John Calvin on the Sabbath Day

From John Calvin’s Commentary on Acts 13:14

14. Entering, upon the day of the Sabbaths. He putteth the plural number instead of the singular, as it falleth out oftentimes in other places of Scripture; for they were wont to assemble themselves together upon the Sabbaths, lest their rest should be unprofitable and sluggish. The institution of the Sabbath had another end also, that it might be a figure of the spiritual rest when as the faithful, being dead to the world and the flesh, abandon their own will, and cease from their works. Because we have the truth hereof in Christ, whilst that being buried together with him we put off the old man; therefore the old figure is past. But God had respect also unto the politic use, that the Jews, being free from all other cares and businesses, might keep their holy assemblies; so that the ceasing off from earthly works did give a place to their heavenly exercises. So, even at this day we must use holy days; for we must therefore omit all other things that we may the more freely serve God.

The Impiety of the 5-Day Work Week and Exodus 20:9

9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

I have written and posted much on the 4th Commandment on this bog and have done some extensive reading on its application and misapplication in modern contexts. However in all my reading I do not know if I just plain old missed it in the 4th Commandment or just read over it since the Sabbath rest was my “proof point” but today during my Sabbath reading I have been reading John Murray’s Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics and in chapter IV entitled “The Ordinance of Labour” Murray begins to speak of the difference made between the context of Labor in Adam’s time before and after the Fall.  Before the Fall labor was not cursed but a blessed thing man did and it came with no adversity or distress. However after the Fall Labor became a hardship and was done now by the sweat of the brow and the thorns and brush would cause pain for the man (Gen 3::17-19) as punished for Adam’s sin. From dust he came and to dust he would return.

What does this have to do with the 4th Commandment?

Well Murray moves from this point to show in the history of Israel the establishment of the institution of Labor and its force has brought forth a class of people that are not only hard workers but have become proficient in what they do. He gives the example of Noah’s building the ark to prove this point. How could Noah have built such a large structure if he did not have the time or the know how to do so? This for Murray:

…places proper perspective more than one of the precepts of the Decalogue. If we think, for example, of the fourth commandment, it should not be forgotten that it is the commandment of labor as well as rest. ‘Six days shalt thou labor, and do all of thy work’ (Ex. 20:9). If we will, we may call this an incidental feature of the commandment. But it is an integral part of it. The day of rest has no meaning except as rest from labor; and only as the day of rest upon the completion of six days labor can the weekly sabbath be understood.

John Murray means here that the stress upon labor here in Exodus 20:9 is not on labor in and of itself but upon a certain consistency of labor. It says man shall work for 6 days then rest, not 5 and take two off. Now one may say here that the 6th day is for labor around the home etc. and that is certainly permissible given the text and the impetus of the command. However one thing that is not allowable given this construct is taking two-days off and not working at all on the 6th day treating it as more of a Sabbath than the actual Sabbath day which is often the case today. God has blessed us with a day off as rest from labor which he has commanded us to perform for 6 days of the week not 7 or 5 but 6. The fourth, like its sister the 2nd, has taken a seat in the way back of the Christian car in the last 100 years. Being pushed to the rear in favor of worldly employments and various sporting endeavors the Christian Sabbath and the 6-day work week that Scripture commands for us.