Are Blue Laws Scriptural?
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to chapter 20 of the book of Exodus. We are thinking together, as you know, about the Ten Commandments. You will remember that we have discussed questions relative to the Ten Commandments that commonly arise in our minds–questions as to why the Ten Commandments were given and what we might expect in relation to them. Of late we have been studying the commandments themselves, exactly what they say, exactly what they mean, what application there may be for us, what our responsibility is in relation to them.

Misunderstandings About the Fourth Commandment

This fourth commandment at which we are going to look now is unique; it takes more words to discuss it than any other of the ten. There is more misunderstanding about this commandment, more misapplication, more misleading statements, than about any other of the ten.

You will remember that in our introductory remarks concerning the Ten Commandments we suggested to you that every one of them was given of God, written in the consciences of men, before they were written on the tables of stone by the finger of God and presented to Moses. I want you to see that, because it is important for us to remember that the Ten Commandments were not particularly Jewish. They were given before they were given to Moses; and as we pointed out to you (this is very important for our understanding of the commandment at which we are going to look now), every one of the Ten Commandments is repeated in the New Testament in relation to the fruit of the Spirit with the exception of this one commandment.

New Testament Presentation of the Commandment

You remember we told you that in chapter 20 of the book of Exodus we have the very simply commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”; in the New Testament we have that same commandment expressed in terms of that love for all men which is produced in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament we find the commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness”; in chapter 4 of the book of Ephesians we are reminded that if an individual is not grieving the Spirit, if he is filled with the Spirit, he will not lie. The moment he lies, he grieves the Holy Spirit.

So, we repeat: Every one of the commandments is repeated in the New Testament as a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life, with the exception of one, and that is the one we are going to think about now–the fourth commandment. Will you turn, please, to Exodus, chapter 20, and notice verse 8:

Exodus 20

8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10But 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:
11For 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.

We would like to remind you as you look at this commandment that the word “sabbath” and the word “seventh” are exactly the same word in Hebrew. When you speak about the Sabbath, you are speaking about the seventh day, the Sabbath day.

Seventh Day of Any Particular Period

Another thing I would like for you to keep in mind, in view of some of the things that are being taught today, is that nowhere in any reference to the Sabbath day are we told that it is the seventh day of the week. It is the seventh day, but not necessarily the seventh day of the week.

For example, we know people, and some of them may be your friends, who call themselves Seventh Day Adventists. They insist on the observance of the Sabbath, and they insist that the Sabbath is Saturday. Well, to be absolutely correct, as far as what the Scripture says is concerned, it might not be Saturday. It could just as well be Tuesday. It is the seventh day of any particular period, as we shall see before we are through with our discussion. Incidentally, we might say that folk who are following the teachings of Seventh Day Adventists feel that those of us who worship on the first day of the week are already wearing the mark of the Beast which is described in the book of Revelation. So, you see the errors and the inconsistencies that arise in the minds of people because they do not properly understand this fourth commandment as it is taught in the Word of God.

A misunderstanding of this fourth commandment has resulted in the passage of a great many so-called blue laws, or legislation that makes an effort to close up various businesses on Sunday in the belief that our Sunday is the Sabbath. The Bible does not say that. All of these and many more errors arise because there is not a proper understanding of this fourth commandment concerning the Sabbath day.

Problems In Strict Literal Observance

I am going to suggest some things for us to consider in response to the question, “How literally shall we observe the commandment?” The first thing I would like to suggest is that we notice some things that we will have to observe if we literally keep this commandment. We talk about remembering the Sabbath; we talk about observing the Sabbath; we talk about keeping the Sabbath. I want to suggest to you from the Word of God some things that we would have to do if we should keep the Sabbath literally.

Work Six Days

For example, you will notice here in chapter 20 of the book of Exodus that this commandment is not complete with the simple statement in verse 8, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The commandment also includes working six days. We are prone to think about only the first part of it, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy,” but part of the commandment is that you shall work six days. Any individual who is content with a forty-hour week is violating this commandment as it is given here. All the movements toward shorter hours and shorter weeks, if we are to interpret this commandment literally, are movements to break the fourth commandment.

