Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University


A PERSONAL NOTE. This is the eighth segment of the ongoing Sabbath discussion between Dale Ratzlaff and myself. This discussion is generating considerable interest as indicated by the fact that over 3000 people of different persuasions from around the world have already requested to be placed on the special SABBATH UPDATES mailing list. If you receive this installment from a friend and wish to be added to the list, feel free to contact me at My plan is to share with the members of this mailing list, my analysis of significant End-time developments.

Last week, for example, I emailed to the members of the SABBATH UPDATES mailing list my analysis of two important documents. The first dealt with the newly released Pastoral Letter of Pope John Paul II where he makes a passionate plea for a revival of Sunday onservance. A significant aspect of this historic document is the Pope's appeal to civil governments to promulgate a Sunday Rest legislation to facitlitate Sunday observance. The second document I analyzed was the article "Why the Lord's Day Matters to Me?" that appeared on the last issue of the SUNDAY magazine, the official publication of the Lord's Day Alliance of the USA. The article is by Rodney Nelson, a former Adventist who most likely was a pastor or Bible teacher because he is fluent in Greek. Surprisingly he explains why he rejected the Sabbath and adopted Sunday as the Lord's Day.

I need to clarify that Ratzlaff emailed me the present essay on 7/9/98, but unfortunately I never received it. He resent it on 7/16/98 but it arrived while I was out of town. Sorry for the delay in posting this important presentation of Ratzlaff's attempt to make the Sabbath an Old Covenant sign strikingly similar to circumcision, both of which were allegedly nailed to the Cross. I am submitting a preliminary response to Ratzlaff's essay, as I intend to address more fully certain issues in subsequent posts.



In a previous post I mentioned that Ratzlaff's book THE SABBATH IN CRISIS has influenced many to abandon the Sabbath. I mentioned specifically the Worldwide Church of God and several former Adventist pastors who have recently established independent "Gospel" oriented congregations.

The information I gave about Clay Peck,a former Adventist pastor who has established the Grace Place congregation in Colorado, was not completely accurate. I was told that he has abandoned the Sabbath and moved church services to Sunday. The latter has proven to be false because at this point in time the Grace Place congregation still meets on Saturday. I posted a correction and apology.

Some members of Grace Place congregation were deeply offended by my post because they told me that Peck has not been influenced by Ratzlaff, he is deeply committed to the Sabbath, and has not moved the church service to Sunday. One concerned member of Grace Place called me to reassure me that he is a committed Adventist who would never consider giving up the Sabbath. He went on explaining to me that he joined Grace Place because he felt that the Rocky MT. Conference had not treated Peck fairly. In his view Peck has never suggested in his sermons that Christ is the fulfilment of the Sabbath. If that should prove to be true, then he would leave the church.

This member and others of like mind will be sorely disappointed if they take time to read Clay Peck's booklet NEW COVENANT CHRISTIANS (90 pages), which contains six sermons he preached at his Grace Place congregation. In many ways this booklet is a summary of Ratzlaff's THE SABBATH IN CRISIS. Peck himself acknowledges in the introduction that he was "most challenged and instructed by a book entitled THE SABBATH IN CRISIS by Dale Ratzlaff."

Peck's booklet made me wonder why some members of his Grace Place congregation were so deeply offended by my remarks, when Peck clearly states that "Christ is fulfilment of the Sabbath. He is our rest. The reality has come to which the Sabbath foreshadowed" (p. 88). For Peck the Sabbath is no longer a day to observe but the existential reality of salvation-rest. He writes: "If you have accepted Jesus and are depending on him alone for salvation, then you have rested from your own work . . . you are experiencing the Sabbath-rest that God want you to have, not just once a week, but 'Today' and every day" (p. 88).

In a future post I plan to unmask the fallacies of this existential interpretation of the Sabbath which negates the need for its observance. At this point let me simply say that to retain the Sabbath as the symbol of salvation-rest while denying the need for its observance, is like retaining the Lord's Supper as the symbol of Christ's atoning sacrifice, while negating the need to partake of the emblems of the bread and wine.

