Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The London Baptist Confession of 1689 Concerning the "Lord's Day"

If you are just popping over here and haven't stopped by in awhile, you may want to scroll down and begin by reading the post entitled, "Are you a Nine Commandment Christian?" In that post, I raised the topic of Sunday being the "Christian Sabbath," and I noted that writers of the London Baptist Confession of 1689 holds that it is. I also pointed out the similar language is found in the Abstract of Principles that every professor signs when he becomes a professor at a Southern Baptist Seminary. This post is dedicated to following the LBC's line of thought to determine the veracity of the claim that Sunday is indeed the Christian Sabbath.

Among Reformed Baptists, the London Baptist Confession is held in high esteem. Some Southern Baptist Churches have adopted it as their own confession, often along with the Baptist Faith and Message. These two documents are not contradictory, indeed they are largely complimentary with one another. The LBC is arguably the better document of the two, and it is certainly more precise and detailed in content. You may peruse the document itself in its entirety at the Reformed Reader, the section specifically dedicated to the worship and the Sabbath is Chapter 22.

We will begin by examining the seventh article in Chapter 22. It states:
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.
( Exodus 20:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10 )

If I understand the wording of this document correctly, and you'd have to be extremely dense not to, keeping the Christian Sabbath is not optional. It is a moral, perpetual, and binding commandment to all ages. In other words, Sabbath keeping was not abolished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of legalism to the framers of the LBC, it is a matter of morality. To not keep the Sabbath ranks with sexual immorality and idol worship.

The first Scriptural evidence given for this position is Exodus 20:8. Let's quote it for safety purposes:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

According to verses 9-10, Israel was to labor for six days, and on the seventh they were to rest. No problem. We knew that already.

Let's move on to 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 and see what light it will shed on the subject:
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week, let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

Paul, being an apostle, bound the Churches by command to take a collection on the first day of the week. That's Sunday for you who need me to be the Master of the Obvious. Was this a one-time thing? Why did Paul pick Sunday? Why didn't he simply command it to be done on the regular 7th day Sabbath? Let's move forward with the proof texts.
Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight (Acts 20:7).

We see here that it was the custom of the disciples to meet, not on the 7th day, but on the 1st day of the week. Did this day just so happen to fall on Sunday by coincidence? Historically speaking, there is no doubt that the Christian church purposefully met on Sundays. It is improbable that they simply picked Sunday willy-nilly to meet on instead of Saturday. (Check out Pastor Steve Weaver's blog for a more detailed historical examination.)The most common explanation for this is that Sunday was the day of worship because Jesus rose from the grave on a Sunday, thus marking a new era. Whether or not they enjoyed Sunday as a new Sabbath remains to be seen!

Next text:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet (Revelation 1:10).

Here, we have the first and only use of the term "Lord's Day." This, apparently, refers to the first day of the week. This has been the almost universal understanding of the term throughout the history of the Church. If indeed the "Lord's Day" refers to Sunday, and if indeed the other passages refer to the practice of gathering for Sunday to worship and bring offerings, then do we have enough evidence here to indicate that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath?

In this article, I have simply put the Scriptures before you that the LBC 1689 uses. We've only gotten our feet wet on the theological, historical, and linguistic issues. But I believe that their is sufficient evidence here to give us pause to consider our way, and not to dismiss the doctrine of the 1689 confession out of hand. What say you?


Daniel said...

"If I understand the wording of this document correctly, ... keeping the Christian Sabbath is not optional."

I believe you understand the wording of the article correctly - as it certainly is teaching that failure to observe Sunday as the Sabbath is breaking the commandment to "keep the Sabbath."

Looking at the proof texts however, we must ask ourselves, "Do these verses really teach that the new testament believer is bound to the Old Testament law of the Sabbath?"

The first text (Exodus) simply states the commandment - but the other verses fail to connect Sunday with the Sabbath as one might expect. Instead the other verses simply support the teaching that the it was the practice of the early church to meet on Sundays.

Any relationship between one OT verse and the "supporting" NT verses that suggest Sunday as the Sabbath is entirely speculative - and isn't strengthed by the verses supplied - in fact, even if we could supply ten thousand verses all of which described the early church meeting on Sundays - this in no way means that Sunday was the "New Sabbath." The verses only teach that the NT church met on Sundays, and that Sunday was very likely referred to as "the Lord's day" - but that is ==all== these verses do.

