God’s Fourth Word – Part 5

Church History, Law, The Church, Theology, Worship


Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your 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. 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.

Exodus 20:8-11

(Make sure you check out Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4)

But… But… the Sabbath was on Saturday, not Sunday!

Any sabbatarian has heard this argument more than 30 times. There’s a valid question in there somewhere, but I hope to show it’s a biblically and historically indefensible position to assume that a Sunday Sabbath observance in some way invalidates the fourth commandment as binding on all mankind.

The work of Christ in redemption has transformed all of life, to include our weekly Sabbath. Christ’s saving work has transformed the weekly Sabbath, just like everything else! Not only do we celebrate on Sunday, we call it “The Lord’s Day” instead of the Sabbath. You’ll often hear Reformed Baptist’s talking about the “Lord’s Day,” but it is not some made up Baptist Language – it is the language of the Apostle John in Rev. 1:10: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.” The language is significant, because it’s the same language of the Apostle Paul when referring to the Lord’s supper. It’s a supper belonging to the Lord. Likewise, the language of the Lord’s Day is intended to convey the reality that the entire day belongs to the Lord. What day is the Lord’s Day? For John and the early church, it was the first (or eighth) day of the week.

First things first – I am the first to admit that there are no explicit texts in the Bible which say, “Now the Lord’s Day is on Sunday, not the Sabbath on Saturday.” But as good Bible students, hopefully we don’t just deal with the explicit commands of Scriptures, we also have to deal with what’s implied. So if you don’t want the Lord’s Day to be a Christian Sabbath on the first day of the week, you have two problems to deal with: First, you may answer that the 4th commandment was ended in Christ completely, and if you’re a dispensationalist or adhere to new covenant theology, I assume this is your position. However, you then have the responsibility of proving your response from the Scriptures and, you will soon find, you will encounter the same problem you are seeking to point out in saying there is no explicit text “moving” to a first day. Second, you may believe Saturday is still the Sabbath, however you then need to deal with how it is to be observed today, so you’re either a Seventh-Day Adventist, or more than likely disobeying what you believe the Scriptures to explicitly teach, thus creating all sorts of other problems.

I don’t have the slightest problem with a particular command or doctrine not having a proof-text. The Bible teaches many things that are implied and exemplified throughout the text without having specific reference given, many of those things you believe already if you’re truly a Christian (e.g. the Trinity). What we do have to deal with is the scriptural evidence that points to the significant importance that is placed on the first day of the week in the New Testament. And please take note that the New Testament doesn’t just tell us that the Church was getting together to celebrate the resurrection on Sunday — there was much more going on. Furthermore, the day was given a specific name: the Lord’s Day. Identifying a specific day with a unique title is significant in and of itself.

There’s very little argument amongst Christians that the church’s meeting on the first day of the week has always been based on the resurrection of Christ (John 20:1; Mark 16:9-10). Jesus appeared to the disciples on the first (or eighth) day of the week after his resurrection (John 20:19; John 20:26). Pentecost was on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1; Leviticus 23:15-17). The first Christian sermon was on the first day of the week (Acts 2:14-15). The first baptisms were on the first day of the week (Acts 2:41).

Although Paul stayed seven days at Troas, Scripture does not mention any Christian meeting on the seventh day, but on the first day of the week (Acts 20:6-8). Could the Christians have met on Saturday? Certainly! However the text doesn’t say or imply a Saturday meeting, therefore it’s an argument from silence. Paul encourages the Christians of Corinth to set aside a sum of money to help the poor of Jerusalem on Sunday (1 Corinthians 16:2). The only way this text makes sense is that the Christians were meeting together on the first day of the week.

John had a vision on “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). External sources written around the same time as Revelation indicate that the Lord’s Day was the first day of the week. The first century writing called the Didache says, “The day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day. And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.”

The second-century Christian apologist Justin Martyr wrote in the “First Apology of Justin Martyr” (Translated from Greek):

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.

In the writings of Ignatius, who was alive toward the end of the first-century, we read that “Christians no longer observe the Sabbath (he’s referring to seventh day observance), but direct their lives toward the Lord’s Day, on which our life is refreshed by Him and by His death.” The great Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield wrote, “Christ took the Sabbath to the grave with him and brought the Lord’s Day out of the grave with him on the resurrection morn.”

