Sermon: The Sabbath: Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy: Genesis 2:1-3

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 2:1-3 and Isaiah 58

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:1–3, ESV)

“Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. [The people ask God] ’Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ [God answers] Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” (Isaiah 58, ESV)


Dear brothers and sisters, what I have taken seven sermons to say concerning the biblical doctrine of the Sabbath, our Confession of Faith says in one succinct paragraph. The Second London Confession chapter 22 paragraph 7 states, 

As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.

I hope that you have grown convinced (if you were not convinced already) that this is indeed what the scriptures teach concerning the Sabbath day. The Sabbath is as old as creation. The Sabbath has been kept by the people of God from Adam to this present day and to the end of the world. Prior Christ’s finished work the Sabbath was to be kept on the seventh day, indicating that there was work to be accomplished if man was to enter into God’s rest. From the resurrection of Christ to the end of the word the Sabbath day is to be kept on the first day of the week (also called the eighth day), indicating that the work has been finished by Christ (the second Adam), that he has entered into rest and that all who are in him will enter that rest when he comes again. 

Today I will cease from the work of convincing you that this is what the scriptures teach concerning the Sabbath day.  But I will enter into another kind of work – the work of application. I hope that you are convinced that the Lord’s Day Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord. But now the question is, how are we to keep it?  

This is what paragraph 8 of chapter 22 of our Confession addresses when it says,

The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

Again, I believe that our Confession provides a wonderful summary of the teaching of scripture. 


First of all, notice that our Confession urges men and women, boys and girls, to prepare to keep the Sabbath day holy. Keeping the Sabbath holy requires preparation. “The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand…”

To keep the Sabbath holy unto the Lord it is necessary to have your life in order. 

Diligent in our work on the other six days.

Careful planning.


Prepare to say no to those activities not fitting for the day. 

To keep the Sabbath holy unto the Lord it is necessary to have your heart prepared.  

Begin to prepare for worship on Saturday night. 

Read the scripture text for the sermon.

Get to bed on time.

Wake up early enough to come to worship on time without being frantic. 

Come to worship with thankful, worshipful hearts ready to receive the word of God. 

Rest From Worldly Employment And Recreations 

Secondly, notice that our Confession urges men and women, boys and girls, to in fact rest (or cease) from worldly employment and recreations on the Sabbath day. Keeping the Sabbath holy requires that we cease from that which is common to engage in that which is holy. Our The Christian should “observe [a] holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations…”

The word “worldly” does not mean sinful here, but it refers to those activities that have to do with life in this world. Worldly activities that are otherwise good and appropriate on the other six days of the week should be set aside on the Sabbath day, for the day is to be kept as unto the Lord. The Sabbath day is to be approached as a day that is distinct and different. It is a holy day – a day set apart for a particular kind of activity.   

The Lord’s Say Sabbath is not a day for common work. Yes, God’s will is that we work diligently and for his glory, but we are to cease from our work on the Sabbath day to engage in a different kind of activity. 

In Deuteronomy 5:12 we find the fourth of the ten commandments: “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 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…” The people of God are to rest from their worldly or common employments on the Sabbath day, and they are to acknowledge their God, worship him, and demonstrate their faith in him that he will provide for all of their needs. 

I want for you to also notice that the fourth commandment continues on in Deuteronomy 5:14. After saying, “On it you shall not do any work”, the text also says, “you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you”. 

I do wish that Christians would think more carefully about this portion of the fourth commandment. Not only does the fourth commandment command you to cease from your ordinary labors, but it also forbids having others work in your place. No, parent, it is not right for you to rest but to have your children work on the Sabbath day. It was not right for the Israelite to rest, but to have their servants or the foreigners in their midst work in their place. The Israelites were to even give rest to their beasts of burden on the Sabbath. Rest was to be promoted amongst animals and men. 

