Romans 14 and the Except Factor

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Romans 14 and the Except Factor

by Edwin M. Cotto
Adventist Defense League

THE CHARGE:

Romans 14 makes Sabbath keeping optional and based on preference, because Paul specifically said that every day is alike, and to let every man be “fully persuaded in his own mind.”

THE SHORT ANSWER:

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THE LONG ANSWER:

    Scholars are divided as to what exactly Paul meant by the term “days” in Romans 14:5-6. It’s the only moment days are mentioned in a chapter which is mostly dealing with foods.(812) Why, first of all, was it brought up? And secondly, what were those days? Few commentators have attempted to answer the first question (777), while the second has received various answers including feast days and fast days. The most popular one, not surprisingly, is the Sabbath.
    Since in Romans 14 the apostle Paul does not delve into the issue of days, all have to admit that there is some ambiguity here. It was obviously something known to the Roman Christians at the time but not to us. Thus, any attempt to try and figure out the problem that existed probably won’t answer the question perfectly. For this reason, we will examine the chapter and its context closely to first determine why we believe that “days” does not include the Sabbath, and then conclude with what we believe the issue might have been.

THE EXCEPT FACTOR

     If Paul was granting the Romans the option to esteem and observe any day they chose, does that mean that he would have been fine with them choosing to observe the various pagan holidays of that time?(PRN) Imagine Paul granting the Roman Christians license to observe these days if they wanted to? Even today we have certain holidays which Christians would think it unimaginable to observe, and yet, when a Christian decides to go trick-or-treating, other Christians will raise their voice in protest! But, aren’t we at liberty, according to Romans 14, to observe any day we’d like? Of course not.
    Evidently, the liberty Paul is granting in Romans 14 has its limits. There are exceptions here, and the Romans expect Paul to exclude that which they should by now know are important things to observe for the Lord. This “except factor” is made all the more apparent in the parallel between days and foods. While in verse 6 he says that “he who observes the day, observes it to the Lord” and that he who “does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it” he also says in this same verse that “he who eats, eats to the Lord” while the person who “does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat,” in both cases giving God thanks. Note Table 6-1:

TABLE 6-1

  Day observed to the Lord   Food eaten to the Lord
  Day not observed to the Lord   Food not eaten to tzhe Lord


     Since Paul is reasoning the same way for both, therefore how we interpret the observance of days must be how we also interpret the eating of food. Now is Paul saying that we have the option to eat anything and that if we do, we can do it “to the Lord?” What of the man who chooses to eat poisonous herbs, or subsists on other harmful foods? Why would Paul mean that they can now eat anything regardless of health when he just told them to present their “bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God?” (1) To conclude that Paul meant that absolutely everything is permissible to eat is absurd. “Well of course” says the objector, “Paul does not grant permission to eat that which is harmful.” But that is our point! All foods, except those unfit for consumption, are permissible. There are exceptions here, just as much as there are exceptions when it comes to the “days.”(2)
    Verse 6 twice tells the Romans that anyone who chooses to dedicate any day and eat any food to the Lord “gives God thanks.” Now imagine one of them interpreting Paul’s words in the same way some anti-sabbatarians do. He decides to celebrate a pagan holiday and begin eating foods harmful to his body, all the while giving God thanks! Is that sensical? Well according to our critics, his actions are just fine, because after all, “let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”(GG1)

THE TERM “EVERY DAY”

     Clearly, when Paul says that all days can be considered alike, he is speaking about common days. The Sabbath is protected as excluded because these believers already knew that it was sanctified. But since verse 5 uses the term “every,” it would seem like there are actually no exceptions. But do we set aside all of the evidence gathered above and now claim that the word “every” embraces also the seventh day? What would a judge do if something new is presented as evidence? He will not discard the previous evidences, but will examine the now. Let’s do that now.
    First, let’s think about this logically. When I tell someone that my son goes to school every day, do I not mean every day except the days he has off? Of course. If I say that I have exhausted every possible means to avoid running into someone, do I not mean every available means? Yes, that is exactly what I mean. If someone says, “he gave me every excuse in the book,” does he really expect you to believe he means every known excuse ever invented? Of course not! These statements imply exceptions. “I’ve traveled all over the world” or “I eat everything” or “He knows everything about sports” are other examples. My wife and I are ardent Sabbath keepers. If I tell her that I think we should work on the lawn every day, I don’t need to explain that I am exempting the seventh day, because I’m taking it for granted that she would know that already!

    Now let’s look at some biblical examples:

“Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.”(4)

     The Lord tells the people to go out “every day” to collect manna. Every day, of course, except the seventh day(5)! The story of Noah offers a similar example. After the waters subsided, Noah decided to offer sacrifices for the Lord. We read:

“And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”(6) 

But this text does not mean to say that he offered every clean animal with no exceptions(7)! Else we would have no clean animals in existence today. Obviously by “every” is meant a portion of each kind of animal, not every one of them.


THE USE OF “EVERY” IN GREEK

     In the Greek scriptures, the word “every” is translated from the Greek word πᾶς and it can and often does mean every individual member with no exceptions. In Romans 3:9, “all” (πᾶς) are “under sin.” In Romans 14:10, all (πᾶς) people will definitely stand before the judgment seat of Christ, where “every (πᾶς) idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 13:36). In Romans 10:11-13, whosoever (πᾶς) believes and calls upon the Lord will be saved, and Jesus said that man shall live by “every (πᾶς) word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The Septuagint likewise uses the word in the same fashion, such as in Deuteronomy 27:26,  Joshua 1:14 and 10:28, amongst other places.
    On the other hand, many other times the word πᾶς will come with exceptions, just like in English. Right there in the chapter, we are discussing, Paul said that “every (πᾶς) knee shall bow to me, and every (πᾶς) tongue shall confess to God” (verse 11), but the immediate context is speaking about human beings, “WE shall all (πᾶς) stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (verse 10). So by “every” Paul does not include unfallen beings such as angels, but earthly human beings. Although we agree that every unfallen being in all the universe has and will once again acknowledge Christ as supreme, in this context Paul is talking about us because we are the ones being warned not to judge our brethren.
    In Romans 10:18 and 16:25-26 Paul uses πᾶς to say that the gospel has gone to all the nations of the earth. He uses it the same way in his letter to the Colossians:

“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every (πᾶς) creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.”(8)