What Peck, Ratzlaff and supporters fail to recognize is the the Sabbath, like the Lord's Supper or Baptism, are divine institutions designed to help us conceptualize and internalize the reality of salvation. This means that to do away with the Sabbath means to do away with a sacred ordinance designed to help us conceptualize and internalize the spiritual reality of salvation. As Hebrews 4:10 explains, we cease from our work on the Sabbath to enter into God's rest. John Calvin aptly expresses this truth when referring to Hebrews 4:10, say that believers on the Sabbath are "to cease from their work to allow god to work in them" (Institutes, vol 2, p. 339).

If the booklet NEW COVENANT CHRISTIANS reflects what Peck preaches to his congregation, then it is evident that either some people do not understand what he preaches, or that he is ambiguous enough to allow people to believe that he still holds to the continuity of the Sabbath, when in reality he does not. When the latter becomes better known, some members of his congregation will be sorely disappointed with him. In a forthcoming essay I will explain why Peck/Ratzlaff's understanding of the Sabbath as being a daily salvation-rest experience rather than the observance of the seventh day, not only grossly misrepresents the Biblical teachings, but also destroys a vital institution designed to help believers experience the reality of salvation-rest.



In a pleasant telephone conversation Dale Ratzlaff confirmed to me that he conducts his church service for his congregation in Phoenix, AZ, not on Saturday but on Sunday. He has also a Wednesday night meeting and meets with a group of young people on Saturday night. Will Clay Peck and the other former Adventist pastors who in recent years have established independent "grace" oriented churches follow Ratzlaff's example in moving their church services to Sunday? I have reasons to believe that they will certainly do it. It is just a matter of time.

How can I be so sure? For two reasons. First, because of the example of the Worldwide Church of God. Their congreations are gradually moving their church services to Sunday. Some of WWCG leaders have recently stated in their forum that a move from Saturday to Sunday church services has become a necessity to help their congregations make a radical break with what they perceive to be Old Covenant institutions. Second, Sunday services makes them look more "evangelical" and thus better able to attract Sundaykeepers.

The historical reality is that the acceptance of the New Covenant theology leads not only to the abandonment of the principle and practice of Sabbathkeeping, but also to the adoption of Sundaykeeping, if nothing else to distance oneself from what what is regarded as an important releic of the Old Covenant.

My comments this time will be more limited in nature. First, I will respond to Ratzlaff's introductory observations and then I will deal in a general way with his attempt to link the Sabbath with circumcision, in order to make them both Old Covenant signs that terminated at the Cross. Currently I am preparing a study on the relationship between the Sabbath and the Old/New Covenants which I hope to post within a couple of weeks. In that study I will deal in greater depth with Ratzlaff/Peck's fundamental thesis that the Sabbath is part of the Old Covenant cerimonies terminated at the Cross.



Dr. Bacchiocchi

First, I want to thank you for recognizing the impact that THE SABBATH IN CRISIS has made in the lives of so many people. When people read what it says in context, it must say something or so many people would not be making such major changes!



There is no question in my mind that your book has exercised considerable influence. I just received an email message from Gerhard Pfandl, Field Secretary of the South Pacific Division where he says that your book "is causing waves in our churches here in the SPD as well."

I only wish that it were true that most people evaluate Biblical teachings on the basis of their faithfulness to the immediate and larger contexts. If that were the case, Christianity would not be plagued by so many errors. The truth of the matter is that most people read into Bible texts their own presuppostions, often ignoring the key words of the text, the immediate and larger context, as well as the overall teaching of Scripture.

Your method of Biblical interpretation is a perfect example, as I have shown it in part 4 of the debate where I examined your interpretation of Colossians 2:14-17 as a case study. I pointed out how you ignored the context of the passage as well as the contribution of modern scholarship to the understanding of such key words as "cheirographon," the "written document" that was nailed to the Cross. Both the context and the extra-Biblical use of cheirographon make it abundantly clear that the document nailed to the Cross was not the Old Covenant Law (as you claim), but the record of our sins. The term "law-nomos" is conspicously absent in the whole epistle, though it frequently occurs in other Pauline epistles.

