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Glossary 22 Judaizer
Judaizer. Paul described a situation wherein Peter refused to eat with Gentile believers (Gal 2:11-21). Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, was severely rebuked for communicating to Gentile believers that they were not fully accepted in Christ unless they “live like Jews.” Hence, Paul concluded that Peter, by practicing table separation, was compelling Gentiles to “Judaize,” that is, to behave like Jews. The error, by one in authority, had the potential to create two separate churches—one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles—an outcome inimical to Christ’s goal of reconciling both Jew and Gentile into one body (Eph 2:14-18). The partition was taken down by Christ; yet Peter’s actions could potentially re-erect it. The implication of Peter’s actions with respect to the sufficiency of faith alone in Jesus Christ warranted the public challenge and was called by Paul “playing the hypocrite” (Gal 2:13). After all, Peter had fellowshipped with Gentiles before (Gal 2:12, 14).
So, “Judaizer” is a biblically derived term from Paul’s animadversion of Peter who attempted to bring Gentile Christians under the spell of bygone Jewish laws (i.e., separation, circumcision). Hendrickson, elaborating on the above event, believes that a Judaizer is a Jew “who had indeed confessed Jesus but insisted that in order to attain salvation—at least complete salvation—it was necessary for all, Gentile as well as Jew, to keep the law of Moses, with special emphasis on circumcision.”[i] But the reality is that Peter did not believe for a moment that Gentiles were not saved by faith in Christ or that they had to keep the laws of Jewish identification, as these matters were settled in congress before this (Acts 15:7-11). Instead, he lapsed under pressure and reverted to Jewish law that accentuated the difference between Gentile and Jewish believers. Or, as Bruce apprehends this, it was as if, for Gentile Christians, their faith in Christ was not enough, they needed to go a step further in “conformity to Jewish law or custom: they must, in other words, ‘judaize’.”[ii] From this context, a Jewish believer who compels a Gentile to live like a Jew is a Judaizer, and the Gentile who adopts those behaviors peculiar to Judaism is Judaizing. Peter and the other elders were violating the conscience of Gentile believers by intimating, with subtle judgmentalism, that their participation in the commonwealth of Israel (i.e., now the church) required more than the bond of faith.
The meaning of this term has widened to embrace situations where non-Christian Jews, in their association with the church, attempt to convince Christians, both Jew and Gentile, that certain Jewish laws are required either for complete salvation or as a necessary component of pleasing God, such as circumcision (Acts 15:1; Gal 6:12) and the observance of holy days, including the Sabbath (Gal 4:9-10; Col 2:16). Paul also refers to these infiltrators as “false brethren” (Gal 2:4) and “dogs” (Phil 3:2), motivated by “a show of the flesh” (Gal 6:12). So, Peter and other Jews, were swayed and carried away, by a false doctrine. “At one point, the Judaizers opposed and briefly affected Peter.”[iii] Hence, “Judaize,” which comes from Ioudaizeïn, “to live like Jews” (Gal 2:14), is to obey laws specific to the Jewish religion,[iv] or to assimilate to the Jewish culture, with the belief that this obedience or assimilation is necessary for salvation, meritorious for sanctification, or simply that the exterior rites of Judaism are beneficial or optimal—a mindset that is essentially antithetical to salvation by grace through faith. “Calvin undoubtedly was correct that from Paul’s point of view, first-century Judaism, and the Judaizers in particular, had a faulty understanding of the role of the law in justification.”[v] “The Jewish customs and manners that are meant are religious ones, observances that are prescribed by the Torah (circumcision, Sabbath and festival, abstention from pork, etc.).”[vi] “What was formerly obedience to the law is now mere Judaism.”[vii]
“Judaize” is sometimes used even more generally to describe the compulsion of Christians to perform religious rites or traditions without reference to Judaism; that is, to conform to a set of rules that define a sectarian culture, usually without biblical authority, such as abstention from meat on Friday, preventing priests from marrying, and declaring a day to be holy. “They prescribe observances which are in a great measure useless, and are sometimes absurd; secondly, by the vast multitude of them, pious consciences are oppressed, and being carried back to a kind of Judaism, so cling to shadows that they cannot come to Christ.”[viii]
Cohen distinguishes between the original intent of “ioudaizeïn” (to be like a Jew) and the later use of the term by Clement (to become a Jew).[ix] Moo disagrees.[x] Cohen further notes that “Judaizing” is a pejorative label most often used in situations where actual Jews are not integral to the debate, and so advises against the current use of the term. However, he does not take into account the influence of Messianic Jews and the Jewish Roots Movement within the Christian community which practice Jewish customs and laws for various spiritual, physical, or social reasons.[xi] Yet, it is not only a direct connection with Judaism that leads to Judaizing, but the indirect influence of emerging theological concepts bolstered by contemporary values. For example, the development of Seventh Day Baptist congregations in the seventeenth century followed the intensifying emphasis on a direct relationship between the Sabbath and Lord’s Day;[xii] but the result would have been the same if a Jewish believer led the movement. At present, the Western focus on health and diet has caused many Christians to adopt the dietary laws of the OT; and again, the result is no different than if a Jewish Christian led the movement. As such, the term is properly used to describe the practice, by non-Jews, of cultic OT laws that were clearly abrogated by the NT. One should not claim to be a beneficiary of the new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ and then practice the abrogated laws of the old covenant as if they conveyed or merited some spiritual benefit.
