Monday, December 17, 2007

The Sabbath

Thesis: The "one in seven" day “rest” (Heb: shabbath) is moral law and thus perpetually binds all human beings at all times.

This is evidenced first of all in that it is a creation ordinance (Gen 2:1-2) and not a law instituted after the fall for the purpose of typifying Christ. Therefore, Christ cannot be said to "fulfill" and abrogate it the way He fulfills and abrogates the ceremonial laws. Rather, Jesus fulfills the Sabbath command in the same way He fulfills the rest of the Decalogue - He is the perfect picture of Sabbath keeping and He brings the Old Testament Sabbath to redemptive historical maturity. So, Christians are to keep the Sabbath day in light of Christ and as it comes to us through His hands.

Secondly, the Hebrews kept the Sabbath before God gave the Mosaic law (Exod 16:30); thus, any abrogation of the Mosaic covenant cannot imply the abrogation of the Sabbath command itself because the Sabbath is not merely a "Mosaic law."

Thirdly, the clear NT abrogation of the Jewish ceremonial Sabbath (Rom 14:5; Gal 4:10; Col 2:16) does not imply the abrogation of the "one in seven" day “Shabbath,” i.e., rest (Gen 2:1-2; Exod 20:8-11), which is the essence of the eternal and moral law of the Sabbath. The substance of the Sabbath is not "adiaphorous" or an arbitrary "positive law," but a reflection of God's own character, which enjoys both "work and rest."

Fourthly, Christ has fulfilled the Jewish ceremonial Sabbath and we thereby have rest from the guilt and power of our sins by resting in Him and by freedom from the rigor of that ritualistic code, but there remains a Sabbath day rest for Christians because though our salvation is "already" it is "not yet" completed. Hence, Christian Sabbath (the term means “rest” not “Saturday”) observance on "one day out of seven" (Exod 20:8-11; Deut 5:13-14) in remembrance of the resurrection of Christ and in anticipation of heaven on the Lord's Day is wholly appropriate and obligatory for the NT saint. This is the apostolic example (Acts 20:7).

Fifthly, the underlying principle of the Sabbath command is permanent and thus will never be abolished, even in heaven (Rev 1:10). The principle behind the fourth command includes both work and rest. For all eternity, the redeemed of Christ will be at rest in Him, free from the toil and labor of work, which is a curse of the fall, but the redeemed in heaven will work, enjoying the tasks lovingly assigned by their Lord (Rev 22:5). Thus, those in heaven will keep the Sabbath command for all eternity.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom,

    I recently found your blog and have enjoyed reading through it. Great post here. I have been wrestling with this issue (and the broader law/gospel NC Theology stuff) since seminary days. I'm on the verge of agreement with what you write.

    Anyway, I hope you keep posting. I'll keep reading.


    (If my name sounds familiar at all, think back to the guy behind you in Fentress' Genesis class).