I want to start by saying something positive: The Christian Sabbath is gift of peace, not a constraint.
In this post I want to come at the 4th Command from a little bit different angle than is usually taken when discussing this part of God’s Law. In his defense of the abiding validity of the Sabbath command Jesus in the second chapter of Mark says that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Part of the point our Lord is making there is that the Lord’s Day is a gift from God not just for His covenant people, but for all of mankind. It was intended from the beginning before Adam’s fall and remains to this day to be a part of the LORD’s good pleasure for His whole creation. A Savior who came to redeem fallen nature from sin wouldn’t be interested in abolishing an ordinance fashioned for an unfallen world, anymore than He would marriage between one man and one woman. Quite often when discussing the Law of God in general we can forget that the benefit and mercy of the law applies not just for the ethic of the Christian believer, but for all of humanity as well, regardless of whether in their depraved minds they may realize that this is the case or not. Their denial does not change God’s purpose, nor the reflection of His character in the word. The Church rather than following culture away from the law of nature, should be leading it back to the ordinary foundations of the way God made the world.
In Reformed confessional theology we reckon the 4th Commandment as part of the “First Table” of the Law. While this is true it could also be said to act almost as a keystone between the two tables. After calling on the people of God to remember the Sabbath Day and to keep it Holy (i.e.- set apart from the other days of the week) you see a listing of people and animals who also should be observing the Lord’s Day. From Exodus 20:10:
In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.