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Christian Liberty and Observance of Days

“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” (Rom. 14:5, 6).

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” does not imply that the other six days of the week are not holy, but that the Sabbath is especially dedicated to God’s service. Generally speaking, no day is holier in itself than another. This does not mean, however, that the truth concerning the Sabbath Day is a matter of indifference. The Sabbath does not enter into this area of the adiaphora. Then, “he that regardeth not the day” may not legitimately be used in defense of a Seventh Day Adventist dis¬regard of the Christian Sabbath. Nor are Lutherans, and some other Protestants, correct in regarding the Lord’s Day as any other day of the week. We have met brethren who believe that anything may be done on the Lord’s Day that may be done the other days of the week. Under the New Dispensation, our liberty in Christ gives us the right on that day to shop or engage in all kinds of sports lawful on other days. We deny this. Paul is not referring here to the Lord’s Day at all. The Lord’s Day is an institution commanded of God, and there¬fore is not something indifferent. The Sabbath and the keeping of it holy is not left to the judgment of each person to be fully persuaded in his own mind as to how he shall observe the day. (“Lord’s Day” and “Sabbath Day” we use interchangeably.) The moral law of God deals with commands and prohibitions. Paul treats of so called things indifferent, things neither commanded nor prohibited. In such matters, we have liberty to make up our own minds. There are days, the observance or non-observance of which is left to individual choice. Some do not care to have a wedding performed during Lent. They esteem Lenten days above more ordinary days. This is a weak point of view, for the strong esteem the “religious calendar” days alike, and would regard Lenten days not as particularly holy days, but as special opportunities in preaching to proclaim and re-emphasize the triumphs of Christ crucified and risen.

The person who esteems one day above another is the weak, while the one who esteems every day alike is the one with greater knowledge and therefore greater liberty. For him, every day is a season of prayer and joy. He knows that he may freely decide in his own mind whether he shall observe particular days or not, just as a man has freedom to eat or abstain from particular meats. “He that eateth, eateth to the Lord.” To eat means more than mere pressing with the teeth. It means to exercise Christian liberty in adiaphora. Some may wish to refrain from exercising their God-given liberty, to abstain from things which God has never forbidden. This is their privilege. A man may regard not a day which we regard, and do so “unto the Lord.” His non-observance he intends as honoring to the Lord. So there are those (the weak) who eat not, yet eat not as unto the Lord. They abstain from everything they consider as polluted, even from things which are not, but over which they have doubts, denying themselves nearly every luxury, just to be sure they do nothing forbidden by God. This rather finicky practice is to be freely granted them; they have the right to impose on themselves all the minute and complex regulations they desire. But they must not attempt imposing them on others, nor criticize those who regard “every day alike” and “every creature of God (as) good, and nothing to be refused.”

The distinctions Paul here has in mind touch upon the Jewish seventh-day-of-the- week Sabbath, the seven additional annual Sabbaths of the Mosaic laws mentioned in Lev. 23:3, 37, 38, such as, the Passover Sabbath, the Unleavened Bread Sabbath, Pentecost, Day of Atonement, et al., the jubilee Sabbath which came every fifty years, the Sabbath of the land which came every seven years, and the new moon observances (Num. 28:11; II K. 4:23). Some Jewish Christians, without insisting on the celebration of these days by any legal observance, evidently felt that some adherence to these days was allowable. They set the day apart for their own private devotions, even though they knew that the distinction of days (and of meats) had been abolished with the arrival of the New Dispensation. Well, let such abstain from certain meals, or let them observe their days, without creating any friction over the matter. The one who enjoys all meats, and who regards not a certain uncommanded religious observance has a right to his sentiment without being judged or censured. He has the proper understanding that all distinctions in days not ordered by Scripture should cease. For there is no food cleaner than other food, nor days higher than other days.

“One man esteemeth one day above an¬other.” He celebrates certain days which others, esteeming every day alike, would not. Actually, a studied observance of days reveals an ignorance of Christ. Yet perhaps it appeals to him, as it does to some, to set aside such days as Advent, Epiphany and Palm Sunday for special spiritual devotion. He that regards these days, regards them unto the Lord. There need be no objection to this procedure, especially if done in preaching and hearing the Word of God on Christ’s comings and on His triumphal entry. For by such observances no offense is committed.

“Another man esteemeth every day alike.” Actually, every day is a holy day. “Day unto day uttereth (Divine) speech, and night unto night teacheth (heavenly) knowledge.” Spiritual worship and life are not limited to holy days. The truth of God thrills the Christian’s heart every moment. He does not wait until an appointed gathering to express his faith and joy. Like Enoch and Noah, he walks with God every instant and constantly responds to the claims and raptures of his salvation. He being a new creature in Christ enjoys all things new. The Christian doctrine and life are too magnanimous to be trimmed down to “days and months and years.” For the Christian, every day is alike, every day is a feast day, even day is a Sabbath, and every moon is a new moon.

