Sabbath/Lord’s Day

Q & A CornerCategory: Systematic TheologySabbath/Lord’s Day
Breton R Palmer asked 4 years ago

I’m working through Dr Long’s position paper on the Sabbath/Lord’s Day controversy. Fascinating paper. So, far I have two questions that he doesn’t address because they’re more application than exegetical based. He shows his view of how the sabbath isn’t a Creation Ordinance. I have always viewed the idea of a rhythm of work and rest (sabbath- generically) as a Creation ordinance/principle. So, my question would be could that argument be made? Maybe not a strict 6 to 1, but that in our work that we need to take time off and rest. Being that his contrast of the Christian Sabbath and Lord’s Day isn’t just semantical, my question refers to working on the Lord’s Day. My wife has a rotating schedule and maybe half the year has to work Sunday’s. Christian Sabbath position we’re in sin, what would be the Lord’s Day implication?? Thank you for your time and your ministry in the Lord!

1 Answers
Zachary Maxcey Staff answered 4 years ago

Breton, I must apologize for not answering your question from June, because I paused work on the blog (posts/answers) for a time, but the posting is fully back up. Thank you for the question. Advocates of New Covenant Theology, including Dr. Long, myself, and others, do not hold to the Sabbath day being a creation ordinance. This is for several reasons: (1) Exodus 31:13 and Ezekiel 20:20 both indicate that the Sabbath is the covenantal sign of the Old Covenant, that is to say for the people of Israel; (2) Colossians 2:16-17 states that the Sabbath is “a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” – in other words, Christ is the fulfillment of the Sabbath [In response to the NCT view of this passage, advocates of Covenant Theology, generally state that only the special feast-day Sabbaths are in view not the weekly Sabbath.]; (3) In Christ’s interaction with the Pharisees where He and His disciples are accused of breaking the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8), Christ argues that He and His disciples had not broken the Sabbath, since they were serving God on a special divinely-ordained mission, just like the priests who ‘profane’ the Sabbath with their labor in the Temple (and are guiltless) and David, who was not only mission from God but was also hungry – as a result, the priests provided for his needs & mercifully fed him the showbread.
That being said, many advocates of NCT, including myself, still see that there is a general principle/pattern set forth in Genesis 1-2 that can still be applied to Christians today. However, this a principle, not an ordinance. This would be the principle of biblical rest. In fact, Eviatar Zerubavel in The Seven Day Circle argue that other ancient cultures practiced a similar, if not identical principle of rest. Certainly, man needs rest from physical labor, and I think that a general principle for this is set forth in Genesis 1-2. Man’s need for physical rest is a picture of the spiritual rest he/she needs in Christ, and the Sabbath was a picture of the coming spiritual rest that Christ would provide. Ultimately, the Sabbath issue is one of Christian liberty, which I believe Romans 14 indirectly addresses (see Romans 14:5-9). If one wants to rest on the literal Sabbath, he/she is free to do so. If one wants to hold Sunday as the Christian equivalent of the Old Covenant Sabbath (i.e. Christian Sabbath, as in Covenant Theology), he/she is free to do so. However, I would also say that Christians should not impose their own views regarding the Sabbath so as to curb/impair/violate others’ liberty in Christ as it relates to disputable matters, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Nor should either side look down on one another for exercising freedom with regard to this issue. Romans 14:17 states: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (ESV).
With regard to working on the Lord’s Day, I myself have had to work on the Lord’s Day, whether as a Best Buy supervisor or performing military missions on deployment or my weekend duties in the Army Reserves. I tried to avoid this whenever possible, but when I could not, I did my best to intentionally rest physically at another time, while all the while striving to rest in Christ spiritually by the power of His Spirit. I do believe that I was free in Christ to fulfill my work obligations without regret or guilt in those instances. When I was free to fellowship with believers on Sunday, I did so and worshipped the Lord with them. When I was not free due to work, I did not complain but strove to glorify God in the manner which I worked. I do not believe that I sinned by working on those days, nor would I accuse another believer in a similar situation of sin either. Bottom line: in my opinion, both the Lord’s Day vs. Christian Sabbath and having to work on Sunday are both matters of Christian liberty for which each Christian must prayerfully seek the Spirit’s wisdom. Yours in Christ, Zach