Archive for the ‘Fourth Commandment’ Category

Fourth Commandment in the New Testament

March 2, 2017

Is the fourth commandment repeated in the New Testament? The answer is both yes and no. The “no” is easy: the phrase “remember the sabbath day” is not used in the New Testament. On the other hand, one example of the way in which the fourth commandment is persent is that the command to labor is found in a variety of post-ascension sections of the New Testament. For example:

2 Thessalonians 3:8-12
Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

Ephesians 4:28
Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Acts 20:33-35
I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

1 Corinthians 4:11-13
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

Hart on the Lord’s Day and the NFL

January 25, 2013

Darryl Hart points out the rules that churches who decide to show the Superbowl at church must abide by, but notes that a better incentive might be provided by pointing out the 4th commandment (3rd for the Papalists).  It’s also provides an opportunity for pointing out the changing attitude of Rome toward’s the Lord’s Day (and other “holy” days) building on Hart’s other post (mentioned here).

The Catechism of the Council of Trent states:

Third Part of this Commandment
The third part of the Commandment comes next to be explained. It points out, to a certain extent, the manner in which we are to keep holy the Sabbath day, and explains particularly what we are forbidden to do on that day.
Works Forbidden
Thou shalt do no work on it, says the Lord, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates.
These words teach us, in the first place, to avoid whatever may interfere with the worship of God. Hence it is not difficult to perceive that all servile works are forbidden, not because they are improper or evil in themselves, but because they withdraw the attention from the worship of God, which is the great end of the Commandment.
The faithful should be still more careful to avoid sin, which not only withdraws the mind from the contemplation of divine things, but entirely alienates us from the love of God.
Works Permitted
But whatever regards the celebration of divine worship, such as the decoration of the altar or church on occasion of some festival, and the like, although servile works, are not prohibited; and hence our Lord says: The priests in the temple break the sabbath, and are without blame.
Neither are we to suppose that this Commandment forbids attention to those things on a feast day, which, if neglected, will be lost; for this is expressly permitted by the sacred canons.
There are many other things which our Lord in the Gospel declares lawful on festivals and which may be seen by the pastor in St. Matthew and St. John.

The Baltimore Catechism (Papalist) states:

238. What is forbidden by the third commandment of God?
By the third commandment of God all unnecessary servile work on Sunday is forbidden.

Six days shall you do work; in the seventh day is the sabbath, the rest holy to the Lord. (Exodus 31:15)

239. What is servile work?
Servile work is that which requires labor of body rather than of mind.

240. When is servile work allowed on Sunday?
Servile work is allowed on Sunday when the honor of God, our own need, or that of our neighbor requires it.

While I’m sure there is a mental aspect to NFL, I think it’s safe to say it is more labor of body than of mind.  I’m not sure I accept the RC distinction, which seems to permit white collar work while forbidding blue collar work, but of the two being a linebacker seems plainly to be more about muscle.

Of course, these days the CCC states:

2187 Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day. Traditional activities (sport, restaurants, etc.), and social necessities (public services, etc.), require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure. With temperance and charity the faithful will see to it that they avoid the excesses and violence sometimes associated with popular leisure activities. In spite of economic constraints, public authorities should ensure citizens a time intended for rest and divine worship. Employers have a similar obligation toward their employees.


Westminster West and Frame’s Point 27

March 26, 2012

Frame’s point 27 (from this list) of Escondido Theology is this: “The Sabbath pertains only to worship, not to daily work. So worship should occur on the Lord’s Day, but work need not cease.”

Meredith Kline wrote: 

Moreover, since the Sabbath is a sign of sanctification marking that which receives its imprint as belonging to God’s holy kingdom with promise of consummation, the Sabbath will have relevance and application at any given epoch of redemptive history only in the holy dimension(s) of the life of the covenant people. Thus, after the Fall, not only will the Sabbath pertain exclusively to the covenant community as a holy people called out of the profane world, but even for them the Sabbath will find expression, in a nontheocratic situation, only where they are convoked in covenant assembly, as the ekklesia-extension of the heavenly assembly of God’s Sabbath enthronement. That is, Sabbath observance will have to do only with their holy cultic (but not their common cultural) activity.

