By Larry Ray Hafley
From Georgia: “I have a question that I would appreciate your consideration of. It is a statement made by a brother in Christ, and I shall quote it as it is stated. 7 believe that 1 (or anyone else) as an individual have the liberty to privately celebrate the birth of our Lord every day or on any day of the year one might arbitrarily decide upon. (Read Rom. 14:5, 6.) In other words Paul seems to be saying that it is not a sin for a brother to observe certain days, nor is it a sin for a brother not to observe these days.’
`Do you believe this to be a correct understanding of what Paul is saying in Romans 14:5, 6? Would it be right for the individual to observe Christmas as Christ’s birthday as long as he did it privately? Or one step further, can the individual observe Christmas or any other day as a celebration of the birth of our Lord as long as he does it privately?”
“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).
Paul was discussing personal, conscientious opinions and scruples in Romans 14. Paul mentioned those “weak in the faith.” They held that: (1) certain days were to be esteemed above others; (2) and that they could not eat meat but herbs. These were “weak” brethren. The strong brethren were to: (1) walk in love; (2) not to enter into doubtful disputations; (3) not to condemn; (4) not to put a stumbling block in their brother’s way by causing him to act in violation of his conscience; (5) bear the infirmities of the weak, not pleasing themselves.
Romans 14 deals with the observance of days and the eating of meats which do not matter in and of themselves. They are harmless, private judgments of individuals. The “faith” of the weak brother is not “the faith” of Jude 3 and other passages. Their “faith” is their own private and personal conviction about incidental meats and days. They were not to go against their weak conscience and the strong brother must not do anything to cause the weak to offend or act contrary to what he conscientiously believes.
Paul did not say: “Now, in view of what I have said, you are at liberty to arbitrarily develop a weak faith and select a day to celebrate the birth of Christ.” Rather, “Hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). Disciples are to “observe all things” Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:20). His birth does not fall in that class of commandments. So, we are not at liberty to pick out a day, because of what Paul said, and observe the birth of Christ. Romans 14 does not authorize the capricious desire to descend and develop a weak conscience.
The brother our querist describes does not fit Romans 14. He is deciding “arbitrarily” to set aside a day to observe the birth of Christ. He is not acting conscientiously as per Romans 14 but “arbitrarily,” hence, presumptuously and sinfully. The issue in this case is not privacy, i.e., how privately it is done or not done. The real point is the character of the weak brother in Romans 14 and the arbitrary decision of the brother represented in the question, who merely presumes upon the case of the weak brother to justify what is not authorized by the word of God.
Truth Magazine XXII: 21, p. 344
May 25, 1978