Sabbath and Conscience

KINGSJSv3A Statement from the King’s Church Elders

Concerning the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 – Chapter 22: OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP AND THE SABBATH DAY and the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1833), article 15: OF THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH:

At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Martin Luther declared “to act against conscience is neither right nor safe.” How true this is! It is a concept drawn from the Bible itself. “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

It needs to be said, with great emphasis, that there are wonderful, genuine Christians, who truly love God’s word who come to differing conclusions on this issue of the Sabbath. This is not a new phenomenon in any way. This was the case even in New Testament times. Romans 14: 5, 6 says, “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. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.” In this chapter (Romans 14), the Apostle Paul outlines how we are to handle these kind of differences in the setting of the local Church, and rather than breaking fellowship with each other, exhorts us to walk together with our fellow Christians in love and understanding, believing the best of each other, while at the same time, never violating our individual conscience.

In the context of outlining what Christ accomplished for His people on the cross, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath (literally, ‘sabbaths’ plural). These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16, 17) Christians are told to never let anyone judge them concerning Sabbath observation. When Church leadership tells another Christian “we cannot walk with you because of your view of the Sabbath” this is a clear violation of Paul’s apostolic command. Such should never be the case.

The Bible alone is the word of God – the sole infallible rule of faith for the people of God. Historic creeds and confessions of the Church, while having great weight and significance, never rise to the level of God breathed Scripture. Only Scripture has the authority to bind the conscience absolutely. This also means that every creed and confession must therefore be in agreement and alignment with the Bible to be true.

As elders at King’s Church, our study of the Scriptures has brought us to the conclusions outlined here below. Yet even as we make our position plain, we wish to make clear that those who hold a strong Sabbatarian view are very welcome at King’s Church. Please know that! We simply ask that they do not seek to promote or push that view on others in the flock. To these precious people we say “we can live with you as long as you can live with us.” As to the question…

ARE THE SABBATH LAWS BINDING ON CHRISTIANS TODAY?

We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances are typological and associated with the Mosaic Covenant, not moral, aspects of the law. As such, they are no longer in force, but have been fulfilled along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ. Here are the reasons we hold this view.

1. In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to Sabbaths as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is in view. The phrase “a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” refers to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11). Paul is referring to all kinds of Sabbaths, which is why he used the Plural.

2. The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.

3. The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.

4. In our only glimpse of an early church worship service in the New Testament, the church met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).

5. Nowhere in the Old Testament are the Gentile nations commanded to observe the Sabbath or condemned for failing to do so That is certainly strange if Sabbath observance were meant to be an eternal moral principle. Also, a Gentile cannot be expected to practice a sign of a covenant of which he is not a member; thus requiring Sabbath observance by Gentiles makes no sense. It’s like requiring unbelievers to attend the Lord’s Supper.

6. There is no evidence in the Bible of anyone keeping the Sabbath before the time of Moses.

7. When the Apostles met at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), they did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers.

8. The apostle Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but breaking the Sabbath was never one of them.

9. In Galatians 4:10-11, Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days (including the Sabbath).

10. In Romans 14:5, Paul forbids those who observe the Sabbath (these were no doubt Jewish believers) to condemn those who do not (Gentile believers).

11. Sunday has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. Rather the Lord’s Day is a time when believers gather to commemorate His resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 4:9-11).

So while we still follow the pattern of designating one day of the week a day for the Lord’s people to gather in worship, we do not refer to this as “the Sabbath.”

Note on Col. 2:16

A. Why do some translations translate the last part of vs. 16 as “or a sabbath day” (using the indefinite article and render “Sabbath” as singular), while others translate “or sabbaths” (not using the indefinite article but render “Sabbath” in the plural)?

It seems to us that the original intent of Paul, using the plural without the definite article, was to refer to multiple “kinds” of sabbaths – i.e. weekly, seasonal, etc. – which were commanded in the mosaic covenant.

To illustrate in English, using the term “holiday” – if we said, “let no one judge you in regard to a holiday” (using the indefinite article and singular noun) – we would mean, let no one judge you in regard to all of the days we classify as holidays – i.e. 4th of July, Memorial Day, Easter, Christmas, etc. Also, if we said, “let no one judge you in regard to holidays (omitting the indefinite article and using the plural noun) we would understand the same thing – i.e. let no one judge us in regard to any days we classify as holidays since there are different types of holidays.

The fact that Paul used the plural can only mean one of two things.

1. Either the thought is since the weekly Sabbath is repeated he put it in the plural because he wanted to say let no one judge you in regard to any particular week’s Sabbath. We do not think he meant this – but if he did it supports the non-sabbatarian position.

2. If the reason for the plural is not #1, then the plural must be being used as in the “holiday” illustration above – i.e. there was more than one type of “Sabbath” and Paul wanted to address them all.

Now if we are to be Sabbatarians we must go further in explaining Paul’s use of the plural. We must say he wanted to address more than one kind of Sabbath (the non-weekly ones) but not all kinds of Sabbaths (i.e. not the weekly)! And that his readers could be expected to conclude this?!

The New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1833)

This Confession was drawn up by the Rev. John Newton Brown, of New Hampshire (b. 1803, d. 1868), about 1833, and has been adopted by the New Hampshire Convention, and widely accepted by Baptists, especially in the Northern and Western States, as a clear and concise statement of their faith, in harmony with the doctrines of older confessions, but expressed in milder form. The text is taken from the Baptist Church Manual, published by the American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia.

Declaration of Faith

1. Of the Scriptures

We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction;1 that it has God for its author, salvation for its end,2 and truth without any mixture of error for its matter;3 that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;4 and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union,5 and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.6

2. Of the True God

We believe that there is one, and only one, living and true God, an infinite, intelligent Spirit, whose name is JEHOVAH, the Maker and Supreme Ruler of Heaven and earth;7 inexpressibly glorious in holiness,8 and worthy of all possible honor, confidence, and love;9 that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;10 equal in every divine perfection,11 and executing distinct and harmonious offices in the great work of redemption.12

3. Of the Fall of Man

We believe that man was created in holiness, under the law of his Maker;13 but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state;14 in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners,15 not by constraint, but choice;16 being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin,17 without defense or excuse.18

4. Of the Way of Salvation

We believe that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace,19 through the mediatorial offices of the Son of God;20 who by the appointment of the Father, freely took upon him our nature, yet without sin;21 honored the divine law by his personal obedience,22 and by his death made a full atonement for our sins;23 that having risen from the dead, he is now enthroned in heaven;24 and uniting in his wonderful person the tenderest sympathies with divine perfections, he is every way qualified to be a suitable, a compassionate, and an all- sufficient Saviour.25

5. Of Justification

We believe that the great gospel blessing which Christ26 secures to such as believe in him is Justification;27 that Justification includes the pardon of sin,28 and the promise of eternal life on principles of righteousness;29 that it is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in the Redeemer’s blood;30 by virtue of which faith his perfect righteousness is freely imputed to us of God;31 that it brings us into a state of most blessed peace and favor with God, and secures every other blessing needful for time and eternity.32 Continue reading