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The 4th Commandment
The Issue of the 4th Commandment
Krabbendam: Love God on the DAYHe has set apart
Our calendar needs to be brought into accord with God’s
What are the most significant events on God’s calendar?
The Text of the 4th Commandment Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
[Deut. 5:12Observe/keep/preserve the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.]
Means of keeping the command
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.
[Deut. 5:14 ...that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.]
Reason to keep the command
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.
[Deut. 5:15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.]
Differences between Exodus & Deuteronomy
Exodus: Right after exiting Egypt; looks back to creation week – “Remember...rested the seventh day”
Deuteronomy: Right before entering Canaan; looks back to God’s act of redemption in Exodus & God’s subsequent command at Sinai – “Observe...commanded...remember...Egypt...brought you out...commanded”
The Reason for Keeping the 4th Commandment
Its reasoning proceeds from the reason to the command to the means
Perpetually binding? Creation ordinance or Exodus-ordinance?
Change & continuity from Saturday to Sunday legitimate? To what extent?
The 4 greatest events in history: creation, Exodus, resurrection, 2nd coming.
Deuteronomy 4:32: For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of.
Results in a change of day
The covenant relationship...
For this reason...
begun on the 7th day of creation
we celebrate the day that relationship began,
was restored historically, nationally, & experientially in the Exodus,
and definitively, once-for-all in Christ’s resurrection,
the day on which it was definitively restored in Christ’s resurrection,
and will be perfected at the 2nd coming of Christ.
and we will celebrate the endless day after Christ returns.
God did not rest because He was tired, or in order to depart from creation, but in order to enjoy and be “refreshed” in His newly-made creation, in covenantrelationship with it. This forms the pattern for man—man should enjoy and be “refreshed” in his covenant relationship with God on the Sabbath.
Gen. 1:31: And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was verygood.
Gen. 2:2-3: 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.
Ex. 31:17: in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.
Ex. 23:12: the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.
Prov. 8:22-23: 22 "The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
Prov. 8:29-31: 29 when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delightingin the children of man.
The Biblical Commentary on the 4th Commandment
Gen. 2:2-3 – origin must be traced back to creation
God made the seventh day...
“Rested”: a day with a pattern to follow
“Blessed”: a day of spiritual fruitfulness & growth
“Set apart”: a day dedicated to fellowship with & service to Him
Ex. 20:11 underscores its Edenic institution
Mark 2:27-28 says “the Sabbath was made for man;” this refers to creation & man in general, not just Israelites
Absence from creation to the wilderness journey
But obligation could still have remained – parallel in creation ordinance of monogamous marriage not observed by patriarchs in Genesis. Cf. Matt. 19:4-8
Ex. 16:22-31 – the Sabbath was nothing new at this stage!
v. 22 – “automatically” gathering extra on 6th day
vv. 28-29 – not a new law
“Remember” - points to creation ordinance
“Six days” uses a numeral, not an ordinal (ordinals are “first, second...sixth”). “Seventh” is an ordinal. Numerals are used to count; ordinals are used to order. So, the “seventh” day is not literally the “seventh” in the order of the week, but rather is only the 7th in the order of counting. The creation week, not the commandment, made the 7th day of the week the Sabbath. So the day was free to change to the 1st day of the week upon Christ’s resurrection.
The 4th commandment is the capstone of the first 3:
1st: Love God for who He IS: rest before & delight in God
2nd: Love God for what He SAYS: communicate with God in Word & prayer
3rd: Love God for what He DOES: perform works of necessity & mercy
Mosaic case law
Ex. 23:12 – Sabbath is for the refreshment of man
Ex. 31:12-17 – Sabbath a sign that God owns & sanctifies us. Is holy for us, requires solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Death penalty for breaking it! Don’t build tabernacle without resting to worship!
Ex. 35:1-3 – No fires on Sabbath = no work
Lev. 23-25 – Cycle of sabbaths patterned after weekly Sabbath: seven feasts: Passover, Pentecost, trumpets (seventh new moon feast), Day of Atonement, Tabernacles, sabbath (7th) year, year of Jubilee.
Rest remains central, but work only absolutely prohibited on Day of Atonement
Rest always involves joy & rejoicing in every area of life: forgiveness, freedom from debt, slavery, labor.
