Had the blessing of preaching Christ at a conference about joy in Christ and His New Covenant.
The first sermon of the conference was about the rest Christ provides to His people when we come to faith in Him.
Had the blessing of preaching Christ at a conference about joy in Christ and His New Covenant.
The first sermon of the conference was about the rest Christ provides to His people when we come to faith in Him.
Published in 1636, Peter Heylyn’s The history of the Sabbath: in two bookes details how man’s religion re-skinned the Jewish Sabbath and called it a Christian ordinance. I have edited it to modernize the English and eliminate most of the Latin in an attempt to make this work available and accessible to 21st century readers.
From the dawning of the New Covenant, Christians have struggled over how the Old Covenant Scriptures are to be applied to the lives of the saints. Acts 15 is one of several records showing how some Christians thought the Mosaic Covenant applied to Christians, claiming saints must be circumcised and follow the law of Moses (Acts 15:1 & 5). Peter rebuked these brothers, observing that the Mosaic Law (which was the centerpiece of the Old Covenant) was a yoke too heavy for man to bear and requiring this was putting God to the test (verse 10). Jesus said His yoke was easy, that He would carry the burden of His sheep (Matt 11:30) and John tells us, This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden (1 John 5:2-3).
Despite this clear teaching, over time, many Christians began to teach that Christians must be “baptized” as infants and obey the law of Moses – specifically the 4th Word of the Decalogue.
Heylyn’s book shows the historical development of this Christian Sabbatarian practice and how those who taught this practiced it. We see the common tale of those who say, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Paul taught against this (Romans 2:21); it ought not be so within the body of Christ!
I pray this old booke helps open the eyes of those who are trying to carry a heavy yoke or burden other saints with such teaching. In paper and Kindle formats.
A Tale of Two Sabbaths
The Bible declares itself to be sufficient for life and godliness for those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This is the concept behind the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. People who truly hold to this doctrine will not embrace dogma that cannot be clearly taught from God’s Word. While there are myriad issues that divide denominations and churches from one another, one’s view of the Sabbath appears to be one of major contention amongst those who embrace the idea of Sola Scriptura. Within this arena there is a coalition who herald the Puritan view of the Sabbath, which is recorded in the Westminster and Second London Baptist confessions. What follows is a comparison between the biblical description of the weekly Sabbath and the confessional views of Christian Sabbatarians, according to the Second London Baptist Confession in chapter 22. Let the reader decide if the Puritans and those confessions had it right or followed traditions of man.
|Biblical Sabbath||“Christian Sabbath”|
|Every 7th day (Ex 16:27-30, Ex 20:8-11, 31:15, 35:2; Lev 23:3; Deut 5:14)||Para 7: Claims “law of nature … by Gods appointment” a “moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages” (no Scripture citation). One day in Seven (Ex20:8). Changed from the last day of the week to the first day of the week (citing 1 Cor 16:1-2; Acts 20:7); claiming “Christian Sabbath” as the Biblical Sabbath was abolished (no Scripture citation).|
|Rest from all work (Ex 16:23, 25; 20:8-10; 35:2; Lev 23:3; Num 15:32; Deut 5:12-15; Jer 17:21)||Para 8: Rest from all things (Isaiah 58:13; Neh 13:15-22).|
|Remain in your dwelling (Ex 16:29; Lev 23:3)||Private and public worship are commanded (para 8; no Scripture citation)|
|It is a sign to the Israelite (Ex 31:13, 16, 17; Lev 24:8; 2 Chr 2:4; Neh 9:14; Ezek 20:12, 20)|
|Death penalty for violating it, even minor activities such as picking up sticks (Ex 31:14-15; Num 15:32-36)|
|No fires for cooking, Sabbath day meals were prepared the day before (Ex 35:3)|
|Ceremonial bread, made in accordance with a strict formula, was presented (Lev 24:8; 1 Chr 9:32)|
|Offerings – consisting of lambs, grain, and drink (Num 28:9, 10)|
|Soldiers/priests guard the temple (2 Kings 11:5-12; 2 Chr 23:4-8)|
|Gentiles not bound (Deut 5:15; Neh 10:31)||All men are bound (para 7; Ex 20:8)|
|Prohibited from business (buying or selling) with Gentiles (Neh 10:31, 13:15-19)|
|Gentiles invited to join with God’s people and keep the Sabbath (Isaiah 56:1-7)|
|Israel to keep the Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13)|
|Duties of necessity and mercy are permitted (para 8; Matt 12:1-13)|
|No bearing of burdens (Jer 17:21-27)|
a review by Stuart Brogden
The latter half of the 20th century has brought a growing interest in Reformed Theology, in striking contrast to the growing apostasy that has gripped many evangelical denominations. Many of my fellow Baptists aggressively and happily embraced the doctrines of grace and the great theological truths about God’s sovereignty and man’s true nature. I am a grateful Baptist who was introduced to this theological construct in the ‘90s and have come to see as foundational to the Christian faith the doctrines of the Reformation, especially the reliance on Scripture Alone for all things having to do with life and godliness and For the Glory of God Alone to keep us focused rightly in all we think, say, and do. And the mostly forgotten doctrine of our forefathers – Semper Reformanda – Always Reforming, because none of has it all together nor will we get it all together while we inhabit these tents of flesh. This brings me to this remarkable book – The Sabbath Complete, by Terrence D. O’Hare. This book is the result of our author “attending an Orthodox Presbyterian Church where various Sabbath-keeping applications were stressed.” (page xi) Prompted by his pastor, who urged his congregation to examine personal motives in religious practice, he decided to study the concept of the “Christian Sabbath”, which is widely popular in churches which hold to 17th century confessions such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 1689 London Baptist Confession. O’Hare’s study lasted as decade, producing this comprehensive analysis of this contentious issue. His desire, and mine, is that people on both sides of this issue acknowledge the human tendency to cling to traditions (some of which, he shows, are fine and biblical), which can lead to traditions displacing true worship of God and Christ. The thesis of this book is “that Sabbatarianism is a form of traditional pietism and that the acceptance of the fully ceremonial nature of the Sabbath, though shocking to some, is actually Christ-honoring.” (page xiii)
The Sabbath Complete is organized into 12 chapters which examine various aspects of the Sabbath – prototypes, initial practice, law, feasts; how it prefigures Christ in the rest He earned, the Gospel He preached, His resurrection; and a historical review of the practice which has come to be known in the confessions as the “Christian Sabbath.” Coming in at more than 350 heavily footnoted pages, this book is thorough, enlightening, and thought provoking. It is my prayer to whet your appetite enough so that you will buy this book and study it. May the Lord be our wisdom and His glory our goal.
