The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary

...also be found as audio.
  • John Piper. Is There A “Lord’s Day”?
  • Mark Fitzpatrick - Study: Are Christians supposed to keep the Sabbath?
  • The Institution of the Sabbath

    We will deal here with the fact that the Sabbath was instituted on the seventh day of creation as a Day Of Rest for man. It was not something newly introduced on Mt. Sinai, but it is as old as the Creation. If it could be demonstrated that the Sabbath was not instituted at Sinai, but at the Creation, then arguments used against the Sabbath in connection with the passing away of the Mosaic Covenant are useless, since then the Sabbath would transcend the Mosaic Covenant and is not a unique and new part of it. Joseph A. Pipa writes:

    Along with work (Gen 1:28; 2:15) and marriage (Gen 2:18-25), God instituted the Sabbath to govern the lives of all mankind. Just as the ordinances of work and marriage are permanent, so is the ordinance of the Sabbath.[41]

    Let’s see if this statement is true and biblical. Our discussion of the Sabbath as a creation ordinance, a blessing and a commandment given to man at Creation will center around three texts: Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11 and Mark 2:27-28.

    Genesis 2

    Gen. 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

    God, the Sovereign Lord and Creator, after finishing His work of creation took a rest. This rest was not needed because He was tired, for God does not get tired (e.g. Isa. 40:28). But this rest consisted in enjoying His “very good” creation, which He had made. Joseph Pipa observes, “By resting on the Sabbath, God reflected on the beauty and glory of His completed work, taking joy in it.”[42] God didn’t need the rest because He was tired, rather His rest consisted in joy and delight. This at the outset shows us that our Sabbath rest does not consist merely in physical rest because of weariness, but rather upon meditating on the work and things of God. Furthermore, what was the purpose of God in creating in six days? Was there just too much to do so that He needed some time? Obviously not. “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:9). Rather, as many, including Archibald Alexander, observe, in doing this God was “thus setting an example to his creature man; for He not only rested on the seventh day, but sanctified it; that is, set it apart to a holy use — to be employed, not in bodily labour or converse with the world, but in the contemplation of the works and attributes of God, and in holding delightful communion with his Maker.”[43] 

    Although, the noun “Sabbath” is not present Genesis 2:1-3, yet we clearly see the Sabbath there. Dr. Sam Waldron remarks:

    The relevance of this text for the subject of the Sabbath is made explicit by the statement in verse 2 that God “rested” in which word the verbal form meaning `to sabbath’ is used.[44]

    Therefore, we basically have God sabbathing on the seventh day of creation. What we basically have in the Creation week are: six days of work by God and then a Day Of Rest on which no work of creation was done. God entered His Sabbath rest on the seventh day. He stopped His work of creation, but the work of providence by which He upholds the Universe is ne...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 19: Of the Law of God - Commentary

    ...God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 

    See also Deut. 5:12-15.

    General Observations On The 4th Commandment

    The fourth commandment commands us to set aside a Day Of Rest apart out of seven as holy to the Lord. From the creation to the resurrection this was the seventh day of the week. From the resurrection, the Lord’s Day became the Christian Sabbath, which is the first or eighth day of the week. This is inevitably the most difficult commandment in the Decalogue. Most will agree that all other commandments are valid and are moral, but when it comes to the Sabbath…that’s the point of departure. Those who depend upon the (unbiblical) hermeneutic of “unless it is repeated in the NT, it is not valid” say that the Sabbath was abolished at the cross and there is no longer a physical Sabbath rest for the people of God. There are those who celebrate the Sabbath on the seventh day (Saturday) and those who celebrate the Sabbath of the first day (Sunday). The Reformed Confessions teach that the moral law of God was summarized in the Ten Commandments; the moral law is still binding, therefore, we don’t agree that the Sabbath was abolished. There is much to be said on the Holy Sabbath, but I will spare my thoughts and leave time for deeper study[31] until we come to chapter 22, if the Lord wills. Here, I would rather focus more on the text than build a case for the Christian Sabbath. That I will do in chapter 22, Lord willing.