Why do you persist in identifying the "written document" with the Old Covenant Law when such interpretation lacks textual and contextual support? Presumably because you are more concerned to prove that the Sabbath terminated at the Cross rather than to understand what Paul is saying in this passage. The result is that you to interpret Colossians 2:16 as a Pauline condemnation of the Sabbath, when modern scholarship has clearly shown that a careful study of the context indicates that Paul is warning not against the observance of festivals, but against the right of the false teachers to "pass judgment" on how to observe them. The Apostle is challenging not the validity of the festivals as such but the authority of the false teachers to legislate on the manner of their observance.

Your assumption that "so many people would not be making such major changes [in rejecting the Sabbath]" if your conclusions were unsound, ignores the fact that people are apt to accept what best supports their views and lifestyle. Paul warns us on this regard, saying: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings" (2 Tim 4:3). People who find the Sabbath a day of frustration rather than of joyful celebration of God's creative and redemptive love, undoubtedly will welcome your abrogation interpretation of the Sabbath, because it gives them a justification for doing what they wanted to do in the first place, namely, to spend the Sabbath seeking for their own pleasure and profit rather than for the presence and peace of god in their lives.



Second, I want to say a few words about method. You will note that I am not responding to any of the texts you bring which do not deal with the part of Scripture under study. These texts will all be dealt with later IN CONTEXT. When I did my long study of the Sabbath I had no axe to grind. I had left the SDA church two years earlier but was a pastor of a church still worshiping on the Sabbath. I had no reason to leave the Sabbath and no reason to not leave the Sabbath other than the teachings of Scripture. Therefore, I believe I was in a unique position to look at the subject objectively. It was not until I got to the New Testament that I saw a new paradigm. Suddenly, I saw all the facts that we had listed earlier from the contextual study of each part, fit together into a new picture with Christ at the center, and not a day.

I feel you are very much defending a position rather than looking only at the text under consideration. And I certainly can understand that considering where you are coming from. Let me illustrate. I am sure that you have seen the picture used to illustrate paradigm. It a black and white picture of a head of a women. One person can look at it and see an ugly old lady. Another can look at it and see a attractive young lady. It is all a matter of paradigm. How this applies to our study is this. If we try to interpret the seventh-day in Genesis by appealing to Exodus, Hebrews 4, etc. We are trying to force the paradigm. When we get to Exodus 20, doubtless, you will interpret it by the conclusions we reached in Genesis. When we get to Hebrews 4, you will doubtless interpret it by the conclusion reached in Genesis and Exodus 20. All this sounds good, however, it is nearly circular reasoning.

It would be likegoing back to the picture of the ugly woman and attractive young girl--to argue that because a particular part of the picture is a nose and therefore could be nothing else. When in reality, it may be a nose of the ugly old women when seen through one paradigm, but it may also be the chin of an attractive young girl when seen through another paradigm. Therefore in my response, I intend to only state what each verse says in context. Lets draw the complete picture from the FACTS of Scripture and then look for the picture to emerge from the facts when it is complete. I want to find out everything a given section of Scripture says but I do not want to try to make it say more than it says. Hopefully, this will make sense and explain why I am not answering all the many texts you put up to "interpret" what the text under consideration ACTUALLY SAYS.



To argue that the interpretation of the Bible is "all a matter of paradigm," means to reject the self-authenticating authority of the Bible. Ultimately this view destroys the normative authority of the Scripture because the teachings of the Bible are allegedly a matter of private interpretation.

You wrote: "If we try to interpret the seventh-day in Genesis by appealing to Exodus, Hebrews 4, etc. We are trying to force the paradigm. When we get to Exodus 20, doubtless, you will interpret it by the conclusions we reached in Genesis. When we get to Hebrews 4, you will doubtless interpret it by the conclusion reached in Genesis and Exodus 20. All this sounds good, however, it is nearly circular reasoning."

Dale, your contention that interpreting the seventh day in Genesis in the light of Exodus 20:11 or of Hebrews 4:4, means "trying to force the paradigm" or reasoning in "circular reasoning" is totally wrong. Why? Because it ignores that the fullest meaning of a Biblical text is determined by bringing together all the relevant passages. This procedure is justified by the recognition of the undelying unity of the Bible.

