1) Do not form conclusions from a lack of evidence.
A look at the useage of the word "day" from Romans 14:5-6a is an ideal illustration of how this rule should be applied. Notice, "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..." Many teachers have incorrectly used this passage to claim the New Testament allows us to make any day sacred to God, while claiming the seventh day Sabbath is no longer binding on Christians. To the unlearned it sounds like a believable supposition. Yet, this passage is not at all a discussion about the weekly Sabbath if one merely reads the words as they have been provided.
The student should always look at what the text precisely says when trying to figure out the specifics of a passage. What exact days are intended by the author cannot be found in the limited wording of Ro. 14:5-6a, so one shouldn't be too hasty in establishing beliefs from them alone. To do so would be very reckless, as there are many different days that could have been meant here. For instance, there are the weekly Sabbath days (Luke 4:16), the annual feast days (Lev. 23), the days of unleavened bread (Acts 12:3), days of harvest (2Sam. 21:9), days of ministration (Luke 1:23), new moon days (Ezra 3:5), fasting days (Luke 18:12), days of feasting (Job 1:5), days of mourning (Gen. 27:41), etc. So which days are meant from the small number of words in Ro. 14:5-6a alone? The correct answer will easily be found if one merely continues to follow good rules of Bible study, while examining the text.
2) Always consider the context.
Careful consideration of the context, or framework, of a given passage is always one of the most important Bible study rules to follow. As mentioned above, many have promoted the idea that Ro. 14:5-6a is justification for Christians to make any day(s) sacred. It's a favorite amongst those who try to ignore the 4th Commandment in favor of Sunday observance as an alternative. Is this interpretation correct? A simple examination of the context will clear up any question about which days are intended in this passage.
The context of a particular passage is most easily determined by simply framing it with the surrounding verses (and/or chapters) which are part of a main topic of discussion. We should always closely inspect the statements immediately before and after any passage being studied, while looking for a common theme.
What is the main topic of discussion preceding Romans 14:5-6a? A close reading of the previous chapter leading up to our passage reveals a theme centered on a believer's conduct in relation to the state/government, to their neighbors, and as the return of Jesus Christ nears. Then, in the beginning verses of Ro. 14, no mention of any specific days, or of the weekly Sabbath exists. To the contrary, the text leading up to Ro. 14 speaks of how believers should conduct themselves in relation to several real life situations that the author (the apostle Paul) thought important to address.
A close inspection of the first verses of Romans 14 (vv.1-4) reveals a continuation of the same proper conduct theme in chapter 13, except here the subject specifically turns to how brethren should treat each other when differences of opinion arose concerning dietary/food customs. Paul draws from several dietary related themes when describing how brethren should exhibit fair judgement towards each other. He addressed some believers who thought vegetariansism was better than following a diet which included meat, and how they shouldn't look down on one another in their differing positions (vv. 2-3). And even though he appears to favor the meat-eater position above the vegetarian one in his letter (v.2), he also taught that brethren on both sides of the debate should not harshly judge, or condemn one another over such small diversities.
The context of the passages leading up to Romans 14:5-6a proves that no language about the 7th day Sabbath can be found. Accordingly, if any Sabbath connection exists in Romans 14:5-6a, then the language must follow the passage, since it clearly does not precede it. Notice the last half of Romans 14:6, which immediately follows our passage: "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." Isn't it abunduntly clear from this language that Paul continues speaking of dietary isssues which he began at the start of this chapter? Certainly. Common sense says the days he mentions in v.6 must be related to the dietary issues he has raised immediately before and after!
What did Paul intend to say, then? Simply put, Paul was using this dietary related example to show which days brethren chose to fast on and to show another case where brethren had been too quick to judge one another. Similarly, after addressing their divergent thoughts on vegetarianism, Paul then transitions to another dietary related topic: fasting. The jewish custom of fasting twice in the week--nearly always on the same specific days of the week--had over time become set in stone for many. Apparently, many early Christians continued to follow the same weekly days of fasting, as custom dictated. However, in time some began to fast on days of the week of their own choosing. The days at Romans 14:5-6 were related directly to fasting, and nothing else. Absolutely nothing is ever stated regarding the 7th day Sabbath in this passage! To the contrary, throughout the rest of Ro. 14, Paul continues to discourage brethren from harshly judging each other by continuing to use other dietary related themes. And even though he was a meat-eater according to the laws of clean and unclean meats (Lev. 11), he taught to avoid making dietary issues a point of strife.