That seems to pretty clearly correspond to Frame’s accusation.  Kline is not the strongest advocate on this point, although his position does seem to underlie other E2k positions.  For example, Lee Irons argues as follows:

I am in complete agreement with Kline’s interpretation of the function of the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant, thus limiting its observance to the covenant community. I also agree with his theocratic analysis of the Sabbath in the pre-fall and Mosaic economies. But I have reservations about his exclusive application of the new covenant Sabbath sign to the cultic activity of the assembled church. The implication seems to be that our Sabbath duties are exhaustively fulfilled by attending corporate worship. Furthermore, not only are Christians permitted to engage in cultural activity on the Lord’s Day outside of public worship, they are positively required to do so. For to rest from cultural activity on the Lord’s Day would be to place the holy stamp of eschatological consummation upon non-holy cultural activity, thus profaning the Sabbath.

Ironically, those whose Sabbath practice is more in line with the Puritan approach of resting all the day from “worldly employments and recreations” are the greatest violators of the Sabbath, and are theoretically subject to church discipline. I doubt that Kline would want to see his view implemented in our churches with such unyielding disciplinary rigor. But even if strict Sabbatarians are permitted the freedom to practice the Puritan Sabbath according to the light of their conscience, it still does not ring true to say that resting from cultural activity on the Lord’s Day is sinful. I want to avoid laying heavy burdens upon God’s people – whether it be the intolerable yoke of the strict Sabbatarians who say that we must rest from any and all cultural activity, or an inflexible application of Kline’s exegetical insights in which the church’s freedom from the Mosaic Sabbath is distorted into a new legalism requiring that we engage in cultural activity on the Lord’s Day.

Irons is not just arguing that Kline’s position implies that men may work seven days (without excuse) but that they must!  This position contradicts Scripture (particularly the 4th commandment) and also lies outside the bounds of the Confession.

Note that Jason Stellman (one of Frame’s targets) does not follow Kline or Irons’ extrapolation of Kline, but instead takes a more traditional approach. Stellman quotes (approvingly, with a qualification):

“The other difference between Stellman and some of the other Escondido theologians is that he takes issue with Kline’s view of the Sabbath. Kline believed that Sabbath observance in the new covenant pertains to the Lord’s Day worship service alone. He thought that the Sabbath pertained only to what is ‘holy,’ and in the new covenant holiness pertains only to worship, not to work. Therefore we should not rest weekly from the tasks we pursue on the other six days.

“Stellman, however, argues that since the Lord’s Day is a day, and not just a few hours, we ought to withdraw from cultural tasks on that entire day (pp. 57-59).”

Stellman’s qualification is that he thinks he is not alone amongst E2k advocates. He writes:

… I don’t remember a single professor during my three years at Westminster Seminary California ever agreeing with Kline’s view of the Sabbath, either privately or in class.

I will note, however, that Kline is listed as amongst the Faculty Emeriti in the current academic catalog.  Escondido is not particularly active in distancing themselves from Kline.

I know that Pastor Stellman sometimes stops by this blog.  I wonder whether he would be willing to confirm that he agrees with “Kline’s interpretation of the function of the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant, thus limiting its observance to the covenant community.” (Irons’ description)  If so, then we may be able to at least identify one of the core principles of E2k, with three distinct branches built on that foundation.


More not Less Church as the Day of the Lord Approaches

October 21, 2009

One of the questions that Mr. Arnzen asked Mr. Harold Camping, during the four-day discussion on Iron Sharpens Iron between Dr. James White and Mr. Harold Camping, was about whether the listeners of Family Radio have their own gatherings. Mr. Camping indicated that, aside from a small group in Almeda, California (where Mr. Camping resides), he does not encourage his listeners to gather together. As we will see below, this practice of abandoning the fellowship and communion of the saints is not only contrary to the historic creeds of the church, but also (and much more importantly) contrary to Scripture itself. In the current post we will see this shown from Hebrews 10:23-25.

