Understanding the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath

Robert Lewis Dabney, “The Christian Sabbath: Its Nature, Design, and Proper Observance” in Dabney’s Discussions, Volume I (Sprinkle reprint, 1982): pp. 496-550.

The Presbyterian stalwart doggedly defends the classical Reformed position by exhaustively reviewing the Biblical texts to defend the fourth commandment as “moral and perpetual.” Of note is his exegetical review of “objection passages” like Romans 14:5-6; Galatians 4:9-11; and Colossians 2:16-17 (see pp. 521-530). Dabney does not suffer lightly those with mushy and inconsistent thinking on this issue.

(HT: Jeffrey T. Riddle)



Celebrate the Festival Day of Our Saviour’s Resurrection

107AD IGNATIUS: let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week. (Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, chp 9. Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 62-63.)

130AD BARNABAS: Moreover God says to the Jews, ‘Your new moons and Sabbaths 1 cannot endure.’ You see how he says, ‘The present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but the Sabbath which I have made in which, when I have rested [heaven: Heb 4] from all things, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world.’ Wherefore we Christians keep the eighth day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven. (15:8f, The Epistle of Barnabas, 100 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 147)

150AD JUSTIN: But Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day of the week and Jesus our saviour on the same day rose from the dead. (First apology of Justin, Ch 68)

150AD JUSTIN: And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or a rural district. … We all make our assembly in common on the day of the Sun, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified him on the day before Saturn’s day, and on the day after (which is the day of the Sun the appeared to his apostles and taught his disciples these things. (Apology, 1, 67:1-3, 7; First Apology, 145 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , Vol. 1, pg. 186)

190AD CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: He does the commandment according to the Gospel and keeps the Lord’s day, whenever he puts away an evil mind . . . glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself. (Vii.xii.76.4)

200AD TERTULLIAN: Others . . . suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is well-known that we regard Sunday as a day of joy. (To the Nations 1: 133)

225 AD The Didascalia “The apostles further appointed: On the first day of the week let there be service, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the oblation, because on the first day of the week our Lord rose from the place of the dead, and on the first day of the week he arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week he ascended up to heaven, and on the first day of the week he will appear at last with the angels of heaven” (Didascalia 2).

300AD EUSEBIUS: [The Ebionites] were accustomed to observe the Sabbath and other Jewish customs but on the Lord’s days to celebrate the same practices as we in remembrance of the resurrection of the Savior. (Church History Ill.xxvii.5)

300 AD Eusebius of Caesarea “The day of his [Christ’s] light . . . was the day of his resurrection from the dead, which they say, as being the one and only truly holy day and the Lord’s day (Proof of the Gospel 4:16:186).

350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Be not careless of yourselves, neither deprive your Saviour of His own members, neither divide His body nor disperse His members, neither prefer the occasions of this life to the word of God; but assemble yourselves together every day, morning and evening, singing psalms and praying in the Lord’s house: in the morning saying the sixty-second Psalm, and in the evening the hundred and fortieth, but principally on the Sabbath-day. And on the day of our Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent Him to us, and condescended to let Him suffer, and raised Him from the dead. Otherwise what apology will he make to God who does not assemble on that day to hear the saving word concerning the resurrection, on which we pray thrice standing in memory of Him who arose in three days, in which is performed the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the Gospel, the oblation of the sacrifice, the gift of the holy food? (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 2)

350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Do you therefore fast, and ask your petitions of God. We enjoin you to fast every fourth day of the week, and every day of the preparation, and the surplusage of your fast bestow upon the needy; every Sabbath-day excepting one, and every Lord’s day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice: for he will be guilty of sin who fasts on the Lord’s day, being the day of the resurrection, or during the time of Pentecost, or, in general, who is sad on a festival day to the Lord For on them we ought to rejoice, and not to mourn. (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 5)

350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS “Which Days of the Week We are to Fast, and Which Not, and for What Reasons: But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week. But do you either fast the entire five days, or on the fourth day of the week, and on the day of the Preparation, because on the fourth day the condemnation went out against the Lord, Judas then promising to betray Him for money; and you must fast on the day of the Preparation, because on that day the Lord suffered the death of the cross under Pontius Pilate. But keep the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection. But there is one only Sabbath to be observed by you in the whole year, which is that of our Lord’s burial, on which men ought to keep a fast, but not a festival. For inasmuch as the Creator was then under the earth, the sorrow for Him is more forcible than the joy for the creation; for the Creator is more honourable by nature and dignity than His own creatures.” … … “How We Ought to Assemble Together, and to Celebrate the Festival Day of Our Saviour’s Resurrection. On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day, assemble yourselves together, without fail, giving thanks to God, and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ, and has delivered you from ignorance, error, and bondage, that your sacrifice may be unspotted, and acceptable to God, who has said concerning His universal Church: “In every place shall incense and a pure sacrifice be offered unto me; for I am a great King, saith the Lord Almighty, and my name is wonderful among the heathen.” (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 7)

A Puritan (Spurgeon’s) Catechism

I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times, and therefore I have compiled this little manual from the Westminster Assembly’s and Baptist Catechisms, for the use of my own church and congregation. Those who use it in their families or classes must labour to explain the sense; but the words should be carefully learned by heart, for they will be understood better as years pass. May the Lord bless my dear friends and their families evermore, is the prayer of their loving Pastor. – C. H. Spurgeon

  1. Q. Which is the fourth commandment?

    A. The fourth commandment is, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor they cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

  2. Q. What is required in the fourth commandment?

    A. The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his Word, expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself (Lev. 19:30; Deut. 5:12).

  3. Q. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?

    A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days (Lev. 23:3), and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship (Ps. 92:1-2; Isa. 58:13-14), except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and mercy (Matt. 12:11-12).

