4th Commandment: The Biblical View?

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thistle93

Puritan Board Freshman
While I am not a Sabbatarian I also do not believe the 4th Commandment has been abrogated in the New Covenant. Why would 9 Commandments of the moral law continue and only 1 be removed? Also the 4th Commandment has its roots in creation, not just law.

I think both Sabbatarians and those who think the 4th commandment has been abrogated are negating part of the NT teachings on this subject.

Sabbatarians (those who oppose any secular activity on Sunday and want to impose on other believers) have to ignore Romans 14:5.
Those who think the 4th Commandment has been abrogated have to ignore Hebrews 10:24-25.

I know many (including D.A. Carson) do not see a relation to the Lord's Day (transferring worship from Saturday to Sunday in celebration of the Resurrection) and the 4th Commandment but it seems to me the best way to show that the 4th Commandment has been fulfilled in Jesus and that New Covenant believers are no longer under certain restrictions as that of the OT Sabbath while at the same time showing the 4th Commandment has not been completely abrogated and does not excuse people from neglecting corporate worship. This view seems to rightly incorporating verses like Romans 14:5 & Hebrews 10:24-25 into a proper Biblical context. Have you ever heard this view point similarly espoused before or am I alone in my views?

Thoughts?

Books you recommend on the subject?

For His Glory-
Matthew
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Romans 14:5 - Matthew Henry says, "Concerning days, Rom_14:5. Those who thought themselves still under some kind of obligation to the ceremonial law esteemed one day above another - kept up a respect to the times of the passover, pentecost, new moons, and feasts of tabernacles; thought those days better than other days, and solemnized them accordingly with particular observances, binding themselves to some religious rest and exercise on those days. Those who knew that all these things were abolished and done away by Christ's coming esteemed every day alike. We must understand it with an exception of the Lord's day, which all Christians unanimously observed; but they made no account, took no notice, of those antiquated festivals of the Jews. Here the apostle speaks of the distinction of meats and days as a thing indifferent, when it went no further than the opinion and practice of some particular persons, who had been trained up all their days to such observances, and therefore were the more excusable if they with difficulty parted with them. But in the epistle to the Galatians, where he deals with those that were originally Gentiles, but were influenced by some judaizing teachers, not only to believe such a distinction and to practise accordingly, but to lay a stress upon it as necessary to salvation, and to make the observance of the Jewish festivals public and congregational, here the case was altered, and it is charged upon them as the frustrating of the design of the gospel, falling from grace, Gal_4:9-11. The Romans did it out of weakness, the Galatians did it out of wilfulness and wickedness; and therefore the apostle handles them thus differently. This epistle is supposed to have been written some time before that to the Galatians. The apostle seems willing to let the ceremonial law wither by degrees, and to let it have an honourable burial; now these weak Romans seem to be only following it weeping to its grave, but those Galatians were raking it out of its ashes."

It is the same argument Paul makes in Colossians when talking about the ceremonial law (notice the connection of meat and days in both places) 2:16-17 - Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

The mention of new moon and sabbath dayS (plural) is clearly referring to the ceremonial law especially considering v.17.


So as a Sabbatarian do I ignore Romans 14:5? No, I fully embrace it and Colossians 2.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Matthew,
Surely it is evident hyperbole to say that some (the strict sabbatarians) "ignore Rom.14:5."

First, "ignore" isn't accurate, because if some v is commonly taken as a denial of some view or other, then doubtless it has been examined for relevance. Study of that contraindicating text may, in fact, have been anticipated by the earliest propounders of the positive doctrine, and its mitigations addressed--mitigations that may not have been adequately attended to by those opposing.

Second, it is not incontrovertible that such a text as Rom.14:5 (and others, e.g. Col.2:16) was intended to undermine a one-day-in-seven (or sabbatarian) devotion, as being morally warranted. For one thing, Jesus spent considerable time correcting his opposition on the proper use of the sabbath, and at no time did he indicate that "the time is coming, and now is," that imminently all such corrections would be moot.

