The Ten Commandments or the Law of God Series
In today’s continuation of our series we reach the Forth Commandment regarding the Sabbath. I wish to begin with the List from Keach’s Baptist Catechism of 1677:
62. What is the fourth commandment?
The fourth commandment is, Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy: six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Ex. 20:8-11
63. What is required in the fourth commandment?
64. Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?
Before the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath;130 and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath.131 130. Ex. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-14 131. Ps. 118:24; Mt. 28:1; Mk. 2:27, 28; Jn. 20:19, 20, 26; Rev. 1:10; Mk. 16:2; Lk. 24:1, 30-36; Jn. 20:1; Acts 1:3, 2:1, 2, 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2
65. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day,132 even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days;133 and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship,134 except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.135
66. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required,136 and the profaning the day by idleness,137 or doing that which is in itself sinful,138 or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about worldly employments or recreations.139
67. What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?
The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, are God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own lawful employments,140 his challenging a special propriety in a seventh, his own example, and his blessing the Sabbath day.141
Upon reading this commandment one would think everything was cut and dry, the Sabbath is a Holy Day of Rest. For orthodox Jews that still is the case, but for all those who hold the Bible (Old and New Covenants) true there are some issues.
The following from QotQuestions.Org will add some clarity
Some Christian groups, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, view the Sabbath as the day of worship, the day on which Christians should attend church/worship services. While these groups typically also teach that no work is to be done on the Sabbath, the concept of the “day of worship” is sometimes more emphasized than the “day of rest.” Originally, the Sabbath was a day of rest, and that purpose was retained in the Mosaic Law (Exodus 16:23–29; 31:14–16; 35:2–3; Deuteronomy 5:12–15; Nehemiah 13:15–22; Jeremiah 17:21–27). Under the Old Covenant, sacrifices were made daily at the tabernacle/temple. The “worship” was continual. And there were special commands given to Israel regarding a “sacred assembly” held on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3; cf. Numbers 28:9). The keeping of the Sabbath was the “sign” of the covenant between Israel and the Lord (Exodus 31:13).
The New Testament records Jews and converts to Judaism meeting in synagogues on the Sabbath (Mark 6:2; Luke 4:31; Luke 13:10–16; Acts 13:14, 27, 42–44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4). Obviously, with no work being done on the Sabbath day, the Sabbath day would be the ideal day to have organized worship services. However, the New Testament does not command that the Sabbath be the day of worship. The church is not under the Mosaic Law.
The Sabbath was given to Israel, not the church. The Sabbath is still Saturday, not Sunday, and has never been changed. But the Sabbath is part of the Old Testament Law, and Christians are free from the bondage of the Law (Galatians 4:1-26; Romans 6:14). Sabbath keeping is not required of the Christian—be it Saturday or Sunday. The first day of the week, Sunday, the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10) celebrates the New Creation, with Christ as our resurrected Head. We are not obligated to follow the Mosaic Sabbath—resting, but are now free to follow the risen Christ—serving. The Apostle Paul said that each individual Christian should decide whether to observe a Sabbath rest, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). We are to worship God every day, not just on Saturday or Sunday.
While the final paragraph may be controversial to some, Tom Schreiner’s 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law, I believe gives a clear explanation.
Does the Lord’s Day, that is, Christians worshiping on the first day of the week, constitute a fulfillment of the Sabbath? The references to the Lord’s Day in the New Testament are sparse. In Troas believers gathered “on the first day of the week . . . to break bread” and they heard a long message from Paul (Acts 20:7). Paul commands the Corinthians to set aside money for the poor “on the first day of every week” (1 Cor. 16:2). John heard a loud voice speaking to him “on the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). These scattered hints suggest that the early Christians at some point began to worship on the first day of the week. The practice probably has its roots in the resurrection of Jesus, for he appeared to his disciples “the first day of the week” (John 20:19). All the Synoptics emphasize that Jesus rose on the first day of the week, i.e., Sunday: “very early on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2; cf. Matt. 28:1; Luke 24:1). The fact that each of the Gospels stresses that Jesus was raised on the first day of the week is striking. But we have no indication that the Lord’s Day functions as a fulfillment of the Sabbath. It is likely that gathering together on the Lord’s Day stems from the earliest church, for we see no debate on the issue in church history, which is quite unlikely if the practice originated in Gentile churches outside Israel. By way of contrast, we think of the intense debate in the first few centuries on the date of Easter. No such debate exists regarding the Lord’s Day.
