The 4th Commandment Explained: How to Honor the Sabbath
Have you heard of the the 4th Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy? For those of you who are familiar with the Commandment regarding the Sabbath, do you really understand what it means? It is time to learn what it means, and what it means about when to worship God.
- The 4th Commandment
- Jesus Fulfilled the Law - Detailed Explanation From GotQuestions.org
- What Does This Mean For the Christian?
- Parting Thoughts
Before we get into the Fourth Commandment, I recommend that you first read my Wikinut article, titled: The Ten Commandments Show That God is Perfect. This article goes through 8 of the 10 Commandments so that we can examine our own lives against God's Holy Laws.
I would now like to point out that I purposely left out the 4th Commandment, because to the Christian after Jesus came to the Earth and fulfilled the law, the requirements of the 4th Commandment are slightly different, yet the intent and purpose remain the same.
The 4th Commandment
First, let's share with you the Fourth Commandment in its entirety:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Jesus Fulfilled the Law - Detailed Explanation From GotQuestions.org
So, what does this mean?
To the Jew, this law was given to follow to the letter. The Sabbath to a Jew is Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. To do no work on the Sabbath meant for example that meals would have to be prepared in advance, so that they could be eaten during the Sabbath.
But, something happened in the Bible that changed the whole meaning of the 4th Commandment.
In the New Testament, Jesus came to fulfill the law. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).
Since the 4th Commandment involves a Jewish requirement that is very much a ritualistic law, we must first understand how Jesus (God in the flesh) affected the Mosaic Law after he fulfilled his prophetic death, burial, and resurrection on the cross.
The website GotQuestions.org explains it quite well when it says this (in bold):
It is frequently argued that if Jesus did not “abolish” the law, then it must still be binding. Accordingly, such components as the Sabbath-day requirement must be operative still, along with perhaps numerous other elements of the Mosaic Law. This assumption is grounded in a misunderstanding of the words and intent of this passage. Christ did not suggest here that the binding nature of the law of Moses would remain forever in effect. Such a view would contradict everything we learn from the balance of the New Testament (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).
Of special significance in this study is the word rendered “abolish.” It translates the Greek term kataluo, literally meaning “to loosen down.” It is especially important to note how the word is used in Matthew 5:17. In this context, “abolish” is set in opposition to “fulfill.” Christ came “...not to abolish, but to fulfill.” Jesus did not come to this earth for the purpose of acting as an opponent of the law. His goal was not to prevent its fulfillment. Rather, He revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law’s prophetic utterances regarding Himself (Luke 24:44). Christ fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic law, which called for perfect obedience under threat of a “curse” (see Galatians 3:10, 13). In this sense, the law’s divine design will ever have an abiding effect. It will always accomplish the purpose for which it was given.
If, however, the law of Moses bears the same relationship to men today, in terms of its binding status, then it was not fulfilled, and Jesus failed at what He came to do. On the other hand, if the Lord did accomplish His goal, then the law was fulfilled, and it is not a binding legal institution today.
What Jesus' death means for the sacrificial system, it also means for the other aspects of the law.
GotQuestions.org is an excellent resource for Christians. The above article can be read in its entirety, here.
What Does This Mean For the Christian?
After Jesus fulfilled the law, the requirements are slightly different now. Sacrificial and purification laws given to the Jewish people no longer have to be performed. (Example: sacrificing an unblemished lamb on the altar).
When Jesus died on the cross, He was the unblemished lamb. He died for all people, and paid the ultimate price. Giving sacrifices for atonement is no longer required, however there is something required of each individual person.
To receive the ultimate gift from God - salvation - one must believe that God did die on the cross as Jesus, and repent of one's sins. Only then will the person receive the Holy Spirit and be born again.
Now, this slightly alters the meaning of the 4th Commandment. We are now living in the "Age of Grace," and since Christ was resurrected, he visited the disciples on the eight day (or the first day of the week) for the forty days after his resurrection, which was Sunday. That is why most churches have a service on Sunday morning.
Do you have to go to church on Saturday or Sunday? No.
If you wish to go to church on another day, that is perfectly fine. Keep in mind here that the church is a group of believers that meet, not a physical building. It is important that you do have regular fellowship with believers, regardless of what day you are worshiping God on.
There are some who claim to worship God on the "correct day." Most often Seventh Day Adventists will hold to this statement. Well, they do hold to the Jewish requirement of Sabbath, but do not truly understand what Christ has done if they believe that church can only be held on a particular day.
The Bible also says not to judge a person regarding their Sabbath.
Colossians 2:16 (ESV) - "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath."
Since we are living in the church age, or the age of grace, Christians should have a regular time to meet with the church (other believers), but it does not have to be on any specific day.
If you would like to know the importance of a regular fellowship time with other Christians, check out my Wikinut article: Aloofness: Bad For Marriage and Christian Life.
God did not give us rules and laws so that we would become legalists. It was not intended for us to make rules upon rules, and throw them at people when they break them.
Jesus showed us the greatest example of grace on the cross, and likewise, we are to show others that same grace.
In Matthew 12:8, Jesus said, "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
One pastor appropriately said, that Jesus equated this statement to saying that he was the Sabbath. We are to worship Him as He is God, and we are to find our rest in Him, as a source of renewal. Worshiping God is not restricted to one day a week. We should constantly seek Him in our daily lives.
When you realize this truth, then you will truly be freed from the work-based system of legalized Christianity.
Remember: There is nothing you can do that will make God love you any more, because he has already paid the ultimate price for your sins.