"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sabbath Study Guide

About a year ago, I created a Study Guide for members who were asking questions about the Sabbath and the Biblical teaching of it. I put together this study guide to walk people through the Biblical Theological basis for Sabbath by reading text and asking critical questions about what each text is saying. I provide it here for those interested or who want to use it for their own study:

Sabbath Study Guide

This guide is meant to assist one reading through relevant Scriptures dealing with the subject of the Sabbath. Some of the questions are meant to help think through the facts of the passage, other questions the deeper meaning, and finally other questions are meant to think through our practical application of the passage.

Genesis 2:1-3
1) What is significant about the Sabbath starting in Creation?

2) If God did not "need" to rest, why did He?

3) If marriage (2:18-25) and Sabbath are creation ordinances, can either one be abolished before the new creation?

Exodus 16

  1. Why would it be significant to see Sabbath keeping before the law is given at Sinai?

  1. What implications does this passage have about the day before the Sabbath?

  1. APPLICATION: Do we have to work at resting or prepare to rest on the Sabbath like the Israelites?

Exodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:12-15

  1. One account of the 10 commandments roots Sabbath in Creation, the other in redemption: how is the Sabbath significant to how we understand creation? How does it help us understand Redemption?

  1. In reading though the other 9 commandments, would you see these commands as always morally binding? Are these commandments arbitrary or rooted in something deeper?

  2. APPLICATION: Name the imperative verbs (commands) in the section. Then think through any contemporary applications.

Exodus 31:13-18

  1. How does God fulfill his promise: “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

  1. Read Exodus 31:16 – How long was the Sabbath to remain as a part of the covenant with God’s People?

  1. Read Exodus 31:18 – What is referred to by the phrase “two tablets of stone”? In light of the establishment of a “covenant forever” what implication does this have for the validity of the “two tablets of stone”?

Isaiah 58:13-14

  1. What is included in "your own pleasures"? If “our pleasures” are not necessarily wrong, what does this tell us about our pleasures on the Sabbath?

  1. What is the blessing attached to Sabbath keeping?

  1. APPLICATION: What blessings might we be missing out on by neglecting Sabbath?

  1. APPLICATION: What personal pleasures may be appropriate on other days, that are not on the Sabbath?

Nehemiah 13:15-22

  1. What was the violation that upset Nehemiah?

  1. What was Nehemiah’s reaction (punishment) to Sabbath breaking?

  2. APPLICATION: How, today, do we violate the Sabbath like those in Nehemiah 13?

  1. APPLICATION: Why, today, do we not take the Sabbath as seriously (as worthy of physical beating for breaking!)?

Matthew 12:1-14
  1. Read Deuteronomy 23:25 – Was it “unlawful” for the disciples to pick grain from the field in 12:1-2?

  1. Read 1 Samuel 21:1-6 – The Westminster Confession will talk about works of mercy and necessity on the Sabbath – How do we see that in action in this episode from the life of David?

  1. Jesus declares Himself “Lord of the Sabbath.” Read the lead in to Matthew 12, in Matthew 11:28-30. How is this a demonstration of Him being “Lord of the Sabbath”?

  1. Jesus does a work of healing on the Sabbath. How does Jesus fulfill His role as “Lord of the Sabbath” in Matthew 12:9-16?

  1. APPLICATION: How do we come to Jesus like the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath?

  1. APPLICATION: Mark has a parallel account, but includes the observation “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) In what ways does the Sabbath benefit man?

  1. APPLICATION: In no place does Jesus condemn the principle of Sabbath-keeping. Yet, the Pharisees are condemned for the way they “kept” the Sabbath with no regard to doing works of mercy. How should we be mindful of that in our Sabbath-keeping today?

Hebrews 4:1-11

  1. How does “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” align with Old Testament teaching on the Sabbath?

  1. Hebrews 4:8 “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.” In what ways have we still not fully entered into that promised rest?

  1. APPLICATION: Reflect for a while on Hebrew 4:10. What is God’s role on the Sabbath? What is my role on the Sabbath?

  1. APPLICATION: What efforts can we “strive” to do to enter the rest that Sabbath promises?


  1. Do you believe that today in America, we are more like the Pharisees in Matthew 12 or the Israelites in Nehemiah 13 in our problem with the Sabbath?

