ. This new covenant freedom far outshines the freedom of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness.

The institution of the nation Israel is one-upped by the institution of the church of Christ. There is still a nation called Israel,[ii] but even in its best times and highest glories, it could never attain the status of “true Israel” which is the church, comprised of both Jew and Gentile under a new covenant and a heavenly kingdom. Israel brought in a few Gentiles through circumcision, but it has been overshadowed by a more encompassing community called the church. Also, there was no nation or international community of God before the calling of Israel, so it is not beyond the intent of God to call into existence something radically different than Israel to become the people of God (Hos 2:23; Rom 9:21-24). From the beginning, the Lord’s elect were traced through faithful individuals and their families (like Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, and Abraham); then it progressed to a select nation from Jacob (Israel)—but now it comprises people of faith throughout the whole world. In times past, there was always a remnant, a pocket of those who trusted in God (1 Ki 19:18; Isa 1:9); but now, the yeast of His calling has blossomed to produce a wholesome loaf of children of God (Hos 1:10; Matt 13:33; Rom 9:22-29)—not born from the physical lineage of Jacob, but born again by the Spirit through belief in Jesus as Messiah. Israel gestated within a pagan land and was released from servitude to live and rule in their own land. But members of the church are gestated by the telling of the gospel and freed from sin; released to serve God wherever they are, endeavoring to live at peace within their host nation guided by the law of love (Rom 12:18-13:10).[iii]  See Continuity/Discontinuity.

“[The new covenant] is the fulfillment of the promises of the old covenant and is better by degrees than that former covenant by virtue of its clearer view of Christ and redemption, its richer experience of the Holy Spirit, and by the greater liberty which it grants to believers.”[iv] “The old dispensation was temporary and preparatory; the new is permanent and final.”[v] “The entirety of Paul’s theology is a juxtaposition of old and new, just as Paul is a unique combination of old: rabbinically trained Jew; and new: Christian apostle and witness of the resurrected Jesus.”[vi] “That is, the use of the word “new” implies that the one which it was to supersede was “old.” New and old stand in contradistinction from each other. . . The object of the apostle is to show that by the very fact of the arrangement for a new dispensation differing so much from the old, it was implied of necessity that that was to be superseded, and would vanish away.”[vii] “As far as Christianity is preferable to Judaism, as far as Christ is preferable to Moses, as far as spiritual blessings are preferable to earthly blessings, and as far as the enjoyment of God throughout eternity is preferable to the communication of earthly good during time; so far does the new covenant exceed the old.”[viii] “If, therefore, God proclaimed a new covenant which was to be instituted, and this for a light of the nations, we see and are persuaded that men approach God, leaving their idols and other unrighteousness, through the name of Him who was crucified, Jesus Christ, and abide by their confession even unto death, and maintain piety. Moreover, by the works and by the attendant miracles, it is possible for all to understand that He is the new law, and the new covenant, and the expectation of those who out of every people wait for the good things of God.”[ix] “From the fact of one covenant being established, he infers the subversion of the other; and by calling it the old covenant, he assumes that it was to be abrogated; for what is old tends to a decay. Besides, as the new is substituted, it must be that the former has come to an end; for the second, as it has been said, is of another character. But if the whole dispensation of Moses, as far as it was opposed to the dispensation of Christ, has passed away, then the ceremonies also must have ceased.”[x] The first covenant demanded obedience, and failed because it could not find it. The New Covenant was expressly made to provide for obedience.”[xi]

The controversy about the applicability of the Sabbath under the new covenant is between the beneficiaries of the new covenant. That is, Christians who entered into the new covenant with God by grace through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ differ as to whether the Sabbath must be observed.[xii] The Christian’s view of the new covenant appears to hold a uniformly lofty position whether one is a Seventh-day Sabbatarian, a Sunday Sabbatarian, or a non-Sabbatarian. So, are these different approaches Sabbath observance related at all to one’s understanding of the new covenant?  That is, is there something about the new covenant that directly affects one’s view of the Sabbath?

This question would appear to take on two paths. 1) If the new covenant doctrine itself has no impact on the matter, then the argument for or against the Sabbath would not begin with the new covenant or the relationship between the old and new covenants. The arguments would be based on a separate rationale that only loosely ties into one’s understanding of the covenants. 2) If there is some subtle understanding about the new covenant that separates the various positions, then we would expect the argument for or against Sabbath-keeping to center on this difference. So, when Sabbatarians or non-Sabbatarians address this topic, do they count on their understanding of the new covenant to frame their argument or some other reference point? Where a proponent of each viewpoint begins can be telling.

