In Reformed interpretation, the unifying theme that is the key to understanding the development of redemptive history is the saving work of Jesus Christ. God created Adam and gave him the earth to rule and to subdue. Because of Adam’s fall into sin, the earth was cursed and man became a servant of sin and Satan. God immediately promised a coming Seed of woman who would overcome Satan and reverse the effects of the fall. The rest of redemptive history is the developing story of the restoration of fallen man’s earthly inheritance and authority through the work of the Seed Redeemer on behalf of His people. The theocracy of Old Testament Israel fits into this redemptive drama as a localized pledge and prefiguration of the coming perfect kingdom rule and everlasting earthly inheritance that the Christ will establish for His people and as the national means through which the Christ was brought into the world. Through the historical work of Jesus Christ, Satan was defeated and Jesus of Nazareth, who is fully man as well as fully God, was exalted to the place of all authority in heaven and on earth. In this age, Christ is exercising His authority, the nations are being discipled, and Christ’s universal rule over men is being extended to the uttermost parts of the earth. The drama of redemption will find its ultimate and final fulfillment in the glorified new earth of Revelation 21 after Christ returns.
For those who know the background or meaning of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the following is a public service announcement.
Blasphemy in Song
by Laurence M. Vance
by Laurence M. Vance
This past weekend, since it was the closest weekend to the Fourth of July holiday that we observe today, churches all across America resounded with patriotic songs. Although the wisdom of singing patriotic songs in church is itself a debatable proposition, there should be no debate in any church about uttering words of blasphemy, whether spoken or sung. Yet, the patriotic song that is perhaps the one most frequently sung in the churches of America — for the Fourth of July or otherwise — is the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” But this so-called hymn is no Christian hymn at all — it is blasphemy in song.
Most Americans are familiar with the words of this “hymn”:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.”
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
The chorus is, of course, as follows:
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
Although most Americans who are familiar with this “patriotic anthem” rightly connect it with the so-called Civil War, many probably don’t know who wrote it, and even fewer know anything about how it came about.
The author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was the abolitionist and social activist, Julia Ward Howe (1819—1910). The song first appeared, minus the last verse, on the front cover of The Atlantic Monthly for February 1862. That it originally had six verses can be seen by looking at her first draft, which was written on a scrap of Sanitary Commission paper. Christian hymnbooks that contain this song only include verses one, two, four, and five. The words as it was first published are slightly different than her original draft, which is transcribed here.
The tune is from a camp-meeting song with a “Glory Hallelujah” refrain by William Steffe, written about 1856. This tune was in turn used for what became the Union marching song, “John Brown’s Body,” the first verse of which begins by repeating three times: “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,” and ends with: “His soul goes marching on!” Other lines read: “They will hang Jeff. Davis to a sour apple tree!” and “Now, three rousing cheers for the Union.”
During my last semester at SEBTS, I took a Christian Ethics class. It seems customary, when studying Christian ethics, to assume that the Mosaic law is tripartite, which means that the Old Testament law is assumed to be divided into three parts: moral, ceremonial, and civil/judicial. Following that assumption, the New Testament believer is to assume that the moral law is still valid in the believer’s life, while the last two parts have passed away with the coming of Christ.
The problem is that while ethicists often hold to this view, it seems that New Testament and Old Testament scholars do not agree with them. For example, R. T. France, in his commentary on Matthew, states:
It is sometimes suggested that Matt 5:17-20 is concerned only with the moral law, not with ceremonial and civil laws of the OT. But this convenient distinction of the law in three categories has no biblical basis, cannot be traced back earlier than the Middle Ages. Moreover, such a selective approach is difficult to square with Jesus’ insistence on the importance of the smallest details of the law (v. 18) and the ‘smallest commandments’ (v. 19).
Hays states that the tripartite division of the law “suffers from three major weaknesses: It is arbitrary and without any textual support, it ignores the narrative context, and it fails to reflect the significant implications of the change from Old Covenant to New Covenant. This approach, therefore, is inadequate as a hermeneutic method for interpreting and applying the Law.” Barrick bluntly states that “no one can justly separate the moral, civil, and ceremonial parts of the Law from each other: it is a unit.” These are only a few of the objectors and of the objections to the tripartite division of the law.
In the next sets of posts, I will try to look at the validity of such a division of the law through a historical and theological approach. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Is a tripartite division of the law valid?
 R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 180n. Unfortunately, France does not document this statement.
 J. Daniel Hays, “Applying the Old Testament Law Today,” Bibliotheca Sacra 158 (Jan-Mar 2001): 30.
 William D. Barrick, “The Mosaic Covenant,” TMSJ 10/2 (Fall 1999): 213.
As was mentioned in the previous post, according to R. T. France, evidence for such a tripartite division of the law “cannot be traced back earlier than the Middle Ages.” However, there might be some evidence that at least a dichotomy between ceremonial works and the works of the law existed at the time of Jerome. According to Luther, Jerome had introduced “notable error and ignorance” in the understanding of Rom 3:19-20 when he suggested that Paul was here calling ceremonial works, works of the law. A possible bipartite understanding of the law also could have existed at the time of Augustine, for Luther claimed that Augustine resisted Jerome, and Aquinas stated that in Contra Faust, Augustine held “that in the Old Law there are ‘precepts concerning the life we have to lead, and precepts regarding the life that is foreshadowed.’” Aquinas then related these precepts to moral, ceremonial, and judicial principles by arguing that both moral and judicial principles fall under the “life we have to lead” category. 
Fast forwarding to the Middle Ages, in Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas himself discussed the law (which he referred to as precepts) and its three parts (moral, ceremonial, and judicial) in his section entitled “Treatise on the Law” and more specifically in questions 99-105. Of interest is the fact that in his writings, Aquinas did not just assume this partition of the law, he actually developed an argument for the existence of these three parts. A future post will deal with Aquinas’ position in detail, but now let us continue our historical overview.
Jumping to the time of the reformers, Luther seemed to accept at least a dualism of the law when, in The Bondage of the Will, he referred to “the civil or moral law.” Calvin, in book two of Institutes of the Christian Religion, presented a bipartite view when he discussed the law, emphasizing the moral and ceremonial aspects of it, but later, in book four of the Institutes, when he discussed civil government, he presented a clearly tripartite view of the law when he stated: “the well known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law.” While Calvin did not present a logical defense of the tripartite division of the law as Aquinas did, his use of this tripartite division to justify the abrogation of only part of the law and his interactions with and citations of a variety of Scriptures are also of interest to the question at hand.
