Does God Command a ‘Christian’ Sabbath?

Exodus 20:8-10; Revelation 1:9, 10
       Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work…
       I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714):I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” Surely this can be no other than the Christian Sabbath, the first day of the week.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Is there such a thing as a “Christian” Sabbath? Some of the leading Bible teachers of the day answer emphatically, There is not.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): They tell us that the day is “a mere Jewish ordinance,” and that we are no more bound to keep it holy than to offer sacrifice. They proclaim to the world that the observance of the Lord’s Day rests upon nothing but church authority and cannot be proved by the Word of God.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): The Lord’s day is a day of holy rest.

J. C. RYLE: Is the observance of a sabbath binding upon Christians? Have we any right to tell a man that to do his business or seek his pleasure on a Sunday is a sin?

THOMAS WATSON: Not by ecclesiastic authority.

WILLIAM PERKINS (1558-1602): The church has no power to ordain a Sabbath.

THOMAS BOSTON (1676-1732): It belongs to God to determine the Sabbath, or what days He will have to be kept holy. He does not say, “Remember to keep holy a Sabbath Day, or a day of rest,” leaving it to men what days shall be holy, and what not; but “Remember the Sabbath day,” supposing the day to be already determined by Himself. So that we are bound to the set time appointed in His Word. And this condemns men’s taking on themselves, whether as churches or states, to appoint holy days to be kept, which God has not appointed in His Word.

A. W. PINK: [But] does God require His people to keep a ‘Sabbath’ during this Christian dispensation? If He does, then such a Sabbath is, necessarily, a Christian Sabbath. If He does not, then that is the end of the matter. The issue is very simple―the question as to whether or not God requires those living today to keep the Sabbath day holy is only a part of a larger question, namely, ‘Has the moral Law of God been abolished, or is it still in force? Are the Ten Commandments now binding on all who live during this Christian dispensation?’

J. C. RYLE: I turn to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. I there read one whole commandment out of ten devoted to the Sabbath Day, and that the longest, fullest, and most detailed of all, Exodus 20:8-11―I find the law of the Sabbath side by side with the law about idolatry, murder, adultery, theft, and the like. I am utterly unable to believe that it was meant to be only of temporary obligation.
      I turn to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ when He was upon earth. I cannot discover that our Saviour ever let fall a word in discredit of any one of the Ten Commandments…I find Him speaking of the Ten Commandments as a recognized standard of moral right and wrong: “Thou knowest the commandments,” Mark 10:19. I find Him speaking eleven times on the subject of the Sabbath, but it is always to correct the superstitious additions which the Pharisees had made to the Law of Moses about observing it, and never to deny the holiness of the day. He no more abolishes the Sabbath, than a man destroys a house when he cleans off the moss or weeds from its roof. Above all, I find our Saviour taking for granted the continuance of the Sabbath, when He foretells the destruction of Jerusalem. “Pray ye,” He says to the disciples, “that your flight be not on the Sabbath Day,” Matthew 24:20. I am utterly unable to believe, when I see all this, that our Lord did not mean the Fourth Commandment to be as binding on Christians as the other nine.

A. W. PINK: The law is holy and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” Romans 7:12. It is God’s standard—the eternal Norm. Fulfilled by Christ for us, it still remains the swerve-less and unerring rule of righteousness…The believer is “not under Law” as the ground of his justification; nevertheless, he is under the Law as a rule of his Christian life―that is, he is under obligations to obey its moral precepts.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): As much as ever under its moral precepts. “Under the law to Christ,” I Corinthians 9:21―And in this sense all Christians will be under the law for ever.

J. C. RYLE: I turn to the writings of the Apostles―I see James and John recognizing the moral law, as a rule acknowledged and accredited among those to whom they wrote (James 2:10; 1 John 3:4). Again I say that I am utterly unable to believe that when the Apostles spoke of the law, they only meant nine commandments, and not ten. I turn to the practice of the Apostles, when they were engaged in planting the Church of Christ. I find distinct mention of their keeping one day of the week as a holy day (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). I find the day spoken of by one of them as “the Lord’s Day.”

THOMAS BOSTON: That this Lord’s Day is the first day of the week is clear, if you consider that John speaks of this day as a known day among Christians by that name. It could not be the Jewish Sabbath, for that is always called the Sabbath, and the Jewish sabbaths were then repealed (Colossians 2:16,17).

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Nor was that ever called the Lord’s day, and had John meant that, he would have said on the sabbath day.

THOMAS WATSON: The old seventh-day Sabbath, which was the Jewish Sabbath, is abrogated, and in the room of it the first day of the week, which is the Christian Sabbath, succeeds. The morality or substance of the fourth commandment does not lie in keeping the seventh day precisely, but keeping one day in seven is what God has appointed.

JOHN KENNEDY (1819-1884): Instead of the change of day being inconsistent with the perpetual obligation of the Fourth Commandment, it is that perpetual obligation which makes the change imperative. Just because the seventh day was the Sabbath of old, as a memorial of the rest of God after finishing His work as Creator, the first day must be so now, as a memorial of His rest after finishing the work of redemption.

J. C. RYLE: Undoubtedly the day was changed―it was made the first day of the week in memory of our Lord’s resurrection, instead of the seventh.

A. W. PINK: As, then, the Fourth Commandment―Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy―has not been repealed, and as the New Testament teaches explicitly, again and again, that the moral Law is binding on Christians, then it follows of invincible necessity that there is a “Christian Sabbath,” and that Christians are under bonds to keep it holy.

MATTHEW HENRY: In the primitive times, if a Christian were asked, “Hast thou kept holy the Lord’s Day?” He would readily answer, “I am a Christian, and dare not do otherwise.”


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