This is your problem, Dale. Let me explain. First, you conclude that the divine act of resting, blessing, and sanctifying the seventh day at creation, was not meant to make the Sabbath a peaceful "condition" in a sinless world, rather than a permanent institution for mankind, and then you use your unwarranted interpretation to explain all the other relevant Biblical passages. This is the kind of faulty circular reasoning you are talking about. You cannot make your faulty intepretation of the seventh day in Genesis the criteria by which to interpret the rest of the witness of the Bible. Instead, you must allow the rest of the Bible, especially the witness of Jesus, to determine whether or not God intended the seventh day to be a creational institution for mankind (Mark 2:27), or, a peaceful "condition" that would exist in a sinless world.

Regarding the seventh day in Genesis, let me share with you a perceptive comment from a paper I received from Roy Gane, Ph. D., an Old Testament Professor here at our Seminary. Gane wrote: "On each of the first six days of creation, God did something which had on-going results for our world. Thus, we expect that what he did on the seventh day would also have earthly on-going results.

"God set up cyclical time even before man was created (Gen 1:3-5, 14-18). According to Genesis 1:14, God made heavenly luminaries, chiefly the sun and moon (vs. 16), to mark earthly time as "signs," "seasons," i.e. appointed times, days and years. So when Genesis 2:3 says that God blessed and hallowed the seventh day, this blessing and consecration could be on-going in a cyclical sense, applying to each subsequent seventh day. In fact, the seventh day Sabbath provides a plausible explanation for the origin of the week, which is not defined by the movement of heavenly bodies (cp. Cassuto 1967: 244)." The important point Gane makes is that all what God accomplished during the creation week, included the septenary structure of time built on the Sabbath, was meant to have on-going results for mankind.



I have listed the summary facts I got from the Genesis account. I believe and I may be wrong here that you agree with my summary statements but think they should be expanded by bringing other texts to bear upon them. At this point, I am just going to stick with what is explicitly said, nothing more and nothing less.



The problem, Dale, is not so much your summary statements of the Genesis account, but the way you interpret such statements to build a case for a Mosaic origin of the Sabbath. For example, you make the statement "There is no command for mankind to rest in the Genesis account"(p. 25). The statement is true. What is wrong is the way you interpret the absence of a command, as indicating that the Sabbath is not a creational institution. Your interpretation is wrong because it ignores that Genesis is a book of origins and not of commands.

None of the Ten Commandments are ever mentioned in Genesis, yet we know that their principles were known because we are told, for example: "Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws" (Gen 26:5). You also ignore that God revealed the moral nature of the Sabbath by making it a rule of His divine conduct. Is a principle established by divine example less binding than one enunciated by a divine command? Do not actions speak louder than words? More important still you ignore the witness of the rest of Scripture, especially of Christ, who explicitly stated that "The Sabbath was made for mankind" (Mark 2:27), and not just for the Jews.

Your strategy, Dale, is to trap me into accepting early statements in order to make it difficult for me to reject your later conclusions built upon them. This strategy does not work with me because I know where you are heading to. I look at all your statements in the light of your overall objective, which is to negate the universality and continuity of the Sabbath. My proposal, Dale, is for you to change your strategy. Rather than asking me to accept or reject your simplistic statements, it would be better for you to take time to respond to my analysis of your arguments, including my essay on your methodology. You have failed to respond to my examination of your arguments and methodology, presumably because you are at a loss to deal with them. I had the same experience with a Church of Christ evangelist who invited me a couple of years ago to debate the Sabbath/Sunday question on cyberspace. The debate did not last very long, because the evangelist could not rationally exegete the Biblical and historical data regarding the Sabbath/Sunday question.



With this long introduction, I now turn to a study of the old covenant. I am not going to list the all the biblical evidence for it. It is thoroughly documented in Sabbath in Crisis. Again, look at this list and see if we can agree on what is said about the old covenant IN THE OLD COVENANT without bring numerous N. T. texts to bear yet. Save that for later!


Summary of the Old Covenant:

1. The biblical covenants in general, and the Sinaitic Covenant in particular, closely follow the form of other ancient, Near East treaties.

a. There is a covenant promise of the suzerain to the vassal.

b. There is a covenant promise of the ruled party to suzerain.

c. The document which contains the covenant agreement has the sign of that covenant in the very center of the document.

d. Two identical copies of the covenant document are made.

e. The document(s) are placed in the house of the vassals god who is called to witness the oath of the covenant.

