Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Are You a Nine Commandment Christian?

You guys have probably noticed that Charlton Heston has left the building. He's been replaced by a newer version of "The Ten Commandments" this year on ABC. Hopefully, the newer version won't be entirely blasphemous and offensive. We'll see.

I figured since we're close to the Passover, it ought to be a good time to examine what we think about the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20:1-17. Most of them are easy, but let's run through them anyway:

1. No other gods before God.

Check!

2. No idol worshipping.

Check!

3. Do not take the LORD's name in vain.

Amen!

4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

Huh?

5. Honor your father and your mother.

Amen!

6. Do not murder.

Amen!

7. Do not commit adultery.

Ghastly to do such!

8. Do not steal.

Amen.

9. Do not bear false witness.

Amen.

10. Do not covet.

Amen.

It was all fun and games except for number 4, wasn't it? We really aren't required to keep the Sabbath day anymore. That was abolished through Jesus' death. He's our Sabbath rest now. That's what we have always been taught, isn't it?

It may be true that Jesus' death and resurrection abolished Sabbath keeping, but that certainly is not what we have been taught. It is not the tradition handed down to us by our fathers. Our forefathers were convinced, nearly unanimously, that the "Lord's Day", Sunday, was the new Sabbath. Why do you think we go to Church on Sundays, people? Did we just pick the second day of the weekend arbitrarily?

Are you old enough to remember the "blue laws"? I am, and I'm only 31. In Alabama, virtually every business used to shut down on Sunday to honor the Lord's Day. My family scorned anyone to shame who dared to do work on Sunday. In fact, I was not even allowed to go fishing on Sunday, no matter how hard I protested that this was certainly not work. You did not wash your car on Sunday; you did not mow your yard; you did not clean your house. You were only allowed to watch football. (I guess football wasn't work, eh?)

The Southern Baptists have traditionally held that Sunday is the Lord's Sabbath. Behold these words in the Abstract of Principles signed by every professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (and probably a few of the others as well, such as Southern.) Here is Article XVII:

The Lord's day is a Christian institution for regular observance, and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, resting from worldly employments and amusements, works of necessity and mercy only excepted.


That was written for Southern Seminary in approximately 1859. They believed in the Lord's Day being the new Sabbath, beloved. All you Reformed Baptist types who love our heritage should also check out this quote from the London Baptist Confession of 1689. This is from Chapter 22:

As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God's appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord's day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.

The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.


That is our tradition. Are you a Sabbath breaker? Or is the LBC 1689 simply mistaken at this point? Do you believe that we ought to worship on Sunday, or will any old day do just as well? You may be wondering if I am a "Lord's Day" advocate. I would say no, but I'm leaning towards yes. To this day, I can not bring myself to work on Sunday other than to do the work of ministry. I would never in a million years mow my yard on Sunday. So what say you, dear reader? Why have we so nearly unanimously become Nine Commandment Christians?

18 comments:

Jim said...

Sheesh Brad, I break all of those everyday.

This is one of those issues where grace must reign supreme. Anything less is purely legalistic pharisaism and OT christianity. Let us not become foolish Galatians!

God bless,
Jim

Sojourner said...

Jim,

You murder people every day? Are you kidding me? Now, I realize that John said that hating your brother was like murder, but it isn't physically, literally murder or we'd put you in prison. Lusting for a woman may be heart adultery, but folks weren't stoned in Israel for thoughts. My point here is that some sins are certainly greater than others, and you are hopefully no one who murders daily.

Also, are you implying that the writers of the 1689 LBC were legalistic pharisees, along with most non-Romanists of history? Those who reject Sunday as the Lord's Sabbath are the minority by comparison.

Jim said...

Brad, James says that if I stumble in one point of the law I am a lawbreaker and guilty of all. If we are still looking to the law as our standard of righteousness then we have missed the boat.

I would like to see some NT scripture showing Sunday as the new sabbath for christians. There is a profound principle here regarding rest but the main issue is not the observance of a day. Rather the point is that we are to rest from our labours (our works) and enter into Christ's rest (His finished work). (Hebrews)

As for keeping the day, I have no problem with not working or doing chores on Sunday. But let's be careful how legal we make that requirement unless of course we have some commandment to do so.

