Is the observance of Sunday a matter of Christian Liberty?

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by Semper Fidelis, Nov 26, 2007.

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  1. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Marty, I gather you are referring to, "yet we are not bound to or tied down to any particular day." But as I understand it in its native context, he is speaking about "that which is particular" so far as Sabbath sanctification is concerned. Hence his meaning is only that there is no inherent moral holiness placed in one day over another, so that the day is to be considered one of positive appointment. The Puritans held the same. As for the appointment of the first day of the week, he provides a significant reason why this day was appointed over others, namely, "because on that day the resurrection of Christ took place, by which the internal and spiritual Sabbath is begun in us." (P. 563.) Again, the Puritans held the same. It is also worth noting that Ursinus would use the word "church" in the context of "Christendom," or the idea of a universal church, not in any sense suggesting that it is up to each individual congregation to decide what day it will worship on. Blessings!
  2. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you Richard. Then I prematurely recognized a charicature of their thought. I stand corrected
  3. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    My apologies for digrssing the thread a tad. That said, In regards to the premise of the thread at hand regarding activity on the sabbath, is there any Epistle references that can be cited denouncing any activities? I cannot find any. Many cite Old Covenant references and some references in the gospels, when the Mosaic Law code was still in force because Christ, had yet to die , but never is any command or principle from the apostolic doctrine sections of Scripture cited to support this thought. In defence of "anti sabs" for lack of a better term, I see Rom 14, Col 1 and Heb 4. Yet we are accused of the ole "taking them out of context" issue. CH cited James 2:10,11 which in no way has this thought in mind. You would think that something as important as some make it, there would be at least a shred of Apostolic scripture speaking on this. I cannot find any evidence the New Covenant calls for any person to cease from all activity on Sunday or on the Sabbath.

    Believers who do not keep the Sabbath should not judge those who do so as legalists, unless those who do so begin to make it mandatory for all other believers. Romans 14: 4-6 is clear on this.
  4. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The burden of proof is unreasonable because it requires us to assume a non-reformed position with respect to the relationship of Old and New Testaments. The fact that a moral obligation is not repeated in the New Testament does not mean it has been abrogated.
  5. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    1. I think you have a wrong understanding of the nature of the moral law by framing the question/challenge the way you did.

    2. I don't really see the Apostles spelling out how we are not supposed to covet our neighbor's property either. See point # 1.

    3. The discussion actually bears upon what the nature of liberty is. Obviously, nobody is permitted to judge the other and this is the reason, in another thread, that I enjoined people to be careful about their attitudes toward one another and cited Romans 14 as an the example of the attitude that believers are supposed to have toward one another. As you recall, I did not start this thread. My post was moved over here to a new thread and it kind of morphed into the present discussion.

    I personally would not have started a new thread giving people the impression that the discussion on the Sabbath is a disagreement between the weak and the strong. See the discussion on the things adiofora in another thread to get my views on what I believe is adiofora. I actually don't think there's really much doubt that the Sabbath is a moral law that finds its genesis in Genesis at creation.

    I agree that there are ways that the Sabbath can be pressed into legalism but those issues have to do with the disposition/motivation of the person toward the command. Even the command not to covet can be turned into a legalistic exercise but it isn't, by definition, legalistic to seek to obey the command when redeemed. So it is with the Sabbath.

    The big question is this: is the Sabbath still something of the nature of the moral law? Does God still command that we labor diligently for 6 days and rest in/worship Him on the 7th? If so, then a child can be confused about what pleases His Father and not delight in the same things His Father does but a child cannot know that His Father delights in a thing, do the opposite, and claim that He's pleasing His Father and then get upset with other brothers who are reminding Him that He's insulting the One he claims to love.
  6. JohnOwen007

    JohnOwen007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Dear Matthew, thanks for the thoughts, and I can appreciate from where you're coming. But in context I still find it difficult to follow your reading. We differ over whether the apostolic change of day was a positive appointment or not. Hence, I read the words like "liberty" not simply to apply to the apostolic church but also now to the church of today as well. The problem I have with your reading, is that I can't find Ursinus explicitly saying that the apostolic change of day was a positive appointment. That's the unstated assumption. It may well be there. I haven't found it yet.

    However, it seems to me that Ursinus does indicate that the church of today is free to change the day of worship. We find it in a passage where he rebuts the Anabaptist objection that no day is to be seen as special, and hence Sunday as well as any day is now unlawful to consecrate:

    But it is not in this way [no day is special] that the Church observes the Lord's day, or the first day of the week. The observance of the first day of the week on the part of Christians differs in two respects from the observance of the Jewish sabbath. 1. It was not lawful for the Jews, on account of the express command of God, to alter or change the sabbath of the seventh day, as being a part of the ceremonial worship. But the Christian church, in the exercise of her own liberty, sets apart [notice the present tense] the first, or any other day to the ministry, without connecting with it any opinion of necessity of worship. [...]