The days spoken of at Romans 14:5-6a clearly show them to be exclusively fasting related as no other days are ever mentioned. It is extremely reckless to assume that this passage somehow justifies ignoring the 4th Commandment.
3) Always begin a new study with the simplest Scriptures.
Following the manufacturer's instructions on how best to begin to build a jigsaw puzzle is an ideal model for explaining this rule. Instructions generally direct builders to being by first gathering the easiest to find pieces; i.e. usually the four corners & edges. After this outer framework has been established, the remaining pieces will then be more easily placed into their proper positions. Simple reasoning demands that all of the remaining puzzle pieces must somehow fit within that initial, basic framework.
Similarly, building a proper framework of understanding with each new Bible study will always provide greater success. Once all of the related Scriptures have been gathered together on a topic, the student will do best by first forming an outer framework of understanding from those passages which are the clearest and easiest to read. On the other hand, one should never try to build a doctrinal framework from a passage that never clearly says what is being promoted. In our case with Romans 14:5-6a, these verses would not be a proper place to begin a study on the 7th day Sabbath. Yet, this is nearly always the very first place errant teachers go to when confronted with a Christian who they've just learned follows the Sabbaths that Jesus had kept (Luke 4:16).
The best way to begin a study on the Sabbath would be to simply look at its history from the very beginning; many centuries before the first Jew was born. God made Adam on the 6th day of fashioning Earth, and rested on the 7th day (Gen. 2:1-3), meaning the very first man was taught to honor the Sabbath. Then when one considers that Jesus said His followers would likely be persecuted on some Sabbath day near His return (Matt. 24:20-21), the obvious truth develops that God has always wanted His children to keep the Sabbath days. Very simple.
Romans 14 would never be a good place to start a study about the Sabbath because it speaks specifically to days of fasting, and nothing about worshipping God on the 7th day of the week. Those teachers who promote otherwise should be avoided!
4) The mountain versus the molehill.
After building a strong framework from the easiest to understand verses, the student will likely find themselves with a smaller number of leftover texts requiring greater scrutiny. Then through further study and effort, any remaining verses should easily fit within the initial framework. By now, especially in the case of our example with the Sabbath, a mountain of Scriptural evidence will have formed and whatever remains (if the student has any leftover verses) will always be a very small molehill by comparison.
This rule simply says that a small number of leftover verses cannot possibly outweigh a mountain of evidence that has been properly built. The mountain will stand against the molehill every time. In our example from Romans 14:5-6a, we can see how some might have erred about the Sabbath. However, if they had correctly applied all other proper rules of Bible study, then there shouldn't have been any misunderstanding.
5) Always consider the Old Testament.
Many students overlook the Old Testament when trying to understand the later writings of the New Testament. Often when people hear the term old, they quickly lose interest. As a result, they often end up too narrowly focused, which can easily lead to many false assumptions. The apostle Paul, said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (1Tim. 3:16). The only scriptures Paul could have possibly meant were the Old Testament writings, as they were the sole official Bible texts in existence in his time. The New Testament wasn't developed until long after Paul's death, so the "scripture" he references must have been exclusively from the OT.
Many are unaware of the reality that grace (Gen. 6:8), mercy (Ps. 23:6), loving God with all of one's being (Deut. 6:5), loving neighbor as one's self (Lev. 19:18), circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10:16), etc., are all concepts originating from the Old Testament. Many overlook the fact that the OT contained the sole writings from which Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul, and many others taught truth from, to the early Christian church. In other words, the NT church of God was founded solely on following the OT writings. Paul also said of these OT writings, "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." (Rom. 15:4). To overlook the OT when studying the NT is a grave mistake which has enabled many false teachers to lead sheep away from truth.
When applying this rule to our initial example from Romans 14, students well-grounded in the OT would have immediately understood that the Sabbath could not possibly have been the subject. They would have immediately started to look for other days that could have been intended, knowing that the OT clearly states that the Sabbath was to be kept forever.
6) Look for consistency throughout the entire Bible.
In the last rule we discussed how the student should always consider OT writings. In this rule we will continue to build on that concept by stressing the need to look for consistencies throughout the entire Holy Bible; i.e. both the Old & New Testaments.
As explained above, many have thought that the days from Romans 14:5-6a can apply to any day one chooses to apply them to, especially so when trying to dissuade others from following the Sabbath. Is there any consistency to this position from a Biblical perspective? Are there any repeated patterns in the Holy Bible showing that we can choose to make any days holy to the Lord.
