Remember the Sabbath?

I will be preaching about the sabbath this Sunday as an introductory set-up for Matthew chapter 12. If someone would have asked me over ten years ago why we worship on Sunday, I would have said something like Sunday is the NT replacement for the OT sabbath command. I would have more or less agreed with the Westminster Confession and its baptist step-child, the 2nd London Confession which all refer to the Sabbath as

“a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all
ages, He has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to
be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the
resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the
resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week,
which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued
to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath” (Westminster Confession, chap. 21, VII).

There is an obscure literary gem that was published in 1982 called From Sabbath to Lord’s Day (edited by D. A. Carson) that now exists in a reprint edition from Wipf and Stock Publishers. Carson along with notable scholars like Richard Bauckman, A. T. Lincoln, and others go after the sabbath replacement idea that has dominated evangelical thinking for hundreds of years. It is both corrective and instructive on many levels.

Negatively the authors deny:
(1) that the NT unambiguously develops a transfer theology from Sabbath to Sunday
(2) that the OT links the Sabbath command to a creation ordinance, thus making it a permanent norm
(3) that Sunday observance arose in the second century rather than in the apostolic Church
(4) that the NT develops patterns of continuity and discontinuity to the OT law on the basis of the paradigm: moral/civil/ceremonial distinctions.

Positively they affirm:
(1) Sunday worship arose in the NT period
(2) Sunday worship was not perceived as the Sabbath in NT times.

I highly recommend this thorough and well-argued treatment of a thorny issue.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Boy it certainly is a thorny issue and often very heated.

    I remember being surprised to read Calvin (and subsequently Luther) and find him non-sabbatarian.

    There aren’t a myriad of areas where Westminster deviates from Calvin, but this is certainly one of them.

    I’ve not read Carson’s book, have intended to for quite a while as it’s still an issue in which I’m very interested, not having all the answers for sure.

  2. Thanks for the link, Rev. K!

  3. […] and quotes (See Is the Sabbath for everyone?, Is Sunday the Sabbath?, Is the Sabbath abolished?, Remember the Sabbath?). To date, the best book I’ve read on this is the classic From Sabbath to Lord’s Day […]

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