Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Sabbath

The Sabbath is a creation ordinance. It is something that God put into this world at the very beginning. Therefore, it does not have the temporary character of the civil and ceremonial aspects of Israel's law. It is much more abiding than that. It is most definitely not abrogated at the coming of Christ. It is changed, but not abrogated. There are two reasons in Scripture given for keeping the Sabbath. They are found in the two passages dealing with the Sabbath observance: Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. In Exodus, the reason given for keeping the Sabbath is creation. The pattern of God working six days and resting the seventh is to be the pattern for us as well. The reason given in Deuteronomy 5 is redemption. It is because God has brought His people out of the land of Egypt, and thus has given them rest from all the hard labor they had while being slaves under the Egyptians- it is for this reason that the Israelites are to observe the Sabbath day. So there are two reasons: creation and redemption. In Jesus Christ, there is a new creation and a new redemption. That occurs on the first day of the week. Therefore, the day has changed from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week. For more detailed argumentation proving this exegetically, see this article. The only remaining issue is the practical one of what is required/allowed on the Christian Sabbath. Primarily, this involves the idea of recreation. Is it allowed on the Sabbath? I would argue that it is not. The passage to go to here is Isaiah 58:13. So far, I have seen absolutely no exegesis of any kind from any Isaiah scholar that has dislodged the Puritan interpretation of that passage. J.A. Alexander is quite favorable to the Puritan interpretation there. The only remaining issue is whether this OT passage applies also to the NT situation. It must be remarked here that this is in the prophets, not in the Torah. Therefore, it cannot be said to be part of the civil or ceremonial law of Israel. To argue positively, there is warrant in the passage for holding the Puritan view, since the passage is eschatological in orientation (see vv. 6-11, which are full of promises for the future). So it applies to some time in the future, as well as to the Israelites to whom Isaiah is writing.


At 9/06/2006 11:26:00 AM, Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Very nice post. As much as I agree with this, I can't help thinking that the issue is not yet resolved.

What is recreation? And how does that differ from fellowship? Is fellowship allowed? Is there some Biblical basis for distinguishing between the two?

I know that some people, including those of the Puritan persuasion, would say that such musings about what is not allowed miss the point. I don't think so. Law is law, whatever it means. Working hand-in-hand with grace doesn't change the fact that law is law.

In Christ.

At 9/06/2006 11:34:00 AM, Blogger Mr. Baggins said...

As usual, you have put your finger on the nub of the difficulty with regard to these kinds of casuistry. I think that here there is room for conscience. As a matter of fact, what might be recreation for someone might not be recreation for someone else. Wisdom needs to be exercised here such that people do what their conscience tells them is right, informed by Scripture. I have struggled long and hard with this issue, and it is an immensely practical issue.

I hardly think that fellowship can be banned from the Sabbath, since worship itself has a horizontal aspect to it. Otherwise, why worship in a corporate setting?


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