Judaizing is a pejorative term, and rightly so, because it describes a mindset or behavior that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It can be supposed that Peter was not intending to divide the church nor did he did he feel ill-will toward Gentiles, but the fruit of his Judaizing (compelling Gentiles to behave like Jews—You are not accepted unless you get circumcised) would lead to division, judgmentalism, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy.
Regarding the Sabbath, the LD camp would view most forms of Sabbath-keeping to be Judaizing. Keeping a Sabbath is keeping a Jewish law, and to obey it as if it were a required activity or spiritually beneficial is Judaizing. Keeping the Sabbath on Sunday instead of Saturday, with the misapprehension that only the day of the week was ceremonial, is still Judaizing. Calling Sunday or the Lord’s Day the “Christian Sabbath” is certainly a misnomer, for what is a “Christian Sabbath” but a modified Jewish Sabbath observed on the wrong day. If a Christian mom wants to keep her Sunday afternoon free of ordinary duties (or any other day of the week), that is her prerogative, but it is not the same as keeping the Sabbath. And she does not have to invoke Sabbath law to give her afternoon rest an air of spirituality. But the moment she becomes proud of her chosen expression of personal piety and looks down on those who do not share her enthusiasm, or, worse, she criticizes others as Sabbath-breakers, then she is a Judaizer.
The history of the development of Sabbatarian thought has been thoroughly documented.[xiii],[xiv],[xv] Parker correctly relates that the early Reformers (1520-1530) questioned the Catholic Church’s stance that Sunday church attendance was based on the fourth commandment, but within forty years, subsequent Reformers began to “reassert the divine imperative to observe one day in seven.”[xvi]As one would expect, the emphasis on the Sabbath as a paradigm for Christian worship would inevitably lead to controversy. In the 1580s, the Dedham Classis considered the same matters that are under discussion here: whether Christian worship on Sunday is of divine decree, what is expected of believers on this day, and how to enforce compliance. The latter point is only necessary if the State has the power to compel its subjects to attend church services, which it did at the time. As Sabbatarian practices increased during this time, it became known to King James I, in 1617, that magistrates in Lancashire had ordered “rigorous restrictions” and “a total prohibition of Sunday recreations,”[xvii]and in response issued the first “Book of Sports” in 1618 that would allow the populace, should they desire, to perform “lawful” recreations, such as piping, dancing, archery, vaulting, and rushbearing, while continuing to prohibit “unlawful” pastimes, such as bearbaiting.[xviii] Heylyn noted the King’s Declaration “occasioned much noise and clamor” causing Sabbatarian ministers to urge even more seriousness for the Christian Sabbath; for example, teaching that to make a feast or wedding dinner on the Lord’s Day was as great a sin as for a father to take a knife and cut his child’s throat.[xix] The obvious inconsistency is that the State would not be willing to execute Sabbath-breakers like murderers—but they did levy fines. Should a butcher kill an animal and sell the meat, his fine would be about $150 in today’s currency. A person who drives a herd (a drover) or uses a wagon would be fined the equivalent of $200 for doing so on the Christian Sabbath.[xx]
Building upon the Sabbatarian doctrines of the Precisionists (Puritans), John Traske came to believe the Sabbath should be kept on Saturday just as the fourth commandment requires, a teaching that earned him the pillory at Westminster and then three years in prison before he recanted.[xxi] So strict were the Puritans, that King Charles I republished the Declaration of Sports in 1633 hoping to prevent the Puritans from punishing those who practiced archery, danced, or gathered for May-games or wakes (dedications of a church). But when the Puritans took power in 1643, they ordered the burning of this document.[xxii] This is but a glance at the plague of controversies aroused by Judaizing the Lord’s Day.
