Is the Fourth Commandment Applicable to the Church Today?
By Nick Bibile
20:8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Fourth commandment was it only applicable only to the Old Testament period of time, and is this commandment come under the ceremonial law, which was abolished by Christ Jesus on the cross? These are good questions; good questions need good answers to clarify the matter. There are divisions on this matter.
1. The Seventh Day
Adventist Church believe that the Sabbath Day exists in the same form as the
Old Testament times, and they celebrate the Sabbath Day on Saturday.
2. The majority of the evangelical Christian Churches believes the Sabbath Day is not applicable to the church today as it was only a ceremonial law. The churches that believe on this are Southern Baptists, many other Baptists (Except Reformed Baptists) Calvary Chapels, Assemblies of God, Four Square Churches and many non denominational and inter denominational churches.
3. The Reform Churches who believes the moral aspect of the Sabbath Day is applicable to the church today, although the ceremonial part of it is done away on the cross, but the substance of Sabbath Day still continues in Christ and the day is changed to Sunday with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which happened on the first day of the week.
It is interesting to see that there are major three views on this and we know for sure that one is correct and two are wrong. In this article I want to focus my attention to the second and the third view and will reserve on the Seventh Day Adventism on another day, as I believe they do not fall into mainstream Christianity. Now we have narrowed this down to two. First of all we need to get a good understanding of this issue, we can narrow it down even more, as the dividing line on this issues is the majority of the churches believe, Sabbath Day is totally ceremonial and not moral. The Reform churches believe the Sabbath Day is two fold, there is the ceremonial part and the moral aspect, the ceremonial part was abolished on the cross but the moral aspect still continues.
Many believe Sabbath Day is not moral but ceremonial only.
Christian writers are wont to call it typical, as containing the external
observance of a day which was abolished with the other types on the advent of
Christ. This is indeed true; but it leaves the half of the matter
((BOOK II CHAPTER 8 SECTION 29
THE SABBATH COMMANDMENT AS PROMISE)
Calvin believes the
external observances of the fourth commandment the ceremonial laws of it were
abolished by the Lord Jesus Christ, but the moral law still continues. John
Calvin said, yes the ceremonial law the shadows that contains the Sabbath is
done away, but the moral law of the Sabbath still continues.
(We will get into scriptures in next week when we continue on this subject)
The following is another quotation.
Indeed the Law is not abolished (Mt 5.18); so we must hold now the substance and truth of it. Even so, the shadow of it is done away by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Sermons on Deuteronomy by John Calvin)
Only the ceremonial
law was abolished in Christ Jesus, and there is nowhere in the scriptures to
show that the moral law was abolished.
Mt 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Some say the law is done away, Calvin said it more clearly that it was the ceremonial law that was done away but the moral law still continues. If we believe the dispensational position then there are no Ten Commandments for the church today, as there will be only Nine Commandments. It should be the "Ennealogue," not of the Decalogue. There is so much talk on the Christian radio how they have taken away the 10 Commandments from the schools, I beg your pardon? There are no 10 Commandments as per dispensationalist that exists, as they believe only 9 commandments are moral and the fourth commandment is not under the moral law and it is abolished, so they have only 9 commandments.
Philip Schaff the
great church historian who wrote volumes of church history said,
"It is incorporated in the Decalogue [the Ten Commandments], the moral law, which Christ did not come to destroy, but to fulfill, and which cannot be robbed of one commandment without injury to all the rest." (Taken from the eight volume History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff; volume 1, pages 476-480.) Also he said, " Next to the Church and the Bible, the Lord's Day is the chief pillar of Christian society."
John MacArthur said, there is not one New Testament command to keep the Sabbath. Arthur W. Pink has this in answer. "We speak of the Holy Trinity, the Divine Incarnation, the substitutionary work of Christ, yet none of these expressions are found in scripture. Nevertheless the realities are."
Some say, the all of
the 10 commandments are repeated in the New Testament, except the fourth
commandment, "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. However Jesus
Mt 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Jesus did not say, "on these two commandments hangs all the law and the prophets except the fourth commandment."
Some say that there
are no Sabbath rules in the New Testament. Of course not because the ceremonial
aspect which was demolished by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther said on the 10 commandments, ” From this it again appears how highly these Ten Commandments are to be exalted and extolled above all estates, commandments, and works which are taught and practiced aside from them. For here we can boast and say: Let all the wise and saints step forth and produce, if they can, a [single] work like these commandments, upon which God insists with such earnestness, and which He enjoins with His greatest wrath and punishment, and, besides, adds such glorious promises that He will pour out upon us all good things and blessings. Therefore they should be taught above all others, and be esteemed precious and dear, as the highest treasure given by God.".
If Charles Spurgeon
was alive today will he agree with the dispensational teaching on the fourth
commandment? Yes, he will. Spurgeon too like all the reformers believed
the moral law of the Sabbath Day still continues and this is what Spurgeon said
on keeping the Lord's Day.
1. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days (Lev. 23:3), and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship (Ps. 92:1-2; Isa. 58:13-14), except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and mercy (Matt. 12:11-12). (Taken from Charles Spurgeon's Catechism)
Let us see what John
Bunyan said on the fourth commandment.
"Have a special care to sanctify the Lord's Day; for as thou keepest it, so it will be with thee all the weeklong. Make the Lord s day the market for thy soul; let the whole day be spent in prayer, repetitions, or meditations; lay aside the affairs of the other part of the week; let thy sermon thou hast heard be converted into prayer. Shall God allow thee six days, and wilt thou not afford him one? In the church be careful to serve God, for thou art in his eyes, and not in man's." (John Bunyan)
Arthur W. Pink said, on the fourth commandment, "The lasting nature or perpetuity of this twofold Commandment is further evidenced by the fact that in the above reason given for its enforcement there was nothing which was peculiarly pertinent to the nation of Israel, but instead, that which speaks with clarion voice to the whole human race. Moreover, this statute was given a place not in the ceremonial law of Israel, which was to be done away when Christ fulfilled its types, but in the Moral Law, which was written by the finger of God Himself upon tables of stone, to signify to us its permanent nature."
