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THE LORD'S DAY OR CHRISTIAN SABBATH 

GENESIS 2.1-3

1. A Day Apart

It seems today that there is no difference between the days of the week and as a result of Sunday trading and Sunday entertainments the same sorts of things happen every day of the week. The fact that this is so shows the decreasing influence of the true religion in our own country. There are still many people who attend some religious meeting for worship on a Sunday but the majority have no sense of obligation to keep Sunday as a day set apart to God. When we turn to the Bible we realise that this is against the Law of God. From the beginning we find that God intended man to keep one day especially for the worship of God. 'God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made'. (Genesis 2.3)

2. For All for All Time

The time when this took place shows that this institution was to apply to man as man. The first Sabbath took place on the day immediately after Adam had been created. It was therefore given to man as God's creature not merely to the Jews or Christians as his peculiar people. It is for this reason called a 'creation ordinance'. The Sabbath goes back to the very beginning and because of this its obligation is one which is both 'universal' and 'perpetual'. All men everywhere and in every age ought to keep such a time for the worship of God and for thinking upon eternity.

3. One Day in Seven

God's own example shows when this time should be. God made the heavens and the earth in six days and rested the seventh day. He instituted that this pattern of six days of labour and one day of rest and spiritual employment should be followed by man. This does not mean that God is not to be served on the other days because all things are to be done for his glory. It shows that God is to be served in a more direct way one day in seven. The original institution does not fix the day involved to the seventh day in such a way that no change could take place. From the creation to the resurrection of Christ the Sabbath day was the seventh day but from the resurrection of the Saviour it was changed to the first day of the week so to continue until the end of the world. Christians keep Sunday, the first day of the week, following the apostolic practice of gathering the congregations on that day to remember and proclaim the Lord's death and glorious resurrection from the dead. It was not a change of day by merely human opinion but with the authority of the inspired apostles and before the apostolic age ended Sunday had come to be called 'the Lord's day'.

4. A Day of Rest and Blessing

The fact that God 'blessed' and 'sanctified' one day in seven indicates what sort of day it is to be. Briefly we may say that it is a day of rest from our own works. The day is set apart to God and on it he bestows his best blessings. This does not rule out works of necessity and mercy such as a mother preparing a meal for her family or a doctor tending the sick on his emergency calls. Works merely for financial gain or personal pleasure seeking in worldly amusements and so on are not in place on the Lord's Day. This does not mean that a Sunday becomes dull and lifeless. Quite the reverse.

Commemoration

The Sabbath is a day of blessed commemoration. It was so for the Jews and it is so for Christians today and ought to be so for all people. In it we remember that God created this our world and all the host of heaven in six days. It is a day to remember the Creator's glory, even his eternal power and Godhead. We are to recall and think upon his almighty power, incomprehensible wisdom and infinite loving kindness. Such remembering is not dull and lifeless but amazing and life-giving!

Liberation

The day is also one of blessed liberation. There are those who think that if we are not free to do anything we want on a Sunday then we are being bound in legalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Sovereign Creator has set us free from our daily labours and called us apart to think upon the Saviour's glory. The Lord, who was dead, and is alive for evermore, rose from the dead on the first day of the week. Each Sunday Christians remember the Saviour's victory over Satan and death and his breaking the bonds of sin so that all who believe on him might be set free. Such remembering does not bind but liberates the heart, it does not make Christians gloomy but causes them to rejoice!

Anticipation

The Lord's Day is also a day of blessed anticipation because it points forward to that time when all will be Sabbath in the heavenly glory. This heavenly rest does not mean a time of inactivity but an eternity of the highest activity and the best blessings. In that everlasting day saved sinners will enjoy the light of God's countenance where sin and pain and death will be no more and they will reign with Christ forever and forever. A day which holds within it the promise of such blessedness can only be dull and lifeless to those who are dead in sin and have no interest in eternal life!

Ask yourself the question, 'What does Sunday mean to me?' Your answer will be a good guide to you of your present spiritual state.

5. Activities

TO REMEMBER

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work." (Exodus 20.8,9)

WORDS TO LEARN

Influence, majority, institution, ordinance, perpetual, original, proclaim, emergency, commemoration, victory, countenance.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

1. What does the lack of Sabbath keeping show us about our country?

2. In connection with worship what did God institute from the beginning?

3. To whom does the Sabbath institution apply?

4. What divine example lies behind the Sabbath institution?

5. Which day of the week was kept by the Jews and which day is kept by the Christian Church?

6. How did this change come about?

7. Briefly state what sort of day the Sabbath ought to be.

8. What do we remember about our Creator on the Sabbath Day?

9. (a) 9. What is the advantage of thinking upon the Saviour in faith on the Lord's Day?

THINGS TO DO

Read Matthew 12.1-13 and answer the following questions:

A1. Why was David able to eat the shewbread?

A2. Why could the Lord Jesus Christ perform miracles on the Sabbath?

A3. Why would it not be wrong to rescue a sheep from a pit on the Lord's Day?

B. Read the following passages and state for each one what the early Christians did on the first day of the week:

B1. John 20.19,26

B2. Acts 20.7

B3. 1 Corinthians 16.1,2

Read the following and answer the questions below.

How is the Sabbath to be Sanctified?

The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?

The fourth commandment forbids the omission, or careless performance, of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words or works, about our worldly employments or recreations. [Shorter Westminster Catechism - Questions 60 & 61]

State for each of the following which are true and which are false.

C1. We can rest in bed all day on Sunday without offending God.

C2. A garage ought to open on a Sunday.

C3. It is wrong to prepare meals on the Lord's Day.

C4. A doctor ought to visit a seriously ill patient on the Sabbath.

C5. It is right to spend as much time as possible worshipping God each Sunday.

C6. It is good to read a book on hobbies on a Sunday.

C7. Sunday is the best day to go off on holiday.

A PSALM TO SING

Psalm 118.24-26 (Common Metre)

"This is the day God made, in it

    we'll joy triumphantly.

Save now, I pray thee, Lord; I pray,

    send now prosperity.

Blessed is he in God's great name

    that cometh us to save:

We, from the house which to the Lord

    pertains, you blessed have."