While this is only a sampling of what could be referenced regarding a Sunday Sabbath/Lord’s Day observance, this hopefully provides ample evidence to convince you of the legitimate practice of the Church today as we seek to apply God’s Law to our Christian lives.

In the next post we will look at specific New Testament texts that supposedly discredit the perpetuity of the fourth commandment.

(By: Nick Kennicott)

The Fourth Word of God – Part 3

Law, Theology, Worship


Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your 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. 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.

Exodus 20:8-11

(Make sure you check out Part 1 and Part 2)

How is the 4th commandment to be obeyed?

Having given the specific command, God now provides the outworking of that command with specific instructions. In Exodus 20:9-10, the emphasis is on how the fourth word of God is to be obeyed: “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your 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.”

“Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to cease or to rest.” It’s a day for worship, relaxation, holy naps and recuperation, and is a day to delight in God’s goodness and mercy. It’s a day to enjoy God’s works of redemption and creation.

One of the frequently overlooked aspects of the fourth commandment is what God calls man to do with the six days of his week that aren’t the Sabbath. In verse 9, the command is that in “six days you shall labor, and do all your work.” And the teaching of the Bible would affirm that not only are we to work, but to work hard and onto the Lord (e.g. Colossians 3:23). Man has an obligation and a purpose in his work, and he needs to do it well. Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that the modern five-day work week is an invention of unionized labor in the west, not the historical understanding of one’s work week, and certainly not the biblical prescription. God’s fourth word provides that there are six days of the week given for work. There are many ways to define what work is, and it looks different to each person depending on one’s circumstances in life, however the basic principle is that our primary objective during six days of the week is work. God governs our work just as much as He governs our rest, and in doing so provides a means of bringing Him glory and providing for the needs of our family, our church, and our neighbor. We find God’s blessing in doing what He has called and gifted us to do.

The puritan Thomas Watson emphasizes the fact that God, having provided six out of seven days for us to work, is a grace in itself. It very well could be that God require six days of worship and rest and only one day of the week that we do all we need to provide for our families. God has been gracious in giving us six days to labor. It seems as though most critics of sabbatarianism do not think in this manner, however if we acknowledge that six days of labor are a gracious provision from God, should we not all the more have a great desire to set aside the Lord’s Day in a special manner for worship, rest, and duties of mercy and necessity?

The remainder of verses 9-10 highlight the specifics of setting aside the Lord’s Day for worship. In verse 10 God says, “The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” The book of Leviticus calls the Sabbath a “holy convocation” (Lev. 23:3). It is a time to gather for corporate worship. The puritans called the Lord’s Day The market-day of the soul. Six days of the week are used for business transactions — buying and selling — but the Lord’s Day is for transactions involving spiritual business with the currency of Heaven. What a blessed opportunity for the Christian to pray to God with fellow pilgrims, to hear the reading and preaching of the Word, to sing great songs of worship, and to behold and partake of the ordinances! Thomas Watson wrote that the result is that, “the heart which all the week was frozen, on the Sabbath melts with the word.” May it be that all who have experienced the wonderful grace of God will delight in the sweet mercy of God that causes our hearts to melt with overwhelming gladness for who He is and what He has accomplished in creation and redemption.

In verse 10, God provides the negative command of His fourth word: “But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your 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.” There is an obligation that neither you nor anyone else within your household do any work whatsoever. In other words, so far as you have control over the situation, do not work and do not be cause for others to work. The Lord takes this so seriously that He even includes one’s animals in the mix; let them rest too! Obviously, the implications go far beyond one’s household, extending into communities and commerce. The principle is clear: Do not be the cause for others to engage in their employment. Walter Chantry writes, “In a heathen culture one is tempted to reason that the [unbeliever] will work anyway. He will not make it a matter of conscience to devote a day to his Maker. His shop will be open. Why not let his hours of employment serve me and make the Lord’s Day more pleasant for me? God’s commandment forbids this process of thought by forbidding us even to employ the [unbeliever] in work for us on God’s holy day. God’s moral laws are of universal application. They are not intended only for believers.”

