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New City Catechism – Week #5

9. What does God require in the first, second, and third commandments?

God introduces the ten commandments by saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2, ESV) God has set the Israelites free from the Egyptians and now He is teaching them how to live as free people. He has released them from physical bondage, but will they live that way or will they remain as slaves to the gods, traditions and passions of Egypt? Likewise, Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. We can know we are truly set free because we live as free people, in accordance with His Word and His Spirit.

10. What does God require in the fourth and fifth commandments?

Hebrews 4 speaks of a Sabbath rest that we have entered, to use a common phrase, “already but not yet.” This Sabbath rest, which we experience now as the people of God and which we will experience fully at the restoration of all things, is a rest from work, but what work? I think it could be referring to two kinds of work, which go on simultaneously:

  1. The work of striving against sin, being sanctified, obeying God’s law. One day we shall be fully sanctified and we shall rest with God, praising Him for the work that He has done in recreating His people.
  2. The work of the original dominion mandate that man was given (Genesis 1:28), the work that Christ is completing through His Church. In six days God created the earth and filled it. Christ is now recreating the world and filling it with the glory of God. One day this task will be complete and we shall rest with God, praising Him for the work that He has done in redeeming the world.

So, perhaps, these two sorts of work are not that different. They appear to be our work, but they are ultimately Christ’s work through us.

Now, we celebrate the Sabbath day by remembering God’s work (in the past at creation and in the resurrection, in the future at the fulfillment of all things) and enjoying its fruits at the table of the Lord’s Supper. One day, we shall celebrate the eternal Sabbath by seeing all of God’s work in its fullness and enjoying the wedding feast of the Lamb. Every Sabbath is “already but not yet.”