[UPDATE 12/27/2016 – This article was recently modified to reflect a more accurate and thorough exposition of Colossians 2:16-17]
A friend of mine forwarded me a daily devotional email from Compass International called “Good Morning Lord” (or GML). In the past, I was actually subscribed to the same GML devotional based upon a recommendation from the same friend, but after receiving a couple of questionable emails from them, I decided that I had read enough. It’s not that I simply unsubscribed; I actually sent an inquiry email trying to engage GML in what I thought would be a fruitful dialogue but alas I received no response. Anyway, my friend thought this email would peak my interest since he knows that in our circle, I am a Sabbath-keeping oddity. Boy was he right! My response (in red) to the GML for October 28th 2015 follows:
Good Morning Lord email for October 28, 2015
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Rest from your work one day a week, any day you choose.
The folks at Good Morning Lord (GML hereafter) have in the past had one or two heretical ideas about the bible and this GML “bible study” on Colossians 2:16 is no exception. Not only is the idea that we can keep the Sabbath any day we choose a heresy, virtually everything that GML has mentioned in this “bible study” about the Sabbath is in error. Where shall we begin? First of all, persons who wish to teach others about the bible should strongly consider taking a course in logic before proceeding. The logical blunders in this “bible study” are many. For instance, the GML Thought For The Day contains an unsustainable hermeneutic which falls under the logical fallacy known as Reductio ad Absurdum. Such an approach to understanding Scripture is irrational because it employs a form of reasoning which fails when applied to similar scenarios within the bible. For example, if Christians can rest (i.e. observe the Sabbath) “any day [we] choose” despite Scripture clearly and repeatedly telling us that the Sabbath is the 7th day (Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 16:22-23, Exodus 20:11, Exodus 31:15, Exodus 35:3, Leviticus 23:3), then it follows necessarily that we can also claim Jesus rose from the dead on “any day [we] choose” despite the biblical assertion that Christ actually rose on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In other words, the rationale behind GML’s Thought For The Day also allows us to redefine a core tenet of the Gospel. How many Christians are willing to live with the consequences of this rationale?
Verse of the Day — Colossians 2:16
. . . let no one act as your judge in regard to . . . a Sabbath day.
The King James Version of Colossians 2:13-17 says:
13. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14. Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15. And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16. 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: 17. Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body
Regarding the above excerpt, a popular notion among many Christians is that the “handwriting of ordinances” in Colossians 2:14 is specifically referring to the Mosaic Law and that Jesus Christ took “it out of the way” by “nailing it to his cross.” We are therefore no longer obligated to abide by any of the commandments in the Law. One commandment that is then said to be done away with is the Sabbath.
For instance, according to the Christian Research Institute (CRI hereafter):
The Colossian believers were to allow no one to pass judgment against them regarding Jewish Sabbath observances, new moons, or any other Jewish feasts. Why? Because Jesus Christ abolished those observances, which were mere shadows, whereas Jesus Himself is the substance, the body that creates the shadow. Christ is the reality…Christ released us from the Sabbath. His finished work on the cross abolished the entire Mosaic law of ordinances, which includes the Sabbath commandment… The fourth commandment was part of the Jewish law system, which Paul called “the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us” (Col. 2:14).
[Source: CRI, Should We Keep The Sabbath, http://www.equip.org/article/ should-we-keep-the-sabbath/]
Moreover, Chuck Missler, in his notes on Colossians adds the following:
Paul …declared that all external law is abrogated for the Christian…Paul definitely included the Sabbath command among those ordinances which were done away with in Christ…As Paul put it, the Old Testament Law (including the Sabbath) was only a shadow of the things that were to come. The reality or “substance” (soma, lit., “body”), however, is to be found in Christ (cf. Heb 8:5; 10:1). What the Old Testament foreshadowed, Christ fulfilled (cf. Mt 5:17; Rom 8:3-4). A “shadow” (skia) is only an image cast by an object which represents its form. Once one finds Christ, he no longer needs to follow the old shadow…This Colossian passage explicitly condemns hose who command Sabbath obedience.
Before we take an exegetical look at this passage, it is important to first remember that Paul himself faithfully kept the Sabbath (Acts 13:14-16, Acts 13:42-44, Acts 14:1, Acts 17:1-2, Acts 18:4) in spite of and long after whatever was “nailed to the cross” was nailed there. According to Leviticus 23:3, the Sabbath ordinance demanded a miqra (i.e. a holy convocation) and the miqra was kept by attending the synagogue on the Sabbath. Yet, in spite of the fact that many verses show Paul observing the miqra, some who see the Sabbath ordinance as obsolete instead claim that these biblical proof-texts only serve to demonstrate Paul’s soul-winning activities. In other words, Paul was only in the synagogue on the Sabbath to preach to the Jews. From this premise, it is then argued that Paul cannot be said to observe the Sabbath in any of the proof-texts provided . But Bible passages such as 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 & Acts 13:27,42-44 seem to contradict this idea. Nor does Acts 24:14, Acts 25:8 & Acts 28:17 comport with the notion that Paul had stopped observing the Sabbath. For these verses show Paul claiming that he had not forsaken the customs or laws of the Jews—of which the Sabbath would be paramount. Therefore, since Paul himself wrote God’s words in Colossians 2:13-17, this fact immediately excludes this passage from being used to teach the cessation of the eternal (Exodus 31:16, Exodus 31:13, Exodus 31:17, Leviticus 24:8) Sabbath ordinance.