Rest remains spiritual (not merely humanitarian or agrarian) at its core; it is rest in the LORD
Num. 15:32-36 – gathering sticks constitutes rejection of covenant; death penalty
Resting one year out of seven expressed trust in God’s providence by... 15:1-18
Forgiving debts 1-6
Lending to the poor 7-11
Setting slaves free 12-18
The Sabbath is about delighting in God as seen in... 15:19-16:17
Giving the firstlings of the flock to the Lord & eating meat before Him, because of His absolute ownership 15:19-23
The feast of Passover & Unleavened Bread, because sin is removed through blood 16:1-8
The Feast of Pentecost because firstfruits symbolize holy devotion to God 16:9-12
The Feast of Tabernacles because of God’s numerous blessings 16:13-15
The freewill offerings at these feasts 16:16-17
Neh. 10:31; 13:15-22 – no buying on Sabbath, “the Sabbath” distinct from “the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed feasts.” Levites worked on Sabbath – guarded gates!
Is. 1:13-14 – Hypocrisy, formalism, ritualism condemned
Is. 58:13-14: 13 If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, ortalking idly; 14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Is. 66:23 – NT & New Earth worship will be from Sabbath to Sabbath
Jer. 17:19-27 – Not keeping Sabbath brought punishment of Exile. Cf. 2 Chron. 36:20-21
Ezek. 20:12-24; 22:8, 26; 23:38; 36:25-27 – Polluting Sabbaths brings punishment; New Covenant blessings described in terms of obedience to Mosaic law
Ezek. 44:24; 45:17 – New Covenant worship will include rest that does not exclude a cycle of 7 days.
In the New Testament
Pharisees’ view of 4th Commandment
Sought to earn salvation thereby
It was a legalistic burden. Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-11; John 5:1-15
When Jesus rejected their legalistic resting in favor of a rest that involved delight, worship, & deeds of necessity & mercy, they sought the death penalty. Matt. 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:11; John 5:16-18
Jesus kept the 4th Commandment
He rested, delighted in His Father, attended worship & read Scripture/taught on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16, 31, 44), and did works of fellowship & service (above; Luke 14:1-24).
He kept the Sabbath by doing His Father’s work. John 5:36
In His rest, He gave saving rest to others on the Sabbath. Luke 4:17-21
He did not end the seven-day cycle! Matt. 24:20: “Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.” The cycle would continue until at least 70 AD. Cf. Acts 13:14, 27, 42, 44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4
After Christ’s resurrection
Normal practices of Sabbath observance began to take place on the first day of the week rather than the seventh.
In John 20:19-23 Christ leads the first church service. He meets with them again eight days later in 20:24-29. The Lord of the Sabbath had changed the day by rising from the dead and sanctifying a greater day. Just as He changed circumcision to baptism, and the Passover to the Lord’s Supper, without explicitly stating the change was taking place, He made the change.
On the first day of Pentecost, the first day of the week, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church.
Acts 20:7 – first day of week, worship service
1 Cor. 16:2 – offerings collected on 1st day of week
Rev. 1:10 – John calls this day the “Day of the Lord.”
Paul’s epistles combat Judaizers’ works righteousness & retention of OT Sabbatical system
Col. 2:16-17; Gal. 4:9-11
Col. 2:16-17: 16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
“Sabbaths” is plural. This refers to the whole OT sabbatical system, including all of the feasts & holy days, and does not directly call the weekly Sabbath into question. (Lev. 23-25; 1 Chron. 23:31; Neh. 10:33; Ps. 81:3; Is. 1:13; Ezek. 45:17; 46:1-3; Amos 8:5) The sabbatical system was built to express the point of the weekly Sabbath, and as such is less central to, and less the substance of, the Old Covenant than was the weekly Sabbath. The parts of the system were shadows, symbols, meant to no longer be practiced when the substance came in Christ.
Col. 2:14 does not mean God’s moral law does not bind us, but that we are no longer condemned by it. The “record of debt” has rightful authority; the authorities in v. 15 are shamed because they did not have rightful authority. So the authorities in v. 15 are not God’s law! Are the items in v. 16 this rightful record or these spurious authorities? They are a combination of both! They are the good ceremonies of the law, used in an evil way.
Hand & fingers: The fingers of obedience to the law have no power or unity without the hand of love to move them. No Judaizing legalism! But to the same degree, the hand of love has no grip if not through the fingers of obedience. No antinomianism!
Note that Paul certainly honored the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2) and Pentecost (Acts 20:16).
