Chapter Twenty Three
CHRISTIAN LIBERTY AND HOLY DAYS
Rom. 14:5 One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.
While many (like myself) claim that all holy days have been abolished, including the seventh-day Sabbath, Seventh-day Adventists dismiss Romans 14:5 as another reference only to the ceremonial holy days. The seventh-day Sabbath, they claim, cannot possibly be included in this text because, as one of the eternal moral principles given by God in the Ten Commandments, it was not negotiable.
On the one hand, Jewish Christians found it very difficult to immediately cease centuries of tradition, the Mosaic Law observance, Temple worship, and Sabbath observance. On the other hand, Paul never encouraged Gentile Christians to observe the Mosaic Law, Temple worship or any holy day. For Paul, the doctrine of Christian liberty, or freedom, extends also to holy days, whether Saturday, Sunday, Passover (Easter), or Christmas!
First Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9, explain the “freedom,” or “liberty,” of the believer in Christ. The doctrine of Christian liberty is important regarding “holy days” such as the Seventh- day Sabbath or Sunday. This liberty also involves the difference between the Mosaic Law and the “Law of Christ.” Paul’s discussion in First Corinthians is also related to his statement in Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has made me free from the law of sin and of death.”
Those who do not grasp the concept of Christian liberty are easily offended. “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak” (1 Cor. 8:9). “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
One example of this “freedom in action” involved food offered to idols. Specifically, because Paul knew that “an idol is nothing” (1 Cor. 8:4), it did not offend him personally to eat food which had been offered to idols. “Howbeit there is not that knowledge in all men.” Former pagan idolaters who had become Christians were offended by the sight of Jewish Christians eating food purchased at the marketplace of the pagan temple (8:7). Therefore, rather than offend the conscience of a more-sensitive Gentile believer, Paul refused to eat food offered to idols in the presence of these new believers (8:10-13).
A second example of Paul’s “freedom in action” involved payment of wages for preaching. While he was “free” to receive financial help in his ministry, he was also free to refuse financial assistance (1 Cor. 9:1-14). As long as it did not offend others, Paul often exercised his “freedom” by refusing regular financial support most of the time from most churches (Acts 20:33-35). This “freedom,” or “liberty,” allowed him to preach the gospel fully and unhindered (1 Cor. 9:15-19).
1 Cor. 9:19 For though I am free from all men, yet I have made myself servant to all that I might gain the more.
1 Cor. 9:20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew that I might gain the Jews. To them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
1 Cor. 9:21 To them that are without law, as without law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are without law.
1 Cor. 9:22 To the weak I became as weak that I might gain the weak. I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some.
1 Cor. 9:23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake that I might be partaker thereof with you.
A third example of “freedom in action” involves holy days. First, while only with Jews, Paul acted as a Jew, observed the Mosaic Law, including its food laws, temple sacrifices, and its Sabbath days. This explains why he entered into the synagogues on the Sabbath days and tried to explain to those inside the gospel of Jesus Christ (9:20). Next, while only with Gentile Christians, Paul acted as one of them by refusing to eat food offered to idols and by ignoring holy days (9:21). Finally, when Paul was with BOTH groups at the same time, he was very careful not to offend either in order that he might lead both to a knowledge of the gospel (9:22). All of Paul’s careful actions were “for the gospel’s sake” (8:13; 9:23).
Gal. 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance — against such there is no law.
As long as Paul’s “freedom” in Christ did not offend those whom he was trying to win, there was no moral code, or law principle, against it. It was a difficult transitional time. While the things Paul did might tempt us to accuse him of being “hypocritical,” or “two-faced,” his actions were entirely results of the “fruit of the Spirit.”
An extension of Paul’s freedom in Christ applied to worship days. As seen in the book of Acts, he could worship with Jews on the Sabbath and be free, or else he could worship with Gentiles on other days and still be free. Paul had the gospel “privilege,” “right” or “liberty,” to chose ANY day of the week to worship and be free, or else he could consider every day of equal importance and be free. However, according to Romans 14:5 Paul did hope that each person would thoroughly research the subject and become “fully convinced” personally. Paul did not make “the day of the week” an issue!
The point is that, under the New Covenant, there is absolutely no importance given to any holy day! — whether Saturday or Sunday! — only to a holy person, Jesus Christ! “In Christ” the believer has completion in everything God requires of salvation, both justification and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:10). The believer has complete sinless rest in Him all day, every day (Heb. 4:3).
Many Christians believe that Sunday has replaced Saturday on the list of Ten Commandments as the new holy day which God commanded all Christians to observe. Both Sunday Sabbatarians and Saturday Sabbatarians teach that Calvary only abolished the judicial and ceremonial aspects of the Law, but not the Ten Commandments. Such reasoning is what led me to become a Seventh-day Adventist many years ago. SDAs have boldly offered $5,000 to anybody who can produce any text which says that God commanded a “change” from Saturday to Sunday. Nobody will ever collect the money because such a text does not exist! The “change” was from Saturday to every-day rest in Christ (Heb. 4:3).
