IS THE TEACHING OF ROMANS 14:5 INIMICAL TO AN UNDERSTANDING THAT THE LORD’S DAY IS THE PROPER DAY FOR CHRISTIAN CORPORATE WORSHIP? (Part 1)
In Appendix D of his commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, John Murray addresses the question of whether Romans 14:5 eliminates the idea that the first day of the week has any special religious significance prescribed to it by the New Testament. This question takes on particular significance today, as a number of congregations have begun to offer services on Saturday night or Friday night as an alternative to Sunday morning worship. Some would seek to justify this practice from the Bible, denying the significance of Revelation 1:10 to a certain day of ongoing corporate worship for Christians, citing Romans 14:5 as proof that Christians can choose another day of the week on which to meet together for worship; for example, Jon Zens writes:
Many regard Sunday as the "Lord's Day" of Rev. 1:10, or isolate Sunday as a special day in the new covenant [era]... However, the key texts employed to substantiate Sunday worship (Rev. 1:10; Acts 20:7-11; I Cor. 16:1-3) do not provide an exegetical basis for dogmatism, and the identification of Sunday with the "Lord's Day" in Rev. 1:10 does not rest on evidence in the text itself.
The New Testament teaches that there are no "holy days" in the new age. Thus, a Christian can view every day as the same, or observe a day to the Lord (Rom. 14:5-6).
The question of whether Romans 14:5 eliminates the necessity of the Lord’s Day as the proper day for Christian corporate worship gives rise to a host of interrelated questions, such as: Do the apostles distinguish the Lord’s Day from any other day as a particular memorial of the Lord’s resurrection? Is the first day of the week properly distinguished as the Lord’s Day in distinction from the way in which every day is to be lived in devotion to and service of the Lord Christ? In light of Romans 14:5, can any day at all be properly regarded as set apart with religious significance? Is weekly observance of a day commemorating our Lord’s resurrection a feature of one who is weak in faith? Should the person who regards the Lord’s Day as significant strive to attain the understanding that in the Christian institution all days are in the same category? In my next few posts this week, I will seek to address these questions through careful attention to Revelation 1:10 and Romans 14:5.
Jon Zens, “Some Practical Implications of Christ as our Ethical Starting Point,” As I Have Loved You, accessed 22 July 2010; available from http://solochristo.com/_SC/SoloChristo.htm; Internet. Tom Wells writes of Revelation 1:10 and Romans 14:5 in the same way, arguing that the reference to “the Lord’s Day” is ambiguous and that the day of worship may be changed according to “convenience.” Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel, New Covenant Theology (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2002), 251-257.
John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 257-259.
For example, a quick Internet search revealed at least three congregations- Highview Baptist Church, Fegenbush Campus (http://www.highviewbaptist.org/newto/compare.asp), Southeast Christian Church (http://www.southeastchristian.org/worship/), and Highland Baptist Church (http://www.hbclouisville.org/HBC/content/worship-services)- that offer services earlier in the weekend as an alternative to Sunday services.