Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic’s Sabbath Challenge

During the 1519 Leipzg debate between protestant reformer Martin Luther and the Vatican’s defender Dr John Eck  some interesting facts about the change of the sabbath came out. In the video below, Dr Dwight Nelson, Senior Pastor of Pioneer Memorial Church at Andrews University USA analyses this issue and what it means for modern Christians a we debate this Sabbath truth.

During the debate, the Romanist controversialist John Eck (1486-1543)  demanded of Martin Luther in their Leipzig Disputation in 1519, that if the Reformer “turn from the church to the Scriptures alone”, he should then also “keep the sabbath with the Jews”, seeing that “the cessation of the sabbath and the institution of Sunday” was, in Eck’s opinion, not mentioned in Scripture, but had “taken place by the apostolic Church instituting it without Scripture”

Martin Luther never fully addressed this challenge during this debate but he later addressed in his writings and speeches. It is telling that he never used the modern arguments that people use when defending Sunday. Most modern Christian leaders somehow believe that observing the Sabbath is akin to legalism and therefore not consistent with salvation by grace.

Martin Luther never held to the abolition of the Decalogue and its sabbath, irrespective of all his criticisms of the Romanist perversions thereof. In his Table Talk, Luther recorded his belief that “the Apostles transferred Sabbath to Sunday, (as) none else would have dared to do it”; and in his tract Against the Antinomians of 1539, he exclaimed: “I wonder exceedingly how it came to be imputed to me that I should reject the law of Ten Commandments”.

Whereas in 1541 — only five years before his death — he emphatically declared: “If heretofore I in my discourses spoke and wrote so harshly against the law, it was because the Christian Church was overwhelmed with superstitions under which Christ was altogether hidden . . .; but as to the law itself, I never rejected it!” To the contrary, Luther held that the essential features even of the sabbath were of universal and perpetual obligation (Works, tom, 5, p. 22).

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