Had Sunday become "the new Sabbath" I would have expected the letter from the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) to have added a few more things...

"For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. [addition: Oh, and also keep the Sabbath too, only now we want you to keep it on Sunday out of reverence for Christ having risen that day.]"

Frankly, if one has eyes to see it - this quote demonstrates the nature of obedience in the New Testament: - they don't write, "Having examined and interpreted the law we conclude that you should abstain... blah blah" but they say, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit..." - and in so doing they give clear testimony to "who" the Christian is to obey - the law or the Spirit. Their "walk" was not according to the law of commandments, but according to the "law of the Spirit of life."

Now, we ought to be fair - the writers of the WCF were in a sort of bondage to their theology. Surely, according to conclusions their theological opinions mandated - they HAD to keep the Sabbath because the counched any distinction between the old and new covenant in the context of an overarching "covenant of grace."

It should be easy to understand therefore why the writers of this document viewed the Sabbath as something that needed to be kept - their theology demanded it. Perhaps the cited verses don't really come up with the connection - but in the greater context of covenant theology - the conclusion is known before it is proven - and so even if the verses don't make the point - it is a null issue, because the point is assumed to be true before it is ever made.

If you buy in for a penny - you are in for a pound - that is, if you are a covenant theologian, you see no need to make these verses prove the point - it is enought that the point is true, and some verses "when rightely understood" demonstrate that truth.

Yet if there is no "covenant" buy in - that is, if the texts are regarded outside the forgone conclusion of a theological framework - standing as it were, on nothing more than their context and the text itslef - it is not likely that one will conclude that there is such a thing as a "new Sabbath" or that Sunday is not it.

Sojourner said...

As an interesting side note, Tom Ascol has brought up the subject of the "Lord's Day" over at his blog. I believe that he holds to the LBC of 1689. Hopefully, this won't dead pan over at his place so someone far more astute than I can give this a fair shake.

Sojourner said...


What concerns me about what you are saying is this:

Is there such a dichotomy between following the Holy Spirit and observing the commandments? Didn't the Holy Spirit write the law? Certainly we should obey the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit told us not to murder, rape, plunder, steal, covet, and be disobedient to parents, etc. Have I stopped being gracious when I tell the congregation to flee sexual immorality?

Certainly, the law came to be a tutor to bring us to Christ, and by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified, but fleeing sexual immorality is necessary for sanctification. If one continues to break that command, there claim on Christ is undermined.

We probably agree here, I think. But I certainly think that the commandments, at least nine of them, are certainly valid and should be preached, not as being salvation in themselves, but to the end of revealing our unrighteousness and desperate dependance upon a Savior.

Gummby said...

Souj: I think what's missing in the analysis is the Sermon on the Mount aspect. Jesus came & told the people "you have heard it said, but now I say to you..." He didn't talk about the Sabbath, but he did talk about many of the other commandments. Does this mean the Sabbath is abolished? Not necessarily. But we need to move past the "honor the Sabbath" of Exodous to the "There remains a Sabbath rest" of Hebrews, something which (it seems on first glance, anyway) LBCF has not done.

FWIW, my former pastor preached on this very subject, and should I ever find it, I will forward it straitway.

Sojourner said...


Actually, they do cite that in one of the earlier points in chapter 22. In defense of those who hold to a Lord's Day, they would confirm the fact that Christ is our true Sabbath rest. However, there is an aspect of continually "entering" just as the gospel saved, is saving, and will save us. Part of the pleasure of the Lord's Day is being able to rest and reflect on the glories of Christ.

Also, while many do hold to a Christian Sabbath, some reject that language and still hold to a "Lord's Day." That is, they believe Sunday is a day for special gatherings for worship and contemplation, but not necessarily a full "Sabbath".

Gummby said...

OK, I'll admit it. Haven't read 22 yet. I'm still stuck on chapter two (don't tell Cent--he might boot me off StumblingBlog). I've been working my way through it in my spare time.

The point I would make is that whatever replaced the Sabbath prolly has something to do with the heart, and prolly doesn't look exactly like the old Sabbath.

But I'm sure you'll get there.

On a different note, did you really get TR'd? I looked for it, but didn't see it--'course, I can't ever find anything good on BHT.

Sojourner said...

I got TR'd over at Pyromaniacs in the meta. When I mentioned the "Joel Osteen" incident someone commented that he must be the "TR" version of Godwin's Law.

