Ten Commandments, Sabbath or Ceremonial Law?
As with Colossians 2:14-16 and Galatians 4:9-10, there are also those who believe that Romans 14:5-6 refers to the Sabbath of the Lord. Could this be true or is this also just another misunderstanding as are the other two passages?
Colossians 2:16, Galatians 4:10 and Romans 14:5 are in fact all related and all very misunderstood as so often seems to be the case when it comes to God's Moral law, His Sabbath and the temporary ceremonial law which pointed to Christ. Five very respected Bible Commentaries have also been chosen to cover Romans 14:5 as they give very thorough and professional explanations on this verse.
The scripture in contention is Romans 14:5 but other verses are also given so the context of the passage can be seen. Parentheses are added.
Romans 14:1-6, “Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God has received him. 4 Who are you that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yes, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one [feast] day above another: another esteemeth every [feast] day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.”
To begin with, it must be admitted that the word “Sabbath” is not found in the entire chapter. People assume Paul is talking about the Sabbath. But is he really? The chapter begins, “Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations.” Romans 14:1. The NKJV reads, “disputes over doubtful things.” This chapter concerns “doubtful things” and is not a discussion of the Ten Commandments. God's “Big Ten” are not “doubtful,” but exceedingly dear and written personally with the finger of God on two tables of stone.
The Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments that defines what sin is and the Commandments of God are never spoken of flippantly such as referring to the fourth Commandment as a day. It is always called “the Sabbath” or “Sabbath day” but it is never referred to superficially as just a day. Also very significant is that the word “alike” in verse 5 does not exist in the Greek and is an added word, which tends to convey an idea which the apostle never designed or intended.
It becomes clear from Romans 14 and 15 chapters, that many misunderstandings existed between Jewish and Gentile Christians in relation to certain customs which were sacredly observed by one but disregarded by the other. The main subject of dispute was concerning meats and days. The converted Jew retaining respect for the Law of Moses abstained from certain meats and observed ceremonial days while the converted Gentile understood that Christianity put him under no such obligation or regard to ceremonial points. It also appears that mutual and heartless judgments existed among them and that brotherly love and reciprocal tolerance did not always prevail. Paul exhorts that in such things no longer essential to Christianity, that even though both parties had a different way of thinking they might and probably do still have an honest and serious regard for God. Paul further explains they should not therefore let different sentiments hinder Christian fellowship and love, but they should mutually refrain and withhold and make allowance for each other and especially not carry their Gospel liberty so far as to prejudice a weak brother or a Jewish Christian.
The “weak” brother “eats” some things and “esteems one day above another” while the strong brother believes that he may “eat all things” and “esteems every day” Romans 14:2, 5. The early Church was made up of Jewish believers and Gentile converts. Although Paul did not specify what “days” he was referring to, he could only be talking about the “esteeming” or “not esteeming” of certain Jewish fast or feast days and certain pagan feast days when people were especially “eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols.” 1 Corinthians 8:4.
A “strong” Jew who knew that “an idol is nothing” would have no scruples about eating “meat in an idols temple” on a pagan feast day. 1 Corinthians 8-4, 10. Paul warned these “strong” Jewish believers, “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. [the Gentile convert from idolatry]. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple [on a pagan feast day], shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish [if he is drawn back to idolatry], for whom Christ died? But when you sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth.” 1 Corinthians 8:9-13.
There is NO evidence that the discussion about “the weak and the strong” in Romans 14 and 1Corinthians 8 has anything to do with the Sabbath. God has never said “one man may choose to esteem MY Sabbath, while another man may choose to esteem Sunday.” Remember that the word alike does not exist and is an added word. God has NOT left it up to us to “pick a day.” Rather, God has commanded, “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy ... the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.” Exodus 20:8-10. The book of Romans is very clear, “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20; 7:7, 12.