“He that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he regardeth it not.” A Christian Jew strong in the faith will not, any more than the most enlightened Gentile Christian, observe the Passover, for he knows that would deny that Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. For the same reason, he would not observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because Christ is his Bread of Life, and he eats and drinks Christ at His table in the Lord’s Supper. He would not keep the Sabbath Feast of Firstfruits, because Christ has as the Firstfruits of them that slept fulfilled this in giving His people the firstfruits of the Spirit. To keep the O.T. day of Pentecost would be to claim that these firstfruits have not been given (whereas the three thousand saved on that day were, of the firstfruits, the earnest), and that the Church has not been baptized with the Holy Spirit. He certainly would no longer regard Yom Kippur, for “Christ hath for sin atonement made,” and that once-and-for-all. A Jewish Yom Kippur is now just as Christ- denying as the Romish mass, and as much crucifies the Son of God afresh. “To regard the (Sabbath) days of the feast of Tabernacles is tacitly to say that the Word has not tabernacled among us” (John Gill). Observance in this day and age of the fiftieth-year Sabbath, jubilee, would deny the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free from sin, Satan and the curse of the law. To regard the seventh-year Sabbath, entailing rest from tillage, plowing, sowing, and reaping, would deny salvation in Christ by grace through faith, and that not of self, not of works. Keeping the seventh-day-of- the-week Sabbath subjects men to the type and denies the antitype, the spiritual rest in Christ now, and the eternal rest remaining for the people of God in heaven with Him. “To regard a new moon is in effect to say that the Church, fair as the moon, has not received evangelical light from Christ the Sun of Righteousness” (ibid.).

These sabbaths were “a shadow of things to come” (Col. 2:17), were simply a silhouette of Christ. But the body of these things, these shadows, is Christ. He is the substance, the truth, the reality of them. In Him the old things of the civil and ceremonial law are passed away, and all things relating to church order, worship and discipline are, in the New Dispensation, become new.

There is therefore no longer the slightest reason for reverting to any of these old observances. Not only the weak, but the wicked (the superstitious) regard “one day above another.” The pope one day a year sleeps on the floor to demonstrate his sacrifice and humility. His Romish dupes, not to be outdone, during Lent swear off pastries and chewing gum. But there are, especially, two days regarded above all others in the year. They are Easter and Christmas. We need not be offended at the names given these days merely because they are heathen names. All the days of the week, which the strong esteem alike, bear nothing but heathen names. Offense arises in connection with these days in that, of the two, Easter is regarded the holiest. On that day, people attend church who never do so otherwise. In fact, on that day parking cannot be found anywhere within a circumference of five blocks around the church. On that day, the risen Christ is done lip-service, whereas the rest of the year He is treated as though He remained in the grave and never rose from the dead. Christmas is the next “holiest” day, which, by the way, as to its perverted Santa Claus innovation, is observed also by the wicked world in general, by the atheist Soviets and by the Jews. The popular heathenish observance of this day, modern men would inform us, will prevail, even if it could be proved that Christ never existed. This is regarding the day unto Mammon and Belial, not “unto the Lord”!

“He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord.” The way he does this may be somewhat legalistic, rather than in the liberty of Christ. He may, with regard to Sunday, think it wrong to bake a cake, relax in a quiet game or knit a sweater. His spirit of self-denial we cannot really criticize as long as he does not impose it on others. The other Christian who does these things does them as unto the Lord, recognizing the liberty he has in Christ and rejoices in it as a happy child of God. The former, however, reveals a weakness of conscience, but we do not condemn him for it, as long as he maintains his practice in a live-and-let- live fashion. Nor do we expect him to enjoy the liberty we have until he is spiritually advanced to embrace it by faith. He may be a weak brother, but he is conscientious, and for that he is approved of God.

The apostle speaks to the church, “Now after that ye have known God . . . how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain” (4:9-11). What Paul does here is to warn against the false prophets who required the keeping of days, months, times and years as necessary to the obtaining of righteousness. This was to return to the weak and beggarly elements, to depart from Christ, to be by Him profited nothing. If the Galatians, then, greatly sinned in their observance of days and seasons, how do we escape sin when we observe our religious days? We, by our observances, do not burden the conscience, nor attempt making satisfaction for sins by them. What we do is to observe certain religious days with the sole purpose of keeping alive the ministry of the Word, to provide the people of Cod with blessed opportunities to hear the Word of God, to bring the church the knowledge of God, to keep in communion with God and with one another, to worship and pray together, and to live a life of thankfulness together for all God’s blessings.

(To be continued)

“. . . the tide of trouble will test, purify and improve the good, but beat, crush and wash away the wicked.”
— St. Augustine