Sabbath Reflections

A few thoughts coming out of last night’s H&S:

First of all, the term “Creation Ordinance” gets tossed around a lot in discussions of the Sabbath.  It seems to me that “Creation Ordinance” is not particularly-well defined.  Kazooless and I may have been working to different definitions.  K is probably thinking “Creation=Universal” and “Ordinance=Commandment”.  But for me, calling the Sabbath a Creation Ordinance has nothing in particular to say about its nature, but only when it was instituted, i.e. in Creation.  In fact, I think the term “Creation Institution” works better for the Sabbath than “Creation Ordinance”.

Another thought is that the fatal flaw of the Westminster/Sabbatarian position is that they approach the whole day from a Regulative perspective.  Which means that questions of the form “is X permissible” are not even meaningful; only “is X commanded?”  And there are only 4 things commanded by Westminster: public worship, private worship, works of mercy, and works of necessity.  Any further questions “is X permissible?” are answered only with “no works, words, or thoughts concerning your own employments or recreations.”  But one point I had in my notes, but didn’t have time to articulate, is that this strict stance is entirely reasonable within a worship service — i.e. in the context where the Regulative Principle applies.  But Westminster goes that extra distance of extending the RPW to the whole Sabbath Day, whereas I would confine it (like the external observance of the Sabbath) only to corporate worship.


33 Responses

  1. Rube,

    Thanks for the opportunity to debate Saturday night. I hope it was edifying for all involved.

    Regarding the creation ordinance, I think you’re correct in your observation. It’s pretty standard to understand the significance of an ‘ordinance’ that is rooted in ‘creation’ as being universal to all of ‘creation,’ i.e. mankind. I believe that is what Dr. Clark was getting at in his comment disagreeing with Dr. Kline found here:

    You don’t find too many people defending the pre-fall ordinance to “not eat of the tree” any longer today. That was a positive command, not a moral/creational command.


  2. That’s because the command not to eat of the tree does not extend outside of the garden, while the Sabbath Institution does. As a matter of fact, while marriage is a Creation Institution, the Sabbath could be described as a super-Creation Institution, since it will persist into the New Heavens & Earth, whereas marriage will not.

    But “Creation Institution” does not equate to “Universal Command.” Marriage and procreation is generally available to man, but neither universally commanded nor promised. (It is no sin to remain celibate (1 cor 7), or die a virgin or childless). In a different way, the Sabbath is universally available to any that would have faith, but not universally promised to all men without distinction.

    And here’s another example (that I cut from my outline for time purposes). I’m sure you would agree that Gen 2:15 is a Creation Ordinance. But that was not just “be a gardener,” that was “serve and guard God’s temple.” (For more on Eden as a Temple, and Adam’s role as Priest, see G. K. Beale) This priestly Creation Ordinance of serving and guarding God’s temple (the Church) continues even today, but only for believers. Same as the Sabbath.

  3. I’m not a Dispensationalist, embrace the command to assemble together and to worship God as He has empowered us to do and do not believe the Sabbath is binding on unbelievers or believers. It was a cultic command to distinguish Israel from the heathen nations surrounding them. Christ is my Sabbath. I rest in Him till the day in which I will eternally rest with all of God’s Children in the Heavenlies. (Heb 4:3-10)

    Having entered the Reformed Faith with the Reformed Baptist who were the most legalistic Sabbatarians and Moral Law (Ten Commandment) preaching bunch alive I now enjoy the Freedom of resting in Christ, worshipping Him both vertically and horizontally as I serve other believers as well as unbelievers. I would encourage you to interact with Ray Lotzer’s “Toward an Understanding of the New Testament Teaching on the Sabbath” found here.

    It demonstrates my sentiments regarding the Sabbath.

    What is even more ironic is that I am an avid Pittsburgh Steeler fan, born and bred in the Burgh. At one time I couldn’t imagine going a Sunday without watching them on TV and this was as a Sabbatarian. I knew it was wrong as in many instances I was concerned with the length of the service which would run over into the start of the game.

