Summary: The Fourth Commandment is given because God gives us a Sabbath so that we can enjoy him.
“Don’t Just Be Religious”
In Israel they have “Sabbath elevators”. This elevator is designed to automatically stop at every floor – even if no one is going in or out.
That is because pushing the button for the elevator is work, and even today there are many Jews who have rules about working on the Sabbath.
This means Sabbath elevators end up having long queues. If you are Gentile in Israel you can go into the push button elevators – the ones with no queue. As soon as you do that the elevator will fill up with Jewish people who will say:-
Can you please push button 11.
I’m getting off at level 6.
Level 13 please.
They won’t work, but they don’t mind if a Gentile does the work for them.
I’m not trying to make fun of Jews. Rather this is an example of what happens when we turn grace into law. And Jews are not the only ones who do this – Christians do as well.
Sunday was the day when you put on your Sunday clothes, and you didn’t get dirty.
You never went to the shop on Sunday.
The only reason you wouldn’t be in church is if you were really sick. If you were on holidays for the weekend you would make sure and go to that church.
You didn’t do house-work, or wash a car.
Sometimes you were not even allowed to have fun.
It is a bit different now – and maybe we live in a time when Sunday has become too much of a free-for-all – but there was a time when Sunday was observed like this.
Which makes preaching on the fourth commandment an interesting exercise. Because no matter what you preach people will either say I am being too relaxed about how Sunday is used, or they will say I am putting people under some sort of law.
Part of the issue comes from the reality that, out of the 10 commandments, only 9 of them are expressly repeated in the New Testament. A few examples.
Commandment 1:- “No other Gods before Me”.
1 Corinthians 8:6: - “There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live.”
Commandment 5:- “Honour your father and mother.”
Ephesians 6:1:- “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Commandment 10:- “Do not covet.”
Luke 12:15:- “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
However the command to honour the Sabbath day is not repeated in the New Testament.
The closest we get is Hebrews 10:24-25:-
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.”
Which doesn’t command a one-in-seven cycle and is in a context where apostasy and giving up on God completely is the main problem.
Indeed when you look at the New Testament you can see why people are reluctant to make rules about how a Sunday is used. Let’s read a few passages.
When you put these passages together you can see why there are some who conclude that regular attendance at church is not necessarily the greatest priority.
But there is another part of us that recognises you can’t just make it a free-for-all either.
So, when it comes to the 4th commandment, this seems to be the important question.
How do we show grace, but also recognise the importance of coming together on a Sunday, and other times, in fellowship.
Well, we do what we always do, we go back to Scripture and have a close look and then let Scripture determine the answers. In this case let’s go back to the 4th Commandment.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 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.
But also note that the command in Deuteronomy gives another reason for Sabbath keeping.
15 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.