    Every blessing.
  7. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Marty, as you suggested previously, we may need to agree to disagree in the way we interpret Ursinus. I think the broader context of how the reformers approached the subject explains what Ursinus is aiming at. He starts from the position that the Sabbath is morally binding, and seeks to show wherein the Christian Sabbath differs from the Jewish. From that position his statements seem transparent to me, that the Christian church, unlike the Jewish church, does not regard one specific day as possessing inherent holiness over any other day. He clearly states that this respect to one specific day is what belonged to the ceremonial law. The Puritans also regarded the specific day as something which was positive, not moral. It might be argued that the Puritans laid greater emphasis than Ursinus on the fact that the positive institution of the first day was normative, and that would be in keeping with the different points they were seeking to establish; but it cannot be doubted that Ursinus saw the first day of the week as being appointed by the apostolic church, and that it appointed the first day because it was the day on which Christ rose from the dead.

    The above quotation does not appear to me to suggest that the church today might change the day on which she keeps holy to God one day in seven. It seems merely to indicate that the church has freedom to minister not only one day of the week, but on every day of the week. Again, this would be in keeping with the reformed contention that the Christian church is not bound to observe the ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath commandment. Many blessings!
  8. JohnOwen007

    JohnOwen007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm happy with that. Thanks for the discussion thus far brother. All the best.
  9. historyb

    historyb Puritan Board Junior

    On my way to Church Sunday and as I routinely do on my cart, I cut through the parking lot of the local RCC and I had a thought after see the multitudes of cars. They go to mass because hey have to to avoid hell they think, we go because we want too.

    Anyway that's what I was thinking in my little mind. :)
  10. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    As one who grew up Roman Catholic, that is a very good observation. They even call Holy Days "Days of Obligation".

    They approach worship as a slave would.

    Now, granted, a few of them are happy slaves and, existentially, they are looking forward to going to Mass but it is as a happy slave, along with the vast majority in the RCC that are miserable slaves who know they'll go to Hell if they don't at least "punch in" on Christmas and Easter. Every employer has their 10% of really motivated servants.

    But, in the best case scenario, the Roman Catholic is coming to worship God as the Prodigal Son had in mind: "It's better to be a slave in my Father's house...." What I discovered last year was something profound. The Father would not accept the Prodigal Son back as a slave but only as a son.

    As Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 1:1-4, we've been given everything in Christ and our inheritance has been secured by Him. Thus, we don't come even as happy slaves trying to earn the good that God is doing for us in our worship and service to Him. That's the Pharisee, the elder brother. The Prodigal Son was not going to be the happy slave compared to the dutiful but miserable slave that his elder brother thought Himself to be.

    No! The younger son was inside, in the light, rejoicing with His Father and the household. He hadn't earned any of it. He couldn't claim any of it. The Father had given to the son an inheritance he had no claim to. Sheer grace and love lavished for nothing good in him.

    We enter into worship as adopted sons and not as slaves!
  11. Pilgrim Standard

    Pilgrim Standard Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm not here to beat you down brother, but does it not burden your heart that you have placed the gift of the Sabbath in the classification of a portion of "the law [that we are] still burdened under..."?

    I absolutely thank God for the Sabbath. A day for the removal of those things that constantly fight for their placement on the throne of your heart, of which throne we all know should have Christ seated thereon. I fail every Sabbath to keep it. But there are sooooo many blessings that I receive on that day since there are so few distractions. I am kicked back with the Word of God, Buchanan, or Durham or a good sermon from sermonaudio at home, instead of a soccer game, cleaning my guns, or tending the garden. I have had to purchase medicine and gas on the Lord ’s Day before, and it burdens my heart that I am aiding in the prevention of these same gifts to that poor soul behind the counter.

