In this addition to the ‘Cultivating Biblical Godliness’ booklet series, Joseph Pipa (President of the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in South Carolina) sets out the biblical basis for the abiding relevance of the fourth commandment.
In short compass, Dr Pipa demonstrates how God established the Sabbath principle of a weekly day of rest, by both word and example, at creation. The Sabbath was instituted from the beginning, alongside the ordinances of marriage and work. By blessing and sanctifying it, God communicated his purpose that the seventh day should be uniquely set apart for him.
Since the fourth commandment was not introducing something new, Dr Pipa rejects the argument that it was purely ceremonial and notes that the Ten Commandments stand together as a unit. He writes, ‘The principle … that God would have man devote a whole day to worship and religious service is woven into the moral fabric of the universe’ (p.12).
Having established the Old Testament foundations for the perpetual observance of a weekly Sabbath, Dr Pipa proceeds to demonstrate from the New Testament that it was by divine warrant that the first day of the week came to be observed as the Christian Sabbath.
He then concludes with practical guidance on the proper observance of the Lord’s Day, stressing that its purpose is ‘not to create a legalistic entanglement that stifles people, but to free the people of God for the wonderful privilege of worshipping God and enjoying him’ (p.31).
This short introduction to the Lord’s Day presupposes some familiarity with Reformed theology and a commitment to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Shorter Catechism. It will be of particular value to Christians committed to the Westminster Standards, yet in danger of abandoning their rich heritage in this area.
For those who are less familiar with this heritage, Iain Murray’s booklet Rest in God may provide a more accessible introduction to the scriptural foundations for observing the Lord’s Day and the blessings that flow from it.
In just 36 pages it is not possible to answer every question that may arise in the reader’s mind. Those looking for a more thorough treatment of the Bible’s teaching on this subject would do well to buy Dr Pipa’s more detailed study, The Lord’s Day (Christian Focus Publications).