The Ten Commandments - The Sabbath

Are we to obey all ten, or just nine?

COMMANDMENT #4 - Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work.

EXODUS 20:

2 - I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 - You shall have no other gods before Me.

4-6 - You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving-kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

7 - You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

8-11 - Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 - Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

13 - You shall not murder.

14 - You shall not commit adultery.

15 - You shall not steal.

16 - You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 -You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Christians generally do not observe the Sabbath. Why not? It is a part of the Ten Commandments. If we are to keep God's moral law, should we not keep all of the moral law?

What is the moral law?

The Ten Commandments are not arbitrary laws. They describe the character of God. We are created in the image of God,and as bearers of the image of God we are to have the moral character of God. That means we are to obey the Ten Commandments... except for observing the Sabbath.

The rest of story

The Ten Commandments were given to the people of Israel, through Moses, following their exodus from captivity in Egypt. Basically the deal was, if you obey me, I'll bless you... you will join me for eternity. In today's words, obey me and you'll go to heaven.

And that still applies today. If you perfectly obey God... if you perfectly have the moral character of God... you will go to heaven.

What about the Sabbath? The purpose of the Sabbath is given in Exodus 31:16-17

So the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.

Ezekiel 20:12 tells us a little more:

Also I gave them My Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.

Observing the Sabbath was a sign that you were agreeing to the Mosaic covenant. Deuteronomy 5:15 adds to that:

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

John MacArthur states: "The Sabbath was a reminder of creation. The Sabbath was to remind the people of Israel that they had forfeited paradise, that man had forfeited paradise. The law said to them, “Obey this law and you will be blessed.” God said that repeatedly, “Obey this law and you will be blessed,” to show them that righteous behavior would restore a taste of Eden’s paradise. Righteous behavior would also point to a future, a future kingdom when paradise would be regained.

So the Sabbath, every Sabbath that went by when they rested, they were reminded of a perfect creation, a paradise of God dominated by righteousness, which had been forfeited by sin and could only be regained again by righteousness.

And they therefore were to consider the importance of obeying the ten commandments. They were to consider the importance on that seventh day of examining their own lives and looking at how they were measuring up against the law of God. Recognizing sin was the objective, and bringing them to repentance."

Why don't we observe the Sabbath now?

Just as the rainbow is the sign of the Noahic Covenant, the Sabbath is the sign of the Mosaic Covenant. But, we are no longer under the Mosaic Covenant... we are under the New Covenant of grace.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9

Jesus now provides a permanent Sabbath rest for those who are trusting Him as their Savior.

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. - Colossians 2:16-17

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, taking the full wrath of God on Himself as the just penalty for our sin, we can rest... we a free from sin. Just as the exodus freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt... slavery with no rest... so Jesus has freed us from slavery to sin.

The Conclusion

When the Mosaic Law was given, Israel was to obey that law perfectly, and the Sabbath was the sign of that covenant. But the law cannot save us, because we unable to live in obedience to the law. We all have sinned (broken God's law)... none of us is righteous, not one.

But... those who have repented and are trusting Jesus Christ as having paid the penalty they have earned for disobeying God... paid it in full... are no longer under the law, but are covered by the grace of God. So we are no longer under the Mosaic covenant. However, all of the Mosaic laws, except the Sabbath, have been reiterated in the New Testament. They describe the character of God, and they describe who we are to be. So, we are still commanded to live in obedience to God's moral law... the Ten Commandments... except for keeping the Sabbath.

Return To: Where do our moral values come from?

Next: The American humanist's source of morality


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