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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 14 - Verse 5
Verse 5. One man esteemeth. Gr., judgeth, (krinei). The word is here properly translated esteemeth. Comp. Ac 13:46; 16:15. The word originally has the idea of separating, and then discerning, in the act of judging. The expression means, that one would set a higher value on one day than on another, or would regard it as more sacred than others. This was the case with the Jews uniformly, who regarded the days of their festivals, and fasts, and Sabbaths as peculiarly sacred, and who would retain, to no inconsiderable degree, their former views, even after they became converted to Christianity.
Another esteemeth. That is, the Gentile Christian. Not having been brought up amidst the Jewish customs, and not having imbibed their opinions and prejudices, they would not regard these days as having any special sacredness. The appointment of those days had a special reference to the Jews. They were designed to keep them as a separate people, and to prepare the nation for the reality, of which their rites were but the shadow. When the Messiah came, the passover, the feast of tabernacles, and the other peculiar festivals of the Jews, of course vanished; and it is perfectly clear that the apostles never intended to inculcate their observance on the Gentile converts. See this subject discussed in the second chapter of the epistle to the Galatians.
Every day alike. The word "alike" is not in the original, and it may convey an idea which the apostle did not design. The passage means, that he regards every day as consecrated to the Lord, Ro 14:6. The question has been agitated, whether the apostle intends in this to include the Christian Sabbath. Does he mean to say that it is a matter of indifference whether this day be observed, or whether it be devoted to ordinary business or amusements? This is a very important question in regard to the Lord's day. That the apostle did not mean to say that it was a matter of indifference whether it should be kept as holy, or devoted to business or amusement, is plain from the following considerations:
(1.) The discussion had reference only to the peculiar customs of the Jews, to the rites and practices which they would attempt to impose on the Gentiles, and not to any questions which might arise among Christians as Christians. The inquiry pertained to meats, and festival observances among the Jews, and to their scruples about partaking of the food offered to idols, etc.; and there is no more propriety in supposing that the subject of the Lord's day is introduced here than that he advances principles respecting baptism and the Lord's Supper.
The propriety of observing that day does not appear to have been a matter of controversy. The only inquiry was, whether it was proper to add to that the observance of the Jewish Sabbaths, and days of festivals and fasts.
(3.) It is expressly said, that those who did not regard the day regarded it as not to God, or to honour God, Ro 4:6. They did it as a matter of respect to him and his institutions, to promote his glory, and to advance his kingdom. Was this ever done by those who disregard the Christian Sabbath? Is their design ever to promote his honour, and to advance in the knowledge of him, by neglecting his holy day? Who knows not that the Christian Sabbath has never been neglected or profaned by any design to glorify the Lord Jesus, or to promote his kingdom? It is for purposes of business, gain, war, amusement, dissipation, visiting, crime. Let the heart be filled with a sincere desire to honour the Lord Jesus, and the Christian Sabbath will be reverenced, and devoted to the purposes of piety. And if any man is disposed to plead this passage as an excuse for violating the Sabbath, and devoting it to pleasure or gain, let him quote it, just as it is, i. e., let him neglect the from a conscientious desire to honour Jesus Christ. Unless this is his motive, the passage cannot avail him. But this motive never yet influenced a Sabbath-breaker.
Let every man, etc. That is, subjects of this kind are not to be pressed as matters of conscience. Every man is to examine them for himself, and act accordingly. This direction pertains to the subject under discussion, and not to any other. It does not refer to subjects that were morally wrong, but to ceremonial observances. If the Jew esteemed it wrong to eat meat, he was to abstain from it; if the Gentile esteemed it right, he was to act accordingly. The word "be fully persuaded" denotes the highest conviction—not a matter of opinion or prejudice, but a matter on which the mind is made up by examination. See Ro 4:21; 2 Ti 4:5. This is the general principle on which Christians are called to act in relation to festival days and fasts in the church. If some Christians deem them to be for edification, and suppose that their piety will be promoted by observing the days which commemorate the birth, and death, and temptations of the Lord Jesus, they are not to be reproached or opposed in their celebration. Nor are they to attempt to impose them on others as a matter of conscience, or to reproach others because they do not observe them.
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