Now, granted, we do not live in Old Covenant Israel. We live as exiles in Babylon instead. But doesn’t the principle still apply? If we are truly concerned to honor the Sabbath day wouldn’t we want to keep it ourselves and also encourage others to keep it? Put differently, if you have truly been convinced of this doctrine, that the first day of the week is now the Sabbath day, then why doesn’t it grieve you to see others working on this day? Their work on the Sabbath day is in essence a denial of God as Creator and Christ as Redeemer. And I am asking, why would you want to have anything to do with causing that person to work on the Sabbath? Why would want to stand across from them at the register knowing that, in that moment, it is your business that has them working instead of resting and worshipping on the Sabbath day. Who knows, perhaps that person is a brother or sister in Christ who wants badly to have the day off, but must work, in part, because of the decisions of fellow Christians. It seems rather inconsistent to me. Brothers and sisters, I am encouraging you to do your shopping and your eating out Monday through Saturday so that you might honor the Sabbath day yourself and encourage it amongst others also. Fill up your car with gas on Saturday, friends. Change your shipping settings on Amazon so that deliveries are not made on the Lord’s Day. I am saying that we should not participate the in the sins of others by causing them to work for us on the Sabbath day. The fourth commandment seems rather clear on this point. I can hear the critics now: “that’s legalism!” Is it? Or is it is simply a constant application of God’s holy law? 

Think about it, friends. I’ll leave it to you to decide. I know that good Christian men and women differ on this point of application. I will not be following you after church to see if you go out to eat or to the store. And I will admit that it has taken my family some time to come to this conclusion, but by in large (whenever possible) I would encourage you to rest and to cease also from causing others to work for you on the Sabbath day. This seems to be what the fourth commandment is calling for. This seems to be a consistent application of the doctrine of the Sabbath.

The Lord’s Say Sabbath is not a day for common work, and neither is it a day for recreation. 

I do not believe that our confession is forbidding you from playing catch with your kid on the Sabbath day. I do not believe that our confession is forbidding you from taking a bike ride or a hike with the family on the Sabbath day. The point it is that the Sabbath day is not a day for work, nor is it a day for recreation. Recreation is not the purpose of the day – rest and worship is. It may be that playing catch with your, taking a bike ride, or a hike with the family would serve to promote the purpose of the Lord’s Day, but it is possible that these things be a distraction from the purpose of the day too. Wisdom is needed here. Certainly we would be missing the point if we allowed the Lord’s Day to be consumed by golf, the NFL, or NASCAR.

Your beginning to see, no doubt, how difficult and unpopular keeping the Sabbath day in this culture will be. There are so many things in our culture that will pull us and pressure us to forsake the day, and yet the Christian should be resolute. 

Worship Publicly and Privately

Thirdly, notice that our Confession urges men and women, boys and girls, to worship publicly and privately on the Sabbath day. Worship is the central activity of the Sabbath day. God is to be worshipped by his people on the Lord’s day. 

Remember that the Sabbath has always been a day for holy convocation. It is the day on which the people of God are to convene to worship. 

With your heart prepared, engage in worship. 

Worship God through your singing.

Ephesians 5:19 says that we are to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart…”

Worship God through your prayers. 

The Sabbath day is a day to give thanks to God. Indeed, everyday is a day to give thanks to God, but we are called to give thanks especially on the Sabbath day. 

Worship God through hearing and applying the word of God. 

Worship God through the observation of the Lord’s Supper. 

How imprint it is for us to continue in private worship after the public worship concludes. 

Do you remember the words of Chrysostom (347-407a.d.) that I quoted to you a couple of weeks ago. In the 4th century A.D. he was urging Christians to continue with private worship after the public worship of God:

For we ought not, as soon as we retire from the Communion, to plunge into affairs… unsuitable to the Communion, but as soon as we get home to take our Bible into our hands and call our wife and children to join us in putting together what we have heard and then, not before, engage in the business of life… When you retire from the communion, you must account nothing more necessary, than that you should put together the things that have been said to you. Yes, for it were the utmost folly, while we give up five or six days to the business of life, not to bestow on spiritual things so much as one day or rather no so much as a small part of one day… Therefore let us write it down as an unalterable law for ourselves, for our wives and for our children, to give up this one day of the week entire to hearing and to the recollection of the things which we have heard.

Hear the word in public worship. Recall and apply (or put it together) it in private.

Find readings for the Sabbath. Talk of God. Pray. 

