|Romans 14 and "Regarding All Days Alike"
Many of my friends whom I have known ever since I first became a Sabbath-keeping evangelical Christian have given up the observance of the fourth commandment. When I ask them why they feel that the observance of the fourth commandment is not enjoined upon Christians, nearly every one quotes me the same text from Paul's epistle to the Romans. Romans 14:5-6 "One person thinks that a certain day is more important than other days, while someone else thinks that all days are the same. Each one should firmly make up his own mind."
Only if one ignores the historical context of chapter 14 can one reach this mistaken conclusion. Please read chapter 14 given here:
Romans 14:1-23 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 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. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way. 14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.
This entire fourteenth chapter of the epistle to the Romans records Paul's counsel on how to deal with new Christian converts who are offended by eating food and wine offerings offered to pagan gods as if eating this food would be a denial of the Faith and an act of participating in idol worship should they partake of this food. Some of these "weaker brethren" even believed that to observe certain fast days wherein this food is entirely left out of the diet was pleasing to Christ and mandatory as a "way to honor the Lord".
To show that these fast days are really what "days" Paul had in mind, look at verse 6. Here Paul places the observance of a certain day in opposition to the freedom to "eat anything". "Whoever thinks highly of a certain day does so in honor of the Lord: whoever will eat anything does so in honor of the Lord, because he gives thanks to God for the food. Whoever refuses to eat certain things does so in honor of the Lord and he gives thanks to God."
So we see that some will not eat the food and do "observe the day", while on the other hand some will eat the food and do not "observe the day" Thus if we keep these "days" in their context (days of eating or not eating: fasting or not fasting) we see that the apostle Paul is not referring at all to the observance of the seventh day Sabbath as being optional or a matter of choice, but rather he is referring to observance of optional fast days.
This issue was one which was vexing the entire early Christian church including the church at Corinth. When one compares Paul's counsel to the Corinthians with his counsel to the Romans then the context is obvious.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple , shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
It is interesting to also note that the Didache, a very early second century Christian catechism, mentions the fact that there were factions in the early Christian church which were advocating certain fast days and that there was a dispute as to which days of the week to observe as a fast days. If you will read through this brief catechism and note especially where the text is in bold text, you will see that not only were these fast days mentioned but as an aside I would call your attention to the fact that the "preparation day" is mentioned as being one of these fast days. The "preparation day" is the sixth day of the week and is the day which is mentioned in the new testament as the day preceding the Sabbath day.
Also note that the believers are urged in the Didache to gather on "the "Lord's own day" (see near the end of the document in bold text). The day of the week here mentioned as "the Lord's own day" is obviously the seventh day Sabbath. We can know this because "the preparation day", the sixth day of the week, was the day to prepare for the blessing of the seventh day Sabbath rest. These texts in the Didache give us some very important insight as to the fact that "the Lord's own day" was the seventh day Sabbath which was being observed by the very early Christian church. The early church was indeed observing the Sabbath day of the fourth commandment.
And so with the proper understanding of Paul's counsel in Romans 14 in its textual context and historical context, we are able to see that the integrity of all of God's commandments are maintained. As Paul tells us in Romans 7:12 "So then, the Law itself is holy, and the commandment is holy, right, and good." Paul was a Sabbath keeper, the early church was observing the Sabbath, and even the apostle John observed "the Lord's day", (see Revelation 1:7—"I was in the spirit on the Lord's day").
The seventh day of the week is the day sanctified by the Lord for the believers to come together for common worship and the hearing of the good news that our Lord by His unmerited grace alone saves to the uttermost those repentant sinners who put their faith and trust in the sinless life and atoning death of Christ alone as revealed in the Bible alone. Our Lord Jesus Christ "hung alone that He might atone" for our transgressions of not only the letter of the Law, but our transgressions of the spirit of the Law as well.
The "blood of sprinkling" in the Day of Atonement tabernacle ritual was always applied and atonement always took place at the mercy seat above the holy Law of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ is now the mediator of a new and better covenant based upon better promises. He himself as our High Priest, King, and Judge is the Law-giver and the Law-keeper for all who put their trust in his perfect life and atoning death. Those who trust in him as Savior and Lord will be walking in the way of his commandments not to be justified but because they are justified by faith in his perfect obedience to all of the holy commandments. Or to put it in the words of Paul in Romans 3:31 NIV "Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law."
In any discussion of the issue of whether the early church observed the first day of the week or the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath day, it is a very good idea to take a look at Acts 20:7. Notice that Acts 20:7 states that they met together on Saturday evening, had a meal together, and then the text states that Paul preached until MIDNIGHT because Paul was going to leave the NEXT DAY. At midnight the young fellow, Eutychus, fell out of the window and was revived by Paul. Paul then preached until daylight (the reader must remember that days of the week in the Bible began at sundown and ended at sundown — from evening unto evening: see Genesis 1).
Here is the TEV's correct translation of Acts 20:7,11
"vs. 7. On Saturday evening we gathered together for the fellowship meal. Paul spoke to the people and kept on speaking until midnight, since he was going to leave the next day.......vs.11. After talking with them for a long time, even until sunrise, Paul left."
Notice that Paul, after preaching all night, left on SUNDAY morning for his journey. He and the believers DID NOT then have a Sunday morning church service. The first day of the week was of no religious significance to the first century church: see "Sunday and the Early Church".
(continued, part 2)