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What about the 4th commandment?

God gave the Ten Commandments as a moral guide to mankind and keeping these laws helps us live a life that is pleasing to God. These commandments are straight forward and make sense morally as the “right thing to do” with regard to our conduct with each other and to God. It does not take long to realise that we all struggle to keep all of these standards and disobey many throughout our lives. This led to Jesus Christ paying the price on our behalf and bridging the gap that exists between our conduct and the conduct expected by God – this also releases believers from no longer being judged under these laws. But still, one of these commandments is often misunderstood, that is the 4th commandment:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)

Many people understand the sabbath day as the rest day Jewish people adhere to every Saturday. This commandment has led to confusion though, resulting in some Christians who say those who do not obey the Sabbath are not proper Christians!

The first sabbath rest was by God Himself during the creation week:

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:2-3, emphasis added)

The rest here is not due to tiredness but rest after the completion of some activity, the activity of creation had been completed. The Sabbath means to rest after some particular effort. God rested after finishing His creation and said it was “very good”, the job was done.

God then made it one of the ten commandments which were given to Moses and Israel as a reminder of that effort and His amazing creative work:

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 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: 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 20:9-11)

The Israelites were commanded to rest one day a week – this weekly sabbath is not the ultimate sabbath, just a reminder of the past work of God and a shadow of the coming perfect Sabbath rest. The ten commandments though are moral laws that apply to all of us. Should we then be still observing a sabbath day? Are we disobeying God by not doing this?

Just as the sabbath was a picture of past effort it also pointed towards the future. Whereas the Israelites had many ceremonial laws with the sacrificial rituals they performed to temporarily cover their sins, the sabbath depicted a time when they no longer needed to work to have their sins forgiven. The sabbath was preparing God’s people for a different kind of rest.

This rest to come was Jesus Christ. When Christ’s work was complete we had a new rest, Paul confirms this:

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 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: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:13-17)

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour our work of salvation is done, there is nothing more to do for salvation:

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10)

Jesus says that the sabbath was made for man:

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

The sabbath was made “for man”, meaning it was something for us to “rest in”. Since Jesus’ completed work on the cross, “it is finished” (John 19:30), we now have that rest and we are to put all our trust in Jesus Christ as He is our only true rest.

We have busy lives that are full of distractions, our focus can quickly be changed by the constant daily grind. But we are always to keep Jesus Christ at the forefront of our minds, He can take our worries and concerns away if we truly believe we can find rest in Him:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

This 4th commandment is an important warning to us: just as when the Israelites disobeyed the sabbath it resulted in death (Numbers 15:32-36), if we do not trust solely in Jesus Christ for our salvation it can result in eternal death!

All ten commandments point towards purity before God and keeping these commandments will be motivated by a desire to please and honour God. We will be judged against these commandments UNLESS we are “In Christ” who releases us from the WHOLE law. As Christians, we should to motivated to please God by continuing to keep His commandments. Keeping one day aside a week for rest is still sensible and can help to regularly focus our attention to Him, but not a doctrinal requirement.

We need to stand on solid foundations with our faith – many try to add this or that for salvation but this goes against Scripture. We obey the 4th commandment by believing in Jesus Christ. We obey the 4th commandment by not adding works to gain salvation, it is solely by God’s grace. It would not be a “rest” if we work for our salvation and thinking we need to work for salvation will break this commandment:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Once we understand Jesus’ finished work on the cross, Jesus should be all we trust in for our salvation. God has given us this amazing gift that is eternally bound, a gift that we cannot earn but offers us more than any gift we can imagine. If you do not have that rest today, turn to Jesus Christ who is our Rock – How to be saved!


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