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Monday, June 20, 2011

Remember the Lord's Day - Is there a ‘Christian sabbath’? (Part 8)

The following is from "Remember the Lord's Day" by Dr. Peter Masters. You can purchase the book here



Outside the tradition of the great Protestant confessions, teachers who regard the sabbath as an entirely Jewish affair, beginning and ending with the Mosaic covenant, [see endnote] say that there is no mention of Adam having to rest in the Garden of Eden, and no rules banning any specific activity there. They also say that the special regulations given to Moses would not have been relevant to Eden, because Adam would not have needed to light a fire, cook food, bear a burden, or buy and sell. Furthermore, as Adam had constant access to God in that perfect place, there would have been no practical difference between the sabbath and the other six days.

With such reasoning as this, the existence of a sabbath before Moses is rejected. But of course, no one has suggested that the extra rules for the sabbath given through Moses as a sign of the covenant, were in force in the Garden of Eden. This is a rather flippant way of trying to prove that God instituted no sabbath for the Garden. We have already noted that the day was blessed and made holy and distinctive by God, and this is an inescapable fact.

Then how exactly would Adam have kept that special day in the Garden, supposing he had not sinned? The answer is provided in Genesis 2.3. The first purpose of the day was to commemorate creation, and so if Adam had continued in paradise, every seventh day he and Eve would have laid aside the delightful task of dressing and keeping the Garden in order to reflect on the history of that place, and the order and wonder of God’s work. During unfolding centuries of bliss, all the glory for creation would have been the Lord's. Our first parents were, after all, dwellers in time, and time itself would have been harnessed by the sabbath, and subordinated to the worship of the Creator. The Garden of Eden would have been a perpetual sabbath, but still there would have been a special, weekly, creation commemoration day.

The Lord who knows all things, however, anticipated the Fall and the subsequent needs of fallen mankind by giving the creation decree that one day in seven would be a day of commemoration and worship.

It is obvious that the inauguration of a day of rest in the Garden also looked beyond the Fall, because it ‘contained’ a type of Christ and salvation, as taught inHebrews 3-4, and this may well have been perceived by Adam (in the light of God’s promise of Genesis 3.15) after paradise had been lost, and served as a great comfort to him and his family.

The blessing and sanctifying of one day in seven in the Garden of Eden was an immense and monumental act of God which should never be underestimated, or minimised out of its full significance. Endnote: These include Schofield-type dispensationalists.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Remember the Lord's Day - Is there a ‘Christian sabbath’? (Part 7)

The following is from "Remember the Lord's Day" by Dr. Peter Masters. You can purchase the bookhere



Some modern teachers use another argument to remove the fourth commandment from its place in the ten. They say that if it were an ongoing moral commandment, it would be written in the heart or conscience of everyone, like the others, but it is not, and is therefore non-moral. This is a very shaky way of deciding whether a commandment has moral standing, elevating human endorsement above the Word of God. Since when was it a valid principle of interpretation to make our subjective feelings a judge over Scripture?

The reality is that moral commandments are frequently dulled and blotted out of the conscience by habitual disobedience, and especially by a culture of disobedience. Paul tells us in Romans 7 that he would not have known he was a sinner except by hearing the law, adding specifically: ‘I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.’ He speaks of how he lived seemingly undisturbed by his covetousness until ‘the commandment came, sin revived, and I died,’ meaning that the commandment revived his conscience and his awareness of the sin, and he felt condemned.

This reflects the experience of countless people who have never experienced a single pang of conscience while happily feathering their nests with this world’s goods. It never occurred to them that they were victims of the lust of greed, until they came under the sound of the Word.

The same is true of so many young people today, who are taught that sexual activity is an essential human right, and who are brainwashed by television soaps and films propounding the same ideas. Many young people are ‘sexually active’ from an early age, and we encounter those who feel no natural inhibitions or subsequent shame whatsoever in connection with such sexual activity, because their young consciences have been ‘seared with a hot iron’, and rendered insensitive (1 Timothy 4.2).

How much more will the conscience be desensitised to the obligation to allocate to God a regular portion of one’s life to worship, in an atheistic society where people have only ever known Sunday as a leisure day, and virtually everyone sees it that way!

