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(Thanks for sharing this sermon on Facebook over a 1,150 times!)

by Reverend Anthony R. Locke

Exodus 20:8-11
English Standard Version

8.    “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9.    Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,

10.  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.

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.[1]


In case you don’t read until the end, scroll down and check out some great Sabbath resources at the bottom of this article!


The most popular football player of the season is Tim Tebow. He is the new and very young quarterback for the Denver Broncos. He has great potential.

He is a man of Christian faith. Tim’s mom was told her baby would probably be born with significant birth defects. She was counseled to abort her son. She didn’t and now everyone wants to know her son Tim.

The interest in Mr. Tim Tebow is helping set television industry ratings records.

Last week Sunday he played against the Steelers. One news commentator called his win a 316 Victory. In the 2009 BCS Championship game Tim wrote the numbers 316 in his eye black to call attention to the Gospel message of John 3:16.

That isn’t allowed in the NFL so he did it with his stats.

In the Steelers game last Sunday Tim had 316 yards passing and averaged 31.6 yards per pass. The coincidental stats caused millions of fans to perform Google searches on the Bible passage.

And do you want to know what the final quarter-hour television rating for the Broncos-Steelers game was? 31.6 millions viewers.

But I have a different question for Tim Tebow’s theatrics. Is Tim breaking the Sabbath by playing on Sunday?

I am not asking this to diminish our joy in a man of faith doing well, but, there was a day in America not that long ago, when people didn’t play sports on Sunday for fear of breaking the Sabbath.

There’s a movie about people holding these faith commitments called Chariots of Fire.

The same faith assumptions were reflected in the American Blue Laws. On November 8, 2011, my birthday, voters in more than 100 Georgia cities and counties cast ballots on whether or not to allow stores to sell alcohol on Sundays.  And the measure passed in some counties and failed in others because there is confusion about God’s command regarding the Sabbath.

How should we view the Sabbath? Augustine believed that nine of the Ten Commandments (the so-called “moral law” of the Old Testament) were still intact and imposed obligations upon the Christian church. His lone exception with the commandments was in respect to the Sabbath day. Since Paul spoke about keeping Sabbaths or not keeping Sabbaths as a matter adiaphorous (indifferent), Augustine was persuaded that the Old Testament Sabbath law had been abrogated.

I am asking a less complicated question, “Should Christians Watch Sunday Football?”

How do we answer this question?

Most people start to answer the question by saying, “I feel that . . . ”

We should not ask what our hearts feel on the matter. Everyone feels a little differently about these things. Instead, we should ask “What has God said about the Sabbath in the Bible?”

I am going to let you know the end of the sermon right now: I agree with Augustine. I think the Sabbath is an Old Testament commitment that Israel was to uniquely keep. Why do I think this, and can I make a Biblical argument for this opinion?

Let me start with a theological answer. I believe that the Sabbath was given to Israel as a sign of the Mosaic covenant.

For instance: the Creation was shown complete when God rested. The covenant with Noah was ratified with the rainbow. Jews showed their faith to be included in the Abrahamic Covenant by applying the sign of circumcision. And, Israel made public their profession of faith in God’s provision and promises when on the Sabbath they all rested in those promises.

This means that the Sabbath was a religious law for Jews while they were living in Israel during the Old Testament. If this is true, then the Sabbath is part of the Mosaic Covenant. It is not a law for New Testament Believers.

There were also some practical reasons for the Sabbath that we should be careful to consider.

It was a day for social concerns. The Sabbath worked the opposite of a concentration camp. Even servants could not be forced to work 7 days a week until they fell dead. Israel was commanded to bring the rest of the community into God’s rest. Children, animals, foreign travelers and servants all benefited from the rest God gave His people. The Sabbath was an act of social mercy and an opportunity for evangelism.

The Sabbath was a day of worship. This purpose is reflected in the New Testament.

Sabbath keeping was proof that you believed God had established a covenant between Himself and Israel. It was the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.

But for us, Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Mosaic law. Jesus didn’t come to get rid of the law, but fulfill it. Jesus is our rest from laboring to earn God’s favor.

Jesus is our eternal Sabbath rest. We will never have to work for God’s love. Meditating on the Sabbath should provide great grace to the soul of Christians.

Some parts of the Jewish culture forgot these spiritual truths. They were overly strict regarding the Sabbath during the life of Christ. The religious leaders remembered the rules but they forgot mercy, they forgot worship and they forgot to rest in the promises of the Messiah.

The religious leaders manipulated the Sabbath laws for tyranny over God’s children.

Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath Mark 2:27.

Even Jesus lived for the goodness and mercy that the Sabbath represented in the Mosaic Covenant. Jesus never served the Sabbath. Jesus administered grace and healing on the Sabbath.