God bless, I would really like to hear some thoughts on this further.

Jim

Wes Kenney said...

Brad,

I lived for a time in western Michigan, and the Dutch Reformed folks there won't go to a restaurant on Sunday, lest some poor waitress be forced to labor on their behalf.

I think it is good that we have in the current BF&M the phrase about conscience. This allows legalistic pharisees like yourself to sit on the couch all afternoon listening to the clock tick, while free-wheeling, permissive folks like Jim can clean out their garage.

Sorry, just being silly there for a moment. But I do affirm the underlying point that our conscience should guide us in this matter, and that we should not try to make this judgment for others.

Jim said...

hehe, free-wheeling, permissive! hehe!

If you only knew me, hahaha!

Wes, your smile really matches your personality. Thanks for the laugh.

Jim

ColinM said...

If people were true to the first commandment, obedience to the remaining nine would follow naturally. It is because they are unsound in this that they break the others.
—D.L. Moody

DL Moody was "purely a legalistic pharisee"?

Paul and John both took pains to exhort believers to flee from sin because they viewed sin as the ABNORMALITY in the Christian life. Besides, the grace of God is meant to lead you to repentance, not to shrug off what nails Christ to the cross (Rom 2:4).

Further, if we are to make the claim that one commandment is left to the individual believer, why not all? Did Jesus say not to use God's name in vain?

We need to bring in Paul's statement: "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." Rom 14:15

I am not taking sides yet, but I can see that this needs more thought than casual insult and reference to legalism, or to conscience, for that matter.

Wes Kenney said...

Isn't Paul's statement in Romans 14:15 exactly what is brought in by the BF&M statement I referenced? Specifically:

Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

My humorous references were not meant to offend.

Daniel Calle said...

Where does the Bible say that Sunday is the Sabbath commanded to the Jews in the OT?

ColinM said...

wes- No offense here. I enjoy the humor. I was more trying to circumvent the logic that tries to deny or minimize what the Bible teaches in lieu of what it says- if that makes sense.

My comment regarded everyone and argues both sides- rather addresses questions I have for both sides.

ColinM said...

Oh, Wes- "casual insult"- referred to comments above, not yours

Sojourner said...

I brought this topic up because I see it as a strangely overlooked issue. What I find particularly interesting is how strongly a "Sunday Sabbath" was held to by most of our forefathers, but is now a near non-issue amongst us today.

For example, when the "Conservative Resurgence" took over the SBC Seminaries, the charge of hypocrisy was leveled at Liberal professors because it went against the Abstract of Principles upon which the Seminaries were founded. Yet, in that very same document the obvious reference to the "Sunday Sabbath" are virtually ignored.

I plan on making arguments for being Pro-Sunday Sabbath, though I am not completely persuaded. I believe that there is much more at stake here than simple legalism. If it is indeed a commandment, then insisting that believers adhere to it is no different than demanding that they abstain from sexual immorality. To me, that is serious, and I do not want to overlook the conviction of godly men without the trouble of investigation.

Sojourner said...

That is, Liberal professors were railed against because they did not hold to the Scriptural view that the Abstracts demanded.

Jim said...

Colin and Brad,

1. Please show scriptural grounds for Sunday being the Sabbath.

2. If you are going to keep the Sabbath in the strict sense, you must keep it all the way. In other words you must follow the legal requirements as set forth in the law.

3. Does God simply want one day a week from us His children or does He not own every moment of our time?

Let us not overlook the principle of the sabbath rest in lieu of some form of law keeping which in fact fails to meet the required demands.

Brad, I have struggled with this issue in the past. Let us make sound decisions based upon scripture and not solely historical precendence, regardless how strong. That is the same fiasco our courts are presently in when they use case law to determine future decisions. Let us flee to the unchanging word of God and find His heart in this matter.

In Christ,
Jim

Daniel said...

Jim rightly points out that when you break one law, you break them all.

We ought to ask - what was the purpose of the law. Scripture tells us it was a placeholder - a tutor given to Israel to guide them until they receive something "new" that God had promised them.

