Some Reformed Baptists on the Sabbath Concerning Colossians and Hebrews

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The London Baptist Confession of Faith 
Chapter 22

7. As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.
( Exodus 20:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10 )

8. 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.
( Isaiah 58:13; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Matthew 12:1-13 )

Here is part of a study of the triad mentioned in Colosians (holydays, new moon, and Sabbaths) that a friend Richard Barcellos pointed out in one of his books which I gained much benefit from. I quote a portion of it below and part of an article on Hebrews 4:9 by Robert Martin taken from the Reformed Baptist Theological Review.

http://www.rbap.net/theological-journals/

I am posting it here for an examination of Colossians 2:16 and the triad phrase that is used in this passage along next to the Old Testament passage in Hosea 2:11.

(Col 2:16) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

(Hos 2:11) I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.

A lot of Baptist and non-sabbattarians like to quote Colossians 2:16 as a passage that declares we need not keep a weekly Sabbath day to the Lord. Richard Barcellos is the author. Please forgive my inept mistakes in copying it from a pdf to here.

1. The Old Testament prophesies the abrogation and cessation of the Sabbath under the New Covenant.

The OT clearly prophesies the abrogation and cessation of ancient Israel‘s Sabbaths. It does so in Hos. 2:11, which says, ―I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her New Moons, her Sabbaths–all her appointed feasts.” We will make several observations that bear this out. First, Hosea‘s prophecy is dealing with the days of the New Covenant. The phrase ―in that day” (vv. 16, 18, 21) is used prophetically of New Covenant days in Is. 22:20. Revelation 3:7 quotes Is. 22:22 and applies it to Christ. The prophecy in Is. 22:20 mentions the Lord‘s servant, who is Christ. Isaiah 22:20-22 says:

Then it shall be in that day, that I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe and strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open.

Revelation 3:7, quoting Is. 22:22, says:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ―These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.

The phrase, ―in that day,
‘ refers to the days of Christ–the days of the New Covenant. Paul references Hos. 1:10 and 2:23 in Rom. 9:25, applying them to Christians. ―As He says also in Hosea: ‗I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved‘” (Rom. 9:25). Peter references Hos. 1:9-10 and 2:23 in 1 Pet. 2:10 and applies them to Christians as well. He says, ―who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Pet. 2:10). Hosea is clearly speaking of New Covenant days. According to the NT usage of Hosea, he is speaking of the time in redemptive history when God will bring Gentiles into a saving relationship with Jews. Much of the NT deals with this very issue.

Second, Hos. 2:11 clearly prophesies the abrogation of Old Covenant Israel‘s Sabbaths, along with ―all her appointed feasts.” Hosea uses a triad of terms (―feast days, New Moons, Sabbaths”) that is used many places in the OT (1 Chron. 23:31; 2 Chron. 2:4; 31:3; Neh. 10:33; and Is. 1:13-14). Clearly, he is speaking of the abrogation of Old Covenant ceremonial laws. When the Old Covenant goes, Israel‘s feast days, New Moons, Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts go with it.

Third, the NT confirms this understanding of Hos. 2:11. It uses this triad of terms in Col. 2:16, which says, ―So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths.” In the context, Paul is combating those who were attempting to impose Old Covenant ceremonial law on New Covenant Christians. So Col. 2:16 is clear NT language that sees Hosea‘s prophecy as fulfilled. It is of interest to note that Paul uses the plural for Sabbath in Col. 2:16 (σάββατον). It is not too hard to assume that Paul had the OT triad in mind and Hosea‘s prophecy while penning these words. The NT announces the abrogation of the Old Covenant in many places. For instance, 2 Cor. 3:7-18; Gal. 3-4; Eph. 2:14-16; and Heb. 8-10 (cf. esp. 8:6-7, 13; 9:9-10, 15; 10:1, 15-18) are clear that the Old Covenant has been abrogated.

(Heb. 8:6-7)

But now He [Christ] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant [the New Covenant], which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant [the Old Covenant] had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.

(Heb. 8:13)

In that He says, ―A new covenant, He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

(Heb. 9:9-10)

It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience–concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

(Heb. 9:15)

And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

(Heb. 10:1)

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

(Heb. 10:15-18)

But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, ―This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them, then He adds, ―Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

The Old Covenant and all its ceremonies are obsolete and have vanished away (Heb. 8:13). Taking these passages and Col. 2:16 together, they clearly teach that when the Old Covenant goes, the triad of Col. 2:16 goes as well.

2. The Old Testament prophesies the perpetuity and continuation of the Sabbath under the New Covenant.

Just as there is evidence from the OT that the Sabbath will be abolished under the New Covenant, so there is evidence that it will continue. At first glance this appears contradictory. But on further investigation, it is not contradictory and, in fact, fits the evidence provided thus far for the creation basis of the Sabbath and its unique place in the Decalogue in its function as moral law. Two passages deserve our attention at this point, Is. 56:1-8 and Jer. 31:33. Isaiah‘s prophecy of the Sabbath under the New Covenant is explicit and Jeremiah‘s is implicit.


Isaiah 56:1-8

(Isaiah 56:1-8)

Thus says the LORD: ―Keep justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil. Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD speak, saying, “The LORD has utterly separated me from His people; nor let the eunuch say, “Here I am, a dry tree. For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants–everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant–even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, ―Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.

