When was the Letter to the Galatians Written?

Galatians was written after the great dissension between the believers in Antioch (Acts 15:2; Gal 2), but prior to the Church Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15, therefore somewhere in AD48-50.  The letter to the Galatians therefore represents Paul’s argument before the Church Council, while the Church Council decision substantially made an end to the dispute in the letter to the Galatians. 

Both Galatians and Acts 15 mention a visit by Paul to Jerusalem and a dispute between Paul and other Jewish Christians in Antioch, but the two cities are mentioned in opposite sequences:

The visit to Jerusalem in the letter to the Galatians was a private meeting with a small number of important people, while the visit to Jerusalem in Acts resulted in a large public meeting with a formal church council decision.  For this and other reasons these were two different visits to Jerusalem.

But the two disputes in Antioch are the same.  Both were caused by men that came from the church headquarters in Jerusalem and taught that, unless you (Gentile Christians) are circumcised, you cannot be saved.

On this basis a threefold sequence is proposed:

  • First an informal visit to the leaders in Jerusalem,
  • Followed by the public dispute in Antioch,
  • which was resolved through a formal Council decision in Jerusalem.

Since the letter to the Galatians does not mention the Jerusalem decision, it must have been written before that decision, therefore somewhere in AD48-50.

Purpose – To prepare for a discussion of the early development of the church, this page reconciles events in Jerusalem and Antioch, described in Acts, with the events in the same cities, described in Galatians.  This will help to determine where the letter to the Galatians fits into the early development of the church.

Dates – See here for a table with dates for key events in the early church.  As indicated by this table, chronologists do not always exactly agree on the dates, but they more or less agree.  For that reason the dates in this article are all approximates.

The letter to the Galatians mentions:

  • A visit by Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem (2:1-10)
  • Followed by a dispute between Paul and other Jewish Christians in Antioch (2:11-24)

Acts mentions the two cities in the opposite sequence:

  • First a dispute between Paul and other Christians in Antioch (15:1-2)
  • Followed by a visit by Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem (15:4-30)

Some argue that Paul’s visit to Jerusalem in Galatians 2:1-10 is the same as his visit to Jerusalem in Acts 15.  There are similarities, such as:

  • The key issue in both visits is whether Gentile Christians must be circumcised (Gal 2:3; Acts 15:5).
  • In both Barnabas went with Paul (Gal 2:1; Acts 15:2).

However, the details of the two visits are too different to refer to the same visit:

  • In the letter to the Galatians Paul took Titus along as an example of the work he does under the Gentiles (Gal. 2:1, 3), but there is no mention of Titus in Acts 15.
  • In Galatians Paul went to Jerusalem “because of a revelation” (Gal 2:2), but in Acts it was because of a decision of the brethren in Antioch (15:2).
  • In Galatians Paul visited “those who were of reputation” “in private” (Gal 2:2). In Acts “they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders” (15:4), and the entire church council, consisting of the “apostles and the elders” (15:6, 22) decided the matter.
  • In Galatians “those who were of high reputation” (Gal. 2:6, 9) simply “gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship” (2:9). In Acts there was a formal church council decision, where-after leading men from the Jerusalem church were chosen to go with Paul and Barnabas with a formal letter explaining the decision “to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles” (15:23).

Further indications that the visit to Jerusalem in Gal 2:1-10 cannot be the council decision in Acts 15, include:

  • If the visit to Jerusalem in Gal. 2:1-10 was the same as in Acts 15, then the council decision was taken before the incident in Antioch in Gal. 2:11-24 and therefore before the letter to the Galatians was written. But this is very unlikely because Paul would then have mentioned the Jerusalem decision in the letter to the Galatians, because the entire purpose of Galatians is to argue against the circumcision of Gentiles.
  • If Gal. 2:1-10 was the same as the Acts 15 church council meeting, then James would not have sent men afterwards to Antioch to preach the circumcision of Gentiles (Gal. 2:12).  Also, Peter and the other Jews would not have responded in Antioch the way they did (Gal. 2:12-13).

It is therefore proposed that these two visits to Jerusalem were not the same.

