From Sabbath to Lord’s Day

Forgive my posting such an enormous post. But there is an interesting discussion going on on another blog regarding Sabbath and Sunday. So I have decided to post my entire paper in refutation of certain erroneous views. For all those willing to plow through the entirety, you will find out why Sunday is the Christian Sabbath.

Worship on Sunday?
I. OT and NT
As it appears to me, the main issue involved in the discussion of Sabbath worship versus Sunday worship is the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. How does the New Testament interpret the Old? Are there discontinuities between the testaments? If so, where do the lines fall? How do we know what continues and what does not? This is a huge question that rockets around the reformed world in the arena of the question of theonomy (a term that comes from theos (God) and nomos (law)), which is an interpretation that sees only continuity between the testaments, such that we as a secular (!) nation ought to be going back to observe theocratic (!) Israel’s laws.

So exactly how does the New Testament interpret the Old Testament (hereafter abbreviated as OT)? To sum it all up in one sentence: the OT is about Jesus Christ. Two passages are absolutely essential to this understanding of the OT. The first comes in Luke 24, after Jesus’ resurrection, when He is on the road to Emmaus with the two disciples. The two disciples are confused about what happened to Jesus (they don’t recognize Him). Verse 21 says it all, “We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel.” This implies clearly that they thought that Jesus’ death precluded Him from being able to redeem Israel. So the resurrection is a huge puzzle to them. Jesus then says (vv. 25-26), “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Notice the phrase here “all that the prophets have spoken.” What does this mean? Well, Jesus clarifies that in the very next verse. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” If we are left in any doubt as to how Jesus interpreted the OT, here let us doubt no longer: Jesus thought that the entire OT was about His death and resurrection. Now, in verse 27, there is some question as to whether Jesus refers to some things in the Scriptures concerning himself, or that the entire Scriptures refer to Him. It must be the second option, because of verse 32, where the disciples (their eyes now open) ask this poignant question, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” and verse 45, where Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. This underlined phrase means the entirety of the OT. See such passages as Matt. 21:42, 22:49, 26:54, etc. In fact, there is no place where this phrase is used in the entire Bible, where it does not refer to the entire OT (with the possible exception of Daniel 9:2, since the OT was not a closed canon at that time). This passage in Luke 24 clearly indicates that Jesus interpreted the entire OT to be about Himself. This would include the idea that the Sabbath is fulfilled in his death and resurrection. All the Scriptures (including the passages about the Sabbath) point to Jesus’ death and resurrection (see especially 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). More on this later (especially about issues of what continues and what doesn’t) .

The second passage in this regard that is important is John 5 vv. 30ff. Jesus is talking about witnesses to Himself. In verse 39, he accuses the Jews of searching the Scriptures because the Jews want eternal life, and think that they can find it in the Scriptures. The irony is that they are right, if only they would see it! The Scriptures bear witness about Jesus, who is the light. Even more pointedly, in verse 46, Jesus says that Moses, on whom the Pharisees set so much of their hope wrote about Jesus. That means that when Moses was writing about the Sabbath, he was writing about Jesus. When Moses was writing about creation, he was writing about Jesus, and when Moses wrote about Israel’s redemption from Egypt, he was writing about Jesus. Connecting this passage with the Luke 24 passage (the Reformation said that Scripture interprets Scripture), we can see that specifically, when the OT writes about Jesus, it is writing about his death and resurrection. The reason as to why I am underlining the word resurrection will become clear later, I hope. So, when Moses wrote about the Sabbath, he was writing about Jesus’ death and resurrection. When Moses was writing about creation, he was writing about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and when he was writing about redemption from Egypt, he was writing about Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is the inescapable conclusion to which Luke 24 and John 5 lead.

II. OT meaning of the Sabbath
There are, as the pamphlet well indicated, three main passages that tell us of the main significance of the Sabbath: Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:8-11, and Deuteronomy 5:12-15

A. Genesis 2:1-3
This passage is well-known to everyone in the discussion. The Sabbatarians rightly note that this passage proves that the Sabbath was not just for Israel (even though there is no evidence that anyone else ever celebrated the Sabbath: this was probably due to the fact that the OT was written primarily for Israel’s benefit), and that Sabbath observance did not start with the Mosaic law.