Don’t let this confuse you, but Jesus kept the Sabbath. He was born under the law Gal. 4:4. Yet, even while living under the Law, Jesus was Lord even of the Sabbath Mark 2:28. All the Old Testament Typology and Word Pictures lead us to the glory of God revealed in Jesus Matt. 12:3–4.

Jesus even claimed in John 5:17 that he, like his Father, was doing His work on the Sabbath. That’s border line blasphemy since God said that the Sabbath was for rest. Working on the Sabbath was prohibited by the Commandment. Jesus claimed that he must work on the Sabbath since he is equal with God who is working through him on the Sabbath (John 5:18). This deeply confused the Jewish leaders. (And most Sabbatarians I might add)

In Luke 13:10–17 the ruler of the synagogue requested that Jesus heal on the other six days of the week and not on the Sabbath.

What is striking is that Jesus deliberately kept healing on the Sabbath. Jesus argued that healing is what he “ought” (dei) to do on the Sabbath day (Luke 13:16).

I believe that Jesus did all of this to demonstrated his ability to authoritatively interpret the command, and to foreshadow that it would in fact be altered because of His fulfillment of the Mosaic Laws. Luke 4:16–21 — Even the Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ.

Let’s revisit my premise: we are no longer under the Sinai covenant, therefore, we are no longer bound to keep the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.

The Apostle Paul clearly teaches in his epistles that the Sabbath is not binding upon believers.

In the Epistle to the Colossians Paul places Sabbath keeping on par with the Mosaic requirements about foods, festivals, and the new moon. Paul argues that all of these are completed in Christ. Even the Sabbath!

Another crucial text on the Sabbath is Romans 14:5: One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. Augustine used this verse as a foundation for his views on the Sabbath.

In Romans 14:1–15:6 Paul discusses certain foods that some Jews thought were unclean. Paul clearly teaches in contrast to Moses that all foods are clean since a new era of redemptive history has dawned.

Paul clearly argues that all these Mosaic Laws are no longer binding since believers are not under the Mosaic Covenant and we are not required to take by faith the Mosaic sign of the covenant which is Sabbath observance.

Paul argues that we can hold lots of days as significant: Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday are all days we hold as special. That’s fine. But we can’t make our personal commitments a new law for others.

In Christ we are free from these mandated calendar observances.

Now it does not follow from this that the Sabbath has no significance for believers.

Hebrews makes this clear. The author of Hebrews sees the Sabbath as foreshadowing the eternal rest of the people of God (Heb. 4:1–10).

A “Sabbath rest” still awaits God’s people and it will be fulfilled on the final day when believers rest from earthly labors.

The Sabbath is placed together with food laws and new moons and the keeping of the Passover in Colossians 2:16. All of these things were obeyed by Jesus for us. We stand by faith in His righteousness.

But, should believers still keep the Sabbath in some religious sort of way? No.

Does the Lord’s Day, that is, Christian worship on the first day of the week, constitute a fulfillment of the Sabbath? No.

  • In Troas believers gathered “on the first day of the week . . . to break bread” and they heard a long message from Paul (Acts 20:7).
  • Paul commands the Corinthians to set aside money for the poor “on the first day of every week” (1 Cor. 16:2).
  • John heard a loud voice speaking to him “on the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10).

Jesus appeared to His disciples on “the first day of the week” (John 20:19).

These clues suggest that the early Christians at some point began to worship on the first day of the week to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It was never mandated. We are only mandated not to separate ourselves from the church by repeatedly missing worship.

Let’s get back to the Big Question. Should Christians watch football on Sunday?

When John Knox came to Geneva to visit John Calvin, he arrived on the Lord’s day. Knox was shocked to find Calvin engaged in lawn bowling. John Calvin was known as the most devoted Sabbath-keeping Reformer, but he did not see recreation as a violation of the Lord’s Day.

Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant is no longer binding. We are bound by the new law of love.

Not everyone will agree with me on this. I make a point to show great respect and deference to those who think Sabbath keeping is still important. We should not be bound by their conscience, but we should keep from offending them by our liberty.

Two parting considerations. First, early New Testament believers worked on Sunday. It was the first day of the week for a Jewish culture. Christians went to early worship and then went to work. Don’t falsely assume that your Sabbath keeping is in line with early Christian commitments. In their Jewish culture they worked their worship around their work day.

Second, we should not miss God’s secondary blessings found in the Sabbath. There is wisdom in God’s cycle of work and rest. One day in seven ought to be a day of rest for all of us. This is the Creation pattern. Christians need to show themselves mercy and compassion by not working seven days in a row. We should remember that physical rest is ordained by God for us all.

And we should use our rest to reflect on the Sabbath Rest we have in Christ. In Jesus we cease from our labors and find our home with God.

And if we have a little extra time on our hands then we can watch and pray for Mr. Tim Tebow. Tom Brady and the Patriots ate his lunch last night and he might need some prayers for comfort.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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4 Responses to Should Christians Watch Sunday Football? Asked Differently — Is Tim Tebow Breaking the Sabbath?