One of the things we need in observing the Word of God, I think you will agree, is consistency. If we are consistent in our interpretation of the Word of God, we will save ourselves many misunderstandings, because we will see that some of the things we are insisting upon are inconsistent with the teaching of the Word. So, I would suggest to you that first, if we are going to observe this fourth commandment literally, we must be willing to work six days a week, and we must not be in favor of any movement that would cut down the week in any way.

Keeping Feast Days

The Scripture speaks of the Sabbath day. For example, this commandment in Exodus, chapter 20, is “Remember the sabbath…” It should be kept in mind that of equal importance, as far as observance was concerned, were the seven feasts, so that we might speak of eight sabbaths. They are all listed in chapter 23 of the book of Leviticus. If we are to interpret this commandment literally, then we must be willing to observe every one of the eight sabbaths listed in this chapter. Yet I know of no one who insists on the literal observance of the Sabbath day who observes the eight sabbaths that are listed in Leviticus, chapter 23. You will notice that it begins with the Sabbath day, it goes on through the Feast of the Passover, the Feast of the Firstfruits, the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of the Tabernacles, etc.; if we are going to be consistent, every single one of these must be observed.

Punishment for Those Who Work

Will you turn, please, to chapter 15 of the book of Numbers are I present to you another illustration that is unique. It is not the minor things related to the observance of the Sabbath day that present a problem to us; it is these unusual things:

Numbers 15

32And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.
33And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.
34And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.
35And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.
36And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.

If you insist on observing the Sabbath day from this passage of Scripture, it would be your responsibility to stone to death anyone that you found breaking the Sabbath day. How can you break the Sabbath day? Well, this man was gathering sticks. Surely he was not gathering sticks just for the sake of gathering sticks. He was gathering sticks to make a fire, which represented labor; it represented work on the Sabbath day, and therefore Moses gave the order that he–and anyone else who worked on the Sabbath day–would be stoned to death.

I say to you that if you take upon yourselves the responsibility of keeping this fourth commandment as it is given in chapter 20 of the book of Exodus, you are going to take upon yourself the responsibility of refusing to work less than six days a week; no matter how tired you are, no matter how old you are, no matter how much you want a vacation, you must work six days a week. Then you will take upon yourself the responsibility of stoning to death anybody who you see breaking the Sabbath day.

To provoke your thinking, I would like to ask you, where would you wind up? You are going home from church on Sunday–because most people think that Sunday is the Sabbath–and you pass by a grocery store that is open. It is your obligation to go into that store and yank the men out and stone him to death, if you are going to keep the Sabbath day. You know how you would wind up.

Making an Offer

Would you look at chapter 28 of the book of Numbers and notice another thing that you would be obligated to do, if you keep the Sabbath day:

Numbers 28

9And on the sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenth deals of flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and the drink offering thereof:
10This is the burnt offering of every sabbath, beside the continual burnt offering, and his drink offering.

If you are going to observe this fourth commandment, you are going to have to start you a sheep farm and bring two lambs every Sabbath of the world and offer them–I don't know where–along with two measures of flour. That is your responsibility if you are going to keep the Sabbath.

Someone comes along and says, “Let's not be ridiculous; we don't do that part of it now.” Well, why don't you? If you don't do that part of it now, why do you do that part of it now? Who gives you any right to take a commandment of God and say, “We will keep this part of it, but we won't keep that part of it.”? Who give you any right to do that?

Becoming a Jew

The last thing that I would like to suggest to you as to what would be implied if you take this commandment literally is suggested in two other passages of Scripture which will demand that you declare your identity, whether you are Jew or Gentile. Will you turn to chapter 31 of the book of Exodus and notice verse 12:

Exodus 31

12And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
13Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.
14Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
15Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
16Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
17It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

Will you notice verse 16:

Exodus 31

17It is a sign between me and the children of Israel…

And in verse 13:

Exodus 31

13Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations;…

A Sign of Special Relationship

Will you notice the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 5, verse 14:

Deuteronomy 5

14But 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, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.
15And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

Two things are presented in these passages of Scripture. First, the Sabbath day was given to the nation of Israel as a sign of a special relationship between God and the nation of Israel. Second, it was given to the nation of Israel that they might forever remember that they were delivered out of the land of Egypt by the hand of God. Now do you see why I said that if you are going to insist on observing the Sabbath day literally, if you are going to insist on keeping this fourth commandment, then you are going to have to identify yourself with the nation of Israel? You are going to have to say you are a Jew, living under the old covenant. You might be considered a follower of the proponents of British Israelism, who say that all the people who are in Great Britain and America and Great Britain's dominions are members of the ten lost tribes. There is not a shred of scriptural evidence for it, but that is what they claim, and therefore they say that the Sabbath is a sign for them. At least they are honest enough to identify themselves with the nation of Israel and to accept the teachings long that line.

