Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
There are two tables of God’s moral law. The first four commandments govern our relationship with God. The final six commandments govern our relationship with our neighbor. So, the Ten Commandments define the ways in which we fulfill the commands to love God and love our neighbor. The Fourth Commandment is somewhat unique in that it represents a transition. That is, we are to observe the Sabbath because it is holy unto the Lord, but also because it is a blessing to humanity.
Contemporary Christians seem to struggle with understanding and therefore practicing Sabbath faithfulness. Perhaps it is because most of us have never really heard any instruction on the nature of Sabbath and Sabbath observance. Perhaps we grew up in traditions that assumed Sabbath observance belonged to a bygone dispensation of biblical history no longer relevant to Christians. Maybe we were taught that because Christ has “fulfilled the law” Christians are no longer obligated to keep the Ten Commandments. But along with the lack of instruction we must consider our tendency to treasure time and leisure to the point of idolatry.
Sabbath observance cannot be consigned to those ceremonial laws which passed away because of the completion of Christ’s work. It cannot be counted along with the other temporary civil laws which governed the nation of Israel. Unlike the temporary civil and ceremonial laws God enshrined the Sabbath in His timeless moral law. This makes sense because the Sabbath was inaugurated not at Sinai but in the days of creation (Genesis 2:1-3). The Sabbath Day was established by God and set as a pattern in the created order which means it has timeless relevance for Christians.
Because of the completed work of Christ the sign of the Covenant of Grace changed from circumcision to baptism. Likewise, the covenant meal, Passover, became the Lord’s Supper. And, because of Christ, the seventh day Sabbath became the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. Before the dying and rising of Christ the people worked six days and then rested on the seventh. Because of Christ, however, the Sabbath is the first day of the week. The pattern now is to rest and then to work. For the Christian everything proceeds from God’s gracious salvation. The weekly pattern which begins with the Sabbath Day is the guarantee that all of our labors begin first by resting in the finished work of Christ. And as we faithfully observe the Sabbath – the Lord’s Day – we not only find much needed refreshment from the Lord but we give public witness to the finished work of the Lord Jesus and anticipate the coming eternal Sabbath in the age to come.