In his examination of the Sabbatic prototypes given to us in Genesis, O’Hare observes (page 1) that “God’s provision for our physical rest is but a token of a more transcendent remedy for our spiritual privation” and follows up (page 6) thusly: “Though God’s rest after creation is a type of everlasting rest yet to come, it is more certainly a type of Jesus Christ, who has come, in whom the faithful rest in salvation.” This snippet shows O’Hare’s focus on Christ – His provision and sufficiency, which is a constant, welcome, perspective throughout this book. As an expression of God’s sovereignty and redemptive revelation, our author reminds us (page 7), “Jonah did not just happen to be engulfed by a great fish and later ejected as a random biological event, but this occurred as designed by the Lord to shadow forth the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. Likewise, the seventh day rest was not a random terminus of creation but a purposed end point to shadow forth the inevitable results of God’s work in redemption.” This sets the stage for a book that is best read slowly, with an open Bible and notepad.
In addition to each Christian studying the Bible for himself, learning from credible sources of church history is very helpful as this sheds light on when and by whom our beloved traditions were started. O’Hare has helpful advice in chapter 9, wherein he reviews the shift to calling Sunday the “Christian Sabbath.” One of the earliest post-apostolic apologists, Justin Martyr, sheds light on the common-place view of Christians in the second century:
“And on the first day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read…But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”
For this most ancient brother, the Lord’s Day was on the first day not as a new instance of the Jewish Sabbath, but in concert with a remembrance of God’s creation and Christ’s resurrection – wherein we have the promise of having our decaying bodies made new like His. Our author laments how Christian traditions were often started not on the Lord’s revelation to us as New Covenant saints, but by imagining connections to Jewish traditions – “such as circumcision giving way to baptism and the Lord’s Supper approximating the Passover, came the forced and fanciful system of religious holidays common in the Roman Catholic Church.” (page 222) He then provides a lengthy quote from famous Roman Catholic Thomas Aquinas, explaining his support for these practices and then comments (page 223), “This teaching blurred the differences between the old and new covenants and paved the way for works orientation. … It was fitting for a better covenant to have fewer ordinances: one, performed only once that identifies the child of God as an heir to the kingdom, and the second, a recurring and sustaining ordinance of remembrance of the life and work of Jesus Christ. Again, similarity does not connote identity. Baptism is not a Christian circumcision, and communion is not a Christian Passover, neither is the Lord’s Day a Christian Sabbath. This is as absurd as calling the new covenant the “Christian old covenant.”” Did I mention that a Presbyterian wrote this book? He goes on to say, “It is plain that the circumcision of the Christian is spiritual and not ritual, and that it is actually the death of Christ, which was His circumcision, into which we were spiritually baptized.” In response to several sabbatarian authors (such as Walter Chantry) who press the “Christian Sabbath”, in part, as a means to restrain evil and provoke (coerce?) Christian worship, O’Hare rightly observes (page 225), “If Christ can raise up rocks to sing His praises (Matt 3:9), why would it be so difficult for Him to raise up His beloved, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to worship at the appointed time (Ps 116:18-19, 122:1-2)?” Amen! Saints of the living God don’t need a command to gather together for worship and fellowship – we, by definition, love Him, are drawn to Him, and we love the brotherhood!
Each chapter of this book delves into history and Scripture to determine the meaning and origin of the various aspects mentioned in the first paragraph. Each is compelling and enlightening. Chapter 4 – Sabbath Law, examines the Jewish laws and traditions tied to their Sabbath and points out inconsistencies in the practice of modern Christian sabbatarians. In nearly every chapter, the diligent reader will be awed by the realization of how detailed the Jewish religion is as given to them by God and how it is much, much more than merely a quaint religion for those people long ago. The Jewish religion, as the book of Hebrews tells us, is mainly a means of communicating God’s eternal plan of redemption to the people He called out of the pagan nations, to protect the promised seed and make His name known around the world. These two priorities – to glorify the Lord and declare the gospel – are consistently the highest order for us humans. This becomes more and more clear as each chapter is consumed.
