Providence Baptist Church, 09/2006

Posted 10/3/17 without editing

Fourth Commandment

There is a lot of controversy surrounding this commandment. In the following, we will attempt to give an honest and “neutral” explanation of Remember the sabbath day.... We will deal with two aspects of the commandment: its change from the seventh to the first day of the week, and its many implications.

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 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 maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 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)

This commandment is one of the more contested commandments. It was given as a sign between God and those he redeemed out of Egypt. Exodus 31:13-17. The pattern of the sabbath is God’s creation rest; the goal of the sabbath is man’s redemption rest.

This command is placed between the two tables as a transition as it were from the one to the other. It contains the duties of immediate service to God, and of charity toward men. It reconciles the two tables, and knits them together, clearly harmonizing them.

Note the wording: Thou shalt remember and thou shalt not do any work. Thus it is a double edged sword, both positive and negative.

It specifically speaks to every individual, no matter what their status in life: sons, daughters, man/maid-servants, strangers and even the domestic beasts.

This commandment has been especially assaulted by the enemy, by darkening its meaning, and by loosening from its strict ties. The sabbath has become just another day of eating, drinking and making merry by the vast majority of even God’s people.

This command establishes our duty to set apart and sanctify a portion of time for God’s service weekly. It is a perpetual duty, even as the duties required by the other commands is perpetual. Our obligation under this commandment is no more dissolved than our obligation under the other nine, though there may be a difference in the degree of obligation among the ten.

No doubt the most contested issue concerning the sabbath is determining the day that is to be honored?seventh day as in the Old Testament, or the first day, the Lord’s Day, as in the New. Accordingly, we will open this study by addressing the day week that is to be honored, and then we will examine the implications of the sabbath laws as found in both the Old and New Testaments.

Sabbath and its Day

The change from the seventh to the first day

In the New Testament, it is given the title of the Lord’s day, rather than the sabbath. Revelation 1:10

The carryover of the Old Testament sabbath to the New Testament Lord’s Day is strongly implied by prophecy. Isaiah 66:22, 23. V. 22, I will make speaks of the coming Gospel Church. Ezekiel’s new temple, chapters 43 (v.20) and 44, also speaks of the coming Gospel Church.

[43:18-27] Although the chief scope of this vision to be set out the glory and greatness of the church under the gospel and among the gentiles ; yet, because the Jews at this time being in Babylon were to return unto Jerusalem, therefore the Lord alludes to ordinances, rites, and ceremonies which were well known among the Jews, holding out under them the spiritual worship of the gospel. (Ezekiel, Greenhill, pp. 798, 799. First published 1646-1667. Reprint by Banner of Truth Trust. Note that the Gospel Church is formed out of Israel in Ezekiel 37. Thus, the vast portion of the prophecies past chapter 37 speak of the Gospel Church. 43:7, I will dwell in the midst... is a clear reference to Christ indwelling his people.)

In other words, Ezekiel’s vision saw the glory and greatness of the coming Gospel Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. But because those to whom he was speaking were Jews in Babylon, Ezekiel spoke in terms of the ordinances, rites, and ceremonies with which they were familiar. These chapters prophecy of teaching God’s people on the sabbath. The prophecy was fulfilled by the early church meeting for preaching and teaching of God’s word on the first day. Thus, the Old Testament prophecy of the keeping the sabbath is fulfilled on the first day of the week, the Lord’s day. Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 26.

In Matthew 24:20, our Lord said, But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: So here he tells us that there was to be a sabbath after his ascension. Christ could not mean the Jewish Sabbath, for that was soon to be abolished, as it was in 70 AD, when all vestige of Judaism was destroyed by Rome. Hebrews 4.


* The seventh day speaks of God’s rest in the first creation. The first day speaks of our rest in Christ who made and makes all things new in the new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17, Revelation 21.

Those who insist on a seventh day sabbath are missing the point. The seventh day remembers God’s work in the first creation. The first day remembers God’s work in the second, or the new creation in Christ. We are not implying that the followers of the seventh day sabbath are not saved. However, we are saying that they do not understand the implications of the New Creation in Christ Jesus.

* A seventh day sabbath continues the Judaizing influence that Paul, and the rest of the New Testament authors, worked so hard to remove from the new church. Though the first Christian church buildings were called Christian Synagogues, the different day for meeting would have helped keep out the Jewish influence.

While in Linden, Indiana, we went to a Christian doctor for our health needs. His son was involved with a “Messianic Jewish” congregation. From what I was told, those who claim to be “Messianic Jews” say they are Jews who believe in Jesus. I was told that they keep all of the Old Testament Hebrew festivals, except the blood sacrifice for sin; this “Jewish” influence is the very thing the New Testament authors tried to keep out of the church. Are the “Messianic Jews” bringing back the “Jewish” influence which every New Testament book tries to keep out?

