On December 29th then I came across a story in the telegraph about the decision of a judge that Christians have no right to refuse work on Sundays because, and I quote, “Christians have no right to decline working on Sunday as it is not a “core component” of their beliefs.” It gets better, he went on to say: The fact that some Christians were prepared to work on Sundays meant it was not protected.”
First it is a really stupid decision, surely the issue is not what other Christians are doing but what the Christian teaching on work on Sundays is? Even if the matter was uncertain then her managers initially agreed to respect her decision that she could, in clear conscience, work on a Sunday. It’s not as if she deceived them and yet her stand for what she believed right is branded wrong because according to a secular judge, who seems to have little understanding of Christianity, working on a Sunday is not a core element to the faith.
I suppose it is to be expected and rant aside there’s a bigger issue to talk about. This isn’t just a testament to the foolishness of the judge; far worse it is a massive rebuke to Christians in Great Britain. The judge was correct in saying that many Christians are prepared to work on a Sunday - the disobedience of these Christians heaps problems on the head of their brothers and sisters who are being obedient!
Let’s establish the law of God in this matter:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20 v 8 – 11
Now, my suggested ‘radical’ interpretation of this verse is that when it says: “On it [The Lord’s day] you shall do no work,” then it means that on the Lord’s day we should do no work. Funny that, almost like I’m giving it the single most obvious interpretation possible to give.
At this point let’s deal with potential excuses:
We don’t have to obey the ten commandments
I’ve actually read an entire article that was arguing that Christians did not have to obey the ten commandments because we didn’t have to keep the Sabbath any more. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater! In other words, the disobedience of Christians over the 4th commandment invalidated the rest. Hm, not the best principle to follow nor does it have any grounding in the Bible.
The Ten Commandments represent the moral law of God, they were in force before they were written in stone at Mount Sinai. We can go through Genesis and find cases of nearly every command being broken and the people condemned for doing so. Likewise, in the New Testament the moral law of God is still in force. In the sermon on the mount Jesus takes the Ten Commandments and he doesn’t abolish them but rather correctly interprets them, applying them as positive commands to love and commands for our thoughts, for example: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5v28) And the letters in the New Testament are overflowing with encouragements to obey the ten commandments and live a holy life.
The Ten Commandments are not some Israel specific thing, they are a reflection of the moral law of God which in turn is a reflection of the holiness of God, we know that God is unchanging, we know therefore that his moral law is unchanging. Could it be put any more clearly than by Jesus when he said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5v17)
To make it even more simple: is murder still wrong? Yes. Then the entirety of the ten commandments still stands for they stand as one or they do not stand at all.
Sunday isn’t the Sabbath
I suppose this is probably the most common argument. The Jewish Sabbath was the Saturday but Christians worship on the Sunday. Why has the day changed? Well, Jesus as ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ institutes a new day or worship when he is raised from the dead on the Sunday and meets with his disciples and also the day where the Apostles receive the Holy Spirit in a Sunday. The complete argument can be read on the internet elsewhere. But the point is, we live in New Testament times, the change in the Lord’s day reflects the newness of the New Testament but the principle of the 4th commandment still stands even if the practise of which day we celebrate it has changed.
As the commandment says – we rest because God rested on the 7th day after creation. Thus keeping the Lord’s day is a creation ordinance, one which has been since creation and will be until the new heavens and the new earth when every day will be the Lord’s! Just because the day has changed does not mean we are now 'free' to be disobedient.
What about Romans 14:5-6?
“One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God," Romans 14 v 5 - 6
Many use as a justification for not keeping Sunday as a day holy to God but if we apply the principle that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture then it requires a more enlightened understanding of this verse. I would argue that if we understand the passage in its context (rather than just proof texting willy nilly) Paul here is talking about Jewish feast days (Passover, etc) but not Sunday and I say this because if he was talking about the Lord’s day then this passage would contradict the 4th commandment which would invalidate the consistency of the Bible.
The Principle Applied
The principle then is that Christians should not do work on a Sunday and not do anything that would make other people work. For how can we force others to disobey a commandment of God? Would you force another to murder? No. Then let us be consistently obedient and avoid putting others into employment when we don’t have to. It doesn’t matter if they would never keep the Lord’s day anyway, our consciences should be clear and we should not stop them from being able to go to church!
The only exemption from this command not to work is that we should always be ready to do works of mercy and good and works of necessity are allowed too. How exactly this applies to your own life is between you and your conscience but always be ready to ask: is this a necessary work? Is this a work of mercy? If no then the commandment to rest takes over.
Students in particular are terrible at doing university work or revision or eating out and stuff on Sundays. University work is not a work of necessity or mercy, take the day of rest, enjoy the time with God and other believers! Some issues are harder to make judgements on, I get the bus to church on a Sunday to save myself a brisk hour and a half walk but making the bus driver work. Some might argue that it is not strictly necessary. I would argue that it is.
God is commanding you to take a day of rest! Is it really so hard to obey him? The Lord’s day is for our benefit, we take a break from worldly labours and dedicate a day to God, is that really so onerous? Do you dislike the company of God so? In this busy stressed out culture we live in there is great benefit to obedience here. But far and above all these reasons is the simple matter that if we love Christ we will obey him. Let your love of God compel you to keep his day holy!
It’s ironic really, many Christians go out of their way to celebrate Easter and Christmas religiously, with no biblical command to do so, but when it comes to Sunday, which has a lot of commands about it, they couldn’t care less.
This book, Call The Sabbath A Delight, is excellent and a much more thorough work than this short post: http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/item_detail.php?4684