Lecture 07: Fourth thru Tenth Commandments
Lecture: Fourth thru Tenth Commandments
G. Fourth Commandment - "Remember the Sabbath day, ..."
This is probably one of the most difficult commandments when it comes to Christian application in general.
Some today think that we need to follow a Seventh-day Sabbath. From Sundown, Friday to Sundown, Saturday. Seventh-Day Adventist would be an example of that. There are also others. Some of their literature, if you read it, is kind of scary. You will hear from some that Sunday worship is the mark of the beast. So, there are very serious elements that believe that because this is one of the Ten Commandments of which are still relative today. I believe this to be true but not as a pathway to our salvation but as evidence to our obedience once we are saved. Others believe that the Sabbath has been moved to Sunday. We still observe the Sabbath but now it is on Sunday. Some say that Jesus changed this by rising on the first day of the week. Others would yet say that we have kind of moved away from a first day Sabbath to something different with the observation of the Lord’s Day. This is no longer followed in the strict Sabbatarian sense. While yet others would say that in Christ, every day is the same. Many Christian’s theology would still believe that there is some kind of Sabbath requirement for believers today. Most Christian theologians would say that the Ten Commandments still apply, but not as a doorway to salvation; but as a doorway to obedience. In this sense the Sabbath commandment has been spiritualized. Most Christians wouldn’t know what to say as a response to whether or not we need to follow a Sabbath Day.
2. Three Aspects of the Old Testament Law
These wouldn’t be three distinct types as there is a lot of overlap. Some of the laws are ceremonial while another aspect of the law could be described as civil with a third being moral. The ceremonial aspect is more evident in the sacrificial system, the priestly codes; these are things that magnify the holiness of God and the holiness of Israel. Why are we no longer bound to the ceremonial aspects of the Law? Simply because they are finished as Jesus fulfilled these aspects. In Colossians 2:16-17, we have a summary of why this is true. This is a shadow substance principle. The Book of Hebrews expands on this same idea. So, Hebrews actually use the same language of shadow and reality. These aspects were a shadow that pointed to the reality that we have seen in Christ. The sacrificial and priestly system was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Any aspect of the Law that had to do with sin and a price that had to be paid if you fell into that. For example, if you cursed your father and mother, you would be stoned to death. We are no longer bound to this as we are bound to our own civil laws. We have to follow our governing authorities whoever they may be. We are not the nation of Israel. We are not in a theocracy and we are not Israel. It doesn’t mean those things doesn’t have any value for us for they are very significant and instructive. The Moral aspect of the Law, the third aspect. We can think of it in the dimpliest terms of loving the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself. Do justly and love mercy would be relevant to this. People usually say that the heart and soul of the moral law endures in the Commandments. According to Paul, we are not under the Ten Commandments as such and neither under the moral law. Paul is saying that we are now under grace, he is clearly talking about being justified in following the Law. No one will ever be justified by obedience to the Law. However, Christians do believe that the moral law is an enduring testimony, the commandments for example, of usefulness to the Christian because they reveal the unchanging character of God. They show us what God loves and what God hates. This will never change; God hates murder and he loves life. He will always hate adultery but will always love fidelity and faithfulness. This will not change; God hates lies and he loves truth. So, the commandments reveal to us the heart and character of God. Luther emphasizes that the moral law shows us our sin. So, the Law reveals my sinfulness and thus drives me to Jesus. Calvin says that moral law gives us guidance for our conduct. Once I’m born again, I can return to the moral law and have guidance for ethical living.
3. The Sabbath is a Combination of all Three Aspects
Now, in the 4th Commandment, it seems that we have uniquely a combining of all three aspects. All of the Ten Commandments had both moral and civil implications in Israel. The 4th Commandment is a bit unique because the 7th day Sabbath was also a ceremonial feature of Israel’s religion. It was one of the things that marked them off as being distinctive. In Colossians 2:16-17 among the things that Paul lists as being ceremonial in nature be shallowed in pointing to the Sabbath, among the things that are mentioned are Sabbath days. So, something about the Sabbath does have a ceremonial feature to it. Paul does a similar thing in Romans 14:5; he says one man considers one day more sacred than another and another person considers every day the same. Let each person be convinced in their own mind. So, there is something about the 7th-day feature that is ceremonial. As I now approach it as a Christian, I am no longer bound to the ceremonial aspect of the law, nor am I bound the civil aspects of the law. I don’t think it is appropriate for a Christian to make laws and sat ourselves up as a theocracy forbidding certain actions on the Sabbath. We are simply no longer bound to the ceremonial aspect of it, but there is something about the Sabbath commandment that is moral and even spiritual. It seems to point ahead to the substance of Jesus; for Jesus somehow is the corresponding reality to the shadow of the Sabbath.