     We know that by “every (πᾶς) creature which is under heaven” he means those who were reached with the gospel, not those who have yet to hear it. And we are certain this is the correct rendering because Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 that when the gospel is preached to every creature “then the end shall come,” which, of course, has not taken place.
    In 1 Peter 2:13-14, Peter speaks about obedience to governments saying that believers are to obey “every (πᾶς) ordinance of man.” Yet contextually God’s people are first “servants of God” (verse 16) and should obey him first, even if it means being persecuted for doing so (verses 19, 4:14). In Acts 5:29 Peter said, “we ought to obey God rather than men.” Thus, when he says that we are to obey “every” ordinance of the government, we know he means every law except those which go against our duties towards God. Recall the stories of the three Hebrew boys before Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image and of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, who were subject to Babylon and Persia until their laws tried to force them to disobey God’s commandments. They obeyed their government’s laws, except those which went against the government of God.
    People often use 1 Timothy 4 to excuse themselves of being able to eat anything they’d like, but here πᾶς is also used with exceptions:

“For every (πᾶς) creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”(9)

     Note it concludes saying that it is sanctified, not just by prayer, but also by “the word of God.” Leviticus 11 documents that which was forbidden to eat, and thus Paul means every creature, except those forbidden by “the word of God,” should be received with thanksgiving.
    In all three of these examples, the word “every” or πᾶς came with exceptions. Incidentally, when Genesis 8:20, which we quoted earlier, said that Noah sacrificed “every” clean animal, the Septuagint uses πᾶς there as well(12). Conclusively the gospel has been preached to “every creature” except those who have yet to be reached, we must obey every law of the government except those which go against our duties towards God, and we are permitted to eat of any food except those expressly forbidden by the Word of God.(10). Considering the evidence presented, it is not convincing to say that “every day” must embrace the seventh-day as well.(13)

THE STRONG KEEP THE SABBATH

     Now that we’ve noticed why it’s important to remember that this chapter necessitates exceptions, let’s now see why Romans cannot actually include the Sabbath as a matter of indifference. In fact, I am of the opinion that it is impossible for the Sabbath to form a part of the discussion in Romans 14, and I hope to make that clear in the remaining sections of this chapter.
    First, the immediate context brings out an important parallel between verses 2, 5 and 6. It suggests that the “weak” are those who “eat only vegetables,” “esteem one day above another,” and “observe the day to the Lord.” By contrast, the “strong,” with which Paul identifies himself in Romans 15:1, are those who do not observe any days.(DGI) Note Table 6-2:

TABLE 6-2

THE STRONGTHE WEAK
Verse 2: “eats all things”Verse 2: “he who is weak eats only vegetables”
Verse 5: “every day alike”Verse 5: “one person esteems one day above another”
Verse 6: “he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it”Verse 6: “he who observes the day, observes it to the Lord”


     What’s interesting here is that Paul actually did esteem and observe “one day above another” when he kept the Sabbath day(8XZ). Evidently, he could not be speaking about the Sabbath in these texts or else he would be identifying himself as one of the ones who are “weak in the faith.”(HH2) Thus, although it is the “weak” who observe the days, those “days” cannot include the Sabbath. It is actually the Sabbath keeper who is “strong.”
    An attempt to rebut this by saying that Paul identified himself with the weak in 1 Corinthians 9:22 will not work. First, Romans 15:1 unambiguously calls Paul “strong.” There is no way to change that into “weak.” Second, Romans 14:2 says that the one who eats only vegetables “is” weak, while in 1 Cor. 9:22 Paul says he is “as” the weak. And third, verse 21 of 1 Cor. 9 says that Paul did not consider himself as “without law to God” further indicating that he did keep the fourth commandment.

PAUL’S CALL FOR UNITY PRECLUDES OPTIONAL SABBATH KEEPING

      A brief look at the history behind the letter of Romans gives us another reason why the Sabbath does not form a part of those “days.” The letter to the Romans was written while Paul was desirous to go west to Spain, somewhere between circa 57 or 58(EEE). Though no one really knows exactly when the church began in Rome, we know that it was a healthy mixture of both Jewish and Gentile believers. In AD 49 however the emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome, forcing even Jewish believers to leave the city. Acts 18:1-2 tells us that Paul encountered two of those Jewish believers at Corinth where they “had recently come from Italy” because “Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome.”(FDF). By the time Paul wrote his letter these two Jewish believers, Aquila and his wife Pricilla, were back in Rome (Romans 16:3) indicating that they had returned to Rome along with the rest of the Jews. Historically the Jews must have begun their return to Rome no earlier than AD 54 when Claudius died and his decree lapsed.(OOI)
    While the Jewish believers were away the message of Jesus continued in Rome and the number of Gentile believers increased. Professor James C. Walters outlines the effects of this edict upon the Jewish Christians as follows:

“1. Persons expelled from Rome: The most obvious effect is that the persons who comprised the churches would have been substantially altered. The Gentiles who remained would have begun meeting together without Jewish leadership and input, and those they reached with the good news of Christ during the intervening five years would have been Gentiles. When Jewish Christians began returning five years later, they would have encountered house churches composed of more Gentiles than Jews.

2. Jewish and Christian Self-Definition: The edict to expel Jews also would have pushed the returning non-Christian Jewish community and the already-present house churches to self-define in relation to one another. Before the edict, the ruling Romans would have viewed Christians as a subset of Judaism—the churches, after all, were socialized like Jewish groups. But after the edict and the changing socialization of the groups into Gentile-ish communities, the process of viewing Jews and Christians as separate groups would have sped up (both as viewed from the inside [emic perspective] and as viewed from the outside [etic perspective]). Note that by A.D. 64—only seven or so years after Paul’s letter arrived, this process would have been complete; Christians were successfully identified as a group separate from the Jews as Nero’s soldiers carried out their brutal persecution of Christians in Rome. Paul’s letter arrived while this process of changing self-identification was taking place. Jewish Christians coming back to Rome had to struggle with the question of whether they were primarily Jewish or whether they were primarily Christian (which would have felt increasingly like a Gentile thing to them).

This scenario is strengthened if we read the Roman historian Suetonius to mean that the Jews were kicked out of Rome because of disturbances caused by disagreements between non-Christian Jews and Christian Jews (all were simply “Jews” in the Roman mind before Claudius’s edict of expulsion). The returning non-Christian Jews no doubt would have wanted to keep their distance from the Christian Jews after they returned to Rome to avoid further conflict with the Roman authorities. Furthermore, when they learned that Christian groups were now socially dominated by Gentiles, this would have confirmed in their minds that separation was necessary.