Gummby said...

Found it. Excellent. You are really moving up in the world. Maybe I can be your sidekick, too! :)

Daniel said...


Obeying the Holy Spirit is not the same as observing the law, though they look the same.

Matt is correct (IMO), that the Sabbath rest for the Christian is spoken of in Hebrews, and while the OT Sabbath pictures it, the NT sabbath isn't a day of the week, it is a rest we have entered into.

If we keep a part of the law - we must keep it all (even the dietary restrictions).

Sojourner said...


I can follow you up to the last statement. Is "Thou shalt not commit adultery" binding to the Christian or isn't it? If it is, then in what way? I do not ever remember them appealing to beard trimming. (Though Paul does address long hair for men.) But the writers of the NT are constantly appealing to the Ten Commandments when writing to believers.

Also, Jesus specifically abolished dietary laws no matter what anyone may say to the contrary. Regardless of what other laws I decide to break or keep or ignore, I can still have my shrimp scampi with a clear conscience.

Daniel said...

Let us talk about circumcision for a second. Under "the law" we must circumcize infant males on the eight day correct?

Christ didn't mention circumcision in his sermon on the mount, nor did he abolish it in his earthly ministry - if anything, he spoke of it in the third person as something expected of every Jew (c.f. John 7:22).

According to your line of reasoning, circumcision is required of every believer no?

That was the very argument the early church had to deal with - these Gentiles think they can become Christians without keeping the laws of Moses! The council at Jerusalem ended that dispute once and for all.

Now we hold up another part of the same law, and we say - this we must keep?

Seriously, this pursuit of the law (be it circumcision or the Sabbath) is the meat and potato of the Judaizer's position.

With regard to adultery - we are not under the law, so there is no "adultery law" there is only one "law" for the believer - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus - that is, obedience to God through living in the Spirit.

Let me know if this makes sense.

Biblically speaking, you are allowed to eat shrimp all you want (so long as you are not gluttonous about it) - not because Peter saw a vision, nor because Jesus said that whatever goes into the mouth does not defile a man - but because you are no longer under the law. Likewise, you need not be circumcized for the same reason.

Sojourner said...


Likewise, you need not be circumcized for the same reason

Okay...so I need not be faithful to my wife for the same reason? You say that there is no need to keep the circumcision law, but when I appeal to the adultery law, you appeal to walking in the Holy Spirit. Why, do you suppose, the Holy Spirit still wants us to be faithful to our wives but doesn't care about our circumcision if all law is one and the same?

Daniel said...

Why, do you suppose, the Holy Spirit still wants us to be faithful to our wives but doesn't care about our circumcision if all law is one and the same?

My position is that "the law" is one and the same with regards to being broken - if you are suspended by a rope over a chasm, it doesn't matter where you cut the rope, the result is the same. In this way the law is all one and the same - that it doesn't matter where you break it, once it is broken, it is broken.

My guess as to "why" the Holy Spirit contines to be concerned with morality, but is no longer concerned with the "separation" of the Jews from the Gentiles, is because when Christ came he removed that "wall of separation" between Jew and Gentile - making one body from the two.

Recall that Cain murdered Abel? It was a sin, even though the law hadn't been given to Moses yet.

By this I mean to point out that while sin has existed since Adam, "the law" did not - being by definition: "temporal." It began with Moses, and closed with the coming of the Messiah.

My understanding is that the reason we are righteous is not because we have a law, but because God has put a new Spirit into us and written his law on our hearts so that we observe the Spirit.

The reason I do not feel a need to circumcize new converts is because that same Spirit within me - the law of the Spirit of life written on my heart - written with the finger of God (the Holy Spirit) not on tablets of stone - but upon that new creation within me - this same Spirit doesn't require it of me. This Holy Spirit does require (however) that I be faithful to my wife.

Let me know if that clears it up.

Sojourner said...


I understand your explanation, but a few things about it are not making sense to me.

I'll try to outline it so I can make coherent sense of my thoughts.
Just for the record, I agree that breaking any law makes one a lawbreaker. That is not my dispute. The original question dealt with the Lord's Day, and because the Sabbath command comes to us via the Ten Commands, we have come to a discussion of law in general. I just wanted to make certain that you understand that I believe breaking one law makes one a law breaker.

Here are my points and questions:

1. You assert that God is no longer concerned with the seperation of Jews and Gentiles, and therefore He is no longer concerned with circumcision. I agree.

