Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rayburn on Galatians 4:8-11

Galatians 4:8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

So it is not really a surprise that men make really foolish choices as these Galatians did, however exasperating it may have been to Paul. The history of the Christian church in the world is, in large part, the history of this same stupidity.

But, it is very interesting to notice the specific point Paul makes here about the grip that man's natural religious ideas have upon the human soul and, accordingly, how hard it is for people to hold on to the pure gospel. A drug addict may continue to use drugs even after his life has been devastated by his drug use because, after all, he has become physically and psychologically dependent upon them. A woman may return to a violent and philandering husband over and over again because she is afraid to leave him or because she is afraid to be alone. But, why would a Christian who had tasted the fresh air of the gospel go back to the putrid atmosphere of works and human performance?


Anonymous said...

My opion is I'm just like the Israelites in Exodus. I'm confortable in works. It's the relationship with Jesus(who I do not physically see)that is harder and as fully human as I am what I can see I maybe more confortable with than what I don't see. But through the workings of the Holy Spirit,and as my relation with Jesus continuely grows, I learn its more about HIM than me or works.

Jim said...

"You observe days . . . I fear I may have labored over you in vain." Gal 4.10-11.


Westminster Confession of Faith, ch 21.vii:

"[B]inding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath."

Augsburg (i.e., "Lutheran") Confession, art. 28.57:

"[T]he keeping neither of the Sabbath nor of any other day is necessary."

Frontier Forest said...

Another amazing sermon! I thought you did a remarkable job tying the death of Ten Kennedy into your exegesis., creating the desire for every listener to search our hearts about our own idols, the surety of death and the deliverance from dead works as Christ is formed within us.

Reepicheep said...

Jim, point noted, however, I don't think the Judaizers were promoting the legitimate observation of the Sabbath. They were promoting the observance of Jewish days (along with circumcision and dietary laws) as a way for the Gentiles to be right with God (meritorious). I think that's the issue Paul is addressing.

Obviously the Westminster Divines differed with the Augsburg Confession on Sabbath keeping. Heck, I differ slightly with the WCF on Sabbath keeping...or so I've been told.

At any rate- we don't need to keep any day to be justified. I think that's the main issue.

Roger Mann said...

It seems that Calvin himself would have “differed slightly” (a huge understatement) with the WCF on Sabbath keeping. For he wrote the following on the fourth commandment in his Institutes:

“It was not, however, without a reason that the early Christians substituted what we call the Lord’s day for the Sabbath. The resurrection of our Lord being the end and accomplishment of that true rest which the ancient sabbath typified, this day, by which types were abolished serves to warn Christians against adhering to a shadowy ceremony. I do not cling so to the number seven as to bring the Church under bondage to it, nor do I condemn churches for holding their meetings on other solemn days, provided they guard against superstition. This they will do if they employ those days merely for the observance of discipline and regular order… In this way, we get quit of the trifling of the false prophets, who in later times instilled Jewish ideas into the people, alleging that nothing was abrogated but what was ceremonial in the commandment, (this they term in their language the taxation of the seventh day), while the moral part remains—viz. the observance of one day in seven, making no other distinction between the Sunday and the Sabbath, save that the seventh day, which was kept till then, was abrogated, but that it was nevertheless necessary to keep some one day. But this is nothing else than to insult the Jews, by changing the day, and yet mentally attributing to it the same sanctity; thus retaining the same typical distinction of days as had place among the Jews. And of a truth, we see what profit they have made by such a doctrine. Those who cling to their constitutions go thrice as far as the Jews in the gross and carnal superstition of sabbatism; so that the rebukes which we read in Isaiah (Isa. 1:13; 58:13) apply as much to those of the present day, as to those to whom the Prophet addressed them. We must be careful, however, to observe the general doctrine—viz. in order that religion may neither be lost nor languish among us, we must diligently attend on our religious assemblies, and duly avail ourselves of those external aids which tend to promote the worship of God.”

I honestly don’t see how the WCF position can be maintained in light of Romans 14:5-6, Galatians 4:10-11, and Colossians 2:16-17, and the fact that Scripture consistently teaches that the Sabbath was the seventh day of the week, not the first day of the week on which Christ rose from the dead:

“Now after the Sabbath as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb… But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.’” (Matthew 28:1-6)

If the external observance of the Sabbath is still obligatory, but has simply been changed from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week, then where’s the Scriptural support for such a teaching? I don’t see a shred of evidence for such a teaching in the New Testament.

Reepicheep said...

I've studied the Sabbath issue for some time and I'm still not certain about it's application for Christians. The Sabbath principle seems like a creation ordinance that doesn't require too much NT affirmation, but nevertheless, I take your point.

I would commend to your consideration a very interesting argument made by Phil Kayser, a pastor I respect quite a bit. Check it out:

Roger Mann said...

The Sabbath principle seems like a creation ordinance that doesn't require too much NT affirmation…

If the Sabbath is a “creation ordinance” (e.g., Genesis 2:3), then God has established it as resting from work on the seventh day of the week. If it is alleged that this “creation ordinance” was changed to the first day of the week at Christ’s resurrection, then it would require unambiguous New Testament affirmation for such a teaching to be accepted. But rather than an unambiguous affirmation of this teaching in the New Testament, all I see is exhortations such as…

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Colossians 2:16

This seems more like an unambiguous affirmation that the external observance of the Sabbath has been abrogated under the New Covenant rather than changed to the first day of the week (ditto Romans 14:5-6 and Galatians 4:10-11).

