Fourth Commandment – Teaching Series

The following teaching series is by Pastor Dan Cafesse (Sovereign Grace Bible Church, Phoenix, AZ). Though lengthy, in my opinion, it is an exceptional and thorough overview of the fourth commandment and its implications for today. Dan addresses the subject matter with a great deal of precision and care. One word of advice though: I would highly recommend going through each of the teachings in order as each biblical study builds on the previous one.

(1) Fourth Commandment – Introduction

(2) More than One Purpose

(3) Typological Purpose (Part 1)

(4) Typological Purpose (Part 2)

(5) Typological Purpose (Part 3)

(6) Unchanging Moral Law? (Pt 1)

(7) Unchanging Moral Law? (Pt 2)

(8) Unchanging Moral Law? (Pt 3)

(9) How Was It Understood by New Testament Churches? (Part 1)

(10) How Was It Understood by New Testament Churches? (Part 2)

(11) New Covenant and Eternal Sabbaths?

(12) Conclusions and Implications

(13) Why Go to Church – Unchanging Obligation

(14) Why Go to Church – God Chooses Where He Reveals Himself

(15) Why Go to Church – God Reveals Himself in His Temple

(16) Why Go to Church – God’s Assembled People are the Temple

(17) Why Go to Church – Applications (Part 1)

(18) Why Go to Church – Applications (Part 2)

The Sabbath for Israel

sabbathWhat did the 4th commandment mean to the Israelites to whom it was given?

The fourth commandment was to be observed as a sign of the Mosaic Covenant the Israelites had just entered:

Exodus 31:12 And the LORD said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

Ezekiel 20:9 But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 10 So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11 I gave them my statutes and made known to them my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live. 12 Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them… 19 I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules, 20 and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.

Sabbath observance was to remind Israel that they were in covenant relationship with Yahweh. The reason the sign was a day of rest was to remind them that Yahweh redeemed them from the house of bondage and gave them rest.

Deut. 5:12 “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 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 or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

They practiced this command because they were a redeemed-by-Yahweh-people. This is what the Sabbath in the Decalouge, in the Mosaic Covenant, is about. This is not a natural law matter written on all human consciences. It’s a redemptive revelation revealed in the “gospel” in the law – God giving His people rest and rolling back the curse.

None of the Israelite observance was applicable to non covenant members, i.e. Gentiles. Actually it would be a misuse of the command for Gentiles to practice this Sabbath as if they were one of Yahweh’s people; much like an unbeliever practicing the Lord’s Supper in our day.

*The WCF/LBCF sabbatarian needs to show that 1) Non covenant members were required to keep the 4th commandment and 2) when they do keep it, keeping it means something different for them from what it means for covenant members.

Sabbath and Conscience

KINGSJSv3A Statement from the King’s Church Elders

Concerning the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 – Chapter 22: OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP AND THE SABBATH DAY and the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith (1833), article 15: OF THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH:

At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Martin Luther declared “to act against conscience is neither right nor safe.” How true this is! It is a concept drawn from the Bible itself. “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

It needs to be said, with great emphasis, that there are wonderful, genuine Christians, who truly love God’s word who come to differing conclusions on this issue of the Sabbath. This is not a new phenomenon in any way. This was the case even in New Testament times. Romans 14: 5, 6 says, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.” In this chapter (Romans 14), the Apostle Paul outlines how we are to handle these kind of differences in the setting of the local Church, and rather than breaking fellowship with each other, exhorts us to walk together with our fellow Christians in love and understanding, believing the best of each other, while at the same time, never violating our individual conscience.

In the context of outlining what Christ accomplished for His people on the cross, the Apostle Paul writes, “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 (literally, ‘sabbaths’ plural). These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16, 17) Christians are told to never let anyone judge them concerning Sabbath observation. When Church leadership tells another Christian “we cannot walk with you because of your view of the Sabbath” this is a clear violation of Paul’s apostolic command. Such should never be the case.

The Bible alone is the word of God – the sole infallible rule of faith for the people of God. Historic creeds and confessions of the Church, while having great weight and significance, never rise to the level of God breathed Scripture. Only Scripture has the authority to bind the conscience absolutely. This also means that every creed and confession must therefore be in agreement and alignment with the Bible to be true.

As elders at King’s Church, our study of the Scriptures has brought us to the conclusions outlined here below. Yet even as we make our position plain, we wish to make clear that those who hold a strong Sabbatarian view are very welcome at King’s Church. Please know that! We simply ask that they do not seek to promote or push that view on others in the flock. To these precious people we say “we can live with you as long as you can live with us.” As to the question…

ARE THE SABBATH LAWS BINDING ON CHRISTIANS TODAY?

We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances are typological and associated with the Mosaic Covenant, not moral, aspects of the law. As such, they are no longer in force, but have been fulfilled along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ. Here are the reasons we hold this view.

