Three headlines on Sabbath observance: a renewed controversy

Football for all… but not if you’re an evangelical Christian says former Irish league player and coach — (Belfast Newsletter, 3rd May 2023)

The Sunday marathon is a sober reminder that we live in days of increasing spiritual weakness and confusion — (Belfast Newsletter, 5th May 2023)

Irish Cup final: Former IFA boss says ‘Christians can still go to Sunday matches – it won’t matter in the afterlife’ — (Belfast Newsletter, 5th May 2023)

The first two headlines relate to concerns about the increasing desecration of the Lord’s Day and the third provides an explanation for the increase!

The third headline is taken from the comments of an attender at Greenisland Methodist Church. For him to go public in this manner surely indicates that his church minister and oversight are happy with his views and behaviour. If they are not then doubtless a public statement will be made disowning his behaviour!

The assertion of Jim Boyce is quite contrary to the traditional teaching of Methodism and more importantly, the Word of God.

We quote:

“The General Rules of the Methodist Church requires ‘attending upon all the ordinances of God’ including ‘the public worship of God’ , (he Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies).

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, stated ‘This ‘handwriting of ordinances’ our Lord did blot out, take away, and nail to His cross (Col. 2:14). But the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments, and enforced by the prophets, He did not take away …. The moral law stands on an entirely different foundation from the ceremonial or ritual law …. Every part of this law must remain in force upon all mankind and in all ages.’ (‘Sermons on Several Occasions,’ 2-Vol. Edition, Vol. I, pages 221, 222).

This is reflected in the doctrine of Methodist denominations, such as the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection, which in its 2014 Discipline teaches that the Lord’s Day ‘be observed by cessation from all unnecessary labor, and that the day be devoted to divine worship and rest.’ (he Discipline of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection).

In explicating the Fourth Commandment, a prominent Methodist catechism states: (A Catechism on the Christian Religion: The Doctrines of Christianity with Special Emphasis on Wesleyan Concepts).

‘To keep holy means that no unnecessary work or travel be done on this day. It is a day of rest and worship, a day of Bible reading and prayer. We must not buy, sell, or bargain on Sunday, which is the Lord’s day.’

Though Sabbatarian practice declined in the 18th century, the evangelical awakening in the 19th century led to a greater concern for strict Sunday observance. The founding of the Lord’s Day Observance Society in 1831 was influenced by the teaching of Daniel Wilson.

More important than the precepts of men, though wisely compiled, is the inspired Word of God. The law on Sabbath (Day of Rest) observance was given in the Ten Commandments.

“‭Remember‭‭ the sabbath‭ day‭, to keep it holy‭‭.‭ ‭Six‭ days‭ shalt thou labour‭‭, and do‭‭ all thy work‭:‭ ‭But the seventh‭ day‭ ‭is‭ the sabbath‭ of the LORD‭ thy God‭: ‭in it‭ thou shalt not do‭‭ any work‭, thou, nor thy son‭, nor thy daughter‭, thy manservant‭, nor thy maidservant‭, nor thy cattle‭, nor thy stranger‭ that ‭is‭ within thy gates‭:‭ ‭For ‭in‭ six‭ days‭ the LORD‭ made‭‭ heaven‭ and earth‭, the sea‭, and all that in them ‭is‭, and rested‭‭ the seventh‭ day‭: wherefore the LORD‭ blessed‭‭ the sabbath‭ day‭, and hallowed‭‭ it,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Exodus 20:8-11.

The Shorter Catechism states:

“Question 60: How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?

Answer: The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; (1) and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, (2) except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.(3)

1.Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein. (Leviticus 23:3a, KJV).

2.<<A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day.>> It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night. (Psalms 92:1,2, KJV).

3.What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. (Matthew 12:11-12, KJV).”

Irrespective of how lawful it may be to attend football matches and other sporting events on weekdays, it is clear that our Protestant forefathers believed that attendance at recreational events on the Christian Sabbath Day were a desecration of the Sabbath Day.

The claim that Jim Boyce makes that the desecration of the Lord’s Day “won’t matter in the afterlife”, is both highly presumptuous and blasphemous. Woe to the man who places his trust in the arrogant assertion by this very foolish man! There most definitely are eternal consequences from disobeying God’s Law, despite this blithely issued opinion of Jim Boyce. It is utterly wrong to say as does Jim Boyce: “I believe that it’s up to each individual to make their own decision. It’s entirely a matter for them. If they don’t want to attend, it’s a personal opinion for themselves, and I respect that.”