Rom. 14:5-6: 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
A strong argument: V. 5 could seem to destroy the uniqueness of the one day out of seven.
It is difficult to see how a person observing the first day of the week as a memorial of Christ’s resurrection would be called “weak!”
The weekly Sabbath is a creation ordinance, not part of the Levitical/Mosaic Sabbatical system of feasts & holy days
The NT itself gives the first day of the week special importance, as seen above.
Heb. 10:23-25: 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Gathering to take part in the special acts of worship is still commanded.
Breaking this command brings God’s vengeance (vv. 26-31) akin to the death penalty in Ex. 31:13-15 for breaking the 4th Commandment. Likely Heb. 25 is intentionally reiterating the obligation of the 4th Commandment, with the significance, but not the practice, of its death penalty, in full view.
Because of Israel’s rebellion, at the border of Canaan God said “They shall not enter my rest.” (3:11) Yet He allowed those who believed to enter later. (4:7) This was possible because He had been resting from His creative work from the foundation of the world in order to delight in covenant fellowship with man (4:3). This rest initially denied to Israel was not merely the political, civil, worldly rest from enemies in the land of Canaan which God gave the people through Joshua, but is a greater rest—a spiritual rest; the covenant relationship within the outward rest—else it would have been fully given under Joshua and not offered again later. (4:8) Because God is still resting in order to delight in covenant fellowship with man, “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” to enter into “today.” What is required to enter this rest is to turn away from and rest from our works (4:10), not harden our hearts, but delight in God (3:8, 10; 4:7), and enter into covenant fellowship with Him (3:14) through faith (3:12, 19; 4:2-3) and obedience (3:12, 13, 15-18; 4:1, 6, 11).
There is no reason to believe the Sabbath institution is anything but a creation ordinance.
There is every reason to believe the 4th Commandment is still in force today, with the understanding that the seventh day of the week was replaced by the first day of the week following the resurrection of Christ.
Again, neither Judaistic legalism nor antinomianism will suffice! Observance of this day must be written on our hearts, and be the culmination of our cheerful and heartfelt obedience to the first three commandments.
Negatively, this means abstinence from normal, everyday work, in order to worship God.
Positively, this means:
worshipful fellowship with God (1st C!)
intent listening to God in His word (2nd C!)
and cheerful labor for God in works of necessity & mercy (3rd C!)
Calvin strikes this balance well
No legalism: Genevan Catechism & Institutes 2.8.32-34 – ceremonial sabbath system has been abolished; Lord’s day observance must not be Judaism
No antinomianism: Sermon on Deut. 5 – “shop windows are shut on the Lord’s Day,” people “travel not after the common order and fashion of men,” and “If we employ the Lord’s Day to make good cheer, to sport ourselves, to go to the same games and pastimes, shall God in this be honored? Is this not the unhallowing of His name?”
The Application of the 4th Commandment
Command: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”
Means: Rest in order to worship: “the seventh...you shall not do any work”
Encompasses all activities of the 6 days
Is productive & reigning - “be fruitful, and multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion...”
Is completely ceased on the 7th day
Special, not general, acts of worship
Is implicitly what the whole 7th day is for, since it is not for work
The relation between 6-day work & 7th day worship: It’s necessary to “rest in order to worship”
Worshipful work: Rom. 12:1 implies that our 6 day work must be full of worship; it must be worship-ful.
Activity: “Keep” in the 4th commandment
Return whole of life to God: Our resting from labor in order in worship to return that labor and its fruits (note the offering) wholly and completely to God who gave it to us (Gen. 4:3-5; 22; Ex. 29:18; 31:17--God was refreshed in His creation, cf. Prov. 8:31; Ps. 103:1-5; 116; 2 Chron. 32:25; Rom. 11:36; 2 Cor. 8-9; 8:5; Phi. 4:18-20; Rev. 4:9-11)
Works of necessity & mercy: Christ’s harvesting (Matt. 12:1-6 - necessity) and healing (Matt. 12:7-13 - mercy) on the Sabbath
Tiring effort: Paul’s 24 hours of no sleep on the Sabbath in Acts 20:7-11
But also distinct:
Work enables worship. This remains the goal of works of necessity & mercy. Ex. 16:23-30; Josh. 6:3-4, 2 Kings 11:5, 7, 9; 1 Chron. 9:25; 2 Chron. 23:4, 8; Neh. 4:9, 16; 7:3; 13:22; Matt. 12:1-13 and 1 Cor. 11:33-34.