* Moses, who commanded the seventh day, was the faithful servant in the old house, which spoke of things which were to be spoken after. Hebrews 3:5. However, it is Christ to whom the new world to come is in subjection. Hebrews 2:5. Thus, the seventh day sabbath speaks of the old house, while the first day sabbath speaks of the new house which is under Christ. Hebrews 3:6.

* The Christian Sabbath was honored more than any other day:

* God rested from the creation work on the seventh day. Having perfected the work of redemption, having obtained victory over death, having proving himself the Son of God, Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week. Matthew 17, Romans 1:4. The old seventh day sabbath was the first day after man’s creation, and ended the old creation. The first day Christian sabbath begins man’s new creation in Christ.

* Christ appeared at least twice to his disciples on the Lord’s Day, including John with the Revelation.

* The Spirit was given at Pentecost. Acts 2.

* The first church assemblies met on the first day rather than on the seventh day. John 20:19, 26. No doubt the disciples met on other days, but it was on this first day of the week that Christ appeared to them after the resurrection. Moreover, Paul commanded that the collection for the saints would be on the first day of the week. 1 Corinthians 16:2.

* Christ only claimed the first day of the week as his, the Lord’s day, the same as Christ has only claimed one supper as his, the Lord’s supper. Revelation 1:10, 1 Corinthians 11:20.

History of the “day” controversery

Justin Martyr (100-165), in his dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, gives us a good idea of the stand of the early church concerning a great many things, including the sabbath:

“There are such people, Trypho,” I answered; “and these do not venture to have any intercourse with or to extend hospitality to such persons; but I do not agree with them. But if some, through weak-mindedness, wish to observe such institutions as were given by Moses, from which they expect some virtue, but which we believe were appointed by reason of the hardness of the people’s hearts, along with their hope in this Christ, and [wish to perform] the eternal and natural acts of righteousness and piety, yet choose to live with the Christians and the faithful, as I said before, not inducing them either to be circumcised like themselves, or to keep the Sabbath, or to observe any other such ceremonies, then I hold that we ought to join ourselves to such, and associate with them in all things as kinsmen and brethren. But if, Trypho,” I continued, “some of your race, who say they believe in this Christ, compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses, or choose not to associate so intimately with them, I in like manner do not approve of them. But I believe that even those, who have been persuaded by them to observe the legal dispensation along with their confession of God in Christ, shall probably be saved. And I hold, further, that such as have confessed and known this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back from some cause to the legal dispensation, and have denied that this man is Christ, and have repented not before death, shall by no means be saved. Further, I hold that those of the seed of Abraham who live according to the law, and do not believe in this Christ before death, shall likewise not be saved, and especially those who have anathematized and do anathematize this very Christ in the synagogues, and everything by which they might obtain salvation and escape the vengeance of fire. For the goodness and the loving-kindness of God, and His boundless riches, hold righteous and sinless the man who, as Ezekiel tells, repents of sins; and reckons sinful, unrighteous, and impious the man who fails away from piety and righteousness to unrighteousness and ungodliness. Wherefore also our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘In whatsoever things I shall take you, in these I shall judge you.’” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, chapter 47, Justin Communicates with Christians who observe the law. Pp, 417-418. The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. American Reprint of the Edinburgh Edition. Volume 1, The Apostolic Fathers: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus. Digitized and on DVD by AGES Software, Albany, Oregon. Though I have the hard copy of the “Fathers,” as published by Eerdmans, this digitized copy is much easier to use. AGES’s page numbers do not correspond with Eerdmans’.)


1) There are those weak-minded who wish to observe institutions as were given by Moses, expecting some virtue through those observances – such as circumcision and keeping the Sabbath, Old Testament Hebrew festivals, holy days, and other such ceremonies. Though Justin considered them weak-minded, he considered them saved if they have confessed Christ.

2) There are those who have been persuaded by “Jews” to live in respect to the law given by Moses. Justin considered them saved, if they have confessed Christ.

3) There are those who have confessed Christ, yet go back to the Hebrew legal dispensation as was under Moses, and then deny Christ. They shall not see life. (See 1 John 2:19.)

4) There are those who completely deny Christ, yet seek righteousness by following Moses. They shall not see life.

There are several other sources, but we will only use Justin. With him, we see that the first century church considered “Sabbath Keeping” as required by Moses on the seventh day, either a mark of unsaved, or of weak-mindedness. The “keepers” do not fully comprehend the work of Christ on the cross, the new creation nor the freedom they have in Christ Jesus.

Sabbath and Change under Christ

The Old Testament sabbath law was not primarily a day of worship, but a day of rest. Exodus 16:14-36. Though the New Testament clearly urges a day of worship, the weekly worship was not introduced until the inter-testament period. In the Old Testament, worship was family-centered, and was woven into every day activity. It should still be so embedded in common life, but the New Testament adds the responsibility of corporate worship. Hebrews 10:25. Corporate worship should not be confused nor equated with rest, though the two are closely related. The New Testament rest is rest from our labours for peace with God and total confidence in God’s accomplishment in Christ. Hebrews 4.