The passage is remarkable when compared to the first chapter of Genesis. The first chapter (and 2:1-3) is extremely formulaic. That is, there are repeated formulas that occur over and over (“And God said,” “and it was so,” “there was morning and evening,” “God saw that it was good”). What is remarkable in 2:1-3 is that the very structure of morning and evening does not occur with the Sabbath. The text does not say that “there was evening, and there was morning, the seventh day.” Again, as the pamphlet shows correctly, there is something special to the seventh day. Now, the lack of the evening/morning formula has been taken in different ways by interpreters. Some say that the Sabbath was therefore meant to be seen as eternal (not being bound by the usual strictures of beginning and ending). Some say that it merely points out that this was the end of the cycle of the week. In any case, however, the lack of the evening/morning formula must mean something. Moses has been much too careful with his words in the first chapter for us to think that he merely forgot. He intended to say something. I believe that He intended to say that the Sabbath pattern was started here for man, but that God entered into an eternal rest. That he intended this to be the rationale for man’s Sabbath observance is clear from Exodus 20:8-11. That he intended to indicate an eternal Sabbath is clear from two other passages:
1. John 5:16-17
Here the Jews are persecuting Jesus because He was healing on the Sabbath (why this fact added to Jesus’ example before death and resurrection does not hurt the Sunday worship position will be explained later). Jesus’ answer makes no sense unless God is in an eternal Sabbath. Jesus was addressing here an age old problem that the rabbis had to deal with: if God rested on the seventh day, how come the world doesn’t fall apart when He is resting? They, of course, recognized that God preserved the world continuously, and that without that preservation, the world would immediately cease to exist. So Jesus answers them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” Admittedly, this could be understood to say that every time the Sabbath rolls around, God is still at work preserving the world. However, the passage makes much better sense, when we understand the Jewish context out of which this statement arose. Many Jews understood the “finished” aspect of creation to mean that God continually rests in His satisfaction of the completion of the world. In other words, the Sabbath for God was eternal. And yet, as a “work of necessity” (read here “grace”), God continues to “work” during this whole time that He enjoys the completion of the creation. Jesus then says that His own rest is of a piece with God’s rest, just as His work is of a piece with God’s work. The language literally means “continuously working.” There is no stop to it.
2. Hebrews 3:7-4:13
In this extended discourse on the meaning of the Sabbath, Paul (I think Paul wrote it, contrary to %99.99 of all modern scholarship, conservative or liberal) says that there is yet a Sabbath rest for the people of God. That means that the older Sabbath did not exhaust the meaning of the Sabbath. The point I wish to make here stems from 4:4-5. Paul says that God entered His rest, and then that the Israelites shall not enter THAT rest. In other words, the rest of God entered into at creation is the same rest He calls the Israelites to enter. Obviously, if they could enter such a rest, that rest must be eternal, or else they would only be able to enter it one day in seven. Just prior to these two verses, we find confirmation of this interpretation: Paul links the finished work of creation with the Sabbath of God. The finished work of creation means Sabbath for God. Since the creation continues to be finished, God continues in His rest.

These two passages together confirm that we are to understand God as entering into a permanent rest in Gen 2:1-3. Several implications follow from this: Adam would have entered into that rest if he had remained obedient. This was the carrot held out to Adam. God said to him, “Obey me and live.” This would mean eternal life with God. Since God was in an eternal rest, then Adam would have entered that Sabbath rest. Adam failed to achieve this entering of God’s rest. God immediately judged the world as a result. Adam was cursed in this very area: instead of getting rest, he would have to work hard, and get no rest. No longer would work be enjoyable, but would rather become a burden. Later on in redemptive history, God created a people for Himself: Israel. This people became enslaved to Egypt. They had no rest. They were in a land that the Bible characterizes as the land of death. They were dead. God resurrected them out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and brought them out into the wilderness (parallel to the what the church is today). This is when they failed to reach their Sabbath rest (the land of Canaan, as Paul says explicitly in Hebrews 4:8-9). So no one, not even the OT messiah (Joshua, whose name is the Hebrew form of the Greek “Jesus”) was able to bring God’s people into that eternal rest of God. However, as the point of Hebrews is that Jesus is our great high priest, the point of Hebrews 3-4 is that Jesus did just that: He entered into the rest of God, enabling his people to do to same. This is confirmed by the immediately following verse (4:14): “Since then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” He says this because Jesus having entered that rest means that we can now enter that rest (see 4:11, where Paul tells us to strive to enter that rest: he would only say that if it were now possible to enter that rest). Jesus has entered into that rest as the new Adam, Jesus has passed through the heavens (meaning that he has entered heaven, and therefore, into God’s rest).

