The Sabbath: A Covenant Sacrament?

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Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think it is generally accepted in Reformed (Presbyterian) thought that the sacraments are defined as covenant signs and seals. If so, would be it be right to consider the Sabbath a covenant sign and seal? Here in this text it is described as a covenantal sign.

Ex 31:17
" It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased {from labor,} and was refreshed."

The difficulty here is that the Sabbath is included in the moral law. Therefore in this line of thought I'm on (which you guys are welcome to derail if I'm going off-track) the sabbath is both a moral obligation to all men, because all are bound by the Covenant of Works, and it is a sign and seal of the New Covenant. Thoughts?


:gpl:
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
You may be able to get away with calling it a means of grace...but that I'm not sure of.

According to the WCF there are only 2 sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Sign, but not a Sacrament

The sacraments are signs (and seals) of the Covenant, but not all Covenant signs are sacraments. Classic case is the rainbow. God invested it with special meaning after the flood, declaring it a sign of the covenant he made with Noah, and in him all mankind.

The Sabbath is an ordinary means of grace, not an extraordinary one. Even the godless derive a common-grace blessing when they use the day of rest. They cannot benefit from the sacraments--only incur judgment from their misuse.

The Lord's Day Sabbath (Sunday) is a New Covenant sign. That is a main part of the significance of the change of day.
 

Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
It appears that some have held to describing the Old Covenant Sabbath as a sacrament. Herman Witsius in his description of the covenant of works describes it this way. In his work The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man he writes in Chapter VI:II

"God also granted man such symbols under the covenant of works...1.Paradise. 2. The Tree of Life. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 4. The Sabbath." He calls these things signs and seas and then procedes in III to qualify that these things do not bel considered sacraments of the New Covenant. I'll have to read more of his explanation on this. I welcome you guys to check it out too at federaltheology.org where they have Witsius' book available in html format.
 

Christopher

Puritan Board Freshman
[quote:382a110b74][i:382a110b74]Originally posted by Contra_Mundum[/i:382a110b74]
The sacraments are signs (and seals) of the Covenant, but not all Covenant signs are sacraments. Classic case is the rainbow. God invested it with special meaning after the flood, declaring it a sign of the covenant he made with Noah, and in him all mankind.

The Sabbath is an ordinary means of grace, not an extraordinary one. Even the godless derive a common-grace blessing when they use the day of rest. They cannot benefit from the sacraments--only incur judgment from their misuse.

The Lord's Day Sabbath (Sunday) is a New Covenant sign. That is a main part of the significance of the change of day. [/quote:382a110b74]

Interresting. Where in the Bible does it say that Sunday, the Lord's Day is a sign of the New Covenant?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Distinguishing betwen things that differ

Witsius ranges pretty broadly as he describes and defines sacraments. I'm hesitant to contradict such an one an he, when he seems to me to have greater depths of spiritual insight. But I will propose to differ with him, at least in terminology.

(I found the section you refer to Ian, in book 1) Later on in book 4, ch. 7, sec. 4, he proposes that [i:2b0bfdde3c]the clothing of Adam and Eve[/i:2b0bfdde3c] properly constitutes the first "sacrament" of the OT administration of the Covenant of Grace. I realize there are sensual symbols here of spiritual realities, but Witsius is certainly using "sacrament" in an extensive sense.

I have yet to find him refer to the Sabbath as a CoG sacrament, even an OT one, which I find odd considering the Ex. 31:17 reference. If he means to be so broad, why miss out on that one? And if broadness is justified in defining OT sacraments, why do the rules change under the NT administration? Given the apostle Paul's comments in Eph. 5, why wouldn't the Romanists have a point in calling [i:2b0bfdde3c]marriage[/i:2b0bfdde3c] a sacrament? We need, I think, to more carefully define our terms so that the difference between what a sacrament is and isn't in our theology is crystal clear. :wr50:

[Edited on 6-1-2004 by Contra_Mundum]
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Not by so many words, but in fact

[quote:9664ce58e3]Where in the Bible does it say that Sunday, the Lord's Day is a sign of the New Covenant?[/quote:9664ce58e3] Christopher,
Just so I'm clear--I'm distinguishing between a sacrament (of the NT) and a sign. A sign I would define as any legitimate pointer to the reality of the thing signified.

Unless we have significantly misread the Bible's teaching since apostolic times, the Christian Sabbath has moved from day 7 to day 1 of our week. I do not believe that was merely done as an act of convenience, or pious practice (without warrant), or as a secular distinction of Christian congregations from Jewish ones. Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, began the practice of meeting with his people on the first day of the week (Jn. 20:19, 26). Rather quickly the day was designated as [i:9664ce58e3]His[/i:9664ce58e3] day, the Lord's Day (Rev. 1:10). It was the customary meeting day of the church as taught to them by the apostles (Acts 20:71 Cor 16:2).

Nothing seems to point more clearly to NEW COVENANT reality than this overnight shift--changing a 4000 year tradition of Sabbath-keeping. The Sunday Sabbath is a huge sign.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
In repsective covenants there are respective sacraments. Witsius is not going to say the Sabbath is a NT sacrament in the CoG, and rightly so. He does say that the Sabbath was a sacrament of the covenant of works, and rightly so.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Questions for Webmaster

Does Witsius use the same definition of 'sacrament' all the way through?

