Coming up we have an article on Creation, work and rest. In it I mention a couple of differing views on the Sabbath day. It is worth noting that we have to take a step a little further back when thinking about how to apply this. Here are some questions to think through that different Christians take different views on.
1. Has Sunday replaced the Saturday Sabbath or is the Lord’s Day something different?
2. Linked to that, should my focus be on a specific day of the week now, or should it be about looking forard to the time after Christ’s return as our eternal Sabbath rest?
3. If our Sabbath rest is eschatological, then to what extent do we experience aspects of it in the now and the not yet?
4. If Sunday is our Sabbath, then as per the previous article, is its primary purpose for rest as in ceasing from work or rest as a focus on corporate worship?
The fact that Christians have different views on these things warns us against simplistic responses. There is a need for wisdom thinking here. My current thinking is
1. Historically, Christians have linked Lord’s Day with Sabbath and there is clearly a relationship.
2. However, whilst the first day of the week has clearly and expliitly been observed as The Lord’s Day from the start of the Church so is explicitly scriptural, it isn’t explicitly described as a Sabbath.
3. The New Testament encourages us away from either a legalistic or superstitious observance of days and festivals.
4. Is the Sabbath primarily there for physical and mental rest, or, as per Calvin, is it primarily about corporate worship? This is the point we will pick up on in a little more detail in the article on Creation, work and resr. I think there is an element of “both/and” here. Ceasing our usual work is rest from it. Whilst rest includes sleep and recreation, it also includes doing other activities that are not pure recreation. For example, many people use days off for doing gardening, DIY. Corporate worship is rest because we are not pursuing our normal creation mandate goals. However, this pushes us to ask whether we do things in a way that means the day and it’ activities are enjoyable and restful. Part of this means sharing out responsibilities in order to ensure that the burden of tasks like setting out chairs, organising activities, providing refreshments does not become a burdensome duty and drudgery to a few people.
5. The principle of rest is seen through the pattern and order of creation not just in terms of the Sabbath. For example, there is night and day. One of the challenges is to make sure that we use the opportunities for rest during the week so that we do not push that all onto one day. Similarly, we should not wait for holidays before resting. This will enable us to get the best out of that time.
6. Linked to the above, some of us are blessed with 2 day weekends but not everyone and we need to think about how we make best use of that time in a way that also blesses and encourages those who do not have that specific blessing.
7. In general I would encourage Christians not to use Sunday to catch up with normal work and study or shopping. I am not being legalistic about this and leave it with individual consciences.
8. Church leaders including paid and unpaid elders will have an additional challenge because Sunday can be a challenging and busy day. I think this is where point 4 comes in to play. For me, Sunday is still Sunday and in so far as it should reflect Sabbath principles, and purposes it still does. It is time together with the Church family as together we break from our normal weekly duties to share the Lord’s supper, to pray, praise, encourage one another and gather around God’s Word. So whilst I have another “day off” in the week, I do not see it as ” my sabbath” because I find the idea of an individual Sabbath unhelpful.
9. This does make us think about those who can’ take Sundays off due to work. It is important then that we don’ t simply leave them to find time off on their own but provide contexts for corporate worship for them.
I’m sure others will take different views on some or all of the above. I hope though that this has been helpful. Do drop me a line via our feedback and comments page with your thoughts.