After the reformation, the tripartite division of the law seemed to slowly solidify as an accepted concept. Some still held, as John Owen stated in his Two Short Catechisms, that “the whole law [was] moral and ceremonial,” pointing to a bipartite view of the law, but ultimately, the tripartite view was propagated and popularized by the Westminster Confession (1646), which was the basis for a variety of other confessions of faith, including the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. In the 1689 Baptist Confession, the tripartite division of the law is clearly seen in the chapter on the law of God (Ch. 19), where it reads: “besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship” and that “to them also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people.” While the 1689 Baptist Confession did not provide an argument for its views, but simply stated the belief of its signatories, as is customary for confessions, it did however substantiate its articles with a variety of Scripture references which are also of interest to the quest at hand.
Looking at contemporary times, it is interesting to note that the Baptist tradition found in the 1689 confession has not survived in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, where no mention of the tripartite law is made. Some current thoughts and discussions on the issue of the law and the gospel are summarized in Five Views on Law and Gospel, first published by Zondervan in 1993. In this book, the reader is presented with the following five views: the reformed perspective, the theonomic reformed approach, the evangelical (holiness code) approach, the dispensational view, and the modified Lutheran view. The first three have to maintain that the law is at least bipartite, if not tripartite for their approach. The last two do not have to hold to any division of the law.
As we continue this discussion, we will next tackle Aquina’s arguments for a tripartite division of the law. In the meantime, do you know of any other historical figures that might have convincingly argued this position?
 R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 180n. Unfortunately, France does not document this statement. Based on the research done, it is assumed that France’s reference to the Middle Ages is a reference to the work of Thomas Aquinas.
 Martin Luther The Bondage of the Will CXLIII. References to classical, medieval, and renaissance works will be cited as per section 17.5.1 of the 7th edition of Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers.
 Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica FS.Q99.A4.
 Luther Bondage CXLVI.
 John Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion 2.7, 2.8.31.
 Ibid., 4.20.14.
 John Owen Two Short Catechisms XIV.Q2.
 Samuel E.Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 3rd ed. (Webster: Evangelical Press, 1999), 232-33.
Greg L.Bahnsen et al., Five Views on Law and Gospels (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 5.
Analyzing Aquinas’ Arguments.
The question that now begs to be answered is: are the arguments given in favor of a tripartite law acceptable, after all, the mere fact that many have accepted this division as a fact since the Middle Ages does not justify its acceptance. Therefore, to understand if it is appropriate to divide the law into three parts, I will analyze the arguments offered by the proponents of such a perspective, starting with Aquinas.
In his six article approach to “Of the Precept of the Old Law” (Q99), Aquinas started by defending that the law is made up of many precepts and not of only one precept. He did so by pointing to the plural “ordinances” used by Paul in Eph 2:15 when he wrote about the law of commandments. This point is well presented and defended. The only comment that can be made about this point is that he could be accused of using Eph 2:15 selectively to prove his point of multiple precepts while ignoring the implications of Eph 2:15 when it comes to the wholeness of the law. While the author would agree with Aquinas, that Scripture here refers to “ordinances” plural, the author would also agree with Hoehner, in his commentary on the book of Ephesians, when he points out that the “term o nomo” must refer to the whole Mosaic law and not just the ceremonial law as some suggest,” and as such, he argues that “it is a false dichotomy to distinguish between the moral and ceremonial laws, making only the ceremonial laws inoperative.”
Aquinas then proceeded to point to the Decalogue to support his claim that the Old Law contains some moral precepts because moral precepts are necessary to make man become good, so that he can be in friendship with God who is supremely good. He thus argued that “it was necessary for the Old Law to include precepts about acts of virtue: and these are the moral precepts of the Law.”  As we saw in the previous post, some disagree with Aquinas about the statement that the Old Law contains only “some” moral precepts, but with that exception, one cannot fault his position just yet. Some discomfort is felt by the modern evangelical when Aquinas augmented his argument with a philosophical argument for the need of moral principles in the Old Law. To do so, he used the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus to maintain that God cannot have a friendship with man “unless man become good.” This latter argument can be seen as unnecessary, and its use of apocryphal literature makes it more suspicious to the modern evangelical. But, if one ignores this part of the argument, the claim that the Old Law contains moral precepts is a valid one.
Aquinas continued by seeking to prove that there are precepts which are not moral, but ceremonial. He did so by looking at Deut 4:13, 14, where Moses stated that God declared to Israel His covenant, that is the Ten Commandments, and that the LORD commanded Moses to teach the Israelites statutes and judgments, that they were to observe. Aquinas is translated here as using the phraseology “ceremonies and judgments,” instead of the NKJV’s terminology, “statutes and judgments,” and this is where he seems to get the term ceremonial law. The Hebrew term used here is qx, which BDAG defines as “something prescribed, a statute or due,” or as an “enactment, decree, ordinance,” or a “law in general.” This same term is used in the next chapter of Deuteronomy when the Decalogue is introduced with: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them. … You shall have no other gods before Me ….” (Deut 5:1-7, NKJV, emphasis mine). Therefore Aquinas’ insistence on the use of qx as meaning ceremonies is deemed not to be well founded since the Decalogue (the commands associated with the moral law according to Aquinas) are introduced with the same term that Aquinas wants to use to identify ceremonial laws. Frame, a proponent of the tripartite law, further furnishes a critique of Aquinas’ use of the ceremonial term when he writes,
It is misleading to define “ceremonial” etymologically as “laws pertaining to ceremonies.” Many of the laws commonly grouped under the “ceremonial” category, such as dietary laws [and] clothing laws, have nothing to do with “ceremonies.” And some laws having to do with ceremonies, such as the “regulative principle” and other doctrines concerning public worship, are commonly described as moral rather than ceremonial laws.
It would therefore seem that Aquinas’ argument for the presence of ceremonial decrees is invalid on many fronts. In addition to this, when Aquinas replied to the objection that “human actions are called moral, … therefore it seems that the Old Law given to men should not comprise other than moral precepts,” he simply answered that “human acts extend also to the Divine worship: and therefore the Old Law given to man contains precepts about these matters also.” This is circular reasoning; instead of defending his statement that Divine worship is not a moral concept, he arbitrarily put it in a different category and then used its being in that category to justify the existence of that category. In this same section, Aquinas admitted in the reply to another objection that “to worship God, since it is an act of virtue, belongs to a moral precept,” but he then differentiated the worship of God from the precepts prescribing the worship of God, which are in themselves not moral, but ceremonial. Here again, Aquinas seemed to change categories without substantial justification. He conveniently created a new category, but did not justify its existence.
