— By LOU TISCIONE
The fourth commandment, Exodus 20:8, is: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
God gave this command to His people so that they would remember a certain day. The day that they were to remember or call to mind was the Sabbath day. The sabbath day was established in creation. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:1-3)
The Apostle Paul wrote clearly that Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath. (Colossians 2:16-17)
Yet, the Lord’s Day was so important that it was at the center of Israel’s worship. After Christ rose from the dead, Christians began to worship on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day.
The requirement to worship was as an eternal command of the Creator to His creatures. Those in Christ set the Lord’s Day apart in worship. That is, a Christian response to the grace of God is to set one day in seven apart to Him, not as a duty but as sincere devotion.
God made us to worship Him. Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is set apart by God’s command to gather together with the people of God for worship. But because of sin, we seem to try to fit in worship on the Lord’s Day among our many important things to do. Some churches have even sought to accommodate their members by offering Saturday evening worship services. Practical advice was given by the reformers concerning sanctifying, keeping holy, the Lord’s Day. Their advice continues to be helpful to the church.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?” The answer: “The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.”
A careful reading of the shorter catechism and the entirety of the Westminster standards make it clear that the standard is extremely high. In fact, no one was able to keep the Sabbath holy in the way the Bible outlined that it should be kept except Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the sabbath and He is the sabbath rest for His people.
The letter to the Hebrews frames the blessing of sabbath rest in Christ. “So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest …” (Hebrews 4:9ff)
We all know that worship is not only a weekly event. Worship is what we do every moment, every day of our lives. However, God has commanded that His people who are called by His name gather together to worship Him. One day in seven is to be set apart to God. I urge all who call upon the name of Jesus to guard the Lord’s Day so that no other undertaking pushes it aside. If Jesus truly is the center of our lives as we profess then we will place a high priority on our gathering for worship on the Lord’s Day.
What a tremendous testimony it would be if all those who claim to be Christians would worship the Lord on the Lord’s Day. Christians worship God in every aspect of life. We live in submission to Him. We live under His word. We desire to worship Him with our brothers and sisters in Christ on each Lord’s Day.
I close by affirming that Christians live under grace not under law. Living under grace does indeed look like something. The “something” it looks like is worship. The one day on which we demonstrate to God and to the world the blessing of His grace in our lives is His day, the Lord’s Day! May the Lord fill you with the assurance of His love and peace as you gather with His people on this Lord’s Day.
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).