Law, Scripture, The Church, The Gospel, Theology, Uncategorized

The Law and the Heart

These next four posts are the most important for getting a handle on the covenant recipients. Though my own views of baptism do not depend upon the answer to this question, this has certainly been a very important question in the baptism debate. Jeremiah (and Hebrews) do not have baptism view, but there is no question that they do have in mind certain recipients of the new covenant. We have seen that these recipients are Christ and, via union with him, his church. Now we want to be more specific regarding the church. For in the (visible) church there are both true and false believers.

We will unfold these four posts by taking a look at the biblical meaning of three positive phrases about the new covenant, each of which is followed by a positive effect. The first involves the law on the heart its effect. The second involves teaching the law and its effect. The third involves breaking the law and its effect. Notice then that law is involved in the new covenant. It isn’t that the new covenant is without law. I would argue that all covenants, by definition, involve law. Law is the “stipulations” of a covenant. Law is what you have to “do” in order to “keep covenant.” Instead of having no law in the new covenant, it is our relationship to the law because of Christ The Law-keeper that now marks the “newness” in this regard. But his law-keeping does something else. It marks a newness in the recipients of the covenant from old to new. This is what we will look at now.

This post and the next are about the law and the heart. The phrase is, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jer 31:33). Hebrews puts it this way, I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10). Hebrews takes Jeremiah’s “law” and makes it plural. Perhaps it does this so that you know it is talking about the actual commandments within the Torah.

Of course, this begs the question, “Which laws?” This is a difficult question to answer. Hebrews clearly has in mind the ceremonial laws, which I believe come via the post-Sinai/Golden-Calf covenant referred to as the Levitical covenant (Neh 13:29; Jer 33:21; Mal 2:4, 8). But would God write ceremonial laws on our hearts when he says that the ceremonials laws like washings and animal sacrifices are done away? A different NT passage talking about the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3) seems to have the Ten Commandments of the Mosaic covenant in mind. In that passage, it talks about the Corinthians as actually being letters written by Christ, not on stone, but on flesh (2Co 3:2-3).[1] Yet, some will make the same charge even about moral law. “We are not under law, but under grace,” as they try to apply this “no law” view even to Moses. “Why would God write these on our hearts now? That would seem to defeat the whole point of not being under law.”

Here is my answer to which laws. First, simply put, it says that God will write the law(s) on our hearts. Jeremiah is talking about some kind of laws in the OT, therefore it has to be some kind of OT laws. A blogger has said, “Anyone claiming to be in covenant with G-d under the New covenant has had the Torah written on their hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31:31-33)! We cannot accept Torah being written on our heart and mind while summarily rejecting Torah as old & nailed to a cross.”[2] Whether this blogger understands how the Torah has been nailed to a cross is one thing, but the point being made is another—and it is correct. New covenant Christians want to keep the law.

As it regards the moral law, I don’t see how you can read 2 Cor 3 and come away with an answer that doesn’t at least include these. The Ten are now written on our hearts. Second, we have to realize that even civil and ceremonial law are kept in the church. But they are kept differently in the church than they were in the OT nation. Paul applies the “do not muzzle the ox” (civil law) passage to paying the pastor. He is taking an eternal moral principle and applying it in the NT economy. Paul also uses all kinds of ceremonial language and applies it to us with perhaps the most well known being, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices…” (Rom 12:1). So it isn’t that all law ceases, it is our stance towards it that is different.

Our stance is now understood through the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ. The law demands obedience. Jesus obeyed. The law promises life when there is obedience. Jesus was raised from the dead because he is The Law-Keeper. By his death through faith alone, God pardons our law-breaking because he is pleased with The Son. Therefore, the law no longer condemns us, because Jesus put that work to death on the cross. Now, we are free to obey the law not out of guilt or fear of punishment, but for another reason. But this begs the question of who has the law written on their heart? Everyone in the whole world? Infants born into Christian families? The elect prior to faith? The elect after coming to faith?

What might it mean to have the law written on your heart, and how would this be a new thing? Recall King Josiah of whom it is said that he “turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses” (2Kg 23:35). Or David who says that the law is in his heart (Ps 37:31; 40:8). I see three possible differences in the new covenant from what we see here. One thing that is not different is if someone concluded that Jeremiah is predicting that finally, in the new covenant, people will be saved. No. David and Josiah were saved. They were regenerated by God, justified by faith, and they loved God’s law.