Aquinas next proceeded to argue for judicial precepts by looking at Deut 6:1. Here he interpreted the words commandment, statutes, and judgments as referring to moral, ceremonial, and judicial law. This is the same terminology used in Deut 4 and Deut 5 (as seen above) and Aquinas here used a similar weak reasoning with judicial precepts as he used above with moral precepts: he again conveniently created a new category, but did not justify its existence. In addition, he augmented his argument by pointing to Rom 7:12, “therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good,” as additional substantiation of his tri-partition. Here he related “just” with the judicial precepts, “holy” with the ceremonial precepts, and “good” with the moral precepts. Moo, in his commentary on Romans, does not allow for such an interpretation, for he says that “Paul brings together as essentially parallel terms ‘law’ and ‘commandment’; both referring to the Mosaic law, the former as a body, the latter in terms of specific commandments that Paul has cited in v. 7 as representative of the whole.” If Moo is correct, then the term “holy,” associated with the entire law in the first part of the verse, cannot in the next breath refer only to ceremonial laws, as Aquinas purported it does. Here again, Aquinas admitted that the “act of justice, in general, belongs to the moral precepts,” but then, in a similar manner as with ceremonial precepts, he differentiated between the determination of the acts and the acts themselves, concluding that the determination of the acts belongs to the category of judicial precepts. Just as with ceremonial acts, it must be stated that this change of category is not substantiated. Ultimately, it is very interesting that Aquinas himself agreed that the ceremonial and judicial precepts have their basis in the moral law, and yet he worked very hard to separate them into different categories from the moral law.
Aquinas finished his defense of the tripartite law with his fifth article, in which he investigated the possibility of the presence of a fourth division of the law. His arguments against a fourth division are similar to the ones made above and do not add much to the discussion of this blog series. Some more discussion is found in questions 100-108 of the Summa. In these questions, Aquinas continued to develop his ideas about the tripartite law and specifically postulates arguments on the duration of each kind of precept. Aquinas believed that “the precepts of the Decalogue cannot be changed by dispensation,” and yet he also believed that when Christ came, a change had to have happened in the law for, according to Aquinas: the New Testament law is different from the Old Testament law; “the judicial precepts are no longer in force”; and that “the Old Law is said to be ‘for ever’ simply and absolutely, as regards its moral precepts; but as regards the ceremonial precepts it lasts for ever in respect of the reality which those ceremonies foreshadowed.”
In the next post, I will look at Calvin and his defense of a tripartite law. In the meantime, what do y’all think. Are Aquinas’ arguments valid? Am I being too severe with him? Did I miss something?
 Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A1.
 Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians – An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 375-6.
 Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A2.
 Aquinas referred to Ecclesiasticus almost 250 times in his Summa, often using the introduction “it is written.”
 Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A2.
 Ibid., FS.Q99.A3.
 Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brow-Drivers-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 349. The author takes this occasion to point out that he is not a Hebrew scholar, and therefore some of the nuances of the language might have escaped him as he makes arguments based on the Hebrew text.
 It should be noted that the insistence on the word ceremonial which transpires in the English translation, might, or might not be as strong in the original Latin, but no matter what term was used in the original, it is hoped that the translators represented Aquinas’ ideas correctly, as it is with these ideas that the author is interacting.
 John M. Frame, “Toward a Theology of the State,” Westminster Theological Journal 51 no 2 (Fall 1989): 204n.
 The format of the Summa starts with a series of objections to his article, followed by the defense of his article and answers to the objections aforementioned.
 Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A3.
 Ibid., FS.Q99.A4.
 Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 440.
 Aquinas Summa FS.Q99.A4.
 Ibid., FS.Q100.A8.
 Ibid., FS.Q107.A1.
 Ibid., FS.Q104.A3.
 Ibid., FS.Q103.A3.
Analyzing Calvin’s Arguments.
As for Calvin, he stated that he gathered his tripartite view of the law from the “ancients who adopted this division, though they were not unaware that the two latter classes [judicial and ceremonial laws] had to do with morals.” Therefore, like Aquinas, Calvin admitted that the laws which he called ceremonial and judicial had to do with morals, even so he, like Aquinas, adopted, defined, and used different categories for them. Unlike Aquinas, who tried to justify his reasoning through logic and some Scriptural exegesis, Calvin seemed to have relied on the wisdom of the ancients. It is of interest to note that Calvin did not say that the ancients justified this tripartite division of the law with solid Biblical arguments, but only that they “did not give them the name of moral, because they might be changed and abrogated without affecting morals.” It is almost as if he assumed that the motivation of the ancients was derived by a need to fit their purpose, instead of being derived by the clear teaching of Scripture. Since this abrogation pattern is clear in Aquinas, could it be that Calvin suggested that this tension between the Decalogue’s not being changed and the changing work of Christ was the motivation for Aquinas’ arguments trying to justify a tripartite law? Possibly, but we have no proof of it.
In Calvin’s theology, the law ultimately was divided as follows:
The moral law, … is the true and eternal rule of righteousness prescribed to the men of all nations and of all times, who would frame their life agreeably to the will of God. … The ceremonial law of the Jews was a tutelage by which the Lord was pleased to exercise, as it were, the childhood of that people, until the fullness of the time should come when he was fully to manifest his wisdom to the world, and exhibit the reality of those things which were then adumbrated by figures (Gal. 3:24; 4:4). The judicial law, given them as a kind of polity, delivered certain forms of equity and justice, by which they might live together innocently and quietly. And as that exercise in ceremonies properly pertained to the doctrine of piety, inasmuch as it kept the Jewish Church in the worship and religion of God, yet was still distinguishable from piety itself, so the judicial form, though it looked only to the best method of preserving that charity which is enjoined by the eternal law of God, was still something distinct from the precept of love itself. Therefore, as ceremonies might be abrogated without at all interfering with piety, so, also, when these judicial arrangements are removed, the duties and precepts of charity can still remain perpetual.”
