Do we choose which day to keep holy according to Romans 14:5, 6?

Author: BibleAsk Team

Romans 14:5-6

Some use Romans 14:4-5 to show that Paul taught the every believer can choose which day to keep holy. Let’s read this passage: “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks” (Romans 14:5-6).

Do We Choose Which Day To Keep Holy?

In this passage, Paul was not addressing God’s eternal Sabbath or the feast days. The Bible is very clear of the sanctity of the Sabbath Day for the believers in all ages (Exodus 20:8-11). And it also mentions the feast days that were kept by the Jews up until the Resurrection (Leviticus 23).

Instead, Paul here was talking about eating meats that are offered to idols and fasting practices. He was urging the believers to accept the “weak in the faith” who doesn’t have enough knowledge and to not judge him (verse 1). For some of the newly converted, refused to eat meat because most of the meat in the city was offered to idols. These believers thought that meat offered to idols can actually defile them (I Corinthians 8:7). So, Paul assured them that this is not true for “we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one” (verse 4).

Then, Paul talked about keeping days: “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike” (Romans 14:5-6). In addition to not eating meat, some new converts customarily abstained from eating on certain days, similar to the Catholics today, who abstain from eating meat on Fridays.

At that time, both Jews and Gentiles practiced semi-fasts on certain days of each week or month. The Jews fasted “twice in the week” (Luke 18:12) and on specific days (Zechariah 7:4-7). And the Gentiles also fasted according to their traditions (Hasting’s Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics).

In the Bible, the Lord made clear what is the fast that is pleasing to Him (Isaiah 58). Fasting should not be done to boast before people (Matthew 6:16) or judge others who don’t fast (Romans 14:1). And those who are stronger in faith are to “bear the infirmities of the weak” (Romans 15:1). No attempt should be made to steal from any believer his freedom to make up his own mind about his duty.

Bible Commentators and Romans 14

Early Jewish converts didn’t fully understand that the ceremonial law of sacrifices and feasts was fulfilled in Christ (Colossians 2:14–16) and that it was from that point on no longer binding. But the early believers were not asked to immediately stop celebrating the annual Jewish feasts and all ceremonial services. Paul himself observed some of the feasts even after he became a Christian (Acts 18:21). And though Paul taught that circumcision was nothing (1 Corinthians 7:19), he had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3) and carried out a vow according to that Old Testament law (Acts 21:20–27).

During these times, it seemed right to permit the different segments of the Jewish ceremonial law to slowly disintegrate as the mind and conscience became enlightened. Thus, it was natural among Jewish Christians to ask such questions regarding the propriety of observing certain “days”—Jewish holy days, that were related to their yearly feasts (Leviticus 23:1–44; Colossians 2:14–17). 

It becomes obvious that Paul, in Romans 14, did not downgrade a vegetarian diet, or abolish the distinction between clean and unclean meats, or abolish the seventh-day Sabbath of God’s moral law (Romans 3:31).

Notable Bible Commentators such as Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, in their comment on Romans 14:5, 6, affirm that Paul didn’t abolish the seventh-day Sabbath:

“From this passage about the observance of days, Alford unhappily infers that such language could not have been used if the sabbath-law had been in force under the Gospel in any form. Certainly it could not, if the sabbath were merely one of the Jewish festival days; but it will not do to take this for granted merely because it was observed under the Mosaic economy. And certainly if the sabbath was more ancient than Judaism; if, even under Judaism, it was enshrined amongst the eternal sanctities of the Decalogue, uttered, as no other parts of Judaism were, amidst the terrors of Sinai; and if the Lawgiver Himself said of it when on earth, ‘The Son of man is LORD EVEN OF THE SABBATH DAY’ (see Mark 2:28)—it will be hard to show that the apostle must have meant it to be ranked by his readers amongst those vanished Jewish festival days, which only ‘weakness’ could imagine to be still in force—a weakness which those who had more light ought, out of love, merely to bear with.”  

For more on the Sabbath, please check (Lessons 91-102) of the Bible Lessons.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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