4. Other Reasons
So, why don’t Christians have to observe a 7th day Sabbath? We are no longer bound to that, like we are no longer bound to other features of the ceremonial law. Neither is there any clear reference in the New Testament to any Gentile Christians ever observing the 7th day Sabbath. You do see a reference to Christians who are all Jews in the synagogue; you find Paul and Peter going into the synagogue for primarily evangelistic purposes. They went in to argue, to reason and to persuade. You find no teaching in the New Testament where Christians are commanded to observe the Sabbath. In Acts 15, when they were wondering what to do with these new gentile Christians, one of the things not put on them was that of following the Sabbath. We have references like Colossians 2:16-17 and Romans 14:5 which also talks about Christian freedom. You do have references beginning in the Book of Acts about Christians gathering on the first day of the week and celebrating the Lord’s Day, not as the Sabbath. I am not of that category that says that we translated the Sabbath Day to the first day. I don’t find strength for that either. There are some key first day references; Jesus rose again on the first day of the week. Pentecost happened on the first day of the week as mentioned in Acts 2 through the outpouring of the Spirit. This happened on the first day of the week when the believers were gathered together. In Acts 20:7, this talks about Paul and the believers coming together on the first day of the week. In 1st Corinthians 16:1-2 Paul tells us to set aside time on the first day of the week the resources from which God has blessed you where John is in the Spirit on the Lord’s day in Revelation 1:10.
The first day of the week was increasingly referred to as the Lord’s day, not as the Sabbath day. In early church history, there is no language that suggest that they understood this as a Sabbath Day. It was something new. Ignatius in 107 AD says that Christians no longer live for the Sabbath but instead for the Lord’s Day in which our light arose. Barnabas, a couple of decades later, speaks of celebrating what he calls the 8th day on which Jesus rose from the dead. With the new covenant, some think there is a new week that begun. The first day is a reference to the original creation with the 8th day being the beginning of a new week, a new creation. So, I don’t find any compelling reason for Christians to have to observe a 7th day Sabbath or even the first day as if it were a strict Sabbath. The earliest Christians in gathering together on the first day of the week probably did so after a rigorous day of work as it was another workday for them. Having said that, what would we mean by the spiritual, moral and enduring application of the commandments. I do think that there is a pattern in regards to the observance of the Lord’s Day in celebration of the resurrection of the Lord. Whenever possible, I want to affirm and follow that pattern. We celebrate the Lord resurrection by gathering together on the first day of the week. There is also a pattern given to us in the creation account. Remember the six days of labor and the day of rest. That is actually pre-mosaic law. This is Genesis 1 and 2. So I do think there is a pattern of work and rest that is a pattern and rhythm. Interestingly in the Jewish numbering of the day, evening comes first and morning comes after that. Eugene Peterson in some of his work for pastors sees something very significant in that. The day begins and then we go to sleep and while we sleep, God is still at work and we wake up to enter in to what God has prepared for us. In regards to this rhythm, we need to understand that God is God and we aren’t and that God works even while we rest.
5. Enduring Applications
I often think of the Sabbath with Psalm 46:10 as a moral principle for us. Psalm 46:10, be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. This strikes me as a moral application of the Sabbath, especially for Christian leaders and pastors. There are times when we get into a Messiah complex and we think that we have to do it all and if it isn’t done the church will fall apart. The Sabbath reminds us that God is God and we aren’t. Jesus is the substance in which the Sabbath pointed. Colossians 2:16-17 says that Jesus is our Sabbath rest. He is our high priest and our perfect lamb of God. He is also our Sabbath. He has done the work. Remember those words from the cross; it is finished. There is a sense in that the truest meaning of the Sabbath is that we enter in the, it is finished of Jesus Christ. No longer do we labor and work as though we could merit the favor of God. We understand that it is his work and his work alone. Look at Hebrews 4 where we have one more argument in the book. The book is demonstrating this shadow substance paradigm. The author is making the case that Jesus is superior to all of the Old Testament features. Hebrews 1 says that he is greater than the angels. Hebrews 3 says that he is greater than Moses; he is greater than Joshua. He is greater than the high priest; these ‘greater than’ points are found throughout the Book of Hebrews. He is greater than the Sabbath. Hebrews 4 tells us of the promise of entering into his rest still stands. We also have had the Gospel preached to us just as they did. The message they heard was of no value because those who heard it did not combine it with faith. Now, we believed this Gospel that was preached to us and we who have believed have now entered that rest. We who believe the Gospel enter the promised rest of God. Just as God has said, I declared an oath in my anger that they shall never enter my rest. In verse 9, if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day, but there remains a rest for the people of God. Anyone who inters God’s rest also rests from his own work. This passage points out that the ultimate fulfillment of the Sabbath is entering into the ‘it is finished’ of Jesus. We don’t merit the love of God; we enter in through the finished work of Christ.