2. You also assert that the Holy Spirit is still concerned with faithfulness because it is "moral." Wasn't circumcision a moral command at one time? I do no believe your explanation as to why it is no longer immoral to circumcize passes your own test, as we shall see.

3. Moses did not give the command to circumcize; it was given to Abraham. Does this still make it "Mosaic law"? Certainly we agree that circumcision has been abolished, and this is a pre-Sinai law we are talking about.

4. We agree that it was wrong for Cain to slay Abel. Even before the law was given to Moses, this must have been law or else there would have been no transgression. You believe that the Holy Spirit requires marital faithfulness, and you also believe that murder is a moral issue. Unless I misunderstand you, that is at least two of the ten commands that are still "in effect." You keep these laws because they are etched on your heart. It is an internal obedience that springs from the love of God. However, this is not, in my opinion, nullifying the law. It is establishing it.

5. Though the Ten Commandments are generally taken negatively, there is a positive aspect to them. Do not steal means that God is honest. Do not committ adultery means that God is no betrayer and that He is a committed "spouse." These ought to be reflected in the Christian life.

In short, you seem to be doing practically what I am talking about even though you deny the validity of the law. You would agree that it is wrong to steal, covet, fornicate, worship idols, murder, and etc. All of these are Ten Commandments, which as you mentioned are written upon our hearts. They are the expression of the nature of God, and hence an expression of our new natures.

I have one further concern with the language you use here, and I don't think that you meant it the way I am taking it maybe. You wrote:
The reason I do not feel a need to circumcize new converts is because that same Spirit within me - the law of the Spirit of life written on my heart - written with the finger of God (the Holy Spirit) not on tablets of stone - but upon that new creation within me
How can I argue with that? You have made an appeal to your heart and the laws God has written there. Are you telling me that because you do not "feel" the necessity to keep the Lord's Day that God must not have written it on your heart, therefore it must not be binding. I have heard that sort of argument in my office concerning someone abandoning their spouse! How could I, under your system, whip out the commandments and reply, "But it says right here that we aren't to commit adultery!" Should I instead say, "Well, the law is written on my heart, and I feel that the Holy Spirit is telling me that you should not do this because it grieves Him." Both are true, but my feelings carry little weight in an argument.

Ultimately, I wonder where you get the authority to tell me that the Holy Spirit requires your faithfulness to your wife. It sounds like pietism. Do you never appeal to the commandments?

Daniel said...

First, thanks for pointing out that circumcision was given to Abraham and not to Moses, I haven't gone back to see if I said it, but even if I hadn't it is an important note to make - in case anyone doesn't know. If I implied it, I stand corrected, as I know better.

Like yourself I have heard "professing" Christians use the "I asked God about it, and I didn't 'sense' any check in my spirit" routine to defend all manner of unrighteousness. Certainly telling them that the Spirit of God in me doesn't agree with them doesn't carry much clout unless I am filled with the Spirit of God and they know it; and even then it only carries clout if such a thing mattered to them more than sinning.

Yet I wouldn't go that route. Like yourself, I would apply to the law to instruct them about what righteousness looked like and allow them to compare for themselves whether they be righteous or not in commiting adultery.

If the same couple however came to me complaining that one of them wasn't "keeping the sabbath holy" - then I would begin to speak to them about what we are obligated to "keep" as Christians - and it isn't the Mosaic law.

You still have yet to answer me, are we under the dominion of the law or not? I am curious to see how much of it you would say we are under - and consequently, what criteria you have come up with to make the distinction.

Sojourner said...


I haven't exactly given equal time to your questions, have I? :)

To answer your question in short, I would say that we are only under the dominion of the law in so far as we are under the dominion of God's holiness. As you said, the law still reveals to us the righteousness of God, and that is a positive thing. I want to take a little time to flesh that out some more, so I am going to make that a post.

Interestingly enough, if anyone has followed this besides Daniel and I, our councel to a married couple up to this point looks exactly the same with regards to the adultery question. If anyone came to me now complaining that their spouse wasn't keeping the Sabbath....I would have them read Walter Chantry's "Call the Sabbath a Delight" and let me know what they thought of it.:p (In other words...cop out city.)

Hopefully, my next post on the "Dominion of the Law" will bring us closer to an undertanding. And, I believe that it will demonstrate that we aren't so far apart.