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Tom Schreiner’s 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law releases later this month. As I’ve said before, I think it’s now the go-to book for an accessible introduction to all the major issues related to gospel and law, the role of law in redemptive history, application of the law today, etc. I could not recommend it more highly.

Kregel has kindly given me permission to reprint some of the entries. I’ll do so throughout the week. I won’t reproduce the footnotes or the discussion questions, but other than that it’s the full entry.

Today I’ll reprint question #37, “Is the Sabbath Still Required for Christians?”

Believers today continue to dispute whether the Sabbath is required. The Sabbath was given to Israel as a covenant sign, and Israel was commanded to rest on the seventh day. We see elsewhere in the Old Testament that covenants have signs, so that the sign of the Noahic covenant is the rainbow (Gen. 9:8-17) and the sign of the Abrahamic covenant is circumcision (Gen. 17). The paradigm for the Sabbath was God's rest on the seventh day of creation (Gen. 2:1-3). So, too, Israel was called upon to rest from work on the seventh day (Exod. 20:8-11; 31:12-17). What did it mean for Israel not to work on the Sabbath? Figure 5 lists the kinds of activities that were prohibited and permitted.

The Sabbath was certainly a day for social concern, for rest was mandated for all Israelites, including their children, slaves, and even animals (Deut. 5:14). It was also a day to honor and worship the Lord. Special burnt offerings were offered to the Lord on the Sabbath (Num. 28:9-10). Psalm 92 is a Sabbath song that voices praise to God for his steadfast love and faithfulness. Israel was called upon to observe the Sabbath in remembrance of the Lord's work in delivering them as slaves from Egyptian bondage (Deut. 5:15). Thus, the Sabbath is tied to Israel's covenant with the Lord, for it celebrates her liberation from slavery. The Sabbath, then, is the sign of the covenant between the Lord and Israel (Exod. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12-17). The Lord promised great blessing to those who observed the Sabbath (Isa. 56:2, 6; 58:13-14). Breaking the Sabbath command was no trivial matter, for the death penalty was inflicted upon those who intentionally violated it (Exod. 31:14-15; 35:2; Num. 15:32-36), though collecting manna on the Sabbath before the Mosaic law was codified did not warrant such a punishment (Exod. 16:22-30). Israel regularly violated the Sabbath--the sign of the covenant--and this is one of the reasons the people were sent into exile (Jer. 17:21-27; Ezek. 20:12-24).

Kindling a fire Exod. 35:3
Gathering manna Exod. 16:23-29
Selling goods Neh. 10:31; 13:15-22
Bearing burdens Jer. 17:19-27
Military campaigns Josh. 6:15; 1 Kings 20:29; 2 Kings 3:9
Marriage feasts Judg. 14:12-18
Dedication feasts 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chron. 7:8-9
Visiting a man of God 2 Kings 4:23
Changing temple guards 2 Kings 11:5-9
Preparing showbread and putting it out 1 Chron. 9:32
Offering sacrifices 1 Chron. 23:31; Ezek. 46:4-5
Duties of priests and Levites 2 Kings 11:5-9; 2 Chron. 23:4, 8
Opening the east gate Ezek. 46:1-3

During the Second Temple period, views of the Sabbath continued to develop. It is not my purpose here to conduct a complete study. Rather, a number of illustrations will be provided to illustrate how seriously Jews took the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day of feasting and therefore a day when fasting was not appropriate (Jdt. 8:6; 1 Macc. 1:39, 45). Initially, the Hasmoneans refused to fight on the Sabbath, but after they were defeated in battle they changed their minds and began to fight on the Sabbath (1 Macc. 2:32-41; cf. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 12.274, 276-277). The author of Jubilees propounds a rigorous view of the Sabbath (Jubilees 50:6-13). He emphasizes that no work should be done, specifying a number of tasks that are prohibited (50:12-13). Fasting is prohibited since the Sabbath is a day for feasting (50:10, 12). Sexual relations with one's wife also are prohibited (50:8), though offering the sacrifices ordained in the law are permitted (50:10). Those who violate the Sabbath prescriptions should die (50:7, 13). The Sabbath is eternal, and even the angels keep it (2:17-24). Indeed, the angels kept the Sabbath in heaven before it was established on earth (2:30). All Jewish authors concur that God commanded Israel to literally rest, though it is not surprising that Philo thinks of it as well in terms of resting in God (Sobriety, 1:174) and in terms of having thoughts of God that are fitting (Special Laws, 2:260). Philo also explains the number seven symbolically (Moses, 2:210).

The Qumran community was quite strict regarding Sabbath observance, maintaining that the right interpretation must be followed (CD 6:18; 10:14-23). Even if an animal falls into a pit it should not be helped on the Sabbath (CD 11:13-14), something Jesus assumes is permissible when talking to the Pharisees (Matt. 12:11). In the Mishnah thirty-nine different types of work are prohibited on the Sabbath (m. Shabbat 7:2).

I do not believe the Sabbath is required for believers now that the new covenant has arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. I should say, first of all, that it is not my purpose to reiterate what I wrote about the Sabbath in the Gospels since the Sabbath texts were investigated there. Here it is my purpose to pull the threads together in terms of the validity of the Sabbath for today. Strictly speaking, Jesus does not clearly abolish the Sabbath, nor does he violate its stipulations. Yet the focus on regulations that is evident in Jubilees, Qumran, and in the Mishnah is absent in Jesus' teaching. He reminded his hearers that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). Some sectors of Judaism clearly had lost this perspective, so that the Sabbath had lost its humane dimension. They were so consumed with rules that they had forgotten mercy (Matt. 12:7). Jesus was grieved at the hardness of the Pharisees' hearts, for they lacked love for those suffering (Mark 3:5).

Jesus' observance of the Sabbath does not constitute strong evidence for its continuation in the new covenant. His observance of the Sabbath makes excellent sense, for he lived under the Old Testament law. He was "born under the law" as Paul says (Gal. 4:4). On the other hand, a careful reading of the Gospel accounts intimates that the Sabbath will not continue to play a significant role. Jesus proclaims as the Son of Man that he is the "lord even of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28). The Sabbath does not rule over him, but he rules over the Sabbath. He is the new David, the Messiah, to whom the Sabbath and all the Old Testament Scriptures point (Matt. 12:3-4). Indeed, Jesus even claimed in John 5:17 that he, like his Father, works on the Sabbath. Working on the Sabbath, of course, is what the Old Testament prohibits, but Jesus claimed that he must work on the Sabbath since he is equal with God (John 5:18).
It is interesting to consider here the standpoint of the ruler of the synagogue in Luke 13:10-17. He argued that Jesus should heal on the other six days of the week and not on the Sabbath. On one level this advice seems quite reasonable, especially if the strict views of the Sabbath that were common in Judaism were correct. What is striking is that Jesus deliberately healed on the Sabbath. Healing is what he "ought" (dei) to do on the Sabbath day (Luke 13:16). It seems that he did so to demonstrate his superiority to the Sabbath and to hint that it is not in force forever. There may be a suggestion in Luke 4:16-21 that Jesus fulfills the Jubilee of the Old Testament (Lev. 25). The rest and joy anticipated in Jubilee is fulfilled in him, and hence the rest and feasting of the Sabbath find their climax in Jesus.

We would expect the Sabbath to no longer be in force since it was the covenant sign of the Mosaic covenant, and, as I have argued elsewhere in this book, it is clear that believers are no longer under the Sinai covenant. Therefore, they are no longer bound by the sign of the covenant either. The Sabbath, as a covenant sign, celebrated Israel's deliverance from Egypt, but the Exodus points forward, according to New Testament writers, to redemption in Christ. Believers in Christ were not freed from Egypt, and hence the covenant sign of Israel does not apply to them.

It is clear in Paul's letters that the Sabbath is not binding upon believers. In Colossians Paul identifies the Sabbath as a shadow along with requirements regarding foods, festivals, and the new moon (Col. 2:16-17). The Sabbath, in other words, points to Christ and is fulfilled in him. The word for "shadow" (skia) that Paul uses to describe the Sabbath is the same term the author of Hebrews used to describe Old Testament sacrifices. The law is only a "shadow (skia) of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities" (Heb. 10:1). The argument is remarkably similar to what we see in Colossians: both contrast elements of the law as a shadow with the "substance" (sōma, Col. 2:17) or the "form" (eikona, Heb. 10:1) found in Christ. Paul does not denigrate the Sabbath. He salutes its place in salvation history, for, like the Old Testament sacrifices, though not in precisely the same way, it prepared the way for Christ. I know of no one who thinks Old Testament sacrifices should be instituted today; and when we compare what Paul says about the Sabbath with such sacrifices, it seems right to conclude that he thinks the Sabbath is no longer binding.

Some argue, however, that "Sabbath" in Colossians 2:16 does not refer to the weekly Sabbaths but only to sabbatical years. But this is a rather desperate expedient, for the most prominent day in the Jewish calendar was the weekly Sabbath. We know from secular sources that it was the observance of the weekly Sabbath that attracted the attention of Gentiles (Juvenal, Satires 14.96-106; Tacitus, Histories 5.4). Perhaps sabbatical years are included here, but the weekly Sabbath should not be excluded, for it would naturally come to the mind of both Jewish and Gentile readers. What Paul says here is remarkable, for he lumps the Sabbath together with food laws, festivals like Passover, and new moons. All of these constitute shadows that anticipate the coming of Christ. Very few Christians think we must observe food laws, Passover, and new moons. But if this is the case, then it is difficult to see why the Sabbath should be observed since it is placed together with these other matters.

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." In Romans 14:1-15:6 Paul mainly discusses food that some--almost certainly those influenced by Old Testament food laws--think is defiled. Paul clearly teaches, in contrast to Leviticus 11:1-44 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21, that all foods are clean (Rom. 14:14, 20) since a new era of redemptive history has dawned. In other words, Paul sides theologically with the strong in the argument, believing that all foods are clean. He is concerned, however, that the strong avoid injuring and damaging the weak. The strong must respect the opinions of the weak (Rom. 14:1) and avoid arguments with them. Apparently the weak were not insisting that food laws and the observance of days were necessary for salvation, for if that were the case they would be proclaiming another gospel (cf. Gal. 1:8-9; 2:3-5; 4:10; 5:2-6), and Paul would not tolerate their viewpoint. Probably the weak believed that one would be a stronger Christian if one kept food laws and observed days. The danger for the weak was that they would judge the strong (Rom. 14:3-4), and the danger for the strong was that they would despise the weak (Rom. 14:3, 10). In any case, the strong seem to have had the upper hand in the Roman congregations, for Paul was particularly concerned that they not damage the weak.

Nevertheless, a crucial point must not be overlooked. Even though Paul watches out for the consciences of the weak, he holds the viewpoint of the strong on both food laws and days. John Barclay rightly argues that Paul subtly (or not so discreetly!) undermines the theological standpoint of the weak since he argues that what one eats and what days one observes are a matter of no concern. The Old Testament, on the other hand, is clear on the matter. The foods one eats and the days one observes are ordained by God. He has given clear commands on both of these issues. Hence, Paul's argument is that such laws are no longer valid since believers are not under the Mosaic covenant. Indeed, the freedom to believe that all days are alike surely includes the Sabbath, for the Sabbath naturally would spring to the mind of Jewish readers since they kept the Sabbath weekly.

Paul has no quarrel with those who desire to set aside the Sabbath as a special day, as long as they do not require it for salvation or insist that other believers agree with them. Those who esteem the Sabbath as a special day are to be honored for their point of view and should not be despised or ridiculed. Others, however, consider every day to be the same. They do not think that any day is more special than another. Those who think this way are not to be judged as unspiritual. Indeed, there is no doubt that Paul held this opinion, since he was strong in faith instead of being weak. It is crucial to notice what is being said here. If the notion that every day of the week is the same is acceptable, and if it is Paul's opinion as well, then it follows that Sabbath regulations are no longer binding. The strong must not impose their convictions on the weak and should be charitable to those who hold a different opinion, but Paul clearly has undermined the authority of the Sabbath in principle, for he does not care whether someone observes one day as special. He leaves it entirely up to one's personal opinion. But if the Sabbath of the Old Testament were still in force, Paul could never say this, for the Old Testament makes incredibly strong statements about those who violate the Sabbath, and the death penalty is even required in some instances. Paul is living under a different dispensation, that is, a different covenant, for now he says it does not matter whether one observes one day out of seven as a Sabbath.

Some argue against what is defended here by appealing to the creation order. As noted above, the Sabbath for Israel is patterned after God's creation of the world in seven days. What is instructive, however, is that the New Testament never appeals to Creation to defend the Sabbath. Jesus appealed to the creation order to support his view that marriage is between one man and one woman for life (Mark 10:2-12). Paul grounded his opposition to women teaching or exercising authority over men in the creation order (1 Tim. 2:12-13), and homosexuality is prohibited because it is contrary to nature (Rom. 1:26-27), in essence, to God's intention when he created men and women. Similarly, those who ban believers from eating certain foods and from marriage are wrong because both food and marriage are rooted in God's good creation (1 Tim. 4:3-5). We see nothing similar with the Sabbath. Never does the New Testament ground it in the created order. Instead, we have very clear verses that say it is a "shadow" and that it does not matter whether believers observe it. So, how do we explain the appeal to creation with reference to the Sabbath? It is probably best to see creation as an analogy instead of as a ground. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant, and since the covenant has passed away, so has the covenant sign.

Now it does not follow from this that the Sabbath has no significance for believers. It is a shadow, as Paul said, of the substance that is now ours in Christ. The Sabbath's role as a shadow is best explicated by Hebrews, even if Hebrews does not use the word for "shadow" in terms of the Sabbath. The author of Hebrews sees the Sabbath as foreshadowing the eschatological rest of the people of God (Heb. 4:1-10). A "Sabbath rest" still awaits God's people (v. 9), and it will be fulfilled on the final day when believers rest from earthly labors. The Sabbath, then, points to the final rest of the people of God. But since there is an already-but-not-yet character to what Hebrews says about rest, should believers continue to practice the Sabbath as long as they are in the not-yet? I would answer in the negative, for the evidence we have in the New Testament points in the contrary direction. We remember that the Sabbath is placed together with food laws and new moons and Passover in Colossians 2:16, but there is no reason to think that we should observe food laws, Passover, and new moons before the consummation. Paul's argument is that believers now belong to the age to come and the requirements of the old covenant are no longer binding.

Does the Lord's Day, that is, Christians worshiping on the first day of the week, constitute a fulfillment of the Sabbath? The references to the Lord's Day in the New Testament are sparse. 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). These scattered hints suggest that the early Christians at some point began to worship on the first day of the week. The practice probably has its roots in the resurrection of Jesus, for he appeared to his disciples "the first day of the week" (John 20:19). All the Synoptics emphasize that Jesus rose on the first day of the week, i.e., Sunday: "very early on the first day of the week" (Mark 16:2; cf. Matt. 28:1; Luke 24:1). The fact that each of the Gospels stresses that Jesus was raised on the first day of the week is striking. But we have no indication that the Lord's Day functions as a fulfillment of the Sabbath. It is likely that gathering together on the Lord's Day stems from the earliest church, for we see no debate on the issue in church history, which is quite unlikely if the practice originated in Gentile churches outside Israel. By way of contrast, we think of the intense debate in the first few centuries on the date of Easter. No such debate exists regarding the Lord's Day.

The early roots of the Lord's Day are verified by the universal practice of the Lord's Day in Gentile churches in the second century. It is not surprising that many Jewish Christians continued to observe the Sabbath as well. One segment of the Ebionites practiced the Lord's Day and the Sabbath. Their observance of both is instructive, for it shows that the Lord's Day was not viewed as the fulfillment of the Sabbath but as a separate day.

Most of the early church fathers did not practice or defend literal Sabbath observance (cf. Diognetus 4:1) but interpreted the Sabbath eschatologically and spiritually. They did not see the Lord's Day as a replacement of the Sabbath but as a unique day. For instance, in the Epistle of Barnabas, the Sabbaths of Israel are contrasted with "the eighth day" (15:8), and the latter is described as "a beginning of another world." Barnabas says that "we keep the eighth day" (which is Sunday), for it is "the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead" (15:9). The Lord's Day was not viewed as a day in which believers abstained from work, as was the case with the Sabbath. Instead, it was a day in which most believers were required to work, but they took time in the day to meet together in order to worship the Lord. The contrast between the Sabbath and the Lord's Day is clear in Ignatius, when he says, "If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death" (To the Magnesians 9:1). Ignatius, writing about A.D. 110, specifically contrasts the Sabbath with the Lord's Day, showing that he did not believe the latter replaced the former. Bauckham argues that the idea that the Lord's day replaced the Sabbath is post-Constantinian. Luther saw rest as necessary but did not tie it to Sunday. A stricter interpretation of the Sabbath became more common with the Puritans, along with the Seventh-Day Baptists and later the Seventh-Day Adventists.


Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant and the Sabbath as the covenant sign are no longer applicable now that the new covenant of Jesus Christ has come. Believers are called upon to honor and respect those who think the Sabbath is still mandatory for believers. But if one argues that the Sabbath is required for salvation, such a teaching is contrary to the gospel and should be resisted forcefully. In any case, Paul makes it clear in both Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16-17 that the Sabbath has passed away now that Christ has come. It is wise naturally for believers to rest, and hence one principle that could be derived from the Sabbath is that believers should regularly rest. But the New Testament does not specify when that rest should take place, nor does it set forth a period of time when that rest should occur. We must remember that the early Christians were required to work on Sundays. They worshiped the Lord on the Lord's Day, the day of Jesus' resurrection, but the early Christians did not believe the Lord's Day fulfilled or replaced the Sabbath. The Sabbath pointed toward eschatological rest in Christ, which believers enjoy in part now and will enjoy fully on the Last Day.

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256 thoughts on “Is the Sabbath Still Required for Christians?”

  1. John says:

    Maybe I’m off my rocker here, but couldn’t the same argument complementarians use regarding their lynchpin text in Timothy regarding male hierarchy also be used about Sabbath…it’s rooted in creation and is therefore trans-cultural and a-historical? If Sabbath, which is rooted in creation, can be disregarded, then what about exclusive male authority in the church or home? I acknowledge this is a red herring, but I just wanted to call attention to it. I find it interesting regarding the arguments we make to validate a proposition.

    1. Philip Meade says:


      I think Schreiner addresses your question in his paragraph concerning creation order when he says that “Paul grounded his opposition to women teaching or exercising authority over men in the creation order (1 Tim. 2:12-13).” His point is that the NT never explicitly grounds observance of the Sabbath to creation as it does other issues (such as marriage, homosexuality, etc). Thus, Schreiner would disagree with your comment that the Sabbath is “rooted in creation.” Instead, he mentions the connection between the two as an analogy.

      1. John says:

        Oops! I read about 75% of it so I must have missed that note. I’m glad he speaks about it. I wonder if his “the NT never grounds it in creation” is a bit Marcionistic though. The OT clearly grounds it in creation (“for in six days God made…”). Are all things in the OT that aren’t mentioned in the NT no longer applicable? I’m not against Schreiner’s view by any means, I’m just observing the logic of his argument and trying to think of objections.

        1. John — keep reading! He addresses your second question as well (re: OT grounding it in creation).

    2. Parker says:

      Its interesting you should note that because he specifically addressed that question. See the paragraph that begins “Some argue against what is defended here by appealing to the creation order.”

    3. Kyle says:

      I’m really disappointed the Gospel Coalition would post this. Congrats! You’ve just given multitudes an excuse to sin.

      Assume for a moment that Schreiner is wrong and God does require the keeping one day in seven as a holy day to be taken up in public and private worship, where one is to rest from all their own thoughts, words, and works Assume for a moment that the Reformed actually have it right. Would you actually want it?

      I think if many anti-sabbatrians are honest with themselves they have to answer “no” (I think many Sabbatarians are naturally inclined to say no as well). Because at the bottom of it all we want to do our own delight, we want to be master of our schedule, and because the flesh wages war against the Spirit and always wants to worship the creature. This isn’t meant to be a definitive argument for the Sabbath, but I do ask all of you who are so loudly against the Lord’s Day to examine your hearts. You can weigh the exegetical arguments all day long (I think the Reformed are right on), but before you try and do exegesis examine your heart.

    4. henrybish says:

      I’m surprised there is not a mention of the Acts 15 Jerusalem council. Surely that is a crucial passage to understand how we should relate to the OT Sabbath (note Acts 15:5, 28-29 especially).

      And our response to their decision should be Acts 15:31.

      1. Larry says:


        If you’re trying to say that the only moral laws of the OT that we are to keep are expressed in these verses, then you would consider many things permissible that i would not…murder for one.

        1. henrybish says:

          No, I think the only moral laws we should keep are the ones set forth for the church in the NT.

          It is true that many of these timeless commands are intertwined throughout the OT also (along with the various shadows/types/ceremonies that are not timeless) but I am pointing out that a simple approach is just to see the entire OT law to the Jews as abrogated* and our new standard as the teaching of the apostles set forth in the NT (and therefore everything in the OT that it affirms as timeless).

          This saves us from having to try and invent our own standards by which to sort out which parts of the OT were timeless moral commands and which were just shadows and types. And it does not prevent us from using all the OT lessons that involve timeless moral commands (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah/homosexuality is wrong) in the same way as the ones given NT.

          i.e. We should obey the 1st commandment not because it is part of the 10 commandments but because it is one of those timeless moral commands intertwined with the non-lasting stuff in the OT – and we know which is which because:

          1) the NT’s revelation of how NT believers should live
          2) because this law is written on our hearts (Romans).

          *bar the stuff mentioned in Acts 15, although Acts 15:21 and Paul’s later writings about food sacrificed to idols indicate that these particulars were probably situation-specific. Also, they obviously already knew the substantial content of the NT commands on how we should live. That was not the issue the Acts 15 letter was addressing – which was are we bound by the whole OT law aswell as the NT commands that they already knew.

          Are there any problems with this approach?

          1. henrybish says:

            Also, on what basis do you limit the Acts 15 council to not include the Sabbath given that the question at hand was Acts 15:5?

          2. Ralph W. Davis says:

            The problems I think with this approach, i.e. that Christian ethics are derived only through the NT, without direct reference to the confusing tangle of moral/ceremonial/civil regulations which make up OT commands, are that first off, not all of the OT moral commands are contained in the NT. Many are implied or assumed, and the NT authors clearly also had a huge measure of knowledge of, and reliance on, OT teachings, which–if we don’t know the OT, we will completely miss.

            Incest, for example is only mentioned in passing (the I Cor. case) and then it was evidently a case of technical/legal incest, of a man sleeping with his stepmother. Bestiality (not to get too disgusting here) is never repeated at all in the NT. Even homosexual practice is mentioned, outside of Romans 1, only in passing, and never by Jesus…as the homosexualist-promoting factions in mainline churches are quick to point out.

            THE scriptures of the NT Church were primarily too, the OT, so to relegate them to the past-tense in regards to Christian ethics would seem to be profoundly contra actual NT practice. It seems to me that the passages by Paul and others that are relied upon to see the Law as completely past, really are more about the USE and ATTITUDE toward the law, rather than the content of it. Are we justified by law keeping? Or course not–Jesus’ law-keeping-unto-death justifies us. Was ANYONE EVER justified by law-keeping (other than our Lord Jesus) no again,as scripture makes clear that even Abraham, good and righteous man that he was (by OT, even Mosaic standards), was saved by faith, not his works. So the OT moral law–those commands not part of the civil code of Israel or ceremonial blood rites–serve as a clear code of ethics, for those who already have faith in Jesus–and who know that Jesus saves, not their own law-keeping. The OT moral code, including the 10 Commandments, and the moral commands which extend from them (such as the holiness code for sexual behavior–including incest, bestiality and homosexuality–of Lev. 18) are still helpful and do apply directly (while the civil penalties for breaking them don’t), even as we acknowledge and freely confess that our obedience to law doesn’t save–it does however reflect on the fact that we have been saved, by Jesus Himself.

            To me it is the constant oscillation in personal life between 2nd use of the law–as a Schoolmaster pointing us to Christ’ mercy in forgiveness (or as a mirror, showing us our need), and 3rd use, as a healing balm the Holy Spirit uses for believers already resting in the mercy of Jesus, for our ailing, flawed and seared conscience–which must be constantly corrected/reminded/renewed of the holiness of God. When we are tempted to think our status before God is determined by our obedience…then our 3rd use, must flip back to 2nd use… Does the OT law ALWAYS need to be seen through the lens of Jesus…and the NT revelation? YES. Otherwise we’re liable to get confused and start burning witches, a la the Salem Puritans. The problem that I see with saying that ONLY if something is repeated in the NT are we responsible for it, is it runs the real risk of antinomian behavior–particularly among young, non-traditional people, and it also minimizes the use of and reliance on the OT–in effect, keeping so many people separated from the great riches of wisdom of holiness to be found throughout the OT.