Trusting that we are thought-provoking, we are answering the question as to how literally we should interpret this fourth commandment, how literally we should observe it. Can you not see, in the light of what I have said to you, why this is the only one of the commandments that is not repeated in the New Testament? It is particularly related to the nation of Israel.

New Testament References to the Sabbath

That you may see this even more definitely, I am going to suggest to you that outside of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, there are only four passages of Scripture that refer to the Sabbath day, and those references are derogatory.

What do I mean, outside of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles? Well, when the Lord Jesus Christ was on the earth, having the experiences which the Gospel writers recorded, there were a number of references to the Sabbath day. The Lord Jesus Christ, in reference to the Sabbath day, rebuked some of the traditions of the Pharisees and the Sadducees who had turned observance of the day that God had intended to be a blessing for the Jewish nation, into a real task, so that even the Jews could not observe it. There are references in the Gospels to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ declared Himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath; but you will remember that all during this time He was ministering to Jews, not to Gentiles, and He was talking to Jews on the basis of what they knew, and on the basis of what they had observed for generations.

Witnessing On the Sabbath

In the Acts of the Apostles there are references to the Sabbath day, because Acts is a record of a transition period. For example, Paul and the other apostles went to the synagogue every Sabbath day. They did not do it because they were still Jews, observing Jewish rituals; they did it because it provided an opportunity for witness and testimony. They were obeying the injunction given by our Lord to take the Gospel to the Jew first.

Every time they went into a community, the first place to which they went was a synagogue, and they opened the Gospel to the Jews. Any Jews who believed were welcomes into the midst of the Christian church. To any Jews who refused, the apostles said, “We have got other work to do. We have presented the Gospel to you; if you don't want it, that is up to you,” and they would turn to the Gentiles. In certain cities where Paul stayed long enough, he would go to the synagogue for three successive Saturdays to tell the Gospel story to the Jews and to read from their Scriptures, to convince them that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah of which their Scriptures had spoken. Those are the references in the Acts. Here again, you see, there was a special reference to the Jews.

Paul's Reference to Sabbath In the Epistles

Now, as I suggested, outside of what is said in the four Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles, there are only four passages of Scripture which make any reference to the Sabbath day, and those references are all derogatory. I think it would be well for us to look at those Scriptures and see what they say; it will help us to understand what we are talking about in regard to our observance of the fourth commandment.

Warning Against Entanglement In Legalistic Observances

Will you turn with me, please, to Galatians, chapter 4. You will remember Paul is addressing people who were being led away from the simple Gospel message that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that salvation is by faith, through grace, without the aid of any human merit. He discusses the relationship of the law and the purpose Jesus Christ's coming to the earth; then in verse 9:

Galatians 4

9But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

Do you see what he is saying? “You know the Lord; more importantly, the Lord knows you. Tell me why you want to turn back to weak and beggarly elements? Why do you want to turn back to an empty, vain observance, religiously speaking?” Then in verse 10 he is more specific:

Galatians 4

10Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

You see, these Galatian Christians were more honest than some of the Christians in the twentieth century. They not only observed these Sabbath days, but they observed all the other days as well. They realized that if you were going to observe one, you would have to observe them all–all these religious feast days, all these holidays. Paul said, “Tell me why you want to go back to that sort of thing.” In verse 11, he said:

Galatians 4

11I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

Do you see what he is saying? If, after you have become acquainted with the grace of God, with salvation by grace without the aid of human merit, you go back to the legalistic observance days, you are permitting yourself to be entwined in bondage once again. You cause an individual like the Apostle Paul to say, “I wonder whether I have wasted my time in preaching to you the Gospel.” This is the first derogatory remark about the Sabbath day in the New Testament. “I am afraid,” said Paul, “when you begin to insist that you keep a certain day. It concerns me. I am afraid for you.”

