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The Sabbath Day

A shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17
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‘This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day!’

Do we need to keep the sabbath day under the New Testament? The scripture below is an important one in understanding that the physical sabbath day has been superseded and spiritually fulfilled in the new covenant under Christ.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Colossians 2:16–17

Like other aspects of the Law, it was only a type, or ‘shadow of good things to come’, and ‘not the very image’ or ‘body’ of those things.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
Hebrews 10:1

Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
Hebrews 8:5

If Colossians 2:16 refers to the weekly sabbath day – or even simply includes the weekly sabbath day – it renders irrelevant any other arguments that suggest we must keep the sabbath to be saved.

Since Colossians 2:16 is a very important passage in this respect, it is worth looking at how clearly the literal sabbath day – the seventh day of the week – is indicated, or at the very least included, in this scripture.

First, let’s look at the phrase ‘an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days’.

The Greek word rendered ‘holyday’ is G1859 in the Strong’s numbering system. It means a feast, festival, or holy day. This Greek word is used 27 times in the New Testament. In the first 26 appearances it is translated ‘feast’ in the King James Version. In every case it is referring to one of the great feasts of Israel taking place at the time, such as Passover, Pentecost, or Tabernacles. In the last appearance, in Colossians 2:16, it is translated ‘holyday’. Most other versions translate the occurrence here also as ‘feast’ or ‘festival’.

Therefore let no one sit in judgment on you in matters of food and drink, or with regard to a feast day or a New Moon or a Sabbath.
Colossians 2:16
(Amplified Version)

This particular list – of feasts, new moons, and sabbaths – is one that appears many times in the Old Testament:

And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD:
1 Chronicles 23:31

Behold, I build an house to the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to him, and to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance for ever to Israel.
2 Chronicles 2:4

Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.
2 Chronicles 8:13

He appointed also the king’s portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.
2 Chronicles 31:3

For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.
Nehemiah 10:33

Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
Isaiah 1:13–14

And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.
Ezekiel 45:17

I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.
Hosea 2:11

In Paul’s phrase in Colossians 2:16, the actual Greek words used are as follows:

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday [G1859], or of the new moon [G3561], or of the sabbath [G4521] days:
Colossians 2:16

How do these Greek words compare with the Hebrew words used in these Old Testament passages? In the Greek Septuagint version (supposedly translated by Jewish scholars before Christ’s time), the words used in the Old Testament scriptures quoted above are all the same Greek words:

I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days [G1859], her new moons [G3561], and her sabbaths [G4521], and all her solemn feasts.
Hosea 2:11

The only exception is the one instance of ‘new moon’ in 2 Chronicles 8:13. Here the Greek word used is G3376 (‘months’). The list corresponds to yearly, monthly, and weekly events.

Clearly, Paul’s list corresponds with the Old Testament examples. There is no question that these lists include the weekly sabbath.

But it is not only in these lists that the Septuagint uses the same Greek word for sabbath. The Septuagint uses this same Greek word (G4521) to translate the Hebrew word for sabbath (H7676) throughout the Old Testament. Whenever you read about the sabbath day in the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament, you will see it represented by the same word used by Paul.

Remember the sabbath day [G4521], to keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

The New Testament occurrences

The New Testament was written directly in Greek. So let’s also look at all the other occurrences of this Greek word (G4521) in the New Testament.

First, there are a few times in the New Testament where the word is translated as ‘week’, referring to the period from one sabbath to the next. These are fairly straightforward, and sometimes contrasted in the same verse with the sabbath day itself:

In the end of the sabbath [G4521], as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week [G4521], came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
Matthew 28:1

And when the sabbath [G4521] was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week [G4521], they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
Mark 16:1–2

Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week [G4521], he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
Mark 16:9

I fast twice in the week [G4521], I give tithes of all that I possess.
Luke 18:12

And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day [G4521] according to the commandment. Now upon the first day of the week [G4521], very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
Luke 23:56–24:1

The first day of the week [G4521] cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
John 20:1

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week [G4521], when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
John 20:19

And upon the first day of the week [G4521], when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
Acts 20:7

Upon the first day of the week [G4521] let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
1 Corinthians 16:2

Every occasion here, except for the use in ‘I fast twice in the week 1’, appears as part of the phrase ‘the first day of the week’, which helps to identify the extended meaning of ‘week’.

