Esteeming One Day Above Another

Some cite Romans 14:5-6 as proof that it doesn't matter which day we keep as the Sabbath or whether we keep any day at all. In this passage, the Apostle Paul states, "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." But is this really talking about Sabbath-keeping?

Notice the rest of verse 6: "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." What is this about? Romans 14 begins with Paul telling the Christians in Rome to receive those who are "weak in the faith, but not to [enter into] disputes over doubtful things" (v. 1)—i.e. things some we are not sure about. In verse 2, Paul mentions some who would eat only vegetables for various religious reasons—even though the Bible shows in many places that it is acceptable to eat clean meat. For instance, the parable of the prodigal son pictures a righteous father preparing a "fatted calf" to be eaten (Luke 15:23).

In another of Paul's letters, he explains one particular reason that a number of Christians had become vegetarians. Most of the available meat in the marketplace had been offered to idols. Of this Paul says, "Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled" (1 Corinthians 8:4, 7).

Some new converts thought that eating such meat was participating in idol worship, but went along with other Christians and did it anyway. That is the worst thing they could have done. For Paul states in Romans 14 that "he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin" (v. 23). Whether something is inherently wrong or not, if you think it might be and do it anyway, you are sinning!

So to those who thought it was all right to eat meat, Paul said, "Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat" (v. 3). But continuing in the same verse, he said, "And let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him." Yet Paul told those who thought it was okay not to flaunt that in front of those who did not (vv. 15-22).

So why did Paul break from his dissertation on eating or not eating meat by mentioning the esteeming of days? Because it involved the same principle! There were some weak new converts who thought certain days were better than others for fasting or eating or abstaining from particular foods. Others thought all days were the same in regard to what could be eaten.

Christ said that when we fast, it should be to God and without others knowing unnecessarily (Matthew 6:16-18). But Jews and Gentiles both practiced "semifasts" on particular days of the week or month. The Pharisees fasted, according to custom, "twice a week" (Luke 18:12). And the Jews as a people fasted during certain months (Zechariah 7:4-7). However, the Jewish religious authorities were divided on some of these matters. The Gentiles, too, were divided over when and if to abstain from certain foods (cf. Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics).

The only way the Sabbath could have been a factor here is if some thought it could be used as a fast day and others did not. However, that is not stated, and if Paul had been talking about the Sabbath, he probably would have mentioned it by name—just like he did in Colossians 2:16, where Gentile converts to Christianity were being criticized for how they were keeping God's Sabbath and other Festivals. Whatever the case, the controversy in Romans 14 about esteeming particular days had practically NOTHING to do with God's Sabbath or His other Holy Days!

No, whether or not to keep the days that GOD made holy was not even at issue. This was all about MAN-made traditions—some of which were okay to follow but not okay to impose on others. In God's eyes, it doesn't matter when we fast (except for the Day of

Atonement, on which God commands us to fast). What matters to Him is that we do it with a right attitude—and that we do not judge each other according to our personal ideas.

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