The Church Calendar v. Biblical Worship and Biblical History

This whole cyclical liturgical view of worship is wrong. Fesko writes albeit too briefly on this, observing,

The Church Calendar conflicts with the biblical view of worship and what the Reformed tradition calls the regulative principle. There is the constant theme in Scripture that God sets the standards for worship, not man (Deut. 12.32; Matt. 15.9; Lev. 10.1-2; 1 Cor. 14.1ff). For this reason the Westminster divines write that “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will” (WCF 21.1b). God has not instituted the Church Calendar. Paul exhorts Timothy to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4.2); he does not give him a schedule to follow. Moreover, the previously cited author claims that the Church Calendar would bring about unity that nothing else can bring about. If this was the case, why did God in all of His wisdom not command the Church to do this? Moreover, the argument that the entire Church body needs to follow the same schedule flies in the face of the occasional nature of the New Testament epistles. A Church Calendar will not bring about greater unity, only Christ can bring unity through the work of the Holy Spirit and the means of grace. If this is how the Church Calendar conflicts with the biblical view of worship, how does it conflict with the Bible’s view of history?​

Note the language that is used to describe the Church Calendar: “In the liturgical year the various aspects of the one Paschal mystery unfold. This is also the case with the cycle of feasts surrounding the mystery of the incarnation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 303, § 1171; emphasis). Notice that the church calendar operates on a cyclical pattern. It is ancient pagan religions that have a cyclical view of history: “The world-cycle runs its course, obeys it stars, absolves its round, and then the end links on to a new beginning, ushering in a repetition of the same sequence” (Geerhardus Vos, Pauline Eschatology, p. 334). A cyclical view of history is at odds with the biblical view, which is linear—a definite beginning and end, not an endless repetitive cycle. The Church should not expect “a quasi-consummation, which would bear on its face the Sisyphus-expression of endless toil” (Vos, Pauline Eschatology, p. 334). In other words, the Church Calendar repeats the same endless cycle, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, only to start over again with Advent. The biblical view, on the other hand, recognizes that the events of Christ’s ministry are in the past and that we are moving forward to a goal—the consummation of history, the return of Christ, the final judgment, and eternity with our triune Lord.​

God reminds us of this linear understanding of history, a beginning and an end, by the Sabbath. For example, the author of Hebrews writes: “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (Heb. 4.9). He reminds his recipients that just as God concluded His creative work and entered His Sabbath rest (Gen. 2.2; cf. Heb. 4.1-11), so too we must desire to enter God’s Sabbath rest. We get a foretaste of that final eschatological rest each and every Sunday. For this reason, OPC Minister and professor at Westminster Seminary, Richard Gaffin, notes that “the pattern of six days of activity interrupted by one of rest is a reminder that human beings are not caught up in a meaningless flow of days, one after the other without end, but that history has a beginning and ending and is headed toward final judgment and the consummation of all things” (“The Sabbath: A Sign of Hope,” OPC Position Paper, p. 6). In a sense, God has given the Church a calendar—observe a Sabbath rest and worship Him on this day (Exo. 20.8-11; cf. Acts 20.7; 1 Cor. 16.2). On the Sabbath we recall the great redemptive events of the past, namely Christ’s first advent, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, and look forward to the consummation of the age and His second advent.​

Source:, Comment 5

The Differences Between Israel’s Sabbath and the Lord’s Day

Yes in that we are freed from aspects of the OT church but no as far as the strictness. Below is what the above referenced Nicholas Bownd says (sorry, the formating is dropping out, see pp. 254ff in the book).

13. Christians as Strictly Bound by this Law as were Jews

{We in this and in all other of the moral commandments are as straitly bound as the Jews were}

{And methinks there is great reason why we Christians should take ourselves as straitly bound to rest upon the Lord’s Day, as the Jews were upon their Sabbath.

1. For seeing it is one of the moral commandments, it binds us as well as them; for they are all of equal authority, and bind all men alike. Therefore when as in the other nine commandments we do truly judge ourselves to be as much restrained from anything in them forbidden, and as precisely bound to do anything in them commanded, as ever the Jews were, and in all those we put no difference between ourselves and them—as in keeping ourselves from images, from blasphemy, from murder, theft, adultery, and such like—why should we then imagine that in this one the Lord has privileged us above them? Or think that when He gave these laws indifferently to all mankind, His meaning should be to give a dispensation to the Gentiles above the Jews in this one, as though He had been somewhat partial to them, and over hard to the other?

2. And if we consider the reasons of this commandment, we shall find that they concern us Gentiles as well as the Jews, and therefore they alike bind all unto the observation of it: whether we look to the example of God, who making the whole world in six days, did rest the seventh, that all mankind following His example by the consideration of His creatures might glorify their Creator; or to the proportion between six days wherein we may do all our work, and the seventh wherein we should rest, which must needs seem to be just and equal in the eyes of all men, both Grecian and Barbarian, bond and free.