Sabbath and Christ

HT: Collins Treasure of the Bible

“Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the sabbath (Matt. 12:2; Mark 2:24); why do you do what is not proper on a sabbath? (Luke 6:2); on the sabbath the priests profane the sabbath (Matt. 12:5); it is unlawful to carry your pallet on the sabbath (John 5:10); do not come to be healed on the sabbath (Luke 13:14); is it lawful to heal on the sabbath? (Matt. 12:10; Luke 14:3); they watched him to see if he would heal on the sabbath (Mark 3:2; Luke 6:7); he took up his pallet and walked, on the sabbath (John 5:9); for this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he healed on the sabbath (John 5:16); it was a sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes (John 9:14); the official was indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath (Luke 13:14); he not only broke the sabbath but called God his Father (John 5:18); this man is not from God because he does not keep the sabbath (John 9:16); is it lawful to do good or to harm on the sabbath? (Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9); if a sheep falls into a pit on the sabbath, who will not pull it out? (Matt. 12:11); you untie and water livestock on the sabbath (Luke 13:15); who will not pull a son or an ox out of a well on the sabbath? (Luke 14:5); you circumcise on the sabbath (John 7:22–3); why be angry because I made a made a whole man well on the sabbath? (John 7:23); it is lawful to do good on the sabbath (Matt. 12:12); the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath (Mark 2:27); the Son of man is Lord of the sabbath (Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5); let no one judge you with regard to a festival, New Moon or sabbath (Col. 2:16).”

John Calvin’s Teaching on the Fourth Commandment

HT: From the Geneva Catechism (ca. 1560)

168. Let us come to the fourth commandment. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.


169. Does he order us to labor on six days, that we may rest on the seventh? Not absolutely; but allowing man six days for labor, he excepts the seventh, that it may be devoted to rest.


170. Does he interdict us from all kind of labor? This commandment has a separate and peculiar reason. As the observance of rest is part of the old ceremonies, it was abolished by the advent of Christ.


171. Do you mean that this commandment properly refers to the Jews, and was therefore merely temporary? I do, in as far as it is ceremonial.


172. What then? Is there any thing under it beyond ceremony? It was given for three reasons.


173. State them to me. To figure spiritual rest; for the preservation of ecclesiastical polity; and for the relief of slaves.


174. What do you mean by spiritual rest? When we keep holiday from our own works, that God may perform his own works in us.


175. What, moreover, is the method of thus keeping holiday? By crucifying our flesh,-that is, renouncing our own inclination, that we may be governed by the Spirit of God.


176. Is it sufficient to do so on the seventh day? Nay, continually. After we have once begun, we must continue during the whole course of life.


177. Why, then, is a certain day appointed to figure it? There is no necessity that the reality should agree with the figure in every respect, provided it be suitable in so far as is required for the purpose of figuring.


178. But why is the seventh day prescribed rather than any other day? In Scripture the number seven implies perfection. It is, therefore, apt for denoting perpetuity. It, at the same time, indicates that this spiritual rest is only begun in this life, and will not be perfect until we depart from this world.


179. But what is meant when the Lord exhorts us to rest by his own example? Having finished the creation of the world in six days, he dedicated the seventh to the contemplation of his works. The more strongly to stimulate us to this, he set before us his own example. For nothing is more desirable than to be formed after his image.


180. But ought meditation on the works of God to be continual, or is it sufficient that one day out of seven be devoted to it? It becomes us to be daily exercised in it, but because of our weakness, one day is specially appointed. And this is the polity which I mentioned.


181. What order, then, is to be observed on that day? That the people meet to hear the doctrine of Christ, to engage in public prayer, and make profession of their faith.


182. Now explain what you meant by saying that the Lord intended by this commandment to provide also for the relief of slaves. That some relaxation might be given to those under the power of others. Nay, this, too, tends to maintain a common polity. For when one day is devoted to rest, every one accustoms himself to labor during the other days.


183. Let us now see how far this command has reference to us. In regard to the ceremony, I hold that it was abolished, as the reality existed in Christ. (Col. 2:17).


184. How? Because, by virtue of his death, our old man is crucified, and we are raised up to newness of life. (Rom. vi. 6).


185. What of the commandment then remains for us? Not to neglect the holy ordinances which contribute to the spiritual polity of the Church; especially to frequent sacred assemblies, to hear the word of God, to celebrate the sacraments, and engage in the regular prayers, as enjoined.


186. But does the figure give us nothing more? Yes, indeed, We must give heed to the thing meant by it; namely, that being engrafted into the body of Christ, and made his members, we cease from our own works, and so resign ourselves to the government of God.

What does it mean? The Sabbath was made for Man…

What does it mean when Christ said in Mark 2:27-28, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

If the Sabbath in the Old Testament was focused on the plan of redemption, the key events and people that played apart of it, then how does the New Testament practice of this take place for the church today?

If the Old Testament church practice was to look at the grace that God had gave to his people in the past, then how does the New Testament church today look at the grace on the Sabbath today?

If the Old Testament church looked on the Sabbath at how God was dependable for them, then how does the New Testament church do the same today? 

If the home was mainly were the Old Testament church observed and practice the Sabbath, then how and where does the New Testament church observe and practice this today?

If the Sabbath’s main focus was on the family in the Old Testament, then what is the main focus of the Lord’s Day for the assembly of the church in the New Testament?

Christ took the Sabbath in the tomb with him, and on Resurrection day refocused it to the Lord’s Day.” — Thomas Watson 

How has the Sabbath/Lord’s Day refocus your life? or should I ask, Does it at all?

Read further: Matthew 12, Mark 2, & Luke 6