This week we come to Question 10 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 1 (questions 1-20), which focuses on God, creation and the fall, and the law. NOTE: I am modifying the answer on this question somewhat because my position on the Sabbath, together with my fellow elders at Cornerstone, represents a somewhat different understanding of the Sabbath than is presented in the catechism.
Question 10: What does God require in the fourth and fifth commandments?
Answer: Fourth, that we prioritize worship and rest and not live only for work, and so anticipate the eternal Sabbath. Fifth, that we love and honor our father and mother, submitting to their godly discipline and direction.
Many Christians have held to what is known as the “Sabbatarian” position on the Sabbath, namely, the view that the Sabbath command continues to obligate us today, requiring us to abstain from worldly labors and amusements one day a week. Most who have held this position argue that, in the new covenant era, the Sabbath has now been moved from Saturday to Sunday.
While Sunday is certainly a day of great significance for believers due to the resurrection of Jesus Christ on a Sunday, the New Testament nowhere refers to Sunday as the Sabbath. In fact, where the apostle Paul speaks of the Sabbath, he tells Gentile believers not to allow anyone to impose such a requirement on them (Col. 2:16; see also Rom. 14:5). In the new covenant, we are not under obligation to abstain from all labors or business practices on Sundays (or Saturdays, for that matter). The Sabbath requirement was a feature of the Mosaic Covenant that has now passed away.
However, the principle embodied in that commandment, namely, that we were not created merely for labor, but must set aside time for worship and for rest and enjoyment, remains fully applicable. Being under the new covenant is not an excuse to make us workaholics who try to fill the emptiness of our hearts with career pursuits, to the neglect of more important things. And this means we must make it a priority to gather with the church for worship regularly, and we must recognize our limitations and make time for ourselves to rest.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Colossians 2:16-23. What does this passage teach us about how regulations of the Mosaic Law relate to us today? What does it teach us about what true holiness looks like?