The Law of God, The Fourth Commandment

Series: The Law of God

February 07, 2016
Larry W Dean

A discussion of the Christian's relationship to the Sabbath.

Episode Notes

The Law of God 04
The 4th Commandment

Ex 20:1-11
    1    And God spake all these words, saying,
    2    I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of
    3    Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
    4    Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven
    above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
    5    Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous
    God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them
    that hate me;
    6    And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
    7    Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him
    guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
    8    Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
    9    Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
    10    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, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger
    that is within thy gates:
    11    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. KJV


We come today to discuss what is undoubtedly the most controversial of the 10 Words of the Tables of
Stone, The Sabbath Day. Probably no issue has been so hotly debated over time as this one, at least no
issue in the Law. Men have taken a variety of positions over the centuries and formed groups of followers
around the different understandings.

Of course we know that the Jews of Jesus’ day were committed to the observance of the seventh day, so
much so that they criticized Jesus for healing people on the Sabbath. Can you imagine that? These people
who would pull a donkey out of a ditch if he fell in on the Sabbath or who would lead him to water if none
was handy got upset that Jesus would loose someone from the bondage of illness on the same day.

   Luke 13:10-16
             10    And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
             11    And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was
          bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
             12    And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed
          from thine infirmity.

             13    And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
             14    And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed
          on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to
          work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.
             15    The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the
          sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
             16    And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo,
          these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? KJV

On another Sabbath Jesus and the twelve were walking through a grain field and began to pull off some
of the raw grain and eat it. The Pharisees, of course, were critical. (Mark 12:23-28, Matt 12:1-8; Luke
6:1-5) No one can read the NT without being aware that the jews of that time were serious about keeping
the Fourth Commandment.

But with the Resurrection of Jesus a new Special Day appeared for the True Worshipers of God. So far
as we can tell, Jesus rose on Sunday, the First Day of the week and at some point early on the Christians
began to use this day as their day of worship.  

The transition from Judaism to Christianity was very difficult for many of the believing Jews. First, they had
to deal with Gentiles becoming Christians who did not convert to Judaism. This began with Cornelius, the
Roman Centurion, under the ministry of Peter. (Acts 10) Then some supposed Christians traveled from
Jerusalem to Antioch in Syria teaching that Gentile Christians must also convert to Judaism and be
circumcised in order to be saved. The First General Council of the Church was called to settle the matter
and it condemned the view of these Jewish teachers. Paul later struggled with other such teachers who
infiltrated the churches of Galatia. The whole letter to the Galatians was written to correct this error.  

It also seems that the church at Rome, part Jew and part Gentile, also struggled with how Gentile believers
were going to be handled. In Paul’s letter to that church he seemed to address some specific issues. What
about the Jewish diet?  

   Rom 14:1-3
             1    Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
             2    For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
             3    Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge
          him that eateth: for God hath received him. KJV

What about the day of worship or the Sabbath?

   Rom 14:5-6
             5    One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every
          man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

             6    He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day,
          to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God
          thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

Struggles over the Sabbath and which day we should worship have existed from the very beginning.

It seems that the Christian Church embraced Sunday as their day of worship fairly early on and considered
it as a day devoted to God, not just a day to meet and worship. This was the history and practice of the
church for almost 1900 years, but early in the 19th century some odd groups began to appear who
challenged much of what the church had been doing, including the keeping of Sunday as a Special Day of
Worship. There also arose from within Orthodox Christianity those who questioned and disputed the basis
upon which the Church had set Sunday apart as its’ Sabbath.

Today there are all kinds of opinions but we can reduce them generally to just a few categories.

    1.    The Classical Christian view tends to hold that the Fourth Commandment was modified in the
    New Testament and that the command to ‘remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,’ now
    applies to Sunday as it once did to Saturday.
    2.    There are those who contend that the Fourth Commandment, or any of the others, could not
    possibly have been changed, so the correct day to worship God is still Saturday. Among those
    we find Seventh Day Baptists and Adventists.
    3.    And, there are some, whom we classify as Antinomian, who claim that all commands
    concerning days have been abolished and there is now no designated day for God’s people to
    worship. One day is as good as another.

Here is the observable reality. At least from Sinai (and probably before) the True Worshipers of God have
held one day in the week as set apart to God. From the New Testament to now, the church has honored
the day of the week on which Jesus rose as a holy day. The scriptures themselves assume that we will do
so. This all taken together is a powerful witness and testimony that we would do well to hear and obey.

   Heb 10:24-25
             24    And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
             25    Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting
          one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. KJV

In the New Testament era we keep the day by assembling with the saints to worship God and to encourage
one another.
But according to the writer of Hebrews there is a more profound issue associated with the Sabbath of the
Jews. The source of it, as Moses explained, was the Seventh Day of Creation, the Day that God blessed
and Sanctified.