Hebrews 13: 5 says, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever." That sounds consistent enough. Jesus Christ existed before the Creation (John 1:1-3, 14; John 17:5), and is credited with making all things in that Creation (Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:10, Ps. 33:6), and He is also the same Lord who created the Ten Commandments, which included the Sabbath (Col. 1:17-18). The 7th day Sabbath is a memorial to His creation as it is spoken of from the very beginning (Gen. 2:1-3), which helps to explain why He is Lord of the Sabbath (Mk. 2:28). It seems highly unlikely that a memorial to the creation would ever be done away with while that same creation still exists.
Jesus consistently believed in keeping the Sabbath. He promoted it when He was God before coming in the flesh (Gen. 2:1-3), and afterward when He came as a man (Luke 4:16). He obeyed His own laws (Heb. 4:15) and expected mortal man to follow them as well (1Pet. 2:21-22; 1John 2:6). Undoubtedly, it is a certainty that Jesus Christ expected His followers to be found keeping the Sabbath at His return (Matt. 24:20).
The apostle Paul did not follow the Sabbath merely because he was Jewish as many teachers and commentaries falsely assert. No, after having been taught directly by the resurrected Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-16) he continued following the Sabbath through his conversion from Judaism to Christianity (Acts 13:14-16, 42-46; 17:2; 18:4). It is clear from the Biblical record that Paul continued keeping the Sabbath throughout his Christian life. He was not confused about living in obedience to the laws of God (Rom. 7:12, 22) as he taught others to follow in like manner (1Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17). Paul followed and taught God's law from the only Bible he had at the time, which we modernly refer to as the Old Testament (Acts 28:23).
Will Jesus Christ enforce Sabbath keeping when He returns to set up His kingdom? The prophet Isaiah was certain He would (Isa. 66:23). The case is the same with the prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 44:24; 45:17; 46:3). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, "Think not that I come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matt. 5:17-18). According to Jesus, then, if the Earth is still here, we should be obeying all of God's laws as they properly apply to our lives today.
There is an overwhelming consistency throughout the entire Bible that promotes Sabbath keeping. If we are to follow the example of Jesus Christ and the other leaders in the NT, then common sense would have told the student early on that the days of Romans 14 could not possibly be discussing the Sabbath. Looking for consistencies throughout the Holy Bible will greatly help in proving truth.
7) Prove all things.
The apostle Paul said, "Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good" (1Thes. 5:21). It makes good sense to verify facts before believing in any teaching. One of the greatest mistakes many believers make is to repeat a false teaching when they've never actually studied the subject for themselves.
A classic example is the claim that the Sabbath is Jewish. Is the Sabbath really Jewish? The term Jew derives from a man named Judah, who wasn't born until well over 2,000 years after God made Adam. How could the Sabbath be Jewish when it was in the Creation week (Gen. 2:1-3)? It can't be. When Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27), he didn't say it was made exclusively for the Jews.
If everyone followed this simple rule of proving all things, then the Sabbath wouldn't have been called jewish.
8) Consider who is being addressed.
Who is being addressed in a given passage can prove vital when studying the Bible. We will draw from an often misunderstood statement at 1John 2:27 in proving the importance of this rule. Notice, "But the annointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same annointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him" (1John 2:27).
It's in this verse that some have found a false justification for thinking human teachers aren't needed once one becomes a believer. Yet, if one of the gifts of the Spirit is the ability to teach (1Cor. 12:28, Eph. 4:11), then it seems rather odd that anyone would claim teachers are not needed. Why would God give a special gift of teaching if it isn't needed anymore?
Jesus was a teacher (Matt. 26:55; Luke 4:15; John 7:14), and He also commanded others to go and teach (Matt. 26:28). Peter and the other apostles before Paul's conversion were teachers (Acts 5:41-41). After his conversion, Paul also became a great teacher in the NT church (1Cor. 4:17; 1Tim. 2:7), and he also instructed Timothy to teach (1Tim. 4:11; 6:2-3; 2Tim. 2:2, 24). It is totally without merit to think that believers do not need good teachers once baptized. What, then, did John mean at 1John 2:27 when he wrote, "ye need not that any man teach you"
A simple look at the way John wrote to his audience will help clear up any seeming misunderstanding if we will merely inspect the text as it has been preserved. In John's epistle we see that he isn't addressing a specific person, or congregation, the way many of Paul's letters were addressed. No, in 1John we are never given the specific name of a particular church group, or person being addressed. However, it is undeniably apparent from the language throughout that John is very familiar with his intended audience. Notice how he refers to them as: "My little children" (2:1); "Brethren...the word which ye have heard from the beginning" (2:7); "little children" (2:12); "fathers, because ye have known...young men, because you have overcome...little children, because you have known" (2:13); "fathers, because you have known...young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you" (2:14); "little children...as ye have heard that antichrist shall come" (2:18); "They went out from us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." (2:19); "But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things" (2:20); "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it" (2:21); "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning" (2:24); "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you" (2:26); "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you" (2:27).
