Yahweh’s Sabbath

Sunday in America has become a day of relaxation, dare I say a day devoted to the NFL.  The Sabbath is a day for relaxation, however, and more importantly, it is Yahweh’s Sabbath (Ex. 31:13; 20:10; Lev. 19:3, 30; Isa. 56:4).  It is a day of resting and holding sacred assembly (Lev. 23:3).  Because it is Yahweh’s Sabbath, it is a gift and blessing for man (Mark 2:27).  Sabbath is a joy for man where he finds his deepest delight in the Lord. It is a celebration not to be missed (Heb. 10:25).  It is a day to celebrate justification and eschatological hope, to participate in the glorious hope to come.  It is a day of learning about the new-creation (heaven) to get accustomed to its ways of life—it is a day to enjoy God.  Christians do so by going to church for it is also a day of enjoying others, which is why the commandment speaks of equal rest for family, slaves, animals, and foreigners.  Therefore, it is a day of praying together as a family, discussing the service in Christian fellowship, and reaching out to the world.

The Sabbath is a day of Christian liberty not a day of bondage.  God did not design it to constrain Christians but to maximize their liberty.  It is one day in seven to be free from the demands of this world.  It is a day to rest from ordinary duties without feeling bad about it.  Christians have six days a week to focus on work and are not obligated to attend church in those days.  God has commanded six days a week to live in the common kingdom and to interact with the broader world.  Yet, God sets apart one day from this common kingdom and its ordinary cultural activities.  In doing so, the Sabbath offers a wonderful testimony to this world.

Christians share life, play, work, trade, etc. with their neighbors six days a week.  On the Lord’s Day, however, they do something different.  They come together to listen to a half hour monologue about the past, only to eat a tiny meal of wine and bread afterwards.  They sing about the blood, pray together, call each other brother and sister.  They speak a foreign language of free grace and in so doing show that the ordinary (common) is not their highest end or love in this world.  In that place stand this non-ordinary day and its duties.  Most Christians get this backwards as they baptize everything in the common kingdom throughout the week making a Christian ghetto with their own music, festivals, magazines, movies, styles, clothing, bumper stickers, etc.  Then secularize the Lord’s Day as much as possible.  They attempt to rob the unbelievers’ common world six days a week only to secularize the sacred that he might feel welcome.  He may but does the Holy Spirit?

I invite you this Sunday to Missoula Reformed Fellowship to enjoy the bounty of the Lord’s Day, to be refreshed by the preaching of the gospel and Christian fellowship.  Our worship service begins at 10:30am followed by a potluck and catechism.  This Sunday we will hear from Galatians 2:17–21 in the Divine service followed by a class on the Covenant of Works.


Evangelical Sabbath Breaking

Why are Christians forsaking the Sabbath in droves?  I believe it has something to do with American Evangelical pietism and mysticism.  Pietism and its twin mysticism allows believers to approach God without means (Rom. 10:6–17).  “The church with her public mediation is helpful, but it might also hinder my pietistic mystic sanctified devotion,” says the broad evangelical.  True sanctity comes from private devotion, rather than public worship.  The Christian can therefore skip out on external religious practice for it is not the true means of grace.  True grace comes from private experiential devotion not by some stuffy minister preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments.

Pietism and mysticism has hindered or at its worse has made Sabbath duty obsolete.  There is no need for a Sabbath when everyday is the same and the church is just a “service agency” that “exists to satisfy people’s needs.”[1]  Resting from sin in private devotion is important.  It cannot be done, however, without first attending the public means of grace (2 Tim. 2:2; 15; Ps. 40:10,11; 68:26; Acts 2:42, 46) to hear the truth of God’s Word (1 Cor. 14:19, 29, 31), participate in the sacraments (1 Cor. 11:33; 1 Tim 2:1, 2; 8-10), pray to God publicly (1 Cor. 14:16), and give Christian alms for the poor (1 Cor. 16:2) to be renewed after Christ’s image (Rom. 6:13, 12:1, 2; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9, 10; 1 Cor. 6:20).[2]

