Catechism Insight – Doctrinal Standard WSC #57

Doctrinal Standard #57

  • Q. What is the fourth commandment?
  • A. The fourth commandment is: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Memory Verses

  • “And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27–28,ESV).


  • Study Passage: Exodus 31:12-18
  • Support Passages: Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Hebrews 4:1-10; Ezekiel 20:10-13; Genesis 2:1-3; Isaiah 58:13-14; Jeremiah 17:19-27; Matthew 12:1-14
  • Bible Story: Matthew 12:1-14


  • There is some debate and confusion over the Sabbath and its place in the Christian’s life. Lord willing, within the next couple months, there will be a couple sermons dedicated to studying and presenting the biblical view of the Sabbath and how it applies to Christians.
  • The catechism insists and the scriptures support that the fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath is a moral law. There are a couple reasons for this conclusion. “(1) The first reason is that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance. This means that this commandment did not come in at some later time in history, after many people had already lived and died. (We note that this was the case with the civil and ceremonial laws of Israel.) We know this because Genesis 2:2-3 clearly states the fact that God created the world in the space of six days, and then rested. Since man was made in God’s image, it was for man’s benefit that God ‘blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it’ (Gen. 2:3). It is sometimes said that the Sabbath commandment does not go back to the time of creation. Yet the commandment itself (Ex. 20:11) says that we are to remember the Sabbath because ‘in six days the Lord made heaven and earth… and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.’ The commandment itself claims a creation origin. Therefore, we hold that it is binding for all men in all ages. (2) The second reason for saying that this commandment is moral is the fact that God wrote all Ten Commandments on two tables of stone (Ex. 31:18). God gave all the other laws and commandments to Israel through the hand of Moses. But these ten were given by His own hand. So God himself made a distinction between these Ten Commandments and all other laws. He showed us that these ten belong in a class by themselves. Since few will deny that most of these laws are moral (Binding everyone everywhere), it would require very strong evidence to prove that this commandment is not moral. This we do not have. (3) The third reason for saying that this commandment is moral is the fact that the New Testament nowhere teaches us that this commandment is abrogated. Or, in other words, the New Testament does not say that we have no Sabbath today. Jesus, speaking of the Ten Commandments, said, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy [or abrogate] the law… I am not’ (Matt. 5:17). Paul says, ‘Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law’ (Rom. 3:31). This is the constant teaching of the New Testament: the Ten Commandments of God do remain in effect. No doubt this is the reason why the early Christians Church kept a day holy to the Lord. It was the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2) which was observed as the Sabbath.” [1]

Discussion Questions

  • Read the 4th commandment from both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. What two things does the Sabbath require?
  • Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Jesus seems to suggest that the Sabbath is a gift to mankind. Discuss your thoughts.
  • What are three biblical reasons why the Sabbath still applies to Christians? (Refer to thoughts section).

[1] Williamson, C.I. (2003). The Westminster Shorter Catechism – 2nd Edition. Phillipsburg, New Jersey, USA; P&R Publishing Company.

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