The Lord’s Day must be devoted to worship, Mohler says in Ten Commandments series
Christians have a biblical mandate to devote the Lord’s Day to gathering with other believers in worship, said R. Albert Mohler Jr. on Sept. 21, in a chapel address on the fourth commandment at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We are to make it a priority of our lives that on this day we will be with God’s people, we will be with the redeemed, we will be with the saints,” Mohler said, “and we will gather together to prepare for eternity, to be confronted with the Word of God, to edify one another and to yearn for that eternal rest which is promised unto us by the grace and mercy of God.”
The seminary president began a 10-part series on the Ten Commandments at the outset of the fall semester, a series he will complete during spring semester. In the latest installment, he outlined three positions Christians commonly hold regarding the application of the fourth commandment.
Some argue that Christians should continue to observe the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week as in the Old Testament, he said. This position is logical at many points but fails to accurately consider New Testament teaching on the Sabbath, Mohler said.
Others argue that the Old Testament commandments regarding a seventh day transfer to the first day of the week in the New Testament, he said. This position has a long history in the Protestant tradition but is incorrect, he said. Mohler argued that the New Testament gives neither explicit nor implicit evidence that the Sabbath commandments are simply transferred to the Lord’s Day, Mohler noted.
The best approach for believers to take regarding the fourth commandment is known as Lord’s Day observance, Mohler said. This position emphasizes that the central issue for the church is to gather and worship on the Lord’s Day, he explained, adding that this position focuses on the positive content of Lord’s Day observance rather than prohibited activities.
“There is a fourth option, which is no option, and this is Lord’s Day non-observance,” Mohler cautioned. “That is simply not an option for the people of God. And yet writ large across the evangelicalism of our day is this fourth option, creeping its way into our practice.”
Many Christians simply ignore the Lord’s Day or act as if coming to church is an activity to get out of the way so they can move on to other things, he said. Mohler called such attitudes unbiblical.
“I am convicted as I am confronted about the fourth commandment not about Sabbath keeping but about Lord’s Day breaking,” he said. “I am convicted that as I read the fourth commandment, Israel’s responsibility to keep the Sabbath was, if anything, less important than the church’s responsibility to keep the Lord’s Day.”
On Sept. 14, Mohler unpacked the third commandment that prohibits taking the Lord’s name in vain. Christians often limit this command to swearing and a of “forbidden” words, Mohler said. However, Christians take the Lord’s name in vain far more often than they realize, he argued.
He detailed four ways in which Christians commonly, though unwittingly, misuse the Lord’s name.
God’s name is taken in vain when theologians downgrade His character and attributes.
“God’s name is taken in vain among the theologians routinely,” he said. “As a matter of fact, there are entire libraries of vanity, of God’s name taken in vain. The revelation of the name of God is a revelation of His character, it is a revelation of His perfections, it is a revelation of His sovereignty, it is a revelation of His power, it is a revelation of His holiness, it is a revelation of His love, and all of these things are maligned and distorted and often denied in the reductionistic theologies that are rampant in our day.
“God has the sole right to define and to name Himself. It is an act of creaturely arrogance and defiance to seek to name Him.”
Christians misuse God’s name when they speak of God in breezy and irreverent ways that besmirch the dignity of His holy name, Mohler said.
“Listen to our talk about God,” he said. “Or for that matter, substitute the talk for the bumper stickers [that say] ‘God is our co-pilot, our dream weaver, our life artist, our friend, our coach [or] our therapist.’
“[But] Jehovah renders no therapy. He offers no coaching. He weaves no dreams. He reveals Himself and saves His people from their sin. The triviality and the triteness of our triumphalistic piety, the backslapping easy familiarity with the things of God, not to mention His own name, is a scandal among us.”
Christians demean God’s name by worshiping Him in a superficial manner. God takes His name seriously as Scripture makes clear, Mohler said, in stories such as that of Nadab and Abihu, who, according to Numbers 10, died when they brought strange fire to the altar of God.
“In John 4, the Lord spoke to the woman at the well of the fact that the Father seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth,” Mohler said.
“[It is] never the one (spirit) without the other (truth), the one [being] impossible without the other. This (truth) is the truth that is found in Word-centered worship, in biblically regulated worship, in scripturally established worship, in Christ-focused worship, in Trinitarian worship. And yet among evangelicals, worship has been turned into a laboratory of frivolities and a circus of creativities.”
Christians also break the third commandment by “manipulative God talk” in which politicians, athletes and other public figures co-opt the name of God to promote their own agendas. Mohler said evangelical leaders are often guilty of misusing God’s name in the same way by “divining” God’s specific purposes for disasters and suffering.
“The Lord’s name is taken in vain when we say, `We know why God did that. I can tell you why you have cancer. I can explain to the nation why Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans,’” Mohler said. “...God has not given us license to explain His ways where He has not declared His way.”