Every year since May 7, 2006, we witness the celebration of the annual Ten Commandments Day organized by the Ten Commandments Day Commission in the United States. Although the fourth commandment is not specifically mentioned by the Ten Commandments Day Commission, we can see where this movement is heading – steadily towards the passing of a national sunday law in the United States.
Although the Sabbath commandment is only one of the ten commandments, it is the seal of the living God. Therefore the enemy of God and man seeks to cause the people in the world and also in the church to break the Sabbath commandment, either fully or partially.
1. Sacredness of God’s Commandments
This article is based on the section in Testimonies, volume 4, pages 247-254.
In this section of Testimonies, volume 4, Sister White describes the importance of keeping the commandments of God, especially the fourth commandment.
“God has given us His commandments, not only to be believed in, but to be obeyed. The great Jehovah, when He had laid the foundations of the earth, had dressed the whole world in the garb of beauty, and had filled it with things useful to man,—when He had created all the wonders of the land and the sea,—instituted the Sabbath day and made it holy. God blessed and sanctified the seventh day, because He rested upon it from all His wondrous work of creation. The Sabbath was made for man, and God would have him put by his labor on that day, as He Himself rested after His six days’ work of creation.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 4, page 247.
2. Observance of the Seventh Day Sabbath
Sister White wrote this testimony in January 1875 to a Brother K:
“Much respected Brother K: In January, 1875, I was shown that there are hindrances in the way of the spiritual prosperity of the church. The Spirit of God is grieved because many are not right in heart and life; their professed faith does not harmonize with their works. The sacred rest day of Jehovah is not observed as it should be. Every week God is robbed by some infringement upon the borders of His holy time; and the hours that should be devoted to prayer and meditation are given to worldly employments.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 4, page 247.
In the above paragraph, Sister White pointed out that there were many church members who were not keeping the Sabbath properly. She went on to emphasize the importance of observing the Sabbath:
“Those who reverence the commandments of Jehovah will, after light has been given them in reference to the fourth precept of the Decalogue, obey it without questioning the feasibility or convenience of such obedience. God made man in His own image and then gave him an example of observing the seventh day, which He sanctified and made holy. He designed that upon that day man should worship Him and engage in no secular pursuits. No one who disregards the fourth commandment, after becoming enlightened concerning the claims of the Sabbath, can be held guiltless in the sight of God.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 4, page 247.
Brother K was a man who acknowledged the requirements of God to keep the Sabbath, but his works did not harmonize with his declared faith. Here is what she said to Brother K in the same testimony:
“Brother K, you acknowledge the requirements of God to keep the sabbath, but your works do not harmonize with your declared faith. You give your influence to the side of the unbeliever, insofar as you transgress the law of God. When your temporal circumstances seem to require attention, you violate the fourth commandment without compunction. You make the keeping of God’s law a matter of convenience, obeying or disobeying as your business or inclination indicates. This is not honoring the Sabbath as a sacred institution. You grieve the Spirit of God and dishonor your Redeemer by pursuing this reckless course.
“A partial observance of the Sabbath law is not accepted by the Lord and has a worse effect upon the minds of sinners than if you made no profession of being a Sabbathkeeper. They perceive that your life contradicts your belief, and lose faith in Christianity. The Lord means what He says, and man cannot set aside His commands with impunity. The example of Adam and Eve in the garden should sufficiently warn us against any disobedience of the divine law. The sin of our first parents in listening to the specious temptations of the enemy brought guilt and sorrow upon the world, and led the Son of God to leave the royal courts of heaven and take a humble place on earth. He was subjected to insult, rejection, and crucifixion by the very ones He came to bless. What infinite expense attended that disobedience in the Garden of Eden! The Majesty of heaven was sacrificed to save man from the penalty of his crime.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 4, pages 247-248.
3. The Importance of Keeping Holy the Sabbath Day
God has taught us in the Bible regarding the importance of keeping His law. In regard to the seventh-day Sabbath, He says, “Remember.”
“God will not pass over any transgression of His law more lightly now than in the day when He pronounced judgment against Adam. The Saviour of the world raises His voice in protest against those who regard the divine commandments with carelessness and indifference. Said He: ‘Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, He shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’ The teaching of our lives is wholly for or against the truth. If your works seem to justify the transgressor in his sin, if your influence makes light of breaking the commandments of God, then you are not only guilty yourself, but you are to a certain extent responsible for the consequent errors of others.
“At the very beginning of the fourth precept, God said, ‘Remember,’ knowing that man, in the multitude of his cares and perplexities, would be tempted to excuse himself from meeting the full requirements of the law or, in the press of worldly business, would forget its sacred importance. ‘Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work,’ the usual business of life, for worldly profit or pleasure. These words are very explicit; there can be no mistake. Brother K, how dare you venture to transgress a commandment so solemn and important? Has the Lord made an exception by which you are absolved from the law He has given to the world? Are your transgressions omitted from the book of record? Has He agreed to excuse your disobedience when the nations come before Him for judgment? Do not for a moment deceive yourself with the thought that your sin will not bring its merited punishment. Your transgressions will be visited with the rod, because you have had the light, yet have walked directly contrary to it. ‘That servant, which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes.’” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 4, pages 248-249.
4. God Requires Full Obedience To His Commandments
God does not accept partial obedience to His commandments. This is brought out in the Holy Scriptures and in the Spirit of Prophecy writings.
