COMMENTARY:

bulletAre The Ten Commandments No Longer Binding?
bulletA Historical Perspective On The Change From Sabbath To Sunday
bulletDies Domini (The Day Of The Lord) - A letter from Pope John Paul II
bulletA Studied Response - by Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph.D., author of the book, From Sabbath to Sunday printed by the Pontifical Gregorian Press.

COLOSSIANS 2:13-17 - ARE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS NO LONGER BINDING?

The texts found in Colossians 2:13-17 have been used by many Christians to proclaim that the Ten Commandments as God thundered them from Mt. Sinai, and inscribed them in stone with His finger, are no longer binding on God's people. And as a consequence, no longer are His people commanded to worship on the seventh day of the week.   They claim that any day, be it Friday the sixth day or Sunday the first day, is just as acceptable as Sabbath the seventh day.  But is that what Paul the writer of Colossians had in mind when he wrote the original Greek?  Let's compare the NIV translation and a literal translation of the Greek.  The translation that I used is The Interlinear Bible, (TIB) by J. P. Green, Sr., Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1985.  (This resource has both the complete Greek and Hebrew texts as well as Strong's reference numbers by each word.)

The New International Version (NIV)

Col. 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

16Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

The Interlinear Bible (TIB)

Col. 2:13 And you, being dead in the offenses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all the offenses; 14blotting out the handwriting in the ordinances against us, which were contrary to us, even He has taken it out of the midst, nailing it to the cross; 15having stripped the rulers and the authorities, He made a show of them in public, triumphing over them in it.

16Then do not let anyone judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a feast, or the new moon, or of sabbaths, which are a shadow of coming things; but the body is of Christ

As most Bible expositors realize, it is improper and dangerous to establish doctrine based primarily upon one text when much of Scripture points to just the opposite. Jesus said,

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them [to fill them full of meaning]. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:17-19).

Certainly this does not sound like Jesus is abolishing or doing away with the Law here. Most of the book of 1 John is dedicated to explaining to God's people that if they claim to be followers of God, that they will no longer continue to sin, sin being the "transgression of the Law" (1 John 3:4 KJV).  The NIV translates this as "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness."   Lawlessness is a state or condition of being without a law.  Without a set of absolute rules to provide the foundation of one's morality, the "rightness" of actions become relative and what is evil in one person's eyes becomes acceptable in another's.  Certainly, this is not what God had in mind when He inscribed the Ten Commandments in the two tables of stone with His finger!

Since the doing away with the Law is not what Paul could have had in mind when he wrote the above phrase (or according to Christ, he would be called the least in the kingdom of heaven), what did he mean? First let's look again at the literal translation of the text to remove any potential bias on the NIV translator's part.

Look at the verse 15 in the TIB version above:  "having stripped the rulers and the authorities, He made a show of them in public, triumphing over them in it."

In this verse, it should be apparent that Christ through His death, stripped not the Law, but rather the rulers and authorities of their power, making a show of the rulers and authorities and triumphing over them. 

Who or what are these rulers and authorities (powers and authorities - NIV)? Let's look at how Paul and Peter used these terms.

     "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38, 39)

     "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power." (1Cor. 15:24)

     "That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Eph. 1:19-21)

     "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:10, 11)

     "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph. 6:12)

     "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." (Col. 1:16)

     "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. . . . And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Col. 2:9, 10, 15, the texts we are looking at)

     "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men." (Titus 3:1, 2)

     "It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand --with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him." (1Pet. 3:21, 22)

From the above, we see that powers, rulers and authorities are used to refer to 3 different groups with primary emphasis on the third group,

     1) earthly rulers and authorities,

     2) unfallen heavenly beings in leadership roles (archangels, cherubim, etc.),

     3) fallen angelic beings in leadership roles (Satan, demonic powers, the powers of darkness, etc.).

In the three of the four places in the NIV that the term "spectacle" is used, it refers to some entity being made a spectacle before the watching universe, angels, powers and authorities. In addition to the text in Colossians, we have Ezek. 28:17, a lament over Satan which is embedded in God's lament over the King of Tyre.

     [God said to Lucifer (Satan)] "Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings." (Ezek. 28:17)

Paul in writing to the Corinthians continues this theme.

     "For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. (1Cor. 4:9)

So which of the above powers did Christ triumph over by His death? He triumphed over Satan and his angels. Their false claims that God was selfish, arbitrary and His rules impossible to follow were disproved at the cross as God made the ultimate sacrifice for the redemption of man. Satan, his followers and his false claims were triumphed over at the cross, forever losing their hold on those who would cling to Jesus and His saving grace. The watching universe could see that a "spectacle", (v. 15) a public show had been made of Satan's claims, that his cause was lost, that God had triumphed. Wonderful! Glorious! Hereafter, Satan would be in subjection to Christ and His followers.

