Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, 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, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy 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 in the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
As a Christian matures, he eventually will come to a face off with the fourth commandment. It is the natural outcome of wanting to conform one's life to God's law. To that end he will seek to understand how the fourth commandment ought to be observed. But prior to that, he will most likely question the very legitimacy of the Sabbath command.
There have been some who have taken an extreme view and deny the fact that there are still 10 commandments. However, to say that the fourth commandment has passed away and now there are only nine commandments is an obscure minority. Most would recognize the fact that the fourth commandment does continue to have force to some degree. It is simply a matter of what degree.
A number of objections do typically rise when thinking through the Sabbath issue. The first of which usually goes something like this, "Hey, this Sabbath thing--isn't that an Old Testament thing? After all, it was the seventh day that the Lord told them to observe."
It is true that the Jews did follow the pattern set by God. The Lord rested from the work of creation on the seventh day, and by doing so God set an example for subsequent generations. This then was codified in the Law of Moses given at Mt. Sinai.
Our Seventh Day Adventist friends confess that nothing has changed and that "the law is the law." Therefore they continue the same practices required of the Jews, day and all.
However, the majority of the Christian church no longer recognizes the seventh day as the day of rest and worship. This is because the fourth commandment is understood to have two parts to it, one that is perpetual and one that is temporary. Some might say that there is a ceremonial element that accompanies the moral principle the law addresses.
The same can be said of the fifth commandment, which is "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land the Lord your God is giving you." There is no doubt that the commandment itself is a part of the moral law and to be observed perpetually. At the same time, we should readily admit that there is a ceremonial dimension. The blessing attached to the command (that of long life) is primarily linked to the land of promise. It is true that there is a perpetual element to the blessing as well. God does typically grant length of life to the obedient. However, there is no doubt that the original blessing references that temporary piece of real estate known as Israel.
When it comes to the fourth commandment then, we can make the same distinction. The ceremonial aspect of the commandment (i.e. it being designated as the seventh day), passes away due to the work of Christ. The resurrection of Christ is such a monumental event in redemptive history that it it initiates a seismic shift in the Christian calendar.
To put it more colloquially: it is a game changer. From that point on, God's people no longer looked forward to their eternal rest (like the Jews looked forward to the seventh day sabbath). We now look back upon the work of Christ (like we look back upon Sunday), recognizing that it was early on that first morning that He claimed for us the blessings of the covenant.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.