How Ordering Your Home Includes Maintaining Obedience to the Lord
This will be the second of three sections of the Larger Catechism, as we have it broken down, that will touch on the subject of the Christian Sabbath. It should come as no surprise that out of all the commandments the fourth receives more play than any other. Questions surrounding the nature of it and how to go about obeying the Lord in regards to it have always vexed the mind of man. We’ve noted before that this reason is mostly due to the fact that we are dealing with the matter of time, of which we have little. The idea pushes back at our own idolatrous concept of who is actually in charge of our life. So how do we go about keeping the word on this front? Well, our catechism questions today gives us an idea particularly suited to that.
Here are today’s Q/A’s:
Q. 118. Why is the charge of keeping the sabbath more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors?
A. The charge of keeping the sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge; and because they are prone ofttimes to hinder them by employments of their own.
Q. 119. What are the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are, all omissions of the duties required, all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them; all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.
In something of a foreshadowing we have a distinct question focused on the responsibilities of husbands, fathers, even civil authorities as to what their calling entails in the keeping of this law given and granted by God. It is a subject we don’t talk about enough. When I wrote my dissertation the main argument I used to answer the inquiry concerning why men are not engaged in the life of the church was that the church in general had failed, and continues to do so, to engage the heads of households in what it means to keep the fifth commandment. By their nature men are called to be in charge. It’s part of Paul’s argument as to why only men are to be in authority in the church. Hear what he says in 1 Timothy 2:12-13, “ Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” A reason why the writers of the WLC have thought to bring this particular doctrine to bear on the fourth commandment is because contained within the statute as it is given to Moses in Exodus 20 there is this, “…In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.”. That statement is obviously geared towards the you of the father, the man of the house. He has a special duty to ensure that not just the fourth, but all of the commandments are kept within the bounds of his domain. It is part of his love for those under his care. Protecting folks from judgement is about a caring of an act that a man could do.
Not only is this call, as you notice in the Exodus passage, concerning the blood family, but for the stranger and the servant as well. In the twenty-first century who are these since, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a butler or a maid…or folks working in the field between my house and the tennis court? Probably the simplest way to understand the Catechism’s concern and the application of the fourth commandment from Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 today is to think about people who do things for you. That would mean primarily service workers, whether they be McDonalds employees or ladies at Food Lion. Now why would the fourth commandment, and our catechism questions, be concerned about our relation with these people on the Lord’s Day? There are couple things going on here. First of all it is hard for the french fry guy to worship the Lord Jesus Christ if he has to be at work at 10:00am to prepare for the after-church rush. Same could be said of the security guy at Bank of America Stadium there on Sunday morning at zero dark thirty organizing things for the 1pm kickoff. It should be in the heart of the man of the house, as a member of his local community, to ensure that all people are observing the good pleasures of God’s day of rest, which includes obeying what Paul writes in Hebrews 10:24-25, “ And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”.
In the latter catechism question which gets into the don’ts of the fourth commandment there is a phrase worth expanding on. WLC #119 says, “…and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.” What do they mean both by needless and worldly employments and recreations? In the first case often a pushback sometimes heard on work and the Sabbath day is in regards to first responders, nurses, etc… If no one is manning the Catawba Nuclear Station we are all going to have a bad time. Those are examples of needed employments on the Lord’s Day. No one needs to have their suit dry-cleaned on Sunday, and your unwillingness to take time on the other six days of the week to get things in order for Monday doesn’t mean abandoning morning and evening worship on the first day of the week. But notice that the concern isn’t just about doing stuff, but about talking about needless things. That one is a bit harder for us to grapple with, because if you are like me you talk too much, and eventually you run out of stuff to talk about. Of all the blessings of the Sabbath that we miss out the most on is the opportunity the fourth commandment provides for us to minister to one another with the words of the gospel and of Christ. That ministry of reconciliation is something we should attune our hearts and minds to in order to build one another up in grace and mercy.
Here is a final word to meditate on:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church