    Now that I’m a non-sabbatarian I have basically given up watching Football on Sunday but not because it is a violation of a commandment given to the Nation of Israel but because it had become an idol in my life taking away my focus from God and His people. Anything which distracts from my ability to Worship God and serve others within the Christian community is Sin and violates Christ’s Commandment to

    “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

    With that said, enjoyed the debate and dialogue on the Sabbath from you both.

    • Wayne,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the debate.

      I don’t think it is ironic at all. We don’t have to pit law against Gospel so strongly all the time. Rube does that all the time thanks to his strong R2K leanings but it isn’t necessary. We were redeemed so that we can keep the law (a little now, fully after glorification, Romans 8:4)

      Instead, I think the points I made in the debate fit nicely with your experience. First, breaking the law destroys Christian liberty (your Reformed Baptist experience), but Christian liberty establishes law keeping (your current experience). And that is what we see in you.

      Paul teaches us that even though the righteous demands of the law are holy, the law itself never had the power to enable us to keep it. But, God promised that in the New Covenant He would write His law on our hearts, thereby enabling us to walk in righteousness. He gives us the desires of our hearts, or said another way He makes our hearts want to do good, to keep the law.

      That is what has happened with you. He has changed you to want to worship Him on His day and to serve others and in so doing, by default, you end up obeying the law of God in the detail that I argued (and so does Rube for the most part).

      That’s why at the end I stated that I was more concerned that people thought more about this issue than whether they agree with my details or not. Like Rube, if people will just “go to church and rest in Christ,” then they will in practice become more and more sabbatarian, which is a covenant sign of God’s people and overall good for the church of God.



      • All this heart-talk is shaky. What happens when I don’t want to keep the law? It sounds pious to talk about new things being written on the converted heart, and they surely are, but love and duty are not mutually exclusive.

        I’m a sabbatarian of the not-so-legalist bent (well, my kids might differ there, but they’d be wrong). Nurturing right habits seems far superior to the suggestions here that seem experientially governed. A good read in this regard is Hart’s “With Reverence and Awe.”

    • And yet (if Wayne will allow me the liberty of interpreting his experience for him), Wayne did not reject the NFL because he found it to be a violation of the Sabbath day, but because lawful activities leaked out of his Sabbath-adjacent space, and negatively impacted his ability to worship while in church. (And I guess if he finds it to have become idolatrous for him, maybe he refrains on Monday night too, I don’t know).

      • …lawful activities leaked out of his Sabbath-adjacent space…

        What the heck does this mean?

      • This means that the permissible activity of enjoying the NFL between services, did not remain contained to between-service (Sabbath-adjacent) space, but leaked into church time, so instead of attending to worship, he was watching the clock, anticipating the kickoff, etc. So for him, the permissible activity became sinful in a way that it might not be for others.

  4. Thanks a lot Wayne, I’ll take a look at that Lotzer article.

    Your illustration about the Steelers illustrates my point that it is a gospel perspective on the Sabbath, not a law perspective on the Sabbath, that provides the proper motivation to behave in ways that appear Sabbatarian. As you say, the reason not to watch football is not because of a law (others may well be able to enjoy football and still be able to put it completely from their mind to fully participate in worship before and after), but because the space the NFL occupies is what I call “Sabbath-adjacent”.

  5. You might find helpful this quote from Turretin (Institutes: Question One – Article 21) on how the natural law differs from the Law delivered to Moses:


    “the same duties (both toward God and toward our neighbor) prescribed by the moral law are contained in the natural law . . . the natural law was engraven on the hearts of men, the moral law on stony tables; the former pertains to all universally, the latter only to those called by the word; the former contains nothing except morality, the latter has also certain ceremonials mingled with it.”

    NOTE: This comment was entered entirely by battery power, but, alas, uploaded with assistance of the SDG&E power grid.