It is rather proposed that the two disputes in Antioch (Gal. 2:11-21; Acts 15:1-2) are the same.  Both disputes were caused by “men (that) came down from Judea” (Acts 15:1) (“from James” Gal. 2:10) and taught “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1) (“the party of the circumcision” – Gal 2:12).

On that basis the following sequence of events is proposed:

  1. Knowing that a dispute would burst out in the open, the Spirit first led Paul to informally visitthose who were of reputation” (Gal 2:2) in Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1-10).
  2. This is followed by the dispute in Antioch, described in both Galatians 2:11-24 and Acts 15:1-2.
  3. This is followed by the more formal visit to Jerusalem, to resolve the dispute through a formal Council decision (15:4-30)

We are now able to date Galatians relative to these three events.  Since Galatians mentions the dispute in Antioch, but does not mention the Jerusalem decision, and since that decision is critical for the topic in Galatians, namely whether Gentile Christians must be circumcised and live like Jews, it is proposed that Galatians was written by Paul while on his way to Jerusalem after the Antioch incident.  Since the Jerusalem council decision is dated to AD48-50 (about 20 years after Christ’s death) it means that Galatians was written during those same years.  It would make Galatians the earliest of Paul’s letters.

This conclusion corroborates with the information in Gal. 2:1-10, namely that the first visit to Jerusalem was “after an interval of fourteen years” (Gal. 2:1).  The key event mentioned in the previous chapter is Paul’s Damascus-conversion (1:16) in AD35.  It is therefore possible that the first visit to Jerusalem in Gal. 2:1-10 was “fourteen years” after AD35, which will bring it to AD49.  On the assumption that the Antioch-dispute and the Jerusalem church council decision happened within a year or two after the first visit, the Jerusalem council meeting could have been in AD50.

NEXT: Building …

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Romans 14:7-13 – Judgment Seat of God

Paul wrote “that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (e.g. 3:27), but he also wrote that all people will all be judged by their deeds before the Judgment Seat of God.  If a man is justified by faith, why must he still be judged by his deeds?  By what norm will we be judged if not by the works of the Law?  Is there a difference between our deeds and the works of the Law?

Romans 14:7-9

Romans 14:7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 14:8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 14:9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

14:6 describes eating meat and certain days as “for the Lord”.  Verses 7 and 8 then expands this concept and describe the Christian’s entire life and even his death as “for the Lord”.  Verses 7 and 8 therefore take the minds of the opposing groups in the church away from their petty disputes about meat and days to things that really matter.

Romans 14:10-13

14:10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of God. 14:11 For it is written, “as I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” 14:12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore …

These verses repeat the words “judge” and “contempt” from verses 1 to 4.  This confirms that, with respect to eating meat, there was in-fighting among the Christians in Rome.  They were judging one another (v 10, 13) with contempt (v10) .  The GNB says they despised one another.   Verses 10 to 13 therefore continue to draw the minds of the opposing groups away from their disagreements to things which really matter.  And what really matters, according to verses 10 to 13, is that everyone of us will judged before the Judgment Seat of God.  Since that is true, Paul is saying, let us not focus on other people.  Rather, let each person be concerned about him or herself (v12).

Judgment Seat of God

Judgment Seat of God
Judgment Seat of God

Some people believe that Christians will not appear before the Judgment Seat of God, but Paul is not only clear that we will be judged; he is also specifically clear that we will be judged by our deeds.  On the basis of our deeds, we will receive either eternal death or eternal life.  For example:

God … will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation”. (Rom 2:5-8)

The doers of the Law will be justified” (2:13).

 “if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:12-13)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).

we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).

Please see the article Eternal Life and Death in Paul’s Letters for more information on that topic.

The Conundrum

As quoted above, all people will all be judged by their deeds, but Paul also wrote “that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (e.g. 3:27).  If a man will be justified by faith, why must he still be judged by his deeds?

WHAT ARE THE WORKS OF THE LAW?

Paul wrote that no one will be justified (put right with God) by the works of the law (Romans 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; etc.).  To be justified by the works of the law is often understood as to be justified by living a sinless life.  This conceptual error is caused by a lack of understanding the context in Paul’s day, and has resulted is a huge theological error.

Law of Moses

It was Jews, who accepted Jesus as Messiah, who maintained that people are justified by the works of the law.  They taught that, unless one is circumcised and observe the Law of Moses, one cannot be saved (Acts 15:1, 5).  These Christian Jews brought this idea over from Judaism into the Church.

