2. We have a tendency to focus on Sabbath restriction rather than Sabbath blessing.
Because of the preceding point, the usual questions one gets about the Sabbath concern the exact boundaries of restriction. How much work is too much? What sort of work is forbidden? For what part of the day is the restriction in effect?
This is not unlike the teen boy who awkwardly asks you how far is too far to progress in his physical relationship with his girlfriend until he goes over some invisible line of sin. But we know from experience that trying to define these sort of boundaries and then flirt with sticking our toes over them always leads to disaster.
Rather than approach the Sabbath asking “what can I NOT do today,” we would do far better to ask “how much of a spiritual blessing CAN this day be?” Then, when we have filled our day with worship, fellowship, rest and mercy, questions regarding whether or not I can pay bills or watch football become largely irrelevant.
3. Opposition to the Sabbath is representative of a wider opposition to the third use of the law.
Many Christians have an allergy to discussing any sense of duty, requirement, or life command beyond the simple call to faith in the gospel. To these believers, any talk of our duty regarding righteous living seems to degrade the complete salvation Christ has won on our behalf.
Historically, the Reformed understanding of the Law of God has agreed with other branches of Christianity that the law serves to restrain evil and drive us to Christ as we despair over our sins, but has also added a third use of the Law, namely that it is to be a rule of life for the converted soul. Notice that this is absolutely NOT a belief in any sort of saving works on our part or contribution to the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to us in our justification. Rather, it simply is a belief that God is consistent and that when he calls us to imitate Christ in our conduct, He calls us to keep the same law Christ kept in order to stand as our substitute before the judgment seat of God. We of course do not keep the law perfectly this side of glory, but how good it is that God has given us a roadmap to show us how he would have us pursue Christlikeness.
Many modern Christians reject this third use of the Law, and so opposition to the Sabbath becomes a convenient representation of that rejection.
4. Some legitimate instances of Sabbath legalism have alienated many Christians.
Legalism is a word with many proposed definitions, but it basically involves either men adding to God’s commands their own scruples and then binding men to them, or the pursuit of law keeping in order to win God’s salvific favor.
Legalism is poison to legitimate uses of the law. When some Sabbatarians go beyond what the Scriptures teach or institute an unbiblical and authoritarian regulation of the conduct of their people, they alienate many from the true blessings of the Lord’s Day. This is a significant difficulty which can only be overcome with much grace, Scriptural study, and winsome example of a non legalistic embrace of the Law.
5. The Sabbath is not always defended in a helpful way, even where it is practised faithfully.
Even where legalism is avoided, some Sabbatarians can come off as so self-righteous and dismissive of those who dissent from their convictions that they sour believers against any mention of the Sabbath, let alone its observation. To any so alienated, I would humbly ask that you reconsider the grounds of your opposition. An officer of the law who defends the law in an unjust or abrasive manner does not therefore invalidate the law. Your disapproval should be toward that unjust officer, not toward the justice of the law itself.
The same is true of the Law of God. I did not always have the convictions I now do regarding the Lord’s Day, but having been convinced from the Scriptures I have found the day to be a great blessing to my faith and boon to my family. It is merciful, not melicus. It is kind, not cumbersome. It is God-glorifying, not self-centered. If you have doubted this Day, I would challenge you to examine the root of your opposition and reconsider it. To paraphrase the most loving and gracious teacher of the Law the world has ever known, this day was made for us, and we neglect it to our own detriment (Mark 2:27).