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This is primarily to the Lutherans out there, although I think the question pertinent to many Evangelicals as well: What think ye of the Sabbath rest today? Even though we lay under a new dispensation, are we still not instructed to rest from our labors on the Lord’s Day, the new Sabbath for a new people? Is the New Covenant one that abrogates Sabbath-keeping so as to inflict on us a seven-day workweek or a new Son’s Day that looks like the old Monday?

Is it law to keep the Sabbath, to refrain from work, to refrain even from, say, shopping for ephemera or going to a ballgame or a movie?

I ask because I grew up with the idea that Sunday was simply that day in which you jammed a one-hour and twenty-minute liturgy into your schedule and you were good to go. Strict church attendance was emphasized to an almost legalistic degree, but preparation for receiving Holy Communion or what we were to do after the service was almost never addressed.

Luther, in his Large Catechism, addresses the Sabbath in his explication of the Fourth Commandment, and in so doing seems to interpret Sunday “observance” as little more than an accommodation to the poor and working classes, and for the purpose of maintaining some kind of “order”:


This commandment, therefore, according to its gross sense, does not concern us Christians; for it is altogether an external matter, like other ordinances of the Old Testament, which were attached to particular customs, persons, times, and places, and now have been made free through Christ.

But to grasp a Christian meaning for the simple as to what God requires in this commandment, note that we keep holy days not for the sake of intelligent and learned Christians … but first of all for bodily causes and necessities, which nature teaches and requires; for the common people, man-servants and maid-servants, who have been attending to their work and trade the whole week, that for a day they may retire in order to rest and be refreshed.

Secondly, and most especially, that on such day of rest (since we can get no other opportunity) freedom and time be taken to attend divine service, so that we come together to hear and treat of God’s and then to praise God, to sing and pray.

However, this, I say, is not so restricted to any time, as with the Jews, that it must be just on this or that day; for in itself no one day is better than another; but this should indeed be done daily; however, since the masses cannot give such attendance, there must be at least one day in the week set apart. But since from of old Sunday [the Lord’s Day] has been appointed for this purpose, we also should continue the same, in order that everything be done in harmonious order, and no one create disorder by unnecessary innovation. [emphasis added]


Reformed Christians have generally held a higher view of the Sabbath than most others within the church universal, and not merely by emphasizing church attendance; Catholics traditionally have been very strict about that. Rather, they have tended to celebrate the Lord’s Day as a time to truly rest from quotidian concerns—or, as Stuart Bryan writes here in this very interesting article—to truly feast on no ordinary meal on no routine occasion.

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