In addressing the lawlessness of Western, and particularly American, society, both in the secular and religious realms, I confess that I find the 4th commandment the most difficult to handle.  This is largely due to the great variety of opinions found among honorable Christian men throughout the centuries.  There are some who hold that our practical observance of God’s command to honor the Sabbath day should be very much like that of the Jews in the Old Testament.  In other words, we should do no work except those which Christ sanctioned, such as works of mercy or necessity.  These brethren, due to their conscientious convictions, will not, for example, eat at a restaurant on Sunday, and will attempt to have their food for that day pre-made, so that they do not have to cook on God’s holy day.  Other believers, while holding that the Sabbath day ought generally to be regarded as set aside for the worship of God, are not so rigid in their practical applications on every detail.  Presently, I fall into the latter camp, although I leave myself room to be persuaded to a more rigid position.

Whatever our stance on this question, I do not doubt that the earnest believers on both sides will decry the antinomian position that is held in practice, and often in principle, by the vast majority of Americans, that there is no longer at all one day in seven to be set aside for the worship of God, fellowship with His people, and meditation on His goodness.  Under the Old Testament economy, this day was the seventh day, which was the day God rested from His creation, and the day that He established for the nation of Israel to observe as their day of rest and worship.  Throughout the Old Testament, one of the most frequent criticism of the prophets was that the Israelites violated the Sabbath, which God had given to be a sign between Him and them.  Historically, since the time of Christ the churches of believers have gathered for worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, because that was the day on which Christ burst forth from the tomb in resurrection glory.  There is plentiful evidence in the New Testament that this was the practice of the apostolic churches, in spite of modern cults and hyper-dispensationalists who argue that we ought to return to Saturday worship.

Although the apostles do not emphasize the Sabbath day for Christians as much as the Old Testament did for Israel, both Christ and they indicated that it would still be observed even under the New Covenant.  In the end, the command to honor God’s day is nothing except God telling us that He has the right to our worship, and He has the right to command us when, how, and where to worship Him.  Every Christian ought to delight that he has at least one day in seven to meet together with the people of God, to pray with the saints, to sing the praises of our Lord, and to hear the preached Word.  After all, will we not be engaged in eternity in the praise and adoration of the great God Who has saved us and called us with an holy calling?

What can we say, then, of the vast multitudes of professing believers who make but few or irregular attempts to join with the Lord’s people in worship?  What can we say of those who treat the church service as something that must be squeezed in around the family time, the ball game, or the relaxation that forms the nucleus of their weekend?  This attitude demonstrates a transparent contempt for the worship of God, a disregard for the company of the saints, a preference of worldly enjoyments over heavenly.

It is sad but tragically true that Gospel preaching churches are often ministering to but mere handfuls.  Contrast this to the sports stadiums, which often attract crowds of tens of thousands on Sunday.  One wonders how many of those who have skipped church to watch a sports contest are professing believers.  I have heard personal anecdotes from pastors who had deacons that would leave in the middle of the service because they had season tickets for the local NFL franchise.  To place the frivolous entertainments of this world, even if they be things which might not be sinful in and of themselves, ahead of the worship of God and the preaching of the Gospel, is a symptom of desperate spiritual sickness.

The worship of God and the gathering of His saints has fallen into contempt because the multitudes have become convinced that the law of God no longer has any teeth.  “That was the God of the Old Testament,” the prevailing sentiment goes.  “Under the New Testament, God is kinder and gentler, and will not judge us unless we commit some drastic sin like mass murder.”  One never finds such a lawless precept being advocated by Christ or His apostles.  The word of the New Testament, as well as the Old, is, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”   The apostle Paul persuaded men of the Gospel of Christ because he knew the terror of the Lord, meaning His judgments against those who persist in rebellion.  Personal holiness requires conformity to the standard of conduct enjoined by the unchanging God.  Neglect or defiance of that standard inevitably provokes His judgment.

Believers in every dispensation are commanded to forsake not the assembling of themselves together, but to attend upon the public worship of God with joyful hearts, not only for the good of our souls, but primarily to render to God the adoration He deserves.  Those who prefer to chase their own pleasures rather than the worship of God say much about the state of their soul.  If we do not prefer God’s people, God’s word, yea, God Himself, to our own personal pleasures in this life, what makes us think we will be fit for heaven which is entirely concerned with those holy matters?

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