            Discerning the moral commands–applicable to us– from the civil and ceremonial commands NOT applicable in the OT is not usually THAT difficult either. For 2000 years for example there has been an ecumenical Christian consensus on sexual ethics…not until higher criticism shook peoples trust in scripture simultaneous to being confronted by the immoralities of the sexual revolution of the ’60s, was there any serious questioning of those ethics–based solidly in OT moral law.

            Biblical ethics is still under severe attack by the corrosive culture around us, and Christians need to be confident in the full and final authority of holy Scripture, Old Testament and New Testament, when they seek guidance on how to live pleasing the Savior.

            1. henrybish says:

              Ralph Davis:

              You seem to affirm that homosexuality and incest are either implicitly or explicitly condemned in the NT. So that does not cut against my argument. As for bestiality see my earlier comment to Larry.

              Again, I am not saying the OT becomes useless, rather, I am saying we should use the NT as the decisive authority to help recognize where timeless moral commands are present in the OT (albeit often intertwined with the temporary typological stuff).

              2 challenges for you and Larry:

              1) On what basis do you limit Acts 15:5 and the Jerusalem to not include the Sabbath? Surely the Gentiles, who did not have the Sabbath, would have included it.

              2) Can anyone name a single timeless moral command that we would miss out on with this simple approach?

              3) Re bestiality, how do you know that it is a timeless moral command if you do not use the NT argument I mentioned earlier, or appeal to the law written on our hearts according to Romans 1-2 – both of the criteria that I am advocating? How do you pick that particular command out and yet pass over the law about 2 types of thread in a garment? My system seems to deal with that but I don’t see how yours does.

              Any thoughts?

              1. henrybish says:

                Also, I think even the NT recognises that there are ethical questions which we cannot derive answers to from any scriptural passage but must use our conscience (‘anything that is not from faith is a sin’) and Paul recognises and allows that different believers may come to different convictions on these things (‘let each one be convinced in his own mind’).

                So if this is true then we should deny the presupposition that is floating round here that we have to have all of our moral dilemmas answered explicitly in Scripture. Scripture itself points us to conscience and reason/wisdom for many matters.

                I am sure we can all think of ethical questions that we cannot get a clear cut answer for from scripture and must just go by our consciences and the wisdom of others.

              2. Larry says:

                As far as the 2 challenges…

                1) The Acts 15 passage deals with circumcision and the laws of Moses. The question revolved around Judaizers who wanted Gentiles to be bound to the Jewish ceremonial laws. Since the Sabbath command is not part of the Jewish ceremonial law it has no relevance on the Sabbath question any more than it has relevance on the question of murder.

                The Decalogue is not a set of moral commands for the Jews only…nor is it ceremonial in nature. Rather, it is the moral standard that God calls all people to.

                ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. ‘For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. ‘But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. (Lev 18:24-28)

                Notice how the nations were judged for not keeping the “statutes” and the “judgments” of God. So it is clear that the moral law of God was never meant only for Israel, but for all nations.

                2) It is irrelevant if one commandment would be missed by your approach…the real question should be, “does your approach comprehend the unity of Scripture or does it divide Scripture where God has not called for division?” And in that respect you have divided Scripture that God has meant to be unified.

                Also, it is clear that the Sabbath would be a moral command that you neglect using your system. But it’s strange because there is more in the NT that promotes keeping the Sabbath than their is that prohibits bestiality.

                3) God doesn’t change, therefore i know what God calls evil in the OT is evil in the NT. Thus bestiality is a sin because of God’s declaration of it being so.
                Your system deals with it only because you expand certain NT commands to include bestiality…but no NT command actually does include bestiality.
                If you were to look at your system honestly, without expanding the NT to include OT ordinances that you still think should be immoral though not specifically mentioned in the NT, you would be unable to argue against bestiality.

          3. Larry says:


            You said: I think the only moral laws we should keep are the ones set forth for the church in the NT.

            My reply: The problem with this is that you divide the Bible into one section to be used and one to not be used. Scripture is clear (in the NT) that ALL Scripture is for us…not just the New part…

            All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2Ti 3:16)

            Further, you would have no warrant to call things like bestiality a sin if you were restricted to the NT.

            1. janejolene says:

              I looked up Rom. 1:26-27 and find that when the issue of sexual immorality is addressed here, calling women with women and men with men “un-natural”, it also clearly implies any conduct outside of the natural is sin. Then does it not go without saying the man with beast would also be considered leaving the natural? My thought, then, is: Is there further need to address such sin in the N.T.? Lesbianism and homosexuality is referrenced as a condition in which “God gave them up to vile passions.” To me it goes without saying that man to animal would be one step further down the vile passions/leaving-the-natural road. I think the N.T. is not silent on the issue at all, but clearly condemns all of these un-natural practices in the same camp.

            2. janejolene says:

              Later in Rom. 1:11-12 (and following) suggests that men made in the image of God have the “natural” ability to discern what is natural and what is not. Otherwise the passage would not have addressed it in such a way as to imply people understand this fact full well. For those who have the law can read it there in black and white, and “for as many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law”. (“Their thoughts accusing or else excusing them”) I don’t think anyone gets off the hook with this one. Jews or Gentiles. The O.T. law just pointed out the obvious. We are men, made in God’s image… God has given us the understanding that some things are natural, some are not. And it is a path… at some point God gives people OVER to their vile passions, to the un-natural.

            3. henrybish says:


              I already pre-empted that objection in my post. To repeat, we can still use OT passages for moral instruction (e.g Sodom&Gomorrah) as long their moral commands are affirmed in the NT. This includes a very large part of it. And it does not follow that the remaining OT passages have ‘no use’ – typological passages are preached from for a different purpose anyway. Are the passages on animal sacrifices ‘no use’ just because they are not morally binding on us today? Not at all.

              Re. bestiality, this is condemned by Jesus’ affirmation that the Genesis narrative is paradigmatic for marriage/one flesh relationships – one male and one female homo sapien. Also Romans 1-2 says the law is written on the Gentiles hearts. I don’t think they need to see that bestiality is wrong in writing.

              I still can’t see that there is really any obviously lasting command in the OT that we would miss out on with this simple approach?

              1. John Thomson says:


                1. No-one denies the OT can be used for moral instruction. As you say, Paul explicitly says it all Scripture is profitable for ‘training in righteousness’.

                2. Most of the blatant moral issues of bestiality etc are clear to unconverted people even without the Law. The works of the Law are written on the heart. Paul at the end of a catalogue of gross pagan sin says

                Rom 1:32 (ESV)
                Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

                3. Christians indwelt by the Spirit do not need the law to be aware of gross sins of the flesh. Indeed this seems to be what Paul implies when he writes

                Gal 5:19-21 (ESV)
                Now the works of the flesh are evident (obvious): sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

                4. Actually the morality of the Law is less than that of the Kingdom. It allowed divorce at a level Jesus’ says was not God’s intention in creation. It assumes the existence of polygamy and does not forbid it. The Law to some extent accommodated the limitations of the people (Moses, because of the hardness of your heart…). It simply cannot be a straightforward morality for NT believers.

                5. The whole point about Christian maturity is that we are not treated like children (and slaves) and given a long list of dos and don’ts. We are sons who by the indwelling Spirit are guided into holy lives both in areas which the Law never gave an explicit law and at a level of devotion the law did not demand.

                6. Lastly, a question: What does Paul mean when he writes:

                1Tim 1:8-10 (ESV)
                Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.

            4. John Thomson says:


              I really should let this matter go now, however,

              You write,

              ‘The Decalogue is not a set of moral commands for the Jews only…nor is it ceremonial in nature. Rather, it is the moral standard that God calls all people to.’

              What Scripture can you turn to prove a) the Law was given to other than the Jews (and any who came to follow Yahweh)b)That in some way the Decalogue can be extracted from the covenant. It was the essence of the covenant. If the covenant is ended, the Decalogue is ended.


              ‘Notice how the nations were judged for not keeping the “statutes” and the “judgments” of God.’

              Not so. The nations are not judged for failing to keep the ‘Statutes and Judgement’. They did not have the Law (Roms 2,5) make this plain therefore they could not be judged for what God had not given them. They were judged for their ‘abominations’. The works of the law written on their heart alerted them to this (Roms 1:32).


              ‘God doesn’t change, therefore i know what God calls evil in the OT is evil in the NT’

              This is a non sequator. There are clearly things that God forbids under Law (and so to do them is sinful) that he does not condemn in the NT nor did he expect of the nations. Eating of pork.

              I know what you are saying but you are working with too flat a Bible. You are not in my view willing to apply salvation-history categories in the way the Bible does.


              ‘If you were to look at your system honestly, without expanding the NT to include OT ordinances that you still think should be immoral though not specifically mentioned in the NT, you would be unable to argue against bestiality.’

              Do you really think Christians or non-Christians need an explicit prohibition to know that bestiality is wrong? What of the many other forms of sexual deviancy not mentioned in Scripture too shameful to mention? Does the lack of an explicit prohibition make it impossible to say they are wrong and sinful? It doesn’t, does it? We do not need a prohibitive ‘law’ or even ‘text’ to define every sin.

              This kind of thinking treats Scripture as largely a Law-Book. My concern is that this is exactly how some of my good confessionally reformed brothers (and I am not being ironic or supercilious, C/reformed folks are my good brothers and sisters and many are far more devoted to Christ than I) do actually think of Scripture, in its ethical dimension at least (thus we hear terms for the whole of Scripture like ‘The Law of God’).

              Larry, I urge you to read the NT epistles through and see how little the Law features when the writers urge specific examples of Christian living. The overwhelming evidence is that Christian living arises out of the Spirit enlightening our hearts to the implications of the gospel of Christ crucified and risen.

  2. I offer an alternative answer here, as a Reformed believer who thinks that the “Lord’s Day” is in important ways the continuation of a creation Sabbath:


    1. Nick says:


      Having read your alternative view I recommend reading/watching this answer to your comments about the 10 commandments.

      1. Ralph W. Davis says:

        I find the Piper piece interesting in the use of the word “under.” Piper correctly answer “no” we are not UNDER the 10 Commandments, since Christ, not our behavior, is how we are justified before God.

        Then in explaining HOW we’re not under the decalogue, he has this statement in his conclusion:

        “If you’re bent on love the ten commandments are really important. You should hang them on your wall and you should measure your life by them, but in a very different way than when you were under them, because they have been kept for you.”

        This is the classic Reformed answer to our relationship to the OT moral commands, in essence, yes, we are not “under” them–since mercy in Christ saves us, but, neither have they been abrogated, rather we grow up in Christ, WITH God’s commands as our FRIEND, as it were–pointing us to Jesus’ mercy (2nd use) and helping us know how to truly love God and others (3rd use).

  3. Larry says:

    It is sad how many are fleeing from observing the Sabbath.

    It is, in fact, a creation ordinance and not merely one given to Israel.

    In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, (Gen 4:3, ESV)
    The “course of time” can be read as “at the end of days” which would be a reference to the Sabbath day. Thus this early instance of worship is relegated to the Sabbath day long before Israel came to be.

    As far as Christ saying that the Sabbath was made for man, the important word there is “man”…the generic used for all men and not just for Israelites.

    And though we do have rest in Christ, our we still look forward to a perfected rest when He returns…and therefore the rest on the Lord’s Day still points to an even greater rest that we will experience yet in the future.

  4. John Thomson says:

    In Genesis the Sabbath is said to be God’s rest not our rest. There is no intrinsic reason to assume that he intended the seventh day as a rest for humanity. This at least is the assumption of the Church which almost universally observes a Sunday and not a Saturday.

  5. Devin says:

    Just two thoughts:
    1) God didn’t merely observe the Sabbath, he sanctified it. Whatever Adam’s practice was–and we have no reason to believe it was exactly that of the Mosaic law–Adam would have said the day was sanctified.
    2) Schreiner noted that there is a relationship between the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day. The end of the week, the end of the old creation. The beginning of the week, the beginning of the new creation. Christ “rested” in the tomb. He rose on Sunday. It’s not a stretch to see a transference of sanctity in this. That doesn’t equate to a transference of legislation, however. As he mentioned, the early church didn’t argue for a Lord’s Day Sabbath, but they unanimously recognized a sanctified day.

    1. KT says:

      Devin, I believe your point number 2 is the gist of the argument in “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day,” edited by D. A. Carson, which is an excellent book-length treatment of the topic.

  6. Josh Kwekel says:

    No mention of decalogue, 10 commandments or moral law in your piece… possibly because it undermines the whole argument?
    I expected more from you.
    God’s moral law, the decalogue, has never been abrogated in any part.
    Is someone who undermines God’s law an antinomian or not?

    1. Tony Romano says:

      “God’s moral law, the decalogue, has never been abrogated in any part.”

      Do you have a (or maybe several) textual reference(s) that God’s moral law is revealed in the decalogue? The Bible, please. Not Westminster. I’m amazed that you want to speak of a whole argument being undermined by this “moral law” idea when “moral law” is a term created outside Scripture. I would think that undermines your whole argument, brother.

      I’m amazed that guys still want to throw around the antinomian accusation when it is clearly meant to invalidate an argument, rather than facing it on textual grounds. If we say we now submit to the law of Christ (in Christ through the Gospel God’s righteousness is revealed perfectly, NOT in the Mosaic Law), higher and more binding than Sinai, how am I an antinomian? You guys keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      1. Josh Kwekel says:

        nor is “trinity” used explicitly, but no one denies its fundamental and orthodox place in scripture. So you would deny the decalogue’s use as God’s moral law in scripture?

        Re: antinomian. I simply asked a question.
        sin is lawlessness. Sin is not imputed where there is no law. What law is that?
        The fulfillment of the law according to Christ (Matt22:37-40, Mark12:30-31, Luke10:26-28) is connected with love of God and love of man, the 2 tablets of the decalogue clearly come to mind in this context, what other law would Jesus be referring to?

        You are right, Christ embodies the righteousness of God, righteousness is keeping the law, thus Christ does not = the law. The law condemns, Christ fulfills. This is not a new concept, Calvin, Melancthon, Luther all referred to the 3 uses of the law.

  7. Ralph W. Davis says:

    If (general, Jesus-exemplified) Sabbath observance was not moved to the Lord’s Day, then just when (or if?) are we supposed to rest-and-worship? Also, more importantly if, one part of the 10 Commandments is merely a sign of the whole Mosaic Covenant, passed away, who’s to say other commands there are also not optional?

    I’ve experienced (real) Lord’s Day sabbath rest communally, in (otherwise extremely secular) Europe, and it’s really terrific. Stores are closed, trucks are not permitted on highways, and everyone is renewed. The whole community stops and takes a breath, VERY (very) unlike the USA…where many are required to work, violating their conscience, due to Christian abandonment of a sabbath-rest(and worship) principle.

  8. John Thomson says:

    Actually, at a formal level at least, believers are not subject to the Ten Commandments or indeed any of the Law. We have died to the Law – totally. The Law placed a sentence of death on us (or at least on Israel to whom it was given)and this death was undertaken by Christ on our behalf and in our place. However, it was a death in which we as children of Adam were involved. His death was our death.

    Death is the sentence of the Law carried out and the death person is no longer under Law. (Roms 7). He no longer lives in the world where Law holds sway. Its reign of death for him is over.

    However, the Christian, in Christ, is raised to a new life. It is a life in a new world, a new creation. Just as the resurrected Christ was no longer subject to the Law nor are all who are in Christ.

    In the old world (the world of Adam and flesh) sin, Satan, death and Law were reigning powers. Not so in new creation. We are, in Christ, subject to none. We live in a creation where grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life. Law has no authority here. We cannot quote the Law, Ten Commandments or any other part, as the basis of Christian living or obedience. That is why the NT rarely refers to the Law in ethical matters and never as a final authority.

    We are under the authority of Christ (the law of Christ) and Christian obedience is framed in him. That is not to say we cannot learn from the Law as we do from the whole of the OT but it does mean it cannot simply be read as the obligation of a believer. If it could we would all be culturally Jewish. We, in Christ do not ‘keep’ the Law though we do ‘fulfil’ the Law. Life in the Spirit is not subject to the letter of the Law but all that the Law pointed to is fulfilled and more in the person who loves in such a way as Christ loved to the point of laying down his life for his enemies.

    In my view, the question of the Sabbath, must be understood in this context.

    1. telos104 says:

      A couple of quibbles for the sake of discussion…”Death to the Law” can’t mean “no obligation whatsoever” since the Apostles had no problem quoting from all parts of the law – even the so called ‘ceremonial’ aspects – to direct the NC believer; yes, even ethical instruction. Why? Because it’s God’s word. So, to me, the question isn’t are we under it, but how are we under it – particularly as a Gentile believer.
      Rom 7 I think is about the ‘reign’ of death, working as it did through the Law; not the Law functioning as God’s word, as alluded to above. This is an important distinction.
      You said, “we cannot quote the Law, 10 Comm or any other part, as the basis…”, but again the NT does it all the time, in I think every book.
      We are under the authority of Christ who fulfilled the Law; we also fulfill the Law, but we, hopefully like Him, don’t cast it aside or abrogate it. Plus, the gist of “fulfilling the Law” means that you are getting to and in essence “agreeing” with the original intent/purpose of it – which can be summed up as “love”! Therefore, by doing so, you’re saying there is a place for the Law (as the Word of God) in the life of the NT believer (even Gentile).
      IMO, it’s the Law as a covenantal arrangement between the Lord and His people that has passed; the significance of the Law to teach and instruct and reveal – it’s main purpose in the first place – remains…just read the Apostle’s commentary on it.

      1. John Thomson says:


        I press the question – what is Christ’s present relationship to Law for that is ours by faith and relationship. This is a most important question for deciding the relationship of the believer to the world,Law, sin, Satan etc. I find it rarely explored or faced by any who wish to make Christians obligated to the Law. The Law as you say T is a covenant. It is not a covenant where Israel was at liberty to pick and choose. They could not, for example, decide to change the Sabbath to a Sunday. A covenant is either kept in its entirety or it is broken. In which case a new covenant must be made based on different principles. This is of course precisely what happens in Christ. We have a new covenant and a new creation.

        I agree we can learn from the OT as it is placed through a redemptive-historical grid or viewed through a Christocentric lens but that is quite different from saying we are in any way subject to its laws or decrees.

        I would be interested to see all these places where Law rather than gospel and Christ is held up as the basis and pattern of Christian obedience. Where are we told – do this because this is what the Ten Commandments teach? I can think only of a couple of places where the TC’s are used to further support ethical behaviour and none where it is the primary basis.

        Given that we are told repeatedly that we are not under Law I am surprised T you say we still are. The burden of proof certainly lies with you to so prove.

        I end by repeating my initial point for it is so vital – we are united to a resurrected Christ. Our life as a new creation is in Him. What is his present relationship to Law for that is ours. Note carefully the language of Roms 7

        Rom 7:1-6 (ESV)
        Or do you not know, brothers-for I am speaking to those who know the law-that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

        Notice our relationship to Law is finished (though Paul is primarily addressing Jewish believers let us leave that aside). We cannot be in a relationship with Law (a covenantal relationship akin to marriage) and Christ for that would make us adulterers. We are ‘free’ through the death/body of Christ. Not partly free but totally free. It makes absolutely no logical far less biblical sense to say I am not under Law but I am obligated to keep the Ten Commandments.’ That is simply a contradiction.

        Further, our relationship is with a risen Christ – ‘so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God’.

        What is the ethical basis of the gospel? paul tells us in Gals 5 – ‘faith working through love’. The Spirit of holiness leads us to understand what this in the details of everyday life which in any case the Ten Commandments hardly touch. That is why elsewhere (1 Tim) Paul says the Law is not for the righteous but for murderers, adulterers etc. He assumes that such gross sin will not be countenanced by those led by the Spirit.

        The Law was given to man in the flesh. It assumes spiritual death, not life. That is why it says – This do and Live.

        Just some thoughts for reflection.

        1. telos104 says:

          Good thougths…but, you’re all over the map, I’m affraid.
          First of all, we have to establish that the Law wasn’t given to the Gentiles – agreed? If that’s the case, and I think it is, then the question is answered rather straighforwardly – in terms of the Law being the Cov that governs our (Gentiles in NC) behavior.
          Second, I didn’t say we’re under the Law, or if I did, I didn’t mean it in the way you seem to have taken it (again, simply see my previous point – we can’t be under something that we never were under in the first place)…more could be said, however.
          Third, related, I feel like you read right past my statement regarding the Law as it functions as God’s Word to us.
          Finally, again a slight quibble w/ what you said “…Law was given to man in the flesh…” No, it was given to those that were redeemed out of Egypt. That’s one not to miss…In a lecture I heard a while back, the OT scholar Dan Block said, “America’s problem isn’t that they don’t keep the 10 Commandments; it’s that they haven’t left Egypt.” The narrative flow is important. The Law worked (i.e. served it’s purpose) for those who already had faith – see Psalm 119 (poor chap, who’s under the Law…yeah I’m sure that’s what he felt)…
          Beyond this, and we can just agree to disagree if you like, I’d have to go point by point through what you wrote in your initial reply, might be more helpful…dunno.

          1. John Thomson says:


            I agree that gentiles are not under Law. I thought I did answer the Law coming to us as the Word of God – we need to interpret it by the redemptive-historical principles that the NT writers use. I suspect there we are largely in agreement.

            I like Dan Block’s comment – it is good. However, you are wrong that the redemption from Egypt took them out of the flesh. Formally Israel is God’s people but actually they are addressed in Law as a people in the flesh. This is the whole point of ‘do this and live’. It assumes the people so instructed do not ‘live’. Paul makes it plain that the Law is given to a people ‘in the flesh’.

            Rom 7:5-6 (ESV)
            For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

            Note ‘For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law’ . Paul’s reference here is redemptive-historical, he is referring to Israel in the OT. Consider too,

            Gal 3:1-3 (ESV)
            O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

            The ‘flesh’ is ‘the Law’. Anyone not ‘in the Spirit’ is ‘in the flesh’.

            Further, the Law did not demand faith; it demanded works. As Paul says further down,

            ‘Gal 3:12 (ESV)
            But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” It assumes uncircumcised hearts.

            Happy for you to respond point by point if you wish to. At any rate good to dialogue.

            1. telos104 says:

              I think I can get there w/o a RH scheme, but that’s another discussion, I guess. But I feel ya, bro.
              On the flesh/law question…well that is true insofar as one still resides in the flesh – of which some did, some didn’t. But, what’s really different in the church? People hear and respond to the gospel everyday in the flesh, and (at least seemingly – God knows their heart) remain in “the flesh”. My point is that there were some in Israel who had faith, and didn’t put that faith before the Law. Also, and Walt Kaiser wrote on this years ago, does “do this and live” mean eternally? No, I don’t think so. And apparenlty, I’ve convinced Kaiser of my view…LOL. A NT equivalent would be in Eph where Paul actually quotes the Law (Torah, God’s Word)! to have children obey their parents so that their life may be long on the earth…
              I think the texts above w/o going back and doing a full study are dealing a negative aspect of the Law/sin situation and is not a running commentary on the exact issue we’re talking about – the place of the Law (as teaching, as God’s Word) in the life of the NT believer, Jew or Gentile. In fact, in that same section, Rom 7, doesn’t Paul that he serves the Law of God in his Spirit? In the end, I side w/ Paul’s statement in vs. 12.
              In Gal 3, again, somewhat off the top, since I’m at work, ‘the flesh’ is the fleshly application of the law, the “works of the Law”, not the “Law” (again say it with me), as God’s Word. Paul wouldn’t fall into that category – uncircumcised heart (see Rom 7). In Galatians they were putting the exegetical horse before the carriage. This is why, I think, Paul tries to take them back to Promise, in the hopes to correct their mis-application of the Law.

  9. John says:

    Excellent article. Thanks for posting these Justin. Can’t wait until the whole book is available!

  10. John Thomson says:

    I like not working on a Sunday, it is a great blessing, but I do not think it is an obligation. Where do we get the idea that C1 believers did not work on a Sunday? Where is the command that they should not?

    1. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:

      John, I have a long post below that somewhat addresses this question with two paragraphs from Frame’s Doctrine of the Christian Life. Search for “I think the best suggestion is that Paul”.

