This article shows that the call to keep the Lord’s Day is rooted in the fourth commandment, which is still applicable today. It shows what it means practically to keep the Lord’s Day.

Source: Doug Van Meter. 3 pages.

Ethos of the Lord’s Day

  1. The Principle: What is it?🔗

Rooted in an ongoing precept (Exodus 20:8­-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Non-negotiable; never abolished.

The enduring validity of the fourth commandment🔗

Mentioned in the New Testament more than any other commandment (see numerous references in the Gospels).

The hermeneutical principle: If an old covenant law is not specifically annulled in the New Testament (see Mark 7:14-19; Galatians 5:2-6), then it remains valid.

Jesus did not abolish the fourth commandment; rather, He restored its glory.

Though Jesus did not abolish the fourth commandment, He did however shift the day to the first day of the week (see John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:22; cf. Revelation 1:10). Further, and very importantly, Jesus made it clear that the fourth commandment is God’s gift to man (Mark 2:27).

What is the gist of the fourth commandment?🔗

Fundamentally, rest. Yet it is rest with a reason – a “reasonable rest.” It is rest with a purpose; therefore, we can say that it is for “purposeful rest.”

As God reflected after creation, so the believer reflects doubly on both creation and the redemption resulting in the new creation by God in Christ.

As God initiated a day of rest upon the work of His creation, so God, in Christ, established a day of rest upon His completed work of the new creation (Hebrews 4).

God established the law of rest (Exodus 20) in order for His fallen creation, who is forever rushing after profit, to stop and rest and to learn to rely on the Lord.

  • To learn that man does not live on bread alone
  • To love our neighbour as our self. They too need to rest from the pursuit of making a living. Therefore, our households, even domesticated animals are to rest.

In Isaiah 58, when God tells Israel not to do their own pleasure on the Sabbath, He was not adding anything new to the law. Their “own pleasure” was that of seeking profit; it was a pursuit motivated by self-sufficiency, providing for themselves (see Nehemiah 13).

God’s pleasure, however, was their obedience; God’s pleasure was their resting because of relying on Him to care for their needs. The Sabbath laws were for man’s benefit. They were (and remain) for the purpose of “forcing” us to face the fact that we live always ultimately in dependence upon God.

The issue is not simply cessation of activity. The priests were busy on the Sabbath, and since new covenant believers are priests, the expectation is that we will be busy as well. But the important caveat is that we are to be busy with what God allows us to be busy with.

Note: The emphasis, again, is rest. There is little indication in the Old Testament that the Sabbath was a day of corporate worship. However, under the new covenant, we do have example of the Lord’s Day being the day when believer’s gathered.

Further, since the purpose of the fourth commandment is to drive home the truth of our dependence upon God, and since we have the time on the Lord’s Day, what a great opportunity to utilise this day for the purpose of learning about God and our dependence on such a trustworthy God, together.

  1. The Practice: What does it look like?🔗

We need to think in terms of principles, primarily, rather than in terms of prescribed rules (which are not found in Scripture).

The precept is clear: rest. The law holds. It applies.

The cessation of activity that God prescribes is that which we can term “creative activity.” We are to rest from activity in which we are normally engaged as a means of sustaining our existence in this world. We are rest from our normal course of life in which we as humanity make the world go around.

For example: commercial enterprises, employment activity, those things associated with making a living, activity related to being a keeper of the home, etc.

Since the cessation of such activity is the emphasis in the commandment, we should be very careful about prescribing the prohibition of working in the garden, picnicking, exercising, etc. on the Lord’s Day. There is nothing inherent in such activities that necessarily are a violation of the principle of not doing our “own pleasure.” Again, the “pleasure” which the Lord is speaking of is the pleasure seeking of profit.

Some Ethical Issues🔗

  1. We should avoid behaviour that causes someone else to violate the precept of rest from pursuit of profit; rest from pursuit of self-sustainment; rest from the ordinary course of living. Practically this means that we should avoid Restaurants, sporting events, entertainment, shops, etc.
  2. We should avoid behaviour that is linked to our normal course of making a profit; labour which is part and parcel of sustaining ourselves in the world. This would apply to employment activity that is not a work of “necessity.” This would apply to home-makers doing their normal course of productive, “sustenance” work.
  3. We should avoid behaviour that secularises the Lord’s Day. Revelation 1:10 uses a particular grammatical formula that makes it clear that the Lord’s Day is the Lord’s Day (just as the Lord’s Supper is uniquely His possession). We can conclude that the Lord’s Day is to be set apart. Just as we fence the Table, so we are to fence the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Supper must not be commercialised or secularised. Neither should the Lord’s Day be secularised.
  1. The Problem: Why the angst?🔗

  1. Popularism rooted in faulty exegesis arising from a faulty hermeneutic. Again, a failure to see the continuity of the old covenant in the new covenant has resulted in ethical problems for Christians. The church is the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) and that is a very important consideration.
  2. Self-centredness – with which we all struggle. We struggle with self-sufficiency and this can colour our interpretive glasses. We want to do our own thing and so submission to this commandment becomes difficult.
  3. Cultural Pressures. Obedience to the fourth commandment is extremely cross-cultural and it makes us look weird. So be it. Jesus was considered “mad,” so we are in good company (John 10:20).
  1. The Position: What does this mean for members of BBC?🔗

  1. There is an expectation that members will honour the Lord on His Day.
  2. This ethos must be exemplified by those in leadership/teaching positions.
  3. This ethos contributes to prioritising of corporate gathering on the Lord’s Day.
  4. Without apology there will be a discouragement of participation in sporting events, entertainment, commercial pursuits on the Lord’s Day. Further, this ethos will also discourage unnecessary travel on the Lord’s Day.

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