3. The Unity of Christianity in Rome: Upon their return to Rome, Jewish Christians would have been placed in the awkward situation of having to assimilate into groups that felt rather foreign to them. This is a reverse of what would have happened before Claudius’s edict; at that time Gentiles would have had to adapt to Jewish customs to fit in. Surely, when the Jewish Christians showed up again in the now mostly-Gentile churches, tensions would have emerged over who was in charge and how Christians were supposed to relate to all-things-Jewish.”(BXZ)

      With the historical setting in mind we should expect Paul’s letter to try and unify the Jews with the Gentile believers. Is there any internal evidence of this? Yes! In Romans 2:11 he says that God plays no favoritism between the two groups. At 3:9 we read that both are guilty of the same things while at 3:22 both are offered the same solution. To Paul, both are children of Abraham (4:1) and both may be justified alongside faithful Abraham so long as they both “believe”  (4:9-12, 16-17). In Romans 6:5 he says that both groups are “united” in the likeness of Christ’s death, and therefore both will be united in “the likeness of his resurrection.” God seeks to save both the Jews and the Gentiles (9:24), and in 10:12 Paul says that there are no differences between the two groups of believers. There was tension and disagreements between them at this time (2:1, 17-24, 14:1-23) which fits perfectly with the historical setting we read above. But he warns them individually “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (12:3). He emphasizes that though they are many, yet they are united as “one body in Christ” (12:5). He tells them to be kind towards one another, to be equally minded, and to receive even the weakest of those among them, though they may disagree on some minor points (12:10, 16, 14:1). Paul repeats this call for unity, telling them again to “receive one another” and to be “like-minded toward one another” that “together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:5-7 ESV). In the very chapter we are discussing he concludes by calling them to maintain peace amongst themselves, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19). And finally, he warns them against those who would seek to disrupt this all important unity and directly tells them to “avoid” such people (16:17).
    But if there is one thing that Paul uses to unite them more than anything, is the fact that God has provided justification through faith for both the Jews and the Gentiles. As Paul Barnett puts it:

“Paul wrote to the still-separated faith community of Jews and Gentiles in Rome to promote their unity in Christ based on justification by faith… Paul may have perceived Jewish salvation as inextricably connected with the ongoing fellowship and unity of the Jews with the Gentiles. For if Jewish believers became permanently separated from Gentile believers, this would probably mean their eventual absorption back into Judaism.”(45R)

     Thus, both contextual and historical evidence points to the fact that Paul’s main goal was to unite the two classes of believers under the gospel of Christ. We would not expect, therefore, anything from the words of the apostle, something that could potentially destroy this endeavor. But this is exactly what the critics have done in their interpretation of Romans 14.

OPTIONAL SABBATH KEEPING WOULD DESTROY THIS UNITY

     The current position of most critics is that Paul is offering the Roman Christians the option to individually choose whether they want to observe the Sabbath or not (45T). It is true that verse 5 calls them to be “fully convinced in their own mind” in regards to days, but interpreting “days” to mean Sabbath would prove to be a major factor in trying to unify the Jews with the Gentiles because personal preferences would have led individuals to choose whichever day they’d like to assemble together, if any.  This is no minor issue. In fact, Hebrews 10:24-25 implies a negative connotation with dire consequences when believers do not assemble together because assembling helps in the edification of the church(M&M). Consequently, applying the days to the Sabbath defeats the purpose of the entire letter. Such a thing would not unify the Roman church because it would mean that one believer could decide to assemble on the first day of the week, while another could choose the third day of the week, and still another the seventh day, and so on. And according to the critics, everybody would be right!(QRS)
    How much more reasonable, therefore, that these believers already worshiped together on the same day and that Paul merely took it for granted that they would understand him to be excluding the Sabbath. After all, the New Testament is abundantly clear that Jewish and Gentile believers worshiped together on the Sabbath day(SSS). In this case, the option would be to esteem and observe any common day of their choosing, apart from the day which they would already know is sacred.(VVV)

THE LAW WILL BE THE STANDARD OF JUDGEMENT

     There is another contextual reason why the antisabbatarian’s “optional Sabbath” interpretation does not work.  The context tells us that the people were judging themselves based on the preferences of certain individuals regarding foods and days, all the while forgetting that they will “all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”(14). But, how will they be judged? What standard will be used and when will this take place? One need not go far to get the answer. Back in chapter 2, Paul said:

“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified.”(15)

     And when will this take place? “in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”(16) In the last day, when all stand before Christ for judgment, those who do not know the law of God will perish without it. However, those who know it will be judged by it! Since in verse 17 Paul is referencing a few of the Ten Commandments, we know that the Decalogue will be the standard by which man will be judged. James 2:10-12 tells us the same thing about the Decalogue, “so speak and so do, as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”(18).
    Returning to chapter 14, we read in verse 1 that Paul was addressing “doubtful disputations.” However, there is nothing to dispute over a law that will judge us in the last days. The matter is simple; the law, of which the Sabbath forms a part, will judge the Roman believers, and this means, moreover, that we must proclaim the importance of the Sabbath and the Law in preparation for the day when everyone else will be judged by it. For Paul to now make the keeping of the Law and the Sabbath a matter of indifference would be for him to prepare all believers for condemnation.
    The context of the second half of chapter 14 follows the same thought as the first half and requires as much common sense. Critics will point to verse 14 and say that everything is now fit for food. But can any reasonable person truly conclude that Paul is granting a license to eat anything on the earth? If I tell my son at dinner time that he can eat everything on the table, I obviously don’t mean the jade plant at the center of the table! Evidently when Paul says that “nothing is unclean of itself” he is confining his remarks to that which God has provided for man’s diet.(19) And since Paul is confining his remarks to foods only which are fit for eating, he is also confining his remarks about all days being alike to those days which have not been specifically sanctified by God. Since the Law will be the standard by which man will be judged in the last days, it quickly becomes evident that in those things which the Law of God does not speak particularly, one man’s opinion regarding certain days are as good as another man’s opinion.

FURTHER CONTEXTUAL EVIDENCE

     Paul’s positive remarks regarding the Law further supports this idea.(SOS) Romans 3:31, for example, says that faith does not “make void the law” but rather that faith will actually “establish the law.” One can hardly imagine that in one location, Paul would tell the Romans that their faith would not make void the law, while at another location tell them that keeping it is a matter of indifference! Even briefly analyzing the surrounding context of this text will help defuse the idea that commandment keeping (in this case the fourth commandment) is optional.
    While addressing the hypocrisy of the national Jews in chapter 2 and pointing out who the real Jews are (verses 17-29), Paul levels the playing field in chapter 3 by proving quite convincingly that all, both Jew and Gentiles, are guilty of sin (verses 9-19). He concludes that portion by saying in verse 20 that as a result, no one can make themselves right before God through their own efforts.
    But if the law cannot justify, than what purpose does it serve? It serves as the identifier of sin, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Although no one is justified by the deeds of the law, yet the law remains as the thing that points out what is wrong. It is a witness to the fact that I am a sinner, and that I can only be justified by faith.
    It is a witness to another fact as well; that we have obtained the righteousness of the law through faith! Notice:

“But now, the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(21)

     Notice that while righteousness was revealed apart from the law, yet the law is still present to serve as a witness to the fact! How can the law do that? Because the law is righteousness(22), therefore, it truly can be a witness of righteousness and sin. In a court of law, a witness testifies to the facts of the crime he witnessed took place. Paul tells us that since we are all guilty, it is only faith in the judge that can justifies us, and the law is the witness to that fact.
    If the law is a witness to our faith, why would faith do away with the law? What sense would there be in removing the witness? Paul sees this logic as well, so he concludes, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary” he says, “we establish the law” (3:31)! By the two patriarchal examples that Paul will now give, we can see that obedience to God’s Law followed right after being justified by faith:

“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”(23)

     The story is found in Genesis 15:1-6(24). And yet we are told that Abraham, “obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”(Genesis 25:26). Evidently, gaining righteousness through faith instead of works, does not at the same time negate obedience. Indeed, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Obedience should follow as a natural impulse from the one who is appreciative of the grace he has been shown.

    Paul uses David as a second example:

“Just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”(25)

     David himself understood that justification was based on faith alone, and yet no one can read Psalm 119 without noting his high regard for God’s laws.
    For both these patriarchs, faith did not make void the law. Quite the contrary, they established the law.
    Because the purpose of our chapter is a focus on Romans 14, we will discuss other portions of Romans in upcoming chapters. We think, however, that this will suffice in showing that this letter actually promotes obedience to the law, and could not at the same time grant people the option to keep it.

CONTEXTUAL NECESSITY FOR THE LAW TO HAVE STILL BEEN IN FORCE

     Recall that the letter to the Romans was probably written in AD 57. This particular detail is important because the way Paul reasons in this letter requires that the law remain active rather than abolished. For example, we learned earlier that it will be the Law itself that will serve as the standard by which man will be judged in the last days (27). If a portion of the law became optional, then it cannot truly serve as the standard of judgement. Moreover, Romans 2:13 says that it will not be the hearers, but “the doers of the law” which “shall be justified.” The Romans cannot possibly be “doers” of a Law that is no longer in force.
    Other portions of Romans also require an active Law in order for Paul to make any sense in his reasoning:

Romans 2:14-24

    Here Paul brings out that the Gentiles were not given the law the way the Israelites were, and yet they naturally do the things contained in that law. They “show (present tense) the works of the law in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness (present tense) …” Note the tenses. The principles of the law remained intact even in AD 57 when this letter was written. The witness to this fact is the conscience acts of the Gentiles which witness in either accusing people of wrong-doing or defending people of right-doing. This statement about the Gentiles is parenthetical and is surrounded by the future judgement of the law (verses 12-13) and the hypocrisy of the Jews who were given it but have not adhered to it (verses 17-24). Since the law to which Paul is speaking about is the Decalogue, is it evident that, although they were not technically given the Decalogue, the Gentiles were unconsciously keeping portions of it.
    There are two important details to remember here. First, Paul is making it clear that the Gentiles “by nature do the things of the law” (verse 14). This is present tense. Without an active law they could not, during the time in which this letter was written, “do” any portion of it. And second, Paul’s questioning of the Jews is an effort by him to point out their hypocrisy in preaching to keep a law that they themselves do not keep. One needs to practice what they preach. If the Jew is to tell others to obey the commandments, he too must obey the commandments. The last question is just as rhetorical as the previous ones, and it proves that breaking the law was just as dishonorable at that point as it was before the cross, “You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?” The answer is yes, of course, because “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (verse 24). They were dishonoring God by breaking the law while telling others to keep it.
    But if the law was abolished 24 years earlier at the cross, what is Paul’s point? What really is he accusing them of and are they really guilty of hypocrisy? Evidently Paul’s thesis makes no sense if the law was abolished when Paul wrote it.

Romans 2:25-29

     With these texts Paul is seeking to prove who is really a Jew. Note particularly verses 26-27:

“Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?”

     If the law had been abolished by this time, what sense is there of Paul’s reasoning? What does he mean when he says that if the uncircumcised man “fulfills the law” he is able to judge the one who, while circumcised, breaks the law? There is, after all, no law to fulfill, and no law to break, right?
    Obviously, for Paul to make any sense there must have been an active law that can be both kept and broken.

Romans 3:19

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”

     The word “says” is in the present tense. No matter how one interprets the phrase “under the law,”(28) one thing is clear, the law still spoke when this letter was written, and thus it was still authoritative in people’s lives. Moreover, there were people during his days that were under the law. What’s the point in speaking to the Romans about people who are under the law, if by that time the law was abolished? How can you be under a law that no longer exists?

Romans 3:31

    We mentioned this text earlier and Paul could not be any clearer. No matter how one interprets the previous verses, faith does not remove the law. On the contrary, right then in AD 57 when Paul penned these words, the people were still to “establish the law.” Thus, the law was still being established by God’s people years after the cross, and faith motivated that.

Romans 4:15

    Another example is Romans 4:15 which says that the law works wrath. Note it does not say it worked, in the past tense, but works, in the present tense. Obviously, it was still active during his days. Additionally, that same verse says that where there is no law, there is no transgression. So, there must have been an active law when he wrote this, because he just accused the Gentiles (1:18-32) and the Jews (2:17-24) of transgression!

Romans 7:7-13

    Here, Paul shows the relationship between the law and grace. What purpose does it serve? He answers, “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘Thou shalt not covet.’” We have absolute proof he is speaking of the Decalogue. What did the Decalogue do for him? It revealed his sin. And when was this letter written? Again, in AD 57. Thus, the law was still actively serving its purpose at this time. Is there something wrong with the law because of this? No, for “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” Is that law, which is good, now removed? The answer in verse 13 is a resounding “No!” The same answer should be given by God’s people today.

Romans 7:22

Finally, recall that in the immediate context of Romans 14 Paul is addressing things that he believes are “doubtful disputations.” Paul would not call an earnest desire to keep God’s Law a doubtful disputation because earlier he said that he “delights in the law of God after the inward man.”
    There are many other examples like these, but these should suffice in proving the necessity of the law being alive and active in order for Paul’s reasoning to make sense.(29) Imagine, after all of this, for Paul to now make one of those commandments irrelevant in chapter 14! Anyone can see that such an interpretation breaks the logical flow of the entire letter and makes Paul inconsistent in his reasoning.