  11. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:

    An interesting note from the most recent issue of the Mars Hill Audio Journal (#103): On the same day that James Madison introduced a bill on religious tolerance, he introduced another with penalties for sabbath breakers.

    Anyway, I’d say sabbatarian disagreement with Schreiner would begin in his second sentence: “The Sabbath was given to Israel as a covenant sign.” Sabbatarians would not grant that as an adequate summary of the Sabbath since they see it as a creation ordinance (n.b., not “creation order” as Schreiner phrases it). Richard Gaffin, for instance, concludes in Calvin and the Sabbath: “A basic error is Calvin’s failure to reckon adequately with the Sabbath institution as a creation ordinance.”

    In The Doctrine of the Christian Life John Frame writes:

    I believe that the Sabbath ordinance of Gen. 2:2-3 was in force from Adam to Moses and then was renewed in the Decalogue. I cannot establish the extent to which people actually observed the Sabbath during this period. There are no clear references to Sabbath observance until Ex. 16, four chapters before the Decalogue, where God told Israel to gather a double portion of manna on the sixth day and the following day to observe “a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord” (verse 23). Clearly, Ex. 16:23 assumes that Israel knew what a Sabbath was, however much they were able or unable to celebrate it during their bondservice in Egypt. In any case, whether people during this period actually observed the Sabbath or not, they were under obligation to do so.

    He continues by quoting John Murray: “But even if we suppose that the remembrance of the institution did pass away and that the patriarchs did not observe the weekly Sabbath, it is no more difficult to explain this lapse from the creation ordinance than it is to explain the lapse from the principle of monogamy so clearly implied in Gen. 2:24.”

    Later, Frame says:

    [T]here is nothing about the Old Testament Sabbath that anticipates future abrogation. As a celebration of God’s lordship in creation, we can expect the Sabbath to continue as a marker of the creator-creature relation. As a rest from the toil brought about by God’s curse on the ground, we can expect the Sabbath to continue at least until the consummation of redemption.

    We saw that the Sabbath in Scripture is not a rest from our own attempts to earn salvation by our works, but a respite from the toil brought on by God’s curse upon the ground. If it symbolized the abandonment of works as a means of salvation, then we might imagine that the Sabbath would be abrogated when salvation by grace is finally accomplished. But that reason for abrogation is not valid.

    He discusses the relevant NT passages, including the hard passages (Col. 2:16f; Rom 14:5; Gal 4:10). He notes that even anti-sabbatarians like the fine gentlemen who wrote Sabbath to Lord’s Day suggest that Sunday as the Lord’s Day is the “appropriate” day for worship, but “that is itself a kind of day-keeping.” Under such a view, the hard passages “do not ban every kind of day-keeping, only the keeping of a day as holy, or as a Sabbath. But the passages themselves make no such distinction.” Thus anti-sabbatarians are forced to make the same interpretive move as sabbatarians do, viz. assuming “that Paul’s original readers would have understood his words in a more precise sense than is obvious on the surface.”

    He continues:

    One of the frequent problems we have in interpreting Paul is that we hear only one side of the conversation. We often wish that we had not only Paul’s letters to the churches, but also their letters to him, so that we could better understand what questions he is responding to, what controversies he is seeking to resolve. God in his good providence has chosen not to give that information to us, so we often have to try to extrapolate from what Paul says the likely motivations of his remarks. The difficulty of that task should be taken more seriously than it often has been among interpreters of the three passages before us.

    …I think the best suggestion is that Paul is here addressing a controversy over the Jewish seventh-day Sabbath. The Jewish Christians generally observed the seventh-day Sabbath and then worshiped Jesus on the first day. Some of the Gentile Christians evidently attended the first-day celebration of the resurrection, but did not observe the seventh-day rest. In actual fact, the seventh-day Sabbath was no longer binding. God, Jesus, and the apostles had warranted first-day worship, and, implicitly, a first-day Sabbath.

    But the apostles did not stress a full day of resting on the first day of the week, because it was not possible for most Christians during that time to take off a full day of work on the first day. In Chapter 29, I argued that one may support his family by working on the Sabbath if there is no other way to do it, a work of necessity. I believe the apostles respected that principle, even though it meant that the Gentile Christians did not observe the first-day Sabbath in its full meaning. But Paul did not intend to impose the seventh-day Sabbath upon them either. The attempt to impose that observance was part of the Judaizing movement that Paul contravenes so emphatically in Galatians and elsewhere. Better, Paul thought, to observe practically no Sabbath at all, than to accept the Judaizers’ practice as something necessary to salvation.

    He also discusses other interpretive possibilities consistent with sabbatariansm.

    Frame has three chapters on the sabbath in his book, and it is a fine treatment indeed.

  12. CMM says:

    There are many points made here that raise textual and logical questions for me, but two quotes caught my attention early in the essay, and I think that clarity on these two points would help bring clarity to the whole argument.

    First, Schreiner says: “Jesus’ observance of the Sabbath does not constitute strong evidence for its continuation in the new covenant. His observance of the Sabbath makes excellent sense, for he lived under the Old Testament law.”

    Schreiner’s comment that Jesus’ observance of the Sabbath “makes excellent sense because he lived under the Old Testament law” seems to me to minimize a main point of Jesus’ earthly ministry–he perfectly obeyed all of the Law. My understanding of the Law, based on Scripture, is that, while it was given as part of a covenant, it is also an articulation of God’s standards for righteousness and expectations for human behavior. Our righteousness in Christ comes in part from his keeping the Law in our place. To write off Jesus’ Sabbath observance as something he did only because he was “under the Law” seems to minimize both the Law and Jesus’ obedience. Or I could be reading Schreiner’s words wrong.

    Second, Shcreiner says: “Strictly speaking, Jesus does not clearly abolish the Sabbath, nor does he violate its stipulations. Yet the focus on regulations that is evident in Jubilees, Qumran, and in the Mishnah is absent in Jesus’ teaching.”

    I was a little put off by Schreiner’s extensive referencing of extra-Scriptural texts in this essay. As his chart illustrates, the stipulations that Scripture gives regarding the Sabbath are relatively few. Jesus’ teachings on the Sabbath always correct the Pharisees’ teachings on it. They had added stipulations and rules to the Sabbath that were not in Scripture. So according to Scripture, Jesus never breaks the Sabbath. He only breaks it according to the (wrong) understanding of the Pharisees.

    1. John Thomson says:

      ‘I believe that the Sabbath ordinance of Gen. 2:2-3 was in force from Adam to Moses and then was renewed in the Decalogue. I cannot establish the extent to which people actually observed the Sabbath during this period. There are no clear references to Sabbath observance until Ex. 16, ‘

      Wrong. There are no references.

      ‘a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord” (verse 23). Clearly, Ex. 16:23 assumes that Israel knew what a Sabbath was, however much they were able or unable to celebrate it during their bondservice in Egypt’.

      I’m sorry but this is not at all clear. The word itself needed no explanation for it spoke of rest. The reason they must keep it weekly is presumably not so clear since Moses has to explain why in both Ex 20 and Deut 5

      ‘One of the frequent problems we have in interpreting Paul is that we hear only one side of the conversation. We often wish that we had not only Paul’s letters to the churches, but also their letters to him, so that we could better understand what questions he is responding to, what controversies he is seeking to resolve. God in his good providence has chosen not to give that information to us, so we often have to try to extrapolate from what Paul says the likely motivations of his remarks’

      There is a measure of truth in this but only a measure. God has as Frame observes chosen not to give us the background. This is not so that we can play games trying to work it all out and create constructs that often defy the plain sense (women’s role debate). We are called to base our beliefs on what is revealed not on guesses about what is not revealed. I know such thinking doen’t sit comfortably with modern scholarship. I thank them for their insights where it backs up the plain sense but where it is used to introduce what is not there I feel free to ignore it.

      ‘Jesus, and the apostles had warranted first-day worship, and, implicitly, a first-day Sabbath.’

      A conclusion not an argument. There is not a shred of evidence to back this up. And every reason given Paul’s view of the Law as abrogated in Christ to think that for him the Sabbath was not an obligation.

      ‘Better, Paul thought, to observe practically no Sabbath at all, than to accept the Judaizers’ practice as something necessary to salvation.’

      I do not agree with this reasoning at all. It is a poor reflection of the Paul not to mention the Holy Spirit who inspired him if, for the sake of unity, Paul is willing to ignore a plain and clear command of Scripture (which Frame believes it is). What is vital and a command from God Paul nor the Spirit will ever side-step. Frame reveals in this remark a poor view of holiness. If the Ten Commandments are to be upheld (as Frame believes) then no pragmatic sidestepping is possible. Can you imagine Paul or the Holy Spirit saying ‘well there may be some situations where adultery is acceptable…’. It is all a version of situation ethics. The issue for Paul in Roms 14,15 is a weak Jewish conscience not sinful behaviour.

      ‘Of course it is my sabbatarian belief, taken from other parts of Scripture, that leads me to seek an exegesis of these passages compatible with continued Sabbath-keeping. The same sort of exercise is necessary on the other side.’

      Here I totally agree. Frame is perhaps conceding his exegesis is strained at points. I think those on the other side (me) have really only one question to answer – is Genesis 2 a mandate for a day of rest every Saturday (we cannot pick or choose our day). I am not convinced it is. Must we mandate a six day working week and declare all else is contrary to God’s will?

      I believe we must here as with every other matter in the OT allow the NT to guide us as to meaning and fulfilment. The NT plainly sees the rest of creation as simply a figure of new creational rest in Christ. Contrary to a bizarre interpretation below the sabbath rest that remains for the people of God in Hebrews is primarily the consummated Kingdom with perhaps a present enjoyment of that presently in our rest from ‘works’ in Christ.

      T104 – Thanks for responding.

      1. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:


        I’d invite your to read Frame’s three chapters for a fuller exposition. I have merely quoted a few small parts of it. He deals more extensively with your position and with his own therein.

        Beyond that, I’d comment on one general remark you made: “I thank [scholars] for their insights where it backs up the plain sense but where it is used to introduce what is not there I feel free to ignore it.”

        But “plain sense” is not necessarily correct, and I’m sure there are many passages you’d agree cannot be interpreted according to their “plain sense” (think of the “all” passages used against limited atonement or passages about Jesus not knowing or passages about the second coming, which are sticky even for partial preterists).

        It would appear that you advocate interpreting the text alone in your closet and then accepting others’ views as long as they conform to what you already think rather than allowing them to challenge your initial reading. This is a distinctly un-Christian way to approach interpretation since sin still corrupts and sometimes blinds our understanding. Moreover, the Holy Spirit works for your proper understanding through others, not just in your heart while you’re holed up in a closet with your Bible, though he is there too.

        Besides, given the mode of revelation — that it often comes to us in medias res and during the living of life, rather than as a systematic treatise (cf. Frank Thielman’s NT Theology lectures that JT posted somewhat recently) — if one has any hope for grasping the authorial intent, one simply must try to account for the other side of the “conversation” to some degree. We must do this to make sense of many parts of the Bible, be it a saying of Jesus, a NT letter, or an OT law (e.g., why a man received the death penalty for picking up sticks on the Sabbath, Num 15:32-36).

        You may have the last word. In Christ….

        1. John Thomson says:


          Firstly apology for T104, I got confused about to whom I was replying.

          I agree that we wish to learn from each other. I also agree we can learn from thinking about the hinterland to a text, though what we learn there is much more speculative. That is why I say we must read out of a text what is there rather than guess too much about what isn’t there.

          Of course I don’t learn alone in my closet. I would be very reluctant to push a view that I had not heard voiced by others much more able than me. I read blogs like this and interact a little so that I may learn through interaction. I was glad to see you engaging with points made rather than simply sloganising. I tried to respond to points made. I was frustrated by Frame’s attempt to create a background that allowed him to wriggle out (as it seems to me) what I have called the ‘plain meaning’ of the text.

          Of course some texts are difficult to understand. Of course we want to listen to others, God has given teachers to the church for just that purpose. Yet we are in the final analysis called to hold views according to our conscience. And the simplest believer depending on the Holy Spirit can (and often does) understand more clearly than the trained theologian who has fished in many muddy waters. John told those to whom he wrote (in danger of being influenced by false teachers) that they had no need for any to teach them for the Holy Spirit taught them.

          It will not do on the day of judgement to protest that we were simply following an able teacher or our confession of faith. I am not for a moment suggesting this is what you are doing.

          I doubt if we disagree much on basic principles of interpretation even if we do on the matter of the Sabbath. My question to you Matthaeus is how far you are willing to interpret Scripture independent of loyalty to confessional demands. In the final analysis are you willing to say the confession is wrong? It is a question I ask any from a confessional background. For many I fear the answer to the last question is ‘no’.

      2. Ralph W. Davis says:

        One thing that I find interesting here, as an Anglican with a high view of reason and tradition(under the highest and final authority of scripture), is there is no reference in the discussion so far, as to Church practice. It’s as if Paul wrote his letters last week, and there’s been no interpretation or practice of them for 2000 years. Since at least Constantine, through to Aquinas, up into the Reformation, and in US practice through the 1970s in secular blue laws, sabbatarianism-on-Sunday is standard Christian practice.

        It seems very confusing to deny that Sabbath keeping has any meaning today because as of course, Jesus did fulfill all the law (2nd USE/Justification)… that doesn’t mean Christians should think of the moral law abrogated for purposes of growing in holiness (3rd USE/Sanctification). Willfully ignoring 1 day of worship and rest in 7 seems especially arbitrary alone amidst the 10 Commandments. Which other of the 10 Commandments do we also ease up on, as we grow in love of God and love of others??? (Maybe the unpopular proscriptions, like adultery or idolatry?)

        Anti-sabbatarianism really does appear a slippery slope to wholesale Antinomianism (a term coined by Martin Luther, from the Greek ἀντί, “against” + νόμος, “law”)–at least to common-sense, concrete-thinking, block-headed, simple folk like myself.

  13. Randy Tony says:

    Schreiner must take an exception to Southern Seminary’s confessional statement: XVII. The Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is a Christian institution for regular observance, and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, resting from worldly employments and amusements, works of necessity and mercy only excepted.

    I would be curious to know the list of any other approved exceptions SBTS allows to the Abstract.

    Also, the 4th commandment in Exodus 20 is logically grounded in creation (v. 11), not in a temporary sign of the covenant. I noticed he didn’t address that above and wonder how he would respond.

    1. John says:

      There is exception at SBTS. Furthermore, the statement was written in such a way that both Sabbatarians and non-Sabbatarians could sign it in good faith.

      1. John says:

        Sorry, it should read NO exception.

      2. Randy Tony says:

        John, how can Schreiner affirm article 17? Does he believe that the “Day” “should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, resting from worldly employments and amusements, works of necessity and mercy *only* excepted?”

        Is he positively teaching the Abstract? Is his answer to question 37 above consistent with the intentions of the authors of the Abstract? Were there any early non-Sabbatarian Southern Baptists involved in composing the Abstract? I believe the answer to each of these questions is “no.”

  14. Nathan White says:

    This is unfortunate post, one that will undoubtedly do much harm to Christ’s church. Great Christian men like Spurgeon, Edwards, Owen, and others, men who are frequently mentioned on this blog as spiritual heroes, would just about excommunicate Schreiner/Taylor for espousing such views. How ironic. But they would’ve done so because of how it undermines the gospel and the true worship our God is worthy of. When we throw out one of the ten commandments, we annul its ability to expose sin, which is necessary to the work of the gospel, and we remove the foundation upon which a true doctrine of NT worship is built. Schreiner’s view here rather flippantly dimisses the creation account and Jesus’ own teaching on the subject, not to mention the dismissal of the decalogue.

    Schreiner’s view would have us believe that the weekly, corporate worship we see in the New Testament simply appeared out of nowhere. Thus, this will lead others to see it as optional. Schreiner’s view would have us believe that a blessing in the OT, one day off a week and the fact that no master or slave-owner could require 7 days of labor, is a blessing that we no longer have in the NT. Schreiner’s view would have us believe that the Garden, under the Law, and eternity (our Sabbath rest) all had/have a ‘sabbath’, but somehow this glorious age of the New Covenant is the one age that doesn’t.

    Look- if you’re looking for an easy, arm-chair Christianity that makes no demands on your life, the American way, then read modern, American theologians, like this piece by Schreiner, on the subject. If you’re satisfied with surface-level attempts at exegesis on the subject, then this is the piece for you. But if you really want to study these issues, then I’d certainly advise you to look elsewhere –perhaps to someone who isn’t so influenced by the western culture. Read the reformers, the puritans, and even others outside these traditions who offer very compelling biblical evidence for the gift of grace that is found in the commandment to worship God one day out of seven.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Nathan, I recognize you feel very strongly about this. But I’d encourage you to engage the exegetical arguments rather than simply label them as “surface level.”

      I’d also encourage you to refrain from publicly slandering an elder, as you at least come close to doing when you say that Tom Schreiner is more influenced by Western culture than the Bible and that this promotes easy believism, arm-chair Christianity with no demands on your life. If you are going to defend the fourth commandment, please keep the ninth in mind as you do so.

      1. Nathan White says:

        Justin- Please accept my apologies for my strong language. I in no way meant to slander you or Tom Schreiner, nor imply that any sort of excommunication should be considered. I should’ve been more careful with my words, as this was not my intention, and I hope you and your readers will overlook this.

        However, I must say that I don’t see how asserting a man is influenced by western culture is an accusation of sin. Hey, we’re all influenced by our surroundings, even me! My intention was only to point out how, outside of western culture and the work done in the past 75 years, anti-sabbatarrian arguments among protestants are few and far between.

        But, I think it is a bit unrealistic for me to engage in exegetical arguments here considering the scope of the subject. This is why I did not mention anything specific –talk about a never-ending blog post! There’s just too much to interact with to even start.

        However, I realize that it is a bit uncharitable for me to label this post as ‘shallow’ and yet give no example. So then, here is just one example of many at how surface-level of a treatment this is:

        Schreiner says: Some argue against what is defended here by appealing to the creation order…the New Testament never appeals to Creation to defend the Sabbath…We see nothing similar with the Sabbath. Never does the New Testament ground it in the created order.

        Sadly, this ignores the following:

        -The fact that the creation order is appealed to as the foundation of the commandment in the Decalogue, proving that it has great significance regarding the issue.

        -The fact that our Lord says ‘the Sabbath was *made* for man’. What does ‘made’ mean but ‘created’? And where and when do we have an account of the Sabbath being created?

        -The fact that the writer of Hebrew explicitly mentions the Genesis account in Hebrews 4:4 with teaching on the sabbath. Sure, we may have different interpretations of what the writer is saying here, but clearly the creation order is appealed to here in teaching about our continual/future Sabbath rest.

        This is just one instance where Schreiner fails to deal seriously with the texts and the mountain of writings from the reformers/puritans/protestant history on the subject.

        1. Nathan White says:

          Oh, and here is an (old and somewhat outdated) broad overview of this issue from my perspective, which I share in place of interacting with all of the arguments here:

        2. Justin Taylor says:

          Thanks, brother.

    2. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:

      Nathan, I’d encourage you to read my reply to casey below, particularly the Frame quote. Raising the specter of excommunication as you do here is a serious matter, and should not be done so lightly. I believe the sabbath is an important issue, but given the history of the matter and the difference between sincere, Reformed Christians, it is also one where we must practice tolerance for our brothers in Christ.

      1. Nathan White says:

        Just to be clear here: I never implied in any way whatsoever that this is really a matter of excommunication. I simply noted that other Puritans/Reformers would’ve probably seen this as warranting excommunication, and yet we still laud them as our spiritual heroes.

  15. casey says:

    I like how none of the Sabbatarian arguments here, save the quotes form John Frame, really address Schreiner’s arguments directly, especially those from Paul and Hebrews.

    Frame seems to read a lot into the text, maybe in loyalty to Westminster.

    1. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:

      Frame writes a lot more than I quoted above, and he actually takes official exception to the Westminster view in his ordination in the PCA.

      On where he gets his beliefs from and how firmly he holds them, here’s another passage from DCL:

      Of course it is my sabbatarian belief, taken from other parts of Scripture, that leads me to seek an exegesis of these passages compatible with continued Sabbath-keeping. The same sort of exercise is necessary on the other side. Those who believe that these three texts exclude new covenant Sabbath-keeping must try to find interpretations of other texts (Gen. 2:2-3, Ex. 20:8-11, Rev. 1:10, etc.) compatible with the Sabbath’s abrogation. All of us are seeking to compare Scripture with Scripture in order to gain the best understanding of the texts. There should be no embarrassment about that on either side. It is not, generally, at least, as if one side or the other is trying to press texts into a dogmatic mold. At least we should not accuse one another of that.

      I do believe, however, that the anti-sabbatarians have a more difficult task on their hands. Given our ignorance of the controversies Paul is addressing, it is more likely that the three Pauline texts have a meaning compatible with new covenant Sabbath observance than that all the other texts we have considered can be construed in an anti-sabbatarian framework.

      Having said that, I should add that I don’t believe the argument is water-tight on either side. People within the Reformed community have differed on this issue since Calvin, and I don’t see any argument that will put the debate completely to rest. There should be tolerance among Reformed Christians over this issue. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has placed under discipline several ministers who have held to Calvin’s view of the Sabbath, implying that Calvin himself was not sufficiently orthodox to minister in that denomination. Though I recognize that the Westminster Standards, to which the Orthodox Presbyterian Church subscribes, hold a view other than Calvin’s, I think that in this case to insist on Westminster distinctives as a test of orthodoxy is sectarian.

    2. CMM says:

      I’ll take a stab at one of his textual arguments, and I have a legitimate question to ask about another.

      I personally don’t think the Sabbath or the Levitical dietary laws are in view in Romans 14. Paul begins the chapter by saying, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions” (Romans 14:1). The Sabbath and the dietary laws, being found in Scripture, would not have been considered matters up for opinion.

      I think the reference to food in v.2 is more likely about eating meat sacrificed to idols, as in 1 Corinthians 8. I think that Paul’s reference to “days” in v.5 does not refer to the Sabbath for two reasons: (1) The Sabbath was never referred to as simply another day. It was, rather, the day that the weekly calendar was based on. (2) The new believers to whom he was writing had come out of a pagan culture which celebrated many different types of secular holidays. It could be that Paul is allowing here for the same freedom of conscience that he does with the issue of food sacrificed to idols.

      My question is with regard to Colossians 2:16. The wording in that verse, read by itself, could be understood one of two ways: (1) “Do not let anyone pass judgment on you for for not observing these things,” or (2) “Do not let anyone pass judgment on you for observing these things.” Further, the description of these things as a “shadow” is not negative. It’s simply an observation.

      Paul begins this argument up in v. 8, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Observance of the Sabbath is not a “human tradition,” but a God-ordained one. It is not done “according to the elemental spirits of the world,” but according to the word of God.

      My question is, is can this other reading of Colossians 2:16 be legitimate?

      Finally, I’ll quote Nathan’s comment above regarding my biggest objections to the essay: “Schreiner’s view here rather flippantly dimisses the creation account and Jesus’ own teaching on the subject, not to mention the dismissal of the decalogue.”

      1. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:

        That’s an interesting take on Col 2:16f. I’ll have to consider it more closely.

        I’ll add one more passage from Frame, offering another alternative for this passage:

        Col. 2:16-17 is the most difficult of the three passages for Sabbatarians, because, unlike the other two passages, it explicitly mentions “Sabbath.” A rather ingenious Sabbatarian understanding of this passage is found in the “Report of the Committee on Sabbath Matters,” which was presented to the Thirty-ninth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1972. The Report observes that “food and drink” (verse 16) are often taken to refer to Old Testament dietary laws, but in fact there are no dietary laws referring to drink. It is more likely, then, that “food and drink” refer to food and drink offerings made at the temple in Jerusalem. That sets the context for the triad “festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” This triad is found with references to meat and drink offerings in Ezek. 45:17.

        ‘And upon the prince [of the ideal Israel] shall be the obligation of the burnt offerings, and the meat (offerings), and the drink (offerings), in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all the appointed times of the house of Israel.”’