Even though we experience more liberty to worship according to our beliefs, North observed palpable judgmentalism within Sabbatarian churches: “They [Sabbatarians with few rules] think of the others [Sabbatarians with many rules] as ‘legalists,’ while extremists [Sabbatarians with many rules] who follow the implications of their position naturally view their weaker brethren [Sabbatarians with few rules] as ‘latent antinomians.’”[xxiii] This is the inevitable outcome of Judaizing: judging those who do not adhere to your set of rules. But any good Sabbatarian must defend what they do or not on their Sabbath day as a spiritual necessity derived from good and necessary inference intended to obey the fourth commandment. How one keeps the Sabbath cannot be neutral or optional because it is a moral imperative apparently based on the most faithful interpretation of God’s word. One would expect all good Christians to agree 98% on what is required by the fourth commandment, but the topic is given to disputation and discombobulation. Is it sinful to sleep late the night before Sabbath? When does the Christian Sabbath begin and end? Is it a violation of the fourth commandment to wear a watch, celebrate a wedding, use the microwave, write a check, bake a roast, go to a restaurant, play or watch sports, play a musical instrument, read the newspaper, buy Monday’s newspaper, study for school, milk a cow, buy some aspirin or some bread, repair a broken fence, or dress in your best clothes on your Saturday or Sunday Sabbath? All of these were considered Sabbath-breaking by some Christian Sabbatarians at some point in history. Furthermore, may the “magistrate” punish those who do not go to church on Sunday or Saturday, or otherwise break the Sabbath?
Has any other moral commandment produced the same fruit of discord, disharmony, and disunity as Judaizing the Lord’s Day? Where are the books written during past 400 years attempting to define whole doctrines about what constitutes adultery or stealing, bearing false witness or coveting? Are there ongoing controversies about whether tête-à-têtes between a married man and a female co-worker are a violation of the seventh commandment—ultimately leading to church divisions? Have any new denominations been established due to a hullabaloo over the propriety of claiming a tax deduction given to a charity that has yet to obtain a 501(c)(3) non-profit status? What churches have decided to withdraw fraternal relations because of different opinions about the motivations behind those who gossip, or because some church said in their statement of faith: “It’s not gossip if you pray about it”? What large church faction developed after a brouhaha over the pastor exclaiming at a car show, “I’d love to get my hands on that 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe”? Churches get embroiled about a good number of things, but not about divergent understandings of moral commandments.
Past centuries and this present age demonstrate that the attempt to apply the Jewish Sabbath to the Christian Lord’s Day has only stirred up strife, controversy, judgmentalism, confusion, and division in God’s church. This is not the fruit of the Spirit; it is of the flesh.
[i] Hendrickson, William. Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians, 1962 (NTC, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007, 4th Printing) p. 150.
[ii] Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Galatians (NIGTC, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) p. 133.
[iii] Rushdooney, Rousas John. Romans and Galatians (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1997), p. 331.
[iv] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “Jew(s)” p. 616. Wilson, M. R., “Judaizers” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed, p. 638, Ed. Elwell; Baker, Grand Rapids, 2001.
[v] Silva, Moisés. “Galatians” in Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, p. 803.
[vi] Cohen, Shaye J. D. “Judaizing” in The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism, p. 847. Eds. Collins and Harlow; Grand Rapids, 2010.
[vii] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Bible Commentary, Vol 3. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008) p. 379 (Gal 2:14).
[viii] Calvin, Institutes, 4.10.11. (p. 421)
[ix] Cohen, Shaye J. D. “Judaizing” in The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism, p. 847-848.
[x] Moo, Douglas. Galatians (BECNT, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), p. 151.
[xi] These comments should not be interpreted as anti-Semitic. I went to a church with a Hebrew-Christian emphasis, and participated in paschal seders and the Purim play. These were done to introduce goyim, like me, to the rich history and traditions of Judaism. This is entirely different from compelling goyim to perform rituals, as a Jew would do, for the betterment of one’s spiritual life.
[xii] Bauckham, R. J. “Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, p. 332-334.
[xiii] Heylyn, Peter. The History of the Sabbath 1636, 2nd ed. (updated by Stuart L. Brogden, 2018).
[xiv] Carson, D. A., ed. From Sabbath to Lord’s Day.
[xv] O’Hare, Terrence D. The Sabbath Complete.
[xvi] Parker, Kenneth L. The English Sabbath (Cambridge, England: University Press, 1988), p. 24.
[xvii] Ibid. p. 150-151.
[xviii] Rushbearing was an annual resurfacing of church floors on the anniversary of the church’s dedication. Following a religious ceremony, the event turned into a festival with games, sports, drinking, and dancing. Bearbaiting was a spectator event during which a bear was tethered to a pole and tormented by viscious dogs, which also suffered during the contest.
[xix] Heylyn, Peter. The History of the Sabbath; 1636, 2nd ed. (updated by Stuart L. Brogden, 2018) p. 435, 427. Note Chantry’s observation of this same phenomenon of “authoritarian oversight” in today’s Sabbatarian churches: “Elders are determined to insist that church members keep the Sabbath in detailed specific application” (p. 80).