Therefore the moral law found in the Decalogue is timeless, but the ceremonial law and the judicial law are not. In this description, Calvin quotes Gal 3:24 as a supporting Scripture for his treatment of the ceremonial law. This passage, which in the letter to the Galatians comes at the end of a section on the purpose of the law, states: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24 NKJV). It is hard to envision that this passage, written to a predominantly gentile church, was referring only to the Jewish nation, as Calvin would have it seem. Also, the context of the passage does not seem to allow for a purely ceremonial understanding of “the law,” but to a more holistic understanding of the law. Therefore it is hard to agree with Calvin’s definition of the ceremonial law based on this passage. As a matter of fact, if this passage is read in light of verse 25, where Paul writes: “But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal 3:25 NKJV), one could understand this section of Scripture as arguing for a view where we are no longer under a tutor for the “whole” law, and therefore one does not need to hold to a tripartite division of the law.
In the next post, I will look at some more modern uses of the tripartite law, and their justification, or lack there of, for using it. In the meantime, if you are better acquainted with Calvin and his writings, do you know of anywhere else where Calvin does a better job of defending the tripartite division of the law?
 Calvin Institutes 4.20.14.
 Ibid., 4.20.15 (emphasis mine).
 In all fairness, one must at least consider the possibility that Paul here could have been using the term “we” to refer to his Jewish heritage rather than to him and his audience. While this interpretation would be more in line with Calvin’s thought, it does not seem to square with the general sense of the passage and the specific use of “all” in verse 22.
Two More Historical Views.
To finish the historical analysis, I would like to look at two more instances: the 1689 Baptist Confession and a recent book on the topic.
Looking at the 1689 Baptist Confession, we see again that like Calvin and Aquinas, the authors of the confession related ceremonial laws with moral duties when they stated: “ceremonial laws [which] … also gave instructions about various moral duties.” But, basing themselves most probably on the thoughts of Calvin, they also used these created categories. Since this is a confession of faith, as stated above, we should not expect to have a defense of the tripartite division of the law; instead we have Scripture references listed in support of their statement. In support of the ceremonial law, the following Scriptures are cited: Heb 10:1, Col 2:16-7, Eph 2:14-6. Yet again, the understanding of these Scripture hinges on the use of the terms for the law. As mentioned before by Moo and Hoehner, there is little to no indication that these are referring only to ceremonial laws, and therefore are deemed not to be sustentative proof for a tripartite division of such laws.
When reading modern theologians of the reform variety, the tripartite division of the law is also often assumed and rarely explained. In his presentation of the reformed perspective in the Five Views on Law and Gospel book, VanGemeren assumes the traditional tripartite division of the law when he states: “The laws of the Old Testament have also been commonly categorized as moral, ceremonial, and civil. Each one of the Ten Commandments expresses the moral law of God, whereas most laws in the Pentateuch regulate the rituals and ceremonies (ceremonial laws) and the civil life of Israel as a nation (civil laws).” What VanGemeren fails to do, is to defend his view Biblically. Instead, he points to Calvin and the Westminster Confession, who themselves had accepted the tripartite view from earlier sources. This deserved Moo’s criticism that VanGemeren assumed his tripartite position “without arguing the case. [Even though] this distinction, vital to his whole argument, is nowhere clearly stated in the Bible.”
In the next post I will start looking at generic arguments for flaws in the tripartite assumption. In the meantime, do you know of anybody else who tries to defend the tripartite division of the law?
 Samuel E.Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 3rd ed. (Webster: Evangelical Press, 1999), 232-3.
 Greg L.Bahnsen et al., Five Views on Law and Gospels (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 30.
 Ibid., 85. To be fair to VanGemeren, it seems very common for modern reformed theologians to rely on the formulations of Calvin and the Westminster Confession.
Generic Arguments for Flaws in the Tripartite Assumption.
Having interacted with some of the main proponents of the tripartite division of the law throughout history, and having interacted with some of their thoughts, we shall now entertain generic arguments for flaws in the tripartite assumption. As seen already, the tripartite approach is often accused of being arbitrary in its identification of the various categories of laws. This is because, by their own admission, the different precepts/law categories are not neatly divided, but intertwined. For example, reformed theologian Willem A. VanGemeren states,
The book of the Covenant (Ex. 20:22-23:33) – with its regulations for worship (20:22-26; 23:14-19) and its civil laws (21:1-23:13) – extends the Decalogue in three directions. First, there is the complex development of case law. … Second, the criminal laws specify the penalty for breaking the commandments. … Third, the book of the covenant reveals the complexity of Israelite law. The moral laws (i.e., those reflected in the Decalogue) are intertwined with the civil laws, penal code, and ceremonial laws.
To demonstrate this, he then proceeds to use Ex 22:19-29 as an example. In this passage, he shows that the topics covered vary from moral precepts, to penal precepts, to casuistic/civil precepts, back to moral precepts, and finally to ceremonial precepts, all intertwined in one passage. Reformed Professor John M. Frame is even more candid in his admission that the division between the supposed three parts of the law is not cut and dry. He tells us,
The law does not, of course, come to us with the labels “moral,” “ceremonial” and “civil” attached to its provisions. What we call “moral” laws are mixed together in the texts (almost randomly, it seems) with “civil” and “ceremonial” laws, and we must sort them out by determining their meaning and current applicability. Those that apply most literally today we call “moral,” those which apply least literally we call “ceremonial.” “Civil” is a different kind of category, based not on applicability but upon function, and these would be divided between “ceremonial” and “moral” depending on their applicability. Remember too, that literal and non-literal applicability is a matter of degree, so we may expect some “gray areas,” some laws that do not fit neatly into either “ceremonial” or “moral” categories.
His sorting process is quite different from the traditional assumption that only the Decalogue is the depository of moral laws, and after reading his decision making process, one is left to wonder if “applicability” is really a Biblical identification of morality. As can be seen, the lack of clear distinction between the three parts of the law does point to a lack of credibility for the tripartite division of the law.
Barrick picks up on this and stipulates that the,
Division into three categories of law is unmasked as a fallacy by the testimony of the Book of Deuteronomy alone. Moses’s second exposition (4:44—26:19) presented the Decalogue and then illustrated each of the Ten Commandments by means of various legal stipulations. Such an arrangement demonstrates that the so-called civil and ceremonial stipulations are inextricably interwoven with what are considered to be the moral laws. Violation of any of the stipulations is a breach of the Decalogue.