  • I’m honestly appalled by your interpretation. After Jesus’ death, His disciples continually kept the sabbath. Jesus speaks so plainly about His sabbath & how it should be kept. Yes he healed on Sabbath, & He was sure to let us know that there’s work in God to do on Sabbath, no work of this world, but His will to be done. To spread His Gospel. To heal. To bare witness to Him. He blessed & sanctified the sabbath day for us to dwell in Him, to worship, & to teach. Pastors work by preaching, do they not? But it is the will of God. Not the will of ourselves.

  • Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. The seventh day is Saturday. The first day of the week (in which Jesus rose from His tomb) was a Sunday. Most Christians know He rose on a Sunday. That’s where pagan Easter Sunday comes from. In scripture, it calls that day the first day of the week. If you watch football on Saturday the sabbath, then yes it is violating the sabbath commandment. There is much history going back to pagan Rome as to why & how the sabbath was changed. Satan was behind it. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived. We must “remember” Gods sabbath, to keep it holy. 🙂 God bless.

  • This conversation spilled out on Facebook:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/arpchurch/10150731704031807/

    by Tony Locke — During most Presbytery examinations the candidates tell the members of the court that they take exception to the Confession’s teaching about the Sabbath. Do we ever ask if their stance is biblical?

    o Anna C. Phillips — So is that the only one of the ten commandments we can reinterpret in the light of Christ? That doesn’t give us the freedom to disobey the other nine, does it?

    o Daniel Wells — Thanks for the article, Tony. Regarding this discussion, I am a traditional Sabbatarian in light of WCF (though I think the confession should put more emphasis on resting from our labor). However, I think it is appropriate to ask the Christ-centered question with ALL the commandments. Jesus fulfilled the entire law (Matt 5:17), but in doing this he has expanded the law in terms of our obedience to it. We may not do animal sacrifices or cultic worship, but our entire lives are a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2). Even the first commandment is expanded in that we now have the entire Godhead revealed to us.
    So, discussions about Sabbath observance is not antithetical to seeing the role Christ plays in fulfilling the law. Ed Clowney’s “How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments” is very helpful.

    o Anna C. Phillips — Chris Coldwell has a piece on the myth about Calvin: http://www.naphtali.com/articles/chris-coldwell/calvin-in-the-hands-of-the-philistines-or-did-calvin-bowl-on-the-sabbath/
    Calvin in the Hands of the Philistines: Or Did Calvin Bowl on the Sabbath? | Naphtali Press http://www.naphtali.com

    o Anna C. Phillips — Trey, none of that answers my questions.

    o Tim Phillips — Not only is it troubling that the bowling myth is repeated, but that a contrai-confessional sermon is being preached from an ARP pulpit and being published on an official ARP website.

    o Tony Locke — Hey Tm. Unofficial website.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — I am somewhat afraid of asking this, but what exactly did Calvin have to say on the free offer/Christ sufficient sacrifice for all that disagrees with the Westminster Confession? But as long as we are looking to be consistent with Calvin I look forward to embracing Calvin’s establishmentarianism and advocacy of the enforcement of the 1st Table by the Civil Magistrate (including those pesky 2nd and 4th commandments).

    o Andy Coburn — Tim, I am Westminsterian on the Sabbath, but I have had trouble with this passage from Calvin’s commentary on Genesis 17. What’s your take on it? Here it is: (on verse 13) “For an everlasting covenant The meaning of this expression may be twofold: either that God promises that his grace, of which circumcision was a sign and pledge, should be eternal; or that he intended the sign itself to be perpetually observed. Indeed, I have no doubt that this perpetuity ought to be referred to the visible sign. But they who hence infer, that the use of it ought to flourish among the Jews even of the present time, are (in my opinion) deceived. For they swerve from that axiom which we ought to regard as fixed; that since Christ is the end of the law, the perpetuity which is ascribed to the ceremonies of the law, was terminated as soon as Christ appeared. The temple was the perpetual habitation of God, according to that declaration,
    “This is my rest forever, here will I dwell,” (Psalm 132:14.)
    The Sabbath indicated not a temporal but a perpetual sanctification of the people. Nevertheless, it is not to be denied, that Christ brought them both to an end. In the same way must we also think of circumcision.”

    o Tony Locke — Funny how the line about Calvin is so powerful as a populace argument for the masses, but the real meat of the conversation is ignored. Is the Sabbath a SIGN of the Mosaic Covenant and therefore not a law for New Testament Believers? The Calvin line is a throw away. I am not going to be the first soul to prove or disprove for everyone’s satisfaction that historical tidbit. I don’t care. The primary thoughts stand or fail without that line. Who cares when Calvin bowled. God said the Sabbath was a SIGN. The conversation ought to revolve around the use of that word. Is it in the category of typology or not.

