Category Archives: The Will of God

Sabbath Application, part 1

Here are some of the questions I (and I’m sure many) have about application of the Sabbath command?

  • Can we not work our regular jobs at all on Sundays?
  • Must we refrain from things we are free to do on other days?
  • Are we not supposed to cook then on Sundays?
  • Are we causing others to sin if we go out to eat?
  • Travel on Sundays?
  • Is it sundown to sundown or midnight to midnight?
  • 24 hour period exactly?
  • 24 hour worship?
  • Isn’t Sunday tiring for a lot of Christians? Pastors? How is the Sunday gathering restful?

What other questions come to mind for you?

Let me give another big apology: I cannot do just one more post on this. There’s too much application to think about. So pretend this is a brand new series, just on application. And I will not say how many posts I intend. I have no idea right now. I’m thinking and learning as we go.

Let me address just one point of application: I said in an earlier post “if you focus on do’s and don’ts, you have become a Pharisee.” I’m thankful for one of our members, Ezra Mell, pointing this out– it is not bad to think about what we should do and not do. That is mere Christian obedience. So I think I misspoke.

What the Pharisees tended to focus on were definitely a lot of “thou shalt nots” at the expense of “thou shalls” (think of rebuking a healed man who carried his bed on the Sabbath). And they tended to think a lot about specific kinds of obedience at the expense of getting the more important heart matters right (think of tithing mint, dill, and cumin, but forgetting justice and mercy). So I think what I meant to say is “if you focus on external quantities of obedience when it comes to the Sabbath or focus on all the things you should not be doing at the expense of focusing on what you should be doing, you have become a Pharisee.” (I’m sure there’s a more concise way to say that)

I do believe the Law of Christ written on believer’s hearts now helps us to think more about the 10 Commandments the way Jesus intended. So what I would caution against is things like:

  • make sure it’s an exact 24 hour period that you guard (whether Sunday midnight to Monday midnight, which makes no sense; or Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown), or anything along those lines.
  • make sure you never cook, never make anyone else cook, never make your dog or cat hunt, never go to your regular job, never do anything that will support someone else doing their regular job, etc. Avoid a “thou shalt not”-only mentality.
  • seeing Sunday as better than other days, in that if I sin on Sunday it’s worse than sinning on Monday, or if I do my quiet time on Sunday it’s better than any other day.

I think we can all agree that what the Pharisees struggled with was focusing on the letter of the Law rather than the spirit of the Law. So my hope is to never get bogged down with an exact 24 hour period or how many different things I must never do, but simply aim to guard one day in seven as holy unto the Lord. And clearly, we are to guard it for rest. Where my mind goes (and what you may never have thought much about) is “rest from what?” and “rest in order to what?” So that’s what I plan to tackle next.


Why I am now a Sabbatarian, part 3

What biblical evidence do we have that the Sabbath commandment is written on every human heart?

  • Genesis 2.1-3: after God created Adam and Eve (on day six), “he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” From the beginning of time, Adam and Eve knew the seventh day of the week was holy. They were there. What does “made it holy” mean except that the first man and woman would have set it apart? Does anyone really think that God set it apart but kept that a secret from Adam and Eve? From the very beginning, human beings have known the seventh day was for rest from regular work. It was not an Old Covenant distinctive. It was a creation distinctive.
  • Exodus 16: God commanded the Israelites to gather manna for themselves six days a week, and on the sixth day, to gather twice as much, because the seventh day was a day of rest. Some disobeyed God and went out on the seventh day to gather bread and found none, and the LORD rebuked them: “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath” (28-29). And so the people rested on the seventh day after that. The key here is that this is before the covenant at Mt. Sinai in chapter 19-20, and the giving of the 10 Commandments! The Sabbath is not an Old Covenant ordinance. It is a creation ordinance.
  • Exodus 20.8: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The Fourth Commandment is a call to remember. You cannot remember something you never knew. God calls Israel to remember the God-ordained day of rest; He does not tell them He is starting something new in the Law of Moses. He is codifying a Law on stone tablets that is morally written upon the human heart to begin with.
  • Mark 2.23-28: in a passage that many non-Sabbatarians might use to show that we were never meant to obey the Sabbath to the “letter of the Law”, Jesus actually makes abundantly clear that the Sabbath is a law written on every human heart. His point is that we are to do good on the Sabbath, and that He is Lord over the Sabbath; the Sabbath is not authoritative over Him. And in saying this he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, the Sabbath was to be a gift to man; man is not subservient to the Sabbath. But notice the truth that escaped me for so long: Sabbath was made for man. When was the Sabbath made for man? On the seventh day of creation. And every human being ever since was intended to benefit from it.

Of course we have all failed in this. Thank God for the God-man who came into the world to show us exactly how to observe it, and observed it in our place.

But what did faithful observance for ancient Israel look like? And how does that inform how the Christian church should observe it? Stay tuned for the fourth and final post.