     "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." (James 4:7).

     "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons." (Mark 16:17)

Let us continue by looking at Col. 2:14, "blotting out the handwriting in the ordinances against us." (TIB) This handwriting is not that written by the finger of God. Rather it is "handwriting" in the books of record that lists our past offenses and sins against God and His ordinances. These records which stand against us and condemn us to the consequence of death are blotted out when we repent of our sins and accept Christ as our Saviour. No longer will these handwritings testify against us for God has forgiven us. David wrote,

     "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity." (Ps. 51:1, 9)

and,

     "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Ps. 103:11, 12)

God, through Isaiah added,

     "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." (Isa. 43:25)

So even though we were as good as dead in our sins (Col. 2:13), Christ, through paying the price for our redemption, has made us alive in Him. He forgives us when we repent and wipes our slate clean. Precious, precious Jesus!

Therefore, because we know that Christ gives us life, we are no longer subject to condemnation by man's expectations. No longer are we to be judged by others as to how we keep the various feasts, new moons or sabbaths. Christ, through His indwelling in our hearts and as we honestly search His Word, will lead us into the appropriate way to keep these. The verse does not say we are not to keep them, but rather, if we have truly been made alive in Christ, then don't let the way we keep the Sabbath under His Lordship be judged by others. For all of these things are not, as the NIV and some other modern language translations put it, a shadow of things that were to come, but rather of things that are to come.

     "Then do not let anyone judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a feast, or the new moon, or of sabbaths, which are a shadow of coming things; but the body is of Christ." (Col. 2:16, TIB)

Neither are we to be judged in what we eat or drink by anyone else, but we are to recognize that our bodies are of Christ, who resides in us (see 1Cor. 3:16, 2Cor. 6:16). In spite of this freedom, neither are we to become stumbling blocks to weaker Christians, for they too are a part of the body of Christ, which is also His church. Paul, to the Romans in another letter writes:

     "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves." (Rom. 14:17-22)

In conclusion, we can see that Paul did not degrade the Law here in Colossians, nor did he invalidate the Sabbath. Rather he uplifted them as he uplifted Jesus and His sacrifice, Jesus triumphing over the powers of darkness and showing us a more sure way of life, a shadow of things to come. May the Lord be praised as we seek to love and obey Him.

COMMENTARY: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE CHANGE FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY

Since the creation of the world when God set aside the seventh day as a day of rest for mankind, it has been observed as a sacred day by lovers of God. The seven day work week has stood through the centuries, and other than the creation week, there is no explanation for why the week is seven days long. Other civilizations and countries, such as France, have tried to change the number of days in the week, but this attempt has always failed.

Around 200 years after Christ, and beginning with the church in Rome, Christians began to participate with the pagan religions in their Sunday (Day of the Sun) celebrations while still continuing to observe the Sabbath. Since these Sunday celebrations were more enjoyable than the solemn ceremonies that they participated in on the seventh day of the week, they began to look with disfavor on the seventh day and began to worship on Sunday.

In 321 A.D., the emperor Constantine signed a law decreeing that all people, not involved in agriculture, should worship on Sunday (the first day of the week). The English translation of the decree reads as follows:

     "All judges and city people and the craftsmen shall rest upon the venerable Day of the Sun. Country people, however, may freely attend to the cultivation of the fields, because it frequently happens that no other days are better adapted for planting the grain in the furrows or the vines in the trenches. So that the advantage given by heavenly providence may not for the occasion of a short time perish." Joseph Cullen Ayer, A Source Book for Ancient Church History (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913), div. 2, per. 1, ch. 1, sec. 59, g, pp. 284, 285.

Who Changed the Day? Since then, the Roman Catholic Church has lent its weight to worship on Sunday and has stated that it is a mark of its authority as a representative of God that the day of worship was changed from Saturday or Sabbath to Sunday. You may find the following quotations interesting and informative. They are all quoted from various publications of or affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

     "Q. What day was the Sabbath?
     "A. The seventh day, our Saturday.
     "Q. Do you keep the Sabbath?
     "A. No. We keep the Lord's Day.
     "Q. Which is that?
     "A. The first day: Sunday.
     "Q. Who changed it?
     "A. The Catholic Church."

James Bellord, A New Catechism of Christian Doctrine and Practice, pp. 86, 87.

     "Q. How prove you that the church hath power to command feasts and Holy Days?
     "A. By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same church.
     "Q. How prove you that?
     "A. Because by keeping Sunday, they acknowledge the church's power to ordain feasts, and to command them under sin."

