Monday 1 September 2014

"No minor thread": The fourth of the Ten Commandments

Perhaps the "acid test" of someone's knowledge of the 10 Commandments is to ask them how they practice the fourth commandment. If their eyes look glazed and they do not even know what you are talking about, then it is a plain indication that the 10 Commandments are little understood by them at all. However, in recent decades there has been a "termite-like erosion" of orthodoxy among evangelicals who claim to uphold a reformed confession. In the USA today, it is not uncommon for men to be ordained to the ministry and to make what are deemed to be minor exceptions to the Westminster Confession, such as the Christian Sabbath. In the UK, the reformed Baptists seem to have been losing their nerve fast on points such as the Christian Sabbath and the place of the law in the church. Perhaps they wrongly think that these things are antiquated and if they "shed this load" it will lead to new church growth. The question is then; what kind of growth will it produce in such "panic button" moves?.

Philip Ross examines the biblical and theological basis for the threefold division of the law in his book called "The Finger of God". He rightly challenges those men who enter Christian office, especially reformed and presbyterian men, who make exceptions to the Christian Sabbath and he challenges men who claim that the rejection of the Sabbath is a "minor point or exception".

He writes: "Were the Westminster Confession a garment, you would not want to pull this 'minor thread', unless you wanted to be altogether defrocked. And perhaps the reason that some people pull at this thread is because they regard the confession as more of straightjacket than a garment. Unbuckle the Sabbath, and you are well on your way to mastering theological escapology" (page 5).

Listen to the Lord rebuking and exhorting the Old Testament saints who actively sought to "unbuckle themselves from the Sabbath". Isaiah 58:13-14 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honourable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Delighting in the Lord and delighting in the Sabbath are connected, but few contemporary evangelicals seem to make this connection today. Listen to the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 12:8 "For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath".

Let us all examine ourselves in this matter of the fourth commandment and let us pray for ourselves and others for the recovery of the practice of this commandment in the church.

(For further reading, I recommend a book by Joey Pipa called "The Lord's Day").

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