The first difference could be the people in the covenant. No longer is God keeping the writing of the law within the bounds of the nation of Israel and the elect within her (i.e. Josiah and David). No, now he is extending it to Gentiles. Very importantly, the Apostle Paul does say something about the law in relation to Gentiles. He says that they “do what the law requires” even though they do not have the law and this makes them “a law to themselves” (Rom 2:14). He adds, “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (15). Critically, Paul’s “work of the law” is different from the law itself. The work of the law is to condemn or show a person to be right in their actions. All men know God’s law. All men have this work of the law already on their hearts. But this is different from personally deeply longing do obey and do God’s law. Gentiles know it and do it because they can’t live with a dirty conscience as it were. But do they love God’s law? If they are in the new covenant they sure do. This is what it means to have the law now written on your heart.

A second difference would be the place where the law was kept. In the OT, the law was “kept” on tablets of stone in a tabernacle of wood and gold. In the new covenant, the law is now “kept” in the people’s hearts. This is part of the implication that believers are God’s “temple.” The Holy Spirit descends on the church at Pentecost, and the “place” of God’s dwelling, and thus the law, thereby changes as well.

A third difference is the percentage of people within the covenant that want to keep the law. If this is correct (and Baptists and Infant Baptists disagree on this point), I believe it is very significant. God seems to be saying that he will write the law on the hearts of 100% of those who are in the new covenant. Not everyone who is in the visible church per se, but everyone who is in the new covenant. The church is the vehicle through which the new covenant is received, but it is not the new covenant itself anymore than Abraham was a covenant. No, he was a person through whom the promises of his covenant came. We will see this better as the next three posts unfold more of the meaning of the language of the promises of the new covenant to us.

— — — —

[1] Is this an interesting allusion to how Christ is the one who originally wrote the letters on the stone on top of the mountain with Moses?

[2] Messianic Jewish Blogger ShaliachShalom, in a comment at:

(by: Doug Van Dorn)

Christ in the Old Testament (Part V)

Christ in the Old Testament, Law, Theology

Christ in the OT 5 Christ in the Law

Christ and the Law

One of the chief concerns of the OT is to make sure that God’s people know about righteousness and morality. Righteousness and morality come to us through “law.” Confessional Reformed Baptists believe that the law of God can be divided into three parts: moral, civil, and ceremonial (London Baptist Confession 19.3-4). The moral law is summarized in the Ten Commandments, and the other two kinds of law take up much of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Now is not the time to get into how these distinctions work, other than to say that in the last post we saw some examples of how ceremonial law are fulfilled in Christ via typology. In this post, we want to focus on how Christ is seen in, especially, the moral law.

The first thing I want to take notice of is that Christ himself was the Giver of the Commandments to Moses. Both Stephen and Paul say that the Law was put into effect through angels (Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; cf. Deut 33:2). But Paul adds something interesting. He says that there was an intermediary here. “An intermediary implies more than one, but God is one” (Gal 3:20). Since angels and God are the only two beings mentioned, it would seem that the intermediary is between them. If so, this would mean that Moses can’t be in mind, because as a man, he is below angels (for now; cf. Ps 8:5).[1] That is, he would mediate between humans and God, not angels and God. This otherwise inexplicable verse is cleared up when we understand that it is possible for such an intermediary to exist, since there is both unity and plurality in the Godhead. I believe the intermediary he is talking about is Christ himself, as he is found in the figure of the Angel of the LORD.[2] We will look at this angel in a future post. For now, it is enough to say that as the Giver of the law, Christ is thus in the OT in a profound way.

This becomes important when considering Christ and the Law from another perspective. It is the perspective that he himself gives in his Sermon on the Mount. Before preaching the greatest sermon ever on the moral law, Jesus begins by saying, “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” (Matt 5:17). Up to this point in Matthew’s book, every time the word “fulfill” has been used, it has meant that Jesus fulfills something from the OT (Matt 1:22; 2:5; 15, 17, 23 etc.), especially a prophecy or a type. In one of these instances, he is baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness (Matt 3:15). There is a typological aspect to this fulfillment, but it is more even than that.[3] According to Deuteronomy 6:25, “righteousness” is directly linked to obeying the Law.  “And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”  In Matthew’s Gospel, it refers to good works or obedience (3:15; 5:10, 20; 6:1; 21:32).[4]

law scalesMany people have been deeply confused about what Jesus is doing in the Sermon on the Mount. Many think he is abolishing the law, overthrowing the OT law, intensifying old law, or putting “love” in as the great new law. Some even think he is a different god than the God of the OT, which is why understanding that he was the original giver of the law is so important. None of these things are true.[5] What Jesus is doing is teaching people:

1. What the law has always said,

2. Contrasted with what the Pharisees were teaching that it said,

3. In order to show that no man can keep the law perfectly (which the Pharisees were basically saying that they were doing),

4. Except for the One who “fulfills the law,” which is Christ himself.

In other words, the way we find Jesus in the moral law is to see that:

1. He is the original Law-Giver.

2. This law reflects God’s (and therefore Christ’s) holy perfect state of being.

3. Therefore, the law needs to be kept perfectly in order to inherit eternal life (this is the idea of the Covenant of Works).