    For me it is not a day I look at and say I get to relax and have some fun or recreation. Nor is it a day in which I contemplate all of the things that I can't do. Look at the benefit in the day. I see no burden other than my own corrupt heart, and this serves to point me to Christ. I am glad that He fulfilled the law, because I sure have failed to do so.
  12. historyb

    historyb Puritan Board Junior

    I don't wish to cause more trouble, I had hope this thread died. As to your question - No I don't feel bad nor do I consider us having a "sabbath" anymore. I do personally see a problem when someone says we must observe it.
  13. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    With regard to the original question, I don't think that any of us believe we have the liberty to disobey God. All here are in agreement with this. The question is over what God commands the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, to do after the arrival of the Messiah. My opinion at this time is that, even before the Messiah arrived, God did not require Gentile believers to submit to the law given by Moses, and that after the arrival of the Messiah, all Jews were called to leave Judaism and the law of Moses for Christ. I think the 10 commandments were, in principle, present before Moses, and were adapted by him for the nation of Israel for their dwelling in the land of Canaan, until the advent of the Messiah. Since his coming and fulfilling of the law, the principles of the commandments remain in effect, but the adaptation of them for their application in a "nation-like setting" are no longer necessary. I refer to Luther for a better wording of this position. If anyone has the resource, you will find much thought on this subject in Luther's Works, Volume 47, pp.58-119. With regard to my brothers who view the issue otherwise, my blessings and my fellowship are with them in all sincerity and loyalty. In my partly renewed and mostly depraved mind, this view currently makes more sense to me. I hope those who differ in thier opinions with one another would extend grace, and stand with Paul when he says, "and if in this anyone is inclined to think otherwise, God will reveal that to you also." Below is an excerpt of Luther from this work of his cited above.

    From pp.90-94 - "And later when he (Moses) wants to set up a special law and nation apart from all others, as has been commanded to do, he first introduces God himself; he is the universal God of all the nations, who gives the universal Ten Commandments-which prior to this had been implanted at creation in the hearts of all men - to this particular people orally as well. In his day Moses fitted them nicely into his laws in a more orderly and excellent manner than could have been done by anyone else. Circumcision and the law of Moses, however, were not implanted in men's hearts; they were first imposed by Abraham and Moses on their people."

    "We and all Gentiles are just as duty-bound as the Jews to keep the first commandment, so that we have no other gods than the only God. But we Gentiles have no use and can have no use for the phrase which modifies this commandment and which applies solely to the Jews, namely, "who brought you out of Egypt, out of the exile," etc., I would be like a sow entering a synagogue, for God never performed such a work for me. God would punish me as a liar; I would be making an imaginary god out of him. Yet I must recite and keep all the other words of the first commandment. I may also say, "You are my God, the God and also the Creator of us all, who, to be sure, led the children of Israel out of Egypt, but not me; however, you did lead me out of my Egypt and my exile." Thus the first commandment remains common to both Jews and Gentiles. It is especially adapted and suited to the Jews with reference to the exodus from Egypt, just as everyone after his own exile can and should name and praise the God of all as his own God and Helper."

    "It is as if a prince or the head of a household wished to establish an ordinance for his country or his house because God had rescued him from great need and he wanted to show his gratitude, as perhaps Naaman the Syrian did or might have done (I Kings 5). He also would begin by teaching first about God, how he alone should be worshipped and regarded as the true God, able and willing to deliver from every need all who trust and believe in him, whatever nation it may be,...After that the prince or the head of a household would continue by enunciating the ordinances for his country or his house."

    "In this way the prince would not have imposed the ordinances of his country on all other countries which did not experience this help, nor would he have had the authority to do this, even if he at the outset first commanded that they should worship and honor the true God of all countries. That is what Moses also does. When he is supposed to organize his people, who have been delivered from Egypt, he first lets God himself issue his Ten Commandments,which pertain to all of mankind. Subsequently, and still at God's command, he gives the people the particular laws of their country, which do not concern other nations. As Moses' people were obligated to obey these ordinances because God had given him this command, so each country and each household is duty-bound to observe the ordinances of its prince and head of a household. For these also are the commandments of God, who ordained all the governments of the world (Rom.13:1)."

    "Similarly, the third commandment concerning the Sabbath, of which the Jews make so much, is per se a commandment that applies to the whole world; but the form in which Moses frames it and adapts it to his people was imposed only on the Jews, just as with regard to the first commandment none but the Jews must believe and confess that the common God of all the world led them out of Egypt. For the true meaning of the third commandment is that we on that day should teach and hear the word of God, thereby sanctifying both the day and ourselves. And in accord with this, ever after to the present day, Moses and the prophets are read and preached on the Sabbath day among the Jews. Whereever God's word is preached it follows naturally that one must necessarily celebrate at the same hour or time and be quiet, and without any other preoccupation only speak and hear what God declares, what he teaches us and tells us."