Another Old Testament text that does not square with the tripartite division of the law is Jer 31:31-2. Here God states that “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD” (Jer 31:31-2 NKJV). If God has made a New Covenant which is not like the covenant at Sinai, is it acceptable for us to say that only parts of the Old Covenant have changed? There is nothing in this passage that allows the reader to accept that this is a renewal of the Old Covenant. After all, the term used here has a primary definition of “new,” not “renew,” and the text speaks of a New Covenant, not like the Old Covenant. It is hard to imagine that this would imply any kind of continuity with the Old Covenant. There is also nothing which substantiates the Calvinistic position that this is a reformatting of the Old Covenant, or even that it is a hyperbolic statement, for again, the promise is of a New Covenant, not just a new medium. Adeyemi also points out that “since the Old Covenant will be abolished, so will its Torah which cannot be divorced from it. … This view accords with several statements in Isaiah about a Torah other than the Mosaic Law being given by Yahweh when Israel is in her land and Messiah is reigning.”
Both Moo and Strickland also offer the Sabbath commandment as an exemplary test case of the abrogation of the Decalogue, and therefore as proof that if the Decalogue is the depository of God’s immutable moral law, then even the moral law has changed. The argument goes like this: reformed theologians claim that the Decalogue is the eternal moral law. If that is the case, then all of the Ten Commandments should still be valid for New Testament believers. But the fifth commandment states that rest should be pursued on the seventh day, and since it is in the Decalogue, the lack of observance of the Sabbath in this way is a moral matter. Believers, including ones in the reformed tradition, have been meeting on the first day of the week since New Testament times, because it is sanctioned in the New Testament. Does that then mean that the eternal moral precepts are subject to revision and that God’s nature has changed? Aquinas would not agree that God’s nature has changed, neither would Calvin, and most probably, neither would modern reformed theologians.
Finally, looking at the use of the law in the New Testament, Moo argues that “Jesus and the New Testament authors treated the Mosaic law as a whole,” and that “Jewish theology refused to allow a ‘picking and choosing’ among the commandments of the law.” He also argues, by looking at Matt 23:23, that even though Jesus possibly followed a Jewish tradition of categorizing the law, he insisted that “even the ‘light’ commandments still must be done.” He further points to Gal 5:3 and James 2:8-1, and their message of keeping or breaking the whole law, to suggest that the same perspective was adopted by the New Testament community.  Barrick picks up this same theme when he states that “to be disobedient to any one of the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant is to be guilty of disobedience to all of the stipulations of the covenant (Jas 2:10).” Ultimately, Moo also analyzes Paul’s use of the terms for the law and the reformed tradition’s varied, and apparently arbitrary, interpretation of which laws Paul is referring to (moral or ceremonial law) and does not find any substantiation for their interpretations.
If the historical arguments for the tripartite law are flawed and if Scripture does not seem to support this idea, why is it so popular?
 Ibid., 30-1.
 Frame, 203-4.
 Barrick, 229.
 Femi Adeyemi, “What is the New Covenant ‘Law’ in Jeremiah 31:33?” Biblioteca Sacra 163 (July-September 2006): 315-9.
 Ibid., 320-1.
 Bahnsen et al., 81-2, 88.
 Aquinas Summa FS.Q100. A8.
 Calvin Institutes 4.20.15.
 Bahnsen et al., 85.
 Barrick, 231.
 Bahnsen et al., 85-6.
a review by Stuart Brogden
The latter half of the 20th century has brought a growing interest in Reformed Theology, in striking contrast to the growing apostasy that has gripped many evangelical denominations. Many of my fellow Baptists aggressively and happily embraced the doctrines of grace and the great theological truths about God’s sovereignty and man’s true nature. I am a grateful Baptist who was introduced to this theological construct in the ‘90s and have come to see as foundational to the Christian faith the doctrines of the Reformation, especially the reliance on Scripture Alone for all things having to do with life and godliness and For the Glory of God Alone to keep us focused rightly in all we think, say, and do. And the mostly forgotten doctrine of our forefathers – Semper Reformanda – Always Reforming, because none of has it all together nor will we get it all together while we inhabit these tents of flesh. This brings me to this remarkable book – The Sabbath Complete, by Terrence D. O’Hare. This book is the result of our author “attending an Orthodox Presbyterian Church where various Sabbath-keeping applications were stressed.” (page xi) Prompted by his pastor, who urged his congregation to examine personal motives in religious practice, he decided to study the concept of the “Christian Sabbath”, which is widely popular in churches which hold to 17th century confessions such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 1689 London Baptist Confession. O’Hare’s study lasted as decade, producing this comprehensive analysis of this contentious issue. His desire, and mine, is that people on both sides of this issue acknowledge the human tendency to cling to traditions (some of which, he shows, are fine and biblical), which can lead to traditions displacing true worship of God and Christ. The thesis of this book is “that Sabbatarianism is a form of traditional pietism and that the acceptance of the fully ceremonial nature of the Sabbath, though shocking to some, is actually Christ-honoring.” (page xiii)
The Sabbath Complete is organized into 12 chapters which examine various aspects of the Sabbath – prototypes, initial practice, law, feasts; how it prefigures Christ in the rest He earned, the Gospel He preached, His resurrection; and a historical review of the practice which has come to be known in the confessions as the “Christian Sabbath.” Coming in at more than 350 heavily footnoted pages, this book is thorough, enlightening, and thought provoking. It is my prayer to whet your appetite enough so that you will buy this book and study it. May the Lord be our wisdom and His glory our goal.
In his examination of the Sabbatic prototypes given to us in Genesis, O’Hare observes (page 1) that “God’s provision for our physical rest is but a token of a more transcendent remedy for our spiritual privation” and follows up (page 6) thusly: “Though God’s rest after creation is a type of everlasting rest yet to come, it is more certainly a type of Jesus Christ, who has come, in whom the faithful rest in salvation.” This snippet shows O’Hare’s focus on Christ – His provision and sufficiency, which is a constant, welcome, perspective throughout this book. As an expression of God’s sovereignty and redemptive revelation, our author reminds us (page 7), “Jonah did not just happen to be engulfed by a great fish and later ejected as a random biological event, but this occurred as designed by the Lord to shadow forth the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. Likewise, the seventh day rest was not a random terminus of creation but a purposed end point to shadow forth the inevitable results of God’s work in redemption.” This sets the stage for a book that is best read slowly, with an open Bible and notepad.