Another doctrine that hinders proper Sabbath keeping is the evangelical overemphasis on origin of creation in the first chapters of Genesis.  This overemphasis misses the point of the entire creation narrative.  These chapters are not consumed with pointing out the gross error of Darwinian Evolution.  We have to remember that Moses wrote Genesis long before the enlightenment.  Creation properly highlights the sovereignty of God over the forces of chaos and how he assumed a position of kingly rest that further reveals his sovereign power.[3]  Creation museums evidence their hindrance by donating all their time to the first two chapters in Genesis, yet open shop on the Lord’s Day (http://creationmuseum.org/).  Don’t neglect the Fourth Commandment this Lord’s Day and don’t neglect the church that properly preaches the gospel every week.  Christ will be proclaimed from the Scripture this Lord’s Day at 10:30am, I invite you to come.

[1] George Barna, Marketing the Church (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998), 37. Everyday belongs to the Lord, but Sunday is a special day—the “Lord’s Day.”  Time as money belongs to the Lord; nonetheless, Christians set these apart to the Lord.  Galatians 4:10 and Col. 2:16–17 attacks those who make the OT shadows salvific.  Christ satisfied the shadows that believers might be free from the terror of the law.  The moral dimension of the OT shadows remains to be enjoyed in a new light.  Christian’s are not free to throw out the sacraments; neither can they throw out the Lord’s Day.  Hebrews 4 likewise provides no answer.  It speaks of God’s rest on the seventh day held out for mankind and fulfilled by Christ.  Hebrews quotes Ps. 95:11 to show how God’s wrath kept Israel from entering because they failed the works principle.  Rest remains for God’s people for Christ kept the covenant of works, and now believers follow our elder Brother into the Sabbath of the Lord.  Finally, Rom. 14:5 does not involve Sabbath but days of fasting

[2]“There is more of the Lord’s presence in public worship than in private…ergo public worship is to be preferred before private,” see David Clarkson, Public Worship to be Preferred Before Private, vol. III of The Works of David Clarkson (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1988), 190–91.

[3]Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, ed. D. A. Carson (Downers Grove, IL InterVarsity Press, 2004), 62.

Tired? Sunday’s Coming.

Sunday is a day of holy rest, “on it you shall not do any work.”  Because God objectively sanctified the day, Christians likewise “keep it holy.”  Violating the day offends the whole worship of God, so the Mosaic economy put transgressors to death.

The Sabbath’s negative command is “you shall not do any work.”  God does not forbid every kind of work, rather occupational work that would hinder or omit worship, “and the design and use of the ministry of the church.”[1]  This becomes evident from Leviticus 23:25, “you shall not do any ordinary work.”  The Hebrew word for work in both cases means, “to do one’s daily work.”[2]  God prohibits the ordinary work done throughout the week for he gave, “six days” to “labor, and do all your work.”  The Sabbath demands that ordinary work cease.[3]

So, what is the Christian’s religious duty?  Calvin believed Christians were to take the Sabbath serious and to not treat it as an opportunity for license.[4]  The Christian’s duty is to attend “to what God commands us that we might be taught by his Word,” to “confess our faith,” and finally to “participate in the use of the sacraments.”[5]  Zacharius Ursinus and the Dort-era scholars agree that to sanctify the Sabbath means to cease from daily labor, to worship, celebrate sacrament, mediate on the Word, and do works of charity.  Doing so strengthens faith, piety, the church as a family, preserves doctrine, and makes the church visible to the world.  Attending the means of grace and worshipping the Lord should not be hindered or omitted on the Lord’s Day.

Sunday is right around the corner, a day of rest will soon be here.  If you need a place to rest, where you can attend the means of grace, please come and worship with us at 1:00pm this Lord’s Day.

[1]Ursinus, The Commentary, 558.

[2]The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, s.v. “Kalm.”  Works of necessity and mercy remain.

[3]Proverbs 19:16 wisely informs that keeping the commandments preserve life.

[4]Calvin, Sermons, 105.

[5]Ibid., 109.

Sabbath! I Got to Work.

