I got this question by e-mail recently:
If Sabbath was not moral law then why does the Roman Catholic Church say it is a mortal sin to miss Sunday [the new Sabbath?] worship? If we don’t have to observe the 7th day then why would we have to observe the first day? God never ever said that! I’m so confused.
That’s a very good question.
The Sabbath is not a moral law in that the timing of it has nothing moral about it – that is purely ceremonial, a remembrance of a certain event. The moral aspect lies with our duty to God. It is our duty to worship God, and this includes coming together as a community of believers. (Obviously not always possible, but the New Testament does call for more than private faith without fellowship.)
The New Testament does not bind us to the Sabbath – in fact, Paul tells us that whatever day we keep, we do so for the glory of God. He also says that the Sabbath is a shadow of what we now have the reality of in Christ. The day, the timing, is not important to Christians.
God did not formally ordain Sunday as a day of worship – that was done by the early Christians, with the Holy Spirit working in them (and is recorded in the Bible). Its purpose was to give glory to God by celebrating the resurrection.
Unless there is a good reason not to, refusal to worship with fellow Christians must be seen in a negative light – it is not good for the Christian, and it is not good for the fellowship of the Church. It is in that sense that not going to church is considered to be a sin. That is the moral sense that existed when the Sabbath was in force as well, and while the timing on the 7th day is no longer of importance to Christians, the same moral requirement to worship God applies to Christians on Sundays, Easter, Christmas, and any day when the faithful gather together as a group to celebrate some aspect of Christ’s life and work. For those who still keep the 7th day, God will judge their hearts, not their calendar, and so the same moral principle would apply to them regarding the Sabbath.