  6. Interesting. I guess Turretin would then agree that commandments 1,2,3 are both natural (and thus also moral) by Rom 1? Also he would disagree with WCF 19.5 “The moral law does forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof” ? I always get mixed up between Turretin and Tertullian. Which one was Turretin and how does he fit into the Continental–Westminster spectrum?

  7. Turretin was a mid-17th century dude and major figure in the history of Reformed Systematics. Continental. Geneva. His three volume Institutes were the go-to systematics texts at Princeton until Hodge replaced him. After this quote appears he then goes into each commandment in detail.

  8. Make that “a few commandments in some detail as they relate to natural law”.

  9. Looks like Turretin’s works are not generally available online like Calvin’s are, but here are two links on The Sabbath and The Lord’s Day that are now on my to-read list (ahead of Lotzer)

  10. Once again, a debate I really enjoyed, especially since Rube himself got to participate instead of moderate.

    And now, a few reflections from me, a humble evangelical preacher.

    As usual, I am most interested when people interact with the Scriptures themselves, and avoid lengthy quotes from confessions and intermural infighting about favorite seminary profs and who’s writer is more consistent and toes the presbyterian line best (or which one kisses the “divine’s” backsides more.

    Hearing the Scripture quoted brings clarity and power…hearing confessions quoted causes my eyes to glaze over…

    Kazoo, I really appreciated your love and devotion to God and His body, the church, which came through loud and clear in your defense of the Sabbath. You seem like a really great guy with a tender heart who would make a wonderful friend.

    You lost me, however, in your effort to impose legalism “lite” when it comes to what we can and cannot do on the Sunday. You really had no answer for why you don’t totally come off the grid, be consistent and go “Amish”. Like Paul said of the Judaizers, “They should go the whole way and emasculate themselves.” Take it to it’s obvious, logical, Jewish Orthodox conclusion.

    Rube – I obviously agreed with your position, mostly. To me, the whole debate should have been over when you quoted Paul in Colossians about not judging according to sabbaths and days, but you still have all those confessions to wade through…the Scripture is never enough…you always have to satisfy Westminster, the divines, Calvin, etc. Too bad…

    Here in Texas, we had “blue laws” for years that kept whole sections roped off in stores on Sunday. Because of our family’s theology (along with a healthy dose of what Zrim would call “piety”), we could only attend church, eat huge meals and take long naps on Sunday. But, in the end, it was exposed over the years as just another legalism, just like the prohibition of women wearing pants and the fear of going to “the movie house”.

    Let’s “be not entangled again” in all that bondage, once Jesus Christ has set us free.

    But, again, the Scripture is totally sufficient to teach these things…

    Enjoyed it. Thanks for posting it on line. Made me so happy to be a Christian, living in grace and freedom.


    • Sorry to reply a little late…

      Kazoo, I really appreciated your love and devotion to God and His body, the church, which came through loud and clear in your defense of the Sabbath. You seem like a really great guy with a tender heart who would make a wonderful friend.

      Thanks so much. I’m glad my sincerity came through.

      Hearing the Scripture quoted brings clarity and power…hearing confessions quoted causes my eyes to glaze over…

      I pretty much started off in an anti-confessional evangelical environment myself. Went deep into a Pentecostal/Charismatic church, which is where I caught my deep fire of devotion. But that devotion is what took me down the path which has taught me and convinced me that God’s Providence gave us history, Creeds & Confessions as a blessing to be relied on, not to put us to sleep. See here:

      Rube and I started off in agreement as Reformed with an audience primarily made up of Reformed. My apologies. That provides a short hand enabling us to bypass 1600 years of scriptural underpinnings that we’d need to cover to have this discussion with a (wonderful) brother like you, who wants to reject our fathers. That’s okay, in another forum we can take the time. My point is this though, you like to do it the hard way, which more often than not leads to more error, not less, and can also breed arrogance (in general, not aiming at you), instead of a humble submission to the spiritual fathers in obedience to the 5th commandment. But I digress. That was the last H&S.

      Let’s “be not entangled again” in all that bondage, once Jesus Christ has set us free.

      I’ll point out that He has set us free, but “They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practise any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty.”