To keep this review from running 20 pages or more, I will restrict myself to chapter 10 – The Sabbath in Church History. This will put the “Christian Sabbath” practice so aggressively promoted and protected into its proper context. My desire aligns with the author’s – to have readers of this book see the first day of the week in its biblical context, stripped of the accumulated baggage of 20 centuries of religion.
Chapter 10 begins with the apostolic teaching, with O’Hare stating (page 244), “There are three crucial distinctions between Christianity and its roots in Judaism: holy things, the law, and the customs.” He sees some continuity and some discontinuity in the connection between the old religion and the new, acknowledging the law is good, and “Yet these ceremonial laws isolated the Jews from their pagan neighbors, became the point of contention and ridicule, and represented a wall of separation between the two peoples. This was meant by God to display the isolation between sinners and Himself – the Jew included – so when Christ abolished the ceremonies of Judaism, the gospel of peace and the law of moral commandments would become the unifying theology and practice for Jew and Gentile alike (Eph 2:14-16). … At the beginning of the Christian Church, it was a stumbling block to require Gentiles to observe Jewish rituals: “to whom we gave no commandment.” (Acts 15:24)”
The review of the Didache (50 – 120 AD) reveals no evidence of Sabbath-keeping by Christians; the review of Ignatius’ writings (page 247) shows “he clearly distinguishes between Jewish conduct on the Sabbath and Christian conduct on the Lord’s Day, to indicate the superiority of being a disciple of Christ.” He walks us through the records of Mathetes (130 AD), Justin Martyr (114 – 165 AD), Irenaeus (120 – 202 AD), Tertullian (160 – 225), Origen (185 – 254), Eusebius (265 – 340), Sylvester, Bishop of Rome (314 – 335), the council of Laodicea (364); all of which provide no support for the “Christian Sabbath” and often denounce the idea as being a Jewish encroachment in the church.
By the time Gregory I was installed as pope of the then-emerging Roman Catholic Church, traditions now associated with that religion “were already taking root, such as the liturgical mass, a monastic life, symbolic outfits, ecclesiastical hierarchy, and declaration of days to honor saints.” (page 261) O’Hare provides a lengthy excerpt from a letter to Roman citizens in which Gregory I calls those who forbid work on Sunday (which he called the Sabbath day) “preachers of Antichrist” and sums up: “Gregory’s core understanding is that the Sabbath is a fulfilled ceremonial law that should no longer be literally applied.” (page 262) O’Hare quotes R.J. Bauckham’s claim that Peter Comester (a contemporary of Aquinas and Chancellor of Notre Dame in Paris) was the “first exegete to apply the Sabbath commandment literally to Christian observance of the first day”. (page 263) Our author reminds us (same page) that “While it is helpful to acknowledge the scattered, yet progressive, acceptance of a physical rest on Sunday, it is more important to understand the bases for these practices in empiricism and religious authoritarianism.” History tells us what happened and provides evidence as to motives. The Roman Catholic Church explored ways and means to better influence her subjects, working with the legal authorities to provide a day off work and advocating Christian observance of Sabbath principles. “Their expectation that all citizens attend Mass in this church-state led to the need to force compliance through the appeal to Sabbath law.” Thomas Aquinas further developed this line of thought, “asserting that the old law contains moral (emanating from natural law), judicial (laws regarding justice among men), and ceremonial (laws touching on worship, holiness, and sanctification) precepts; and that these three can be distinguished in the Decalogue as well.” (page 264) This appears to be the first teaching of what is now cherished reformed doctrine – that the Law of Moses can be separated into these three categories and dealt with appropriately for new covenant saints. There should be no denying these three elements are found in the Law of Moses, but, as O’Hare shows us with Aquinas, determining what is ceremonial and what is moral is the rub. Aquinas recognized a moral teaching in the Sabbath commandment – people should worship God; he also recognized the ceremonial component, specifically the date upon which such worship is to be given. “At this juncture, Aquinas took the first step toward Sabbatarianism by moralizing a ceremonial command” by asserting the moral necessity of giving time to God. (page 265) Aquinas agreed with Augustine that moral laws are revealed by nature, so all men are without excuse. But in order to get man to be at mass and give to the church due obeisance, Aquinas saw value in elevating that which had been rightly considered ceremonial to moral status.
We will step quickly through the early reformers to show how this idea progressed. Philip Melancthon is quoted as saying, in 1530, “Those who consider the appointment of Sunday in place of the Sabbath as a necessary institution are very much mistaken, for the Holy Scriptures have abrogated the Sabbath and teach that after the revelation of the Gospel all ceremonies of the old law may be omitted.” (page 274) “Luther vacillates between his definitions of the Sabbath as a ceremonial law bearing no external application for Christians and a binding law incurring God’s judgment if disobeyed.” (page 279) John Calvin also had trouble being consistent in his view on this matter. In asserting “that the Sabbath was ceremonial and is moral leaves us open to problems concerning the nature of its existence – it is both abrogated and legally binding. This was further complicated by the church-state relationship that sought to mimic a theocratic Israel and by Calvin’s misconception that the biblical Sabbath required all Israelites to assemble at the synagogue.” (page 281) In his commentary on the Heidelberg Confession, written in 1563, O’Hare lists eight failures on the part of reformers that led them to embrace the “Christian Sabbath” (page 288):
“Failure to familiarize themselves with the teachings of the early church fathers regarding the Sabbath.