From this it needs to be asked: when did Jesus enter into that rest, enabling His people to follow? The answer must be two-fold: 1. the weekly Sabbath is NOT when he entered that rest: nothing of such earth-shattering importance is ever mentioned about Jesus happening on the Sabbath; 2. the only possible times as to when he could have entered that rest are the resurrection and the ascension, both of which happened on Sunday.
To conclude this section about the OT meaning of the Sabbath in Genesis 2:1-3: it points to Jesus’ acquiring of the Sabbath rest for the people of God. Jesus acquired it on Sunday. That is why we should worship on Sunday. Jesus’ death and resurrection is nothing short of a new creation and redemption.

B. Exodus 20:8-11
This passage pretty well covers the same ground that we covered in dealing with Genesis 2:1-3, though in one respect I will expand it. The reason for the Sabbath observance in the Ten Commandments is what I call the “creation reason.” You must keep the Sabbath, because that is what God did at creation. Now, from what I wrote above on Genesis 2:1-3, it follows that we must interpret this in the light of Jesus acquiring the ultimate, final Sabbath rest in his resurrection ( I will argue later that resurrection is the time when Jesus entered into that ultimate Sabbath rest). On further point must be noticed here: did Jesus, in fact, usher in a new creation? Surely, nothing short of new creation and new redemption would be sufficient to change the day of an observance that got started because of the old creation and the old redemption. To answer this question, we will look at one particular new creation passage (though there are many): 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says this: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Most translations interpret the first part of the verse something like what is here. The Greek is actually a little more loosely connected. What I mean is that the Greek does not actually say, “He is a new creation.” The Greek actually just says, “new creation.” The translation could then be something like this, “If anyone is in Christ, then there is a new creation.” The existence of anyone in Christ then proves that there is such a thing as the new creation. In fact, the new creation is of such an order as to supersede (in some way) the old. For that is what the second part of the verse says.
One other passage (leading to yet one more) must be mentioned here by way of confirmation. What I am trying to say here is that Jesus ushered in a new creation; that creation had its beginning on Sunday; therefore, worship changed from Sabbath to Lord’s Day when that new creation was ushered in. The other passage I wish to discuss here is 1 Corinthians 15. Paul is answering the Corinthians’ questions about the resurrection. Paul is talking about people that die, and their bodies go into the ground. What happens to those bodies? They are like seeds (vv. 36-37): they cannot produce a crop unless the seed dies. So also with the body. It cannot be raised in power, unless the body dies. Let us follow carefully his line of reasoning. First, he starts contrasting the post-Fall body with the resurrection body. This is where the seed analogy comes in. What happens to believers is that their body dies, and their soul goes to be with the Lord, and their body rests until the last day, when it is resurrected in glory. This contrast comes to a climax in verse 44a: it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Note carefully that Paul uses “natural body” in the first part of this verse to refer to a post-Fall body of a believer that dies. But there is a shift that occurs in the second part of verse 44. The question might come up, “How do I know that there is a resurrection body?” Paul thinks of this question and answers it. “If there is a natural body, then there has to be a spiritual body.” But notice carefully here in the second part of verse 44 that Paul uses the word “natural body” to refer to a pre-Fall body. How do we know this? Because Paul then talks about Adam as he was given life before the Fall. The NIV has very astutely put a paragraph break between the first part of vs. 44 and the second part of verse 44. In what immediately follows, Paul compares Adam with Christ: God breathed into Adam (the word “breathed” is the same word as “spirit”) the breath of life, and he became a living soul; the last Adam (became) a life-giving spirit. The reason that there is a resurrection body is that there was a pre-Fall perfect body. In other words, the first body (Adam’s sinless, but changeable body) points inevitably to the last body (the body of Christ in glory). The question now is, what does Paul mean by the word “spirit?” I think it ought to be capitalized: Paul means that Jesus Christ became life-giving Spirit. In other words, Jesus was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit, such that he became life-giving Spirit. God rewarded Jesus’ obedience by giving Him the Holy Spirit, which Jesus, in turn, gave the church on the day of Pentecost (also a Sunday, I might add!). How do we know that this is the correct interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15? Because of Romans 1.