When the passage is about a law of bondage as referred to in Galatians 4 or foods and days as in Colossians 2:16 and Romans 14:5, especially when associated with the sanctuary service, then we must realize that the Ten Commandments are not being referred to. When the Ten Commandments are being referenced, you will always know as the context of the passage will always be centred around love, as that is what the Ten Commandments are. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:8 “He that loves not, knows not God; for God Is Love.” As God is eternal, then Love also must be eternal. 1 John 4:16 says, “And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.“ Love is inseparable from God and the true Christian, as God is love and love is God. We were created in love and for love and no other reason. This is why the Ten Commandments are eternal and unchanging, as God changes not, and love changes not, and the guidelines on loving God and man also changes not. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 that He did not come to destroy the law and that till heaven and earth pass, not one jot or tittle shall pass from the law. See also misunderstandings in fulfilling the law. He also warned against not teaching the law and said great is he that does teach and uphold the law. Jesus then raises the bar even higher and tells us that if we think the crime we have done the crime as verse 27 goes on to say. Jesus is in no way implying the Ten Commandments are going to be abolished or change, but to the contrary Jesus shows they will become even stricter. To imply that Colossians 2:16, Galatians 4:10 or Romans 14:5 refer to the Ten Commandments is to take them seriously out of context and also have them fail to line up with other scripture throughout the Bible as well as being in serious and obvious contradiction to many other scriptures.
The remainder of this topic on Romans 14:5 will now be left to some of the world's past but best theologians. By doing this, you can see that what has currently been taught is also backed up by some highly respected and famous theologians.
John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible
Romans 14:5 - One day above another - As new moons, and other Jewish festivals. Let every man be fully persuaded - That a thing is lawful, before he does it.
Notice how the Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, which primarily references other verses that are referring to the same topic, has referenced the passages that Paul discussed with the Romans, Galatians and Colossians regarding the ceremonial law also. This as we have now seen is because all these verses are referring to the ceremonial law.
Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge by Canne, Browne, Blayney, Scott
Romans 14:5 - esteemeth: Galatians 4:9, Galatians 4:10; Colossians 2:16, Colossians 2:17
Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, LL.D., F.S.A., (1715-1832)
Romans 14:5 - One man esteemeth one day above another - Perhaps the word day, is here taken for time, festival, and such like, in which sense it is frequently used. Reference is made here to the Jewish institutions, and especially their festivals; such as the Passover, Pentecost, feast of tabernacles, new moons, jubilee, etc. The converted Jew still thought these of moral obligation; the Gentile Christian not having been bred up in this way had no such prejudices. And as those who were the instruments of bringing him to the knowledge of God gave him no such injunctions, consequently he paid to these no religious regard.
Another - The converted Gentile esteemeth every day - considers that all time is the Lord's, and that each day should be devoted to the glory of God; and that those festivals are not binding on him. We add here alike, and make the text say what I am sure was never intended, viz. that there is no distinction of days, not even of the Sabbath: and that every Christian is at liberty to consider even this day to be holy or not holy, as he happens to be persuaded in his own mind. That the Sabbath is of lasting obligation may be reasonably concluded from its institution (see the note on Genesis 2:3) and from its typical reference. All allow that the Sabbath is a type of that rest in glory which remains for the people of God. Now, all types are intended to continue in full force till the antitype, or thing signified, take place; consequently, the Sabbath will continue in force till the consummation of all things. The word alike should not be added; nor is it acknowledged by any MS. or ancient version.
Let every man be fully persuaded - With respect to the propriety or non-propriety of keeping the above festivals, let every man act from the plenary conviction of his own mind; there is a sufficient latitude allowed.
Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible (1798-1870)
Romans 14:5 - One man esteemeth - Greek “judgeth” krinei. The word is here properly translated “esteemeth;” compare Act 13:46; Act 16:15. The word originally has the idea of “separating,” and then “discerning,” in the act of judging. The expression means that one would set a higher value on one day than on another, or would regard it as more sacred than others. This was the case with the “Jews” uniformly, who regarded the days of their festivals, and fasts, and Sabbaths (i.e. ceremonial Sabbaths) as especially sacred, and who would retain, to no inconsiderable degree, their former views, even after they became converted to Christianity.