Severe laws enforced the sabbath rest, not sabbath worship. The general law forbad work on the sabbath. Exodus 34:21, &c. However, Christ made it clear that works of mercy could be done. Since redemption means defeating God’s enemies, the Maccabees finally came to the logical conclusion that it was in conformity with the sabbath to resist attacks by the enemy. I Maccabees 2:41.

Dabney tells us that even when Stonewall Jackson had great advantages over the enemy, he considered “‘the Sabbath of the Lord,’ which he would fain to honor always, if the wicked would let him.” He wanted his men to rest and worship on the Christian Sabbath.

But those enemies cherished no such reverence. As at the first Manassas, and so many other pitched battles, they selected the holy day for an unholy deed.

Thus, the Army of Northern Virginia wanted to honor the Sabbath with only defense on that day, but the North wanted to kill on that day. (Discussions, 162)

There is no trace of maintaining the Old Testament Sabbath practices nor penalties in the church after the resurrection. Christ’s disciples, as well as the early members of the church, were all Jews. For a time, they continued to observe the Old Testament Sabbath. The preachers, particularly, preached in the synagogues on the old Sabbath because that is where the people who were seeking God met. Acts 13:14-26, 16:11-13, 17:2, 3, 18:1, 11. But the Christian day of worship was on the first day of the week, which was the day of the resurrection as well as the day of Pentecost. Matthew 38:1, Mark 16:1, 2, 9, Luke 24:1, John 20:1-19, Acts 20:6-8, 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2.

Paul was emphatic that the Old Testament sabbath regulations no longer had their old binding force. Colossians 2:16, 17. Though the requirement of death for sabbath violation is no longer valid, that old requirement shows us that there is still an important principle for us today.

The change from the Hebrew sabbath to the Christian sabbath. The Hebrew seventh day sabbath celebrated redemption from Egypt. Deuteronomy 5:12-15. The Christian first day sabbath celebrates Christ’s triumph over sin and death. Thus, those who reject the Christian sabbath reject Christ’s redemption, and seek salvation by another way.

Consider the calendar

The Hebrew sabbath and the modern Saturday cannot be equated. The Hebrew calendar at Sinai was a solar calendar, and must not be confused with the modern Jewish solar-lunar calendar of A.D. 359. The Hebrew calendar began its dating from the deliverance from Egypt. It had 12 months of 30 days each. Instead of adding the 5 extra days at the end of the 12th month, it added 3 days at the end of the 6th month, and 2 at the end of the 12th month. In addition, the 15th day of Abib, the first month, had to be a sabbath every year. That means that the 1st and 8th of Abid were fixed sabbaths. Moreover, the 7 sabbaths following the 15th Abid had to also be fixed, for the 50th day was Pentecost. Leviticus 23:6, 7, 11, 15-16.

There are several other points concerning the Hebrew sabbath, which will only further confuse the issue. All of that to say this ? under the Hebrew calendar, the sabbath of rest never fell on the same day of the week, no more than does our birthday, nor wedding anniversary.

Thus, the Hebrew sabbath and the modern Saturday cannot be equated.

The Hebrew sabbath proclaimed physical freedom from physical bondage throughout the land, though one could remain a slave if he so desired. Exodus 21:5-7. The Christian sabbath proclaims spiritual freedom from the spiritual bondage of sin. Galatians 5:1.

Sabbath, Moral or Ceremonial

The Ten Commandments are called the Ten Words. Deuteronomy 10:4. All the Commandments are moral, and thus there are ten, not nine Words given personally by God for man’s rule of life, written by his very finger. They were laid up in the ark. Exodus 26:15. They are not the judicial nor ceremonial law, which starts in Exodus 20:22. If the Fourth were ceremonial, then it would have been placed with the ceremonial laws. The Ten all have equal authority in both Testaments, and are referred to as The Law in the New.

James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

Moreover, the sabbath law was given before the Fall, before there was need for ceremonial laws. Thus, it has no type nor ceremony to be replaced by Christ.

Nor is it judicial, for it does not fit into the second table, which teaches man’s duties to one another. (The judicial laws fall under the second table.)

Accordingly, the Fourth Commandment retains the same authority as do the other nine, for neither the Lord nor the Apostles give new authority, nor compromised the authority of any of the Commandments as given in the Old Testament. Rather, they cited the law (Commandments) and the prophets to support their teachings.

It is a moral law, for the Lord pronounced a blessing upon this day above the other six, being the only command in which he promises a special blessing upon his people who keep it.

God does not leave man free to choose a solemn chief time to worship him, a time at his pleasure. For then he would be free to choose no time at all, or a longer or shorter time. Moreover, those who do honor the sabbath are better, both spiritually and physically, than those who do not.

“But the sabbath law is not restated in the New Testament.”

* Neither are the laws restated against a man marrying his sister or his aunt, the law against images, nor the law against swearing..

* Did Paul do away with observing the Sabbath, and make all days the same with Romans 14:5, 6, Galatians 4:10, or Colossians 2:16?

