Is the Sabbath a Creation Ordinance?

Clipboard01If you say the Sabbath is a Creation Ordinance, a few guidelines for the discussion and a couple of observations. First, define “Creation Ordinance”; secondly, explain from Scripture how it is determined that Sabbath keeping is a Creation Ordinance. Thirdly, is Sabbath keeping binding on Christians (exegesis of Scripture); fourthly, where is the command to move the observance from the 7th day to the 1st day?

Observations: Most reformed folk consider marriage a Creation Ordinance, and we do see a command in Gen 2 regarding it. However, I know of no theologian who thinks every person or every Christian is commanded to marry. It is normal, blessed by God, etc. but not commanded.

1. Why would one Creation Ordinance NOT be a command and another one BE a command?
2. When is Sabbath keeping first observed in Scripture?
3. What is your interpretation of the manna collecting commands in Ex 16?
4. Where in the New Testament do you see Christians keeping the Sabbath?

22 thoughts on “Is the Sabbath a Creation Ordinance?

  1. Maybe I’m not catching the implications in your questions, but it would help if you answered your questions (especially the first four) from Scripture. Granted, you attempt to deal with the “Creation Ordinance” issue after, but I found your explanation still lacking in answering the first two questions.


  2. I agree. I deal with Sabbatarrians and would like to know the answers to these questions. So far, I’ve run into philosophical arguments. And I’ve read several books on the topic from the Sabbatarrian perspective.


  3. Doug – you fail. First – you did not meet the conditions stated nor answer the questions posed. Secondly – the passages you pointed to here show Christians evangelizing Jews in the Jewish synagogues on the Jewish Sabbath. Go back and read the post again, and follow the rules if you wish to be taken seriously.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  4. 1. The Sabbath is not a Creation Ordinance, and neither is marriage. Having children, however, is (Gen. 1:28). The Sabbath was made holy at creation, but not commanded.

    2. Sabbath keeping is first observed in Gen. 2:1-3 when the Sabbath is kept by G-d. After that, it’s observed by Israel at the giving of the manna (Ex. 16).

    3. The manna-collecting commands in Ex. 16 are given as preliminary commands to accustom Israel to observing the Sabbath before it was given to them in its fullness.

    4. In a narrow sense, this question is difficult to answer, because the New Testament doesn’t provide a comprehensive description of Christians’ lives. But there are passages that reveal Sabbath observance. In Matt. 24:20 Jesus, as part of His prophecy, commands His audience to pray that their flight not be on the Sabbath day, implying future observance of the Sabbath. In Luke 23:56 we see Jesus’ disciples rest on the Sabbath, where it is referred to as a commandment. Acts 15:21 implies that Gentile believers will hear Moses (i.e. the Pentateuch) being read on the Sabbath.

    Further, the fact that the passages that show Christians in the synagogues on the Sabbath also describe them as evangelizing Jews at that time doesn’t necessarily indicate that the Christians weren’t also keeping the Sabbath. It’s entirely possible that the reason Christians chose that day to evangelize was because they were all together, keeping the Sabbath, and they took advantage of the time when work was proscribed both to them and to the Jews.

    Perhaps just as good a question is: given that we nowhere see a point where Jesus, Peter, James, or Paul instruct the Church to stop observing the Sabbath through the end of Acts, and given the number of passages that could at least imply Sabbath observance, upon what basis do you say that the Sabbath commandment is no longer in force?


  5. Quick comment on your use of Acts 15:21 to support the Church’s observance of the sabbath: Moses was read in the SYNAGOGUES each sabbath, not the churches! So let’s toss this verse out as support of your view, okay?


  6. It’s true that Acts 15:21 mentions synagogues instead of churches. I don’t see that as significant, because it’s not evident to me that there was a clear distinction between “church” and “synagogue” at that time (in the sense that we think of it today). The word used for “church” (the well-known “ekklesia”) corresponds (in the Septuagint) to the Hebrew word “kahal,” which in both biblical Hebrew and later Judaism was used to speak of a community of people more than the place they gathered for worship. In other words, inside the community (the “kahal,” or “ekklesia”) would be places of worship called “synagogues.” The word “synagogue” just means “a place of coming together.” Modern Hebrew uses variations on the exact same idea for both “synagogue” (beit-knesset, root “kanas”) and “church” (kneissia, root “kanas”), interestingly.


