Category Archives: Worship

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

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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.

 

What exactly is the Lord’s Day gathering?

What it is not:

  • an evangelistic rally of some sort- any church who makes Sunday morning more geared for the non-Christian than it is for the Christian is at best a parachurch ministry
  • the church- we often say “let’s go to church” on Sunday morning. We kind of know what we mean. Or do we? Any church who thinks of “church” as mainly Sunday morning is confusing a little bit what the church does versus who the church is

What it is:

  • the main gathering of the church (Acts 20.7)
  • a mixed gathering in most places I know of, where it is mostly the church, often mixed with visiting Christians looking for a church, and almost always mixed with some unbelievers who either think they are Christians or are looking into Christianity
  • a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28)
  • the main time of the week where the flock (Christians) are to be fed, pray together, fellowship, and break bread together (Acts 2.42)
  • a great time for unbelievers to be saved (1 Corinthians 14.25); the church should evangelize 7 days a week, and they should not depend on the preacher to evangelize their friends, and Sundays are mainly for Christians to get fed. BUT, it is still a perfect time for the unbeliever to hear a skillful delivery of the gospel, and to see what the gospel does to the Church.
  • It is a time of worship! It is for God. It is to please Him. It is to approach and engage the living God in exactly the way He desires to be worshiped. Every decision about Sunday morning that does not begin with God in mind is a decision starting off on the wrong foot.

What we try to do on Sunday morning is make it so for God, that it will automatically be foreign to the unbeliever. If an unbeliever ever feels right at home in our worship gathering, something is seriously missing. One of the things we have been trying to communicate recently to guests is that if they are not a Christian: 1) We are so glad they came! 2) Until they become a Christian, they can only observe worship; they cannot truly participate.

May the Lord increase the number of His worshipers on the Lord’s Day!

Church is not fun

I am not quoting anyone. I am making a statement about reality. I am also making a statement about the way it is supposed to be: church is not meant to be fun.

I often encourage children to stay for the whole service, even while I preach. One simple reason I encourage that is because it seems to communicate something very contradictory when I say, “the preaching of God’s Word is the most important time of the week for you,” in one breath, and “ok, kids, go away while I preach” in the next.

Probably the biggest reason in anybody’s mind as to why they might be hesitant to force their child to sit through a sermon is because they think their child will not enjoy it. Just a few thoughts in response to that:

  • Teach them what to enjoy. We enjoy whatever we like. Teach your kids to “like” God’s Word
  • “Force” your kids to sit through sermons in the same way you “force” them to eat vegetables or go to the doctor for shots or do homework; those are not necessary evils!!! Those are necessary goods!
  • Ten years of seeing adults revere God’s Word will do more to teach kids about God’s Word than ten years of children curriculum. I do not remember hardly anything from “children’s church” growing up. But I can remember my dad’s desire for me to be in the Word. I remember the seriousness of worship services (I also remember being in churches where skits were more attractive than the preaching, and what harm that did to my soul).
  • Gospel preaching is what saves people. Period. Why would you not want them to be under gospel preaching?
  • Do not sell your kids short by thinking church needs to be fun for them. Fun is not the only good in life. I do not want anyone to be drawn to our church by “fun.” Teach them that church is not fun. But it is good.

The glory of being un-seeker-sensitive

Of course we know why churches do it. They want to reach more people. We all want to reach more people. But there are several reasons why our worship services should not be tailored to “reach” anybody:

  • We should tailor it to God, and God alone.
  • Unbelievers do not want to worship God. If people who are dead in their trespasses and sins are comfortable attending your worship service, I wonder if worship is really happening (I am speaking of those who are obviously not interested in repentance).
  • By tailoring your service to any Christian based on mere preferences, you automatically exclude someone else’s preferences
  • The automatic response to the last point is usually: “Well, you’re gonna be tailoring it to someone’s preferences no matter what.” To which I say: “No. Just tailor it to God’s preferences. Period. And always make that clear.”
  • It should be the gospel that draws people in. Not music. Not culture. Not arts. Not communication style. Gospel.
  • Should a worship service be where we expect to meet most non-Christians? You should invite non-Christians to your worship service. You should expect God to save non-Christians through the Lord’s Day preaching. But it is only by God’s mercy that you meet a non-Christian for the first time at one of your worship services. And to tailor the worship of God to someone who may know nothing about our God just sounds kind of silly when you say it out loud.
  • Related to that, I now have this fear that those who have “missional” worship gatherings are the least missional of all. If you make your worship service EXACTLY how you think God prescribes worship to be (which would be extremely foreign to the world), it solves two issues: one, we worship God on God’s terms. Two, it forces us to be missional, to actually go out and meet non-Christians and try and introduce them to Jesus before they ever step into our worship service.

We should expect the only people to show up on Sundays are believers and true seekers, those who are beginning to be drawn by the Holy Spirit. And we should expect that for both groups the gospel is what interests them, not contemporary music, not a large number of people their age, not their ethnic culture, not the cultural relevance. Gospel.