Get Perspective

Fourthly, notice that our Confession urges men and women, boys and girls, to gain perspective on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath day is a day to set the mind and heart upon God, Christ, and the world to come. Our Confession is right to say the Sabbath is to be kept “unto the Lord”.

The Sabbath day is a day to gain perspective.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1–4, ESV)

The Sabbath day is a day to do business with God. The Reformers referred to it as the market day of the soul. 

May I encourage you read Psalm 92 this evening? Notice that the title is “A Song for the Sabbath”. And notice how the Psalmist ponders life. He compares the wicked and the righteous in light of the truth of God’s word. He gains (and gives) perspective. This is good to do on the Sabbath day. 

Do Acts Of Mercy

Fifthly, notice that our Confession urges men and women, boys and girls, to do acts of mercy on the Sabbath day. It is appropriate to do works of mercy on the Lord’s Day. Christ himself made this clear in his teachings when, after being criticized for healing on the Sabbath day, said, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11–12, ESV)

The Sabbath day is a wonderful day to do acts of mercy. 

Visit the sick on the Sabbath. 

Show hospitality on the Sabbath.

Help those who are in true need. 

Do Acts Of Necessity

Sixthly, notice that our Confession permits men and women, boys and girls, to do acts of necessity on the Sabbath day. There are activities that are simply necessary and are permitted on the Lord’s day.

It is right for you to prepare meals on the Sabbath.

It is right for you to clean up from those meals on the Sabbath. 

It may be that you find other activities necessary on the Sabbath day.

In my experience, it is easy to misuse this principle and to begin to call activities that are convenient, “necessary”.

Difficult Cases

Seventhly, and lastly, I will acknowledge that there are difficult cases that arise when determining what activities are right and lawful to be done on the Sabbath day.

It may be that your profession involves doing acts of mercy or necessity. In such cases, you do not violate the Sabbath when you work on the Lord’s Day. I have in mind emergency room doctors, nurses and staff. I have in mind police officers. I have in mind even water district employees. 

My recommendation to those of you who employed in professions such as these is to ask for the day off and to take the day off as much as possible. Don’t be seduced by the promise of overtime or extra pay. If you must work, then be mindful of the Sabbath day as much as possible. Do do not work unnecessarily on the Sabbath day. Get it off if you can. 

I must say that I do have a sympathy for those who’s employers insist that they work on the Lord’s Day even though their work is not associated with things of necessity and mercy. I have in mind here restaurant and coffee shop workers, etc. 

Because we do not live in Old Covenant Israel or in a society that has respect for the Sabbath day Christians do run into difficulties like this. Employers will sometimes insist that you work on Sundays. Here would be my advice to you.

One, make it clear to your employer that it is your religious conviction to honor the Lord’s Day. This takes courage. This requires faith. 

Two, if your employer consistently makes you work on the Lord’s Day even though you have asked for it off, I would advise you to look for another job. 

Three, if no other job can be found, and if you simply cannot afford to quit that job, I would have a hard time viewing you as a breaker of the Sabbath. I would urge you to consistently honestly and look for a solution, but I wonder if this would not be considered an act of necessity to work on the Sabbath to provide for yourself and your family when truly no other option is available to you. I’ve thought often of the Christian’s who were slaves to Romans in the days of the early church. I would imagine that some them were not allowed to rest and worship for the whole day, and yet I doubt the Lord viewed them as guilty. 

In my experience, however, the Lord usually does provide a way. Employers are usually willing to work with those who have religious convictions. If not, the other job opportunities do usually present themselves. 

Let us do everything in our power to keep the Sabbath day holy unto the Lord.  


Baptist Catechism 

Q. 63. What is required in the fourth commandment?

A. The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God one whole day in seven to be a Sabbath to Himself. (Lev. 19:30; Deut. 5:12)

Q. 64. Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?

A. Before 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. (Gen. 2:3; John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1,2; Rev. 1:10)

Q. 65. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?

A. The Sabbath is to sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days, and spending the 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. (Lev. 23:3; Isa. 58:13,14; Isa. 66:23; Matt. 12:11,12)

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