By this argument, that man is justified by the works of the Law, the Jews did not mean that one must be without sin to be saved.  Far from it.  They were very aware of their sins.  What they meant is that the rituals and ceremonies of the Law of Moses, such as circumcision and the sacrifices, will cancel out their sins.

It was this error which Paul opposed when he taught that no one will be justified by the works of the Law.  Paul was not saying that no one will be saved by living a sinless life; he was simply saying is that the rituals and ceremonies of the Law of Moses will not save anybody.

The works of the Law therefore refer to circumcision and the other rituals and ceremonies prescribed by the Law of Moses.

WHY MUST PEOPLE APPEAR BEFORE JUDGMENT SEAT OF GOD?

As quoted above, all people must appear before the Judgment Seat of God to be judged by their deeds.  To put the issue in the context in which Paul lived and wrote, since the sins of people are not cancelled by the works of the Law of Moses, they will be judged by their deeds before the Judgment Seat of God.  In that day “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:16).

The Cross
The Cross of Christ

But, to update the question to modern thinking, if the sins of Christians are washed away by the Cross of Christ, why must they appear before the Judgment Seat of God?   It is proposed that this question is based on a superficial understanding of why Christ had to die.   Please see the article, Why Jesus had to die.

THE TWO LAWS

The Jews argued that man is “justified by the works of the Law”.
Paul wrote that “the doers of the Law will be justified” (2:13)

The word “Law” in used in both statements, and it almost seems as if Paul and the Jews agreed, but these two statements refer to two different laws, used in two different ways:

Animal sacrifices

The Jews were referring to the Law of Moses and by justified by the works of the law they meant that man in justified by the rituals and ceremonies of that Law.  For the Jews the law was their means of justification.  They taught that man is reconciled to God through the blood of sheep and goats.  To argue against this error, Paul responded that man is not justified by the works of the Law.

In Romans 2:13, quoted above, Paul was referring to the Law of Christ.  The Law of Christ is God’s eternal moral principle.  Man’s “deeds”—“what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10), will be measured against that Law:

Those that sin will die, for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
Those that “are putting to death the deeds of the body, … will live” (Rom. 8:12).

WHAT LAW IS PAUL REFERRING TO?

Paul uses the word “law” often in his writings, and it is difficult to always be sure what law he is referring to:

Often “law” refers to the five books of Moses, for instance in the phrase “the Law and the Prophets” (e.g. Rom. 3:21).

At times “law” refers to the book which Moses wrote up, and put beside the ark, for instance “the book of the law” (Gal. 3:10).  This is also known as the Law of Moses.

Sometimes the word law refers to Christ’s teachings; the “commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus” (1 Thess. 4:2), elsewhere called the “law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21).

Ten Commandments

Sometimes the word law may even refer to the Ten Commandments (e.g. Rom. 13:10).

It is therefore difficult to always know what Paul means by the word law.  All the conflicting theories about the law floating around in Christianity do not make it easier.  The only solution is to read and to read again, to be aware of the various meanings of the word law, and to allow the immediate context to determine what Paul means.

DOES THIS MEAN THAT GOD’S PEOPLE EARN THEIR JUSTIFICATION?

If “the doers of the Law will be justified” (2:13), does that mean that man earns redemption through his deeds?

Paul argued that man is wholly unable to comply with the Law of Christ.  The only function of the Law is to accuse man of sin (3:20; 7:11).  As stated by 1 Corinthians 15:56, the law gives power to sin.  The law is therefore completely unable to justify man.

Paul therefore also often wrote that man is saved by grace.  We will be judged by our deeds, but because man is unable to comply with God’s eternal moral principles, man does not deserve to live.  Man is justified by grace, which means to be saved by God’s kindness:  Eternal life is “the free gift of God … in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

GOD’S ELECT

If “the doers of the Law will be justified” (2:13), does it contradict the indications in the Bible that God elects certain people? 

Jesus, for instance, said, “for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Mat. 24:22, cf. 24:24, 31).  Paul similarly asked “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” (Romans 8:33)

It is proposed here that God does elect certain people, but He does not do that independent of what they are or do, as is often taught.  He elects people for what they are.  However, only God is able to see what people really are.  Only God is able to judge the internal being of man; his faith, motives and desires; what we may refer to as man’s heart.  These things people are completely unable to judge.

