The fourth commandment says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). God gave the Sabbath as a “perpetual covenant” (Exodus 31:17) between the Jews and God. As long as the Jews were a nation, they were to keep the Sabbath. This was not a perpetual covenant with anyone else, however.
The Sabbath lasted from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday. The Jews, especially the Pharisees, treated it very legalistically. They expanded, refined, and codified it until it became an intolerable burden. Jesus fought the popular distortion of the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:8). Jesus kept the Sabbath perfectly, something that no one else ever did.
This commandment is the only one of the Ten Commandments that Jesus did not repeat for Christians. Jesus kept the Sabbath, but never commanded Christians to keep it.
Although some try to keep the Sabbath today, none keep it as God commanded it. The Lord commanded that the Sabbath was the day for burnt offerings, and other elements which no one keeps today. Paul says that Christ abolished the law (Ephesians 2:15), and “took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14). The first covenant was taken away so that the better, new covenant could be established. “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second” (Hebrews 8:6-7).
While we are not commanded to keep the Sabbath, there are, however, many eternal principles to be learned from the Sabbath. All Christians should consider their use of time, and the work ethic taught in the commandment, that there are six days in which the servant of God will work. As the wise man Solomon wrote, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). Paul tried to set a good example for the Thessalonians by working to support himself, giving an example (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12). “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Jesus showed the way to use the Sabbath, not by treating it as a day for idleness, but a day for service, a time for bringing blessings to others. The Christian should do no less with every day given to him. All life should be a rest from evil, and days devoted to God. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Every Christian should evaluate his time to see how much is devoted to God, and how much is devoted to self.