Work is presented in worship. See “work-full worship” above.
Worship enables work. Is. 58:13-14 (with Ex. 31:14-15; Lev. 25; Is. 56:2; Jer. 17:24-27); Eph. 4:11-16.
Worship is lived-out in work. Rom. 12:1’s “therefore.”
Work glorifies God indirectly; worship glorifies God directly.
So, you can’t work and worship at the same time. If the sabbath requirement is still binding today as argued above, we must rest the whole day in order to worship the whole day.
Works of necessity and mercy
Army marched around Jericho 7 days – Josh. 6:15
Levites worked to support worship – 1 Chron. 9:32
David ate showbread – 1 Sam. 21:6
Guards guarded the temple gates 7 days – 2 Kings 11:5, 7, 9
Jesus’ example & teaching: harvesting & healing: Matthew 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-3:6; Luke 6:1-11; 13:10-17; 14:5; John 5:9-11; 7:22-24; 9:14-17
Works of necessity: tasks necessary to enable you or someone else to take part in public & private Sabbath worship
Works of mercy: tasks merciful toward someone in dire need such that it would make you a hypocrite to neglect helping the person on the Sabbath, because your neglect would be out of accord with the nature of the worship of that day; it is more in accord with worship to help the person than to let them suffer.
These works are worship-centered and worship-enabling
What Activities Are Appropriate?
The word, prayer, and the sacraments
Group & individual times in word, prayer, songs, edifying conversation
“Keep” implies activity is at the core. Sleeping all day is not an option.
“Rest” implies work would prevent worship; the sleep necessary to enable worship is allowed.
“Marathon” Sundays? No, if beyond a person’s capacity (“rest!”). Yes, as God grants the ability (“keep!”)
Allowable: Police, firefighters, utilities, hospitals, gas stations, milking, phone calls
Not allowable: vocational, public, educational works
Not allowable: Sports, restaurants; profit, pleasure, prattle
Gray areas: Garden, pool, park, games, TV, radio
Fellowship is commanded on the Lord’s Day, so games that promote fellowship are allowed
It must be Christian fellowship. Fellowship centering in God’s word, prayer, & praise is central; fellowship utilizing games is peripheral
Paul does not condemn sports, but treats them as a good profession or occupation
So, sports: unorganized sports qualify as fellowship; organized sports qualify as weekday work
Watching sports? If truly Christian fellowship, yes; if merely your own pleasure, no. Is. 58:13!
Deut. 5:14 - “that your male servant...may rest”
Neh. 10:31; 13:15-22 implies that not only selling, but buying, was wrong because opposed to keeping the Sabbath holy.
Duties Required – WLC 116
The fourth commandment requireth of all men
the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word, expressly one whole day in seven;
which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world;
which is the Christian sabbath, and in the New Testament called The Lord's Day.
How sanctified? WLC 117
The sabbath or Lord's day is to be sanctified by
an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful;
and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God's worship:
and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.
Sins forbidden – WLC 119
The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are,
all omissions of the duties required, all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them;
all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful;
and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.
What do you do when you are afraid? Cry out for help? Blame other people? Move to protect yourself? In The Sound of Music, Fraulein Maria gives the heartwarming advice,
When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad.
There is some value in "the power of positive thinking," and God even tells us to think on "whatever is lovely," but "raindrops on roses" will not actually protect you from real and present danger! Ultimately the one who protects you is Jesus, who is rightly called the Lord, and your Savior. You can know this is true because even the winds and waves obey Him.
Outline. God reminds us of our peril and fear in vv. 23-25, and points us to depend on Christ's power and grace in our time of need in vv. 26-27.
Our Peril and Fear vv. 23-25
Christ's Power and Grace in Our Time of Need vv. 26-27
Our Peril and Fear vv. 23-25. God reminds us of our peril and fear in vv. 23-25.
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.
24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.
25 And they went and woke him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing."
Got into the boat
In v. 28 we learn that Christ's purpose in traveling to the region of the Gadarenes or Gerasenes, which was in the tribe of Gad east of the Jordan, was to heal two demon-possessed men. The fact there were pigs and pigherders means this region had a significant population of unbelieving Gentiles, because Jews did not eat pigs. And on the way to this region known for evil, probably a mile from the shore, a fearfully violent storm rises up and comes upon them!
