Most Baptists consider themselves to be under grace, and not the Law. They are not obligated to follow the Law of Moses, because it has been fulfilled in Christ. There is some truth to this statement. The ceremonial part of the Law has, indeed, been fulfilled in Christ. The need for animal sacrifice and elaborate temple rituals have been made obsolete. More than that, they are now considered pagan worship. But there is another aspect of the Law that continues to this day – the moral law. The moral law of God is found in the Decalogue; commonly referred to as the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20 lists these commandments.
Exodus 20:1-17 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
The fourth commandment refers to the Sabbath. The Sabbath was set apart as a day of rest that was to be treated as holy by the entire nation of Israel. It was observed on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. On the Sabbath, the people of Israel were not to work as they did the other six days of the week. But, was the Sabbath first introduced in Exodus 20? Was the nation of Israel the first intended audience for this commandment? Consider this passage:
Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Genesis 2 completes the creation narrative, the biblical account of God creating the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). God chose six days in which to create, and in Genesis 2:2 we read that He rested on the seventh day. This rest is not similar to our rest. When we are tired we sleep. Our mind and our body is disengaged from the world as our body recuperates. God cannot rest in a similar fashion, for He keeps the universe, indeed all of creation, from oblivion by His powerful hand. God’s rest was His ceasing from the work of creation. His work of creation is a marvelous and holy thing. He commanded the seventh day as holy, because on it He completed His creation. The account of Genesis 2 takes place long before Moses was given the Ten Commandments by God; long before the Sabbath became part of the Mosaic Law.
There is another passage that deserves our attention.
Exodus 16:23-30 23 he said to them, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.'” 24 So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.” 27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? 29 See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
The account of Exodus 16 also takes place before the LORD gave Moses the Ten Commandments. The LORD gave Israel manna in the morning and quail in the evening. It was an act of His grace. They did not need to toil or work for it. The manna was collected from the ground and quail just walked up in the camp. On the seventh day, the LORD provided rest for Israel from all her labors. The Sabbath was not mean to punish Israel, or do prevent them from enjoyment. Instead it was a day for them to rest in the LORD. They were to reflect upon the goodness of God, and rejoice in Him. All of this was commanded before the Law was given in Exodus 20. That is interesting to note because it will bear on our further study as to the disposition of the Sabbath after Christ’s death and resurrection.