Comment on Christians and the Sabbath by Sean Pitman.
Thanks for your note of encouragement Wes. Really appreciate it – as usual 😉
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Christians and the Sabbath
The church’s position on salvation is quite clear. Our part to play in our own salvation is to simply accept the gift that God has provided – to simply accept what the life and death of Jesus has purchased for us and respond in love to God for who He is and what He has done. Of course, true love for God will cause the Christian to actually want to do God’s will – and God will supply the Power to succeed. However, nowhere are we told that our actions are what save us. That’s never been true.
No one is going to say, “But I kept the Sabbath and so I deserve to be in heaven.” No one who walks through the gates of Heaven is even going to think such thoughts. We keep the Sabbath because of what Jesus has done for us, because of the salvation that has already been purchased for us and freely given to us. We do not keep the Sabbath, or any of the other Divine Laws, in order to earn merits with God. Our only merit with God is and ever will be the life and death of Jesus on our behalf…
Beyond this, God isn’t going to exclude anyone who honestly did not know about the Sabbath. There will be many in heaven who never heard about the Sabbath. There will even be those there who never heard about Jesus or about the Father or who may not even have understood about the existence of God. God takes people where they are and looks at the heart of a person to see if they are being honest and living according to the limited truth that they actually understand at the time.
Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.
Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 638
Christians and the Sabbath
You miss the underlying point for the commands regarding Sabbath observance. The “no work” command was given so that everyone, as far as possible, could have an entire day off to devote to God. That’s the main point here. Otherwise, people would feel obligated to continue their normal secular activities or fail to strive to give everyone else a day off to do the same. You fail to comprehend the spirit or original purpose of the Law… something that Jesus highlighted in His life.
Yet, you argue that it is impossible to break the law lawfully. That’s because you don’t seem to understand that the fundamental basis of all law, including the Ten Commandments, is the Royal Law of Love. If keeping one of the Ten Commandments would cause you to violate the Royal Law, then that lesser commandment can be lawfully broken. Beyond the fact that the priests regularly “broke” the Sabbath without guilt throughout Jewish history (Matthew 12:5), did you not read where Jesus Himself explained that it was also “lawful to do good on the Sabbath”? (Matthew 12:12) Jesus wasn’t just talking about Himself here. He was speaking for everyone. Why do you think the Jewish leaders kept silent when Jesus specifically asked them if it was lawful to heal or to kill on the Sabbath?
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. (Mark 3:4).
Why did they “remain silent” here? Because, as you should know, it was part of the law that work could be done on the Sabbath day to save the life or prevent the suffering of man or even beast. Do you not recognize this? Do you really not understand this concept? and how it is consistent with the underlying Royal Law of Love? I think you just don’t want to understand it…
I’m sorry, but Jesus only “broke the Sabbath” in order to relieve suffering – right in line with the Royal Law and right in line with Jewish law as well. In other words, He broke the Sabbath “lawfully” and anyone else would have been lawfully able to do the very same thing. And, the Jews themselves could say nothing contrary to this. They remained silent because they knew that Jesus was right in line with their own law.
As far as the Apostles keeping the Sabbath after Jesus was gone, you cite a single Saturday night prayer meeting (held because Paul was leaving the next morning) as evidence that they didn’t continue to observe the Sabbath while you downplay the dozens and dozens of Sabbath worship services that are also mentioned and the fact that they all kept the Sabbath “according to the commandment” when Jesus died. And, you fail to recognize the continuance Sabbath observance by the early Christian Church for hundreds and hundreds of years. You also fail to recognize the qualifying statement of Paul regarding “shadows of things to come”. You quote Colossians 2:16 and argue that this particular passage is all that should be read, “period”. However, the passage doesn’t really end with Colossians 2:16. You fail to read and understand Colossians 2:17 where Paul specifically explains that he is talking here about the laws that were put in place to foreshadow the coming of Christ. There were ceremonial laws, animal sacrifices, and yearly sabbaths that pointed toward the life and death of Jesus. Obviously, these met their reality in Jesus Himself. However, the weekly Sabbath does not point forward, but backward. It is not a “shadow of things to come.” It is for this reason that it was written in stone and placed inside of the Ark of the Covenant with the rest of the eternal moral laws of the Decalogue. You don’t write a temporary “shadow” on stone. And, you don’t place a “shadow” with other eternal moral laws – moral laws that were and are and will forever be binding for all of mankind.