Whether we obey God is not a matter of ‘personal opinion’ without any eternal consequences. That is a most dangerous and entirely foolish position to adopt.

Mr Boyce adds as an afterthought: “I don’t profess to be a theologian or whatever the word is.” Acknowledging his own gross ignorance of the sacred matter he is pontificating on, he still cheerfully rests his eternal destiny on a notion he has formed in his ignorance and would have others follow him down that road!

The prophets of the Bible frequently warn of the eternal consequences of ’Sabbath breaking’.

Isaiah stated the blessed consequences of keeping the Sabbath.

“‭If thou turn away‭‭ thy foot‭ from the sabbath‭, ‭from‭ doing‭‭ thy pleasure‭ on my holy‭ day‭; and call‭‭ the sabbath‭ a delight‭, the holy‭ of the LORD‭, honourable‭‭; and shalt honour‭‭ him, not doing‭‭ thine own ways‭, nor finding‭‭ thine own pleasure‭, nor speaking‭‭ ‭thine own‭ words‭:‭ ‭Then shalt thou delight‭‭ thyself in the LORD‭; and I will cause thee to ride‭‭ upon the high places‭ of the earth‭, and feed‭‭ thee with the heritage‭ of Jacob‭ thy father‭: for the mouth‭ of the LORD‭ hath spoken‭‭ ‭it‭.‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Isaiah 58:13-14.

Jeremiah was required to warn his generation about Sabbath breaking.

“‭But if ye will not hearken‭‭ unto me to hallow‭‭ the sabbath‭ day‭, and not to bear‭‭ a burden‭, even entering in‭‭ at the gates‭ of Jerusalem‭ on the sabbath‭ day‭; then will I kindle‭‭ a fire‭ in the gates‭ thereof, and it shall devour‭‭ the palaces‭ of Jerusalem‭, and it shall not be quenched‭‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Jeremiah 17:27.

Ezekiel had the most solemn words to utter from the Lord on Sabbath breaking.

“‭Thou hast despised‭‭ mine holy things‭, and hast profaned‭‭ my sabbaths‭.‭ ‭. . . . ‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭‭Can thine heart‭ endure‭‭, or can thine hands‭ be strong‭‭, in the days‭ that I shall deal‭‭ with thee? I the LORD‭ have spoken‭‭ ‭it‭, and will do‭‭ ‭it‭.‭ ‭And I will scatter‭‭ thee among the heathen‭, and disperse‭‭ thee in the countries‭, and will consume‭‭ thy filthiness‭ out of thee.‭ ‭And thou shalt take thine inheritance‭‭ in thyself in the sight‭ of the heathen‭, and thou shalt know‭‭ that I ‭am‭ the LORD‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Ezekiel 22:8, 14-16.

I would suggest to Jim Boyce and all who are of his mind, that the increasing confusion, turmoil and distress that Ulster is experiencing, in common with the rest of the UK and the world in general, are most definitely the result of the modern ecumenical-church led apostasy from God’s Law!

According to the Bible, the world is going to continue heeding the philosophy of the ‘Jim Boyces’ until the day Christ returns to subdue man’s rebellion under His hand of judgment and institute His reign of peace and righteousness and obedience to God’s Law.

“‭And it shall come to pass in the last‭ days‭, ‭that‭ the mountain‭ of the LORD’S‭ house‭ shall be established‭‭ in the top‭ of the mountains‭, and shall be exalted‭‭ above the hills‭; and all nations‭ shall flow‭‭ unto it.‭ ‭And many‭ people‭ shall go‭‭ and say‭‭, Come‭‭ ye, and let us go up‭‭ to the mountain‭ of the LORD‭, to the house‭ of the God‭ of Jacob‭; and he will teach‭‭ us of his ways‭, and we will walk‭‭ in his paths‭: for out of Zion‭ shall go forth‭‭ the law‭, and the word‭ of the LORD‭ from Jerusalem‭.‭ ‭And he shall judge‭‭ among the nations‭, and shall rebuke‭‭ many‭ people‭: and they shall beat‭‭ their swords‭ into plowshares‭, and their spears‭ into pruninghooks‭: nation‭ shall not lift up‭‭ sword‭ against nation‭, neither shall they learn‭‭ war‭ any more.‭ ‭O house‭ of Jacob‭, come‭‭ ye, and let us walk‭‭ in the light‭ of the LORD‭,‭”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Isaiah 2:2-5.

Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)

6th May 2023