Thursday, February 17, 2011

Revising "On the Christian Sabbath": Suggestions?

Article XV of the New Hampshire Baptist Confession reads:
Of the Christian Sabbath: We believe that the first day of the week is the Lord's Day, or Christian Sabbath (78); and is to be kept sacred to religious purposes (79), by abstaining from all secular labor and sinful recreations (80); by the devout observance of all the means of grace, both private (81) and public (82); and by preparation for that rest that remaineth for the people of God (83).
I believe that needs revision on a few levels, and I'm curious to hear if y'all have suggestions for revising both the text and the Scripture proofs.

Let's start with a new title: "Of the Lord's Day"

Bonus points if you want to check all the footnoted Scripture proofs:
78. Acts 20:7; Gen. 2:3; Col. 2:16-17; Mark 2:27; John 20:19; 1 Cor. 16:1- 2

79. Exod. 20:8; Rev. 1:10; Psa. 118:24

80. Isa. 58:13-14; 56:2-8

81. Psa. 119:15

82. Heb. 10:24-25; Acts 11:26; 13:44; Lev. 19:30; Exod. 46:3; Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2, 3; Psa. 26:8; 87:3

83. Heb. 4:3-11


Joel said...

I think it is excellent as it is. I wish it were taken more seriously, at least with reformed people whose view of the decalogue is that it is an unchanging expression of God's character and a necessary guide of Christian conduct.

Ben said...

Joel, I'd have thought at the very least you'd want to clarify that "sinful recreations" aren't acceptable on days other than the Christian Sabbath, but . . .

Do you really want to argue that a church wants to require people to believe that we must abstain from secular labor on Sunday?

Joel said...

I see what you mean. It doesn't have the bit about duties of necessity and mercy like the LBC2 has.

The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

Matt Postiff said...

Ben, how about eliminating it altogether? Two supporting thoughts:

1) Rom. 14:5-6 indicates that some may believe in a "Christian Sabbath" and others may not. It is a matter of indifference that we do not need to specify.

2) It would seem appropriate to think how the church constitution would work in another culture. In Israel, Sunday is the first day of the work week after a Fri-Sat weekend. How would a Christian Sabbath or Lord's Day clause work there? A slight support for this comes from Acts 20:7, which records an evening meeting on the first day of the week, perhaps after the day's work was done.

Ben said...


1) Totally with you here, but this supports eliminating "Of the Christian Sabbath," not (as I see it) "Of the Lord's Day."

2) Wouldn't a Lord's Day clause parallel the context of the NT church pretty closely, when they recognized the unique significance of that day as a commemoration of the resurrection? Also, 1 Cor 16:1-2 and Rev 1:10 provide corroborating evidence.

I can see where it might be a judgment call as to whether this conviction should be a test of membership in a confessional local church. Surely the obligation to gather regularly must be clear at some level. I can think of two friends who've planted churches and omitted this article, but IMO the level of clarity in Scripture and the need for unity on the obligation to gather are sufficient to retain a modified article.

Shayne McAllister said...

Ben, I agree that the statement needs to be amended. My church uses the New Hampshire Confession in general, but this is one area that we heavily modified. I'm not sure this is the best wording, but we have received compliments from members. I wouldn't write it in such a way that precludes Sunday sabatarians, but it's good to open it to people who aren't in my opinion.

"XVI . Of The Lord’s Day
We believe that the first day of the week is the Lord's Day and is to be kept sacred to religious purposes by preparation for the rest that remains for the people of God."

Ben said...

Jim, not sure where your comment went, but thanks for the heads up on the bad link. Fixed it.

Shayne, works for me. What made you decide to omit the Scripture proofs? And I noticed you added an article on Creation. Any discussion of gender roles in the church? Those are the two that rattle around in my head.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Of the Lord's Day: we believe that the first day of the week is to be a time of remembrance of the finished work of Christ. As such, we gather together to edify one another to obey all that Christ has commanded.

Shayne McAllister said...


The article on creation was a requirement of our sending church. All I'm going to say :-)

A statement on gender would be good. We discuss the requirements of elders in our Constitution (we have female deacons), and we have a section on it in our members class. Good idea though.

Shayne McAllister said...

Oh and scripture proofs. Good idea, but formatting that online takes some work. I think our printed version has them, and our constitution has them throughout.

Anonymous said...

My take (without citations):

Of the Lord's Day: Christians have traditionally set aside the first day of the week is the Lord's Day, or Christian Sabbath. We believe that, though no Scripture requires a particular day to be observed as sacred, it is profitable for this congregation to set aside one day a week for rest, worship, and fellowship together.


