Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Of Sabbaths and Spelling Bees

Below is our call to worship last Sunday (3/18/07) at JPBC:
When God listed the top ten principles for healthy human living, he included the command that we spend one day of seven with our focus on Him in worship. Exodus 20:8 says, "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy."

The March 10, 2007 issue of World magazine had an article about Elliot Huck, a 14 year old 8th grader in Indiana (see the World blog post here). In 2005 and 2006 Huck went to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D. C. after winning the regional contest sponsored by the Bloomington Herald-Times. His friends took to calling him "Spelliot." He was an odds on favorite to go to D. C. again this year, until it was announced by the Herald-Times that their 2007 championship was schedule for Sunday, March 4th. Elliot made the difficult decision not to compete in his last year of eligibility.

Why did he do this? God commands Christians to keep the Sabbath holy. Huck commented: "If I make exceptions to following God’s rules, even if it is only once, there will be more exceptions that will follow."

He added, "My chief purpose in spelling is to glorify God. My chief purpose in not spelling will be to glorify God."



Tree hugging said...

Uh... except that my understanding is that the Sabbath is actually Saturday. I've personally never understood that change in days either (either historically or Biblically). Jeff, would you clarify that for me? Was it just a way to separate Christianity from Judaism? Also, if he's having fun, then why would it violate the Sabbath, unless he perceived it as "work".

That said, I admire the kid's devotion to his principles. As long as it was his idea (and not his parents) then it shows great character.

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


Christians adopted the first day of the week (Sunday) as the Christian sabbath because this was the day on which Jesus rose from the dead and was worshipped by the first disciples (see John 20:1, 28). Christians have continued to meet on this day since this was the model practice of the early church (see John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). Christians also call Sunday, "The Lord's Day" (see Revelation 1:10). Though we no longer keep the temporary civil and cermemonial aspects of the Old Testament law, we do keep the moral aspects. Remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy (as part of the moral law in the ten commandments), therefore, remains in place, though Jesus himself has now ordained the first day of the week as the day of worship. I think the move from Saturday to Sunday as the sabbath is one proof of the truth of the Christian message, especially the resurrection. The first Christians were all Jews (like Peter, Paul etc.) and for them to switch was a radical break with their Jewish culture. Christ is above culture!

A few further points:

1. A believer is led by an informed conscience as to how he should observe the Lord's Day. Christians have always made allowances for acts of mercy and charity on the Lord's Day. I am likely not as strict a Sabbatarian as Elliot Huck, but I still admire the robustness of his conscience, its captivity to Christ, and his willingness to place it above something he liked doing very much. The "World" blog well made the comparison between Huck and Eric Liddell, the Olympian and later missionary who would not run on Sundays, even in the Olympics (as told in the movie "Chariots of Fire").

As Paul said:

Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.

2. Yes, there are some Christians who continue to observe Saturday as Sabbath. Some of these, like Seventh Day Adventists, also hold some other unorthodox views along with this one. Others are orthodox on main doctrines but differ on this "minor" doctrine. Among these, there are even some "Seventh Day Baptists"! I would respectfully disagree with their interpretation and practice.

3. Finally, why Elliot should should feel spelling ("fun") on Sunday might compromise his Christian convictions? I like how the catechism edited by Charles Spurgeon describes the proper keeping of the Lord's Day: "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, and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and mercy." I think this kind of belief is what led Elliot Huck to make the choice he did.

Peace, JTR

Tree hugging said...

Thanks Jeff,

I've never gotten a complete explaination of that before, and it always confused me, even back when I was a Baptist.