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A People In Need of Rest

Rest is an interesting thing. It is something that we all know that we need, and yet it is something we never seem to have enough of. In our western culture, with things like smartphones and twenty-four-hour on-demand tv, there is always something demanding our attention. The time that we spend without eyes glued to things is treated like a commodity that needs to be managed and can be purchased. If you are like me, it can be easy to get trapped in a loop of watching or reading something on your phone for much longer than you intended. Something that we often fail to remember is that rest is not only something that we need, but it is something that is commanded. It is one of the very first examples we are given in scripture of how we are to emulate God. This is an example we need to take seriously.

Question #103

The fourth commandment is the first commandment in the second table of the law and operates as a sort of transition between the two tables. The first table has to do with our relationship with God and is summed up in the greatest commandment, to love the Lord your God with all that you are. The second table has to do with our relationship with our fellow image-bearers. But the fourth commandment has a little bit to do with both. It is part of our response to God and part of how we are designed to interact with each other. The Heidelberg Catechism answered the question of what is required of by the fourth commandment by saying;

First, that the ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained;(a) and that I, especially on the sabbath, that is, on the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God,(b) to hear his word,(c) to use the sacraments,(d) publicly to call upon the Lord,(e) and contribute to the relief of the poor.(f) Secondly, that all the days of my life I cease from my evil works, and yield myself to the Lord, to work by his Holy Spirit in me: and thus begin in this life the eternal sabbath.(g)

In the first place, the sabbath day is set aside as a day of worship. Traditionally speaking, Saturday is the last day of the week, but as Christians, we celebrate the sabbath on Sunday. The reason for this is that it is resurrection day. On the weekly anniversary of the resurrection of Christ, we come together as the body of Christ to worship Christ. In the second place, our whole lives should be a sabbath life. We no longer do the selfish and evil works we once did. We are Christ's. In commenting on the catechism, Zacharias Ursinus puts it this way: "A violation of the Sabbath is a violation of the whole worship of God. A neglect of the ministry of the church leads most easily and directly to a neglect and corruption of the doctrine and worship of God." Not only do we need bodily rest, but we need spiritual rest and renewal.

More than Just A Duty

There is a lot that could be said about sabbath rest, and much has been said throughout the history of the church. For this, the focus will be on a reminder of what God has done and why we worship. One of the most visible reminders of God's power and authority that we overlook is that our week is modeled upon the creation of the world. When we are given the commandment in Exodus 20, part of the command is a reminder that the seventh day is a day to the Lord your God, "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that this in them and rested on the seventh dad." But more than that, the sabbath is an opportunity to be refreshed. To express our love for Christ through our participation in his body. We should do this every day of the week, but we should be excited to come together on Sunday for worship. Some will argue that Church is not a necessary part of being a Christian, and this is true as far as it goes. But the question has to be asked at that point why would someone who calls themselves Christ not want to gather with other Christians and worship together?


The Bible tells us that every good tree produces good fruit. That is to say, a person who has been born again, made a new creation, lives a good life, seeking to glorify God in everything they do. When we do not prioritize the weekly gathering of the saints, it brings into question our commitment to Christ. Why would we say we are Christians but neglect one of the primary means he has given to us to grow in him and worship him? More than that, we are refreshed and fed by the preaching of the word. We need the church. Some have argued that there is no salvation outside the church, which is true to some extent. This does not mean that a person cannot be saved outside of a church, but a person who says they are saved but does not participate in the body of Christ puts a lie to the teaching of scripture. Faith is personal but not private. It is proclaimed. It is lived out. Part of that is keeping the Sabbath. Keeping a day of rest that is for the Lord. For his worship. For remembering what he has done for us. For coming together with the saints of God to glorify him together.

Soli Deo Gloria

a) Tit. 1:5; 2 Tim. 3:14, 15; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Cor. 9:11, 13, 14; 2 Tim. 2:2. b) Ps. 40:10, 11; Ps. 68:27; Acts 2:42, 46. c) 1 Tim. 4:13, 16; 1 Cor. 14:29, 31. d) 1 Cor. 11:33. e) 1 Tim. 2:1–3, 8–11; 1 Cor. 14:16. f) 1 Cor. 16:2. g) Isa. 66:23.

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