The fourth commandment is one of the many “levelers” of the Bible when it comes to mankind. In God’s wisdom, a new social order is created wherein work and rest are not divided by class. The universal necessity of obedience to God’s law dictates that everyone should work, and everyone should rest and be free to worship God. Could it be that if God’s people around the world obeyed God’s fourth word, there would be far less stress and anxiety and depression and burn-out and all that comes with these things?

God’s fourth word commands all mankind to keep the Sabbath holy. How is it to be done? Work six days, and worship and rest one. Leviticus 23:3 summarizes it well: “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.”

In the next post, we will look at verse 11 and why the Sabbath is commanded by God.

(By: Nick Kennicott)

Adam and the 10 Commandments

Law, Quote, Theology

forbidden-treeTo understand the fall of creation, and specifically what Adam did in the garden to bring all of creation into a state of sin and misery, we must identify what law(s) Adam actually broke. Was it just that God told Adam to not eat of the fruit, but he did, and therefore all of creation fell? To be sure, that’s enough – but it’s much more than that. In Edward Fisher’s classic work The Marrow of Modern Divinity he identifies through the interlocutor Evangelista how Adam broke all 10 commandments (which he was obligated to obey in the Covenant of Works):

1. He chose himself another god when he followed the devil.

2. He idolized and defied his own belly as the apostle’s phrase is, ‘He made his belly his god.’

3. He took the name of God in vain, when he believed him not.

4. He kept not the rest and estate wherein God had set him.

5. He dishonored his Father who was in heaven; and therefore his days were not prolonged in that land which the Lord his God had given him.

6. He massacred himself and all his posterity.

7. From Eve he was a virgin, but in eyes and mind he committed spiritual fornication.

8. He stole, like Achan, that which God had set aside not to be meddled with; and this his stealth is that which troubles all Israel – the whole world.

9. He bare witness against God, when he believed the witness of the devil before him.

10. He coveted an evil covetousness, like Amnon, which cost him his life (2 Sam. 13), and all his progeny.

The 10 commandments/Moral Law of God did not begin in Exodus 20. The Moral Law of God was written on the hearts of Adam and Eve and in full effect, rendering an obligation upon them to keep God’s Law perfectly lest they die.

Want more? Check out what I consider one of the most important books for Christians to read. The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher (Marginal notes from puritan Thomas Boston).

(By: Nick Kennicott)

MacArthur and the Sabbath


I have a great respect for Pastor John MacArthur and am thankful for what God has done through him and his ministry over many decades. While I have several and significant theological disagreements with Dr. MacArthur, it’s hard not to admire the ministry of a man who has preached through every verse of the New Testament with the depth he has. Nevertheless, I am often surprised by what I read from Dr. MacArthur because his faithfulness to the truth does not always translate into sound theology. I’m no fool to think I am a better theologian than a man some 40 years my senior and many, many decades beyond me in studying the Scriptures, and yet we all have our blind spots…

Today I read what has to be the most textually unsupported statement I have ever read from Dr. MacArthur, even taking into account the contents of his now (in)famous sermon about why I should be a dispensationalist. I have heard and read a lot of reasons why people seek to reject the perpetuity of the 4th Commandment, but calling it ceremonial law has got to be the worst argument I’ve discovered thus far. Likewise, Dr. MacArthur comes nowhere near dealing with relevant texts that are chronologically prior to Sinai that covenant theology uses to support the Sabbath as a creation ordinance – he simply waves it all off in a single sentence.

“Although God rested from His creation on the seventh day in Genesis, He didn’t command man to do that until the law of Moses. And seventh-day rest was one of the Ten Commandments. It was ceremonial, rather than moral and thus it is not repeated in the New Testament because it wasn’t a part of the moral law. But it was just a general gift from God to Israel and I think it’s a very wise thing in general, beyond even the nation of Israel, although God didn’t require it before and doesn’t require it in the New Testament. Take a day off, enjoy.”

The burden of proof is on those who reject the 4th commandment as a perpetual, moral command from God to show from the text how it is not a creation ordinance and why it is not binding on New Testament Christians. Richard Barcellos has done a good job explaining how the application of the 4th commandment may look different, but is yet to be observed in the Christian life. Also noteworthy is the language regarding the Sabbath in the vast majority of the historic, reformed confessions of the church.

While Dr. MacArthur is certainly free to disagree on this issue, my hope  is that he would at least provide some biblical basis for doing so.

(By: Nick Kennicott)