This question is not touched upon in the Confession, but it is obviously an important question. The first time that I encountered this issue was when I started going to church in Holland, a Baptist church (non-Reformed). I noticed that they celebrated the Lord's Supper once a month on the first Sunday. I was shocked. In the Armenian Church, the Eucharist (in a similar manner to Catholicism) is administered every Sunday. I did not understand the reasons why a church would celebrate this ordinance only once a month, then I heard of those Reformed churches which celebrate the Supper only three or four times in a year! It seems especially wrong to me for Reformed churches, who understand the Supper to be a Means of Grace, to administer this glorious Means of Grace so occasionally.
I did not understand the reasons why some churches chose not to celebrate the Supper of the Lord weekly, but after a while I did. It makes you long for and look forward, in my case, for the first Sunday of the month. The Supper does not become something common, as it was, in my experience in the Armenian Church. It receives its rightful place as an important ordinance and sign. If we celebrate the Supper too often, we may start to treat the Supper as something common, and not holy. It becomes something regular and not an ordinance to look forward to. But if we neglect or administer the Supper only 3-4 times a year, we rob from the people of God a great Means of Grace which the Lord Jesus Himself instituted and commanded us to observe.
It seems that the early church practiced weekly (if not daily) communion (Acts 2:42). In Acts 20:7 we are told that the church gathered on the Lord's day for the purpose of breaking bread. The Lord's Supper was a central part of the church's worship and therefore, it should not be neglected. The Lord's Supper was connected here with the Lord's Day. It is to be celebrated foremostly on the Lord's Day. I know of no command or prohibition that the Supper may not be celebrated outside of the Church gathering on the Lord's Day, yet private communion has no basis in the Bible. The Lord's Supper is meant to be a sign to the gathered church that they are Christians and they are celebrating the Lord's ordinance, which is a sign of continuing the Christian life. It has no significance if done privately at home. It may be done in a community of believers outside of the Church gathering on Sunday, I do not see a command that it should only be on Sunday. But we must not ignore the fact that the Lord's Supper is meant to be an ordinance celebrated with the gathered Church. Such was the practice of the Church in Acts 2:41-42; 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 11:20, 33.
This is the Day
The Biblical Doctrine of the Christian Sunday in Its Jewish and Early Church Setting
by Roger T. Beckwith and Wilfrid Stott
A well researched book by two readable authors. Makes a convincing and honest case from both the Holy Scriptures as well as the first four centuries from Christian history.
The biblical case is short and to the point. I love the fact there is always reference back to what he has said or established on earlier pages. Roger Beckwith goes on to demonstrate that the Sabbath was a creation ordinance and as such it is not connected with the Fall. Then he goes on to survey the passages speaking about the Sabbath. Very interesting was chapter 4 where he showed continuities between the Jewish Sabbath and the Lord's Day (the Christian Sabbath). He makes the case that the Lord's Day is the day of the Lord Christ, the day on which He rose and which we keep to celebrate His resurrection. The first part was very well written and argued, although I would have liked it to be longer and more extensive, but oh well!
The second part has 9 chapters devoted to a historical study about the Sabbath and the Lord's Day. It is very interesting to many how many early references there are to the Christian observance of the Lord's Day as the day of worship. The New Testament has a handful of passages speaking about the Lord's Day (first day of the week), but apparently, in the mind of the early Christians, these passages were a firm foundation to show them that Sunday was the day of worship, the kyriake hemera! Dr. Stott makes a good survey of various pre-400 AD writings in these chapters. There are things which the Fathers believed that I don't agree with, neither do Beckwith nor Stott. But they are honest to lay out their views honestly and clearly. For example, although the observance of the Lord's Day is directly connected to the Fourth Commandment in the mind of the Christian Sabbatarian, the early Fathers, according to Stott, do not make a direct connection with it. As Christian Sabbatarians we believe that 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....
Then he moves to the post-apostolic testimony to the Lord's Day. He notes that often the word Sabbath was retrained for the Jewish Sabbath and was not frequently used for Sunday. Rather, from the earliest times, the expression "the Lord's Day" was used for the first day of the week on which Christ rose.
Finally, he moves on in the last part (3) to teach us how we should observe the Sabbath. He is careful in his suggestions and what He may say and deduce from God's Word. His desire is not to bind consciences where God has not bound them, but carefully give guidelines and suggestions.
Overall, I very much enjoyed reading this book and I used it a lot in my own study for the 1689 Baptist Confession's chapter 22 on the Sabbath (sections 7-8). It is detailed, it is biblical and it is written in a loving and respectful tone. What more can we expect? Get it and read it already!...
