At a time when Christianity is often met with indignation or indifference, a video of a debate about following the biblical instructions regarding the Sabbath is going viral.
There are no Hollywood icons, sports stars, political talking heads or brand names featured, but more than 177,000 people already have viewed the debate about the fourth of the Ten Commandments.
The debate between pastors Jim Staley and Chris Rosebrough, moderated by WND CEO Joseph Farah, focused on the question, “Should Christians Keep the Sabbath?”
Staley, pastor of Passion for Truth Fellowship in St. Charles, Missouri, played host to the event, with Rosebrough, a Christian apologist and pastor of Kongsvinger Lutheran Church in Oslo, Minnesota, the visitor.
Staley, whose teaching videos are available through the WND Superstore, took the position that Christians today should continue to keep the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week, just as Jesus and His early followers did.
Rosebrough countered that the Sabbath laws were designed by God for the Israelites living under the Mosaic Covenant, and they no longer apply to believers in Jesus after He died on a cross and rose from the dead.
The latest and best of Pastor Staley’s teachings are now available at the WND Superstore, including “The Sons of God,” “The Great Deception,” “To Eat or Not to Eat,” “The Great Church,” “Truth or Tradition” and many more.
Staley cited instructions from Genesis, Isaiah, Zachariah and Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, and Mark, 1 John, Matthew and Romans in the New Testament.
“There are many people who say it (Sabbath) was given for Israel,” Staley said. “God, actually, from the very beginning, He never intended for all days to be the same. He put from the very beginning the sun and the moon in the sky to set so that he could have those special times and appointments and we wouldn’t miss them. So if the debate is going to be that we can choose the day (of rest) then we’re obliterating the day He put the sun and the moon and the stars in the sky.”
He said the Sabbath laws predated the Israelites, as they were alluded to in the Garden of Eden and in the days of Noah in the book of Genesis.
Staley sees the fourth commandment as no different than the other nine commandments in which believers are required to refrain from stealing, lying, coveting, murdering and committing adultery.
“If my children keep nine of my commandments but not one, which one am I going to remember?” Staley asked.
“In the tribulation (book of Revelation) we see God’s people defined by two things, not just that you love God but that you prove your love for God by what? Keeping his commandments.”
In A.D. 321 , the Roman Emperor Constantine required that all of Rome’s workshops be closed on the first day of the week, Sunday, which was the traditional day of observance to the pagan sun god.
See the full debate:
Rosebrough argued that Staley was misreading the text and missing the point of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
“The (fourth) commandment does not stand alone but is part of Torah,” he said. “This question cannot be answered solely by looking at the covenant. You cannot look just at the law. The early church fathers rightly understood this.”
To correctly interpret such Old Testament proclamations as “The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath forever,” one must dig a little deeper, he said.
“When you pay closer attention to the text, it is not saying the Sabbath will be observed for eternity,” Rosebrough said.
The Hebrew word “olam” does not always mean eternity but “for a time,’” he argued.
“As Old Testament scholar Harold Dressler said, it is not designed for all time but was a specific institution for Israel; it is not a covenant forever,” he said.
Rosebrough cited Hebrews 7, which says: “For when there is a change in the priesthood there is necessarily a change in the law as well.”
Also, Galatians 3:19 says the purpose of the law was to highlight transgressions “until the seed to whom the promise referred had come.”
“The law was our guardian so that we might be justified by faith,” Rosebrough said. “All of these clear passages that Christians are not under the law, and the law was but a shadow of good things to come, and therefore the idea that the earth and heaven shall pass away before the law is abolished does not mean it will never pass away. It’s an idiomatic statement, similar to our statement, ‘Until hell freezes over.’
Pointing to reality
Staley rebutted Rosebrough’s conclusions, saying that while much of the Torah uses types and shadows, those symbols also “pointed to reality.”
“If my opponent is correct, ladies and gentlemen, we can commit adultery, we can murder, because … if he is right we don’t have a single other definition of sin in the Bible.”
Staley noted the millions of dollars spent on overseas missions.
“If the law is done away with, there is no reason to tell them they need Jesus. For what? To save them from something that doesn’t exist?
“He came to remove the penalty, not the law,” Staley said. “Every one of the verses my opponent has brought up has been misunderstood.”
Rosebrough noted the difference between the two covenants of God.
“The reason they did not keep the Sabbath is because the Mosaic covenant is no longer in effect. Can we then commit adultery? Of course not.”
He cited the Epistle of Barnabas, saying early Christians kept the Sunday Sabbath “with joyfulness which is also the day Jesus rose from the dead.”
He cited Justin Martyr’s “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew,” written about 60 years after the death of the Apostle John, as evidence that the Jewish Sabbath was no longer required to be kept by Christians.
“He is very kind to the Jew he is talking to and lays all this out,” Rosebrough said.
At one point in the debate, Rosebrough turned to his opponent and asked: “Am I an apostate if I don’t keep the Sabbath?”
"It is a transgression against the law. That's different than being apostate. Torahlessness is lawlessness," Staley answered. "There’s only one law, my friend."
"No, actually, there is the law of Christ," Rosebrough responded.
"We see the Mosaic covenant has come to an end, and this is why we see Christians of the late second century no longer observed" the Hebrew Sabbath, Rosebrough concluded.
"When we are in Christ we are in the true Sabbath rest. And to add works to what the Lord has already done is to put yourself outside the Sabbath that Christ has created for you. It's a free gift, a Sabbath rest, and if you do not have it you are not truly in him."
Staley said those who believe God meant for the Sabbath to remain find themselves in "a win-win situation, because there is no proof anywhere in the Bible that the day He set apart and called holy would suddenly be suspended or canceled."
He continued, "Every one of us has two choices of who we can follow: You can choose to follow the church fathers if you'd like, but as for me and my house, we will follow the father of the church!"
The latest and best of pastor Staley's teachings are now available at the WND Superstore, including "The Sons of God," "The Great Deception," "To Eat or Not to Eat," "The Great Church," "Truth or Tradition" and many more.