Saturday, June 3, 2017

Our Duty to God in the Fourth Commandment, Remembering the Sabbath

In Matthew 22:35-40, we read a well-known story: "A lawyer asked Him a question to test Him. 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'" In my own church, we often recite these verses for the reading of the Law. In His answer, Jesus describes our duties primarily toward God, the first four of the Ten Commandments, and then our duties primarily to our fellow men, the last six of the Ten Commandments.

I want to focus on Jesus's "great and first commandment" (cited from Deuteronomy 6:5): "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." That is, the Christian is to love God by not worshiping other Gods, or by using unauthorized images in His worship, or by taking His name in vain. But we are also to love the Lord our God by "remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8). And, of course, it is understandable that Jesus would expect us to love the Lord with the Sabbath, because He Himself is that Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8)! 

Frequently in these discussions, someone will bring up some other words of Jesus on the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28): "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." And He certainly did say that. But what is the next verse? It is the same one (in Mark's parallel) that I cited just above: "So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Therefore, the Sabbath doesn't exist for man as a choice for him to honor or not. Rather, it is a day in which men are freed from the world to give Christ His due honor!

Therefore, I would say that the Scriptures uphold the doctrine of the Westminster Confession of Faith XXI:8: "This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations; but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy."

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