It is also important to remember that since Colossians 2:17 uses the phrase “are a shadow of things to come” then God’s appointed times which are mentioned in the CRI quote (i.e. “Jewish Sabbath observances, new moons, or any other Jewish feasts”) are not shadows in the past tense, but in the present. Therefore, these appointed times, being yet-unfulfilled types, cannot be abolished or become inoperative at least until the time when their antitypes (i.e. the persons or things which they foreshadow) are ushered in. Hence, contrary to CRI’s interpretation, Christ Himself cannot be the antitype that we await, for if He were, then the Author of Colossians 2:17 would have instead employed the past tense (e.g., “the appointed times were a shadow of Christ”). Colossians 2:17 is worthy of more detailed attention so we will revisit it later on.
A third point to note is that Colossians 2:14‘s “handwriting of ordinances” cannot be interpreted to mean the Mosaic Law without destroying the original context. This is why I am certain that the “handwriting of ordinances” in Colossians 2:14 does not pertain to the Law itself which Paul elsewhere describes as “holy, just and good” (Romans 7:12). In fact, the most natural explanation is that it instead refers to the specific crimes (i.e. the violated ordinances) of everyone who would ever obey the gospel. Contextually, it must refer to the “ordinances” which were violated by the person who was condemned to die on the Roman cross. For when the accused was crucified, the accusations against him were written and nailed to his cross for public display (Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, John 19:19). That is why both Matthew 27:37 and Mark 15:26 refer to this “handwriting” as an “accusation.” To further illustrate this point, in the case of the two thieves who were crucified with Christ (Matthew 27:44), the handwritten accusation on either of their crosses might have read:
“John Doe is guilty of violating Ordinance #12 – The Law Against Theft.”
However, in Christ’s case, because no fault was found in Him (John 19:6), His accusation was only made to read “The king of the Jews” (John 19:19) much to the chagrin of His accusers (John 19:21-22). Perhaps, Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea, thought that he was merely crucifying Jesus in order to pacify the Jewish mob led by the chief priests, and indeed he was; but more importantly: “God was in [Christ’s death], reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them…for God hath made Christ (Who knew no sin) to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). Therefore, in the case of Colossians 2:13-14, the charges nailed to Christ’s cross encompassed all the crimes of mankind because Christ was dying for the sins of the whole world (John 1:29, 1 John 2:2). Hence every accusation of law-breaking that was ever “against us” and “contrary to us”, those multitude of sins which we have committed or ever will commit were all nailed to Christ’s cross thereby allowing God to “forgive [us of] all trespasses” (v.13). This means that the “handwriting…that was against us” was actually comprised of the accusations which pertain to violated ordinances and is not the institution of biblical jurisprudence (i.e. the Mosaic Law) itself as commonly thought and taught. Accordingly, Dr. Wilbur Pickering, in his edition of the New Testament translates Colossians 2:14 as “the written record about us that was against us (based on the ordinances)” then he adds the following commentary:
The ‘written record’ [i.e. “handwriting of ordinances”] has generally been understood to refer to the Law in some way, but I believe it makes better sense to take it as the record of what each of us has done, which of course is negative. Having been forgiven, the record is nailed to the cross, and that is very good news.
Source: [Wilbur Pickering, Wilbur Pickering New Testament Footnotes, Colossians 2:16]
Also, contextually speaking, the “principalities and powers” in Colossians 2:15 whom Christ “spoiled” (i.e. disarmed) and “triumphed over” were none other than Satan and his inner circle of rebellious angels (Ephesians 6:12) who are persistently fond of accusing the faithful (Job 2:1-6, Zechariah 3:1-2). In fact, in Revelation 12:10 Satan is referred to as the “accuser of our brethren…who accuses them before our God day and night.” Satan and his accusing angels were publicly humiliated when Christ took every accusation of a transgressed ordinance leveled by our adversary and nailed it to his cross thereby owning the guilt and shame of these innumerable crimes.
Another one of the many reasons why Colossians 2:13-14 cannot be used to teach that Jesus was “blotting out” the Sabbath and “[taking] it out of the way” by “nailing it to his cross” is because the Sabbath ordinance was never “against us” or “contrary to us.” The particular words of the Fourth Commandment are no more “against us” or “contrary to us” than those of the Fifth Commandment or any of the other Ten Commandments in the Decalogue. That’s why no one is using Colossians 2:13-14 to argue that we are free from the command to honor our parents. In fact, far from being “against us,” Isaiah 58:13 says that we should “call the Sabbath a delight.” How can something that is supposed to be delightful also be against us?
