The story of me leaving the PCA over the subject of baptism actually begins previous to my deciding to revisit the subject just over a year ago. It actually goes back to my ordination exams and the drama over my convictions regarding the subject of the Sabbath.
Previous to my ordination exams I was told by a wise friend to make sure I had some good firm convictions on a number of subjects, one of them being the Sabbath. So I decided that I should really study the Sabbath issue. Now, I expected to come out on the other side of this time of study a Sabbatarian…one who believes that the only things allowed on the Sabbath are public and private worship and works of mercy and necessity. This was reinforced by the reading I was doing in the beginning.
But the more I read I was becoming more and more dissatisfied with what I was reading. The hermeneutic that I kept seeing was Christ-less for the most part and had no reference to the gospel at all. How can I preach and teach Christ crucified and still teach the Sabbath law as it is laid out in the Torah? This was my dilemma.
So I decided to try this study of the Sabbath differently. I decided to sit down and study every passage dealing with the Sabbath in the OT and NT. Then I looked at all of them in the original languages. I started comparing the teaching about the Sabbath in the OT and the teaching on the Sabbath in the NT. Then I decided to look at the teaching on the Sabbath previous to the crucifixion and then after the crucifixion.
I knew I was onto something when I could find no Sabbath commands post crucifixion except Paul’s warning in Colossians 2:16, 17, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things that are to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”
I was sure I had found something of substance and the emotion that welled up in my heart when I saw that the Sabbath was a shadow of Christ I knew I had not only found some biblical direction I found the hermeneutic I was looking for right there in the Scriptures. Next I knew I must not be alone in seeing these wondrous things, so I started digging.
The first resource I found was a book edited by D.A. Carson, From Sabbath to Lord’s Day. I paid $60 bucks for it and it made more sense than anything else I had read. Not only did I find more support for what I found on my on, I actually found theological supports and historical resources. I was becoming more sure and now only needed some more study and prayer over these convictions. And so the following is what I went to my oral examination on the floor of Presbytery (regional meeting of elders) with…
My Sabbath Position
1) There is not one place in the New Testament where it is commanded that the Sabbath is to be kept.
a) In the OT we have approximately 50 places where the Sabbath is commanded starting in Exodus 16.
b) After the resurrection of Christ there are only 11 mentions of the Sabbath. None of them are commands.
c) Paul in all of his letters to Gentile churches only uses the word Sabbath once.
i) In Colossians 2:16, 17 Paul wants them to stop keeping Sabbaths.
ii) He never tells the Gentiles to keep the Sabbath.
2) Every other command in the 10 Commandments is reiterated in the NT. Whereas Sabbath-keeping is called into question in Colossians ,17; Romans 14:5; and Galatians 4:9 – 11. See points 4 and 5 below.
3) The Sabbath is called the covenant “sign” and set apart from the other commands in Exodus 31:12 – 17, “And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of
a) No other command in the 10 Commandments is ever called a sign.
b) This is the last thing God says to Moses before giving him the “tablets of stone.”
c) Notice God’s words, “above all you shall keep my Sabbaths for this is a sign.”
d) The Sabbath is also called a sign in Ezekiel 20:12.
4) There is not one place in the New Testament where it is commanded that the Lord’s Day be kept. All discussions are descriptive and not prescriptive.
5) There is not one place in the NT where the Lord’s Day is explicitly or implicitly called or treated as a Sabbath and vice versa. In other words I can find no reason to transfer the commands regarding Sabbath observance from the seventh day to the first day of the week.
6) Theologians often call the Sabbath a “creation ordinance.” They believe the Sabbath command can be traced to creation in God’s resting. The problem with this view is there is no record of a command to keep the Sabbath till after the Exodus which makes it part of the Mosaic Law. Indeed, the Bible itself tells us the Sabbath command was given at the Exodus.
a) Neh. 9:13,14, “You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, 14 and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant.”
b) Exodus 16 is actually a commentary on the giving of the Sabbath. Even a cursory reading makes it clear how unclear the Sabbath command was for the Israelites.
7) The only place in the NT where the Sabbath is discussed (apart from time considerations and measurements) is in…
a) Matt. 11 and 12, which are healing passages (and it’s parallel passages in the other gospels)
b) John 5 which is also a healing on the Sabbath passage where John says Jesus broke the Sabbath.
c) Colossians 2:16-17, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a new moon celebration or Sabbaths. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
d) Hebrews 4:8-10, “for if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.”
8) Paul is clear on not judging others in regarding one day above another
a) Romans 14:5, “One person esteems one day better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”
b) Galatians 4:9 – 11, “how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.”
9) History points to an abrogation of the Sabbath
a) The post-Apostolic church rarely references it and never commands Sabbath keeping until the 8th century.
b) Not until
c) It was not until the 8th century that the 1st day of the week was called the Sabbath
d) The Reformers (including Calvin and Luther) were united in not making Sunday a Sabbath
e) The English (and American) Puritan branch of the Reformation termed the Lord’s Day the Christian Sabbath