Monday, February 07, 2011

Pharisees think that Sabbath-keeping is legalistic

Perhaps there is no other thing which modern Evangelicals associate more with the Pharisees and their legalism, than Sabbath-keeping. But was it not the case that they distorted what true Sabbath-keeping was about? Listen to this compelling argument from Walter Chantry's "Call the Sabbath a Delight!"

"At this time in our Lord's earthly ministry [Matthew 12:1ff and Luke 6:1ff], Jesus was pledged to fulfill all righteousness even under the Mosaic judicial and ceremonial laws. It was He alone who perfectly lived by the system given under Moses. He and His disciples could not sweep away any Old Testament law as irrelevant if Jesus were to fulfill His mission as Messiah. Our Lord is not suggesting to the Pharisees that it is permissible to break the law because the law must be changed.
"To the contrary, Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of a fundamental misunderstanding of the Sabbath law. Their views were entirely mistaken and could not be defended from Old Testament Scriptures. They had blundered seriously in handling Biblical passages on the law. Our Prophet is defending His practice because it is in complete harmony with Old Testament standards. He had not in any way disregarded the Sabbath!
"This observation is of the highest significance in our day. It is important because some breathe the spirit of the Pharisees and would reintroduce their stern demands within the modern church. However, even more shocking than those who wish to reconstruct a Pharisaical attitude toward the Sabbath are those who wish to abolish the Sabbath in our day. These people suggest that the Pharisees were right, not Jesus. They try to persuade us that if one day in seven must be kept holy to the Lord, it is inevitable that we will take up the Pharisees' way of doing so! They imply or declare that the only possible way to keep the fourth commandment is in the way of Pharisaical strictness. Their opinion is that the only alternative to the rigidity of the Pharisees is total abolition of the day. Such a position leads to the conclusion that the Pharisees were correct in accusing our Lord and His disciples of Sabbath-breaking. This approach toward rescinding the fourth commandment is an intolerable sacrilege! Jesus' pattern of behaviour is in full compliance with the Sabbath law."

In this masterful book, Chantry also powerfully brings Scripture to bear against some of the most common, and superficially convincing arguments against keeping one day in seven holy to the Lord:

"Some of the Continental Reformers and Reformation creeds reason something like this. Christians have ceased from seeking God's favour by good works and have instead relied upon the works of Jesus Christ to save them. This rest of the Christian from a works way of salvation is akin to God's ceasing from his works at creation. The Old Testament weekly Sabbath prefigured this resting upon Christ. Now we have the reality and no longer need the shadow. However, Christians, too, need a day of worship; but the Lord's Day is not identical with the fourth commandment Sabbath.
"At best this is a jumble of poorly worked-through ideas. At worst some of the Reformers have misled us at this point. It appears that some Reformed thinkers could not escape the influence of one of their leading doctrines even when it did not apply to the subject which they were handling.
"Some who are newly come to the doctrines of grace find God's sovereignty in every Bible verse and feel compelled to expound that theme in every message. A few Reformers seemed to feel compelled to discuss justification by faith when defining the nature of Sabbath-keeping. To them ceasing from works could only mean to cease to rely on works religion to be saved. However, the parallel does not hold in Biblical passages on the subject.
"God ceased from glorious and righteous works when He entered His rest. He entered rest satisfied and delighted in the work He had done. When the Jews were called to work six days and rest on the seventh in imitation of their Creator, it was not being suggested that they try to earn salvation by their obedience to the law. Such a course was nowhere recommended by Moses! Galatians 3 explicitly denies such a position. All mankind was given six days to do all his own legitimate works. On the seventh he was to cease from these (good) works to worship and serve the Lord. Man is to share God's delight in divine works. He is to enter God's rest, which has nothing to do with a former miserable works religion."

Throughout this short, yet thorough book, the common New Testament passages misused to deny that the fourth commandment is applicable to Christians are explained. Romans 14:5-6, Col. 2:16-17, and Gal. 4:9-10, all speak against Christians keeping the ceremonial and judicial laws which were shadows and have been fulfilled with the coming of the reality which is Christ. He proves that the fourth commandment was not included in these ceremonial or judicial laws, and that these passages have in question the feast days and special sabbaths pertaining to them. Rather, the fourth commandment is a moral one, and was laid down, not by Moses, but by a creation ordinance as was marriage.

He also proves conclusively from various passages (and especially with a watertight exposition of Hebrews 3:1-4:11) that not only is the fourth commandment still applicable to Christians today (as with all the other moral commandments), but also that the day has been changed by the Lord of the Sabbath, Christ, to the first day of the week (which was the day Christ entered His rest), instead of the seventh (on which God entered His in the beginning). The book demonstrates the grievous error of antinomianism proving that the moral law of God was not abolished. It also traces much of the attitude against Sabbath-keeping to the Scripture-dividing heresy of dispensationalism which says that most of the Bible is not really applicable to the church in the New Testament. In connection with this, he proves that keeping the law was never a means of salvation; rather, salvation by grace through faith has always been the way (his simple clear arguments on this point are stunning). Positively, Chantry patiently explains the purpose of the law, both the moral law, and the ceremonial and judicial laws.

Besides this essential framework, he gives wonderful pastoral instructions regarding the motive of all law-keeping - not in order to merit or earn anything, but out of the overflow of sincere gratitude in love for God. He exposes in detail the error of the Pharisees and gives wise and pastoral warnings against it, using the clear examples given by Jesus Christ. These parts of the book make it especially a worthwhile read, and also very beneficial even for those who may already be convinced that "there remaineth therefore a Sabbath for the people of God." - Heb. 4:9. If you are not convinced of this doctrine yet, then read the book, and I doubt you will have an argument remaining - indeed if your authority is Scripture alone, you will most likely "Call the Sabbath a Delight". :)

The book is available on Amazon here.

1 comment:

Lloyd said...

I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come on over to my blog and check it out. God bless, Lloyd