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Romans 14:5-6 (NIV) says:

5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God

What was Paul trying to teach here? My personal impression is that he is presenting two positions and not advocating neither of them over the other, that both 1) regarding certain days as "sacred" or "special" and 2) considering all days alike are equally valid positions. However, I'm confused about the intended meaning of the expressions "special" and "sacred" used by Paul. What was Paul thinking about when he used these expressions? Was he thinking about holy convocations such as the ones listed in Leviticus 23, or did he mean something else?

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    One esteemeth one day above another ; another esteemeth every day is a better translation. The latter treats every day as a sabbath.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 26 '20 at 16:56
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+100

A. Translation

Rom 14:5, 6 is best translated by one of the very literal version because of its quintessential Pauline terseness. Here is my very literal translation:

One truly judges/esteems a day above a day; but one judges every day [alike?]. Let each be convinced in mind. The one regarding the day regards [it] to the Lord; The [one] eating to the Lord eats for he give thanks to God; and the one not eating, does not eat to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Phrases like, "more sacred" & "more holy" are not explicit in the Greek but are strongly implied and thus added by the likes of NIV, NLT, CSB, etc.

B. Distinction: Legalism vs Devotion

At first blush, there appears to be a direct contradiction between Rom 14:5, 6 vs Gal 3 & 4, especially Gal 4:10, "You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!" How are we to resolve this?

Note the repeated use of "to the Lord" and "to God" in Rom 14:5, 6; these phrases are completely absent in Gal 4:8-11.

C. Possibilities

The commentators, historically, have offered a range of interpretations for this passage in Rom 14:5, 6. This can be summarizes as:

  1. Paul is alluding to people keeping the Torah-law with its annual Sabbaths and weekly Sabbath and encouraging others to do so. Thus, Paul is talking to "judaeizers". If this is true then we really do have a contradiction between Rom 14 and Gal 4 when Paul outright condemns such judaeizers.
  2. Paul is talking to two different groups, those brought up in Torah-law and gentiles who were not. He then asks each group to be tolerant of each other, so long as they observe these days out of reverence to God.
  3. Paul is talking to various groups who were observing various pagan festivals (out of habit). Such practices have come into the modern church with all its "saints days", etc. The modern church has numerous annual "feasts" celebrating various things including Christmas itself(!!) which has no origin in the NT. Different parts of the church have different dates for Christmas and different dates for Easter. Paul is asking these various groups to be tolerant of each other.

Whatever we make of Rom 14, we must make the same assessment of the food and dietary practices as well, which are mentioned in the same light.

CONCLUSION

Which is correct? Paul correctly condemns legalism in its numerous and subtle forms whether it involves doing works of the law by observing days or eating special food - we cannot earn God favor because we already have it!!

CAUTION - we must be very careful here; some condemn other Christians for observing things by accusing them of legalism - however, all Christian traditions have practices that can become legalistic, including communion, squabbles over communion ritual, baptism and its associated rituals, church attendance, abstinence from alcohol (or not), abstinence from drug abuse, etc.

The two passages in Rom 14 and Gal 4 must be held in tension - if a person does something (no matter how noble) to gain favor with God then it is legalism and should be condemned. However, if a person does something out of devotion to God, perhaps even from a misplaced or immature piety, then it should not be condemned.

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What was Paul trying to teach in Romans 14:5-6 when he talked about “special days” and “considering one day more sacred than another”?

While under the Law, the Israelites were required to set aside one day every week for rest and worship. Christians, on the other hand, are required to worship God, not just one day per week, but every day.

However is it wrong for Christians then, to set aside one day" special" every week for rest and worship? No. God’s Word leaves such a decision to each individual, saying:

Romans 14:5-6 (NET Bible)

5 One person regards one day holier than other days, and another regards them all alike.[a] Each must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day does it for the Lord. The[b] one who eats, eats for the Lord because he gives thanks to God, and the one who abstains from eating abstains for the Lord, and he gives thanks to God.

While some may choose to view one day as more holy than others, these words show that in the first century C.E. Christians were under no obligation to keep any day as a Sabbath. The important thing for Christians was their doing of God’s will daily.

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Here's part of my answer from a similar question (catholicism - What is the Catholic interpretation of Romans 14:5? - Christianity Stack Exchange):


The entire chapter of Romans 14 talks about one common theme: new Gentile converts and how they should be handled.

New converts are coming from a completely different view of the world. Many of them are Vegetarians, Ascetics, or other sects that believe that physical deprivation improves the soul. It will take some time for them to adjust to the new reality of Christianity, and the current Christians should be careful not to push the process too quickly.

For instance, Vegetarians believe that eating meat is a sin. Christians know that it isn't, but if they try to force meat onto someone that still feels as if it is a sin, they risk causing that convert to leave them. Paul points out that it is not a sin to refrain from eating meat, so there is no point in pushing this aspect of Christianity. Instead, one should stick to the more fundamental beliefs of Christianity, and the converts will eventually accept less important aspects of their new life, such as eating meat without feeling guilty.

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. -- Romans 14:19-20

Arguing a Vegetarian into eating meat, even though he (incorrectly) feels that it is wrong, might cause him to reject his new relationship with God.

Similarly some converts might have no concept of a special day of the week, while other might think that the day the Romans dedicate to Apollo the Sun God should be treated specially. Eventually the new converts will understand the truth, but forcing them to behave in a way they still feel is wrong is going to do far more harm than good. It is far better to concentrate on teaching the doctrines of salvation first.

The key idea is in the first line of this chapter:

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.

Paul is simply telling the members of the church not to frighten away potential converts by arguing with them over issues that are of secondary importance.

At this stage, arguing about vegetarianism or sabbath keeping or such matters is pointless, and potentially harmful.

After people have accepted the core beliefs of the Gospel, they will naturally and willingly learn to understand that it isn't wrong to eat meat, and they will naturally and willingly want to celebrate the sabbath and holy festivals.

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  • Can this same line of reasoning be applied to fornication, consuming cocaine, stealing, etc.? What if a recent convert thinks that fornication is fine? Should mature Christians sweep it under the rug for the sake of not making new converts feel uncomfortable? Dec 29 '20 at 1:28
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator. It's my understanding that pre-converts were expected to obey the Seven Laws of Noah, as decided at the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15. (Four laws that most religions take for granted, plus three that the conference explicitly stated.) For details, see my answer to: Were there implicit laws not referenced in the Acts 15 letter to gentile believers? - Christianity.SE. Dec 29 '20 at 1:29
  • FYI: The Noahide laws prohibit: blasphemy, murder, theft, and injustice, plus idolatry, sexual immorality, and eating meat that hadn't been killed by bleeding. Dec 29 '20 at 1:33

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