Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 38
Lord's Day 38
What does God require
in the fourth commandment?
that the ministry of the gospel and the schools
and that, especially on the day of rest,
I diligently attend the church of God
to hear God's Word,
to use the sacraments,
to call publicly upon the Lord,
and to give Christian offerings for the
that all the days of my life
I rest from my evil works,
let the Lord work in me through His Holy
and so begin in this life
the eternal sabbath.
Q. & A. 103 Remember the Sabbath Day, to Keep it Holy
- The commandment says: Remember the sabbath day. It was already known, for the Lord had instituted it in Paradise. The duty to maintain and hallow the sabbath was, therefore, not merely part of Israel's ceremonial law, but applies for all time. It is a religious duty to rest on the sabbath, but it is not the highest goal; rather, it is the means to keep this day holy, i.e., the means to devote this day especially to the Lord. The Lord coupled a convincing reason to the commandment: We must observe this day of rest after six days of labour because God did so. Deut 5:14 gives another reason as well: ". . . that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you." (See also Ex 2:12).
Deut 5:15 adds yet another reason: "You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the sabbath day."
Scripture, therefore, gives three reasons for keeping the sabbath:
(a) to imitate God;
(b) to rest and to allow one's employees to rest; and
(c) to remember the deliverance from Egypt.
- The reason that God instructed Adam to rest on the seventh day and that he commanded Israel accordingly is because for them the rest could come only after their labour. For Adam this was after completion of the demand of the covenant of works; for Israel it was when the Messiah should have come. All this is now past. We celebrate the sabbath on the first day of the week. For Christ brought rest. We may now look back on Christ's completed work. The apostles began to keep the sabbath on the first day of the week (see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2). The first day is hallowed by Christ's resurrection and is, thus, called the Lord's day (Rev 1:10).
- The purpose of this day is to devote it to God for his service. It is pre-eminently the day for the formal and public worship service. Refer, in this connection, to the first part of Answer 103 and pay attention to the duty to attend diligently!
Everything on the day of rest must accommodate the worship service. That is the purpose of the day. All labour in the home and in one's business that is avoidable must be left undone. We may seek recreation and relaxation on the day of rest, but those may not interfere with the character of the day.
- The fourth commandment has a spiritual tenor. The second part of Answer 103 points to it. We must be imitators of God: that is the deepest meaning of the commandment about the sabbath. Sin disturbed our ability to imitate God. But Christ restores this ability in all who are his by the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, the commandment requires us, All the Days of Our Lives, to rest from our evil works and to let the Lord work in us through his Holy Spirit. That is why the eternal sabbath already begins in this life.
- The purpose of maintaining the weekly sabbath is to strengthen us in this spiritual celebration of the sabbath all the days of our lives. The Lord has also promised salutary consequences for the keeping of the weekly sabbath: he blessed and hallowed this day. Through it he offers refreshment to man and beast and guards against the complete materialization of life. The conversion of the Sunday into a day of sin, which happens more and more, is therefore very disturbing. A nation which no longer keeps the Sunday holy will soon cease to be holy itself.
- The government has the duty to ensure that the Sunday is maintained as day of rest in public life. Further, it must forbid everything that can hinder or harm the worship service.
- Works of mercy and those which promote the worship service are permitted on Sunday.
- Celebrating the Lord's Day in a legalistic manner.
- The belief that the commandment to celebrate the sabbath every week has been abolished.
- When was the sabbath instituted?
- Is it concerned with resting? If not, what then? What is that?
- Which reasons does Scripture advance for keeping the sabbath?
- Why did the people of the OT rest on the seventh day of the week, and why do we rest on the first day? When did the first day of the week become the day of rest?
- What is the purpose of the sabbath day? May we seek recreation on this day? What must we constantly keep in mind in our recreation on the Lord's Day?
- What is the spiritual tenor of the commandment? What is the relationship between the spiritual celebration of the sabbath and the weekly sabbath?
- Which salutary consequences did the Lord add to the keeping of the sabbath?