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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. (Exodus 20:9-11 ESV)

A few caveats:

  1. I'm not interested in the Seventh Day Adventist position.
  2. I'm coming from a biblical, Protestant perspective.
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In point of fact, none of us keep any of the Ten Commandments. For more, see christiananswers.net/q-comfort/heaven-goodenough.html We are all guilty of each and every one at some level, from a Biblical Protestant perspective. –  David Jan 14 '13 at 2:28
@DavidStratton that's true. Perhaps a rephrasing of the question would be, "What does it look like for a Christian to keep the 4th Commandment?" –  Ben Mordecai Jan 14 '13 at 2:56
Got it. That makes sense. Sorry I misread it. –  David Jan 14 '13 at 3:28
"biblical, protestant perspective" is much too broad. The answers coming in are proving unhelpful, giving a wide range of unidentified perspectives. –  fredsbend Sep 6 '13 at 7:17
For those who answer that say they keep the Sabbath everyday, do you? Do you refrain from work everyday according to the commandment? And be honest, do you worship Him in spirit every day? –  Beestocks Dec 1 '14 at 21:53

7 Answers 7

Since the 4th commandment does not specify where we are to keep the Sabbath Holy let it first be known that it is not in the Tabernacle/Temple/Synagogue or Church. There is no commandment in the Torah that says His people are to gather together for corporate worship in such a place. So that is the first issue.

As a member of the Covenant of Horeb (the Mosaic Covenant) you were to convocate “in all (many) your (personal) dwellings (plural)”. In Exodus they were directed not to go far from their homes…in fact in Exodus 16:29 it says let no man go out of his place on the Sabbath day.

Secondly though Jesus attended synagogue, as did Paul, they both did so as was their “custom” or tradition. The man made tradition of gathering together for corporate worship on the 7th day Sabbath was started during the Babylonian captivity and only was practiced by the Judah-ites that returned and any accepted Assyrian captives that returned in the time of Ezra/Nehemiah. Before then there is NO example of any of the children of Israel so gathering.

Now when Jesus came He gave us a deeper meaning to the commandments. In actuality God is so Holy that to even be angry with a brother is to murder, to think lustful thoughts is adultery…and as we see in many places He gives newer meaning to the 4th commandment as well.

But the point is really that when Jesus had completed all that He came to do, He said “it is finished”…He made one sacrifice for all and sat down….He fulfilled (not eliminated) all the law and now is sitting at the father’s right hand…we who are genuinely born of God are IN HIM…we have fulfilled the law in Him…we no longer obey because these words were written in stone we obey having the spirit of God in us…we are already seated with HIM in glory (justified, sanctified, redeemed, delivered, saved…) and do not have to do anything as He did it on our behalf…thus we being placed in Him have entered into His (the Lord) rest (Shabbat)…

Every day is a shabbat for us…we worship and walk with Him from new moon to new moon, from Sabbath to Sabbath, which means every day…

Brother Paul

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Welcome to Christianity.SE! I'm not voting on this answer either way and I agree that Jesus fulfilled but not eliminated the law and is sitting at the Father's right hand. But I do have one question/comment - If every day is a Shabbat for us that means we wouldn't work every day of the week and that wouldn't be holy that would be lazy :) Wouldn't that make sense? May the Lord bless us as we study His Word. –  HelloWorld Sep 6 '13 at 20:52
The commandment clearly says "Six days shalt thou work". This is as much a part of the commandment as that part which asks us to rest on the seventh day @HelloWorld. –  One Face Feb 24 at 17:19

While the Sabbath was listed as one of the commandments it was actually instituted way before then when God had finished His creation.

Genesis 2:3

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

The word sanctified here means "set apart" which shows that God places a special significance on the Sabbath day.

This sanctification of the Sabbath day occurs well before there was ever a nation of Israel and there are numerous places in the Holy Bible that show where all people will keep the Sabbath day.

Isaiah 66:23

And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me," says the LORD.

