No Other Worship (Commandment #4)
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAYS 38
What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment?
First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring offerings for the poor.
Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.
No Other Worship (Commandment #4)
The Heidelberg Catechism relentlessly teaches that our only comfort and joy is in our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Even its interpretation of the fourth commandment focuses on this gospel ministry. It speaks of “the assembly of God’s people” who gather together on the “festive day of rest” to be nourished in the gospel, and that “every day” by the power of the Spirit we live the gospel – resting from our evil ways and so begin “already in this life the eternal Sabbath.” Sabbath exists so that people will be grounded in and guided by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Catechism, therefore, focuses on Sabbath Heart. In fact, it does not even suggest that Sunday is the Sabbath Day. This is good news. You’ve probably had experiences similar to mine. Sunday was simply a day of “do’s” and “don’ts” – “Sabbath Day” prohibitions that said no to any form of work or anything that made another person engage in work. I was taught that one should not work on Sunday, unless called to service as a doctor, nurse, or in a similar type of vocation. I was prohibited from playing golf on Sunday, but fully free to play pond hockey. I suspect it was because golf required someone to work to receive my green fees. One Christian School posted the following sign on the backstop of their baseball diamond: “No ball playing on Sunday.” The rules were clear. The gospel foundation for those rules, however, was and still is absent. The Catechism is wisely following the pattern of the Bible by avoiding a legalistic emphasis on special days and religious rules (Romans 14:5, Galatians 4:10, Colossians 2:16). And for good reason. Christians gathered, not because Sunday is the Sabbath Day, but because on the first day after the Sabbath Jesus had risen from the dead (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1). Christians gathered for worship on Sunday, the first day rather than the seventh day of the week, because that was the most natural response to the gospel (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Revelation 1:10). Christians gathered to rest from their work in order to celebrate God’s work of grace and restoration!
Think of Sabbath in terms of paradise. When God rested from His creation work, He enjoyed the splendor of His paradise. Likewise, in our “Sabbath rest” we enter into the paradise of joyful fellowship with our Creator (Exodus 20:11) and Redeemer (Deuteronomy 5:15). Unfortunately, Adam and Eve rejected paradise with God. Sin entered the world and the fruit was alienation – from God and from each other. The world was left with lies and deception, pain and tears, and murder. Paradise was lost. The world was no longer at rest. So, God commanded Israel to keep Sabbath on the 7th day. While she was to embrace the fullness of created life, she was also to hold it loosely. Sabbath revealed that their Creator was recreating them as His people, restoring them to His paradise, and, as many Psalms rejoice, bringing His gospel work to all people (cf. Psalm 67).
Sabbath is also the Christian’s paradise. It reminds us of our gospel identity in this world where things are not the way they are supposed to be. The Sabbath Day, therefore, ended with the coming of the Sabbath Savior whose redemptive work restored and is restoring Sabbath Hearts. Jesus is our paradise (Luke 4:14-30; cf. 6:1-5). Through Him, the Creator is recreating us as His people, is restoring us to His paradise, and is sending us into all the earth with His good news (Genesis 12:1-3, Matthew 28:18-20, Galatians 3:26-29). That’s why Christians do not worship on the Sabbath Day, the 7th day of the week, but on the Lord’s Day, the 1st day of the week. We believe Jesus’ death and resurrection is the focal point of history. We respond, therefore, to the gospel, the resurrection proclamation that we are a new creation in Christ, cannot be separated from Christ and live in anticipation of the return of Christ. Christ is our paradise. Therefore, on the “festive day of rest” we are nourished in the gospel and encourage one another in His gift of life by grace alone (Hebrews 10:19-25).
Sabbath is our invitation to rest from our work, including our legalistic attempts to earn God’s favor, and to rest in His work to restore life – now and forever more. I believe it is right and safe to say that a Sabbath Heart is more important than a Sabbath Day. If we focus on a heart forged in grace, perhaps we would spend less time debating “do’s” and “don’ts” and more time honoring a “festive day of rest” to equip us for a festive life lived in grace!
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn
Sunday, August 27
A Sabbath heart is a joyful heart. The Catechism teaches that “especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people.” Read Psalm 100. What do you find most festive in worship? How do you desire to express praise and thanksgiving? If you do not gather with God’s people, why is communal worship not important to you? Describe how this expression of gospel ministry will further ground you in His eternal grace.
Monday, August 28
A Sabbath heart is a truth-directed heart. It hungers to listen to, learn from and live according to His Word. We are to “regularly attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches.” Read Philippians 3:1-11. How does God’s Word and worship help you to “know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”? What may be some obstacles that hinder your submission to His Word? Describe how this expression of gospel ministry will further ground you in His eternal grace.
Tuesday, August 29
A Sabbath heart is a Christ-satisfied heart. It delights in Jesus and rests in His sufficient work on the cross. We are to “regularly attend the assembly of God’s people…to participate in the sacraments.” Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. How do baptism and the Lord’s Supper help you rest in Jesus’ “once for all” sacrifice to free us from sin (Romans 6:10, Hebrews 5:9, 7:27, 9:12, 9:26, 10:2, 10:10), and nourish hope for His paradise? Describe how this expression of gospel ministry will further ground you in His eternal grace.
Wednesday, August 30
A Sabbath heart is a prayerful heart. It rests in the faithfulness of the Lord through His gift of prayer -- His gift to daily commune with Him and to receive daily guidance from Him. We are to “regularly attend the assembly of God’s people…to pray to God publicly.” Read Luke 11:1-13. Describe the routines of your prayer life, how you engage in corporate prayer with God’s people, and how you hope to be transformed because of it. Describe how this expression of gospel ministry will further ground you in His eternal grace.
Thursday, August 31
A Sabbath heart is a sacrificial heart. It seeks to emulate God’s generous compassion in Jesus Christ. We are to “regularly attend the assembly of God’s people…to bring Christian offerings for the poor.” Read Luke 10:25-27. Describe your habits of generous compassion to God’s people, to those who are not Christian, to the most vulnerable, and to those of a different nationality and race. What may be some reasons you find it difficult to serve others in selfless love and how do you intend to overcome those obstacles? Describe how this expression of gospel ministry will further ground you in His eternal grace.
Friday, September 1
A Sabbath heart is a submissive heart. It receives grace, surrenders to the transforming work of grace, and submits to the call to bear the fruit of grace. We are to “regularly attend the assembly of God’s people” so “that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.” Read Ephesians 2:1-10. Describe how your life represents God’s workmanship? Which evil ways have been put to rest in your life? Which evil ways need to be addressed by God’s Spirit and Word? Describe how this expression of gospel ministry will further ground you in His eternal grace.
Saturday, September 2
A Sabbath heart is a global gospel heart. Read Psalm 67. Describe your desire to see and join all the peoples of the earth in the worship and praise of the Lord. Why is this global worship and praise of God’s name important or unimportant to you? Describe how this expression of gospel ministry will further ground you in His eternal grace.