Friday, April 6, 2018

Review of Sabbath Debate with Doug Batchelor and Steve Gregg

Here is the debate:


Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20: 8-11

Steve Gregg began the debate with explaining that the word in the text above, Sabbath or "shabbat," means rest or cessation. He pointed out that if we do not read anything into the text or add any assumptions, God commands that the seventh-day is to be a day of ceasing labor for everyone in a person's household. 

In addition to Mr. Gregg, I would like to point out what this commandment does not say nor imply. The commandment does not say is a weekly rest. 
At the time of the Exodus, the days were counted by the moon phases not from an independent weekly system. The text itself gives no indication if this was a seventh-day from each moon phase or from each month or from each yearly cycle. In fact, the pagan Roman system of weekly cycle, independent from phases of and the rotation of the moon and stars--the one we observe today--did not come around until well over a thousand years after God gave this commandment. So to infer that this must be a weekly seventh-day like in today's cycle is not anywhere in the text. That does not mean I do not think it is referring to a cycle of Sabbaths in the month that correspond to a seventh-day. I am simply pointing out that the text does not include that. We have to go outside of the actual wording to find the meaning of it in Hebrew tradition.

The fact that in Exodus 20: 8-11 God refers back to the Creation story also gives no more information about when this seventh-day was. There have been Hebrew scholars that suggested that at first man commemorated this Holy Day on the seventh-day of the solar year. This is because within the creation story there was record of a weekly cycle beginning. 

We must go outside the Sabbath commandment to Israel's story in order to discover more about when and how God expected Israel to obey this commandment.

However, Pastor Gregg emphasized that if we were to look at this commandment without any assumptions, one point that should be enough to silence all objections of Adventists about Sabbath-keeping: Western civilization has a weekend in which most people cease from their regular labors—which is what the world sabbath means "ceasing." So basically with today's weekends off from regular labor, most people rest on the seventh day of the week


Pastor Batchelor claimed that the Sabbath day is different from all the other Mosaic laws because it was established at Creation before sin, that it was not instituted at Mt. Sinai. Pastor Doug brought this back up repeatedly. However, Mr. Gregg did not have time to rebut this except to point out that there is no evidence in the Genesis text that we are to do anything special on that day. That it was holy because God rested on the seventh day. And since God doesn't labor as does man-- so the assumption was it was a spiritual rest for the universe. Nor does the story imply, said Gregg, that a commandment was given to Adam and Eve. 

I would add that at Creation, God did not include a "morning and evening" with the seventh day as He had done with the other six days of creation because it was supposed to be an eternal rest. It was not simply a day, but the beginning of a holy rest without sin. It was only after sin that the sabbath would become a 24-hour period of ceasing of labor established right before the Ten Commandments were given on Mt. Sinai. 

Think about it, before sin man did not labor, that would only come as a punishment for Adam's disobedience. No labor? No need of rest from labor. So a physical day that would be set apart from a cycle of labor was unnecessary before sin. Therefore the original Sabbath was not a day of rest like in the Sabbath Commandment, but a spiritual rest in God that Jesus would restore in the New Covenant. The seventh-day rest at Creation was destroyed with sin and would not be restored until the Cross.

The first time the sabbath day was introduced in scripture is in Exodus sixteen right before Mt. Sinai. And it was not a blessing at that time but was a test of their loyalty, because Israel had been disobedient. 
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron… Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions…Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’ …” Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.
The Sabbath carried a capital punishment of stoning as we see in the story in Numbers 15: 32-36, where a man was found gathering on the Sabbath. The whole assembly stoned him outside the camp. 


Mr. Gregg would make the point that the Ten Commandments was the exclusive, eternal covenant with Israel and the Sabbath is its sign. The Ten Commandments was the covenant and the Sabbath was the sign of Israel's Covenant with God. Ex. 34: 28, "He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments."

It was a sign in order to distinguish them from others. If others kept the Sabbath, that would take away Israel's mark of distinction--the distinction of being holy unto God.

Forty years after Mt. Sinai, when Moses repeated the Ten Commandments right before Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses said, "The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain... The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.  It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. Deut. 5: 1-3

Moses was meaning that it was not with Abraham, Isaac or Jacob. Those were the ancestors Moses was speaking of. The Ten Commandments were exclusively given to Israel beginning at Mt. Sinai. 


