What does Romans 14:5 mean, and does this verse prove that any day can be a Sabbath day?
Romans 14:5 is tapping into an issue Paul espoused in his day called “matters of conscience.” It had to do with the fact that every Christian is on a different step of the path in Christ. Some are more mature in Christ than others.
This verse actually deals with an issue he was running into in his ministry to the Gentiles. There were Jewish teachers who told some of the Gentiles that they had to follow the law of Moses as well as know Christ. We see this was prominently in Galatians.
At the same time, the Corinthians were dealing with the issue of needs Christ to idols (1 Corinthians 8-10). There we can also see this issue on matters of conscience and the weaker brother. The weaker brother is the one who has not come to full maturity in Christ yet.
This weaker brother is any question who has not decided on an issue you may bring up as a more mature believer. Paul gives specific instructions in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 to not press the weaker brother into making decisions. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
A more mature Christian is to take the road of being gracious, not condemning, and accommodating the current beliefs and convictions of the weaker brother. If the weaker brother abstains from alcohol, the more mature Christian should not drink in front of him or her.
This is the principle that Paul lays down concerning matters of conscience in the weaker brother. You will see a little bit of that show up in this verse in this section in Romans 14. You can see the matter of meat sacrificed to idols in Romans 14:2-3.
Meat sacrificed to idols became an issue in 1 Corinthians 8-10 because the Corinthians realized the cheaper meats in the marketplace were discounted because they were used in sacrificial and religious ceremonies before they were sold.
So when they went to visit another Christian’s house, they wanted to know if they should ask if the meat was from sacrificial rituals or not. Paul said they should not concern themselves with such delicate matters if the person they are visiting is a weaker brother who has not decided on this issue.
Basically, to eat the meat sacrificed to idols was to partake in the same sacrificial rituals that the pagans in their city were practicing. This was the issue for the Christians. It wasn’t the meat itself. It was what it was used for before it was given to them to eat at a Christian friend’s house.
An equivalent issue for us today as Christians may be money that was used in gambling before we received it. We have no way of knowing if it was used in that way before. But if we knew it was used in gambling, perhaps of a church received an offering from a gambler that they knew was gambling with the money, what would they do with it.
This presents the issue to the Christian of a matter of conscience. Would the conscience be injured by using the money? Or by eating the sacrificial meat? This is the dilemma of matters of conscience for believers. If we are aware of evil doing with an object, we must decide whether our consciences are bothered by it before we decide what to do.
This is with the Corinthians faced in their city. They did not want to partake in the former pagan rituals and practices they did before they knew Christ. So for them, meat sacrificed to idols could be a problem of the conscience.
As you continue to read through Romans 14, we come to your verse that you had mentioned (Romans 14:5-9). The idea of a sacred day or a day esteemed more than others could contain the Sabbath, but Paul is referencing the idea of the Jewish festival days and observing full moon days and things of that nature.
If you cross-reference this paragraph with Galatians 4:8-11, Paul makes reference to observing certain days, months, seasons, and years. This could have been from their pagan upbringing, but it was also a possibility that the Judaizers (Jewish teachers from Jerusalem that taught Jesus and the Mosaic law for salvation) may be behind his references.
Galatians is littered with references to these Judaizers. They followed Paul around in his churches and after he taught the churches he founded, they would come in and teach them this additional item. Paul becomes quite perturbed with them through the book of Galatians.
So it’s very possible that he is referring here to the observation of the Jewish festivals and feast days. These will be part of completely following Moses’ law along with knowing Christ. The Judaizers taught that the Gentiles should be circumcised and should follow Mosaic law.
Paul was teaching the Gentiles in Galatia that this was not Christianity. Christianity only requires you to know Jesus and to follow him. You do not have to have anything beside him. So he may have been referencing both. In the context, he looks like he is referring to their former pagan ways as Corinthians. But the teaching of the Judaizers and the special days of the week, month, and years of the Mosaic laws does not help. It may have confused the Corinthians more.
So these are some of the backgrounds to the issues that Paul brings up in Romans 14. But to answer your question another way, to fully address it, especially as an ordained minister, I can tell you that studies in the Sabbath become interesting.
God declares the seventh day to be a holy day, a Sabbath rest, that must be observed by the Israelites as the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11). The Israelites celebrated a Sabbath on the evening of Friday from sundown to the evening of Saturday on sundown.
Christians honored the Lord Jesus’ resurrection by placing their Sabbath on Sunday. But we also see in the beginning of Acts that the apostles are still celebrating the Sabbath on Friday-Saturday. Paul and John mentioned the “Lord’s day” as the first day of the week, Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10).
As a minister, I’m working on Sundays through my church activities, and especially through preaching. It is not a day of rest for me in the same sense. Of course, I am worshiping the Lord on that day. But I’m not resting in his presence.
I chose a different day to worship, pray, spend time in the Word, and grow close to God in his presence. I chose Mondays as my Sabbath day rest. There’s nothing like a refreshing Monday after you have preached and pastored on a Sunday. It avoids the pitfall for ministers of evaluating themselves the day after an event. We are hard on ourselves about how we conduct our Sundays.
As long as you choose a day that fulfills the requirements of the fourth commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, I don’t believe you are breaking scriptural commitments. It is better to have one day of the week aside for this than to have no days.