If as we have seen, Colossians 2:13-14 does not implicate the Mosaic law, then why are theologians constantly using it to argue for the abolition of the law? For instance, why does Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum argue the following way:
Paul points out that the ordinances which were against us have been blotted out by the death of the Messiah. It is for that reason that there is no longer any obligation to keep the Law or any of its facets… it was only a shadow. Because it was a shadow, it is no longer obligatory. If the Sabbath were still mandatory, failure to keep it would put the violator under divine judgment. This is exactly what the context states is no longer true.
Source: [Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Sabbath, Paragraph 12.144]
The Scriptures teach us that Christ’s finished sacrifice on the cross nullified the Law’s death penalty for all men (1 Corinthians 15:22) but especially for those who believe the Gospel (1 Timothy 4:10). Because all believers are already “[raised up] together with [Christ]” (v.13) we have also already been delivered from the law’s administration of death (2 Corinthians 3:7). By Christ’s indwelling Spirit, we can now fearlessly keep the commandments of God so “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Romans 8:4). Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, Christians can now serve the Law of God (Romans 7:6,25) without the fear that falling short of it will result in our demise because we are guaranteed the Resurrection of Life (John 5:29), a glorified and immortal body (Philippians 3:21) and because the assurance of our salvation is not based upon whether we have adhered to the Law (Galatians 2:16) but instead upon whether we have obeyed the Gospel (Hebrews 5:9, 1 Peter 1:22). In this way, the law as prophesied (Isaiah 42:21), has been made honorable.
Yet, based upon this GML bible study and upon several bible commentaries from respected theologians, it is clear that many still (wrongly) see Colossians 2:14-17 as a passage which teaches the abolition of the Mosaic Law and the condemnation of Jewish legalism. The Greek term Ioudaizō ¹ which appears in Galatians 2:14 transliterates to the English word judaize and refers to someone who seeks to live as a Jew or imitate Jewish life. In the New Covenant era, this same term (i.e. Judaizer) has become a way to describe any professing Christian who, like the Old Covenant Jew, trusts in law-keeping for his or her salvation. In Galatians 2:4, Paul speaks of certain Judaizers who had come down from Jerusalem to Antioch to secretly spy out the liberty which Antioch believers had through their faith in Jesus Christ. The goal of these “false brethren” was to bring Antioch believers back into the bondage of the law by pronouncing judgments against them based upon the Law of Moses. Specifically, these Judaizers argued that it was not enough just to believe in Jesus and that unless Gentile converts were also circumcised according to the Law of Moses, they could not be saved (Acts 15:1). The false idea that a believer in Christ must follow certain rules in order to attain or maintain his salvation is called legalism. Paul rightly condemned the Judaizers for teaching this false gospel in Galatians 1:6-9 and declared that all followers of Christ were free from the bondage of the law. Therefore, if Colossians 2:16-17 DID refer to a type of Jewish legalism which instead focuses on food and feast days instead of circumcision, then the same rebuke Paul leveled in Galatians 1:6-9 should also apply here. Meaning, if the Colossians were being told that unless they observed the Jewish feast days and dietary laws they could not be saved, then it is right to condemn such a teaching as being heretical. Besides, 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 makes it clear that even committing the sin of incestuous fornication (which is expressly forbidden in Ephesians 5:3) cannot cause a true believer to lose his or her salvation. Therefore, if a believer who engages in such a depraved fornication is still saved, then it follows all the more that a believer who violates the Jewish dietary laws or does not regard the Jewish festivals is still saved.
Notwithstanding, it is necessary to understand that Colossians 2:14-17 does NOT say or teach that the Sabbath law (or any other law for that matter) has ended; rather, this passage merely implies that a Christian should not allow anyone outside of the “body of Christ” to judge them regarding dietary laws, or regarding the observance of feast days, the new moon or the Sabbaths. Shortly, we will delve into why this is the only correct interpretation of this oft-cited anti-Sabbatarian proof-text.
By the way, did you notice that the Judaizer arguments (e.g. Acts 15:1,24) which Paul condemned in Galatians 1:6-9 were only concerned the requirements for salvation and not the suitability of a particular law? This is important to remember because some Christians actually think that Christ’s sacrifice renders all aspects of the Mosaic Law at least unnecessary for Christian life, if not inappropriate. Yet, it would be the height of blasphemy to suggest that Christ meant for the liberty He secured for us on Calvary to function as a pretext for lawlessness (Romans 6:15). After all, if sin abounds because of God’s grace, then Paul argues in Galatians 2:17 that Christ has then become the minister of sin—a conclusion which is obviously unacceptable. Isaiah 42:21 prophesied that Christ would “magnify the law, and make it honorable” yet many Christians actually believe that He came to do the opposite. Because there is one deplorable aspect of the law which has perpetuated bondage (Galatians 2:4, Galatians 5:1, Hebrews 2:15) it has become common for many Christians to disregard all other desirable purposes of the law (e.g. Psalm 19:7-11, Matthew 23:23, Romans 7:12 etc.) despite their immense value. For instance, some believers will rightly claim that Paul says we are no longer under the law (Romans 6:14) without even realizing that Paul also says that we are still under the law to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21). Without harmonizing these two teachings, isn’t it a bit premature for anyone to assert that the law has been “nailed to the cross” and thus revoked? Therefore, we must carefully distinguish between the many aspects of the law which are still operable and the few that aren’t if we are to faithfully harmonize these words of God.
