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Archive for the ‘Romans 14’ Category

“He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord” Romans 14:6

 

In the midst of the fourteenth chapter of Romans in verses 5-6 Paul considers the keeping, or regarding, of days.

     The keeping, or not keeping, of certain special days is an issue which often crops up in religion. The Jews under the law were commanded to keep the Sabbath day, as well as a number of other days as part of their ceremonial worship of God. The Gentile believers at Rome, however, had never been under the law as an outward covenant as the Jewish nation had. Therefore what was customary and natural to some, was an unusual and foreign practice to others. Some at Rome, therefore, were strongly persuaded that they should continue to keep the Sabbath day, or other days, as they had once done. Others saw no need for it. Some felt the practice of setting aside one day in seven in order to devote themselves to God’s worship was important. Others felt that they should treat all days alike.

     Opinions on the matter were very strong, and they continue to be so up to this very day. Many are fully persuaded of one thing, and others are fully persuaded against. Some, for example, particularly remember the Lord’s birth and His death on certain days each year. Others feel that such a practice is not commanded in scripture and is influenced by mere worldly tradition. Arguments for and against can be very strong.

     It is this which Paul addresses in these verses, by stressing that whether one keeps a day, or doesn’t keep it, he should do so, as ‘unto the Lord’. Under the New Covenant believers are not under a law to keep a Sabbath day, or any other particular day of remembrance (such as Easter). However, that does not in itself make the keeping of such days wrong. Paul seeks to emphasise that the keeping of, or not keeping of, such days is not wrong in itself and should not be a cause for division. He stresses the need to avoid “doubtful disputation” (Romans 14:1) over such matters. What matters is how one approaches the day. Whether kept, or not, all should be as unto the Lord.

     Someone once asked me the following question about the Sabbath day:

     “You mentioned that Sabbath keeping is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament whereas nine of the other commandments are quoted. Is there any implication to this? It seems to me that it is omitted because the Sabbath (or day of rest) was mainly instituted at the Creation, i.e. God was 6 days working and on the 7th He rested? What would your practical views be on the Sabbath now, for example would you be happy to do your groceries shopping on the Sunday? If not, then why not?”

     Let us consider this particular question of the Sabbath day, especially in the light of what Paul teaches in Romans 14. Firstly, it is very significant that the Sabbath command is not repeated in the New Testament. This is because it was essentially a type, a shadow, pointing to the rest which the believer has in Christ. Before coming to Christ the believer is, spiritually speaking, under the law, labouring. But when brought to faith his ‘six days’ of work come to an end and he enters into rest, having been crucified with Christ and risen with Him the other side of death. Then he is in rest, having the reality of what the Sabbath was but a shadow. Hence in the New Testament with the coming of Christ, and His work being finished at the cross, the Sabbath comes to an end. Therefore we read in Matthew 28:1 “In the end of the sabbath”, regarding the resurrection of our Lord. This is not simply referring to the end of that particular Sabbath day, you see, but this refers to the end of the Sabbath, full stop.

     Regarding the mention of the Sabbath at creation, it is true that Genesis 2 mentions the seventh day, and of course Exodus 20 refers back to this in relation to the Sabbath law. However, it is significant that no where else in Genesis is the Sabbath mentioned. There is no mention of it being made a law or requirement of man to keep until Moses brought Israel out of Egypt. We never read of the Patriarchs observing a Sabbath in that sense. Certainly at the creation the ‘type’ of the seventh day is mentioned, because it would be – the account is of God’s creation and is figurative of what He brings in in the new creation in which there is an eternal rest. The law of Moses certainly refers back to this because again the Sabbath law is a figure of that which is to come so it refers back to the previous figure (and it is made a law to teach us that to ‘break’ such a rest by working in it is wrong, because this is tantamount to adding our works to Christ’s in order to be saved – but we are to rest entirely in Him). However the fact remains that no mention is made elsewhere in Genesis of Sabbath observance, and the strict requirements of how to observe the Sabbath are only stated in the law.

