“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5)
Romans 14:5 is an extremely interesting text many use to combat Sabbath observance. If you were to ask your pastor or Bible teacher if we should be observing the Sabbath today, they would most-likely point to this verse at some point in the conversation to try and prove that there is no specific “holy day” anymore and we are free to observe any day we wish. There is, however, a couple of things severely wrong with this conclusion.
First off, Paul isn’t even talking about the Sabbath here. In fact, Paul doesn’t even specifically speak about the Sabbath in the entire letter to the Romans! You must read the context.
In verses 1-4 Paul is speaking about “doubtful disputations” or “differences of opinions” concerning “eating.” According to the King James Version Paul says the word “eat” 6 times in these first 4 verses. Then in verse 6 to the end of the chapter he says the word “eat” 8 times and the word “meat” (food) 4 times. Do you get the suspicion Paul’s main focus here is about “eating” or “not eating”?
The Certain “Days” Paul Refers to
in Romans 14:5 Are Dealing With Days for Fasting
Among those of the 1st century A.D., who were still caught up in the heavy yoke of the Pharisees and other religious leaders, there was a debate on what days to fast during the week. One group said Wednesdays and Fridays, while another said Mondays and Thursdays. For example, although most scholars consider it a non-biblical (non-inspired) book, the Didache (meaning, "Teaching"), which was written in the 1st or late 2nd century A.D. and claims to be "The Lord's Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations [Gentiles]", says this:
"Don’t let your fasting coincide with those of the hypocrites. They fast on the 2nd [Monday] and 5th [Thursday] days of the week. So, you should fast on the 4th [Wednesday] and the preparation [Friday] day of the week." (Didache 8:1, Note: the "preparation day" is the day in which to prepare for the weekly Sabbath [Saturday])
It is this mentality of which Paul was addressing in Romans 14. Paul is simply telling them that the Law gives no such command for these man-made fasting days so stop judging one another concerning these “doubtful disputations” (differences of opinions). Jesus briefly mentions these man-made fasts in Luke 18:9-14:
“And He (Jesus) spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
The whole argument, that Romans 14:5 is referring to any of God’s Holy Days, including the seventh-day Sabbath is just simply wrong. Along with this false teaching, many will try to convince the one asking about the Sabbath that Jesus and His disciples changed the weekly day of worship from the seventh day (commonly called Saturday) to the first day (commonly called Sunday). They refer to a few times in the New Testament where it seems to mention “the first day of the week” (Sunday) as their “proof” texts that the disciples held this day sacred.
With that in mind, how does their interpretation of Romans 14:5 make any sense? Jesus did not change the sacredness of the seventh day Sabbath to Sunday, but let’s just pretend He did for a minute. If Jesus changed the holy day, from the seventh to the first would it not matter what day we observe? If Jesus really changed the sacredness of the seventh day to the first day, wouldn’t Sunday be the specific day to observe now? If Jesus changed it, then it would most-definitely matter. But, according to these same teachers, Romans 14:5 says it doesn’t matter what day we observe. Is Paul against the day Jesus is claimed to set aside? Do you see the confusion?
I once talked with a Christian teacher who believed Sunday was the new Sabbath. He too came to the same conclusion in Romans 14:5 as most do. He actually told me, “If you want to observe the seventh-day Sabbath that’s fine, but don’t put me under that yoke of bondage!” But wait a minute, if it doesn’t matter what day we observe, why would observing the seventh day put anyone in bondage?
The fact of the matter is, when it comes to the Sabbath, it does matter! And the seventh-day Sabbath is NOT a yoke of bondage. How can a day of rest be bondage?1
It matters what day we observe as the Sabbath because the only weekly day God hallowed (set-apart) and blessed is the seventh day which He calls, “My holy Day!”
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all his work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.” (Genesis 2:1-3)
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
“If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath (stop trampling upon it), from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 58:13, 14)
Jesus clearly pointed out what the yoke of bondage is. It is any added man-made requirements and substitutions to God’s Law (see, Matthew 11:28-30; 15:1-9; 23:1-39). John declares God’s Commands are “not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3; see also, Deuteronomy 30:10-12; Proverbs 29:18) because walking in God’s Law is true “Liberty” (Psalm 119:45; James 1:25).
But remember, Romans 14 has nothing to do with Sabbath observance. Paul says, when it comes to certain days to fast, it doesn’t matter what day and no one should judge others for not fasting on the day they feel is best, for it is only a matter of opinion.
1 Most teachers come to the conclusion that the old so-called "Jewish" holy days are "bondage" due to Galatians 4:9-11. For a biblical analysis of this passage see the article entiled: Doesn’t Paul Warn Christians Not To Observe the Old “Jewish” Holy Days?