Why Do We Do That? Sabbath Observance
The Sabbath command goes back far beyond the introduction of God’s moral law to Moses. It goes back to creation. In His creating process, God worked six days and then rested on the seventh day. He set that day a part to be a Sabbath. He made it holy and blessed it and calls us to do the same. Exodus 20:11, Deuteronomy 5:15 and Exodus 31:13 teach that the Sabbath is a way of remembering and expressing the truth that God is our creator, deliverer, savior and sanctifier. We are dependent on him for all we have in the world, for our deliverance from enemies, and for our holiness. All things are from him and through him and to him. So that we do not forget these truths and take our strength and thought and work too seriously, we should keep one day in seven to cease from our labors and focus on God as the source of all blessing. The Jewish Sabbath lasted from Friday evening to Saturday evening.
The Practice of the Early Church: With the transition into the early NT church, the weekly day of rest and devotion was not rejected, but rather would eventually shift from the last day of the week to the first day of the week. This is nowhere commanded in Scripture, but there are Biblical references that suggest it happened in the days of the apostles (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Rev. 1:10). It seems that the first day of the week became the primary day for Christians to perform special religious exercises. For a time, though believers gathered for worship and ministry on Sunday, it remained a work day in the early church. This would change when Emperor Constantine instituted Sunday as an official day of rest in AD 321. In America, there were various views on whether to establish Saturday or Sunday as a Sabbath, and so a two day weekend was established. Nevertheless, Sunday, known since the resurrection as the Lord’s Day is the day most commonly utilized by Christians as a Sabbath for worship, ministry, rest and intentional delight in Christ.
Today, there are Christians that do not embrace Sabbath observance as something which is taught in the New Testament. Dr. Ligon Duncan gives the following arguments to challenge that viewpoint.
1) First of all, the Sabbath day was grounded not in redemption but in creation. It came before Moses, the Exodus and before there was an Israel. That is precisely Moses' argument in Exodus 20 and that is one reason that the Sabbath still continues because it's rooted in creation.
2) Secondly, the Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandment which are still very much binding on Christians. We do not find in the NT that the Sabbath was merely ceremonial and so passed away with Israel.
3) Third, Jesus DID NOT teach or practice an abrogation of the Lord’s Day. He actually calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 13:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5) and demonstrates it to be a day set aside for works of worship, necessity and mercy. Nor do we see the apostles speak of the end of a Sabbath Day observance.
4) Finally, this view is confirmed by the practice of the New Testament and early church which has, from its earliest days, gathered to celebrate the resurrection every week on the day of resurrection, which is the day of rest and gladness, which is Sunday, the Lord's Day.
The Sabbath is a blessing and not a curse. It is a boon or benefit and not a burden and when we delight in it we will be refreshed.