Did Paul Teach That All Days of Worship Are Alike?

You are here

Did Paul Teach That All Days of Worship Are Alike?

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×

In Romans 14:5-6 Romans 14:5-6 5 One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks.
American King James Version×
, Paul wrote: “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.”

Many people assume from this passage that Paul is saying that whatever day one chooses to rest and worship is irrelevant so long as one is “fully convinced in his own mind” and “observes it to the Lord.”

Does this mean that the Fourth Commandment, telling us to remember the seventh-day Sabbath day and keep it holy, is no longer necessary for Christians? Did Paul teach that the Sabbath is no different from any other day or that we are free to choose for ourselves whatever day we wish to observe?

To come to that conclusion, one must read it into the verse, because—notice carefully— the Sabbath is nowhere mentioned here. In fact, the word Sabbath or references to Sabbath-keeping are not found anywhere in the book of Romans. The reference here is simply to “day(s),” not the Sabbath or any other days of rest and worship commanded by God.

Keep in mind that Paul, earlier in this same epistle, had written, “The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
American King James Version×
), “The doers of the law will be justified” (Romans 2:13 Romans 2:13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
American King James Version×
) and “I delight in the law of God” (Romans 7:22 Romans 7:22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
American King James Version×
). If he were saying here that keeping God’s Sabbath day is irrelevant, it would be completely inconsistent with his other clear statements in this same letter. Also, no New Testament writers refer to the Sabbath by such ambiguous phrases as “one day.”

Context shows the meaning of “days”

What, then, were the “days” Paul mentions here? We must look at the context to find out.

Notice first that this discussion is about “disputes over doubtful things” (Romans 14:1 Romans 14:1Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations.
American King James Version×
). These were matters of “opinions” (NRSV), which tells us that Paul isn’t addressing issues clearly stated in the Scriptures, such as when and whether to keep the Sabbath.

The passage in question about days is in Romans 14:5-6 Romans 14:5-6 5 One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks.
American King James Version×
, immediately between references to eating meat, vegetarianism and fasting in Romans 14:2-6 Romans 14:2-6 2 For one believes that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eats herbs. 3 Let not him that eats despise him that eats not; and let not him which eats not judge him that eats: for God has received him. 4 Who are you that judge another man’s servant? to his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks.
American King James Version×
. There is no biblical connection between Sabbath observance and any of these things, so one must take these verses out of context to assume that Paul was referring to the Sabbath.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains that “the close contextual association with eating suggests that Paul has in mind a special day set apart for observance as a time for feasting or as a time for fasting” (Everett Harrison, 1976, Vol. 10, p. 146). It is apparent that Paul wasn’t discussing the Sabbath, but rather other days during which fasting or abstaining from certain foods was practiced.

Paul was writing to a mixed church of Jewish and gentile believers in Rome (Romans 1:13 Romans 1:13Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that oftentimes I purposed to come to you, (but was let till now,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
American King James Version×
; Romans 2:17 Romans 2:17Behold, you are called a Jew, and rest in the law, and make your boast of God,
American King James Version×
). Personal eating and fasting practices that were not clearly addressed in the Scriptures had become a point of contention for some.

The Talmud records that many Jews of that time fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. They also had other traditional fast days (compare Zechariah 7:3-5 Zechariah 7:3-5 3 And to speak to the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years? 4 Then came the word of the LORD of hosts to me, saying, 5 Speak to all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did you at all fast to me, even to me?
American King James Version×
). Since some of the Jewish Church members in Rome self-righteously criticized others (Romans 2:17-24 Romans 2:17-24 17 Behold, you are called a Jew, and rest in the law, and make your boast of God, 18 And know his will, and approve the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19 And are confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which have the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 21 You therefore which teach another, teach you not yourself? you that preach a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You that say a man should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? you that abhor idols, do you commit sacrilege? 23 You that make your boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonor you God? 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
American King James Version×
), perhaps they had become like the Pharisee who boasted, “I fast twice a week” (Luke 18:12 Luke 18:12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
American King James Version×
), and set themselves up as more righteous than others who were not fasting at these times.

Possibly members of the church at Rome were trying to enforce fasting on particular days on other Christians there, prompting Paul’s pointed question: “Who are you to judge another’s servant?” (Romans 14:4 Romans 14:4Who are you that judge another man’s servant? to his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.
American King James Version×
). Paul appears to be setting the record straight by emphasizing that fasting is a voluntary exercise of worship not limited to a particular day. Therefore, one person’s fasting on a particular day when another is eating does not make him more righteous.

Why were some avoiding meat?

In Romans 14:2-3 Romans 14:2-3 2 For one believes that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eats herbs. 3 Let not him that eats despise him that eats not; and let not him which eats not judge him that eats: for God has received him.
American King James Version×
Paul discussed vegetarianism (“he who is weak eats only vegetables”) and continued this theme in Romans 14:6 Romans 14:6He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks.
American King James Version×
(“he who eats … and he who does not eat”).

The context shows us that some members of the congregation there were eating meat, and others were abstaining from eating meat. The vegetarians were likely members who “so feared lest they should (without knowing it) eat meat which had been offered to idols or was otherwise ceremonially unclean (which might easily happen in such a place as Rome), that they abstained from meat altogether” (W.J. Conybeare and J.S. Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, 1974, p. 530).

In 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, Paul addressed the issue of eating meat that may have been sacrificed to idols and consequently could have been viewed by some members as improper to eat. Paul’s point in that chapter was that unknown association of food with idolatrous activity did not make that food unsuitable for eating.

Paul was addressing the same issue to both the Romans and the Corinthians, namely whether members should avoid meats that may have been associated with idolatrous worship.

This is indicated by Paul’s reference to ” unclean” meat in Romans 14:14 Romans 14:14I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteems any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
American King James Version×
. Rather than using the Greek word used to describe those meats listed in the Old Testament as unclean, he used a word meaning “common” or “defiled,” which would be appropriate in describing meat that had been sacrificed to idols.

Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 8 was the same as in Romans 14:15 Romans 14:15But if your brother be grieved with your meat, now walk you not charitably. Destroy not him with your meat, for whom Christ died.
American King James Version×
: Be especially careful not to offend a fellow member, causing him to stumble or lose faith, over the issue of meats.

In no way was this related to Sabbath observance because God’s Sabbath is a “feast” day (Leviticus 23:1-3 Leviticus 23:1-3 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
American King James Version×
), not a day when one must abstain from eating meat. The Sabbath is nowhere mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans; it simply wasn’t the issue. (To learn more, request our free booklet Sunset to Sunset: God’s Sabbath Rest .)

Those who look to Romans for justification for their view that Paul abrogates keeping Old Testament laws face the added burden of explaining why, if his purpose is to argue that those laws are done away, Paul quotes from that same Old Testament more than 80 times in this same epistle as authority for his teaching. This simple fact alone confirms Paul’s view that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
American King James Version×
).