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The Sabbath and Decision Making

Below is an e-mail I received commenting on my Scripture Study "The Seventh-Day Sabbath " found in my Scripture Workbook. The e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

>I just read your page and found your approach to the subject to be rather troubling. First off, you appear to approach the Bible from a strictly legalistic viewpoint. Is it written in there? is it repeated there? That comes from a view of the Bible as a manual of operation. Your approach would leave room for a host of activities that most Christians find to be objectionable. Is gambling mentioned in the New Testament? What about cocaine? And prostitution? Do you see the problem?<

First off, if you believe that Bible is the Word of God (as I do), then it is most definitely imperative to ask, "Is it written in there?" when making a decision on whether to engage in a particular behavior (1Tim 3:16,17).

Second, it is important to ask about the Bible, "Is it repeated there?" When something is only mentioned once in Scripture, we must be very cautious about placing too much emphasis on it. It is not that God must repeat Himself for something to be true; but that we need to have Him repeat things to be sure that we are correctly understanding Him. Moreover, IMO, if something is very important to God, He will repeat it to be sure we get it right! (Phil 3:1; 2Peter 1:12-15; 3:1).

Third, depending on how you define the term, I am most definitely not "legalistic." To me, legalism refers to adding to God’s Word requirements that are not found there. I discuss my attitude in this regard in the following articles on my site: "Judge Not ..." and Anti-Intellectualism, Legalism, and the Cults.

Fourth, I really don’t care what "most Christians find objectionable" but what the Word of God has to say on something; although I do recognize the value of seeking the advice of other Christians on questionable matters (Prov 12:15; 15:22). However, if you want to appeal to what "most Christians" believe, then I would say that by far "most Christians" believe that Sunday is the most appropriate day of worship.

Fifth, I will try to explain my "approach" without getting too wordy. If something is specifically commanded in both Testaments, or even just in the NT, then there is no question about what the proper Christian behavior would be. The command must be obeyed. For instance, adultery is forbidden in both Testaments. As such, there is no question; Christians must refrain from this behavior.

If, however, the Bible is not clear on a subject in either Testament, then PRINCIPLES should be looked for in the Scriptures to help on deciding an appropriate course of action.

But what about when a command is given in the OT that is not specifically repeated or affirmed in the NT? Then the question is, what is the NT’s attitude towards it? Does the NT annual the command, as in the case of OT sacrifices? (Heb 7-10).

Is the NT silent on the matter, as in the case of tattoos? (see Lev 19:28). Does the NT make it a matter of indifference, as I believe is the case in regards to the Sabbath (as I outline in my Scripture study)? In each of these cases, the Christian’s attitude toward the OT command might differ. But whatever the case, principles might still be able to be drawn from the OT teachings.

In regards to the Sabbath, I do think there are principles to be found in the OT teachings; namely, we should set aside time for God and for physical, emotional, and mental rest.

Now, to apply the above "approach" to the specific activities you mention:

Gambling: Gambling is not specifically mentioned in either Testament. However, both Testaments warn about the potential dangers of riches (Prov 30:9; Matt 6:24). Moreover, Paul wrote, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Tim 6:10).

If the reason someone is gambling is out of a "love of money" or a desire to "get rich quick" then there is a problem with it. Moreover, gambling is very easily addicting. And Paul warns against engaging in such activities (1Cor 6:12). So personally, I refrain from all gambling.

Cocaine: Again, cocaine is not specifically mentioned in either Testament. However, both Testaments clearly and specifically condemn drunkenness (Prov 23:29,30; 1Cor 6:10; Eph 5:18). The reason is, being drunk controls one’s behavior, whereas Christians should exercise self-control (Prov 20;1; Gal 5:23).

The Bible does not condemn drinking in moderation (Ps 104;15; John 2:1-12). But caution must be used if alcohol is consumed given its potentially addicting nature. But when it comes to cocaine, it is simply impossible to use it "moderately." Even small amounts of it will alter a person’s faculties. And it is even more addicting that alcohol.