    Remember” because we are prone to forget this commandment. We are to remember and never forget to keep the Sabbath holy to the Lord. We must remember for the Sabbath has a positive precept aspect to it. This means that it is a moral command which has some non-moral aspect attached to it. A positive command does not necessarily reflect the Person and character of God as do the normal moral laws, but they are good because God has commanded them. Another example is, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. The principle of one-day-in-seven is a Day Of Rest and worship is moral, but the specific day is not revealed in the natural law, but only in Scripture. God complained earlier about Israel saying, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?” specifically referring there to the Sabbath, which they were commanded to observe before Sinai (Ex. 16:28). But what this complaint implies is that God had often commanded the observance of the Sabbath and His other commandments, yet Israel chose to disobey. The Sabbath being a positive precept means that people cannot innately know the seventh or first day is to be set apart as holy to the Lord. There is, however, I believe, a common sense in us that if there is a God, then we owe Him worship and reverence and this would include corporate worship which is one of the things done on the Sabbath day. All days are God’s, yet He chooses one to make His special and wherein He especially meets with His people.

    The basic and moral principle of the Sabbath that we learn here is the one-in-seven pattern. God requires one day to be set apart especially for Himself. The Sabbath being on the seventh day or the first day is not an essential part of the moral commandment...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant - Commentary

    ...apter-4:-Of-Creation-Commentary#%C2%A72-God-created-man,-male-and-female...after-the-image-of-God"see here on the image of God). Paul argues in Romans 2:12-15 and 1:18-32 that the basic things of the law concerning our duty to God, for example, are known both to Jews in the written Scriptures and also known to the Gentiles from their consciences and hearts. The Ten Commandments are divided into two groups. Commandments 1 through 4 concern our duty to God. We must worship God, the only true God. We must not seek to devise the way with which He is to be worshiped, but we should obey Him. We should likewise keep the seventh day, after six days designed for work, holy as a Day Of Rest and worship (see for the Christian Sabbath here). Commandments 5 through 10 concern our duty to man. We are to love our neighbor, we are not to murder, bear false witness, steal or covet.

    I find especially helpful Calvin’s observation on the commandments that when we read, for example, “Honor thy father and thy mother,” it not only applies to our parents, but also to other elders. But more than that, it also means the negative, i.e., you shall not dishonor and shame your elders. “Thou shalt not murder”, for example, also means the negative, meaning: it teaches us to persevere life, to love life, to cherish life and to celebrate life, etc.

    These Ten Commandments are summarized in two commandments by our Lord and Master:

    Matt. 22:36-40 “Teachwaer, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 

    Love for God and love for our neighbor, which comes as a result of loving God, is the summary of the Ten Commandments and the Bible. For more on the law, see chapter 19.

    The Covenant Established in Blood

    After giving various laws in chapters 21-23, then the Lord confirms and establishes His covenant with Israel. 

    Exod. 24:3-8 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” 

    This is similar to what we read in Exodus 19, except that here the Lord inaugurates and establishes the covenant with the children of Israel. The people are told the terms of the covenant and the rules, their response is that they will do all that the Lord has commanded and that they will be obedient. Moses writes the words of the Lord so that they would be unalterable and then establishes the covenant with ani...

    A Short Review of Beckwith's & Stott's This Is The Day the Sabbath was instituted in the Garden and given to Adam to keep, but the Fathers did not agree or say that Adam had to keep a Sabbath, but some of them connected it with the existence of sin (i.e. trouble, sin in our lives and the need for rest). Stott lays these views out honestly and makes some observations on them. It is still amazing to me how much Christians wrote and said about the Lord's Day, although there were but a handful of passages on it in the New Testament. It goes to show that what is insignificant in our modern eyes, was more than enough for the early church. It was enough that the Lord Christ rose on the Lord's Day, for the Lord's Day to be considered the Day Of Rest and worship--a holy day.

    His chapter on Eusebius of Caesarea (8) is very interesting. He tries to demonstrate that Eusebius tried to systematize and summarize the doctrines about the Lord's Day and the Sabbath which the Fathers taught. He was the systemizer of the Christian Sunday. He speaks of the Lord transferring the feast of the Sabbath to the first day and so on. Clearly connecting the Lord's Day with the Sabbath.

    Overall, a very good and well argued book. I will certainly go back to it and check some stuff again!

    Seeing that this book was published in 1978 it would be hard to come by, but fear not! An online (scanned) version is available here