[xx] Ibid., p. 442.
[xxi] Ibid., p. 434.
[xxii] Cox, Robert. The Literature of the Sabbath Question, Vol. 1; 1865, (repr USA), p. 163.
[xxiii] North, Gary. “The Economics of Sabbath-keeping” in The Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 828.
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.
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. Typology 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. “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.
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.
Fulfillment. The idea of fulfillment traces back to the OT, where it conveys the end of a period of time during which something was expected, such as the completion of a pregnancy when a child is born (Gen 25:24) or the culmination of a contractual obligation when a wife is given (Gen 29:21). Fulfillment also marks the terminus of one’s life with the expectation of rest (2 Sam 7:12). The long anticipated ‘rest’ of death brings a far greater satisfaction than the days of toil and sweat (Lk 23:43; Phil 1:23). Finally, fulfillment is used to describe the coming to pass of God’s promises and making full His predictive word, such as the completion of the Temple by Solomon (1 Ki 8:20) or the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after the completion of their punishment (2 Chr 36:21; Ez 1:1). A promise or prophecy from God plants the seed of expectancy and hope; and those of faith will witness the realization of it in history, whether dead or alive (Lk 24:25-27; Jn 8:56; Heb 11:13-16).
The language of fulfillment is present even at the completion of the creation week. “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished” (Gen 2:1).[i] God’s will in creating all that He created was fulfilled.[ii] As Jeremiah stated, “The Lord has done what He purposed; He has fulfilled His word Which He commanded in days of old” (Lam 2:17). Immediately after the fall of Adam, God’s promise of the Seed of a woman who will defeat the serpent initiates the hopes and expectations that the curse will be undone and peace will be restored. Because God is true to His word we can expect that He will surely accomplish what He has designed. And the final prophets to Israel assured them that the hopes of old were soon to be accomplished through the “Desire of all Nations”, the “Lowly King” and the “Sun of Righteousness” (Hag 2:7; Zech 9:10; Mal 4:1-6). At the close of the OT, the Jews were still awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Messiah and the new covenant (Jer 31:31). “The new covenant in Christ, then, is far better because it fulfills the promises made in Jeremiah…”[iii]
Even though the first century Gospels and Epistles present Jesus as the fulfillment of OT Scriptures, the messianic expectations of the Jews was anything but a consensus. That being said, “Significant numbers of Jews… embraced hopes that God would ultimately intervene to judge, redeem, and rule the world… through some kind of eschatological agent, a messiah.”[iv] General beliefs appear to center on three characteristics: 1) the ideal ruler would be related to the house of David, 2) enemies of Israel would be defeated with the resurgence of nationalistic Israel, and 3) the kingdom of God would encompass the earth in a period of peace and prosperity. Edersheim affirms “that the main postulates of the New Testament concerning the Messiah are fully supported by rabbinic statements.”[v] He compiled a list of 456 verses and 558 commentary references to those verses outlining the wealth of Jewish thought regarding the forthcoming Messiah. Referring to the expectation of a superhuman Messiah, Edersheim concluded that the teachings within the synagogue were ultimately the door for Jewish believers to accept the divine nature of Jesus Christ. “And once that point reached, the mind, looking back through the teaching of the Synagogue, would, with increasing clearness, perceive that, however ill-understood in the past, this had been all along the sum of the whole Old Testament.”[vi]
In the NT, fulfillment is immediately and profoundly attributed to the first advent of Jesus Christ (Matt 1:22; Mk 1:15; Lk 1:1). “One does not have to read far in the New Testament Scriptures to discover the language of fulfillment.”[vii] The OT Scriptures that spoke of Him through prophecy and type, gave the Jewish people reason to expect that God would do what He had purposed through the chosen seed of Adam (Gen 3:15). “The word fulfill includes more than confirmation, since, when taken together with the total context, it implies that a later event brings to realization something that was anticipated or foreshadowed in earlier Scripture.”[viii] From the Greek πληρόω (plerōo)—which commonly means to fill up to the brim (Matt 13:48), to make complete (Acts 19:21), or to execute the duties of an office (Acts 12:25)—“fulfill” is used in the Gospels to declare the fulfillment of OT prophecies by Jesus of Nazareth in His incarnation and birth (Matt 1:22; Jn 5:39; Act 18:28), His escape to and return from Egypt (Matt 2:13-18), His baptism by John (Matt 3:15), His healing ministry (Matt 8:17), His teaching ministry (Matt 13:10-17, 35), the events of his death (Matt 26:52-56; 27:9, 35; Jn 19:24, 28, 36; Acts 3:18; 3:29), resurrection (Acts 13:33; Rom 1:1-4; 1 Cor 15:3-4), and ascension (Eph 4:8-10).