        And the triad “feast, new moon, and Sabbath” is found in other texts referring to offerings, 1 Chron. 23:31, 2 Chron. 2:4, 8:13, 31:3, Neh. 10:33, Hos. 2:11. The Report comments, “all of these are quite clearly derived from Numbers 28, 29.” In Numbers, it continues, “the subject is not the individual worshipper’s offerings, nor his personal acts of worship on those days, but the system of official sacrifices to be made for all Israel.” Therefore, the Report says,

        ‘We can only conclude that for Paul, “feast, new moon, and sabbath” meant those same official sacrifices the phrase denotes in the Old Testament usage. There is nothing in the phrase to require us to understand that Paul meant to abrogate the Fourth Commandment for Christians. What Paul did [was to abrogate the offerings earlier prescribed for the forgiveness of Israel’s sins.] They were God-given for that purpose and thus permissible at least for Christians, but were no longer required since the reality had come.

        ‘This interpretation parallels quite closely the import of Hebrews 10 where similar language about the “shadow” is found, and where the context demands that “shadow” be understood in terms of Old Testament sacrifices.’

        This interpretation is not the last word, and I still prefer to regard this passage as a reference to a church debate about the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath. But the Report’s interpretation is a possible one.

        1. CMM says:

          Thanks for that passage. Definitely adds another layer to it. I completely agree with Frame–I wish we had those letters to Paul.

        2. Steve Long says:

          To me, the OT references Frame provides serve to strengthen the argument that Sabbath days (whether 7th-day, 7th-year, 50-year, or other) are closely tied to Old Covenant observances.

  16. Andy says:

    What a great resource – thanks for posting this.

    I’d love to see an thorough unpacking of giving/tithing, as I’ve noticed that I all too often get drawn into giving out of guilt or a sense of obligation, which is certainly the wrong motivation. My correct motivation should be giving out of love and enthusiasm and a recognition that all I have belongs to God anyway, that I’m merely a steward of it for a short time. And yet, I often get sucked back into the legalistic attitude over and over.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Schreiner does have a chapter on tithing.

  17. Chad says:

    Hebrews 4:9-10, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

    A.W. Pink writes…

    “Here then is a plain, positive, unequivocal declaration by the Spirit of God. ‘There remaineth therefore a Sabbath-keeping.’ Nothing could be simpler, nothing less ambiguous. The striking thing is that this statement occurs in the very epistle whose theme is the superiority of Christianity over Judaism; written to those addressed as ‘holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.’ Therefore, it cannot be gainsaid (declare to be invalid) that Hebrews 4:9 refers directly the Christian Sabbath. Hence we solemnly and emphatically declare that ANY MAN WHO SAYS THERE IS NO CHRISTIAN SABBATH TAKES DIRECT ISSUE WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES.”

    ~A.W. Pink, An Expostion of Hebrews, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967), 210.

    Pink also adds elsewhere that the Sabbath was “designed as a day of gladness and not of gloom.”

    Just thought I’d throw his perspective into the conversation.

    1. Steve Long says:

      The question is, is that Sabbath rest that remains a future rest, a spiritual participation in rest that we receive via Christ, or the observance of a 7th-day Sabbath?

    2. Chris Krycho says:

      Steve has already hit on this slightly, but I don’t think Hebrews can be used the way Pink is using it. It is very clear in context that the Sabbath rest spoken of here is eschatological rest. (Compare vv. 1-2: “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” The passage goes on, but the “rest” in view in Hebrews 3-4 is assuredly the rest offered by Christ’s salvation, the final point to which the Sabbath is aiming all along (thus the contrast with the “rest” offered by Joshua in Canaan, etc.).

      I haven’t settled this one for myself, though I lean away from Sabbatarianism, but Pink’s argument here is indefensible from the basis of the text. The rest we have in Christ—the rest in view in Hebrews—is future rest, or even if present salvific rest, then something in which we are constantly partaking… not a day of observance.

      That doesn’t rule out Sabbatarianism, but it does (1) rule out using Hebrews as a basis for it and (2) mean that we must understand that even if Sabbatarianism is correct, it remains (at least in part) as a shadow. (That its being a shadow does not negate its validity can be seen from a similar shadow that we all still partake of: marriage.)

  18. Justin,

    1) Where does the Bible say that the Sabbath was the “sign” of the Mosaic Covenant, as Schreiner suggests?

    2) Did Jesus have to die for Sabbath breaking?

    3) If the moral obligation to set aside one day in seven was only for Jews, then why did Jesus say “the Sabbath was made for MAN?” If it was only for Jews, wouldn’t we expect Him to have said,”the Sabbath was made for JEWS?”

    4) When Paul speaks of “the Law” being written on the hearts of Gentiles (Romans 2:14-15), which law was he referring to?

    5) In 1 John 3:4, the Apostle John says “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” Which law was he referring to?

    6) Isaiah, in Isaiah 58:13, calls the Sabbath “the Lord’s Day,” when he calls it “the holy day of the LORD.” How does this differ from “the Lord’s Day” of Rev. 1? (I am not asking about the change from the seventh to the first.)

    1. Steve Long says:

      On the 1st question, see Exodus 31:13. This verse says the Sabbath is a sign. The preceding chapters are the terms of the covenant, so in context it makes sense that this sign is a sign of the covenant.

      1. Steve,

        Would it then be true that the Sabbath was a “sign” of the covenant of works with Adam in the Garden? There was an eschatological sign before him at creation. And, as others have noted, the fourth commandment is tied explicitly to creation (Exodus 20) as well as redemption (Deut. 5).

        1. Technically, Exodus 31:13 says that the “Sabbaths” (plural) were a sign. There were of course ceremonial Sabbaths, that were related–and yet distinct from the fourth commandment. Just an observation.

  19. Jeff Downs says:

    Dr. Joseph Pipa, author of The Lord’s Day was recently interviewed on Covenant Radio on this very issue. Click here to listen.

  20. ScottL says:

    God is absolutely committed to His people entering the Sabbath rest. It’s just that Christ is the Sabbath rest that we now enter as new covenant believers.

  21. Oskar Arocha says:

    Thank you Justin and Dr Schreiner for this post, it is most helpfull, but I would like to add some quick comments that seems to me that maybe the author did not take into account…
    1. It is true that the Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant, and since the covenant has passed away, so has the covenant sign, but there is evidence that the sabbath was kept before the covenant from Ex 16 and Gen 2. Plus, we can not forget that most of specific details of the laws that God gave the people of Israel was after God committed himself with Moses to leave his presence with them even though the people were hard hearted (Ex 34). Food laws are an excellent example, since only Jews where commanded to abstain from, and they could freely give to foreigner who lived among them. What I mean is that the 5 books of Moses point to an essence in the 4th commandment, namely, keeping one day in 6, but added certain specific laws to regulate life of the people of Israel, specially because God is holy and because the people were hard hearted. This would point to a certain keeping in the New Covenant, that would allow a rest of the body, but that would radically be different, because instead of regulating external life, it would promote or serve as a helpful means to all Christians to delight in Jesus (Note* Isaiah also points to this in his comments on Fasting and the Sabbath in chapter 58).
    2. It could be true that the author of Hebrews sees the Sabbath as foreshadowing the eschatological rest of the people of God (Heb. 4:1–10), but the Lords table is also foreshadowing the eschatological rest of the people of God, and that does not nullify the New Covenant Ordinance.
    3. Historical evidence is very WEAK.

  22. Raja Dani says:


    AW Pink isn’t exactly a well-trained exegete. In Gill-like fashion he conveniently hacks a text to fit into his theological system. He is good in some areas, not so good in others.

    He wouldn’t even cook dinner on Sunday because of his overbearing perspective on this issue. Not saying it’s unwise to prepare your Sunday dinner on Saturday, just saying it’s not a sin to cook on the Lord’s Day. This fact about his life should give you some insight into where he’s coming from.

    Try reading his booklet on tithing….oh boy…

    With regard to other comments slamming Schreiner, most Sabbatarians are so because of the creative arguments of their Reformed pastors and the work of the Puritans in particular. It’s the Puritans who institutionalized a rigid view of the Sabbath among Protestant churches. Basically, to guard against what they perceived as “abuses” they through out legitimate pursuits on the Lord’s day…like picnics and recreation, etc.

    I think Schreiner deals very well with the ACTUAL text of Scripture. He doesn’t default to the WCF interpretation of said texts, he exegetes them. Without the “grounded in creation” argument, which I think can be refuted, you don’t have a tooth pick to stand on….

    And I love the Lord’s day. I just don’t think my faith and Christian life collapse without a Sabbatarian view of it. I think the strict Sabbatarian view is for the weaker brother, ironically.

    1. Jack says:

      “In Gill-like fashion he conveniently hacks a text to fit into his theological system.”

      1. Schreiner is doing the exact same thing. NO WHERE in the bible does it say that God’s people had to PERFECTLY obey the law, but Schreiner continues to draw that conclusion because it “fits into his theological system.

      2. A LOT of Reformed people are hackers of the Bible then. Just because you disagree with him doesn’t mean he’s hacking the Bible up.

      3. Don’t criticize someone for not cooking food on Sunday he wants to honor the LORD. It’s not as ridiculous as you might think. They didn’t have massive grocery stores, refrigeration, microwaves, turn a switch gas stoves, etc. It was work back then to eat, hard work. “overbearing” Try shutting off your power for a week and see how feel about it.

      4. I love how some people claim that they are the only ones who deal “with the actual text of scripture.” Give me a break. “John Frame, get a real job. You don’t deal with the actual text of scripture.”

      1. Raja Dani says:


        1. He’s exegeting the text. Where is your counter-exegesis?

        2. True, a lot of Reformed people are hackers. They just can’t stand to consider the possibility of it.

        3. I can criticize someone for doing something they consider to be honoring to THE LORD. Mormons consider their practices to be honoring THE LORD. What does that have to do with it?

        4. I’m sorry you don’t like having to deal with the text of Scripture, but my conscience is not beholden to the WCF or Puritan opinion. If you want to correct my understanding, do so with Scripture.

  23. John Thomson says:


    ‘I think the strict Sabbatarian view is for the weaker brother, ironically.’

    I agree with this comment. The problem is I can understand C1 Jewish believers loyalty to the Law and the Sabbath what I find incongruous is C21 gentile believers apparently having the same loyalty.

    If the Sabbath were not one of the Ten Commandments would there be so many champions of it? Would there be any champions of it?

    1. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:

      “If the Sabbath were not one of the Ten Commandments would there be so many champions of it? Would there be any champions of it?”

      If one views it as a creation ordinance, then I’d say there would be champions of it just as there are of monogamous marriage, work, and dominion over creation. That it is one of God’s “top ten” only reinforces and clarifies it for those who see it as a creation ordinance.

      That brings up a fundamental issue here: continuity of the OT and NT. If there is a strong disjunction between them (as in New Covenant Theology), abrogation is generally given the benefit of the doubt. If there is essential continuity (as in Covenant Theology), then there’s a strong presumption of continuation. These presuppositions tend to color one’s views on a number of issues like the law and baptism.

      1. telos104 says:

        I actually think the so called Continuous view (i.e. Cov Theology) winds up being less continuous and almost as discontinuous as Dispy Theology (Classic Dispy). The linchpin, IMO…Israel. Cov Theo starts off with the supposition that the church is the New Israel and then tends to go backwards. IMO #epicfail
        From what I’ve read, NCT is tripped up by the same move because they’ve not integrated – to my satisfaction – not Israel, so much as a theology of the Law.
        I often wonder what Calvin would contribute further to the discussion if he were around, esp since the discussion seems to be dominated by a more Lutheran approach to Law/Gospel and hence, OT/NT.

      2. John Thomson says:

        Yes I agree Matthaeus, but would we have any reason to think of it as a creation ordinance? The NT never suggests it is. There is no record of it prior to Ex 16. Moreover, as I suggested earlier, are we to assume we must work a six day week? Does creation demand this? If we look at what God did in day one are we to assume we must do something analogous on a Monday?

        In anny case my question stands: is it Gen 2 or Ex 20 that fuels sabbatarian beliefs?

      3. John Thomson says:

        ‘That brings up a fundamental issue here: continuity of the OT and NT. If there is a strong disjunction between them (as in New Covenant Theology), abrogation is generally given the benefit of the doubt. If there is essential continuity (as in Covenant Theology), then there’s a strong presumption of continuation. These presuppositions tend to color one’s views on a number of issues like the law and baptism.’

        I agree. This is the nub of the issue. I am not formally NCT but I am probably as near it as anything else. I do think (from what littel I’ve read of it)it does a good job of marrying the best of dispensational and Covenant theology. Both have something important to say.

    2. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:

      To complete my thought (darn the lack of comment editing!), I was trying to say that if the sabbath weren’t part of the Decalogue, I wonder if so many would be trying to abrogate it!

    3. CMM says:

      My question is, without Colossians 2:16 and maybe Galatians 4:10, would there be so many arguing against it?

      1. John Thomson says:


        I hope I would argue against it on the basis of Paul’s teaching about law as being abrogated, the complete absence of any instruction to keep the Sabbath, the understanding of the sabbath in Hebrews, and the change in the NT from Sabbath to Lord’s Day. However, I agree the texts you cite make such an argument much more confident and assured. However, they are there and they do speak, and powerfully.

    4. Bin Rasheed Al Mack Luny Toon says:

      If the first commandment were not part of the Ten Commandments would there be any champions of that?

  24. Sean W. says:

    Wow, what a relief. I was hoping to find a way out of church for a while. Hello Six Flags!

    …Oh, and I was feeling a bit convicted about the way my employees overworking and missing church. Now I know…

    Thanks Schreiner!

    1. Garrett says:


      I know you’re just being facetious, but if professing Christians need an external command to motivate them to choose fellowship and love of the brethren over Six Flags, then those professing Christians need to examine themselves to see if they are even regenerate in the first place!

      1. Bin Rasheed Al Mack Luny Toon says:

        “professing Christians need to examine themselves to see if they are even regenerate in the first place!”

        What difference would that make? Only God can regenerate anyway, so there’s nothing one could do about it!


        It’s not possible for an unregenerate to see if they are regenerate. But if they could, wouldn’t that make them regenerate?

    2. Ralph W. Davis says:

      “Wow, what a relief. I was hoping to find a way out of church for a while. Hello Six Flags!”

      “Oh, and I was feeling a bit convicted about the way my employees overworking and missing church. Now I know…”

      “Thanks Schreiner!”

      EXACTLY! Interpretative differences, even small ones, can have huge consequences.

      Modern American evangelical Christians probably violate the Sabbath’s call to holiness and rest more than any other previous generation of Christians. But hey, Schreiner’s given us nice scholarship to justify it!

      1. Justin Taylor says:


        We can do better than this level of engagement.

  25. Larry says:

    I find it hard to believe that so many Christians have a problem with spending a whole day with the Lord in worship (allowing for mercy and need as well, of course).

    It’s my favorite day of the week, and i look forward to it all week.

    If we find it difficult to spend one day with the Lord apart from earthly entertainments, how will we fare for an eternity?

    1. Garrett says:


      No one is denying (I hope!) that we have an obligation as Christians to meet together for worship and fellowship (Heb. 10). The issue is, where does the Bible connect that obligation with the Sabbath commandment?


      1. Larry says:

        I said the “whole” day in worship. That’s not the same thing as coming together for for an hour of worship with other believers.

        1. Garrett says:


          Whether it’s a few hours or the whole day, where does the Bible connect the Christian’s obligation for fellowship and worship to the Sabbath command?

          1. Larry says:

            I think you’re missing the point of my post. I’m not arguing in this specific post as to the commands of Scripture, I’m arguing from the heart of a believer. My point is: If we love God should we not want to spend the whole day worshiping Him? And the point of this particular post is irrespective of the Scriptures commands…though i have delved into those in previous posts, and will in later posts as well.

            1. Garrett says:


              I apologize if I’m talking past you; easy to do (unfortunately) in a format like this.

              Anyway, you asked:

              “If we love God should we not want to spend the whole day worshiping Him?”

              I would respond that if we love God, we should want to spend all day, every day, worshiping Him, should we not?

              1. Larry says:

                Now that’s more to the point of my post…thank you!
                Yes, we should want to…and that’s why all week i long for Sunday. The bottom line is that though we want to, we aren’t able to because we do have to work to provide for ourselves and our families, and therefore we are commanded to work 6 out of the 7 days in our worldly employments for such purposes.

              2. Ethan says:

                Larry, why do you wait for Sunday to worship? Why not get excited about worshipping God through your work or family life Monday-Saturday?

              3. Larry says:

                I don’t have the whole day to worship God on Monday-Saturday…that’s the difference. I am called by God to work 6 days, and i do so. But on the Lord’s Day i am called to put away all worldly pursuits and spend the whole day worshiping my Lord!!

              4. Ethan says:


                1. What is worship to you? Do you not worship with your work? Do you not worship as you are driving? Do you not worship as you fellowship with friends and family? Doesn’t that happen every day of the week? Why save it for only one day?

                2. You say “but on the Lord’s Day…” but there is no Scriptural proof to say the Sabbath rest must occur on the Lord’s Day.

                I admire your zeal and passion, and I have no problem with you taking part in Sabbath rest on the Lord’s Day. But are you Scripturally permitted to require this of everyone?

                (For the record, I am a Sabbatarian of sorts, but I am by no means a strict Sabbatarian. I have seen over and over, especially here in the Highlands of Scotland, how strict Sabbatarian beliefs can turn into legalism and chase people away from worship.)

              5. Larry says:

                Worship to me is basically comprised of:
                Scripture, prayer, singing praises, fellowshipping with others around thoughts of God, Telling others about God and His goodness.

                And yes, i worship every day. But only on Sunday do i seek to worship the whole day. On Monday while i’m working at my occupation i am not doing anything that can be construed as worship…my mind is focused on the task at hand.

                I have a hard time calling someone who sees following the commands of God important a legalist.

              6. Ethan says:


                Is not your work dedicated to God as worship? What “task at hand” is done to accomplish anything other than glorifying God? To live is Christ … work is not excluded from that.

                Again I ask, are you Scripturally permitted to require Sabbath rest on the Lord’s Day?

                Also, who gave that definition of a legalist?

              7. Larry says:

                I told you the components that i see involved in worship…and since on Monday i am not fully engaged in those components i don’t see it, strictly speaking, as worship. Perhaps you should define for me what you consider worship.

                Yes, i am scripturally obligated to require the Sabbath rest on Sunday. I am called to require those under my authority to obey the Decalogue, of which the Sabbath is a part.

                As far as the definition of legalism…i gave a valid definition and you gave none…so perhaps rather than ask me who gave it you should tell me how you define it and therefore clear up what you meant in your post.

              8. Ethan says:

                1. Romans 12 tells me that worship is offering my body as a living sacrifice. Worship is life. It is not constrained to reading Scripture, prayer, praise, fellowship, and the sacraments. It also includes our work (“work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not for men” …. “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”). Like I asked before, what “task at hand” is done to do anything than glorify God? Work is not done just to provide for one’s family. It is done for Christ.

                2. Biblically speaking, you have no right to hold anyone to a Sunday Sabbath. If you are a Seventh Day Adventist, then I apologize.

                3. Not sure where you gave your definition. Legalism is not simply abiding by laws but holding others to laws that are not required of the Christian, e.g. circumcision.

              9. Larry says:

                As an Elder at a Reformed Presbyterian church that holds to the Westminster Standards as the proper understanding of Scripture…i have more than a right, i have a duty to hold others accountable to the moral commands of God (including the Sabbath). I’ve posted elsewhere where the Scriptures moves the day from Saturday to Sunday, and i’d be happy to post it here if you’d like me to.

                If you really considered yourself worshiping God while you work…and you worked with other Christians…then there would be no reason for you to go to church on Sunday. So my sense is that you’re being disingenuous about worshiping all week in a strict sense.

                The Sabbath is not a law that man has added to Scripture, it’s in there. Unlike circumcision it’s part of the Decalogue. Do you really think that circumcision is a moral command rather than a sacramental command? Otherwise, I’m not sure why you keep bringing it up.

                Since Romans 12:1 uses the term “λατρείαν” which should be considered service to God…not necessarily what we would call “worship service.”

                And the word that some translate as “spiritual” in the same verse is “λογικὴν” which is better rendered “reasonable” or “rational”

                The point of Rom 12:1 is to show how we are to live our lives, not how we are to worship God during a worship service.

                And there are passages that tell us how to specifically worship God during a worship service, which have nothing to do with how we live out our lives. For instance we don’t need Elders and Deacons to oversee us in our secular employments, but the Scripture plainly has them oversee us in our worship.

                You are blurring the distinction that Scripture makes between living a life sold out to Christ and worshiping God in the prescribed way that He has set forth for us.

              10. Ethan says:


                I think for the most part our disagreement is merely semantics. I agree that there should be an assembly for a worship service each week. In fact, I don’t ever recall saying there shouldn’t be. I think I was worried that you were focusing simply on Sunday as your time to worship the Lord and spending Monday-Saturday in your “normal” life. The Trellis and the Vine is a very good book that speaks on this topic — moving from a consumer to a disciple-making disciple.

                Btw, I appreciate this conversation and find it edifying for the most part, but I also think you’re being a bit patronizing throwing around the Greek language as you are. I took three courses on Greek at RTS, including Greek exegesis, so I don’t appreciate you throwing that at me like I’m a moron.

              11. Larry says:

                How is using the Greek treating you like a moron?

                Why do you think there should be a worship service on Sundays?

              12. Ethan says:

                I don’t think there has to be a worship service on Sunday. That is also not in the New Testament. I simply said “each week”.

  26. Larry says:

    Every time i hear something like:
    “Christ is the Sabbath rest”

    Yes, we have a rest in Christ, but we still await the perfect rest to come and look forward to it.
    In the present, we don’t rest in Christ in the same sense that we will at His coming.

    If we are not called to rest the one day, then we are not called to work the 6…and clearly that is not our present experience.

    1. Bin Rasheed Al Mack Luny Toon says:

      Now that’s language I can understand!

  27. Larry says:

    Those who would have us abolish the Sabbath would never speak in such terms regarding the Decalogue as a whole…and the Decalogue is a whole.

    For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (Jas 2:10)

    1. John Thomson says:

      But Larry, I do. That is I do insist that believers are not obligated to the Ten Commandments. See my comments above.

      Indeed the very reason is the Scripture you cite. We do fail to keep the law completely (and incidentally the law is much more than the ten commandments) and thus we need delivered from it.

      ‘Gal 3:10-26 (ESV)
      For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith… Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

      The Law condemns. We need delivered from it. We are no longer under the guardianship of the Law.

      1. Garrett says:

        . . . though it would be better to speak of the law (including the 10 commandments) as being “fulfilled” rather than “abolished,” in keeping with the language of the NT.

      2. Larry says:


        We don’t follow the 10 commandments to earn favor with God or to gain some kind of perfectionism here…that all comes from Christ. So to that extent i agree with you.

        We follow the 10 commandments out of a deep, passionate, abiding love of Christ.
        If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (Joh 14:15)

        Are you suggesting that the only reason you don’t commit murder is because it’s illegal? Would you murder if it were legal since you’re not bound by any of the moral laws of God? Please flesh out a little of that for me.

        1. John Thomson says:


          Galatians is not simply speaking about following the Law to earn God’s favour (though of course it does include this) but following the Law per se. The Law as an administration/covenant/dispensation was ‘until Christ’. It was a Guardian (for Israel and all who would be the people of God) ‘until the seed should come’. Those under it were regarded as children not sons, even as slaves.

          Consider gals 2:20

          Gal 2:19-20 (ESV)
          For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

          The Law lays on all who accept its obligations a sentence of death (for it cannot be kept). This sentence of death was undertaken by Christ. He bore its curse. We died with him – were crucified with him – and were thus removed from the world of law altogether. Yet we live. But our new life is not lived ‘to the law’ or ‘under law’ or ‘obligated to the law’, it is lived ‘to Christ’. Paul says, ‘the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God…’His point is he no longer lives in a relationship with the law but in a relationship with Christ. This text is in many ways just a condensed version of Roms 7:1-6 which I have commented on above.

          My point about murder etc was that as Paul says in 1 Timothy the law was never given for the righteous but the unrighteous (that is it was never given for people in the Spirit but people in the flesh)for murderers etc.

          1Tim 1:8-11 (ESV)
          Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

          Notice, Paul assumes believers do not fall into such gross sins as the law deals with.

        2. John Thomson says:


          (Wife not got computer yet) when Jesus says ‘if you love me you will keep my commandments’ he is not speaking of the Ten Commandments or the Law. In fact, he is speaking almost in contradistinction to such. They are ‘my’ commandments. Later he tells them what his commandment is – that you love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU. He calls it a NEW Commandment.

