Principles of Sabbath-Keeping: Jesus and Westminster -- By: Ryan M. McGraw

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 03:1 (Jan 2011)
Article: Principles of Sabbath-Keeping: Jesus and Westminster
Author: Ryan M. McGraw


Principles of Sabbath-Keeping:
Jesus and Westminster1

Ryan M. McGraw

Not all corrective lenses help all people see clearly. A prescription that helps one person see may blur the vision of another person. The truths of Scripture are similar in some respects. Biblical truths do not change regardless of whether people understand them properly or not, yet one person may come to understand what the Scriptures say on a subject through one set of arguments, while another person finds an entirely different set of arguments convincing. Isaiah 58:13 –14 is all that is needed to convince some people that “the Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 60 – 61). However, even though some do not believe that the Catechism’s answer reflects a proper interpretation of Isaiah 58 (which is perhaps the locus classicus of debates over Sabbath keeping), it is possible to come to the same conclusion regarding the purpose of the Sabbath from other biblical principles.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the principles of Sabbath keeping set forth in the Westminster Standards are demanded by the principles upon which Jesus and His apostles interpreted and applied the Law of God. These principles demonstrate that the entire Sabbath should be set apart for the purposes of public and private worship in thought, word, and deed. The general characteristics of the Law of God combined with the New Testament

application of the sixth commandment will serve as a “template” for how to apply the fourth commandment. This approach to establishing biblical principles of Sabbath keeping will help bring clarity to the issue by placing it within the broader context of the biblical and Reformed model of the relationship the attitude that those who love the Lord Jesus Christ should have towards the Law of God.2

Biblical Rules for Interpreting the Law

General Considerations

There are both general and specific considerations that are important in order to interpret the Law of God properly.3 Generally speaking, the Law of God is a reflection of the character of God Himself. The Law is holy, just, and good (

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