Should Sunday be a day of rest?

And the LORD said to Moses, "You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, 'Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.'" Exodus 31:12 - 13
During a recent study through the book of Exodus these verses caught my attention. The question that came to mind was, "above what?" The answer is obvious, above everything else mentioned in the law. Keeping the Sabbaths was the most important commandment for Israel to keep. In the New Testament we are told that to "love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut. 6:5)" is the greatest commandment, but this is because all of the commandments are predicated on this commandment. In any case it seems strange that among the ten commandments the fourth commandment is highlighted as the most important for Israel. Why is that?

The basis for the fourth commandment is found in Genesis 2:1-3:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all of the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all his work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that He had done in creation.
We know from Hebrews 4:4-10 that the rest of God is referring to eternal life, but what other answers can we get from the verses Genesis:
  1. How do we enter that rest? To enter God's rest we must be holy because the seventh day is holy.
  2. How do we, a part of the six days of creation, who are not holy become holy? God makes us holy, just like He made the seventh day holy.
In summary, to enter God's rest (i.e eternal life) we must be holy. The only way to be holy is if God makes us that way. This is confirmed in Exodus 31:13 where it gives the reason for the commandment which is that we know that it is the LORD who sanctifies us. In Hebrews, it says that it is Jesus Christ who sanctifies us.
"Behold, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb. 10:9-10)
The fourth commandment then is about Jesus Christ. It is no coincidence that the first mention of this commandment (after Genesis) is in connection with manna representing the bread of life (Ex. 16). Although all of the other commandments are restated in some form in the New Testament the fourth commandment is not, but this is because Jesus Christ fulfilled this commandment and we no longer look forward to Him, but look backward and live in the reality of what has been finished.

Christians are now under a new covenant. The old covenant with the sign of the Sabbath is obsolete and we have a new sign.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. (1 Cor. 11:23-26)
The parallels between the old and new are obvious: They are both signs, they both point to Christ, and the punishment for profaning them is death. The differences however are more important, what is physical and temporal in the old is spiritual and eternal in the new.  The writer in Hebrews sums up these differences well when he says:
How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:29)
Colossians 2:16 -17 clearly shows us that the Sabbath is no longer something that we have to keep, but what about the Lord's day? Firstly, there is a Lord's day (Rev. 1:10).  Secondly, the Lord's day is mostly likely first day of the week, the day Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:1-2). Lastly, it appears that Sunday was the day that early Christians met together to remember the sign of the covenant (Acts 20:7). This seems very much like the Sabbath, does this mean we need to keep the Lord's day like Israel kept the Sabbath? No and Yes. No, because Israel did not keep the Sabbath. Yes, we need to not only keep the Lord's day holy but every day. This is where we can learn from the Pharisees.

The Pharisees seemingly understood that Israel was exiled because they did not keep the Sabbath. In order to not sin in the same way they overcompensated and missed the whole point of the Sabbath being Jesus Christ. Jesus corrected them and pointed out that works of necessity, worship, and good works were all permissible on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1 - 14). These three characteristics should characterize our behaviour all the time, not just one day.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:9-10)
Do good works characterize your life on the Lord's day? How about the other days of the weeks? Or, are you like Israel guilty of profaning the eternal rest of God.
If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth. (Is. 58:13-14) 
Given that we are human we most likely need a day of rest to remember the purpose of our lives. But, should the activities on the Lord's day be very different from other days of the week? No, the other days of the week should be more like the Lord's day. If you are even seeking your own pleasure on the Lord's day, what do they other days of the week look like?


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