  1. What spiritual activities do you wish you had time to do? [Are there any spiritual books to read, songs to sing, time set aside for prayer, family worship, Bible Reading, listening to sermons?]

  1. Record a schedule of your Sundays.
    1. How much of the time is used in preparation [to go somewhere, to make a meal, cleaning etc]?
    2. How much time is used for recreation and entertainment [watching or participating]?
    3. How much time is used in “holy” activities?
    4. After doing this, would you say that you are using the day as set apart to God?
    5. How might you change your schedule to keep the Sabbath holy? What might you have to start doing? What might you need to stop doing [or start doing on a different day]?

Further Studies in the Biblical Theology of Sabbath

These questions are meant to investigate issues or objections to the Sabbath that arise. These deal with deeper and more difficult subjects to think through regarding the Sabbath.

Abolished Law? Read Matthew 5:17-20
Some may cite Ephesians 2:14-16, saying Christ has abolished the law. [“having abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances”]

  1. What is Christ referring to as the “law” in Matthew 5:17-20? How is that different from Ephesians 2:14-16?
  2. Matthew Henry states: “By his sufferings in the flesh, to took away the binding power of the ceremonial law (so removing that cause of enmity and distance between them), which is here called the law of commandments contained in ordinances, because it enjoined a multitude of external rites and ceremonies, and consisted of many institutions and appointments about the outward parts of divine worship.
    1. If Jesus was not abolishing the moral law (i.e. the 10 Commandments), what significance would that have for the Fourth Commandment? How would the writer of Hebrews 4:9 respond if he was asked if the Sabbath was a part of that which was done away with in the ceremonial law?
    2. Would the Jewish and Christian Sabbath have some differences? Some similarities?

No More Sabbath? (Col 2:16-17; Romans 14:6; Gal 4:10)

When Paul mentions “Sabbaths” in Col 2:16-17, there is more than one “Sabbath” in the Old Testament.

  1. Read Leviticus 25:1-7.
    1. How does land have a Sabbath?
    2. Read Leviticus 26:40-45. What was the punishment for not keeping the Sabbath Year?
    3. Read Jeremiah 25:12, Daniel 9:2 and 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 //How did God fulfill his promised punishment in the exile?

  1. Read Leviticus 23:1-8. What other days other than Saturday are called “sabbaths”?

  1. With the Old Testament context, what then is Paul talking about with “festivals,” “new moons,” and “sabbaths”?
    1. Might we make a distinction between “sabbaths” and THE Sabbath?
    2. APPLICATION: What applications might this teaching have for modern “sabbaths” or Holidays?

Saturday (last day) or Sunday (First Day)?

We only have evidence of the church worshiping as the church on the first day (Sunday) not the seventh day:

  • Scripture records worship on the first day:

Act 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

1Co 16:2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

Also cf. Joh 20:19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

  • The Universal Witness of the Apostles was to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the First Day of the Week. [Matt 26:17, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1; John 20:1.]

  • The early church testified to worship of the church on the first day, such as Justin Martyr, a Christian in the Second Century AD, in his First Apology, Chapter 67 – “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.”
  1. When the Apostles worshiped on the first day, and the Sabbath was referred by the Lord as “my holy day” and “the holy day of the Lord” (Isaiah 58:13-14), and when John says he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day,” (Rev 1:10) What good and necessary application do we have as Christians in the Apostolic Church?
  1. If the first day of the week is when creation began, what might the change of the Lord’s Day to the first day have to teach us? [cf. 2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15]

Monday, October 07, 2013

Law? What is it good for?

The Westminster Confession of Faith 19.6 contains a helpful summary of why the law is of use, even to believers under the gospel, and allows us to see obedience as being natural under the gospel, rather than how it is used in American evangelicalism as a sign of "legalism" [improperly understood]. Here, I attempt to give an outline to help demonstrate this:

  1. a. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; [Romans 8:1]
    b. yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that,
      1. as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly;
      2. discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives;
      3. so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin,
      4. together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ,
      5. and the perfection of his obedience.
      6. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve;
      7. and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.
      8. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.
        [POINT:] So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.