Is the Fourth Commandment Still Relevant?

The word “Sabbath” appears ninety-six times in the Old Testament.

That might not seem like that much, but consider this:

The words “repent” and “forgive” (or any form of these words) combined only appear eighty-three times in the same space.

I am not arguing that the Sabbath concept is more important than repentance and forgiveness. Clearly it is not.

But when I finally read through the entire Old Testament, I was struck by how many times the Sabbath was mentioned.

In part, this was the impetus for the whole Sabbath series.

How could something so prevalent in the scriptures be irrelevant to the Christian?

Is it even relevant?

Our (largely Christian) culture tells us that the Fourth Commandment is irrelevant.

Yet we do not think twice about the other nine. Of course we should not murder. Nor should we steal or have other gods.

These are all part of the Law of Moses given to Israel.

But in case you have not heard, Jesus kind of changed the game. He did not "come to abolish [the Law and the Prophets] but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17).

I think the late Presbyterian minister Albert Barnes says it best in his Notes on the New Testament when he writes:

Once the barrier was removed that separated the Jews and Gentiles, all the laws which were founded on such a distinction, and which were framed to keep up such a distinction, passed away of course.

So does that make the commandment irrelevant? Absolutely not!

To be sure there is definitely an element of Jewish stand-apartism wrapped up in commandment four, but that is not its only purpose.

After all, the first Sabbath took place before the nation of Israel even existed (Gen. 2:1-3).

So here are six reasons the Fourth Commandment is still relevant:

1. It forces us to pause for a period of time and focus on the infinite, rather than the finite. (e.g. time, money).

2. It refreshes the body (Exo. 23:12).

3. It provides an avenue for worship.

After six days of creation, God surveyed His work and deemed it good (Gen. 1:31). When we also reflect on creation we can't help but worship the creator.

4. It allows the body of Christ to assemble (Lev. 23:3).

5. It makes us reflect on our freedom:

If you think the Exodus story is just for Jews, you are dead wrong. It is a metaphor for our lives.

The Sabbath is a remembrance that once we were slaves. The Jew was in physical bondage to Egypt; for us it is a metaphysical (but no less real) enslavement to sin.

Keeping the Sabbath reminds us of our freedom, because a slave does not have the option to rest.

Our freedom comes via the cross. When once we were sentenced to death, Jesus stood in our place that we might have eternal rest.

6. It is a reminder that we are set apart for God:

You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. Exodus 31:13

This is part of the Old Covenant with Israel, but we now have a New Covenant into which anyone is allowed to enter if he or she believes in Jesus:

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:12-13

The Fourth Is Not the Greatest

I want to leave you where we began.

In your thinking on the Fourth Commandment, don’t become like the Pharisee and lose sight of what matters.

Remember how Jesus responded when asked which commandment is the greatest:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

Therefore all biblical law must be filtered through these. Placing a rule above God or above a godly love for others is foolhardy.

Think about the Sabbath through the lens of these two and you will not go astray.

The Fourth Commandment is about giving God the honor and respect He deserves; He is the creator of the universe and the author of our salvation.

I can think of nothing more relevant than that.



No comments:

Post a Comment