The Lord’s Day

Calvin and Luther on the Sabbath

No doubt, more examples could be given from the reformers in this regard, but these two examples are at least interesting to consider with regards to regaining a proper view of the Lord’s Day. They linked the significance of the Lord’s Day to both the principle and the precept of the Sabbath.

 

Following the rigid ceremonialism of the Roman Catholic Church, reformers such as Luther and Calvin were cautious about formalizing Christian worship to a ceremonial “first day of the week” type of worship. They did not disagree with the fact that the first day of the week was the Lord’s Day, and thought it to be both wise and expedient to set aside the day for formal corporate worship. However, they were careful to not elevate this time as a certain kind of ritualistic practice, reminiscent of the Roman Catholic rituals.1

In 1520, Martin Luther wrote one of his famous treatises, A Treatise on Good Works, and in it addressed several things regarding the Christian and the Decalogue. In his address regarding the fourth command of keeping the Sabbath Holy, Luther writes,

XVII. Spiritually understood, this Commandment has a yet far higher work, which embraces the whole nature of man. Here it must be known that in Hebrew “Sabbath” means “rest,” because on the seventh day God rested and ceased from all His works, which He had made. Genesis ii. Therefore He commanded also that the seventh day should be kept holy and that we cease from our works which we do the other six days. This Sabbath has now for us been changed into the Sunday, and the other days are called work-days; the Sunday is called rest-day or holiday or holy day. And would to God that in Christendom there were no holiday except the Sunday; that the festivals of Our Lady and of the Saints were all transferred to Sunday; then would many evil vices be done away with through the labor of the work-days, and lands would not be so drained and impoverished. But now we are plagued with many holidays, to the destruction of souls, bodies and goods; of which matter, much might be said.2

Luther was keenly aware of the Roman influence still ever present in his day, but sought to distinguish Sunday above other days. Notice how he recognized that Sunday was different from the Sabbath. His thoughts continue by drawing out the notions that this rest on the Lord’s day included both bodily and spiritual rest and is worthy of great consideration by the Christian.

John Calvin preached a series of messages on the Ten Commandments. In his fifth sermon, regarding the fourth command, he says the following,

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