In the fourth of the Ten Commandments, we're compelled to be a specially intentional about how we spend one day in seven. Not only is the principle straight forward, but God himself has set the example.
So what would happen if we actually applied this practice? Today on Truth for Life Weekend, Alistair Begg outlines the abiding significance of a Sabbath observance, and the difference it can make for each one of us. And verse 8, remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Here we are at the fourth commandment, a command that like the other nine is clear and comprehensive. We saw that the principle was stated very clearly, and that unless we had a conviction as to the distinction of the day as God had set it apart, then all other considerations would be largely futile. We then went on to recognize that God had established this pattern, and the pattern is observed in Scripture. The basis for the day itself and its sanction is provided for as in the eleventh verse, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.
But he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. In other words, God himself, as Creator, distinguished between the days.
There was the stamp of his creative power in them all, and yet on this particular day God determined that it should be marked by this distinction. We then noticed that this was something which was not only grounded in creation, but it was also grounded in what he had done in redemption. And if you would turn to Deuteronomy chapter 5 for a moment, you'd find there that as God reiterates his commandments in providing this call to the Lord's day, to the Sabbath day, beginning in verse 12 of Deuteronomy 5, he reminds his people that the holiness of this day is attached not simply to creation but also to redemption. And in verse 15 he says, Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Because, he says, of what I have done in creation and because of what I have done in redemption, I have established this pattern which we are able to observe. Now, the transition from the Old Testament into the New Testament and from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week is grounded in this—namely, that the redemption from Egypt is seen always in Scripture in light of what it previewed. And what the redemption from Egypt previews is the redemption which has been secured by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. So much so that in the Old Testament the seventh day memorialized not only God's rest in creation but also the redemption of Israel. And in the New Testament, the Lord's day memorializes the completion of the work of redemption signaled by the resurrection of Jesus. And it was this fact which marked out and gave to the first day of the week its distinctive religious significance.
We might turn just to a couple of places to affirm this in our minds. In the book of Acts we find this, going somewhat randomly to Acts chapter 20. We read there in verse 7, On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. And on that occasion Paul spoke to the people.
When Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, and in chapter 16, in verse 2, he says, On the first day of every week each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, and he gives instructions for giving. And it is tied to this first day of the week, marked with the significance not simply of the fact of God's creation but also of the wonder of redemption. And it was on this first day of the week, if you like, almost stamping it in this way, that Jesus appeared to his followers after his resurrection. Obviously, it was the resurrection day which gave to this first day of the week this new dimension and significance, and so it is a short transition that allows the apostle John, in Revelation 1.10, to speak about being in the Spirit on the Lord's Day. And the pattern which is established in the Old Testament is picked up and applied in the New Testament as the Lord's Day memorializes Jesus' resurrection, just as the Lord's Supper memorializes Jesus' death.
So here it is. The deliverance from Egypt and from the bondage to slavery there gave sanction to the Sabbath institution under the Old Covenant. And the resurrection, in its redemptive character, gives sanction to the sacredness of the first day of the week. So the pattern is seen not simply in looking back but in looking forward. Redemption has three tenses to it.
There is a past and a present and a future element. And so too does the observance of God's day. We look back in the past and memorialize the fact of his resurrection. We look forward to the day when we will enter into the fullness of the Sabbath rest prepared for the people of God. And in the present time, the significance of the Sabbath principle is found in the beneficent nature of why God has left it to us. And it is for this reason that we read moments ago from Matthew chapter 12—because it is there as well as in Mark chapter 2—that we find the statements, which are most often misapplied and misquoted, the statements of Jesus underscoring the fact that the Sabbath was made for man rather than man for the Sabbath, and convincing his listeners of the fact that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus was not asserting his lordship over the Sabbath merely to prepare men for his abolishing of the Sabbath in just a matter of a very short time.
It would be a strange and uncharacteristic action on the part of Jesus, and it would be in no sense in keeping or in accord with anything else that he ever did. Christ affirmed the place of the Lord's Day. He affirmed its abiding application. He is the Lord of the Sabbath, he says, guarding it against the distortion of the Pharisees and seeking to make sure that no one deprives men of that which has been given for his good. Indeed, when Jesus says, I am Lord over the Sabbath, he is affirming the fact that he desires that men and women enter into all the benefits that the Lord's Day brings. And as Lord, he speaks his authority in regulating the abiding law of a Sabbath day. Now, I've covered a great deal in that, and I need to, because I need to come to this area of the practice of the Lord's Day being applied—the principle which is stated and the pattern which is observed, we can return to, I'm sure we will have occasion to. But for the time that remains to us, I would like to draw very heavily on the work of the late Professor John Murray and affirm for us the abiding application of the Sabbath in our day.
