Did Paul Abolish The Sabbath?
Under the Law given Moses, most commands do not apply to sojourners / foreigners (i.e., Gentiles), but only to Israel. For example, circumcision only mentions sons of Israel. (See Leviticus 12:1-3.) One of the exceptions was the Sabbath command. The Sabbath command equally applies to Gentiles living in community with Israel as to any member of Israel. See Deut. 5:12-15 ("sojourner within thy gates"); Lev. 25:6 ("sojourner settling with thee"); Exo 23:12 (sojourner).
In fact, God conditioned His promise of salvation in the New Covenant for Gentiles, eunuchs, etc., upon them, among other things, keeping the Sabbath. Specifically, the promise in Isaiah 56 of salvation and blessings to such ones -- just after ch. 53 says salvation is through Messiah's sacrifice -- was predicated on two things: "keep the Sabbath from profaning it and keep his hand from doing evil" (Isaiah 56:2) and "who keep My Sabbaths, and choose things that please Me, and take hold of my covenant." (Isaiah 56:4,6 -such a Gentile will be given an eternal name).
But Paul said anyone in Christ's movement did not have to follow the Sabbath any longer.
Paul wrote in Col. 2:16-17:
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:
17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Luther Agrees Paul Abolished Sabbath
Martin Luther in a sermon entitled How Christians Should Regard Moses given August 27, 1525 says of this passage:
Again one can prove it from the third commandment that Moses does not pertain to Gentiles and Christians. For Paul [Col. 2:16]...abolish[ed] the sabbath, to show us that the sabbath was given to the Jews alone, for whom it is a stern commandment.
Martin Luther, "How Christians Should Regard Moses," Luther's Works: Word and Sacrament I (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1960) Vol. 35 at 161-174; Martin Luther, Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings (ed. Lull & Russell) (Fortress Press, 2005) at 127.
Calvin Agreed Paul Abolished Sabbath
Calvin wrote on Colossians 2:16: "We see now that the Sabbath is done away with and the people are free from it." (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles o f Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (trans. John Pringle) (1948) at 191.) Calvin added that this passage in Colossians meant "Christ has by his death abolished ... the observance of rites" (i.e., Sabbath).
Tertullian Agrees Paul Abolished Sabbath
Tertullian in the 200s read Col. 2:16 the same way Luther and Calvin read it. Tertullian believed that Paul abolished all the Law (even though Tertullian says he does not want to discuss the validity of that conclusion), commenting: "We do not now treat of the Law, further than (to remark) that the apostle here teaches clearly how it has been abolished, even by passing from shadow to substance - that is, from figurative types to reality, which is Christ." (Tertullian, "Against Marcion" 5, 19, ANF III, 471, 472 (emphasis supplied).)
Numerous Christian scholars agree Paul abolished Sabbath in Colossians 2:16-17: Paul K. Jewett, C.S.Mosna, J. Danielou, and W. Robertson Nicholl.
Paul In Romans Abolishes Sabbath Again
Paul will repeat this abolition of Sabbath in Romans 14:5-6. Paul writes: "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind."
Christian commentators explain this means regarding Sabbath: "Christians are permitted to make up their own minds about a special day." Dan Corner, Six Facts For Saturday Sabbatarians To Ponder at http://www.evangelicaloutreach.org/sabbath.htm (last accessed 2005).
You can take it or leave it. It is up to you.
Likewise, scholar, J.Danielou, sees this clearly the same way: "St.Paul proclaimed the end of the Sabbath (Rom.14:6)." (Jean Danielou, Bible and Liturgy (Light & Life: 1956) at 228.)
However, many commentators are sheepish on this topic. When they realize Paul would be a false prophet by definition found in the Law and Prophets for so teaching (Isaiah 8:20; Deut. 13:1-5), they try to do a retreat. But Luther, Calvin, Danielou and Corner are correct -- Paul claimed Sabbath was henceforth abolished.
Ehrman Says Paul in Galatians Curses Those who Obey Sabbath
In Galatians, Paul bemoans Galatians who wish to keep sabbath and observe the new moon as provided in the Law. Paul then says "anathema" -- cursed -- are those who wish to be just / justified by keeping such parts of the Law, i.e., sabbath, monthly festivals, etc. For otherwise, Paul argues, they will have to keep "all" of the Law, and not selected parts. (Gal. 1:6-12; Gal. 2:14-16 (cursed if not continue in all points of law); Gal. 3:9-12 (under a curse, misquoting Deuteronomy, as explained at this link), Gal. 3:21.