    o Tony Locke — Thanks for the focused conversation Andy

    o Tony Locke — Also, glad to see this Facebook page get some attention.

    o David Vickery — ‎”And when people want to embrace what Calvin actually had to say about the free offer to all, and Christ’s sufficient sacrifice for all, then we can talk about all the other incidental in his theology.” What did he actually say?

    o Anna C. Phillips — Tony, are you saying my questions weren’t focused?

    o Tony Locke — ‎”So is that the only one of the ten commandments we can reinterpret in the light of Christ? That doesn’t give us the freedom to disobey the other nine, does it?” I thought those were rhetorical.

    o Tony Locke — The first question has a false presupposition. No one is allowed to reinterpret the commandments in the light of the Cross, Resurrection & Ascension except Jesus – who is Lord over the Sabbath.

    o Andy Coburn — I thought I was writing directly on Tim’s wall and not on this forum. My question is sincere, not trying to imply anything about Tim or anyone else. I have had this question for years and wanted to bring it up among those who affirm the WCF & Catechisms in this area. I happily serve alongside Tim in the same presbytery where he is the clerk and I am the most recent former moderator.

    o Tony Locke — Maybe the Church should give the Apostle Paul some credit for giving gas to the conversation when he put the Sabbath in a list of things that do not have perpetuity as Daniel was questioning.

    o Anna C. Phillips — Nope, not rhetorical.

    o Tony Locke — Thanks Andy. We are all friends and family here. No angst or discomfort. No malice. All of us are making honest inquiry. Even me. I am no authority. I was preaching through the Ten Commandments, using the Confession as my guide like any good Reformed guy would. I am learning LOTS by this discussion

    o Seth Stark — Tony, I don’t believe you have established that the Sabbath was a sign of the Mosaic Covenant. It has been held by the reformers (and in the Westminster Standards, as well), that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance, and therefore was not done away with in Christ any more than other creation ordinances (such as marriage).

    o Tony Locke — That’s a fantastic argument Seth. My sermon did not take the time to cover that objection.

    o Tony Locke — The Scope of the Conversation eventually makes it’s way into the Creation Ordinance chapters reflected in many books written by scholars with much more ink than I have available for this forum.

    o Tony Locke — And by the way, I have other sermons that teach the Biblical mandate to keep the Sabbath Holy by worship attendance and spiritual fellowship with our Heavenly Father. I’ll get those posted as soon as I can so I don’t look like a heretic.

    o John C Dorr Jr — So…Tony…is your goal not to look like a heretic or not to BE a heretic? 😉

    o Tim Phillips — ‎Tony Locke, I see now that it is “unofficial.” All the sermons posted are yours. Is it your website? If so, should you really be doing that? For instance, you include the ARP logo in the corner. I believe your presbytery made Chuck stop doing that with ARPTalk.

    o Tony Locke — Called into the ARP Center for guidance. The site has been up for a week. Figured I would manage those things later. Made the site for the ARP Magazine. Hence the logo

    o Tim Phillips — I don’t think linking a contra-confessional sermon to an ARP agency is very wise, nor is it beneficial to the ARP Magazine.

    o Tony Locke — Thanks Tim. just curious, what level of freedom from the confession does your presbytery allow on this item? Is full subscription required in doctrine and practice? Does the presbytery counsel against watch TV on Sunday? I am working toward an honest and open conversation. I believe that the Puritan Divines would say no to Sunday football. What say you?

    o Tim Phillips — At one time, Tony, I would have said “no.” My presbytery would not have allowed exceptions on this. But something has happened recently to make me rethink that (a couple of things actually). But it involves more than Sabbath issues, and at this point I don’t want to comment on a public forum.
    But presbyteries can allow exceptions. That’s not really the issue from my perspective. A presbytery can examine a candidate, see if his exceptions fall within acceptable parameters, and that’s fine. But the understanding should be that he is being brought in with exceptions. They are outside the confession. Therefore, I don’t believe he should then use his position as a minister to do anything which would further subvert the confession. That would including preaching and teaching things that are contrary to the accepted doctrine of the denomination just because he has personal scruples. Exceptions to the confession should not give license to undermine the confession among congregations. This is my real problems.
    In my brief time in your presbytery, when I came in, I was actually counseled by a member of the examining committee that I needed to take exceptions to the Confession on the RPW and the Sabbath. I don’t mean that I was asked if I had exceptions — I was told to take exceptions. I asked shy, since I didn’t have exceptions in this area to my knowledge. The reasons for the RPW was very weak. For the Sabbath, I was asked if I took a paper on Sunday, went out to eat at restaurants, watched sports. When I said, “no,” the response was one of surprise. I politely declined to take exceptions, and no one grilled me on it before the presbytery. I think (hope) you can see that this is problematic. It turns the issue on its head. Instead of the one with exceptions as being the “odd one” who needs to defend his position, now it is the one who attempts to be faithful to the whole confession who is the oddity.