Romans 1:1-6 says that the Gospel that God promised beforehand through the prophets was fulfilled in the death and resurrection by the Holy Spirit of Jesus from the dead. Verse 4 says that, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus was declared (or proclaimed) with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead. This confirms that Jesus became life-giving Spirit, as 1 Corinthians 15 says. Remember, all of this part of the argument is to prove that Jesus ushered in a new creation. From 1 Corinthians 15 and from Romans 1 we learn that this new creation (or new aeon, as the NT also calls it) is the creation of the Holy Spirit.

To summarize our reflections on Exodus 20:8-11: the new creation displaces the old (2 Corinthians 5:17), because the Holy Spirit ushered in the new creation (1 Corinthians 15) at the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 1). This proves that the new creation started at Jesus’ resurrection. This is inescapable from the pages of the NT. Thus, the purpose of the fourth commandment is fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

One small digression needs indulging here. What do I mean by the word “fulfill?” Does it mean fulfill so as to bring to an end, such that the fourth commandment no longer has any meaning (such as the Sabbath-worship people would charge)? It should be plain from the argument so far, that far from undermining its authority, it rather increases its meaning for us today. Fulfilled means that obeying Sabbath rest means ultimately believing in Christ, and rejoicing in his great salvation, which He accomplished on Sunday. This means that the force of the Fourth commandment carries over to the Christian Sunday. We can now truly enter into God’s rest. We can paraphrase the Fourth Commandment’s NT meaning this way: “Remember Sunday, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the Sunday is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in thirty-three years Jesus prepared the new creation, and rested the first day of the new era. Therefore, Jesus blessed Sunday, and made it holy.”

C. Deuteronomy 5:12-15
This passage adds to Exodus 20 (the “creation reason”) what I call the “redemption reason” for keeping the Sabbath. It is because God redeemed Israel out of Egypt (a land only associated with work-death) that Israel should now remember that great salvation by keeping the Sabbath. For now, they did not have to work on the Sabbath. They had some rest from their labors. The problem was, the wilderness got to them. They didn’t like the wilderness, and were always complaining about the lack of food and water. Moses reproaches them for this in Deuteronomy 28-29. He warns the Israelites against the evil of disobedience, even after they enter the promised land. As Paul says in Hebrews, the promised land was not the ultimate rest, though it pointed to the ultimate rest. We may see the parallels between Israel and the church: Israel in Egypt–church before Christ makes it alive; Israel in wilderness–church between first coming (the greater Exodus that Jesus provides) and second coming (the final judgment); Israel in promised land–church in final rest. If you are sharp readers, you will probably have noticed that there is a problem with this analogy: the final rest, by this analogy doesn’t come until Jesus’ second coming. It does not seem to have anything to do with His first coming. But here it is easy: Jesus’ coming should be thought of as one coming in two stages. At His first coming, the rest comes, but at the final coming, the rest will be consummated. It is exactly parallel with the coming of the kingdom: the kingdom is here, but isn’t here: it is here in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but isn’t consummated until the second coming. The bride is affianced, but the wedding is not yet. We have the first-fruits, but not the full harvest.
Joshua though to have been the final deliverer of the Israelites from Egypt, and into the promised rest. As Paul says in Hebrews, there was a greater deliverance to come in the person of Jesus Christ. There was a greater rest. Israel did not enter God’s rest, so there still remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. Jesus accomplished the attainment of that rest, and He did so at His resurrection.

