Stone the Sabbath breaker?

(The follwing article is adapted from the site Adventist Defense League with the permission of the author Edwin M. Cotto. You can click here to see the original article. All verses quoted below are from the New World Translation)

Sometimes while discussing the Sabbath commandment with individuals including our JW friends, the question comes up in regards to the death penalty which was enacted to the Sabbath. Our critics enjoy this one very much, like ex-Adventist Mark Martin for example. Notice what he says:

"NO 'BURGER KING' SABBATHS - You can't 'Have It Your Way' with the Sabbath. God specifies how it was to be kept... The penalty for doing any of these things during the Sabbath was DEATH (Numbers 15)." -The Sabbath & Sunday, by Pastor J. Mark Martin.

Lets dig a little deeper. Here is how the original commandment reads:

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remembering the sabbath day to hold it sacred, 9 you are to render service and you must do all your work six days. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God. You must not do any work, you nor your son nor your daughter, your slave man nor your slave girl nor your domestic animal nor your alien resident who is inside your gates. 11 For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and he proceeded to rest on the seventh day. That is why Jehovah blessed the sabbath day and proceeded to make it sacred.

Notice how originally the Sabbath commandment never included the death penalty. That part of the law did not come until after (in chapter 31) the law was spoken and written by God.

Keep in mind that by this time Israel had just finished experiencing the Exodus from Egypt, and it had just begun the process of learning how to become a "nation." Like every nation, civil laws are introduced in order to maintain a civil society. Most of these civil laws were divinely given by God... and that was because the nation was at first a theocracy, a nation with God as their king. Its no wonder then that they were introduced into God's law.

The law to kill the violator of the Sabbath was written as part of the civil laws of this growing nation. It was never part of the divine moral law, nor was it added along with it upon the tablets of stone. This fact makes a clear distinction between the Moral law and the Civil laws. One was written in stone, the other in the "book of Moses."

Anciently when the nation of Israel fell (in 70 AD) so did it's law. They are no more valid, for they were civil laws that belonged to that nation. The eternal moral law of God (the works of His hands), however, is to endure “forever, to time indefinite” (Psalm 111:7-8). It was not merely part of the nation, it is a part God himself, for the law of Ten Commandments is his very character in written form.

Those who excuse themselves of keeping the Sabbath because of this civil law will find it difficult to deal with the 5th commandment... for it to was given a civil law:

Exodus 21:17 And one who calls down evil upon his father and his mother is to be put to death without fail.

We would all agree that this aspect of the law is done away with in Christ, because he paid the death penalty for us on that cross. He took upon himself that “curse” of the law, which is death. But, does Christ’s doing away with the death penalty eliminate our obligation to “honor your father and your mother?” Of course not. It is the same therefore with the 4th commandment, for according to James, all the commandments are equal, and not one is not to be treated differently from the other:

James 2:10-11 For whoever observes all the Law but makes a false step in one point, he has become an offender against them all. 11 For he who said: “You must not commit adultery,” said also: “You must not murder.” If, now, you do not commit adultery but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of law.