To start at Part 1 of 2, click here.
If there is a Christian Sabbath today, it follows that its application will emerge - perhaps even blatantly - as we compare Scripture with Scripture.
It strikes me that if we go to the 4th command itself (i.e. having established we are not sabbatarians whom we take to mean someone who believes the Lord’s Day is on Saturday) there will be clues there to help us apply it to our lives. The Exodus 20:8-11 text (NKJV) reads as follows: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
The first clue is the word “remember”. This is both a warning and a command. This word tells me I will likely forget it, which I have found to be true in experience, for it takes no effort on my part to quickly forget the Lord’s Day. I must remember this and challenge myself on it when I find myself forgetting the liberty, freedom, and benefits connected with remembering the Lord’s Day, for we can quickly become slaves to elective work, play, self, and the world around us and in so doing dishonour the Lord and forfeit blessings that are ours.
The second clue is the word ”Sabbath” or “rest” and the word attached to it, being “day”. This tells me the Lord’s Day is to be a day when I rest spiritually and physically. I believe it is a day, not just a morning or portion of Sunday, but a day. The Puritans were known for this and were careful to set-aside all legitimate worldly affairs so they could worship and gather throughout the entire day. I don’t believe we are meant to set a legal stopwatch on this; rather, if our hearts realize the Lord has set aside a day for our good and particular worship, we’ll organize our affairs around that. I suppose a lot of practical things could be mentioned about what spiritual and physical rest ought to involve, but I think a lot of it should center on the next word, “holy”.
Much has been spoken about the word holy and by extension the holiness of believers in Christ and practiced, if not struggled toward, as a result of being saved and in the process of sanctification. I think the word holy speaks about being clean, and separate and distinct from sin, etc. Therefore, part of keeping the day holy is the faithful assembling with believers in a true and Biblically based gospel preaching church, which is distinct from anything else we do in the week. It seems the same attitude of deliberate distinctiveness in keeping the day holy with respect to attending church should similarly carry through to the rest of the Lord’s Day. For this reason, while avoiding a “can and can’t do” list, if the impetus behind what we do on the Lord’s Day is rooted in a right understanding of keeping it holy out of love and obedience to the Lord (i.e. distinct, separate, sanctified, etc), then decisions regarding elective work, numerous activities legitimate at other times, shopping, sports, etc., are far easier to discern as being either honoring to the Lord, or not. Following a morning service, I believe keeping the day holy is punctuated and capped-off by attending church in the evening where God’s Word is preached and hymns and reverent music sung, all with the intent, at least in part, of resting up the believer in the context of worship for the week ahead... to be salt and light in the sphere of influence God has ordained for each believer (Matthew 5:13-16). As a sidebar, the Biblical argument for a Sunday evening service starts here, I know of no other reason, other than to have another meeting or just to get together, which you may as well do on any other day of the week.
Another clue is the word “labor” and “work”. Christ has finished the work and we are complete in Him. As we set aside our works, both materially and spiritually, we make a statement to the world around us that we are Christians and that this world is second place to us. Of course, works of necessity are necessary but, wherever possible, resting from employment is what the Lord desires of us on this special set-aside day so we can focus on our Saviour and our eternal future secured by Him. And, just as keeping the Sabbath in the OT was a sign (i.e. that is, a sign showing the Lord sanctifying/consecrating His people and proclaiming Him to be the orderly Creator, Exodus 31) so keeping the Lord’s Day in post-resurrection times is a sure sign to believers who are in need of spiritual and physical rest while being a powerful signpost and consistent witness to the lost in our communities who need the gospel.
The Progressive Application
Last, are the words relating to the fact that this rest we have spoken of above relates back to creation itself, something touched on earlier, where God rested, blessed and hallowed a day of particular rest. This makes expectant sense as the continuum of the moral creation mandate is anticipated for, as we established at the outset, the moral law is an expression of God’s moral image and nature - and is eternal (Matthew 5:18, Romans 2:14-16). This is not to suggest sabbatarianism. On the contrary, the change from Saturday Sabbath to the Lord’s Day (Sunday Rest) is not a change in any substance of the eternal and immutable moral law of God, but merely a progressive application. By this we mean that Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Sunday) sealing our redemption so we worship Him on this day according to the principals consistent with the moral command itself while excluding those OT observances that were ceremonial, not moral, these having passed away with the sacrificial system that prefigured Christ.
The Lord's Day Biblically Chiseled Out
I think the London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689 sums up my humbly submitted thoughts and conscience far better than I might attempt:
- “Under the Gospel neither prayer nor any other part of religious worship is tied to, or made more acceptable by, any place in which it is performed or towards which it is directed. God is to be worshipped everywhere in spirit and in truth, whether in private families daily, in secret by each individual, or solemnly in the public assemblies. These are not to be carelessly or willfully neglected or forsaken, when God by His Word and providence calls us to them.
- As it is the law of nature that in general a proportion of time, by God's appointment, should be set apart for the worship of God, so He has given in His Word a positive, moral and perpetual commandment, binding upon all men, in all ages to this effect. He has particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath to be kept holy for Him. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ this was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ it was changed to the first day of the week and called the Lord's Day. This is to be continued until the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week having been abolished.
- The Sabbath is kept holy to the Lord by those who, after the necessary preparation of their hearts and prior arranging of their common affairs, observe all day a holy rest from their own works, words and thoughts about their worldly employment and recreations, and give themselves over to the public and private acts of worship for the whole time, and to carrying out duties of necessity and mercy.”
The Lord’s Day: Concluding Thoughts
I confess, often I have sought to keep the Lord’s Day out of duty and a subconscious list of conduct, rather than obedient love to the Lord and for my own spiritual and physical well-being as well as that of my fellow believer... and the unsaved who watch, listen, and silently observe.
Yet, in spite of my abuse thereof, there is something very significant and important about this wonderful doctrine often forgotten or altogether neglected in the present day.
There seems to be historic precedent that when the Church is at low ebb, the Lord’s Day is least important. The opposite appears true in times of revival and persecution, when a full day of Christ-orientated rest brings to worshipful remembrance our heavenly home and Lord and the reason behind why we must toil and work in the first place, for now. In such times, the Lord’s Day seems to take on dramatic new and practical application even though the promises and moral commands of God apply in all seasons.
Closing Note: Professional Sport & Sunday - A Fresh Testimony. Euan M, is a rugby star who plays for Scotland. Like his fellow countryman and fellow Christian Eric Liddell (i.e. famous Olympic champion 1924 and focus of the Oscar film, Chariots of Fire), Euan has seen the importance of remembering the Christian Sabbath. Recently he wrote me and said he had signed a new contract to play for Scotland which included a unique clause that allowed him not to play on the Lord's Day. You can read about this in the UK press... it's interesting to see a few of the comments under this article that betrays a general lack of understanding of the 10 commandments and the Christian Sabbath in particular (Part 1 of this article addresses this). Please pray for Euan that the Lord might keep him as he seeks to honour the Lord with all his life.
Go to > The Lord’s Day, Part 1 of 2