          Christ’s commandments lived out in his people fulfil all the Law was really about (God and neighbour love) and more, for they put love on a higher level. To love as Christ loved is to love to the point of laying down one’s life. The Law never demanded this. It said – do this and live. It did not demand that one die. Only grace and mercy revealed in the gospel demands this.

          1. Larry says:

            The “newness” of Christ’s command is a newness of expression and not of substance. Evidence that its substance is not new is found in Lev 19:18:
            …you shall love your neighbor as yourself…

            There are two commands that the whole of the OT hang on: loving God and loving others. These commands to love are not in opposition to the moral commands of God, rather they fulfill it and point to the deeper meaning behind it.

            …”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 22:37-40)

    2. John Thomson says:


      Not that I am free of obligation. But it is obligation on a different principle (not Law but grace)and with different, even higher, demands.

      It is not Law but the grace of God that teaches us to deny all ungodliness and unrighteousness… (Tit 2).

      Further grace, revealed in Christ, demands that I love my enemies. That I do good to those who abuse me… that I do not retaliate when reviled… that I lay down my life for my brothers.

      Where does the Law demand these? It tells me not to commit adultery and not to steal.

      1. Larry says:

        Then are we obligated (under the principle of grace) to keep the Sabbath in the same way that we are not to murder?

        1. John Thomson says:


          let me ask another question: are we obligated to circumcise since the law demanded this? Are we obligated to observe dietary laws for the law requiered these?

          We do not murder as Christians, not because the Law forbids it, but because in Christ we act in love and sacrifice for others. None of our moral behaviour is contingent on the Law. It is all the fruit of the spirit as faith works through love.

          I do not as a believer resist murdering because that is what the law demands. I do so because the Spirit who works within me prompts me in paths of righteousness and love. I don’t murder because it would be utterly incongruous for someone who has died to sin to continue in it any more (Roms 6).

          Christians function on an altogether different principle to Law.

          Anyway, I must go, for my wife is demanding the computer – and her word is law.

          1. Larry says:

            But the Spirit that works grace in the heart of a believer is not contrary to the moral laws of God at all, but He rather moves us to keep them. Therefore the same Spirit that moves you out of love to not kill others will move you to keep the Sabbath holy.

            You speak of circumcision…that OT sacrament was replaced by Baptism, and yes…Baptism is important. But this is not a moral law, it is a sacrament.

            The other regulations you speak of are also not part of the moral law. This distinction is very important to rightly understanding Scripture.

            Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Rom 3:31)

  28. Richard D. Phillips says:

    As one who greatly admires Dr. Schreiner’s work in general, I was greatly disappointed in his consideration of this impotant matter. My problem is not that I disagree with his conclusions, which I do, but that he has not adequately engaged the contrary position, namely, the Sabbatarian position. I say this for these reasons:

    1. At the beginning of his piece, Dr. Schreiner references Exodus 20:8-11, but never points out that what he is arguing for is the abrogation of one of the Ten Commandments. From his argument, one would think that the Sabbath is grounded in some hard-to-remember chapter of Leviticus, rather than the actual situation in which this command is given to God’s people in the Old Testament’s primary summary of God’s moral requirements for mankind. Why is this single member of the Ten Commandments to be set aside by Christians? This is question that demands answering. I recognize that non-Sabbatarians have an argument to deal with this (a poor one, in my opinion), but this issue should at least be considered.

    2. I was grateful for Dr. Schreiner to have noted that Hebrews 4:1-10 specifies that the Sabbath functions as a sign of a reality that has yet to be consummated, i.e. the eternal rest that follows the Second Coming of Christ. “There remains a sabbath rest for the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). It was perplexing to me, however, that he then categorized the Sabbath together with the atoning sacrifices of the Old Testament, which have been abrogated as shadows with the coming of Christ. Why should ordinances with different eschatologies be treated according to the same rule when it comes to their fulfillment and relevance today? We know why the blood sacrifices have been set aside in the new covenant, since the reality they pointed to has come in the first coming of Christ. But the reality to which the Sabbath points has not yet come — i.e. the Second Coming of Christ and the consequent eternal state. So why should the Sabbath be treated the same way as those ordinances which been fulfilled and thus set aside?

    3. Dr. Schreiner fails to note that the word “sabbath” has a broader ranger of meaning than strict reference to the fourth commandment. (“Sabbath” sometimes has reference to special days in a general sense.) This means that while his interpretation of Col. 2:16-17 is a plausible one, the Sabbatarian position is also plausible. It would have been nice for Dr. Schreiner to present and interact with the best Reformed alternatives to his interpretation of Col. 2:16-17, such as those of Old School Presbyterian scholars like Dabney and Hodge. This is all the more important since Dr. Schreiner places so much weight on his interpretation of Col. 2:16-17. I fear that to have presented the best representatives of the contrary argument may have inconvenienced Dr. Schreiner’s argument quite a bit.

    Lastly, I am always troubled when a doctrinal argument is anchored on the least certain passage — in this case, Col. 2:16-17 — while the most certain passages are given slight weight — here, Ex. 20:8-11. This is a procedure that should be avoided as much as possible, and which will often present an unbalanced argument, as I fear is the case here.

    In a time when so many Christians are being shaped by the culture, instead of the church fulfilling its calling to shape the culture, the Sabbath is a matter of sufficient importance as to warrant a more balanced argument than it has received in this study. I remain grateful, however, for Dr. Schreiner’s many outstanding contributions to the church and the cause of Christ.

  29. John says:

    Why do people assume that if you’re not a Sabbatarian you hate going to church on Sunday or give it short-shrift? We would simply say that we are not bound to the laws of Israel demanding true Sabbath observance.

    I would also wonder how many of you are pastors? I have a wife and three kids, preach every Sunday and host a community group every night, preparing for it in the afternoon. Every Sunday is a joy, but is also WORK.


    1. Sean W. says:

      If Hebrews 4 means anything, worship is rest (since we will be doing it for eternity).

      A pastor just exercises his gifts of worship one way while others in the congregation exercise theirs their way. The Lord’s Day is not about relaxation (or even sleeping) – it is about entering into the Lord’s presence to enjoy him. That is REST.

      I have a similar schedule as you, but I think we can (and should) find it to be the most soul-renewing day of the week.

      1. John says:

        I agree, but I think in this conversation, the two are very much confused in people’s minds.

  30. casey says:

    Question for the Sabbatarians here:

    Assuming you believe the fourth commandment is still binding because of creation and the decalogue, how do you justify moving it to Sunday? This seems like an fundamental change in the law, violating its roots in God’s creative work. I would assume it would need some explicit and clear scripture to make such a change. Is there such support in scripture?

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Casey: Yours is a good observation. Notice that those who appeal to the creation ordinance slightly change the terms. Since the Sabbath is the seventh day (Saturday), and since virtually no Christians today keep the Sabbath, the creational ordinance is modified to a “one in seven” principle. Since the early church worshiped on Sunday (the day Jesus rose from the dead) and it became the Lord’s Day, they can claim that they “keep the Sabbath” even though they are in reality “keeping the Lord’s Day” (which is not commanded). Since virtually no one actually keeps the Sabbath, I think all the a priori appeals to ten commandments actually crumbles under this observation.

      1. Oskar Arocha says:

        Hi Casey and Justin,
        The logic that leads you to conclude “appeals to ten commandments actually crumbles” seems right, but again it is not textual. So we should wonder, why the NT does not give specific commandments, like the ones we ‘should’ or want to expect? The same thing happens with music in worship, as many try to stick only to NT and archive the Psalms.

        My view on it (read post above) is two fold:
        1. We were created to rest every week (1 out of every 7, but no specific rules of days or what to do exactly), and we thank sanctify the day by thanking God for it (1 Timothy 4:4-5)
        2. Similar to what Pastor John Piper mentions about Romans 14:5, that the one who views all days the same, is the one who seeks to delight and worship in God every day, and does not wait for a specific day to lovingly obey his God.

        I think that one of the main misleading words in all of these arguments is the phrase “sabbath keeping”, which in the end brings every one to the discussion of, what are we to do with all of those laws in the books of Moses? I will re-post my answer from above (hoping this helps):

        …we should not forget that most of the specific details of the laws that God gave or added to the people of Israel, was because of the transgressions (Galatians 3:19). In other words, that they were given to an unbelieving nation after God committed himself with Moses to leave his presence with them, even though the people were hard hearted (Exodus 34:9). Food laws are an excellent example, since only Jews where commanded to abstain from, and they could freely give to foreigners who lived among them.

        What I mean is that the 5 books of Moses point to an essence in the 4th commandment, namely, keeping one day in 7, but added certain specific laws to regulate life of the people of Israel, specially because God is holy and because the people were hard hearted. This would point to a certain keeping in the New Covenant, that would allow a rest of the body, but that would radically be different, because instead of regulating external life, it would promote or serve as a helpful means to all Christians to delight in Jesus. This I think is what the Prophet Isaiah points to in his comments on Fasting and the Sabbath in chapter 58.

      2. Nathan White says:

        The very fact that the creation order is on a 7 day cycle in itself proves the anti-Sabbatarrian position is weak at best. Again, just like with the pattern of weekly worship established in the NT, some people think these things just appeared out of thin air.

        Here’s an unbeliever who has better theology than some on this issue:

        “I can never hope to destroy Christianity until I first destroy the Christian Sabbath.” Voltaire

      3. Sean W. says:

        One of my frustrations with Schreiner’s article is that he does not differentiate between the moral obligations and the ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath or the Lord’s Day.

        Many commentators point out that the fourth commandment contains two aspects
        – a moral aspect – the duty of every man to set aside time to worship God (and allow others to)
        – a ceremonial aspect – the day of the week, the meaning, and the practice of the day.

        The Lord’s Day is still a special day in the NT, one which has a different significant than the Hebrew Sabbath. Christ fulfilled what the Sabbath pointed to, but He didn’t do away with it. It is changed. We celebrate rebirth more than birth. But it is still a *day* and it is still the expectation of the people of God (Hebrews 10:25 for example).

        That is why I find Schreiner’s chapter so disappointing. While he has been so helpful to so many Reformed people in the past, yet in this article he fails to even engage in the difficulty of the matter. In it, he sheds more heat than light on to this issue that there is so much disagreement and confusion about. Instead of moving us ahead (as I often feel that he has done) he sticks us in the past.

      4. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:

        JT said, Notice that those who appeal to the creation ordinance slightly change the terms. Since the Sabbath is the seventh day (Saturday), and since virtually no Christians today keep the Sabbath, the creational ordinance is modified to a “one in seven” principle…. Since virtually no one actually keeps the Sabbath, I think all the a priori appeals to ten commandments actually crumbles under this observation.

        At best your comment shows that sabbatarians are inconsistent, not wrong. Would you take it a step further to say that not only are they inconsistent, but they must be inconsistent, making the sabbatarian position internally incoherent?

    2. Richard D. Phillips says:


      This is a good question. The answer is that the day of observance is a circumstance related to the covenantal setting and is not of the essence of the commandment. We worship on the first day of the week because of the clear apostolic example. Some will see this as a “problem” for Sabbatarians. But we believe it is a very reasonable approach for which we feel no embarrassment. Here is our approach, which I do not think really does crumble under observation: We believe that as God’s people we are called to obey the Ten Commandments and we follow the apostolic example as to how to do this in the new covenant era. I know that some of our dear brethren believe that the fourth commandment holds a uniquely exceptional place in the Ten Commandments, so that it is no longer in force today. All I ask is that a consideration of the Sabbath articulate why this is so.

      1. casey says:

        This is not really convincing to me for the following reasons:

        1. Now you are separating the actual commandment from the essence of it. The actual commandment isn’t what is important, just the essence of it, in your opnion.

        2. Where is the clear apostolic exmpale of observing the Sabbath on Sunday? I don’t see it. Actually its a contradition in terms. You can’t observe the seventh day on the first. But that goes back to point 1.

        3. At least from my point of view its not that I seek to do away with only one of the 10 commandments, but all of them. They are part of the Old Covenant, not the new. They were binding on the nation of Israel, not the church.

        Now I do believe that we need to uphold the law of Christ…and be obedient to what we know is the ethical dimension of faith. back to point 1, I agree with you to some degree in separating the “essence” from the commandment. And I apply this to the whole deaclogue (and law). In other words, the principles underlying the law that express directly the universal moral obligations of God I am bound to. Sometimes these look just like the OT commandments (do not steal), sometimes they don’t (dietary and ceremonial requirements including the Sabbath).

        At least this is where I am today.

        But for this argument I’d like to focus on point #2.

        1. Your Pastor says:

          Hey Casey,

          Is it your day off today? Get back to work so you can get your family back to Minnesota!

          1. casey says:

            My family has never been to Minnesota but you’re right about me getting back to work, its not my day off.

            1. Your Pastor says:

              Bummer! Wrong guy! :) Worth a shot. Would have been fun.

        2. Richard D. Phillips says:


          This is an instance of the rule that we interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament. You say that the apostles were not observing the Sabbath because they were not worshiping on Saturday. But is it so incidental that they were setting apart every seventh day for worship? Not every tenth day or every third day, but every seventh day. Now, what does that remind us of? The Sabbath. I freely admit that I argue that the day of the week is not of the essence of the commandment because I see the apostles changing the day of the week. Their interpretation guides mine. We can, of course, view their change of the day from one of two ways. We can say, “See they disregard the commandment.” But do they? There they are, setting aside one day in seven with a focus on worshiping the Lord. The other interpretation seems better: they recognized that the resurrection of Christ had changed the circumstance in which the command is fulfilled. I also admit that I consider the fourth commandment to be in effect because it is not abrogated. When God wanted Peter to change his practice with respect to the food laws, He gave a dramatic intervention to make his point. We see no such repeal of the fourth commandment in the book of Acts. Even if you continue to disagree, I hope that is a helpful explanation.

    3. Nathan White says:

      Before we ever get around to that question, please note a few things:

      First, neither the creation ordinance nor the Decalogue affirms that *Saturday* is the Sabbath. It is the seventh day.

      As such, it would be foolish to impose our calendar upon the creation account or the age of the Old Covenant. In other words, you’re approaching this issue as if God has blessed some magical 24hour period. That’s missing the point. The pattern of 6/1 is the point.

      Furthermore, please note that though the moral foundation of the Decalogue remains, some specifics are applied differently in the new covenant. For example, in Eph 6:1 Paul notes that the promise is long life on the earth rather than long life in the land, as the Decalogue affirms.

      Next, please note that approaching the question in the manner you are would present some serious problems with Israelites who were away from the land. In other words, if an Israelite was in another time-zone, was he bound to observe the same 24 hour period as was observed in Israel? Certainly not. Again, the ‘magic 24hour day’ you seem to be calling for is not reasonable.

      Thus, the specific day of observance is not the real issue at hand. The only reason a specific day is required is because it serves as a ‘holy convocation’. In other words, one cannot practice/obey the Sabbath apart from the participation of the rest of the church. We all must observe the same day or we undermine the purpose of the blessed command. Therefore, the example of the apostles and even the instruction of Paul to meet on the first day of the week is sufficient to instruct the NT church.

      Add to this the theological shift from OC to NC, in that the Lord’s Day is a fully revelation of the true reality of the 4th commandment, complete with the focus of our Lord’s resurrection and the future rest in Him, and a Sunday Sabbath is quite evident.

    4. casey says:

      Oskar, Nathan, Richard –

      I’m fairly certain Jesus and the disples strictly observed Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday in accordance with Saturday being the seventh (sabbath) day of the week.

      Now if the expectation was to change this crucial commandment and habit of the apostles, even to the point of denying its semantical signiciance (sabbath = seventh), don’t you think this would be at least mentioned somewhere in scripture?

      For all we know the disciples coninued to observe the Sabbath and worshipped on Sunday with the church. I even think this is more likely and explanation…that the Sabbath law wasn’t changed to Sunday but some of the principles behind Sabbath were applied to Sunday. I thinki this is also supported by the early church father evidence Schreiner posted.

      1. Nathan White says:

        I always find it a bit humorous when the issue of ‘the specific day’ is brought up. Take a look at our culture. Why is Sunday referred to as the ‘weekend’? Why is Monday the first day of the work-week? Why would we act like God cares about specific calendars, 24hour periods, and the fact that a change in the day undermines the moral law of God? The fact remains that even in our culture, our *practice* is no different than if the 7th day (according to the scientific calendar) was the Sabbath!

        1. casey says:

          Yet from Moses to Jesus it was very much a certain day…especially if you make the tie to creation. The change to another day couldn’t be anything less than significant, if in fact that change occurred. Without some explicit treatment in scripture this seems unlikely.

          Your question about “why would we act like God cares about specific calendars…” is interesting. I think its apparent He did in regards to the Sabbath law…its all about being ties to a specific day. Outside of the Old covenant, I would agree. It doesn’t make sense. God’s wants our whole lives, not just one day. He wants us to understand the concept of rest and trusting in Him instead of our own work…and you don’t need a specific 24 hour period to do that. He wants us to understand the eschatological rest to come…and we cna do that too without a specific 24 hour period.

          So…according to your own thoughts you would have no qualms about churches choosing whatever day of the week they wanted to observe the Sabbath?

          1. Nathan White says:


            My point is that the day is a ceremonial aspect of the command, and that getting caught up on the change of day is completely missing the point.

            And no, God does not require us to worship in the exact same way ‘our whole lives’. The Sabbath is described as a ‘holy convocation’. The purest and most effectual form of worship is corporate, as we will do in eternity. God wants us to do this weekly; not every 10 days, every 30 days, or every 365 days, but every seventh day.

            And yes, I do have qualms about churches who worship on another day of the week. Christ rose on the first day, appeared on the first day, and the apostles gathered on “the Lord’s Day” for a specific reason. But the point isn’t that the Day is all that special, but that all of God’s people must observe the same day or a ‘holy convocation’ is impossible to carry out.

            1. Garrett says:

              Hey Nathan,

              What is the Biblical support for your statement that “the day is a ceremonial aspect of the command”?


    5. CMM says:

      There is either total abrogation of the Sabbath, or we still observe it on Saturday. Apostles meeting on the “first day of the week,” and one reference to “the Lord’s day” (with nothing in the context of the passage to indicate that this means Sunday) do not constitute a change in the Sabbath.

      Nathan, the Sunday Sabbatarian’s admission that the day has changed (Saturday to Sunday, or seventh to first) implies that there evidently was a particular day of the week (not just any 1 out of 7) that God ordained as the Sabbath.

    6. Larry says:

      In Matthew 28:1, the King James Version reads: “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” However, these are not the exact words used by Matthew. Matthew’s statement in the Greek reads: “Opse de sabbaton ote epiphoskouse eis mian sabbaton.” One does not need to be a Greek scholar to see that the word “sabbaton” appears twice in this verse.

      Now the word “sabbaton,” used twice in this verse, in both instances, is in the genitive plural, not “at the end of the sabbath” but “at the end of sabbaths;” and not “the first day of the week” but “toward the first of sabbaths.” This is the exact rendering.

      Why did Matthew say: “In the end of sabbaths, as it began to dawn toward the first of sabbaths?” The Lord is letting us know that right then and there the old order of Sabbaths had ended and a new order of Sabbaths had begun.

      Mark 16:1,2 says: “And when the sabbath was passed, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” Again the King James Version says “the first day of the week” in verse 2, but the Greek words are “tes mias sabbaton.” Young’s Literal Translation gives the correct rendering of this verse: “And early in the morning of the first of sabbaths.”
      In Mark 16:9, Young’s Literal Translation reads: “And he, having risen in the morning of the first of the sabbaths,” which is the correct rendering for “sabbaton” instead of “the first day of the week” as the King James gives it.

      Now to find the exact meaning of Greek words, as expressed by the Jews, we should examine the Septuagint. Do we find the word `Sabbata’ used anywhere in the whole Septuagint to express week? No, not once. There is not one single place where these great Hebrew scholars have translated week or weeks by the word `Sabbaton’ or `Sabbata.’ The word for week is always `ebdomas,’ while the word for Sabbath is always `sabbaton’ or `sabbata.’ This is the correct meaning of `sabbata’ also in the New Testament.

      1. John Thomson says:

        I confess this is getting a little out of my territory but I would note this that all translations – even reformed ones – use first day of week etc. In fact as far as I know sabbaths became a kind of synecdoche for the week.

        But Larry, that aside, you cannot be seriously arguing the case for the sabbath on such grounds, surely!

        On an earlier blog you plead the difference between a ceremonial law and a moral law. Of course I know what you mean but is it really a valid distinction? Is not anything that God has commanded ‘moral’? Were not Nadab and Abihu put to death because they offered ‘strange fire’ on the altar? In other words they thought they could change God’s ceremonial commands with impunity.

        The simple truth is when a covenant is drawn up ALL the demands of the covenant must be kept. He that breaks one is guilty of all – be the one ceremonial, civil or moral (to use the conventional distinctions). If I am obligated to the Mosaic Law I must not murder. Nor however must I eat unclean foods. Nor must avoid a seventh year Sabbath Jubilee for my land. Nor must I change the Sabbath to a Sunday. I cannot change unilaterally the conditions of the covenant. Israel was expelled from the land not only for her ‘moral’ sins but also her ‘ceremonial’ sins as a book like Ezekiel makes plain. If we defy any of God’s commands it is a sin and is immoral.

        Only a new covenant can bring new conditions.

        1. Larry says:

          I wasn’t arguing for the validity of keeping the Sabbath, i was addressing the post that i replied to, so i was only addressing the Sabbath change from Saturday to Sunday…not the validity of keeping it per say.

          In some of my other posts i have answered the question of why we are to still keep the Sabbath.

      2. CMM says:


        I’m not equipped enough in Greek to make the argument myself, but I would suggest to you to look around a little bit into different interpretations of the use of “Sabbaton” in these passages. The gist of the argument has to do with the “Sunday” after Jesus’ death being the day after the Sabbath attending Passover (see Leviticus 23:15). “Toward the first of the Sabbaths” would then refer to the countdown of Sabbaths until Pentecost (The Feast of Weeks). As I said, I’m not equipped enough to make the argument myself, but it’s worth looking into.

        1. Larry says:


          Yes, i have looked into that. I think if the focus of the text is on the Jewish days then it would be a more viable interpretation. But as it is, the resurrection of Christ is the focus of the text.

          What you suggest is a possible interpretation, but it’s just not as convincing an interpretation to me.

  31. Sean W. says:

    Removing the fourth commandment as a moral expectation creates a theology that removes from God the desire/expectation/directive of His people to worship Him.

    The commandments flow out of the character of God, so saying the fourth commandment is no longer an expectation for a Christian is like saying God doesn’t care if His people spend any time with him.

    I know this is simple, but most of us think in simple ways…
    …the first commandment shows the exclusivity of our worship
    …the second the character of our worship
    …the third the reverence of our worship

    ….then where is the *time* of our worship? Its like saying to my kids, “You know I love you, but I don’t need to spend time with you.” or better yet “I know you love me kids, have fun with your life, call me if you need anything.”

    That is why the previous comment is correct in saying this is a damaging argument to the person in the pew. Practically speaking, it keeps a persons faith “in his heart” and away from the “sacredness” of his own personal agenda. Theologically, it undermines God’s sovereign love for His people.

    1. John says:

      But Paul is clear that worship is NOT just one day of the week (Rom 12:1-2). Life is worship. Sunday is simply the gathering of God’s people together for worship (though, this is vital for our spiritual health).

      1. Chad says:


        I see your point and concern, but the faithful Israelite would also say that “life is worship.” That’s why the Ten Commandments are given, to govern the whole life of the Israelite in worship to God. So Paul is simply repeating an old testament idea in Romans 12.


      2. Ralph W. Davis says:

        John: I see some serious problems with your approach, saying the 10 Commandments have been replaced by love…for God, and others, as if law and gospel were in opposition. Paul’s use of the word law does make it appear that way, but, he was speaking as an ex-legalist/recovering-Pharisee, to others (like all of us in the natural man…), who saw their own obedience as the only way to earn God’s favor.

        Do you acknowledge the classical 2nd and 3rd uses of the moral law? That would be 2nd use: As a mirror of the sinful self/schoolmaster chasing us to God’s mercy in Christ, and 3rd use: As an teacher to a grateful child of the Covenant–secure in his love by Christ, desirous in his love for God to know exactly how to please Him?