Failure to expand the understanding of how the Lord’s advent fulfilled each specific Sabbath command beyond “resting from one’s sins.”
Failure to be consistent in the treatment of ceremonial laws and types.
Failure to satisfactorily explain why the ceremonial Sabbath was placed with the body of the Ten Commandments.
Failure to recognize the limitations of the Ten Commandments as a means to inculcate Christian ethics.
Failure to differentiate the biblical Sabbath from the tradition of the synagogue.
Failure to emphasize the authority of the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to institute a new order of congregational worship.
Failure to distinguish the Sabbath from the Lord’s Day.”
In what may be the keystone paragraph in the entire book, O’Hare explains the meaning of the Sabbath commandment (page 289).
“The Mediator is on the first table (of the Decalogue) because, unlike Moses, Christ truly comes from God and is fully God. Yet Christ, by becoming fully man, joins with man to make him complete. Man cannot become complete simply by keeping the law, but he must experience through faith a life-altering union with Christ. The ceremonial Sabbath is the evangelion within the Ten Commandments that addresses the redemption of man. It is Christ Himself who takes the place of the Sabbath in the Decalogue. The Lord’s Day is not a continuum of the Sabbath or its replacement; it is a fresh ordinance for the church of God based upon the completion of redemption that was twice sealed by the Lord, first by His resurrection and second by the descent of the Holy Spirit.”
This puts the Decalogue in the absolute best light for new covenant saints to understand it and relate to it. (Scripture never calls the Decalogue “The Ten Commandments”, but only and always “the ten words” – hence the term Decalogue. But “Ten Commandments” are much weightier in the mouths of religious overlords than are “ten words”. I would have liked O’Hare to address this aspect of the creeping incrementalism of religious lordship in the church.)
It was during this time that the early reformers also broke with the clear teachings of Scripture and the church fathers by beginning to teach the Sabbath as the product of a creation ordinance. This was taught by Ursinus who “may have adopted the theory of the Reformed Englishman John Hooper, who, in his widely published book, Declaration of the Ten Holy Commandments (1548), claimed that God instituted the Sabbath from creation. … So, only 300 years after Aquinas and fifty years after Luther, the admixture of the Sabbath and Lord’s Day developed into a general concept that the Lord’s Day is the Sabbath, fostering the idea that the Sabbath remains a viable force in Christian living.” (page 290) This creation-ordinance based “Christian Sabbath” was a major element used by state-churches on both sides of the Atlantic to coerce Sunday worship – just as Rome had learned to do, using the same unfortunate logic.
In 1973, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church published a report from a committee that had been formed to study the relationship of the Westminster Confession of Faith to the fourth commandment. In part, the committee reported:
“The weekly Sabbath is an eschatological sign. This truth, central to the teaching of Hebrews 3:7 – 4:13 as well as fundamental to the entire biblical revelation concerning the Sabbath, does not find expression in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. The reason for this would appear to be that the Standards mention the Sabbath commandment primarily in terms of its bearing on the more specific matter of public and private worship.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith was not changed to reflect the eschatological import of the fourth commandment. O’Hare, having taught in this book the nature of moral law (unchanging and universal), observes “If the Sabbath is not ceremonial or typological, it is not eschatological.” “Where”, he asks, “”can it be shown that the Ten Commandments summarize the moral law given to Adam? Where can it be demonstrated that the Sabbath commandment is purely moral?” (page 291) “Was the fourth commandment, as God gave it to Israel, about the Christian Sabbath or the Jewish Sabbath? Was there anything else in the fourth commandment that was abrogated than merely the day of the week on which it fell? Where can it be shown that God abrogated the Jewish Sabbath and installed a Christian Sabbath in its place? … So, besides omitting fundamental truths about the Sabbath, the Westminster codified interpretive errors that budded with Aquinas and blossomed with early Reformers.” (page 292)
In closing this very provoking chapter, O’Hare shows us that the fourth commandment not only commanded rest, it commanded work for six days. The Hebrew word in this commandment is in the Qal imperfect tense, which implies an on-going action – “you work”. “But, if the fourth commandment moralizes the example of God for man to obey, then it is as much a sin to work on the day of rest as it is to rest on the days of work. … if someone completes their (sic) work in three days and does nothing more for three more days, what exactly are they ceasing from on the seventh day?” He instructs us on two types of rest: “1) God’s rest signifies the promise of eternal life, and 2) Israel’s rest signified her faith in God alone. God’s work is redemptive, so man’s work is meaningless apart from that redemption.” (page 309)
“The early church correctly believed that the Sabbath was a ceremonial command and welcomed the ordination of the Lord’s Day as a commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection. However, the ascension of church power through the state and the influence of rationalism allowed the medieval church to begin to associate the fourth commandment with the Lord’s Day. The Reformed church, by perpetuating the error of Aquinas, eventually expanded the scope of applications of Sabbath law and increased its moral muscle, forcing the church to practice Sunday Sabbatarianism.” (page 311)
He gives us eight conclusions which are supported by Scripture and history (page 311):
“The creation account is not about the Sabbath. It is about the primal peace with God that was lost through sin because of a lack of faith. The pattern of creation – six days of God’s work and the ensuing rest – reverberates through Scripture to demonstrate God’s sovereignty in effecting the work of redemption by grace through the faith of man.