  7. Yes, but the context here makes it clear Luke was referring to the meeting place of JEWISH people and God-fearing Gentiles. This is where “Moses” (i.e., the Pentateuch) was publicly read… on the day of the week that Jews set aside as a perpetual sign/covenant between them and God (Exodus 31:12-17). In other words, there is no way you can twist “synagogue” to mean “church!” You may have your Sabbatarian glasses on, but by wearing them you do the text here a great injustice.


  8. I’m confused by your answer. You say there’s no way I can twist synagogue to mean church, but I didn’t think I was trying to. I was trying to say that the word “church” wasn’t even in the same category as “synagogue” at the time of Acts, so it doesn’t make sense to put them in opposition.

    I agree that the context makes it clear that Luke was referring to the meeting place of Jewish people and G-d-fearing Gentiles. It sounds to me like you’re saying that that proves it can’t be referring to the meetings of Christians. But what I was trying to say before is, I don’t see any reason to assume that the Christians and Jews weren’t meeting in the same places at the same times at this point. They were both going to the synagogue on Saturday together.

    The reason I started to talk about “ekklesia” was that I was anticipating that you might object that since Acts talks about “the church” (ekklesia), that that proves that the church and the synagogue were separate gatherings. To that potential argument, I defended my position by pointing to linguistic reasons to interpret “ekklesia” as describing the community of Christians, not the locations they were worshiping in. According to that interpretation, the Christian Church (ekklesia) could still meet in the synagogue–together with the Jews. The two groups hadn’t yet separated.

    As further support for that idea, I pointed out that in Modern Hebrew, the words for both “synagogue” and “church” are very similar and share the same root, which is also the root that corresponds to the Greek word for “synagogue.” Even though in our day and age the English words “church” and “synagogue” have acquired very distinct ideas, it’s likely that when the New Testament was written, the more basic meaning of the word “synagogue” (i.e. “a place to come together”) was in force, and meant something more generic, like “place of worship.” It probably wasn’t used at that point to mean “a Jewish, and not Christian, place of worship.” That distinction arose later.

    How do you interpret what the apostles are getting at with the phrase, “For Moses is read every week in the synagogues”? What relevance does the phrase have to the subject of the apostles’ discussion?


  9. Entangled – you got entangled in ancelary issues but did not follow the rules. You fail. Please try again. It appears you view the Bible from a Jewish perspective. I would counsel against that. They missed the boat in the first century and do not provide a solid basid for comprehending the Scriptures.


  10. Why do you think Christians had the habit of going to the synagogue in Gentile cities? There was evidence of attendance by Christian converts from Judaism going to the Temple in Jerusalem and synagogues in surrounding cities (e.g., Acts 22:19; 26:11), but that would make sense in light of their religious background. Gentile converts, on the other hand, would have no predisposition to frequent a synagogue, however. We see Paul going to the synagogue in such cities, but only for the purpose of establishing an evangelistic “beachhead” in the city among those who believed in the same God. Needless-to-say, your assumption about Christians joining Jews at the local synagogue is nothing more than that… an assumption. How do you know there hadn’t been any separation by Acts 15? I even doubt there had EVER been any joining of the two after Acts 7 and the dispersion (Acts 8:1). What biblical proof do you have that they did?

    My response to your linguistic argument is that the writers of the NT were clearly distinguishing between “Jewish” places of worship and “Christian” ones. If not, then how would we know that Paul wasn’t entering a gathering of Christians to preach the gospel. In fact, every usage of “synagogue” (either the use of “synagogue” alone or with the phrase, “of the Jews”) in Acts implies a Jewish audience present, which wouldn’t be the case if it were simply a gathering of Christians on the Sabbath.