Jesus claimed to fulfill “all righteousness” through the baptism of John (Matt 3:15). “His identification with them [sinful Israelites] here anticipates His complete identification with sinners when He bears their sins on the cross.”[ix] At the beginning of His ministry, He asserted the present fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic word (Isa 61:1-3): “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). “Jesus’ table fellowship with the outcasts was not accidental . . . He did so precisely because he consciously sought to fulfill such Old Testament prophecies as Isaiah 61:1-2.”[x] Additionally, Jesus claimed that He is the one who will completely fulfill the expectations of the law and the prophets (Matt 5:17). “Jesus does not conceive of his life and ministry in terms of opposition to the Old Testament, but in terms of bringing to fruition that toward which it points.”[xi] Lastly, prior to His ascension, Jesus reiterated that “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Lk 24:44). To see Jesus is to see the fulfillment of every expectation of God’s good will toward His creation in what He has done and will do.
By the outset of His ministry, the expectations of Scripture were already fulfilled, were being fulfilled, and would continue to be fulfilled in His person, His life, His teachings, and His return in glory. He completely fills up to full measure and brings to complete realization all that was written before in the histories, poetry, prophecies, and laws of Israel. “[Jesus] borrows freely from various OT passages to prove that expectations found throughout the OT are fulfilled in his work.”[xii]
Matthew systematically presents Jesus as fulfilling the expectations of Scripture with direct and indirect prophetic utterances, historical references, correspondences and symbolism. Consequently, fulfillment must be the principal consideration in our analysis of the NT use of OT Scriptures, and it is best understood taking place in two phases. 1) Since the NT describes fulfillment taking place throughout Christ’s first advent, we must acknowledge the progressive unfolding of it in the context of Judaism under the law. “Jesus simply used an illustration [of sacrifices at the temple] that spoke to his contemporaries since he ministered in the period in which the Mosaic law was still in force.”[xiii] Jesus did not come to surgically alter the body of legal duties contained in the Mosaic covenant for the sake of bringing in Gentiles. His mission was more profound and far-reaching than that, in that He presented himself to Israel as the ultimate interpreter and actual substance of the Holy Scriptures. 2) Following His ascension, there is a transitional understanding of fulfillment in the context of the church which anticipates His second advent. “Jesus’ authoritative teaching anticipates the change, which does not actually come until the Resurrection.”[xiv] Thus, the consequences of fulfillment for the church are mapped out primarily by Paul who begins his epistles with truths about the person of Jesus Christ and ends them with a practical ethos for the church. Hence, the idea that specific laws are abrogated is a practical consequence of understanding the fulfillment of the law and the prophets by Jesus of Nazareth. “We clearly have an instance [in Mark’s gospel about unclean foods], then, in which the newness introduced by Jesus leads to the abolition of laws found in the Old Testament.”[xv] See Abrogation.
Furthermore, fulfillment of our redemption is described as an “all ready-not yet” state. From the Reformed perspective, the first advent of Christ marks the “inauguration” of fulfillment. “The times in which we now live are the times of fulfilment, the times which mark out the beginning of the end of history, the times in which Christ has begun to establish and ultimately will fully usher in the glorious future of promise.”[xvi] As we live in the times awaiting the final consummation, the implications of the fulfillment of Mosaic laws continues to be the subject of discussion in eschatology and ethics. One such line of thinking with respect to the Sabbath is the claim that the Sabbath principle of resting one day in seven is still obligatory until the final state of rest is attained. These Sabbatarians acknowledge that the Sabbath is a fulfilled type, but it is only fulfilled in an inaugurated state. “While the present order of creation continues, and until the eschatological tension is finally resolved, the creation ordinance of the sabbath rest remains in effect.”[xvii]This tenet is pure nonsense, because several Mosaic laws typified the complete state of redemptive rest that will not be bodily realized until the consummation of all things; and these laws are no longer considered obligatory for the church. The Year of Jubilee—an intensification of the Sabbatic Year and the Sabbath itself—is a prime example of a fulfilled typical law in an already-not yet state. Fairbairn, the father of typology, acknowledges this eschatological tension with the Year of Jubilee. “A presage and earnest of its complete fulfillment was given in the work of Christ, when at the very outset He declared that He was anointed to preach good tidings to the poor…”[xviii] While all the conditions continue to exist that made the Jubilee a thing Israel should hope for, Fairbairn proposes no continuing obligation to this law. Regarding the Sabbatic Year, he states that the “graces of a pious, charitable, and beneficent life—these things conveyed to the Israelites, and they convey still to the Church of God,” yet he affirms that the outward ordinance has ceased.”[xix] Somehow, Christ’s fulfillment of these laws, by providing redemptive rest through His blood on the cross, invalidated the greatest legal visions of eschatological rest, peace, and charity, but it did nothing to the weekly Sabbath. The inconsistency is befuddling.
