Sabbath freedoms and the 4th Commandment..

The person who lead me into a personal relationship with Christ was an accountant. It took over two years of questions and challenges and… well all that is another story and anyway, God was in control of all that. The point is that we became close friends as he continued to disciple Judy and I (Judy’s salvation is another story of God’s grace) weekly for a number of years. As I absorbed his biblical Christian worldview one of the more interesting aspects of his “theology” had to do with the 4th Commandment,
(Exo. 20:8-10).  His Sunday’s were very different from the rest of the week. He would do no “work” whatsoever. No cutting the lawn or paying bills or hobbies or anything. He was a sports fanatic and yet, no TV on Sunday. He would go to church and spend the rest of the day reading his Bible, memorizing Scripture and praying, with the occasional nap and pleasure reading mixed in. That was almost twenty five years ago.

Over the past two weeks, through an unfortunate set of circumstances, I have had the unusual experience of spending a great deal of time alone, working on a huge project, physically isolated from human contact, other than by phone.  One of the benefits is that it has allowed me to be reflective in a number of different areas, not the least of which, my walk with the Lord.  When the first Sunday rolled around I decided to follow my old mentor’s example and “do no work”. I spent the day reading F260 (getting caught up), deeply researching and cross referencing the passages, praying, and… napping a bit. Secretly, my shallow expectation was that God would honor my commitment and redeem the time the following “workday”.  However, Monday was a disaster as far as making any progress on my big project.. As I sit writing this blog, today is the second Sunday and I spent the morning digging into Scripture and researching online the opinion of Christian theologian I respect related to the Sabbath and how as New Testament Christians we should behave on Sunday.  At the bottom of this blog is a list of some of my references.

I was reminded over and over again that we live under the sacrificial actions of Christ and the grace of God and not under the sacrificial system of the Law. Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matt 5:17-20) that the Israelites operated under as a shadow of the ultimate redemption in and through Christ. This does not mean that the 10  Commandments should not be followed. However, we are no longer under a Jewish law that would put us to death for working on the Sabbath (Exo. 35:2). For example, the following verse precludes us from even picking up sticks to light a fire in order to get warm on the Sabbath (which, by the way was Saturday, not Sunday…. again another rabbit trail).  Remember, Jesus challenged the religious rulers in Matt. 12:11 regarding Sabbath behavior using the illustration of pulling a sheep out of a well if the need arises. It comes down to the importance of doing “good” on the Sabbath, as defined by God, not man.

If our Sunday’s are no different than our secular Saturday’s, are we living in grace or taking advantage of it? God did not need to rest on the seventh day of creation. God does not get tired. He rested on the seventh day to set an example for His children that we need to have periods of rest and spiritual renewal. It can, and really should be a part of every day, a time of prayer and devotion. Like sleep, we can miss a few hours here and there but if we don’t catch up (refilling our leaky spiritual buckets) we are a mess, open to our own sin nature and Satan’s advances.

The bottom line is that legalism is a tricky concept. Like last Sunday for me, one can do all the” right” things for all the wrong reasons. For some, like my old accountant, trying to strictly follow the 4th Commandment is perhaps the right thing. For most, a more of balanced approach is in order. Today, I tried to strike more of a balance, spending a few hours working on my never ending project and the rest reflecting on the Lord through prayer and reading and writing. Tomorrow I’ll see if God honors that…. Just kidding J

Jeff Hilles

Internet References…


  1. Is Working on Sunday a Sin?
  2. Scripture verses about working on the Sabbath –
  3. Baptist Faith And Message – The Lord’s Day, Article 8 –
  4. What does God’s Word say about Christians keeping the Sabbath. –
  5. Piper- What does it mean practically to keep the Sabbath holy? –
  6. What does it mean to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy?-

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