        If you wife tells you she likes roses, and you are secure in your love for each other, don’t you give her roses…..just out of love, not from fear to win her love? You won’t automatically know she likes roses though, unless you inquire to ask…again, motivated by love, not looking to “earn” her affections. If on the other hand you had an argument, and, as a way to make up to her, you got her roses, that would be for an entirely different reason wouldn’t it? So the same action–or law–can be used for entirely different motivations. Roses for love are much better than roses for guilt…

        So too, I think is the classic reformed attitude toward the 3rd use of the law, it’s a way to mold and form a damaged conscience IN ORDER to rightly love God and others, growing up, as it were, in sanctification, motivated by grateful love, not fear, and not something in opposition to true love.

        One could, as the Pharisees mistakenly did, obey the law thinking they were putting God in their debt…earning, so they thought, His affections….or trying to placate His wrath, by their extra-good deeds. Both these uses would be a wrong, legalistic use of the law.

        However those confident of God’s love and mercy toward them can do the same behavior, looking to the same law–out of a pure heart, simply obeying from grateful love, love shown in love for God and love for others–but love channeled and guided by God’s “perfect law that gives freedom” (James 1:25). Obedience to God’s moral law, and love for God and others are not at all mutually exclusive.

        My point is, yes, we aren’t saved by law (no one ever was)…nor are we really sanctified by it, God’s love in Jesus does both. However, God’s love does work first, by showing us we’re sinners, and then, after we’ve accepted that verdict–AND the fact that Christ died for us–the law comes back, and helps us give content to the grateful love we now have for our Savior. So yes, we’re not under law…as a Savior, Jesus is that, but yes also, we are under law, as a teacher and final authority in righteousness–the righteousness that our unguided, imperfect conscience, no matter how loving it feels, and really is, toward God and neighbor, would not otherwise know.

        For instance, my love unguided, for a homosexual, might be just that God loves him, just as he is….and who am I to judge his lifestyle….let’s just encourage him to bring his male lover to Church Sunday (or whatever other day you may worship…). However I know the (moral) law, OT and NT, condemns homosexual sexual activity–so when and if that homosexual professes faith in Christ, I can also know (something I intuitively may not know) that he needs to be exhorted, like the woman un-stoned of John 8, to “sin no more.” Does that ex-homosexual’s obedience save him? Of course not, Jesus did….but, in order to embrace Jesus, our arm-load of sin must also be dropped, in repentance. I would not necessarily know–especially in today’s post-modern, post-biblical world, that homosexual practice (or other forms of sexual sin) was sin-that-needs-repenting-of, BUT for God’s law. Therefore knowledge of, and obedience to, God’s law…viewing the OT through the lens of the NT–and Jesus work alone saving us–is needed, in that sense, from the child of the Covenant today.

        1. Richard D. Phillips says:

          Thank you, Ralph. This is very well said.

          1. Jack says:

            Agree. Well done Ralph.

            1. Robert Briggs says:

              Enjoying this discussion, but surprised no one has dealt with Jeremiah 31 and the law written upon our hearts. Which law is Jeremiah referring to? What would an Old Covenant believer understand him to have meant? What are we to understand by it? If it is the moral law defined for Israel at Sinai in terms of substance,then it must include the fourth commandment and thus means there are implications under the New Covenant for believers with reference to the substance of the fourth commandment. If it is only nine commandments then the burden of proof is upon those to who say so to prove it exegetically and not ignore Jeremiah 31 in the process.

        2. John says:

          How could you get my approach to the law from one statement that was pointing out a flaw in what another said about the law? :-)

        3. John Thomson says:


          I am unsure if this is addressed to me, though I think it may be. Sorry I did not notice it in the rapid fire of last night’s debate.

          I accept with some nuance the second use of the Law. I believe for the Jew it was given that they may be aware of sin and that sin may be seen to be ‘exceedingly sinful’. This in turn should throw them on God’s mercy. The Law was a bondage from which they should long to escape into the freedom in Christ.

          Schoolmaster includes some of these things and more. It suggests a restraining and training role too.

          I do not accept the third use of the Law in any formal sense of the Law being a rule of life for the believer. If it were we would be culturally Jews. I do however accept that it like the whole of the OT when carefully considered in its redemptive-historical context is profitable for training in righteousness. This is essentially I think what you are saying in your last paragraph.

          My main concern is to stress that we are neither justified by law, nor sanctified by law, nor is the Law binding as it stands upon our consciences. We are ‘under Law’ in no sense. Christ is the model of our sanctification. As we behold his face (not Moses’s face, the face of Law) we are changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another.

          Of course, from another standpoint the Law is an excellent witness to gospel realities. Its sacrifices explain for us the work of Christ in the gospel as do many of its other structures (tabarnacle etc).

  32. John Thomson says:


    I doubt if any are saying that God does not express his desire for worship. But he does so outside the context of the Ten Commandments. Jesus says for example that the Father desires worshippers and those who do so will do so on a completely different premise from Jerusalem or Samaria.

    The whole problem with the defence of the Law is that in redemptive-historical terms it gives the Law a prominence it doesn’t deserve. What of thr many centuries before Law?

    Paul is trying to put the Law in perspective in both Galatians and Romans. In Galatians he points to a prior covenant 400 years before the Law. He points out the law was ‘added’ because of transgressions. In Romans 5 he shows the picture is much bigger than Law – it is Adam and Christ the head of two humanities – the Law he tells us was added to ‘ Now the law came in to increase the trespass’. Paul goes to great lengths to stop the Law having too great a significance in the mind of Jewish beleivers. It seems to me law is far to strong a category in the minds of many evangelicals today.

  33. Aaron Britton says:

    Justin. . .perhaps a some more links on “should Christians keep the 10 commandments”? Dr. Piper’s short answer doesn’t answer some of the questions raised here. . and I think it might help having a historically reformed answer placed next to the answer that someone like Carson or Schreiner would give.

  34. Aaron Britton says:

    John, I agree with your thoughts. Question: How can the Ten Commandments “show us what sin is” and guide our ethics if breaking the 4th one isn’t sin? . In other words, I affirm the law no longer binding a Christian. But, Paul tells us that the law shows us what sin is, works on our concience, guides us ethically, etc. . . . But, how can it do that if overriding 4th commandment isn’t a sin?

    1. casey says:

      It was a sin for them, because they were commended to do it.They were, not us (IMO). The same argument goes for not plowing two types of seed in a field, for eating shrimp, etc.

    2. casey says:

      The OT law is filled with examples of things the Jews were either to set apart for either holiness or unleanness that we don’t even think about today. Pork, lobster, certain days and festivals, leaven, etc. It was less about the thing and the act of setting apart or putting outside of the camp or cleansing it. There is likely a historical-cultural reason for many of these that seem arbitrary to us lost to us today.

  35. Aaron Britton says:

    Casey, So is murder a sin? Or just a breaking of the earthly law, ala Romans 13?

    See, I agree with you guys on this sabbath issue. I just can’t get an answer on the relationship of the Christian to the 10 commandments that doesn’t put us “under” them. . . . . and, yet, we “will/should be doing” them due to our new nature in Christ and obedience flowing out of a regenerated heart.

    1. casey says:

      Well, I think its obvious that murder is wrong, but not just because it was called out in the 10 commandments. We would know that without the Mosaic ordinance or other scriptures that just specifically refer back to the ordinance. Paul would argue we know it instictively from romans 1 and 2. Its mentioned in other letters of his. We have it clearly spelled out from Genesis prior to the Mosaic covenant. Jesus went beyond the commandment to argue that hating someone was akin to murder.

    2. CMM says:


      Re being “under” the law: I think that obedience to a command, and performance of a command to earn favor/righteousness are two different things. If believers are to obey the commandments, it’s to be done out of obedience and gratitude. We are not “under” them because they cannot condemn us. Our failure to keep them has been paid for. That’s my humble take on being “under” the law.

  36. Aaron Britton says:

    Casey, I’m not sure it’s convincing that Paul didn’t have Roman Christians in mind, but only Jews, . .when he talked about how the law shows us what sin is. I think the way you know that murder is wrong is because God said it was wrong, in Exodus,. . . . not because it’s obvious (even though I agree it is from Romans 1).

    I like yours and Justin’s explanation about the principle of Sabbath. That’s insightful. But, there’s a question that needs answering here about the Christian’s relation to the 10 commandments. You’re putting them in the same category as the ceremonial laws (which many do. . . ). That dichotomy is important to this discussion.

  37. John Thomson says:

    I agree with Casey. Much of what the law said God has placed instinctively in the human heart – the knowledge of good and evil – gained through disobedience probably gave this understanding. As Casey says the Noahic covenant forbade murder. The Christian has a greater witness still – the internal illumination of the Spirit coupled to NT revelation in Christ.

    The question is where does Christian obligation and responsibility come from? My answer would be it comes from our new creation responsibilities in Christ not from the Law. Christ becomes the motive, model and measure of faith acting in love for us and we are to imitate him (as Paul did). This to my mind more than fulfils the intentions of the Law leading as it does to a life of self-giving love.

    1. Robert Briggs says:


      So can you help me understand how you view Jeremiah 31 and the promise of the New Covenant and the reference to law written upon our hearts? What is Jeremiah talking about there? Is there no implication for us relating to the fourth commandment? Would Jeremiah being talking about a law that no one he spoke to would have understood ? Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying by this Jewish observance of Sabbath is what he had in mind, but I am saying the substance of the fourth commandment is not lost through the transition from the Old to the New Covenant fully recognising that Christ has fulfilled the law, yet He has also written upon our hearts.

      1. John Thomson says:


        I understand Jer 31 as saying that in the NC the demands of the OC will be written on heart by the Spirit. However as you say a transition must take place the details of which the OT do not address. On a reading of Jer 31 we may expect that all believers will simply keep the Law (the whole covenant and not merely the Ten Commandments). In which case, as I said above, Christians would all be culturally Jewish.

        However, the fulfilment is not as simple as that. Indeed the fulfilment of OT in NT rarely is. The sacrifices, the tabernacle and temple, the feasts etc all are metamorphed in Christ. The fulfilment eclipses the prophetic word.

        Thus, in the NT, the Law is fulfilled in a number of ways. In terms of our lives I see the Law fulfilled in our life in the Spirit (Roms 8:4). We are not ‘under law’ but delivered from it entirely into a new life in a resurrected Christ – a life that belongs top the Age-to-Come which is beyond Law (as Christ now is).

        In this new life, lived in a new creation/world beyond Law, a life in the Spirit, I fulfil all the Law was really concerned about – love for God and neighbour. Indeed I fulfil it at a level far beyond its demands. If I live like Christ I will lay down my life for others – a degree of love the law never demanded.

        Yet, I say again, I fulfil it, I do not ‘keep it’. The life the Spirit inspires, against such a life, says Paul, there is no law (laws existed largely to condemn and expose what is sinful and wrong not promote what was good and right).

        The Sabbath, I see as a ‘sign’ of the covenant. Its fulfilment is found not in one day of rest but to the gospel rest in Christ that reaches complete fulfilment in the Age-to-Come.

        A NC believer will find every day is dedicated to God. Every day he delights in gospel rest. In the NC believers met on a Sunday and indeed on as many other occasions as they could to fellowship with each other and grow in grace.

  38. Richard D. Phillips says:


    Above, you said this: “At least from my point of view its not that I seek to do away with only one of the 10 commandments, but all of them. They are part of the Old Covenant, not the new. They were binding on the nation of Israel, not the church.” My friend, do you mind if I ask you seriously to reconsider this view? As an example, there really can be no doubt that according to the New Testament Christians are obligated to sexual purity. This is commanded repeatedly in the New Testament. Paul says that the sexually immoral will not see the kingdom of God (Eph. 5:5) and demands that the Corinthians expell a professing Christian over sexual impurity. Now, where does this obligation come from? Does it come from Paul’s own private morality? Does it come from Jesus’ personal example? (Note that there are many things that Jesus did that are not required for others — like not possessing a house — so Jesus’ personal example does not necessarily constitute an obligation on His followers). The New Testament requirement to sexual purity plainly comes from the seventh commandment. Moreover, when Jesus taught His kingdom ethics in the Sermon on the Mount, he did not set aside the behavioral obligation of the Ten Commandments but stressed that the inward meaning of the commandments are also necessary. The particular example I have given — sexual purity — only covers one instance, but it establishes the principle for the whole. This is why Paul states in Romans 8:4 that “the righteous requirement of the law” is to “be fulfilled” in us who walk not in the flesh but in the Spirit. Romans 8 is not about justification but sanctification: Paul is saying that the necessary consequence of salvation is that we begin living according to the law. So I would appeal to everyone here who says that have no obligation to keep the law to reconsider what they are saying in light of the New Testament commands. Remember Jesus’ words, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of unlawfulness'” (Mt. 7:23).

  39. For those of you who believe in the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, as Schreiner does, could you please help me understand what Law Jesus kept perfectly to merit, for us, a perfect record of righteousness? If the Ten Commandments are not given to all men, for all time, (God demanding perfect and continual obedience to them), then did Jesus only keep them for the Jews?

    1. Garrett says:

      Hey Nicholas,

      I don’t have this fully fleshed out in my own mind, but I would argue that Jesus’ record of righteousness was earned by obeying the two great commandments of love to God and love to fellow man. He made it clear in Matt. 22:36-40 that the whole law (including the 10) “hang” on these two, implying that the whole law is dependent on them. Also, in the parallel passage in Luke 10, Jesus makes it clear that if a person did obey those two, they would earn eternal life, thus showing that to obey the two is to fulfill all the rest (cf. Rom. 13, Gal. 5).

      Thus, Jesus’ life was not characterized by an attempt to be subservient to every jot and tittle of Moses, but to love His fellow men (culminating in the cross, John 15:13) and obey every word of the Father (John 12:49-50).

      This was rushed, so hopefully it makes sense!


      1. Jack says:

        Good question regarding merit. No where in the Bible does it say we have to merit or earn anything from God. Schreiner’s whole method of interpreting text (I assume JT and many others) is built on this theological system/paradigm.

        God did not create Adam in order to merit eternal life. God walked with Adam in the garden. God was his Father. Adam was to believe God’s Word of love to him and belief every word that proceeds from the mouth of His Father.

        Adam failed. Adam needed to reconcile with his heavenly Father. Like our children hide from us in disobedience, Adam hid from his Father. He was ashamed. He feared judgment from his Holy Father. He needed to be forgiven.

        The second Adam came, Jesus Christ, promised in the garden, to live a perfect life, NOT to merit salvation, but to be a faithful Son, who would be a perfect sacrifice to deal with the problem of sin. To reconcile Man with God. By faith, Jesus becomes our substitute for the problem of sin and we are clothed in righteousness.

        That’s the gospel.

        Merit/earning salvation is foreign to God dealing with his people.

        Would God establish family relationships in this world so that we can teach our sons and daughters that they have to merit/earn their inheritance by perfect obedience? Of course not. God, our Heavenly Father doesn’t deal with His children like that either.

        Find me a text that anyone has to MERIT salvation. You won’t find.

        The problem with man and God is sin. Not merit.

        1. John Thomson says:


          My view entirely. Good to hear it expressed.

      2. CMM says:


        One of the things that would qualify Jesus as the Messiah would be his adherence to the Law as a whole, not just two commandments (though not directly related, Jesus’ statement on the Law in Matthew 5:17-20 is helpful with regard to this). This is why the Pharisees are constantly trying to trap him with questions on the Sabbath, paying taxes, stoning adulteresses, etc. They saw his teaching as being against the Law when it was really in defense of God’s law and in opposition to the man-made traditions and legalism (see Matthew 15:1-20, for example) of the Pharisees. When Jesus says that the whole Law “hangs” on two commandments, I take that to mean that those two commandments are principles that set the foundation for the Law. All of the Law points back to those two Laws, and ultimately back to God.

        1. Garrett says:


          Thanks for your comment. I think it would be better to speak of Jesus’ “fulfillment” of the law, rather than “adherence” to it, in keeping with the language of Matthew, and the remainder of hte NT. This is significant, because the Christian is said to “fulfill” the righteous requirement of the law (Rom. 8, 13; Gal. 5), without actually “adhering” to or “doing” every jot and tittle of it (e.g., circumcision, etc.; see Paul’s point at the end of Rom. 2).

          Is it possible that the same is true of Jesus? True, he didn’t break or “abolish” any Mosaic commandments, but was He conscious of trying to obey every jot and tittle of Moses in order to earn a record of righteousness under the old covenant? That doesn’t seem to be the feel you get when you read the Gospels; at least I don’t. His glory, righteousness and authority so transcend the Law that Moses is simply outclassed altogether!

          And it’s true that the two great commandments are the “foundation” for the Law, but there’s more to it than that. Again, Jesus makes it clear in Luke 10 that if a person does the two, he will merit eternal life, thus showing that doing the two actually fulfills everything that the law requires for eternal life. Is it possible, then, that Jesus merits eternal life for us, not so much by obeying the Law of Moses, but by fulfilling the two great commandments? Is it possible that Paul derived his theology of “love fulfilling the law” (Rom. 13; Gal. 5) from what he observed in the life of Christ Himself? These are things I’m still trying to work out for myself…

          If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to check out Stephen Westerholm’s Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith. He also has several good journal articles on this subject, which may or may not be easy to find, based on your circumstances. And if you do a Google search for his name, you’ll find a couple of articles online. He would be great for you to interact with! Another excellent work is that of A. J. Bandstra on the law and the elements of the world, though THAT one is very hard to find unless you have a good university library nearby!

          1. CMM says:


            Thanks for the book referrals; I’m always looking for good reading on these topics.

            I think in the case of Jesus “adherence to” and “fulfillment of” the law are both applicable terms. Yes, Jesus very much transcends the Law, as he is (in a sense) the one who wrote it. I think Tim Keller said it best when he said that “Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died.” Jesus, in order to be the perfect sacrificial lamb, had to be spotless (sinless). Therefore, if it were a sin under the law to break the Sabbath, Jesus did not break the Sabbath. If it were a sin under the law to eat pork, Jesus did not eat pork. So yes, I think that he did consciously observe every “jot and tittle” of the Law.

            I mentioned before Jesus words in Matthew 5:17-20. He says many interesting things about the law. Take for another example Matthew 23. It starts with Jesus saying, in vv. 2-3, “‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.'” In Matthew 8:4, after healing a leper, Jesus says, “‘See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.'”
            Jesus commends his hearers to obey the law–even the parts that we would now consider “ceremonial.”

            Whether or not one believes that the law is binding in a Christian, I see no theological problems with admitting that Jesus completely obeyed all of the Law, thus fulfilling it.

            I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to respond to follow-up comments, so the last word can be yours. Thanks for the exchange.

            1. Garrett says:


              I like the Keller quote, and would agree with that (along with your entire first paragraph). But here’s something to think about: What does it mean for Christ to “live the life I should have lived” when I am a Gentile who was never actually subject to the Law of Moses? See, I never SHOULD have lived a perfect life under the Law of Moses, because I was never under it in the first place. So what does it mean for Christ to live the life I (a Gentile) should have lived?

              Here’s what I’ve been mulling over every now and then. Galatians 4 says Christ was “born of a woman, born under the law.” I *think* what Paul is getting at is that Jesus not only identified with the plight of all men (“born of a woman”), but that He also identified Himself with the plight of the Jew in particular (“born under the law”). If He would have only been born of a woman, He COULD have fulfilled all righteousness by simply obeying the two great commandments. As it is, He was born a Jew in order to also identify with the specific plight of the Jews, and therefore had to fulfill all righteousness by adhering, not simply to the two great commandments, but also to the Law of Moses in particular too.

              Now, what difference does that make? In some ways, none! It’s not something that affects our salvation in the least. BUT, I DO think we should be careful not to give the impression that Jesus went around ticking boxes next to His list of Mosaic laws to make sure He covered everything. (By the way, I didn’t get that impression from you, but I have from others in conversations past.) Instead, our focus should be on Christ’s fulfillment of the law THROUGH love. Now, because He was a Jew, the expression of His love for God and man took the form of a Jew under the law, because that was the cultural milieu which He was in (which explains some of the other verses you referenced). But again, the emphasis should be on His life of love as the fulfillment of the law, which I *think* is what Paul picked up on in developing his emphasis on love being the law’s fulfillment as well.

              To say it another way, it is not primarily Christ’s external obedience to Moses, but His internal love for God and man that form the basis of the righteousness that is ours in justification. The tendency of some, I think, is to focus so much on “Christ obeying the Law” that they miss the even bigger picture of Christ fulfilling the two great commandments, which is the heart of ALL law, both now and forever.

              So basically I just spent the last half hour thinking out loud here, but hopefully it will spark something in your mind as well. By the way, here are a couple of other articles for you to check out, both available online via a Google search:

              “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses: A Modified Lutheran View” by Douglas Moo

              “The Law: Its Essence vs. Its Implications” by Charles Leiter

              The first is very long, the second is very short, but both are essential reading in this area, IMO.

              Take care, and feel free to contact me via the email address on my blog if you ever want to resume the conversation.


  40. Furthermore, the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6, reaches back to the fifth commandment and makes it binding on covenant children, annexing the promising that is given in Exodus 20:12. Paul, writing inspired Scripture, gives us this example as an example of the apostolic hermeneutic. We, following his lead, must do the same with the other nine commandments!

    1. John Thomson says:


      The problem is that this is the only example of law quoted as an apparent authority you can give. Does that not say something?

      Paul’s point is not to suggest the authority of the Law but to point out to children how important obedience is. He is commenting that under the Law this command is so significant it is accompanied by a promise. He is neither saying they must obey because the Law so said nor suggesting that all children who obey their parents will live a long life. God’s premium on children’s obedience is the issue illustrated by the promise under Law.

      Where law is used it is illustrative rather than a command as such. Of course, I say again, that all Scripture is inspired and profitable for instruction in righteousness etc but that is different from saying that the commands of the Law are commands to believers else as I say we would all be living culturally as Jews.

  41. John Thomson says:


    I would dearly love to engage with your question. Two things prervent me at the moment. The first is I don’t believe in imputed righteousness in the sense that I think you mean it (IAO active imputed righteousness)though I do believe in imputed righteousness. Secondly, I’m in the UK and its well past my bedtime plus my wife is nagging me to put out the light.

    That being said, my one comment just now is that Christ did fulfil the law but his obedience was much more. In fact it is rarely if ever referred to in the NT as fulfilling the Law. The law offered life to its keeper. Christ came to die. His obedience was to the will of his Father he had come ‘to do his will’. In Romans 5 the classic passage on Christ’s obedience the context is much larger than Law. Part of Paul’s intention is to make this plain. Adam and Christ are in view. The Law Paul effectively says came in by the by. Obedience is bigger than law-keeping. This is yet another example of Law being given too great a significance.

    Christ bore the curse of the Law (for the Jew who was under it…that he may redeem those under the law…) and bore our sins/was made sin (Jew and gentile alike) on the cross.

    Personally I do not believe, though I suspect most on the blog will, that Christ kept the law that we may have a perfect record. The law makes only one demand on a sinner – death. This penalty of a broken Law Christ took in my place. Indeed, his death was my death, I died with him too. In that sense the penalty of the Law and for that matter of sin (the soul that sins shall die) was passed on my history as a man in the flesh, a man in Adam.

    I now have a new life, in the Spirit, in Christ. It is a life in union with a resurrected Christ in a world where Law has no claim. I share in Christ and God’s verdict on him.

    Now tell me, which man needs a law-keeping righteousness. My Adam/flesh old man? It needed not a life imputed but a death died. It required blood not a life. My new life in Christ? It is beyond Law and Law has no claim on it.

    But I must go…

    Now the question

  42. B. says:

    Here’s my question. Is it a sin to work on a sunday? Thanks.

    1. John Thomson says:


      That is not to say other issues about Sunday work should not be asked. Such as, why do you want to work rather than enjoy the blessing of being among God’s people? This however is a separate question.

      Is it a sin to work on a Sunday because it is a Sunday -No.

  43. Ethan says:

    Surprised this passage hasn’t been mentioned yet:

    “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.

    But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

    (Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV)

    1. Robert Briggs says:

      Yes Ethan, my point a few posts up. I think it needs to be brought into the discussion.

  44. Jeff says:

    Some people have wondered what issue might split the New Calvinist movement. Most people have thought it would be the Kuyperians vs. the Two Kingdoms guys. Judging from the response to this post, it could be Covenant Theology vs. New Covenant Theology.

  45. Raja Dani says:

    The interesting thing here is that the 4th commandment doesn’t actually say anything about worship, it’s a commandment to rest. Worship isn’t mentioned at all, yet we are told somehow that the 4th commandment means we are supposed to be in church morning and evening. I’m not arguing against worship or church, of course, but I find it interesting how these things are pushed into the commandment when they aren’t there.