John 20:6-9 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
The "other disciple", who was John, believed and remembered the Lord’s words and the Scriptures. But Peter and the other disciples did not believe or understand what was happening. They were so much focused on a conquering Messiah that neither His death nor resurrection ever entered their minds. What Scriptures spoke of Him being raised? References to Him being raised include: Psalm 16:10 (quoted in Acts 2:25-32; 13:32-39); Psalm 22:22-23; Isaiah 53:10-12; Hosea 6:2. Of these the most noteworthy is Acts 2:25-32. The case that Peter makes there is that it was Jesus ultimately of whom David spoke in Psalm 16:8-11. This is so because the patriarch David was not raised from the dead, in fact his body was still with them, rotting in the grave. But David, being a prophet and a recipient of God's covenant promises, knew that God would raise for him Someone who is from his descent who would forever sit on his throne. The Holy Spirit-inspired Peter says that with the fact that the Lord was always before Him, he foresaw the resurrection of Jesus. The Lord spoken of by David is the risen Lord Jesus, just like in Psalm 110. David knew that God would not abandon his descendent and his Lord to the grave. He would not remain in the state of the dead as the confession says, but will be raised. It was not possible for death to hold the Son of God down (Acts 2:24).
The epistles, especially Paul's are filled with references to the resurrection of Christ. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, makes a case from the resurrection of Christ to our own resurrection at the Parousia of Christ. He combats those who rejected the resurrection. Paul sees the resurrection of Christ as God's declaration of Christ as being the Son of God and the Lord (Rom. 1:4). His resurrection shows that God was satisfied with what the Son did. His resurrection is the proof that God was pleased with the work of the Son. It was the proof that He did not die as a failure but was vindicated. Paul assures us in Romans 6:5 that just like Christ's death was not for His own sin and for Himself, but...
“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, but rather what is moral is that we should set one day in seven apart for God. The Lord has merely asked for one day in seven for His public worship and rest, although He is Lord of all our lives and all our days. Yet the Sabbath day is especially His. Sabbath, for example, does not mean “seventh day of the week” and the word was used for many more things than the seventh day of the week under the Old Covenant. The word Sabbath means rest or cessation, which is what we are commanded to do on that day and it is based on the Creator’s rest.
The Sabbath consists simply in two things, “in resting ...
Christians are not to reject involvement in civil matters but are to accept them. It is not sinful, contra the Anabaptists, to work in the government. Christians in the government are to seek peace and justice. They are not to turn the civil government into a theonomy, but they are to influence it and maintain justice and peace. Their rule is to be according to the laws of the land, yet one cannot disconnect their own convictions of the Law of God. One cannot be neutral at work and Christian at home. When a Christians work in the government, they should try to bring their Christian convictions with them to work. They cannot believe one thing on Sunday and promote contrary things on the other days of the week.
Examples of believers involved in pagan governments are Daniel and his three friends, Nehemiah who later became governor of Judea, but before this, he was a cupbearer to Cyrus the king of Persia. It was his request to the king which initiated the return of the exiles to Judea and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. These wise people influenced their pagan governments with the principles of God's Word and God blessed their endeavors. How much more should Christians now to be an influence in their governments and the world. We should concern ourselves not only with heavenly things but earthly things also.
Whatever lawful things commanded by the civil magistrates, we ought to obey in the Lord (1 Peter 2:13-14 ). We are to be in subjection to the civil magistrates but only in all lawful things commanded by them. When they command us things to do which are against the law of God, disobedience to them is obedience to God, which is far greater. The classic example of this is Acts 5:27-32 where the Apostles said that “We must obey God rather than men” (v. 29). We are to obey for the civil magistrates in all things lawful not only for wrath (fear of punishment), but for conscience sake (Rom. 13:5) because we desire to obey God and submit to Him above all.
Then the Confession moves to remind us of our duty to pray for those whom God has put above us. We ought to make supplications and prayers for all that are in authority so that we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty. It is our duty to pray for the salvation of those whom God has placed over us so that they may be saved with the result being that we may live in quietness and peace. This is what Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1-6.
We've already discussed that on the basis of Romans 13 obedience to civil government in agreement with God's laws is obedience to God. Therefore, when we obey them in these things we are obeying God and we have an obligation to obey them. We ought to pray for our governments that they may more and more conform to the will of God...
The importance of this chapter is seen at the backdrop of the sevenfold sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.
Instead of merely two, the Roman Catholic Church has declared as sacraments five more things. The sacraments, according to Roman Catholic theology, in themselves administer grace. While on the other hand, Reformed theology says that the sacraments/ordinance do not in themselves administer grace, but must be joined with faith for them to be effective. According to the Roman system, “Instead of being the external manifestation of a preceding union with Christ, they are the physical means of constituting and maintaining this union.”
The holy appointments or ordinances are to be administered by those only who are qualified and called to this task, according to the commission of Christ.
Now here there is a little difficulty. Who are the persons qualified to do these things? In a local church, those persons would be the elders. But, does this exclude any regular member in administering the ordinances or helping in the administration thereof? I do not see any biblical command that only the elders may do these things, nor any prohibition against regular members helping. Obviously, within the local gathering of God's people, the elders would undertake to administer the Lord's Supper and Baptism. They may, perhaps, ask the help of some brothers or sisters for the Lord's Supper, for example. To pray for the bread and wine and distribute the elements. I do not see why that would not be permissible. Obviously, having the elders administer the ordinances is much better, as they are the ones who are in the position to lead the church and are known as the church leaders. Therefore, having them...