Warning Against Loving Man's Wisdom

Turn, please, to the Colossian letter, chapter 2, verse 6:

Colossians 2

6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:

This pinpoints whom he is addressing. This is addressed to believers, people who have been born again, people who have had an experience of grace in their hearts.

Colossians 2

6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

What is he saying? “You are Christians. You have been born again. You have been well taught. You have been established in the faith. Now (in verse 8 beware.”

Colossians 2

8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Be on your guard, lest men spoil you. This word “spoil” does not refer to the thing we mean when we talk about a child being spoiled. It is a word that speaks of someone's taking you captive, someone's misleading you, someone's leading you astray. Beware lest any man lead you astray through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. This word “philosophy” literally means “a love of wisdom.”

Entwined In Man's Wisdom

I would not suggest to you that the study of all philosophy is wrong; but I would suggest to you that a Christian needs to be on his guard when he is spending time in the study of philosophy. It is man's wisdom, and there is something about these fallen natures of ours, the vain conceits that are ours, that make it possible for us to become entwined, to become captive, to man's wisdom. That is the reason many times Christian young people–I say, “Christian young people,” because most of the old folk have done all the studying they are going to do–are led astray when they study certain courses in philosophy in colleges and universities. It is man's wisdom, and they are easily led astray. There is a warning against it; we should not spend our time after the tradition of men, in the rudiments of the world, but we should be learning what we can in relation to Christ. The reason is:

Colossians 2

9For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
11In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

All Trespasses Forgiven

In verse 13 Paul says that God has forgiven all our trespasses. Do you believe that? If you do, tell me why it is you are not willing to believe the rest of what we are going to read. There are any number of God's dear children who believe that God has forgiven them all of their trespasses through virtue of their identification with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death and His resurrection, but they don't believe the rest of this passage of Scripture. They believe the law is binding upon them, and they believe–since we are talking about the fourth commandment–that it is absolutely necessary for a Christian to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. You will notice in verse 14 that the same Lord that provided for your forgiveness of sin:

Colossians 2

14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Handwriting of Ordinances Blotted Out

What does that mean? The “handwriting of ordinances” was the Ten Commandments. God wrote it on tables of stone. It was contrary to us, as we learned in some of our earlier studies; we learned that it is absolutely impossible for the flesh to keep the Ten Commandments. It was contrary for us (Colossians 2:14; Romans 7:7-23). It was against us, as we learned in our earlier studies, because it condemned us; it placed a sentence of death upon us. What are we reading here? The same Christ who forgave our sins–and we believe that–took this law and nailed it to the Cross. When He nailed it to the Cross, He took it out of the way; He blotted it out.

It was not an easy thing for Him to do, because He had to get back to Heaven and declare that this thing was done. The Devil did not want that, of course. The Devil would love for all of us to be under the condemnation of the law. He would love for us all to be bound down with the strands of legalism. That is why Paul said to some of the Corinthians, “I am concerned about you. I am afraid that Satan has hindered you and robbed you of the liberty that you have in Christ.” That is what Satan would love to do with every one of us.

Christ's Triumph Over Satan and His Host

You will notice in verse 15, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul said:

Colossians 2

15And having spoiled principalities and powers [He took them captive], he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

The principalities and powers in this verse are described in chapter 6 of Paul's letter to the Ephesians; the Devil is the prince of the power of the air, and the atmosphere is peopled with the demons who are under his command (Ephesians 2:2). The Lord Jesus Christ passed back through the heavens; that is what Paul meant in his letter to the Hebrews when he said, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens” (Hebrews 4:14). Literally, it is, “Seeing that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens.” The Lord Jesus Christ passed through the heavens. All of these principalities and powers tried to hold on to Him, to pull Him down, and not let Him get back to Heaven with a report of His finished work. But the Lord Jesus Christ took them captive. He openly triumphed over them, He completely defeated them, and sat down at the right hand of God. We are delivered from the handwriting of the ordinances that was against us.

Freed From Sabbath Keeping

On the basis of that, Paul said in verse 16:

Colossians 2

16Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, [ now notice ] or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

The word “days” in this text is in italics, which means it is not in the original text. “Don't let any man judge you; don't let any man criticize you for not keeping the Sabbath”; that is what it says. “No man has a right to criticize you for not keeping the Sabbath. The Lord Jesus Christ nailed it to the Cross.”