Henry Tuberville, An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine, p. 58.

     "Q. Have you any other way of proving that the church has power to institute festivals of precept?
     "A. Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all religionists agree with her. She could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, change for which there is no scriptural authority." A Doctrinal Catechism, p. 174.

     "The Catholic Church for over a thousand years before the existence of a Protestant, by virtue of her divine mission changed the day from Saturday to Sunday." Catholic Mirror, Sept. 1893.

     "She [the Catholic Church] took pagan Sunday, dedicated to Balder [an Icelandic god identified with Sun worship], became the Christian Sunday, sacred to Jesus." Catholic World, 1894, p. 809.

     "You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify." Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 111.

     ". . . of course the Catholic Church claims that the change was her act. And the act is a mark of her ecclesiastical power and authority in religious matters." H.F. Thomas, Chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons, in answer to a letter regarding the change of the Sabbath.

     "No! Keep the first day of the week, and lo, the entire civilized world bows in reverent obedience to the command of the holy Catholic church." "It's the mark of our authority to over-rule God's law." Father Enright C.S.S.R. of the Redemptoral College, Kansas City, Mo., History of the Sabbath, p. 802.

The Day of Which Lord? In its current usage, as shown in the first quote in the series above, "the Lord's Day" is a term referring to Sunday rather than Saturday or Sabbath. It is important to note that John's words "the Lord's Day" in the text of Rev. 1:8 refers to the Sabbath day, as again, it wasn't until many years later that worship on Sunday took place. Jesus referred to himself as Lord of the Sabbath, commenting in Mark 2:28 "So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." So then how did this association of Sunday with the term "Lord's Day" come about?

Shortly after the flood, Satan through the line of Ham, Cush and then Nimrod, a mighty king, and the builder of the tower of Babel (see Gen. 10:8-12, and 11:1-9) brought in a counterfeit religion to God's plan for the redemption of the world. When Nimrod died, Semiramis his wife, claimed that the people's beloved leader had gone to the sun and was now the sun-god. When she gave birth to what she called an "immaculately conceived" child, Tammuz, she claimed that he was the reincarnation of Nimrod, the sun god, and Tammuz, was worshipped as well. This trio of Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz, counterfeited the Father, Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, the Son. Elements of this Babylonish mystery religion can be found through nearly all the pagan religions of the world today, including those found in South America.

     "In the Bible, sun worship is called Baalim, and to the Israelites the sun god was simply called Baal. 1 Kings 16:31. The term Baal is the highest name the pagan gave his god. It meant Lord or Master. . . . In most cases the sun was the main deity of the Old and New World. [It is not a coincidence that a number of New Age books are dedicated to "the Master", Satan in a thin disguise. The New Age is simply occultism and spiritualism clothed in a new deceptive garb.]

     "As Baal or Belus was the name of the great male divinity of Babylon; so the female divinity was called Beltis or Baalath. In Joshua 19:8 she is called 'BAALATHBEER.' Baalath's son was 'Baalberith,' which means 'LORD OF THE COVENANT,' and the Israelites worshipped him in their apostasy. Judges 8:33. Baalzebub or Beelzebub, means: 'Lord of the Fly.' This is the chief Oriental name for Satan. It also means: 'The Restless One.' Just as a fly is never stable and has no resting place and travels to and fro in the earth, so is Satan." The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." Job 1:7. William J. Sutton and Roy A. Anderson, The Antichrist 666, pp. 24, 25.

     "This son [Tammuz], thus worshiped in his mother's arms, was looked upon as invested with all the attributes, and called by almost all the names of the promised Messiah. As Christ, in the Old Testament was Adonai, the Lord, so Tammuz was called Adon or Adonis. Under the name of Mirthras, he was worshipped as the Mediator. As Mediator and head of the covenant of grace, he was styled Baal-Berith, THE LORD OF THE COVENANT." Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, pp. 69, 70.

Thus Sunday, even before Jesus Christ came on the scene, was called the Lord's Day in honor of this pagan deity. Sunday worship was just one of the many pagan customs and teachings which the apostatized Christian Church accepted and practiced. The church simply changed the name of the rite, or "christianized" the definition, while keeping the sum and substance of the pagan rite or tradition.

Lost Time? A commonly asked question regarding the Sabbath is, "But how do we know that time hasn't been lost, and that the seventh day as God ordained it hasn't actually fallen onto another day?"