The usefulness of the law to the New Covenant believer is demonstrated by the fact that God still sees it fit to be written in our hearts (Hebrews 10:15-16), and by the fact our faith is said to establish the law (Roman 3:31) rather than to make it void. Yet, by marginalizing the law and making it disreputable, many Christians believe that this will keep them from the dangers of legalism. Some prudent theologians have labeled the tendency of Christians to think in this way as the “hyper-grace” movement . Both the hyper-grace ideology and legalism are equally extreme and equally false. In fact, when you think about it, the hyper-grace movement is really just a form of antinomianism—the theological doctrine which argues that by faith and God’s grace Christians are freed from all laws. Of course, if Colossians 2:16 must be interpreted to mean that the Mosaic Laws are no longer relevant, then we should be shocked to find that in Acts 15:20,29 & Acts 21:25 the Antioch Christians were instructed by the apostles to keep some of them. Specifically, they were told to abstain from meats offered to idols (Exodus 34:15), from fornication (Leviticus 18), from eating blood (Leviticus 7:26) and from eating animals that were strangled (Leviticus 17:13). The reason why they were told to abide by these prohibitions was because since the days of old, the Mosaic Law had continually been taught by some in every city, every week on the Sabbath day (Act 15:21). Therefore, since all four of the requested prohibitions are from the Mosaic law, it seems strange that some Christians still argue that the Mosaic Laws were abolished, are no longer operative in any sense, and are no longer relevant to the lives of New Covenant believers. What makes the 15th chapter of Acts all the more compelling is that the very issue being discussed there is the condemnation of Jewish legalism; yet, the conclusion to the issue which is found in Acts 15:29 appears to confirm the ongoing relevance of the Torah. Therefore, if Colossians 2:16 is saying that one does not have to be Jewish to be a Christian, then based upon Acts 15:29 we must also declare that one does not need to forsake the Law of Moses to be a Christian.
Nevertheless, based upon a careful reflection of the words used therein, it becomes clear that Colossians 2:16-17 does not mean what most bibles and many theologians have taken it to mean. To demonstrate this conclusion, we will examine three different understandings of Colossians 2:16-17 in order to scrutinize each one for compatibility with the text. The KJV’s rendition of Colossians 2:16-17 states:
(16) 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: (17) Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
The first understanding of this passage is based upon the idea that verse 17 is a parallelism containing two symmetrical phrases. As the sabbath days are a shadow of things to come, so also is the body (i.e. the church) a shadow of Christ. Obviously such a reading cannot be correct. Otherwise, if we hold to this interpretation, then we are forced to affirm the false proposition that “the body is [a shadow] of Christ.” We are stuck with this proposition because the word “but” in the last half of verse 17 must refer to something that was previously mentioned, and the only thing that was previously mentioned (and fits) is that the sabbath days “are a shadow of things to come.” Yet, biblically speaking, there is no way that the body (i.e. the church) could ever foreshadow Christ since the church is a contemporary of Christ. Besides, since the sabbath days are said to foreshadow “things [yet] to come” then they must remain at least until their anti-type is realized. As far as I can tell from my research, this is not a common explanation of this passage. I merely list it so as to apprehend this passage in an exhaustive manner.
In fact, many (if not most) bible commentaries do not see the above explanation in view, but instead see Colossians 2:17, as a juxtaposition between the “shadow” versus its “body” or the appointed times (i.e. holy days, new moon, sabbath days) versus Christ. It is therefore the understanding of those whom we will hereafter call the Christ-is-the-body advocates that, the appointed times mentioned in Colossians 2:16 foreshadowed the now present Christ. They argue that Christ is the “body that creates the shadow” and that because we now see the body, this means that the shadow is gone. At first glance, this may seem like a plausible explanation—after all, there are certain things in the bible which are said to foreshadow important elements of the New Covenant. For instance, based upon Hebrews 4:1-9, one could argue that the Sabbath rest foreshadows Christ’s salvific rest. Also, in Hebrews 8:3-5 & Hebrews 9:23-24, it is said that the earthly high priests and tabernacle “serve unto the example and shadow of” our heavenly high priest and His heavenly tabernacle. Finally, when Hebrews 10:1 speaks of the law as “having a shadow of good things to come,” the next 8 verses (i.e. Hebrews 10:2-9) then explain that one of these “good things to come” is Christ’s one-time sacrifice which, unlike the law’s annual sacrifices, is able to bring about the perfection of any sinner who trusts in this sacrifice by obeying the Gospel. Yet, in all of these examples, it is instructive to find that there is a symmetry between the shadow and what it foreshadows. In Hebrews 4:1-9, the Sabbath rest foreshadows Christ’s salvific rest. In Hebrews 8:3-5 & Hebrews 9:23-24, the earthly tabernacle and high priests foreshadow the heaven tabernacle and High priest. In Hebrews 10:1-10, the law’s annual sacrifices fore- shadow Christ’s one-time sacrifice. Both the shadow and the object which casts the shadow have the same shape because they both correspond to the same type or thing. On the other hand, and biblically speaking, A holy day cannot be said to foreshadow a man neither can a festival be said to foreshadow a person; these are two different type of things. The foreshadowing portrayed in the Bible teaches us to expect that the shadow and the thing which projects the shadow are of the same type, action or thing.