    o Trey Austin — The general theological tenor of a Church, and especially THE Church, changes over time. Theological development and acceptance is understandably different than it was four-hundred years ago. And it will be different four-hundred years fromnow. The issue isn’t what the confession says about a certain topic but whether the Church as a whole can and will countenance a view, since the Church is the pillar and ground of truth. It is not as tho truth changes over time, but rather that society changes over time and the truth of Christ flashes out differently in different generations. I think that is healthy, and it is the reason that we don’t have a problem with women not covering their heads, wearing pants, or with watching tv on Sunday. The real issue is how that plays out with confessional churches, and i think the PCUSA’s way of moving forward is healthy. Shedd had some good things to say about scruples and how tightly we should hold to the confession. Respect those with true scruples, but don’t required a detailed doctrinal explanation for a position that everybody views as generally acceptable. In my view it should be an up or down vote period on a candidate, and there should be no theological shackles on teaching and preaching. If he is acceptable theologically, he should be allowed to teach without restrictions on his conscience, and if his preaching becomes unacceptable, the court may opt to remove him. But this is all part of a very long-term process of our development as a Church and our increasing realization in history of the Kingdom and the gradual growth of the New Creation since the first resurrection.

    o Anna C. Phillips — Trey, at least one person in this conversation covers her head for worship. 😉

    o Trey Austin — Because of the angels, right? 😉 we don’t want them to be tempted to fall again and end up with another batch of Nephallim.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — The Church is not “the pillar and ground of truth”, the Holy Scriptures are and the Church must always conform itself, regardless of the outside culture it finds itself in, to what the Bible teaches concerning any subject.

    o Daniel Wells — This thread has inspired me to do a blog on “A Young Preacher’s Views of Sabbath Practice.”
    One thing I will say is that I think Sabbath practice is more important than Sabbath theory. I know plenty of “Lord’s Day” proponents who treat Sunday in a more sanctified manner than some Sabbatarians. Indeed, on the whole, Reformed and evangelical folk set apart Sunday in general whether they are Sabbatarians or not (and no, Calvin was not a Sabbatarian in the WCF sense).
    But even the most “Reformed” of us probably would do well to promote works of mercy and service on the Sabbath as is taught by our confessions. Perhaps this would give more “life” to this doctrine.

    o Tim Phillips — ‎”If he is acceptable theologically, he should be allowed to teach without restrictions on his conscience, and if his preaching becomes unacceptable, the court may opt to remove him.” This creates some problems, imo. How will the court ever know unless it is reported? How will it be reported unless the laity knows that it is in error? If the presbytery has given him the stamp of approval, they are more inclined to trust the presbytery. I suppose we do have folks posting sermons online these days, so that’s a possibility. But we are talking about things that are outside of the confession. It appears that you are saying that ministers should be allowed to teach contrary to the confession as long as they subjectively feel it is ok to do so. If that is right, then everyone does what is right in his own eyes. That sounds like the influence of postmodernism than the fidelity of confessionalism.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — The recently departed Francis Nigel Lee has a great article that shows Calvin would have had no problems whatsoever affirming Westminster Chapter 21 on the Christian Sabbath. http://www.dr-fnlee.org/docs6/calvsab/calvsab.pdf

    o Trey Austin — The intrusion of a court on an individual’s conscience is really my more important point. Since the days of Luther, that one right has kept an overreaching ecclesiastical authority in check. I don’t wish to see it abandoned, as messy as it is, just for the sake of being “problematic.” After all, that is codified in the Confession as well–not that it would have to be in order to be true, mind u…

    o Anna C. Phillips — ‎Trey Austin, it’s a side issue that hijacks the thread, but no, it’s a sign of submission to God and my husband. The angels are interesting side note, but not my motivation. PM me if you want beyond that so y’all can stay focused.

    o Tim Phillips — A private individual’s conscience does not supersede the moral law of God or the Holy Scriptures. The church court is merely enforcing what is superior (the Holy Scriptures and God’s law) and what has been ecclesiastically accepted (the confession of faith, on which ministers take vows). I do have have the right, for instance, of engaging in sexual sin or false witness and appeal to my “conscience” as the grounds for doing so. That is my important point.

    o Kim S. Payne — ‎”do not” have the right?