    Here’s the rub though:

    No one is telling anyone else what to do with their Lord’s day. If you want to set the day aside in the manner espoused by the Puritans, et al and go to church all day, by all means go ahead. Do it unto the Lord. The problem is when you want to insist that every Christian has a commanded moral obligation to do what you are convinced should be done on the “Christian Sabbath”. That is adding to God’s word and binding the consciences of others with your own personal convictions.

    Besides, Sabbatarians tend to have a lot of inconsistencies when it comes to actual practice of this rigid view of the Sabbath. Everybody has their own lists of do’s and don’ts and they tend to all be different. I’m thankful I’m not enslaved to anyone else’s conscience on this matter. If this issue was so important to God, He would have said more about it than simply having a pattern of morning and evening worship and passing remarks about taking a collection on the first day of the week, etc.

    Bottom line is that strict Sabbatarians make more of an issue about this matter than God does.

  46. Darjo says:

    Dear brothers, we always get in confusion and trouble if we underestimate a clear and direct command of God.

    The Sabbath was made by God for all mankind, not for Israel nation only. That’s clear from the Bible. The Sabbath is a sign between God and his people. That’s also clear from the Word of God. Were the jews God’s people for a period of time? So the command to keep the day God sanctified as holy was for them. Are we God’s people now? Than the command is also for us today, since God has never changed his original convenant, which was based in a relationship of love and obedience to his commands (in fact, the so called “new convenant” is older than the old one).
    We are not saved by the law, we know that. But at any time, God’s people, which was redeemed by him, will regard a pleasure to obey their Creator and Saviour.It’s a blessing to keep the Sabbath holy, like Jesus did each seventh day. Precisely the same day God wants us to keep holy today.He has never asked us to do otherwise. Think and pray about that. God bless!

  47. Aaron Britton says:

    How many comments before this thing literally blows up JT? I”m not sure I’ve ever seen 149.

    Perhaps Jeff is right, this is a lynchpin issue. I would agree with John Frame that it need not be. But, there seems to be some big rocks in the road for some folks.


  48. Rafael Alcantara says:

    The Words of Frame is a reminder to sabbatarians and not-sabbatarians:

    “Of course it is my sabbatarian belief, taken from other parts of Scripture, that leads me to seek an exegesis of these passages compatible with continued Sabbath-keeping. The same sort of exercise is necessary on the other side. Those who believe that these three texts exclude new covenant Sabbath-keeping must try to find interpretations of other texts (Gen. 2:2-3, Ex. 20:8-11, Rev. 1:10, etc.) compatible with the Sabbath’s abrogation. All of us are seeking to compare Scripture with Scripture in order to gain the best understanding of the texts. There should be no embarrassment about that on either side. It is not, generally, at least, as if one side or the other is trying to press texts into a dogmatic mold. At least we should not accuse one another of that.

    …I should add that I don’t believe the argument is water-tight on either side. People within the Reformed community have differed on this issue since Calvin, and I don’t see any argument that will put the debate completely to rest. There should be tolerance among Reformed Christians over this issue. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has placed under discipline several ministers who have held to Calvin’s view of the Sabbath, implying that Calvin himself was not sufficiently orthodox to minister in that denomination. Though I recognize that the Westminster Standards, to which the Orthodox Presbyterian Church subscribes, hold a view other than Calvin’s, I think that in this case to insist on Westminster distinctives as a test of orthodoxy is sectarian.”

  49. Garrett says:

    To build on what Frame has said above, I thought it would be good to include this quote from a forthcoming book on the law of Christ. In many ways, this is the most important thing to keep in mind in this whole discussion:

    As mentioned above, some Christians understand the Sabbath to be fulfilled by “resting in Christ” for salvation. In good conscience before God, they have searched the Scriptures with earnest prayer and have come to this conclusion. On the other hand, some Christians believe that the Sabbath is to be kept as a literal day of physical rest. In good conscience before God, they have searched the Scriptures with earnest prayer and have
    come to this conclusion. It is a grievous sin for the first group to slander their fellow believers in the second group as “legalists” because they seek to the best of their ability to
    follow God in this matter. On the other hand, it is also a grievous sin for the second group to slander their fellow believers in the first group as “antinomians” because they seek to
    the best of their ability to follow God in this matter. To call a man a legalist is to associate him by implication with lost religious people (like the Pharisees) who look to their own good works for salvation, and to call a man an antinomian is to associate him by implication with lost religious people who “turn the grace of God into licentiousness” and throw off the restraints of godly living. Those who would hurl either term of abuse at their fellow Christians are guilty of trampling underfoot our Lord’s one “new commandment,” at the very time they think they are contending for what is pleasing to Him.

    1. John Thomson says:


      I agree with your quotation and that of Frame. We must conduct any discussions in the right spirit of love and forebearance. I can be overbearing in how I present things and this is wrong.

      That being said, I cannot resist pointing out that Roms 14,15 only works because the weaker conscience is objectively wrong in its belief. Paul calls for forbearing love because the Jewish believers had not yet fully grasped their freedom in Christ. Thus they observed jewish dietary laws and days (sabbaths) that they need not observe. They were not sinning they were simply not yet robust in conscience.

      Had the stronger conscience been in the wrong (in belief) Paul would have had no such tolerance for had they been rejecting dietary laws that were actually binding then that would have been sin and Paul would not treat sin, any sin, lightly. In the gospels Jesus criticises the Pharisees for ignoring the weightier matters of the law but he does not suggest the minutiae may be disregarded.

      Roms 14 supports an antisabbatarian position though rightly criticises the way it is defended.

      1. Garrett says:

        “Roms 14 supports an antisabbatarian position though rightly criticises the way it is defended.”

        Good word John!

        1. Nathan White says:

          Friends, though I can see how one phrase in Romans 14 seems to refer to the Sabbath, let it be said that there’s nothing definitive in the text that absolutely proves it. For Paul mentions eating and fasting explicitly (there were fast days, feast days, etc.), but nowhere does he mention the Sabbath by name or direct implication.

          Thus, though you may read an antisabbatarrian position into the text of Romans 14, the entire context of the chapter from beginning to end points to food, fasting, abstaining, etc. So it would be wise to temper the boldness of your statements here since what you are espousing must be read into the text (isogesis), rather than read out from the text (exegesis).

          1. Nathan White says:

            As a follow up to the post above, let me demonstrate this.

            In Rom 14, Paul begins the chapter by mentioning eating and abstaining in V2 and 3, and then ‘observing a day’ in V5 and the beginning of V6. But at the end of the thought in V6 he ties ‘observing the day’ to eating and/or abstaining. This is very telling. But even more telling is when he concludes his thoughts toward the end of the chapter, where he talks about ‘passing judgment’ in V13 and mentions nothing of ‘observing a day’ but rather talks of clean vs. unclean (V14), eating again in V15, eating and drinking in V17, again in V20, 21, 22, and 23. Never does he mention anything to do with a day of rest, of worship, work, or Sabbath.

            So yes, it certainly *sounds* like he’s talking about the Sabbath when he says ‘observes the day’, but every other reference to this issue in the chapter speaks of eating, fasting, clean, unclean, etc. So without a doubt, I can see nothing to do with the Sabbath in this passage. Clearly he is speaking of fast days, feasting days, special days of eating and drinking, etc. We must be careful of reading our position into the text and yet failing to let the text speak for itself.

            1. Raja Dani says:


              Perhaps then we can agree that there is enough room for disagreement on this issue, since there are in fact valid biblical arguments against the strict Sabbatarian position? Perhaps we can also agree that one should not be quite so dogmatic about the issue as well? And therefore, Christian brethren can disagree about this and not be in danger of excommunication for not being on your side (or the Puritan’s side, or whomever you wish)?

              I think that’s all we’re really getting at here…

              1. Nathan White says:

                Yes – there is room for disagreement here. I say this because, for the most part, even those who cry down the 4th commandment still oblige by it’s instruction in practice. And though they probably break it occasionally, there is mercy in Christ –for none of us have ever perfectly kept even one Sabbath day.

                And I certainly never intended to imply any sort of excommunication regarding the issue. My only point was that many of the heroes often mentioned on this blog would’ve probably excommunicated one who annuls the 4th (or any) commandment of God. True to their puritan culture, I guess :)

                However, I must say, I do scratch my head at anyone who calls themselves, even casually, “reformed”, when every historic reformed confession affirms the perpetuity of the 4th commandment. The view espoused here by Schreiner is miles away from the foundational framework of the reformers, puritans, and Calvinists of history. One wonders how long it will be until those holding to his views completely jettison the ‘reformed’ tradition altogether.

            2. Raja Dani says:

              Well, we’re really looking to line up with Scripture, not necessarily with Confessions (as good as useful as they are). I’m not so concerned about the labels…


    2. Robert Briggs says:

      Garrett, good post….we do need to recognise that this side of glory we will not resolve this one…good to discuss it though. It does need some airing but in love and humility and understanding that like other things good men sit on different sides.

  50. Jeff Downs says:

    John Thomas says “That is why the NT rarely refers to the Law in ethical matters and never as a final authority.”

    An interesting text is this regard is James 2:8-13

    “8If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well. 9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT COMMIT MURDER.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by (H)the law of liberty. 13For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

  51. John Thomson says:


    You are right, james is interesting in the whole question of Law. Let me present my understanding of the text quoted.

    James’s context is very Jewish. He writes to the 12 tribes (ch1). He has referred just previously to someone coming into their synagogue. The Law for Jewish believers was still held (rightly) in high regard. New Covenant believers live in the fulfilment of its intentions. It is hardly surprising that James quotes the Law or at least the essence of the Law as Jesus summarised it to support his criticism of partiality. Again it is a supporting/illustrative use not a covenantal demand.

    The ‘royal law’ is a reference in the first instance to the summary Jesus gives of the Mosaic Law in the gospels. The essence of the Mosaic Law is love. James then points out disobedience to one command of the Mosaic Law which Jesus had summarised in the word ‘love’ was guilty of all, that is was a law-breaker

    (Jas 2:10 (ESV)
    For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

    He is showing how serious loveless partiality would be treated if under Law.

    (A question to ask here from your perspective is – was James teaching here that Christian Jews (and gentiles though they are not to the fore) must keep the whole law, that is must not eat pork, shrimps, observe religious feasts etc. That is what you must say if you think James is basing Christian behaviour on the Mosaic law for he that breaks one part breaks the whole.)

    Two expression for me are key. James speaks of ‘fulfilling’ the royal law. Paul uses a similar expression in Roms 8.

    Rom 8:3-4 (ESV)
    For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    The point for both is that Christian living fulfils the essence of all that the Law really was concerned about ‘ a life of God love and neighbour love’. Neither is making the Law a rule of life (if they were we would all be culturally Jewish apart from anything else). I think that it is valid to say that although Christians do not ‘keep the law’ for they are not ‘under law’ nevertheless living in the Spirit they ‘fulfil’ the law since the life of love which the law demanded (as summed up by Christ and rich lawyer) is exactly what the Spirit produces in those who keep in step with him.

    A further contrast in James bears this out. The Mosaic Law treated very seriously any infraction. However, new covenant believers too would be judged. They may be thankful that they are not under the judgement of the Mosaic Law but they are judged by ‘the law of liberty’. I take this in Pauline terms to be the gospel and and its responsibilities, the law of Christ’. It is the ‘law of liberty for what the gospel demands by the Spirit it supplies. However they must not think that new covenant judgement for disobedience is in some sense lenient. If the life of God in the soul through the Spirit is not produced then no mercy will be shown to those who are merciless.

    In a sense Paul’s point is very similar to that of the writer of the Hebrews when he writes

    Heb 2:1-3 (ESV)
    Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,[the Law] how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, [the gospel]


    Heb 10:26-31 (ESV)
    For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    1. John Thomson says:

      Has Heidelborg closed its comments in case the many weaknesses of its arguments are exposed?

  52. Nick says:

    Q: Anyone want a good laugh?
    A: I believe the root problem here is Sola Scriptura.

    Q: Want to laugh again?
    A: I’m a Catholic posting this.

    In seriousness though, the hinge here is how to take the NT teaching on “Christian freedom” that no day is more special than another. And the fact is, Sola Scriptura cannot answer this question. Even though most “Reformed” are not Sabbatarian (in the SDA sense), the three main “camps” are:
    (1) those who take a very “Sabbatarian” view of Sunday (e.g. no tv)
    (2) those who take a lax view of Sunday (e.g. watch tv)
    (3) those who consider no day of the week as “special” or set apart

    Not only is there doctrinal disagreement on a very important issue here due to Sola Scriptura – but this leads to another problem of watering down the Gospel to simply salvation and everything else is literally personal choice and no effect on salvation.

    1. Andy says:

      “…this leads to another problem of watering down the Gospel to simply salvation and everything else is literally personal choice and no effect on salvation.”

      This is a feature, not a bug. ;) Our actions (for good or ill) DON’T have any effect on salvation. Nevertheless, true salvation is always followed by (or “completed by” as James puts it) a change in behavior.

      1. Nick says:

        I was really just getting at the point that the only “essential” is being saved, after that, all doctrines are “optional”. In other words, in this situation, how and when Christians worship is non-essential.

    2. steveprost says:


      But Sola Scriptura does answer the question, at least to the extent that God wants it definitively answered, whether or not we have consensus in figuring that answer out yet.

      Note that all sides of this argument post a whole assortment of exegetical, biblical theological, and systematic answers ALL taken from Scripture and what they claim to be logical and necessary inferences therefrom.

      Your answer from Rome, I presume would involve 2 differences from Sola Scriptura:
      a. Adding “tradition”, which would only confuse and complicate and make more dubious the integration of a plethora of Scriptural data we are already analyzing, and
      b. Adding “authority” of One institution (ultimately an infallible Pope, with some complications of supposed infallible Councils collectively) that tautologically in circle-argument fashion “decides” definitively the question.

      I would finally note that Scripture even has a doctrine on things that are “not revealed” in Scripture, and things that are not “essential” or defined in the specifics or applications (adiaphora).

      1. Nick says:


        If I’m reading you correctly, you’re saying the Bible answers this question, but the “problem” is with ‘us’ who cannot properly understand it? If that’s the case, I’m wondering how SS does anyone any good if after 2,000 years basic questions like that cannot be answered with a “consensus”.

        If you’re suggesting the matter is “non-essential,” then you confirm my original post, which states that SS waters down Christianity to being saved, and everything else is literally optional.

        1. steveprost says:

          Nick, for your first point your having Rome “answer” and provide “consensus” among those matters upon which reasonable difference may be had over multiple interpretations of the divinely authoritative document by making up a doctrine that the Pope/Council can not be wrong is akin to the Muslim answer in saying it does not have the problem in a multiplicity of manuscript evidence as Christianity does since it resorts to a central authority to burn all others.

          But even your central authority ends up not speaking to, or “deciding” a wide assortment of debated beliefs/dogmas and practices within those who accept such nonfallibility, which also answers your 2nd point. BTW, I do believe the Sabbath debate represented by Schreiner and traditional Reformed in this string is “non-essential” (not essential to salvation, the gospel, which does not mean one answer or another is not taught or that it is not ultimately important to your faith to get wrong), but it does not logically follow that I water down Christianity to ‘being saved’… rather that we are to define essentials of what MUST be believed just as you Catholics do. We look to Scripture for what MUST be believed, you look to the Magisterium, which itself looks to Scripture AND a hodgepodge of traditions and pronouncements up to the past 100 years to also determine that which definitively MUST be believed. Those MUST dogmas are delineated as opposed to those matters the Magisterium define as merely “encouraged doctrine” or furthermore things on which good Catholics may and do disagree. The Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary and denial of the Reformation doctrine of Justification by Faith are infallible dogmas that you MUST believe and submit to, but doctrines such as whether you are allowed to but are nonessentials (sometimes encouraged, sometimes just listed as things adiaphora or that Catholics are particularly allowed to disagree on) include the Mediatrix, apostolic poverty, deep differences about divine passibility, and a whole assortment of differences in the practice of biblical truth based on both Scripture interpretations and beliefs in truths of multivarious traditions and practices that some Catholics definitively hold as true about God and his ways and some do not.

          In sum, you have nonessentials, adiaphora practices, and a multitude of different opinion at least as much as we going off in all kinds of zigzagging directions on purgatory and opinions about the saints and Christian practice and application in worship throughout the world, but have the one so-called “advantage” of having deciding at some point that central human interpretations of the divine Word are themselves divinely authoritative and infallible on the matters they speak to by definition. That is simpler on that one point, but self-evidently extremely dangerous if you got that inference wrong.

  53. E.C. Hock says:

    Suppose one decides to see more continuity than discontinuity on the Sabbath question for Christian practice. Then the question arises about what a NT Sabbath ought look like apart from setting aside the Lord’s Day regularly for corporate worship? Does the Christian import and define the “Christian Sabbath” by still using OT references and warnings. Is it a kind of Christianized OT Sabbath? How does a Christian “keep the Sabbath” without becoming a Theonomist about the Sabbath? An emphasis on list keeping, with do’s and don’ts, and sanctions of a new law, has a way of creeping back into the matter and dominating what we mean and ascribe to being obedient. “You better rest this way or that on Sunday or else!” – may be the result.

    The dilemma: Is it Calvin’s version of Sabbath keeping? Is it some modified view with personal exceptions that finally is normative (at least for some)? Is it lastly what a presybtery or church council decides? Is it to be just as the English Puritan Sabbath? Which Reformed version of the Sabbath should obtain once it is agreed that some continuity exists here? Schreiner challenges us on this dilemma by proposing a more radical step and then having us struggle with the alternatives of grace, rather than of law.

    In all this defining and refining we come back invariably to fussing about “the day” and what one ought to do or not do on “the day.” Yet…Romans 14 sufficiently warns us against that very thing! Yet, if its moral law, as are the other tenets, then what discipline is to be applied?

    I appreciate many of Schreiner’s NT exegetical points, and honest logic with phrases and words and meanings, for we are at the point where logical sweeps from presumed ethical consequences, a beloved history, or general Testamental themes worded in the abstract, are not satisfying to the historical-grammatical-literary-redemptive approach we have been trained with of late in its interpretation.

    The hermeneutic on the role and place of the Sabbath within the Ten Commandments seems to be a lynch-pin for many of us, despite Schreiner’s thoughtful analysis on NT texts. He could have spent more time on that. Interesting to me, however, is how Paul never really instructs converted Gentiles in Acts, or in his letters, on the importance and vitality of Sabbath keeping for godliness, at least nothing like the ethical imperatives and dire warnings applied to Jews in the earlier covenantal economy of grace. Would we not expect that given how many of us want to elevate it today in the church, and how he is faithful to tease out deep gospel themes repeatedly? Is not that deafening silence something to ponder on the matter?

    What finally is the impact Jesus brings to the Sabbath-keeping question for the church as it is lived out through the freedom of the gospel by the church? What about the converted Gentile/Jewish question here in terms of what is continuous and what is left to the past under the Mosaic covenant, or at least under the order of creation? For those that abide by the Sabbath in some measure, how much can be assumed, and how much actually is modified given what Paul did in fact say?

    I appreciate Schreiner’s frontal approach to the matter and raising the awkward questions and partterns from key NT texts, though more discussion is raised by some of it than settled.

    1. Matthaeus Flexibilis says:

      E.C., I’d say that Frame’s treatment addresses many of your questions. I’ve quoted some of the more theological sections at length above. The more practical segments of what keeping the sabbath means are in his book. In short, he emphasizes physical rest from our work, with worship being convenient but not necessary on that day.

      1. E.C. Hock says:


        Thanks for unserting Frame’s approach. It has more promise on thorny matters like the Sabbath than with those who look at it without the nuance and resources offered by a multi-perspectival perspective. It is not a merely straight up and down action for Christians, as the ‘thou shall not’ prohibition is against adultery. You have either committed it or not, in deed or in heart.

        More so, the hermenuetics of the Decalogue, as a unified set of inter-related norms, are still being looked at apart from how they relate to the wider hermenutical principles of redemption between the Testaments, and then within the NT. Biblical theology, and its ease or not in resting within traditional confessional frameworks, stays in tension as Reformed thinking continutes to be reforming as more light shines on to help relieve age old debates. Just think of how long it took for the ecumencial councils to hammer down the person of Christ or the language of the Trinity.

        Back to the Sabbath: Paul does not openly affirm the Sabbath principle of a day and its normativity as one might expect, given how strong opinions are as they circulate about it continuity. It is rather amazing on what little is said about its priority in terms of specific behavioral and regulative features for Gentiles. We see how readily he writes short sets of ethical impertatives for Christians after his doctrinal matters. Where is the Sabbath as a moral norm? Is it so ubiquitous as a norm in the mission churches that it need not again be mentioned in Asia Minor and Achaia? What Paul does say can be contrued as rather negative, or shadowy. Paul is not one to neglect important issues of Christian life according to gospel.

        Frame appreciates such tension and in not presuming too much where there is silence. A purely “law-ethic” for Christian norms applies like a square peg in a round hole, if you do not have mediating features offered with a NT priority.

        The Sabbath can become a means to trip us into a “back to Moses movement” if we are not circumspect. I see him advocating a much needed humility between Reformed Christians in approaching the Sabbath matter, as he affirms a continuity position here under the gospel. Let’s start where we agree on the Lord’s Day before accentuating what distinctive angles we may have to set us apart.

  54. Gloria Dyet says:

    I do not believe the Sabbath is required for believers now that the new covenant has arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. You got it right. Can one just pick what they want from the OT to obey that item? No!

  55. Johnny McGoo says:

    Just curious: which side can claim that their view will enhance my ability to love others? And no, I’m not separating the source of truth from the fruit of love (as Piper may say), or ignoring the vital necessity of truth (as my hard-core Reformed brothers may say). I’m merely wondering if, as Paul said, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” which view allows me to love best?

    1. Larry says:

      Johnny McGoo,
      I would say the better question is, “Which view will enhance my ability to love God?”

  56. janejolene says:

    My husband and I spent a couple years trying to sort this one out, and have arrived at nearly the exact same conclusion as this article excellently puts forth. You can not believe the struggle, guilt, fear, and anxiety we experienced over dropping this “law”, and letting Christ BE our sufficient New Covenant “Sabbath Rest” once for all. To be honest, I am still tempted on certain days to revisit this and question if Christ is sufficient. But my personal conclusion is that I do not wish to return to a more “catholic” view of needing to “keep this law” to please God. THAT scares me even more. I know if you declare you must keep one, you get to keep them all, or suffer the consequences. Christ has fulfilled the law and, praise the Lord, He is enough! Having said that, there is much stronghold on this matter in the minds and hearts of men, and most of our dedicated Christian family members would not agree with this article and viewpoint at all. It begs the question, “So how does the mature Christian KEEP the Sabbath now?” The New Testament is strangely silent on this point. No rules, regulations, or ideas. For such an important command, you’d think the New Testament would be somewhat if not completely specific about it. I’ve searched again and again, trying to find any specifics and they are just not there. So it is certainly a choice one must make in the heart. Once you make that choice, prepare to face the torrent. There is a subtle river of legalism in it that you find once you try to break free, and a great backlash from some who don’t agree. But as Paul states… let each one choose… in his own heart. It is not a matter of salvation/condemnation, but a matter of freedom to walk in step with the Spirit, even as Jesus did… doing the Father’s will, healing even on the Sabbath. God give us grace to truly understand this so that we will be established by faith in the sufficiency of Christ.

    1. Larry says:

      I would never argue for keeping the Sabbath, or any other moral command, in order to please the Lord. Only Christ in us pleases the Lord. Rather, our keeping the Sabbath and other moral commands are ways that we show our love for God.

      1. janejolene says:

        Sometimes I think this could be an issue of semantics… but in this case I’m not so sure. I guess I would strongly prefer to say that in no way can one show God more love by keeping “the law”. Let me qualify that statement. If God sent Christ to fulfill the law for us, which He did. (Though not erasing it, for it stands, every jot and tittle, to convict us ALL before a holy God, and qualifies us completely for hell.) And if God was well pleased with the Son only, which we know He was. Then I strongly prefer to stand ONLY in the finished work of the Son to please God. Nothing added. In this freedom, I can walk in step with the Spirit of God (“do not grieve the Spirit…”), and know that it is Christ’s blood alone that enables me to be on the path of sanctification through the power of the Spirit of God. Therefore the law has no more hold or binding grip on me, just as sin no longer can have the bondage grip either. I find the argument that we show our love to God by following a moral code of laws to be the very thing that Paul speaks so strongly against in Galations. So, for me, to show love for God, as you put it, has more to do with yeilding my life to the sway of the Spirit of God, to do the will of the Father, in the power of Christ’s finished work… on any and every day of the week. That in itself is quite a challenge to the flesh (I’ll speak for myself). This is where I choose to stand. To stand on the side of following a code of moral laws to please God (say the 10 commandments point by point), to show that we love Him has a very wrong flavor to me. This is what the Pharisees were doing with all their heart. But they were rejected. Christ was looking not for better, or more sincere, or more loving law following as a result of His sacrifice to fulfill it. I find He was after a simple child-like faith, and a yielded heart.

