Reformed Theology [Essay Contest 2017] A defense of abstaining from worldly employments and recreation on the sabbath day.  Calvinism

[Essay Contest 2017] A defense of abstaining from worldly employments and recreation on the sabbath day.

Reformed Theology [Essay Contest 2017] A defense of abstaining from worldly employments and recreation on the sabbath day.  Calvinism
[Essay Contest 2017] A defense of abstaining from worldly employments and recreation on the sabbath day.

Q. 60. How is the sabbath to be sanctified?

A. 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; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

The Sabbath has been ordained by God to be a day of rest for the Christian. We go to church, we relax, and generally, we try to glorify God on this glorious day out of seven. That much everyone can agree on and from the Pentecostal to the Presbyterian, all can agree that Sunday is special. But what we seem to have a disagreement on is how Sunday is sanctified. How do we observe Sunday outside of the Christian Church Service? Are we to be as Jews and keep the laws that surround the Saturday Sabbat? Are we to abandon the Sabbath as a requirement entirely? Is this a Law that has passed with Israel and with the death of Christ on the Cross?

Well, that all depends on how you view the Law of God and worship. Let me start by laying out the groundwork behind the traditional view of the law. We as Reformed Christians hold to a law that is eternal, and it’s typically represented in tabular format throughout the installation of the Mosaic Order while Moses and the people of Israel are in the desert. This law although its has overlap, has parts that can be distinguished. How am I getting this? Well God in his infinite mercy had declared in Acts 10:15 that he had cleansed the common thing. He had made unclean food clean, and he was inviting Peter to eat of it in his dreams. If no divisions are present in the law, how can God make things clean and yet call us to obey his commandments?

Now you might say that I’m confusing two categories, but my statement is indeed important. The Law had existed in general form before the Mosaic covenant, and after the institution of the Mosaic Covenant, we see the Law of God as we know it to be. Now, check out the requirement in the Garden of Eden that God declares to Adam. He says in Genesis 3:16 that Adam cannot eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's not specifically in the Mosaic Covenant, but that’s the first law given to man that describes how he is required to obey.

The Law is what God has given to us, and we as Christians are called to be holy as God is holy. Now, this law doesn’t lend us any credit to contribute to our forensic justification, but it’s something that we have to obey.

Further along in redemptive history, Judah in Genesis 38:24 calls (albeit hypocritically) for the burning of his daughter-in-law Tamar. Scripture says that “she played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by whoredom.” According to Matthew Poole's Commentary, she is declared guilty of adultery.

Let her be burnt, as guilty of adultery, which was punished with death by the laws of God, Deu 22:23,24, and of nations too, Jeremiah 29:22,23. He chargeth her with adultery, because she was betrothed to Shelah. See Deu 22:23. This eagerness of Judah proceeded not from zeal of justice, >for then he would not have endeavoured to destroy the innocent child with the guilty mother, against God’s law, Deu 24:16 Ezekiel 18:20, but from worldly policy, that he might take her out of the way, which he esteemed a burden and a blot to his family.

Although hypocritical of Judah, he pronounced a correct sentencing that would have been completely in line after the child was born with – wait for it – the Mosaic law! Why? Well, let’s go back to Genesis 3. Many laws have been given to Man by God either implicitly or explicitly. We have the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, the circumcision of Abraham, the Calendars of Abraham, the civil law that I just described of Judah, the protections from the avengers of blood for Cain. We also have the unclean and clean distinction between the animals on the ark; we have the penalty for murder given to Noah, we have children submitting to their parents, we also have the Sabbath.

God institutes the Sabbath, and it's in effect(and has been) since the beginning of creation. God set the seventh day as a day of rest, and it’s as a result, not something that’s peculiar to the Mosaic law. We should take care to note a few things though.

First: The believers of the new testament didn’t observe a Saturday Sabbath. They met on Sunday instead. Since by implication of them keeping a day of rest on Sunday, we know that the Sabbath is indeed on a Sunday.

Second: What exactly are we supposed to do on the sabbath? We are called to worship God in an organized manner after the pattern seen in Acts and as it says in Hebrews 10:25. This worship is the Christian Church Service.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Third: Jews aren't supposed to do many types activities on Sabbat. We, on the other hand, are allowed to do necessary works. We see this in Matthew 12:1-13 where Jesus and the disciples feed themselves on the Sabbath. It’s not as though all works except for worship are forbidden; we can feed ourselves to sustain our bodies. We are not supposed to work though. The Sabbath is in effect since the start of creation as a day of rest, and we are called to rest from all that which we are to do normally.

Fourth: Many would say that even if the Sabbath instituted in creation was a commandment to rest, it doesn’t forbid leisure which is what WLC 60 forbids. I think that this takes a particular approach to Genesis that might be unwarranted. It’s not as if God had been resting from work; he had been resting from all that he had been doing before except that which was required to maintain the universe! This point expands further in Isaiah 58:13 where it says that to keep the Sabbath, we must turn away from seeking our pleasures and doing work.

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words


Poole, M. (1853). Commentary on the Holy Bible. Randolph, Carter, and Brothers. Westminster Shorter Catechism. (1646). London. Holy Bible: King James Version. (2012). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson .

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