The Sabbath and Romans 14:5

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?

Paul introduces this portion of his letter to the Romans with these words:

"Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions" (Romans 14:1).

The apostle is writing here about what the King James Version calls "doubtful disputations." The New International Version has "disputable matters." These various terms give us a key to understanding verse 5. Paul is talking about "the anxious internal debates of conscience"1 that lead to differences in areas of personal preference. He is advising the Roman Christians not to let their views on such things divide them.

He starts with the example of diet. Some of his readers are vegetarians, others are not. The two groups should not be critical of each other. They all serve the same Master. "Who are you," Paul asks, "to judge the servant of another?" This is the immediate context of the verse we are considering.

This brief look at Romans 14:5 reveals that Paul’s counsel has nothing to do with the observance or non-observance of the seventh-day Sabbath. This conclusion is supported by the fact that neither biblical nor historical records give any indication that Sabbath observance was an issue in Paul’s time.

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. He does the same with dietary preferences. In such matters he teaches that Christians should mind their own business and not make mountains out of molehills. Good advice.

1Handley C. G. Moule, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, The Expositor’s Bible, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1899), 374.

2A blending of diverse beliefs, i.e., Christian and pagan.

3Herold Weiss, A Day of Gladness (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 2003), 122.

4Raoul Dederen, “On Esteeming One Day as Better Than Another – Romans 14:5, 6” in The Sabbath in Scripture and History, Kenneth A. Strand, editor (Washington: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1982), 336.

5C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, vol. ii, The International Critical Commentary, ed. J. A. Emerton and C. E. B. Cranfield (Edinburg: T. & T. Clark Limited), 705.

6Moule, Romans, 375.

7Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, David Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), 1177.

8Wilber T. Dayton, Romans and Galatians, Wesleyan Bible Commentary Vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), 86.