Did Jesus Christ Keep or Break the Sabbath? The Spirit of the Law vs. The Letter of the Law | Jesse Morrell

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I made this post on My Facebook:

I’ve always thought this was a very interesting verse: “he not only had broken the sabbath….” John 5:18.

Here we are told by the Apostle John that Jesus Christ “had broken the sabbath.” That is because in John 5:17 Jesus himself said that he works on the Sabbath – “But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” His work was that of healing the sick.

So Jesus confessed to working on the Sabbath, thus he “had broken the sabbath” and consequently the Jews sought to kill him.

But we know that Jesus Christ never sinned. It was not a sin for Jesus to work on the sabbath. How can that be? How can it be that Jesus Christ broke the sabbath and never sinned?

The answer is the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. While the letter of the law forbids working on the sabbath, the spirit of the law is love. Love is the fulfillment of the law. And for Jesus to work on the sabbath by healing the sick, he was violating the letter of the law but fulfilling the spirit of the law.

The pharisees falsely accused Jesus Christ of sinning because they were legalistic and stuck on the letter of the law that they completely forgot what the law was all about – the good of people through love. The sabbath was instituted for man’s good, not so that men like Jesus could not help men by healing. As Jesus said, “Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?” Luke 6:9

The letter of the law forbids all work on the sabbath and yet the spirit of the law would allow and even demand that Doctors, Police, Pastors, Street Preachers, etc, would work on the Sabbath. It is about love – the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. But when anyone so pushes the letter of the law to the violation of the spirit of the law, they fall into the trap of legalism and commit the sins of the Pharisees.

Jesus Christ broke the sabbath by working and yet did not sin for the same reason that David did that which was not lawful and how the priests profane the sabbath yet were blameless:

“But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?” Matt. 12:3-5

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3 Responses to Did Jesus Christ Keep or Break the Sabbath? The Spirit of the Law vs. The Letter of the Law | Jesse Morrell

  1. This issue is the key to understanding biblical holiness vs. pharisaical legalism.

  2. Art Anson says:

    Jesse M.: I will not suggest anymore of your videos , nor will I give links anymore on other discussion sites or FB because of your rotten stance on this bedrock issue! You are advocating breaking of the 4th Commandment. The Sabbath is a Creation ordinance — not just a Mt. Sinai Commandment. It was given by God Himself { Exodus 24 } , and written on stone tablets by His own finger ! You need to get a copy of a very good book titled: “Call the Sabbath a delight” by Walter Chantry. { No , hi is not an S.D.A.. and neither am I. } If you think doing what God says is legalism and being a “Pharisee” , then you need to get rid of all your videos and links. Please – be aware that when this Nation honored the 4th Commandment , we were a better people, and God blesses us. Nowadays we are on a downhill path. More places are open for business, and thus less folks able to attend Church on The Lord’s Day. Shane Hokanson. P.S. Still cannot comment on your FB feeds.

    • Art, I think you have misunderstood my post and point. I am not advocating break the sabbath. In fact, I believe in the Sunday Christian Sabbath or “The Lord’s Day” as you yourself called it. But the letter of the law says the Sabbath is the Seventh Day. How then could Sunday, the Lord’s Day, be the Christian Sabbath? It is because on our Sabbath we commemorate the resurrection which was a greater work than creation and a Sunday Sabbath fulfills the spirit of the law. But if you believe in attending “Church on The Lord’s Day” – Sunday, are you advocating breaking the sabbath which says you must do it on the “seventh” day?

      I am not saying that it is being a pharisee to do what God says. To the contrary, by working on the Sabbath Jesus was fulfilling the law – the law of love. God’s commandment is to love and by doing the work of healing on the sabbath he fulfilled the law. In the same way, doctors, Police, etc, who work on the sabbath are not violating the spirit of the law because it is for the good of the people. But you are going to be strict on the letter of the law that says no work on the seventh day, then you must say that Jesus was wrong for working on the seventh day and Christians are wrong for having a Sunday Sabbath. But my point was that it is the spirit of the law that Jesus taught us was of supreme importance that we must keep and if we become so strict on the letter of the law to the violation of the spirit of the law (saying doctors cannot work on the sabbath) then we become legalistic and commit the sins of the Pharisees.

      So answer these questions:

      1. Was it wrong for Jesus to work on the sabbath by healing, since the letter of the law says no working on the sabbath?

      2. Is it wrong for Christians to keep the Sabbath on Sunday, since the letter of the law says the sabbath is the seventh day?

      3. Is it wrong for Police, Doctors, Paramedics, Nurses, etc, to work on the Sabbath day, since the letter of the law says no working?

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