The ultimate meaning of Deuteronomy 5:12-15 is then that Jesus has accomplished the greater Exodus out of sin. Thus, we celebrate that greater deliverance by worshipping the founder and architect of our faith (Jesus Christ) on the day on which it was accomplished (Sunday). In fact, not to worship God on Sunday now is to deny that the greater Exodus has come.
To sum up the OT meaning of the Sabbath: from Genesis we learn that the Sabbath is eternal, and that God has already entered it. From Exodus, we learn that Jesus brought about a new creation (on Sunday). And from Deuteronomy, we learn that Jesus has brought about the greater Exodus of His people. All of this points to the fact that Jesus fulfills the meaning of the Sabbath such that we must worship Him on Sunday, the day this fulfillment happened.

III. The New Testament
A. Jesus’ examples. As the pamphlet well pointed out, Jesus worshipped God on the Sabbath prior to his death and resurrection. It was still officially the OT era. The new era had not broken in with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Therefore, it was natural that Jesus would worship God on the Sabbath prior to his death and resurrection. However, as the pamphlet failed to mention, after the resurrection, every time Christ appeared to the disciples, it was on a Sunday. When Jesus rose from the dead and was preaching (!) on Sunday to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, having fellowship (!) with them, that was an act of worship. Later on that same day (see especially Luke 24:33 “that same hour they went to tell the disciples”) , he appeared to them while they were discussing these things. Then he gives to them a mini-sermon (probably shortened to the few essential points by Luke), and furthermore, ate a meal with them (similar, though somewhat different, from the Lord’s Supper). John is even more important in this regard. John 20:19, John emphatically declares that “on that day, the first day of the week” the disciples were gathered together, and Jesus appeared among them. John is peculiarly emphatic about the fact that it was the first day of the week when this appearance of Jesus took place. This is probably because of the fact that John’s gospel was written primarily to Jews (this is indicated by vs. 31, which should actually be read, “these things (all of John) are written so that you may believe that the Christ is Jesus.” The question of the identity of the Christ is a question that Jews asked). Because he wrote to Jews, he wanted to explain to them the origin of the Christian Sunday worship. Even more plain is verse 26, where a pattern starts to emerge: the Christians worshipped on Sunday. The disciples were together again (the word “again” implies design on their part to meet) eight days later (counting inclusively, therefore meaning Sunday, as all commentators say), when Jesus appeared to them again. Contrary to the idea that there is no mention of Sunday worship in the NT, either in the worship of the early church, or in the example of Jesus, there is every reason to believe that not only did the early church worship on Sunday, but the example of Jesus shows the pattern of Sunday worship. This is clear from Luke and from John

B. The rest of the NT
The pamphlet makes the unfortunate remark that there is no evidence of Sunday worship in the early church (making special reference to Acts). There are three references in the NT (besides the evidence of John 20) that conclusively demonstrate (again, according to the plain sense of the passages, as well as the opinion of most unbiased commentators) that Sunday was the day of worship for the early church. The first passage is Acts 20:7. Not only were they gathered together on the first day of the week, but they broke bread together (most commentators think that this is the Lord’s Supper), and Paul preached a very long sermon to them. So the Lord’s Supper and preaching happened on Sunday. Furthermore, Eutychus dies, necessitating a resurrection on Sunday. I wonder who Luke means for us to think of here! Surely, Jesus’ resurrection is being point to retroactively!

The only difficulty to be mentioned here is the debate among scholars as to whether the evening of the Sabbath is mentioned, or the evening of Sunday is meant. It really does not matter. If Luke is using the Jewish method of reckoning, then the day started on the evening (thus meaning that Saturday night was the start of Sunday). If Luke is using the Roman/Greek method of reckoning, then he means the evening of Sunday (which the Romans/Greeks thought of as part of the daylight preceding). Either way, Luke means Sunday.