Several observations will assist us in understanding how this passage prophesies explicitly the perpetuity and continuation of the Sabbath under the New Covenant. First, the section of the book of Isaiah starting at chapter 40 and ending with chapter 66 points forward to the days of Messiah and in some places to the eternal state. This section includes language pointing forward to the time primarily between the two comings of Christ, the interadvental days of the New Covenant. It is understood this way by the New Testament in several places (see Matt. 3:3; 8:16, 17; 12:15-21; and Acts 13:34).

Second, Is. 56:1-8 speaks prophetically of a day in redemptive history in which God will save Gentiles (cf., esp. vv. 7 and 8). The language of “all nations” in v. 7 reminds us of the promise given to Abraham concerning blessing all nations through his seed (see Gen. 12:3 and Gal. 3:8, 16). This Abrahamic promise is pursued by the great commission of Matt. 28:18-20. Isaiah is speaking about New Covenant days.

Third, in several New Testament texts, using the motif of fulfillment, the language of Is. 56:1-8 (and the broader context) is applied to the days between Christ‘s first and second comings (Matt. 21:12-13; Acts 8:26-40; Eph. 2:19; and 1 Tim. 3:15). Compare Matt. 21:13, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” with Is. 56:7, “For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” This anticipates the inclusion of Gentiles in the house of God, a common NT phenomenon. Compare Acts 8:26-40 (notice a eunuch was reading from Isaiah) with Is. 56:3-5, which says:

(Is. 56:3-5)

Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD Speak, saying, ―The LORD has utterly separated me from His people; nor let the eunuch say, ―Here I am, a dry tree. For thus says the LORD: ―To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

The Old Covenant placed restrictions on eunuchs. Deuteronomy 23:1 says, ―He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. Isaiah is prophesying about a day in redemptive history when those restrictions will no longer apply.

In Eph. 2:19 the church is called the “household of God” and in 1 Tim. 3:15 it is called “the house of God.”The context of 1 Tim. 3:15 includes 1 Tim. 2:1-7, where Paul outlines regulations for church prayer. Now consider Is. 56:7, which says:

(Is. 56:7)

Even them [i.e., the foreigners (Gentiles) of v. 6a] I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.

The NT sees Isaiah‘s prophecy as fulfilled under the New Covenant. However, the privileges, responsibilities, and the people of God foretold there (Is. 56) are transformed to fit the conditions brought in by the New Covenant. The people of God are transformed due to the New Covenant; the house of God is transformed due to the New Covenant; the burnt offerings, sacrifices, and altar are transformed due to the New Covenant; and the Sabbath is transformed due to the New Covenant (i.e., from the seventh to the first day). Isaiah, as with other OT prophets, accommodates his prophecy to the language of the Old Covenant people, but its NT fulfillment specifies exactly what his prophesy looks like when being fulfilled. Jeremiah does this with the promise of the New Covenant. What was promised to “the house of Israel” and “the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31), is fulfilled in the Jew-Gentile church, the New Covenant people of God, the transformed Israel of OT prophecy.

With these considerations before us, it seems not only plausible but compelling to conclude that between the two advents of Christ, when the Old Covenant law restricting eunuchs no longer restricts them, and when the nations (i.e., the Gentiles) are becoming the Lord‘s and frequenting his house, which is his Church, a Sabbath (see Is. 56:2, 4, 6) yet remains. Isaiah is speaking prophetically of Sabbath-keeping in New Covenant days. The English Puritan John Bunyan, commenting on Isaiah 56, said, “Also it follows from hence, that the sabbath that has a promise annexed to the keeping of it, is rather that which the Lord Jesus shall give to the churches of the Gentiles.”7

Again, the essence of the Sabbath transcends covenantal bounds. Its roots are in creation, not in the Old Covenant alone. It transcends covenants and cultures because the ethics of creation are trans-covenantal and trans-cultural. The Sabbath is part of God‘s moral law.

Also concerning the Hebrews 4:9 passage concerning a Sabbath rest…

(Heb 4:4-11)

For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Those guys who quote the Colossians and Hebrew verses need to know that there are legitimate discussions and commentaries that support a sabbatarian view. I read an article by Robert P. Martin in the Reformed Baptist Theological review were he spoke on these verses. I am going to leave a quote from this article here concerning the Hebrews passage and the terms used.

Reformed Baptist Theological Review
vl. 1.2 A Sabbath Remains.. The Place of Hebrews 4:9 in the New Testament’s Witness to the Lord’s Day by Robert P. Martin
(Heb 4:9) There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

In it he notes the Word used here is σαββατισμός and not κατάπαυσις

(rest).
G4520
σαββατισμός
sabbatismos

This is an obscure term evidently that is used in just a few other places outside of the scriptures but used only once in the New Testament. Robert Martin says,

“I think that it is of interest that “in each of these places the term [σαββατισμός] denotes the observance or celebration of the Sabbath,” i.e., not “a Sabbath rest” as a state that is entered into but “a Sabbath-keeping” as a practice that is observed. This, of course, corresponds to the word’s morphology, for the suffix -μός indicates an action and not just a state. see A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934), 151.
Reformed Baptist Theological Review Vl. 1;2 p.5

In other words there is still a 1 in 7 where we are still required to observe a Sabbath day.

Obviously the article consists of the surrounding verses but it is a good read and again, the essence of the Sabbath transcends covenantal bounds. Its roots are in creation, not in the Old Covenant alone. It transcends covenants and cultures because the ethics of creation are trans-covenantal and trans-cultural. The Sabbath is part of God‘s moral law.

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