To magnify the law, is to belittle Christ, since His coming abolished not only the law, but fulfilled the purpose for which the law was sent.

Questions about whether to observe the new moon, or the sabbath, or what have you are moot when the purpose of the law is understsood. It was our tutor, but now that Christ is here, the tutor is set aside.

People sorely confuse this however, having an unstable understanding of the covenants - they imagine that Christ died to abolish some of the law - but not all of it. Then they pick and choose what they think ought to be kept - and disregard the rest (even though scripture makes it plain everywhere that the law is a whole that cannot be reduced).

No one who is obedient to the indwelling Spirit of God commits sin - period. So long as we are in the Spirit we are not under the law, but under grace. The moment we are in the flesh - we are under the law again, trying to be righteous by keeping the law.

The law was our guide right up until the Holy Spirit was given - and now we live, having been set free to that law that produces sin and death, and having been delivered into the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Obedience to the Spirit is the new "law" for the believer - and the purpose of that obedience is fellowship with God.

Sojourner said...

Daniel,

Do you believe that all "law-breaking" is equal? In other words, do you really believe that Jesus/John teach that calling a brother names is equivalent to murder? I would say that disobeying one law undercuts the foundation upon which all law rests, that is, love of God and love of neighbor.

Also, when you say that Christ "abolished" the law, do you mean that the law no longer exists, or that He abolished the emnity that the law brings. Certainly you believe that "You shall not kill" is still a command that is binding on the believer, yes?

Also, you mentioned that as long as we are in the Spirit we are not under the law, but under grace. Do you mean to say that when a Christian sins he has fallen from a state of grace? Aren't we under grace even when we are being law breakers? Doesn't "under grace" mean that we will be judged according to grace and not according to law?

This discussion could turn out to be far more interesting that I ever anticipated.

Sojourner said...

In point of fact, I believe that Jesus said that whoever calls his brother a "Fool" is in danger of hellfire. I am alluding more to the principle than the exact quote.

Sojourner said...

This is so much fun that I can hardly stop myself. Daniel/Jim, are you guys implying that the writers of the LBC 1689 had a faulty understanding of the two covenants? (Actually, Daniel said that some have an "unstable" view of the two covenants.)

Since I believe the discussion began by discussion the Christian Sabbath, and the fact that Baptistis have historically observed Sunday as such, I can't help but think that this is your view. So if someone is a believer in a Lord's Day, then I suppose that in their instability they must be in good company.

Daniel said...

Brad - sorry for my late reply, and especially for the length of it. I haven't the time to shorten it.

First, you have asked the -right- questions, and that makes me feel pretty happy. ;-)

Do you believe that all "law-breaking" is equal?

The world reasons differently than God reasons. By this I mean, that the world typically evaluates the sinfulness of an act through the filter of its cultural consequences. In North America, most people could care less if a person took a pencil home from work. If the theft were discovered, it wouldn't be persecuted, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, it wouldn't even be considered wrong. That is because the consequences for stealing a pencil are negligible. Yet if we stole a computer from work - that is, if the same sinful avarice is allowed to express itself in a way that has greater earthly consequences - we say that the greater avarice is the "greater" sin.

When our morality is driven by the cultural consequences of our actions rather than a immutable moral standard, what was immoral 50 years ago (sodomy for instance) is now not only excusable, but even considered a non-issue by many.

Thus, when we gauge a sin according to its worldly consequences - we err. We must regard sin according to it's eternal consequence. How much high treason is acceptable to our King? Stealing a paper clip makes me as much a sinner as stealing an air craft carrier - the question of scale doesn't come into it, because the judgment for sin is not based on severity, but on commission.

Thus I say, "Yes" I believe that all law breaking is "equal" - in the sense that no matter where you break the "law" once you do you are a sinner condemned to the same fate as every other condemned sinner - whether your sin was great in the eyes of men, or diminutive.

Also, when you say that Christ "abolished" the law, do you mean that the law no longer exists, or that He abolished the enmity that the law brings.

No, I do not mean that the law no longer "exists".

When I say this I am referring to the eight chapter of the book of Hebrews - that is, that the new covenant involves the writing of God's "law" on the heart of the believer (v.10) and that this same covenant makes obsolete the old covenant of commandments.(v.13).