      You wouldn’t argue for your freedom to murder, which is a moral law. I’m arguing the Sabbath is a moral law, and as such it isn’t something to be freed from either.

      But, again, the Scripture is totally sufficient to teach these things…

      One would think… ;)



  11. thx for the positive feedback ‘bino! Sure hope you can come to a H&S live one day!

    Just two quick points: first, I certainly made little attempt to “satisfy Westminster”, but spent half of my time arguing against Westminster!

    Second, as for whether Kazooless should be Amish, I agree, but one thing Jeff & I agree on is that due to the lack of electricity-based questions in the Q&A, he did not have a chance to respond to my extremely substantive points during the debate. I still have not had that discussion with him in person either; we’re kind of taking our time getting around to hashing it out on the blogs.

    I plan to write a post here called “Sabbath & Industry”, and invite K when he has the time to respond, probably with a post on his own blog (don’t want to cramp his style within a combox!) So until then, I don’t want this discussion to leave the station until Jeff is ready.

  12. Doesn’t R get any props for vehemently disagreeing with WCF on this issue? I think that was actually something you (all) were supposed to get from this debate, in fact.

  13. Yes, he should get props for that. But don’t you think it would be much cleaner to simply frame the debate in terms of which position is the more “Biblical” one?

    Just say, “the Bible says _______” and delete so many references to favorite college profs, divines, Calvin, etc. I thought when Reuben did that, he won the argument.

    Again…..PROPS, PROPS PROPS!!!!

  14. “…and I was a little hurt, personally, that none of my many sermons or articles were quoted by either of the two principles in the debate!” If we’re gonna go on a quote party, shouldn’t I get a piece of the pie?

  15. Sure. Such deletion would be nice. However, all these references are being made to guys (dead or alive) who did or do this kind of stuff for a living. While both Kazoo and R are plenty smart, neither one of them is anything more than an amateur. Also, they are referring and deferring to guys who did exactly what you desire. Namely, those guys were trying to figure out what the Bible says.

    I don’t see the harm or the danger in getting help from such folks. You can always disagree with them -as R did in the case of WCF – or agree with them as R did in the case of Calvin’s (and your) position.

    You titled yourself as a “humble evangelical preacher” so wouldn’t you say that the more humble position would be to admit that an appeal to other, more seasoned, Bible experts is admirable as opposed to saying “I have figured all this out by myself”?

    I think that if your sermons weren’t in Spanish, you’d be getting quoted around these parts all the time.

  16. Re:

    Sure hope you can come to a H&S live one day!

    As a debater!!!

  17. simply frame the debate in terms of which position is the more “Biblical” one

    That’s what I did; my whole opening argument was a biblical exposition (although with quotes from famous professional exegetes), and my second statement was basically of the form: which position (Heidelberg or Westminster) is the more Biblical one?

  18. While both Kazoo and R are plenty smart, neither one of them is anything more than an amateur.

    WOW! With apologies to Rube for a possible threadjack violation here, let me say, bs, that was a mighty arrogant thing to say. Maybe it’s a blindspot, though, so I’ll give you a pass.

    “You amateurs do your best at reading and understanding the Bible, but you better leave the heavy lifting to us seminarians and scholars.” Utter horsehockey!!!

    Let’s let the Bible speak, unfiltered by all your favorite prof’s quotes for a change:

    PSALM 19

    The law of the LORD is perfect,
    reviving the soul.
    The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.

    8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
    The commands of the LORD are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.

    9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
    enduring forever.
    The ordinances of the LORD are sure
    and altogether righteous.

    10 They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
    they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the comb.

    11 By them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

    ACTS 4:13
    When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

    1 Corinthians 1:26-31
    26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

    wouldn’t you say that the more humble position would be to admit that an appeal to other, more seasoned, Bible experts

    No, the more humble position is to cite the Bible, and get out of the Bible’s way!

  19. Rube, your best, most powerful moments in the debate were when you quoted Scripture. It was living, powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword.