   Gen 2:1-3
             1    Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
             2    And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the
          seventh day from all his work which he had made.
             3    And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from
          all his work which God created and made. KJV

Some have seen no further than the fact that God has set aside a day for rest and worship and made it a
law for men. The idea was a fundamental principle of the Jewish faith but few if any of them saw anything
beyond it.

   Lev 23:3
             3    Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy
          convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your

But the author of the book for the Hebrews saw in the Sabbath a far grander and eternal reality and truth.
He used that principle to urge his readers not to abandon the Christian faith.

A little bit of background about Hebrews. You will recall from the early part of the book of Acts that
there were tens of thousands of Jewish converts in the early days of Christianity. You may also remember
from the writings of Paul that some years later hard times fell on the land of Israel and many were suffering.
As we have already discussed in this message, some were having a hard time transitioning from their culture
into the Christian environment where Gentiles had equal footing with them. Apparently a large number
began to defect from the Church back into their culture and their original religion. The entire book of
Hebrews was written to show the superiority of Christ over the Jewish system of worship and how that He
was a fulfillment of all of the ceremonies and symbols associated with it. In chapters 1 & 2 he spoke of the
supremacy of Christ over all things, including the angels but beginning in chapter 3 the comparison with
Moses became very direct.

Then the writer moved to another topic. Very early in the career of Moses as head of the nation the people
came to a great moment of decision. They were 18 months out of Egypt and encamped at the southern
end of what would later be Judah. Spies had gone in and the majority of them came back with tales of
terror of how impossible it would be to defeat the people who inhabited the land. The decision was made
in defiance of Moses not to invade and a declaration against them was made by God.

This was used as an admonition and warning against these first century Jews who were thinking to abandon

   Heb 3:7-12
             7    Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
             8    Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
             9    When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
             10    Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart;
          and they have not known my ways.
             11    So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
             12    Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from
          the living God. KJV

Part of this is actually a quotation from Psalm 95:7-11. The statement in v.11, “They shall not enter into
my rest,” is actually taken from the pronouncement of God against them in his judgment. It seems like it
applied specifically to that generation and to the declaration of God that they would die in the wilderness
and not inherit the land but the writer of Hebrews read David to be offering a rest of God to those who
would hear and believe in his day and the author here applied it to his readers.

The idea is that there is still a ‘rest’ of God that the believing may enter and that those who turn back will
miss. We do not have the time to try to exegete the passage this morning but I will go through it with those
who may desire to do so this evening. The thought process is really remarkable and worthy of note.

Through the rest of chapter 3 and into chapter 4 the writer used the word ‘rest’ several times but then he
used another word which is also translated ‘rest’ in the KJV that is related to our discussion of the Fourth
Commandment. Look at 4:9.
             9    There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
The word translated rest here is the word ‘Sabbath’ or ‘Sabbath-keeping,’ and it really has nothing to do
with a day set aside to God. It is directly related, on the other hand, to the original use of the idea, a day
of ‘rest’ of cessation of activity and it means something really special.

I want you to understand that our writer was saying to his audience, “there is a Sabbath, that pertains
specifically to the people of God, that you are going to miss out on if you go into apostasy and return to
your old religion.” Look at 4:10.
             10    For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as
          God did from his.
In a similar manner to God resting from His Work of Creation, the believer who enters this ‘rest’ ceases
from his own works. Then he said something else, v.11.
             11    Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same
          example of unbelief.
It was unbelief that kept the ancient Jews out of the Land, which was a kind of rest, but it did more than
that, it kept them out of this Sabbath of the people of God. I have no question in my mind but that this
Sabbath is nothing other than salvation itself which is entered by repentance (ceasing from our own works)
and faith (belief).

Listen to the exhortation that he has just made.

   Heb 4:1-2
             1    Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should
          seem to come short of it.
             2    For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not
          profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. KJV

Those who turn back will not enter into this rest but will ‘come short’ of it. Those who believe the gospel,
hear the word in faith, will enter in.

So, what is the point? Just this, the system of religion to which these Jews were seeking to return was the
system that was in place in the days of Jesus. It was a perversion of the worship system given by Moses
at Sinai and was a pure works-righteousness form of religion. I do hope that you understand that ever
religious system other than pure Christianity is a works system in which man is rewarded by God for his
religious activities with eternal life.

Only Christianity in its’ ancient and original form is a religion of grace. “For by grace are ye saved through
faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” To come from a works system in which you are
trying to be righteous before God by your good deeds to Christ, Who has done all the work for you and
finished it, is to come to ‘rest,’ to the Sabbath of God in which even though you may work, you are not
turning one little finger to justify yourself before God or earn your own salvation.

Let me read you what some other translations say about Heb 4:9

Heb 4:9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. NASU

Heb 4:9 There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God. ASV

Heb 4:9   9 So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God; RSV

Heb 4:9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; (from New International Version)

There is a Sabbath rest, entered by hearing and believing the gospel, “not of works lest any man should
boast,” a complete and total resting in the Finished Work of Jesus Christ.

He is our Sabbath.

And, at the same time, you are to remember the Lord’s Day and keep it holy.

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