In addition to each Christian studying the Bible for himself, learning from credible sources of church history is very helpful as this sheds light on when and by whom our beloved traditions were started. O’Hare has helpful advice in chapter 9, wherein he reviews the shift to calling Sunday the “Christian Sabbath.” One of the earliest post-apostolic apologists, Justin Martyr, sheds light on the common-place view of Christians in the second century:
“And on the first day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read…But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”
For this most ancient brother, the Lord’s Day was on the first day not as a new instance of the Jewish Sabbath, but in concert with a remembrance of God’s creation and Christ’s resurrection – wherein we have the promise of having our decaying bodies made new like His. Our author laments how Christian traditions were often started not on the Lord’s revelation to us as New Covenant saints, but by imagining connections to Jewish traditions – “such as circumcision giving way to baptism and the Lord’s Supper approximating the Passover, came the forced and fanciful system of religious holidays common in the Roman Catholic Church.” (page 222) He then provides a lengthy quote from famous Roman Catholic Thomas Aquinas, explaining his support for these practices and then comments (page 223), “This teaching blurred the differences between the old and new covenants and paved the way for works orientation. … It was fitting for a better covenant to have fewer ordinances: one, performed only once that identifies the child of God as an heir to the kingdom, and the second, a recurring and sustaining ordinance of remembrance of the life and work of Jesus Christ. Again, similarity does not connote identity. Baptism is not a Christian circumcision, and communion is not a Christian Passover, neither is the Lord’s Day a Christian Sabbath. This is as absurd as calling the new covenant the “Christian old covenant.”” Did I mention that a Presbyterian wrote this book? He goes on to say, “It is plain that the circumcision of the Christian is spiritual and not ritual, and that it is actually the death of Christ, which was His circumcision, into which we were spiritually baptized.” In response to several sabbatarian authors (such as Walter Chantry) who press the “Christian Sabbath”, in part, as a means to restrain evil and provoke (coerce?) Christian worship, O’Hare rightly observes (page 225), “If Christ can raise up rocks to sing His praises (Matt 3:9), why would it be so difficult for Him to raise up His beloved, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to worship at the appointed time (Ps 116:18-19, 122:1-2)?” Amen! Saints of the living God don’t need a command to gather together for worship and fellowship – we, by definition, love Him, are drawn to Him, and we love the brotherhood!
Each chapter of this book delves into history and Scripture to determine the meaning and origin of the various aspects mentioned in the first paragraph. Each is compelling and enlightening. Chapter 4 – Sabbath Law, examines the Jewish laws and traditions tied to their Sabbath and points out inconsistencies in the practice of modern Christian sabbatarians. In nearly every chapter, the diligent reader will be awed by the realization of how detailed the Jewish religion is as given to them by God and how it is much, much more than merely a quaint religion for those people long ago. The Jewish religion, as the book of Hebrews tells us, is mainly a means of communicating God’s eternal plan of redemption to the people He called out of the pagan nations, to protect the promised seed and make His name known around the world. These two priorities – to glorify the Lord and declare the gospel – are consistently the highest order for us humans. This becomes more and more clear as each chapter is consumed.
To keep this review from running 20 pages or more, I will restrict myself to chapter 10 – The Sabbath in Church History. This will put the “Christian Sabbath” practice so aggressively promoted and protected into its proper context. My desire aligns with the author’s – to have readers of this book see the first day of the week in its biblical context, stripped of the accumulated baggage of 20 centuries of religion.
Chapter 10 begins with the apostolic teaching, with O’Hare stating (page 244), “There are three crucial distinctions between Christianity and its roots in Judaism: holy things, the law, and the customs.” He sees some continuity and some discontinuity in the connection between the old religion and the new, acknowledging the law is good, and “Yet these ceremonial laws isolated the Jews from their pagan neighbors, became the point of contention and ridicule, and represented a wall of separation between the two peoples. This was meant by God to display the isolation between sinners and Himself – the Jew included – so when Christ abolished the ceremonies of Judaism, the gospel of peace and the law of moral commandments would become the unifying theology and practice for Jew and Gentile alike (Eph 2:14-16). … At the beginning of the Christian Church, it was a stumbling block to require Gentiles to observe Jewish rituals: “to whom we gave no commandment.” (Acts 15:24)”
The review of the Didache (50 – 120 AD) reveals no evidence of Sabbath-keeping by Christians; the review of Ignatius’ writings (page 247) shows “he clearly distinguishes between Jewish conduct on the Sabbath and Christian conduct on the Lord’s Day, to indicate the superiority of being a disciple of Christ.” He walks us through the records of Mathetes (130 AD), Justin Martyr (114 – 165 AD), Irenaeus (120 – 202 AD), Tertullian (160 – 225), Origen (185 – 254), Eusebius (265 – 340), Sylvester, Bishop of Rome (314 – 335), the council of Laodicea (364); all of which provide no support for the “Christian Sabbath” and often denounce the idea as being a Jewish encroachment in the church.
By the time Gregory I was installed as pope of the then-emerging Roman Catholic Church, traditions now associated with that religion “were already taking root, such as the liturgical mass, a monastic life, symbolic outfits, ecclesiastical hierarchy, and declaration of days to honor saints.” (page 261) O’Hare provides a lengthy excerpt from a letter to Roman citizens in which Gregory I calls those who forbid work on Sunday (which he called the Sabbath day) “preachers of Antichrist” and sums up: “Gregory’s core understanding is that the Sabbath is a fulfilled ceremonial law that should no longer be literally applied.” (page 262) O’Hare quotes R.J. Bauckham’s claim that Peter Comester (a contemporary of Aquinas and Chancellor of Notre Dame in Paris) was the “first exegete to apply the Sabbath commandment literally to Christian observance of the first day”. (page 263) Our author reminds us (same page) that “While it is helpful to acknowledge the scattered, yet progressive, acceptance of a physical rest on Sunday, it is more important to understand the bases for these practices in empiricism and religious authoritarianism.” History tells us what happened and provides evidence as to motives. The Roman Catholic Church explored ways and means to better influence her subjects, working with the legal authorities to provide a day off work and advocating Christian observance of Sabbath principles. “Their expectation that all citizens attend Mass in this church-state led to the need to force compliance through the appeal to Sabbath law.” Thomas Aquinas further developed this line of thought, “asserting that the old law contains moral (emanating from natural law), judicial (laws regarding justice among men), and ceremonial (laws touching on worship, holiness, and sanctification) precepts; and that these three can be distinguished in the Decalogue as well.” (page 264) This appears to be the first teaching of what is now cherished reformed doctrine – that the Law of Moses can be separated into these three categories and dealt with appropriately for new covenant saints. There should be no denying these three elements are found in the Law of Moses, but, as O’Hare shows us with Aquinas, determining what is ceremonial and what is moral is the rub. Aquinas recognized a moral teaching in the Sabbath commandment – people should worship God; he also recognized the ceremonial component, specifically the date upon which such worship is to be given. “At this juncture, Aquinas took the first step toward Sabbatarianism by moralizing a ceremonial command” by asserting the moral necessity of giving time to God. (page 265) Aquinas agreed with Augustine that moral laws are revealed by nature, so all men are without excuse. But in order to get man to be at mass and give to the church due obeisance, Aquinas saw value in elevating that which had been rightly considered ceremonial to moral status.