Job may serve as an example.  He was God’s elect, but Satan refused to accept God’s judgment, and requested permission from God to test Job thoroughly.  See Why Satan thought he could succeed, for further information.

ON WHAT DOES GOD DISTINGUISHES BETWEEN PEOPLE?

Since we are all sinners (Romans 3:9), how does God decide who will receive eternal live and who will die (8:13)?

Here Romans 7 help us.  In brief, God will save the people that want to do good, even though they fail often (Romans 7:21-25).  The person that does not want to do good, will die.  God will therefore judge man by his inner being.  To say that man is justified by his want to do good is the same as saying man is justified by faith.

SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS IS FOUND IN ALL AGES.

The error of the Jews in Paul’s time is relevant in all times.  In all ages man is inclined to make a list of things that one must do or not do, to be saved.

We also see this error at the time of Luther, when the church also taught that man is redeemed by complying with a strict set of rules, and that contributions to the church and self-deprivation and even self-mutilation compensate for sins.

And we also, today, are fond of making lists of do’s and don’ts.  Such lists of externals only serve to make us unloving and critical of others.  What matters is the heart; whether we want to do the will of God.

WHY ARE THE THEOLOGIANS WRONG?

In this article an approach is proposed that hopefully reconciles all of Paul’s statements with respect to the law.  However, if this understanding is correct, then an enormous amount of church theology is wrong. Why is this so, and why do we find so many churches out there with so many conflicting doctrines?

Universities and colleges

The problem is that pastors and even theologians, in general, with notable and admirable exceptions, never really study the Bible for themselves without preconceived ideas.  They usually study what other people wrote about the Bible.  When they encounter a difficult passage, they flee to the writings of their favorite teacher and author.

For that reason Christianity is divided into various schools of thought.  The existence of these schools of thought prove what I am saying is true.  Pastors typically do not spend time to compare Scripture with Scripture until they understand for themselves what the Scriptures teach.  Unless they intensely study the Bible for themselves, they will never be able to escape from the trap of the schools of thought into which the church has fallen.

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Romans 14:5-6: Is the Sabbath optional?

Romans 14:5 says that each person must decide for himself whether to regard one day above another.  This is often interpreted as saying that the Sabbath is optional.  This article argues that the verse 5 must be read within its context, and its context is a dispute in the church about eating meat. It is therefore proposed that the days in verse 5 were days on which some Christians thought one should abstain from eating meat.  These days may include the Sabbath, but verse 5 does not say that the Sabbath is optional; only that eating meat on the Sabbath is optional.

Vegetables only

The first four verses of Romans 14 read that we are allowed to eat all things, but some Christians in Rome, being weak in the faith, believed that Christians should eat vegetables only.  Paul instruct mature Christians not to judge such a person.  Then verses 5 and 6 continue:

Romans 14:5 One person regards one day above another,
another regards every day alike.
Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.
14:6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord,
and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God;
and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.

Preliminary Observations

Romans 14:5 and 6 do not use the word “meat”, but the context of the previous verses implies that verse 6 refers to eating meat.

In the first four verses the focus is on eating meat.  Verse 5 shifts the focus to days, but verse 6 shifts the focus back to eating meat.  The statements about days are therefore surrounded by arguments about eating meat.

Verse 6 implies three categories of people:

1.  He who observes the day.
2.  He who eats.
3.  He who eats not.

The KJV adds one more people category, between the first and second, namely “He that regardeth not the day”.  However, the Pulpit Commentary says of this phrase, ‘omit, as ill-supported, as well as unnecessary’.

The word “alike” in Romans 14:5 has been added by the translators.  In the view of some interpreters this word distorts the meaning of the passage, but that word seems to be implied by the alternative, which is to regard “one day above another”.

According to verse 5 it is equally acceptable to regard “one day above another” and to regard “every day alike”.

The Sabbath is Huge.

Many interpreters believe that Paul includes the weekly Sabbath in the “day” in these verses.  From that they conclude that Sabbath observance is optional.  The main purpose of this article is to address this matter.