A great storm
Their worst fears became a reality. This storm is a beginning of the difficulties Christ promised His disciples would undergo. Storms and the ocean are frightening because they can place us at great peril. During some storms at night here in Caney I have lain awake truly afraid that I wouldn't hear the tornado warning when the tornado comes. The power of the wind, of lightning, of waves, is greater than any man. We understand the danger of deep water at an early age—which end of the pool was the scary end when you were 4 years old? The deep end!
The depths of the ocean and the power of its waves inspired a special fear in the people of the Ancient Near East. Storms and the sea represented to them the cosmic forces of evil and their root in Satan and his demons. The Canaanites believed Yam was the god of the sea, and that there was a serpent-like sea monster named Rahab who was a picture of the power of Yam. But Yahweh has shown throughout history that He is the true God of the sea, and He demonstrated this when Jesus calmed the winds and the waves.
Psalm 89:9-10 teaches this truth:
You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
And Job confessed in Job 26:12, 13,
By his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he shattered Rahab. By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.
Against the background of pagan fear of the sea as an evil power, Genesis tells us that at creation "The earth was formless and void," tohu and bohu, chaos and emptiness, but "the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep." (Gen. 1:2) God created all things out of nothing, giving them form and filling the void, and God looked on everything He had made, and behold, it was very good.
After men sinned and fell Satan is able to use the power of the sea to do great evil, but God remains the Lord of the sea. God created the great sea creatures pictured by Leviathan, whom man cannot master, but whose master is God. God saved Noah from the flood. God parted the waters of the Red Sea under Moses. David cried out that the waters were over his head. Jonah sank down to the bottom of the sea, where the bars of Sheol nearly closed around him. Peter began to sink but Christ walked on the water. Because Christ has conquered death and Hell one day these perils will be no more. According to Rev. 21:1, in the new heavens and new earth there will be no more sea.
But we still face these perils today. The OT saints called the bottom of the ocean the depths of Sheol, the place of the dead. Today we still call it "Davy Jones' Locker." Submariners fear the deepest depths where the intense pressure can destroy a ship, and divers say "Down at the depth of 100 feet, lives an old man named Oxygen Pete."
Mariners from every age know these fears, from the prophet Jonah to Paul shipwrecked on Malta to Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, to the movie The Perfect Storm. Man cannot defeat the power of the sea.
But He was asleep. But the God-man lay asleep amidst the storm with nothing to fear.
Psalm 4:8 says,
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Christ has this peace to give, but his disciples did not have it. Christ went to sleep to test His disciples' faith.
Lord, save us!
But His disciples have more fear than faith. They called Him "Lord," believed He could save them, and begged He would. But they believed they would die. They say, "We are perishing!" Quite naturally, their peril led to fear.
Christ's Power & Grace in Our Time of Need vv. 26-27. Their fear was natural, but it was not right. It was not right because God Himself was with them in the boat, and in the storm. This is the God who is greater than the sea, greater than the power of sin, and death, and Hell. The disciples had yet to learn what Christ taught in Matt. 12:40-41, "Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth....Behold, something greater than Jonah is here."
Text. And so Jesus said to them,
26 And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
27 And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?"
Christ's Rebuke. We should learn from this Christ's power and grace in our time of need. Jesus responded to His disciples' request by rebuking them as their gracious Redeemer, then rebuking the storm as its powerful Creator.
Rebuked disciples as their gracious Redeemer
Why are you afraid?
Christ rebuked His disciples not for disturbing Him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears. He didn't ask them, "Why do you ask me for help?" He asked, "Why are you afraid?"
He tells them the true cause of their fear by calling them "O you of little faith." There is a godly fear of calamity which keeps us from being what the Bible calls a "fool," but there is also an ungodly fear of storms, natural disasters, and other threats and difficulties. An ungodly fear does not trust God's sovereign lordship and providential care as a foundation for our life that cannot be shaken. An ungodly fear believes there is an evil more powerful than God. An ungodly fear does not believe Christ has fully paid for your sin and so earthly travails are no longer the punishment of God's wrath but the discipline of your loving Father. John teaches us "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." (4:18) Do you fear the wrath of God when you run from the lightning? When you lie awake when the wind roars around your house? Then ask God to forgive you for your sins, and believe His promise that He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Then even if the storm takes your life the Lord will preserve your soul.