This is very, very important, because, as you know, it is a question of great confusion. I quoted from a gentleman who had passed away in 1975, and writing before his death, he said this, It is not too much to say that we owe most, if not all the blessings we enjoy, to the Lord's Day. That's a quite awesome statement. Without it, there is no true Christianity. And without Christianity, there is no real, lasting, spiritual blessing—that we in our generation are in danger of losing this day altogether.
Few serious-minded men or women will dispute. In our time, the Lord's Day is not so much argued about anymore. People simply ignore it.
We are living, he says, in perilous times. A mock Christianity, with its vile breed of atheism, modernism, and immorality, is the religion of the vast majority of our people. If this mock Christianity continues to advance at its present alarming rate, the time may be near when, in Britain, the Lord's Day as a divine institution will be nothing but a relic of history. Even now, literally millions of people turn their backs upon it and refuse to acknowledge it. Many of these are, as T. S. Eliot describes them, quote, decent, godless people, their only monument, the asphalt road, and a thousand lost golf balls. Tens of thousands of others make a formal recognition of it—not the whole of it, but of forty-five or sixty minutes of it—the rest of it, they claim, as their own. So millions disregard it completely, which is where our culture is, and thousands regard forty-five or sixty minutes of it.
The rest we tend to claim as our own. So what, then, possible abiding significance is there in this Sabbath principle? Well, let's apply it, first of all, to society and to unbelievers in general. Most people, I think, would be tempted to say that there's no point in thinking of the application of the fourth commandment in relationship to a godless society. After all, our friends and our neighbors largely reject God and reject his authority.
They've got no commitment to the Lord or to his word. And so we say to ourselves, in light of that, surely it is pretty futile for us to confront our neighbors with the question of their desecration of the Lord's Day. Now, the fact of the matter is that when we plead with our neighbors and our friends concerning the distinctiveness of Christianity, obviously we will have more to say than simply to plead with them the obligations of the Sabbath.
It would be highly unlikely that most of us would use that as the starting point in most of our conversations. However, we daren't divorce it from our wider presentations of the gospel. I don't believe that it is wrong to urge Sabbath observance on our unbelieving friends for the following reasons, to which I'm indebted to Murray Ford. First of all, because we're presumably not going to say that it's wrong or futile or irrelevant to confront unbelievers with the law of God.
We're not going to say that. We're not going to say that it is a futile task to confront people with God's law. Because after all, the Word of God says that it is by God's law that our unbelieving friends become conscious of their sins. And so it is going to be important for us to confront our unbelieving friends with the truth of Romans 6.23, for the wages of sin is death. And one of the things that our neighbors and friends do is say, But you know, I'm quite a good person, and I haven't really done very much that is wrong.
Well, one of the ways that we can ask them about how they're doing in relationship to God's standard is to say, How are you spending your Sundays? And the reason that we find ourselves unwilling to use that as a point of departure in our witnessing is grounded in the fact that there is a fallacy—namely, as we said this morning, that the fourth commandment is in a different category from all the others. This is a fallacy that we not only theoretically profess but to which we have pragmatically succumbed. And the reason that most of us could not speak to our friends about breaking the law of God in relationship to the fourth commandment is because we are in such dreadful predicaments in relationship to it ourselves.
It would be like trying to induce in someone the rightness of giving up smoking, and while we're talking to them, we have a large cigar sticking out of the corner of our mouths. You know, I think you ought to give it up sometime. I said, I don't understand. So the reason that we can't go to our friends and say, Hey, hey, what about Sundays? is because we daren't say it because any finger that we point, there are four or five pointing back at ourselves.
We have no ground upon which to address the question. Also, since because by the law comes the awareness of sin, we must recognize that then sin can be made understandable in the minds of our unconverted friends when they see that this command remains in Scripture. Indeed, we actually do a great disservice to men and women, to the gospel, and actually to their eternal destiny, when we exclude Sabbath desecration from the scope of God's condemnation. Because often our friends will say, Well, I'm not an adulterer, and I don't steal. And so we say, Okay, well, we can't talk about that.
Let's find something else. Why don't we talk about the Sabbath? Also, a sustained emphasis upon the necessity of Sabbath observance is a restraining influence which prevents other kinds of multiple transgressions. And when we confront our neighbors and our friends and our unbelieving society with the rightness of the law of God, with the abiding relevance of the law of God, what we're doing is, in some measure, at least checking their progress into further degradation and destruction. Indeed, we could argue—and all we would do would argue—that when we gave up in this country and in Great Britain on the fourth commandment, we opened the door to a great exponential downward slide in terms of the civil realm of our government and our country, because we gave up on something that was so clearly manifestly mandated by God.
We gave up the chance to call the people, if you like, to a point of contact along the journey, and we failed to prevent them from a further slide into trespasses and a further slide into the road that leads to destruction. The other reason that we would want to hold up the abiding principle of the Sabbath for our unbelieving friends is because the observances which the Sabbath enjoins upon us are means of grace and they're channels of salvation. Simply, what we're saying is that if we can urge our neighbors and our friends, even from an external perspective, to cultivate these observances, then they will come within the sound of the Word of God, right?