(the information in No. 1 comes from historical studies, see foot notes in SIC, it is important only in that it helps us SEE what is IN Scriptrue)

2. In the Noahic Covenant:

a. God promised never again to destroy the earth with a flood of water.

b. Noah was commanded never to eat flesh with its blood in it.

c. The sign of this covenant was the rainbow.

3. In the Abrahamic Covenant:

a. God promised to multiply Abrahams descendants, make him a father of many nations, have kings of people come from him and give to him and his descendants the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession.

b. Abraham was to walk in integrity and change his name from Abram to Abraham as an act of belief.

c. The sign of the Abrahamic Covenant was circumcision.

4. The Sinaitic Covenant does not nullify the covenant provisions of the former covenants made with Noah and Abraham.

5. The stipulations of the Sinaitic Covenant were not a part of the covenant God made with Noah or Abraham.

6. The elements of the Sinaitic Covenant are three:

a. The Ten Commandments are the words of the Sinaitic Covenant. (see Ex 31:18; Deut 4:13; Deut 9:9,15; 1 King 8:9,21)

b. The "other laws" found in Exodus through Deuteronomy are the expanded version of the Sinaitic Covenant and are usually called "the book of the covenant," or "the book of the law."

c. The Sabbath was the sign of the Sinaitic Covenant and, as such, was placed in the very center of Ten Commandments.

7. The "book of the law" interpreted and applied the "tables of the law" to specific situations in the life of Israel.

8. The wording of the covenant of circumcision is nearly identical with the wording of the covenant of Sabbath. What is said of one is said of the other. (This important discovery I did not make in the SDA church. I will list the evidence for it.)

Notice the parallel in covenant language between these two signs as recorded in Genesis 17: 9- 14 and Exodus 31:12- 18; 20:12:

C.= Circumcision
S.= Sabbath

C."You shall keep My covenant" 17:9
S."You shall surely observe My sabbath" 31:13

C."Me and you and your descendants" 17:9
S."Me and the sons of Israel" 31:17

C."And you shall be circumcised" 17:11
S."You are to observe the sabbath" 31:14

C."Throughout your generations" 17:12
S."Throughout your generations" 31:13

C."The sign¼ between Me and you" 17:11
S."A sign between Me and you" 31:13

C."An everlasting covenant" 17:13
S."A perpetual covenant" 31:16

C."Uncircumcised . . . cut off" 17:14
S."Whoever does any work . . . cut off" 31:14

C.Servant to be circumcised 17:12
S.Servant to keep Sabbath 20:10

C.Sign of circumcision given at time of giving of the covenant 17:1- 9
S.Sign of Sabbath given at time of giving of the covenant 31:18

C.Circumcision mentioned 6 times
S.Sabbath mentioned 6 times

The similarities in wording, style and time of giving, are too striking to be accidental. And the similarity is even more apparent in the original language. For example, "everlasting" (Gen. 17:13) and "perpetual" (Ex. 31:16) are translations from the same Hebrew word, olam. It is important that we understand the relationship between circumcision and Sabbath and see the role they play in the Sinaitic Covenant. Circumcision was the entrance sign into the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants. It was the initiatory or entrance sign of the covenant by which one became a member of the covenant community. The Passover feast was a celebration for the covenant community only. In the following reference circumcision served as the entrance sign into the covenant community and thus gave one the right to participate in the Passover (or covenant) celebration. (Ex. 12:43,44,48)

The Sabbath, in a similar way, was the continuing sign of the covenant Israel was to "remember." It was a ceremony observed weekly as a renewing of the covenant. As in the case with circumcision, if a foreigner desired to join in covenant fellowship he was to observe the Sabbath.

The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you¼ or the sojourner who stays with you (Ex. 20:10).

Notice how in the time of Isaiah the Sabbath was related to the covenant and how foreigners who joined themselves to Israel were expected to observe the Sabbath of the covenant.