Notice in verse 17 why the Sabbath is not binding on those who have been washed in the blood of Christ:

Colossians 2

17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

“Which are a shadow…” What does that mean? These things were a figure, an illustration, a picture of the real thing that was to come; the real thing has now come, and it is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Picture of Christ After Work

Turn with me to chapter 4 of the book of Hebrews for the third passage of Scripture of the four; it will help you to see what was the shadow that was represented by the Sabbath day. The Sabbath day was presented in the Old Testament, we remind you, long before it was given to Moses on tables of stone, and it was a shadow, a picture, an illustration, of a great principle that many of us have not learned to appreciate:

Hebrews 4

1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
2For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
3For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4[ Notice now ] For he spake in a certain place of the seventh [ my text says ”day” here, but that is not in the original text, so you could say ”of the seventh” or ”of the sabbath” ] day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh [ or the sabbath ] day from all his works.
5And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
6Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
7Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
8For if Jesus had given them rest [ or ”Joshua had given them rest,” for that is the real meaning of the word ], then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
9There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

Many Still Work for Salvation

The Sabbath day was meant to picture the fact that there is rest after work. Paul said, “Many people today have not entered into the rest that God has promised.” What did he mean by that? Study this chapter in connection with the whole epistle and you will find that many people are still working for their salvation. They are still trying to observe rules and regulations and days in order to be pleasing to God.

Paul wants us to know that the Lord Jesus Christ performed the work that He came to do, and when He was finished, He sat down at the right hand of God, indicating that the work was finished–just as when God created the world in six days, He sat down, indicating that there was nothing more to do. Now, as long as the Lord Jesus Christ is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God, we have a living example before us that there is nothing more to do as far as our salvation is concerned. The Sabbath day was meant to be a shadow of the good thing that was to come, and that good thing was the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work upon the Cross.

There is one other passage in the New Testament that deals with the Sabbath. Will you turn, please, to chapter 14 of the book of Romans. This passage of Scripture also speaks of the Sabbath day in a derogatory fashion. It begins with verse 1:

Romans 14

1Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

Recognizing Liberties In Christ

What is he saying to these Roman Christians? He is saying, “If a weak brother comes into your midst, welcome him. Open your arms. Receive him, but do not permit yourself to be constantly disputing with him.” Why would there be any need to be disputing with him? “Well,” Paul says, “he is going to have some strange ideas, and he is going to try to force those ideas on every other Christian he knows. Don't you get involved in that sort of thing.” He mentions some of the things about which the disputing will arise; will you keep in mind that the individual who disputes about these things is a weak Christian? Not a strong, spiritual Christian, but a weak Christian, a babe in Christ. An individual who insists that these things are absolutely necessary is a weak Christian. Notice verse 2:

Romans 14

2For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

A great controversy in the early Christian church was whether or not Christians should eat meat, because most of the meat available had already been offered to idols. Some of them felt that if they ate that meat, they would be participating in the worship of idols, so they became vegetarians. It was all right if that was what they wanted to do, but they were not content with being vegetarians themselves; they wanted everyone else to be vegetarians, too. You will find that legalists who insist on certain things are never content to be legalists and go their way. They criticize everyone who is not a legalist with them, and they try to force their ideas on everyone else. So, Paul says in verse 3:

Romans 14

3Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

Governed By Either Holy Spirit or Rules

Herein lie two dangers in relation to the thing we are talking about. The weak Christian is going to insist on certain rules, and he is going to insist that everyone else obey those rules. Here is a spiritual Christian. He is spiritual because he is controlled not by rules, but by the Holy Spirit. The weak brother comes in and suggests a lot of things like that, and the spiritual Christian has a tendency to look down on him, make fun of him, laugh at him. Don't do that. That is wrong. That grieves the Holy Spirit. Don't despise this weak brother. Don't scorn him. And the weak brother who comes in and insists on these certain rules must not judge the man who does not live according to his rules. I have heard Christians say some mighty mean things about other Christians because they were not observing the same rules they were observing.