Thomas Watson (1620-1686) the famous puritan writer said, "The thing I would have you now observe is, that the commandment of keeping the Sabbath was not abrogated with the ceremonial law, but is purely moral, and the observation of it is to be continued to the end of the world."
The great theologian Charles Hodge (1797-1878) said, " It is a strong argument in favour of this conclusion, that the law of the Sabbath was taken up and incorporated in the new dispensation by the Apostles, the infallible founders of the Christian Church. All the Mosaic laws founded on the permanent relations of men either to God or to their fellows, are in like manner adopted in the Christian Code. They are adopted, however, only as to their essential elements."
What Charles Hodge is saying here is that the ceremonial law of the Sabbath is abolished in Christ but the moral aspect the essential elements were adapted to the early Christian Church.
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) the great preacher said, "I turn to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ when He was upon earth. I cannot discover that our Saviour ever let fall a word in discredit of any one of the Ten Commandments. On the contrary, I find Him declaring at the outset of His ministry, "that He came not to destroy the law but to fulfill," and the context of the passage where He uses these words, satisfies me that He was not speaking of the ceremonial law, but the moral (Matt. 5:17). I find Him speaking of the Ten Commandments as a recognized standard of moral right and wrong: "Thou knowest the Commandments" (Mark 10:19). I find Him speaking eleven times on the subject of the Sabbath, but it is always to correct the superstitious additions, which the Pharisees had made to the Law of Moses about observing it, and never to deny the holiness of the day. He no more abolishes the Sabbath, than a man destroys a house when he cleans off the moss or weeds from its roof. Above all, I find our Saviour taking for granted the continuance of the Sabbath, when He foretells the destruction of Jerusalem. "Pray ye," He says to the disciples, "that your flight be not on the Sabbath Day" (Matt. 24:20). I am utterly unable to believe, when I see all this, that our Lord did not mean the Fourth Commandment to be as binding on Christians as the other nine."
The church fathers are those who were the disciples of the apostles and the early Christians would also disagree with the dispensational view on the fourth commandment as they too saw the moral law of the Sabbath Day. Let us see some of their quotations.
Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, A.D. 101, says: "Let every one that loves Christ keep holy the Lord's day--,the queen of days, the resurrection day, the highest of all days."
Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, who wrote in the second century, says: "Both custom and reason challenge from us that we should honor the Lord's day, seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus completed his resurrection from the dead."
Irenaeus Bishop of
Lyons, who also lived in the second century, and who was a disciple of
Polycarp, who was a companion of apostle John, speaks of the Lord's Day as the
Christian Sabbath. "On the Lord's day," said he, "every one
of us Christians keeps the Sabbath."
Clement of Alexandria, of the same century, testifies: "A Christian, according to the command of the gospel, observes the Lord's day, thereby glorifying the resurrection of the Lord."
Tertullian, of the same period, says: "The Lord's day is the holy day of the Christian church."
The witness of the early church believed that the Sabbath Day, the moral aspect still continues as they observed and all the Reformers and the Puritans believed the same except the majority of the modern Church believes that the early Church is wrong, the Reformers and the Puritans are wrong but they are correct. I do certainly disagree with the modern church for their false teachings on this subject as I hold to the early church and the reformed perspective.
Lastly we will show
in scripture that the 10 commandments still exist.
John Owen (1616-1683) is called the prince of the puritan theologians. And I am going to use John Owens arguments against the modern church that the10 commandments, the moral law of God is not abolished.
Let us see some of the scriptures that John Owen uses to show "uttermost tittle" of the law of God is still required of us: Matthew 5:17, 1 John 3:4, Romans 3:31, James 2:8-10.
1) Matthew 5:17 establishes the abiding validity of the law.
Mt 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
Owen chooses this passage because it is the thesis of Christ's first sermon (Matthew 5-7). Christ did not come to destroy the law but to "fill it to the full (plhrwsai) The Beatitudes was where Christ exposed the law.
Spurgeon said, "Beside, mountains have always been associated with distinct eras in history of the people of God; mount Sinai is sacred to the law, and mount Zion symbolical of the Church. Calvary was also in due time to be connected with redemption, and the Mount of Olives with the ascension of our risen Lord. It was meet, therefore, that the opening of the Redeemer's ministry should be connected with a mount such as "the hill of the Beatitudes." Twas from that mountain that God proclaimed the law, it is on a mountain that Jesus expounds it."
choice of I John 3:4 is a skillful use of arguing from the obverse.
1Jo 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
The text contends that sin is the transgression of the law. Since sin is forbidden in every detail, then the obverse of sin, which is conformity to the law, must also be comprehensive.
The scriptures say sin is violating the law; the question is if there is no moral law as per modern church it was abolished by Christ, then how can we know that we are sinners as there is no law to violate? The sin is there but no law. And the scriptures say opposite.
(3) In Romans 3:31, Paul clearly states that Apostolic teaching does not void the law; rather, Apostolic teaching establishes it.
Ro 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
(4) James 2:8-10 further elucidates the authority of the law, for to violate the least point of the law is to break it entirely.
Jas 2:8 If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
Here James makes it
so clear the authority of the moral law.
The problem with the modern church is they do not know how to distinguish between the ceremonial law and the moral law. The genius of the Old Theologians allows us to see it clearly in the Bible. But it is sad that the church have forgotten its roots in the reformation.
To be continued in