As we work through this chapter of Romans, we will find ourselves reinforcing the same principle over and over— love your brother, while keeping the big deals big, the middle deals middle, and the small deals small. Keep a sense of proportion—and as you monitor these things, look to your own sense of proportion first . . . not the other guy’s.
“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” (Rom. 14:5-8).
Summary of the Text
Paul’s first example was dietary, and he now moves to calendar observance. One man thinks one day is more important than another, and another man doesn’t (v. 5). Each one should be fully persuaded. The man who observes the day, does so before the Lord, and the one who doesn’t is rendering his non-offering to the Lord (v. 6). Paul hearkens back to his point about eating, and makes the same point. One man says grace over what he eats, and the other man gives thanks for what he does not eat (v. 6). We are not individuals; we are interdividuals (v. 7). If we don’t live or die to ourselves, then we don’t mark a day or set a table to ourselves. Note the phrase “to himself,” contrasted with the earlier (and later) phrase “unto the Lord.”If we live, it is unto the Lord (v. 8). If we die, it is unto the Lord (v. 8). And therefore, whether we live or die, or do anything in between, we belong to the Lord (v. 8).
Let us reiterate the principle by coming at it from another angle. If you are loving your brother, and are grateful to God, then you have the right to be fully persuaded in your own mind about “whatever it is”—whether homebirthing, cancer treatments, biblical diets, “green” concerns, or whatever will be the hot item two years from now. If you are not loving your brother, and are not giving a life of gratitude, then you do not have the right to be fully persuaded in your own mind. Any lack of charity and a lack of thanksgiving means that you have forfeited your right to your own opinion. If you reel it in again, then you do. Go ahead, read that book, or visit that web site.
You love your brother by not judging or despising him (as we saw in vv. 1-4), and you render thanks to God in deep contentment, as we see here. Opinions, of whatever stripe, must be built on the foundation of love for those who differ, and gratitude to God for all things. In contrast, faddists ride roughshod over those who differ, and are driven by discontent with what they are rejecting more than gratitude for what they are receiving.
Every Day Alike
Paul gives us another example from the first century, which is that of honoring one day over another. The apostle clearly teaches that (if the central principles are observed) one man has the right to esteem one day over another. He teaches just as plainly that another man has the right not to. Now in the first century, this would have meant Judaic calendar observance, with some Christians not honoring Yom Kippur and others doing so. Some would not have marked Passover, and others would have. Let it ride, Paul argues, and love each other.
20 centuries later, we would have an analogous situation with the observation of Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. The Bible does not require these days to be observed, and neither may we. The Old Testament festivals were God-ordained, but this was a time of transition. Other festivals were not demanded by the law (like Purim), but were God-honoring anyway. Neither may a man who does not observe Christmas demand that another man cease. If the law of love is remembered, then But remember the human heart—the farther we get away from Scripture, the more likely it is that we may be neglecting the law of gratitude and love. The Church should therefore not establish any festival honoring the death of St. Frideswide’s house cat.
But what about the Lord’s Day? Does that fall under Paul’s stricture here—is it okay for a man to consider all seven days exactly the same? Yes and no. To the extent that the sabbath was part and parcel with the old covenant calendar (seventh day observance and one of the days of Israel’s convocation), that obligation (and the particular manner of its observance) has now ceased (Lev. 23:1-3). The law, and this part of the law was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). The weekly sabbath died. But when something dies in this way, in God’s economy, it rises again (Heb. 4:9-10). This is why a sabbath-rest remains for God’s people today. The Lord’s Day is made new, just as all things have been made new. Mark the first day of the week in gospel rest; this is a glorified, resurrected sabbath. So do not retreat to Pharisaical corruptions of what was designed to be the lesser glory.
To Himself or to the Lord
We are not individuals; we are interdividuals. We are connected to one another, and we are connected to one another precisely because we are connected to the Head, in whom we are being knit together (Col. 2:19). If we look to the Head, we are going to be coordinated one with another. If we look to ourselves, and our own opinions, however right we insist they must be, we are living to ourselves. But a part of the body that lives to itself is a part of the body that is seeking to make the body spastic. Love gives the body of Christ hand/eye coordination. Self- absorption makes the body gangly and spastic, and is the source of one dispute after another. So do not let health diets, or homebirthing, or vitamin therapy, or partisan politics, or anything else you found on the Internet become a basis for judging. And if you see somebody in the church not heeding that exhortation, don’t you despise them.