Blessed and sanctified at creation

The Sabbath is huge in the Old Testament.  The seventh day was sanctified and blessed at creation and included in the Ten Commandments, together with nine other eternal principles, as a Sabbath (day of rest).  The Sabbath was the sign of the covenant Sabbath breaking was the sign of Israel’s unfaithfulness, leading to their captivity into Babylon.  (See Sabbath in the Law of Moses.)

The Sabbath is huge in the gospels.  Christ deliberately sought confrontation with the Jews by healing on the Sabbath. His Sabbath breaking, as viewed by the Pharisees, was one of the main reasons for His crucifixion: “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18, see also 9:16). (See Deliberately breaking the Sabbath.)

The Sabbath was huge in the first years of the church, when the church still existed as a Jewish sect and complied with all Jewish laws, including the Sabbath (See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church).

The Sabbath controversy is still huge today.  The older protestant (reformed) churches adhere to the Sabbath commandment, but now on the first day of the week (Sunday).  But the newer churches view the Sabbath as a ceremonial commandment that has passed away at the Cross.

In contrast, the Sabbath is a non-issue in the New Testament letters. Paul mentioned the Sabbath explicitly only once in his letters, and that in a technical term that refers to the entire system of Jewish holy days.  (See Feasts … New Moons … Sabbaths.) There are only three of perhaps four texts in Paul’s writings that might be relevant to the Sabbath.  This means that the Sabbath, by itself, was not a matter of controversy in the first century.  Either everybody kept the Sabbath, or nobody kept the Sabbath.

Romans 14:5 is one of the few statements by Paul that possibly are relevant to the Sabbath.  It is therefore very important to understand what this verse says about the Sabbath.

Romans does not say that the Sabbath is optional.

For the reasons below it is proposed here that Romans 14:5 does not say that the Sabbath is optional:

First, if Romans 14:5 applies to the Sabbath, then Paul contradicted himself.

In Galatians Paul rebukes Christians for observing “days” (Gal. 4:10), but here in Romans he allows each person to decide for himself whether to regard one day above another.  In Galatians some Christians were compelling other Christians to comply with the Law of Moses (Gal. 6:12; 2:14). It is therefore quite possible that the “days and months and seasons and years” in Galatians 4:10 are the Old Testament feasts and special days. The “days” therefore might include the Sabbath.  If the days in Romans 14:5 also include the Sabbath, then it would be rather inconsistent of Paul to reprimand the Galatians for doing the same thing that he allows the Romans to decide about each man for himself.

 Second, Romans 14 is devoid of Jewish elements.
Therefore it does not deal with the Old Testament Laws
.

Nothing is mentioned in Romans 14 that is specifically Jewish.

As shown in a separate article, even the word unclean in verse 14 does not refer to the Old Testament unclean meats.

The main controversy in the chapter is abstinence from meat and wine (14:2, 21).  This is not a controversy over the Law of Moses. The Old Testament permits the eating of meat. Leviticus 11 explains the difference between clean and unclean animals.  It explains what meat is allowed as food.  It does not prohibit the eating of meat. Neither does the Old Testament forbid the drinking of wine. Consequently, the strong man who “has faith that he may eat all things” (Rom 14:2) is not asserting his freedom from the Law of Moses.

If Romans 14 is devoid of Jewish elements, then the days in verse 5 do not relate to the Jewish Laws either.

Third, these were matters of opinion.

The chapter commences with the instruction, “accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions” (14:1).  The current verse indicates that “each person must be fully convinced in his own mind“.  Later in the chapter we read that “to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (14:14) and “the faith which you have, have as your own conviction” (14:22).  These are confirmations that, what is discussed in this chapter, are matters about which the Bible does not give clear guidance.  Therefore the Sabbath could not have been part of the controversy.

Fourth, Paul would not have said each person must decide for himself with respect to something so huge as the Sabbath.

Above it was mentioned how huge the Sabbath was in the Old Testament, in the gospels and in the Early Church.  It is not likely that Paul would leave something, as huge as the Sabbath, as optional. It is simply unthinkable to argue that Paul would have said that each person must decide for himself whether any of the Ten Commandments is still relevant.

