The Fourth Commandment
James J. Barker

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." - Exodus 20:8

Text: EXODUS 20:1-17



1.    Many preachers are vague and wishy-washy about the fourth commandment, but I hope that before I am done this morning, there will be no doubt as to where I stand.

2.    Take note that the fourth commandment is the longest of all the ten commandments and unfortunately it is the most abused.

3.    I am not surprised that worldly, unsaved people ignore the 4th commandment, but it grieves me that many Christian people do as well. 

4.    Lukewarm Christians do not ignore the Lord’s Day the way sinners do, but they “partially” observe it.  They have a “hit and miss” attitude toward church attendance.

5.    Some give the Lord an hour or two in the morning, but they feel the rest of the day is theirs (cf. Isaiah 58:13, 14; Neh. 9:14; 10:31; 13:15-22).

6.    When we started BBC sixteen years ago we noticed that many members knew nothing about the fourth commandment.  But as we taught them most of them developed the good habit of honoring the Lord’s Day and “keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8).



1.    Please allow me to explain what I mean by this because I am not a SDA, but I would like to make it clear that I am a “Lord’s Day Baptist” and I believe every Christian ought to do everything within his power to be in church every Sunday morning and every Sunday evening.

2.    As I have been preparing this series of messages, D.L. Moody’s little book on the Ten Commandments has been a tremendous blessing to me.  He said over 100 years ago: “I honestly believe that this commandment is just as binding today as it ever was.  I have talked with men who have said that it has been abrogated, but they have never been able to point to any place in the Bible where God repealed it.  When Christ was on earth, He did nothing to set it aside; He freed it from the traces under which the scribes and Pharisees had put it, and gave it its true place.  ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.’  It is just as practicable and as necessary for men today as it ever was – in fact, more than ever, because we live in such an intense age.”

3.    If it was “such an intense age” 100 years ago in D.L. Moody’s time, what about this crazy, hectic day and age in which we live?

4.    One day set apart for rest and worship is not only necessary for man’s spiritual good, but also for his mental and physical well-being.

5.    Many Christians have misunderstood what our Lord meant when He said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27; cf. Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6).  Certainly healing a sick person does not violate the fourth commandment. 

6.    Let me make an application.  Suppose your car would not start on Sunday?  It would not be wrong to try and fix it (Luke 14:5, 6).

7.    We are not under the Jewish sabbath (Saturday), but the principle remains the same: we are still to set aside one day out of the week, and for the Christian that day is Sunday, the Lord’s Day.

8.    A pastor said to one of his members: “Missed you this Sunday, brother.”  The man replied, “I had to work, Pastor.  You know our Lord said that if your ox falls into the pit on the sabbath, you have to pull him out!”  The following Sunday, again the pastor noticed that the man was not in church. Once again the pastor asked him about it and once more the man gave the same answer about his ox falling into the pit.  The preacher then said: “Brother, you should either fill up the pit or get yourself a new ox!”  That is good advice!

9.    It is interesting to note the word “Remember” in Exodus 20:8.  God is saying, “Remember way back when I created this world in six days and rested on the seventh day?” (20:11; cf. Genesis 2:1-3; Ex. 31:17).  This sabbath principle goes back to creation.

10. Merrill Unger wrote, “God never enjoined the Sabbath upon fallen mankind, but only upon the race before it fell into sin and broke His Sabbath creation rest.  It is apparent that from Adam to Moses, men without divine sanction attempted to observe the seventh day, as archaeology has shown.”

11. Unger goes on to say that observing the Sabbath, “was a unique sign that Israel was the LORD’s blood-bought people separated from the pagan nations and unto the LORD, their Redeemer.”

12. Today we can apply this principle to the NT church by saying that honoring the Lord’s Day is a unique sign that we are the Lord’s blood-bought people separated from the pagans around us and separated unto the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

13. But when Christians sleep in on Sunday and engage in worldly activities on Sunday they are disobeying God and they are telling the world that they are just like them.

