Calvin on the Weekly Christian Sabbath

"Paul's meaning is…that one person should contribute on one Sabbath, another on another Sabbath; or even every one of them on every Sabbath, if they so wished. For he is thinking, in the first place, in terms of convenience; and secondly, that the gathering for worship, where believers rejoice in the communion of saints, could be an additional incentive to them…. The Lord's day was chosen in preference to all the others, because the resurrection of our Lord put an end to the shadows…. Therefore that day is a reminder to us of our Christian freedom."

When Calvin was 41, he wrote his 1550 Commentary on Isaiah. There he comments10 on Isa. 56:4-7 that "the sincere worshippers of God…keep the Sabbaths" and "have a place in the Church…which is not confined as formerly within those narrow limits of Judea, but is extended through the whole world." With the words "'whosoever shall keep My Sabbath'…is included the whole worship of God."

9 Comm. I Cor. 16:2. 10 Comm. Isa. 56:4-7.



As to when and where God's Sabbath was to be kept, Calvin next comments that Isaiah "testifies that the grace of God shall be diffused throughout the whole world…. All men, to whatsoever nation or place they belong, are freely admitted…into the house of God…. It extends to every part of the whole world. For all nations have been called to the worship of God…. Christ calls the temple 'the house of prayer'  with reference to that time when the Gospel had not yet been published…. When 'the vail of the temple was rent' (Matt. 27:51)…, God began to be everywhere called upon by 'all peoples.'"

Moreover, Calvin comments11 on Isa. 58:13-14 that "nothing can be more pleasing or acceptable to God than the observation of the Sabbath and sincere worship…. Men do wrong if, laying aside the Commandments of God, they esteem highly those things which are of no value…. God so highly recommends in the whole Scripture the observation of the Sabbath…because Christ died and rose again, so that we have a continual sabbath…. The Lord takes the highest delight in the true observation of the Sabbath…. If we framed our life in obedience to God, we should be His delight and…He would be our delight…. He brings them back to the true observation of the Sabbath, and shews that it will be well with them if they shall worship God in a right manner."

Also in 1550, when Calvin was still only 41, his biographer and successor Theodore Beza wrote his famous work The Life of John Calvin. There, Beza records12 that Calvin determined "that there should be no other feast-days except one in seven, which we call the Lord's day."

When 44, Calvin wrote his 1553 Commentary on John's Gospel. There he comments13 that "the resurrection of Christ is the chief article of our faith" etc. On Easter Sunday, notes Calvin, as described in John 20:1, "Mary came on the first day of the Sabbaths…. Every Sabbath-day was dedicated to rest….

"Now it was the first day of the Sabbaths…because it was the beginning of the week." Similarly, two years later (when 46), in his 1555 Harmony of the Gospels Calvin comments14 on the same event. There, he maintains that "the meaning is the same as in Matthew [28:1], 'In the evening which began to dawn towards the first day of the Sabbaths'; and in Luke (24:1), 'On the first day of the Sabbaths.'"

11 Comm. Isa. 58:13-14. 12 T. Beza: The Life of John Calvin (in Calvin's Tracts and Treatises, ed. Torrance, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1958, I p xciii). 13 Comm. John 20:1. 14 Harm. Gosp. III on Mark 16:1.

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