References to: Michael Morrison

Sabbath, Circumcision, and Tithing - Appendix 2: For Further Reading

       You might find some of the following materials helpful:

 

Bacchiocchi, Samuele. From Sabbath to Sunday. Biblical Perspectives, 1987. A book with an unusual theory about early church history, by a Seventh-day Adventist.

Carson, D.A., editor. From Sabbath to Lord’s Day. Zondervan, 1982, or Wipf & Stock, 2000. Scholars examine Scripture and history.

Dorsey, David. “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A New Approach to an Old Problem.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34 (Sept. 1991): 321-334.

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Behavioral Expectations in the New Covenant
The New Testament contains hundreds of commands.

       The most important command of the Bible is this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37). John states it this way: “This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23). People will be saved or condemned on the basis of this command (Mark 16:16; John 3:18).

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Tithing

       Many Christian churches are quite willing to do away with Sabbaths and dietary laws, but some are not willing to do away with tithing. They preach that church members should give 10 percent of their income to the church. Why is this old covenant law different — or is it? If we examine this law in the same way that we have examined others, what can we conclude? Let’s look at the evidence, starting in the Old Testament.

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Annual Festivals

As part of his covenant with the Israelites, God commanded them to observe various annual festivals. These festivals symbolized facets of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Now that Christ has redeemed us, are these festivals still required under the new covenant? Let us examine the Old and New Testament evidence.

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Mildew, Meats, and Cleanliness

Among the rules God gave the ancient Israelites were various laws about cleanness and uncleanness. The primary purpose of these laws was not hygiene, but ceremonial status. People who were “unclean” were not allowed to participate in religious ceremonies.

       Are these laws relevant today? This chapter examines the evidence in the five books of Moses and the New Testament. Some of the details may seem tedious, but they will help us better understand the Old Testament concept of uncleanness.

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The Role of the Ten Commandments in Christian Life
The Sabbath is not an isolated case, but a representative case.

       The Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments. If the Sabbath can be done away, at least in its literal sense, then how should Christians approach the Ten Commandments? Don’t Christians worldwide respect the Ten Commandments? What role should the Ten Commandments, also called the Decalogue, have in Christian life and behavior?

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Sabbath and Sunday in the Early Church

The earliest Christians were law-abiding Jews in Jerusalem, who attended Jewish festivals and observed Temple rituals (Acts 2:1; 3:1; 15:5; 21:20). They apparently observed the seventh-day Sabbath, too. However, in the second, third and fourth centuries we find that almost all Christians observed Sunday — sometimes as a Sabbath-like day of worship meetings and rest, sometimes as a day for worship and work, sometimes in addition to the Sabbath and sometimes instead of the Sabbath.

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A Better Way to Rest

Let's summarize what we have seen about the Sabbath:

  • The Bible does not say the Sabbath was commanded at creation.

  • The Bible does not say the Sabbath was commanded before Moses.

  • The Bible does not say the Ten Commandments are a permanent package.

  • The Sabbath is commanded only within the old covenant, which is obsolete.

  • Old Testament praise and warnings about the Sabbath should be seen as praise and warnings about old covenant obedience, not a permanent law.

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Paul and the Sabbath

In all of Paul’s epistles, the word “Sabbath” is used only once. Perhaps this should tell us something — at the least, that the Sabbath was not a major part of his message. He was not having to answer lots of questions about it. He was not telling slaves what to do about it; he was not instructing anyone in how to keep it right. He was simply letting stand the typical Jewish understanding of the Sabbath — that it was given to the Israelites and was not required for Gentiles. The reason he could say so little about it, is because neither Jews nor Gentiles thought it applied to Gentiles.

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Example of the Apostles

Scripture doesn’t actually say that the apostles kept the Sabbath, but they probably did (many Jewish Christians were keeping ceremonial laws as late as Acts 21). The apostles went to the temple on the Sabbath and preached in synagogues on the Sabbath, but they also met and preached on every other day of the week. Their example is not a command for Christians today.

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