1. In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to Sabbaths as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is in view. The phrase “a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” refers to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11). Paul is referring to all kinds of Sabbaths, which is why he used the Plural.

2. The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.

3. The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.

4. In our only glimpse of an early church worship service in the New Testament, the church met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).

5. Nowhere in the Old Testament are the Gentile nations commanded to observe the Sabbath or condemned for failing to do so That is certainly strange if Sabbath observance were meant to be an eternal moral principle. Also, a Gentile cannot be expected to practice a sign of a covenant of which he is not a member; thus requiring Sabbath observance by Gentiles makes no sense. It’s like requiring unbelievers to attend the Lord’s Supper.

6. There is no evidence in the Bible of anyone keeping the Sabbath before the time of Moses.

7. When the Apostles met at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), they did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers.

8. The apostle Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but breaking the Sabbath was never one of them.

9. In Galatians 4:10-11, Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days (including the Sabbath).

10. In Romans 14:5, Paul forbids those who observe the Sabbath (these were no doubt Jewish believers) to condemn those who do not (Gentile believers).

11. Sunday has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. Rather the Lord’s Day is a time when believers gather to commemorate His resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 4:9-11).

So while we still follow the pattern of designating one day of the week a day for the Lord’s people to gather in worship, we do not refer to this as “the Sabbath.”

Note on Col. 2:16

A. Why do some translations translate the last part of vs. 16 as “or a sabbath day” (using the indefinite article and render “Sabbath” as singular), while others translate “or sabbaths” (not using the indefinite article but render “Sabbath” in the plural)?

It seems to us that the original intent of Paul, using the plural without the definite article, was to refer to multiple “kinds” of sabbaths – i.e. weekly, seasonal, etc. – which were commanded in the mosaic covenant.

To illustrate in English, using the term “holiday” – if we said, “let no one judge you in regard to a holiday” (using the indefinite article and singular noun) – we would mean, let no one judge you in regard to all of the days we classify as holidays – i.e. 4th of July, Memorial Day, Easter, Christmas, etc. Also, if we said, “let no one judge you in regard to holidays (omitting the indefinite article and using the plural noun) we would understand the same thing – i.e. let no one judge us in regard to any days we classify as holidays since there are different types of holidays.

The fact that Paul used the plural can only mean one of two things.

1. Either the thought is since the weekly Sabbath is repeated he put it in the plural because he wanted to say let no one judge you in regard to any particular week’s Sabbath. We do not think he meant this – but if he did it supports the non-sabbatarian position.

2. If the reason for the plural is not #1, then the plural must be being used as in the “holiday” illustration above – i.e. there was more than one type of “Sabbath” and Paul wanted to address them all.

Now if we are to be Sabbatarians we must go further in explaining Paul’s use of the plural. We must say he wanted to address more than one kind of Sabbath (the non-weekly ones) but not all kinds of Sabbaths (i.e. not the weekly)! And that his readers could be expected to conclude this?!

Sabbath Observance and the Lord’s Day

1. Understanding the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3) John MacArthur

For some Christians, Sunday is the new Sabbath…which means no work, travel, or exercise. For others, Sunday is just another day of the week. What do you need to know about the Sabbath and Sunday worship?

Transcript: http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/90-379/understanding-the-sabbath?term=90-379

2. Why Sunday Is the Lord’s Day (Selected Scriptures) John MacArthur

Transcript: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/90-380

http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA135/are-the-sabbath-laws-binding-on-christians-today

For a fuller and richer treatment of this issue, the following series by Pastor Dan Caffese is highly recommended at this link.

Are the Sabbath laws binding on Christians today?

We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances are ceremonial, not moral, aspects of the law. As such, they are no longer in force, but have passed away along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ. Here are the reasons we hold this view.

1. In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to the Sabbath as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is quite clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is in view. The phrase “a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” refers to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11). If Paul were referring to special ceremonial dates of rest in that passage, why would he have used the word “Sabbath?” He had already mentioned the ceremonial dates when he spoke of festivals and new moons.

2. The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.

3. The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.

4. In our only glimpse of an early church worship service in the New Testament, the church met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).

5. Nowhere in the Old Testament are the Gentile nations commanded to observe the Sabbath or condemned for failing to do so. That is certainly strange if Sabbath observance were meant to be an eternal moral principle.

6. There is no evidence in the Bible of anyone keeping the Sabbath before the time of Moses, nor are there any commands in the Bible to keep the Sabbath before the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai.

7. When the Apostles met at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), they did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers.

8. The apostle Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but breaking the Sabbath was never one of them.

9. In Galatians 4:10-11, Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days (including the Sabbath).

10. In Romans 14:5, Paul forbids those who observe the Sabbath (these were no doubt Jewish believers) to condemn those who do not (Gentile believers).

11. The early church fathers, from Ignatius to Augustine, taught that the Old Testament Sabbath had been abolished and that the first day of the week (Sunday) was the day when Christians should meet for worship (contrary to the claim of many seventh-day sabbatarians who claim that Sunday worship was not instituted until the fourth century).

