There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16, Amplified Bible).
When I read this, I was reminded of some of the things Paul wrote which people take out of context. They use what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8 to support their belief that when a person dies, he or she goes straight to Heaven.
Yet when we read 2 Timonthy 4:8 which says: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing”, it is clear that Paul is talking here about Jesus’ second coming. It’s referred to as “that day”. The day of His appearing. That’s when Paul and others will receive the crown of righteousness. This follows the verses where he talks about his impending death. In verse 6 he says, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” If he believed that he would be ushered into the Lord’s presence after he leaves this earth, why didn’t he say, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me when I am absent from this body and present with the Lord.”
Paul knew that when he died, he would be laid to rest in the grave until that day when Jesus comes to resurrect him and the other righteous believers who died in Christ. What he meant by the expression “absent from the body and present with the Lord” is he would rather be absent from the mortal body with its sickness, diseases and death and present in the glorious, immortal body which he will receive at Jesus’ second coming. He makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53: “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
When does the trumpet sound? Jesus tells us, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30, 31).
On that glorious day, God’s people will put on immortal bodies and join their Savior in the air and be taken home with Him where they will reign for a thousand years.
People also claim that the moral law was done away with because of Paul’s letter to the Romans but while he says that we are not saved by the law because the law fails to do what Christ did in the flesh, he did say that we do not made the law void. On the contrary we establish it. The law points us to the One who saves us. When Paul says that we are no longer under the law, he simply meant that we are no longer under its condemnation. Why? Because we are walking by the Spirit and not by the flesh. When we alow the Spirit to guide us instead of our lusts and desires, the law cannot condemn us because we have not broken it.
Some claim that Jesus did away with the law. They cite Matthew 12:8: “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” They say that as Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus did away with it. Is that true? Why did Jesus say that He was Lord of the Sabbath? He was talking to the religious leaders who were criticizing the disciples for plucking the ears of corn because they were hungry. Jesus reminded them that King David went into the house of God and ate the loaves of the showbread–which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for the men who accompanied him, but for the priests only. And it was mentioned in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple violated the sanctity of the Sabbath but yet were guiltless. Yet here was someone greater in the temple and all they could do was find fault. So, Jesus told them that He was Lord of the Sabbath.
As Lord of the Sabbath which He made for man, He knew better than they did the proper way to keep it. The Sabbath was not just about resting from secular work but showing mercy and compassion towards others. The disciples were hungry and Jesus showed them mercy by allowing them to have something to eat. The Sabbath was to be a delight not a burden. Those same religious leaders would not have hesitated to pull a donkey out of a ditch yet there they were begrudging the hungry disciples for eating the grain. These men had the wrong idea about how to keep the Sabbath. They focused more on the letter of the law rather than on the heart of the law.
People use Paul’s writings to claim that Sabbath-keeping is no longer necessary. When Paul said, So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16, 17), he was not speaking about the weekly Sabbath. There were yearly Sabbaths and feasts and sacrifices which pointed to Jesus. The seventh-day Sabbath was instituted at creation and it was to be kept forever. After Jesus left, the seventh-day Sabbath was still observed. Paul kept it. It was his custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath. He even taught the Gentiles two Sabbaths in a row when he could have done so on the first day of the week if Sabbath-keeping were no longer necessary.
Paul was not talking about Sabbath-keeping in Romans 14:5. He was addressing the confusion over fasting. The issue was about fast days not the Sabbath. Some Jewish Christians believed that there was more merit in fasting on certain days and judged others by their standards. Paul was simply saying that to fast or not to fast on a certain was up to the individual. Whatever the person decided to do, it should be to God’s glory and his or her own conscience. Fasting should not be done to please others.
Another passage that is misinterpreted and used to teach that Sunday is now the new day of worship is Acts 20:7. Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. It should be noted that this meeting took place in an upper room not in the synagogue and it lasted until midnight. Paul spoke to them for a long time–so long that one of the men fell asleep and out of the window. This was not a worship service. The men were breaking bread together and Paul was there speaking to them. He had a lot to say because he was leaving the next day. This meeting was mentioned because Paul raised that young man who fell out of the window from the dead. This was a miracle that was worth writing about. This meeting had nothing to do with the disciples meeting on the first day of the week.
Some Bible commentators use the reckoning for a day as outlined in Genesis 1:5 where it says And the evening and the morning were the first day. So the first part of Sunday would be Saturday evening which means the meeting took place on Saturday evening and ended on Sunday morning. It was on Sunday morning when Paul travelled. If Sunday were the new day of rest, Paul should not be spending it in travel.
Believers are encouraged to prayerfully read the Word of God and not to base new doctrine on scriptures that have been taken out of context. Paul never intended for his writings to teach a different Gospel. And Jesus never intended for His followers to stop keeping the Sabbath. He never broke it despite what the religious leaders claimed. It was His custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath. He kept it by teaching, preaching and helping others. For Him it was more than a day of rest. It was a day of healing and restoration.
When the religious leaders sought to kill Jesus because He healed the cripple on the Sabbath, Jesus said to them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). God’s work is done on the Sabbath. Resting on the Sabbath does not mean you should rest from doing good–helping others.
Do not change God’s Word to suit yourself. “It is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). It was not given for people to interpret what it means. The Bible interprets itself and it does not contradict itself.