Paul's words are a clear echo of Col. 2:14-16 that effectively abolished obeying any "holy day, new moon or Sabbath day."
In Galatians, Paul adds to this an attempt to freighten the reader that to keep the Law meant the males had to also be circumcised -- a painful operation for a Gentile adult of that era. Unfortunately, Paul did NOT help assuage such fear by recognizing James' rationale in Acts 15 for not extending to Gentiles the law on circumcision. It was because Leviticus 12:1-3 on circumcision clearly says it applies only to "sons of Israel," and did not extend to Gentiles unless they wished to partake of passover dinner. But Sabbath in the Law clearly extended to "sojourners' (non-Jews in community with Israel) under the Mosaic Law.
Regardless, Paul not only curses those who are resting on Sabbath to observe the Law's demand but also those who teach us to obey this command to obey Sabbath from the 10 Commandments. As Bart Ehrman, a professor on the New Testament, explains:
“Paul is absolutely clear [in Galatians] that he thinks non-Jews are not to do these things [i.e., keep Sabbath, holidays, etc.] once they believe in Christ. In fact,... he lays a curse on anyone who thinks that Gentiles who come to believe in Jesus should engage in such practices.” (Bart D. Ehrman, Peter, Paul & Mary Magalene (2006) at 117.)
Hence, if Paul curses those Gentile Christians who obey Sabbath and those who spread knowledge of the Sabbath's application to Gentiles, this confirms Paul abolished Sabbath, at least for Gentiles who joined the community of God's people.
Mainstream Anti-Sabbitarians Defend Paul Abolished Sabbath
Unaware of the implication that Paul is invalidated as an inspired voice by abolishing Sabbath (Isaiah 8:20; Deut. 13:1-5), a defender of Sunday as the new Sabbath, William Armstrong, wrote of these passages from Paul in his book Is Saturday or Sunday the Christian Sabbath?: A Refutation of Sabbatarianism (Philips & Hunt, 1880) at 90. He articulates how clearly Paul intends indeed to abolish the Sabbath command from the Ten Commandments. Armstrong is completely unaware how the Bible then condemns Paul as a false prophet because the Bible says the Law including this Sabbath command would be "eternal for all generations" -- repeated 12 times in Scripture, i.e., Ex. 27:21; 30:21; Lev. 6:18; 7:36; 10:9; 17:7; 23:14, 21, 41; 24:3; Num. 10:8. Armstrong writes:
Much has been written on this text, and many commentators, fearful of its effect on the institution of the Sabbath, have referred this Sabbath (not Sabbath days as the translators have rendered it) to the annual Sabbaths, while other commentators, as learned, among which are Whedon, have referred it to the weekly day. I agree with the latter. The use of the words, "Shadow of good things to come," is no evidence that the Sabbath in the text refers at all to the annual Sabbaths which are all included under the words, holy day. We have the new moon, the annual holy convocations, and the Sabbath, all expressed in the text. The Sabbath day was a shadow of good things to come.... We have seen that the Jewish [Sabbath] day was a commemoration of deliverance, and as such was a shadow of the deliverance through Christ....The Saturday Sabbath being a sign of the Mosaic covenant, and of the deliverance from Egypt, must pass away with that covenant. Id., at 90.
Thus, this author who trusts Paul as inspired admits Paul abolished Sabbath. The author unwittingly thereby proves Paul is a false prophet under the Word of God that preceded Paul. Paul taught believers in Christ (whether Jew or Gentile) not to follow a command from God in the Ten Commandments (aka 'the Testimony') -- the Sabbath command -- which proves him a false prophet. (Deut. 13:1-5.). See also Isaiah 8:20 ("To the law and to the testimony [i.e., the Ten Commandments]: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.")
What About Sunday? Any Necessity To Go To Church or Rest Then Either?
And, importantly, if one accepts Paul's reasoning in Romans 14:5-6, what happens to Sunday as our replacement-Sabbath? Our substitute? If you follow Paul, no one has to adhere to that either. It is just custom, and unlike the true Sabbath, Sunday has utterly no Biblical support for it as a day of observance of rest. As Peter Ditzel confesses from a Pauline-approving perspective:
Let’s face it. Paul makes no exception. He says it is perfectly acceptable to esteem every day alike, which is the same as esteeming no day in particular. He gives no hint whatsoever that either the seventh day or the first day are exceptions to what he is saying. (Pete Ditzel, "What is the Christian Sabbath?" Part 4.)