6. Relationship to Worship
Individually it relates to us in regards to our ultimate spiritual worship in saying yes to what Christ has done. We enter into what he has done for us. Worship is God’s gracious invitation to us; to enter into what he has done and into his life and into his communion and his relationship. Worship is a marvelous gift of God. In general, somehow, some combination of these things is very appropriate; it’s not law, but instead, precedent and example that when possible, we gather together on the first day of the week in celebration of the Lord’s Day. I think that it is a moral principle that we try to balance our weekly life and our larger life with a pattern and rhythm of rest and work; not all work, not all rest, but a rhythm of work and rest. We should remind ourselves that God is God, we are not. It is a spiritual truth and principle that we enter into the finished work of Christ and worship is a marvelous testimony of that. What are things that come to mind when you try to translate these principles into what we do together in worship. How can we put the 4th Commandment into practice in our worship? Silence could be one, just being still before the Lord. This is the root meaning of Sabbath it is to be still, desist and be still. Again, there will likely be a disconnect between what is said and what is experienced. In general, when we gather together on the Lord’s Day, how many people are moving within this thought? We have the idea that we are going to do something for God in order to look good before God. In contrast, Sunday ends up being the busiest day of the week for us as we usually over plan our Sundays. We take something that is supposed to be a rest but turn it into a law and make it like the Pharisees did. But for some, keeping the Sabbath is indeed a day of rest leaving behind all the influences of the world. So, there doesn’t seem to be any right answer to this.
I go back to this Romans 14:5 idea of how a person considers any one day, however, in an ideal sense the Lord’s day should be a day when all of us are able to rest. Rest, refreshment and reverence should be the three features of the Sabbath and/or Sunday experience. It should be a day that is set apart for worship. Some think that more frequent experience of the Lord’s supper would be a way of experiencing this. This seemed to have been the norm when the ancient church gathered on the Lord’s day. This is a reminder to know that it is finished; telling us once again the finished work of Jesus. The Sabbath actually is a gift and contrary to human nature, we find ways to turn this into work. It becomes our duty, our work and our obligation. In regards to the Sabbath, there are several New Testament stories that come to mind, such as Mary and Martha. We often think like Martha; what can I do to impress the Lord? So, we have fidelity, clarity, sincerity, integrity and now receptivity. Worship also involves receptivity. In thinking about the Sabbath, the other key Scripture is the whole of the John 4. I think of the Sabbath and I think of this woman at the well. Here is a tired woman and she is thirsty. It starts by asking her for water, but it is actually Jesus that is going to offer the water and in doing so, offer her rest. The Living Water he offers is communion with the Living God and because God is Spirit, she is able to access this Living Water. This Living Water turns out to be related to Worship. In John 4:19, some people think that the woman has changed the subject. I don’t think there is any change of subject at all. This is an honest sincere question form a person who is thirsty and hungry. She senses deep inside that this hunger is rooted in God and ultimately this Living Water is communion with the Living God through the gift of worship.
H. Fifth Commandment – ‘Honor your Father and your Mother.’
People usually put this under the second heading of love your neighbor as yourself. I think this commandment is related to loving the Lord your God and loving your neighbor. Parents are symbolic to us; the first representation to God to us. They are the ones who brought us into this world and we are utterly dependent upon them for everything that we have. They are the ones who make the rules for us. The 4th Commandment does as well; looking at it in the Deuteronomy 5 passage. The motivation for the 4th Commandment; everybody profits when we rest. All of society profits from setting aside a day of rest. In tradition of the church, the 5th Commandment has been related to the whole issue of submission. It isn’t only submission to your father and your mother, but it is submission to all that God has ordained. In terms of worship, it reminds me of propriety in worship. Jesus is the ultimate leader in worship and typically we would say that the Holy Spirit is the teacher. However, there are leaders of worship under Jesus or through Jesus or however you want to express it. Propriety in worship; we submit to those who are called and gifted in leadership. We submit to one another in the Lord. The 5th Commandment speaks to the cooperate worship experience as well as to the life of the individual in worship. Submission is a beautiful Christ-like attribute. Jesus was in submission to his heavenly Father and also to his earthly parents. My personal worship of God must be marked by submission to leaders in the church and to the body of Christ. There is room for freedom of expression in worship and there is also mutual submission.
I. Commandments Six through Ten
They are relative to worship. Loving your neighbor as yourself is worship along with justice and mercy. This is the worship that God requires above all. I will use the word, charity with these commandments. Charity is another word for love. These commandments remind us; if I speak with the tongues of men and angels but have not charity, I am nothing. So, charity and the real love of neighbor is worship as well.