And we know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. So by calling them into Christ's way, they may come to know Christ. Fifthly, the outward observance of the Sabbath promotes public order, and it makes for the preservation of some of our most cherished rights and liberties. Unrestrained violations of the economy of God's plan from all of creation destroys peace. Now, what about the application, not simply to society in general, but to the church, and particularly to believers?
Well, let's say this. Our observance of this fourth commandment is relevant not in isolation but is relevant in the context of the whole plan and purpose of God. Most of us know, if we have lived around any kind of Sabbatarianism at all, that observance of the Sabbath principle can so quickly become an instrument of self-righteousness. It can so easily become marked by legalism and by externalism. And it was that legalism and externalism which the Pharisees had championed and which Jesus addressed there in our reading in Matthew chapter 12.
You may want to turn to it just once again as I mention it. These Pharisees were experts at keeping the outside of the cup clean, remember Jesus said, when the inside they allowed to be dirty. They were, he said, like whited sepulchers.
On the outside they were fairly impressive, but in the inside they were full of dead men's bones. They had made the commands of God, rather than them being the paths of joy and of liberty, they had made them burdensome, they had added to them, and they had destroyed the enjoyment potential in them for so many who sought to be obedient. And so Jesus is making it clear here in this section in Matthew 12 that there are certain works which Jesus defended as happening on the Lord's Day.
And this is a quite interesting context. For example, he says that in verses 3 and 4, there are works of necessity which are countenanced on the Sabbath. They're saying, You shouldn't be eating this corn and eating them. And he says, Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for them to do but only for the priests. He says, You think my disciples are breaking the law because they're rubbing corn between their hands and eating it because they're hungry? He says, Don't you remember the story in the Old Testament where David was eating the communion bread? In verse 5. Or, Haven't you read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?
What does that mean? Well, it is the explanation as to what is happening when, in the role of pastor and teacher and pastors, we serve the people of God in the context of worship here. People say, Well then, aren't you breaking the Sabbath yourselves? Aren't you breaking the Sabbath that you're upholding?
No. Not in the ultimate sense, insofar as works of piety, such as that which was carried on by the priests, are work countenanced in the temple. And in verse 11, he points out that works of mercy are also defended within the framework of the Lord's day. What he was addressing and rebutting and defending his disciples against was censoriousness, or, if you like, the kind of sophistry which these Pharisees were using, taking their rabbinical teaching and their traditions and perverting the Sabbath institution. And by doing so, they had transformed it into an instrument of oppression and into an instrument of hypocrisy.
So they were hypocrites, and they had made it something that it wasn't. And so Jesus says, in works of mercy, in works of necessity, and in works of piety, we still maintain the principle which God has established from all creation. So we need to understand that the Sabbath commandment must never be isolated from God's law in its entirety nor from the gospel in regenerating and in redeeming grace. At the same time, we need to realize that the relevance of the Sabbath is tied up with the fact that it is a positive requirement.
It is a positive requirement. Most of our reactions to the notion of the Sabbath are because we believe it to be negative. Now, there is no question that many have spoken of the Sabbath simply in those terms, and there is a danger of negativism in the weariness of a kind of soulless inactivity. But as we tried to say this morning to understand, the rest of the Sabbath isn't idleness. The rest of the Sabbath is not simply rest from that which marks the other days, but it is rest to and rest in our worship and our contemplation and our prayer and our fellowship. When God's people understand this, then they will not see the services of the Lord's Day as intrusions upon their day of rest, but they will go home and close their door and thank God that since the purpose of the Sabbath is for worship and for edification and for fellowship and for rest and for contemplation, they will thank God that they have been made part of a church family that has given itself to make sure that the people of God will be able to spend their Sabbaths with the greatest prophet. As we've seen today, the Sabbath was never intended as a tool of oppression or as an excuse for idleness.
Instead it's a means of God's grace. We're listening to Truth for Life weekend and Alistair Begg with part three of a message titled Holy Day or Holiday. We'll hear the conclusion next weekend. Now we have a fun book to tell you about this weekend. This is a children's book titled Little Pilgrim's Big Journey Part Two. Many people don't realize John Bunyan who wrote the classic story Pilgrim's Progress also wrote a sequel about the journey of a female character named Christiana. It's her story that's now been adapted for children in the book Little Pilgrim's Big Journey Part Two. This is a great book to share with children, grandchildren, any young child you know. Each chapter includes a summary page to facilitate understanding, discussion, application of the lessons learned. You can find out more about the book Little Pilgrim's Big Journey Part Two when you visit our website at truthforlife.org.
I'm Bob Lapine. If you're a parent, the rules you make for your children are ultimately for their well-being. So it shouldn't surprise us that God's command for us to keep the Sabbath rest is ultimately for our benefit. We'll find out more when you join us next weekend. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-02 15:12:38 / 2023-03-02 15:21:02 / 8