The greatest tragedy of all in this matter, is that some Christian preachers are among those who are busy desensitising consciences by teaching that the fourth commandment is entirely ceremonial and of no moral or spiritual standing. It is surely awful that representatives of the Lord should set themselves against one of God’s abiding commandments, and encourage Christian people to spiritual compromise.

A well-known Puritan response to the claim that the fourth commandment is non-moral because it is not engraved in the conscience, points out that Adam, who doubtless possessed a well-primed moral consciousness, nevertheless had to be told about the law of the sabbath. In other words, it is an exceptional moral law in that it must be introduced into the conscience by announcement. It is certainly very agreeable to the consciences of Christians (except the worldly kind) who generally respond to it with a strong, natural inner sense of keen obligation.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Remember the Lord's Day - Is there a ‘Christian sabbath’? (Part 6)

The following is from "Remember the Lord's Day" by Dr. Peter Masters. You can purchase the book here



Calvin gave these clear and beautiful exhortations in the course of his sermons on the fourth commandment, from Deuteronomy 5:–

‘What has been commanded concerning the sabbath should apply to all. For if we take the law of God in itself, we shall have a perpetual form of justice. And certainly under the ten commandments God willed to give us a norm that would abide for ever. Therefore we must not imagine that what Moses has recorded concerning the sabbath day is superfluous to us.’

‘When I said that the ordinance of rest was a type of a spiritual and far higher mystery, and hence that this commandment must be accounted ceremonial, I must not be thought to mean that it had no further objects also. And certainly God took the seventh day for his own, and hallowed it...that he might keep his servants altogether free from every care, for the consideration of the beauty, excellence and fitness of his works.

‘There is indeed no moment which should be allowed to pass in which we are not attentive to the wisdom, power, goodness, and justice of God ...but since our minds are fickle and apt to be forgetful or distracted, God, in his indulgence, separates one day from the rest and commands that it should be free from all earthly business and cares, so that nothing may stand in the way of holy occupation.

‘On this ground he did not merely wish that his people should rest at home, but that they should meet in the sanctuary ...In this respect we have an equal necessity for the sabbath as the ancient people, so that on one day we may be free, and thus the better prepared to learn and to testify our faith.’

In his Sermons on the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5.12-14) Calvin shows his firmness in urging a truly devoted Lord's Day:–

‘If we turn Sunday into a day for living it up, for our sport and pleasure, indeed how will God be honoured in that? Is it not a mockery and even a profanation of his Name? But when shops are closed on Sunday, when people do not travel in the usual way, its purpose is to provide more leisure and liberty for attending to what God commands us.’

‘We no longer have this figure and shadow [the Jewish sabbath] for the purpose of keeping a ceremony as rigid as it was under the bondage of the law. Rather its purpose is to gather us in order that...we might be trained to devote ourselves better to the service of God, that we might have this day fully dedicated to him, to the end that we might be withdrawn from the world.’

‘We do not keep the day which was commanded to the Jews. For that was Saturday. But in order to demonstrate the liberty of Christians [from the Jewish order] the day has been changed, seeing that Jesus Christ in his resurrection has delivered us from all bondage to the law.’

The Lord's Day – ‘exists for the purpose of enabling us to set aside our affairs and earthly business in order that, abstaining from everything else, we might meditate on the works of God, and be trained to recognise the favours which God bestows on us...And when we have spent Sunday in praising and glorifying the Name of God and in meditating on his works, then, throughout the rest of the week, we should show that we have benefited from it.’

(Quotations from John Calvin’s Sermons on the Ten Commandments, translated by Benjamin W Farley, Baker Book House, 1980, selected from a sermon onDeuteronomy 5.12-14, pp 97-113.)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Remember the Lord's Day - Is there a ‘Christian sabbath’? (Part 5)

The following is from "Remember the Lord's Day" by Dr. Peter Masters. You can purchase the book here



Some preachers today, in an effort to liberalise the Lord's Day, and pandering to the worldliness of many believers, have attempted to drive a wedge between Calvin and the Puritans, claiming that Calvin had an anti-sabbatarian view, while later Reformers together with the Puritans virtually went back to the Jewish sabbath. These preachers complain that it is the legalistic Puritan view we are burdened with in the 17th-century confessions (the Westminster, Baptist and Savoy). However, this claim is greatly mistaken because both Calvin and the Puritans, by varying routes, came to insist that believers should devote themselves entirely to God on the Lord's Day.