MEANING OF ROMANS 14

         Based on the evidence presented so far, we have good reason to believe that the Sabbath is not under consideration here. What then are those “days” in verses 5 and 6? Four options have been suggested: fasting, asceticism, feast keeping and foods offered to idols. Let’s look at each of these now:

FASTING

     One of the most common explanations is that of fasting. This is suggested by the close proximity of “foods” with “days.” There is evidence that there wasn’t actually a consensus as to when to fast. Luke 5:33 and Matthew 9:14 seem to suggest that the disciples of John and some Pharisees fasted frequently, while Luke 18:12(15T) says that other Pharisees fasted just twice a week. Zechariah 7:5 speaks about fastings taking place during the fifth and seventh months. It seems to have been a matter of opinion as to when to fast. It may be that this is the reason why Romans 14:5 speaks of days which “man” esteems, not of days which “God” esteems.
    Disputes over when to fast is present also in a document of the second century:

“And let not your fastings be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week; but do ye keep your fast on the fourth and on the preparation (the sixth) day”(32)

     If fasting was the dispute which the Roman Christians were having, the issue obviously continued in the church years later. To Paul this is a matter that does not need to be disputed, and agitating it seems to have led certain individuals to a more serious matter, that of judging one another.
    While this interpretation is possible, it is not perfect. Those who abstained from foods did in fact eat vegetables (verse 2) whereas fasting technically entails abstaining from all foods. As far as we are aware, there are no biblical texts that say one can fast from some food articles instead of all food articles, though we do practice those kinds of fastings today.

ASCETICISM

    In verse 1 Paul calls on the church to “receive one who is weak in the faith….” By “weak” he means spiritually weak, because it says weak “in the faith.” Recall that the Roman church is composed of both Jews and Greek, each of which had some form of asceticism(TTT). The Britannica identifies various ascetic Greek cults:

“In ancient Greek religion, rejection of meat appeared particularly among the Orphics, a mystical, vegetarian cult; in the cult of Dionysus, the orgiastic god of wine; and among the Pythagoreans, a mystical, numerological cult.” (ELZ) 

Although Judaism remained mostly non-ascetic (except for when they practiced fasting) there was a peripheral Jewish sect called the Essene who were known for their ascetic lifestyles.(MBA)

Verse 2 says, “For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.” Could it be that some of these converts found it difficult to discontinue some of their previous ascetic habits? Could it be that some of them incorporated perhaps a mild form of it into their Christian experience? What if their practice of eating purely vegetables on certain days of the week was a previous ascetic practice they found it hard to relinquish, and yet Paul did not think it something worth arguing over? We’ve all been there. I have heard of former Jews who, although they are not Christians, find it difficult to cease celebrating Hannakah, or performing other Jewish customs. We wouldn’t find many of these things wrong in and of themselves. Why then should the Roman Christians argue over such scruples?


FEAST DAYS

    It has been proposed by some commentators that Paul is talking about Jewish feast days, such as Passover, Unleavened Bread, Tabernacles, New Moons, etc. It seems to me that much of this is guessed upon the text, probably because of the presence of Jewish converts in the Roman Church and the relation between “foods” and “days.” Perhaps the best support of this theory would be comparing Romans 14 with Paul’s admonition to not “judge” folks over the keeping of Jewish feast days in Colossians 2. In this sense we probably do have, at least, a linguistic connection.
    Though this explanation seems plausible, it too has its weakness. The brethren considered “weak in the faith” eat only vegetables, and no feast days required the eating of only vegetables. Also, the parallel we noted before between verses 2, 5 and 6 shows that Paul was among the “strong” and he kept the Sabbath. Paul also kept the feast days.(Y2K) It is not likely that he would tell a congregation that included Jews that the feast days is a matter of indifference while he also kept them. Finally, the overemphasis on foods instead of the days implies that the issue probably didn’t have anything to do with the keeping of feast days just as it had nothing to do with the keeping of the Sabbath day.

FOODS OFFERED TO IDOLS

    Probably the best explanation is that Paul is addressing the use of foods offered to idols, and a comparison of the details outlined in 1 Corinthians 8 lends credibility to this explanation. Two important points link Romans 14 with 1 Corinthains 8. The first link is that Paul was actually writing his letter from the city of Corinth,(G5U) where the issue of foods offered to idols arose about a year before. The issue must have been fresh in his mind and seeing that something similar arose in the Roman church, he took advantage of the moment and addressed them as well.
    The second link is that there are various linguistic connections between Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. Both speak about the eating of foods (34), both speak about weak brethren (35), and both warn against placing a stumbling block in front of your brethren (36). Moreover, both chapters share the same concern of seeking to avoid offending the consciously weaker brother. Romans 14:15, 21 and 1 Cor. 8:12-13 speak directly against this, warning against injuring your fellow believer with your opinions and acts regarding foods. In essence the message is pretty much the same in both. 
    If Paul is addressing the same issue in both chapters, then 1 Corinthians 8 brings to light further details that helps us understand his concern back in Romans 14. The issue with foods was regarding meats being offered to idols:

“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. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. 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. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.”(37)

     Note that the words “their conscience, being weak, is defiled” helps explain what it means to be “weak” in Romans 14:1. They are weak “in the faith,” that is, their minds are not spiritually mature enough to grasp the concept that there are no spiritual connections between eating foods offered to idols and sin. The one in sin, actually, is the stronger brother who does not take the weaker brother’s sensibilities into account (verse 12). The solution is the same here as in Romans 14, basically, “don’t do anything to offend your spiritually weaker brother even if you don’t agree with him on this point.”
    It is important to note that there are some differences though. Romans 14 lacks the actual mention of idols while 1 Cor. 8 does not mention days. But one could look at these as complementary instead. What one chapter did not mention, the other supplies and completes the picture. Did Paganism require that certain days be observed and that on those days the people were to either abstain from certain foods or subsist of certain foods? If so, then likely these weaker brethren, now former pagans, found it difficult to cease worrying about what to eat, and when to eat it; habits previously cultivated which they are now finding hard to break.

