Thursday, September 08, 2005

The most-abused commandment.

Which one am I talking about? Well, that's a good question. They're all broken about the same. I don't really think people single out any of the Ten Commandments these days. However, for the purposes of having a catchy post title, I mean the Fourth Commandment: remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.

What I think singles this one out is that many people are not even aware of this commandment. Alternatively, even if they do, they think they are obeying it, when in fact they are not. Most people, for example, if they steal something, have a conscience telling them they did something wrong. However, many people work on Sunday in clear violation of the law, and have no qualms about it. Maybe they never had any. Please note: there are exceptions to the prohibition of work on Sunday. I do not intend to address them here. Exceptions make bad law, so I'm assuming you're a typical Christian with a rather 9-5 job.

Apparently, God considered this law on a par with "Thou shalt not murder." There are good reasons for this, but I don't intend to get into those either. All I want right now is to motivate this discussion. It is important, this law, and we should know what it is saying.

There have been several interpretations of this law. One, which I'll call the puritan view, held that not only should you not work, you should not indulge in normal recreations on the Sabbath. This was based on Isaiah 58:13-14, which reads thus:

If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own

Now the puritan view, it seems to me, is nothing more nor less than an attempt to take this passage seriously. I have yet to see a different view explain this passage in some other way than the plain meaning.

Another view, which for lack of a better term I'll call the relaxed view, states that recreations are ok, but work is not ok. (Of course there are works of necessity that are allowed, and Jesus Himself said it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.) This is the seeming view of guys like John Calvin and Martin Luther. They went bowling on Sunday. But I ask you: the real question is, did they bowl on the other six days? I don't know the answer to that, but if they didn't, then they were closer to the puritan view than you may realize. The reason for that is that they viewed bowling as something different they did on Sunday. At the risk of sounding trite, bowling was a holy recreation. They did not do it the other days. And maybe they used bowling to relax, the better to get on with their Sabbath duties. Taking a nap would be in the same category, actually.

Another view is simply do whatever you want, whether work or study or playing or sleeping or whatever. I do not think this view holds water.

I am tending towards the puritan view right now, because of its clear interpretation of the Isaiah passage. Now if someone wishes to dissuade me (using the Bible!) of this view, I am open to it. But I should warn you that any argument to the effect of, "Well, that's in the Old Testament, therefore we can ignore it," won't work with me. I am what I call covenantally Reformed, which means among other things that I believe that while there are some discontinuities between the Testaments, there is in general more continuity. I believe the Isaiah passage applies today, so you better do some careful exegesis!
pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (emphasis mine)

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At 9/08/2005 11:57:00 AM , Blogger Mr. Baggins said...

Are you sure that you do not want to be a preacher? You seem to enjoy it rather a lot. Good stuff, btw.

At 9/22/2005 08:46:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adrian - could you use Scripture to back up how you are saying that the Sabbath "turned into" (for lack of better words) our current Lord's day? Where you see the laws concerning the Sabbath applied to the Lord's day in Scripture? I agree that the Lord's day is generally abused, as people just "get church out of the way" and then don't spend any of the rest of the day in focus on the Lord. However, I'm not sure that I follow your logic binding the Sabbath commandment to New Covenant worship. If possible...could you please give Scripture to back this up so I can study it for myself? Thanks!

At 9/22/2005 10:29:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

I most certainly cannot do better than direct you to my brother's blog post entitled From Sabbath to Lord's Day, which can be found here:

Follow the appropriate link a little ways down the page. Hope you enjoy!

In Christ.

At 9/26/2005 10:52:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adrian - thanks for your response. I agree with your brother's response. I think that you may have misunderstood my question. I completely completely agree that Sunday is the Lord's Day and that is the day set aside by God for His people to partake of the Lord's supper, to lay aside money for future use for the work of the kingdom, and for preaching, prayer, and singing as well as encouragement from and giving encouragement to other Christians. What I meant was - where do you see the "rules" that were given to the Sabbath (Do not work, etc) being applied to the Lord's Day? Like I said before, I think that through Scripture we can show that the Lord's day was considered special and a day of worship, but I do not think that we can necessarily bind the Sabbath commandments to the Lord's Day - unless you can lead me to a passage which links the two? Thanks so much for your response!

At 9/26/2005 01:21:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Anonymous.

I think that the argument for attaching the Sabbath commands (well, at least the Fourth Commandment) is on the grounds of the continuity between the Old and New Testaments.

Everyone I know agrees that there are discontinuities between the Testaments. Christ has fulfilled the ceremonial law, as Hebrews so eloquently shows. However, being a covenantal Reformed guy, I also believe there are many continuities between the Testaments. One such continuity is the moral law, which the Westminster standards describe as being "summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments." What was the role of the moral law in the Old Testament? I believe its role is precisely the same as in the New. In the New Testament, we see that the law has three uses. One is to convict people of sin. Another is to restrain wickedness. The third is as a standard of living for believers. Now in the life of a believer, what happens is that the Holy Spirit convicts him of sin (he knows what sin is through the Law), which drives him to the cross (grace). He is converted (passive mood intentional here), and then he is called to lead a holy, righteous life. In other words, he is called to obey the Law, the Ten Commandments. But this he cannot do on his own, he still needs grace. So we have this temporal pattern: law-grace-law-grace.