The risen Lord Jesus said He came to fulfill all things (Lk 24:44). “For the substance of those things which the ceremonies anciently prefigured is now presented before our eyes in Christ, inasmuch as he contains in himself everything that they marked out as future.”[xx]
[i] TDNT, πληρόω; “To complete… it means to finish” p.297
[ii] TDNT, πληρόω; “God fulfills His Word by fully actualising it” p.295
[iii] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology, p. 521.
[iv] Pomykala, Kenneth E. “Messianism” in The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism, p. 939. [v] Edersheim, Alfred, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 116.
[vi] Edersheim, Alfred, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 126.
[vii] Venema, Cornelius P. The Promise of the Future. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000, p. 25.
[viii] Poythress, Vern S. The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, p. 365.
[ix] Poythress, Vern S. The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, p. 253.
[x] Stein, Robert H. Jesus the Messiah, p. 127.
[xi] Carson, D. A. The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7 (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1978), p. 37.
[xii] Goppelt, Leonhard. Typos, p. 69.
[xiii] Schreiner, Thomas R. 40 Questions about Chistians and Biblical Law, p. 162.
[xiv] Carson, D. A. “Jesus and the Sabbath in the Four Gospels” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, D. A. Carson, ed., p. 79.
[xv] Schreiner, Thomas R. 40 Questions about Chistians and Biblical Law, p. 162.
[xvi] Venema, Cornelius P. The Promise of the Future. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000, p. 27.
[xvii] Chamblin, Knox. “The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ” in Continuity and Discontinuity, p. 196. This is repeated by G. K. Beale in A New Testament Biblical Theology, p. 798.
[xviii] Fairbairn, Patrick. Typology of Scripture, p. 404.
[xix] Fairbairn, Patrick. Typology of Scripture, p. 403.
[xx] Calvin, Commentaries, Vol 21, Col 2:16, p. 192.
Ceremonial Law. A class of laws within the Mosaic legal corpus generally associated with the religious system of worship—of the priesthood, place worship, sacrifices and offerings, and calendar rituals—that foreshadowed the work and benefits of redemption effected by Christ’s life and death (as well as His ultimate second coming)—and now rendered void to us, having been fulfilled. “Ceremonial laws were those which God gave through Moses in reference to ceremonies, or the external solemn ordinances which were to be observed in the public worship of God, with a proper attention to the circumstances which had been prescribed; binding the Jewish nation to the coming of the Messiah, and at the same time distinguishing them from all other nations; and that they might also be signs, symbols, types and shadows of spiritual things to be fulfilled in the New Testament by Christ.”[i] “The Ceremonial Law prescribes under the Old Testament the rites and ceremonies of worship… obligatory only till Christ, of whom these rites were typical… It was fulfilled rather than abrogated by the gospel.”[ii] “The Jews thought themselves complete in the ceremonial law; but we are complete in Christ.”[iii] “The ceremonial laws, civil laws, and the penal code have been abrogated, and the moral law has received further clarification in the person and teaching of Jesus Christ.”[iv] “The Gospel is a glorious superseding of and an advancement over the Mosaic administration with its ceremonial ordinances…the redemptive instructions for circumcision, priesthood, sacrifice, and temple.”[v] “In calling the Law the ‘elements of the world’ [Gal 4:3] Paul refers to the whole Law, [yet] principally to the ceremonial law which dealt with external matters, as meat, drink, dress, places, times, feasts, cleansings, sacrifices, etc.”[vi] “But the ceremonial law (including the Sabbath laws) was never given to the Gentiles.”[vii] “While the Sabbath ceremonials have passed away, the Sabbath principle itself remains valid and binding.”[viii]
The term “ceremonial” to describe cultic or ritualistic laws of the Mosaic covenant is not specifically used by NT writers. The concept is presented in the NT, but not the term. I will sometimes use the term “shadow law” as a synonym because of Paul’s specific use of the word “shadow” (skia) to describe Mosaic commandments that provided, as it were, a general outline or form of something in a darkened silhouette cast by something substantial, real, and tangible (Col 2:17). If a specific OT law was a shadow, then Christ would be the reality. “The outward performance of Jewish ceremonies became a matter of relative insignificance compared to the realization that they were designed and commanded to prepare the Jewish nation for the arrival of the Messiah.”[ix]
There is another class of ceremonial laws that our Lord established for the church to observe, and like the ceremonial laws of Israel, they are to be observed for a time and discontinued when the reason for them has been fully satisfied, i.e., when the final person enters the kingdom of God, marking the time that Christ returns to judge the world (Rom 8:18-21; 1 Cor 11:26; Rev 21:2). While Christians may boast in the fact that they are free from the observance of ceremonial laws, the fact remains that a new set of ceremonial laws has been given to the church. This should not be a surprise to Christ-followers, for if you have engaged in baptism or communion (in the context of church attendance), then you have participated in symbolic rituals that have a spiritual meaning. These two new covenant ceremonies 1) were rooted in specific historic events and soon practiced by the early church,[x] 2) picture spiritual realities already experienced in the life of the believer[xi], and 3) anticipate an escalation of fulfillment in the future.[xii] Almost all Christian sects acknowledge these two symbolic and ritualistic ceremonies for the Christian church. The church also has the external practice of gathering together on a weekly basis to perform the work of ministry and worship as “one bread” in conjunction with the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 10:17; 11:18-26; 16:2; 1 Pet 2:5). This was ordained by the Lord and promulgated by apostolic authority. This ministry then continues throughout the week under the guidance of the church leaders and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:4; Php 2:12-17). See Typology and Abrogation.
