The Sabbath And Dispensationalism -- By: Joel T. Williamson, Jr.

Journal: Journal of Dispensational Theology
Volume: JODT 11:32 (Mar 2007)
Article: The Sabbath And Dispensationalism
Author: Joel T. Williamson, Jr.


The Sabbath And Dispensationalism

Joel T. Williamson Jr.

Ph.D. Cand., Dallas Theological Seminary

Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament, Calvary Bible College

and Theological Seminary

Professor of Theology, Calvary Theological Seminary

In the twenty-first century, dispensationalism faces challenges from two opposing poles within evangelicalism. At one extreme are scholars who find it unbiblical, such as Karlberg:

Covenant theology is guided by the principle of sola Scriptura. The Scriptures are self-interpreting: this is what is meant by the Reformational principle of the analogy of Scripture. Taking their cue from the NT’s use of the OT, covenant theologians formulate their theological method in terms of the biblical pattern of promise and fulfillment. On the other hand, the dispensational hermeneutic, it seems to me, imposes an a priori definition of “literalness” upon the meaning and interpretation of Scripture.1

At the other extreme are laymen who enjoy its eschatology—especially in fictionalized form—but otherwise find it irrelevant. By applying a consistent, literal hermeneutic, this article addresses both extremes. It uses the Bible’s own teaching about the Sabbath to show that dispensationalism is both biblical and practical.

Abolition of the Sabbath: Dispensationalism as Biblical

Dispensationalism is defined, at least in part, by its “literal” hermeneutic. Indeed, Ryrie considers the literal, or “normal,” hermeneutic crucial to the dispensational system, part of its sine qua non.2 Literal interpretation does not involve any voodoo or complicated machinations. One simply interprets Scripture as any other written text, taking it at face value within its context. Approached this way, Sabbath passages lead inevitably to the conclusion that the Old Testament command to keep the Sabbath does not apply to the New

Testament church. Even some covenant theologians come to this conclusion.3 The implications of this fact, however, cannot be reconciled with the covenant position.

The Abolition of the Sabbath

In the New Testament, the legal requirement to keep Sabbath is abolished. While individual Christians are allowed to keep Sabbath, the practice is never imposed on the church. Two major Pauline passages prove this. The first is Galatians 4:10–11: “You observe days and months and seas...

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