Afternoon Sermon: What Is The Fourth Commandment, What Is Required, And On Which Day?, Baptist Catechism 62-64, Genesis 2:1-3

Baptist Catechism 62-64

Q. 62. What is the fourth commandment?

A. The fourth commandment is, “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 manservant, 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 the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

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)

Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:1-3

“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)

*****

Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

*****

Introduction

We will be considering the fourth commandment this Sunday and for the next two Sundays, Lord willing. Please remember that the first four commandments have to do with the proper worship of God. The first tells us who should be worshipped — God alone. The second tells us how he should be worship — not with images. The third teaches about the attitude of worship — we must not take the Lord’s name in vain. And the fourth addresses the time of worship. Here we learn that one day out of every seven is to be set aside a holy unto the Lord as the Sabbath day. On that day we are to rest from our worldly employment and recreations to give ourselves over rest, to the public and private worship of God, along with acts of necessity and mercy. 

If I were to guess I would say that the fourth commandment is the most misunderstood and greatly neglected of all of the commandments today. The predominant view seems to be that the Sabbath command is no longer applicable to the people of God living under the New Covenant. “Christ is our rest”, they say. “He has fulfilled the law!” And there is of course truth to this. But that does not mean that we have nine commandments now instead of ten. No, we agree with the writer to the Hebrews who wrote to New Covenant saints, saying, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God…” (Hebrews 4:9, ESV). The Greek word translatds as “sabbath rest” means “sabbath keeping”. The pattern of resting and worshipping one day in seven remains under this New Covenant era. Why? Because as true as it is that Christ is our rest, we have not yet entered into the full, final, consummate, and eternal rest that he has secured. That rest will be enjoyed after he returns to raise the dead, judge, and make all things new. And it is that rest — the eternal rest that the people of God will enjoy for all eternity in God’s glorious presence — of which the weekly Sabbath is a sign. A sabbath rest will remain until we go to glory.    

Let us learn to think carefully about the Sabbath command, lest we find ourselves living in perpetual sin as we fail to worship God according to his word. 

*****

Baptist Catechism 62

As you know, the fourth commandment is, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” (Exodus 20:8–10, ESV). This is the fourth of the ten commandments written by the finger of God on stone and delivered to the people of Israel by the hand of Moses. 

But please do not miss this very significant point. This was not the first time that Sabbath-keeping was commanded. No, even Adam was to keep the Sabbath day holy in imitation of his Maker. God created in six days and rested on the seventh. It should be obvious to all that it did not take God six days to create (as if he were struggling to complete the work) — instead, God took six days to create so that we might imitate him in our work. And God did not rest on the seventh because he was tired, but so that we might imitate him in our rest. 

In fact, a careful consideration of the Sabbath theme in scripture reveals that the Sabbath day functioned as a kind of invitation to Adam to work, living in perpetual and exact obedience to God, so that he might then enter into rest — eternal rest, the rest of God, that is to say, glory. 

Two very important observations must be drawn from this as begin to consider the fourth commandment. 

One, Sabbath-keeping was not for Old Covenant Israel only, but for all of mankind. The Sabbath (like marriage) was instituted, not in the days of Abrham, nor in the days of Moses or David, but at creation. It was at the time of creation that God, “blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” This is very significant. Those who believe that Sabbath observance passed away with the Old Covenant fail to recognize that the Sabbath was not instituted with the Old Covenant, but at creation.

Two, the seventh day Sabbath corresponded to the Covenant of Works which was made with Adam in the garden, and the covenant of works which was made with Israel in the days of Moses. The seventh-day Sabbath communicated this: work and thus enter into rest. We know that Adam broke that covenant. He failed to enter into rest. And we know that Israel could never keep it, not even to secure and maintain blessed life in the promised land. Nevertheless, the observation stands. The seventh-day Sabbath signifies the Covenant of Works. Work to enter God’s rest. Obey to enter life eternal.

*****

Baptist Catechism 63

Setting those preliminary observations to the side for just a moment, let us look a little closer at Baptist Catechism 63, which asks, What is required in the fourth commandment? Answer: “The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God one whole day in seven to be a Sabbath to Himself.”