Hebrews 10:23-25
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Harold Camping admits that Judgment Day is in view here: “We know that Judgment Day is in view in this verse … .” (source) Mr. Camping is right because we see from the context that the “day” mentioned here is the day of the Lord, the day of judgment:

Hebrews 10:30-31
For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Nevertheless, Harold Camping argues that:

Returning to Hebrews 10, verses 24 and 25, we read a very curious comment. Verse 25 declares:

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner is…

This is indeed curious language. One would think that it would be more logical to say, “not forsaking the assembling of the congregation” or “not forsaking the assembling of the church.” Why does God use the strange language, “assembling of ourselves”? As we have already noted, God is focusing on the time when Judgment Day is very near. We understand this by the phrase, “so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Another curiosity is the usage of the Greek word episynagogen which is translated “assembling together.” This Greek word is used in only one other instance in the Bible. That citation is II Thessalonians 2:1, where we read:

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.

The phrase “gathering together” in this verse is translated from the same Greek word episynagogen. When we look at the context of II Thessalonians 2:1, we know who is assembling or gathering together. This passage is speaking of those individuals who are gathering together to meet Christ at his coming. The only people who are ready to meet Christ at his coming are true believers. Churches will not be ready to meet Christ. Whole congregations are not ready to meet Christ. Even if Christ had come before the church age was over, only a remnant of the congregation would have been ready to meet Him.

The point God is making is that the Greek word episynagogen emphasizes the gathering together of individuals. It is not in any way looking at a body of people who are all members of one local congregation.

This agrees with the usage of the same Greek word, episynagogen, which we find in Hebrews 10:25, where God emphasizes that individuals are in view as indicated by the usage of the word “ourselves.” Thus, a body of people, like a local congregation, cannot be in view in Hebrews 10:25 any more than a local congregation could be in view in II Thessalonians 2:1.

(same source)
This argument is absolutely absurd. Allow me to elaborate, though, because my simply saying it is absurd will have little weight with Harold Camping’s listeners.

The term “episynagogen” is a word that combines “epi” (a primary preposition that has, in this case, a directional sense) and “sunagoge” (the word from which we derive “synagogue” meaning the meeting or meeting place). To “episunagoge” means to get to synagogue, or to use modern terminology “go to church.”

Someone may point out that the term might have a broader sense of simply coming together as an assembly in Greek. While that is true, the context cannot be ignored. This is an epistle to the Hebrews, and must be understood within that context: as being written to Hebrews.

The attempted imposition of the context of 2 Thessalonians 2:1 is also wrong. Even if we understand 2 Thessalonians 2:1 to refer to the gathering unto Christ at the second coming (something of which the church is a foreshadow), that is certainly not the sense that is being used in Hebrews 10:23-25.

We know that it is not the sense of Hebrews 10:23-25, because Hebrews tells us two things:

(1) “as the manner of some is”

While the verb “is” is implied (not stated) in the Greek, the point of the phrase is to compare what the Hebrews should not do with what others have or are doing. But the coming of Christ is not something that has already come, and consequently there would be nothing to which to compare if the sense of “assembling of ourselves together” is a reference to the gathering at the second coming rather than the weekly gathering.

(2) “and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching”

Again, this provides a comparison. The comparison is between the present and the future. This serves to demonstrate that the verse is talking about something that the Hebrew believers were already doing.

It is not just a comparison, but a comparison of enhancement. They are not to get to church less and less as they see the day of the Lord approaching. Instead, they are to assemble more and more. This practice of fellowship is to increase until Jesus’ return.

Finally, the argument is absurd because the idea that “ourselves” should be contrasted to “church” is itself absurd. The focus is on the activity of the individuals in going to the assembly. That individual action is contrasted with the action of some people who don’t go to church. The usual sense of the text is not that the individuals are supposed to get others to go to church, but that they themselves should go to church.

But I have left out the most obvious argument in the discussion above. The text says:

Not Forsaking

That means “don’t stop.” The Greek is “μὴ ἐγκαταλείποντες,” which means to leave something behind. We see it used in several places in Scripture:

Acts 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Romans 9:29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

2 Timothy 4:10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

2 Timothy 4:16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

As you can see, in every instance it refers to a pre-existing condition that is then either (positively) maintained by the thing remaining, or (negatively) altered by the thing being discontinued. In this case, the pre-existing condition is that the Hebrew believers are going to “synagogue” (first to the synagogue of the Jews and later to the Christian church which corresponds thereto).