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, "The Lord will surely separate me from his people." Neither let the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree." For thus says the Lord, "To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and holds fast My covenant" (Isa. 56:3- 6).

Circumcision was given to Israel as the one-time entrance sign into the covenant community. The Sabbath was given as the repeatable sign of the Sinaitic Covenant Israel was to "remember."

9. The covenant partners were God and the nation of Israel ONLY. No other people were included within this covenant. (I know SDAs do not want to accept this, please look closely what the Bible SAYS here. Again, this may not fit the SDA paradigm, don't try to make it fit just see what Scripture Says!)

10. The provisions of the Sinaitic Covenant were open to others, but only if they became circumcised, kept the Sabbath and were willing to abide by all the covenant stipulations.

11. The duration of the Sinaitic Covenant was said to be forever, eternal, perpetual, or "throughout your generations."

12. The purpose of the covenant was to provide the basis of fellowship between God and Israel and to serve as a witness in case of covenant violations.

13. Violations of the covenant included violations of the Ten Commandments, the other laws in the "book of the covenant," or the signs of the covenant: Sabbath and circumcision.

14. Provision was made for the difference between intentional and unintentional sin.

a. An Israelite was put to death or cut off from the covenant community for intentional sin.

b. An Israelite who committed unintentional sin was provided atonement conditional on the fulfillment of certain sacrifices.

15. The Sinaitic Covenant is characteristically a law covenant.

16. The Sinaitic Covenant is minutely detailed as if it were written for immature people.

17. The Sinaitic Covenant is a mediated covenant with a key leader standing between God and the sons of Israel.

Dr. Bacchiocchi, do you agree that the above statements are what the Bible Says? Please do not bring in other N. T. texts at this time. Let us first agree with what it Says. OK?

In His Joy,

Dale Ratzlaff

P.S. I may not have time to respond to the next message until next week.



The overall objective of your 17 statements is simply to show that the Sabbath and circumcision are strikingly similar temporary signs of the Old Covenant. By equating the Sabbath with circumcision you are paving the way for arguing later (chapter 12 of your book) for their termination and replacement. You maintain that in the New Covenant the circumcision was replaced with baptism, and the Sabbath was replaced with the Lord's Supper (p. 185). The latter claim is totally devoid of Biblical and historical support, as I will show in a later essay.

A close analysis of each of your statements would require more time and space than is available to me. Thus, I will limit myself to briefly point out some of the fundamental problems of your methodology and conclusions. In forthcoming essays I will address some of these specific points in greater depth.



The fundamental problem I see in the statements above, Dale, is your failure to grasp the Biblical view of the covenant, which is God's commitment to save His people. You speak constantly the Sinaitic convenant as if it consisted primarily of legal stipulations between God and the Israelites, like the secular covenant of the time. You say, for example, "The Sinaitic Covenant is characteristically a law covenant."

You ignore that one striking characteristic of the Biblical covenant, not found in the ancient political covenants, is God's emotional appeal to His people. The Lord says, for example: "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians; and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples" (Ex. 19:4-5). Though the covenant was based on God's revealed commandments which the people were expected to observe (Ex. 24:7; Deut. 27 :1), its ultimate function was to reveal God's saving grace in and through His people: "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6; cf. Deut. 14:1-2; 26:19).

The dichotomy that you make between law and grace is not present in the Old Covenant. Recent studies have shown that "it is with the demands of the commandments that God's grace becomes known. That is, it is not possible to equate the covenant with grace and then the commandments with law. The discrepancy between covenant and commandments (i.e., grace and law) in the way in which it has been understood in Protestantism does not exist in the Old Testament" (J. J. Stamm and M. E. Andrew, The Ten commandments in Recent Research, p. 70).



By focusing primarily on the Ten commandments and the "other laws" derived from them, you convey the impression that the Old Covenant was essentially a system of administration of law, and consequently it did not offer salvation by grace through faith like in the New Covenant. This is a misrepresentation of the Old Covenant which was based on God's gracious provision of salvation.

