I would like to suggest to my Seventh-day Adventist friends to substitute the word “Messiah” for the word “Sabbath,” every time you read it in the Bible or in the writings of Ellen White.
I once had a New Testament professor who in teaching through the book of Galatians, suggested that when we read the word “law” we could add the phrase “as a means of salvation” behind it and get a correct understanding of the use of the word “law.”
His explanation was that it was implied in the context anyway and doing that just made it clearer, preventing us from legalistic obsessions and getting off-track on theological tangents. Obviously there are laws and practices instituted in the Old Testament that are meant to point to a New Testament fulfillment.
Jesus said “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:24-25).
A good way to understand the purpose of the law and it’s change of application is to consider your driving habits. When you were preparing to get your driver’s license, you studied the book, you referenced the book, you learned the law to not cross over a solid line or stop in the middle of intersection for a left-hand turn. But, do you carry around that same book these 10, 20, 30 years later and reference it every time you see a solid line or approach an intersection for a left-hand turn?
A member of the church I serve as pastor told me a story of their relative who cherished a photograph of her husband who was away fighting in WWII for over two years. She loved that photograph because with it she remembered her husband. When her husband returned, the photograph was no longer her attraction because she had the real thing with her.
The Sabbath is like the driver’s rule book or the photograph. They are still valid, but with the real experience of driving and being in the presence of the person they are no longer the point. So don’t be obsessed with the validation of Saturday as the true Sabbath and avoidance of breaking the law. Ultimately, breaking the law is doing the works of keeping it in order to be justified by those works and Paul says “no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11).
I’m not arguing against being part of the Seventh-day Adventist church, worship gatherings on Saturday are not evil and it may help some to recall their Savior better, but just know the 4th commandment of Exodus 20:8-11 is not about worship, it’s about being holy. Worship is not confined to the seventh-day or any particular day. Holy is confined to the One true God.
The word “worship” is not mentioned in the Sabbath commandment and neither is there a reference to any practice of fellowship or assembly in that law. The Israelite’s practiced gathering on the Sabbath day as a reminder that they were to serve a different God – One who would save them through resting in faith, not works.
Finally, remember that the Sabbath is called a sign in Exodus 31:13. It is a sign that points to the covenant of the coming Messiah. Just as the rainbow is a sign that points to God’s covenant not to send another flood, the Sabbath was to point them to the Christ to come. They were taught to refrain from work, because we could not be saved by works but by resting in faith in the Messiah who would come.
We use signs on the highway to remind drivers of which road is at the exit ramp, but the sign is not that road. The sign points to the real thing – the road at the exit. The Sabbath points to Christ – Christ is the real thing.
Next time you read the word “Sabbath,” read the word “Messiah.”