    o Steve Cavallaro — I break the Sabbath every Sunday excect when I’m vacation. Some people’s vocations mean they work on Sunday. Do they get another day off to rest? NFL players do. And I took an except to the WCF regarding recreation, taking a Continental view.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — The “Continental view” is a red herring. The Continentals were for all practical purposes identical in practice to the Puritans. They both held to a strict resting from worldly labors and a great focus upon public and private worship. Here is a somewhat long extract from Francis Turretin’s “Institutes of Elenctic Theology” that shows what a Continental Divine thought of the Sabbath Day.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — ‎”lest the people on the Lord’s day after 12 o’clock, distracted by other labors and profane exercises, should be kept away from the afternoon meetings, it wishes the magistrates to be asked to prohibit by more severe edicts all servile or daily works and especially plays, drinking together and other profanations of the Sabbath, in which the afternoon (especially in the town) is accustomed for the most part to be passed, so that in this way also they may better be drawn to those afternoon meetings and so learn to sanctify the entire Sabbath day’ (‘Post-Acta, of Na-Handerlingen, Sec. 164′ in Acta of Handelingen der Nationale Synode… 1618 en 1619 [1987 repr.], pp. 941-42). For no other reason did God in the Law and the Prophets so strongly urge and recommend the sanctification of the Sabbath and threaten to punish so severely its violation and profanation. For although these had a primary reference to the Jews, yet we cannot doubt that in their own manner they had a reference to Christians also inasmuch as they included a moral duty and one of perpetual observance.”
    Francis Turretin, “Institutes of Elenctic Theology”, II:99.”

    o Tony Locke — we are starting to see some profitable discussion. Still not worth most of our energies. Let me get us back on track.

    o Tony Locke — Keeping the day Holy is still part of our fellowship with the Father. We must sanctifying it. Yet, I would posit that Sabbath requirements are more than diminished by Christ. The Sabbath is a sign according to Exodus 31:16-17. My sermon suggested that a sign, like circumcision, is fulfilled and we now celebrate the spiritual truth and leave the “Law” behind. God connects the Creation Day progression and rest to illustrate the commandment. The illustration of the “sign” is pre-MOSAIC, but the perpetuity of the Sabbath law may not be. This is my debate

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — Another Continental, Wilhelmus A’ Brakel writes in his systematics (The Christian’s Reasonable Service, which I highly recommend for its pastoral value especially) concerning work on the Sabbath Day, “The work which is here forbidden is the labor of one’s occupation generally referred to as “work”-be it trade-related labor, plowing, sowing, harvesting, business transactions, buying and selling, and all that whereby a man earns his living.” A’Brakel goes on to set aside 3 activities that are lawful on the Sabbath Day. 1) Religious Labors, 2) Works of Absolute Necessity, and 3) Works of Mercy.

    o Tony Locke — It is my presupposition that the only commandment with Mosaic Law ramifications was the 4th. Jesus therefore talked more about it than any other to weed that part out while affirming the sanctity of the day for good works. This really isn’t that hard to figure.

    o Tony Locke — The FACT that most ARP ministers don’t celebrate the Sabbath in WCF fashion, means that we need a honest and open conversation leading to a unified doctrinal position. Most ARP ministers watch Sunday football and many talk about it on Sunday. I’ve experienced this multiple times listening myself. I think we need more sermons on this topic and not less before we get to a doctrine that we can live with without hypocrisy.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — What do you mean by “Mosaic Law ramifications”?

    o Tony Locke — At this point I am done with this thread unless we discuss the perpetuity of Sabbath keeping, the complex interpretation of Jesus and how Paul placed the keeping of the Sabbath with other items that are all done away with in Christ. This is what I think will bring fruit.

    o Tony Locke — Moral Law, Civil Law and Ceremonial Law (Cult or Mosaic) The Ten Commandments, in my opinion, had only one commandment which includes a Mosaic component. The Sabbath

    o Tony Locke — Hence Jesus’ need to discuss it and rework it more than any other command. He was weeding out the Mosaic component and reintroducing the good works component which the Pharisees had forgotten.

    o Tony Locke — Daniel, I would love to read you Blog.

    o Tony Locke — Tim, send me a sermon you preached on the Sabbath and I’ll post it with great joy and admiration. I am trying to promote dialogue, not irritability.

    o Tony Locke — Love ya Bro

    o Daniel Wells –Couple of things. First, while it is possible that Calvin might have affirmed WCF 21 if he traveled into the future and talked to the Westminster Divines, that doesn’t mean his position is identical. Indeed, some of the Continentals, while similar in practice to Sabbatarians, were not theoretical Sabbatarians. But, this is why I think praxis is more important than theory on this point.
    Also, I think Tony is right regarding the perpetuity of the Sabbath being the main issue (and I think Genesis 1-2 and Exodus 16 are the key texts for that debate), but even for Sabbatarians in the WCF tradition there is a question of how we should celebrate the Sabbath as a sign not just of the original creation, but as a sign that points to the new heavens and new earth. Indeed, Reformed Sabbatarians often neglect the commandment in our confessions to do deeds of mercy and service on the Sabbath (which are signs pointing to God’s inbreaking kingdom). See G.K. Beale’s recently released “A New Testament Biblical Theology” where he discusses this subject (and he himself is a WCF 21 guy).

