The fourth commandments has been a topic of arguments among some of my Christian friends. Is this commandment still crucial for salvation?
@716stan Great question Even in the OT, people were always saved by faith; not by keeping the Sabbath. For example, Abraham lived before the Sabbath was instituted. Keeping the Sabbath was a way of honoring the covenant that God made with His people on Mt. Sinai through Moses.
As NT believers, we live under a New Covenant (New Testament literally means New Covenant) and Christ is our Sabbath rest . We are no longer required to observe the Sabbath. However, we should also respect the conscience of those who still feel compelled to do so.
Romans 14:5 - One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
Colossians 2:16-17 - Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant and the Sabbath as the covenant sign are no longer applicable now that the new covenant of Jesus Christ has come. Believers are called upon to honor and respect those who think the Sabbath is still mandatory for believers. But if one argues that the Sabbath is required for salvation, such a teaching is contrary to the gospel and should be resisted forcefully. In any case, Paul makes it clear in both Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16–17 that the Sabbath has passed away now that Christ has come.
While we are not under the condemnation of the law, Jesus teaching in Matthew 5:17-19 makes it clear that if we teach others to set aside any part of the law, we will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven… I take that very literally
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
As Sean has pointed out, the Law and the things of the old testament are foreshadows and the reality of those things are found in Christ. If you read Hebrews chapter 4, you will see that the “rest” that God wants us all to have is found “Today” in Christ. Christ himself is our Sabbath-rest. He is our Shalom.
4:6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Matthew 11:28&29 - 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
In conclusion, we are not under the condemnation of the law, but we should not set aside any of the law, rather we should seek to live our lives to fulfill the law. As it pertains to the Sabaoth, God intended us to enter into His rest. The ultimate reality of entering into God’s rest is to trust and believe in Jesus Christ as He is our eternal sabbath and rest for our souls. In Romans 14:5 we find this instruction from Paul…
Rom 14:5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
When you are “In Christ”, you are in a state of continual Sabbath and rest. how you choose to express that in your life by setting apart certain days in which to show an outward expression of the inward truth is up to you and what you believe by faith is honoring to God. Or better yet, spend some time in prayer and let God speak to you in what He wants you to do as an outward expression of the inward truth and then live in obedience by faith to His leading.
I hope that is helpful to you and any who are looking into this
By Him and for Him and to Him,
Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply. I understand that the Israelites kept the Sabbath because God had delivered them from the Egyptians, but why did God put Sabbath in the heart of the ten commandments? Do believers in the new covenant era observe the ten commandments?
I think when you ask a question like … why did God “_____________” fill in the blank, you have to be careful to answer such a question unless the answer to the question is spelled out clearly in Scripture. When its not, the best we can do is look at the available text and from it through guidance of the Holy Spirit come to some idea. Many times its better to just say, I don’t know why God did that, rather than to just make up something that sounds good.
With that said, as I read many passages about the Sabbath, many of the references do not refer back to the mosaic covenant in exodus 20 where it was given inside the 10 commandment, rather the reference talks about creation and explains that the purpose of the Sabbath was to enter into God’s rest and then points to the 7 day in the creation story. I think this is significant in answering your question about why God put it into the Mosaic covenant, as the purpose of the Sabbath was establish from back when creation began and it has always been about taking time to have a close relationship with God and to fellowship with God.
As to why did God put it into the law I can only guess at that in much the same way, Jesus gave us communion as a way for us to remember and not forget the sacrifice He made for us. By placing it in the law, it ensure that we would not forget to always make room/time in our lives for our relationship with God because its not just a good thing to do, it is a needful thing for us to do. Having a relationship with God is not an option or a choice, it truly is a necessity.
Having said that for your consideration, again as I said in my earlier post… Jesus is the fulfillment and the reality of the law…
Jesus is our Sabbath - Heb 4:6-11, John 14;27, Matthew 11:28&29
How you choose to express this outwardly in your life by observing days which you set aside to worship and honor God is up to you. Romans Chapter 14 is entirely dedicated to explaining that you have freedom in Christ and its up to you how you choose to express or observe Spiritual reality of Sabbath you have in Christ.
I would say since God knows what He is doing, the fact He made it a requirement under the law to observe this rest at least once a week, that might be a good place to start. For my self, I try to live my life in a continual awareness of my fellowship with God everyday. For me, I practice daily and moment by moment that I am at rest and in fellowship with God by being “in Christ”. This is possible through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
If you are in Christ Jesus, then you are no longer under the law, but in our relationship with Christ, we do not set aside the law (Matt 5:17-19), rather we seek a deeper level of obedience in fulfillment to the law in the expression of our love to Christ.
So if you are looking for an answer that tells you “yes” you have to observe the Sabbath as a believer or “No” you don’t have to observe the Sabbath as a believer, you are not going to find that. What you are going to find is that while we are not under the condemnation of the law, we don’t set aside God’s law, rather we fulfill god’s law through an expression of our faith in love for God.
