Reformed Theology

CT and the Christian Sabbath

First I want to say what a blessing it is to have the door opened to covenant theology. I am learning so much and am so thankful. The discovery of the Reformed biblical framework is an amazing gift which empowers the student of Scripture to dig into it and learn for himself what the Spirit was actually communicating in Scripture to the original audience as well as to modern believers. With this understanding, we don’t need to just accept whatever we are taught, but we can actually go straight to the source and think critically and exegetically to try to come to the most proper interpretation of a passage.

In contrast to Covenant or Reformed theology, which has been around for hundreds of years, if not millennia, there is modern Dispensationalism, a system of thought developed in the late 1800s, and then there is so-called New Covenant Theology, which is a much more modern view that misinterprets much of the Old Testament as based on works instead of grace. Similar to Dispensationalists, proponents of New Covenant Theology would consider much of the Old Testament to apply to Jews only and not to the elect covenant community as a whole. That is, they would not agree with our own Lord and Savior when he said, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19, ESV). When we read the works of people who hold this view, we must be cautious and pray for the gift of discernment. Anyone who does not agree with the very words of our Lord is on shaky ground.

All this is by way of introduction, because the point of this short blog post is to link to an article by covenant theologian Sam Waldron about the Christian Sabbath, and why the view from the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 1689 London Baptist Confession is the Biblical view. He makes some good exegetical and cultural arguments as to just what first century Jewish Christians would have been thinking when they used the words “the Lord’s Day.” But this article was written as a defense against a major work in New Covenant Theology, so I wanted to put it in context–hence the necessity of the previous paragraph. Sam Waldron’s 8-page article, “A Critical Introduction to New Covenant Theology #3”, PDF parsed to HTML by Google, is located here. (I can’t link to the original PDF because his site is down at the moment.)

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4 thoughts on “CT and the Christian Sabbath

  1. “they would not agree with our own Lord and Savior when he said, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19, ESV).

    Hi Aaron,

    I've read every major work on NCT, but I've never seen one that denies Mt. 5:19. Who are you representing?

    As an NCT myself, I can think of 6 reasons why “these commandments” refer to Christ's commands, not Moses' commands. Have you ever considered that interpretation?

  2. Hi Greg,

    Thank you for your gracious comments. I have not seen any NCT authors explicitly state Jesus was wrong in Mt. 5:19. I made this judgment on my own. I am sorry if I have misrepresented NCT in doing so. However, if, in fact, NCT hinges on your interpretation of Mt. 5:19, I don't think I have misrepresented.

    In context, “these commandments” simply cannot mean “the new commandments I am giving you today,” however attractive that interpretation may be (and I admit that it is attractive).

    The presence of “Therefore,” as well as the verse's location in the middle of a paragraph as opposed to a separate saying, means we must take Jesus' argument as a whole. In context, the whole paragraph from verses 17 to 20 is about the Law. The word “Therefore” in verse 19 clearly indicates that “these” must refer to what was discussed in the preceding sentences, namely the Law and the Prophets.

    Furthermore, this passage is leading up to the section of the Sermon on the Mount commonly referred to as “The Antitheses”. These antitheses follow the pattern “You have heard that it was said… But I say to you.” And they also clarify and illustrate exactly what Jesus meant when he said he came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.

    What Jesus is doing in each of these antitheses is not relaxing the Old Testament said about these subjects. Rather, he is pointing out that it is not enough to have outward conformity to the Law, but you must also conform to the Law in your heart. His requirements are actually much more stringent than the Pharisees' interpretations.

    In fact, there are laws in the OT that require conformity from the heart, such as “Love the LORD,” and “Love your neighbor.” And Paul shows us another heart law in Romans 7, when he talks about the law against covetousness. What Jesus is doing in the Sermon on the Mount is showing us that even those laws that seem to be about behavior are really about the heart.

    This is what the New Covenant spoken of in the Prophets is all about: that God would give his people hearts of flesh instead of hearts of stone, that he would write his law on their hearts so that obedience would come naturally. In our own power as fallen humans, it is possible for us to conform to the outward behaviors, but impossible for us to follow in our hearts.

    Soli Deo gloria

  3. The presence of “Therefore,” as well as the verse's location in the middle of a paragraph as opposed to a separate saying, means we must take Jesus' argument as a whole.

    The paragraph divisions are not inspired.

    In context, the whole paragraph from verses 17 to 20 is about the Law.

    IMO, that's half of the topic. The big picture is, “What is the relationship between the kingdom of heaven and the Law-Prophets (whole OT, not the Decalogue alone.)

    Jesus came in the 1st century preaching the good news that this new kingdom of heaven was near (Mt. 2:2, 2:6, 3:2, 4:17, 4:23, 5:3, 5:10, 5:19, 5:20). The theme of the whole book of Mt. could easily be “Christ Fulfills the Law and Prophets by His Kingdom.”

    So, Jesus anticipates the imaginary objection, “Does this new kingdom abolish the OT prophecies?” (The word pleroo/fulfill refers to eschatological/prophetic fulfillment 12 times in Mt.) “I have come to fulfill them” (the OT prophecies by My kingdom).

    Did you know that Eph. 2:15 and 2 Cor. 3:7 say that the law (alone, not the Law and Prophets) is abolished? How can we harmonize that with, “I did not come to abolish the Law and Prophets?” (Mt. 5:17). May I suggest that the O.T. law is abolished for regulation (commands), but not revelation (doctrine, prophecy, etc.)?

    The word “Therefore” in verse 19 clearly indicates that “these” must refer to what was discussed in the preceding sentences, namely the Law and the Prophets. pp. 49-55

    What was discussed in the preceding sentences is the Law and Prophets relation to the kingdom of heaven. The shift in redemptive history was from the Law to the kingdom, before and after John the Baptist (Mt. 11:11-13, Lk. 16:16-17).

    Aaron, if you're interested in a clearer explanation, please see 6 Reasons Why “These Commandments” Refers to “Christ's Commands,” Instead of “Moses' Commands” (ALL Old Testament Laws Cancelled, pp. 49-55, free excerpt on my website).

  4. Ok, is Mr. Gibson saying the O.T is abolished in the N.T? Because that would be ridiculous.
    Eph. 2:14,15,16 (you MUST, MUST take passages of Scripture in their whole context!) is referring to Jews and Gentiles being reconciled in Christ as believers. Christ is our peace, making us one (Jew and Gentile)and “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances…” That whole passage is dealing with the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile, since Jews had considered Gentiles to be unclean and un-chosen by God. He isn't abolishing the O.T, he's uniting people. The commandments are the framework, the foundation for the commands Christ reiterated and built on in the N.T., When Christ said, “love your neighbor”, he was using the foundation in the Ten, #5,#6,#7,#9,#10. If you love your neighbor, would you lie to them? steal from them? Kill them? I certainly hope not! I think it is a common thing for these Dispensationalists to misinterpret the N.T because for some reason, they don't want to live the life God has instructed.

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