In fact, the New Covenant does not instruct believers to “remember” any “day,” to keep it holy! Seventh-day Adventists have a real problem in defining the word, “Law.” Their narrow definition of “Law” as the “Ten Commandments” is unscriptural. The Law was an indivisible whole, the Old Covenant, only for national Israel. This is clearly stated many times in the Old Testament. Either ALL of the Law is still valid Bcommandments, statutes, and judgments– or none of it is (Mt. 5:17-48). Research this for yourself! The examples given by Jesus in Matthew 5:20-48 include all three sections of the Mosaic Law. There is quite a problem encountered when one tries to quote 5:17-19 and limit its scope to the Ten Commandments in order to prove the Sabbath.
Believers who acknowledge Christ’s vicarious death, burial, resurrection and ascension are actually dead to all of the Law (John 1:7; Rom. 6:14; 7:4, 6; 8:2-3; 2 Cor. 3:6-11; Gal. 3:19, 23-25; 5:18; Heb. 8:13). That part of God’s Law which is eternal and moral is now written in the heart of the believer and obedience is prompted by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Heb. 8:10-13). The Christian obeys God because of the “law of Christ” (Rom. 8:2), the “law of love” (Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14), the “law of faith” (Rom 3:27; Gal. 5:22-25) or the “royal law” (Jas. 2:8).
While only the moral parts of God’s character are repeated in the terms of the New Covenant, there is no specific holy day repeated. (The inherent Sabbath command to let slaves rest is also gone.) There is no command to switch Saturday to Sunday; there is only evidence that the Sabbath command ended because the Christian is not under any part of the Mosaic Law as a covenant. That means that neither Saturday, nor Sunday are commanded holy days! Although most believers have freely chosen to assemble for worship on Sundays (and Wednesdays), any day is appropriate. Thus, while Seventh-day Adventists are correct in pointing out that the New Testament does not contain a single text changing Sabbath to Sunday, neither does it contain a single text continuing Saturday worship. Just the opposite is true in Acts 15:5-11, 24; 16:21, 29; Romans 14:5, Colossians 2:16 and Galatians 4:9-11.
Sunday is not a replacement of the Ten Commandment Sabbath. Otherwise, it would of necessity place the believer again under the strict restrictions of the Old Covenant Sabbath, including the death penalty for violation. In order to have corporate worship, early Christians chose Sunday. Most believe they did so in honor of the resurrection of Christ.
First Corinthians 16:2 does not command Sunday observance either. “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” The context of 16:2, is 16:1, “Now concerning the collection for the saints.” Paul was collecting food for famine relief in Judea. The believers were commanded, not to worship, but to perform physical labor on Sunday. They were told to “put aside and save” (NAS), “lay by him in store” (KJV) “that no collections be made when I come.” This meant physically carrying food-supplies to storage areas to avoid delaying Paul’s ship at port. The text does not discuss either holy days or offerings for church salaries and buildings! Although probable, corporate worship is not even mentioned.
Holy days restrict Christian unity and liberty! According to Ephesians 2:10-17 the “law of commandments contained in ordinances” was the “middle wall of partition,” or the “enmity” that prohibited Israel from fellow-shipping with other nations. The weekly and seasonal sabbath holy days were ordinances which especially separated Israel from the Gentiles. The Pharisee-Christians of Acts 15 wanted to force these holy days on the Gentiles converts. However, God choose another way; He chose to abolish all holy days (Acts 15:5-11, 24).
Gal. 4:9-11 “But NOW that you have come to know God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days [weekly] and months [monthly] and seasons [seasonal] and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.”
Col. 2:16-17 “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect of a festival [seasonal] or a new moon [monthly] or a Sabbath day [weekly], things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Returning to a pattern of commanded holy days destroys Christian liberty and places one back under a legalistic approach to sanctification. Galatians 4 is a warning not to replace former PAGAN holy days with so-called CHRISTIAN (or Jewish) holy days. As detailed in another chapter, the sequence of Galatians 4:9-11 and Colossians 2:16-17 is from weekly, to seasonal, to yearly and must include the weekly Sabbath day.
Required “holy days” have no place in the New Covenant because they draw attention away from Christ, our holy all-in-all. Every promise that was signified by holy days is already “yes” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). Sunday is merely a non-commanded day that many Christians themselves have freely chosen to assemble for worship. Correctly understood, Sunday is NOT the replacement for the Sabbath day of the Ten Commandments. For believers, every day is a new-creation rest day granted by the sinless atonement of Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:3).
Paul’s “fear” in Galatians 4:11 of putting emphasis on holy days and festivals applies also to Christian emphasis of Sunday, Easter and Christmas. Like Seventh-day Sabbath-keepers, too many feel they have met their duty to God by observing “holy days.”