Even though the dates of the calendar have been changed several times throughout history, the order of the seven days has never been lost. An example of a new calendar, is the one instituted under Pope Gregory XIII. The Gregorian calendar which is the one currently in usage was instituted in 1582 and adopted by Britain and the colonies in 1752. The orthodox Jewish people use their own calendar which has not lost the cycle of days. Their weekly cycle coincides with the calendar in usage today. Similarly, the Muslims have kept accurate track of the weekly cycle in their calendar system, and their days of the week also coincide with ours.

Even if we felt that time had been lost, the motion of the moon and stars is so precise that the days could be reestablished or confirmed. Astronomers confirm this.

     "If men refused to observe weeks, and the line of time was forgotten, the day of the week could be recovered by observing when the transits of the planets, or eclipses of the Sun and Moon, occurred. These great sentinels of the sky keep seven days with scientific accuracy, thundering out the seven days inscribed on the inspired page." Dr. J. B. Dimbleby, premier chronologist to the British Chronological and Astronomical Association, All Past Time, p. 10.

A Sneak Attack? Why is it that some calendars have been modified to reflect Sunday as the seventh day of the weekly cycle? As mentioned earlier, it is impossible to prove that Sunday is the day to be kept sacred from the Bible. In fact, the Catholic Church has in the past offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who could prove that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday. This reward has never been collected. Therefore, in order to minimize questions that might be asked regarding the keeping of Sunday instead of Saturday as the seventh day, some have deemed it appropriate to change the calendar to reflect Sunday as the seventh day. However, just because men make this change, doesn't mean God does. God has not changed the day. It takes just a cursory glance at various languages to show that Saturday remains the Sabbath. In Spanish the word for Saturday is Sabado, the same as for Sabbath. In German, the word for Wednesday is Mittwoch, meaning mid-week or the middle day of the week.

Some have asked, "Does it really matter what day of the week we keep sacred?" In response to this, two examples come to mind that may help provide an answer.

A Test of Obedience.  The keeping of the correct Sabbath day may be compared to the command that God gave to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

     "And the LORD God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'" (Gen. 2:16, 17)

The food of the tree was not poisonous in the sense that we think of it. It was beautiful to look at and the fruit when eaten tasted good. Why not partake of it? Because God had commanded Adam and Eve not to. It was a test of their obedience to Him. By disobeying God, they sinned and broke their relationship with Him. Similarly, the keeping of the correct Sabbath will be the final test for God's people as we draw closer to Christ's second coming. Efforts will be made to downplay the importance of keeping God's designated day. The false claim may be made that somewhere down in history, an extra day was inserted, and that Sunday is actually the seventh day. To the uninformed, this will appear like a satisfactory answer, but time has not been lost. God's day stands today as it did for the centuries since creation.

Are we willing to obey God in all areas, to be faithful even unto persecution and death? For Jesus said in Matt. 10:28,

     "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

And in Matthew 7:21-23,

     "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' "

A Tale of Two Rings.  My wife came up with an excellent second example. When a couple gets married, they wear rings given to each other. These rings symbolize their commitment to each other. Imagine the feelings of jealousy that would ensue if the woman decided to wear a ring that another man gave her, especially an old boyfriend. She might rationalize to her husband, "But I know we are married." Nevertheless it would be frustrating to the husband, knowing that the ring he gave her was a sign of their mutual commitment. Similarly, God's day is a sign between Jesus Christ as the husband and we as his bride (see Exod. 31:13, 17 and Ezek. 20:12, 20). Are we willing to wear Christ's ring or are we going to wear that of our old boyfriend, the evil one?

     "Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. " (1 John 3:7-10)

     "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. " (1 John 5:1-5)

The choice is yours - and the test will soon come - whether you will worship on God's day, the Sabbath, and keep it holy, or to worship on the day of the sun, the day of Baal, the sun god, and desecrate God's day. Won't you join the many who are choosing to obey God.

Where now? If you desire to worship on the seventh day with other Christians, check the yellow pages of your phone directory under the heading "Churches" to see if there are any "seventh-day" churches in your local area. The following headings have been seen.

     Church of God - Seventh-day
     Seventh-day Adventist
     Seventh-day Adventist-Reformed
     Seventh-day Baptist
     Worldwide Church of God-Seventh-day

Of these, by far the largest and most active are the Seventh-day Adventists, with an educational and medical system second only to the Catholic church.

 

BiblePlus Home Page  |  Scripture Compilations  |  Other Copyright Notices

Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.  Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.  All rights reserved.  Many thanks go to Zondervan.

Scripture compilations, and commentaries copyright 1992-2003 by BiblePlus/The Bible Research Company.  All rights reserved.   The Bible Research Company/BiblePlus is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ, and to disseminating the marvelous truths of the Bible.