The Holy Assembly and the Everlasting Covenant
By: Jeff A. Benner



TABLE OF CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

PART ONE: THE FIRST COVENANT

1 - What Is A Covenant?

2 - The Covenant with Israel

3 - The Holy Assembly

4 - The Torah

5 - The Sabbath Covenant

6 - The Feasts of the Lord

7 - Other Nations Enter the Covenant

8 - The Desecration of the Covenant

9 - The Promise of A New Covenant


PART TWO: THE NEW COVENANT

10 - The New Covenant

11 - The Holy Assembly

12 - The Torah

13 - The Sabbath Covenant

14 - The Feasts of the Lord

15 - Gentiles Enter the Covenant

16 - The Desecration of the Covenant


CONCLUSION

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13 - The Sabbath Covenant

Yeshua and The Sabbath

He [Yeshua] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. (Luke 4:16)

We discussed the desecration of all that God has made holy. The New Testament Gospels record the confrontation between Yeshua and the teachers of the Torah regarding the keeping of the Sabbath. It is from these passages that many today have been given the impression that Yeshua was teaching that the Sabbath did not need to be observed as stated in the fourth commandment. In reality, Yeshua was teaching the people that the observance of the Sabbath in his day had become a legalistic day of rest.

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Yeshua, they asked him. "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man that a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. (Matthew 12:10-13)

The question we need to ask here is, "Did Yeshua break the Sabbath command by healing?" We know that the definition of sin is breaking the Torah. If Yeshua had broken the Torah by violating the command of the Sabbath, then he would have sinned and would then be a blemished sacrifice. But we know that Yeshua was sinless, therefore he could not have violated the Sabbath command. Yeshua' accuser then must have had a false concept of the Sabbath.

Many years before the birth of Yeshua, the Jews began to define the word "work" when applied to the Sabbath. They came up with a set of "oral laws" stating what specifically could and could not be done on the Sabbath. In doing this, they made the observance of the Sabbath a legalistic observance. There are certain activities that could be called "work" which must be done on the Sabbath. The feeding and watering of animals must be done; some chores in the household must be done. The best way to determine if the "work" can be done on a Sabbath is to ask two questions; "Can this work be done on another day or do I need to do it today?" The second is "Will this work bring glory to God or to myself?" As we will see, Yeshua observed the Sabbath but not in the way that the Pharisees expected it to be observed.

 

The Sabbath Rest Continues

For somewhere he has spoken of the seventh day in these words: 'And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.' And again in the passage above he says, 'They shall never enter my rest.' It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us. Therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Heb 4:4-11)

The above passage is speaking of two different types of rest. They are the Sabbath-rest and the Promised land-rest. God promised Israel rest when they would enter into the Promised Land.

"Since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the LORD your God is giving you. But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety." (Deuteronomy 12:9,10)

But because of Israel's disobedience they never received that rest in the Promised Land.

Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation, I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways." So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest." (Psalms 95:8-11)

It appears that the writer of Hebrews was trying to get the point across to his readers that just because we have a rest in God, does not mean that the Sabbath-rest is done away with. "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people" (Hebrews 4:9). Hebrews 4:10 said, "anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his". The writer is pointing out that rest in God also means a rest from labor for one day just as he did on the seventh day of creation.

It is interesting that two arguments for the change in the Sabbath today in the churches are; "the rest is not a rest from one day but a rest in God" and second; "It does not matter which day you rest as long as you take one day and rest". Hebrew 4 clearly shows that both of these statements are false. This will be discussed in greater detail in chapter 16.

 

The Sabbath Covenant Is Everlasting

Let us not forget that the Sabbath Covenant given in Exodus 31:16 is an everlasting covenant for the Children of Israel. Some will argue that this Sabbath covenant is for the Jews only, but let us also not forget the command found in the Torah.

"The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you." (Numbers 15:15,16)

The word alien above is used for those not born in the line of Jacob but choose to join in the assembly with Israel and the covenant with God. Chapter 15 will also look at this in more depth.

Since the Sabbath command is part of God's Torah, we must remember that the Torah is eternal; Psalms 116:160 "All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal."

 

Was the Sabbath Changed To Sunday?