When Israel left Egypt they were given the Feast of Passover; a few weeks later in the wilderness they were given the Sabbath. At Mount Sinai, Israel received her full calendar of feasts. The Lord devised this new system of shadow laws to prefigure the person and work of the Messiah.
The Ten Commandments are a summary of the Mosaic laws and therefore contain both moral and ceremonial laws.
Christ in His earthly ministry was born under the law and obeyed the ceremonial laws as well as the moral laws.
Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. His work of redemption – His incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection – is the fulfillment of all shadow laws, even though some of them are yet to be manifested in their entirety.
The redemption of Jesus Christ initiated the new covenant. It is the fulfillment of what the former covenants forecasted.
The apostles had divine warrant to establish first-day worship. Scripture unfolds the transition from things Jewish to things Christian. First-day weekly worship was the normative practice of the early church, it did not move the Sabbath to Sunday.
While there is no explicit scriptural mandate for this transition, we have scriptural foreshadowing and history of first-day significance, and rationale. Christ’s resurrection and the inaugural descent of the Holy Spirit – the most important events of the church age – occurred on the first day of the weeks in fulfillment of Israel’s shadowy calendar laws.”
There is much, much more in this book than I can even hint at in these few pages – which are too many for most, I fear. Buy the book. Study the topics, challenge the author (I found a few places where I consider him to be in error), challenge yourself – for none of us has arrived any more than did any of the Reformers.
At the end of it all, why doesn’t this book, or anyone else, show from Scripture why the Jewish Sabbath command is not meant for the new covenant church? This is the wrong starting point. We look to Scripture to see what is, what God has revealed to us; not to prove a point. What we see in Scripture about the Decalogue is that is was an integral part of the Mosaic Covenant and the testimony or witness of that covenant (Ex 31:18, 32:15, 34:27 – 29). This key aspect of the Decalogue being a testimony of God’s covenant with Israel is further developed in Ex 25 and 26, with the ark being the “ark of the testimony” (see Ex 25:22 for emphasis). This is reminiscent of Ex 16:33 – 34 when Moses was commanded to put manna in a jar as a testimony God’s promise of provisions, seen in Ex 16:4 – 5. These are the most (only?) explicit statements in the Bible regarding the reason and purpose for the tablets and the ark – as a testimony of God’s covenant with Israel made on Mt. Sinai. Ezekiel 20:12 tells us the Sabbath is a sign between God and the Hebrews – marking their exodus from Egypt. It is not listed as a sign for the church, any more than water baptism is a sign and seal of that New Covenant. The burden is on the backs of those who say the Jewish Sabbath was, as the confessions say, abolished and re-established on the first day of the week, given to the church as the “Christian Sabbath.” That assertion, is found in paragraph 22.7 of the Second London Baptist Confession, yet established by no Scripture. Yet we do see in God’s Word the admonition for Christians to be understanding and accepting of brothers who lean on the practice of old religion (Romans 14 and 1 Cor 8) as well as stern rebukes for those who want Christians to practice old religion as a requirement (Acts 15).
The Sabbath Complete provides a comprehensive review and analysis of myriad aspects of the Decalogue and the Sabbath; examining the Word of God, the languages, and the historical context. Let the reader humbly go before Holy God and plead for understanding rather than rely on his own “wisdom” or unexamined presuppositions that we all hold too closely. Remember those who went before us – they knew they were fallible, yet many of them acted as if they were complete in their understanding of God’s Word. Yet they stood under the banner of Sufficiency of Scripture and all for the glory of God – as we must. But let these slogans of an bygone era be not merely nifty phrases we use to show our credentials, let each of us also acknowledge that we must be reformed and reforming for the glory of God, for He alone sees and understands perfectly.
This book is available on Amazon and directly from the publisher, at a competitive price.
Each of us has doctrines we hold to without properly examining them in light of Scripture – that’s how we are wired as humans. This comes into play on this notion of Christian Sabbath keeping which was first invented by early Roman Catholics in the 6th century and codified in paedobaptists’ system of theology a thousand years later. Now it is a tightly held tradition by many; and many who love this teaching celebrate any work that supports their perspective – which does their argument no good. Walter Chantry’s book, Call the Sabbath a Delight, is such a work. In my two years of researching this subject, this book did more to convince me this “Christian Sabbath” is not defensible from Scripture than anything written against this doctrine. The best thing about this book is that it’s small and short.
by Walter Chantry – a critical review
Walter Chantry was born and raised in a Presbyterian home and graduated from a Presbyterian school (Westminster Theological Seminary). This is something worth mentioning, as it’s obvious he was heavily influenced by our paedobaptist brothers. Let each one of us realize we are likewise influenced by what we’ve taught and think is “so” and need test all things in light of God’s holy Word. In the introduction to this book, Chantry starts off presuming the Decalogue (not called the Ten Commandments until the New Geneva Bible) equals God’s moral law. Since this is foundational to his entire argument, it needs some explanation and defense, not mere assertion – but our author provides none. Perhaps he assumes everybody knows this or accepts it. Why this is problematic will be shown later. This short introduction to his book sets his premise, in which he comes across very much like the folks in the movie, Divided: just as the movie implied teenagers were going to hell because the right church program was not available, so Chantry paints a picture of a culture hell-bound because people have turned their back on the so-called Christian Sabbath: “We should consider it nothing less than shockingly unacceptable for Bible teachers and ministers to undermine the practice of the worship and service of God by teaching against the Sabbath law.” This pragmatic streak is another thing that shows up throughout this book. But we know, God saves His elect through the gospel people; salvation does not come through the Law or through behavior modification.