As I have said, God established this pattern at the time of creation. One day of seven is to be set apart holy. This means that one day in seven is to be treated as different from the rest of the days. The other days are for common things — common work, and common recreation. But on of seven is to be regarded as special. It is to be approached as holy unto the Lord. 

The word “keeping” is significant, I think. For as you know, common things — common work and recreations — do always threaten to overrun the Sabbath day. Sabbath observance is not something we fall into. The Sabbath must be kept. The people of God must be intentional about it. They must prepare for it throughout the week by ordering their common affairs. And when the Sabbath day comes, it must be kept. 

*****

Baptist Catechism 64

Let us now briefly return to the question of the day. Question 64 will help us by asking, “Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?” And the answer is right and true: “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)

Notice three things:

One, the pattern of one day of rest out of every seven remains. And it will remain, “to the end of the world.” In other words, Sabbath-keeping has existed and will exist as long as life in this present age remains. This is so because of what the Sabbath signifies, namely, eternal rest. It signified eternal rest for Adam. It was an invitation to him to work and thus to enter into God’s rest. And the Sabbath functioned in the same way for Christ. Christ was to work and thus enter into rest. And the Sabbath also signifies eternal rest for you and me today. Tell me, brothers and sisters, have we entered into eternal life? Well, we have tasted it. And it is ours for sure if we are in Christ. We have been sealed by the Spirit. He is our guarantee. But we have not laid hold of it. Eternal life, life in glory, eternal rest is still in the future for us. And this is why a Sabbath-keeping remains for the people of God. 

Two, notice that though the pattern of one in seven remains, the day has changed. There was a time when the Sabbath was to be observed on the seventh day, that is, on Saturday. But now it is to be observed on the first day, that is, on Sunday, which the New Testament calls “the Lord’s Day”, and which we may call “the Christian Sabbath. 

So what prompted the change? Notice thirdly that the occurred at the resurrection of Christ from the dead. 

Now, let us think about this theologically. Why would the resurrection of Christ prompt a change in the Sabbath day? Why, after the resurrection of Christ from the dead, did Chriost meet with his disciple on Sunday? Why did the early church have this practice? Why did they assemble together for worship on the first day, and not the seventh, as was the custom of the people of God for generations before them? Why the change?

Well, I suppose the simplest answer would be to commemorate the resurrection of Christ from the dead. And that would be true enough. But I think there is more. Much more! 

One, consider that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and entered into glory because he kept the Covenant of Works which Adam failed to keep. And so at the time of Christ’s resurrection, there was an advancement in God’s program of redemption. When Christ rose from the dead, he accomplished something. He earned something. He moved things forwards as he kept the terms of that Covenant of Works that Adam failed to keep. Christ entered into rest. Perhaps this is why the early church customarily referred to the Lord’s Day as the “eighth day”. In six days God finished the first creation and he rested on the seventh. But Christ, by rising from the dead on the eighth day did secure the new creation for himself and all who are united to him by faith. The first day, or the eigth day Sabbath signified this advancement. 

Two, consider that when Christ died and rose again he did at that time inaugurate the New Covenant, which is the Covenant Grace. A Sabbath-keeping does indeed remain for the people of God. But a seventh-day Sabbath does not fit the Covenant of Grace. The seventh-day Sabbath signified that work would lead to rest — and that was indeed true for Adam, Israel (pathologically), and for Christ. But for those who are under the Covenant of Grace — that is to say, for those who have faith in the risen and ascended Christ — work does not lead to rest. Instead, rest in Christ does lead to work. First, we trust in Christ, and then we serve. First, we rest in him, and then we obey out of gratitude for all he has accomplished for us. 

*****

Conclusion

More could certainly be said. But for now I will say, do not neglect the Christian Sabbath.

Delight in it, brothers and sisters. Long for it. See that on this day we get a small taste of the rest that will be ours for all eternity through faith in Jesus Christ, who is the second and successful Adam. 

And prepare for it so that the Sabbath may be kept. “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, ESV).  

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)

Comments are closed.


"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

© 2011-2020 Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church