We have already discussed two reasons why many believers believe that we do not need to keep the Seventh Day Sabbath, which were; It doesn't matter which day is set aside as the Sabbath, and our rest is in God not a Sabbath day. There is another popular view that is that when Yeshua rose from the dead on Sunday (the first day of the week); he changed the Sabbath from the Seventh Day (Saturday) to the First Day (Sunday). There are three scriptures used to support the view that the Sabbath had been changed to Sunday, they are; Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 16:2, and Rev 1:10. Lets take a look at each of these to see what they are saying.

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. (Acts 20:7)

Here it would appear that the Christians met on Sunday, the first day, for communion, which is part of the worship service. But if you read the passages following this, you will see that Paul is leaving for a journey the following day and probably wanted to meet with everyone before he left. You will also notice that the breaking of the bread is referring to a meal and not communion because he says "they broke bread and ate" (vs. 11) which is a common way of referring to any meal. It would appear that the Christians were having a special gathering for Paul to say good-bye and hear him before he left.

There is one other interesting bit of information that we need to understand in this passage. We read that Paul spoke on the first day Sunday) until midnight because he was leaving the next day. We forget that Jewish days are different then our days. A Jewish day begins at sundown; therefore the first day of the week (Sunday) began on our Saturday at sundown. If Paul were speaking until midnight, the gathering would have been on what is our Saturday night, with Paul leaving the following day, which would be our Sunday morning not Monday morning. Let us look at this passage again in the context of the whole story.

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight, There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don't be alarmed," he said He's alive!" Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. (Acts 20:7-11)

Now let us look at the next verse used to support a Sabbath day change.

On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (1 Cor 16:2)

In 1 Cor 16 there is no mention as to where this offering was to be set aside, at the worship service or at their homes. This passage does not give enough evidence to support a change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.

It was also a custom not to handle money on the Sabbath; therefore, the handling of this money would have been on a day other than the Sabbath. If the Sabbath were on the first day (Sunday), the money would have been collected on another day to prevent violating this custom. But since the money was collected on Sunday we can assume that the Sabbath was not on the first day.

The last verse used is,

On the Lord's day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet. (Rev 1:10)

Sunday has often been called the Lord's day. The term "Lord's day" is a possessive tense just as if I said, "this is John's book". English is the only language that uses this structure. All other language would say "The book of John" or "the day of the Lord." In fact the original Greek scriptures say, "the day of the Lord" in Rev 1:10. The book of Revelation is about the coming of the Lord and John saw many visions of this day. John is saying "I was in the Spirit on the Day of the Lord".

As we have seen, there is no scripture that clearly says that the early church ever met on Sunday in place of the Seventh Day Sabbath, on the contrary, there are many scriptures that clearly state that they did meet on the Sabbath.

If there were a change in the requirements for observing the fourth commandment from the First Covenant to the New Covenant, would not this change have been clearly mentioned in the New Covenant? I believe that the three scriptures used to support such a change in the command do not show that this change occurred. On the other hand, there is much more support in the New Covenant about continuing the observance of the fourth commandment.

 

Paul and The Sabbath

As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures. (Acts 17:1-3)

Every Sabbath he [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4)

Throughout the book of Acts we see Paul and the other Apostles entering the Synagogues on the Sabbath day.

As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue (in Antioch), the people invited them to speak further about these things the resurrection of Yeshua Christ] on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. (Acts 13:42-44)

It is interesting to note here that Paul never told those interested in hearing more about the Gospel to come to their meeting (church service) on the next day (Sunday). The Assembly of believers (Church) in Antioch had been established long before this according to Acts 1:26. Evidently the Assembly of believers did not meet on Sunday because he told those of the synagogue to come back on the next Sabbath to learn more. I am sure that if the Assembly of believers were meeting on Sunday, he would have invited them there to learn more.

 

Conclusion

When we look at the Sabbath day, we see that from the very beginning of creation, God set the Sabbath day aside as a holy day of rest. Both Israel and God recognized it as a very important day throughout the entire First Covenant. It was placed within the list of the top 10 commandments of God. Yeshua kept the Sabbath, as was his custom, Paul also kept the Sabbath, as was his custom. The book of Hebrew reminds us that the Sabbath rest continues to this day. And no scripture reference has been written to nullify this great day.

 

Chapter Summary

  • Yeshua entered the synagogues on the Sabbath, as was his custom.
  • The Sabbath-rest continues in the New Covenant.
  • The Sabbath covenant is everlasting.
  • No scripture supports the removal of the seventh day Sabbath.
  • Paul entered the synagogues on the Sabbath, as was his custom.

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Copyright © 2004
Jeff A. Benner

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