    To answer your question, the apostles were confident that, due to the presence and influence of the only “Scriptures” available at that time (pre-gospels/epistles), the Gentile converts were aware of God’s standards of holiness to the point that there was no need to say anything other than to require “that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.” However, to infer that those converts were sitting under Jewish teaching each Sabbath would be, in my opinion, “reaching.” If they were, why would they need the three warnings given by the Council of Jerusalem? If they were, why didn’t he Council condemn circumcision, as that would be a requirement of any non-Jew in a Jewish religious setting? I see the key phrase being “from ancient generations,” implying that James referred to a pre-Church Jewish context, not to a simultaneous Synagogue-Church context.


  11. Manfred,

    I’m not trying to be smart but I want to ask the question of the purpose of this post. Are you saying the Sabbath is irrelevant to New Testament Believers? Are we now free to work 365 days a year without any rest?

    I don’t consider myself a “Sabbatarian”, actually this is the first time I’ve heard the term, although I do enjoy a good nap Sunday afternoon after our gathering. I am in a business that forces me to work on Sunday’s more often than I’d like so then I take Tuesday off to rest and do some things around the house that I don’t have time for. Or just spend the day with my wife and children. I don’t attempt to keep the Sabbath in some sort of a legalistic way but I think a day off is valuable.

    Perhaps this is intended for a very select audience. I’m just a guy trying to learn, so I’d appreciate some perspective on this whole thing. I enjoy Defcon much and this one threw me a bit.



  12. Kevin, The purpose of this post is to see if those who cling to the Sabbatarrian notion taught by the Westminster and Second London Baptist confessions and developed by the Puritans can defend their position from Scripture. I desire to provoke Christians to think biblically and have found most Sabbatarrians defend their position with their confession and historical accounts from the last 500 years.

    Research the so-called Christian Sabbath and you will all sorts of arguments.

    I enjoy what the Lord teaches – we need rest from our work and we ought to enjoy the corporate worship of Him and fellowship with His people.


  13. Manfred, the Westminster Confession says the following in Chapter 21 on “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath-day”:

    “VII. As it is of the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath.”

    In other words, I do not see a defense of Sabbatarianism, assuming I understood your comment correctly that the W.C. makes such a defense. Care to clarify?


  14. You cannot leave out the next paragraph:

    8. This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe
    an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their wordly employments and recreations; but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

    You can read how the Puritans pursued this idea on our shores:

    If you read para 7 carefully, you will see error – there is nothing in creation nor Scripture claiming or indicating all men have been bound by a Sabbath command. In fact, the only Sabbath found in Scripture is given to the Hebrews.

    If you read para 8 carefully you will the strict prohibition of THINKING anything other than worship, etc. (with the exceptions for mercy and necessity).

    Also, if you read the Westminster catechism, you will see much detailed explanation of their view.

    I have written a 4 page paper on the Decalogue that I might post here.


  15. I see your point. I agree that we can stumble into a form of legalism if we import the Hebrew Sabbath regulations into the Christian Sabbath. While it would be ideal to make that one day a “spiritual retreat” as often as possible, sola scriptura: where do we see the NT insistence of this?


  16. Oh, one more thing: I assumed by your use of “Sabbatarians” together with the Westminster Confession, you were saying that the W.C. promoted a Saturday Sabbath, which explains why I quoted that one section of it. I now see that your issue isn’t the day, per se, but how the Christian Sabbath gets confused with the Hebrew one in terms of its content.


  17. billins4x – We see narratives, not didactives, showing Christians gathering on “the first day of the week”, which in Greek is “the day after the Sabbath”. We have the exhortation in Hebrews 10 to not forsake the gathering together as some have done. So I see and embrace the practice of meeting on Sunday to worship God and equip the saints.


  18. This is not a statement against keeping a day holy unto the Lord for worship, or setting aside a day for bodily rest. However, it is easy to stake out our positions from the ease of our modern five-day work week and regulated working hours. Someone invoked “sola Scriptura” in this thread, so let us be reminded that pre-WCOF slavery was common in the Greek and Roman times, and people do not get a day off any day. In fact in Acts 20, Paul preached in Troas on the first day of the week (Sunday) “until midnight” (Acts 20:7), the implication being that the Christian slaves worked during the day and gathered for worship in the evening.

    Even in our times working by shift is common, but we have to make our own arrangements to worship the Lord if different service times permit. I do not read anywhere an insistence on Sabbath-keeping in the epistles.


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