The Fourth Commandment: Remembering the Sabbath Day
December 7, 2008
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
Background: It is true that keeping the Sabbath is mentioned in the Gospels, but it is always in relation to the people of Israel and not the church. Colossians 2 and Romans 14-15 are NT texts that teach us not judge one another with reference to holy days or Sabbaths. Therefore, we are contrary to the Word of God when we say a person is unspiritual or unsaved if they do not keep the Sabbath.
The reason believers are confused about keeping the Sabbath has a lot to do with their view of the OT Law. It is important that we understand how the Christian must view the Law of Moses. When we began this series we went over the ceremonial, civil, and moral aspects of the Mosaic Law. Matthew 5:17-18 provides an excellent refresher for us:
17“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
Are Christians still under the Law of Moses?
Seventh-Day Adventists believer that we are. Other cults have emphasized the keeping of the Law of Moses as well - including keeping the Sabbath. What do we need to keep straight in order to avoid falling into similar error?
1. Jesus fulfilled the Law after the Cross. While He kept the Law perfectly during His earthly life, He also condemned the Pharisees who “made the commandment of God of no effect by [their] tradition” (Matt 15.6). Today, we live in the light of the resurrection; therefore, “there is neither Jew nor Greek …[we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3.28).
2. All the ceremonies of the OT are fulfilled in Christ. A study of Hebrews makes this clear. For example, there is no more lamb at Passover because Christ is the Passover (1 Cor 5.7). Hebrews 7-10 is a study in Christ’s fulfillment of OT types and predictions.
3. Even though we garner principles from the moral aspect of the Law; it must be remembered that they are clearly stated in the NT.
Romans 8:2-4 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
a. It is good to remember that moral principles expressed in the OT are expressed in that context - to the children of Israel.
b. The same moral principles may be expressed in the NT; however, they don’t apply to just Israel, but everyone.
4. We are no longer under the Mosaic Law that specifically states that God must be worshipped on Saturday. Why?
a. The resurrection, post-resurrection, and ascension all occurred on Sunday, the first day of the week. This is why early Christians worshipped on this day:
Acts 20:7 “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.”
1 Corinthians 16:2 “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”
b. The Sabbath was a shadow of the substance of Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17 “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
c. Moses’ Tablets of Stone have been taken away in Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:7-14
7But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. 12Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— 13unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ.
5. We are not under the Ten Commandments just as we are not required to be circumcised or offer a lamb in the Jerusalem temple.
Hebrews 7:12 “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.”
Hebrews 7:18 “For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness…”
Recall Colossians 2.17. The Law of Moses is the shadow; Christ is the substance. We are no longer under law but grace (Romans 6.14). In Christ, circumcision or uncircumcision avails nothing. “Faith working through love” avails everything (Gal 5.6).
We are bound by the moral aspects of the Law in the sense that they are timeless and universal in their application. They are also reiterated and filled out in the NT and in Christ. Both the OT and NT speak against adultery, but the penalty is now different. The OT demanded that the children of Israel put the adulterer to death, but in the NT Paul commands him to be put out of the church (1 Cor 5). There is also the hope of restoration if the adulterer should repent (2 Cor 2.6-8).
So, this brings us back to the fourth commandment. Why do Christians worship on Sunday when the commandment sets apart Saturday as the day of worship? The OT Sabbath was a day of rest and worship.
· Jesus said it was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Mk 2.27).
· The Sabbath was supposed to be a time of refreshment not bondage.
· The early Christians of Paul’s day continue the idea of rest and worship on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week.
· A restatement of the Ten Commandments is found in Deuteronomy 5:15 which states, “And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”
· The Sabbath was the shadow of redemption just like the Exodus served the same purpose. The Sabbath pointed to a rest from works. It indicated that believers would enter a rest that God provided through the finished work of Christ.
The Hebrew word Sabbath means cessation. Even in the OT, not all Sabbaths occurred on the 7th day (e.g., Day of Atonement was a Sabbath that occurred on the 10th day of the 7th month - this was not always on Saturday). It was one day set aside in a week as a day of worship and rest. Christians do this on Sunday, but cautions are in order:
1. Jesus condemned the legalization of the Pharisees because God had made the Sabbath to be a delight not a burden.
2. Rest from labor and the worship of God are not burdens for those who love God.
3. There is liberty regarding specifics, but Sunday belongs to God. It is the Lord’s Day not Game Day.
The Two Principles of the Sabbath:
1. Cease from labor - a day of rest and refreshing; resting from labor pictures the NT believers eventual freedom from the curse of sin.