How can he discourse extensively on the sacramental nature of the Sabbath in the CoW, all of which is anaylitical, but in light of Ex. 31:17 explicit sign/covenant connection (Ian's inital post) say nothing of its significance in the OT CoG administration?
(please recall, I'm not [i:8f13244992]defending[/i:8f13244992] this interpretation, just trying to find some consistency)

There are a myriad of signs pointing to spiritual realities starting with the CoW, and moving through the CoG from the beginning of the OT right on through into the NT. E.g. marriage points us to New Covenant spiritual truth, Paul points out in Eph 5. But it is a RCC error to define marriage as a sacrament. It appears to my unstudied eye that Witsius uses similar freedom with OT (CoW/CoG) data in identifying a range of signs as proper sacraments. Certain of which I have no problem with acknowledging at all. Some of which seem to stray into (dare I say it?) speculative territory, depending perhaps on the definition of sacrament.
Could you elaborate on your take on this issue a little more?
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Witsius on Sacraments....

This is just a stab in the dark here, fellas, but I would think Witsius would classify sacrament from the Latin he wrote in. I don't think he was using the RCC use of the term because their sacrament had a priest standing in front of it.

However, he could very well have thought it a mystery (sacramentum) how God uses any means to convey blessing or spiritual help.

He probably would have used it the same way Calvin did. Calvin considered "laying on of hands" by the Apostles as a sacrament of the church, having ceased because of the terminus of the office.

So, if Witsius uses sacrament, he is using a common term for a mystery as to how God uses it for either a special one-time benefit or an ongoing one.

Ian, I'm glad you're enjoying Witsius at federaltheology. I hope to get all of the second book out there by the end of the summer.

In Christ,

KC
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
My two cents.

There are more than two sacraments. Along with the idea of [i:9f303e64c8]mysterium[/i:9f303e64c8] that kceaster pointed out.

Sabbath is eternal. Was not the feast of weeks, Pentecost, the first day of the week ? ?

The move from 7th day to first closes up the week and consecrates it. The Eucharist meal is a sabbath meal. We eat the bread of heaven, given to us without our own work, the toil of the curse. We drink the blood of the lamb and live in God. The Lamb God provided.

We feast on Him in our hearts by faith. The "feast" is brought into the "rest". To eat with God is a priestly priveledge. We dine at His table, no longer set in the wilderness but the temple of heaven.

The Sabbath is a mystery. Our rest is found in His once and for all sacrifice. But as far as being a sign and seal of the New Covenant, I think that would be mixing categories a bit.
The Sabbath is the stage where the ordinances/sacraments are performed.
 

Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
Oh Kevin, thanks but actually I've already purchased a hard copy of Witsius' work. I read the introduction materials and the first chapter on your site though! I thank God you are able to provide that work online. It's an excellent book so far, very evangelical stuff I think.
 

Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:cb92727084][i:cb92727084]Originally posted by Wintermute[/i:cb92727084]
My two cents.

There are more than two sacraments. Along with the idea of [i:cb92727084]mysterium[/i:cb92727084] that kceaster pointed out.

Sabbath is eternal. Was not the feast of weeks, Pentecost, the first day of the week ? ?

The move from 7th day to first closes up the week and consecrates it. The Eucharist meal is a sabbath meal. We eat the bread of heaven, given to us without our own work, the toil of the curse. We drink the blood of the lamb and live in God. The Lamb God provided.

We feast on Him in our hearts by faith. The "feast" is brought into the "rest". To eat with God is a priestly priveledge. We dine at His table, no longer set in the wilderness but the temple of heaven.

The Sabbath is a mystery. Our rest is found in His once and for all sacrifice. But as far as being a sign and seal of the New Covenant, I think that would be mixing categories a bit.
The Sabbath is the stage where the ordinances/sacraments are performed. [/quote:cb92727084]

I like that. The stage where the sacraments are performed!
 

FrozenChosen

Puritan Board Freshman
A note in the New Geneva Study Bible indicated that there may be more than two sacraments, but only communion and baptism are necessary.

I think it may have considered service in the offices of elder or deacon as sacraments. But I could be wrong.
 

mjbee

Puritan Board Freshman
I still think ya'all are playing fast and loose with God's appointed days, as in Leviticus 23. Please don't tell me the Jews lost track of what day it is. If they couldn't keep track of the Sabbath, they surely couldn't keep track of the Scriptures, so the OT is questionable.

Scripture defines Scripture. Please tell me where in Scripture the "Lord's Day" (Rev 1:10) is defined as the first of the week, and should REPLACE the weekly 7th day Sabbath. Yes, I'm aware that Bikkurim and Shavuot fall on the first of the week. Shavuot is a Sabbath. Bikkurim is not. Bikkurim could not be a Sabbath, or the women would not have run to the tomb to anoint Christ's body, and found Him risen!(Luke 23:56) The women rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. The day Jesus rose from the dead was NOT a Sabbath!

I'm aware of the NT references to the disciples gathering on the first day. I'm unaware of any Scriptural warrant for assuming that these gatherings were Sabbath observances. Oh, they broke bread. But according to Acts 2:46, they were in the temple every day, and broke bread every day. This does not denote Sabbath observance!

Just my :wr50:
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Kc,
Thanks for that input. Historically conditioned terminology has to be explained in contemporary language, or else we assume anachronistically that [i:7b5fb650c7]they[/i:7b5fb650c7] meant exactly the same things we do.

Webmaster,
I'd still like your input, if you've got time.

Wintermute,
I still think we need a common definition of sacrament that includes and excludes specific material.

Mjbee,
I'm not sure what your remarks are focused on. This thread really isn't the place for defending/debating Sunday as the Christian Sabbath. My comments more or less assumed the truth of that position.
 
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