If Romans 14:5, 6, did away with honoring the Lord’s day, then the apostles were wrong in setting aside the first day of the week, and calling it the Lord’s Day. John 20:19, Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2. Furthermore, Galatians 4:10, Colossians 2:16 are probably speaking of the Jewish ceremonial days, into which the new Jewish converts were greatly tempted to continue.

Thus, one day of seven is as necessary to be kept holy unto God by the Gospel Church, as is the worship required by God in the Second Commandment. Some would say that using another day than the first day as the Christian Sabbath is like substituting other modes of worshiping God. However, Paul does not seem to be so strict.

Colossians 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

The Geneva note explains the situation:

[V 16] (15) The conclusion: in which also he means certain types, as the difference of days, and meats, and proves by a new argument, that we are not bound to them: that is, because those things were shadows of Christ to come, but now we possess him who was exhibited to us.

[V. 17] (z) The body as a thing of substance and physical strength, he sets against shadows.

Paul makes it clear that the old sabbath ordinance has radially changed. The Mosaic Sabbath was clearly a shadow of things to come, which was Christ. The essence of the Christian Sabbath is our rest in Christ, and our growth in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18.

Paul stated our duty under the Christian Sabbath in Hebrews 10:25, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is. Though the Sabbath is to be a day of rest, peace and quiet, the emphasis is on God’s authority, increasing knowledge of him, and rest in his government and salvation?that is, accept his authority and to trust in him.

Though the Hebrew seventh day has been changed to the Lord’s Day, the principle of one day in seven is still reserved for the Lord. Its reverence and substance cannot be neglected without sin. This one day in seven is for God’s honor and man’s well-being.

Mark 2:27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

Validity of this Commandment.

The frequency of its mention shows us that the church of all ages has been under this command.

* The seventh day command is found in the creation, as God rested on the seventh day. Genesis 2:2.

* It is found before the giving of the law in Exodus 20. That is, in Exodus 16.

* It is found in Exodus 31:13, Leviticus 23:3, Deuteronomy 5, Nehemiah 9:13, 14, Jeremiah 17:21 and in Ezekiel 22:22. Psalms 92 is called, A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day.

* It is found in the New Testament in Matthew 24:20, Luke 23:56, Acts 13:14, 15, 21, 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16 & Revelation 1:10.

Note that all these verses show a continuity between the seventh day sabbath and the first day sabbath, or the Lord’s Day. The frequency of its mention shows us its binding power upon God’s people of all ages.

A Serious Matter

* It is spoken of in Genesis 2, backed with a reason.

* It is spoken of as a mercy and privilege given to God’s people. Nehemiah 9:14.

* The keeping of it contains many promises. Isaiah 56:4-8, Jeremiah 17:24-26

* Breaching it is severely threatened. Numbers 15:32-36. (The man who gathered sticks on the sabbath was stoned at the Lord’s command.) Nehemiah 13:15, Jeremiah 17:19-23, 27, Ezekiel 20:12, 13.

* There are many examples of the godly men of old keeping it. Nehemiah 13, Luke 23:56, 20:7, Revelation 1.

* It has clearly defined duties.

* In the Old Testament, God claims it as his day, not man’s. Isaiah 50:13.

* God’s people acknowledged it as God’s day, thy holy sabbath. Nehemiah 9:14.

* It was given in innocency before the fall. Hebrews 4

* It was sanctified before the law was given.

* In the giving of the law, it is remembered, and given to us with a command to remember it.

* After the law, it is urged by the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, and it is kept by the godly. Psalms 92.

* The violation of the sabbath was a major cause for the captivity. Ezekiel 20

Sabbath Teachings

Let us now examine what the Commandment says:

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 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 maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 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)

The Fourth Commandment is the only one ushered in with Remember. Remember, and the thing they were to remember was the Lord’s creation rest. There is no record of sabbath keeping before the Exodus.

Remember that God has set aside one day special for himself. Thus, we must not be discomposed when that day comes around. Remember so we can make timely preparation in our hearts for it – that we might be in the proper frame of mind when it comes. Remembering will remind us of the seriousness of the duties of the day. Remembering the day when it is past. Do we remember the lessons learned from the word of God.

A weekly day of rest is only known where Christianity is the basis for culture. Non-Christian cultures have no set weekly day of rest, and only had days of rest when the king, or state, decided to celebrate something. Though they look everywhere for rest, there is no rest for the wicked. Isaiah 57:20, 21. I remember when Russia, I believe it was, tried to institute an 8 day work week. It did not work.

As the Lord told us, the sabbath was made for man’s benefit, not man for the sabbath. The sabbath asserts the principle of freedom under God; that is, liberty under God’s law. Obedience to God’s law frees man from himself and from his own work. However, fallen man seeks to control and re-order all things to recreate the world into a new paradise. Thus he increases bondage to both himself and to others.

The refusal to believe in the God of Providence of the Bible results in man working to provide his own providence, and to replace the total government of God with the total government of man.