Roger Mann said...

I would commend to your consideration a very interesting argument made by Phil Kayser, a pastor I respect quite a bit.

Ok, thanks. I’ll check it out in more detail later. However, after just skimming through the article, he seems to be engaging in quite a bit of hermeneutical gymnastics in order to prove a preexisting theological commitment. I’m always a bit leery of arguments that rely on detailed hidden meanings in the Greek that aren’t reflected in any of the reputable English versions of Scripture (e.g., his treatment of the “first day of the Sabbaths” in Matt. 28:1; Mk. 16:1-3; Lk. 24:1; Jn. 20:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). Calvin has a very simple explanation for why this phrase simply means the “first day of the week” in his commentary on Mark 16:1.

“The two Evangelists [Matthew and Mark] give the name of ‘the first day of the Sabbaths’ to that which came first in order between two Sabbaths.”

John Gill confirms this explanation in his commentary on Matthew 28:1.

towards the first day of the week, or ‘sabbaths’; so the Jews used to call the days of the week, the first day of the sabbath, the second day of the sabbath…” (he then backs this claim up with quotes from several Jewish scholars)

Moreover, it’s hard to see how these references can be referring to the first day of the week as being the new weekly Sabbath, when Scripture makes it quite clear that the disciples came to the tomb early in the morning “when the Sabbath was past” (Mark 16:1).

Pastor Kayser also writes:

"There remains therefore a Sabbath observance for the people of God" (Heb. 4:9). Far from being abolished, the Bible says it “remains.”

But this hardly refers to a carnal or external Sabbath rest that “remains” for the visible church, as the context of the passage makes clear: “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:2-3). Again, Calvin makes this quite clear in his commentary on this passage:

“He draws the conclusion, that there is a sabbathizing reserved for God’s people, that is, a spiritual rest; to which God daily invites us… But I doubt not but that the Apostle designedly alluded to the Sabbath in order to reclaim the Jews from its external observances; for in no other way could its abrogation be understood, except by the knowledge of its spiritual design. He then treats of two things together; for by extolling the excellency of grace, he stimulates us to receive it by faith, and in the meantime he shows us in passing what is the true design of the Sabbath, lest the Jews should be foolishly attached to the outward rite. Of its abrogation indeed he does expressly speak, for this is not his subject, but by teaching them that the rite had a reference to something else, he gradually withdraws them from their superstitious notions. For he who understands that the main object of the precept was not external rest or earthly worship, immediately perceives, by looking on Christ, that the external rite was abolished by his coming; for when the body appears, the shadows immediately vanish away. Then our first business always is, to teach that Christ is the end of the Law.”

Like I said, I’ll check Pastor Kayser’s article out in greater detail later, but so far it doesn’t seem very persuasive. Thanks again for the link.

Reepicheep said...


Right, I acknowledge your traditional argument against sabbath keeping.

Nevertheless the widespread practice of sabbath keeping (or celebrating) among many Godly reformed folk causes me a touch more pause than you have. I fully acknowledge they could be wrong, etc.

Kayser's argument is a bit stronger than exegetical gymnastics I think.

In the end I certainly do not cast judgment or start some kind of judicial proceedings on people who don't observe the sabbath. I don't even think Galatians or Colossians is condemning the observation of something so much as the legalistic mindset behind it. The Judaizers saw the observation of dates,years, etc. as somehow meritorious. They were wrong.

Resting one day in seven certainly makes good restorative sense in line with how we've been created.

In the Lamb,

Roger Mann said...

Kayser's argument is a bit stronger than exegetical gymnastics I think.

Perhaps you are correct, Pastor. That’s why I need to fully read through the article before I pass final judgment on it. I was just pointing out a few statements that jumped out at me right away as being poor arguments, such as: “If God had not authorized Sunday as a Sabbath day, the Christian Jews would have strenuously objected to substituting the days of worship.” Isn’t that what they call an “argument from silence?” Anyway, it seems more plausible that the reason the New Testament doesn’t record any “objection” to worshiping on Sunday (or any other day for that matter; see Acts 2:46-47) is precisely because it wasn’t considered a Sabbath. The “objection” was rather that the seventh day Sabbath wasn’t being observed -- hence Paul’s correction of this error in Romans 14:5-6; Galatians 4:10-11; and Colossians 2:16.

In the end I certainly do not cast judgment or start some kind of judicial proceedings on people who don't observe the sabbath.

But if the WCF position on Sunday being the “Sabbath” is correct, then why isn’t judgment or judicial proceedings brought against those who “don’t observe the sabbath?” If the carnal or external rest from work and recreation is still binding upon God’s people (now on Sunday rather than Saturday), as the WCF teaches (21.7-8), then how can judicial proceedings fail to be meted out (people were stoned to death for violating the Sabbath under the Old Covenant after all!)? That’s the rub for me. If the WCF merely taught that “Resting one day in seven certainly makes good restorative sense in line with how we've been created,” then I wouldn’t have much of a problem with it from a practical standpoint. But as it stands, it seems to demand ecclesiastical discipline against those who disagree or fail to keep the “Sabbath.”

You can have the last word, if you’d like, as I don’t want to beat a dead horse or come across as too contentious over this issue. In my opinion, Romans 14 applies quite well here. :-)

In Christ,