    o Tim Phillips — Tony, thanks for the suggestion. Here is a sermon that I preached last year on Isaiah 58:13 and 4. http://www.box.com/s/5qtnxn9iatverd8jm23f
    A Holy Day (Isaiah 58 13 to 14).MP3 – File Shared from Box – Free Online File Storage
    http://www.box.com

    o Tim Phillips — ‎Benjamin P. Glaser — I am reminded of something Terry Johnson once said: “Years ago Hughes Old said of those who were claiming the “continental” view of the Sabbath over against that of the Confession, that they must mean the “continental Catholic” view, allowing no disjunction between the Reformed in Britain and those in Europe proper.”

    o Tim Phillips — As an aside, since the subject of liberty of conscience and headcovering was raised earlier, let me use an example where these two things came together a few years ago, and in an ARP church no less (your presbytery, Tony). A woman who practiced headcovering began attending an ARP church. She was specifically told in the church to stop doing that (I’m not sure it was the leadership or just someone within the church). I hope we are all in complete agreement that this was wrong and an unbiblical attempt to bind the conscience of this individual.

    o Tim Phillips — ‎Kim S. Payne — thanks, yes, “do not” have the right. I have no desire to repeat the infamous error of “The Adulterer’s Bible”!!!

    o Tim Phillips — Richard Gaffin’s master’s thesis was on Calvin’s view of the Sabbath. It has been published as a small book: _Calvin and the Sabbath_. He even signed my copy when he spoke at Erskine a few years ago. His comment was: I didn’t know anybody was still reading this (or words to that effect).

    o Steve Cavallaro — It is a common exception that is taken and accepted as not striking to the vitals of our faith. No one here has addressed those who must work, due to their vocation, on the Lord’s Day (doctors, nurses, policeman, fireman etc.). This is the particular issue since in Tebow’s particular vocation they usually work Sunday. So thus far it seems to have missed the point and seems to unnecessarily condemn our brothers and sisters in this particular situation.

    o Anna C. Phillips — Nobody’s addressed it because works of mercy and necessity aren’t in question here. However, that doesn’t include the NFL.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — No Sabbatarian who accepts WCF 21 that I know of believes the FD, PD, Doctors, etc… are not works of mercy that are not necessary on the Sabbath Day. No football player’s job is such a necessity that should force thousands to miss worship on the Lord’s Day.

    o Seth Stark — Our Confession of Faith directly deals with those who “must work” on the Lord’s Day in Chapter 21, section 8:
    “This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.”
    Note the last phrase: “duties of necessity and mercy.” Doctors, soldiers, policemen, firemen, nurses: all these vocations fall under “duties of necessity.”
    However, to say that playing football in the NFL is a duty of necessity in ludicrous. Will someone die if Tebow doesn’t play on the Lord’s Day?

    o Steve Cavallaro — So, because of when they play- every Christian should not be a professional football player. Okay… do you exercise church discipline on others whose work you don’t deem necessary?

    o Benjamin P. Glaser Have you heard of Euan Murray? Tim Tebow should follow his lead. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2010/feb/04/six-nations-scotland-euan-murray-interview
    Six Nations: ‘Rugby is not what fuels my happiness,’ says Euan Murray
    http://www.guardian.co.uk
    Scotland prop Euan Murray tells Anna Kessel why he refuses to play on Sundays and will not watch their first match

    o Daniel Wells — One issue not being discussed is the definition of the term “necessary.” Does it only include medical/safety situations, or does necessary include what is required to maintain a society’s standard of living? (e.g. factories that can’t shut down by Sunday since they take days to do so)
    If one talks to Tebow, he probably would make a case that he doest ‘ministry’ (with a lower case ‘m’) through his vocation which requires his playing on Sunday. Then again, Tebow may not be a Sabbatarian, which is fine since the church of Jesus Christ (even Reformed folk) has not held a monolithic view of the subject.

    o Tim Phillips — Daniel, I used to work in one of those factories while in college (before I was a Christian). I have see strict Sabbatarians argue that those could/should stay open, albeit that certain allowances should be considered by employers (operated with rotating skeleton crews so that minimal employees would have to work, and not the same employees every week). Other establishments which might be considered “necessary” in some situations would be hotels or commissaries at hotels or colleges.
    Incidentally, I do touch on the works of necessity issue in the sermon I linked above. I reference one of the former elders of our church who had to miss because he is employed in the medical profession and was called in that morning at the last minute. OTOH, professions which serve only to entertain, etc., would not fall under the same category. The NFL does not serve to enhance the Lord’s Day, but distract from it, imo.

