V. The Fourth Commandment: Q & A 57-62

V. The Fourth Commandment: Q & A 57-62

Q. 57 Which is the fourth commandment?

A. 57 The fourth commandment is, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no your 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. For 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” (Ex. 20:8-11)

Moses repeated this in Deuteronomy, but with some changes. Instead of the word ‘Remember’, he uses the word ‘Observe’, and adds “as the LORD your God commanded you.” (5:12). He also adds the following: “nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of (your cattle)… “that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 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.” (vv. 14-15). So, whereas the initial revelation of this command hearkened back to the rest from the Lord’s work in creation, here Moses hearkens back to the covenant LORD’s work in redemption. The Sabbath passes from being simply a resting in God’s work as creator, and man’s resting also from his work, now it is kept to also rest in The LORD’s work of redemption, a rest from our own efforts to live in covenant with the LORD. It was this redemptive event which they were to ‘Remember’. The Sabbath rest here took on redemptive significance.

Q. 58 What is required in the fourth commandment?

A. 58 The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as He has appointed in His word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to Himself.

By stating one day in seven the authors allow for the biblical reality of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the centre and focal point of history, and the true rest of the LORD’s people.

Q. 59 Which day of the seven has God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?

A. 59 From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath.

In the Genesis account the point is made that the seventh day was to be one of rest, established upon the fact of God ending his own work of making everything that was made (Gen. 2:2-3). There is a clear point to be made that this day of rest did not come until everything had been made. Having made man, the LORD had made that creature who would now fulfill the dominion mandate he had given to his image bearers (1:26-28; 2:5, 15). However, they were called to be stewards, they were not called to complete an unfinished creation. In the same way, once Christ rose from the grave it was a declaration that his work of redemption was also complete, therefore his people rest in his finished work (Jn. 19:30).

In restoring the rest intended at the dawn of creation, the church moved to the first day from the seventh, truly fulfilling one day in seven, a day centred on word and sacrament, the breaking of bread (Acts 20:7), and tithing for the life of the church (I Cor. 16:2). Since the dawn of creation this has always been part of the moral law, with application found throughout the entirety of the law, the prophets, and wisdom. As with the entire work of creation, Christ’s finished work of redemption ultimately involves the complete restoration of creation, including the dominion mandate and one day of rest in seven (Cf. Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:2; Lk. 24:1; Jn. 20:1, 19; Heb. 4:9). Therefore, the Christian Sabbath is also called the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10-11).

Q. 60 How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?

A. 60 The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and reactions as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Q. 61 What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?

A. 61 The fourth commandment forbids the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.

Q. 62 What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?

A. 62 The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, – God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, – His challenging a special propriety in the seventh, – His own example, – and His blessing the Sabbath-day.

To sanctify was to set apart for a specific purpose. To this end the LORD’s day is also a time to remember the LORD in a unique way, and thus it is also his day (Lev. 23:3). The LORD will provide enough for his people so that they need not work continuously (Ex. 16:22-30; Neh. 13:15-22). However, Jesus made clear that there are times when one must engage in works of mercy or necessity, including health and eating. Proving that he was the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus the Christ had the prerogative to add exceptions (Mt. 12:1-13 Cf. Jn. 7:23; 9:14). When the focus is on humanity only, the self, it then becomes profaned (Cf. Is. 58:13; Ezek. 23:38).

The LORD also warned his people through Jeremiah, what the judgment that would come upon them if they profaned the Sabbath day (17:27). It is curious that those who argue that the fourth commandment is still part of the moral law, applicable to all humanity, do not also argue for what is also a moral application of this law, in the civil case law application to the whole of society with the death penalty for not keeping it (Ex. 31:15-16; Nu. 15:32-35). It is also important to remember that the Sabbath is also a sign of the covenant which exist between the LORD and his people (Ex. 31:17).

The importance of this point is seen with the word added here to that of rest, namely ‘refreshed’. Literally this means catching one’s breath, taking a breather. The purpose of this day of rest was that His people might be refreshed in their covenant relationship with the LORD. There is no clearer testimony that humanity was created into a covenantal context from the very beginning! Furthermore, it is only within the covenant that one will find true rest (Heb. 4:4). The Sabbath ought to be a time for the people of the LORD to delight in him (Is. 58:14). As is stated in the first answer, man’s chief end is also to enjoy him forever.

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