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Calvin and the Sabbath: The Controversy of Applying the Fourth Commandment

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Calvin's views on the Sabbath are the subject of claim and counterclaim. This book brings together two controversial themes: Calvin's ideas on Church/state relationships and on the Sabbath. Richard Gaffin traces the development of Calvin’s beliefs through his comments and writings. Gaffin also helps us to understand the relationship between the Ten Commandments and the New Testament. Not only does Gaffin show what Calvin thought, he also critiques his conclusions and compares them to other Reformers and confessional statements of the period. Calvin's conclusions have a much wider implication than on how we honor the Sabbath; Griffin's analysis is both surprising and thought provoking.

Resource Experts
  • Exegetical studies on Calvin's views regarding Church and State
  • Outlines the relevance of the Ten Commandments within the New Testament
  • Scripture references link to your original language texts and English translations

Top Highlights

“Faithful and joyful Sabbath-keeping, we should not forget, is among the most concrete ways for the church to witness to a world full of turmoil and unrest, as never before or at least as much as ever, that there does indeed ‘remain a rest for the people of God’ (Heb. 4:9).” (Page 10)

“Another distinctive characteristic of this theory is that, with the advent of Christ, the day for observing the Sabbath has been changed from the seventh to the first, without repudiating the language or changing the force of the fourth commandment.” (Page 13)

“These views all agree in maintaining that the fourth commandment and the Sabbath are strictly Mosaic in origin. They were mandated by God at the time of the Exodus as a special provision for the nation of Israel. Consequently, when the Old Testament economy came to an end, the obligation to the fourth commandment ceased and the Sabbath disappeared. The Lord’s Day or Sunday, on the other hand, is a distinctive ordinance of the Christian church. It is not a Sabbath, nor is it the successor to the Sabbath. It is in no way dependent upon the fourth commandment for its sanction.” (Page 12)

“The basic argument is that the believer’s duty, as was Christ’s, is not to do away with the law but to fulfill it. The fourth commandment is thus seen to bind New Testament believers in all of its Old Testament rigor. They must observe it on Saturday, often in all its Jewish strictness.” (Pages 11–12)

“ Such spiritual rest cannot be limited to one day of the week but must be practiced daily, perpetually.” (Page 142)

This is a most interesting study, and, incidentally, a reminder that no mere man is our ultimate authority for belief or practice.

—David McKay, Reformed Theological College

  • Title: Calvin and the Sabbath: The Controversy of Applying the Fourth Commandmen
  • Author: Richard Gaffin
  • Publisher: Christian Focus Publications
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Pages: 176

Richard B. Gaffin Jr. is Charles Krahe Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he has taught since 1965. An ordained teaching elder of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he is also the editor of the first-ever English translation of Geerhardus Vos’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek (Reformed Dogmatics), sold only by Logos Bible Software.


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    Digital list price: $14.99
    Save $3.00 (20%)