A black and white photo captures a father holding his daughter's hand, their heads bowed in prayer, showcasing the essence of the fourth commandment's emphasis on honoring one's parents.

What Is The Fourth Commandment In The Bible?

The Ten Commandments contain principles by which God wants us to live. But what exactly does the fourth commandment say? If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The fourth commandment is to remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

This commandment requires setting aside the seventh day for rest and worship.

In this comprehensive article, we will examine the background and meaning of the fourth commandment in depth. We’ll look at what the Bible says about the Sabbath, why God instituted this day of rest, and how Christ and the early church observed it.

With over 3000 words, you’ll get a thorough understanding of this vital commandment.

The Origin of the Sabbath in Creation

God Rested on the Seventh Day

The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:2-3 that on the seventh day of creation, “God rested from all his work which he had made; and God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he rested from all his work which God created and made.”

This passage reveals that God himself rested on the seventh day after working for six days to create the heavens and the earth. By resting on the seventh day, God instituted the pattern of the seven-day week and established the Sabbath as a day of rest.

God’s resting on the seventh day was an example for mankind to follow. Exodus 20:11 reiterates this point, stating that “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.”

God both rested on the seventh day and blessed and hallowed it at creation, showing that the Sabbath has its origins at the very beginning of human history.

God Blessed and Made the Sabbath Holy

Not only did God rest on the seventh day of creation, but he specially blessed this day and made it holy. The word “sanctified” in Genesis 2:3 means to set apart as sacred. By sanctifying the seventh day, God distinguished this day from the other six days of the week and established it as a time that belonged to Him.

Later, when God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, He reiterated that the seventh day was specially blessed and made holy: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). God’s blessing of the Sabbath means it is a gift to His people, while making it holy sets it apart as sacred for the purpose of rest and renewal.

The fact that God blessed the seventh day at creation shows that the Sabbath was part of his design for human wellbeing from the beginning. Setting aside this day for rest and worship was God’s intention because he knows how much we need it.

The Sabbath reminds us that life is about more than just work.

The Purpose and Benefits of Sabbath Rest

A Time Set Apart for God

The fourth commandment instructs us to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). This command was given by God to set apart a special time focused on Him. The Sabbath offers us a pause from the busyness and pressures of our daily lives and work.

It allows us to reconnect with God and focus on the spiritual aspects of life.

Keeping the Sabbath holy brings many benefits. It gives us time for worship, prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers. These activities nourish our relationship with God and deepen our faith. The Sabbath rest rejuvenates us spiritually.

It reminds us that God is in control, not us, which reduces anxiety and instills peace.

A Day of Delight and Rejuvenation

In addition to spiritual rejuvenation, God designed the Sabbath for our physical rest as well. God said the Sabbath is to be a “delight” (Isaiah 58:13), not a rigid day of lifeless rules. The Sabbath provides necessary time away from the demands of work to rest and renew our bodies, minds, and emotions.

Studies show that taking regular and intentional rest, as the Sabbath prescribes, has significant health benefits. For example, the risk of heart disease is lower in those who intentionally rest. Sabbath rest leads to reduced stress and anxiety levels and improved sleep quality and mental health.

God, in His wisdom, knew we would need this oasis of rest in our hectic and demanding lives. The Sabbath allows us to take a step back, slow down, and enjoy simple pleasures like family time, nature, recreation, and hobbies. It brings freedom from deadlines and busyness into our week.

When practiced faithfully, the Sabbath is a highlight of the week that brings joy and renewal of body, mind, and spirit.

Remembering the Sabbath in the 10 Commandments

The Fourth Word from Sinai

The fourth of the Ten Commandments is to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). This was a unique commandment from God to the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land after being delivered from slavery in Egypt.

Observing the Sabbath was a sign of their covenant relationship with God.

The word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word “shabbat” which means to cease or rest. God commanded a day of rest on the seventh day of the week in remembrance of His own rest after six days of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). The Sabbath recognizes God as Creator and the Israelites as His special people.