The sabbath here means rest; not just any rest, but holy rest from our own works. According to Hebrews 4, the preaching of the word on this special day should result in replacing self-effort with Holy Spirit effort.

Zechariah 4:6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

The Sabbath of Hebrews for means that we lay aside our might and power, and depend upon the Lord’s Spirit in our daily activities.


We should give as much time to worship, service and honor to the Lord on his day as we do to our ordinary callings on other days of the week, which should not be understood as rigid preforming all these hours in duties of immediate worship. It is a day of rest set aside for man’s benefit.

Mark 2:27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

(Note: the Levites, or teachers of God’s word, did not violate the sabbath by working that day. Matthew 12:5)

Note the command: It is not Remember the seventh day; rather, it is remember the sabbath. And God blessed the sabbath day, not the seventh day, Saturday. Sabbath means rest, or cessation from labour, which typified the rest, and there were a great many Sabbaths in the Old Testament.

Keep it holy, Hallowed or Sanctify

Sanctify is mentioned twice in this commandment, vv. 8, 11. Sanctify simply means separated for holy use, as were the altar, temple, &c., which did not become holy themselves. We sanctify something when we use it as God intended it to be used. Thus, the Sabbath is sanctified when we employ it as God intended.

* By having our heart clean and in a right frame so we can hear God’s word with a willingness and readiness to do it. Luke 8:21.

* By resting from worldly labours with which we make our living.

* By not desiring it to end quickly, so we can get back to doing our own thing. Amos 8:5.

* By working the other six days, for work is in the same command as is remember the sabbath.

The Sabbath requires rest; not only rest from our daily, physical labor, but rest from our own works in order to please God. It requires rest in Christ for our hope of eternal life.

Hebrews 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

The rest in Hebrews 4 also requires hearing, believing and doing the word of God, which requires discipline and work:

Hebrews 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

The sabbath not only permits, but it requires some things:

* Giving bread to the hungry. Isaiah 58.

* Works of mercy, to both man and beast. Luke 13:15-17, 1 Corinthians 16.

* Visiting others to comfort, strengthen and edify them.

* Works of necessity: modern application – emergency and health-care facilities, utilities, steel mills, oil rigs and other things that are impractical to shut down. (It may take days to restart a steel mill or oil drilling rig.) Matthew 12. (When the family controlled the big printing company in Crawfordsville, Indiana, RR Donnely, it always closed down on Sundays. Now only the bottom line counts, and they operate 24/7 except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.)

* Fleeing from destruction, and defending ourselves against unjust violence. Matthew 24.

We should avoid things on the Lord’s Day that can be done just as well on other days, or that reduce that day to just another day.

Exodus 34:21 Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.

We should avoid reducing the Sabbath to a day to increase our wealth. Note here that ministers who preach for the applause or who preach for the money violate this command, for they are preaching for personal gain. The preaching and teaching of God’s word must be because it is God’s call.

The old Blue Laws were the basic Sabbath laws codified.

Sabbath and Work

Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

V. 9 shows us that the emphasis is on physical work; thus, the sabbath means rest from our physical labour, as God rested from his creation work. Sabbath rest from physical labor is being emphasized here, not the seventh day of the week. Under this command is the command to work the other six days, which encompasses all the New Testament references to work.

The emphasis on work shows us that the all the “work” commands fit here. The Sabbath condemns idleness. God’s creation example not only establishes one day’s rest in seven, but it establishes 6 days of work:

Proverbs 6:9 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? 10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

Proverbs 19:15 Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger. 24 A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.

Proverbs 20:13 Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.

Proverbs 23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

Proverbs 24:30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. 32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. 33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

Isaiah 56:10 His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber

1 Thessalonians 4:11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;

2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

1 Timothy 5:13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

See also Genesis 3:19, Proverbs 13:4, 20:4, 21:25.

The Fourth Commandment, as does the Eighth Commandment, requires honest work – fraudulent research (“Global Warming”), failure to do an honest day’s work violate the Fourth Commandment. There can be no rest unless there is work. Notice the command is Six days shalt thou labour...

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Though we are warned many times against idleness or not working enough, we are never warned against working too hard. The only warning against working too much is found in the Fourth Commandment, for this Command also sais Ye shall not work above six day a week. It does not say you will work the first six day of the week, and rest the seventh day. Thus, the Sabbath is not necessarily the seventh day, but one day in seven.

We can rest in the Lord in our work, for he has promised that our labour in him is not in vain. Moreover, in his sovereignty, God makes all things work together for good unto them that love him, and are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, 29.)

Our standard is God’s creation work:

Exodus 20:11 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.

The Lord’s rest referred to here was before sin entered into the world. So was the creation mandate:

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

The creation mandate, or dominion mandate was given before the fall, not as a result of the fall. We see from its requirements that the mandate is under the Fourth Commandment. The mandate requires work ? work in reproducing and raising godly offspring: The 127 Psalm falls under this commandment.

