What does it mean to keep the Sabbath day holy? How do we do this when we don’t even worship on the Sabbath? Is one day of the week really more holy than all the others?
In the Bible the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, or Saturday. Many think that we have made Sunday the new Sabbath day. Therefore, the way to keep the third commandment is to go to church on Sunday, and maybe to spend all day Sunday doing nothing.
The Church worships on Sunday because it is the day of resurrection. Jesus died on Friday and rose from the dead on Sunday. Each Sunday, the Church gathers to celebrate the resurrection. It is not the Sabbath. The Sabbath was fulfilled by Christ. The Church is free to worship on any day. Sunday is the traditional choice because of the resurrection of Jesus and the example of the early church.
God rested on the seventh day. He wasn’t tired. He didn’t need to take a break. He rested because His work was complete. The creation needed no more work. There was nothing lacking. It was good. It was complete. It was whole. Genesis 2:1-2 says, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”
Because God loves us, He gave to us the Sabbath. He gave to us a day of rest in order to remind us that He has done all things well. He gave us a day off because we do need rest. He gave us a day of rest so that we might find our completion and our peace in Him. Exodus 20:8-11 teaches us, “”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.”
Yet our sin destroyed that perfect rest and peace between humanity and God. God and God alone restored that peace and rest. Jesus lived the perfect life. Jesus completed God’s work of saving you through His death and resurrection. John 19:30 records the completion of our salvation from Jesus’ own mouth, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Now, Jesus is our peace (John 14:27). He is our rest. He is the one who has done it all. There is nothing left for you to do to gain God’s love. It is a free gift given to you without any effort on your part. It is free because the work has been done. Forgiveness and salvation has been earned for you by Jesus. You are now at rest. The work is over.
The Third commandment teaches us to live our lives in light of what Christ has done. We do not seek to earn God’s favor. We do not work to be forgiven. We receive the free gift of God’s love because of Jesus.
God gives us faith in Christ through His Word and Sacraments. Through these means, the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts (Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”; 1 Peter 3:21 “Baptism … now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”; Matthew 26:26-28 “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”) – faith to believe that what Jesus accomplished was accomplished for you. This commandment reminds us to center our lives around God’s Word and His Sacraments. We do this through weekly worship and also through hearing and learning His Word as often as possible.
Now, because of Jesus, the Sabbath is not one day a week, but our entire lives in Christ. His forgiveness is yours every second of every day. His love and mercy now define you.
Because of this love and mercy, we seek to read His Word and receive His Sacrament as often as possible.
Article IV of the Augsburg Confession teaches the great Biblical truth that we are saved solely by the work of Christ which is received by grace through faith. Article V of the Augsburg confession explains how that faith comes to us. “In order that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, and the Holy Spirit produces faith, where and when it pleases God, in those who hear the Gospel. That is to say, it is not on account of our own merits but on account of Christ that God justifies those who believe that they are received into favor for Christ’s sake. Gal. 3:14, ‘That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.’”
The Word of God is available to us now more than ever, on our phones, tablets, computers or any other devices we might carry. We can listen to it or read it. We can download sermons and Bible studies. We can access God’s Word literally anywhere and at any time. The Third Commandment tells us to live our lives in the Word of God and in His Sacraments.
Obviously, the most important way we do this is through weekly worship services. This means we are to make our attendance at church a priority. Nothing is more important than worship, because it is there that we receive from God His grace. It is there that God works faith in our hearts through the Word and Sacraments. It is there that we receive forgiveness for all of our sins. It is there that we gather with other saints and rest in Christ.
Yet our life in Christ is more than once a week. We daily renew our Baptism through repentance and faith. We daily pray and read God’s Word.Our life in Christ is more than once a week. Click To Tweet
If you haven’t done so, it is time to start a daily practice of reading God’s Word. Spend time each day reading the Bible. Spend time each day at rest – resting in the promises and love of God for YOU in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. His work has made you holy. His work gives you rest. He is your Sabbath.
Rest. In Him.
 Tappert, Theodore, ed. and trans. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Fortress. 1959. 31.