     When we arrive at the New Testament we have various references to the Sabbath in the Gospels and Acts, but many of these references are to what Christ did on the Sabbath to the consternation of the Jews who accused him of being a Sabbath breaker. In the epistles the primary mention is in Colossians (2:16) which is highly significant as there the teaching concerns deliverance from earthly things, into which men seek to bring us into bondage. Paul seeks to set the Colossians’ gaze upon heavenly things showing them that these earthly types and figures have all passed away in Christ.

     So, in summary, in the New Testament we are delivered from the law, including the Sabbath law. The mention of the seventh day rest at creation doesn’t alter that, because the position of the believer is one of being dead to this present world, this present creation, and alive in Christ risen in newness of life the other side of death. What pertains to this creation is but a type and figure of the reality brought in in the new creation. The seventh day rest pictures that eternal rest we have in Christ. In Galatians 6:14 Pauls tells us that the world is crucified unto him, and he unto the world. If so, he is crucified unto all worldly, earthly things, including the observation of holy days, sabbaths and so on. We are not under a legal bondage in respect of such things (We are both dead to the law and also to the world.)  As believers we need to be mindful of our position in Christ the other side of death, as we are no longer earthly in the first man Adam, but heavenly in the Second Man Christ. We are called to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and if so, we reckon ourselves dead to the flesh, dead to this world, hence dead to what is earthly. Types, figures and shadows served their purpose in the Old Testament but now the reality has come, now the true Light has dawned, we put such things away and walk in liberty in Christ our Saviour.

     But how does all that work out in practice? Obviously despite our state in Christ we do still have the flesh, we are still in this world (though not of it) and we do have weeks with days and nights…. And for that reason, whilst we are not under any legal obligation to keep a sabbath day, being dead to the law, nevertheless the principle of one day of rest in seven, whilst in this world, is a good one – physically and spiritually, in this world, in many ways, we need it. Also, it is good to worship our Lord as often as we can, and having one day a week set aside specifically for that purpose, without the distraction of our daily work is helpful. So the historical situation in this country for example (Great Britain) which means that many have Sunday off work is something to be thankful for, and we can be happy, voluntarily, to set such a day aside for the worship of God, it being the first day of the week which is the day that Christ rose from the dead (and as such not the Sabbath day itself anyway, but nevertheless still one day in seven, and a continual reminder of our Lord’s resurrection, and of course a day on which the disciples in the New Testament became accustomed to meeting on as a result – see John 20:19 and Acts 20:7).

     Being able to avoid many of the everyday demands of life -such as shopping and work – on such a day is helpful as they prevent or distract from the worship of God. As Paul says in Romans 14:6, “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord”. We have no legal obligation to keep one day in seven, and we should not be judgmental of others who see their liberty in Christ differently or indeed of those who lack the same freedom owing, for example, to commitments with work. But whether we esteem one day above another, or not, whether we observe one day a week differently, or one day annually, or not, we should do all as unto the Lord, all by faith, all for His glory. And all freely, willingly, out of love for Christ our Saviour.

     There are some who recognise that the believer is no longer under the Sabbath law who therefore treat Sunday much like any other day (except perhaps for attending a meeting or two on that day). Well, they have the liberty to do that, but why surround the worship of God with the distractions and busyness of everyday life if we have the freedom to do otherwise? Others would rather seek to raise every day up to the same standard, rather than bringing this one day down to the standard of others (in terms of being taken up with the distractions of earthly cares and duties). But as we can’t bring all the other days ‘up’, because of the need to work, shop, and so on, and although we might love to have two, three or more days a week like this one, we can nevertheless be thankful for that day, and that time, with which we have the freedom and liberty to set it aside entirely for the worship of God, not only in private, but publicly. It is good to at least be able to treat one day differently – to give our time in it freely to the Lord, if you like (to be mindful of heavenly things, putting aside earthly cares). We have no ‘Sabbath’, and such a day isn’t legally binding, but it is still nevertheless good to be able to devote such time freely out of love for the Lord. With a day of rest we can be reminded of that eternal rest which we have in Christ who has delivered us from bondage and brought us into liberty, as children of light who walk in the light of His countenance in the power of an everlasting life in Him, who having died for our sins rose again as the Firstborn from the dead, in whom we have our life and being.