Do you believe He will? That is the faith of a Christian. The one who knows Jesus Christ says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me!" (Psalm 23:4) "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." (Psalm 46:1-3) Our God holds the tempest in His hand (Prov. 30:4); He hurls the tempest to the earth (Is. 28:2; Jonah 1:4) and you will fear it, but He is our shelter from the storm (Is. 4:6; 25:4; 32:2). "When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever." (Proverbs 10:25)
Rebuked storm as its powerful Creator. Though Christ rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith, He did grant their request! He did so by rebuking the storm as its powerful Creator.
Notice "How easily this was done, with a word's speaking."1 Notice also "How effectually it was done. There was a great calm, all of a sudden. Ordinarily, after a storm, there is such a fret of the waters, that it is a good while ere they can settle."2
God calms our fears. The same power that calms the sea calms the tumult of the peoples. God can calm our fears through faith in Jesus Christ because He is our Creator. Psalm 65:7 says He is the one who by His almighty power both "stills the roaring of the seas" and "the tumult of the peoples." Jesus saves us from both the perils we face and the fears they bring.
The application of this passage should be coming into clearer view. God calms our fears through faith in Jesus Christ. And when we are in fear that faith should drive us to seek God's protection through prayer. Christ's willingness to grant His disciple's request should give us good reason to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) Those who have asked for the eternal salvation Christ gives may freely ask for temporal deliverances. Turn with me for a minute to Jonah 2, which teaches us to pray this kind of prayer of faith. The account in Matthew bears many similarities to Jonah's experience in Jonah 1 and Paul's in Acts 27, and I recommend you read those two chapters this afternoon. But give attention to Jonah 2; if the disciples had not yet learned what Jonah learned, we must not go home today without learning it.
1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying, "I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. 4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; Yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.' 5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!" 10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.
Pray! "Salvation belongs to the LORD!" Even from the blackest terror at the bottom of the sea your prayer will reach God in His holy temple. If God heard the prayer of the pagan Ninevites, He will hear the prayer of His beloved children in distress. Call out to Him in prayer, and He will help.
Pray in faith! And pray in faith. Jonah believed He would see God's temple again. When you fear the tornado outside your door, the waves swamping your boat, the terror of the noonday or the pestilence that stalks by night, do you believe that whether you die now or live to see the next day, no matter what may come, after this peril, you will see the Lord? The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting for those who fear Him. Trust Him even when you call out to Him out of fear for your life.
The disciple's problem was both their peril and their fear, so Christ rebuked both their fear and their peril. But He did not only speak the words of the rebuke; He also worked the response He sought. He calmed the storm, and He calmed His disciples. The "great storm" became a "great calm," and "you of little faith" became great believers. They marveled because it was a miracle. They admired Christ, their faith greatly strengthened, asking "What sort of man is this?" They admired Him because "Even winds and sea obey Him!"
Christ's Power. Do you admire Jesus Christ for this same reason? Your Savior is the Lord of heaven and earth. Say with the Psalmist, "I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses." (Psalm 135:5-7) Remember that He was Lord of the waves at creation. "At your rebuke they fled. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth." (Psalm 104:7, 9) He was Lord of the sea in the Exodus. "At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea." (Exodus 15:8)
Faith. And for this reason He gives true peace to those who trust by faith in Him, even a peace that passes human understanding. "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock." (Isaiah 26:4)
Prayer. So we must come to Him in prayer, as His disciples did. "Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him." (Psalm 32:6)
When the dog bites, when the bee stings, what will you do? We have revised one Rogers & Hammerstein song to make a Christian prayer before our fellowship meals; we should change another one into a Christian prayer when we fear for our lives.
When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad, I pray to my Savior who created all things, And then I don't feel so bad.
The German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer has become well-known for his book titled "The Cost of Discipleship" in which he gives Christian reasons we should be willing to die for our faith. Bonhoeffer wrote, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." His book was published in 1937. Bonhoeffer resisted the anti-Christian national socialism of the Nazis during WWII, was imprisoned in Buchenwald and hung by the Gestapo in 1945. When Bonhoeffer followed Jesus, it cost him his life.
When great crowds accompanied Jesus in Luke 14, He said to them,
26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.'
Consider the cost of following Jesus Christ. It will cost you your life, but following Jesus is worth the cost, because He gives you eternal life.