He did contrariwise with the Temple-worship, in correcting the woman at the well, Jn.4. In specific teaching attested to in some cases by all three synoptic Gospels, as well as uniquely in all four, Jesus made ample use of the 4th commandment, never indicating that it should be soon passe. As with other commands, he made clear the original intent. And he himself is responsible for whatever changes or removal of certain limits has come about in the New Covenant era.

Of course, I'm happy when others (such as yourself) concede that there is some kind of "propriety" in Lord's Day observance. Perhaps it can be stated more strongly, but it is much better than the norm of seeing this work as a grand "option."

The book of Hebrews is suffused with worshipping imagery and terminology. Look closely at Heb.4:9, "There remains therefore a sabbathkeeping for the people of God." Well-consider the LXX usage of the pertinent NT hapax, so often dully-rendered simply as "rest." Those who conveniently refer this text wholly to the end of time (eschatology) forget that the eschaton has broken in upon us in the present. We are both already and not-yet saved to the uttermost.

Also the verbal idea of "remains" is almost completely effaced when the term is reimagined as "awaits in the future," that is, it hasn't even happened yet. The Gk term is quite fixedly attached to the ideas of "abiding," "residue," and "permanence;" and it seems forced to actually extract this notion right out of our bodily experience, completely etherealizing or mysticizing the idea into one of personal-union with Christ--especially considering the corporate emphasis of Hebrews. Note v11, "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest." Is the writer thinking mainly of individual perseverance to his own eschatology, or in relation to the preached Word, v12, and a present (yea, weekly) sustenance, and the not-forsaking notion that is recapitulated in 10:25?


For further study, I recommend John Owen's Preliminary Exercitations to his Hebrews commentary, and the commentary itself on relevant passages, where he treats the whole matter at length.

Blessings on your studies.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Recommended reading:

Westminster Confession of Faith with Scripture proofs (Chapter XXI summarizes the doctrine of Scripture with relation to sabbath):Westminster Confession of Faith

John Gerstner sermon on the Standards, Sabbath, Fourth Commandment:Lecture 15, Chapter 21, Sec. 1-6 from The Westminster Confession of Faith Teaching Series by Dr. John Gerstner from Ligonier Ministries

The Lord's Day, Joseph Pipa
http://www.christianbook.com/lords-are-you-spending-this-sunday/joey-pipa/9781857922011/pd/22018

GI Williamson, Lectures on the Sabbath
http://www.nethtc.net/~giwopc/LecturesontheSabbath.pdf
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
While I am not a Sabbatarian I also do not believe the 4th Commandment has been abrogated in the New Covenant. Why would 9 Commandments of the moral law continue and only 1 be removed? Also the 4th Commandment has its roots in creation, not just law.

I think both Sabbatarians and those who think the 4th commandment has been abrogated are negating part of the NT teachings on this subject.

Sabbatarians (those who oppose any secular activity on Sunday and want to impose on other believers) have to ignore Romans 14:5.
Those who think the 4th Commandment has been abrogated have to ignore Hebrews 10:24-25.

I know many (including D.A. Carson) do not see a relation to the Lord's Day (transferring worship from Saturday to Sunday in celebration of the Resurrection) and the 4th Commandment but it seems to me the best way to show that the 4th Commandment has been fulfilled in Jesus and that New Covenant believers are no longer under certain restrictions as that of the OT Sabbath while at the same time showing the 4th Commandment has not been completely abrogated and does not excuse people from neglecting corporate worship. This view seems to rightly incorporating verses like Romans 14:5 & Hebrews 10:24-25 into a proper Biblical context. Have you ever heard this view point similarly espoused before or am I alone in my views?

Thoughts?

Books you recommend on the subject?

For His Glory-
Matthew

There is a comparable contrast between the spirituality and morality of the weekly Sabbath and the use of the ceremonies, in the OT, which anticipates the remaining of a Sabbath unto the NT people of God, while the shadowy days and feasts, which were largely dependent on the existence of the Temple, fall away. E.g. compare Isaiah 58:13-14 with some of the descriptions in the prophets of ceremonies of being of no value in themselves without faith and its moral fruits, e.g. Isaiah 1:10-20.

