Comprehending the Goodness of the Fourth Commandment

Good Morning!

Three Long Larger Catechism questions today that all center around the 4th Commandment. To be sure we just completed talking about the Sabbath Day in our Tuesday time, but seeing as though this statute and the Second receive the most pushback within the body of Christ (all of them receiving various major disagreements out in the world) it probably wouldn’t kill us to hear out what the Westminster Divines have to say on this particular subject. I’ve probably already  said it elsewhere, however, it bears repeating that the reason why Fourth gets as much guff as it does has puzzled me for a great while. I think the reason is because it asks us to get on God’s schedule and not our own. Time is something we recognize as a limited resource, and it is in using that dwindling supply that our true reliance on the rhythms of the Lord of glory are truly shown out to be what they are in reality. Our examination of the law on this matter will bear that out to be correct I believe. So without further ado here are today’s LC Q/A’s:

Q. 115. Which is the fourth commandment?

A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath-day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath-day, and hallowed it.

Q. 116. What is required in the fourth commandment?

 A. The fourth commandment requires 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.

Q. 117. How is the sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified?

A. The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy ) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.

In previous talks on the subject we’ve dealt with words like Remember and what they meant to not only the Hebrews in the days of Sinai, but how New Testament Christians also continue to Remember the resurrection and the second coming through the keeping of the Lord’s Day. As we come to the WLC I want to focus on the last question in our time together. Real quick though there is a need to define what we understand by the term Sanctified. Sometimes ministers as they explain things can assume too much. In the Bible whenever that language is used it is talking about an item, a person, or a day (in regards to the old covenant festivals) that is set aside by God for His purposes. Not only that, however, it can also refer to the cleansing of a priest or a person being prepared to go about a special activity of worship for the Lord. God in His grace established the Sabbath Day in the days before sin so we know it is not in the later sense we are talking about Sunday being sanctified. Yet there is an aspect of our obedience that is in a way still engaged in that type of work. The primary reason why is because we do now live in a wicked and evil world which does not, and cannot, do the things the Lord desires for His creation. For that purpose then Christians are called to sanctify, or in other words clean up the mess the Fall has made in God’s good world.

By far the hardest part of keeping the Sabbath in 2023 is that almost no one else does it. I’m in that stage of life where baseball coaches and karate folks think nothing of scheduling practices, games, and competitions on the First Day of the Week. It does not even enter their minds that the Christians on their teams have something else to do that day. Sunday is just another calendar turn for them. While we all recognize the tectonic shift that has happened in the last ten years, let along the last fifty, when it comes to both the Lord’s Day and the Baptist Sabbath (Wednesday) part of the reason we ended up here is not because the world has become more pagan, it most certainly has. A large component of the problem is that the Believers on these teams have not been willing to sanctify the day themselves. It is not incumbent on the gentile here to be ensuring that his players/members are keeping the law of God. That’s on professing Christ followers.

Here we see a place where the rubber hits the road of our faith. Jehovah in His grace has provided six days of labor (and recreation) for the benefit and blessing of His covenant people. It is a sign of our ungraciousness that we cannot even give up 1/7th of the days in which the Lord has provided in order, “that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.”.

In closing, as I have noted before our struggles on the Sabbath have more to do with the fact we only have a negative conception of the mercies available to sinners in the keeping of the Fourth Commandment. Consider again the opportunity we have to visit the sick, minister to others, enjoy Christian fellowship, be encouraged by the word, and see the growth of our covenant kids in the faith once for all delivered unto the saints. We are spiritually impoverished because our whole schedule is given over to the world. We drink milk when meat is right in front of our faces because our hearts and souls are primarily under the authority of earthly bosses and coaches.

We need to ask ourselves why this is. Why do we consider the needs of earthly men, when the God who made Heaven and Earth and has granted and gifted us eternal life asks but for one day?

A word more:

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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