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
By Him and for Him and to Him,
Some people teach that because the Sabbath rest is included in the 10 Commandments, that makes it a part of the moral law which is binding upon all men everywhere. And even before that, they note that in the creation story God blessed the Sabbath and sanctified it, so it has been binding on mankind ever since the beginning.
But others note that it could hardly have been a commandment for mankind to rest in paradise when plucking fruit freely from the garden was no burden at all. They point out that God sanctified it because He rested (Genesis 2:3) - He sanctified it unto Himself, not for mankind.
Furthermore, if this were a moral law binding on all mankind, then it could not have been a sign between Him and Israel (Exodus 31:13). Moral laws binding on everyone don’t work as signs to distinguish one group of people from the rest.
Finally, moral laws are written in the hearts of all mankind (Romans 2:14-15). People’s consciences pain them if they kill an innocent person, if they steal, if they lie. Even people in primitive cultures without a Bible recognize the basics of moral right and wrong.
So when’s the last time your conscience beat you up about mowing your lawn on a Saturday? Or doing laundry? Now, if you grew up in a Jewish or sabbatarian family, you might feel guilty for doing something you were taught to feel guilty about. But that’s not the same as intuitive guilt that no one had to instill in you.
So why do Christians in general feel no guilt about working on Saturday? Because Hebrews 4:1-10 explains that we who have believed in Christ have entered into the rest that Jesus promised all who come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30). Under the New Testament, Sabbath keeping along with kosher diets, circumcision and all the rest of the Jewish ceremonial rituals were “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-17).
Having said that, though, I would not deny that it is beneficial to rest about once a week - and the Lord’s Day when the saints gather to worship is undoubtedly a very convenient day to do this for most. But obviously we shouldn’t turn it into the kind of burden that the Pharisees did to the Sabbath in Jesus’ day.
Hope it helps!
Thank you very much for taking time to answer my question. I hope you don’t mind me asking again, because your answer has raised another question in my mind. I understand your meaning of moral laws are written in the hearts of mankind and it manifests itself by guilty conscience when one kills, commits adultery, and covets someone else’s properties… I started to think about the other commandments, and I realize using God’s name in vain such as cussing is very common to the point of becoming a frequent mindless expression. You get what I mean, how should one choose which moral law is still binding and which one is not valid?
Very insightful question - thank you @716stan !
Just as a person can be taught to feel artifically guilty over something that’s not really moral, a person can also be dulled to his own conscience by repeated violations of it. In I Timothy 4:2, Paul calls this having a conscience seared as with a hot iron. It’s been violated so long that it can longer feel pain.
I believe that people who use God’s name in vain, or deny the reality of God do feel guilty on some level, but less and less so as they continue to abuse their conscience.
Take a look at this interesting article about people in Finland who deny any belief in God:
While they may say their conscience isn’t bothered, their autonomous physical reactions tell a different story.
So it’s not what the people whose consciences have been manipulated one way or the other say, but the norm that runs through the human race around the world and throughout the ages that reveals the moral law in the hearts of all men.
Does this make sense to you?
That certainly is a comforting piece of information that the Holy Spirit works even in atheists hearts. However, I am still not convince that the Ten Commandments are not valid in the era of New Covenant. Why than Christians are incensed when the ACLU demanded the removal of the Ten Commandment monument? If it was something of the past shouldn’t we just let it go? Please be patient with me, I am just full of questions with this topic.
Oh, absolutely they are valid! But Jeremiah 31:31-33 foretold that a time would come when God would make a new covenant with the house of Israel unlike the covenant he made with their fathers that He delivered from Egypt. In this new covenant, He would put His law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and would be their God and they would be His people.
Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16 explain that this is talking about the new covenant - the new testament. The 10 commandments that were external to the Old Testament Jews has now been made internal in the hearts of New Testament saints. We obey His commandments because the spirit of love that is shed abroad in our hearts doesn’t want to kill others, steal from them, blaspheme God’s name, etc.
In II Corinthians 3:7 and following, Paul describes the commandments written in stone as having dealt out death because the people never could really live up to the commandments in their hearts where it mattered. External obedience is only skin deep - it’s the heart that has to live somewhere forever. If the heart isn’t right, any external obedience is irrelevant. He says in II Corinthians 3:3 that now the Spirit doesn’t write God’s laws in tables of stone, but in the fleshy tables of our hearts.
So when Jesus invites us to come to Him promising to give us rest, it’s the rest of salvation within that the Sabbath was always pointing to. When those Pharisees in the New Testament were creating artificial burdens to enforce the fourth commandment, what they were doing was the very opposite of rest - they were causing stress.
I think one of the early Christian theologians, St. Augustine, said it well with one of his more famous quotes - “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” That’s what Jesus was offering in Matthew 11:28-30. That’s the spirit behind the fourth commandment. Just as not lusting is the spirit behind the eighth, not hating is the spirit behind the sixth, loving God with all your heart is the spirit behind the first, contentment is behind the tenth, etc. God wants us to be at rest in Him every day!