However, when we carefully consider the Christ-is-the-body view of Colossians 2:16-17, at least three problems arise. First of all, the Colossians passage does not employ the correct tense in order for this view to fit. As stated earlier, because of it’s sentence structure, Colossians 2:17 would instead need to say that the appointed times “were a shadow of things to come” in order for the reader to conclude that the things being foreshadowed are now here. Instead, the anticipatory language used in verse 17 seems to suggest that the things being foreshadowed have not yet arrived. Neither does the Christ-is-the-body view exhibit the symmetry expected between the shadow and what it foreshadows. For unlike the three comparisons seen in Hebrews 4:1-9, 8:3-5, 9:23-24 and 10:1-10, it is not easy to see how Christ our Savior is foreshadowed by the new moon or the sabbath days of Colossians 2:16. Any attempt to tie these two dissimilar things together using the shadow-foreshadow device will always result in a loss of the precision required by this figure of speech.
Still, when one considers all of the reasons why the Christ-is-the-body view of Colossians 2:16-17 is unsuitable, the two just mentioned are perhaps the most trivial. For of greater significance is the fact that advocates of this view seem to insist upon an arbitrary condition that is not required by the text. For it remains unclear why the shadow (i.e. the new moon and the Sabbaths) must disappear just because the body (i.e. Christ) has arrived. For instance, in Hebrews 10:1, though Christ’s foreshadowed sacrifice has already arrived, we see that in Ezekiel 40:39-42, Ezekiel 43:18-27, and Ezekiel 44:11, the law’s sacrifices which foreshadowed Christ’s still remain relevant (at least) during Christ’s Millennial reign. In fact, in Romans 3:31 Paul tells us that our New Covenant faith establishes the same law which in Hebrews 10:1 contains “a shadow of good things to come.” The same goes for the law’s earthly high priests who in Hebrews 8:4-5 are said to foreshadow Christ, our heavenly High priest. They will continue to maintain their relevance (Ezekiel 40:46, 43:19, 44:15, 48:11) even when Christ reigns from His throne in Jerusalem (Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 1:32-33).
In fact, even if we were to stipulate that the new moon and Sabbath days were a shadow of Christ, it would still be impossible to thereby argue that Christ’s arrival caused the Sabbath to disappear. That’s because bible verses such as Exodus 31:16, Exodus 31:13, Exodus 31:17 and Leviticus 24:8 all call the Sabbath a perpetual ordinance, and because the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel both confirm the Sabbath’s perpetuity (Isaiah 66:22-23, Ezekiel 44:24, Ezekiel 45:17, Ezekiel 46:1-6). Therefore, we see that a shadow can indeed remain even after the thing which it foreshadows arrives. This means that even if Colossians 2:16-17 meant to convey the idea that the sabbath days foreshadowed Christ, this understanding would still not provide the basis for concluding that the Sabbath is no longer operative.
Yet, based upon a careful examination of the Greek words which comprise this passage, it becomes all the more certain that Colossians 2:16-17 does not comport with the Christ-is-the-body view which most bibles and many theologians have embraced. As we begin to scrutinize the Greek text behind Colossians 2:16-17:
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 [G4521] days: Which [G3739]
areis [G1510/G2076] [V-PAI-3S] a shadow of things to come; but the body [G4983] isof Christ [G5547].
it is important to remember that the underlined words, days and is are not part of the underlying Greek text. We can presume they were added nonetheless to aid the reader’s understanding of the passage. The reader should also note that according to Robinson’s Morphological Analysis Codes (RMAC hereafter) the Greek text behind the KJV’s translation of “Which are a shadow…” (i.e., eimi [G2076]) requires a third person, singular and present tense rendition of the verb ‘to be.’ This means that Colossians 2:17 should instead say: “Which is a shadow.” Moreover, according to RMAC, the preceding Greek word sabbaton [G4521] [N-GPN] which is translated as “sabbath” is actually plural (i.e. Sabbaths). This may explain the addition of the word days in the KJV. It is one thing to ensure that sabbaton’s tense is accurately reflected, but grammatically speaking, ‘days’ does not comport with the singular form of the verb ‘to be’ which follows in the next verse. On the other hand, there are certain times in Scripture where the plural form of sabbaton is treated as the singular noun ‘Sabbath’ (e.g. Matthew 12:1,11; Mark 3:2, Luke 4:16 etc.).
So far the textual deviations are minor but the following deviation will prove to be a deal breaker. For there is no linguistic basis for inserting the word is (i.e., eimi [G2076]) into the phrase “body of Christ.” Meaning, the Greek phrase, soma [G4983] christou [G5547] can only ever be translated as “body of Christ.” In fact, the four other times that this Greek phrase (i.e. soma christou) occurs in the New Testament (Romans 7:4, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 12:27, Ephesians 4:12), it is only ever translated as “body of Christ.” Therefore, if the KJV translators had simply followed their own interpretive guidelines consistently, they would have instead translated Colossians 2:16-17 to state:
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 (which is a shadow of things to come); but the body of Christ.