In chapter 1, Chantry quotes Ex 20:8-11 and calls it the 4th commandment. Does anyone think the tablets God wrote on contained all those words for the “4th Word”? By assuming all the words in these verses are the commandment, he fails to see the ceremonial, judicial, civil, etc. content in this and several of the commandments. He considers all of Ex 20:3 – 17 to be “the Ten Commandments”, summing up God’s moral law. If the 10 Words on the first set of tablets is God’s moral law, why do we not have those 10 Words clearly preserved in Scripture rather than bound up in words that conveyed the re-issue of the covenant of works to the Hebrew people? And why does the record of the Decalogue differ, particularly in the 4th commandment, between Ex 20 and Deut 5? Our author merely waves this aside, asserting, “as originally given on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20), the fourth law was enforced with an argument from God’s behavior during creation week.” Yes, the Lord gave illumination of His Sabbath command to the Hebrews by pointing back to the 7th day of creation, providing an example of the rest He was commanding the Hebrews to keep. God doesn’t call the 7th day of creation a Sabbath in Ex 20 – but He does use that word to describe the sign He has given the Hebrews. In his effort to defend his position, Chantry claims, “the Ten Commandments per se are free of all ceremonial and judicial peculiarities of the Mosaic covenant.” If this is true, should not the Lord have struck Moses dead for changing His eternal, moral law with he “rehearsed the Ten Commandments to Israel” in Deuteronomy? If by this our author means that embedded in the text of Ex 20:3 – 17 are the “the Ten Commandments per se”, that some of what’s recorded in this passage is not God’s moral law, he should have developed this argument. He leaves us wondering what he means, because he consistently calls “the Ten Commandments” God’s moral law and he does not tell us what he thinks “the Ten Commandments per se” might be. Just as we don’t have an inspired record of “the 10 words”, neither do we have for “the Ten Commandments per se”.
Chantry tells us (page 24) that Rom 2:15 is proof that Adam was given the Decalogue when he was created. This verse tells us that Gentiles without the law of Moses have the works of the law written on their hearts – it does NOT prove Adam was created with the Decalogue written on his conscience as claimed. Further, how could Adam know the Decalogue or any version of the moral law of God prior to having knowledge of good and evil? The law – any law – brings awareness of sin (evil); Adam knew none of this before he ate and his eyes were opened. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve knew the goodness of God; they did not know evil. After he and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God said “the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.” It appears that Adam was given the moral law of God in conjunction with The Fall – not when he was created nor when he walked in innocence.
There is, however, much to agree with in this book – we do get guidance from God as to what is honorable from His moral law, Christians are to be joyful about gathering on the Lord’s Day, he decries the overly rigid rules-based Puritan view of enforcing their Sabbath – which the authors of the WCF had as their baseline for their view. But Chantry, who was raised and educated as a Presbyterian, doesn’t seem to see the difference between the Jews living under the Old Covenant and the children of Abraham according to the promise living in the New Covenant. And he lumps all who don’t see this equivalence into the dust bin of dispensationalism (this line of argument takes up most of chapter 4, providing a platform for Chantry to condemn all who disagree by saying, “Never in Israel or the church did the gospel of salvation by grace through faith promote lawlessness.” This is the bucket all who do not hold his view are thrown into. There is no other position in Chantry’s model: if you are not a Sabbatarian, you are an antinomian. This is, sadly, an all-too-common assertion by Sabbatarians.
Another problem in claiming the Decalogue equals God’s moral law comes into play when Chantry argues for its universal application to all men at all times – implicitly endorsing blue laws and contradicting the historical record of Scripture and all of mankind. Only by Special Revelation can man know he is to worship God on a given day. How can the entire 4th Commandment, as presented herein, be universal when it’s apparent everywhere that many don’t know it, when nowhere in Scripture are any people outside the Mosaic Covenant punished for violating it? Nowhere in general revelation is man given the 7 day week; yet there is every evidence that all men everywhere know murder and robbery, etc. are wrong and all men worship something. God’s moral law is known to man and no man is without excuse. But there is no evidence that weekly rest from labor is part of that moral law; it appears only in context with God’s covenant people. Nowhere in any version of the 10 Commandments are people told to worship God on the Sabbath and nowhere in the Scriptures is the first day of the week called “Sabbath”. Yet we know from Scripture that the saints gathered to worship on the day after the Sabbath. They went to the synagogues to dispute with the Jews on the Sabbath.
