Friday, May 23, 2008

Sabbath For All part 2

As funny or scary this picture is (depending on how one looks at it), it shows that in even our own country, the Sabbath and its importance has been debated. To what extent should the Laws of a nation govern the Sabbath? Should all men be in church on Sunday? Do we put men to death for violating the Sabbath?

Exodus 35:2 states, "Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death." So how should the Christian respond?

The Philadelphia Baptist Confession states in section 1,

"1. The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures."

It is clear throughout the New Testament that the Christian is obligated to obey the Law of God under the New Covenant's application of the Moral Law. The Law cited throughout the New Testament is summarized by the Decalogue. The Apostle Paul also summarizes the Decalogue in 1 Timothy 1:8-11 as applicable to the Christian life. We are told by the same Apostle Paul in Romans 2 that the Law of God is written upon the hearts of unbelievers at creation.

The Moral Law of God was not invented by Moses, but was given to man at his creation. Although men have perverted and twisted the law of God, men are still accountable to it. Notice Paul's words in Romans 2

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

So the entire Bible teaches that the Moral Law of God in general and the Sabbath Law in particular is written upon the hearts of men. So the obvious question now comes to the front. Why not the death penalty then?

If one understand the Covenants God has made throughout the Bible and their importance, there really is no question. For atheists like Aaron Sorkin to cite these texts in this fashion shows their unwillingness to see the text of Scripture in its context and in their broader scope of Redemptive History.

When Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments, God was establishing a Covenant with a special people that He had chosen. God had taken the Moral Law, as summarized by the Decalogue, written upon the heart at creation and established it in a unique way. God had made a new application of His Law upon tablets of stone to a particular people and a particular nation. This Covenantal aspect of the application of the Law is not to be confused with its general application from the creative act of God in Genesis 1-2.

Of course, this still begs the question of how should we view it today. First, National Israel's Old Covenant and its application (such as the death penalty for breaking the Sabbath) has passed away. God has reconstituted the Israel of God to be both Jew and Gentile. Jesus Christ is the true Israel of God. He has established the New Covenant with a particular people and nation before God, which is what the New Testament calls the church. This church is not the state. The New Testament does not give the church the powers of the state but is to abide among the peoples of this world under their respective governments. The Gospel is able to go into all the world without overthrowing governments.

Second, there is no command to go into all the governments and convert them to become Sabbatarians. Christians are subject to the civil rulers and authorities God has put into place. Chapter 25 section 3 of the Baptist Philadelphia Confession states,

3. Civil magistrates being set up by God for the ends aforesaid; subjection, in all lawful things commanded by them, ought to be yielded by us in the Lord, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake;and we ought to make supplications and prayers for kings and all that are in authority, that under them we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.

(Rom. 13:5-7; 1 Pet. 2:17; 1 Tim. 2:1, 2)

Although this is just a brief summary of the arguments explaining the Covenantal aspects of the Moral Law of God, I want to be clear. Just as the commandment against murder is binding upon all men, so also is the Sabbath. Yet there is a distinction between the Covenantal application of these Laws and the same Law written upon the hearts of men. Therefore, the Christian should argue in the public forum for the Sabbath's morally binding nature while recognizing the distinction between church and state and its covenantal applications respectively.

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