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Spiritually Keeping the Physical Sabbath


We got this letter from a site reader:

Victor, I have enjoyed reading some of the articles on your website. It seems like you believe many of the things the Lord as led me to believe over the past 43 years. My questions has to do with the Sabbath. I believe Yashuah fulfilled the law and glorified it, by making it spiritual rather than just physical. Sure all of the 10 commandments still apply, but are magnified spiritually. Example, it is now adultery to even look on a woman to lust after her.

I used to be a member of the WWCG 42 years ago and Herbert Armstrong taught we should still keep the Sabbath as taught under the Old Covenant with some modern day modifications. I soon learned that this was wrong and left that church. Today, I believe the Sabbath is still the Sabbath but we keep it in the freedom and spirit of Christ by resting from our own efforts to keep the physical law for our salvation and depending on Him and only Him to walk in the doctrine of Christ and keep His commandments which he gave us that fulfills all the law and the prophets.

So I was wondering how you feel about all of this and how you instruct your group in keeping the Sabbath and the Old Covenant.

I will look forward to hearing from you on this.

Walt

Victor’s reply:

Hi Walt,

I’m thankful to hear what the Lord is doing for you and that our site serves as confirmation, agreeing with those doctrines and revelations.

It isn’t true that the Law was only physical in the days of ancient Israel. The Law was the essence and character of God, and He is spiritual, as you know. Paul said:

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14 MKJV).

The Law has never changed. Jesus didn’t change it. What He did was reveal or explain its true nature. He spoke of looking at a woman with lust as committing adultery. He wasn’t saying something the Jews didn’t already know. For example, Job knew this truth:

“I made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I look upon a virgin?” (Job 31:1 MKJV)

It was always adultery to lust after a woman. It was always murder to hate. You know the Lord warned Cain that if he didn’t put away his anger, sin would rule him. Not heeding, his hatred and envy turned to murder.

You write, “Sure all of the 10 commandments still apply, but are magnified spiritually.” You’re so right, contrary to many others in evangelical Christendom today. However, in the new birth, the spiritual realm, the Kingdom of Heaven, saints come into a position where it isn’t so much that the Law applies to them (which it did before they were born-again), but that they establish the Law:

“Do we then make the Law void through faith? Let it not be! But we establish the Law” (Romans 3:31 MKJV).

When we are carnal, how do we establish the Law? We don’t; the Law is applied to us. But when we become spiritual, that is, when we become sons and daughters of the Lord, Who is spiritual, we’re able to bear like fruit and establish and apply the Law by His Resurrection power and nature.

Though Herbert Armstrong was a false teacher, he was right on a few things and led astray with truths as the bait (even if unintentionally), as many false teachers do and have done all along. Armstrong was right about clean and unclean meats, the three days and three nights of Christ’s burial (not one day and two nights as nominal Christendom teaches), not canvassing the public to support ministry, keeping God’s original appointed seventh day of the week as the Sabbath, and the wrongfulness of celebrating pagan feasts like Christmas.

We disagree with him on keeping the annual Feasts (read The Feast-Keeping that Is Sin). While the Feasts weren’t part of the Decalogue, keeping holy the Sabbath day is, and the entire Decalogue, including the Fourth Commandment, is still in full force today, contrary to the lawless opinions and attitudes of many. Believers haven’t been delivered from keeping the Law, but have been given the grace to keep and to establish it (read Law and Grace and Grace – The Reality.)

The Law is immutable, as is the One it describes and represents. As God never changes, so His Law representing His Nature never changes. However, the rituals, ordinances, and their infrastructure of application, for prophetic and instructional purposes, were fulfilled when Jesus died and was raised from the dead. So Armstrong was right that the Sabbath is still the day of rest, for the Sabbath was established in the very beginning (Genesis 2:1-3), before the ordinances and Levitical priesthood were instituted by God through Moses. The Sabbath was created for all men, not only for the Jews, seeing there were no descendants of Abraham in the beginning.

You say we’re to “depend on Him and only Him to walk in the doctrine of Christ and keep His commandments….” In general, we agree, depending on how you define the “doctrine of Christ.” But you need to consider the latter part of your sentence – “…which he gave us that fulfills all the law and the prophets.” It was His death and resurrection that fulfilled the Law and provides the grace for us to keep it, through the gift of His Holy Spirit, that grace being manifest in love, which is summed up in the two great commandments:

Mark 12:28-31 MKJV
(28) And coming up one of the scribes heard them reasoning, knowing that He had answered them well, he asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
(29) And Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord;
(30) and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.
(31) And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Now notice that the scribe had already understood, or at least agreed with, what Jesus was saying:

Mark 12:32-34 MKJV
(32) And the scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher, according to truth You have spoken, that God is one, and there is no other besides Him.
(33) And to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love the neighbor as himself, is more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
(34) And seeing that he had answered intelligently, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to question Him any more.