Why I am now a Sabbatarian, part 2

The Sabbath Commandment is binding on the Christian. I used to object, “but we are not under the Law of Moses! We are under the Law of Christ!”

A few responses:

  • check out my brother’s blog. He basically has come to the same conclusion as me. And my conversation with him as he was working on his seminary paper was the final straw for me that brought me into the Sabbatarian position. You can read his reflections on his paper here
  • Whenever we say “we are not under the Law” we rightly utilize biblical language (Romans 6.15) but do not think deeply enough about what we mean by “under.” Amen, we are not “under” the Law of Moses, but in what way? To simply say “we are not under the Law” therefore, we are not obligated to obey the Sabbath is the same exact line of thinking that liberals use to say “we are not under the Law of Moses, therefore we do not need to obey the homosexuality laws.” And it actually should be the same thing we say about “do not murder” and “do not steal.” We are not “under” the Law as a way to get right with God, or as a way to remain in His favor, or in His promised Land, etc. That is not why we choose not to murder. We’re Christians! We are not obeying the Law out of covenantal obligation, but rather out of Spirit-wrought, faith-filled, Christ-centered love of God.
    • When Paul says “we are not under the Law” he means “we are not under the Old Covenant”
    • But Paul would also say “we are under moral obligation before holy God.”
  • To say “we are under the Law of Christ” is also good, biblical language (Gal 6.2). But what exactly is the “Law of Christ”? Did the Eternal Son not have ownership over the Law of Moses? Was the Law for the Old Covenant people not in some sense Messiah’s Law? If God’s Law given to God’s Covenant people in the Torah does not help God’s Covenant people today know what we are called to do as His Covenant people, what in the world can we trust?
    • Many today would say the Law of Christ is all and only what is revealed in the New Covenant; many would say we obey 9 of the 10 Commandments because those are the ones repeated in the New Testament
      • Does that hermeneutic stand up to careful scrutiny? Would the Sabbath Commandment apply to Christians if it had simply been repeated in the New (and of course we Sabbatarians would say it is repeated in places like Matthew 23.23)?
      • Would a Christian in AD 35 not know that “Do not murder” applied to them until they read it in the Bible or heard it from an Apostle?
  • This whole issue is about trying to figure out how a human being is supposed to know what God requires of them. The bible says even the most biblically illiterate unbeliever still knows of a Moral Law that is given by their Creator (Romans 1.32 and Romans 2.15)

So what is the Biblical evidence that the Sabbath Commandment is written on the heart of every human being? And how did ancient Israel understand that specific Commandment should shape their lives? That is the next two posts

Why I am now a Sabbatarian, part 1

A couple years ago I wrote a series of posts called “It is a sin to not gather on the Lord’s Day.” I have not changed my view on that. But I have changed how I get there biblically. In that series I started off by saying I was not a Sabbatarian. Then about a year ago, I became 50/50 on the issue. Now, though I may always have the attitude of “I could be wrong here,” I am now a Sabbatarian.

I think this is a good thing for me to write about because most of my close theological friends are not Sabbatarians. I graduated from Southern Seminary in 2008, and most (if not all) of my professors are not Sabbatarians– guys like Bruce Ware, Tom Schreiner, Steve Wellum, and Don Whitney. Heck, I have heard Al Mohler is not a Sabbatarian.

Virtual mentors of mine like Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman are not Sabbatarians. My elders at my old church are pretty much all not Sabbatarians as far as I know, including Ryan Fullerton, my favorite preacher in the world. Am I crazy?

My aim in this series is to challenge all of my closest friends to re-think this issue and to challenge current Sabbatarians to think more deeply about application. One of my biggest obstacles to becoming Sabbatarian was that I looked more Sabbatarian in practice than a lot of Sabbatarians I knew personally.

So let me begin with a definition by grabbing from what I said as a non-Sabbatarian a couple years ago:

First, I am not a Sabbatarian, meaning I do not believe the Sabbath Law from the Old Covenant carries over into the New Covenant. If I were, then I would simply say the Fourth Commandment is where God commands us to gather on one day out of the week for worship, and that we can infer from the early church and from the resurrection that the Sabbath has moved from Saturday to Sunday. But as I said, I am not a Sabbatarian.”

Hopefully in obedience to God, today I am a Sabbatarian, meaning I do believe the Sabbath Law from the Old Covenant carries over into the New Covenant. Therefore, I would say the Fourth Commandment is where God commands us to gather on one day out of the week for worship, and we can infer from the early church and from the resurrection that the Sabbath has moved from Saturday to Sunday.

I used to object, “but we are not under the Law of Moses! We are under the Law of Christ!” Obviously, that held a lot of weight for me for a long time. So let’s think about that a little next post.


Doctrine “and” ethics

Everything in the Christian life is doctrine. Very often Christians equate “doctrine” with “theology.” That makes sense. We have the doctrine of God, doctrine of man, doctrine of Scripture, and so forth. Those are the Bible’s teachings on certain topics. Those doctrines are what we call theology.