Application of This Scripture

I hesitate to mention “things” because when you get into “things,” you always leave something out, and some bother who ought to be convicted about the omitted things isn't convicted because it isn't mentioned. But let me use one thing. Here is a brother who doesn't smoke. He doesn't use tobacco. Maybe he has been convicted about it himself. Maybe the Holy Spirit has dealt with him about its, do he says, “I don't smoke.” Well, that's fine. The Holy Spirit convicted him that something is inconsistent with his testimony. If the Holy Spirit has convicted him that smoking defiles the temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple in which the Holy Spirit lives, that is fine. By all means he should obey the Holy Spirit. But he must not go around judging everyone who does smoke, and he most not go around saying, “I don't believe he is saved. He smokes.”

Smoking hasn't got a thing in the world to do with your salvation. Not a thing. A man must not go around saying, “I don't have much confidence in him. He smokes.” I heard a fellow say one time about another Christian, “I know he is not a Christian; he doesn't smell like one.” You see? The brother who does not smoke must not go around criticizing those who believe that the Lord has delivered them from it. He must not go around talking about their being pious old prudes who won't do anything. You see how this thing can develop? It gets completely out of control.

Notice verse 4. This is applicable to every one of us. I never read this passage of Scripture without thinking that each of us ought to have a little time with the Lord all alone, to do some confessing.

Romans 14

4Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth…

What business is it of yours? What right do you have to say anything about any other Christian? He stands or falls to his own master. I have always been grateful for the last part of this verse:

Romans 14

4…Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

He stands or falls, but thank God he can stand.

Fully Persuaded In His Own Mind

In verse 5 we are getting down to the subject at hand:

Romans 14

5One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you see what he is saying here? When it comes to the observance of a day, we cannot force one day, he says, and he is thinking here about the Sabbath day. If you read this in its context, you will see that he means you cannot force the Sabbath day on all Christians.

If there is a weak Christian who says, “I believe that I must observe the Sabbath day,” well, let him go ahead and observe it. He is weak. He is not as spiritual as he could be. When we use the term “spiritual,” we are talking about living at the direction of the Spirit. He is not as mature as he could be. He does not know about liberty in Christ as he should. If he wants to observe that day, let him go ahead and observe it, but he must not force this on anyone else, because it is a legalistic observance which has its roots in spiritual weakness.

Not Binding On the Church Today

We should be able to see from these passages of Scripture that the reason this fourth commandment was not repeated in the New Testament is that it is not binding on the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ today. Now I want to say one or two things which will clarify our thinking along this line, because I could be misunderstood.

First of all, the teaching which we have been submitting to you should indicated to you that we do not believe that the Lord's day is the same as the Sabbath day. Let's get that straight in our minds. When I speak of the Lord's day, I am speaking of Sunday. The Bible calls it the Lord's day. The Bible calls it the first day. Sunday is a pagan name for it, and that is why I don't like to use it. I would rather use the term, “the Lord's day” or “the first day of the week.”

The first day of the week, the Lord's day, is not the Sabbath day. Seventh Day Adventists say, “What right do you have to change the Sabbath day into the first day of the week?” We don't have any right, and we have not done that. The Sabbath day is still the Sabbath day, but it belongs to the Jews. The Lord's day, the first day, belongs to the Christian Church.

Christ Sets the Example

The Lord Jesus Christ arose from the dead on the first day, and on that first day gathered together His followers and met with them. On the next first day He did the same thing. And on the next first day, He did the same thing. Ever after that, the Christians met together on the first day of the week. From that time on, Christians have met together on the first day of the week for the purpose of remembering the Lord, preaching the Word, and singing to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

Operating a Business On the Lord's Day

Someone says, “Do you think it is all right for a man to keep his business open on the Lord's day?” That is something that he himself has to decide before the Lord. There are several things to take into consideration, because of the manner in which we are living. The Lord's day provides, in the providence of God, a day which people can assemble themselves together in the name of the Lord. I would question the wisdom of, and I would question the approval of God, upon any man's program that is such that he can never meet with the people of God. I don't think it could be pleasing to the Lord, since the first day of the week, by precept and example, has been set aside for worship. But I find nothing in the Scripture to indicate, if a man could assemble with the saints of God on the first day of the week, and he had to keep his business open the rest of the day, that he would be displeasing to the Lord. That may sound shocking to you, but that is the Word of God.