May believers work on the Sabbath?  This is an appropriate question if you want to follow the Ten Commandments.  Should Christian not go to work?  Should we quit our jobs if they make us work on Sunday?  The short answer is no.  The law of society dictates the necessity to work on the Sabbath.  For instance, the social order cannot function without the help of police, fire department, military, doctors, etc.  These occupations within our civilization must continue everyday.  Christian fireman for example may have to work on the Sabbath.  Failure to do so could harm society.  You would not be a good neighbor if you let his house burn down.

Every culture is different.  In the past in an agrarian society, it was easier to keep the Sabbath.  A farmer could put off baling hay or harvesting crops without affecting society and Christian farmers would on the Sabbath.  There were, nonetheless, situations in which he or she had to work on the Sabbath out of necessity.  For instance, weather and the natural cycle of crops deemed work on the Sabbath necessary from time to time.  If they failed to harvest on a particular Sunday they could have adversely affected the community.  These situations are limited in agrarian societies and rule of necessity does not often apply.  Most Christians were and are in church every Sunday in these societies.

A modern society, however, overwhelms the particulars with utilities, public transportation, crime, hospitals, etc.  One cannot overlook the increase of particular duties that modern society places on the Sabbath.  It may be necessary for believers to work on the Sabbath and more so in our society.  You may simply need to put food on the table.

Nevertheless, we should not use necessity as license to forgo church completely.  God calls us to honor the day by going to church.  We should do everything in our natural power to attend church.  Public worship is necessary for the ordinary means of grace.  Failure to attend church is failure to attend to the means of grace, failure to have your soul nourished and refreshed for eternal life.  If you are able this Lord’s Day, I invite you to attend our worship service.  Out of necessity for the power of God unto salvation, we will preach what you need—the gospel (Rom 1:16).

Freedom and Sabbath Duty

The Fourth Commandment should not be taken out of your Bible.  As a Christian, you should maintain it as you should the other nine.  However, the question remains, how should I keep it?  First, it is important to note that Sabbath observance should avoid legalism.  Reformed believers are neither neonomian (legalist) nor antinomian (libertarian).  Legalism is adherence to law as opposed to the gospel.  Legalists believe that God declares us righteous because of our works.  Legalism (neonomianism) is bondage and is always opposed to the gospel and Christian freedom. Christian freedom, nonetheless, is not licentious liberty (antinomianism), for it is “impossible for those who have been implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.”[1]  Sabbath observance therefore is a fruit of thankfulness.  It is part of our sanctification.  It is a work of grace through faith.  The Holy Spirit does not reveal the maintenance of a new Sabbath law to earn acceptance with God (Col. 2:16; Gal. 4:10). [2]  The Spirit rather gives power and ability to keep the Sabbath moral law revealed in creation and written on the heart.

Sabbath is a gift and a blessing, which differs from legal regulation that calls for formal observance to please God.  Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).  Sabbath duty is not “designed to put people in a straitjacket of do’s and don’ts.”[3]  A distortion of the Sabbath destroys its festive character and places the person under the covenant of works they cannot keep.  The Pharisees with their unbiblical casuistry “robbed the Sabbath of its characteristic gratitude for liberation.”[4]  Christians, free in Christ, keep and enjoy the Sabbath out of thankfulness for the grace given by God.

This Lord’s Day, I invite you to come to our worship service to hear the gospel and receive the means of grace that your soul may be refreshed that your conscience might find rest in the truth of God’s Word for He say’s every Lord’s Day at our church, “In Christ, you are My beloved.”

[1]Heidelberg Catechism Question 64, see Schaff, The Creeds, 328.

[2]Believers do not observe the Sabbath as Israel to obtain merit for typological rest and tenure in the land.

[3]Douma, The Ten, 114.

[4]Ibid., 119.

Janus and the Everlasting Sabbath

Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions in the ancient Roman pantheon.  Most often, he is depicted as having two faces on his head, facing opposite directions: one face looks into the future the other into the past.  So, what do Janus and the Sabbath have to do with one another?  Well, nothing really, but then again the Sabbath does function as a Janus, looking to the past and the creation in the Garden of Eden and to the future and the new creation.

