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Sunday Observance Part Two

(If you've not yet my blog two weeks ago on adult, or infant baptism, this one may not make much sense. In it I summarize Covenantel theology which also comes in to play on questions surrounding Sunday observance.)

Dispensational Theology

Years ago our family attended a covenantal church and that’s the way your parents were raised as young children. However, our church and the church your parents now attend is dispensational. Most Bible churches, Baptists, undenominational, and many charismatic churches are dispensational. Dispensational denomination and churches view the Bible differently. They see the Bible broken up into seven general periods of time they call dispensations.

· Innocence – Adam and Eve

· Conscience – Cain and Abel

· Government – Noah

· Promise – Abraham

· Law – Moses

· Grace or the Church – from Pentecost until Jesus returns

· The last dispensation will be The Kingdom

A theologian named Ryrie once said “Dispensationalist view the world as a household run by God.” It’s clear to them that at different times (dispensations) in human history God required people to do certain things in obedience to him, that he didn’t require in other dispensations. For instance, God asked Adam and Eve only to take care of God’s creation, have babies, serve God and not eat the fruit from the tree God warned them about. They didn’t have to obey the Ten Commandments and neither did Noah or Abraham because God wouldn’t even give the commandments until another dispensation. That’s why dispensationalists believe that the law, the Ten Commandments, including God’s forbidding work on Sunday, are no longer applicable for Christians today. Those laws were given to Israel, for Israel – not to us, for us.

The “Nine Commandments” for Christians

“What? Papa are you saying we no longer have to obey any of the Ten Commandments?” Theologically, yes. HOWEVER, Jesus taught and reaffirmed nine out of the ten commands. In fact, he even expanded some of the commands. He taught that if you hate someone it’s like murder and if you think impure thoughts it’s like committing adultery in your heart.

However, while Jesus affirmed the idea of Sabbath rest, he rejected the legalism and man-made rules about Sabbath observance and never reaffirmed the prohibition against work. “Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27 Also, Paul said this about the Sabbath. “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” Colossians 2:16 In Romans 14:5 Paul made it a matter of personal freedom on how we were to use Sundays. “One person considers one day more sacred than another; and other considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.”

“But, Papa, then why did you say working on Sundays might not be wise?” Because we believe God’s idea behind not working was that humans, even animals and the land need rest.

"The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, 'Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.'" Leviticus 25:1-7

God was wise enough to know that humans and animals need to rest occasionally or they would get worn out and sick. God loves us enough to protect us from ourselves. It’s just like the rules your parents have for you about going to bed at a certain time or eating a balance diet, so you’re rested and healthy. Sometimes it feels like a punishment, but it’s really done out of their love for you.

So then, why Sunday Rules?

So, when your mothers grew up in our home we established some family rules about Sunday. Nana and I decided that our family would go to church, we wouldn’t go shopping, work, or go to the movies, and our kids couldn’t go on dates. But, we never said those things were sins. We just wanted that day for God and for our family to rest, read, enjoy each other and be together. In fact, we told them, “When you grow up we don’t ever want you telling people that your parents thought it was a sin to… (whatever). These are our rules, so we don’t want you blaming God or Christianity. However, when you have families of your own, our guess is that you if you’re wise, you too will set boundaries and rules for how your family will take advantage of this gift from God of a day’s rest each week.

What do you believe?

You may not like my explanation of this subject to my grandchildren. In that case practice your own. Prepare yourself for this discussion and if it doesn’t come up naturally, then look for a teachable moment to open the subject. That’s how we pass on the wisdom of righteousness to the next generation - intentionally.

Question: How have you explained Sunday observance to your children?

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