Eric Liddell, 85 Years Later

Scotland Rugby Star Euan Murray Resolves to Keep the Christian Sabbath


(This post via Heidelblog) Professing Christians among American football, basketball and baseball stars should take their cue from Scotland rugby star Euan Murray.

The last time Murray played on a Sunday was in the 2008 Six Nations against France, but since that game, he has resolved to skip Sunday games, saying,

“I was going against my conscience and it became impossible to enjoy. I realised it’s quite simple, really. Jesus said, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’ and there are ten commandments—not nine.'”

For this reason, Murray has negotiated a clause in his club contract stating he will not be required to play on Sundays, which is unique in top-flight rugby.

What would a professing Christian in an American football team do if he wanted to emulate 1924 Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell—and now Murray? Almost all 16 regular-season football games are played on Sundays!

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California, has a useful sermon on keeping the Sabbath holy, “The Son of Man is Lord Even of the Sabbath” based on Mark 2:23-3:6. Here’s the summary of his sermon:

What application can we take with us from this conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees over the nature and character of the Sabbath. Given Jesus view of the Sabbath, as Christians, how then should we understand and observe the Sabbath?

We are Christians so, obviously, we no longer observe the Jewish Sabbath. Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday and from that time on Christians met for worship on Sunday, the first day of the week. This tells us that worship on the Lord’s day (Sunday) reflects the fact that this day is, in part, the day of celebration of the new creation. Therefore, the Lord’s Day (Sunday) becomes the Christian Sabbath, now stripped of all types and shadows and as well as pharisaical rituals and regulations.

The Sabbath is not only a creation ordinance—God worked for six days and rested on the seventh day—it is also enshrined in the Law of Moses. As a creation ordinance, this means that God intends for us to work for six days and then rest on the seventh. Even though the day of rest has shifted from Saturday to Sunday, the reality remains. We are still to work for six days and rest on Sunday as a sign of the new covenant and its blessings. The Lord’s Day is not only intended to provide rest for our bodies—so we are to cease from working on this day—it also reminds us that because of Christ’s death and resurrection we can rest every day from the labor of trying to earn our salvation. The Lord’s Day is a picture to us of what awaits us in heaven, when we at long last enter into the glorious presence of the Lord, where there are no more labors from which to rest. In this sense, the Lord’s Day is an eschatological sign that God will renew his creation and that he has saved his people from their sins. It is also a day in which we can demonstrate our gratitude to God by simply enjoying all the benefits of this wonderful day.

This means that for a Christian, Sunday is not just like any other day of the week. Sunday is that day God himself has ordained so that we might receive his blessings. That being said, our focus should not be upon things forbidden to us on this day by checking off a list of things we cannot do—that is to risk falling back into the religion of the Pharisees. Instead, it is better to focus upon what we should do on this day which God has given to us as both a sign of his favor, and as a day which we in turn dedicate unto him.

Simply put, the Lord’s Day is a day which should be devoted to the things of the Lord—that means attending church, where we hear God’s word and receive the sacraments, where we learn the things of God (which is why we have a second service devoted to the catechism on this day), and where we enjoy the fellowship with God’s people. This is a day to hear the gospel and worship our God. Our Lord’s Day celebration points us ahead to eternity. As our catechism so helpfully puts it,

103. Q. What does God require in the fourth commandment? A. First, that the ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained and that, especially on the day of rest, I diligently attend the church of God, to hear God’s Word, to use the sacraments, to call publicly upon the LORD, and to give Christian offerings for the poor. Second, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, let the LORD work in me through His Holy Spirit, and so begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.

This is exactly right. The focus is where it should be—not on what is forbidden, but upon enjoying this wonderful blessing given by God to his people. And how can we enjoy this blessing if we treat Sunday as another day to work, and another opportunity fill our lives with business and things of the world. If you are too busy—and who isn’t?—this is the biblical solution. This is a day to rest. This is a day to read your Bible and pray. This is a day to read that theology book you never get around to reading. This is a day to discuss the things of the Lord with your family. This is a day to nap and relax. The Lord’s Day is a gift given to us because the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Where the Pharisees went off on the wrong track was to make the Sabbath centered upon what people were not supposed to do and then having not done the things on their list, regard it as righteousness. They missed the whole point that it is a day focused upon God’s gift to us—a day to worship our God and rest our bodies as a sign of our salvation in Christ and of what lies ahead in heaven. When Jesus says that he is Lord even of the Sabbath, we should see this as confirming the fact that the Lord’s Day is a wonderful gift which God gives to us. The celebration of this day flows out of that glorious redemption that is ours in Christ. The Lord’s Day is not to be a burden. It is a gracious gift. And so it should be with a grateful heart that we devote this day to the worship of our God and in which we rest from our labors.

In doing so, we honor Christ’s Lordship over the Sabbath and we bask in the knowledge that one day we will enter that rest he won for us on the cross and in the empty tomb.