The undeniable conclusion is that the author of Hebrews, God himself who inspired it, is telling the Hebrews to continue doing what they were already doing, namely assembling together to worship God. Moreover, God is telling them not to stop doing this but to continue this more and more as the day of judgment approaches. The end of the church age, if we wish to call the New Testament period by that name, is Judgment Day. That day has not yet come, and consequently we are called to continue to assemble together.


The Importance of Church Going

July 1, 2009

I recently came across the Youtube video of a user who calls himself BroJustin. Justin (I presume that’s his name) is not a big fan of churches. In fact, at the end of his video he states: “I believe church-going is demonic” (link to video – obviously not recommended).

Considering his video I was struck by a few things. Justin raises a few good points about abuses of church going and then primarily appeals to the segment of discontented folks before unleashing the “church-going is demonic” bomb.

What are Justin’s good points? There are folks out there who are more interested in whether a person goes to church than in what that person actually believes. These folks seem to think that the only folks who are unsaved are atheists and the small (I think) number of anti-church folks like Justin. Such a priority is out of whack. Going to a bad church could leave someone spiritually worse off than staying at home. The externality of going to church is a good thing, but it is merely an external thing.

What’s another good point? Justin raises the problem of unsaved people who feel comfortable in church. There are many churches where this is a real problem. While we do want the unsaved to hear the gospel, the doctrines of God are unpleasant to the unregenerate man.

But these problems with some (perhaps even many or most) churches and church-goers do not negate the fact that church-going is a good thing that is expected of Christians.

What is the Biblical proof?

1) We see it taken for granted in the epistle of James:

James 2:2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

2) We see it exhorted as a duty not to be forsaken in the epistle to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

3) We see it practiced (on the Lord’s Day) from the very beginning of the church:

John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

4) We see that it was a Jewish practice that Paul continued and that we continue:

Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

These four proofs should be enough. Christians are to continue the Jewish practice of weekly meeting (assembly) for worship, although we meet on the first day of the week in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ, that great act of redemption that gives us rest from the bondage of sin and the completion of the new creation.


Wes White on the Sabbath

October 30, 2008

Pastor Wes White has, as usual, provided an excellent well-thought-out blog article, this time on the Sabbath (link). It helps to clear up a number of misconceptions regarding the Sabbath.


Wes White on the Regulative Principle of Worship

October 9, 2008

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pastor Wes White’s blog post on the Regulative Principle of Worship (link). Obviously, Pastor White and I would disagree over some minor aspects presented in his article, but on the major points of the article, he hits the nail right on the head.

Pastor Wes White wrote:

Second, even if we only sang psalms, there would still be problems. You could still do a light, happy-clappy type worship just singing psalms. Indeed, many of the modern praise choruses are simply portions of psalms. Thus, I think that trying to use the RPW to solve everything is a dead end.

Indeed, that is so! RPW is the second commandment, but “happy-clappy type worship” that disrespects God is a violation not of the second commandment but of the third commandment. Just as it would be God-dishonoring to practice Exclusive Psalmody (EP) in a church that denied the Trinity (violation of the first commandment) or in a church that refused to meet weekly on the Lord’s Day (violation of the fourth commandment), so also it would be God-dishonoring to practice EP in a way that loses sight of the fact that worship is to be directed Godward, and to be suitably respectful to our great God and King.

Following the Second Commandment doesn’t get you off the hook with respect to the other three commandments of the first table!


Sunday is not a Day for Football or Olympics

August 24, 2008
The Westminster Confession states:

Chapter XXI, Section, VIII.

This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their wordly employments and recreations, but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

The London Baptist Confession (1689) states:

Chapter XXI, Section, VIII.

