When it comes to discussing the relevance and continuity of the Ten Commandments for the Christian, the dividing line seems to rest on the application of the fifth commandment – the command to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. If obedience to the Ten Commandments is still in effect for the Christian then we must keep the Sabbath. If it is not in effect for the Christian then we do not have to keep the Sabbath. This of course is tied to the NT teaching on the law which is the seedbed of much of the controversy.
Perspectives on the Sabbath: 4 Views presents four views on Sabbath keeping for the Christian. It covers from the Seventh-Day Adventist view which is the strictest view to the Fulfillment view which is the most lenient.
The first view presented is the Seventh-Day Adventist view by Skip McCarty. There is much that McCarty rightly uses in defense of the Sabbath-Day view. He rightly starts in Genesis 2:2 and utilizes the Ten Commandments as given in Exodus and Deuteronomy. McCarty clearly holds a continuationist view of the Ten Commandments so much so that he believes the Sabbath rest is still to be held on what our calendars still call Saturday. Texts like Isaiah 56:5-6 & 66:22-23 are used to claim that the Saturday Sabbath rest is universal for all time. However, as Pipa points out, McCarty does not follow his application through since he does not believe we need to obey the other ceremonial observances (p. 76). What makes the Seventh-Day view stand out is that it does not recognize the resurrection event as having any bearing on when the day in which the Sabbath is held – changing from Saturday to Sunday. McCarty concludes his defense with this statement:
For us, Jesus’ fulfillment of the Sabbath doesn’t make Sabbath observance obsolete; rather, it infuses it with even richer meaning than the most devout OT believer had the privilege of understanding or experiencing (p. 70).
The second view is that of the Christian Sabbath as defended by Joseph A. Pipa. Like McCarty, Pipa begins in Genesis and uses some of the same texts to ground the nature of the Sabbath command. As a continuationist for the Ten Commandments, Pipa sees a moral grounding, as opposed to ceremonial grounding, for the Sabbath command and therefore believes it is binding on the NT believer. Pipa holds that since the Ten Commandments are not ceremonial law, having their grounding in creation and the law, provide the basis for the rest of the Mosaic law and are repeated in the NT they are still applicable for the NT believer. Pipa believes that the command to the keep the Sabbath is about the seventh day of the week and not necessarily tied to Saturday. Since the Ten Commandments are not ceremonial or judicial they are not fulfilled in the sense of abrogating their use or applicability for the Christian. Christ does fulfill them but does not end them. Pipa rightly contends that the resurrection of Christ is the defining event that the NT church recognized as shifting the Sabbath rest from Saturday to Sunday. Before the resurrection the basis for Saturday Sabbath was creation and the Exodus. Since the resurrection, Sabbath is remembered in celebration of and on the day of the resurrection event – Sunday. When it comes to observing the Sabbath Pipa argues that the believer is to rest short of works of necessity (preparing food or feeding animals) and mercy (tending to medical emergencies, helping a neighbor fix their car so they can get to work the next day or certain types of businesses that cannot shut down on Sunday). Admittedly, this leaves room for much “work” to be done in Sunday. I personally find this view to be the most convincing.
The third view is the Lutheran view as presented by Charles Arand and the fourth is the Fulfillment view as defended by Craig Blomberg. Though Blomberg believes there is enough difference between the two to separate them, readers will have a hard time seeing the net difference. The most notable difference is the evidence and method of defense each uses to support their view. Arand depends heavily on Luther’s works while Blomberg rests more on Scripture and history. In the end they both come to the same conclusion that the NT believer is not bound to the Ten Commandments the same way the OT Jew was. Therefore, we are not bound to the Sabbath command with the same guidelines. Yes we are to observe the Sabbath but we are free in Christ to do with our time as we see fit once we have worshiped with God’s people in our local church.
There is much to commend this perspectives book for. Overall it is clear. The challenging remarks are respectful. It was good to see that each contributor had the opportunity to respond to the criticisms of the others. Each contributor had a deep respect for the authority of Scripture and sought to show how their view supported that belief the best. Three of the four chapters presenting the respective view were a bit long and I think some could have been cut out and still been satisfying to the reader and the writer.
Perspectives on the Sabbath: 4 Views is a great place to start in mapping out the various views of the Sabbath command.
NOTE: I did not receive and compensation for reviewing this book nor was I under any obligation to provide a favorable review.