4. Christ obeyed the law perfectly as a man, so that he might become a greater mediator than the OT prophets and priests (this is the idea of the Covenant of Grace).

His sinlessness (Heb 4:15) is the fulfillment of the law of God. The law was a tutor to lead us to Christ (Gal 3:24).

With these lenses, suddenly we can find that reading those most tedious and (some think) boring parts of the OT—the Law of God—can be done in a way that points us beyond those laws to the one who gives us life through faith in his law-keeping done on our behalf. And this ought to make us profoundly grateful people that God does not require our own perfect obedience in order to have eternal life, while ironically, through this new life and the Holy Spirit, create in us new desires to keep and obey the very law–the law that was not abolished or passed away–that once held us captive through sin.

[1] For the difficulties on this mediator being Moses see F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians: a Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1982), 175-80.

[2] See Michael Heiser, The Myth That is True, unpublished. (This book is soon to be published under two different names, one as an academic book, the other for lay people).

[3] See my book Waters of Creation: A Biblical-Theological Study of Baptism (Erie, Co: Waters of Creation Pub., 2009), 13-23.

[4] See Michael Goulder, Midrash and Lection in Matthew: The Speaker’s Lectures in Biblical Studies, 1969-71 (London: SPCK, 1974), 262 and also my Waters of Creation, 11-12.

[5] None of this is true. See especially Greg Welty, “Eschatological Fulfillment and the Confirmation of Mosaic Law,” last accessed 8-14-2014; William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 9, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 288-383, and my sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount.

(By: Doug Van Dorn)

God’s Fourth Word – Part 5

Church History, Law, The Church, Theology, Worship


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 to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and 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.

Exodus 20:8-11

(Make sure you check out Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4)

But… But… the Sabbath was on Saturday, not Sunday!

Any sabbatarian has heard this argument more than 30 times. There’s a valid question in there somewhere, but I hope to show it’s a biblically and historically indefensible position to assume that a Sunday Sabbath observance in some way invalidates the fourth commandment as binding on all mankind.

The work of Christ in redemption has transformed all of life, to include our weekly Sabbath. Christ’s saving work has transformed the weekly Sabbath, just like everything else! Not only do we celebrate on Sunday, we call it “The Lord’s Day” instead of the Sabbath. You’ll often hear Reformed Baptist’s talking about the “Lord’s Day,” but it is not some made up Baptist Language – it is the language of the Apostle John in Rev. 1:10: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.” The language is significant, because it’s the same language of the Apostle Paul when referring to the Lord’s supper. It’s a supper belonging to the Lord. Likewise, the language of the Lord’s Day is intended to convey the reality that the entire day belongs to the Lord. What day is the Lord’s Day? For John and the early church, it was the first (or eighth) day of the week.

First things first – I am the first to admit that there are no explicit texts in the Bible which say, “Now the Lord’s Day is on Sunday, not the Sabbath on Saturday.” But as good Bible students, hopefully we don’t just deal with the explicit commands of Scriptures, we also have to deal with what’s implied. So if you don’t want the Lord’s Day to be a Christian Sabbath on the first day of the week, you have two problems to deal with: First, you may answer that the 4th commandment was ended in Christ completely, and if you’re a dispensationalist or adhere to new covenant theology, I assume this is your position. However, you then have the responsibility of proving your response from the Scriptures and, you will soon find, you will encounter the same problem you are seeking to point out in saying there is no explicit text “moving” to a first day. Second, you may believe Saturday is still the Sabbath, however you then need to deal with how it is to be observed today, so you’re either a Seventh-Day Adventist, or more than likely disobeying what you believe the Scriptures to explicitly teach, thus creating all sorts of other problems.

I don’t have the slightest problem with a particular command or doctrine not having a proof-text. The Bible teaches many things that are implied and exemplified throughout the text without having specific reference given, many of those things you believe already if you’re truly a Christian (e.g. the Trinity). What we do have to deal with is the scriptural evidence that points to the significant importance that is placed on the first day of the week in the New Testament. And please take note that the New Testament doesn’t just tell us that the Church was getting together to celebrate the resurrection on Sunday — there was much more going on. Furthermore, the day was given a specific name: the Lord’s Day. Identifying a specific day with a unique title is significant in and of itself.

