Thursday, May 8, 2014

Keeping the Sabbath holy

Via Trevin Wax and Baptist Twenty One, some free online e-books, among which is J.I. Packer's Keeping the Ten Commandments. This is a short book, intended for small group study and including questions for discussion. It is quite good, as one expects from Packer. I was — naturally — curious about how Packer would handle the Fourth Commandment. He describes three views on observance of the Sabbath: the idea that the commandment is now abolished, that it has been transferred to the "Lord's day," i.e. Sunday, and that some (he mentions Seventh-day Adventists) continue to keep Sabbath on the original Sabbath. Part of what he writes on the subject:
...[I]f the Lord's day is the Christian Sabbath, how do we keep it holy? Answer—by behaving as Jesus did. His Sabbaths were days not for idle amusement, but for worshiping God and doing good—what the Shorter Catechism calls "works of necessity and mercy" (see Luke 4:16; 13:10-17; 14:1-6). Freedom from secular chores secures freedom to serve the Lord on his own day. Matthew Henry says that the Sabbath was made a day of holy rest so that it might be a day of holy work. From this holy work, in our sedentary and lonely world, physical recreation and family fun will not be excluded, but worship and Christian fellowship will come first.

Inferences from these three questions may be disputable, but the underlying principle is clear—namely, that we must honor God not only by our loyalty (first commandment) and thought-life (second commandment) and words (third commandment), but also by our use of time, in a rhythm of toil and rest—six days for work crowned by one day for worship. God's claim on our Sabbaths reminds us that all our time is his gift, to be given back to him and used for him. "Take my life" includes "take my moments and my days—take my time, all of it." This is where true obedience to the fourth commandment begins. ....
The book can be downloaded from The Gospel Project here. I downloaded it as ePub and then converted it to Kindle format using calibre, a very useful free program — available for several operating systems — for managing e-books.