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13 thoughts on “Eric Liddell, 85 Years Later”

  1. “Tim is said to be working on his throwing mechanics. He’s going to face defensive backs who’ve been reading quarterback’s eyes since Timmy was in grammar school. It’s good that he has Ephesians 2:8-10 in his eye black. Now that he’s playing on Sundays one wonders if he’ll put Exodus 20:8 in his eye black now?”–Dr. R. Scott Clark, “Tebow, Evangelicals, and the Sabbath”:

    1. American evangelicals have their Tim Tebow and Super Bowl. Filipino evangelicals have their Manny Pacquiao, even though Pacquiao is not an evangelical. Many Filipino evangelicals skip the Christian Sabbath to watch Pacquiao beat up (and get beat up by) his friends.

  2. The Law is truly a vast subject and facets of it continue to be debated and discussed to this day even in Reformed circles.  A balanced understanding of the Law no doubt resides between an extreme Dispensational view in which everything that is commanded in the Old Covenant is completely disconnected from the New Covenant, and an extreme Judaic view in which everything is said to apply in the same exact form in the New Covenant.  I would submit that lesser extremes of these views are very much alive and well among those who generally subscribe to Reformed and Covenantal theology.

    I would also say that Law, including the Decalogue, always occurs in the context of a covenant, and as such it may contain aspects which apply only to the covenant in which it occurs.  Granted, the moral character of the Law remains consistent throughout all covenants as it reflects the unchanging character of God.  The question becomes, in what exact form is the Law in the New Covenant?

    To answer this question, what better source do we have than the infallible record of what the Apostles taught the New Covenant people of God?  It is my contention that this is the primary way we can know with certainty what the exact form of the Law is in the New Covenant.  If someone asserts that the apostles commanded something which is not explicitly recorded in the didactic books of the New Testament, then the burden of proof is on that person to make their case.  I would also caution that, even if such a case can be made, it must never be presented in such a way as to make it appear as though it is equal in authority with what is expressly stated in the didactic books of the New Testament.

  3. I’m so thankful to the Lord for opening my eyes to the glories of Covenant Theology.

    And thankful for my Pasig United Covenant Reformed Church family.

  4. To be human is to be made in the image and likeness of God. What this means is that we are not copies of God but analogies of Him. The moral dimension of His character is revealed in the Law, and we analogize His moral perfections by obeying the Law.

    It goes without saying that no one is declared righteous and just by God through the obedience of the Law because no one can obey it perfectly because of sin. Christ obeyed the Law down to the last jot and tittle, and all those that are united to Him by faith are declared righteous and just by God by virtue of this obedience. And yet it is precisely because of our union with Christ that we are now enabled to obey the Law—to be true analogies of God—as His Spirit in us has opened our eyes to the beauty of God’s character in the Law, and we now pursue this, both as an apprehension of divine beauty and an expression of gratitude, for we are now regarded as having perfectly fulfilled the Law even as we seek to enflesh its obedience in our daily lives.

    The failure to see this is the myopia of the antinomian. He stumbles just on this one point, the 4th commandment, while embracing the other nine tenets as still reasonably binding—and summarily declares the whole of the Law as abrogated. The common defense is a sort of pseudo-glorification of Christ, in that by virtue of Christ as having fulfilled the Law, any appeal to its obedience is a diminishing of Him and His work. Of course, this view is a marring of the image of God in man, the epitome of Man being Christ, who having perfectly obeyed the Law enables His disciples to do the same—reckoned perfectly in Him, though as yet practiced imperfectly in this present age.

    1. The diminishing of the Law among evangelicals stems from the ignorance of the Reformers’ teaching about the three uses of the Law, especially by John Calvin:

      1. pedagogical – to convict men of sin and drive them to Christ

      2. normative – to teach believers their sanctification

      3. civil – to restrain unbelievers from wanton sinning

      1. True, sir.
        But stepping back a bit further from that, the essential problem may be the presupposition that the Law is NOT the revelation of God’s moral character but merely something that is imposed upon a theocratic, geopolitical Israel, in effect only in an ethnic and temporal manner.
        Presuppositions matter a lot.

        1. “Why do you read the Ten Commandments? Isn’t that for Old Testament Israel only?” This is the usual observation when a first-time visitor worships in a church that follows Reformed worship.

  5. “Chariots of Fire”! I hope to show this movie to the church members during one of our meetings, then discuss the Sabbath ordinance.

  6. Kudos to Mr. Murray for having the courage of his convictions, and may the Lord bless him for it.

    BTW, a number of seminary professors and ministers in our federation agree that our confessions allow for two major views on the Lord’s Day, and that, from a confessional standpoint, each view is to be regarded as an individual opinion.  Therefore, if a church is going to be consistent with the TFU, it will allow for both views.  I think Dr. Riddlebarger has definitely got it right when he emphasizes that the Covenant people of God are to commit themselves to worshiping and resting on the Lord’s Day.  I also agree that not all of the regulations given in the Old Covenant were carried over into the New Covenant, and that we as people of the New Covenant need to follow what the Apostles instructed the early church.

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