The Sabbath is different from all the other commandments. However, being different, does not make it any less a commandment. Let me explain. In any society, whether they have had contact with missionaries or the western world or perhaps no contact with anyone in the outside world, would over a period of time develop a code of ethics by which to live under. These will eventually develop into laws, and may very well get to a stage where they actually resemble the ten commandments. Except for the Sabbath of the 4th.
There is simply no way any society anywhere could come up with such an idea. For one, it marks the week. The week is a time period which is a unique witness to creation. Every other time period known to man is based on natural cycles of either the moon or the sun or the stars. That is in fact why they were created: that they may be for signs and seasons etc. But the weekly cycle is based on nothing other than the word of God. And yet it has endured. There have been attempts over the centuries to change it; someone one time tried to implement a 10 day week, but failed.
The Sabbath is the same. It is not based upon any moral principle as such, but purely and simply on the word of God. Period. It is a commandment that comes by no other authority except by revelation. Therefore, our acceptance or rejection of it ultimately comes down to our attitude to God’s authority.
Another reason why it would not be a part of any such community’s law is the fact that it is a memorial. A memorial of a specific event. Again, only revelation would induce anyone to include such a commandment in any law.
But does that make the commandment any less important? Any less ‘moral’ to obey? The scriptures say “to him who knows to do good but does it not, to him it is sin”. Clearly, many do not yet recognise the Sabbath, so for them it is not sin when they so disregard it. But maybe ones sin in such a case lies not in the fact that one may not be observing the Sabbath, but perhaps, and please I do stress perhaps, it lies in an unwillingness to accept something that may prove awkward or inconvenient or disturbing? Therefore one may not so diligently search for that truth or consider it so seriously because it may cost them something? Therefore the sin lies more in the refusal to accept God’s authority over man’s, and in placing your own feelings and opinions above God’s word?
Check out your concordance and count the number of times the word Sabbath appears in scripture. In both old and new testaments it echoes across the pages of the Bible from one end to the other. It is a day that is clearly very very important to God. It was a day that was instituted at creation, was intended to be continued throughout history (as the episode with the gathering of manna before Sinai shows) and was reinforced with much grandeur and fanfare from Mt Sinai. What a awesome display of God’s glory and power that must have been. Lightning, thunder, earthquakes,fire and smoke, black clouds, trumpets and booming voice, no wonder Israel feared and ran away.
Yet we are led to believe that one of those commandments, the very one that God placed deliberately in the heart of the ten, one that comes by no other source but from His own lips, has been done away without as much as a whimper? If the early church suddenly began ignoring the Sabbath as is supposed, where was the debate? Where was the controversy with the Jewish legalists, those Rabbis, Pharisees and Scribes who were all looking for the slightest excuse to malign the new movement? Why was it not an issue like circumcision? I would strongly suggest to you that the reason it never came up for any debate was that the early church kept the Sabbath faithfully , both Jew and Gentile, and it was not an issue.
Now one might ask, if the apostolic church kept the Sabbath, then that means surely that the church stopped keeping it at some stage, so when and why?
It is a fact that Christians did keep the Sabbath but stopped. Over a period of time and for several reasons, Sunday became more popular and through church councils and enforcement, ‘Judaising’ or Sabbath keeping was forbidden by the ruling church /state power.
When pagan Rome began to persecute and wage relentless war against Jews in the 2nd century as a result of several Jewish uprisings, Jews and Christians alike were rounded up and carted off to imprisonment or worse. Many Christians, especially in Rome, felt they needed to be seen to be a separate group and people from Jews and began disregarding the Sabbath. For the Roman, this was a very significant thing. A Jew who didn’t keep Sabbath was unheard of . So Christians who began observing Sunday in honor of the resurrection were left alone. Eventually,in the 4th century when Constantine claimed to be a Christian, half the empire was Christian; it became politically expedient for Constantine to recognise Christianity as an officially recognised religion.
To make Christianity more acceptable to pagans,along with several other innovations and improvisations, Constantine made Sunday the official day of rest. Sunday at that time was already the official day for sun worship having been imported from the Mithra sun worship religion then popular in Persia, and ‘baptising’ it brought acceptability and unity to the empire.
The bishops of Rome which took over the Roman civil authority when Constantine left for Constantinople, at the council of Laodicea made Sunday the official church day of worship in line with Constantine’s civil edict.
Not all Christianity accepted this however. Historians of the time state that Sunday was observed in Rome and Alexandria, but elsewhere the Sabbath was still kept.Elsewhere where Roman influence was less significant eg in Ethiopia, Britain, and Asia, the Sabbath was kept by the Christian church for centuries. By some even right up to the 17th and 18 th centuries.
Truth is that far from being a recent innovation, observance of the Sabbath has been kept faithfully by the people of God since creation, and the prophet Isaiah tells us that the Sabbath will be kept throughout all eternity.
Isaiah 66:22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.
23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.