Pastoral Exhortation

The Day of Worship

Written by Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy Sunday, 10 April 2016

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God has instituted one day in the week for His worship by His people. In the Old Testament, it was the seventh day, and was known as the Sabbath day. In the New Testament, the day of worship has been the first day of the week; and it has been referred to as “the Lord’s day”.

In our time, Christians increasingly disregard the fact that God has set apart the Lord’s Day to be a time of public and private worship of God and also to rest in Him. I notice that even among the Bible-Presbyterians, some have no concern for the Lord’s expectation that His people spend this day in worship and service unto Him.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, which is the standard statement of faith for our church, states in Chapter 21 (Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day), sections 7 and 8:

“As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.”

“This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe a holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.”

The original purpose of God in ordaining the Sabbath day for worship and communion with Him is evident from Genesis 2:1- 3 – “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” God “blessed” and “sanctified” the seventh day. While the word “blessed” denotes God’s favour assigned to that day for the benefit of His people, the word “sanctified” denotes that the Lord set that day apart from all other days for His own glory. Thus, God distinguished the Sabbath day from the rest of the week by issuing a Creation ordinance – man, whom God had made, should honour his Maker. The day in which God “rested” (i.e. ceased) from His work of creation, was allocated by Him to be a day for His people to contemplate the glory of the Creator.

The ultimate purpose of the Sabbath day was to engage in worship of the Creator. Adam and Eve, before the Fall, had unobstructed communion with God every day and also done all their work in six days for His glory. Yet, the seventh day was to be all for God and His praise. It was for the worship of God that man was commanded to rest or cease from all his work on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath day was not merely a day to be inactive and rest, but a day to do works of God in worship and service!

Our Lord Jesus Christ had proven to us that the ultimate purpose of the Sabbath day was never to be total inactivity. Christ not only worshipped God the Father on the Sabbath, He also laboured to edify and restore by ministering to others in God’s name. We do not see Jesus taking Sabbath merely as a day to rest and recover from fatigue. On a Sabbath day, after healing an impotent man who had been suffering for 38 years, Jesus proclaimed, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). Jesus constantly affirmed the truth that though God has ceased from the works of creation, He never ceases from His works of providence. Even on the Sabbath day, God’s care and protection of His people continue unabated. On another occasion, Jesus also said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28). These words of Christ further prove that the ultimate purpose of the Sabbath was neither leisure nor inactivity, but involvement in activities that honour and render worship to God.

Gethsemane Defenders’ Ministry (GDM) Inaugural Seminar

Theme: “Scripture Above All Sciences”
Speakers: Pastor Koshy & Dr Samuel Gan
Date: Mon, 2nd May (Public Holiday)
Time: 9.00am to 12.30pm
Venue: 30 Biopolis Street, Matrix Level 4, Creation Theatrette, Singapore 138671
(Transport from Buona Vista MRT station at 8.30am.)
Please sign up at the reception table. There will be a concurrent children’s programme.

On the day of worship, we cease from our regular duties and activities to take up works that pertain to God’s glory, as God has meant it to be. While everything that we do (even eating and drinking) must glorify God (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31), the Sabbath day activities should not include all the mundane works, entertainment and sports that we normally engage in. Since Creation week, God’s special purpose for the day of worship is that we serve Him by manner of special services that particularly pertain to worship and service of God, not by doing the same things we do all through the six days of the week. While we do many things for six days to the glory of God (Colossians 3:23), all such works – except that which belongs to the worship of God, such as public and private worship, acts of charity and edification, etc. – are strictly prohibited on the day of worship.

So, we hereby affirm what Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 60, states: “The Sabbath is to be sanctified by an holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreation as are lawful on other days, and taking up the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy”.