So we see that the Ten Commandments are very much to the purpose for believers today. We must obey them. Obeying God and loving God are precisely the same thing.

Now the Ten Commandments are a whole, not piecemeal. Nowadays, we wouldn't say that we should not murder, and yet allow adultery. In fact, most conscientious Christians would say that all of the Ten Commandments should be followed... except the Fourth. The Fourth really seems to be the most-broken one. And yet, why should that be? Think of all the other Commandments one by one, and see if we think they should be followed today. I think the answer is yes. So why single this Commandment out and claim it no longer applies? Indeed, in Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." My ESV study Bible has this comment on that verse: "The correctives of 5:21-48 shoul be read in the light of this opening remark. In fulfilling the law, Jesus does not alter, replace, or nullify the former commands; rather, He establishes their true intent and purpose in His teaching and accomplishes them in His obedient life. The Law, as well as the Prophets, points forward to Christ."

So now suppose we believe this Commandment applies in some way. Why should the Sabbath carry over to the New Testament time? I believe it carries over because it is a creation ordinance. Sabbath-keeping didn't start with Moses, it started with creation. Things that are creation ordinances, such as marriage, Sabbath, and the dominion mandate, will continue until the Second Coming, at which time they will be fulfilled in a discontinuous way. Christians, for example, will enter into the Eternal Sabbath. Also, instead of marrying and being given in marriage, the Church will be wed to Christ.

Really, when it comes down to it, I really think the burden of proof is on anyone who ways there is now no Sabbath in the New Testament era. In my opinion, everyone from the Old Testament carries over into the New, unless the New says otherwise.

Hope this helps. If you'd like more, please ask my brother. He is mr. baggins, for your information.

In Christ.

At 9/27/2005 09:18:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adrian - you make some excellent points that I had not really thought about before. I will admit, that I have been a 9-commandment girl. However, I have always based that off of the fact that the New Testament is my guide is this age (based off of such passages as Heb 8, and Col 2) I also look to Gal 3:23-25 - "But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." Therefore...I have always looked to the New Testament for my commands - and 9 of the 10 commandments are repeated in the NT. Which one is not? Well...the one about the sabbath. I suppose because I see no link given in the NT, I have always been reluctant to see the Lord's Day as the Christian's sabbath. However, please don't misunderstand me - I LOVE study of the OT, and I think that it enhances and clarifies the meaning of the NT. Also, I do not agree with "eternal security" - and I do see that we are expected to follow God's commandments after baptism. So, it looks like this is something I will have to study more! Thank you for your input and having this little discussion with me!

At 9/27/2005 10:01:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

It's just icing on the cake, but I disagree with your comment that the Fourth Commandment is not repeated in the New Testament. Jesus talks about the Sabbath at length. And if we take those verses in context with the verse about not abolishing the law, but fulfilling it, then we see that the Fourth Commandment really is repeated in the New Testament. Again, I happen to the think the evidence for obeying the Fourth Commandment is strong enough even without the New Testament repeating it, but since it does, we definitely have no choice but to follow it.

You say you don't believe in eternal security? Let me ask you one simple question. Salvation: is it from man, or from God? If it's from man, then I agree there's no eternal security. If it's from God, then the question is not, "Can I lose my salvation?" but, "Can God lose my salvation?" Joel, incidentally, writes that Salvation is of the Lord. And now if you read passages such as the great high priestly prayer in John 17, you will see that no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand. We can have assurance of salvation precisely because our salvation does not depend on us one iota.

In Christ.

At 9/27/2005 06:09:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, no - I think you misunderstood me. I 100% believe that salvation is from the Lord, by Him, available only through Christ's blood, and has nothing to do with me! I am saved only because of His grace - I realize that my "righteousness is as filthy rags." I agree with your point - "law, grace, law, grace". I received grace at the point of my salvation, but am still commanded to follow the law. Because I will fail at continuing in the law - I will still need grace. Salvation is not a one-time event. Salvation is an ongoing process which stands on my initial belief and obedience to Christ, but then I continually need His grace in order to continue walking in His favor.

1 John 1:9 - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Remember - this passage is to those who are already Christians - who have already been forgiven and cleansed. Yet they are commanded to CONTINUE IN CONFESSION for ONGOING FORGIVENESS.

Think about this...when we say that we will be eternally secure because of our intitial faith in Christ - we are in essence saying that we are DUE salvation because we had that faith. Instead, I continually rely on His grace - every day - to lift me up. There is a difference between "works" and "obedience." Obedience is called upon - I am so afraid that many will reach judgement and will be turned away because they neglected their obedience. "Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in You name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"

My works are nothing. I will always fail. But I am commanded to be obedient. Even the apostle Paul prayed that he not be disqualified from the inheritance. I could give you over 50 passages refuting eternal security. However - there is such a thing as Biblical Security - the idea that I am secure in my salvation because I know God's promises and I am in a close relationship with Him. 1 John is a wonderful book which shows both sides to the coin - that we can claim to be children of God - yet not be, but that if we are in the right relationship with Him, we can be assured of our salvation.


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