With rare exceptions, Christian theologians and church leaders acknowledge the Sabbath to be a ceremonial law or to at least possess ceremonial features. Pipa, a Sunday Sabbatarian admits, “This is not to say that there are no ceremonial aspects to the Fourth Commandment.”[xiii] This requires the Sabbath to be abrogated at least in those parts acknowledged to be ceremonial, because they typify Christ and His salvation. Furthermore, the onus probandi is to demonstrate the spiritual intent of a ceremonial law and specifically how Jesus fulfilled it through His redemptive ministry. Suffice it to say that whatever laws we classify as “ceremonial” are no longer required of Christians, and the practice of them is to be considered a burden or yoke, especially if we think there is any spiritual value in performing them.
However, in order to preserve the seventeenth century doctrine of a moral Sabbath, CS and SS theologians must deny or downplay the typological fulfillment of the Sabbath, especially the idea that Christ makes full and satisfies the symbolic intent of “rest.” This leads to expositions that end in non sequiturs, confusing statements, or self-contradiction. Campbell (CS) acknowledges that the Sabbath is a sign of the Mosaic covenant and that the new covenant “has no need of ritual and ceremony [characteristic of the OT],” but then he concludes: “Not only is there a Sabbath for us in the New Testament: there is also a Lord’s Day for us in the Old.”[xiv] For Campbell, a “more stringent” weekly 24-hour rest from labor, sports, birthday parties, marriage celebrations, travel, and commerce, is not a ritual. He continues: “And as far as the fourth commandment is concerned, the shadow (the old, week-end Sabbath) has gone, but the Christ-substance appears before us now in a week-beginning Sabbath.”[xv] This echoes Pipa’s assertion that “the seventh-day Sabbath has been changed to a first-day Sabbath.”[xvi] Now, when Christ fulfills OT ceremonies, He gives spiritual flesh and value to what the ceremony foreshadowed so that it can never be done in the same way as before, because the outward observance is empty compared to spiritual benefits it foreshadowed in Christ. But Campbell and Pipa seem to say that the spiritual message of the seventh-day Sabbath and Jesus’ great accomplishment of all it foreshadowed is that we get to observe the same Sabbath on a different day! Somehow, the net effect of Jesus’ fulfillment of the OT Sabbath is that He postponed it one day. On Saturday, the Sabbath-rest looked forward to the day that we get to do the same Sabbath-rest on Sunday and call it the Christ-substance.[xvii]
Barnes (CS) cannot conceive of the Sabbath in ceremonial terms: “And hence it was, that while the observance of the feasts of tabernacles, and of the Passover, and of the new moons, made a part of the ceremonial law, the law respecting the sabbaths was incorporated with the ten commandments as of moral and perpetual obligation.”[xviii] The problem with Barnes’ analysis is that the Feast of Tabernacles, the Passover, and the New Moons were observed as Sabbaths! If he is comfortable with the fulfillment of these annual Sabbaths, why not the weekly Sabbaths? In what way did Jesus fulfill the seven annual 24-hour rests, but not the weekly 24-hour rests? Barnes must demonstrate biblically how the weekly Sabbaths are to be treated differently than the yearly Sabbaths, especially when Paul made no distinction in categorizing all feast days, New Moons, and Sabbaths as shadows (Col 2:16). It is not sufficient to simply state that the weekly Sabbaths are in the Decalogue and therefore exempt from fulfillment, while the annual Sabbaths are fulfilled in Christ. Apostle Paul must have realized that the Sabbath commandment is reiterated in the Ten Words, but this made no difference to him—all calendar observances listed in Leviticus 23 are fulfilled by Christ. To fulfill the Sabbath, whether it occurs weekly or annually, is to fulfill the typological intent of rest, which is living in the presence of God in a state of holiness. For Jesus to be our giver of rest, He must amplify and accentuate the figures of rest. Hence, His rest is a daily experience of redeeming grace and an eternally effective dispensation of peace and security.
