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Holidays

Romans 14 and Days
Bill H. Reeves


The series of articles in this issue of Watchman Magazine has to do with "holidays". In passing, I notice:

  1. that the English word, "holiday" is a contraction of "holy days", but has come to mean simply days on which one doesn’t have to work. It is associated with vacation time. The religious aspect of the word, as to its derivation, has completely been lost. (Who in the U.S.A., speaking English, thinks of "holy day" when he hears or says, "holiday"? In fact, most of the "holidays", for example, "The 4th Of July", "Labor Day", in our country, that are national holidays, have no religious connotation or derivation whatsoever.

  2. some examples of this: Sunday (day of the sun); Monday (day of the moon); etc. Who in the English-speaking world thinks of worshipping the sun when he says, "Sunday"? or the moon, when he says, "Monday"? Yet, these two days received their names originally in reference to such pagan worship of the sun and moon.

In this lesson I am to treat the days as mentioned in Romans 14:5, 6.

    Romans 14:5, 6, "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day [alike]. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord: and he that eateth, eateth unto the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, unto the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."

The issue here in Romans 14 is not the same as in Colossians 2 and Galatians 4. Others will treat those passages.

Here in Romans 14 the days and the estimation had of them by some Roman Christians, while others esteemed them not, were attitudes and activities permitted by the Lord while not commanded. The only matters treated in this chapter are matters that in and of themselves are good and therefore permissible (verses 14, 16, 20). They are matters of indifference, matters of liberties in things permitted but not commanded by the Lord.

The main point of emphasis in this section of Romans is this: do all unto the Lord, honoring Him and having this sole purpose of action. This is done, in such matters as those under discussion, by:

  1. not condemning the one who has not the particular scruple
  2. not violating one’s conscience
  3. not setting at naught the one who has the scruple
  4. not setting a stumbling block before another
  5. one’s being "fully assured in his own mind", rather than doubting
  6. showing gratitude in the giving of thanks to the Lord
  7. regarding the Lord in whatever action taken

Concerning the days of this passage, we don’t know what those days in particular were, but the Romans did. Just what days they might have been in the lives of 1st century Christians in Rome was immaterial to the inspired instructions of the apostle Paul. So, what matters to us in this section of the New Testament Scriptures, and all that matters, is what mattered to them. The previous paragraph outlines it.

In noting Barnes Notes on this passage. we see that he considers the Lord’s day as the "Christian Sabbath". Therefore, on Sunday there is to be no work nor play! That was the common notion in my childhood (in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s): stores all closed and no play in the sense of activities in sports. (Visiting, or maybe a Sunday-drive was permitted). There was common regard for the "fact" that all of Sunday was the Lord’s day. This notion was "unto the Lord" for those who had it, but those who worked and played, having worshipped the Lord in his appointments on Sunday, were not to be condemned! Sunday is not a day of rest! It is the day of the week (being the first one) on which saints are to assemble to worship God in an appointed way. That being done, the proper use of the day has been accomplished, and its remainder is to be used as one sees fit (within the realm of proper conduct).

The reason I prefer, in reference to the use of Sunday, the ways of the early 30’s in our nation is that cessation from business work on Sunday allowed the good impressions and spiritual benefits from the worship assemblies to be longer lasting and less distracted. Today, with our culture given to entertainment, sports, and secular work for monetary profit on Sunday, what little spiritual benefit is obtained can easily be drowned out by the boisterous, secular activities of the so-called "weekend". But I am not permitted to bind on another Christians my preferences. If I refuse to work on Sunday, lest I detract from the spiritual benefits of the assemblies, fine. Let me be sure not to violate my conscience in the matter. If another does not fail to assemble on Sunday to worship God as instructed, yet spends of the remainder of the day in secular pursuits, let me not condemn (judge) him in so doing.

Curiosity has led to speculation of just what days in particular were those to which Paul alluded (verses 5 and 6).

  1. Some commentators refer to them as Jewish days of observance according to the Law of Moses. No doubt many Jewish converts to Christ continued to observe, in their individual scruples, the Sabbath and other feast days imposed by Moses. In the same way many continued to circumcise their children and not to eat meat listed as unclean under the Law of Moses.

  2. Albert Barnes, by way of application, applies the "days" of Romans 14 to the observance, by Christians today, of "days which commemorate the birth, and death, and temptations of their Lord Jesus". But such days are not known that they might be observed (and such observance in worship is not authorized in the Scriptures), and those dates that are recognized for special observation are the contrivance of an apostate church, the Roman Catholic Church.

  3. Other commentators observe that the Jewish Christians were not the only ones in Rome involved, but that the Gentile Christians likewise are included. Did not the Gentiles, before their conversion to Christ, have certain sacred days of special observance in their culture? Of course they did. Such is true in any culture around the world.

After all suppositions are projected, we still do not know, nor do we need to know, just what days they actually were (if at all specific days in particular)! What the Romans needed to know about their treatment of those days, in reference to one another, is exactly and solely what we need to know today in any treatment of days in reference to one another!

An individual is at liberty to make special use of any day (esteem, or show a preference above another) for study, meditation, and prayer, in addition to the Lord’s day (the first day of the week). He may esteem Sunday as the day in which to refrain from all secular work and play for the entirety of the day. But he is not at liberty to so use a day as to violate the law of Christ, nor to bind the practice upon others.

In Latin-America, the twice-on-Sunday assemblies, and the one mid-week (Wednesday night) assembly, which is common to American congregations, is not commonplace at all to the Hispanic churches. Most typical of the Hispanic congregations is one assembly on Sunday, and a number of them during the week, especially on Saturday! Now, may we judge by this alone that one group is more spiritual than the other? Is one group obligated to use the days of the week as the other group typically does?

The issue of whether or not churches of Christ are to assemble on the Lord’s day (Sunday, in English today), for corporate worship, or if just any day is permissible for partaking of the Lord’s Supper and giving of our means, is not under consideration at all in Romans 14. Neither is the issue what to do with the rest of the Lord’s day after the stipulated acts of worship are observed. The issue in Romans 14 is solely that of what an individual, fully assured in his own mind and with the grand purpose of honoring Christ, judges to do or not do as regards meats, days and any other matter that in themselves are indifferent to the Lord and therefore permissible to men.

Someone has said, "The Lord has set apart the Lord’s Day for worship". No. The Lord’s day, Sunday, has 24 hours, and the Lord does not require that Sunday be spent only in worship (for 24 hours, nor even for all of the 12 daylight hours). The Lord has specified Sunday as the day in which the church is to come together and worship in the ordained way. How much of the 24 hours of this day is to be spent in corporate worship is not specified by the Lord. Sunday does not take the place of Saturday; Sunday is not "the Christian Sabbath". Sunday is not a day of rest; it is not a day of worship. It is the day of the week in which saints assemble to worship God in the appointed way. There is no difference in the character of the seven days of the week, and it is because of this fact that one may esteem one day above another, or every day alike (verse 5). However, Christians are not at liberty to ignore the order of the Lord to meet at some time on the first day of the week (Sunday) to worship him according to his instructions.

In closing we note that the phrase, "fully assured in his own mind", means that each one is to act according to his best judgment and satisfaction of conscience in the matter, as he seeks to honor Christ (note the repetitive phrase, "unto the Lord"). He is not to doubt about the matter. It is his mind alone that is involved ("his own mind"), and therefore his mind cannot become a judge of another’s mind (conscience) and subsequent action.

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