2. Worship God - Israel remembered their deliverance from bondage, thereby reflecting on their salvation experience; we worship by thanking and praising God for who He is and the gracious things He has done.
God demanded that Israel take one day out of seven and devote it completely to Him. Israel remembered this 7th day because it had already been set down for them as God’s pattern during the creation week - before the Law. The views for both OT and NT believers are as follows:
Aspects of Our Rest
· OT believers looked forward to the rest at the end of the work week.
· NT believers begin their labor from a rest in the finished work of Christ.
Justifying, Sanctifying, and Glorifying Rest
· The Rest of Repentance (Justifying Rest) - In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” That rest comes when we cease from our striving and depend upon Him alone for our salvation.
· The Rest of Relationship (Sanctifying Rest) - Luke 10:38 - 42 indicates that any service for the Lord must include worship.
Illustration: That we are too busy and spinning our wheels is very evident. Let me pick on other preachers and myself first:
You know you're spending too much time in the study….…
· When thou speaketh to thy children and helpmate thusly.
· When you start seeing the evening paper laid out in chapters and verses.
· When you answer your home phone, "Heritage Baptist Church."
· When a list of genealogies moves you to tears.
· When you start parsing the verbs in Golf Digest.
· When you comfort your 3-year-old, who just skinned hit his head on the coffee table, with "That will make a good sermon illustration, Henry."
· When you consider all the mail addressed to the church as personal.
· When you count going home for lunch as a pastoral visit.
Adapted from Robert A. Altstadt, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 4
Illustration: In The Twenty Four Hour Society, Martin Moore-Ede says our most notorious industrial accidents in recent years—Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the fatal navigational error of Korean Air Lines 007—all occurred in the middle of the night. When the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian A300 airbus killing all 290 people aboard, fatigue-stressed operators in the high-tech Combat Information Center on the carrier misinterpreted radar data and repeatedly told their captain the jet was descending as if to attack when in fact the airliner remained on a normal flight path. In the Challenger space shuttle disaster, key NASA officials made the ill-fated decision to go ahead with the launch after working twenty hours straight and getting only two to three hours of sleep the night before. Their error in judgment cost the lives of seven astronauts and nearly killed the U.S. space program.
We ignore our need for rest and renewal at the peril of others and ourselves. It is the same in the spiritual realm. Look with me to…
38Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
· Martha lost sight of Christ in the midst of serving.
· Mary sat Jesus’ feet and gave Him her undivided attention.
· Mary chose the needful and better part; worship must precede service.
· If Christ is not on the landscape of our lives, service is simply staying busy.
· The Rest that Remains - Hebrews 4:9 states that “there remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” This rest is speaking of our final rest in Heaven when we are delivered from the presence of sin. The rest that remains.
Conclusion: What should believers do with Sunday? Well, they ought not forsake the assembling of themselves together (Heb 10.25). We should be in church if at all possible - not to get but give. We should set apart Sunday by dressing well, extending our prayer time, and truly ascribing glory to God in reading Scripture and singing with full hearts.
We should believe that God can and will work in our hearts today. We should desire growth and take the time we need to reflect and meditate on the Word to reach new heights.
We should rest. We shouldn’t weary ourselves with media and allow the good Word of the Lord to be plucked from our preoccupied hearts.
Why are you here today? Is it to work for your eternal life? Are just making social contacts? You ought to be here because today is the Lord’s Day. Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives. We set apart every day for Him, but Sunday serves as a testimony to all that He is our Master.
Not long after moving to Chicago, a preacher called a wise friend to ask for some spiritual direction. He described the pace of life in his ministry. The church where he served tended to move at a fast clip. The preacher told his friend about family life: in the van-driving, soccer-league, piano-lesson, school-orientation-night, etc. The preacher confided in his friend about the present condition of his heart, as best as he could discern it. What did the preacher need to do to be spiritually healthy?
“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,” he said at last.
Another long pause.
"Okay, I've written that one down," I told him, a little impatiently. "That's a good one. Now, what else is there?" The preacher had many things to do, and this was a long-distance call, so he was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible.
Another long pause.
"There is nothing else," he said. "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."
The preacher concluded that his life and the well-being of the people he served depended upon following his friend’s prescription, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry destroys souls.
John Ortberg, "Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry," LeadershipJournal.net (7-4-02)