The Sabbath position will object: what about all the references to the Christians worshipping on the Sabbath in the synagogue? This is answerable. The fact is, that Paul (along with all the other disciples/missionaries) always went to the Jews first in a given city before they went to the Gentiles. In order to witness to them, he would naturally have attended their synagogue service in order to be there when the Jews were there. That fact does not mean that the Christians worshipped by themselves on the Sabbath. There is no indication in the NT that the Christians worshipped on Saturday when there were no Jews present. Only when the Jews were there did they worship in the synagogue on Saturday, and only then for a missionary purpose.

The second clear indication of Sunday worship is 1 Corinthians 16:2. Paul asks a collection to be gathered for the saints in Jerusalem. He wants it done on the first day of the week. Why would he mention this if the saints were usually gathering on the Sabbath for worship? Wouldn’t it have been more convenient for Paul to ask them to gather it together on the Sabbath, if that is when they met? Taking it (along with most commentators Protestant and Catholic) as an indication that worship happened on Sunday, we now have three of the elements prescribed for worship as having a clear indication of happening on Sunday: preaching (Jesus’ examples, and Paul), breaking bread, i.e. the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), and tithes/offerings (1 Corinthians 16:2).

The third clear indication of Sunday worship is found in Revelation 1:10. He says that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. This term Lord’s day means Sunday, not Saturday, as every commentator on the passage admits. It was used in the early (!) church to mean Sunday. It had acquired a technical sense already by John’s time of meaning that day on which Christians worshipped. Even today, the same Greek phrase means Sunday in the modern Greek language. So the argument from this passage is that the term had acquired a special meaning. It was a commemorative day (commemorative of what but the Lord’s resurrection?). This was the day of the week set aside for commemorating the resurrection of the Lord from the dead.
In summary, the NT clearly indicates that Christians worshipped on Sunday. It would have been good of the pamphleteers to mention and discuss these particular passages in their defense of Sabbath worship. Do any Sabbath worship defenders talk about these passages? I haven’t even mentioned Colossians 2:16.

IV. The early church
By early church, I mean here the post-apostolic church. The apostles were all dead, and their traditions and teachings were being hammered out in the fires of debate and persecution.
First up is Justin Martyr, an apologist for the Christian faith, that is, he defended the Christian faith against non-belief. In his Apologia section 1.67, he says this: “We meet in common on Sunday.”

Second up is several authors: the second-century document known as the Didache, in section 14.1 says much the same as Justin Martyr. So does Barnabas 15.9, Pliny, Epistle 10.96, 7 and Ignatius Magnesians 9.1. All of these documents mentioned were written in the second century, well before Roman Catholicism even thought of being in existence. The argument that the early church did not observe Sunday worship is contradicted by every major church historian. See Schaff, vol 2, pp. 201ff, Latourette, pg. 198, and Chadwick, pg. 32, for instance.

V. Summary
From the continuity/discontinuity issue, we learn that Jesus makes a difference in how we interpret everything in the OT, including the Sabbath issue. From the OT, we learned that the significance of the Sabbath lies in Jesus’ death and resurrection. From the NT, we learn that Christians, following Jesus’ example, worshipped on Sunday. From early church history, we learn that the early church did, in fact, worship on Sunday, following the apostolic custom. One last argument remains to be addressed: Is Sunday a Roman Catholic observance, and thus to be avoided? The simple answer to this is the following: if it were, why did all the Reformers continue to worship on Sunday? Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox all worshipped and preached on Sunday. Clearly, it did not bother them that the Roman Catholic Church worshipped on Sunday. The Puritans made it a point, especially in the Westminster Confession of Faith, but also in the other forms of unity (Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort), far from there being any objection to Sunday worship, there are strenuous arguments for Sunday worship. For these, I would refer one to Richard Birch Gaffin’s article in the book, The Westminster Confession into the Twenty-First Century, vol 1, pp. 123-144. That whole article is immensely instructive. He was one of my professors in seminary, and much of my entire argument rests on material taught me by him.