Moreover, the use of cocaine is illegal in the USA. And Christians are to obey the laws of the land (unless they conflict with God’s Word, Rom 13:1; 1Pet 2:13). So by Biblical principle and command, a Christian should refrain from cocaine and other illicit drugs.

Prostitution: Both Testaments specifically condemn prostitution (Lev 19:29; 1Cor 6:15). Moreover, every condemnation of "fornication" in the NT (or "sexual immorality" depending on your translation) would also include prostitution (Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5). So there is no question that a Christian should have nothing to do with prostitution.

Lastly, to add by way of contrast, one item I mention:

Tattoos: Tattoos are mentioned one time in the OT: "You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD" (Lev 19:28).

As I mentioned above, when something is only mentioned once in Scriptures, we must be very cautious about placing too much emphasis on it. This is especially true here since the only mention is in the OT; the NT makes no mention of tattoos. But we can look to the Bible for principles that might help guide our behavior. A good parallel might be what the NT has to say about outward appearances.

Peter writes, "Do not let your adornment be merely outward-- arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel-- rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:3-4).

In this statement, I do not believe Peter is forbidding the use of all styling of hair or jewelry. If he was he would also be forbidding the wearing of all clothes! What Peter is forbidding is an ostentatious outward appearance that would detract from a women's inner beauty. So moderation is the key. Paul says about the same thing, except forbids an ostentatious outward appearance that would detract from any good works a woman might perform (1Tim 2:9).

Of course, what is considered ostentatious can vary from culture to culture. But the basic principle is that a Christian woman should want to "stand out" for her inner qualities and good works, not her outward appearance.

Applying this principle to tattoos, I would say one small tattoo would not be a problem; but to cover oneself with them would be. Where to draw the line in-between should be left up to the individual. But the underlying question should be, how does a Christian want to be remembered? - "Suzie. She's the woman with all the tattoos." Or - "Suzie. She's the woman who works at the homeless shelter."

So you can see, I am not really "legalistic." When the Bible is clear on something, then a Christian should obey its teachings. When the Bible is not so clear, then the decision making process should be guided by Biblical principles. But each person must make up his or her own mind. I do not believe in adding "laws" to the Scriptures that each person must follow (Rom 14:1-6).

>As to your view that Sunday is the most logical choice for a day of worship, you need to say from what point of view. Let us see what we know for a fact. Gen. 2:1-3 is clear that God blessed and sanctified the seventh day of the week, which we all agree is our Saturday. (Unless we wish to say that the Jews got it all wrong.)

There is no talk here of a Sabbath, because man did not need a Sabbath in Eden. Why would Adam need a Sabbath when every day would be spent in absolute communion with God and he continually lived in God's rest. Unfortunately, sin entered the equation and everything was turned upside down. So we find ourselves here in 1998 and none of us can say that we spend everyday in complete communion with God, nor can we spend the entire week in such activity.

So we decide on a day. What is the most logical choice? I think that choice should start with God not with us. Since God is a holy day God, maybe we should start with a holy day. I have looked through all of the Bible and I have found only one day that God has declared to be holy. That seems to be the most logical choice. Now it might not be the most convenient, but since when was Christianity about convenience? I do not think it was convenient for Jesus Christ to die on that old cross.

But all of this discussion is useless if my life is not hid with Christ in God. My salvation is not determined by what day I worship God on. Nor is my marriage determined by whether I remember my wife's birthday. But you can bet that if I am devoted to that lady I will grant importance to the day(s) she thinks are important.

Your brother in HIM,

Of one thing we are in agreement, one’s salvation does not hinge on what day he worships. As for whether communion with God would best be accomplished by worshipping on Saturday or Sunday, I would say that we can commune with God on whatever day and everyday we worship Him (Rom 14:5,6).

But if we are going to pick a day, I give my reasons for why I consider Sunday to be important to God in my Scripture Study, namely that God chose to raise Jesus from the dead and to give the Spirit on Sunday.

For additional follow-ups to the Scripture Study "The Seventh-Day Sabbath " found in my Scripture Workbook, see: Seventh-Day Sabbath Comments: 1997-98 and Seventh-Day Sabbath Comments: 1999.

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The above e-mail exchange was posted on this Web site in January 1998.

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