The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe a holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

Even the Baltimore Catechism (a Roman Catholic document) states:

“Not satisfied with doing only what the Church obliges us to do on Sundays and holy days, those who really love God will endeavor to do more than the bare works commanded. Sunday is a day of rest and prayer. While we may take innocent and useful amusement, we should not join in any public or noisy entertainments. We may rest and recreate ourselves, but we should avoid every place where vulgar and sometimes sinful amusements, scenes, or plays are presented.” (source) (cf. also the catechism of Pious X)

I have not included anything from the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” because it has taken a more liberal attitude toward the Sabbath day.

May the God of the Sabbath, who has given us rest, bless us,


Friday Menu: Rotini with Meat Sauce

February 16, 2008

I recall some years ago visiting a hotel, and encountering a young man wearing a yarmulke. We met in the lobby of the hotel. After we got on the elevator, he asked me for a favor. He asked me if I would unlock the door of his hotel room for him. You see, the hotel has electronic locks, and operating the hotel’s lock was, in the view of this Jewish man, a violation of the Sabbath.

Oddly, he had not the least compunction in asking me to violate the Sabbath for him. I disagreed with the man’s theonomy, and so I agreed to assist. I pressed the elevator button for him, and I unlocked his door for him. I thought it would be pointless to dispute the matter with him.

Later I investigated whether this was normal or not. After all, normally if something is wrong, it is wrong to ask someone else to do that wrong thing for you. One cannot ask a stranger on a train to murder one’s father, nor (thought I) could one ask a stranger in a hotel lobby to violate the Sabbath. It turns out that the standard Jewish response to the latter question is to distinguish.

Apparently, the standard Jewish answer is that the Sabbath is only for the Jews, not for the Gentiles. Thus, it’s perfectly ok for me (who the young man assumed to be a Gentile) to break the Sabbath, but not ok for me to kill (since prohibitions on murder are more universal).

Why do I bring this up now? The reason I bring it up is because I had a tasty dinner of Rotini with Meat Sauce on a Friday during Lent. I’m interested in Catholic opinion on the matter. Do Catholics think that Lent applies to Christians that are not Catholics? What about to formal/material heretics? In other words, is Lent to Catholics as the Sabbath is to Jews?

On the other side of the spectrum, I am aware that Ramadan in some Muslim countries is enforced by the police. It is not a defense to a charge of breaking Ramadan in any public place that you are not a Muslim.

Furthermore, such a view is not entirely outside Catholicism. Recall that the Fourth Lateran Council decreed:

68. Jews appearing in public
A difference of dress distinguishes Jews or Saracens from Christians in some provinces, but in others a certain confusion has developed so that they are indistinguishable. Whence it sometimes happens that by mistake Christians join with Jewish or Saracen women, and Jews or Saracens with christian women. In order that the offence of such a damnable mixing may not spread further, under the excuse of a mistake of this kind, we decree that such persons of either sex, in every christian province and at all times, are to be distinguished in public from other people by the character of their dress — seeing moreover that this was enjoined upon them by Moses himself, as we read. They shall not appear in public at all on the days of lamentation and on passion Sunday; because some of them on such days, as we have heard, do not blush to parade in very ornate dress and are not afraid to mock Christians who are presenting a memorial of the most sacred passion and are displaying signs of grief. What we most strictly forbid however, is that they dare in any way to break out in derision of the Redeemer. We order secular princes to restrain with condign punishment those who do so presume, lest they dare to blaspheme in any way him who was crucified for us, since we ought not to ignore insults against him who blotted out our wrongdoings.

So then, the simple question is: is my consumption of Rotini with meat sauce on Friday during Lent a mortal sin for me, or only for my Catholic neighbors? Is Lent more like Ramadan or the Jewish Sabbath? And if the latter, would you please pass the meatballs?


UPDATE: I realize that Orthodox views on Lenten fasting are somewhat diferent. I’d be interested in Orthodox thoughts on whether it is sin for Reformed Christians to violate the various prohibitions on eating, drinking, and sex during that period.

Further Update: Thanks to Reginald for his well-reasoned response from a Catholic perspective here (link). If I may summarize his answer: in his view it is more like the Jewish Sabbath, in that it is permitted for non-Catholics to ignore the fast, because the moral basis of obligation is dependent on the duty of Catholics to obey their church.

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