Sabbatarianism is the movement within Christianity that teaches the Seventh Day of the week (Saturday) is the day of rest, dedicated to the worship of God, and that to disregard this teaching is an abomination. It's strongest appeal is that the Ten Commandments seem to plainly teach that man is to "Keep the Sabbath Day holy," in which the Third Commandment states, "six days you shall labor, but the seventh day is the Sabbath". Though historically in the minority, Sabbatarians (especially the Seventh Day Adventists) have been very vocal and quite often very anti-Catholic. The reason for this is because they (rightly) realize that to boldly disregard one of the Ten Commandments is a grave error, and since the Catholic Church has been very strongly promoting Sunday worship then this can only mean the Catholic Church is some sort of anti-Christ movement set out to "hide" the Ten Commandments from mankind. Since the number 7 is the theme of this post, I will give seven reasons why Christians should reject Sabbatarianism.
(1) Keeping the Sabbath was a commandment given only to Israel, not to mankind in general. Most people don't know this, but the first time men are instructed to "Keep the Sabbath" (i.e. rest on the 7th day of the week) is in Exodus 16:23-30. In that context, it is given by God to Moses, instructing the Israelite to rest on the Seventh Day. There is no mention of men keeping or being commanded to keep the Sabbath anytime from Eden to Egypt. That is a huge span of time in which, of all the types of sins the recorded throughout Genesis, no mention of keeping or breaking the Sabbath is mentioned. All the Sabbatarian can do is assume the great saints like Abel and Abraham "must have kept" the Sabbath, but that's projecting one's assumptions onto Scripture - the very thing Sabbatarians accuse Catholics of doing. Instead, the Scriptures give very clear evidence that the Sabbath is something given only to Israel, not to other nations. Consider the following passages:
Exodus 31: 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed. ’” 18 When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.
Deuteronomy 5: 1Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. ... 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Nehemiah 9: 13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. 14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses.
Clearly, the Sabbath as a legal commandment was revealed only at the time of Moses, to the Israelites, as a sign between them and God. To suggest that all mankind is to keep the Sabbath is to mock these passages of Scripture and degrade the covenant God gave to Israel.
(2) The Ten Commandments are not the greatest commandments. Those who insist on making the Ten Commandments an eternal standard of morality become guilty of cutting and pasting their doctrine from the Bible. Jesus teaches us that there are two great commandments: loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as yourself (Mt 22:34-40). Yet these two greatest commandments are taken not from the Ten Commandments, but rather two separate passages from the Torah (Deut 6:5; Lev 19:8). It would be quite ironic to say the Ten Commandments remain eternal while the greatest commandments can be either ignored or appended at will to the Ten Commandments. In reality, Christian tradition has shown the two greatest commandments are the only supreme commandments, and summarize the entire Mosaic Law and Prophets. The Ten Commandments are thus only a very handy guideline summary for the two greatest commandments.
(3) Sabbatarianism is a form of Judaizing. One of the biggest heresies in the Apostolic age was that of Jewish Christians pressuring Gentile Christians to get circumcised and thus live by the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:5). This was especially 'visible' in the avoiding of certain foods and keeping of certain holidays. Yet the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 demonstrates that keeping the Mosaic Law is not required for Gentile Christians, only Faith in Jesus. In fact, there are two passages where Paul clearly refutes the idea that the Sabbath is still binding. The Epistle to the Galatians was focused upon refuting Judaizing, since many Gentile Christians had fallen prey to the heresy. In Galatians 4:10 Paul rebukes them by saying, “You observe days and months and seasons and years.” It is plain that Paul is not speaking of pagan holidays, so these “days” can only be referring to the weekly Sabbath days, along with the monthly, seasonal, and yearly Jewish holidays. Some Sabbatarians object saying the “days” here are the yearly feast days, but Paul has already covered this in the “seasons and years” category. Notice that Paul is talking from smaller time frames “days” to larger ones “years”. An even more powerful text is Colossians 2:16-17, which says:
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Again, the lesson is plain. The Judaizers were judging and snubbing the Gentile Christians who were not eating kosher and observing certain days. Sabbatarians dislike this passage very much and seek to find all sorts of excuses why the “Sabbath” mentioned here is not the Seventh Day Sabbath. For example, they claim that since the Greek term here has “Sabbath” in plural, sabbaton, that this must be speaking of yearly Sabbath feast days like the Day of Atonement (e.g. Lev 16:31). This fails for two reasons. First, the plural form of Sabbath appears in texts clearly speaking of the Seventh Day, notably the day one reads Scripture in the synagogue (Lk 4:16; Acts 16:13), the day prior to when Jesus resurrected (Mt 28:1), and even in the very laying out of the Third Commandment itself (Ex 20:8; Deut 5:12,15 LXX)! (Also see Numbers 15:32; Jer 17:22; Eze 46:1, which all use the plural form of Sabbath but are clearly speaking of the Seventh Day.) Secondly, as noted in the prior text, the length of time Paul cites is that of year-month-week, and since year is covered in “religious festival,” that means “Sabbath day” must correspond to the week. Just as powerful is Leviticus 23, which is speaking of the Jewish calendar feasts, and includes explicitly the Seventh Day Sabbath as one of the feasts (Lev 23:1-3), meaning it isn't it's own 'moral command' independent of feast days (rather, it is the epitome of all feast days). If all of the Old Testament is a shadow of things to come, fulfilled in Christ, as 2:17 says, then it would be absurd for something as central as the Sabbath to have no fulfillment in Christ.
