Q. What is the fourth of the Ten Commandments?
A. The fourth of the Ten Commandments is, “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.”
The fourth commandment is perhaps the most misunderstood of the ten. The command was to have a day—Saturday—where no work was done; a day of rest and enjoyment dedicated to the Lord.
The model of the Sabbath goes back to creation, as God said in Exodus 20:11, “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.”
The Sabbath has always been Saturday (the seventh day of the week). There is no Bible verse that says the Sabbath became Sunday.
In the New Testament believers began to meet together on Sunday because that was the day the Lord rose from the grave. This was not commanded, but rather was something the church decided among themselves to do. But the Sabbath was still Saturday.
The fourth command is the only one of the ten not commanded in the New Testament, and is the only one Jesus ever violated. Jesus, who called Himself “the Lord of the Sabbath,” broke man’s burdensome Sabbath rules by healing the sick and working other acts of compassion on Saturday. His point was clear: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).”
The whole point of the Sabbath was to have a day of rest and peace, a day spent reflecting on God’s goodness and provision for us. When we legalistically add extra rules, we miss out on peace because we are so worried about not breaking the law.
If a sick man cannot be healed on the Sabbath, he would loathe the Sabbath.
The command is not to work, but who defines work? Is it breaking a sweat, or drawing a paycheck? Some would tell you not to cut your grass on the Sabbath, but what if cutting your grass is relaxing? What if you enjoy doing that? What if you are more in tune with God while you mow, spending the time in prayer and in awe of the beauty around you?
If your sheep falls in a ditch, can you not pull him out on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:11)?
Instead of becoming legalistic and missing the point, we need to make sure we have a time of rest for our physical bodies, as well as a time of contemplative reflection on God’s goodness to us. That is the spirit of Sabbath. We were not created as slaves to the Sabbath; the Sabbath was created as a gift to us.
(Read Colossians 2 to help harmonize Old Testament rules in New Testament days)