    o Daniel Wells — Tim, I am in probably in general agreement with you on the definition of “necessity” as meaning the basic structures that constitute a working society (fire stations, police stations, hospitcals, steel mills, etc.). My own preference is that the NFL would do their stuff on Saturday, but I think different questions need to be asked regarding Christian athletes who participate in the NFL. Even if the NFL per se is entertainment, one could make an argument that certain players use that platform for “ministry” and evangelism. Not saying such an argument is sound from a Reformed standpoint, but it needs to be heard.
    While the question of “What is forbidden?” for the Sabbath is important, I think the doctrine would experience a renaissance of sorts with younger folk if we asked instead, “What should we be doing on the Sabbath?” Again, I refer to my discussion of G.K. Beale’s biblical-theological treatment of the subject.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — In my experience the only ones spending all their time fretting over what we can’t do on the Sabbath are those trying to figure out ways to get around the Sabbath command. I am quite happy to spend the Sabbath in prayer, bible/theology reading, and worship.

    o Tim Phillips — Again, the word is sufficient. Isaiah 58:13-14 really speaks to all of this quite well.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — I mean seriously. Can people not pry themselves away from the TV/Sports for one day?

    o Tony Locke — Daniel, I have an Elder whose 11 year old daughter plays tennis and hopes to do so professionally. She by NECESSITY must play most Sunday mornings in the tournaments to become nationally ranked. Her family is almost never in church, yet, their family is a significant part of the backbone and foundation of ARP history and leadership here in Atlanta. Does that count? I would say yes. Her potential tennis career happens between now and her late 20’s. Do I tell her that good Christians don’t play tennis?

    o Tony Locke — I think we are getting into the heart of the matter. My preferred way to handle these things is with a re-statement of the Sabbath doctrine. I want to divide the Sabbath Command into the Mosaic elements which are kept by Christ and not by me, while retaining the elements of weekly fellowship with God in public worship. This is less binding, it makes us appreciate and thank Jesus for His finished work, we still sanctify the day with our worship and yet we use the day for good things. Early Christians worked on Sunday. They scheduled worship around their worship time. All the Blue Laws applied to Saturday in a Jewish culture. Early Christians had Saturday off and worked on the day that they worshiped. In American culture the founders reserved the day of Christian worship (Sunday) as the day for folks not to work. When we as ministers add the Mosaic expectation of the Sabbath command to the Lord’s Day we are rebuilding the Pharisee’s framework that Jesus dismantled. This is the position I presented in my sermon.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — Yes. You would tell her that obedience to God is better than obedience to the USTA.

    o Tony Locke — So while her employment as a professional tennis star could fund her church, her own college and provide food for her children, she should not dream of glorifying God in this area of life. Leave it to the pagans? So we tell those with other divinely given skills that if events happen two days before Tuesday then they can’t glorify God with their gift? While I don’t want situations to define our theology, I think the absurdity of these conclusions unmasks the WCF Sabbatarian position as containing Mosaic Law ramifications which I would strongly suggest are fulfilled by the life of Christ and are no longer binding upon New Testament believers. Hence my suggestion that we divide the Fourth Commandment into two categories of Command. Moral and Cult (Mosaic) and we bifurcate the Mosaic for Israel and keep the Sabbath’s Moral component as Christ affirmed.

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — What you have defined above is a good example of the idolatrous hold sport has over our society. Is man to be obeyed before God simply because a child can hit a yellow ball faster and with more skill than another? Would it not be better to cultivate a love for the things of God and especially the primary call of the Christian to worship on the day the Lord has set aside for the gathering together of the Saints which no man should forsake?

    o Tony Locke — Your piety is unquestionably noble and winsome. I ascribe to your heart and appeal. I believe it is misdirected in it’s application. =)

    o Anna C. Phillips — A) One must not trust in man to provide, but rather in God. B) She could blow her knee out tomorrow. Her “career” is hypothetical. C) What incredible pressure to put on a child of eleven. How sad.

    o Tony Locke — Most sport careers start pre-teen. She isn’t unique, but she is exceptional and already ranked nationally and climbing fast. Extra work does happen to make sure she grows spiritually.

    o Tony Locke — Which brings us full circle to Mr Tim Tebow! =) Maybe this is where we call it quits?

    o Benjamin P. Glaser — I recommend reading the second sermon from Ebenezer Erskine on the right to understand the continuing validity of the whole of the moral law (including the 4th Commandment) under Christ. http://books.google.com/books?id=8xJMAAAAYAAJ&dq=ebenezer+erskine&pg=PA33#v=onepage&q&f=false
    The select writings of the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine

    o Tim Phillips — A related question: does the 3rd use of the law apply to the 4th commandment? Is this being denied by Reformed folks? I guess that’s two questions.

    o Tim Phillips — Also, the Tebow example is probably not the best one, for at least a few reasons: 1) While he is a popular athlete, he also belongs to somewhat of a non-confessional denomination; 2) he is not a minister or elder in a Reformed denomination and has therefore never taken vows with regard to the WCF; 3) in practice, as with much of modern Evangelicalism, he most likely takes a quasi-dispensational view of the law and its application in the life of the church; 4) he may be that because of this church context, no one has really spoken to him about these issues.
    I could add a #5 — he played college football at the University of Florida, which does not speak highly of anyone. 😉

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