Any attempt to portray Calvin as anti-sabbatarian shows that his sermons on the fourth commandment have not been studied, for he urged upon Christians the complete death of self on Sunday, along with the putting aside of all distracting activities, in order to be ‘filled’ by God. Certainly he would have been appalled by the slackness that has developed in much of the evangelical world in the last forty years.

Later Reformers and Puritans laid greater emphasis on the abiding authority of the fourth commandment than Calvin, but all came to similar conclusions about the way the special day should be kept. We know that a few Puritan writers went to extremes over the Christian sabbath, prompting John Owen to remark, ‘A man can scarcely in six days read over all the duties that are proposed to be observed on the seventh.’ But extremism was not the general position. Exceptions to this consensus were kings, bishops and clergy who were anti-Puritan and largely anti-evangelical (especially in the reigns of James I and Charles I. It was James I who permitted Sunday recreations including dancing, archery, leaping and vaulting, and church beer parties. Charles I stipulated two hours in the morning for worship and the rest of the day for ease and recreation – rather like some evangelicals today.) It is tragic that some of their arguments are nowadays advanced by some preachers in reformed evangelical ranks.

Calvin stressed that, since Christ’s coming, the lives of believers should be a constant sabbath, every day of the year being given up to God. However, because this is not possible on earth, and there is need for a day when congregations can meet together, God gave the Lord's Day to continue regular worship, devotion, and teaching, along with the provision of a day of rest for workers, in the spirit of the old sabbath.

There are, Calvin taught, differences between the old sabbath and the Lord's Day, for the latter is not a ‘sacred’ day in the same way, so that if we had opportunity we could have seven Lord's Days each week, or if compelled, could move it to another day of the week. However, the Lord's Day, in Calvin’s view, perpetuates all the worship, sanctification and teaching features of the sabbath as well as the principle of total devotion. (Calvin’s words are quoted on page 29 opposite.)

While the inflexible regulations added by Moses have passed away, along with the insistence on the seventh day, Calvin held that the principle and spirit of the fourth commandment continues.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Remember the Lord's Day - Is there a ‘Christian sabbath’? (Part 4)

The following is from "Remember the Lord's Day" by Dr. Peter Masters. You can purchase the book here



In Spurgeon’s day many members of his congregation worked as servants in large Victorian households, and could worship only at one service each week and often less frequently. To leave their work would have left them without references to other employers (a necessity in those days) and destitute. Many of the 600 young women in Mrs Bartlett’s famous Bible Class were maids who could attend only once in every two or three weeks. Today we know of men who are working long shifts in security jobs, and we know how much they would love to be free throughout the Lord's Day, but cannot be. The churches of Jesus Christ support rather than alienate those whose faith must be lived out in difficult circumstances.

Once in a while a person in normal weekday employment is required to work on Sunday, such as for annual stock taking or audit preparation, and there is no way out. We understand that, especially if that person would be fired if not at work.

What about students completing assignments or revising for examinations? Is it a necessity for them to work on the Lord's Day, or is it a self-inflicted burden because they did not cover enough ground on other days, and now find themselves in a tight corner, with assignments due, or an examination in a day or so? Is it really a necessity, or has it become a necessity because they never had in mind the importance of the Lord's Day, and never planned to preserve it by bringing forward their work? The Lord's Day will yield to necessity, but we should not allow its hours to be swept away by self-induced problems of indiscipline, poor organisation, or excessive recreation on weekdays.

As the Metropolitan Tabernacle has its bookshop, we must make mention of this. Is it a ‘necessity’ for this to be open on the Lord's Day? Actually, it is open only following the evening service, and that is for ministry. Lord's Day opening is a not-for-profit activity, staffed by volunteers, to make printed ministry available chiefly to visitors, and giving them an opportunity to procure audio-video materials and literature to which they would not normally have access. Audio-video materials at no profit are sold after all services, because they are a clear extension of the preaching ministry, and would come under the next paragraph.

