Heidelberg 103: The Christian Sabbath (Parts 1 & 2)

By Dr. R. Scott Clark - Posted at The Heidelblog:

If there was a time when the church needed to stop its business, to rest, to worship, and to set aside time for the care of the poor in their midst, that time is now. At no time in its history has the church been so distracted, pulled in so many competing and contradictory directions and so alienated from the creational and redemptive pattern as it is today.

That is a large claim but that it is reasonable appears with just a little knowledge of history. Prior to the industrial age, the world operated largely on an agrarian schedule. Farmers work hard but the pace of life is typically a little slower in rural, agrarian cultures than it is in urban and suburban culture. An agrarian culture is naturally (no pun intended) more in sync with natural patterns. The rise of the industrial age put a great strain on the creational pattern and the post-industrial age might have offered some relief but for the natural inclination of fallen humans to fill time with everything but rest, worship, and ministry to the suffering in their midst.

Roughly contemporary with the rise of industrialization, Evangelical theology, piety, and practice was being revolutionized. Where in the 16th and 17th centuries, “evangelical” meant “confessional Protestant” (Lutheran and Reformed) by the mid-19th century “evangelical” came to denote one of the revivalist traditions. Further, much of evangelical theology and piety was increasingly colored by a Dispensational reading of Scripture that emphasized discontinuity between the various epochs of redemption and between the old covenant and the new. Neither the revivalism nor Dispensationalism was particularly known for its doctrine of natural law. Rather, Dispensationalism particularly was all about eschatology and the rest of nineteenth-century evangelicalism was heavily influenced by what Reformed folk should regard as an over-realized eschatology. Now, a sound theology should account for both creation and redemption (nature and grace) but since the 18th century evangelical theology has struggled to do that.

Read more of part one here...

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Part Two

There are three parts to the Christian faith: theology, piety, and practice. Theology is what we confess and teach the Scriptures to reveal. Piety is our relation to God and practice is the practical outworking of those things. There is a Reformed theology, piety, and practice. On this see Recovering the Reformed Confession. The catechism addresses all three. Since we have laid out the basic framework of the Christian Sabbath, as grounded in both creation and redemption (nature and grace), let us consider the teaching of the catechism in particular.

103. What does God require in the fourth Commandment?

In the first place, God wills that the ministry of the Gospel and schools be maintained, and that I, especially on the day of rest, diligently attend church, to learn the Word of God, to use the Holy Sacraments, to call publicly upon the Lord, and to give Christian alms. In the second place, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by His Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting Sabbath (Heidelberg Catechism).

The Lord’s Day is for 10 things: 1) The ministry of the gospel, 2) Education of Ministers, 3) Rest, 4) Worship, 5) Learning God’s Word, 6) Using the Sacraments, 7) Prayer 8) Mercy 9) A Day for Being Sanctified, 10) A Day for Anticipating Heaven.

Read more of part two here...

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