Jonathan Matias said...


Shayne has already contributed to this thread our church's revised article "Of the Lord's Day." Our church also added an article to the NH Confession that's entitled "Of Gender and Marriage." I would love to see other ways churches have attempted to address gender and marriage in the confession. Our attempt reads reads as follows.

"XVIII . Of Gender and Marriage

We believe that God created humanity as male and female, equal as persons before God, with distinct yet complementary roles according to the created order, that males alone may serve as an elder as one who governs and teaches in the church; that marriage is a covenant made before God between a man and a woman, that models the relationship between God and His people and the profound mystery of Jesus’ relationship with the church, in which wives should joyfully submit to their husbands as to the Lord and that husbands should lead and love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for the church."

You can see it here:

We drafted ours based on an article "Of Marriage" originally implemented by Brad Baugham, lead pastor of our sister church, Emmanuel Bible Church. There article "Of Marriage" is here:

Shayne McAllister said...

Sorry Jonathan, I forgot about that part. I assumed Ben read ours and didn't see it. Thought it was there :-).

If you want, I can add some scripture references to the site.

Jonathan Matias said...

Shayne, great! I'll send you the Scripture reference footnotes I have and we can work together on adding them to the site. I don't feel too bad that our statement of faith's web version lacks the Scripture references, for the "gold standard" CHBC, also doesn't include them. = )

Matt Postiff said...


Back to our Feb 17 interchange...

1) Romans 14:5-6 does not specify what kind of day it is talking about--Saturday Sabbath, Sunday Sabbath, or Sunday Lord's day. The indication is that it covers all of them. I don't understand how you can use Rom 14 to selectively eliminate the "Christian Sabbath" but keep the Lord's day.

2) I agree with you that the practice of the early church was to have meetings on the Lord's Day (among other days, see Acts 2:46). I disagree that this is a sufficient basis for us to say that no work can be done by any of our believers on that day. How shall we handle shift workers in police/fire work, doctors, etc.? What are we saying to believers in Israel or other Sunday=first day of work week places--are they in sin for not dedicating the whole of Sunday to church services and personal worship?

The clarity to me is in the principle--regularly gathering as a church to worship, instruct, fellowship, etc. I believe it is necessary to put that in the statement, but leave the rest out.

I'm glad in our culture that Sunday is part of the weekend and we can have services on Sunday without having to concern ourselves as much with the problem cases.

Anonymous said...

The text says nothing about the Sabbath day or any of the commandments. In context, the entire chapter is about feasting & fasting.

Shayne McAllister said...


I think it's clear that the entire passage is about how to handle differences of opinion, regardless of the specific issue. He mentions observing days and eating certain kinds of food or not. It doesn't mention the Sabbath, but I do think it's a clear reference to it.

PH said...

Something that always seems to get overlooked in discussions about The Lord's Day is the Genesis account of God resting.

Genesis 2:3 "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it...because He had rested from all his work."

We're clearly not bound to Sabbath observance, and many churches are opting for Saturday evening services today -- seemingly eliminating a "day of rest" concept. But it seems to me that God meant His example to be instructive. It's not like He needed rest. I've often thought that in whatever way a person "esteems one day" (or not, Rom 14) there remains a principle of "day of rest" which resides outside of any Law issues.

Ben said...

Jonathan M., thanks for clarifying. I missed the article on gender as I was scanning your statement. And glad to provide a forum for you and Shayne to dialogue. ;-)

Matt, are you arguing that the day for the church's corporate gatherings are a matter of complete indifference? Or are you suggesting that it's ideal but not prescribed, and it should not be a test of fellowship?

And I'm in no way suggesting that work and recreational activities on Sunday *ought* to be a test of fellowship.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem that I see is that there is NO Biblical foundation for the first day of the week (i.e. Sunday) being a "day of worship", the "Christian Sabbath", etc. Have you read the scripture verses you listed (Acts 20:7 and so forth)? I don't mean to come across as anything but sincere, but you seriously should look at the texts in the context of Genesis 2:1-3 where God blessed and sanctified the SEVENTH day, not the first. To place on any other day what God has placed on the seventh day (Saturday) is completely against Scripture. The only mention in the Bible of the "Lord's day" is Revelation 1:10 when John was in vision, but never does it say which day is the "Lord's day." Thus based on the rest of Scripture, one would have to conclude that the Lord's day is the seventh as is stated many, many times throughout Scripture..."...the Sabbath of the Lord thy God..." If you consider this issue in this light, I promise you a whole new world will open up before your very eyes in the Bible.