In Colossians 1:18, the body of Christ is identified as the church, so in Colossians 2:16-17 when we are told that no one “but the body of Christ” is qualified to judge how we uphold the dietary laws or God’s appointed times, we are also being warned to shun any judgment on these matters that is not based upon the Scriptures. And it is no coincidence that two verses later (in Colossians 2:19), the body (i.e. the church) is contrasted with its Head (i.e. Christ). For as the illegitimate judge in Colossians 2:16-17 is described as someone who is outside the church, so also is the beguiler of Colossians 2:18-19. For of verse 18’s beguiler who is “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” it is said in verse 19 that he does not hold fast to the Head (i.e. Christ) from which the body (i.e. the church) receives spiritual nourishment. Therefore, because they are not part of the body of Christ, both the illegitimate judge and the beguiler are persons whom’s discernment (regarding church matters) we are warned to shun.
With this more accurate interpretation in mind, it becomes clear that Colossians 2:16-17 does not support the notion that Christians should marginalize the Sabbath. This also means that the entire GML bible study is based upon a faulty interpretation of Colossians 2:16-17.
Finally, it should again be noted that many Christians who read Hebrews 4:1-10 see the “new heavens and the new earth” of Isaiah 66:22-23 & Revelation 21:1 as an eternal rest which is typified by the weekly Sabbath. In Hebrews 4:9 it is argued that though the Greek word sabbatismos [G4520] is translated as “rest,” it actually means “keeping of a sabbath,” and that therefore “the people of God” do not await a mere “rest” but a “sabbath rest.” If this is true, then it means that the weekly Sabbath must continue at least until its anti-type, the eternal Sabbath, is realized.
MINI BIBLE STUDY FOR THE DAY
In the New Testament, nine of the Ten Commandments were repeated.
You know the commandments, “DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.” —Mark 10:19
You know the commandments, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.” —Luke 18:20
For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” —Romans 13:9
The only commandment not repeated was to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8).
First of all, GML must be referring to the Roman Catholic Church’s version of the Ten Commandments (which regularly omits the second commandment) when they state that “in the New Testament, nine of the Ten Commandments were repeated.” I say this because, contrary to GML’s claim, the 2nd commandment is not explicitly repeated anywhere in the New Testament (NT hereafter). In other words, the wording regarding “graven images” is not mentioned in the NT though the 2nd commandment is implied in the many general admonitions against idolatry (e.g. Acts 17:29, Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-20; Ephesians 5:5; 1 Peter 4:3, Revelation 9:20) but then so is the Sabbath since Christ acknowledged its legitimacy (Luke 4:16, Mark 2:27), longevity (Matthew 24:20, Ezekiel 44:24 & Ezekiel 46:1-6) and eternality (Isaiah 66:22-23). Accordingly, both Jesus and Paul observed the Sabbath throughout their ministries (Luke 4:16, Luke 4:31, Acts 17:2, Acts 18:4). Furthermore, Sabbath-keeping is a creation ordinance so it precedes the Ten Commandments which explains why (in Exodus 16) the Israelites were expected to observe the Sabbath even before the Law of Moses was given. It also explains why the Fourth Commandment begins with the phrase “Remember the Sabbath Day.” In fact, in Exodus 20:9-11, God infers the necessity of the 4th Commandment from His activities in Genesis 2:3. This means that the Sabbath ordinance is a necessary inference of the creation account in Genesis; God rested on the Sabbath so man must also rest on the Sabbath. This also means that the Sabbath ordinance transcends the Law and may explain why God places Sabbath observance on the same level as the act of embracing of the New Covenant in Isaiah 56:1-7. Nevertheless, even if Sabbath-keeping were not reaffirmed in the NT, the GML hermeneutic which allows for the selective marginalization of Old Testament (OT hereafter) verses based upon their absence in the NT is a very dangerous rule. If we were to follow this hermeneutic consistently, not only would we be compelled to forsake the 2nd and 4th commandments (due to their alleged absence from the NT), we would also be forced to conclude that God’s promise to restore the primeval language to all people, a promise which only occurs in the OT (specifically in Zephaniah 3:9), is now obsolete. Of course, if man should live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3), then why should it matter if in fact God failed to explicitly repeat the fourth commandment in the NT? After all, wasn’t He clear enough in Isaiah 66:23 when He said that the Sabbath will be perpetually observed in the new heavens and the new earth?
Otherwise, how does Ezekiel 46:1 even make any sense if as GML states you can “Rest from your work one day a week, any day you choose?” If GML is right, then in Christ’s Millennial reign, I guess He won’t be able to have the temple gates opened on the Sabbath day for worship after all, seeing as how everyone has full autonomy to choose whichever day they would like to rest. Apparently, GML’s response to Ezekiel 46:1 is: Sorry Lord, I’ve chosen Sunday as my day of rest and it seems to be a pretty popular day with the church as well. Can’t You just open the temple gates on Sunday instead?
The early Christians met on the first day of the week.
Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. —Matthew 28:1
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. —Acts 20:7
See also Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19;1 Corinthians 16:2.
Of all the proof texts provided by GML, the only two that actually qualify as Christian meetings are Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2. Yet, neither verse implies that the meeting was customary. On the other hand, there exists at least four times as many verses which mention meetings on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14, 27, 42, 44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; and 18:4) and three of these passages seem to indicate that the meetings were routine (Acts 15:21, Acts 17:2, Acts 18:4). But, of all the NT passages that militate against the idea that the early Christians met on the first day of the week (in lieu of the Sabbath), Act 13 is perhaps the most compelling. In Acts 13:14-16, 27, 42–44, Paul and Barnabas, when speaking at a Jewish synagogue, were invited by the Gentiles to speak again the next Sabbath. Now, if the early Christians indeed had a tradition of meeting on Sundays, this would have been the perfect opportunity for Paul and Barnabas to urge the people to meet with them on the following day (i.e. Sunday) rather than waiting a whole week for the next Sabbath. Instead, “on the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city [i.e both Jews and Gentiles] together to hear the word of God.” Hence, the events of Acts 13:42-44 clearly demonstrate that early Christians had not developed a routine of meeting on Sundays for worship.
However, even if we are to allow for the unbiblical claim that early Christians met routinely on the first day of the week; what would this stipulation prove? Does this now become a tradition which we must therefore embrace? Perhaps these believers also met on other days of the week as well. Who knows? The bible already tells us that early Christians also observed the Sabbath (Luke 23:56) so why not embrace this tradition as well? Why is the act of early Christians getting together for a meeting of any importance in determining whether God has now changed what He earlier referred to as an eternal law (Exodus 31:13,16,17, Leviticus 24:8)? Again logic becomes indispensable in helping to demolish the unwarranted conclusion that because early Christians supposedly met on Sundays, we must now alter one of the Ten Commandments. If the Church did in fact change the Sabbath from the Seventh day to the first, were they also able to hallow and sanctify the first day the same way God did the seventh (Genesis 2:2-3)? If the Church can change God’s Law pertaining to which day the Sabbath is, then why can’t the Church also redefine marriage? To avoid the possibility of these type of consequences, we must be consistent in our reasoning. “A double minded man is unstable in all of his ways.” — James 1:8
The early Christians met on the first day of the week probably because:
- Sunday was the day of the Lord’s resurrection.
If the early Christians did in fact meet routinely on the first day of the week, they do not state what compelled them to do so. Nor can the obligation to meet on Sundays be necessarily inferred from the coincidence that Christ arose on the first day of the week. Therefore, the conclusion that they met on Sunday because of the resurrection is an unnecessary and invalid argument.
- The six post-resurrection appearances were on Sunday.
The biblical text gives us no reason to believe that the early Christians chose to meet on Sundays because Christ allegedly made six post resurrection appearances on that day. This then is another unnecessary inference. Furthermore, one feels deceived to discover that all of the post resurrection appearances cited by GML (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Mark 16:9, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, John 20:19) historically refer to the same exact day and are not separate Sundays as the GML claim seems to imply. Moreover, John 20:26 tells us that Jesus does make a post-resurrection appearance that does not occur on a Sunday but on a Monday. Neither was Christ’s ascension on a Sunday since it occurred 40 days after His resurrection on a Sunday (Luke 24:1, Acts 1:3). Therefore the assertion that all of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances were on Sundays is an inference that is not derived from a clear reading of the text.
3. The Holy Spirit came on Sunday.
Nowhere in the bible will you find supported the notion that early Christians met on the first day of the week because the Holy Spirit came on Sunday. That the first Christians (who were mostly all Jewish) would meet on Shavuot (i.e. the day of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks) is nothing remarkable since the Law required that day’s commemoration (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10) and that it always occur on Sunday. The feast of First Fruits which foretells the day of Pentecost by seven weeks, always occurred on the day after the Sabbath of Passover week (Leviticus 23:10–11) which is also a Sunday. Hence the word Pentecost, which by definition means fifty, is a term derived from the fact that counting the feast of First Fruits plus seven Sabbaths afterward always equals fifty days (Leviticus 23:15–17). Moreover, the glaring irony in supposing that the Holy Spirit’s appearance at this routine meeting had anything to do with the unauthorized redefinition of the Sabbath is that one must first hold to the position that the Sabbath has not been redefined in order to even arrive at the day of Pentecost in the first place. Of course, if we must adopt GML’s hermeneutic that the Sabbath be redefined whenever God makes an earthly appearance, then we should be prepared to once again change that eternally decreed day (Exodus 31:16-17) should Christ’s 2nd Coming occur on any other day but Sunday.
Revelation 1:10 called Sunday the Lord’s Day. And, in Scripture, the number eight is always used to mean “new beginning,” i.e.—eight people on the Ark, etc.
