Sabbath Pulpit's Reflection on the Life of Samuel Bacchiocchi

It is with sadness that I report what many of you already know that Dr. Samuel Bachiocchi has died. Dr. Bacchiocchi was an interesting scholar, his writings were not confined to the libraries of the academically gifted, but was taken to common people. Certainly his writings were not “dumbed-down,” but they were accessible to many.

I have the four volumes on the Sabbath in my library and refer to them often. Reading his book Divine Rest for Human Restlessness was the beginning of my thinking of the Sabbath along these theological lines. His book Advent hope for Human Restlessness and the book on Hal Lindsey’s prophecies helped me to think about the end times in terms of more than just end time speculation and waiting for doomsday. I can’t say that I always agreed with him, but I can say that I was always challenged by him to think Biblically and more deeply about the subject. My MP3 player right now has all of his available MP3s. I love to listen to his energy and enthusiasm.

But more than theologically, Dr. Bacchoicchi has challenged me in that while he was a professor at Andrews University, he still had his independent publishing ministry that was not beholden to anyone. I appreciate his willingness to step outside of the “regular lines” and thus provide a model for some of us younger ministers to follow.

My life has been enriched by my tangential acquaintance with him largely through his materials. I give my condolences to the family and I pray that God will protect the ashes of this man until the return of the Lifegiver.

Help from our High Priest

When one finds oneself in the depths of a temptation that is almost overpowering. And the enemy assails you, you ask Jesus for help. However when you ask Jesus for help you do it with a few things firmly in mind. First you ask for help knowing that Jesus Understands the plight of your soul for Jesus decided to place himself in the depths of human woe. It would have been an infinite humiliation for Jesus to come as Adam in the garden, but Jesus decided to take on the seed of Abraham so that he could be a merciful and faithful high priest. (Hebrews 2:16-17).

Second you ask for help knowing that Jesus can help you in the problem you are dealing with. But more than taking on the seed of Abraham, Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). We can say with all assurance that Jesus Understand not just by omniscience, but by experience the depths of temptation for he was tempted and therefore he can be merciful and faithful (Hebrews 2:18).

So when temptation assails us, we can go to Jesus and call out to him. And when we call on Jesus, we can know we have a faithful and merciful High Priest listening. And that High Priest knows exactly how much strength is needed to overcome the temptation. That High Priest knows exactly how much grace we need. And thus we can boldy come to the throne of grace to obtain the mercy (Hebrews 4:16) that our brother (Jesus is not ashamed to call us Brethren Hebrews 2:11) will give us. And then after God gives us the grace that is needed to overcome, then Jesus puts on a little more extra grace for where sin abounds, grace much more abounds (Romans 5:20). And then we can sing the song with James Cleveland “Victory Shall be Mine.”

Three Views on the Sabbath

I was reading Dr. Bacchiocchi’s book The Sabbath in the New Testament: answers to questions. In the first chapter Dr. Bacchiochi presents three understandings of the Sabbath’s relation to the New Testament which serves as a backdrop for this whole presentation.

Abrogation View

Certainly we as Sabbatarians have heard this view. The understanding is that the Sabbath of the Old Testament was removed at the cross of Jesus Christ. The view rests on the belief that there is a “radical discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments.”

Throughout history Martin Luther, Anabaptists, leftist Puritans, Quakers, Mennonites, Hutterites, and many antinomian denominations have all held to this view according to Bacchiocchi.

The basic problem is that the view rests on an assumption of a radical break between the Old and the New Testament. The basic question is, was the break between Judaism and Christianity as clean as this view would have us to believe? There are many who would argue that Judaism and Christianity were not two religions at that time, but the Christians were simply “Jews who Believed in Jesus Christ.” The idea of a radical break does not seem to be the view of the New Testament or early Christian history. We will come back to this in later posts.

Transference View

The next view is the transference view. This is the understanding that there is truly continuity between the Old and New Testament, and thus the Sabbath commandment still has relevance and validity for contemporary Christians.

However, proponents of this view state that the ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath commandment have been done away with. In this view the moral aspect of the commandment is in the principle of “one day in seven” while particularly the “seventh day” is a ceremonial aspect pointing back that was abrograted. St. Thomas Aquinas taught this moral-ceremonial distinction.

John Calvin, according to Bacchiocchi, clarified this understanding by stating that the moral aspect is the function of the day which was to allow God to “work in us, provide time for church services, and to protect dependent workers.”

This view is largely held by those in the Reformed tradition like Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and English Puritans. You can find my own critique of a presentation by T. D. Jakes where he takes a view like this one.

The basic problem here is that it rests on an artificial distinction between moral and ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath. In short the Sabbath is never talked about in such terms. One would not be able to find this distinction taught in the scriptures themselves.

Permanence of the Sabbath View

Bacchiochi’s (and my) position is that the New Testament does not nullify the Sabbath, but clarifies the Sabbath. As I continue to look at this book I will discuss more of what Bacchiocchi means by that.


The Sabbath is even today still in great dispute. I think some sort of classification scheme is necessary to understand different perspectives on the Sabbath. I am going to think about this scheme a little more especially in light of the “New Covenant Christian” argument against the validity of Sabbath keeping for contemporary Christians.

Be that as it may, Bacchiocchi distills a ton of information in this short chapter of this important work.