Did Paul Tell the Romans One Thing and the Corinthians the Opposite?
Many people assume that Paul was dismissing any need to keep the Sabbath and other biblical Holy Days when he wrote in Romans 14:5-6: "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it"
They assume, with no evidence, that these are the days to which Paul referred here—even though the Sabbath is not even mentioned anywhere in this entire epistle. Paul and the other New Testament writers did not ambiguously refer to the Sabbath by phrases such as "one day." They also overlook the fact that Paul quotes from the Old Testament 84 times in this epistle to support his teaching —hardly the actions of a man who is trying to annul its commands!
The book of Acts sheds considerable light on Paul's thinking when he wrote his epistle to the Romans. Most scholars agree that Paul wrote this epistle while visiting the Greek city of Corinth in or around A.D. 56. What does Acts tell us about Paul's actions in that city?
It shows us that Paul, while in Corinth, "reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 18:1, 4). This is the context of Paul's actions when he wrote the book of Romans. Did he write to the church members in Rome to tell them Sabbath-keeping was irrelevant, while simultaneously teaching Jews and gentiles alike "every Sabbath" in Corinth?
Obviously something is wrong with many people's view of Romans if they seriously believe this is what Paul taught. As the book of Acts shows, regardless of what city Paul was in, Sabbath-keeping was his regular manner or "custom" according to God's commandments (Acts 17:2).
Further proof that this common interpretation of Romans 14 is wrong can be found in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians. He wrote this epistle in or around A.D. 55, shortly before he came to Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:5-6) on the visit during which he would write his epistle to the Romans.
What do we find he tells the Corinthians in this letter?
• He tells them to keep the biblical Feast of Unleavened Bread in the proper manner, understanding its spiritual intent (1 Corinthians 5:7-8; compare Leviticus 23:6).
• He instructs them on how to keep the New Testament Passover as a commemoration of Jesus Christ's death (1 Corinthians 11:23-30).
• He reminds them that "Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7).
• He writes that he intends to journey to them, but that he will first stay in Ephesus until after the biblical Feast of Pentecost has passed (1 Corinthians 16:8).
If you accept the common misinterpretation of the book of Romans, you would have to conclude that Paul instructed the Corinthians in how to properly observe the Passover, that he told them to keep the biblical Feast of Unleavened Bread, and that he noted he was staying in Ephesus until after the biblical Feast of Pentecost—and the very next year wrote to the Romans that none of this mattered and was all unnecessary.
On the other hand, if you understand Paul's teaching to the Romans as it is truthfully presented in this chapter, you will see complete agreement between his actions and the letters he wrote to Church members both in Rome and Corinth.
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