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The Christian Sabbath and the Law of Love

 By Rev. Benjamin Glaser - Posted at Seventeen82:

I’m known for being a little bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to the 2nd and 4th commandments, and I own that. Though to be honest there is a reason for it, that ain’t exactly all my fault. I didn’t choose this battle ground, it came to me. Here I am minding my historical self and a wave of 20th century Americanism washed over where I was sitting. Within our confessionally Reformed camps there are several related issues that seem to come up regularly in both exams for the ordaining of ministers, and in the general life of the Church. And at the end of the day, in my opinion, it has to do mostly with a lack of consideration of other person’s liberty. Individualism is our national god. Presbyterianism, if it should be known for anything, is a covenantal and corporate faith, born out of the spiritual union we share together. When it comes to the Christian Sabbath there are particular applications worth considering today, which we’ll get into next.

I want to start by saying something positive: The Christian Sabbath is gift of peace, not a constraint.

In this post I want to come at the 4th Command from a little bit different angle than is usually taken when discussing this part of God’s Law. In his defense of the abiding validity of the Sabbath command Jesus in the second chapter of Mark says that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Part of the point our Lord is making there is that the Lord’s Day is a gift from God not just for His covenant people, but for all of mankind. It was intended from the beginning before Adam’s fall and remains to this day to be a part of the LORD’s good pleasure for His whole creation. A Savior who came to redeem fallen nature from sin wouldn’t be interested in abolishing an ordinance fashioned for an unfallen world, anymore than He would marriage between one man and one woman. Quite often when discussing the Law of God in general we can forget that the benefit and mercy of the law applies not just for the ethic of the Christian believer, but for all of humanity as well, regardless of whether in their depraved minds they may realize that this is the case or not. Their denial does not change God’s purpose, nor the reflection of His character in the word. The Church rather than following culture away from the law of nature, should be leading it back to the ordinary foundations of the way God made the world.

In Reformed confessional theology we reckon the 4th Commandment as part of the “First Table” of the Law. While this is true it could also be said to act almost as a keystone between the two tables. After calling on the people of God to remember the Sabbath Day and to keep it Holy (i.e.- set apart from the other days of the week) you see a listing of people and animals who also should be observing the Lord’s Day. From Exodus 20:10:

In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.


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