The Third Commandment
As we are beginning a new, calendar year (since the Church Year began with Advent), I think it fitting that we should review our teachings and obligations as believers according to the Third Commandment. We ended 2019 with only 49.5% of our membership taking part in regular worship (regular defined as only once a month). Hear what God says about worship and how the Lutheran Church applies Law and Gospel to this matter via Luther’s Small Catechism (with Explanation, © 2017 by CPH):
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
The Central Thought
God invites us to rest, reflect on His Word, and receive His forgiveness in order to strengthen our faith in Him.
When people today set aside time for rest, how do they spend that time?
Read Luke 10:38-42. Why does Jesus commend Mary and not hardworking Martha?
As Christians, God’s Word leads us to delight in His wondrous works of creation and redemption.
How does God’s Word open our eyes to see all of His good works?
What is the Sabbath day?
In the Old Testament, God set aside the seventh day (Saturday) as a day of rest for His people to worship and to ponder
- the power and goodness of God in His work of creation;
Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. …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.
Read Matthew 6:24-34 and Jesus’ observation about the flowers and the birds.
- the graciousness of God’s work of redemption.
Deuteronomy 5:12,15 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you…You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched ar. Therefore, the Lord your God commended you to keep the Sabbath day.
What are some features of the Sabbath in the Old Testament?
- The Sabbath provided time for physical rest.
Exodus 23:12 Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.
- The Sabbath provided time for spiritual rest through worship, fellowship, and devotion to God’s Word and promises.
Read Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 6, where God gives days and seasons of worship to Israel for them to remember His saving deeds and His gracious care for them.
Note: Rest was part of the rhythm God put in place for His Old Testament church. On every seventh day (Saturday), people and animals rested from their work. Every seventh year, the land was to rest from planting and harvesting. Every fiftieth year (the year after seven times seven), all debts were canceled (Genesis 2:3; Leviticus 25; Isaiah 61).
Hos do we fear and love God in keeping the Third Commandment?
We fear God and love God by not despising or neglecting His Word. We despise and neglect God’s Word by
- failing to gather together in worship to receive God’s Word and Sacraments;
Hebrews 10:25 [Do not neglect] to meet together, as is the habit of some, but [encourage] one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
- rejecting or disregarding God’s Word.
Luke 10:16 The one who hears you hears Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me, and the one who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.
Read 1 Samuel 15:10-23, noting that Saul rejected God’s Word. In John 8:42-47, certain Jews rejected God’s Word. In 1 Timothy 4:11-16, Paul tells Timothy to hold fast to Scripture’s teaching.
We fear and love God by taking time to reflect on His Word. We do this by
- treasuring God’s Word as sacred;
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Chris dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Read Psalm 1 and Luke 2:8-20.
- devoting ourselves to His Word (in private devotion and public worship).
Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves in the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 17:10-11 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Read Psalm 26:8; Luke 10:38-42; 11:28.
What is the significance of the Sabbath for the Church today?
Although God no longer requires us to observe the Sabbath day (Saturday) and other particular holy days of the Old Testament, this commandment continues to apply to our Christian life and worship.
Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These were a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
- We continue to need not only physical rest, but most important, rest from the impossible task of seeking security, righteousness, and salvation through our efforts, work, and accomplishments.
Mark 6:30-31 The apostles returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest for a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
Hebrews 4:10 Whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.
Read Psalm 127:2; Mark 4:35-41; and Hebrews 4:1-13.
- The Sabbath was a sign pointing to Jesus, who gives us spiritual rest from the burden of our sins.
Matthew 11:28 Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
Read Psalm 23 and John 5:1-17; 7:14-24.
- God wants us to be regularly engaged with His Word and carry it in our hearts and upon our lips (Psalm 119:11-13). God’s Word is the treasure that sanctifies everything.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
1 Timothy 4:4-5 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
- Therefore, Christians gladly hear God’s Word and set aside time to worship on Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead (Acts 20:7; John 20:19-31)/ We also recall the wonders of our triune God by observing the seasons and special holidays (holy days) of the Church Year (see page x-xi in LSB). Indeed, Christians engage the Word of God daily (see Colossians 3:15-17) in their devotions and prayers. God’s Word delivers what it promises.
Romans 14:5-6 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.
Read Matthew 12:1-8. The important thing about a day of worship is that we focus on what God has done for us, especially in His Son, who is Lord of the Sabbath and establishes God’s new creation.
Why is it vital for us to gather together with fellow Christians in public worship?
The Word of God gathers all who believe in Jesus Christ into the Holy Christian Church, and also calls believers to gather together in congregations for public worship for several reasons.
- God is present as His Word is proclaimed and His Sacraments are administered. (Matthew 28:18-20; John 10:16; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). Through these Means of Grace, He freely gives His gifts and blessings, chiefly the forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43; 1 John 2:2). In worship, our Shepherd, Jesus, speaks through the mouth of the shepherd (pastor) whom He has called to care for our souls (Acts 20:28). The Word of God is not simply information, but the Word actually delivers what it says (Isaiah 55:10-11).
- We hear God’s Word at a set place and time (Isaiah 66:23; Luke 4:16). Though it is delivered through fallible men and simple means, the Word that is read, preached, and spoken over water, bread, and wine is not to be scorned (Jeremiah 6:10; John 8:47; Luke 10:16). Sunday worship is a public testimony to our faith in Christ and His resurrection from the dead “on the first day of the week” (Luke 24:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
- Believers are still sinners who need one another and the encouragement we receive from one another, “and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). We share our blessings, burdens and joys in petitions and hymns of praise with those present (Colossians 3:16), remember the Church throughout the world and the saints and angels of heaven (Hebrews 12:22-24).
The Large Catechism teaches: “Whenever God’s Word is taught, preached, heard, read, or meditated upon, then the person, day, and work are sanctified. This is not because of the outward work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all . . . Note, therefore, that the force and power of this commandment lies not in the resting, but in the sanctifying, so that a special holy exercise belongs to this day . . . Here a work is to be done by which a person is himself made holy. This is done (as we have heard) only through God’s Word” (LC I, 92,94).