Friday, May 20, 2011

Calvin and Sabbath

In "Reclaimed by Sabbath Rest," Robert Sherman reviews John Calvin's understanding of the Fourth Commandment. Calvin begins, "The purpose of this commandment is that, being dead to our own inclinations and work, we should meditate on the Kingdom of God, and that we should practice that meditation in the ways established by him." See Isaiah 58:13. First, Sabbath obedience is a spirit of letting go - one must lay aside their own interests and pursuits. In Calvin's words, to obtain true spiritual rest "believers ought to lay aside their own works to allow God to work in them."

Second, the expectation that Christians worship together regularly on an appointed day must never be viewed as an end in itself. No particular day is holy in itself. At times when it is not possible to worship on the appointed day, one may still meditate on God's works and so fulfill the commandment. "God's purpose in establishing Sabbath observance was not due to any intrinsic sacredness in the seventh day, but only to provide humanity a regular day of worship, that good order and harmony might be promoted."

Third, God intends the Sabbath to be a day of rest for laborers and servants. "Sabbath observance consists primarily in a spiritual attitude, a posture of piety that, ideally, defines our daily meditations and shapes the whole of our lives...Sabbath observance is not a task to undertake, but rather a sign of God's grace and communion with us, and a foretast of our own true fulfillment. It should be characterized by joy and gratitude."

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