Paul teaches us:
One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5)
The Sabbath is whatever day we want to observe and are convinced in our minds to observe. God has ended the law requiring a specific day for the Sabbath.
The critical flaw with this objection is that the verse is taken out of context. This passage isn't about the weekly Sabbath. The weekly Sabbath is never mentioned in this chapter (or for that matter in the whole book of Romans). So what is Paul talking about?
Chapter 14 begins with this:
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:1-6)
So what "day" is regarded above another and is associated with "eating all things" or "eating only vegetables"?
Consider the words of the self-righteous Pharisee from the Lord's parable:
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." (Luke 18:10-12)
The Jewish Virtual Library affirms that it was customary in first-century rabbinic Judaism to fast twice a week and "hold public fast days on Mondays and Thursdays".
A first-century guide to Christian living called "The Didache" (among several other Christian sources1) cautions believers "do not let your fasts coincide with those of the hypocrites. They fast on Monday and Thursday, so you must fast on Wednesday and Friday." (Didache 8:1) Christians were also fasting twice a week!
So in the first century, it was common practice among Jews and Christians to fast twice a week.
The Jewish Virtual Library goes on to note that "the fast was not a total one, but people refrained only from meat, wine, anointment with oil, and other pleasures." [emphasis ours]
So some regarded Mondays and Thursdays as the correct days to fast and others regarded Wednesdays and Fridays as the correct fast days. On these fast days each group would refrain from meat and eat only vegetables.
Does this sound like Romans 14?
Paul is addressing the issue of Jewish believers following their custom of fasting on Monday/Thursday, some Gentile believers fasting on Wednesday/Friday, and other Gentile believers not fasting at all ("eating all things") and each group treating the others with contempt!
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10)
How does Paul tell both Jewish and Gentile believers to behave?
For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. (Romans 14:15-20)
The context is about judging and condemning other believers for fasting (or eating) on days that are not specified in Scripture. This is not about the days (including the Sabbath) which God has defined as special and holy.
And just to be extra clear, this passage also is not about God's food laws.
Let's go back to verse 1:
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. (Romans 14:1)
The issue at hand is the question of the days on which believers should fast (a matter of personal opinion) not what food is suitable to eat (a matter of God's Law).
Footnotes1. There are also other witnesses to this pattern of fasting that go from the early second century into the fourth century:
- Origen wrote, "we have the fourth and the sixth day of the week in which, according to the sacred institutes, we fast" (On Leviticus, Homily 10, Migne 12,528).
- Justin Martyr mentions these two days of fasting in his work "Apology" (c150 CE).
- Eusebius (c265-340CE) referring to Ireneus, Bishop of Lyon, wrote that the duration and manners of fasting were not fixed:
"... for some think that they ought to fast only one day, some two days, some more days, some compute their day as consisting of 40 hours night and day; and this diversity existed among those that observe, for it is not a matter that has just sprung up in our times, but long ago among those before me".
- Peter the Martyr (c 311 CE) in his Sermon on Penitence mentions the two fixed fast days of the week. From his writings the Sixth Ecumenical Synod adopted as a canon of the church that:
"Wednesday is to be fasted, because then the Jews conspired to betray Jesus; Friday, because he then suffered for us. We keep the Lord's Day as a day of joy, because then our Lord arose" (Ancient Epitome of Canon 15 of Peter the Martyr; cf. Canon 69 of the Apostles).