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Seventh Day Baptists and the Fourth Commandment

Seventh Day Baptists and the Fourth Commandment

Sunday worship has become so ingrained in Christendom that few question it today. Centuries have proven more than enough time to dogmatically cement the tradition into the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox faiths. Now most Christians never give the day a second thought, assuming it to be biblical.

Jesus foretold this, warning about those who “[teach] as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7). No matter how widespread the tradition, keeping holy Sunday instead of Saturday, the seventh day, is, indeed, a commandment “of men.”

The seventh-day Sabbath, as taught in the fourth of the Ten Commandments, was written by “the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). Upon telling people that “the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD” (20:10), God commanded them and all in their households to not work on that day. Even more powerfully, the Lord pointed back to the Creation week itself as the reason: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (v. 11). God constituted the seventh day as a holy day of rest for mankind at the beginning of our world. The Ten Commandments given thousands of years later simply included a reminder of that fact.

So why don’t most Christians follow God’s express commandment?

Defending the Sabbath Day

Here are some of the commonly professed reasons why Christians don’t keep the seventh-day Sabbath:

1) Jesus abolished the Ten Commandments.

2) Keeping the Sabbath is legalism.

3) The observance of the Sabbath day was actually part of the ceremonial law instead.

4) The Sabbath day changed at Christ’s resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week, Sunday. Or the apostles themselves changed it after the fact.

But a certain document, which recently resurfaced as a full audiobook, shows that these claims—and more—have been rebutted by other Christians in published form as far back as the 17th century. The book, on “THE DOCTRINE OF THE FOURTH Commandement, Deformed by Popery,” was written in 1650 by one of the founders of the Seventh Day Baptists, an Englishman named James Ockford.

Early in his tome, Ockford states his purpose: “Wherein is clearely proved by Scripture, Arguments, and Reasons, that the Seventh day of the week, and not the first, viz. the day called Saturday [and not the day called Sunday] is the true Christian Sabbath, the time Instituted and commanded by God himself, for the day, or time, of his publique worship, in the time of the Gospel, as it was in the time of the Law.”

At about 18,000 words, his work shows that God’s commandments are still valid for all people, not only for the Jews, as well as addresses the fallacies of the various arguments used to defend Sunday-keeping.

Through the use of Scripture, Ockford unpacks righteousness by faith in rebuke of the Sabbath as legalism; he firmly establishes God’s moral law as immutable and eternal.

And he proceeds to spell out the history of this “change [in] times and law” (Daniel 7:25): “Evident it is, that in some tract of time, after the death of the Apostles, the Romish Church layd aside the duty of the seventh day-Sabbath, and observed the first day of the weeke, instead of it.” He cites several sources involving Roman Emperor Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church, which, history shows, implemented an unauthorized change of the Sabbath to Sunday.

Ockford is also forthright in his response to that change: “Lamentable it is, that the Learned of this Land, which professe themselvs to be guids to the blind, and lights of them which are in darknesse, and teachers of them which want knowledge, and to have the forme of knowledge, and truth of the Law, that they should teach men to observe the first day of the week in stead of the seventh, contrary to the Law, upon a pretence that Jesus Christ abrogated the Sabbath; and that he, and his Apostles instituted the first day of the week in its stead, when there is not any Word of God that teacheth either the one, or the other.”

The Immutability of God’s Word

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man,” says Ecclesiastes 12:13 in the King James Version. Ockford quotes this same verse in his treatise.

It is clear that he believed the Ten Commandments, God’s law, to be binding upon those professing allegiance to Christ. “Be not hasty to reject the duty of the seventh day-Sabbath, which God by his holy Law requireth of thee,” he concludes.

For his zeal, Ockford was excommunicated and thrown into prison; all but one copy of his booklet, now preserved in Christ Church at Oxford, England, were burned. Persecution has, throughout history, routinely followed those who uphold God’s commandments. But because of men like Ockford, millions today have thrown off the cloak of deception and chosen to abide by God’s seventh-day Sabbath.

God’s Word has not changed and will never change (Isaiah 40:8). The truths that Ockford found and treasured in Scripture are still as binding today as they were 300 years ago, as they have been ever since the beginning. Each of us has the freedom to either deny or believe them. Which do you choose?

To learn for yourself the importance of keeping the seventh day holy, we invite you to start with our free article “Sabbath Observance Honors the Creator.

This article contributed by Clifford Goldstein
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