Aside from these nine occurrences, there are 59 other occurrences in the New Testament, the last of which is in Colossians 2:16. All 58 occurrences before this final verse are clearly referring to the weekly sabbath. The word is variously rendered as ‘sabbath’, ‘sabbath day’, or ‘sabbath days’. The Greek has both plural and singular forms. Occasionally in Luke’s writings (Luke & Acts), and once in John, there is a separate word for ‘day’ [G2250] in the Greek. These are also indicated in the passages below.

Here are the 59 other occurrences. Consider their meaning:

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
Matthew 12:1

But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
Matthew 12:2

Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
Matthew 12:5

For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
Matthew 12:8

And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.
Matthew 12:10

And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
Matthew 12:11

How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
Matthew 12:12

But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
Matthew 24:20

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week [G4521], came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
Matthew 28:1

And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.
Mark 1:21

And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.
Mark 2:23

And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
Mark 2:24

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
Mark 2:27

Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
Mark 2:28

And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
Mark 3:2

And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
Mark 3:4

And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
Mark 6:2

And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
Mark 16:1

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day [G2250], and stood up for to read.
Luke 4:16

And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.
Luke 4:31

And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.
Luke 6:1

And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?
Luke 6:2

And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
Luke 6:5

And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.
Luke 6:6

And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.
Luke 6:7

Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?
Luke 6:9

And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
Luke 13:10

And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day [G2250].
Luke 13:14

The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
Luke 13:15

And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day [G2250]?
Luke 13:16

And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
Luke 14:1

And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
Luke 14:3

And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day [G2250]?
Luke 14:5

And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
Luke 23:54

And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
Luke 23:56

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
John 5:9

The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
John 5:10

And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
John 5:16

Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:18

Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
John 7:22

If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?
John 7:23

And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
John 9:14

Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
John 9:16

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day [G2250] was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
John 19:31

Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.
Acts 1:12

But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day [G2250], and sat down.
Acts 13:14

For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.
Acts 13:27

And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
Acts 13:42

And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
Acts 13:44

For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
Acts 15:21

And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
Acts 16:13

And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
Acts 17:2

And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
Acts 18:4

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Colossians 2:16

Clearly, the 58 instances before Colossians 2:16 are all – without exception – talking about the weekly sabbath, the seventh day of the week. Even the other nine instances in the New Testament which are translated as ‘week’ are referring to the week as defined by the period between the weekly sabbaths (the week headed by, and concluded in, the next sabbath) – that is the connection with the Greek word.

So, all these things considered, there is no doubt that Paul’s use of ‘sabbath days’ in the familiar list from the Old Testament would have been understood as meaning – or at the very least as including – the weekly sabbath. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply wishful thinking 2.

But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
Galatians 4:9–10

This being the case, all other arguments – whether based on the Law, the Ten Commandments, or the resting of God on the seventh day of creation – are completely moot when it comes to requiring the observance of the weekly sabbath as a necessary aspect of our salvation.

Paul makes it clear that these are no longer binding issues, that they belong to a superseded covenant 3, and that no man is to be judged on them. Those who ignore Paul's warning can find themselves among those who desire ‘to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm’.

We do not want to become those who turn again to the ‘weak and beggarly elements’, desiring again to be in bondage, and who, as Peter said, tempt God – provoking him to displeasure – ‘to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear 4 .’

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Colossians 2:16–17

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
Mark 2:27–28

What is salvation? And how do we really obtain it?

Read more …

AUTHOR


Mark Wattchow

Mark Wattchow is the pastor of the Christchurch Revival Fellowship in New Zealand. The thoughts and understandings expressed here are solely his own.

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