Third Commandment today

What is the New Testament reference to the commandment related to “keeping holy the Sabbath” (Sunday)?

For God’s Old Testament people of Israel, the Third Commandment involved a day of the week: Saturday. It was a day that emphasized physical and spiritual rest.

The Sabbath day pointed ahead to the perfect rest that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would provide through the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 11:28-29). Like other parts of the ceremonial law, instructions regarding the Sabbath day are no longer in effect for God’s followers in New Testament times (Colossians 2:16-17). In Christian freedom, followers of the Lord chose Sunday as their primary day for corporate worship; they did so with Jesus’ resurrection in mind. Sunday is not the New Testament Sabbath. Christians are free to worship on any day of the week.

For New Testament followers of the Lord, then, the meaning of the Third Commandment is more about the Word of God than a day of the week. The explanation of the commandment in Luther’s Catechism reflects that: “We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it.”

Gathering with fellow Christians for worship services is still important. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). Rather than mandating Saturday (or Sunday) as a day of corporate worship, God lets us decide which day of the week to come together for worship. And when there are opportunities for worship, the new self in us responds: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).