The Westminster Larger Catechism has a lot to say about this commandment, from Scripture. And what they have to say will likely make us squirm. First, Westminster gives us an overview of what the Fourth Commandment requires of us. Q&A 116: The fourth commandment requireth of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian sabbath, and in the New Testament called The Lord’s Day.
Many Christians today do not believe that the Fourth Commandment still applies to us. However, the Fourth Commandment is given in the context of the moral law – not what we call the ceremonial law. It’s one of the Ten Commandments, after all. It can’t be so lightly dismissed. What’s more, the Sabbath was established at creation. God created in six days, and rested on the seventh day. We are called to follow His pattern of six days of work, and one day of rest from our work – and to rest by faith IN His work for us. When we remember the Sabbath Day, we remember that God is our Creator, and our Redeemer. We not only get a day off from work. We get a day off to WORSHIP Him. And so the Fourth Commandment calls us to set this day apart, and to keep it holy. How? By rest from our ordinary labors, and by the worship of God.
The catechism then acknowledges a change in the day. The Resurrection of Christ is the reason we don’t worship on Saturday, but rather on Sunday. The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath. To worship on the seventh day is to worship according to the old creation ordinance. To worship on the first day of the week is to worship according to the NEW creation ordinance. Christ’s resurrection launches a new creation.
And so it is called the LORD’s Day – in Revelation 1, verse 10. The apostle John is in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. In Acts 20, verse 7, the church gathers on the first day of the week to break bread and to hear God’s Word. They assemble on Sunday for the ministry of Word and Sacrament. In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul gives direction for the church’s collection, which is received when the church gathers on the first day of the week. Why? Jesus is risen. So Sunday is the Lord’s Day. It’s not WORK day. It’s not SOCCER Day. Not FOOTBALL Day. Not BASEBALL Day. Not HOME DEPOT Day. Not even FAMILY Day. It is first and foremost the LORD’s Day. And if work or sports or projects or even family distract you from resting in the Lord and encumber your worship of Him, you have broken the Fourth Commandment.
Woof. That pretty much nails all of us, doesn’t it? Yes, and it will get worse as we continue with Westminster’s exposition! Here’s the thing. Yes, this is a commandment, a duty. But it is also a gift. Jesus reminds us that we were not made FOR the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for US. God gives us rest in Christ, His crucified and risen Son. Rest from our self-effort to save ourselves. Rest in His finished work of salvation. Rest in all His all-sufficient righteousness. Rest by faith. The One who made us and redeemed knows that we need a day off from our ordinary labors. Even from the fun stuff. So we can hear His Word; sing His praises; receive His sacrament. To stop all the activity. All the crazy busyness. To sit down at His feet. To be refreshed by His grace. The Lord’s Day is a gift – and may it be more and more our delight.