At that same time, Moses changed the Sabbath Commandment in Deuteronomy 5.
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. ....Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

I would ask Doug, "Why, if the Ten Commandment tablets written by God's hand were then sitting in the tabernacle in the Holy of Holies, why would Moses change the wording of the Sabbath commandment when he gave the Ten Commandments the second time right before they entered Canaan?"It seems pretty obvious to me that Moses changes the reason for remembering the Sabbath. The reason went from a people who had just been released and had no idea who God was and they were to remember a Creator, to a remembrance of a Redeemer God who powerfully set them free. Moses omitted the original reason for the Sabbath remember. 

In any case, it is curious that of all the commandments, Moses felt free to change the fourth one--not going by the text of the original written by God's own hand.

Pastor Doug made the quip that we forget the only command we are supposed to remember. However, that is based on a straw man.

Christians do not forget Sabbath—that is why Sabbath is the seventh day in over a hundred languages. No one is forgetting sabbath by observing the new covenant.

There are many things God told us to remember. God's commanded people to remember many other things than the Sabbath. In Genesis 9, God told Noah to remember the everlasting covenant He had made with not only all humans but animals too: Remember the rainbow and the flood. God told Israel in Numbers 15:39 and Malachi 4:4 to remember all the commandments to obey them—He was not specific about the sabbath. Also, God told them to remember how they roused His anger in Duet. 9:7. A number of times God told them to remember that they were slaves in Egypt and their inheritance, the promised land. As well as things such as "Remember the days of your youth." (Eze,. 16: 22, 43, 60)

I know Adventist will say, "But these other "remembers" were not in the Ten Commandments. But when God commands something, it is just as an inviolable command as the Ten.

Just like Adventists only point to the word eternal when it applies to the Sabbath and ignore it all the other times God says laws are eternal, they do the same with remember as if the Sabbath was the only things God told Israel to remember.

And one of the most important things Adventists forget is when Christ said for His followers to remember something. The REMEMBRANCE was transferred from Sabbath to Lord's Supper when Christ said, "Do this in remembrance of me."


Pastor Doug continued to call the Sabbath Commandment the "heart" or "middle" of the Ten Commandments. So I decided to find out if that were correct. Numerically it is not the middle... that would be half way through the fifth commandment. So I did a word count and the Ten Commandments (Ex.20 version) contain 316 words. The Sabbath Commandment contains 89 words. There are 151 words before it and 76 after. Again, it is not the middle.

What about percentage of the commandments is each of the ten? Pastor Batchelor said the Sabbath commandment was the longest commandment? Is this true? So below is the breakdown.

No Other God’s Commandment
126 words .398%
Lord’s Name Commandment
25 words .079 %
Sabbath Commandment
89 words .281%
Honor Parents Commandment
24 words .075%
Murder Commandment
21 words .066%
Adultery Commandment
 5 words .015%
Steal Commandment 
4 words .012%
False Witness Commandment
 9 words .028%
Covet Commandment
30 words .095%

However, that whole idea is weird because the number of words in a commandment surely has no bearing on its importance because that would make the stealing commandment the "least of these."


Doug Batchelor (at minute 45:40) explains the reasons for keeping the Sabbath. "The Sabbath is a time for corporate worship. It's a time for physical rest. It's a memorial of creation, memorial of redemption." He stated that church attendance on Saturday/Sabbath was a regulation imposed on the seventh-day by Leviticus 23. 

Here is how Leviticus 23 begins: 
Speak unto the children of Israel and say unto them concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
Indeed in verse three we find the weekly Sabbath to be a time of assembly, but not just the weekly sabbaths, but the Passover, the Firstfruits, the Festival of Weeks, the Festival of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement. All of these are sabbaths in which there is to be no work as well as having a sacred assembly or Holy Convocation. And interestingly, not all of these Sabbaths fall on the seventh day. 

Steve Gregg responded that the Sabbath commandment did not require anything but rest. It was the Ceremonial/Levitical laws that added things like a corporate worship. If Adventists insist that we keep all the Levitical laws added to the rest, then we must be consistent and also refrain from kindling a fire, baking, gathering food, buying and selling and we must stay in our tents. 

However, Gregg concluded that Israel indeed thought the sabbath rest in the wilderness was pointing towards the rest they would get in the Promised Land (Joshua 1: 13) but it was actually fulfilled in Christ.