For instance, the future grounded the Fourth Commandment in Deuteronomy 5:12–15.  The Sabbath in Deuteronomy looks to the future as it appeals to redemption (from Egypt).  It is important to understand that Deuteronomy’s context presumes sin, bondage, and lack of true rest as Israel remembers their slavery.  While they were not free from sin and bondage, they looked to a future deliverer to come. Deuteronomy points forward to the resurrection and ultimate rest in Christ (Acts 1:6; 3:17–26; Heb. 4:1–13).  The Sabbath then functions as a sign of the resurrected Messiah.  It was a sign of one who would fulfill the covenant of works to obtain and restore rest by his perfect life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  Colossians 2:17 explains how the Old Testament promises were fulfilled in Christ, “ These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”  Christians now have the substance of Deuteronomy 5.  Therefore, instead of looking forward like Israel before the cross, we now look back to the resurrection that followed the cross.  The Old Testament fathers participated in the “shadow of the things to come,” which nurtured their hope in the future reality as they longed for the coming King of Kings.  Our King has come and conquered sin, death, and the devil to release us from bondage.  So, look to that release from bondage and find rest.

Does this mean then that there is no longer a Sabbath here on earth?[1]  No, there remains a Sabbath rest for God’s pilgrims, because the Sabbath also looks back to creation.  The Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20:11 looks to the past at creation to ground the Sabbath (see later post).  Men are still sabbatical creatures called to image a God who worked and rested.  We too are to work and rest just like our sabbatical Creator in whose image we are made.  All men therefore must obey creational law (i.e. Ex. 20:11).

The Sabbath as a Janus still looks to the past.  Christians on this side of the cross do a double take back.  We look to creation to ground the Sabbath and we look to the cross.  So, does the Sabbath still function as a Janus for the New Testament believer?  Yes, for after looking backwards, we also look forward for the Sabbath to come and the consummation of all things—the new heaven and earth and our resurrected bodies.

This Sunday, we will rest on the Lord’s Day letting the Holy Spirit renew us into the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29).  This Sunday, we will rest on the Lord’s Day to become more and more like Christ.  This Sunday, Lord willing, we will rest knowing that God’s work will not be complete in this life, so we will continue to look forward reminded by the gospel that we do not work to rest.  We have rest in the Grace of Christ, so we have restful peace on the Sabbath.  We rest to love God and neighbor the other six days a week.  Heidelberg 103 therefore speaks of God’s sanctifying work on the Sabbath as he renews believers after his Son’s image,

In the second place, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by his Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting Sabbath.

[1]I assume a Sunday Sabbath for the Christian.  Those who oppose Sunday argue it is a human ordinance, and not a divine command.  The Reformed church follows not just explicit commands, but the pattern set by Christ and the Apostles (Acts 20:7 breaking break on the first day of the week; 1 Cor. 16:1 setting aside offerings on the first day of the week; Rev. 1:10 calls the first day, the “Lord’s Day”).

Give Me God’s Hymnbook on the Sabbath

Interested in the singing of Psalms in corporate worship? I for one love the Psalter. I l am thankful that the Church Order of my federation, article 39, states, “The 150 Psalms shall have the principal place in the singing of the churches.” We do sing other texts in this church plant. Nevertheless, God’s Hymnbook takes the chief place in our singing.  Notice I did not say “takes chief place in our worship,” because the entire service is worship not just the singing.

Anywho, Westminster Seminary California has just posted another book review of mine on the topic of Psalm singing, Sing a New Song by Joel Beeke and Anthony Selvaggio. This book would be a good primer for those interested in the “worship wars” as they relate to psalmody.  The book is not limited to exclusive psalmody per se, as it is more an argument for using inspired text in worship. If you are in Missoula and have never sung from a Psalter then come check us out this Lord’s Day at 1:00pm.  We will sing Psalm 23, 51:10–12, and 65.  We will also sing Habakkuk 2:20.  If you want to know more about Psalm singing, then check out my book review click here.