Further Reading:
There are many books arguing the case for Sunday worship. Here are some of the best:
Carson, D.A., ed. From Sabbath to Lord’s Day. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.
Dennison, James T. Dennison, Jr. The Market Day of the Soul. Morgan (PA): Soli Deo Gloria, 2001.
Duncan, J. Ligon III, ed. The Westminster Confession into the Twenty-First Century, vol 1. Ross-Shire (GB): Christian Focus Publications, 2003.
Owen, John. An Exposition of Hebrews, vol 2, pp. 263-460. Carlisle (PA): Banner of Truth Trust, originally written in 17th century, published 1991.
Pipa, Joseph. The Lord’s Day. Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus Publications, 1997.
Ray, Bruce. Celebrating the Sabbath. Phillipsburg (NJ): P&R, 2000.
In my opinion, the most thoroughly argued cases are by the Carson book, and by John Owen (though he is tough sledding, using the old style language of the Puritans, besides the fact that he was the best scholar of his day in any field, and it shows). The Pipa book and the Ray book both have excellent practical discussions of what to do on Sunday as the Christian Sabbath. Dennison is a lengthy discussion of the Puritan Sabbath.


  1. September 16, 2005 at 9:54 am

    Good post… although very long. Is this a sermon you have bloggized?

    “We” are always trying to slip out from under God’s law. Modern attempts by loosey evangelicals to free themselves from the Sabbath are the same (at core) as me saying, “That’s not a lie, it is an exaggeration.”

    “We” will continue to do this until we realize that ALL we do are filthy rags. That the only righteousness we have is what Jesus does/did on our behalf. That we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.

    Once we realize that sanctification is an ongoing act of God, it is “easier” to stop trying to slip out from under His Law. Instead, we will tend to find ourselves more interested in how we can KEEP it (not to find salvation or holiness for heaven’s sake, but to honor our Saving Father) than in how we can AVOID it.

  2. Mr. Baggins said,

    September 16, 2005 at 10:42 am

    I am glad you didn’t recognize it. Maybe that means you got more benefit out of it! This is the paper I submitted for ordination exams (with only a few alterations). The discussion I am referring to is the latest post on Nate Eshelmann’s site (availabe off Johannus Weslianus’ site). Very interestin debate on the Sabbath going on there.

  3. August 14, 2007 at 3:37 pm


    Your correct Baggins, you’ve posted quite the informational mouthful! I tried desperately to absorb it all in one sitting but failed miserably. Ironically enough, I recently posted a meager attempt myself at my blog concerning this Sabbath issue and received a few interesting comments here:
    …and here:

    I’ll most definitely post a link to your discussion at my blog. Please don’t ever delete yours as I have a few Adventist friends who need to read it. By the way, are you able to reveal the blog where this Sabbath discussion first originated?

    Lord bless,


  4. Jim Richardson said,

    December 21, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Concerning your comment:

    “The Sabbatarians rightly note that this passage proves that the Sabbath was not just for Israel….and that Sabbath observance did not start with the Mosaic law.”

    I’d like to hear your response to this gentleman’s argument (especially in light of Deut 5:2-3:

    Also, here at least two Ante-Nicene Fathers who express a contrary opinion (which doesn’t make them correct but whom should not be ignored either):
    * 150AD JUSTIN: Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned [after mentioning Adam. Abel, Enoch, Lot, Noah, Melchizedek, and Abraham], though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God; and after them Abraham with all his descendants until Moses… And you [fleshly Jews] were commanded to keep Sabbaths, that you might retain the memorial of God. For His word makes this announcement, saying, “That you may know that I am God who redeemed you.” (Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, 150-165 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, page 204)
    * 200AD TERTULLIAN: Let him who contends that the Sabbath is still to be observed a balm of salvation, and circumcision on the eighth day because of threat of death, teach us that in earliest times righteous men kept Sabbath or practiced circumcision, and so were made friends of God. .. …Therefore, since God originated Adam uncircumcised, and inobservant of the Sabbath, consequently his offspring also, Abel, offering Him sacrifices, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, was by Him commended… Noah also, uncircumcised – yes, and inobservant of the Sabbath – God freed from the deluge. For Enoch, too, most righteous man, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, He translated from this world… Melchizedek also, “the priest of most high God,” uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, was chosen to the priesthood of God. (An Answer to the Jews 2:10; 4:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 3, page 153)

    Blessings to you my friend!