Does this make sense to you?
Thanks again for your patience in helping me with my questions. A while ago someone introduced to me a book written by a Jewish rabbi’s daughter on “Sabbath”. In one of the chapters she described Sabbath in a way that I can not forget. She said, “Some religions build great cathedrals or temples, but Judaism constructs the Sabbath as an architecture of time. Creating holiness in time. …”. Isn’t that an amazing concept, the time sanctuary? Could it be the purpose of the fourth commandment? If it is a time sanctuary it should be permanent, or should it not?
I’d say it depends on how you mean that. While we love the Jewish people and pray for their salvation and look forward to the reign of Christ on the throne of David in Jerusalem, we should be careful about letting Jewish traditions embellish Biblical teaching. That was exactly the error of the Pharisees that Jesus so strongly condemned. The Jewish people for the most part have not found the true Sabbath rest that Jesus promised to all who come to Him in faith – so their views on how Christians should celebrate it must be carefully weighed by scripture.
But if you’re looking for a more transcendental theology of the Sabbath, you might consider how the early church fathers viewed the Millennial Sabbath and the eighth day of creation.
You can “word search” to find early references – but the short of it is that some of them viewed the six days of creation followed by a sabbath of rest as a parallel to all of history. That is, after 6,000 years under the misrule of man, the world would enjoy a thousand year reign of peace and rest under the Messiah. Now that the world is about 6,000 years old (assuming the literal view of Genesis), the Messiah’s Millennial Kingdom would be due to begin any time.
After this millennial Sabbath, the fallen creation that now exists will be destroyed and God will make a new creation on an eighth day of creation that will have no night – so the eighth day (the day of the new beginning after the fallen creation – the day of Christ’s resurrection) is eternal.
And actually, the building of this new creation has already begun – II Corinthians 5:17. In the original creation, the citizens of that world were created last. But in the new creation, God makes them first – and He’s already doing it even now. Every time another sinner becomes a saint, he is set aside as a citizen that will live forever in the Kingdom to come. Salvation immediately makes you a part of that new creation of eternal, Edenic rest.
But look – whether you choose to rest every Saturday as an observance of the fourth commandment, or whether you view yourself at rest in the Lord every day – that’s entirely between your conscience and God. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind – Romans 14:5.
So who is right in this debate? He that regardeth the day (or not) unto the Lord - 14:6.
And who is wrong? He that despises or judges his brother in such things – 14:3.
May God guide you with wisdom and grace as you sort through this and all other issues of life and worship!
Thank you very much for your thoughtful answers, I will keep studying on the subject prayerfully
Hello, @716stan! This is a question that I share with you. In particular, I am interested in what Sabbath observance could look like for me, a person based in the cultural West. I remember spending a semester abroad in Edinburgh some time back and being fascinated the approach to Sabbath of church I attended. That is, they were serious about it being a day set aside to be with God and their church family. Coming from a context that was pretty ‘meh’ about Sabbath, it was both deeply refreshing and challenging.
Going back to your original question about it being ‘crucial for salvation’, I would answer that it depends on what you mean by ‘salvation’. I do believe that keeping Sabbath is absolutely crucial for our flourishing as human beings, and that it is one of the keys ways in which we can push back against the go-go-go tyranny of time that we can often feel in our day-to-day lives. Because, in the end, it’s about declaring (among other things) that we are able and willing to give up one day in our week to specifically meet with God (the very source of all life) and the people of God. That is, we declare that it is in God, our provider and very source of life, that we have peace and rest.
I suppose what I would be also interested in is what it looks like to not keep Sabbath? What are we saying to God when we, in effect, say, ‘keeping Sabbath is no longer needed’? (Or maybe one is not actually saying that?) I would just be curious as to motivations behind it all.
What have you found some of your Christian friends saying on the topic?
Happy Sabbath folks! Since God set the 7th day apart as His special Day, back on the original 7th Day (Gen 2:3), it was not set up under the Mosaic Law, but He wrote the Commandment regarding it in stone with His own finger (twice).
And Christ, kept it perfectly, as did the disciples (as best they could). All the other 10 Commandments are eternal principles, but we act as if the 4th one was to be done away with after Christ rose from the dead. Where do we find that exactly in Scripture?
Yes, i know that Christ is now our rest, and all the Law is fulfilled in Him. And i believe that is why He has allowed the Church to rest from their normal labors on either Saturday or Sunday (or both).
Still, since Sabbath is mentioned 150 times in the Bible, (and that doesn’t include mentions of the “7th day”), it could be that God still has some special blessing for us on His “set apart Day” for remembering our Creation and our Redemption.
Why not ask Him if He would like you / me to spend some extra time on the Sabbath just being with Him, more closely than we usually experience, as He did on that first 7th Day with Adam and Eve. Could have some beneficial results for some of us, and it isn’t legalism to let Him teach us, is it…