The question for this issue of the News is: "Is it against God's law to use public transport on the Sabbath to travel to and from a place of worship?" This is a vexing question especially for those (like the writer) who have no other means of transport to the worship services of a local church.
We understand the writer here to be referring to the Christian Sabbath of the first day of the week, and will so use the word "Sabbath" in our reply without entering the whole question of the identity of the 7th day Sabbath of the OT and the 1st day Sabbath of the NT. That question we have dealt with in a previous issue.
Let us note first that the objections raised are not to the use of transport, but public transport. I know of no one who believes that it is wrong to use ones car, bicycle, or legs to attend public worship. Usually the objection to using public transport is that it contributes to the breaking of the Sabbath in that others must work on the Sabbath in order to provide such transportation.
We find this argument some what difficult to follow through, though we can certainly see the logic of it. The difficulty is this: If we are not to do anything on the Sabbath that contributes to others breaking it, how can we on the Sabbath use electricity or gas, the petrol in our cars, food or drink (if we do not raise our own), since by our use of these things we also contribute to the breaking of the Sabbath?
We would not, therefore, forbid others to use public transportation on the Sabbath, nor would we hesitate to use it ourselves if absolutely necessary. Our attitude would be that the ungodly are breaking the Sabbath anyway, in spite of all our protestations to the contrary, and if their Sabbath-breaking enables us to keep the Sabbath, then it is better keep it, either by getting to church to hear the Word and worship God, or by using electricity, gas, petrol, food and drink to fulfill our Sabbath obligations.
We would add, however, that this should be done only where necessary. It is better, and usually possible, for those who have no transportation of their own to get transportation from other members of the church. That also allows the different members of the church to help one another and bear one another's burdens, as they ought.
Our answer, however, is not just a matter of convenience, but reflects what we believe to be the teaching of Scripture regarding the Sabbath:
(1) the mere observance regulations is not Sabbath keeping (Matt. 12:1-9);
(2) the main purpose of the Sabbath is the worship of God and in that connection, every kind of well-doing (Matt. 10:10-13). The keeping of the Sabbath, if we are to keep it properly, is something very positive (Mk. 2:23). It is the heart-felt expression of the Christian's joy and thanks to God for His salvation, using the great opportunity God has given for doing this (1 day in 7);
(3) that we set aside everything else for this purpose, as much as possible (Is. 58:13, 14). Ceasing from other activities is neither holy nor profitable in itself;
(4) that therefore, the general rule for what must and may be done on the Sabbath, is "works of necessity and mercy" - if it is not necessary or merciful we do not do it, not because it is wrong, but because we have more important things to do - that great work of worshipping God both publicly and privately.
- Volume: 7
- Issue: 11
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address317 North Park St.
State or ProvinceWA