  5. greenbaggins said,

    December 21, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Jim, my apologies for not answering 3. Presbyterian Thoughts (linked under Blogroll) is the origin of the Sabbath discussion.

    The gentleman’s argument falls to the ground when one considers the fourth commandment itself, *which bases itself on the creation order.* What kind of basis would that be if Sabbath were something new in the Ten Commandments? Also, the gentleman seems to have forgotten that Moses wrote Genesis as well as Exodus. Furthermore, to say that the word “Sabbath” doesn’t occur in Genesis is quite specious, as well as erroneous, since the verb form “rested” in Genesis 2:2 is the origin of the word “Sabbath.” Besides which it would be the word-concept fallacy to say that just because a word is not present (which it actually is!) therefore the concept is not present. Seventh day, no work but rather rest, that is the heart of the Sabbath concept. To say that it isn’t present in Genesis is therefore quite wrong. Tertullian argues from silence, always a dangerous procedure, especially given the above argumentation. Justin also. Just because it doesn’t *say* that Adam obeyed Sabbath doesn’t mean that they did not in fact observe the Sabbath. Deut 5 does nothing to hamper this viewpoint, since Deut 5 cannot be read as implying that nothing at all in the Mosaic covenant has any continuity with previous generations. After all, Genesis 9 is quite clear that murder is wrong, which is what the 6th commandment states. Does that mean that the command not to murder did not come into existence until the Mosaic legislation? Who would argue this?

  6. December 27, 2007 at 10:08 am


    If you don’t mind I’ve attempted to respond to your thoughtful comments here:

    God bless,


  7. December 31, 2007 at 10:45 am

    […] have an article here proving that the typological trajectory of Exodus and Deuteronomy is fulfilled in the resurrection […]

  8. March 5, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    […] make any more comments, I would like to hear what some of you scholars have to say about it. Try From Sabbath to Lord’s Day Green Baggins and Remember the Sabbath Day Green Baggins __________________ Name: Richard Church: Church of […]

  9. April 21, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    […] have written a longish sort of article on it here defending the Christian Sabbath as being Sunday from a redemptive historical point of view. […]

  10. August 20, 2008 at 10:21 am

    […] expected them to be. He does argue that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, along much the same lines as I do. He does argue that normal work that is not necessary is forbidden. And even where we differ (on […]

  11. Roy said,

    August 23, 2008 at 8:26 am

    A missing point: the church began worshipping on the first rather than the last day. Yet there is no biblical record of any debate. Nor is there any extra biblical record. What an astonishing occurence, with incredible contrast to what one nearly universally observes in ‘worship wars’. (Preach heresy and get no static; mess with the order of worship and die.) Yet something as fundamental to worship as the day gets changed and we find not a hint of discussion much less disagreement. How can this be?

    The day had to change. The Resurrection wrought new reality. What the very time structure of OT worship declared had come to pass. Now worship must take place on a new day. Instead of looking forward to a distant future, already arrival cemented to participatory anticipation shapes the motif.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    August 23, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Thanks, Roy, that is a good point, although a disputed one. Bacchiocci in his book disputes that Christians even worshiped on Sunday. While I think he is wrong, he is a very careful scholar, and his arguments cannot be lightly thrown aside.

  13. September 1, 2008 at 5:52 am

    […] [quote][Scott, I see the WCF statement on The Sabbath and I am sold on the idea that we should keep it until The Return of The Lord, but how did it get moved from Saturday to Sunday? /QUOTE] Here’s one article that specifically addresses this: From Sabbath to Lord’s Day Green Baggins […]

  14. October 28, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    […] opinion is here. __________________ Rev. Lane Keister Teaching Elder, PCA, North Dakota (working out of bounds in […]

  15. May 23, 2012 at 8:25 am

    […] expected them to be. He does argue that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, along much the same lines as I do. He does argue that normal work that is not necessary is forbidden. And even where we differ (on […]

  16. January 3, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    […] […]

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