The only denomination that follows this Pauline principle to its letter are the Jehovah Witnesses:
The Jehovah's Witness do not observe any day as the sabbath, they meet on different days of the week as is convenient... Usually Sunday, but not always, as they believe that the old testament was done away with which includes the Torah and the 10 Commandments. ("Which Day Is The Jehovah Witnesses' Sabbath," WikiAnswers (12/14/2012).)
So it is fair for us to say Paul not only abolished sabbath but all kinds of religious festivals.
The consequence is Paul must be a false prophet by God's stern criteria in Deut. 13:1-5.
See our reprinting of ch. 20 of the work by a Jewish scholar, Abraham Millgram, Sabbath: Day of Delight (1965) where he discusses "Paul abolished Sabbath." He discusses also how this did not catch on until the 300s when the Gentile-dominated church supplanted finally the teachings of Jesus and the original apostles who Millgram says were Torah-observant on Sabbath and other Torah-principles.
For a rebuttal claiming the Sabbath was not "perpetual" for all generations, even though OLAM in Hebrew of Original Testament is translated that way, and instead it supposedly could mean a "long time," see "What Is The Christian Sabbath, part 2." However, while true, the Bible said the Law would exist OLAM for all generations. This means it would endure for all generations. Thus after there is no more generations, i.e., until there is no more giving in marriage, the Law endures.
The same article incorrectly argues: "The only people in the New Testament who try to enforce Sabbath keeping and who accuse others of Sabbath breaking are the Pharisees and their ilk." Id.
But the issue there between Jesus and the Pharisees was not about keeping Sabbath any more, but when was work a violation. Jesus said in essence that doing good is never prohibited on Sabbath. He did not say there is no more Sabbath, and thus no more need to even bother with the issue whether you can violate it by doing good works or not. Jesus' answers all assumed the Sabbath principle continues. Jesus just corrected the over zealous analysis by the religious leaders of what 'rest' vs. 'work' meant in interpretation of a Sabbath violation.
This same article quotes in triumph against the notion we should keep Sabbath that Luther says that if we must keep sabbath, we must also keep circumcision when we all know James interpreted we do not have to do so. For Luther wrote against his initial partner who co-founded the Reformation -- Carlstadt -- but who insisted we must restore the true Sabbath:
“Indeed, if Carlstadt were to write further about the Sabbath, Sunday would have to give way, and the Sabbath - that is to say, Saturday - must be kept holy; he would truly make us Jews in all things, and we should come to be circumcised: for that is true, and cannot be denied, that he who deems it necessary to keep one law of Moses, and keeps it as the law of Moses, must deem all necessary, and keep them all” (“Against the Celestial Prophets” as quoted in The Life of Martin Luther in Pictures, p. 147).
But again, the circumcision command was only upon Israelites in Leviticus 12:1-3. Otherwise, the Bible said the Sabbath had to be obeyed by all sojourners / foreigners in community with Israel. Hence, one can defend a Gentile-Christian should keep Sabbath but that is not the same as defending a Gentile must be circumcised. Torah / the Law makes this distinction and is perfectly consistent. Those who say otherwise are simply ill-informed about the Law which is not surprising because they denigrate it as totally void.
God's Prophecy Of Sabbath in The Kingdom of God
Bernard Harland makes a good point about the Sabbath in prophecy in Isaiah as contradictory of Paul's claims -- at this link, which I excerpt a portion here:
The prophet Isaiah prophesied of a time in the future (in the Kingdom of God) when every nation will come to worship the Lord in accordance with the laws and ordinances of Moses. However, they are the same laws and ordinances that Paul says Christ nailed to his cross. If this were true (and it is not) then Christ destroyed these words of the prophet Isaiah also.
Isa 66:23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.
If Christ did nail these holy ordinances to his cross, then this prophecy of Isaiah could never be fulfilled. Why would God require all flesh (the citizens of the new world) to keep a law that Christ abolished on his cross? No sane person would burn down a house that would be needed in the future!
The Law of Moses will be kept by the citizens of the Kingdom of God because heaven and earth will not have passed away at that time. The Law of Moses will be in effect until Rev 21:1 is fulfilled.
Revelation 21:1 says:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.