CONCLUSION

     Careless research will lead to erroneous views. People often focus on a few isolated texts without reading carefully both the context and the historical setting. As we have seen, the evidence is strong that Sabbath keeping could not form a part of the “days” in Romans 14.
    First, critics do not take into account the obvious exceptions in this chapter. To them, it’s a free-for-all ideology that Paul is advancing. Keep whatever day you’d like, if any, and eat whatever you want, not considering the consequences that would lead to. Not only would it not unify the Roman church (as they would choose any day of their liking, especially any previously cultivated habits), it could lead to unhealthful practices, directly contradicting his admonition only 2 chapters earlier to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1). A lack of studying the phrase “every day” has led them to further cement their optional Sabbath keeping theory.
    Second, the critics failed to study deep into the context of both chapter 14 and the rest of Romans. If chapter 14 says that we will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ, and chapter 2 tells us that the Law, which contains the fourth commandment, will be the standard in that judgement, how could Paul be telling the Roman believers that keeping a portion of the law is now optional? What sense is there in judging us by a standard which we have the option whether we want to keep or not? Additionally, the overall message of Romans is the holiness of the law, our lack of keeping it, and the solution of receiving the law’s righteousness without any works of our doing. None of this does away with the law, which includes the Sabbath, for the man justified without the deeds of the law will thereafter “establish the law” (Romans 3:31).
    Finally, while many insist, despite the evidence, that Paul is discarding with the Sabbath as an optional institute, these same people do not consider the likelier options, that of fasting, asceticism, feast keeping and foods offered to idols. Although it is difficult to ascertain the exact issue that the Romans were dealing with in regards to “foods” and “days,” yet the closest and more consistent explanation seems to be that of foods offered to idols. One thing we are sure of, the evidence is overwhelming that Sabbath keeping is not, and could not, be the issue that Paul was trying to help the Roman believers deal with. The honest reader who considers the facts previously presented will arrive at the same conclusion.


CITATIONS:

8XZ) Acts 13:14, 42-43, 16:13, 17:2, 18:4, 25:8, 10, 26:5, 28:17.
HH2) One of the authors of From Sabbath to Lord’s Day (page 182) sees this parallelism as well, sees that Paul is among the “strong” and admits that Paul was a Sabbath keeper. But then he says that the Sabbath is included in the “days.” It didn’t occur to him that Paul cannot esteem “every day alike” while at the same time esteeming the seventh day. That would not make any sense.

777) For example, D.R. De Lacey in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day (page 182) assumes that the issue of differing days may have arisen and resolved previously in the Roman church. In which case, Paul probably brought up the issue of days to tell them to deal with meats just as they dealt with days. While this may be the explanation, it is, to be honest, based on an assumption. There is no evidence that the discussion over observances of days had arisen early in the Roman church. But even if there was, this does not answer what exactly those days were.

812) Since the weak christians were weak “in the faith” (verse 1) the matter of foods seems to be dealing more with the relation between foods and spirituality, and not regarding healthy eating. The bible does call us to “be in health” (3 John 1:2). More on this soon.

666) See “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day” chap. 6, page 182.

QQ) “In the book of Romans, however, we find an altogether different appraisal of the law. Here the apostle has many positive statements to make about it. Far from saying that the law is abolished (Ephesians 2:14, 15) or nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14), Romans declares that the law will measure the righteousness of all men on the day of judgment. Only those who attain to what the law requires will be justified (Romans 2:12-16). Far from abolishing the law, those who place their faith in the great transaction at Calvary “uphold the law” (Romans 3:31). The apostle can even say, ‘In my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22; cf. Psalm 119). In Romans 8 Paul proceeds to say that God did for us in Christ what the law could not do, “in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4, RSV). Then follows the most positive statement of all: “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7). The inference here is that the spiritual man is one who is subject to the law. This hardly sounds like Paul is saying that the law is abolished!” (Robert Brinsmead, Sabbatarianism Re-Examined). Brinsmead’s explanation seems to go against the tenor of the rest of his book. If the law has not been abolished, is required to be kept by the spiritual man, and will measure man’s righteousness on judgement day, shouldn’t I make every endeavor to keep the Sabbath? If it will measure my righteousness on judgment day, shouldn’t I be found obedient to it?