“God has given man six days in which to do his own work and carry on the usual business of life; but He claims one day, which He has set apart and sanctified. He gives it to man as a day in which he may rest from labor and devote himself to worship and the improvement of his spiritual condition. What a flagrant outrage it is for a man to steal the one sanctified day of Jehovah and appropriate it to his own selfish purposes!
“It is the grossest presumption for mortal man to venture upon a compromise with the Almighty in order to secure his own petty, temporal interests. It is as ruthless a violation of the law to occasionally use the Sabbath for secular business as to entirely reject it; for it is making the Lord’s commandments a matter of convenience. ‘I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,’ is thundered from Sinai. No partial obedience, no divided interest, is accepted by Him who declares that the iniquities of the fathers shall be visited upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him, and that He will show mercy unto thousands of them that love Him and keep His commandments. It is not a small matter to rob a neighbor, and great is the stigma attached to one who is found guilty of such an act; yet he who would scorn to defraud his fellow man will without shame rob his heavenly Father of the time that He has blessed and set apart for a special purpose.
“My dear brother, your works are at variance with your professed faith, and your only excuse is the poor plea of convenience. The servants of God in past times have been called upon to lay down their lives in vindication of their faith. Your course illy harmonizes with that of the Christian martyrs, who suffered hunger and thirst, torture and death, rather than renounce their religion or yield the principles of truth.
“It is written: ‘What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?’ Every time you put your hands to labor on the Sabbath day, you virtually deny your faith. The Holy Scriptures teach us that faith without works is dead, and that the testimony of one’s life proclaims to the world whether or not he is true to the faith he professes. Your conduct lessens God’s law in the estimation of your worldly friends. It says to them: ‘You may or may not obey the commandments. I believe that the law of God is, in a manner, binding upon men; but after all, the Lord is not very particular as to a strict observance of its precepts, and an occasional transgression is not visited by severity on His part.’
“Many excuse themselves for violating the Sabbath by referring to your example. They argue that if so good a man, who believes the seventh-day is the Sabbath, can engage in worldly employments on that day when circumstances seem to require it, surely they can do the same without condemnation. Many souls will face you in the judgment, making your influence an excuse for their disobedience of God’s law. Although this will be no apology for their sin, yet it will tell fearfully against you.
“God has spoken, and He means that man shall obey. He does not inquire if it is convenient for him to do so. The Lord of life and glory did not consult His convenience or pleasure when He left His station of high commandment to become a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, accepting ignominy and death in order to deliver man from the consequence of his disobedience. Jesus died, not to save man in his sins, but from his sins. Man is to leave the error of his ways, and to follow the example of Christ, to take up his cross and follow Him, denying self, and obeying God at any cost.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 4, pages 249-251.
5. Christ Our Example
Christ provided the example of full obedience to God’s commandments.
“Said Jesus: ‘No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.’ If we are true servants of God, there should be no question in our minds as to whether we will obey His commandments or consult our own temporal interests. If the believers in the truth are not sustained by their faith in these comparatively peaceful days, what will uphold them when the grand test comes and the decree goes forth against all those who will not worship the image of the beast and receive his mark in their foreheads or in their hands? This solemn period is not far off. Instead of becoming weak and irresolute, the people of God should be gathering strength and courage for the time of trouble.
“Jesus, our great Examplar, in His life and death taught the strictest obedience. He died, the just for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty, that the honor of God’s law might be preserved and yet man not utterly perish. Sin is the transgression of the law. If the sin of Adam brought such inexpressible wretchedness, requiring the sacrifice of God’s dear Son, what will be the punishment of those, who, seeing the light of truth, set at nought the fourth commandment of the Lord?
“Circumstances will not justify anyone in working upon the Sabbath for the sake of worldly profit. If God excuses one man, He may excuse all. Why may not Brother L, who is a poor man, work upon the Sabbath to earn means for a livelihood when he might by so doing be better able to support his family. Why may not other brethren, or all of us, keep the Sabbath only when it is convenient to do so? The voice from Sinai makes answer: ‘Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.’” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 4, pages 251-252.
God’s commandments are sacred and to be fully obeyed. Partial obedience of God’s commandments is not acceptable to God. The Sabbath commandment is to be strictly obeyed by God’s people who are preparing for Christ’s second coming.
“Where is the faith of God’s people? Why are they so unbelieving and distrustful of Him who provides for their wants and upholds them by His strength? The Lord will test the faith of His people; He will send rebukes, which will be followed by afflictions if these warnings are not heeded. He will break the frail lethargy of sin at any cost to those who have departed from their allegiance to Him, and awaken them to their sense of their duty.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 4, page 254.
Sister White concludes: “Begin at once to obey the divine commandments, and trust in God. Provoke not His wrath, lest He visit you with terrible punishment. Return to Him before it is too late, and find pardon for your transgression. He is rich and abundant in mercies; He will give you His peace and approbation if you come to Him in humble faith.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 4, page 254.
Prayer: “Our Father in heaven, thank You so much for giving us Your sacred commandments which are the law of love. Please help us to keep all Your commandments fully because of our love for You. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
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Questions for Thought:
1. Are God’s commandments sacred?
2. Does God accept our partial obedience to His commandments?
3. Did Christ by His example teach us to obey God’s commandments strictly and fully?