3. Again, if we consider the end why rest is here commanded, namely that thereby we might be more fit for the service of God; then if we are as straitly bound under the gospel to worship God holily and religiously upon His holy day, as they were under the law, though after another manner; I do not see why we should not be as severely forbidden all work (as |248| the thing that might hinder us from it), and as earnestly commanded to rest (as a means to further us thereunto) as ever they were.

4. Lastly, if the Jews when they were most of all restrained, might do all works of holiness to God, and of necessity to any of the creatures, and we do not find in the gospel that Christians have any further liberty granted to them in these days; then we may safely conclude that Christians are as precisely to rest as the Jews were, though not only the common practice, but opinion also, of most men is to the contrary. Which makes me to fear that this truth as a Christian paradox will not easily be admitted at the first. But I desire them in the fear of God, and love to the truth, casting away all partiality towards themselves, whereby they are ready (Matt. 23:4) to lay heavy burdens upon other men’s shoulders, but will not touch them themselves with the least of their fingers, to weigh the reasons, and so to judge accordingly; and the Lord give them understanding in all things (2 Tim. 2:7).}

Objection. If we are thus straitly bound to rest, we are still in as great a bondage as the Jews were under the law

But[1] whereas some men might hereupon gather that if the case is thus between the Lord and us, in the matter of the Sabbath, and that the commandment of resting stands in such force and strength, and binds us so strongly as it does; then our estate is no better than the Jews; the same yoke of bondage lies still upon our necks, that was upon them; and the freedom purchased by Christ is of none account; the liberty proper to a Christian man worth nothing, the gospel has no preferment above the law.

Answer. We are not to rest for those ends and purposes for which they did

For answer thereunto we must consider that, first of all, we are delivered from that manner of keeping the Sabbath which the Jews were tied unto; as that it might put them in remembrance of that great rest which the Lord bestowed upon them, from the continual and intolerable work in Egypt, by the hand of Moses, unto the which end they were bound to have a principal respect; and so to keep the Sabbath, as they might most profit in {it}, even in thankfulness for that benefit received, {which it cannot appertain unto us} (for we have not been in Egypt), and |249| therefore cannot remember our delivery from thence. Though we are bound to the same rest with the Jews;[2] yet our condition is more easy and tolerable, in that we are freed from the {appurtenance,[3] and this other burden is} not laid upon us.[4]

2. We also have more liberty than they in the manner of sanctifying the day

The which we shall be so much the rather persuaded of, if we look into that liberty which is brought unto us by Christ, concerning the sanctifying also of the day of rest; which consists in such a multitude of purifications, washings and cleansings, and in such a great number of sacrifices and oblations, all which were doubled upon the Sabbath {Heb. 9:9; Num. 28:9}. And therefore the observation of the Sabbath was more laborious and painful unto them, and sooner might they offend in it; instead of which we have fewer things to do, and they are more simple, plain, and easy, as the hearing of the Word, receiving of the sacraments, and prayer {Acts 2:42}. And generally as our estate is better than was the Jews’ in regard of the whole worship of God, which is now more evident, shorter, not so compounded, more significant, and with less difficulty; so upon the Sabbath, because the whole worship is to be performed, in consideration of that also, great are our privileges above theirs, as in all other things, so in the observation of the Sabbath.

Moreover, whereas God in old time spake sundry times, and in divers manners unto them, and therefore their knowledge of the law (Heb. 1:1), was not so great as ours in these last days, wherein He has spoken unto us, once by His Son; neither were their graces and gifts so many and excellent ordinarily, as they be now, when God hath poured out His Spirit upon all flesh (Acts 2:20 [sic 17]). Therefore,[5] they being like unto children, and we unto men grown, they stood in need of many more helps to further them in the observation of this commandment, than we do, and which though they were bound unto, yet we are freed from. As they were commanded to let their ground rest every seventh year (Lev. 26:34), and that is called her Sabbath, with many other such like things, {as the new moons, and the feast of weeks, the Passover, and other Jewish solemnities.}

3. And we are set free from all the childish rudiments annexed unto this day

Therefore, as we have great freedom in all other |250| commandments above them, so in this. For must we not needs confess that, though we are still bound as the Jews were to meditate upon the law of God, day and night (Ps. 1:2), yet for so much as we are not commanded to carry it about in the skirts of our garments, and upon our bracelets (Num. 15:38), as they were. And though we be not exempted from teaching our children, no more than they, yet because we are not charged with the writing it upon our gates, and the posts of our doors (Deut. 6:8, 9), as they were; must we not acknowledge (I say) that even in those things that we are bound unto in common with the Jews, we have more liberty than ever they had? So it is in the Sabbath. Though we are bound to keep the rest; yet because we are freed from many rudiments of it, which (as childish instructions to further them in it) they were bound unto, as we have seen in the former part of this treatise, we must thankfully profess that the Lord has dealt more liberally with us, than with them. Therefore even as the child which is set to read, must name every letter apart and distinctly by itself, and spell every syllable, that so he might be helped forward to reading; which when he has attained unto, though still he is bound to read, yet he is freed from spelling and naming every letter, as he had wont to do; and that were a great bondage and wearisomeness to bind him unto it still, nay it were indeed altogether ridiculous and childish in him.