Another “esteemeth - That is, the “Gentile” Christian. Not having been brought up amidst the Jewish customs, and not having imbibed their opinions and prejudices, they would not regard these days as having any special sacredness. The appointment of those days had a special reference “to the Jews.” They were designed to keep them as a separate people, and to prepare the nation for the “reality,” of which their rites were but the shadow. When the Messiah came, the Passover, the feast of tabernacles, and the other special festivals of the Jews, of course vanished, and it is perfectly clear that the apostles never intended to inculcate their observance on the Gentile converts. See this subject discussed in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians.
Every day alike - The word “alike” is not in the original, and it may convey an idea which the apostle did not design. The passage means that he regards “every day” as consecrated to the Lord; Romans 14:6. The question has been agitated whether the apostle intends in this to include the Christian Sabbath. Does he mean to say that it is a matter of “indifference” whether this day be observed, or whether it be devoted to ordinary business or amusements? This is a very important question in regard to the Lord's day. That the apostle did not mean to say that it was a matter of indifference whether it should be kept as holy, or devoted to business or amusement, is plain from the following considerations.
(1) the discussion had reference only to the special customs of the “Jews,” to the rites and practices which “they” would attempt to impose on the Gentiles, and not to any questions which might arise among Christians as “Christians.” The inquiry pertained to “meats,” and festival observances among the Jews, and to their scruples about partaking of the food offered to idols, etc.; and there is no more propriety in supposing that the subject of the Lord's day is introduced here than that he advances principles respecting “baptism” and “the Lord's supper.”
(2) the “Lord's day” was doubtless observed by “all” Christians, whether converted from Jews or Gentiles; see 1Corinthians 16:2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10; compare the notes at John 20:26. The propriety of observing “that day” does not appear to have been a matter of controversy. The only inquiry was, whether it was proper to add to that the observance of the Jewish Sabbaths, and days of festivals and fasts.
(3) it is expressly said that those who did not regard the day regarded it as not to God, or to honor God; Romans 14:6. They did it as a matter of respect to him and his institutions, to promote his glory, and to advance his kingdom. Was this ever done by those who disregard the Christian Sabbath? Is their design ever to promote his honor, and to advance in the knowledge of him, by “neglecting” his holy day? Who knows not that the Christian Sabbath has never been neglected or profaned by any design to glorify the Lord Jesus, or to promote his kingdom? It is for purposes of business, gain, war, amusement, dissipation, visiting, crime. Let the heart be filled with a sincere desire to “honor the Lord Jesus,” and the Christian Sabbath will be reverenced, and devoted to the purposes of piety. And if any man is disposed to plead “this passage” as an excuse for violating the Sabbath, and devoting it to pleasure or gain, let him quote it “just as it is,” that is, let “him neglect the Sabbath from a conscientious desire to honor Jesus Christ.” Unless this is his motive, the passage cannot avail him. But this motive never yet influenced a Sabbath-breaker.
Let every man... - That is, subjects of this kind are not to be pressed as matters of conscience. Every man is to examine them for himself, and act accordingly. This direction pertains to the subject under discussion, and not to any other. It does not refer to subjects that were “morally” wrong, but to ceremonial observances. If the “Jew” esteemed it wrong to eat meat, he was to abstain from it; if the Gentile esteemed it right, he was to act accordingly. The word “be fully persuaded” denotes the highest conviction, not a matter of opinion or prejudice, but a matter on which the mind is made up by examination; see Romans 4:21; 2 Timothy 4:5. This is the general principle on which Christians are called to act in relation to festival days and fasts in the church. If some Christians deem them to be for edification, and suppose that their piety will be promoted by observing the days which commemorate the birth, and death, and temptations of the Lord Jesus, they are not to be reproached or opposed in their celebration. Nor are they to attempt to impose them on others as a matter of conscience, or to reproach others because they do not observe them.