There is also no indication that the Apostles took it upon themselves to change the particular day of the week, and even less that they took it on themselves to downgrade it from being a full day. Christ ordained the change of day either verbally or by revelation to His Apostles, and He didn't downgrade it to something less than a day.

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Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
While I am not a Sabbatarian I also do not believe the 4th Commandment has been abrogated in the New Covenant.

This sounds like something of a contradiction. The sabbath is central to Command 4. Actually, the whole of the command is work 6, sabbath 1, which is ordained as the pattern of life for the creatures, from creation on.

How can someone who believes the 4th Commandment be any more a "sabbatarian" than someone who believes the 10th Commandment be a "covetarian"?

Consider what our Lord said about breaking up the moral Law of God given the creatures:
James 2:10
For whosoever shall keep the whole Law, & yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.



It is curious how some can say that Commandments 1,2,3,5,6,7,8, 9 and 10 apply, but pick out 4 and say it does not. Granted, it takes a lot of visible obedience, and as the Westminster Larger Catechism says there is "less light in nature" for it, but how can someone logically, let alone biblically say the Ten Commandments apply.... except for one of them?

Westminster Larger Catechism
emphasis added

Q. 121. Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the fourth commandment?

A. The word Remember is set in the beginning of the fourth commandment,[637] partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it,[638] and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the commandments,[639] and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion;[640] and partly, because we are very ready to forget it,[641] for that there is less light of nature for it,[642] and yet it restraineth our natural liberty in things at other times lawful;[643] that it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it;[644] and that Satan with his instruments labours much to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.[645]

Consider also, God's command to "remember"- "remember" what? Creation (Exodus), Redemption (Deuteronomy).
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Remember that the Fourth Commandment was audibly spoken by God from Heaven, written by God on tables of stone, was laid up in the Ark, under the Mercy Seat, where once a year the blood of atonement was sprinkled for the breaking of the Ten Commandments. Did our Lord likewise have to shed His blood because of His OT and NT people's Sabbath-breaking? Of course He did; He is the antitype.

Also under the OT administration of the Covenant of Grace, the death penalty was a possibility for presumptuous sins against the Fourth Commandment. More could be said about the distinguishing marks of the weekly Sabbath, but can the above things be said of any of the ceremonial feasts and days?

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Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Matthew:

Not surprisingly, the concensus on this board will be that you ought to observe the Lord's Day as a Sabbath. Without dwelling further on that, allow me to comment on your other thoughts.

You are absolutely right to see that the commandment goes well beyond the outward observance of days. It shows us that we are to worship God and pay attention to his Word and pray (and not just one day a week). Also, as the Heidelberg Cetechism says, "Every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath" (Q&A 103) There's much more to resting in God than simply taking off work and spending a day in God-focused pursuits. The idea that there's much depth not only to the Fourth Commandment but to each of them is affirmed by all the Reformed catechisms, and fits the approach Jesus took to the Commandments in his Sermon of the Mount.

Where your affirmation of this may fall short is in the way you suggest the Fourth Commandment is somehow partially abrogated... as if we now are to keep it in a lesser way than Old Testament believers did. You may not have meant to imply this, but it came out sounding that way. It seems to me that irrespective of one's view on the observance of days, one should desire to keep every Commandment in a GREATER way than in older times, not a lesser way. Christ our chief prophet has now come. Although everything he taught could be gleaned from the prophets before him, now we more than ever have no excuse and have every motivation and desire—and in the Spirit every help—to keep God's law. So rather than suggest we only keep a portion of that Commandment, I think you may need to become convinced that your understanding of it results in a greater, deeper keeping of the Commandment, not a partial or lesser one.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
I think the dispensational idea that even if we recognise that there is a Sabbath/Lord's Day in the New Testament, we have greater "freedom" in how we observe it, forgets that the fact that we have one day a week specially set apart by Christ which is devoted to Him and His Father and fenced-off from work and legitimate worldly concerns is part of the liberty we have in Christ. The day has been set free for us unto God, by Him.

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