As someone who seems out in the wilderness in defending a doctrine which once was almost unquestioned in confessionally Presbyterian circles (and not exactly that long ago) since the days of the Reformation from Rome and is in a very small minority even in his own denomination it is without a doubt that easily the two most often cited New Testament passages against what is plainly taught in WCF 21 and the similar WSC and WLC questions are Romans 14 and Colossians 2.
The defenders of the modern sacrament of eating out on the Lord’s Day and the imbibing of worldly entertainment like to use these passages especially to support their departure from centuries of consistent teaching by their Presbyterian forefathers, yet when one goes back to commentators on such passages it seems that they, not those of us who commend the biblical and spiritual blessing of the one in seven rest, that have allowed the nature of the age to move them to accommodate to the World’s conception of using their neighbor’s labor to fill their bellies and provide them entertainment on their “day off” (only if their maidservants and manservants were given such luxury, or as the kids would say #firstworldproblems). So to provide some defense of the confessional and scriptural position on the 4th Commandment in regards to the above mentioned passages here are the thoughts of a few of our forefathers on these parts of God’s Word.
Matthew Henry on Romans 14:5 (One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every dayalike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.)
“Those who thought themselves still under some kind of obligation to the ceremonial law esteemed one day above another—kept up a respect to the times of the passover, pentecost, new moons, and feasts of tabernacles; thought those days better than other days, and solemnized them accordingly with particular observances, binding themselves to some religious rest and exercise on those days. Those who knew that all these things were abolished and done away by Christ’s coming esteemed every day alike. We must understand it with an exception of the Lord’s day, which all Christians unanimously observed; but they made no account, took no notice, of those antiquated festivals of the Jews. Here the apostle speaks of the distinction of meats and days as a thing indifferent, when it went no further than the opinion and practice of some particular persons, who had been trained up all their days to such observances, and therefore were the more excusable if they with difficulty parted with them. But in the epistle to the Galatians, where he deals with those that were originally Gentiles, but were influenced by some judaizing teachers, not only to believe such a distinction and to practise accordingly, but to lay a stress upon it as necessary to salvation, and to make the observance of the Jewish festivals public and congregational, here the case was altered, and it is charged upon them as the frustrating of the design of the gospel, falling from grace, Gal. iv. 9-11. The Romans did it out of weakness, the Galatians did it out of wilfulness and wickedness; and therefore the apostle handles them thus differently. This epistle is supposed to have been written some time before that to the Galatians. The apostle seems willing to let the ceremonial law wither by degrees, and to let it have an honourable burial; now these weak Romans seem to be only following it weeping to its grave, but those Galatians were raking it out of its ashes.”
Charles Hodge on Rom. 14:5
It is obvious from the context, and from such parallel passages as Gal. 5:10, ‘Ye observe days, and months, and titles, and years,’ and Col, 2:16, ‘Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of Sabbath days,”‘that Paul has reference to the Jewish festivals, and therefore his language cannot properly be applied to the Christian Sabbath. The sentiment of the passage is this, ‘One man observes the Jewish festivals, another man does not.’ Such we know was the fact in the apostolic church, even among those who agreed in the observance of the first day of the week.
Or of Sabbath-days. There were divers sorts of sabbaths: of days, of years, of sevens of years. The sabbaths of days were either moral, the seventh day, which God did choose, or ceremonial. The ceremonial sabbaths were either more solemn, such as were the three great feasts, passover, pentecost, and tabernacles; or less solemn, such as were the feasts of blowing the trumpets. Lev. 23:24, and the feast of expiation, Lev. 16:32-34. The sabbath of years was every seventh year, Lev. 25:4. The sabbath of sevens of years was the jubilee, which returned every fifty years. We see here, then, that the apostle shews that we are delivered from the bondage of the observation as before of meats, so now of sabbaths.Objection. But is the sabbath-day that was moral abrogated?Answer: No, the apostle speaks here of the ceremonial law, not of the moral; and of ceremonial sabbaths, not of the moral sabbath for the word is in the plural number.
“Feast, new moon, sabbath.” The second group of terms used by Paul is more crucial for the present study. In the order followed by Paul, the equivalent expression occurs only in Hosea 2:11 and Ezekiel 45:17 (see above). In reverse order, “sabbaths, new moons, feasts,” it occurs in I Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 8:13; 31:3 and Nehemiah 10:33 (all reflecting post-exilic terminology). And all of these are quite clearly derived from Numbers 28, 29.
Even a cursory examination of these references makes it clear that Paul’s “sabbath” can only mean the weekly Sabbaths.
In Numbers 28 and 29, the subject throughout is the official sacrifices to be offered by the priests in God’s house in behalf of the whole covenant people (cf. 29:39, where these official sacrifices are distinguished from such individual worship as “your vows, and your freewill offerings”). These official sacrifices are prescribed for each day (28:3-8); for each weekly Sabbath (28:9, 10); for each new moon (28:11-15); and in detail for each of the annual feasts (28:16-29:38). The subject is not the individual worshipper’s offerings, nor his personal acts of worship on those days, but the system of official sacrifices to be made for all Israel.
So too, in all the other references (with the possible exception of Hosea 2:11) where these three kinds of days are mentioned together. In 1 Chronicles 23:31 it is David’s scheduling of the official sacrifices that is in view; 2 Chronicles 2:4 mentions Solomon’s intention, and 8:13 relates his actual offering of these same sacrifices; 2 Chronicles 31:3 has to do with Hezekiah’s provision for them; and Nehemiah 10:33 deals with that governor’s arrangement to do the same thing after the return from exile.
In Hosea 2:11 there is no specific reference to sacrifices. Even here, however, the reference is to the whole people of Israel, and the phrase itself points back to Numbers 28, 29.
Ezekiel 45:17, besides its reference to “meat” and “drink,” also gives the same catalog of three kinds of days. Here the reference is to the “prince” of the ideal Israel of Ezekiel’s vision who shall offer these same official sacrifices in behalf of the covenant people.
Wherever it occurs in the Old Testament, the phrase “sabbaths, new moons, and feasts” always has reference to the official sacrifices to be offered on those days in behalf of the covenant nation, and never refers to individual observance of those days. As such, the phrase points clearly to Christ, the Prince of Israel who offered himself as the sacrifice to atone for the sins of his people once for all.
Conclusion. We can only conclude that for Paul, “feast, new moon, and sabbath” meant those same official sacrifices the phrase denotes in the Old Testament usage. There is nothing in the phrase to require us to understand that Paul meant to abrogate the Fourth Commandment for Christians. What Paul did.” They were God-given for that purpose and thus permissible at least for Christians, but were no longer required since the reality had come.