Above All

Only one of the Ten Commandments is associated with the phrase, "above all."

Except for the tenth commandment, all the commandments of God are supported and elaborated by a series of statutes, precepts, and rules designed to outline the application of God's Law to various situations in life.

The New Testament validates the usefulness of those statutes, as well as the commandments, to our calling as followers of Jesus Christ. We need to make sure we understand how to interpret those commandments and rules, but that we must is beyond question, at least, from the perspective of Christ and the Apostles.

Jesus associated greatness in the Kingdom of God with keeping the commandments and, presumably, the statutes that apply to each one (Matt. 5.17-19). John explained that our discipleship is defined by following Jesus and loving as He did - keeping the commandments (1 Jn. 2.1-6; 5.1-3). James and Peter concur in teaching that the Law is foundational to our walk with the Lord, and Paul wrote that the way of holiness, righteousness, and goodness is contained in the Law of God (Rom. 7.12).

So we should especially be attentive, I think, to any statute of the Law which begins with the phrase, "above all." That is surely meant to signal a most important aspect of our obedience. Failure to heed that "above all" must have dire consequences.

So which of the commandments is associated with this phrase?

"And the LORD said to Moses, 'You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, "Above all, you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you"'" (Ex. 31.12-14).

The Old Testament Sabbath is now the Lord's Day - Sunday. The Lord has set this day apart for us to rest in Him, to contemplate His great works of creation and redemption and to be renewed in Him for the week ahead. He commands that we shall do no work on that day, save for those that pertain to necessity and mercy. Instead, we are to rest in Him, gather with His people for worship, and devote the remainder of the day to holy and sanctifying contemplations.

At the risk of sounding Puritanical and cranky, I cannot bring myself to believe that we are keeping the Lord's Day "above all" by participating in sports and games, especially not those in which people engage for the purpose of making a living.

Many Christians are cheering on Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, for his bold and consistent witness for Christ in each of his games. I cannot share their enthusiasm. The faith of Christ would be better served, it seems to me, if Christians in all occupations would heed the Lord's "above all" and honor His day as He intends.

We no longer insist on the death penalty for those who violate the Lord's Day, nor should we. We live in an age of grace. But this does not free us to set the commandments of God aside simply because we have other things we would like to do. Every act of disobedience to God's Law distances us from Him and keeps us from realizing His promised blessings.

"Above all" we are to keep the Lord's Day. God knows something about the importance of observing His day that we do not. We walk by faith and in obedient love when we let God's Word, rather than our own interests, be the defining standard of our conduct.

And that includes how we use the day He has set aside for Himself.

Related texts: Exodus 20.8-11; Deuteronomy 5.12-15; Exodus 31.12-17; Leviticus 23.3

A conversation starter: "Given that God commands us 'above all' to honor His day, how do you suppose He feels about our persistent disregard of His commandment?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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