There’s very little argument amongst Christians that the church’s meeting on the first day of the week has always been based on the resurrection of Christ (John 20:1; Mark 16:9-10). Jesus appeared to the disciples on the first (or eighth) day of the week after his resurrection (John 20:19; John 20:26). Pentecost was on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1; Leviticus 23:15-17). The first Christian sermon was on the first day of the week (Acts 2:14-15). The first baptisms were on the first day of the week (Acts 2:41).

Although Paul stayed seven days at Troas, Scripture does not mention any Christian meeting on the seventh day, but on the first day of the week (Acts 20:6-8). Could the Christians have met on Saturday? Certainly! However the text doesn’t say or imply a Saturday meeting, therefore it’s an argument from silence. Paul encourages the Christians of Corinth to set aside a sum of money to help the poor of Jerusalem on Sunday (1 Corinthians 16:2). The only way this text makes sense is that the Christians were meeting together on the first day of the week.

John had a vision on “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). External sources written around the same time as Revelation indicate that the Lord’s Day was the first day of the week. The first century writing called the Didache says, “The day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day. And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.”

The second-century Christian apologist Justin Martyr wrote in the “First Apology of Justin Martyr” (Translated from Greek):

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.

In the writings of Ignatius, who was alive toward the end of the first-century, we read that “Christians no longer observe the Sabbath (he’s referring to seventh day observance), but direct their lives toward the Lord’s Day, on which our life is refreshed by Him and by His death.” The great Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield wrote, “Christ took the Sabbath to the grave with him and brought the Lord’s Day out of the grave with him on the resurrection morn.”

While this is only a sampling of what could be referenced regarding a Sunday Sabbath/Lord’s Day observance, this hopefully provides ample evidence to convince you of the legitimate practice of the Church today as we seek to apply God’s Law to our Christian lives.

In the next post we will look at specific New Testament texts that supposedly discredit the perpetuity of the fourth commandment.

(By: Nick Kennicott)

The Fourth Word of God – Part 4

Law, Theology, Worship


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 to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and 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.

Exodus 20:8-11

(Make sure you check out Part 1Part 2, and Part 3)

Why is sabbath observance commanded?

In Exodus 20:11 God says, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and 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.” It would be foolish to conclude that man not commit himself to what God has done, at the very least. God worked six days in creation and rested on the seventh, therefore man ought work six days and rest one. It is interesting to me that those who reject the binding nature of the fourth commandment on Christians today never make anything of the fact that it’s the only commandment in the decalogue that makes explicit reference to its origin in pre-fall creation. In other words, sabbath rest is a creation ordinance, as has been discussed in a previous post, not something that simply showed up as a requirement for the Israelites to live on the land. In creation, God set a pattern and created man with a need to follow that pattern of six days of work and one of rest. 

While it ought to be enough for the Christian to say, “I do this because God commands it,” there certainly are other compelling reasons to observe the sabbath. Mark records the words of Jesus in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” What does that mean? It means the sabbath is good for us; it is for our benefit! The Lord’s Day is intended to restore us spiritually and physically. It is good for all of mankind. The restorative nature of the sabbath will be an important consideration when we look at application in a future post, but at present there ought to be a recognition that the sabbath is commanded by God for the good of mankind. God is not a cosmic kill-joy who is seeking to make life miserable, but instead commands what’s best for us; as creator, he knows better than we do. The prophet Isaiah proclaims a word from the Lord in Isaiah 58:13-14: “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

I speak to many Christians who share with me a lack of joy in their life. They confess that their joy in the Lord is gone, they feel empty and distant from God. There are always multiple factors to this issue, and most often it centers on a lack of communion with God through the means of grace, however one of the prescriptions for joylessness is found in Isaiah 58. God promises joy to those who delight in the Lord with triumph and feasting on the good things of God! The treasures of God’s kingdom both now and forever will overflow to those who rightly keep the fourth commandment. On His day, God Himself is taking His people by the hand, leading us to joy, triumph, and feasting. It ought to be the highlight of our week!

Notice, the prophet doesn’t give us a list of do’s and don’ts, but addresses the issue of the heart. If there is a genuine desire to enjoy God and all that is ours in Christ, the primary focus is almost never about what we can and cannot do, but rather a delighting in our union with Christ and enjoying soul-stirring, deeply satisfying communion with God. How do we get there? Take advantage of the wonderful, holy worship and rest that God has prescribed for our good. In doing so, many of the do’s and don’ts take care of themselves. That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate questions to consider when thinking through fourth commandment’s application, however those questions ought not be our starting place. As we learn to call the sabbath a delight for the right reasons, we move further away from “we have to keep the Lord’s Day” and get closer to “we get to spend all day with God – enjoying Him and all His benefits, through worship, rest, and the fellowship of the saints.”