Ratzlaff is a former SDA (SS) writing from the LD position. He begins his book “Sabbath in Christ” with discussions about the old and new covenants. The relationship between the covenants is central to his thesis that the Sabbath has been abrogated.[xiii] O’Hare’s (LD) “Sabbath Complete” surveys the topic as it unfolds from Genesis to Revelation. While the various covenants are discussed throughout these pages, it is not until the new covenant is established with the death and resurrection of Jesus that the rationale for a fulfilled Sabbath is presented.[xiv] Morrison’s (LD) argument in “Sabbath, Circumcision, and Tithing” also follows the biblical timeline to present the Sabbath as one of many calendar observances of the Mosaic covenant that were rendered obsolete by the new covenant.[xv] On the other hand, Ray (CS) begins with the Fourth Commandment in “Celebrating the Sabbath” and his enlarged concept of the Sabbath gets transferred to the Lord’s Day by the new covenant.[xvi] To escape the effect of the new covenant on ceremonial laws, the Sabbath is claimed to be a commandment for all mankind since creation. Pipa’s (CS) “The Lord’s Day” begins with the Sabbath commandment and an argument against “anti-sabbatarians” who on the basis of their understanding about the new covenant believe it has been set aside.[xvii] Acknowledging the fact that the Sabbath was a sign of the Mosaic covenant and contains ceremonial aspects, Pipa simply asserts that the Sabbath is still morally binding. Bacchiocchi (SS) presents his thesis via an historical analysis, yet he sets up the Sabbath as an enduring commandment despite its symbolic and typological meaning—“not the literal abrogation but the spiritual valorization of the commandment.”[xviii] Observance of the fourth commandment, he posits, was lost to Christianity by the co-opting of pagan Sun-day worship. A more historically oriented work by Heylyn (LD, 1636) recounts the history of Christianity up to his time to demonstrate that after looking through the annals of Christian history no Sabbath observance was found, not until “forty years ago, no more, some men began to introduce a Sabbath thereunto, in hope thereby to countenance and advance their other projects.”[xix]

By this brief review and my awareness of the arguments, it appears that CS and SS theologians assign certain values and interpretive rules to the Sabbath before the new covenant comes into the discussion, and these notions insulate it from the effects of the new covenant. The heightened Sabbath of the CS position is preserved but shifted to Sunday by virtue of the new covenant. Some in this camp would agree that certain ceremonial aspects enjoined only during the Mosaic covenant were done away with by the new covenant. Sunday Sabbatarians (CS) give credence to the historical practice of the church to gather on the first day of the week but they deny the historical findings of Heylyn. On the other hand, the esteemed Sabbath of Saturday Sabbatarians (SS) is unchangeable, so first-day worship must be a theological error introduced early in the history of the church.

What are the values and interpretive rules assigned to the Sabbath by SS and CS advocates that in the end prevent them from recognizing or comprehending the nullifying effect of the new covenant on the Sabbath that the LD community believes? This is the same question as: what principles or facts are the LD failing to comprehend that makes it difficult for them to accept a moral and eternally obligatory Sabbath, which they must ultimately observe on Saturday or Sunday?

  • The Sabbath was instituted at creation. Because this predates the Mosaic covenant, the new covenant cannot undo it. It is not a ceremonial law but a creation mandate.
  • The Sabbath is in the Ten Commandments. God placed it in the Decalogue because it is a moral command, and therefore, the new covenant cannot annul it. The new covenant only put an end to the ceremonies tied to the Sabbath under Moses.
  • Jesus obeyed the Sabbath and corrected misunderstandings about it. Jesus would not approach the Sabbath in this way unless it was an enduring commandment.
  • Sure, the Sabbath is symbolic and typologic, but since the final rest has not yet occurred, the practice of it must continue through the church age. Marriage is also moral and symbolic of a future reality, and it is unchanged by the new covenant.
  • The Sabbath cannot be abrogated by the new covenant except by explicit instruction, which is denied. The mention of the Sabbath in Colossians must not be referring to the weekly Sabbath.
  • The resurrection was of such importance that it is the reason for moving the Sabbath to the first day of the week.


[i] Can there be alternative names for the new covenant? It is the covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ. As the preceding covenants were named eponymously, I think it can be called either the Christic or Messianic covenant.
[ii] There was no Jewish “nation” from 73 to 1948 CE. Israel was not a nation (1,865 years) longer than it was a nation (about 1,382 years, not counting the past 70 years).
[iii] The history of the church demonstrates its struggle with the concept of living in the world as a “holy nation” (1 Pet 2:9) of a different order or character.
[iv] Rayburn, R. S. “Covenant, New” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Ewell, ed., p. 301.
[v] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, p. 377.
[vi] Hagner, Donald A. “Paul as a Jewish Believer—According to His Letters” in Jewish Believers in Jesus, p. 118.
[vii] Barnes, Albert.  Notes, Explanatory and Practical, on the Epistle to the Hebrews, (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1861), p. 181. (Heb 8:13).
[viii] Clarke, Adam. Commentary on the Bible, (Heb 8:6). Biblesoft Electronic Library.
[ix] Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Ch 11 (ANF 1:200).
[x] Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews, p. 193 (Heb 8:13)
[xi] Murray, Andrew. The Two Covenants and the Second Blessing, London: James Nesbit & Co., 1899, p. 115. Italics in the original.
[xii] On the fringes, it is also a conflict between believers and pseudo-Christian cults.
[xiii] Ratzlaff, Dale. Sabbath in Christ. LAM, 2010.
[xiv] O’Hare, Terrence D. The Sabbath Complete, Wipf and Stock, 2011.
[xv] Morrison, Michael. Sabbath, Circumcision, and Tithing. Writers Club Press, 2002.
[xvi] Ray, Bruce A. Celebrating the Sabbath. P&R, 2000.
[xvii] Pipa, Joseph A. The Lord’s Day. Christian Focus, 1997.
[xviii] Bacchiocchi, Samuele. From Sabbath to Sunday, p. 69.
[xix] Heylyn, Peter. The History of the Sabbath, ed. Stuart Brogden (2018), p. 379.

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