     But whether we keep a day, or don’t keep a day, may it never be the cause of dispute. May we live by faith, each and every day, doing all as unto the Lord, and may we gather often with our brethren, whether on the first day of the week, the second, or any other, to hear the preaching of Christ in the Gospel of God and to worship His Name for His glory. May we walk as children of the day, children of light, who walk in the light of God’s glory in that ‘day’ of Christ’s ascended glory, that Lord’s Day, in which Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, shines forth His glory through the proclamation of His Gospel from on High.

     As Paul writes:

     “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

     For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

     Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

     One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

     For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

     For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” Romans 14:1-9

Amen.

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“The just shall live by faith” Hebrews 10:38

“That Our Eyes May Be Opened” Matthew 20:33

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“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” Romans 14:23

IN the fourteenth chapter of Romans Paul considers the relationships of believers to their brethren who are weaker in the faith, and the liberty that each has in Christ to partake of or abstain from certain things, for example, the eating of meats. In so doing he contrasts those things which are earthly and temporal with those things which respect the kingdom of God, being heavenly and eternal. Constantly and repeatedly throughout the whole epistle, and here in a most practical part of it, the attention is set upon Christ and His Gospel.

Paul’s emphasis throughout this chapter is that many of the things which men so easily make rules out of, by which they judge one another, are in themselves of little consequence (14:14). What is important is the motive behind what we do, that all things should be done as unto the Lord, as springing forth from faith: “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” Romans 14:23. All must regard Christ for He is all, and in all.

So much of what men stress in religion, so much of the practices which they press upon others, so much of what they set up as a standard by which they judge and condemn others, is that which springs forth from the flesh, is that which is earthly, not heavenly. It might seem ‘right and proper’ but it merely respects man approaching unto God in the will of his flesh. Such things owe nothing to the leading of the Spirit, and nothing to the walk of faith. The flesh so easily creeps into the things of God, and in to our judgment concerning such things. But we are called to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. To walk by faith, not by sight. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Whatsoever. Whatever we may do, however good it may seem before men outwardly, if it is not of faith, it is sin.

Yes, faith is the rule by which the believer walks. “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). This principle applies to all aspects of his life. He lives by faith. Hence Paul exhorts believers to be fully persuaded in their own minds (14:5) regarding their daily conduct, to live as “unto the Lord” (14:8) knowing that we are the Lord’s and to have a clear conscience before God regarding our conduct knowing that “every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). Paul reminds his brethren of the death and resurrection of Christ for them, that He might be Lord over them (14:9), and hence it is to Christ and Him alone that they are answerable for their conduct… so why do they, why do we, judge one another?

Nevertheless Paul reminds the stronger brethren to be mindful of those who are weaker and not to do such things as might make their weaker brethren stumble. It is better to abstain from something, even if there is nothing wrong in the thing itself, than to offend him which is weak in the faith (14:21). Likewise Paul stresses the need to avoid “doubtful disputations” (14:1) over such earthly, inconsequential things. Those who are young in the faith can often become very strong minded, and very vocal, about many things they think should or shouldn’t be done by Christians. The wisdom of those stronger in the faith, however, is to avoid such disputes over earthly things, avoid giving their weaker brethren offence through their own conduct, and to constantly be mindful of and exhort their brethren regarding the life of faith which is founded upon heavenly things. To point to Christ!

Paul therefore concludes this chapter by lifting the gaze of his hearers up from the earthly realm, from the inconsequential things of food and drink, and the keeping of days, to the hope of their faith, and that in which the kingdom of God stands:

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” Romans 14:17-19.

May God give His people grace to continually walk by faith having their affections set not on earthly things, but heavenly, not judging one another, but following after the things which make for peace, those things which edify one another. For the just shall live by faith, and what is not of faith is sin.

 

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“The just shall live by faith” Hebrews 10:38

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

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