Calvin on the Weekly Christian Sabbath

In the last two sentences, much use has been made by Antinomians of Calvin's careful statement that "the Jewish holy-day was abolished." However, little use have they made of his equally careful statement two lines later that "another day was appointed for that purpose." Calvin does not here claim that the weekly Sabbath as such was abolished. He only claims that "the Jewish Sabbath" (on Saturdays) alias "the Jewish holyday was abolished."

Moreover, Calvin is here clearly referring  to the "keeping" of the Lord's day, as Christians now do." Indeed, in the place of the abolished Jewish Saturday, Calvin here clearly states it is "necessary to retain" for "order and peace in the Church" precisely "another day"  viz. Sunday  which "was appointed for that purpose" (of 'sabbathness').

"It was not," Calvin then further explains,8 "without a reason that the early Christians substituted what we call the Lord's day for the Sabbath. The resurrection of our Lord being the end and accomplishment of that true rest which the ancient Sabbath typified, this day by which types were abolished serves to warn Christians" etc. Matt. 24:20; 28:1; Mark 16:1,9; Luke 23:56 to 24:6; 24:26-33f; John 20:1-19; 20:26; Acts 2:1; 20:6-11; 21:4; 21:27; 28:14; I Cor. 16:1-2; Heb. 4:8-11; 10:25; Rev. 1:10; 14:13f.

Calvin then repudiates "the false prophets who in later times instilled Jewish ideas into the people, alleging that nothing was abrogated but what was ceremonial in the commandment. This they term, in their language, the taxation of the seventh day." Now those "false prophets" alleged that within those "Jewish ideas" of the Pharisaical perversion of the Sabbath  "the moral part remains  viz. the observance of one day in seven. But this is nothing else than to insult the Jews by changing the day, and yet mentally attributing to it the same sanctity –- thus retaining the same typical distinction of days as had place among the Jews" (in contradistinction to the godly Old Testament Hebrews).

Especially from the above words, Antinomians attempt to argue that Calvin abolished all distinction between Sunday and the other days of the week. In context, however, it is clear Calvin merely means that Sunday is not to be kept in the way which legalistic Judaists kept Saturday  especially between the time of Malachi and that of the Pharisees.

8 Inst. II:8:34.



For Calvin does not here say Christians should not keep Sunday the way the Ancient Patriarchs kept (or should have kept) their Sabbath  before the giving of the Decalogue to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Gen. 2:1-3; 8:6-12; Job 1:5; 2:13; Ex. 5:4f; 7:25; 16:28f. Nor does Calvin here say Sunday should not be kept the way godly Hebrews kept (or should have kept) the Sabbath from the time of Moses until the time of Malachi. Ex. 20:8-11; Neh. 13:15-22; Isa. 56:4-7; 58:13-14; Jer. 17:19-27; Mic. 8:5. Calvin here instead condemns the way Pharisaical Jews had been keeping the Sabbath after the time of Malachi. Matt. 12:1-8; Luke 13:10-17; John 7:19-23; etc.

This is why Calvin now concludes his paragraph: "We must be careful…to observe[!] the general[!] doctrine. Viz. in order that religion may neither be lost nor languish among us, we must[!] diligently attend on our religious assemblies, and duly avail ourselves of those external[!] aids which tend to promote the worship of God." Acts 20:6-7; I Cor. 16:1-2; Heb. 4:8-11; 10:25; Rev. 1:10.

When Calvin was 37, he wrote his 1546 Commentary on the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. There, in I Cor. 16:1-2, Paul gave instruction "concerning the collection" for poor believers in Jerusalem. Such collections Paul "had already prescribed to the churches of Galatia." Now, however – comments Calvin9  Paul enjoined also the Corinthians that they too "should have their alms ready in time. He therefore tells them…to contribute…on the Sabbath  in other words, on the day in which they met together for worship….

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