        1. Larry says:

          You are confusing “pleasing God” with “showing our love to God.”

          Christ is the only way to please God. But Christ Himself told us that we show God our love by obeying His commands:
          If ye love me, keep my commandments. (Joh 14:15)

          So yes, God loves us only because of Christ and it has nothing to do with our works…but we love God and show that through our works of obedience.

          You speak of sanctification, and what is that except a growing in obedience to God? And this happens even as we grow in love for Him. But that surely doesn’t mean that He grows in His approval of us, because that is only in Christ.

          You said: I find the argument that we show our love to God by following a moral code of laws to be the very thing that Paul speaks so strongly against in Galations

          My reply: Please show me where in Galatians you are referring to so that i can see the context. Paul never tells us to neglect the moral law of God, he only tells us that it can’t save us.

          You said: So, for me, to show love for God, as you put it, has more to do with yeilding my life to the sway of the Spirit of God, to do the will of the Father, in the power of Christ’s finished work… on any and every day of the week.

          My reply: But how do you know if you are yielding to God’s Spirit or to some other spirit? The answer is by looking at God’s word and seeing if this spirit is leading you into the way towards are away from God’s moral commands.

          And this was not what the Pharisees did. They did not try to love to God by keeping His commands, they tried to justify themselves by keeping His commands.

          1. janejolene says:

            I wish I had more time to devote in this communication, because this topic does mean a great deal to me. Alas, I’m a homeschool mom to a houseful of children, and only have limited time to engage. So my reply will not be as exhaustive in answering as I’d like… (but thankfully I can type fast!)

            You make an excellent point about making sure we are yielded to the true Spirit of God, and not a false spirit. What a subjective defense for those who say, “The Spirit led me to…” on any and every point. I understand your concern. We have dear friends who have recently gone into error (I believe) on this very point. So I am quite jealous for clinging to the Word of God as our source of truth. And the Holy Spirit of God convicts THROUGH that Word… so it is essential not to live by feelings or notions, but by truth. And the Word of God will review deceptions.

            Having said that, I find that it is the enemy that so tries to persuade me to return to following standards in the moral code of law (subtle) that is preseved for us in the Old Testament history of Israel, so that I can feel better about my conduct in general. (It replaces my crying-out daily need for the power of God with a general feeling of “I’m not doing so bad. I didn’t do this. I didn’t do that. I honored my parents since my youth!”) Whereas God is not interested in my feeling “better” about my conduct or my inablity OR ability to obey in the flesh, but always looking steadfastly at my heart to see what is going on there. He is interested not in how I feel about myself at all, but intersested in one thing: Am I looking unto Jesus alone? Am I dead to my own will, and yielded to HIM? Am I keeping in step with Him? Not following codes, but following HIM. As the Scriptures lead to Him… just as the Pharisees searched the Scriptures, obeying what they thought would please God, but never came to the knowledge of CHRIST.

            Am I loving Him first? And loving and prefering others as is appropriate? Am I self-righteously defending myself to others in how I am “right”? (Dead give away something is a bit amiss in my heart.) Am I foiling to any form of peer pressure? (Adults can apply a lot of peer pressure, even in the church.) Am I realizing that I can’t do anything good apart from yeilding my will to the will of the Father… daily choices. I think you understand.

            So, yes, there is no getting around the fact that some of our Christian life is subjective. God does convict me of some things in my heart that I notice others have no issue with. That is His job (santification), and my privilege to yeild in those areas. Not saying it’s a cake-walk, but it still remains a privilege to be led of Him. Not to rewrite a new code of laws that everyone must follow… (“God convicted me this, so you do it, or quit it too!”) For we are not following the moral code of laws now, OR rewriting our own personal codes, but simply following Christ. And offering grace to one another. As Paul states, “let each one choose which day they will or will not observe and do that as unto the Lord” (paraphrase)

            I think this IS the heart of Galations. The whole book, taken in it’s entirety speaks to this very concern. The Galations started off justified in Christ through the gospel Paul presented… but they were shifting, adding to it, and well… Paul implies, they were wanting to feel a little better about their conduct by observing a smorgasboard of OT laws. Or yielding to the peer pressure to adopt some OT laws to their newfound life in Christ. Because the “mature, intimate, knowing, faithful, special” Christians were doing these things. They were picking and choosing the laws that suited their fancy. Paul was warning not to go back to the beggerly elements. He was giving an incredibly harsh warning of what would happen if they chose to do this.

            I maintain that it is a very fine line to follow the moral code of laws to please God or to show we love God… very fine line. Because if you say one should follow the moral code of laws because it shows you love God more, then guess what? It becomes a bonafide doctrine. What Christian doesn’t want to “love God more”, and thus… only immature or not-as-special Christians would consider not following the law/or specially approved laws that others are following. I’ve seen this first hand with our friends. The result was that they walked more “special” than we. They began acting as if they were more intimate, more mature, and without saying, we were the ones that did not quite measure up. We just didn’t “get it”. When we all know God’s Word says God is no respector of persons. He is not looking at us and our special conduct. He is LOOKING AT CHRIST. If the blood is there, we are safe. If we are in step with the Holy Spirit, we are doing the will of the Father IN HIS POWER- Looking unto Jesus. That power is applied to the heart, not applied to our ability to keep the law that Chrsit has already fulfilled.

            So, it is my conclusion that Christ IS ENOUGH. If you trust in Him, and you are born again… you are just as special as you will ever be, and adding any requirements or regulations to it may in fact put one in danger of giving up the true gospel for another gospel. My own heart is much more edified by the words of the hymn, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able, to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” Faith in Him. He is enough. Our response: humbly, thankfully YIELD our lives to do the will of the Father. A heart issue, not a follow-a-code to prove our love issue.

            I know this is not exhaustive, nor did I address all of your points adequately. And it does just express my own faith and understanding of God’s Word about our Savior. I must return to the fray! Have a good afternon…

      2. John Thomson says:

        This is a bit semantical. There is nothing wrong (and everything right) about trying to please God. The issue is simply motive. Are we seeking to please to gain salvation or out of love.

        1Thess 2:4 (ESV)
        but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

  57. Clay Peck says:

    As a former Seventh-day Adventist pastor, this post caught my attention. As I understand it there are three views on the sabbath:
    1. Continuance

    2. Transference

    3. Fulfillment

    Those who hold the Continuance view are the distinct minority who view the seventh-day Sabbath as a Creation ordinance that continues into the New Covenant and even throughout eternity in the New Earth.

    Those who hold the Transference view believe that Christ and the apostles transferred the Sabbath of the fourth commandment to Sunday as a Christian Sabbath in honor of the resurrection. They believe that the reason for observing Sunday is still based in the Ten Commandments even though the actual day has changed in the New Covenant.

    Those who hold the Fulfillment view believe that Christ fulfilled the Sabbath just as he fulfilled all the other types and shadows of the law that pointed forward to him. Therefore HE is our Sabbath who gives us perfect rest when we receive his Gospel of grace and trust in his finished work. Regardless of what day we worship on, no day is more holy than another day for New Covenant Christians – our focus is on Christ, not a day.

    Personally, I believe the Fulfillment view makes best sense. If the only two options were Continuance or Transference, I believe the Seventh-day Adventists have a more convincing argument. I argue in favor of the Fulfillment view in this paper:

    1. Bruce says:

      The three options are a convenient summary.

      I would agree that “Continuance” is wrong, and not well-represented among Christians.

      I take the opposite stance that you do, on “Fulfillment” or “Transference,” since I see such transference actually taking place in the NT. It may not often be termed “sabbath” in those pages (which only makes sense, given the temporal and spatial proximity to the Jewish era and custom), but we should avoid falling into the word/concept fallacy here.

      The Sabbath as institution was from creation intended for the meeting of man with his God. “The Sabbath was made FOR man.” Jesus is God. After the resurrection the Disciples are under no more illusions about the divinity of Immanuel. Before he even goes away to heaven, Jesus makes a point to come to the disciples and meet with them on the first day.

      After the Ascension the Disciples are meeting about round the clock, waiting as directed. And when does God-in-Christ make his presence specially known to them once again? He follows the same pre-Ascension pattern by coming again to them, this time by the Spirit he pours out. The same Spirit by whom we are now to worship.

      The pattern is maintained by the Apostles. The issue for them is: “By what pattern has God (the Son) shown us he wishes to call this meeting?” I argue that the only One with authorization to change his stated day of Worship is God, and he has so changed that day. The Apostles didn’t transfer the day on their own authority, but they taught and practiced the change taught to them by Christ himself.

      This is a matter of a theology of worship, the substance of all four of the first table of the commandments (“on these two hang all…”). If we are serious about answering God’s summons to worship, receiving from God that which he is pleased to give, and rendering unto God that which he is pleased to require–and avoiding our own inventions–then we ought to be minding what he has revealed concerning his pleasure with respect to time.

      If all your life is a celebration of your marriage, then your spouse won’t mind too much if you pick random occasions in your marriage to affirm the uniqueness of your relationship… or not? If “all of life” is a special and unique meeting of God, then there is NO special meeting with him. The corporate, called worship of God has been leveled off to the same earthly estimate as everything else.

      The Sabbath is about reserving the appropriate time for the set meeting with God, who calls all the shots, even setting the day, and calling the meeting to order.

      1. CMM says:

        I don’t want to be a “drive-by commenter,” but I do want to point out one thing. You said, “And when does God-in-Christ make his presence specially known to them once again? He follows the same pre-Ascension pattern by coming again to them, this time by the Spirit he pours out.”

        This happened on Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, which was celebrated seven weeks after Passover on the day after the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:15-16). The pouring out of the spirit on this day was a fulfillment of that feast, just as Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection were a fulfillment of the Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits. That Pentecost took place on “the first day of the week” was not a revelation. What was a revelation was what happened on this particular occasion of the feast.

    2. Nathan White says:


      Though this is a fairly helpful summation, (Continuance, Transference, Fulfillment), it doesn’t fully capture the classical Reformed position (IMO). For example, I agree with your summary of the Fulfillment view, and yet I also hold that the Lord’s Day is the New Covenant Sabbath. So there is a blending of the last two views.

      What people often forget is that the creation account also has a Sabbath –a Sabbath that is not intended to foreshadow Jesus Christ– and that this creation account Sabbath forms the foundation of the 4th commandment, but more fully the re-creation of the eternal Sabbath in Jesus Christ. In other words, there are many aspects to the ‘Sabbath’ as used in scripture. Some of these aspects are fulfilled in Christ, and some of them await fulfillment in the consummation of the re-creation (which we enter through Christ). Thus, we do not obey the 4th commandment for the exact same reasons, certainly not with the same focus, yet we are still to regard the Lord’s Day as holy, set apart, a blessing to us, and a taste and picture of the eternal Sabbath that awaits us.

      1. Bruce says:

        Respecting the typological, let us not forget:
        1) Israel was reminded of two reasons to keep the divine Sabbath, creation rest (Ex.20) and redemptive rest (Dt.5);

        2) what we enjoy in the “Sabbath-keeping that remains” (as a present privilege) is a foretaste of what is yet to come, the eschatological rest, where Christ is already, and has promised to take us. We are still in the wilderness of the present evil age, and have not crossed the Jordan. But God is yet in the midst of us, and invites us to rest on the way, in part to actually encourage us to press on for obtaining what those periodic rests are pointing to.

      2. Ralph W. Davis says:

        Nathan, and All:

        Personally, I find this thread quite depressing. It seems so many Christians are intent on nullifying one of the 10 Commandments, in the name of Jesus’ fulfillment of it;logically, that weakens the rest of the Decalogue too.

        Over-work, and under-worship, are classic American sins, which are agravated socially when so many as a people don’t honor the Lord’s Day, by working and not worshiping. As this becomes more and more the cultural norm (as I’ve seen it become, in my over 2 score of years) why do we wonder that more and more people don’t go to church, and non-Christians pour scorn on those Christians who do honor the Lord’s Day? If salt loses its saltiness what’s it good for?

        More than once, I’ve personally been denied employment because of my conviction of honoring Sunday as a part of Jesus’ Sabbath rest. It’s illegal actually to discriminate against religious Sabbatarians, but employers routinely get away with ignoring convictions on Sabbath keeping, as even Christians do as well–evidenced by a majority on this thread. It’s a sad day when people so confuse law and gospel, justification and sanctification, 2nd and 3rd uses of the moral Law of God, that they mutilate the written description of our love for God and neighbor, that is the 10 Commandments.

        1. Nathan White says:


          Perhaps I was misunderstood, but I was not at all discounting the perpetuity of the 4th commandment and the duty we have as new covenant Christians to obey it. However, my point was to show that yes, Col 2:16 does speak of some Sabbath aspects that are fulfilled in Christ, but other aspects, per Heb 4, are still yet future. Thus, as new covenant Christians, we absolutely obey the commandment in a different sense than did Israel, with better promises, in the newness of the Spirit, and as Christ and His resurrection as our focus.

          Bruce- excellent point about the creation and redemptive rest that was given to Israel. Certainly we see these two aspects continually intertwined throughout the scripture’s teaching on the subject.

        2. John Thomson says:


          ‘Over-work, and under-worship, are classic American sins, which are agravated socially when so many as a people don’t honor the Lord’s Day, by working and not worshiping.’

          Do you really believe a ‘Law’ even a divine law would change this? Did it change things for Israel? Did they keep the Sabbath?

          Yes laws may make conditions better for the overworked and that is good but it will never make men worship God. Laws, any laws, including God laws, cannot change the heart. Only a heart for God will make someone long to worship and be among God’s people; and that is gospel work not law.

  58. Clay Peck says:

    God gave the Sabbath as a weekly reminder of the perfect rest that had once existed before sin and to point forward to the restoration of that perfect rest in the accomplishment of the Messiah. Colossians 2:16,17 clearly says that the Sabbath was a
    shadow which pointed forward to the coming reality found in Christ.

    So the Sabbath reminded the children of Israel of the spiritual rest and fellowship with God that existed before sin entered, and the coming spiritual rest and restored fellowship which would be provided through the finished work of Christ.

    In the law of Moses God gave a cycle of Sabbaths. The Sabbath concept was not limited only to the weekly observance. Reading Leviticus 23-25, we see that there was a cycle of Sabbaths.

    -The weekly Sabbaths pointed forward to the seven annual Sabbaths (Leviticus 23).
    -The annual Sabbaths pointed forward to the Sabbatical Year. Once every seven years there was a Sabbatical Year where the land was given a rest (Leviticus 25:1-7). Debts were to be canceled and slaves were to go free (Deuteronomy 15:1-18).
    -The Sabbatical Year pointed forward to the Year of Jubilee every fiftieth year (Leviticus 25:8-55). Seven times seven is forty-nine. After every forty-nine years, the fiftieth was the year of Jubilee – the Grand Sabbath Year. The Jubilee was a
    year of liberty and release. Not only were debts to be canceled and slaves set free, but also land was to be returned to its original owners.

    Each Sabbath was leading to the next:
    -Weekly Sabbaths (ever 7th day)
    -Annual Sabbaths (7 every year)
    -Sabbatical Year (every 7th year)
    -Jubilee Year (after 7×7 years)

    Each Sabbath kept hope alive as the people were led to anticipate the ultimate “rest” that would come with the Jubilee. It is no surprise that Jesus uses Jubilee language to announce his mission in Luke 4. He is the fulfillment!

    1. Nathan White says:

      Hi Clay,
      You said: Colossians 2:16,17 clearly says that the Sabbath was a
      shadow which pointed forward to the coming reality found in Christ.

      Not to get in a long debate on a now dead thread, but Hebrews chapter 4 is clear that there “still remains” a Sabbath rest, eternity, and that we have not yet fully entered this reality yet. So there is still a future ‘Sabbath’, which most everyone can agree on. As such, no, the full, final fulfillment has not yet come to the “people of God”, though the means of that fulfillment (Christ and the rest He offers) has. Thus, just like the Lord’s Supper, we observe the Sabbath Day with an eye on what Christ has accomplished, and an eye on what He will accomplish at consummation.

      1. janejolene says:

        But the Hebrews 4:1 ends with: “…let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” It implies that it is a rest that we enter into right now through Christ. And later (v.10) adds: “For he who has entered His rest has himself also CEASED FROM HIS WORKS as God did from His.” I don’t think this means he has chosen not to work on Sabbath/Sunday as per OT law. But rather… The person who enters into the rest of Christ realizes that his works are completley useless (by way of law), and that real rest can only be found once for all in the finished work and Person of Jesus Christ.

        1. Nathan White says:

          I’d encourage you to read John Owen’s great exposition of this chapter, rather than going into all the exegetical issues here. For Owen makes a very convincing exegetical case that the man in V10 is Jesus Christ.

          A good parallel to this would be Rev 14:13, where scripture says: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

          Only those who die in the Lord are in ‘rest'; in this life we strive, fight, persevere by faith to enter what has been promised to us.

          So we see from the Heb 4 text that that the Sabbath rest “remains for the people of God”. Why is it, then, that those who hold to the fulfillment/abolishment of the Sabbath precisely argue that resting in Christ, by faith, in this life, is our obedience to the Sabbath? How then does this verse make sense? What sense would it make to say ‘faith in Christ is obeying the Sabbath, but there still remains a Sabbath for those who have faith in Christ’? –For the author here is not telling unbelievers that they have a future Sabbath rest if they have faith, but he is telling ‘the people of God’, those who’ve already professed faith in Christ, that their Sabbath is still future.

          So then, our final Sabbath rest hasn’t come just yet, for it is still yet future. This Sabbath rest is ‘for the people of God’. That is, those who have faith in this life will experience the Sabbath rest in the age to come. The Sabbath rest does not find its fulfillment in this life, per the teaching of this text, though we are assured that Christ is our Sabbath and will lead us to the eternal Sabbath at the consummation of His kingdom.

          Thus, the writer of Hebrews, far from outlining the abolishment of the 4th commandment, rather explains in this text the true meaning behind the Sabbath given new covenant/Christ fulfilled realities.

          1. janejolene says:

            Mr. White, I think I know from where you are coming. But I do see things differently now. I would respectfully encourage you to revisit Galations and consider: What was the primary issue Paul was addressing with the Galations? This study helped to solidify my own belief that “Christ alone” is the manifesto of the believer, nothing added.

            Also, if we are to keep the law now (to please God, show we love Him, or because if we don’t we are in danger of taking on the consequences of breaking the law- I know people who are in all three camps), and if this is very important to God that we shape our lives to do this thing out of love/respect for Him, then how do we do it? What does rest MEAN? Physical? Spiritual? Emotional? Or all three? What are the rules? Should it be a private observance? Or a corporate observance? Or a part corporate, part private? All day? Morning only? Full 24 hours? Wake up to bedtime as per our typical culture? Or sundown to sundown as per Israeli culture? Sunday? Or Saturday? Or Fri. sundown to Sat. sundown? Can you prepare food? If you are really spiritual do you prepare food in advance? Do you make others prepare food for you (eating out) as long as they are unsaved and going to hell anyway? Can you play a sport? Watch a sport? Is it subjective? Do we set the day apart any way we wish as long as we FEEL we are pleasing God? Do we follow our denominations traditions? Who has the authority to say? Is is sufficient to follow a denominational confessional from a few hundred years past? Because it set the standard in a time of reformation? Or do we go back and follow the O.T. requirements? If this is needful (since the N.T. is largely silent on the specifics of the issue) then there are a LOT of disobedient Christians out there who need to go back and start observing from Fri. sundown to Sat. sundown (as some good friends of ours have just concluded).

            Do you see the problem? The N.T. does not go into detail about these rules, or how Christians today are to “observe” whether normative, or regulative, or anything else. This practice was not placed on the Gentiles as a requirement when it came up for consideration at the Jerusalem Council. And it was not their tradition or requirement to keep the Sabbath. Thus Paul writes that we should not judge one another about which days we choose to set aside, or whether to treat all the same. Once Jesus had fulfilled it, it simply did not matter any more. So the focus for a Christian turns to living unto Christ, our complete and perfect rest. Just some thoughts for consideration…

    2. John Thomson says:


      Worth noting that Adam was created on the sixth day and immediately enjoyed on the following day the rest of creation. Indeed it was a day of rest that did not end (there is no mention of the seventh day having an ‘evening and morning’. God’s rest continued it would seem at least until sin entered.

      When sin entered and the rest of creation was broken God had a new work to do in redemption (My Father works up until now and I work…). He must create a new rest through redemption in which he and his people could rest.

      The point I want to underline however is one day in seven makes no sense in terms of the above. If man was created on the sixth day then it is the seventh and only the seventh that can be the day of rest when God and man share in his rest.

      1. John, you have answered your own question.

        You claim that if God’s rest of creation was on the seventh day, then it must remain so forever. However, you also rightly pointed out that God had to begin to work again after the fall. He began His work of redemption/re-creation (Jn 5:17), and He completed it on the cross on the Lord’s Day (1st day of the week). Thus we share in this rest that God accomplished and we are reminded/called to this rest every first day of the week.

        1. John Thomson says:


          Not sure that I asked a question. Not too sure either how far we are understanding each other, though we may be.

          My point is threefold about the Seventh Day. 1) The seventh day lasted until sin entered the initial creation. 2) The Sabbath given to Israel was a symbol of old creation rest and must of necessity be on the ‘seventh day’. 3) This makes sense as the OC of Law was addressed to Israel in the flesh. It assumed life in an old creation.

          However,in the NC we are no longer ‘in the flesh’. We have died to this world/old creation and all the powers that operated in it. We have died to the Law (and the Sabbath which was tied into old creation). Christ was in the grave on the Sabbath. This may be a symbol of him resting from a completed work, I think it probably implies too the end of the Law; the law has put Christ in a grave (and also beyond law). We with Christ live in resurrection in a new creation where Law has no claim thus we celebrate the day of resurrection, of new creation, of new beginning.

          Are we on the same page?

  59. Clay Peck says:

    Here’s my understanding of what “Sabbath-rest” in Christ means:

    1. janejolene says:

      I so appreciate your article on this topic, Mr. Peck. I had not thought of the transfiguration connected to this topic and in this light. But I do believe the emphasis on “Jesus alone” confirms the new covenant message that is contained and woven in all of the Scripture. I also understand the feelings of Mr. White, because I once held his view completely.

      I’m still eager to engage with this topic because I find it to be an incredibly POWERFUL truth, and almost essential for today’s Chrsitian believers to grapple with. I am actually encouraged to see it pop up on forums like this one. We have largely come from a generation who accepted a suedo-Sunday-Sabbath without question, and many of us were taught to keep the Sabbath in the strongest terms. It’s time to openly, respectfully question this- if nothing else to conform to the truth of God’s Word.

      If one is not convinced that Christ has fulfilled the law (and the fulness of what that means), then one may be in danger of never entering into that “rest” in Him (right now) that He has provided to those who believe. (Heb. 4) Also as Galations implies: You can not have it both ways. You are either a son of the bond woman, or a son of the free. What do you suppose is God’s attitude toward those who choose to mix the two? And teach the same? With all due respect to those who hold to the Sabbath keeping tradition/doctrine, I do fear that they are on a questionable path. My biggest fear is that they may have slipped into a deception of a different gospel. “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you into the grace of Christ, to a different gospel… Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (keeping the law)… Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entagled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 1:6, 3:3, 5:1) There is the mention of the “yoke of bondage” again as you so aptly pointed out in your article. Paul did not mince many words on this point. God give all of us grace to see and understand, and not inadvertantly battle against the truth.

      1. Clay Peck says:

        JaneJolene, that article was one of six parts if you’d like to read more. I believe there is much confusion between the old and new covenants and also it is artificial to draw a distinction between the “moral” law (Big 10) and ceremonial laws. Moses is Moses–first five books of the OT, the whole package. Either we are under it or we are not. Here’s a link to a study called “New Covenant Christians.” It was originally a six-part sermon series I did while leading a whole group of ex-Seventh-day Adventist to freedom in Christ at Grace Place church ( in Colorado:

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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