Again, Jesus specifically pointed out that He created the Sabbath for all of mankind / anthropos (Mark 2:27). The language of the 4th Commandment regarding the Sabbath points back to creation before the Fall of mankind. The language of Genesis also points out that God made the 7th-day holy right at the very beginning of Earth’s history before the Fall of mankind. And, the Jews recognized that the Sabbath existed before Moses came along. Philo specifically argues that the Sabbath was universal – for all of mankind. The Talmud also recognizes that the Sabbath existed before Moses and the Medrash (contrary to your claims) argues that the Sabbath existed at creation – that the Torah was used by God in the creation of our world. Even Martin Luther, a Sunday keeper, argued that the Sabbath was obviously created in Eden before the Fall and that after the Fall Adam and Eve taught their children to observe the Sabbath. You simply ignore all of this…
I also continue to be amazed at your confidence that those who do not honestly recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior “obviously will not be granted eternal life”. The Bible is very clear that even those who have never heard the name of Jesus can be saved if they lived honestly according to the best light that they had been given (Romans 2:14-15). But what is especially interesting here is that you are so certain that such people will be lost, despite their honest ignorance, yet, at the same time, you claim that humans have no part to play in their own salvation. How then can anyone be lost if no one has any part to play in their own salvation? Is this not an inconsistent position on your part? Is it not clear to you that we are able to reject the gifts that God wants to give to us? Are we able to actually reject the gift of salvation? The man drowning in the lake, in your illustration, is actually able to tell his rescuer to “get lost”… and the rescuer, God in this case, must honor the man’s wishes.
So, you see, our “part to play” in our own salvation is simply to accept the gift that God freely offers. That’s our part to play. Of course, by accepting God’s gift, our lives are changed and will no longer live the lives we used to live. If we actually love God and gratefully accept His gifts, we will “keep His commandments”. If we deliberately reject God’s commandments, and actively seek to undermine them, once we know the truth of them, we clearly have not accepted God’s gift of salvation nor do we really love God.
Yet, you argue, “Well, if people should be put to death for violating the Sabbath commandment, it follows that those who keep it shall LIVE. Right?” No, that’s not right. Keeping the Sabbath isn’t what makes a person live or be given salvation. Eternal life is an unmerited gift of God – a gift that we can either accept or reject. It is not earned by keeping the Sabbath. Keeping the commandments of God aren’t what saves a person. Keeping the commandments of God are the result of realizing that one has been given salvation by God and wishing to keep God’s commandments because we love Him – not in order to earn our own salvation.
As far as Ellen White “contradicting herself”, well, it only seems like that for someone who is quoting what she actually said and taught out of context. You confuse her statements against the concept of “once saved always saved” and deliberately ignore her teachings regarding the concept of “present assurance” of salvation. However, there really is no contradiction here if you take each statement in context.
As far as your “advice” that I follow the Bible and avoid the sophistries of certain theologians – I fully agree and recommend strongly that you take your own advice. Study these things very carefully and prayerfully for yourself and earnestly ask God to show you the right path. Then, if you honestly follow God’s leading according to the best light that you have been given to understand, even if you don’t get everything right, you will be saved.
Christians and the Sabbath
Of course, Sabbath observance never saved anyone. Salvation is based on a personal relationship with Jesus and acceptance, by faith, of His life and death for us on the cross – and His resurrection. It is by grace only that we can be saved – not by anything that we have done or can ever do for ourselves. However, it is in gratitude for all that Jesus has done for us that we strive, in His power and grace, to keep His commandments – including the Sabbath. After all, His commandments are given for our own benefit and are meant to be a blessing to us. The Sabbath, in particular, was given to us a beautiful gift to be enjoyed. It is a mistaken view of the Sabbath to see it as a curse or a hindrance to one’s happiness. Just the opposite is true…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…
Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.
The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.
God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.
The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.
For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”
That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.
Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.
God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28
Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.
Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.
This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…
Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.
Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.
Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.
Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…