12. Sunday has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. Rather the Lord’s Day is a time when believers gather to commemorate His resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 4:9-11).

So while we still follow the pattern of designating one day of the week a day for the Lord’s people to gather in worship, we do not refer to this as “the Sabbath.”

John Calvin took a similar position. He wrote,

There were three reasons for giving this [fourth] commandment: First, with the seventh day of rest the Lord wished to give to the people of Israel an image of spiritual rest, whereby believers must cease from their own works in order to let the Lord work in them. Secondly, he wished that there be an established day in which believers might assemble in order to hear his Law and worship him. Thirdly, he willed that one day of rest be granted to servants and to those who live under the power of others so that they might have a relaxation from their labor. The latter, however, is rather an inferred than a principal reason.

As to the first reason, there is no doubt that it ceased in Christ; because he is the truth by the presence of which all images vanish. He is the reality at whose advent all shadows are abandoned. Hence St. Paul (Col. 2:17) that the sabbath has been a shadow of a reality yet to be. And he declares elsewhere its truth when in the letter to the Romans, ch. 6:8, he teaches us that we are buried with Christ in order that by his death we may die to the corruption of our flesh. And this is not done in one day, but during all the course of our life, until altogether dead in our own selves, we may be filled with the life of God. Hence, superstitious observance of days must remain far from Christians.

The two last reasons, however, must not be numbered among the shadows of old. Rather, they are equally valid for all ages. Hence, though the sabbath is abrogated, it so happens among us that we still convene on certain days in order to hear the word of God, to break the [mystic] bread of the Supper, and to offer public prayers; and, moreover, in order that some relaxation from their toil be given to servants and workingmen. As our human weakness does not allow such assemblies to meet every day, the day observed by the Jews has been taken away (as a good device for eliminating superstition) and another day has been destined to this use. This was necessary for securing and maintaining order and peace in the Church.

As the truth therefore was given to the Jews under a figure, so to us on the contrary truth is shown without shadows in order, first of all, that we meditate all our life on a perpetual sabbath from our works so that the Lord may operate in us by his spirit; secondly, in order that we observe the legitimate order of the Church for listening to the word of God, for admin-istering the sacraments, and for public prayers; thirdly, in order that we do not oppress inhumanly with work those who are subject to us. [From Instruction in Faith, Calvin’s own 1537 digest of the Institutes, sec. 8, “The Law of the Lord”].

For further study, see D. A. Carson, ed., From Sabbath to Lord’s Day (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982).

The Lord’s Day = Sunday

Matt 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

1 Cor 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week (Sunday), each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

There are some in our day who suggest that Sunday worship is something that was entirely unknown among Christians until the time of Emperor Constantine (272 – 337 AD), and make the claim that its religious roots are entirely pagan. However, the facts of history totally negate this theory. In celebration of Christ’s resurrection, the early Church moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday (the first day of the week), calling it “the Lord’s day.”

Here are some quotes from the early Church:

The Didache – “But every Lord’s day . . . gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned.” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70])

The Letter of Barnabas – “We keep the eighth day [Sunday] with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead.” (Letter of Barnabas 15:6–8 [A.D. 74])

Ignatius of Antioch – “Those who were brought up in the ancient order of things [i.e. Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day, on which also our life has sprung up again by him and by his death.” (Letter to the Magnesians 8 [A.D. 110])

Justin Martyr – “But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.” (First Apology 67 [A.D. 155])

The Didascalia – “The apostles further appointed: On the first day of the week let there be service, and the reading of the holy scriptures, and the oblation, because on the first day of the week [i.e., Sunday] our Lord rose from the place of the dead, and on the first day of the week he arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week he ascended up to heaven, and on the first day of the week he will appear at last with the angels of heaven.” (Didascalia 2 [A.D. 225])

Athanasius – “The Sabbath was the end of the first creation, the Lord’s day was the beginning of the second, in which he renewed and restored the old in the same way as he prescribed that they should formerly observe the Sabbath as a memorial of the end of the first things, so we honor the Lord’s day as being the memorial of the new creation.” (On Sabbath and Circumcision 3 [A.D. 345])

“For the Christian, every Lord’s Day is to be a celebration of the resurrection of Christ.” – R.C. Sproul

Here’s Dr. John MacArthur addressing the subject:

The Sabbath

Turretinfan and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Deuteronomy 5:15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

However, Christ Jesus did a new work of Creation and Redemption and completed that on the first day of the week, when he arose from grave. Accordingly, since that time, believers have gathered for worship on the first of the seven, rather than on the seventh of the seven.

We see this is in the positive example of the apostles:

John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

1 Corinthians 16:2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

We also see this in the negative example of the apostles, namely that they did outreach to the Jews on the Jewish Sabbath:

Acts 13:14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.

Acts 13:42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

Acts 16:13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

Acts 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.