We note again the sabbath rule for the Lord's service in Matthew 12.5: ‘Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?’ The priests worked as today’s preachers work. We are not disregarding the Lord's Day when we are engaging in the service of the Lord.

In Matthew 12.11 there is also the category of permitted work, already referred to, that we call ‘works of mercy’. We have various acts of necessity also in connection with the service of the Lord, such as visiting the sick and helping others in emergencies. If the old sabbath allowed for such things, so will the gentler standards for the Lord's Day.

There is also the question of using public transport to travel to church on the Lord's Day. Even in these days of saturation car ownership, it may be a necessity for some to catch a bus or to take the tube. Is this not endorsing and supporting Sunday industry? Not necessarily, because local public transport is not quite like holiday air travel. It could be argued that some degree of public transport is an essential arterial system of modern society, and needs to be maintained. Certainly, it is used by worldlings for purely recreational travel and shopping, but it is bound to be operated to some extent.

The days have long gone when you could walk everywhere you needed to go. Society is now largely organised into city-sized communities, and these cities grow ever larger. Often we live where we are compelled to live, through house prices or social housing placement, and cannot buy or rent where we want to be. We cannot simply re-establish ourselves nearer to our churches, and are therefore compelled to travel. With so few sound churches, and such distances to be covered in both town and country, and with the dangers of violent crime in town centres to be considered, people are obliged to use public transport, and it may therefore be argued that the liberty of necessity applies in this matter. If, however, we choose to board a bus or train on Sunday because a special excursion fare is offered for recreational travel, this would certainly not fall into the category of necessity.


Proceeding to John 20.1 we find guidance on whether the Christian sabbath should be the seventh day or the first day of the week. The answer of all but a very small minority of Christians down the centuries has been – the first day. The authority for this is the example of the church of the New Testament, which was no doubt commanded by God, through the apostles. The special day for Christians was distinguished from the Jewish sabbath, and set on the day of Christ’s resurrection.

The Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week, and in John 20.19 and 26we observe that other appearances of the resurrected Lord were also on subsequent first days. Verse 19 reads – ‘Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst.’ He stands amidst his people, and pronounces his peace upon them, on what came to be called, ‘the Lord's Day’.

Verse 26 reads: ‘And after eight days again . . . then came Jesus.’ We would say after seven days, but the Jews started counting on the first day and finished counting on the last day and so they made seven, eight. The text intends to tell us that the Lord appeared the very next Sunday. We believe this was to show the disciples that this day would be the commemoration day of the resurrection. While the Jewish sabbath remembered the deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5.15), the Christian sabbath would focus on the day of resurrection, which was the proof of Calvary’s victory and success.

In Acts 20.7, as we observed previously, we learn a little more about this special day of resurrection. ‘And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to -depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.’

This was obviously the Christian version of the sabbath, and it is no longer on the seventh day of the week, but the first. Luke is an eyewitness here, and this is the first reference in the New Testament to a distinctive Christian worship service, incorporating the Lord's Supper.

Further evidence for a Christian ‘sabbath’ on the first day of the week has also been cited already, namely 1 Corinthians 16.1-2, where Paul notes that not only Corinth but all the churches of Galatia met upon the first day of the week. The well-known words of the apostle John in Revelation 1.10 further imply a distinctive ‘sabbath’ for Christians on the Lord's Day, undoubtedly the day of the Lord's resurrection, the first day of the week. There are no pointless statements in the Scriptures, and we are especially told that it was on this day that John was taught great things.

The martyr Ignatius, who lived AD 30-107, the third minister of the church at Antioch and probably a student of John, wrote: ‘Let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week.’

The term ‘the Lord's Day’ powerfully indicates the way in which the day should be spent. It is for him, and it centres on him. It is not for us, for our earthly pleasures, our self-indulgence or our fun and games. It is for spiritual joys, learning and service, and for fellowship in him.


We have said many times in this booklet that the observance of the extra rules of the ceremonial law attached to the Old Testament sabbath after Moses is not prescribed for the Christian era, but the core duty of Exodus 20.9-11 remains – the laying aside, wherever possible, of work, to dedicate the day to the Lord. In this context the Old Testament warnings about sabbath-breaking still carry great weight for believers.

Says Jeremiah – ‘But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden [do your trading], even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day [to trade]; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched’ (Jeremiah 17.27).