PRN) Recall that in chapter 6 we documented that the heathen gentiles observed special festivals such as Saturnalia and Maiuma, along with good and bad luck days, and even considered some months as evil.
GG1) The Advent Review of 1855 brings out a separate observation regarding this point that I thought it was a good idea to share here: “Romans 14 does not mention the Sabbath. But the objector infers that the expression ‘every day alike’ (verse 5) embraces the seventh-day Sabbath. So we might infer from the phrase ‘him that eateth’ (verse 3), that a portion of the Christian church in Paul’s days lived without eating.” See: Collected Writings of James White (Adventist Pioneer Writings) v. 2 of 2, page 701. Evidently, the logic goes both ways.
45R) Barnett, Paul “Jesus and the rise of early Christianity: A History of New Testament times” page 370.
45T) Elce Lauriston in his book “The Sabbath: What you need to know” comments on Romans 14:5-6 saying, “This essentially makes the observance of days in New Testament faith a matter of personal conviction… there is liberty to observe a day and also liberty to not observe any day in honor of the Lord, and liberty to regard them all the same” (page 65). D.R. De Lacey in “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day” says that in Romans 14:5, “Paul allows that the keeping of such days is purely a matter of individual conscience” (chap. 6, page 182). These individuals have, unfortunately, not considered how inharmonic this interpretation is to the overall context of Romans.
M&M) An example of this is seen in the changing of the day of worship from the 15th day of the seventh month (feast of Tabernacles), to the 15th day of the eight month by Jeroboam in 1 Kings 12. Although this was not what initially caused the separation of Israel from Judah, it did help solidify it. Another example of this is in what actually took place in history. Jewish and Gentile christians did worship together for many years until various factors began to separate them, including the introduction of Sunday keeping.
SOS) Whereas in Romans 14:5-6 Paul is lax regarding a person’s decision whether to observe days or not, Galatians 4:8-11 speaks negatively regarding such observances.  How do the critics account for this apparent contradiction? The solution is not in saying that Paul desired to be “all things to all men” as Robert Brinsmead put it, because as mentioned above,  even in this state Paul still considered himself to be “not without law to God, but under the law to Christ”(1 Corinthians 9:21). Besides, Paul is not being a hypocrite, he simply met the various kinds of people at their level, while maintaining his own faithfulness to the truth. Brinsmead also argues that Paul is being lax in Romans 14 because the Roman converts were used to Sabbath keeping since “it was a part of their heritage,” and that “it might not even be safe for a Jewish Christian to repudiate his customs and violate inbred sensitivities.”(Sabbatarianism Re-Examined, chap. 6.). The problem is that Romans was also written to Gentile converts, who had no Sabbatarian heritage, and chapter 14 is not specifically addressed to the Jewish believers but to both Jewish and Gentile believers, since it seeks to promote unity between them both. However a contextual understanding of each passage solves the problem. While Romans 14 is not speaking about Sabbath keeping. Galatians is talking about past pagan holidays and Jewish ceremonial laws. See my chapter on Galatians for more details.
1) See Romans 12:1. Obviously, Paul is not suggesting that the spiritually strong Christian can now eat anything regardless of its effects upon the body. In Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colosians 3:17 Paul regards it as an act of worship to live healthy whenever possible. John also connected spirituality with good health, and prayed for it, “beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 2).
2)  “There is a strange idea prevalent” writes E. J. Waggener, “to the effect that things that were at one time unfit for food are perfectly wholesome now. Many people seem to think that even unclean beasts are made clean by the gospel. They forget that Christ purifies men, not beasts and reptiles.”(The Gospel in Paul’s Great Letter, page 208). According to this theory, certain foods that are universally held as wholly unfit for diet now become permissible by the apostle. But are we permitted to subsist of that which will bring harm to our bodily temples? How far has man gone in eating that which the majority would consider wholly deplorable, such as human flesh? And is unclean meat, which were unhealthy before the cross, now magically clean after the cross?
3) See vocabulary.com, Google dictionary.
4) Exodus 16:4.
5) Ibid, verses 26-30.
6) Genesis 8:20. Admittedly the context of Exodus 16 directly tells you that the exception is the seventh day. However, the lack of mentioning the Sabbath in Romans 14 may reveal that Paul took it for granted that they understood him to be exempting it. On a similar vein, when the author of Genesis says that Noah sacrificed “every clean beast and every clean fowl,” he would hope that readers didn’t understand him to mean every clean animal without exceptions.
7) See Leviticus 11 for the mention of clean animals’ centuries after Noah.
8) Colossians 1:23.
9) 1 Timothy 4:4-5.
10) There are various other examples when πᾶς includes exceptions (See: Matt. 24:9, Mark 1:37, 1 Cor. 10:25, 27, Matt. 19:29, 1 Cor. 4:17, 2 Cor. 4:2, Eph. 5:24.) but it should not be surprising to our critics that a word can be used in this fashion. For example, do they not claim, and rightly so, that the word “forever” or “owlam” (Heb. עוֹלָם) does not always mean an unending period of time? Certain O.T.  texts that use the word “forever” translate it from the Hebrew word עוֹלָם (owlam). Adventists often quote these texts when they speak of the Law as binding “forever” such as Psalm 119:44. Here, David says he will keep God’s law “owlam” but we know he means only while he is alive. Nevertheless, we know that owlam can at other times literally mean “unending time” such as in Deut. 34:40, where God says he will live forever. The issue is that these words are often not interpreted in their proper context. Without delving into the perpetuity of the Law (this will be for another chapter) the point is that critics should not argue against the exception clause of πᾶς while they argue for the exception clause of עוֹלָם because that would only render them inconsistent in their arguments.
12) The Septuagint is an ancient translation of the Hebrew Old Testament books into ancient Greek. It is useful in that in sheds light in how the ancient scribes understood Hebrew words in the Greek language, and it helps us connect Greek words as used in the N.T. with their Hebrew equivalents as used in the Old Testament, opening up a broader understanding of their definitions. The Greek word for “every” (πᾶς) is Strong’s #G3956, the exact same word used in Genesis 8:20.
13) It is true that the word “except” is not in Romans 14, but then again, neither is the word “sabbath.” The evidence presented however proves that Paul does have exceptions in mind.
14) Romans 14:10. By “all” Paul means every single human being that ever existed and he proves this in verse 11 using an Old Testament text, “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Isaiah 45:23). See also 2 Cor. 5:10.
15) Romans 2:12-13, cf. Psalm 32:1-2.
16) Ibid, verse 16.
17) Ibid, verses 21-23.
18) We know that James is referring to the Decalogue as the standard for the judgement as well (verse 11). Critics however often point to the law of love (verse 8) as the replacement of the Decalogue to claim that “love” will be the standard for the judgement. But the laws to love God and man are not the replacement, but rather the summary of the Decalogue. In Romans 13:8-10 Paul quotes a few of the Ten Commandments pertaining to our relationship to each other, and concluded that they are “summed up on this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” and therefore, being that love does not work harm to your neighbor, “love” is the “fulfilment of the law.” Thus love is the standard for the judgement, but the practicality is the Ten Commandments, and it is against this that man will be judged on that day.
19) It is beyond the scope of this book to exegete in detail the meaning behind Paul’s use of the words “unclean” and “foods.” Suffice it to say that the Greek word used for “unclean” is not the same word translated unclean in Greek Septuagint of Old Testament, where God speaks about animals that are unclean for man’s diet. Coupling this with the fact that Paul is also talking drinks (verses 17 and 21) grants evidence that most likely Paul is speaking about foods that are being considered by some people as impure or ceremonially unclean.
20) Antinomian means “against nomos.” Nomos is a Greek term meaning “law.”
21) Ibid, verses 21-23.
22) In Romans 8:4 he speaks of “the righteousness of the law.” In Romans 9:31 he speaks of “the law of righteousness” and in Romans 10:5 he speaks of the righteousness “which is in the law.” It was well known by the Jews that God’s commandments “are righteousness” (Deut. 6:25, Psalm 119:142, 172).
23) Ibid, 4:1-4.
24) The next verse reads, “I am the Lord who brought you out of the land of Ur.” Scholars have noted the parallel between verse 7 and Exodus 20:2. After taking Abraham out of his land, he evidently gave him commandments which he obeyed (Genesis 26:5). The Israelites too, after being removed from Egypt, were given commandments. Moreover, saving Abraham was an act of God which he did not earn, and saving the Israelites from Egypt was also an unmerited act of God. Evidently, God saves man freely, but expects them to be obedient to him thereafter.
25) Romans 4:6-8.

27) Romans 2:12, cf. James 2:10-12. Psalm 96:13 and Psalm 98: 9 says that at his coming, the Lord will judge the world with righteousness. Psalm 119:172 says that the commandments are righteousness. See citation 22 where Paul also speaks of the righteousness contained in the law.
28) Our understanding is that “under the law” means under its “guilt.” This is what the verse is saying. The law speaks to those “under the law” and why? “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Thus, under the law means to be under its penalty. In fact, that is the context in the previous verses (verses 9-18) where Paul quotes almost a dozen texts proving that all have sinned and therefore, all are guilty.
29) Speaking of dates, a comparison between the date this letter and Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:19-20 negates the idea that Romans 14 is teaching that Sabbath keeping is optional. Jesus said, “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. Luke also recounts this warning in Luke 21:20 but adds that it will be a military army of Gentles which will bring destruction to Jerusalem (Compare verse 20 with verse 24). Forty years after the warning was given, Jerusalem was sacked by Rome in AD 70. Interestingly, Jesus told them to pray that their escape does not take place during the Sabbath day, as they would be assembled in groups making it harder to escape. Evidently believers would still be observing the Sabbath day when Romans was written in AD 57. Either the Roman Christians disregarded Paul’s suggestion to make Sabbath keeping optional, or critics have misinterpreted what he actually meant. More on Matthew 24:20 in an upcoming chapter.