The People's New Testament (1891) by B. W. Johnson
Romans 14:5-9 - One man esteemeth one day above another. A second difference of opinion is now cited. Some, Jewish converts or Gentiles who did not understand that the old covenant was ended, believed that the Jewish sabbaths and new moons should be kept sacred. Compare Colossians 2:16, and Galatians 4:10.
This ends the Commentaries on Romans 14:5. You will note that the Peoples New Testament commentary above also references Colossians 2:16 and Galatians 4:10. It should now be clear that the context and the meaning of all these three passages is the ceremonial law with all its various holy day festivals, new moons and ceremonial sabbaths. Below are some tables that give some more insight.
Do we still have to keep the feast days?
There is no doubt about the Sabbath and the other nine Commandments being eternal but the feasts had a purpose. The Bible tells us that they were our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ but then were no longer necessary. What was it that these feasts also had? They had sacrificial offerings to make reconciliation for our sin. When Jesus said “it is finished,” had he done the job or not? There was certainly something nailed to the cross. So what was nailed to the cross? It was whatever it was that was practised to make reconciliation for sin before Christ. These feasts had burnt offerings etc. If one insists they must keep these feasts then they have to do it properly according to how the Bible instructs that they are to be kept. You cannot just decide what part of them you want to do. You do it all or you don't do it at all. Here is just one example for Passover. If one insists on keeping these feasts, then this is what you have to do for Passover just to begin with!
Ezekiel 45:21-25 “In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, you shall have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten. 22 And upon that day shall the prince prepare for himself and for all the people of the land a bullock for a sin offering. 23 And seven days of the feast he shall prepare a burnt offering to the LORD, seven bullocks and seven rams without blemish daily the seven days; and a kid of the goats daily for a sin offering. 24 And he shall prepare a meat offering of an ephah for a bullock, and an ephah for a ram, and an hin of oil for an ephah. 25 In the seventh month, in the fifteenth day of the month, shall he do the like in the feast of the seven days, according to the sin offering, according to the burnt offering, and according to the meat offering, and according to the oil.”
Now here is the problem. If you start doing burnt offerings to make reconciliation for sin then you say to Jesus, “Hey Jesus! When you said it was finished, it was not finished at all…You did not finish the job on the cross at all so I still have to follow these feasts and the burnt offerings etc to cover my sins…”
Does one really want to deny the work of Jesus on the cross? I hope no one would ever do that! This is why they were nailed to the cross, because Jesus fulfilled this sacrificial system that these feast days belonged to. I know what the COG teaches and all the other offshoots of the WWCG, which Herbert Armstrong taught who, yes, were proven to be wrong on many things including the feasts etc and he was a proven cult leader and why the Church collapsed. The problem is that the enemy is recruiting more and more people into this system he started. Those teaching observance of the feasts typically use underhanded techniques like painting a real ugly picture for Easter and Christmas to try and turn people from them and then to their Church for the answer to escape this. Yes, there is paganism involved in the origin of these things, but do not forget that Satan wants this to happen and for these two events to be lost as much as possible because they DO result in MANY people coming to Christ. If the world followed Armstrong's teaching then the world would never here about Christ and that is exactly what Satan wants. Jesus out of the picture! He also wants to add confusion here to keep as many as possible from the Sabbath of the Lord that really is important. It is sin not to keep the Commandments but this feast system was to make reconciliation for sin (breaking the Ten Commandments) and pointed forward to Christ. Big difference! We need to understand this. And yes, there are some verses that can be cleverly used and misunderstood to make a convincing argument but there are clear answers to these scriptures if one wants them that also prevents all the contradiction with other scripture that you would otherwise have.
We must not deny the work of Jesus on the cross and in turn add to the confusion that will keep more people from the Sabbath truth and entering the kingdom. The following web site on Colossians 2:16 covers this topic in more detail.
There are some who have recently been trying to make an argument for abolishing the Sabbath based on Hosea 2:11. This one is so obviously and seriously wrong that it is not necessary to read the next page unless you find it of interest.
Page 4 - Hosea 2:11