14. Unger said that when an Israelite violated the fourth commandment, “he denied that God’s people were different from the unsaved” (Unger’s Commentary on the OT).

15. Exodus 20:11 says, “The LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”  For whose benefit did the Lord bless it?  For whose benefit did He set apart one day out of the week?  It was obviously for our benefit, because Jesus said in Mark 2:27, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”

16. All the other nine commandments are repeated in the NT but the fourth is not.  That is because in the church age God has set aside the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, the day He rose from the dead, not the seventh day.  Strictly speaking, it is not the sabbath, but the principle remains the same – one day of the week is special and has been set apart by God (not by man).

17. On this special day we are not to work, we are not to carry on our business as if it were just any other day, we are not to wash the car, go to the park or to the shopping mall, and so forth.

18. D.L. Moody refused to take the train or trolley car on a Sunday.  He would often walk many miles to preach in different churches rather than use public transportation.

19. I am not saying it is a sin to take the bus or subway (or a plane) on Sunday, I’m just trying to point out how serious some Christians take the fourth commandment.  Brother Knickerbocker’s dad will not eat out in a restaurant on Sunday.  I heard him say he’d rather eat an old baloney sandwich than cause some folks to miss church.  As D.L. Moody said: “Let those who are Christians endeavor to keep a conscience void of offense on this point.”

20. I like to read old sermons.  It is interesting that D.L. Moody and Charles Haddon Spurgeon and the other great preachers of the 19th century preached hard against people dishonoring the Lord’s Day.  To them desecrating the Lord’s Day was just as bad as getting drunk or stealing!

21. When I was a boy growing up in Queens, everything was closed on Sunday – I mean everything.  Today all the malls and all the supermarkets and everything are open – it’s a disgrace!

22. I remember a few years ago, Cardinal O’Connor made a big deal about baseball players playing ball on so-called “Good Friday.”  But he didn’t say a word about all the games played on the Lord’s Day.

23. In fact, the RCC even schedules masses on Saturday evening so that their worldly members can skip church all together on Sunday.  I am not picking on the RCC; some so-called “evangelical” churches are just as bad.  This past Christmas fell on a Sunday so many of the worldly “mega-churches” cancelled their churches that day.  That is a disgrace.

24. And what about all the little league games, Boy Scout trips, and other activities that are deliberately scheduled on Sundays, keeping children and their parents out of church?  It is just another trick of Satan to drive multitudes into the fires of hell. 



1.    As I stated before, we are not Jews observing the Saturday sabbath.  However, the principle remains the same.  God created us and He knows that our minds and our bodies need one day out of the week to be set aside for rest and worship.

2.    In this dispensation that day is Sunday, the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day (cf. Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1-3; John 20:19; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).

3.    The Lord’s Day is one of God’s blessings.  D.L. Moody said: “The good effect on a nation’s health and happiness produced by the return of the Sabbath, with its cessation from work, cannot be overestimated.  It is needed to repair and restore the body after six days of work.  It is proved that a man can do more in six days than in seven.”

4.    Benjamin Disraeli, the great British statesman, said: “Of all divine institutions, the most divine is that which secures a day of rest for man.  I hold it to be the most valuable blessing conceded to man.”

5.    God gave the church the Lord’s Day as a blessing.  How sad that some Christians do not appreciate this blessing!  When my wife and I started dating, she quit working on Sundays.  I used to turn down double-time because I refused to work on Sundays.  God blessed our marriage because we put God first.

6.    Eric Liddell was one of the fastest men in England and a British record-holder for the 100-meter race.  He was scheduled to run the 100-meter race in the 1924 Olympics in Paris.  But when he found out that the race would be held on Sunday he refused to do it.  The lords and dukes and princes of Great Britain were upset with him but he held his ground. Instead he trained for the 400-meter race, which was to be held on a different day.  The day of the race a stranger handed him a piece of paper which read, “Them that honor Me I will honor” (I Sam. 2:30). Eric Liddell was greatly encouraged and went on to win the race, setting a new world’s record.  He went on to become a missionary to China and died in a Japanese internment camp in 1945. We need young men and women like Eric Liddell!