Do we think such scriptures as these are purely historical, having no relevance whatever for the Christian era? The words of Paul should correct us: ‘They are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come’ (1 Corinthians 10.11). Some form of chastisement is bound to follow when believers persistently and wilfully disregard all ‘sabbath’ obligations, rejecting their sanctifying and shaping influence. We believe there will be discipline also for the secular state that neglects and destroys Lord's Day opportunities, but judgement begins at the household of faith.

Numerous Bible-believing churches no longer take seriously the Lord's Day, organising shows and recreational activities, cancelling evening services, and allowing Sunday Schools to wither and close because they interfere with leisure. Members do as they please, and wherever this laxity prevails, extreme spiritual superficiality and worldliness will ultimately follow, and this is already happening before our eyes.

Another warning is found in Ezekiel 20.13: ‘But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted.’ For all these things a generation was not allowed to enter into the promised land. Will we not be subject to some form of discipline from the Lord if we regard the Lord's Day lightly?

The details of sabbath-keeping in Old Testament times are no longer in force, but the spirit of the honouring of a special day continues, with leisure pursuits and unnecessary work being set aside for the Lord's Day of worship and proclamation. The warnings of the prophets still reflect the Lord's disapproval at the abuse of this day.

Nehemiah 13.17-18 reads – ‘Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.’ These are solemn texts and we should not think they represent an attitude and tastes on God’s part which he has now abandoned. The types and ceremonies of the law are no more, but the principle of commitment to a day of worship and proclamation remains most important for us today.


On a more positive note we refer to Isaiah 56.2 – ‘Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.’ The subsequent verses say that non-Jews and outcasts will also be blessed for keeping the sabbath, because – ‘Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.’

Isaiah 58.13-14 reinforces the promise: ‘If thou turn away thy foot from [work on]the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth . . . ’

The promise is that we will know communion with God in a special way on his day and spread the Gospel far and wide like triumphant conquerors in the quest for souls. How much hinges on the sincere honouring of the Lord's Day!

The whole of Isaiah 58 is both a reproof to the Jews, and a prophecy for the future church of Christ. It focuses on the annual Day of Atonement, the only specified time in the Old Testament for fasting. This day was always to be treated just as if it were a sabbath day, and Isaiah shows how they should have kept this ‘sabbath’. At the same time, the evangelical prophet shows what the New Testament sabbath will be like, a day of unloosing spiritual burdens (verse 6), giving spiritual bread to the starving and the garments of righteousness to the naked (verse 7), shedding light and spiritual glory (verse 8), interceding for the lost (verse 9), reaching out to afflicted souls (verse 10), seeking guidance from on high and building up the church (verses 11-12).

‘If ye keep my commandments,’ said the Lord, ‘ye shall abide in my love.’ And the disciple whom Jesus loved said, ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.’ These commandments are the enduring moral law of the ten commandments, loved and appointed by God, never to be cancelled by us, and perfectly obeyed by Christ for our justification. The fourth of these moral commandments is especially designed for our blessing and enrichment, and we must honour it with great desire and anticipation all the days of our life, and out of love for our Saviour. It is his day.


1. God’s reserving of one day out of every seven is a creation decree, and also one of the ten commandments, which are abiding moral law, written by the finger of God.

2. There must, therefore, always be a day of commemoration of creation.

3. There must continue to be a day for worship and instruction.

4. There must continue to be a day for remembering and proclaiming redemption in Christ. Proclamation is a particular element of the day, for Christ displayed and explained the works of God on sabbaths, and so must we by the evangelisation of adults and children. (John 5.1-18; Luke 4.31; 6.6-11; 13.10-17; 14.1-5.)

5. There must continue to be a day of rest for all workers, so that they also may benefit from (1) to (4). This aspect of the fourth commandment naturally precludes the unnecessary use by Christians of Sunday trading industries, whether shops, restaurants, filling stations or recreational facilities. In Deuteronomy 5.14 this principle is expressly stated in the sabbath commandment: ‘That thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou’.

6. Just as sabbath observance was a witness to the world, so is the honouring of the Lord's Day.

7. It is a shaping, sanctifying practice, ordering the priorities of God’s people.