1 <<A Song of degrees for Solomon.>> Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. 3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

It includes work in subduing all creation for God’s glory. Spurgeon Catechism:

1 Q. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, {1Co 10:31} and to enjoy him for ever. {Ps 73:25,2}

We also realize that the mandate’s required work cannot be accomplished without God’s regenerating grace, for without that grace, man cannot please God, keep his law-word, nor fulfill his God-commanded duties.

The redeemed man is not required to produce a paradise on earth, but to fulfill God’s requirements within God’s kingdom. And that requires work, both spiritual and physical:

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever [work] ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Since the Fourth Commandment is a moral law, it applies equally to all mankind, not just to the old Hebrew economy and the New Israel of God. It applies to all mankind as does Thou shalt not kill. Pagan economies must enforce this “work” law if they expect their economies to prosper.

Sabbath and Rest

or Rest under Authority

Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 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 maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 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.

We see that proper rest falls under the Sabbath law. Naomi gives a statement that is rejected by modern man:

Ruth 3:1 Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?

Here we see that Ruth was urged to find rest in marriage. It was not rest from having to glean, but rest under the care and authority of a husband.

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

The rest a woman is to find in a marriage is the same rest a man is to find in Christ. We see in this passage that the covered head is a sign of submission to authority:

1 Corinthians 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. 5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

Both history and current facts show us that an unprotected woman, that is, out from under proper authority, is open game. (We will not go much into family law, for that will be covered under 5 & 7.) The sabbath must clearly present God’s authority and sovereignty. Clearly, proper rest comes only from being under proper authority, and resting in God’s loving providence.

There are several Sabbaths established in Scripture: the weekly sabbath required total rest where a fire could not even be built. However, the new moon sabbaths did not require a rest day. But we will not go into these different Sabbaths.

We also need to keep in mind that the original Old Testament sabbath had nothing to do with a public assembly nor public worship. That sabbath was family centered. However, a logical and necessary development is an assembly for united worship and instruction. Submission to proper authority and faith in Divine Providence requires knowledge of God and his law as revealed in his word. The New Testament public assembly is for instruction in the God’s revealed word. Acts 20:20, 28:31, Romans 12:7, Colossians 1:28, Ephesians 4, &c.

Old Israel had Levites in every city who could preach Moses. Acts 15:21. Can we do any less than have common public assemblies where the word of God can be taught?

Therefore, the Christian sabbath is geared toward knowledge of God and his word. Proper knowledge of God and his word should lead to delight expressed in song. Psalms 86:12, Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:16, &c.

Sabbath and Worship

Worship is defined as some tribute paid by the reasonable creature to God, as the great and sovereign Lord Creator; whether it be immediately and directly paid and performed to him, such as prayer and praise or done at his command and for his honor, such as preaching, hearing, partaking of the Lord’s table. The first table of the commandments falls under worship.

Family worship

Family worship differs from secret or public worship. We are given several examples of family worship; that is, of the fathers teaching the children. The first instance can be found in Genesis 18:19, For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

It is followed by a multitude of commands to train our children: Exodus 12:26, 27, Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:7, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4.

Mr. Durham points out that this command cannot be understood to require worship only in public assembly. (The Law Unsealed, 1675. P. 204) There may be some cases of no access to public worship as required by Hebrews 10:25. The Lord’s Day can be honored with family worship, which can include other like minded families.

I have been surprise at the number of folks who have contacted me, complaining that there are no Bible believing and teaching churches within a couple hours drive. The result has been an explosive growth of the home church movement.

In areas of persecution by the State for open assemblies, the family worship and home church movements have grown, i.e., China. Are they in violation of the Fourth Commandment because they must meet in very small groups, sometimes limited to their immediate family? Are they in violation of Romans 13 because they must meet in secret, contrary to civil laws?

Thus, this command cannot be understood to require worship only in public, together with other believers, for there may be no public worship. Though public worship is part of sanctifying the Lord’s Day, other things are included. Nor can it be every individual worshiping the Lord on his own, nor family worship when there is opportunity for honest public worship.

(Under public worship, we should mention the need for modest apparel on the Lord’s Day especially. 1 Peter 3:4. Moreover, on the Lord’s day our words should be especially edifying and suitable. )

The Fourth Commandment

* includes proper daily family worship: Pray to God for the scattered family, that they may be able to worship God freely, or secretly if necessary.

* includes instructing one another in the word, especially fathers to their children, which if required on a particular day, then it includes every day. Deuteronomy 6:7, 8.

Genesis 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

* includes teaching our families the proper way of serving and worshiping the Lord, as obviously Abraham did his household. The result of teaching our families is that the Lord may bring upon us that which he hath promised us through Christ our Lord.

* includes fulfilling in our families by our example.

2 Samuel 6:18 And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. 20 Then David returned to bless his household. (Job 1 also)

Neglect of this commandment in our families carries with it a threat:

Jeremiah 10:25 Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name:

Families who neglect teaching the proper way of serving and worshiping God, including heathen families, are appointed to destruction. Psalms 79:6 Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.