We see from the second chapter that John had been intimately familiar with his audience, lovingly referring to them as little children and brethren throughout. He knew of their genuine conversion and depth of knowledge when he spoke of their faithfulness. Apparently a conflict had arisen amongst brethren causing some to depart from the main body of believers.
Accordingly, 1John was intended to be passed around to multiple churches in the area of Asia Minor, where a fairly large number of churches had then developed in and around modern day western Turkey. Tradition says John was familiar with his audience because he spent much time teaching in these congregations personally. It's famously known that John resided in Asia Minor in his later years, and clearly would have been the chief pastor over all of these neighboring churches.
The question at hand becomes much more understandable after learning how intimately familiar John must have been with his audience. When he said they didn't need a teacher at 1John 2:27, he wasn't speaking about anyone and everyone throughout all time. To the contrary, John was speaking of a specific audience he knew had been faithfully coping through a very trying ordeal. His words clearly indicate an intimate awareness of their knowledge and understanding. He had previously instructed them about how to deal with their controversy, knowing they didn't need to be retaught something that had already been made clear. John was confident that his audience would successfully overcome their crisis if they merely relied on following his prior instructions, while staying balanced through the lead of the Holy Spirit. (It is also very unlikely that John could have meant his audience was so advanced in all areas of Scriptural knowledge that they wouldn't ever need a good teacher again--Proverbs 11:14.)
Routinely asking who is being addressed can greatly enhance one's ability to discover truth when studying God's written word.
9) Consider Bible chronology.
The chart below is a good example showing how consideration of Bible chronology can be of great assistance in routine Bible study. The numbers to the left represent scholarly estimates for when Jesus died. The numbers on the right represent the same scholars' estimates for when Paul wrote First Corinthians.
The contrasting dates will help shed light on certain facts of which many believers are unaware. They clearly reveal that some 20-25 years had elapsed from the time of Jesus' death until when Paul wrote 1st Corinthians. This is extremely significant since Paul's letter includes instructions for believers to continue keeping the feast of Passover, and the days of unleavened bread which followed, while Easter is never mentioned! Notice, "Purge out therefore the old lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1Cor. 5:7-8)
Besides teaching NT brethren to continue keeping the feast of Passover (1Cor. 5:7-8), Paul also explained the underlying meaning of the feast. Consider his direct quote from Jesus Christ, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread. [Luke 22:15 confirms this night was the Passover according to Jesus' own words.] And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he supped saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood..." (1Cor. 11:23-25). Had anyone questioned Paul's words, one can easily hear him calling out, "You can't get any closer to being a New Testament believer than keeping the Passover of Jesus Christ!"
For Paul, nothing else represented the new covenant more than taking in the symbols of Christ's broken body and shed blood at the Passover service annually. He went on to say we should keep it as a yearly memorial until Jesus returns. Notice, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." (1Cor. 11:26). Interestingly, the communion service which many denominations promote as an alleged alternative to the New Testament Passover service, actually comes from this same area of Scripture. The word translated communion is introduced by Paul here (1Cor. 10:15-16), yet he never mentions taking in those symbols at any other time than at the Passover service!
It needs to be clearly stated that Paul never kept Easter as he only knew it to be a pagan fertility cult that was condemned in his Bible (1Kings 11:33; Ashtoreth = Easter). He instead faithfully followed the direct teachings of Jesus Christ in keeping the Christian Passover (Luke 22:15, 19, 20), and rightly taught other converts--some 20-25 years after the Crucifixion--to continue doing so as well (1Cor. 11:1, 23-26).
Richards' Complete Bible Handbook 33AD 57AD
Angus' The Bible Handbook 30 57
Abingdon's Bible Handbook 31 55-56
Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible 29-30 56-57
Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible 30-31 53-54