So now, though we are charged to rest upon the Sabbath, yet when we are not overcharged with those Jewish ceremonies, which had been given to them (being children, Gal. 4:3) as furtherances unto them; let us not complain before we have cause, neither murmur against God because we cannot be so licentious as we would; seeing we are at such liberty as we are, and as it pleases the Lord to bestow upon us. And let us be so much the more careful to rest, by how much we have but this one thing to attend upon, and are made free from many other, which might hinder us.

4. And from the observance of many other Sabbaths they had

Unto all which, if I shall add this in the last place, I will make an end of this matter; that besides these great |251| privileges which we have spoken of, Christ Jesus in the gospel has offered unto us somewhat more, even in this commandment that we have now in hand: that though we be restrained upon this day from work both hand and foot, as the Jews were,[6] yet have we liberty to work upon many others. For they were bound unto a great many other days, which had the nature of the Sabbath; and therefore are so called many times, and upon the which they might not work; which as it appeared in many other places of the scripture, so especially in Leviticus 23, where they are reckoned up in order, beginning with the Sabbath, unto which is adjoined the passover, the feast of the first fruits, of trumpets, and of tabernacles. And every one of these had more days than one proper unto them, as appears in that chapter most largely; besides the first day of every new moon; from which we are now freed, as appears by the apostle: Let no man condemn you in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days (Col. 2:16). For he speaks of many, even of all those which unto the Jews were commanded upon the same condition, that the Sabbath day was, and were of like nature to it. And therefore he finds fault with the Galatians for observing them, saying, Ye observe days and months, and times, which he calls weak and beggarly rudiments (Gal. 4:9, 10), because now there was no use of them. But all of them being taken away, only the Sabbath is reserved for us.

Therefore who is so blind that will not see, and so obstinate that will not confess, that though we are bound to the keeping of the Sabbath, as the Jews were; yet neither the liberty of the gospel is taken from us, nor the bondage of the law cast upon us? Nay who is so unthankful for this great liberty in these days, above that which the first people of God had, that under the pretence of it, he will break out to the doing of whatsoever he likes upon the day of rest, and set open a door of all licentiousness unto others? But woe be unto the world, because of offenses. It is necessary that offenses should come, but woe be unto them by whom they do come; it were |252| better for them that a millstone were hanged about their neck, and they were drowned in the bottom of the sea (Matt. 18:6, 7).

[HR][/HR][SUP][SUP][1][/SUP][/SUP] . [“Therefore whereas some men….” 1595.]

[SUP][SUP][2][/SUP][/SUP] . [“§4. The precise rest, what? Jewish. yea more than Jewish” (marginal heading). “Wee are of beliefe that wee are ‘bownde unto the same rest with the Jewes’ (book one, page 125, 1595 ed.); “and that ‘wee be restrained upon this day from worke, both hand and foote, even as the Jewes were’ (book one, page 127). MS letter to Bownd, 8v (transcript., 157). Rogers’ criticism may have caused Bownd to add four reasons at the beginning of chapter 13, the redaction next noted, and other additions under the heading, “God’s punishments upon breakers of the Sabbath.”]

[SUP][SUP][3][/SUP][/SUP] . [Ed. Appurtenance—Subordinate part of a whole system; an accessory.]

[SUP][SUP][4][/SUP][/SUP] . [See pages 152, 155. Text removed/changed: “… in Egypt, by the hand of Moses, that thereby their hope might be nourished of the Messiah to come, by whom they should have a perpetual Sabbath and rest from sin, in the kingdom of heaven, begun hereupon earth; unto…. as they might most profit in these … and in hope of that that was promised, neither of which because they can appertain unto us (for … remember our delivery from thence, and Christ Jesus is already come, and has entered into his rest, and therefore we need not to hope for it) … freed from these appertunances, and these other burdens are ….”]

[SUP][SUP][5][/SUP][/SUP] . [“and therefore….” 1595.]

[SUP][SUP][6][/SUP][/SUP] . [“§4. The precise rest, what? Jewish. yea more than Jewish” (marginal heading). “Wee are of beliefe that wee are ‘bownde unto the same rest with the Jewes’ (book one, page 125, 1595 ed.); “and that ‘wee be restrained upon this day from worke, both hand and foote, even as the Jewes were’ (book one, page 127). Rogers, MS letter to Bownd, 8v (transcription, 157).]

Source:, Comment 6