We began a new New Members’/Inquirers class this past Sunday. Rather than making it a separate class, however, we (the elders and I) are teaching the material to the whole adult Sunday School class. I thought the first class went well – many thoughtful questions were asked as we learned about the nature of Scripture.
I’m very pleased with the book we’re now using for the New Members’ class: Presbytopia by OPC minister Rev. Ken Golden. He covers the essential teachings of Scripture, distinct teachings and practices of a Reformed and Presbyterian church, and the means of grace (Word, sacraments, and prayer). His writes clearly and concisely, providing an excellent introduction to the Christian faith from a Reformed perspective. And for those experienced with Reformed theology, it’s an excellent summary and review.
At the morning service I preached from Luke 6:1-11. In this passage Jesus confronts the Pharisees over questions concerning the Sabbath. The Pharisees, in their misguided zeal to uphold God’s law, turned that law upside down by making the 4th Commandment (to keep the Sabbath day holy) a burden instead of a blessing. They piled on their man-made traditions and rules such that a man couldn’t eat from the standing grain on the Sabbath day (vs. 1-5), nor could he be healed (vs. 6-10), without being a “Sabbath-breaker.”
The Pharisees effectively stole the Sabbath from God, made it their own, and then set themselves up as judges to condemn those who “broke” it. For this reason Jesus declared to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (v.5). The Sabbath rightfully belonged to him, the One who gave it. And as the Lord of the Sabbath Jesus found no fault with his disciples for plucking and eating standing grain on the day of rest.
Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath still today. The New Testament refers to the first day of the week, Sunday, as the “Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). Sunday is still the Lord’s Day, and the Lord of it is still Christ. And so as Christians we are bound to keep the 4th Commandment.
But that commandment is meant to be for us a blessing, not a curse. Jesus made that clear when he healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath Day. In doing so he answered his own question: “… is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” (v.9). It is lawful to do good and save life on the Sabbath because the Sabbath is God’s gift to us for our good. He gives us this day to rest from our work, to rejoice in Christ, and to fellowship with others in the Body of Christ. So Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, not to burden us but to bless us.
This Sunday we are taking up our annual Thank Offering to support the Worldwide Outreach ministries of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church: foreign missions, home missions, and Christian education. I’m hopeful that our congregation will contribute generously to this offering, and that the overall giving from the entire denomination will be abundant for the support and encouragement of all involved with these ministries. I’ll preach this Sunday on giving in general (both with the Thank Offering and with Thanksgiving in mind) but the very best sermon on the subject is what is written in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Christ gave his life for us. How can we not give back to him with a thankful heart?
Soli Deo Gloria!