The Synod of Dort on the fourth commandment

From Sabbath to Sunday?

Is the Sunday the Sabbath day of the New Testament? This is a question that is being discussed widely among Christians. Even among those who claim to stand in the reformed tradition[i], there are those who believe that keeping the Sunday as a day of rest is not a biblical command. In 2005, the synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, which were until two years ago our sister churches, adopted a position as formulated in a report, in which they claimed that the Sunday as a day of rest is a good tradition. It is a tradition which came into the churches under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that we as much as possible should keep the Sunday as a day of rest. However, the Sunday as a day of rest is, according to this report, not based on a biblical command[ii].

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As grain once scattered on the hillsides

Many of the churches within our federation have celebrated the Lord’s Supper in the past couple of weeks. This celebration is a command of our Lord Jesus Christ, who told us through His apostle Paul: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24)

We know that when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we have communion with Christ and communion with each other. Paul speaks about the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 11, of which we are all part. That is so beautifully symbolised in the Lord’s Supper.

Hymn 61

We have a beautiful hymn in our Book of Praise, Hymn 61, where we sing:

                As grain, once scattered on the hillsides,

                was in the broken bread made one,

                so from all lands your church be gathered

                into your kingdom by your Son.

This hymn was probably sung in several congregations on the Lord’s Supper Sunday. The element of being one with the church of all times and places receives even more emphasis when we realise that the words of this hymn were taken from an old liturgy, which probably originates from the first century: the first generation after the apostles. We can find it in the Didache, or The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. Most scholars date this document to the first century.

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A letter from John Calvin to the brothers in France

Part of the Reformation monument in Geneva: four Reformers

There was much persecution during the time of the great Reformation. It greatly affected John Calvin; it caused him to study the Bible on this matter and write many letters to comfort fellow sufferers. This letter is an example.

Geneva, June 1559

Dearly beloved and honored brothers,

You are all suffering persecution; like a storm it is suddenly blowing with such power that its effects are felt everywhere.  We do not know about your personal situations, so we thought it best to write a general letter to encourage you in the name of God. Although Satan causes great trouble, not to give up brothers; do not withdraw from the battle. Withdrawing will rob you of the fruit of the victory which has been promised and confirmed to you. It is most certain that if God did not give freedom to Satan and his agents, they could not attack you.

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De Bres, the Belgic Confession & Persecution

Did you know the Belgic Confession is the only officially adopted Reformed confession written by a martyr?  True, other confessions were written by martyrs.  The most notable is the Guanabara Confession.  It was written in 1557 by three Huguenot martyrs in Brazil – it bears the distinction of being the first Reformed confession written in the Americas.  Yet, unlike our Belgic, the Guanabara Confession was never adopted by any church.  The Belgic Confession stands alone.

If we closely survey the Belgic Confession, we’ll find the themes of martyrdom and persecution pervading it.  It’s common knowledge that Guido de Brès borrowed heavily from the French Confession of 1559.  However, one of the significant differences between the French Confession and the Belgic is the emphasis in the Belgic on persecution and martyrdom.  In fact, there is no European Reformation confession as oriented to this subject as the Belgic.

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