The idea of stone symbolizing "eternal" in scripture is something I have heard since a child. A quick search of the scriptures will tell you a very different story. A stone does not symbolize the idea of eternity or foreverness, but is used many times to mean God Himself or His leaders. See Genesis 49: 24, Isaiah 8:14;28:16, Jeremiah 2:27; Daniel 2: 34-45, Matthew 21:42, 44; Ephesians 2:20; I Peter 2:4-8.

Part II Next


Anonymous said...

God didn't just say, "Remember the Sabbath day." He said, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." That along with the fact that Christ kept the Sabbath, even in death, is all the proof one should need.

Teresa Beem said...

So when Jesus kept the Jewish annual feasts and God said to keep them holy (Lev. 23) and He kept them until His death is that all the proof you need to keep Yom Kippur and sacrifice animals?

If all that is needed is the Ten Commandments, why even read the rest of scripture?

Take some time to read my review and then get back with me about it. You seem to think it is okay to ignore what Jesus said on the Mount of Olives and what the Apostles said. I believe the whole Bible, not just the Ten Commandments.

Anonymous said...

You're so condescending. It's no wonder people don't comment on your posts!

Teresa Beem said...

Thank you for your input anonymous, but I can assure you I don't write with condescension. If you are reading it that way, you are misunderstanding me. Could you explain to me what comes across condescending so that I can improve my writing skills?

SMH said...

Yes,Anonymous, I agree with the fact that God said to keep the Sabbath holy. However,it also says in 1 Cor 3: 16-17, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy." So, why do you put the new covenant Temple of God, where the Holy Spirit dwells,above the Sabbath commandment? A temple which is Jesus's bride; a marriage which no human is to put asunder? A bride which is also the body of Christ? For the two join together to become one as it has been since the beginning. Do you not understand, yet, this is why Christ sacrificed Himself on a cross; crucified to maintain the union in marriage with His bride? Show me, then, where it says that God will destroy a person for destroying the Sabbath day the same as it says about the new temple. Especially since the Sabbath commandment has now been fulfilled in Christ. And even more so, since the Sabbath day commandment, or those ancient Israelites in power's misinterpretation of that commandment, used it to judge Him and have Him crucified. Do you really think that was in keeping the Sabbath holy? Yet, you still interpret the Sabbath in this manner;to judge and continue the persecution of Christ. Yes, Jesus kept the Sabbath, but not in the same manner as the Israelites at the time. And yet, you still follow their way and not His. In 1 John 2:5-6 it states, "... whoever keeps His word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him OUGHT TO LIVE [just] AS HE LIVED." We are to live the New Covenant Sabbath in showing love to others, not in bringing them down. May God's blessing and peace be with you.

Unknown said...

The 'Remember'in the sabbath commandment of Exodus 20:8...isn't referring to the first seventh day in Genesis. God is telling the Israelites to REMEMBER to keep resting on the seventh day that they (Israelites)were first given in Exodus 16. Another way of putting it is: God says to Israel 'Don't forget I gave you a day of rest, the sabbath, a few weeks ago.....I want you to keep on doing it'. In the sabbath commandment it self, God included the creation/rest account. The sabbath is a memorial of God's work and rest that he had done.
The Dueteronomy 5 sabbath commandment is a memorial of God's redemptive work which it the reason why the Israelite community were to rest. This Dueteronomy version excludes gentiles in 2018.

Unknown said...

The 'remember' aspect of the sabbath commandment in Exodus 20:8 refers to the giving of the day of rest in Exodus 16 to a newly redeemed people. God in other words is saying to the Israelites "Don't forget to keep resting on the seventh day that I gave you a few weeks ago....keep doing it". The sabbath commandment in Exodus 20 is a memorial of the work and rest he had done.
The Dueteronomy 5 version of the sabbath commandment gives the reason why, to whom it should be observed. Again, God's redemptive work in freeing the Israelites is the rest for the day of rest for the Israelites. This memorial is God's redemptive work.
Christians today have a memorial in God's works in the Gospel of Jesus. This is far more important than the Mt. Sinai event. We rest in God's promises of salvation, justification, redemption, reconciliation and peace through the blood of Jesus. Jesus gives rest for our souls. God bless

Teresa Beem said...

Amen! Thanks for the comments "unknown!"

Unknown said...

I hear Sunday keepers all the time saying"if my people who are called by my name....
Quote this for America. Both groups wrong but we share the essentials of Jesus born, crucified, risen so all is well.

Patrick Hodge said...


Unknown said...

Great article. How do we proceed to the Part two of the article?