In the Epistle to the Galatians, where Paul opposed the Christians who compelled other Christians to adhere to the law of Moses, Paul has nothing good to say about the law.  But in the book which we are currently discussing (Romans) Paul says many positive things about the law.  He describes God’s law as “holy, just and good” (7:12).  He describes himself as “serving the law of God” (7:25). In the closing verses of Romans 13 he links the second table of the Ten Commandments to the great commandment to love one’s neighbor. He explicitly mentions four of the Ten Commandments, namely adultery, murder, stealing and coveting, and then adds, “and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” (Rom. 13:8-10). After saying these wonderful things about the law, would he then ten verses later describe one of the Ten as optional?

Early Church

The weekly Sabbath was extremely important to the Jews, and since the early church consisted only of Jews, continuing all Jewish practices, the church at first observed the Sabbath. (See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.) Paul also, during his life as apostle of God, frequently met with the Jews on the Sabbath (Acts 17:2; 18:4).  The Sabbath therefore was experienced as important in the early church.  For these reasons any change to the Sabbath would have caused a serious controversy. If Paul in Romans 14:5 was advising the church to move away from the Sabbath, he would have said it loudly and clearly. He would not have interjection it as a side issue into a chapter that deals with a dispute over eating meat.

Since we must “abhor (hate) what is evil” (Romans 12:9), we should rather reverse the logic and argue that, when Paul says “each person must be fully convinced in his own mind” with respect to days (Romans 14:5), that such days cannot include something as huge as the Sabbath.

Fifth. these were “days” on which the eating or non-eating of meat was regarded as important.

The entire Romans 14 is about Christians judging each other with respect to eating meat.  The statements in verses 5 and 6 that deal with days are surrounded on all sides by arguments about judging one another for eating meat.   Paul wrote extremely context dependent.  If we read one of his sentences out of context, we are in trouble.  To properly understand Paul, we must interpret every sentence in the context of the surrounding sentences.  We must therefore understand the statements about days as part of the discussion of eating meat.  It is therefore proposed that these were “days” that were regarded as special days as far as eating meat was concerned.

The two contrasts support this conclusion.  In verse 2 Paul contrasts the person that eats meat with the one that “eats only vegetables”. Then, in verse 5, he contrasts the man that “esteems one day as better than another” with the man that “esteems all days alike”. In verse 6 he again contrasts the man that eats meat with the one that only eats vegetables.  These contrasts, in close proximity, seem to be parallel. This supports the notion that these were days on which the eating or non-eating of meat was regarded important.

In other words, these verses do not describe four, but only two people groups:

1. The “weak” don’t eat meat on certain days.
2. Mature Christians regard all days alike as far as eating meat is concerned.

As discussed in the article New converts from idolatry viewed meat sacrificed to idols as unholy, the meat-issue probably had something to do with meat offered to idols.  Some Christians who previously were idol-worshipers believed that meat offered to idols is unholy (1 Cor. 8:7-9); not suitable for Christian consumption.

The days in Romans 14:5 might have included the Sabbath, but if they did, then they do not speak to whether the Sabbath must be observed, but to how the Sabbath must be observed.  More specifically, these verse address the issue of eating meat on the Sabbath.

Lastly, if Romans 14:5 applies to the weekly day of worship, and every person therefore may decide for himself on which day to worship, then the church no longer has a weekly day of worship.

The Jews of the Old Testament and all Christians today have a weekly day of public worship. That seems to be good practice and consistent with the establishment of the seven day cycle as part of the creation. Also, Paul himself “customarily” (Acts 17:2) met with “Jews and Greeks” on the Sabbath in the synagogue (Acts 18:4). This does not prove that Paul observed the Sabbath, but the point is that a weekly day of worship was integral to the environment in which Christians found themselves.  Since regarding “one day above another” (14:5) is optional (14:6), it is fair to assume that it is the “weak” that still clung to special days.  The “strong” (15:1) ”regards every day alike“.  If this applies to the weekly day of worship, then the church no longer has a joint weekly day of worship.  Would that be Paul’s intention, seeing what confusion it would cause?

Conclusion

Just like verse 1 will be misunderstood unless it is read in the context of a dispute about eating meat, verse 5 will also be misunderstood unless read in the same context.  The days in 14:5 cannot be separated from eating meat.

Next: Romans 14:7-13

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