Some say that following the death of Christ there was no need to keep the Sabbath but the new testament is full of examples of the new testament church doing so and Jesus himself said that He came, not to do away with the Law but to magnify it. (Mat 5:17)

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Welcome to the site. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? This is good information, but doesn't really address the question that was asked. –  David Sep 5 '13 at 11:18
What translation are you using for Matthew 5:17 which has "magnify it"? (Your other quotes were KJV.) I am also curious about what denominational perspective this represents. Googling (Matthew 5:17 "magnify it") was not helpful in finding a translation and hinted that this might be coming from a Church of God (or perhaps Church of the Great God) perspective. Identifying perspective can be helpful in cases like this where doctrines differ between denominations. –  Paul A. Clayton Sep 5 '13 at 21:10
Hi Paul, It does in fact say "Fulfill" and that until heaven and earth pass away the laws are all to be kept. I don't think that has happened yet. –  CarlT Nov 19 '13 at 15:20


The simple answer is that born again Christians, whether Jewish or Gentile, are under no obligation to observe such a commandment under the New Covenant.


The pronoun "you" in your passage refers directly to those whom YHVH "brought...out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exo. 20:2). YHVH was speaking to the Israelites in Exo. 20.

Elsewhere, we read that the Sabbath was a sign between the children of Israel and YHVH for ever (Exo. 31:17). You may then reason that, if the Sabbath was a sign for ever, then Jews, whether they be Christians or not, should still keep the Sabbath.

It is important to note that the Israelites agreed to obey those commandments by swearing an oath in a bilateral covenant (cp. Deut. 27:26). The covenant was between YHVH and the Israelites. A covenant no longer applies when one of the parties in the bilateral covenant has died, as so aptly illustrated by the apostle Paul when he describes the marriage covenant (Rom. 7:1-4).

In Romans 7:1-4, once the husband died, the wife was free to re-marry without being considered an adulteress. However, if the wife re-married while the husband was still living, the wife was considered an adulteress. As long as both parties were living, the covenant remained effective. If one party of the bilateral covenant died, the covenant was void.

Since a believing Israelite dies with Christ (the "old man is crucified with" Christ; cp. Rom. 6:6), he is born again, and he is no longer a party to the Old Covenant. Can the Law, the Old Covenant, apply to a dead person? No, it cannot, for a bilateral covenant is voided upon the death of one of the parties.

The new man is a party to the New Covenant (rather than the Old Covenant) which does not impose observance of the Sabbath upon the party, but rather, forgiveness of sins (Jer. 31:31-34).

Indeed, born again Christians, as servants of Christ, must obey the commandments of their master, but keeping the Sabbath is no such commandment, as our rest is in Christ (Heb. 4:9-11).

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By "born again", you are referring to that group of Christians within Protestantism, right? –  Matt Jan 13 '13 at 23:23
@Matt: Sure.......... –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 13 '13 at 23:34
so, as "born again Christians", we are under no obligation to not steal, not murder, not commit adultery, not worship anyone other than God, etc? –  warren Sep 5 '13 at 21:06
I disagree. Born again Christians are under the Law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). Christ said (John 13:34), "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." Paul said (Rom. 13:8), "Owe no man anything but to love one another, for he who loves another another has fulfilled the law." And (Rom. 13:10), "Love works no ill to his neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law." And (Gal. 5:14), "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Sep 6 '13 at 21:30
Sin has the same definition in the New Testament: "Transgression of the Law". James specifically tells us that breaking one law is equal to breaking all 10. So a Christian should keep the commandments of God, just as Jesus kept them. What was done away at the cross was most definitely not the 10 commandments –  One Face Feb 24 at 17:25

In the OT, the Hebrew people were to keep laws to cover (or make atonement) for their sin. All of these laws including the 10 commandments were expressly given to by Moses to the people of Israel. As revealed in Romans 2:14.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. - Romans 2:14

Born again Christians do not keep laws to make themselves righteous before God. We are made righteous by the gift of righteousness we receive by believing on Jesus.

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) - Romans 5:17

The law, while good in itself could never make men righteous or "right" before God. The scripture reveals that the law was a shadow of good things to come.

Hebrews 10:1 - For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

Well, good things did come and his name was Jesus.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:16

All of what many Christians would call God's Moral Law can be summed up in one law.

A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. - John 13:34

If you love your neighbour, you won't steal from him. If you love him, you won't sleep with his wife. If you love him, you won't kill him. etc.

So then, what about the sabbath? Well, Jesus IS our sabbath rest.