    "Moses' mention of the seventh day, and of how God created the world in six days, which is why they are to do no work - all this is a temporal adaptation with which Moses suits this commandment to his people, especially at that time. We find nothing written about this previously, either by Abraham or at the time of the old fathers. This is a temporary addendum and adaptation intended solely for this people which was brought out of Egypt. Nor was it to endure forever, any more than was the whole law of Moses. But, the sanctifying - that is, the teaching and preaching of God's word, which is the true, genuine, and sole meaning of this commandment - has been from the beginning and pertains to all the world forever. Therefore the seventh day does not concern us Gentiles, nor did it concern the Jews beyond the advent of the Messiah, although by the very nature of things one must, as already said, rest, celebrate, and keep the Sabbath on whatever day or at whatever hour God's word is preached. For God's word cannot be heard or taught when one is preoccupied with something else or when one is not quiet."

    "Therefore Isaiah, too, declares in chapter 66, vs.23, that the seventh day, or, as I call it, Moses' adaptation of it, will cease at the time of the Messiah when true sanctification and the word of God will appear richly. He says that there will be one Sabbath after another and one new moon after another, that is, that all will be sheer Sabbath, and there will no longer be any particular seventh day with six days in between. For the sanctifying or the word of God will enjoy full scope daily and abundantly, and every day will be a Sabbath."

    "I am well aware of what the Jews say about this and how they interpret this saying of Isaiah...But in brief, no Jew can tell me how it is possible for all flesh to worship before the Lord in Jerusalem every new moon and every Sabbath, as the text translated most accurately and exactly into German according to their understanding, conveys. Some people or flesh live so far from Jerusalem that they could not get there within twenty, thirty, or a hundred Sabbaths, and the Jews themselves have not worshipped in Jerusalem for fifteen hundred years, that is, in twelve times fifteen hundred new moons - I will say nothing of the Sabbaths..."

    "Jeremiah comments on the first commandment's qualifying phrase, "who brought you out of the land of Egypt," in chapter 23,verse 5: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land," etc. And he adds immediately: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when men shall no longer say, 'As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' but 'As the Lord lives who brought up and led the descendents of the house of Israel (note that not the entire house of Israel but the descendents of it are mentioned here) out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.' Then they shall dwell in their own land." (vs.7,8)"

    "...Whenever the Jews hold to their teachers, (editors comment - "presumably Jewish exegetes who dealt with the passage before it became a focus of controversy with the Christians"), they are agreed with us that Jeremiah is here speakiing about the time of the Messiah. When this time comes, the prophet states plainly, that part of the first commandment which was given by Moses, where it says, "who brought you out of the land of Egypt," will cease to apply. For the text says that one must no longer swear by the God who brought them up out of Egypt, but by the God who gathered them from all the lands unto the Branch of David. Now, if this phrase in the first commandment does not pertain beyond the time of the Messiah, then Moses' law is not eternal but terminates with the Messiah, and there remains only the law of the Ten Commandments, which was in force prior to Moses from the beginning of the world and also among all the Gentiles: namely, that one must not have more than one God, etc. So far as the Ten Commandments are concerned, there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, for God is the God not only of the Jews but also of the Gentiles, as St. Paul declares (Rom.3:29) and as the aforementioned examples of the kings of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, etc., prove."

    Hope this is helpful in your study.

    Last edited: Dec 29, 2007
  14. holyfool33

    holyfool33 Puritan Board Freshman

    It depends what you define as "The Believer's sabbath" for instance I would define the sabbath as when one is regenerated by God and saved so that he now "rests" in Christ the OT Sabbath was a type of the believer's salvation in Christ The Book of Hebrews shows this.
  15. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Then, by the same logic, no regenerated Israelite should have concerned himself with the Sabbath either. He also rested in Christ. Arguing that "Christ hadn't come yet" so salvation was "future" for the OT saint negates the efficacy of Christ's until its temporal occasion, an opinion denied by the Scriptures, OT & NT. Furthermore, our full salvation is also still future:
    Hence, salvation (and rest) awaits us, even as it awaited the OT saints (for Joshua, though he did give them rest, did not give them permanent rest, Heb. 4:8). Jesus has made that rest more sure and certain. But it still waits for us. That is the eschatological divide. Israelites had an "already-not yet" experience. And so do we. They kept the Sabbath because of it. And so must we.
  16. AV1611

    AV1611 Puritan Board Senior

    That is certainly a 'popular' view amongst certain baptist groups but I am yet to see it defended exegetically without major hermeneutical errors. I say this not to be "party political" but just as a matter of fact.
  17. holyfool33

    holyfool33 Puritan Board Freshman

    It depends how you look at it D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo have taken smiler views of The Law but what are these errors you speak of?
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