Monday, 15 July 2013

The Day of Rest

I was preaching last night on the Fourth Commandment from Deuteronomy 5. I pointed out the different but complementary bases for obeying the commandment in Exodus and Deuteronomy - the former pointing us to creation, the latter to redemption. I pointed out the significance of the words in Genesis 2:2,3 - rest, sanctify, holy, blessed. It is so clear that this was a day for man, not just for God. After all, what else are holy days for? And what other blessing does not bless man? And what other blessing (as on the living creatures and man, in 1:20 and 28) might be postponed so as not to take effect immediately ? So there is no case for saying that it was at Sinai that man first came under an obligation to rest on the Sabbath. Look too at Exodus 16 and the pre-Sinai provision of manna - not to be collected on the Sabbath. I also spent a little time on the change from the seventh to the first day -a new creation, and a richer redemption - we look forward now, not backwards. A new era calls for a new day.

I then dealt with the three passages that seem to suggest to some that the Sabbath is one of those days which are not to be regarded as sacred and are not to be followed any more - Rom 14:5-6; Gal 4:9-11, and Col 2:16,17. Many commentators take the view that these passages do not undermine the weekly Sabbath and Greg Beale is helpful in his New Testament Biblical Theology (his whole section on the Sabbath is excellent) but Geerhardus Vos is most succinct - the argument being that there are two aspects to the Sabbath. It is at once a creation ordinance and a moral law; and on the other hand a ceremonial rule and part of a cycle of feasts, new moons and festivals, including Sabbath days, months, and years. We are still to keep the Sabbath as a creation ordinance, whilst remembering that we are delivered from the ceremonial observance which seemed to be troubling the congregations in Rome, Galatia and Colosse.

Those passages do not bear the weight put on them by some when one considers the biblical and theological depth of the Sabbath principle.

And if there was a day of rest at creation, and a day of rest in Canaan, should we not need a day of rest today, in the age of grace, even though Jesus has fulfilled the commandment in its ceremonial aspect? Are we in heaven yet? Do we not still have a way to go? Are those who say we can do without the Lord 's Day as a Sabbath not guilty of what Greg Beale calls 'over-realised eschatology' - thinking we have arrived when we are still not yet there? And would God take such a good thing under the old covenant(see Isaiah 58:13,14; Psalm 92) away from us in the new covenant?

And what a mewling, emaciated thing the non-Sabbatarian's Lord's Day is, when one examines it. For it has says nothing about Creation, nothing about our relation to the moral law which is God's permanent provision for us as human beings in relation to him; and perhaps saddest of all, nothing in expectation of the future consummation. It is just a weak pragmatic thing, a day in a week, perhaps, yes, maybe the day on which the Lord rose, but with nothing to connect us to its past or its future. So it exists by living on the remains of the Sabbath principle, and those who hold to it do much the same things, but of course they feel under no obligation to observe it - and that must give some pleasure, I suppose. It is spawned in the name of liberty but has nothing of delight in the law of the Lord in it.

Give me any day the Puritan Sabbath, the 'market day of the soul'. Not only my body needs the rest (that is probably the least of it from a minister's point of view) but I need the spiritual rest. In an age when the government and society are taking so much from us that is Christian, and trespassing on what is the Lord's, why are so many Christians giving away such a precious gift as the Christian Sabbath day? Is it a misguided antinomian theology? Or ignorance? Or simply careless self-pleasing? Whatever, here is a chance for Christians to be truly counter-cultural, and stake a claim for God over time - and in large measure we are passing it up.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for blogging this! The abandonment of the fourth commandment by large swathes of the evangelical constituency has been rightly described as a disaster. The fact that now churches call themselves "Reformed" and yet have no theology of a Christian Sabbath / Lord's Day is even more alarming. This is an area where we urgently need a reformation. The history of revivals shows us that where true religion flourishes there is always a strong regard and love for the Lord's Day.