Revelation 1:10 does NOT say that “the Lord’s day” is Sunday so this assertion is clearly mistaken. Revelation 1:10 does not even provide a number with the day; so, numerically speaking, there is no way of knowing which day it was that John was in the Spirit. It therefore follows that thinking Sunday is in view is another unnecessary inference. Furthermore, a glaring irony arises. There is one and only one day in all of Scripture that is ever given a name and is ever referred to as the LORD’s day and that is the Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13). Yet, GML is somehow able to read Revelation 1:10 and deduce the presence of the week’s first day which is nameless in Scripture. Is this not an example of eisegesis? The only other exegetical possibility is that the Lord’s day referred to in Revelation 1:10 is actually a non-literal day. If this is so, then it makes the most sense to equate the Lord’s day with the “day of the LORD”—an eschatological era which is spoken of several times throughout the Scriptures (i.e. Isaiah 2:12, Jeremiah 46:10, Ezekiel 13:5, Joel 1:15, Amos 5:18, Obadiah 1:15, Zephaniah 1:7, Zechariah 14:1, Malachi 4:5, Acts 2:20, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10 etc).
Regarding GML’s “number eight” argument, it is worth noting that Sunday is not the eighth day of the week but the first. That GML classifies Sunday as both the first and eighth day of the week speaks to the sloppiness of their argument regarding the Sabbath’s nullification and demonstrates poor scholarship. Obviously a week only has seven days, so the specious point about Scripture employing the number eight to denote “new beginning” seems desperate and deceptive.
But more than anything, it’s not what day you choose to rest that concerns God, it’s why you do it in the first place.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” —1 Samuel 16:7
When some person or group presumes to speak for God but says things that are in stark contrast to what God has actually said then the term “follower of Christ” loses its meaning. If God doesn’t really care about which day we rest, then why does He say otherwise (Isaiah 58:13)? Why did He go through the trouble of sanctifying one particular day above the rest (Exodus 20:11)? Why does He call the Seventh Day rest a perpetual law (Exodus 31:16-17)? Why does He say that the Sabbath will be kept during Christ’s Millennial reign (Ezekiel 46:1-5)? Why does He say that all persons must observe the Sabbath in eternity (Isaiah 66:23)? Why is the Sabbath tethered to New Covenant verses (Isaiah 56:1-2,4,6)? Why is the Gentile who keeps the Sabbath promised a name that is better than that of sons and of daughters (Isaiah 56:2-6)? (See also A Defense of the Sabbath’s Perpetuity). Many bible prophecies which speak of events past, present and future use the Sabbath as a point of reference (Matthew 24:20, Ezekiel 46:1, Isaiah 66:23 etc.). For example, Ezekiel 46:1-5 speaks of future corporate worship that will occur every Sabbath during Christ’s Millennial reign, while Zechariah 14:16-18 also foresees Christ compelling Gentile nations to keep the Feast of Tabernacles during His Millennial reign. Zechariah 14:16-18 is particularly significant because the feast of Tabernacles—a seven day feast based upon Leviticus 23:33-43 — both commences and concludes with a Sabbath day (Leviticus 23:39). In fact, the weekly Sabbath is the beginning and foundation of all God’s feasts . However, if we maintain the position that the Sabbath day has either been abolished or is mutable then not only do these prophecies become false, but many other verses in the bible suddenly become meaningless and God is made to be a liar. Therefore, in light of the above implications that emanate from the notion of a mutable or abolished Sabbath, why have Christians been so nonchalant about this issue? It is interesting to see that even Chuck Missler, who uses Colossians 2:10-17 to argue for the Sabbath’s abolition  states the following:
Since the Sabbath apparently survives the church period, this seems to cloud the view that Sunday replaced the Sabbath.
In conclusion, there are things that are necessary for a Christian to do which do not pertain to one’s salvation. For instance, it is necessary that we honor our parents (the Fifth Commandment) if we are interested in pleasing God, but not doing so doesn’t cause one to lose his or her salvation. Likewise, observing the Sabbath has nothing to do with one’s salvation and yet we know that doing so pleases God (Isaiah 56:4). So, if we know with biblical certainty that the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, the only question that remains is: if it’s a good thing to keep the Sabbath, then why not encourage fellow Christians to observe the Sabbath the same way we would urge them to honor their parents?
For more information about the Sabbath see: Christians worship on Sunday because of the Sunday Resurrection and the deliberate Sunday appearances of the resurrected Christ. Really?
- Strongs [G2450]
- Chuck Missler, http://www.khouse.org/articles/2000/258/#resources, Accessed February 7, 2015.
- Chuck Missler, Supplemental Notes: Colossians and Philemon, 1997 Koinonia House
- Chuck Missler, http://www.khouse.org/articles/2000/223/#notes, Accessed February 7, 2015.
- Rev. Dr. John P. Lange, Lange’s Commentary on the OT, Leviticus 23:1-44
- Dr. Micheal Brown, https://askdrbrown.org/library/hypergrace-great-deception-21st-century, Accessed February 7, 2015.
- “The verses in question only record that Paul went to the synagogue on the sabbath to preach to the Jews. Now if one wants to preach to the Jews (and the Gentile God-fearers who attended with them), then it is logical to look for them where they are found – on the sabbath, in the synagogue” – J.P. Holding, On Observing the Sabbath, http://www.tektonics.org/af/ebe19.php, Accessed February 7, 2015.