Sabbath Reflections

Posted: November 1, 2007 by Rick Hogaboam in Theology
Tags: ,

This picture does not necessarily represent my view of the sabbath, just found it on the web and it shows how strongly some people (ummmm, 7th Day Adventists) view proper sabbath observance.

I just recently attended a Reformation Society meeting near Rochester, NY. The society is connected with ACE (Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals). There are pastors from various traditions, but mostly confined to Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists. At this particular meeting, the topic on the floor was Sabbath. John Reisinger (, who is dubbed the father of New Covenant Theology presented his understanding of the sabbath, along with several others who fall into the non-sabbatarian position. Their were responses from a couple pastors coming from the Reformed Presbyterian and the Orthodox Presbyterian position and it made for very interesting discussion.

Basically, coming out of the meeting, I had more questions than answers and here are some thoughts for people to offer feedback on.

– Is the idea of time and seasons inherent in ones understanding of sabbath? meaning, is a non-sabbatarian essentially holding a position that would not view the 7 day week as sacred and that we could basically define the calendar however we would like because God is no longer a respector of time in the sacred sense?

– Is the non-Sabbatarian church binding people’s conscience to attend church once a week? Meaning, if time is not sacred, then Sunday observance is merely a pragmatic practice based somewhat on the practice of the early church but with no warrant or explicit imperative, other than “do not forsake the assembling…” Basically, if one is totally unable or does not like the idea of coming to church every Sunday, on what grounds would a non-Sabbatarian church have for discipline towards the non-attender. The non-attender could say that he/she assembles with Christians for coffee, etc and is thus fulfilling the mandate to assemble.

Having been a non-Sabbatarian, I wish to dig into some of these questions. I have read Paul Jewett, some of D.A. Carson and others on this topic and have theologically arrived at a loose (I guess I shouldn’t use the word non- anymore) sabbatarian position….but did not think through the ecclesiological implications on the polity of a church based on ones understanding of the sabbath. It is here where I am digging for some answers.

Theoretically a person from my church can say that they don’t want to attend church on Sunday anymore but wish to retain their membership and the only grounds in which we would revoke their membership is that they fail to assemble when our elders open the door for worship, which happens to be Sunday morning. Our only authority would be that the decision of the elders is binding on the practice of the member. Is this more in line with Scripture than my good Sabbatarians which would say that their sabbath observance carries with it Biblical warrant and would say that they are implementing God’s will in the manner.

Also, if we (loose, non-Sabbatarians) are going to discipline a non-attender on the grounds that they should worship when the assembly gathers under the direction of the elders, then should we not discipline non-attenders to Sunday School, mid-week studies, etc. After all, the day doesn’t matter, the principle is that the elders define when we should worship in such a view. One might say that, well once a week seems reasonable….but based on what. Theoretically, one could live in a society with a 15 day work week, and the non-Sabbatarian could not theologically object to such a view of the week.

Anyhow, look forward to any thoughts you folks may have.


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