Thus, the curse reaches all corners of all societies, and all nations under the sun, for there is no place hidden from our God. Job 34:21, 22, Psalms 139:8, Hebrews 4:13.

1 Timothy 3:4, 5:10 and Titus 1:5 requires that elders and even widows are to be tried by the above rules of properly instructing their families, as established in Jeremiah 10 and Psalms 79. Have they brought up children in the Christian religion?

* includes family discipline and authority; that is, men ruling their own house well. 1 Timothy 3, for that rule is tied in with proper rule in the house of God.

EXAMPLE: Until I became a pastor in 1983, I was always in a Jack Hyles type of church. The Hyles idea is that if we take care of God’s work, then he will take care of ours. In other words, if we will spend our lives “soul-winning” and building attendance in Sunday School and Church, then God will take care of our families. I did not see the fallacy of this teaching until the middle 80s, and even after that, I had a very difficult time extracting myself from it, and still do.

Today, I must say with David,

2 Samuel 23:5 Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.

Although my house was not so with God; yet he has blessed me above measure.

I cannot count the number of pastors who have been caught in the Hyles’ trap, and their families have been destroyed. Only by God’s grace did my family avoid that total destruction.

Sabbath and Freedom

The Jubilee

The Fourth Commandment also required a jubilee year, which was 7 sabbath years, or the 50th year. The 50th year started by blowing the trumpet on the Day of Atonement. Thus, on the jubilee year, there were two sabbath years in a row. Leviticus 25:8-12. God’s people, if they obeyed the sabbath laws, now had two years of rest. That did not mean they laid around all day watching TV. It meant that they changed occupations, or did the maintenance that was needed.

In the sabbath years, the land could not be worked nor harvested. The poor and the owner could eat of what grew of itself. The land could not be sold, for it belonged to the Lord. However, the use of the land could be sold, but it had to be returned to the owner in the jubilee year. This required release every 50 years saw to it that the wealth be scattered throughout the nation, and not collected by a few.

A man or woman could not be sold, but their labor could be sold for 6 years:

The sabbath recalled the creation sabbath. The institution of Israelite sabbath recalled Israel’s redemption and regeneration. The goal of the sabbath, as Hebrews 3 makes clear, is the promised land, the new creation in Jesus Christ. The sabbath therefore sets forth the restoration and restitution of all things in Christ. In the jubilee year, as in each sabbatical year, debts ran out.... (Institutes, p. 141.)

The jubilee started on the evening of the Day of Atonement, making clear that Christ’s atonement is the foundation of the new creation. It is the basis of man’s rest by faith, and his anticipation of the final victory and rejoicing in his present victory by faith in the sufficiency of Christ. Note that the sabbath release and the jubilee year were only given to Israel. Thus, debts owed by non-Israelites did not fall under the sabbath year nor the jubilee requirement.

The earth was to take part in the sabbath rest, which permitted it to revitalize. Leviticus 26:34, 43.

Illustration: The brother of a faithful church member in Indiana had a large farm. He continued to use nitrogen and other fertilizers to keep his crops growing. He said that the ground became so hard over the years that it became very difficult to work. It took bigger and bigger tractors to do the same amount of work to get through the ground. Of course, cash flow problems kept him from letting the land rest.

Man can ignore the sabbath requirements for the land only at the peril of judgement and death. We know that the modern methods of substituting chemicals for God’s natural way has removed a great amount of nutritional value from the foods we eat, e.g., eggs, milk, grains, veggs. When man destroys the soil, pollutes his food and poisons the air and water, he passes the death sentence against himself. Though he looks to science to rescue him, his hope is vain.

Man’s inability to rest results in stress, many medical problems, and early death. His problem is a lack of a true sabbath, a lack of faith in the true Sabbath, Christ Jesus.

The goal of the sabbath is the second creation rest in Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Galatians 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

Revelation 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

God works from the bottom up, so man’s required rest starts with the earth, and includes the animals. But the sabbath is only life to those who look in faith to the Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord Jesus Christ, and allows him to create in them the new man in the image of Christ Jesus.

Sabbath and Forgiveness

The sabbath law included the cancellation of physical debt in the Old Testament, and cancels the spiritual debt in the New. It means rest, or forgiveness from God for our trespasses:

Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. [Jubilee release] Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Our forgiveness, our sabbath rest and peace with the Father, is found in the Fourth Commandment. And, accordingly, the requirement of forgiving others of their trespasses against us is based in the Fourth Commandment. Thus, the many New Testament passages dealing with guilt and bitterness fall under this Commandment.

* Confession of sins. Poverbs 28:13, 14, 1 John 1:9.

* Settling of any quarrels, which is especially important before the public gathering on the Lord’s day. Ephesians 4:26.

* Making things right with another. Matthew 5:21ff., 18:15ff.,

* The cleansing of the conscience. Hebrews 9 and 10.

The sabbath release from the guilt and penalty of sin by Christ means life and peace for man. Man’s sabbath release simply from work, and maybe even debt, only brings death.

