Is Romans 14:5 an Anti-Sabbath Text?
One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind (Romans 14:5).
This text is sometimes used to support the view that the Sabbath is a matter of indifference for Christians. Some take that a step further and say that for Christians all days are holy; thus there is no need to "keep" one day as better than the others.
These interpretations have special appeal for those who oppose the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath. What does this verse really mean?
"One day above another"
is literally "a day above a day." There are several different views on what the "one day" is. Some scholars think this may be a reference to the unlucky days of the pagans or to a syncretistic
religious calendar. However, the first part of verse 6 shows that Paul is referring to days that fall within the Judeo-Christian context: He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord.
Some Bible scholars see the annual festivals of the Jews here. Others think that Paul is talking about days designated for fasting. And, of course, there are those who insist that the reference is to the weekly Sabbath.
"Every day alike."
The word "alike" has been added by translators. It does not appear in the original Greek. Thus the comparison Paul sets up reads, more literally, like this: "One man regards (esteems) a day above a day, another regards (esteems) every day." With insight provided by verse six, we could put it this way: "One man observes one day (for the Lord), while another man observes every day (for the Lord)."
Some people assume that verse 5 is talking about the Sabbath and come up with something like this: "One man observes the Sabbath once a week (on the seventh day, of course) while another man observes every day as the Sabbath." But as the verse continues it becomes clear that Paul is not talking about the Sabbath.
"Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind." These words remind us that Paul is giving practical advice at the level of personal opinion—"disputable matters." These are not issues that have been settled by divine revelation through angels, prophets, or apostles. These are things that people can decide for themselves—matters of personal preference or conviction.
This automatically eliminates from consideration all points of doctrine that are indisputable because they are based on divine injunction or on other authoritative teachings from the Word of God.
So, observance of the Sabbath cannot be at issue in Romans 14.
After all, the Sabbath "was enshrined among the eternal sanctities of the Decalogue, uttered…amidst the terrors of Sinai."
The days under consideration may be Jewish festival days or other days for feasting or fasting, but—whatever they are—Paul leaves the question of their observance up to the individual. In such matters he teaches that Christians should mind their own business and not make mountains out of molehills. Good advice.
A blending of diverse beliefs, i.e., Christian and pagan.
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, David Brown,
Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), 1177.