So how do we feel about keeping the weekly Sabbath, you ask? The Sabbath day is different in activity from the rest in several ways:

We teach to lay aside work of a servile nature, the kind one does for a living or to provide things for one’s household, but isn’t necessary for the day. A farmer, for example, will put aside field work in honoring the Sabbath, but must fulfill the daily needs of his cattle.

We agree with tending to necessities for goodness’ and mercy’s sake and some things that can’t be avoided (granted, some of these are a judgment call, best decided upon by asking the Lord).

We aren’t for minute details like how far one will drive, or whether one lights a fire or cooks or washes dishes. However, it is good to prepare food in advance for the Sabbath and keep the usual daily chores to a minimum on the Sabbath.

We encourage doing the Lord’s work on the Sabbath, as well as any other day, like meeting, preaching, teaching, writing, and ministering in general, even as Jesus and His disciples worked on the Sabbath the work they were appointed. The priests also worked on the Sabbath in the Old Covenant, though their work was different in some respects.

We promote abstaining from doing our pleasure on the Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13). We don’t watch TV, listen to the radio, or get involved in the things of the world on the Sabbath, like the news, sports, and social events (unless the Lord gives us the freedom to do so – on occasions, He does, for His purposes, not ours). We don’t believe in traveling for pleasure’s sake, but again, we depend on the Lord to lead us. All things are lawful to us, but not all things expedient, as Paul says (1 Corinthians 10:23).

The basic theme is to rest from work and to put away all things that aren’t spiritually edifying or contributing in our focusing on the Lord and His will for us. That said, we need, of course, to learn to walk in harmony with the Lord in all things, every day of the week.

It seems to me that the Sabbath is a weekly class of how we shall all one day walk with the Lord 24/7, resting, trusting, and believing in Him.

We learned at the outset, when first beginning to keep the Sabbath, that it wasn’t the Lord’s will for us to technically and necessarily begin and end at sunset, though that is the general principle. We’ve learned to trust the Lord for the beginning time on Friday evening (interferences sometimes came into play beyond our control) and, so far, many years later, our ending time has always coincided with the beginning time without interference (at least in my experience). This shows us that God is in control, Who arranged these circumstances, delays included.

I don’t know if you’re aware, but where we live in Canada, the sun can go down as early as 4:30 PM and as late as 10:30 PM, depending on the season. Furthermore, we live in a country and society that doesn’t keep the Sabbath, unlike Israel. When a nation observes the day of rest together, it makes it easier for all to comply. There are inescapable elements to deal with when living in a society where attention isn’t paid to the Sabbath. However, lines can be drawn, and we draw them as granted of the Lord.

Most importantly, we need to conduct ourselves according to conscience before God (not only on the Sabbath, but on all days, of course). This is not a matter of every man doing that which is right in his own eyes (Deuteronomy 12:8; Judges 17:6), but seeing to it that he does right in the Lord’s sight, not in slavery to the letter, but according to the spiritual witness of God.

All that said, we haven’t laid down the Law for those with us, but we have encouraged them to honor the Lord on the Sabbath in whatever way they can and are required of the Lord. Many have jobs and duties they can’t change initially, and others are learning, so we wait on the Lord to show them the way individually, and try to teach what we can and should. We force nobody, but when those who presume to walk and fellowship with us offend, knowing better, we counsel and rebuke because they’re evidently walking in iniquity. There’s no place for that.

We’re confident the Lord is quite able to deal with lawlessness and to give grace to do right in any circumstances. His judgment is altogether above ours, and we need to trust Him and not judge after the appearance.

There’s so much more that could be said, but I think you’ll be able, if open and receptive to the Lord, to receive the general tenor of what we’re saying.

An aside: You can read about a serious matter we don’t agree with Herbert and Ted Armstrong on, that being their take on the new birth. Read How One Is Saved and The Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

And Mr. Tkach took the WWCG from one dark territory to another, trading some good doctrines for bad, and embracing the ways of the harlot still.

Good to be able to reply to you, Walt. Lord willing, we’ll hear from you again, reporting you are rejoicing in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, Almighty God.

Victor Hafichuk

Click HERE to go to our section on the Sabbath.

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