So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God; for whoever enters God's rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his. - Heb 4:9-10

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Hi Matt, in the Old Testament atonement was made through the blood sacrifice of the lamb, representing the future sacrifice of Jesus. "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt." (Romans 4:2-4) Paul here was stating that it was through the righteousness by faith that Abraham was justified. –  HelloWorld Sep 6 '13 at 20:57
@HelloWorld - what's your point? I agree with what you're saying but I don't understand what point you're making specifically. –  Matt Nov 26 '13 at 0:40
  1. To say that you are not interested in the Seventh-day Adventist position is like saying I want to know what "Torah" means but I'm not interested in the Jewish position.

  2. To say that you are coming from a Biblical protestant perspective while denying insight from those who profess to be experts in the 4th commandment is to simultaneously, unwittingly admit that you do not possess or understand a working knowledge of the successions that transpired within the protestant reformation; based on God's power to restore truths once held in common by the Apostolic Church; and that were permitted to be cast down to the ground and trampled upon by the papacy during the Dark Ages. I recommend that you take up a book called the Great Controversy written by Ellen G. White to survey an unbiased historical landscape of the Protestant reformation.

Finally what is the 4th commandments purpose? What is it asking for? What would a God of Love seek from us if Love is the motive to create? He wants our time. He wants to bless us with His presence. He wants to connect with us but not by ourselves and be known accurately and intelligently. He wants our undivided attention for 24hrs away from ourselves to commune with the source of life as a community of believers. That the same power manifested in creation is also able to redeem us likewise. To fellowship with the One that asks us to rest in the blessed assurance that just as He can create He can also sustain and provide for all your needs. That we would come to understand the truth of "Who am I?" "Where did I come from?" "Where am I going?" and "how I should live?"

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Your first two points aren't necessary. It's entirely alright to ask how non-SDA understand the commandment. –  curiousdannii Jun 6 '14 at 3:18

Using the Westminster Confession of Faith to present a Reformed position, Chapter XXI, paragraph VIII states:

This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations; but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

This presents the Sabbath's purpose of getting people out of their self-satisfaction and self-importance ("own works, words, and thoughts") and directed toward God ("worship") while being godly in not neglecting needs of self or others ("necessity and mercy"--"duties of necessity" can be somewhat vague but I believe would include certain work of doctors, police, etc.).

(By the way, in paragraph VII, the writers of the WCF present the belief that Sunday is the post-resurrection/Christian Sabbath day.)

Even in cultures with 5-day work weeks (which at least some Reformed persons believe would also violate the 4th commandment, if two rest days are used), there are "slave-driver" employers and workaholics for which the imposition of a ceasing would be a mercy even from an atheistic perspective.

(By the way, the Exodus version draws on the creation relation--all mankind, all time (at least for some interpreters)--and presents it as a blessing; the Deuteronomy version relates it to salvation from slavery and as a covenant command as well as emphasizing likeness to the slave--reminiscent, to me, of Col. 4:1 "Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven"(NIV).)

The Sabbath has several purposes, including: to reinforce trusting that God will provide (cf. Manna gathering in Ex. 16:19-30), to provide/enforce freedom from work (i.e., work is not to be the master), to provide/enforce rest, to have a dedicated regular (habitual) time to remember who God is and what God has done, to develop a future-oriented mindset (Sabbath requires preparation and is a guaranteed future time, perhaps hinting at anticipation of (and preparation for) the time of the new heaven and new earth with a sense of certainty, the fullness of rest is as certain as one day following another).

Even for Christians who reject Sabbath observance as a moral law (I think St. Augustine was one such, so this certainly appears to be a "disputable matter"), the principles of not abusing employees, of regularly remembering that God is God (Creator and Master), of depending on God, and of resting--these principles would still apply. In addition, such Christians might adopt the pattern of Sabbath (with its related purposes such as those mentioned above) as a practical aid toward sanctification much like a dedicated time of Bible study.

Given that entire books have been written on this subject, a StackExchange answer is not likely to be especially comprehensive.

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Dunno about other Christians, but the NT Church met EVERYDAY:

Acts 2:46 NET Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts,

That comports well with Jesus's teachings, that surpassed the righteousness of the Pharisees, who had the Eternal Law watered down because of hardness of heart :

Don't commit adultery, replaced by don't even look at a woman with lust.

Don't murder, replaced by don't even hate.

Christ raised the bar.

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