As many of you know, I’m a strong advocate for observing the LORD’s day as our Sabbath Worship of the LORD. I have written here before about the topic and always enjoy when others do the same. The latest installment comes from Benjamin Shaw, an Associate Professor of Old Testament at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He writes to help clarify the Sabbath rest that is spoken of in Hebrews 4:10-11. Many used this verse to claim that we no longer have to keep the Sabbath/LORD’s Day since we have entered that rest upon our belief and conversion in Christ.
Shaw writes in response to this:
In some sense, it is true that when we believed in Christ, we entered that rest. However, the passage is not speaking about our present enjoyment of that rest. It is speaking about our future enjoyment. Hence, the “there yet remains a Sabbath rest” of verse 9, as well as the “let us strive” of verse 11. My sense of this is that while we, by trusting in Christ, have entered into rest, we have not entered into that final rest which is in view here. We have, as it were, left Egypt, but we have not yet entered Canaan.
The Sabbath in the Old Testament had a three-fold consideration with regard to time. First, it made the believer look back to be reminded that he was God’s creature (Gen 2:1-3; Ex 20:11). The past fact was that God created. The present fact (for that Old Testament believer) was that God was his creator. The future fact was that God would be the creator of the new heavens and the new earth. Second, the Sabbath made the believer look back to be reminded that God was his redeemer (Deut 5:15). The past fact was that God redeemed a people. The present fact was that God was his personal redeemer. The future fact was that God would usher him into a redeemed new heavens and new earth. Third, the Sabbath was a sign that they were his people and he was their God (Ex 31:12-17). God had chosen a people going back to Abraham (in fact going all the way back to Adam, though the “I will be your God, and you will be my people” language goes back only to Abraham). They had been his people in the past. They were his people in the present, ad they would continue to be his people into the future.
We, as New Testament believers, have the same identity. We are God’s creatures. We are God’s redeemed people. God has given us a sign that these things are so. We still have the same need—to be reminded that these things are so. Yes, we have entered rest, but we have not fully entered it. Do you not find that your heart is often restless, worried, anxious? If so, you have not fully entered into that rest. This is right, because our redemption is not yet complete. We are being sanctified. We will be glorified. But that work is not yet complete.
Part of our sanctification comes from observing the moral law in the Ten Commandments. I don’t believe that the New Testament in any way removes the admonitions for the Fourth Commandment from the Law. What it does do is move the day to the First day of the week, because of the resurrection of Christ on that day, and free us up to show mercy and grace to others. Before you ask, allow me to say that watching football on Sunday isn’t showing grace and mercy to others.
That is not my point here. My point is that the command is still in place for our sanctification. When we abuse it and end up working or playing instead of resting from work and serving others in mercy and grace, we rob ourselves from the sanctifying process of the Law and sin against God. We also rob ourselves of the rest that we so desperately need and the blessings that come from attending worship with other believers.
So before you think that the Fourth Commandment has been removed from the Decalogue as so many claim today, remember Christ’s words about the Law: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.