Does that mean Christians should not “keep the Sabbath in any manner, as in fellowshipping together in Worship? Absolutely not, the bible still commands us to do so in Hebrews 10:25 and exhorts us to do so in Acts 2, Acts 20:7; and Revelation 1:10. The “keeping of the Sabbath” for Christians is not the covenantal law but the Spiritual Law, written in our hearts. It is the desire to set aside a day to honor and glorify He who has saved us from sin and damnation.
The other part of the fourth commandment that is often neglected is work and rest. Work is essential, God put Adam and Eve in the Garden and told them to tend it. Work has been a part of mankind’s life from the beginning. When I was younger the whole city shut down on Sundays. Folks went to church, rested, and relaxed. If it was good enough for God to rest after 6 days of work why not us? Again referring to QotQuestons above: The Apostle Paul said that each individual Christian should decide whether to observe a Sabbath rest, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).
A.W. Pink writes on this:
This commandment denotes that God is the sovereign Lord of our time, which is to be used and improved by us just as He has here specified. It is to be carefully noted that it consists of two parts, each of which bears directly upon the other. “Six days shalt thou (not “mayest thou”) labor” is as Divinely binding upon us as “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” It is a precept requiring us diligently to attend unto that vocation and state of life in which the Divine providence has placed us, to perform its offices with care and conscience. The revealed will of God is that man should work, not idle away his time; that he should work not five days a week (for which organized labor once agitated), but six.
He who never works is unfitted for worship. Work is to pave the way for worship, as worship is to fit us for work. The fact that any man can escape the observance of this first half of the Commandment is a sad reflection upon our modern social order, and shows how far we have departed from the Divine plan and ideal. The more diligent and faithful we are in performing the duties of the six days, the more shall we value the rest of the seventh. It will thus be seen that the appointing of the Sabbath was not any arbitrary restriction upon man’s freedom, but a merciful provision for his good: that it is designed as a day of gladness and not of gloom. It is the Creator’s gracious exempting us from our life of mundane toil one day in seven, granting us a foretaste of that future and better life for which the present is but a probation, when we may turn wholly from that which is material to that which is spiritual, and thereby be equipped for taking hold with new consecration and renewed energies upon the work of the coming days.
Thomas Watson adds:
Use two. “SIX days shall you labor.” God would not have any live without working. True religion gives no warrant for idleness. It is a duty to labor six days, as well as keep holy rest on the seventh day. “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12. A Christian must not only mind heaven—but his vocation. While the pilot has his eye to the star, he has his hand to the helm. Without labor the pillars of a commonwealth will dissolve, and the earth, like the sluggard’s field, will be overrun with briers. Prov 24:31. Adam in innocence, though monarch of the world, must not be idle—but must dress and until the ground. Gen 2:15. Piety does not exclude industry. Standing water putrifies.
What is your view? Are you a Sabbatarian? I for one am convinced the New Covenant does away with the requirement for Sabbath-keeping. That being said I am equally convinced of the Biblical mandate for Christian fellowship/worship in a corporate setting (Church) and for individuals to follow God’s example and set aside a Holy Day of Rest. Not because of a Sabbath mandate but because we need it for our spiritual well-being.
Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5, The Ten Commandments
Keach’s Baptist Catechism of 1677 – Modern #44-92
Thomas Watson’s classic The Ten Commandments
Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge, Chapter XIX, The Law
The Ten Commandments, by A. W. Pink
The Doctrine of Law and the Grace Unfolded – John Bunyan
A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel by John Colquhoun, D.D