It is a sin to not gather on the Lord’s Day, part 4

There are strong theological reasons for thinking that God made the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, a New Covenant ordinance. In other words, God ordained the Lord’s Day as the day for Christians to gather and worship under the gospel:

  1. The Lord’s Day is specifically about worship, not specifically rest- the only reason I bring this up is to say that the Sabbath seems to be specifically about rest, not worship. Sabbatarians will say that Christians are to rest in order to worship. Perhaps. But that is not explicit in the OT. Worship gatherings are commanded outside of the Sabbath Day and the Sabbath commandment is specifically a command to do no regular work. The Lord’s Day, however, is specifically a day Christians gather in response to the resurrected Christ, to honor and worship Him. What early Christians did not seem to do is change the day off of work from Saturday to Sunday; they only changed the day of worship.
  2. The Lord’s Day is about new life- when Noah got on dry ground, he made an altar; when Abraham got Isaac “back from the dead,” he offered worship; as soon as the disciples see Jesus rise from the dead, they worship. Worship is the only appropriate response when a Christian thinks about all that the resurrection accomplished on their behalf.
  3. The Lord’s Day is about a New Creation- in this way, the Lord’s Day could perhaps be seen as a fulfillment of the Sabbath. God did rest from creation on the seventh day. But as many great theologians are beginning to point out, there is no evening and morning on that seventh day in Genesis 2. Moses wanted us to conceive of the world still being in a “Sabbath Day” from that first creation. When does that seventh day end? When God begins creating a new creation. And that started officially the day Jesus rose from the dead. It is very intentional that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. It is a new week. It is a new creation.
  4. The Lord’s Day is about the Day of the Lord- where do early Christians get the language of “the Lord’s Day”? Perhaps, and perhaps obviously, it comes from the language of the “day of the Lord” in the OT. That day, in books like Isaiah and Malachi, is a day of victory and judgment. It will finally be fulfilled on the day Jesus returns. It found its foundational fulfillment, though, in the coming of our Lord Jesus, culminating in his death and resurrection. When Jesus rose from the dead, the first Christians understood they were beholding the risen King, God-man, Messiah. The Lord’s Day is a day that points to future judgment and future salvation.

Let us not give up meeting together.

It is a sin to not gather on the Lord’s Day, part 3

Churches should gather for corporate worship on Sundays, the Lord’s Day. And Christians should gather with their churches on the Lord’s Day. If you are on vacation, and not able to gather with your own church on the Lord’s Day, you should find a church to gather with and worship with on the Lord’s Day. We should do whatever it takes to worship with God’s people on the Lord’s Day. If this is not the direction of your life, you are disobeying God.

Is there any biblical warrant for this? Here is my best crack at it:

  1. Forsaking the Lord’s Day gathering is forsaking the assembly (Hebrews 10.25)- yes, Hebrews 10 applies to more than the Lord’s Day gathering, but not less. When does your church gather? The whole church, I mean. Is it not Sunday, the Lord’s Day? Don’t you want Christian unity? Christians forsaking the Lord’s Day assembly is more divisive than anything else I can think of.
  2. Forsaking the Lord’s Day gathering is disobedience to your leaders (Hebrews 13.17)- yes, Hebrews 13 applies to more than the Lord’s Day gathering, but not less. Ask any elder at your church, “do you want me to gather for worship on the Lord’s Day?” If they say “yes!” then obey your leaders, and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your soul. Let them do this with joy, and not groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
  3. Worship is the natural and appropriate response to the resurrection (Matthew 28.1-10)- Matthew specifically points out it was the day after the Sabbath, the first day of the week, that Jesus rose from the dead. The angel told the women that Jesus had risen, and to go tell the other disciples. As they went, Jesus met them on the way. As soon as they saw him, they “worshiped him.” Later when the Eleven saw him, they “worshiped him” (v16). Worship is natural, and appropriate, for a risen Messiah. When you wake up on Sundays, on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, what do you feel like doing? (if you say, “why not everyday?” I am not arguing against worship gatherings everyday; I am simply arguing FOR worship gatherings on the Lord’s Day)
  4. Worship is religious devotion (John 2.13-22)- First note that all the offerings and sacrifices of the OT are acts of worship. There were “religious” acts of devotion that Noah, Abraham, and Moses and Aaron performed before the LORD. Then read John 2 carefully. Jesus cleansed the temple because the Jews turned it into a “house of trade.” In John 2, Jesus did not show anger toward sinful trade, but in mixing the holy and the common. In other words, there was nothing inherently sinful about “selling oxen and sheep and pigeons”; it was sinful because they were doing it in the house of worship. Jesus wants to guard “worship.” Yes, worship is not only what we do on the Lord’s Day; yes, religious acts on Sundays can be done from rote memorization and your hearts can be far from him; yes, just because you show up on Sundays doesn’t make you a Christian…

…but those who love Jesus do respond to him with actual acts of devotion, from the heart, but with our lips and our hands. We do want to offer sacrifices of praise and offer up prayers that will be a pleasing aroma to Him. We do want our meditations to be pleasing in His sight. And we do want to submit to God’s chosen order of days– so whatever He says is the first day of the week should be the day we devote the week to Him.