Sabbath and the Time of Day

6 PM to 6 PM, or 12AM to 12AM?

Exodus 12:8-10, the evening of one day was divided from the morning of the next, showing us the division was at 12AM. See also Leviticus 23:1.

Moses said evening and morning made up the day. However, do we start Monday’s work day on Sunday evening. Did God start his day of rest on the evening (6:00 PM) of the 6th day or on the morning of the 7th (12:00 AM)?

Exodus 16:23, Moses said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord. He did not say, This evening is the holy sabbath unto the Lord.

I will not go into the discussion of why Moses used the term, evening and morning rather than morning and evening.

Sabbath and Life

The death penalties attached to the violation of the sabbath presents two obvious assumptions:

First, the principles involved in the Old Testament sabbath are important enough to carry with them capital punishment.

Second, if violation of those principles bring about death, then obedience means life.

The primary purpose of the sabbath is not worship, but rest. The commandment makes clear that the sabbath was a day of rest for man and beast. The details of the sabbath also required a sabbatical year, requiring the land to rest one year of seven. Exodus 23:10, 11, Leviticus 25:1-7, 20-22.

The sabbath rest for the land was important enough that Israel spent 70 years in Babylonian captivity for neglecting that rest 70 times–490 years. 2 Chronicles 36:21. Jeremiah 25:9-11.

Sabbath and Environmentalism

The Fourth Commandment requires Christian actions toward domestic animals. It is sad that Christians have turned over the care of domestic animals to the “animal rights” groups, who are generally anit-Christ.

Proverbs 12:10 A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

The minuteness of Scripture is one of its most valuable properties. It shows the mind of God on many points apparently trivial. Here it tests our profession by our treatment of the burtes. They were given to man, as the lord of the creation, for his use, comfort and food (Gen. i.28, ix. 3) ; not for his wantonness. (Charles Bridges, Proverbs. [1846]. Banner of Truth Trust, 1981. P. 136.)

Included in the Fourth Commandment is proper care for not only domestic beasts, but the environment in which our God placed us.

* It forbids the mutilation, and generally the giving of unnecessary pain, to beasts; ... it [and the Fifth Commandment] enjoins those who take a bird's nest to let the dam escape. Deuteronomy 22:6f. (Keil-Delitzsch, Ages Software, 1999.). It forbids killing a cow or ewe and their young on the same day. Leviticus 22:28. It forbids boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. Exodus 23:19.

* It requires such things as proper care of fruit trees that are for man’s consumption. Leviticus 19:23-25. Adam’s keeping of all God’s requirements were useless when he broke one in regard to the tree. That violation made him a violator of all of God’s word. James 2:10.

* It requires proper conservation – care for the water, soil and air. Thus, pollution of all kinds violates the Fourth Commandment, including such things as mining and farming practices, which must be done in accord with God’s word, which tells us what is best for the environment.

Of course, it is the sin-polluted man that produces a terribly polluted environment. Our modern sanitation systems are a result of our Christian heritage. Deuteronomy 23:13, 14.

Christians should be the true “environmentalists”, known for their care of God’s creation. Is it any wonder that the pagans have taken over the environmental movement, for Christians have abandoned it?

Sabbath and Law

Hebrews 3 & 4 gives us the foundation of understanding the Christian Sabbath. It tells us that as Israel found rest in the promised land, the Christian finds his rest in Christ. The creation rest is not entered into except through Christ, and is fulfilled in the new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17, Revelation 21:5.

The Old Testament Sabbath gave rest from debt every 7 years, and required the land to rest every 7 years, which required that the covenant man to work hard, plan ahead and depend upon Divine Providence to provide for him. Thus, a Sabbath keeping community was production-centered, future-oriented and was able to enjoy true rest.

Final thoughts:

Those who teach the Ten Commandments are not for us today simply do not understand what is involved in those Ten Words from God, for they were given for our good. The antinomian teachers have cut their followers off from the many blessings covered in this and the rest of the Commandments.

Deuteronomy 10:12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13 To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?

We must obey God, and train the upcoming generations in the Commandments of our God if there will be any hope of having a generation that fears God. I John 2:3, 3:22.

Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

Those who find his Commandments grievous are not his. 1 John 5:2, 3.

If we will remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as well as teach the other Nine Commandments, and teach the upcoming generations to do the same, the new generation can again enjoy the benefits of if we expect God’s blessings.

Pastor Ovid Need


Dabney, R.L. Discussions. Vol. IV, Secular. S. B. Ervin, 1897. Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, VA. 1994.

Durham, James. The Law Unsealed; or A Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments. With a Resolution of Several Momentous Questions and Cases of Conscience. To Which are Prefixed the Momentous Epistles of Two Famous English Divines, Dr. Owen and Mr. Jenkyn. 1675. Edinburgh: Printed by D. Schaw, Lanmarket. 1802 edition.

Rushdoony, R.J. Institutes of Biblical Law. Vol. I. The Craig Press, 1973.