He gives conflicting messages, telling us rightly that, as Peter said, we are not to live under the Mosaic law (beginning of chapter 2). But our author makes no effort to separate God’s moral law from the Mosaic Covenant in applying his sabbatarian argument. He cites Isaiah 58:13 & 14 as “a discussion of the Sabbath in all its spiritual beauty. Here is a text in which the Sabbath Law is presented without the drab and unappealing attire of judicial additives.” But Chantry told us in chapter 1 that “the Ten Commandments per se are free of all ceremonial and judicial peculiarities of the Mosaic covenant.” Is he now citing Isaiah 58 as proof against his assertion from chapter 1? He gives superficial attention to Scriptures but spends lots of pages talking about the woeful state of the culture and giving what can only be called pragmatic advice. “Mothers and fathers must work at making the Sabbath a delight to their children. Boys and girls must not come to view the day of worship as grim and repressive.” One cannot muster up nor manufacture “the joy of the Lord”. If mom and dad are new creatures in Christ, they will have joy in the worship, instruction, and fellowship that takes place in a local church. Yes, they will have sin to deal with and must strive for holiness. This should be modeled for their unregenerate small children – those impressionable young people can be easily trained to look like covenant children; but that is a very dangerous role for any person to play. As with the taking of the Lord’s Supper, young people ought to see Christian character and worship but parents ought to know they cannot participate unless they be born again.
Chantry (page 52) says there are some who “the claim that the New Testament is silent on the fourth commandment.” He then shoots himself squarely in the foot by claiming Matt 12:1-14, Mark 2:23- 3:6, Luke 6:1-11, Luke 13:10-17, Luke 4:1-6, John 5:1-18, and John 7:20-24 are New Testament teachings about Christians keeping the Sabbath – “They contain our Lord Jesus’ frequent and extensive teaching on the subject.” All of these passages are records of activity by Christ and/or His disciples doing kingdom work on the Jewish Sabbath with those under the Mosaic Law. He fails to cite the clear and thrice-told declaration (Ex 31:13 – 17, Ez 20:12. Ez 20:20) that the Sabbath is a sign between YHWH and the Jews. Chantry goes on to claim (page 54), that in Mark 2:27-28, Christ points back to creation in defending the continuation of the weekly Sabbath – And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Chantry claims the phrase, “the Sabbath was made”, refers to the 7th day of creation. He compares this passage from Mark to Paul’s very clear tie of creation to marriage – “Paul uses almost an identical formula in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9. ‘Man is not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man.’” Contrary to Chantry’s claim, there is no comparison: Paul clearly cites Genesis 2:18 – 23, but one has to claim Moses used the wrong word in writing Genesis 2:2-3, because he didn’t use the word for Sabbath found in Exodus 20. The Hebrew word for the “rest” God observed on the “seventh” day found in Genesis 2:2-3 is shābat; a primitive root; to repose, i.e. desist from exertion; the word for Sabbath in Exodus 20:8-11 is shabbāt; intensive from <H7673> (shabath); intermission, i.e. (specific) the Sabbath. These two are related but are not the same.
He constantly insists the Sabbath was created in the beginning, because God set aside the 7th day as His day of rest, made it holy, blessed it because on it He rested from creation. No mention of Sabbath, no command to man to do anything nor punishment of man for failing to obey this command. Nehemiah (chapter 9 verses 13 & 14) records that God gave the Sabbath to the Jews on Mt. Sinai. The sabbath that Christ says was made for men – not just for the Jews – is that sabbath rest all elect enter into when we are raised to new life in Jesus and cease from our working to be right with God as the Old Covenant demands. Hebrews 4 is not talking about a continuation of the pale, weekly day of the Jewish religion, which was a type and weak imitation of the eternal rest and reconciliation He bought with His blood.
In chapter 5, Chantry inadvertently makes my point – that the moral law of God is not equal to the Decalogue, though it shone through the Decalogue – when he observes that Jesus and the disciples defined moral purity by quoting the Decalogue. When the commandments are quoted in the New Testament, they rarely (once?) include the judicial/ceremonial language contained in Ex 20 and Deut 5. These first century men knew the actual “10 Words” as did their Jewish audiences. And not once does Jesus or His apostles teach or enforce any type of sabbath keeping as described in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 1689 London Baptist Confession in context of the Christian faith. But Chantry doesn’t see this – he says, “Keeping the Sabbath Day holy is a commandment embedded in the code of moral law written by God’s own finger. It is a part of the definition of righteousness.” (page 63) Many theologians like to make much of the fact that God wrote the 10 Words on the first set of tablets, tablets made of stone – which Moses destroyed. The second set of tablets, which probably carved by Moses as commanded by God, were stored in the Ark of the Covenant, along with the jar of manna and Aaron’s rod. This Ark of the Covenant was lost in antiquity, and according the Word of God, is to be forgotten – (Jr 3:15-16): “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.” Might these “tablets of testimony” (Ex 31:18) of the Mosaic Covenant be types and shadows that point us to something greater, as so much of what God gave Israel in that covenant is properly recognized as? God’s law written on tablets of stone, given to people with hearts of stone, who gathered for worship in a temple of stone. Compare this the new Covenant Jeremiah writes about: God’s people given hearts of flesh to replace their hearts of stone, God’s law written on the tablets of our hearts rather than tablets of stone, and we are God’s temple which is comprised of spiritual stones He is assembling for Himself. Chantry goes on to state (still on page 63),“The ways in which the moral law was applied and the way it was enforced differ greatly when we compare the management of Moses and the management of Christ.” This sounds a whole lot like our paedobaptist argument – that the covenant of Moses is part of the covenant of grace, just under a different administrator.