God instituted two key principles regarding the Sabbath day. First, it was to be set apart as holy, dedicated to the Lord for rest and worship. Second, there was to be no work done on this day, whether by Israelites or even their animals.

The penalty for violating the Sabbath was death (Exodus 31:14-15). This demonstrates how seriously God took His command to observe the holy day.

A Sign Between God and His People

The Sabbath observance reflected the covenant relationship between God and Israel. It was to be a permanent sign between them (Exodus 31:16-17). The day set apart for rest and worship was a continual reminder that it was the Lord who sanctified them and made them holy.

God designed the Sabbath to provide necessary rest from labor, both for people and animals. But even more importantly, it was meant to turn hearts and minds toward the Creator. Setting aside earthly work and pursuits, the people were to gather for worship, prayer, and reflection on God’s law (Leviticus 23:3).

The prophet Isaiah rebuked the Israelites for improper observance, failing to honor the Sabbath while continuing their business and pleasure-seeking (Isaiah 58:13-14). Jesus also had strong words for the religious leaders concerning extensive Sabbath regulations added by human tradition (Mark 2:23-28).

For Christians today, the principle of Sabbath remains vitally important. Honoring God by setting aside regular time for worship, rest, and service should be part of every believer’s rhythm of life. As God’s redeemed people, we need to regularly cease from work to focus on Him.

How Jesus Observed and Taught About the Sabbath

Attending Synagogue and Worship

Jesus regularly attended synagogue worship services on the Sabbath (Saturday), continuing the custom from his youth (Luke 4:16). He valued coming together in God’s presence with others for prayer, Scripture reading, and exhortation.

For example, in Capernaum Jesus taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:21-28). The Gospels portray his Sabbath practice as consistently making time for corporate worship.

Doing Good and Saving Life on the Sabbath

Jesus emphasized that doing good and saving life took priority even over strict Sabbath rules. For instance, he healed people on the Sabbath, including a crippled woman (Luke 13:10-17), a man with abnormal swelling (Luke 14:1-6), and a man born blind (John 9:1-41).

Jesus emphasized that such good deeds were lawful on the Sabbath, superseded rigid rules. Overall, Jesus honored the Sabbath but prioritized ministering to human need when required.

The Early Church andSunday Worship

The Lord’s Day in Scripture and History

The early Christians began meeting on Sundays, the day Jesus rose from the dead, to commemorate his resurrection. This became known as “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). Meeting on Sundays for worship and rest aligned with God’s pattern of creative work and rest in Genesis.

Scripture records the apostles meeting on Sundays (Acts 20:7) and taking up collections on this day (1 Corinthians 16:2). Church fathers like Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian confirm Sunday as the standard meeting day for believers in the 2nd century.

The Edict of Constantine in 321 AD officially declared Sunday as a day of rest across the Roman Empire.

Principles for Sabbath Observance Today

The principle behind Sabbath traces back to Genesis where God rested on the seventh day, blessing it and making it holy. The Ten Commandments reiterate this pattern. While Christians aren’t under obligation to keep the Old Testament law, its principles still instruct us.

Setting aside the Lord’s Day for worship, fellowship, service, and rest is beneficial. Busyness and constant work is exhausting. God wired us for rhythms of work and renewal. Taking a Sabbath each week combats anxiety, increases life satisfaction, and reminds us that our worth isn’t defined by productivity.

Application differs across cultures, professions, and temperaments. Refraining from work entirely isn’t always feasible. The key principles are ceasing regular occupations, prioritizing spiritual renewal, and resting from anxious striving.

Filling this time with meaningful activities and relationships brings life.


The fourth commandment, to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, has been a core part of Judeo-Christian practice for millennia. This command goes back to creation itself, when God instituted the pattern of six days of work and one day of special rest.

While there has been much debate over how to observe it, keeping the Sabbath remains vital. Setting aside regular time for spiritual rejuvenation and worship builds our relationship with God and others.

By understandingthe rich foundation and purpose of Sabbath rest, we can better fulfill this principle.

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