Outline. In this passage Jesus tells you what it will cost you to be His disciple. In vv. 18-20 He tells you the cost to your home, and in vv. 21-22, the cost to your family.
Author: Matthew; undisputed in early church tradition
Date: Probably 64-70 AD. After Mark written with Peter's help in Rome; before Jerusalem fell.
Purpose: Authoritative teaching about Jesus and His kingdom. For Jews and Gentiles: Instruct Jews in their Messiah (fulfillments); proclaim salvation to all Gentiles throughout the world (Great Commission)
Key Themes: The Kingdom of God has come in Christ. How to live as citizens of Christ's kingdom.
Prologue 1, 2
5 Narrative-then-Discourse sections on the Kingdom, ended by a common formula in 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1.
Conclusion: Passion/Resurrection 26-28
Prologue: Christ's identity and work 1, 2
The Genealogy of the King 1:1-17
The Birth of the King 1:18-2:23
The Kingdom of God 3-25
The Kingdom Comes in Christ 3-7
Initiating the Kingdom in Jesus 3:1-4:11 Baptism, wilderness temptation
Announcing the Kingdom 4:12-25 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Calls disciples, preaches, heals.
First Discourse: Sermon on the Mount 5-7 The blessings, law, piety, heart, judgment, forgiveness, and obedience of Christ's kingdom and its citizens.
The Works of the Kingdom 8-10
Christ Demonstrates God's Work 8, 9 Healing the sick, calling disciples, power over nature, spirits, sin, sinners, death; call to faith. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Second Discourse: Kingdom Mission: Christ Commissions God's Workers 10 First preaching & healing mission, instruction in workers' task, warnings & encouragements.
The Nature of the Kingdom 11-13
Earthly or Heavenly? The Identity of John and of Jesus 11, 12 Forerunner; Messiah. Both call to faith, repentance, & salvation. But Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, gentle, works by God's Spirit, greater than Jonah the prophet & Solomon the king.
Third Discourse: Kingdom Parables 13 Preaching the gospel, believers & unbelievers, worldwide growth, great value, final judgment, spiritual growth, rejection by the world.
The Authority of the Kingdom 14-18
Jesus' Character and Authority 14-17 John dies. Jesus feeds, protects, heals; Pharisees mislead, defile, and will be destroyed! Keys of the Kingdom, mission is to die on cross, transfiguration ("Listen to him!"), authority by faith.
Fourth Discourse: Character and Authority of the Church 18 Humility before Christ, resist temptation, salvation & reconciliation, else excommunication, forgive as you have been forgiven.
Kingdom Blessings and Kingdom Judgments 19-25
Final Questions From Galilee to Jerusalem: Why May Enter? 19, 20 Family life: divorce, remarriage, children. Riches vs. entering kingdom; fairness in kingdom wages. Opening the eyes of the spiritually & physically blind.
The King Enters Jerusalem 21-23 Triumphal entry, cleansing the temple, men resist the King's authority. Pharisees & Saducees lay traps, but are condemned.
Fifth Discourse: Kingdom Judgment 24, 25 Signs of the end of the age, watch & be ready by obeying.
One of the great themes at Covenant College is that all of life should be lived in a Christian way, and we should transform culture to bring it into accord with God's saving work. This goal of transforming culture is similar to waging a culture war, but different in that rather than only pointing out where our opponents need to change, we actually make those changes within our own sphere of influence. A simple example is that at your workplace you should be honest and do the best job you can with the gifts God has given you. The Lord is concerned not only that you attend church services and read your Bible, but also that His saving work be applied throughout your whole life. We see that concern in this passage.
Despite their brevity, these verses provides historical and biographical background information about Peter that cannot be found except in a couple other passages. It is not good to emphasize these background details in a sermon when they don't clearly serve the the purpose of the passage or the sermon. But here they do tie together in one direction, which shows the greatness and fullness of God's concern to change not just one little part of your life, but the whole of your life.
We see this in the way Christ healed. Christ is known as the Great Physician. No physician can heal as Christ healed in this passage; human medicine is more external and limited in its effects, but Christ's healing went directly to the illness and removed it completely. This should convince you that Christ cares about your bodily illness, and He cares to redeem every aspect of your life that has been marred by sin.
Outline. This passage teaches us the depth of Christ's healing, the breadth of Christ's healing, and the point of Christ's healing.