In the next post we will discuss why Christians meet on Sundays and not Saturdays.

(By: Nick Kennicott)

The Fourth Word of God – Part 3

Law, Theology, Worship


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 to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and 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.

Exodus 20:8-11

(Make sure you check out Part 1 and Part 2)

How is the 4th commandment to be obeyed?

Having given the specific command, God now provides the outworking of that command with specific instructions. In Exodus 20:9-10, the emphasis is on how the fourth word of God is to be obeyed: “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.”

“Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to cease or to rest.” It’s a day for worship, relaxation, holy naps and recuperation, and is a day to delight in God’s goodness and mercy. It’s a day to enjoy God’s works of redemption and creation.

One of the frequently overlooked aspects of the fourth commandment is what God calls man to do with the six days of his week that aren’t the Sabbath. In verse 9, the command is that in “six days you shall labor, and do all your work.” And the teaching of the Bible would affirm that not only are we to work, but to work hard and onto the Lord (e.g. Colossians 3:23). Man has an obligation and a purpose in his work, and he needs to do it well. Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that the modern five-day work week is an invention of unionized labor in the west, not the historical understanding of one’s work week, and certainly not the biblical prescription. God’s fourth word provides that there are six days of the week given for work. There are many ways to define what work is, and it looks different to each person depending on one’s circumstances in life, however the basic principle is that our primary objective during six days of the week is work. God governs our work just as much as He governs our rest, and in doing so provides a means of bringing Him glory and providing for the needs of our family, our church, and our neighbor. We find God’s blessing in doing what He has called and gifted us to do.

The puritan Thomas Watson emphasizes the fact that God, having provided six out of seven days for us to work, is a grace in itself. It very well could be that God require six days of worship and rest and only one day of the week that we do all we need to provide for our families. God has been gracious in giving us six days to labor. It seems as though most critics of sabbatarianism do not think in this manner, however if we acknowledge that six days of labor are a gracious provision from God, should we not all the more have a great desire to set aside the Lord’s Day in a special manner for worship, rest, and duties of mercy and necessity?

The remainder of verses 9-10 highlight the specifics of setting aside the Lord’s Day for worship. In verse 10 God says, “The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” The book of Leviticus calls the Sabbath a “holy convocation” (Lev. 23:3). It is a time to gather for corporate worship. The puritans called the Lord’s Day The market-day of the soul. Six days of the week are used for business transactions — buying and selling — but the Lord’s Day is for transactions involving spiritual business with the currency of Heaven. What a blessed opportunity for the Christian to pray to God with fellow pilgrims, to hear the reading and preaching of the Word, to sing great songs of worship, and to behold and partake of the ordinances! Thomas Watson wrote that the result is that, “the heart which all the week was frozen, on the Sabbath melts with the word.” May it be that all who have experienced the wonderful grace of God will delight in the sweet mercy of God that causes our hearts to melt with overwhelming gladness for who He is and what He has accomplished in creation and redemption.

In verse 10, God provides the negative command of His fourth word: “But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” There is an obligation that neither you nor anyone else within your household do any work whatsoever. In other words, so far as you have control over the situation, do not work and do not be cause for others to work. The Lord takes this so seriously that He even includes one’s animals in the mix; let them rest too! Obviously, the implications go far beyond one’s household, extending into communities and commerce. The principle is clear: Do not be the cause for others to engage in their employment. Walter Chantry writes, “In a heathen culture one is tempted to reason that the [unbeliever] will work anyway. He will not make it a matter of conscience to devote a day to his Maker. His shop will be open. Why not let his hours of employment serve me and make the Lord’s Day more pleasant for me? God’s commandment forbids this process of thought by forbidding us even to employ the [unbeliever] in work for us on God’s holy day. God’s moral laws are of universal application. They are not intended only for believers.”

The fourth commandment is one of the many “levelers” of the Bible when it comes to mankind. In God’s wisdom, a new social order is created wherein work and rest are not divided by class. The universal necessity of obedience to God’s law dictates that everyone should work, and everyone should rest and be free to worship God. Could it be that if God’s people around the world obeyed God’s fourth word, there would be far less stress and anxiety and depression and burn-out and all that comes with these things?

God’s fourth word commands all mankind to keep the Sabbath holy. How is it to be done? Work six days, and worship and rest one. Leviticus 23:3 summarizes it well: “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.”

In the next post, we will look at verse 11 and why the Sabbath is commanded by God.

(By: Nick Kennicott)