(4) The Ten Commandments are the heart of Mosaic Law and abolished as a legal code; they now only serve as guidelines. Many people think the Ten Commandments are an eternal code of laws that only accompanied the Mosaic Law, rather than being at the heart of it. Contrary to this, the fact is the Ten Commandments were the very core of the Mosaic Law, given specifically to the Jews, by which all other laws would be built around (see Ex 34:27-28; Deut 4:10-13; Deut 9:9). So when Jesus ended and fulfilled the Mosaic Law, the Ten Commandments most certainly were abolished along with it! Anything else is a form of Judaizing and denial that Jesus came! And yet Sabbatarians like the Seventh Day Adventists follow the Mosaic law on many points, including Sabbath day regulations and dietary laws. After the Mosaic Law was abolished, Christians only kept the Ten Commandments format to use as guidelines for general morals (e.g. don't kill, steal, lie), but not as a legal code with detailed regulations and legal penalties. A crucial passage to be aware of in this regard is 2 Corinthians 3, which says the Ten Commandments are the “ministry of death” (2 Cor 3:7)! Now Paul is not saying the Ten Commandments are evil, but rather that they being the heart of the Mosaic Law represent a dead-end path to salvation. To treat the Ten Commandments as a law in itself as a rule to follow is saying the Mosaic Law is the path to salvation, which is a great heresy!
(5) The New Testament never commands Sabbath Keeping for Christians. The only time Sabbath keeping is mentioned in the New Testament is in reference to either the Jews keeping the Sabbath or for the Apostles going to preach in the synagogue on the Sabbath (since that's when the Jews assembled). Of all the teachings and commands given, never does Jesus nor the Apostles mention the need to keep the Sabbath. This is quite astonishing if, as Sabbatarians believe, Sabbath breaking was to become one of the most brazen and nearly universal attacks on God's moral teaching. This is why the Seventh Day Adventists must go to embarrassing extremes to try and find any shred of proof from Scripture, settling on the idea that the “Mark of the Beast” must be Sunday worship (despite the fact no such connection can be made).
(6) Sunday is not the Sabbath. One of the biggest mistakes made by Sabbatarians is thinking that the Catholic Church “moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday”. The truth is, the Catholic Church never did such a thing, and that's because Sunday worship is not at all the same as the Sabbath. They are two different things. Christians worship on Sunday because Jesus Resurrected on Sunday and began the Church on Pentecost Sunday. In other words, we celebrate new creations on Sunday. On the flip side, Saturday is a day of ceasing from work, and is embodied in Jesus' “resting” in the tomb. The emphasis for Christians on Sunday is to take time off to devote to worshiping the Trinity, while the emphasis for the Sabbath is to take time off to rest from the work week. This is not to say there isn't some sense of overlap in terms of duties, but to suggest the Sabbath was “moved” by Catholics
is a total mistake.
(7) The mention of Sabbath and Marriage in the Garden of Eden each have a fulfillment. Some Sabbatarians will argue that the only two commands given in Eden were the Sabbath and Marriage (Gen 2:24), and that these are perfected in themselves, with no greater fulfillment. The problem here is that not only is this 'rule' made up and not derived from Scripture, but Scripture does indeed recall the passage in Genesis 2:24 about marriage and says this is a deep mystery referring to Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-32). Thus, it is very possible that the Sabbath has a greater fulfillment, and the New Testament says just that. In Hebrews 4:3-10, it teaches that the “rest” (which is what Sabbath means) that is spoken of in reference to God ceasing from His “work” has a deeper reality in that of man receiving the spiritual “rest” of being in Heaven some day.