32) Didache 8:1-2. See: http://wesley.nnu.edu/sermons-essays-books/noncanonical-literature/the-didache-or-teaching-of-the-apostles

34) Rom. 14:2-3, 6, 14-17, 20-23, cf. 1 Cor. 8:2, 7-8, 10, 13.
35) Rom. 14:1-2, 21, cf. 1 Cor. 8:7, 9, 10-12.
36) Rom. 14:13, 21, cf. 1 Cor. 8:9.
QRS) Imagine for a moment we applied the critic’s logic to everyday life. Let us tell everyone in the church that they have the option to choose when to observe Communion. When will they arrive? Some on one day, others on another day, depending on their preference or availability. Would such a thing help unite employees in a company? Will telling them to come to the meeting on whatever day they chose serve the purpose intended by the company owner?
37) Ibid, 8:4-9. It’s important to keep the context in mind. When he says in verse 8, “for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” remember he is talking about eating foods offered to idols (see verses 1, 7). Therefore, “neither if we eat” foods offered to idols, “are we the better, nor if we do not eat” foods offered to idols, “are we the worse.” It cannot be that he means anything else because we certainly are worse off if we do not eat!
EEE) See: Romans 15:23-24. For the dating of the letter, see https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/content/romans/context and https://www.britannica.com/topic/Letter-of-Paul-to-the-Romans or “Letter of Paul to the Romans” Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Letter-of-Paul-to-the-Romans
FDF) Suetonius (Claudius 25.4) says “Because Judeans were constantly rioting at the instigation of Chrestus, he (Claudius) expelled them from Rome” (Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit). C. Suetonius Tranquillus, Divus Claudius, Alexander Thomson, Ed. (link: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:abo:phi,1348,015:25).
OOI) https://www.biola.edu/blogs/good-book-blog/2012/something-about-the-book-of-romans-that-will-help-you-really-get-it
BXZ) Ibid, para, 1-4. Emphasis is mine.
SSS) See Acts 13:42-44, 15:21, 18:4. There is historical evidence of this as well, such as the so-called “Birkat Haminim.” In the documentary “The Seventh Day,” narrator Hal Holbrook says, “About 95 or 100 AD, a change was made in the synagogue service. The middle part of the service is known as the standing prayer, the amidah or the ‘eighteen benedictions’ consisting of eighteen short prayers of blessings of God, thanksgiving blessings. All eighteen are recited on weekdays, on Sabbaths only seven. But at this time an additional one was added. It’s known in Hebrew as the ‘birkat haminim,’ the ‘Blessings concerning the Heretics,’ but it’s not really a blessing. [it read] ‘For the apostates let there be no hope. And let the arrogant government be speedily uprooted in our days. Let the noẓerim and the minim be destroyed in a moment. And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be inscribed together with the righteous. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant” To sniff out anyone suspected of being a heretic of any sort, especially a believer in Yeshua as the Christ, everyone was expected to either recite the prayer or agree with it by saying “amen.” If someone was caught refusing to say the prayer, they were asked to repeat it. Since believers in Jesus would never curse their fellow brethren, this method was often successful in rooting out the so-called “heretics.” Jewish scriptures testify of the existence of this prayer: “Let our rabbis teach us: one who passes before the ark [i.e., serves as precentor for the ‘amidah] and errs by not mentioning the birkat haminim–from whence do we know that we make him repeat the prayer? That is what the rabbis taught: One who passes before the ark and errs in any or all of the blessings, we do not make him repeat the prayer. But if he errs in the birkat haminim, we make him repeat and recite it against his will. And why do we make him repeat it? We are concerned lest he is a min, for if he has some aspect of minut, he will curse himself and the congregation will answer ‘amen.’”  (See: https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/1268?editor=1). The existence of this ancient curse is also testified by numerous church fathers. In “The Holy Communion: Four Visitation Addresses, 1891” author John Wordsworth explains, “Elsewhere St. Jerome speaks of christians being cursed three times a day in the synagogue under the name of Nazarenes in Isaiam, volumes 18, 19.” The existence of this curse provides strong evidence that believers in Jesus were still worshiping on the Sabbath day alongside their Jewish communities. For more on this, see: From Sabbath to Sunday: A historical investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity, page 158.
VVV) The fact of the matter is that observing the same day promotes unity. One Jewish philosopher said, “More than Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Jews” (Achad HaAm, Jewish philosopher and founder of cultural zionism). The same results will follow in the Christian church.

TTT) Google defines “ascetic” as: “characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.”

ELZ) See: Encyclopedia Britannica “Asceticism” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/asceticism).
MBA) See: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Essene.
Y2K) See: Acts 18:21, 25:8, 10, 26:5, 28:17.
G5U) In their commentary on the letter of Romans, blueletterbible.com offers compelling reasons why Romans was written from Corinth: “Paul mentions three people that help to identify the letter’s composition with Corinth: Phoebe (16:1), Gaius (16:23), and Erastus (16:23). He sent Phoebe of Cenchrea to the church in Rome as the bearer of the epistle. With her being from Cenchrea, she would have had ties to Corinth because Cenchrea is the port city for Corinth. There was a Gaius referenced in 1 Cor 1:14 as one who lived in Corinth and many have identified him as the Titius Justus in Acts 18:7. Erastus was the city’s treasurer (or director of public works) and in Corinth an inscription was discovered that refers to an Erastus as the city aedile (i.e., an official in charge of public works, etc.), which some have corresponded to Paul’s reference to him. (quotes Douglas J. Moo. The Epistle to the Romans. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996). pp. 935 f.).”
15T) Though this is a parable, it is likely that it is based on a true story, or at least certain elem  ? z ds

uents of it.
DGI) But Paul does not even grant that the man who chooses to esteem all days alike does so “to the Lord” (verse 6), so we cannot take from here the notion that “every day is the Sabbath” as some critics have decided to do.
PPP) In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul identifies himself as a part of those who are weak. However, in Romans 14:2 is speaking of the individual who “is” weak, while in 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul is speaking of himself “as” if he were of the weak.

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About The Author

Edwin Cotto

With years of experience in evangelism and youth directing, Edwin has worked with various ministries including Our Higher Calling and Spanish ministry El Ministerio Internacional Jesús es la Solución where he had the opportunity to travel conducting evangelistic meetings. Edwin has also appeared on 3ABN, worked as the main apologist at the Adventist Defense League, and is trained and certified with the Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism. He is also a Bible Worker for the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

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