The Christian Sabbath: Our Confession

The fourth of the Ten Commandments is this: “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. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8–11, ESV)

How are we as Christians to understand this command? Even a brief glance at it reveals that it was originally given to a people living in a time different than our own. They were to rest on the seventh day. We, if we rest at all, rest on the first. They were to provide rest for their male servants, female servants, livestock, and to the sojourners who dwelt in their midst – all of this sounds very foreign to us, doesn’t it?

It is indeed tempting to brush the Sabbath command to the side reasoning to ourselves, “that was for a different time and for a different people, it does not apply to us anymore.” But is this true? Are we really to say that one of the Ten Commandments no longer applies? I think not.

Consider that the principle that binds each of the Ten Commandments together is the fact that they contain moral principles of universal significance. Idol worship is wrong – murder is wrong – adultery is wrong – not just for a select people living in a particular time, but for all people in all times. These things are forbidden because they are violations of God’s moral law which emanate from his being. The Ten Commandments are the Ten Commandments because they contain moral principles which apply to all people at all times.

Notice also the reason given for the fourth command. The text reads, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The significance is this: The Sabbath command was given, not first to Israel, but to Adam and Eve who represent the entire human race. The Sabbath is a picture of something. It reminds of of the fact that God created the heavens and the earth, of the promise of eternal rest found in him, and that he alone is worthy of our worship.

It is our conviction that the Sabbath principle remains in effect for us today. It ought to be obeyed by all people in all times. In other words, to fail to rest and to worship the one true God according to the pattern established by him at creation is to sin.

Now in the moment you read these words you probably have a dozen or more questions flood your mind: Which day? Can it be any day? If it must be a particular day, then why do we rest and worship on Sunday, and not Saturday? What can I do on that day? What must I not do? Isn’t this legalism? Wasn’t Jesus against Sabbath keeping? Didn’t Paul say that the Sabbath was done away with? What is the reason for all of this anyways? I intend to address questions like these in future posts. For now I would simply like to remind you of what we confess.

Would you please take a moment to read chapter 22 of the London Baptist Confession (below)? Notice that the sabbath principle is addressed within the context of a larger section dealing with worship, for that is the real question: how are we to worship God? The answer given is that we are to worship him, not according to our preferences, but in the way that he has prescribed in his word.

My prayer for you, church, is that you would grow convinced that this is indeed the teaching of scripture. God has given us six days to work, but he has invited us to rest and worship him one out of seven. The Sabbath is a gift. It ought to be a most joyous thing as we orient the rhythm of our lives around the worship of the God who made us, who saved us, and who will one day bring us into the fullness of his rest when he makes all things new.

The Baptist Confession of Faith
Chapter 22 – Worship and the Sabbath Day

  1. The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. ( Jeremiah 10:7; Mark 12:33; Deuteronomy 12:32; Exodus 20:4-6 )
  2. Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creatures; and since the fall, not without a mediator, nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone. ( Matthew 4:9, 10; John 6:23; Matthew 28:19; Romans 1:25; Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5 )
  3. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one part of natural worship, is by God required of all men. But that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of the Spirit, according to his will; with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and when with others, in a known tongue. ( Psalms 95:1-7; Psalms 65:2; John 14:13, 14; Romans 8:26; 1 John 5:14; 1 Corinthians 14:16, 17 )
  4. Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death. ( 1 Timothy 2:1, 2; 2 Samuel 7:29; 2 Samuel 12:21-23; 1 John 5:16 )
  5. The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord’s supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience to him, with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear; moreover, solemn humiliation, with fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, ought to be used in an holy and religious manner. ( 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2; Luke 8:18; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19; Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:26; Esther 4:16; Joel 2:12; Exodus 15:1-19, Psalms 107 )
  6. Neither prayer nor any other part of religious worship, is now under the gospel, tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed; but God is to be worshipped everywhere in spirit and in truth; as in private families daily, and in secret each one by himself; so more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly nor wilfully to be neglected or forsaken, when God by his word or providence calleth thereunto. ( John 4:21; Malachi 1:11; 1 Timothy 2:8; Acts 10:2; Matthew 6:11; Psalms 55:17; Matthew 6:6; Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42 )
  7. 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. ( Exodus 20:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10 )
  8. 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. ( Isaiah 58:13; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Matthew 12:1-13 )

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