But the word “doctrine” is simply the word “teaching.” Therefore, the Bible teaches us what to believe and how to live. The Bible teaches us theology and ethics. The Bible teaches us that God is a Trinity, and that we must worship Him. The Bible teaches us that man is sinful, and that we must confront sinners if we are to call ourselves Christians. The Bible teaches us that the church is God’s “called out” community, and that the church must love one another.

There is no dichotomy between doctrine and ethics, right theology and right living. The Bible teaches us what to believe is right theology, and what to believe is right living (i.e., “I believe God is one, and I believe a man should be faithful to his wife”). It is no wonder Paul would tell Timothy that the Law is meant to confront all who break the law– “lawless and disobedient…ungodly…murderers…sexually immoral…liars…and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim 1.8-11). Everything in the Christian life is doctrine. God has taught us what to believe about everything that has to do with pleasing Him.

This is why our church has a Statement of Faith (theology) and Church Covenant (ethics). It is the only way we know how to uphold Christian doctrine.

Should Christians carry guns?

A couple months ago there was a bit of an internet firestorm because of John Piper’s views on Christians arming themselves with guns. You can read that post here. As always happens, many other pastors and bloggers chimed in, seemingly mostly trying to refute Piper. Tim Challies had a good round up here.

If I could summarize in one sentence Piper’s views: Christians should be so radically Christ-centered that we will pause for the sake of the gospel in the face of radical violence, even at the cost of our lives or the lives of loved ones.

If I could summarize the pushback against Piper in one sentence: Christians should be so radically other-centered that we will not pause to protect the lives of loved ones in the face of radical violence, even at the cost of our lives.

Something like that. I offer three points of (hopefully) contribution:

  1. How a Christian cannot praise Piper for his disagreement with Jerry Falwell, Jr. I have no idea. Piper was attacking the mindset that says “Christians need to teach terrorists a lesson with guns!” Give me a break! Of course John Piper is right in that! And I believe every critiquer agreed with him in that, but I just do not think enough emphasis was given to that agreement. One writer says Fallwell’s comment about teaching terrorists a lesson is “unnecessarily provocative.” No sir. That is flat out un-Christian.
  2. Some argued that in the U.S. individuals who carry weapons are a legitimate extension of the government using the sword (Romans 13.4). I almost fell for that reasoning. But is it legitimate to equate the “right to bear arms” with “he does not bear the sword in vain”? If anything, the right to bear arms in the U.S. gives many people the ability for stronger self-defense (if I could put it bluntly). But Romans 13 is not addressing the issue of self-defense. Romans 13 is about God meting out earthly justice through the government. And John Piper is right to draw a line between the civil magistrate and regular citizens. Romans 13 makes no sense if you do not draw a clear line between those two entities (i.e., citizens are called to submit to the government).
  3. The most heated reaction came because it seems John Piper would not automatically know what to do in a case where, perhaps, his wife was being attacked. Most made the case that the only Christian option is to “protect your wife, John!” First of all, how can you not see where Piper comes from? I might conclude that I disagree with him, but I see where he is coming from. It seems most Christians’ application of “turn the other cheek” is to never turn the other cheek. Secondly, I think everyone is missing something there (in my humble opinion). What should we do when another human being is being harmed? The answer, I believe, is to protect life. It may even be necessary to use force. But that is not a distinctly Christian thing to do. That is a distinctly human thing to do. Protect the image of God. As Christians, we should do that by faith in Christ, in the power of the Spirit, and in hopes that perpetrator and victim come to Christ through our preaching.


How far is too far?

Stop asking that question. Stop thinking that question. It almost always comes in the context of young people wondering how much physical intimacy unmarried people can have before they cross the line of sinning. Perhaps many Christians wonder that question in regards to alcohol or smoking or other supposed “vices.” For our purposes, let’s just think in terms of physical intimacy before marriage. That’s one we can sink our teeth into, and then I think it would apply to all other areas of life.

For a Christian to ask that question reveals at least two things:

  1. A legalistic heart- Classic legalism believes a person can be righteous in God’s eyes through good works. It also believes every sin you commit makes you less righteous in God’s eyes. In other words, legalism completely ignores the gospel of Jesus Christ, which says, “God considers you righteous no matter what, all and only because of the righteousness of Christ!” A “gospel” heart will not mess around with questions about “how far is too far”, or “how much more can I do to make God even happier with me” for that matter. A “gospel” heart will overflow with a passion for upholding marriage in high honor, at all costs, because marriage promotes the gospel, and because a redeemed heart wants to obey God out of love.
  2. A legalistic church- if Christians are messing around with that question it is probably because the culture in their church is one promoting the above heart.

If, at the end of the day, you are trusting in Christ alone for salvation, and you in response to the gospel want to honor marriage, and if you are curious what you should teach others about pre-marriage relationships, just see my previous posts about holding hands 🙂

But seriously, stop asking that question, and stop cultivating that question.