The Lord’s Day a Creation Ordinance.
Genesis 2:2–3 ‘And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.’
Here we see the ordination of the Sabbath day. That God ‘rested’. It is literally translated as God ‘sabbathed’ which is the same root of the word ‘the Sabbath’. This is a day where God ceased from his work of all creation. And the language in v.3 indicates that God made this day a holy day. That is, he ‘sanctified it’, he set it apart for man to be blessed. The word in Hebrew qadash is used in reference of being ceremonially clean or morally pure. Something set apart from uncleanness. It also can mean to appoint, to preserve, to keep something clean and holy. And the reason why God desired this particular day, from all other days, to be remembered is because he said that ‘in it he had rested from all his work’ that is, his work of creation. And the reason why God did so was not because he became weary and needed to sit down and take a break. We know that God by nature is never tired. He works everything for creation and sustains all things by the power of his word constantly. God never stops working his providence and his Sovereign rule over all things.
So how can we understand what it means God ‘rested’?
Rest here means that God is setting a teaching pattern for mankind to follow. God is teaching man that, since God has stopped from working, after six days, therefore man also on the seventh day must stop and observe and remember this unique Day as a Holy Day. It is God’s day. He said it is ‘my holy day’ (Isaiah 58:13).
There are some key factors that I want us to notice here:
First, God sanctified the seventh day in the time of Creation.
‘And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it’ (Genesis 2:3). In Genesis 2 we notice that on the seventh day the Lord God blessed it. Why not the sixth day? Or the second day?
Because as we read in verse 1 God finished his work of creation. And secondly, since God created man to be a worshipper, since man was created to have intimacy and delight with his maker, God planned that after six days labour, for the glory of God, man would have a whole day to enjoy his Master. Though we are always close to God even in those six days, God knew that man is in need of a whole day to contemplate and to delight in the works and the attributes of God. Man needs a real spiritual day with his Lord, full of Christ and full of Gospel.
Hence, God, instead of creating the world in a split second or a minute (which he could have done), he specifically and particularly chose to bless one day. This implies that the planning of six days’ labour and one day of the week to keep it holy, is not a temporal decision as some may think. God did not do this without having a plan. God is showing us a pattern to follow since we are image bearers of God.
Out of all the other days, God sets apart a whole day for the contemplation of divine things and the free exercise for man to do public and private worship to God.
He sanctified it for this reason: as God rested and stopped work, so it must be for man also to stop from any labours he is doing for God in the world, and to give himself to rest in the Lord. Rest means that God desires man to delight in him alone (Isaiah 58:13–14). That is why after Christ’s Resurrection, God moved this Holy Day from the sixth day to the first day, for man’s sake (1 Corinthians 16:1, Mark 2:27–28), so that man would take delight in worshipping God. That is what he was created for.
Secondly, this is God’s first express indication of his divine will in relation to man.
From Genesis 1:1–31 God has been working. Verse 31 says ‘And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.’
In Genesis 1:27 God tells us that it was his divine will and decree to create man in his own image, to make him lord of the animals and keeper of the Garden, and to be fruitful and to multiply (Genesis 1:28). So, first, God’s divine will was to create man, which he did, detailed in Genesis 2:7. Then he made the garden of Eden, detailed in Genesis 2:8. Then he creates a help meet for Adam out of Adam in Genesis 2:18, which is Eve (Genesis 2:21–25). Thus we see the institution of marriage as a creation ordinance. All this was done on the sixth day (Genesis 1:31). After God has completed his work of creation, God blessed the day and sanctified it. And as God has sanctified the seventh day holy, so it was God’s divine will for man to imitate his creator, by keeping that day holy (Genesis 2:2–3). This was God’s first act of expressing his divine will for man to worship him.
Take a close look here. Why would God bless the Sabbath or sanctify it unless it was for his creatures? God lacks nothing and needs nothing more. God is self-sustaining. Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Mark 2:27 when he said that the Sabbath was made for man. It is God’s gift to man. In Exodus 16:29 God says that the Sabbath was ‘given’ to man so that man would have a whole day to spend time worshipping and contemplating on God. He would have communion with him more than other days of the week. The fact that the first obligation God laid on man regarding worship was to keep the Sabbath holy shows the importance of the hallowed day.
Secondly, it no doubt proves that this day appointed to be holy and sanctified and blessed is a creation ordinance instituted by God.
If God instituted this at this period of time, then we can surely say that it is still in force today along with the Fourth Commandment. Man ought to be blessed by God and observe the Lord’s Day. It cannot therefore be a temporal ceremonial command, since it is a creation ordinance.
Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote, ‘There are five things that were given to the father of the human race in the day that he was made. God gave him a dwelling place, a work to do, a command to observe, a help meet to be his companion, and a Sabbath Day to keep. I am utterly unable to believe that it was in the mind of God that there ever should be a time when Adam’s children should keep no Sabbath.’
 J.C. Ryle, Biblical Thoughts about the Lord’s Day, from Free Grace Broadcaster, issue 233, international edition, The Lord’s Day, Chapel Library, 2015, p.7
to be continued…