Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. Chuck Meuther
103. What does God require in the fourth commandment?
In the first place, God wills that the ministry of the Gospel and schools be maintained, and that I, especially on the day of rest, diligently attend church to learn the Word of God, to use the holy sacraments, to call publicly upon the Lord, and to give Christian alms. In the second place, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by His Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting Sabbath.
104. What does God require in the fifth commandment?
That I show all honor, love, and faithfulness to my father and mother, and to all in authority over me, submit myself with due obedience to all their good instruction and correction, and also bear patiently with their infirmities, since it is God’s will to govern us by their hand.
This week we have a double shot of Heidelberg Lord’s Days 38 and 39.
It is interesting to hear men in their catechetical proclamations use Q&A 103 either to uphold a strict observance of the Sabbath or to emphasize corporate worship as a foretaste of eternal rest and not bind the conscience regarding legalities.
Sometimes the two views are characterized as the Westminster Standard’s understanding of the first day of the week and the Continental take on the Christian Sabbath. What can occasionally get lost when folks take extreme positions on either side is that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). As a pastor, I don’t tell folks what they can or cannot do on Sunday, but ask them given this day of rest from worldly occupation, what should they want to do?
I don’t mandate a canonical nap because the Bible does not say that after worship and the Sunday dinner roast you must retire to your beds because a physical rest best reflects the eternal rest to come. I also don’t say that after the benediction, it’s anything goes time. Some ministers say let your conscience be your guide. I have trouble with that because I have a sinful conscience.
So I frame it this way: if your motivation is your Christian faith, if your standard is God’s law, if your purpose is to glorify God, and if your practice is love, how then can you use one day out of seven to advance your knowledge of God and your service to Him–to feed on Christ? I cannot do that by watching my beloved sports teams, because I get too caught up in the game (like any other day), and I am not consciously resting in Him.
A catechumen once asked me if that means he has to read the Bible all day. I said no to the young man, but then asked him that as his birthday nears, does he anticipate the day and all that will come from it? He gave me an eager, “Yes!” I then said it would be worthwhile for him to anticipate the coming of Christ and all that will come and all that has already come because eternity, properly understood, can be enjoyed today. What better time to enjoy that than basking in His graces on a day given to rest. What better time to recharge our spiritual batteries than on a day without worldly distraction.
Of all the commandments, the fifth one comes with a promise: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). While God is not saying that every little boy and girl who is obedient will live to a ripe old age, He is declaring the obvious. A home of biblical rule and order is a home of peace and harmony; it is a home of comfort, not confusion and chaos. A life of rebellion leads to a life of death; a life of godly submission leads to heavenly peace.
We do not earn salvation by what we do; however, we do reflect the salvation given by submitting to the rule that God has placed over us. Our God is Lord over us, and he has placed His people under familial headship and civil authorities. Raising a fist to our parents is raising our fists to the authority God has instituted; in fact, it is a fist to God. Conversely, obeying authority in accordance to His Word is a sweet smelling aroma that ascends. A contrite and broken heart He will not despise; a contrite heart is indeed a heart that submits.