We will step quickly through the early reformers to show how this idea progressed. Philip Melancthon is quoted as saying, in 1530, “Those who consider the appointment of Sunday in place of the Sabbath as a necessary institution are very much mistaken, for the Holy Scriptures have abrogated the Sabbath and teach that after the revelation of the Gospel all ceremonies of the old law may be omitted.” (page 274) “Luther vacillates between his definitions of the Sabbath as a ceremonial law bearing no external application for Christians and a binding law incurring God’s judgment if disobeyed.” (page 279) John Calvin also had trouble being consistent in his view on this matter. In asserting “that the Sabbath was ceremonial and is moral leaves us open to problems concerning the nature of its existence – it is both abrogated and legally binding. This was further complicated by the church-state relationship that sought to mimic a theocratic Israel and by Calvin’s misconception that the biblical Sabbath required all Israelites to assemble at the synagogue.” (page 281) In his commentary on the Heidelberg Confession, written in 1563, O’Hare lists eight failures on the part of reformers that led them to embrace the “Christian Sabbath” (page 288):
“Failure to familiarize themselves with the teachings of the early church fathers regarding the Sabbath.
Failure to expand the understanding of how the Lord’s advent fulfilled each specific Sabbath command beyond “resting from one’s sins.”
Failure to be consistent in the treatment of ceremonial laws and types.
Failure to satisfactorily explain why the ceremonial Sabbath was placed with the body of the Ten Commandments.
Failure to recognize the limitations of the Ten Commandments as a means to inculcate Christian ethics.
Failure to differentiate the biblical Sabbath from the tradition of the synagogue.
Failure to emphasize the authority of the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to institute a new order of congregational worship.
Failure to distinguish the Sabbath from the Lord’s Day.”
In what may be the keystone paragraph in the entire book, O’Hare explains the meaning of the Sabbath commandment (page 289).
“The Mediator is on the first table (of the Decalogue) because, unlike Moses, Christ truly comes from God and is fully God. Yet Christ, by becoming fully man, joins with man to make him complete. Man cannot become complete simply by keeping the law, but he must experience through faith a life-altering union with Christ. The ceremonial Sabbath is the evangelion within the Ten Commandments that addresses the redemption of man. It is Christ Himself who takes the place of the Sabbath in the Decalogue. The Lord’s Day is not a continuum of the Sabbath or its replacement; it is a fresh ordinance for the church of God based upon the completion of redemption that was twice sealed by the Lord, first by His resurrection and second by the descent of the Holy Spirit.”
This puts the Decalogue in the absolute best light for new covenant saints to understand it and relate to it. (Scripture never calls the Decalogue “The Ten Commandments”, but only and always “the ten words” – hence the term Decalogue. But “Ten Commandments” are much weightier in the mouths of religious overlords than are “ten words”. I would have liked O’Hare to address this aspect of the creeping incrementalism of religious lordship in the church.)
It was during this time that the early reformers also broke with the clear teachings of Scripture and the church fathers by beginning to teach the Sabbath as the product of a creation ordinance. This was taught by Ursinus who “may have adopted the theory of the Reformed Englishman John Hooper, who, in his widely published book, Declaration of the Ten Holy Commandments (1548), claimed that God instituted the Sabbath from creation. … So, only 300 years after Aquinas and fifty years after Luther, the admixture of the Sabbath and Lord’s Day developed into a general concept that the Lord’s Day is the Sabbath, fostering the idea that the Sabbath remains a viable force in Christian living.” (page 290) This creation-ordinance based “Christian Sabbath” was a major element used by state-churches on both sides of the Atlantic to coerce Sunday worship – just as Rome had learned to do, using the same unfortunate logic.
In 1973, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church published a report from a committee that had been formed to study the relationship of the Westminster Confession of Faith to the fourth commandment. In part, the committee reported:
“The weekly Sabbath is an eschatological sign. This truth, central to the teaching of Hebrews 3:7 – 4:13 as well as fundamental to the entire biblical revelation concerning the Sabbath, does not find expression in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. The reason for this would appear to be that the Standards mention the Sabbath commandment primarily in terms of its bearing on the more specific matter of public and private worship.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith was not changed to reflect the eschatological import of the fourth commandment. O’Hare, having taught in this book the nature of moral law (unchanging and universal), observes “If the Sabbath is not ceremonial or typological, it is not eschatological.” “Where”, he asks, “”can it be shown that the Ten Commandments summarize the moral law given to Adam? Where can it be demonstrated that the Sabbath commandment is purely moral?” (page 291) “Was the fourth commandment, as God gave it to Israel, about the Christian Sabbath or the Jewish Sabbath? Was there anything else in the fourth commandment that was abrogated than merely the day of the week on which it fell? Where can it be shown that God abrogated the Jewish Sabbath and installed a Christian Sabbath in its place? … So, besides omitting fundamental truths about the Sabbath, the Westminster codified interpretive errors that budded with Aquinas and blossomed with early Reformers.” (page 292)
In closing this very provoking chapter, O’Hare shows us that the fourth commandment not only commanded rest, it commanded work for six days. The Hebrew word in this commandment is in the Qal imperfect tense, which implies an on-going action – “you work”. “But, if the fourth commandment moralizes the example of God for man to obey, then it is as much a sin to work on the day of rest as it is to rest on the days of work. … if someone completes their (sic) work in three days and does nothing more for three more days, what exactly are they ceasing from on the seventh day?” He instructs us on two types of rest: “1) God’s rest signifies the promise of eternal life, and 2) Israel’s rest signified her faith in God alone. God’s work is redemptive, so man’s work is meaningless apart from that redemption.” (page 309)
“The early church correctly believed that the Sabbath was a ceremonial command and welcomed the ordination of the Lord’s Day as a commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection. However, the ascension of church power through the state and the influence of rationalism allowed the medieval church to begin to associate the fourth commandment with the Lord’s Day. The Reformed church, by perpetuating the error of Aquinas, eventually expanded the scope of applications of Sabbath law and increased its moral muscle, forcing the church to practice Sunday Sabbatarianism.” (page 311)
He gives us eight conclusions which are supported by Scripture and history (page 311):
“The creation account is not about the Sabbath. It is about the primal peace with God that was lost through sin because of a lack of faith. The pattern of creation – six days of God’s work and the ensuing rest – reverberates through Scripture to demonstrate God’s sovereignty in effecting the work of redemption by grace through the faith of man.