The law is made obsolete in the sense that the old covenant is obsolete.

Paul says in Philippians 3 that concerning the law he was a Hebrew of Hebrews - but that he counted such things (that is, things such as the "keeping the law" as a form of righteousness) to be rubbish (I am sure I don't have to tell you the Greek word actually means "dung").

Also, you mentioned that as long as we are in the Spirit we are not under the law, but under grace. Do you mean to say that when a Christian sins he has fallen from a state of grace?

That depends on what you mean by "fallen from a state of grace" - if by that you mean has the believer "lost his salvation" - I answer a hearty "no."

But if by "fallen from a state of grace" you mean a believe is no longer relying on God's righteousness but their own - then I say "yes."

Perhaps that requires a bit of flushing out. Romans seven is a picture of a man trying to justify himself by keeping the law. It doesn't matter if the person is a Jew or a carnal Christian - the result is the same - they cannot do what they want to do, because sin is present with them. That pictures a man who instead of trusting God to sanctify him tries to sanctify himself by keeping of the law - and in the end he discovers that while he might be able to make the outside of his cup clean - he discovers a "law" that present with him is a desire to sin that cannot be purged by his own attempts to sanctify himself.

Anyone who is trying to sanctify themselves - that is, to cleanse themselves by keeping the law - I will say it another way for clarity - anyone who hopes to change their sinful nature by keeping the law - the same do so (whether in ignorance or unbelief) to the crippling of their new nature.

Paul was explaining that we no longer look to the law for righteousness - because the righteousness that comes from the law doesn't do anything but suppress outward expressions of sin - that is, obedience to the law only cleanses the outside of the cup.

Not that we are to chuck the law away - as though it were no longer of value - God forbid! If it weren't for the law, we wouldn't have a codified description of what sin looks like! But the purpose of the law is not to hedge us in with rules to make us righteous - but rather to show us that we are sinners.

In the old covenant men of faith established their own righteousness by keeping the law - but this didn't change them internally - that is, there was no new birth - there was just suppressionism. The new promise was that God was going to deal with the root problem itself - sin, and that is what Christ defeated on the cross - sin and death (because of sin).

The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. When I speak of falling from grace - I am speaking of falling from the Christian "way" and back into the Jewish "way." Righteousness for the believer is twofold - imputed through Christ as our justification - and received through grace because of our faith and obedience.

Most evangelical believers have a solid grip on imputed righteousness - yet they confuse (or mix) their understanding of new covenant sanctification with the way of sanctification in the old covenant.

The way of "righteousness" for the new covenant believer, therefore, is to obey the Holy Spirit (as opposed to obeying the law).

No one can claim to be obedient to the Holy Spirit and sin - for if you are obedient to the Holy Spirit you will -not- sin.

If our righteousness in the new covenant is no longer founded on obedience to the law (as under the old covenant), but now is founded on our obedience to the Holy Spirit - then we have the right perspective to analyze whether or not we should be keeping the Sabbath.

If we do not understand Romans five through eight - our Christianity is going to be a form of Judaism avec Savior - and being "born again" will become synonymous with "justification" rather than the new covenant promises.

Aren't we under grace even when we are being law breakers?

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. The Mosaic laws are still there - but they no longer have dominion over us. If a law has no dominion over you, there is no context with which we can speak of "breaking it." If it is illegal to look someone in the eyes in one country - we are not law breakers if we (being in another country) look someone in the eyes. We might be able to say "if we were in such and such a country, we would be breaking their laws" - but having the ability to imagine "what if" scenarios does not make us law breakers. Unless we are under the law's dominion, we cannot "break" it.

Doesn't "under grace" mean that we will be judged according to grace and not according to law?

In one sense, Christians have been judged already - judged and condemned. God has already found believers guilty, condemned them, and finally punished their trespasses in Christ on the cross. I expect to stand before the judgment seat to hear the charges - but being "under grace" means that when God poured His righteous and condemnational wrath out upon me for my sins - I was in Christ just as Noah was in the ark and God's wrath - directed at me and my sins, was intercepted by my Lord and Savior, who mediated between God and me - having stepped in between God's wrath and me on the cross. There is no condemnation for me, because I am in Christ, the law that I now follow is not the Mosaic law - but the law of the Spirit of life within me - that is, I obey the Holy Spirit within me - not out of fear, but out of a desire for the internal cleansing that opens "the way" for true fellowship with God.