Chantry is right and correct in pointing out the ancient basis of the covenant of grace, delineating the difference between it and the Mosaic Covenant. His guidance regarding motives, in chapter 6, is solid, although he continues to use dramatic and inaccurate comparisons – calling those who do not align with his view of the first day of the week, lawless, antinomian. This is poor practice. It will take a biblical argument pressed on me by the Spirit of God that convinces me of anything – not a comparison between Christians and the culture.
In his argument about why Christians worship on Sunday, there is no argument – until he describes how the Sabbath was moved to the day after the Sabbath. If one takes the stone tablets as God’s moral law, rather than seeing them as a lens through which His moral law shone in the context of the Mosaic Covenant, then one must find a way to explain how that “which God wrote with His finger” was changed without a command from God. If the entire record in Ex 20 known as the 10 Commandments is considered to be God’s moral law, then one cannot accept changing the day (explicitly called out as the seventh day, not “every seventh day, and not the first); that is as much a part of God’s moral law as is the command to work six days (not five). And the 4th commandment does not command worship – but to keep it holy, set apart, and to abstain from work. But, if one sees God’s moral law as described above – shining through the Decalogue rather than the Decalogue being the source – then we can easily accept this change in the day, seeing the moral principle as the key thing. The Jews were commanded to honor the seventh day; Christ was raised from the dead on the first day and we gather for worship on that day. I know that many theologians agree with Chantry that Heb 4 is a proof text for weekly Sabbath keeping. But the Old Testament type given was a one time entry into temporal rest, just as was Creator God’s one time entering into His rest from Creation work – so why would the rest between these two be other than the one time rest the elect enter into when they are redeemed by Christ and take His light load upon them and find rest in Him? It is a stretch that belies belief to claim this is a weekly Sabbath, something that was a pale shadow of what was promised in Gen 3:15.
In the last chapter, Chantry tries to write off biblical passages that appear to teach that a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath were a shadow of what was to come, Col 2 being “the most striking and troublesome” for the author. “It is apparent that these three texts are describing ceremonial and judicial laws of Moses. … Weekly Sabbath-keeping as required in the fourth commandment does not fit the description of days described in Romans 14, Galatians 4 and Colossians 2.” His argument for this position is tied to his insistence on a creation ordinance – “The weekly Sabbath day is a creation ordinance just as is marriage. Moses said so (Genesis 2:1-3), Jesus said so (Mark 2:27, 28)! So did the author of Hebrews 4:3-4!” That Genesis 2 says nothing about a weekly pattern of rest for men does not come into Chantry’s evaluation of this topic. This pattern of days refers to all of the holy days of the Jews from yearly feasts to the weekly Sabbath, and comes from repeated descriptions of the Mosaic ritual, found in 1 Chron 23:30-31; 2 Chron 2:4, 8:12-13, 31:3; Neh 10:33; Isaiah 1:13-14; Ezek 45:17; and Hosea 2:11. This is another indication that the Mosaic code, of which the Decalogue is part, does not apply to Christian as a law – but as a type or shadow of the Christ to come. Our exodus is not from Egypt; that country is a type for sin and wickedness. The moral law, though it is revealed within the Mosaic code, is eternal and no more uniquely part of that Sinai covenant than the New Covenant is – though the covenant of grace was progressively revealed over time, even within the era of the Mosaic Covenant. His last point addresses “proper Sabbath behavior.” He gives some good counsel on the limits of elders and common sense examples of variation depending on circumstance, but defaults to Jewish rules to guide us. He does finish with a recognition that Sabbath keeping isn’t the “answer to all man’s ills”, but still holds up a Christian imitation of the Jewish rite as a joy for us to keep.
In explaining how the Sabbath day can be changed from the 7th to the 1st day, Chantry accepts the narrative accounts in Scripture which document the fact that Christians met for worship on the 1st day, claiming this does not “cause the entire law to crumble or disappear.” But if the Decalogue and this commandment in particular have no judicial or ceremonial content, then changing from “the seventh day” should take something more substantial. It is a common hermeneutic rule – narrative is not normative; one doesn’t build doctrine from narrative. Why should one be able to change God’s moral law by narrative example?
Regarding the assertion that the Decalogue is or sums up God’s moral law, this is a very complex topic that would benefit from a well researched book being written. One would need to develop the concept of “God’s moral law”, get a handle on what may have been carved on the stone tablets compared to what Moses recited to the Hebrew nation, and examine the biblical history and biblical theology of the relevant texts. If someone knows of such a work, please chime in!
The authors of Chantry’s “List of Outstanding Materials on the Sabbath” is comprised of 18 paedobaptists and 1 Baptist – Erroll Hulse, plus the Westminster Confession of Faith and Shorter and Larger Westminster Catechisms. This, in itself, tells us where the bulk of support is for Chantry’s position – those who flatten out the covenants and, in an opposite ditch from the dispensationalists, see equality of identity between the church and the nation of Israel.
Give me the joyful gathering of the saints who eagerly come together to worship the Lord and build one another up; I care not to enter into the shadow of what Christ brought to His church.
If 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?