Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Argument from Silence? On the pre-Law Patriarchs and the Sabbath

Some Bible commentators have argued that the Lord's "rest" on the seventh day, recorded in Genesis 2:1-3, was not immediately intended to set forth a pattern for people to follow and that Sabbath observance begins with Israel's wilderness experience, recorded in Exodus 16.

Dr. Thomas Schreiner of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is one example of a scholar who argues against viewing Sabbath rest as a creation ordinance. In "Good-bye and Hello: The Sabbath Command for New Covenant Believers" from Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course Between Dispensational and Covenant Theologies, Schreiner notes that the word "Sabbath" is first used in Exodus 16 and that the record of the patriarchs' lives prior to the time of Moses (as detailed in Genesis-Exodus) makes no mention of Sabbath-day rest.

At first glance, the lack of material in the biblical account concerning the pre-Law patriarchs and the Sabbath might seem greatly significant. Under closer inspection, however, the evidential value of this argument from silence entirely falls apart. Consider: 1. marriage [defined biblically in terms of a monogamous, life-long relation between a man and a woman]; 2. Sabbath-keeping after the Law was given.

1. Concerning marriage, Dr. Richard Barcellos notes:
...the relative silence concerning monogamy as the will of God from creation in the early chapters of Genesis onward does not prove that monogamous marriage was not a creational institution. Schreiner is correct when he says, "Jesus argues from creation for the notion that marriage must be between one man and one woman..."
Following Genesis 2, God gives no explicit commands to the patriarchs concerning marriage involving only one man and one woman for life. Among the patriarchs, we even see counter-examples that may make it seem that polygamy was approved. Yet God's creative activity is seen [by Jesus, no less] as setting forth a pattern that people should have followed.

2. Concerning Sabbath-keeping after the Law was given, notice that (as Francis Turretin notes) there is no mention in the biblical record of Sabbath-keeping during the times recorded in Judges and Samuel. Yet we do not take this to mean that no-one kept the Sabbath. It certainly cannot be the case that silence concerning the keeping (or breaking) of the Sabbath indicates that Sabbath observance was not required for Israel during this time.

For more on the argument above, and on the Sabbath as a creation ordinance (beginning when God "rested" on the seventh day and sanctified it, as recorded in Genesis 2), I highly recommend the book Getting the Garden Right: Adam's Work and God's Rest in Light of Christ by Richard Barcellos.

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