    When you quoted profs, authors and confessions, it wasn’t nearly as powerful.

    Let’s hear it for the living, unfiltered Word of God!

  20. A couple of clarifications:

    I have nothing against seminaries or seminary profs. I have nothing against scholars or scholarship. I do believe that we can discover Biblical truth without needing a seminary prof to hold our hand.

    My comments about my words being quoted intended to be humorous. For the record, I preach bi-lingual sermons every Sunday, but need a geek to help me upload them to the web.

    If my comments seem snarky at times, please understand that if I didn’t like you guys or enjoy the debates and interaction, I wouldn’t be here. And BS, you are still my all-time favorite small group Bible study leader (even before you became a “pro” at Bible understanding) :-)

  21. that was a mighty arrogant thing to say

    (a) since I don’t get paid, I am an amateur, and I’m sure dad would include himself in that category as well, despite a handful of seminary classes, and (b) I don’t see how it’s arrogant to assert that history will not rank me alongside Calvin or even John Frame as a Biblical scholar.

    I do believe that we can discover Biblical truth without needing a seminary prof to hold our hand.

    I certainly could not have discovered 90% of the biblical truth I spoke in this debate if I didn’t have brilliant theologians holding my hand. Or to say the same thing more snarkily, sure, anybody could discover what you know about the Bible all by themselves. ZING!

  22. The law of the LORD is perfect,
    reviving the soul.
    The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,

    The Bible can speak for itself.

    Again, sorry for threadjacking. When Kazoo responds to your “going off the grid” point, I will rejoin the conversation.

  23. BS and Rube – I miss you, guys! Wish we lived closer together! It would be fun to have these discussions over some coffee and good-old-fashioned game of hearts…

  24. I was frankly a bit surprised that Reuben used the Colossians 2:16 reference in defense of his position. Using his interpretation, the whole debate could have been called off before it began.

    However, his interpretation may be wrong.

    Paul could have been excoriating the observance of Saturday a la the standard Judaizers who may well have been enforcing such observance along with their insistence on circumcision. Col 2:16 could then be viewed as a notable passage for the move from the last day of the week to the first. In other words, Paul may very well not have allowed himself to watch NFL on the Lord’s day but college football on Saturday was all well and good.

    Also, Paul’s use of the plural “Sabbath days” gives me pause. It may indicate that it wasn’t the “remember the Sabbath day” principle that Paul had in view at all but some other Jewish tradition that may have emerged such that they stood up (extra-biblical) multiple types of special days which they referred to as Sabbath days. It is however, worthy of note that the OT is rife with the same plural use.

    Either way, Reuben’s interpretation isn’t a slam dunk. I lean to the former (of my two observations) as a more likely interpretation. And I was disappointed in Kazoo that he wasn’t booked up on that verse.

    I’m not too surprised by having raised hackles with my view that some guys were/are just plain better at expounding the Bible (seems pretty obvious to me). Or that some folks just aren’t qualified at all for the task. One dear relative of mine sees my view as elitist. In both cases it seems that what was missed was that I consider myself to be an amateur. Or even a rank hack.

    Blessings on Texans – Go Chargers.

  25. Not to pile on, but I don’t think “MAKING WISE THE SIMPLE” means what you think it means. In fact, I’m sure of it.

  26. Paul may have had in view some other Jewish tradition that may have emerged

    Who but madmen cannot see what observance the apostle means?

    Paul could have been excoriating the observance of Saturday

    Such an interpretation of Col would force Rom 14 to somehow mean “the weak guy favors Saturday, but the mature guy favors Sunday”, when in fact Rom 14 says “one guy favors one day, but another guy considers all days alike“, and concludes in favor of “all days alike” (in parallel with “all foods alike”)

    From Calvin’s commentary on Col 2:16: “some one will say, ‘We still keep up some observance of days.’ I answer, that we do not by any means observe days, as though there were any sacredness in holidays, or as though it were not lawful to labor upon them, but that respect is paid to government and order — not to days.”

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