Someone says, “Do you think you ought to go fishing on Sunday?” I don't think you ought to go fishing on Sunday if it is going to keep you away from assembling with the people of God. That would be wrong, because this is the day when we have the opportunity of meeting together. But tell me, if you can–I am treading on dangerous territory; you may go out of here and say I am advocating going fishing on Sunday–but tell me what is the difference between a man's sitting before a television set for three hours on Sunday afternoon and watching a baseball game, and going fishing on Sunday? What is the difference? Is there any difference? What is the difference in your going to see Aunt Minnie on Sunday afternoon and talking about all the kinfolk that haven't been to see her in the last six years, and going out and playing gold on Sunday afternoon? What is the difference? We could go on endlessly.

Our Relationship to Other Christians

There is one other thing that I would like for you to keep in mind in relation to our responsibilities on the Lord's day. Although these things that I have said to you in relation to fishing and golfing and whatever are true, we have a responsibility to others in relation to the Lord's day that we must not fail to observe. Notice in this same passage of Scripture verse 7:

Romans 14

7For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

Whether we are talking about observance of the Lord's day, or whatever we are talking about, we must remember that we do not live or die to ourselves:

Romans 14

8For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
9For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
10But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Let that sink in. What is this reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ? It is in relation to our brethren, is it not? If set at nought our brother, if we say, “I don't care what he thinks,” remember, we are going to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ one of these days. Notice verse 11:

Romans 14

11For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

You say, “Well, that is exactly the way I have always felt. If I want to fish on Sunday, I will fish on Sunday, and I will give an account to the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ.” Now, wait; we didn't finish. Look at the next verse:

Romans 14

13Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
14I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat [ we could just as well add here, because this is what we are talking about, ”if thy brother be grieved because you don't properly observe the Lord's day ], now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
16Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
17For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

What does this all mean? It means that if I put a stumbling block or occasion to fall in my brother's way I am going to have to give an account for it at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Maintaining Our Testimony Before Unbelievers

Let us consider another hypothetical case. Suppose I decided to cut my grass on Sunday; I don't have time to cut my grass on Sunday, but for the sake of illustration suppose I decided to. In the light of what I have just said I could do so without violating any passage of Scripture. But suppose I have an unsaved neighbor who may not know the liberty there is in Christ. I cut my grass on Sunday and what happens? He says, “Well, if that is the kind of hypocrite that preacher is, I am not interested in anything he has to say. Why, that old hypocrite; you know what he does? He gets up at six o'clock in the morning on Sunday and cuts his grass, and then he goes down there to the Bible Center and preaches. That old hypocrite.” Do you see?

Then one of these days I try to witness to him, and he says, “I am not interested in what you have to say. You couldn't be a Christian. You cut your grass on Sunday.” Well, I know better than that, but he doesn't. Let's carry this thing all the way through to the end, hypothetically.

Suppose he dies without Christ. When I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, one of the things I am going to have to give an account for is that I made him stumble. Oh, it won't do me any good to say, “Lord, he ought to have had sense enough to know I was a Christian. All I did was to cut my grass on Sunday, and Lord, You know that doesn't have anything to do with whether I am a Christian or not.” That is beside the point. I caused him to stumble.

Seriousness of Causing Others to Stumble

No more solemn statement of our responsibility to the unsaved along this line can be found than the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke, chapter 17:

Luke 17

1Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
2It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

That does not mean that we should sit silently by if we hear people butchering the Scripture to bolster their own arguments when they are in error. For example, if we hear people making statements about the Sabbath day that we know are unscriptural, and applying things about the Sabbath day to the Lord's Day, there is no reason in the world why we cannot take our Bibles and show them where they are in error in relation to the Word of God. But Christ loved these weak people, He loved these uninstructed people, enough to die for them. “Have I any right,” Paul says, “to destroy with my liberty, my meat, or my Sabbath day, or my whatever, have I any right to destroy him for whom Christ died?” I do not do a lot of things, not because I think they are wrong, but because I think they might cause people to stumble.

Do you see what we are talking about? The Sabbath day and its regulations are not applicable to Christians, but out of our love for Christ and love for the souls of men, we will handle our liberty in Christ in such a way that it will not cause other people to stumble.


Father, we are grateful for Thy Word. We thank Thee for our liberty in Christ. We do pray that we may stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, but we do pray as well that we shall not use our liberty as an occasion for the flesh. We pray that we shall so walk that our good may not be evil spoken of. For we pray in Jesus' name, and for His sake. Amen.

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