Irish Biblical Reformation Conference
The 2012 Irish Biblical Reformation Conference was held on Saturday 17 November, at Edenmore Golf Club, Magheralin. John Roberts of Day One spoke on ‘The importance of the Lord’s Day’.
In the first session, after reading from Exodus 20:1-26, he reflected on changes in society and the church with regard to the Lord’s Day.
He reviewed the biblical authority for honouring the day, beginning with Genesis 2:3: ‘God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it’. He reminded us that the sabbath came at the beginning of time. Man in his state of innocence was given five things by God: a place to live; a job to do; a commandment to observe; a wife to love; and day to keep holy. So, if a perfect man needed a day of rest, how much more does fallen man with his toilsome work.
Mr Roberts pointed out that God set the pattern of six days of work followed by one day of rest. The Lord rested, obviously not because he was worn out by the task of creation, but to set a pattern for the human race. The sabbath celebrates the universe in its original divine gifting as good and perfect.
Under the ceremonial law there were numerous sabbaths, but the ‘sabbath of creation’ is special and, unlike the other sabbaths, permanent.
Within the Mosaic law, the moral law is permanent while the ceremonial law was transitory and preparatory. The Decalogue was the only part of the law spoken in the hearing of the people in terrifying circumstances. It was also the only part written on stone by the finger of God. All this emphasises its solemnity and permanence.
In the Decalogue, the sabbath is placed with laws universally regarded as permanent in character, such as those on murder, idolatry and theft. The ceremonial law ceased with the coming of the new covenant, but the moral law is for all people for all time. Its origin was not at Sinai but in Eden.
Mr Roberts explained that the Fourth Commandment exalts both work and rest; nothing could be more relevant to the society in which we live. This commandment promises rich blessing.
Through Old Testament history sabbath observance was a barometer of the relationship between God and Israel, and in New Testament times, the sabbath was respected. Many object to such observance, saying we are ‘not under law, but under grace’, but Paul had no intention of undermining the moral law when he preached grace.
Mr Roberts shared how an awareness of breaking God’s commandments had been used in his own conversion. He had read how ‘the soul that sinneth shall surely die’. Who could he turn to but Jesus Christ, the perfect lawkeeper? The Ten Commandments are a code of discipline, given from a heart of love.
We don’t find anywhere in the Gospels Jesus discrediting any of the commandments. Indeed, in Matthew 5:17, he stated that he came not to destroy, but to fulfil the law.
On eleven occasions Jesus dealt with the subject of the sabbath. He corrected the superstitions and additions of Pharisees, yet never denied the holiness of the day. Since it was the abuse of this law that Jesus condemned, we must conclude he meant the Fourth Commandment to be as binding as the other nine.
The change of the day to the first day of the week in the New Testament was in memory of Christ’s resurrection, just as the seventh day was in memory of creation. There were eight appearances of Christ on the very day of resurrection, and the next appearance occurred a week later — again on the first day of the week.
The apostles met for worship on the first day and the disciples brought tithes and offerings on this day. Nowhere in the New Testament is any other day designated. The early Church Fathers Ignatius, Tertullian and Polycarp recognised this.
Why was the Lord’s Day given? Mark 2:27 states that ‘the sabbath is for man, not man for the sabbath’. We have a body, but it has its limitations; we need to follow our Maker’s instructions. We need to rest body and mind for one day in seven.
William Wilberforce, who regularly suffered from ill health, said towards the end of his life, ‘I can only attribute the power of my endurance to regular observance of the Lord’s Day’.
We need times of quiet for our devotions every day, but especially we need this one day to enjoy food for the soul. The soul should have priority.
Mr Roberts recalled the words of Richard Wurmbrand when imprisoned for his faith by the Romanian communists: ‘You never appreciate anything until you’ve lost it!’
In his second session, Mr Roberts spoke on ‘Meeting the risen Christ’. He read Revelation 1 and reminded us that John received this awesome message on the Lord’s Day, while in the island prison of Patmos.
He was banished, lonely and suffering for the Word of God and testimony of Jesus. Yet, for all that, he was ‘in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day’. Such has been the experience of many of God’s people throughout history. Whatever our circumstances, may we strive to go to the house of God each Lord’s Day to meet with the risen Christ!
The conference was greatly appreciated by the many who attended. Next year, we look forward to hearing Dr Dale Ralph Davis as speaker.