Note, Dale, that God introduces the Ten Commandments by reminding the people that He is their Deliverer: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Ex 20:2). It is because God has saved His people and want to make them "kingdom of priests and a holy nation" that He revealed to them both the principles of life and the provisions of grace. In fact, we read that when God invited Moses on "the seventh day" (Ex 24:16) to enter into the cloud of His glorious presence, He gave him the Ten commandments on the one hand and the provision of grace (blue print of the Tabernacle) on the other hand. In his dissertation IL SETTIMO GIORNO-THE SEVENTH DAY published by the Pontifical Gregorian University, Nicola Negretti that "the seventh day" marks not only the completion of creation but also the completion of God's revelation on Mt. Sinai of his principles of life and provision of grace.

The OT recognizes that in God's sight no one could be justified (Ps 143:2) by his own works, because justification is grounded in "the Lord Our rightesousness" (Jer 23:6). Righteousness had to be imputed in the Old Covenant even to father Abraham (Gen 15:6; cf. Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6). God's saints in the OT were people of faith (cf. Heb 11). The Old Covenant taught that "the righteous shall live by faith" (Hab 2:4; cf. Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11). Isaiah declares: "In the Lord all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous" (Is 45:25)."

Dale, listen carefully to the following profound statement from Prof. Greg Bahnsen: "If we allow the Bible to interpret itself and not infuse it with a preconceived theological antithesis between Old and New Covenants (Law and Gospel), we are compelled to conclude that the Old Covenant-indeed the Mosaic law- was a covenant of grace that offered salvation on the basis of grace through faith, just as does the Good News found in the New Testament. The difference was that the Mosaic or law-covenant looked ahead to the coming of the Savior, thus administering God's covenant by means of promises, prophecies, ritual sacrifices, types, and foreshadowings that anticipated the Savior and His redeeming work. The Gospel or the New Covenant proclaims the accomplishments of that which the law anticipated, administering God's covenant through preaching and the sacraments [Lord's Supper, Baptism ]. The substance of God's saving relationship and covenant is the same under the Law and Gospel" (The Law and the Gospel and the Modern Christian, p. 97).



Your primary concern, Dale, to prove that both the Sabbath and circumcision are Old Covenant institutions that were nailed to the Cross, has caused you to ignore several important questions:

a. Why did God choose the physical sign of circumcision and the spiritual sign of the Sabbath to constantly remind the Israelites of their covenant commitment to Him?

b. If the Sabbath was given as the sign of sanctification ("that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you" Ex 31:13) in the Old Covenant, why should such sign be abolished in the New Covenant? Do not Christians need such a sign of God's sanctifying presence in their lives?

c. Why did the first Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) exempt the Gentiles from circumcision but not from the Sabbath? Why did the brethren appeal to Moses saying that "he is read every Sabbath in the synagogue" (Acts 15:21)?

d. Why did Paul make a distinction between circumcision and the keeping of God's commandments when he said: "For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God" (1 Cor 7:29)? Does not this suggest that Paul (the NT) recognizes the difference between the temporary function of circumcision and the universal function of the Ten Commandments?

e. Where do you find any support in the NT for your claim that the Sabbath is replaced by the Lord's Supper? Did not Christ institute the Lord's Supper in the context of the Paschal Supper? Your claim is a pure fabbrication totally devoid of Biblical and historical support, as I will show in a later essay.



In closing, Dale, I would like to appeal to you to take time to reflect on the broad scope of the Sabbath that encompass creation, redemption, and final restoration. Rather than trying to negate the Sabbath by equating it with circumcision and the Old Covenant, why not explore why God has chosen the Sabbath to help believers in every age to express and experience a belonging relationship with Him. You will find this kind of theological reflection, a far more fruitful and rewarding endeavor. My heart has been warmed in reading the profound insights into the meaning and relevance of the Sabbath for today, from outstanding theologians like Karl Barth.

Within the next few days I plan to post an essay where I present seven reasons why God has chosen the Sabbath as the Sign of our Covenant commitment to him. I trust that these theological reflections on the Sabbath as a vital covenant sign for our Christian life, will help you, Dale, and many others to discover the Sabbath not as an alienating imposition, but as a divine invitation extended to us by God each week to fellowship with him and thus experience more fully and freely His sanctifying presence in our lives.

Christian regards

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.,
Professor of Theology and Church History, Andrews University