7.    In Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, he tells a story of a pastor who was ordered to read a proclamation issued by King Charles I, instructing the people to play sports on Sundays.  To his congregation’s horror and amazement, he read the royal edict in church Sunday morning which many other preachers refused to do. But after reading the proclamation, he read Exodus 20:8-11 and then added these words: “Brethren, I have laid before you the commandment of your king and the Commandment of your God.  I leave it to you to judge which of the two ought rather to be observed.”



1.    We should try and purchase our necessities (bread, milk, etc.) on Saturday so we can avoid going to the store on the Lord’s Day.  We should do our laundry or other chores on Saturday so to avoid doing unnecessary work on the Lord’s Day.

2.    Some Christians cook their Sunday dinner the night before.  That is a good idea and it is Biblical (cf. Exodus 16:23-30).  The Manna was given before Moses received the Ten Commandments.  That is why the fourth commandment says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8).

3.    We should refuse to work on Sunday.  I realize some people have to work on Sunday.  For example, crooks commit crimes on Sunday and so some policemen have to work (also, doctors, firemen, etc.).  However, most people who work on Sundays do not have to do but are only doing it to make money.

4.    The last time I preached a sermon on the fourth commandment was in 1998.  As I was preparing my message I read an article in the paper about a lady who works for the Nassau County Parks Department as a gardener and tour guide.  She was forced to work on Sunday so she sued Nassau County and won her case (Newsday, May 6, 1998).

5.    If Christians would just take a stand the worldly crowd would not get away with all of their wickedness.  But too many Christians compromise with the world.

6.    Sunday is a day of rest but that is no excuse for sleeping late and skipping Sunday school. Some people are so lazy they skip church altogether. In my opinion, they are worse than those who work on Sunday.

7.    I read about an elderly lady who scrubbed floors six days a week but never missed Sunday School, the 11:00 service, or the evening service.  One morning she was walking to church and a neighbor said to her: “You work so hard all week, wouldn’t it be better for you to sleep late on Sunday morning?  Wouldn’t that help you keep going?”  She replied: “It’s going to church on Sunday that keeps me going the other six days of the week!”



1.    During the Revolutionary War, George Washington insisted that his troops get some rest and go to church on the Lord’s Day.  President Lincoln followed the same policy during the Civil War and so did President Wilson during WWI.

2.    The president of France invited President Ulysses S. Grant to the horse races when he was visiting Paris but President Grant refused to go to a horse race on the Lord’s Day.

3.    President Teddy Roosevelt never missed attending church on Sunday.  When he was going out of town on official business he always called his pastor to let him know he wouldn’t be there that Sunday but would attend some other church.

4.    I read an interesting article about a disease known as “Morbus Sabbaticus,” better known as “Sunday sickness.”  It is a rare disease peculiar to some church-goers. The symptoms vary, but these common symptoms are generally observed:

(1) It never lasts more than 24 hours unless there is a revival meeting or missions conference down at the church.  Then it could last all week.

(2) It never interferes with the appetite.

(3) It never affects the eyes.  Those inflicted with this disease have no problem reading the Sunday newspapers or watching TV.

(4) No physician is ever called.

(5) After a few attacks, it becomes chronic…and even terminal.

(6) There are no symptoms on Saturday.  The patient sleeps well on Saturday night and wakes feeling well.  He usually eats a good breakfast, but after breakfast the attack starts.  He feels really bad until around 12:30 and then he feels better again.

(7) He feels great all day but has a second attack right around 6:00.  Invariably he will wake up Monday morning feeling good as new.

(8) He will usually feel fine all week except for a brief reoccurrence on Wednesday night.

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