When Israel left Egypt they were given the Feast of Passover; a few weeks later in the wilderness they were given the Sabbath. At Mount Sinai, Israel received her full calendar of feasts. The Lord devised this new system of shadow laws to prefigure the person and work of the Messiah.
The Ten Commandments are a summary of the Mosaic laws and therefore contain both moral and ceremonial laws.
Christ in His earthly ministry was born under the law and obeyed the ceremonial laws as well as the moral laws.
Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. His work of redemption – His incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection – is the fulfillment of all shadow laws, even though some of them are yet to be manifested in their entirety.
The redemption of Jesus Christ initiated the new covenant. It is the fulfillment of what the former covenants forecasted.
The apostles had divine warrant to establish first-day worship. Scripture unfolds the transition from things Jewish to things Christian. First-day weekly worship was the normative practice of the early church, it did not move the Sabbath to Sunday.
While there is no explicit scriptural mandate for this transition, we have scriptural foreshadowing and history of first-day significance, and rationale. Christ’s resurrection and the inaugural descent of the Holy Spirit – the most important events of the church age – occurred on the first day of the weeks in fulfillment of Israel’s shadowy calendar laws.”
There is much, much more in this book than I can even hint at in these few pages – which are too many for most, I fear. Buy the book. Study the topics, challenge the author (I found a few places where I consider him to be in error), challenge yourself – for none of us has arrived any more than did any of the Reformers.
At the end of it all, why doesn’t this book, or anyone else, show from Scripture why the Jewish Sabbath command is not meant for the new covenant church? This is the wrong starting point. We look to Scripture to see what is, what God has revealed to us; not to prove a point. What we see in Scripture about the Decalogue is that is was an integral part of the Mosaic Covenant and the testimony or witness of that covenant (Ex 31:18, 32:15, 34:27 – 29). This key aspect of the Decalogue being a testimony of God’s covenant with Israel is further developed in Ex 25 and 26, with the ark being the “ark of the testimony” (see Ex 25:22 for emphasis). This is reminiscent of Ex 16:33 – 34 when Moses was commanded to put manna in a jar as a testimony God’s promise of provisions, seen in Ex 16:4 – 5. These are the most (only?) explicit statements in the Bible regarding the reason and purpose for the tablets and the ark – as a testimony of God’s covenant with Israel made on Mt. Sinai. Ezekiel 20:12 tells us the Sabbath is a sign between God and the Hebrews – marking their exodus from Egypt. It is not listed as a sign for the church, any more than water baptism is a sign and seal of that New Covenant. The burden is on the backs of those who say the Jewish Sabbath was, as the confessions say, abolished and re-established on the first day of the week, given to the church as the “Christian Sabbath.” That assertion, is found in paragraph 22.7 of the Second London Baptist Confession, yet established by no Scripture. Yet we do see in God’s Word the admonition for Christians to be understanding and accepting of brothers who lean on the practice of old religion (Romans 14 and 1 Cor 8) as well as stern rebukes for those who want Christians to practice old religion as a requirement (Acts 15).
The Sabbath Complete provides a comprehensive review and analysis of myriad aspects of the Decalogue and the Sabbath; examining the Word of God, the languages, and the historical context. Let the reader humbly go before Holy God and plead for understanding rather than rely on his own “wisdom” or unexamined presuppositions that we all hold too closely. Remember those who went before us – they knew they were fallible, yet many of them acted as if they were complete in their understanding of God’s Word. Yet they stood under the banner of Sufficiency of Scripture and all for the glory of God – as we must. But let these slogans of an bygone era be not merely nifty phrases we use to show our credentials, let each of us also acknowledge that we must be reformed and reforming for the glory of God, for He alone sees and understands perfectly.
This book is available on Amazon and directly from the publisher, at a competitive price.
These are some excellent thoughts by Matt Walsh that all who care about Biblical Christianity should read.
Originally posted on The Matt Walsh Blog:
There is no shortage of heresies these days.
If you want to adopt some blasphemous, perverted, fun house mirror reflection of Christianity, you will find a veritable buffet of options. You can sift through all the variants and build your own little pet version of the Faith. It’s Ice Cream Social Christianity: make your own sundae! (Or Sunday, as it were.)
And, of all the heretical choices, probably the most common — and possibly the most damaging — is what I’ve come to call the Nice Doctrine.
The propagators of the Nice Doctrine can be seen and heard from anytime any Christian takes any bold stance on any cultural issue, or uses harsh language of any kind, or condemns any sinful act, or fights against evil with any force or conviction at all. As soon as he or she stands and says ‘This is wrong, and I will not compromise,’…
View original 1,642 more words
And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Listen to this song, free, here. Then buy lots of his work.
Against the God who rules the sky
I fought with hand uplifted high
Despised the mention of His grace
Much too proud to seek a hiding place
Wrapped in shadows of the night
Fond of darkness more than light
Blind, I ran the sinful race
I felt no need for a hiding place
But then the eternal council ran
“Almighty love, arrest this man!”
I felt the arrows of distress
And found I had no shield, no hiding place
Holy justice stood in view
To Sinai’s fiery mount I flew
But justice cried with frowning face
“This mountain is no hiding place”
But then a heavenly voice I heard
And mercy for my soul appeared
She led me on with gentle pace
To Jesus as my hiding place
Should seven storms of vengeance roll
And shake this earth from pole to pole
No thunderbolt shall daunt my face
While Jesus is my hiding place
While Jesus is my hiding place
On Him almighty vengeance fell
Which would have sunk this world to Hell
He bore it for a sinful race
To make Himself our hiding place