The Fourth Command: Glorifying God with My Time, Work, & Worship

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8 ESV)

The Sabbath is called a day of solemn rest. In fact, “Sabbath” means to cease or to rest. God establishes this command for Israel which he defines in verse 9: “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.” (Exodus 20:9-10)

Before you envision that Sabbath means a day you don’t do anything, it means to cease from the work of the other six days. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. We don’t Sabbath from everything, we Sabbath from the normal labors of the other six days. It was a day for God, and worship, and service. It is a day of different labor. For a pious Jew, the work week was and is Sunday through Friday. They reckoned their days from sunset to sunset. So Sabbath begins on what we would call Friday night and goes until Saturday night at sundown.

Paul writes of “Sabbath” as shadow and encourages loving acceptance of differing views and Sabbath practices

  • “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
  • “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5)

These are important because with one simple sentence he could have established Saturday or Sunday as a Sabbath for Christians. He does neither. Rather he says the Sabbath was a shadow of a reality found and fulfilled in Christ. And he commands tolerance within the Jewish/Gentile church for differences of conscience and practice.

The Spectrum of Positions on the Sabbath

  • Saturday Sabbatarians – Saturday is Sabbath for Christians (Seventh Day Adventists)
  • Sunday Sabbatarians – Sunday is the New Covenant Sabbath
  • Sunday sabbatarians – Sunday is not Sabbath but a special day of rest and worship based on God’s creation rhythm
  • Some-day sabbatarians – One day of rest and worship a week is important based on God’s creation rhythm
  • No sabbatarians – Sabbath? Sunday is game day/Weekends were made for Michelob

There may be sub-positions among these, but these are the options. Remember what Paul said, some people practice a Sabbath and some people view every day the same. His appeal is for respecting peoples’ consciences on this. Some of us think nothing of doing some activities on Sunday and others purposefully don’t. So we begin there. Our view on Sabbath is not a primary issue; it is secondary and not one to break fellowship over.

I’m going to tell you where I am on this and why. Paul’s words about Sabbath as shadow and Sabbath as conscience are clear to me that the ceremonial aspect of the fourth commandment does not apply to the New Covenant Christian. It was a sign indicator like circumcision. This negates a required Saturday Sabbath and argues against a strict Sunday Sabbath position, while if you choose to do it for personal reasons, I think it’s fine and may be beneficial as a good idea. I would fall somewhere between Sunday sabbatarians and Some-day sabbatarians because the concept of Sabbath and God’s creation rhythm are meant as gifts and blessings to us. We are not machines and we are not made primarily as workers and producers. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Further, while the New Testament doesn’t mandate a Sabbath, it does mandate regular and ongoing times together with God’s people.

  • “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42, 46-47)
  • “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

If our motive for denying the Sabbath mandate is to exempt ourselves from corporate worship and service in order to find the bare minimum of participation in the local church, there are plenty of New Testament commands to condemn our attitude as sin and to call us to repent.

We don’t need the fourth command to feel the need to give sacred time to God or to orient our lives and homes and families around a rhythm of weekly worship and service. We don’t need that because our love for Christ compels it in us naturally—at least if we are healthy Christians.

Imagine if the fourth command was, Remember Valentine’s Day, keep it holy. If the husband or boyfriend’s attitude is, Do I have to? or if the wife’s attitude is, Can we miss a year? Or if they both say, How many years can we ignore this and be okay with each other? is the issue Valentine’s Day or is the attitude toward Valentine’s Day a telling indicator of the health of the relationship?

Similarly, whatever your position on the Sabbath, your attitude toward time, work, play, and the priority of God in those categories—even weekly worship attendance—is a telling indicator of your real heart for God.

The Pharisees made the Sabbath about outward measures. Jesus obeyed the Sabbath himself but he loved and healed, provided and taught, served and worshiped on a day dedicated to God as the enduring example of a man living his life for the glory of God.

God cares about our time and how we use it. God cares about our work and our ethic in it. God cares about our schedules and life rhythms, even about our rest and refreshment. I hope you are getting the idea that the Ten Commandments are not about God limiting us but rather freeing us to the life we were created to live; a life fully absorbed and lived under the ultimate purpose of glorifying God in everything.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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