The early church didn't keep the Sabbath, nor did they transfer it to the Lord's day (that is, the day on which the Lord was resurrected - Sunday). They met on the first day of the week - but meeting together is not the same as "keeping a Sabbath."

Chapter 21 of the 1646 WCF is only slightly modified in the 1689 LBCF (chapter 22) with regards to articles 7 & 8;

In both the notion that God appointed one day out of seven to be kept holy is highlighted - but the support for this clause is questionable.

Did God now also appoint new moons and feasts? Why are we not parroting these appointments? The answer has to do with the theological slant of those who wrote the WCF - that is, it is a precept in the "covenant theology" that generated much of the WCF, that the "ceremonial laws" were done away with - while the "moral laws" continue into the new covenant.

I think this was the standard apologetic "hack job" one comes up with to explain why a believer still has to live a moral life in the new covenant if they are no longer under the law. It crisply gives us a nice, clean answer to why we are allowed to eat bacon, but aren't allowed to murder people - because the "moral law" is still in effect.

Most who not only draw this imaginary, and entirely arbitrary line between moral and ceremonial laws (and teach others to follow to do so too) consider the "tithe" to be a "moral law" as well - making it binding in the new covenant - but that is another issue altogether!

If I were the sort of person that learned well from a classroom, I suppose I would have ate what was offered without much thought - but being "book learner" I tend to learn from the bible first, and see if the confessions line up with what I believe God has shown me.

Theology has its roots in Christian apology - that is, when an objection was raised against the orthodox teaching of the church, for which there was no good/clear answer - men of God would consider the question in light of orthodoxy, and explain in the context of that orthodoxy how it is that such and such could be.

In the early days of the church, when some teaching threatened the church - pastors from all over the known world would meet to discuss the teaching - to determine what was orthodox and what was heresy. Such ecumenical counsels protected "orthodoxy" for as long as such counsels were comprised of pastors and elders from various cities. Eventually however the church developed an "authoritive" hierarchy - and with it, what was "orthodox" was no longer defined by what had been orthodox in the past - but now was defined by what was dictated from on high.

Eventually, the gospel itself was replaced by a sacramental system of salvation, and the corruption in the church percolated until reform came.

The "reformation" began when theologians looked to the bible instead of the magesterium for instruction. These same "reformers," saw corruption in the traditions of the church - so they began to look to scripture for instruction on orthodoxy - at least with respect to the sacramental system of imparted grace.

While much of the reformation addressed and corrected the corruption of the Catholic church - it wasn't a "perfect" purging.

Old questions had to be answered anew - why do we obey some laws and not others? Entire theological frameworks were constructed to answer such questions - these are the same frameworks that many people adhere to today - as though our forefathers had better light that we do.

Thus I haven't answered the "why do we have to still be moral?" question in terms of an inherited system of doctrine - as artificial and extra biblical as it is arbitrary in citing (creating) a division of the law into two distinct piles (the throw away and keep piles) - without looking into scripture to see if such a thing is there. Having found nothing of the sort in scripture - and being under the same compulsion as our forefathers to answer such a question as "why can I now eat pork?" I too must find some solution that agrees with both scripture and experience.

I see it therefore in Romans five though eight - but in particular the conclusion is stated in Romans eight - Christians are not like Jews who had to obey the law, we are no longer under the laws dominion, but are under grace - our obedience in the new covenant is to the indwelling Holy Spirit - and the Holy Spirit would -never- allow us to do anything immoral.

Thus I answer the question of why we are allowed to "break" the OT law by eating pork, but must "keep" the OT law about murder, not by picking and choosing a set of 'moral' laws that "still apply" - but rather by understanding that I am no longer under the Mosaic law, but under the law of the Spirit of life - that is, I obey the Spirit of God, who would never have me act immorally.

Sorry about the long winded reply - but I thought it better to err on the side of verbosity.