Hodge (CS) classifies the law of God into four groups: 1) the foundational obligations of love and truth consistent with God’s nature; 2) the moral obligations for human relationships and societies [these two would comprise the moral law of God]; 3) the temporary duties for Israel dealing with their social, governmental, and ecclesiastical functions [this would be ceremonial and judicial laws of the Mosaic covenant]; and finally, 4) the duties that God simply wills for us to do. Into this last category, Hodge places the “Christian Sabbath,” an obligation that whether we understand the reason or not, we are morally obligated to obey. Hodge further explains that it is the invariable need for rest that man must keep the Sabbath day holy, yet God may will that a particular day be set aside for this, “which otherwise would have been a matter of indifference.” Hodge knows that the “Christian Sabbath” does not fit neatly into the realm of moral law (otherwise he would have addressed it under that rubric); and at the same time he does not want the Sabbath to be relegated to ceremonial law because, for him, the Christian day of worship cannot stand on its own, but must be unescapably bound to the Sabbath.
The crux of the matter is whether the Sabbath is infused with redemptive meaning or not. If the external observance of the Sabbath is pregnant with the symbolism of redemption, then it may conclusively be categorized as a ceremonial law. Campbell (CS) acknowledges the strong connection between the tabernacle and the Sabbath in Exodus 35: “The symbolism of creation is evident, therefore, as much in the Sabbath principle as in the tabernacle construction and its account. The cumulative evidence of these early passages of Genesis and Exodus point to the intimate relationship between creation and redemption, with the Sabbath principle of creation binding these motifs and themes together.”[xix] Campbell laid the foundation for declaring the typological intent of the Sabbath, but rather than promote the glory of Christ in fulfilling it, he obfuscates matters with needless casuistry. The typology of the Sabbath will be explored further in this work, however, should the reader want a detailed explanation how the seven external Sabbath-keeping behaviors have biblically defensible redemptive meanings, the matter is presented in my book, “The Sabbath Complete.”
[i] Ursinus, Zacharias. The Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 491.
[ii] Easton, “Law” in Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
[iii] Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Col 2:4-12, p. 610.
[iv] VanGemeren, Willem A., “The Law is the Perfection of Righteousness in Jesus Christ” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, p. 37.
[v] Bahnsen, Greg L., “The Theonomic Reformed Approach to Law and Gospel” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, p. 99.
[vi] Luther, Martin. A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, (1538? 31?) trans. Theodore Graebner, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervon (1949). p. 99.
[vii] Weirsbe, Warren W. Weirsbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament, Cook:Colorado Springs, CO (1992), p. 524. (on Gal 3:19-20).
[viii] Campbell, Iain D., On the First Day of the Week, p. 66.
[ix] O’Hare, Terrence D., The Sabbath Complete, p. 190.
[x] The baptism of Jesus by John (Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22; Acts 2:38; 8:37-39) and the inauguration of the new covenant by Jesus at the close of Passover, the evening before His crucifixion (Lk 22:14-20; Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor 11:23-26).
[xi] Sharing in the baptism of Jesus’ suffering () and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit () through faith. Made “one bread” as a community of faith and having the assurance of forgiveness because of Jesus’ shed blood; re-enactment of the initial covenant meal and re-commitment.
[xii] The world will experience the baptism of suffering but the saints will be immersed into the heavenly community prepared for us at the beginning. The saints from every nation, tongue, and kindred will experience the full unity of kingdom of God under His perfect rule.
[xiii] Pipa, Joseph A., The Lord’s Day, p. 57.
[xiv] Campbell, Iain D., On the First Day of the Week, p. 59, 66.
[xv] Campbell, Iain D., On the First Day of the Week, p. 149.
[xvi] Pipa, Joseph A., The Lord’s Day, p. 64.
[xvii] His argument seems to be that the Feast of First Fruits was fulfilled by Jesus in His resurrection, and that by fulfilling that calendar feast, He moved the Sabbath to Sunday, which starts the week instead of finishing it.
[xviii] Barnes, Albert. Notes on the Old Testament, Isaiah, 2 Vol., (Isa 66:23)
[xix] Campbell, Iain D., On the First Day of the Week, p. 62-63.