I closed my first response to Dr. Schreiner with these words: “In my thinking, there is more to the Sabbath than a temporary function under the old or Mosaic covenant and a foreshadow of eschatological rest that “will be fulfilled on the final day when believers rest from earthly labors” (These are Dr. Schreiner’s words.). In order to see what this “more to the Sabbath” is, a wider, biblical-theological lens must be utilized. I hope to begin to explore the functions of the Sabbath with this wider lens in the next post.”
To be fair to Dr. Schreiner, he does suggest a third, practical use of the Sabbath for believers today. In his summary, he says, “It is wise naturally for believers to rest, and hence one principle that could be derived from the Sabbath is that believers should regularly rest.” (As a side note, though I appreciate Dr. Schreiner’s attempt to draw practical implications from the Sabbath, I find it interesting that such an attempt is made in a context where he spent most of his time dismissing the Sabbath as something required of believers. Is physical rest required of believers today because of the fourth commandment? And what about unbelievers and rest? If we can deduce the principle of physical rest for believers today from the Sabbath command, can we do the same with work and with a rest/work cycle? And if so, upon what basis? I think there is an inconsistency here in Dr. Schreiner’s argument. If the Sabbath as an institution of God, which required the old covenant people to physically rest, has been fulfilled in Christ and is not required of God’s new covenant people, I struggle to see how it is legitimate to draw the type of implication Dr. Schreiner did from it.)
Back to the functions of the Sabbath. It appears to me that Dr. Schreiner sees three functions of the Sabbath. The first is related to old covenant Israel. It was a sign between God and Israel. It was a shadow. It was temporary. It was fulfilled in Christ. The Sabbath no longer functions as it once did. The second function is eschatological. It is a foreshadow of eschatological rest that “will be fulfilled on the final day when believers rest from earthly labors” (These are Dr. Schreiner’s words.). It still functions this way. “The Sabbath, then, points [notice the present tense] to the final rest of the people of God” (Dr. Schreiner’s words). Its third function would be to require (?) regular physical rest for believers.
I am glad Dr. Schreiner brought up the eschatological function of the Sabbath. I think this is a subject worth pursuing and might be the key to understanding this admittedly complex issue. A wider, biblical-theological lens is necessary to understand how and why the Sabbath as an institution of creation and an abiding responsibility of the believer has been enshrined, for instance, in such documents as the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Savoy Declaration, and the Second London Baptist Confession (i.e. 1689), and why such men as Owen, Edwards, Dabney, Hodge, Spurgeon, Warfield, Sproul, Duncan, Begg, and many others agree with the essence of these confessional formulations. The eschatological function of the Sabbath is a glorious doctrine. It points us to the eternal state. It reminds us that there is more to come for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. All believers look forward to the eternal state and need to be reminded of it often. But not all believers agree on how that is to be done. I think a wider-lens approach helps us consider all the relevant biblical data on this important issue. In order to begin to do that, I will offer a question to think about.
When did the eschatological function of the Sabbath begin?
I hope to offer an answer to that question (and others) in my next post.