Are God’s Holy Days Relevant Today?

| PentecostalTheology.com

When God begins something in this present age of mankind, He nearly always starts small. In Matthew 13:33 Jesus Christ compared God’s Kingdom to both a mustard seed and leaven. Both analogies start with something small that expands into something much larger. Similarly, God called only a relatively few people in Old Testament times who were willing to follow His ways.

The biblical record shows that, early in the account spoken of in the Bible, only a few people decided to obey God. However, early patriarchs including Abel, Enoch and Noah did respond to the revelation of God’s plan of salvation (Matthew 23:35). After the great flood of Noah’s time, God found He could work with Abraham and his wife, Sarah. Of God’s obedient people of those times, Hebrews 11:13 says they “all died in faith” with the sure knowledge that they would gain eternal life (verse 40).

We should note that the plan for providing eternal life was already at work in the lives of these early people of God. The plan did not start with a covenant God made with ancient Israel; nor did it start with Jesus’ earthly ministry.

God loved the world so much “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God’s love in giving His Son continued His plan of salvation from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34; Revelation 13:8). The blueprint of the Holy Days would reveal in due time the plan God had designed from the very beginning. These festival observances were not just a cosmic afterthought.

With Abraham’s family we see God beginning to reveal the good news about His plan of salvation (Galatians 3:8). Genesis 26:3-4 identifies specific blessings God promised to Abraham and Abraham’s descendants. The Creator pledged to bestow them “because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (verse 5). Perhaps this is why the Bible calls Abraham “the friend of God” and “the father of all those who believe” (James 2:23; Romans 4:11; Genesis 18:17-19).

A nation singled out

Abraham’s descendants grew into a mighty nation (Genesis 18:18). They were named after Jacob, the grandson of Abraham whose name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28). After settling in Egypt, before long they became slaves (Exodus 1). The story of God’s deliverance from their bondage and His delivering of people today is part of the intricately woven fabric of God’s festivals.

In due time the Creator set in motion a series of events that illustrated for the Israelites His plan as depicted in the Holy Day observances and led to their freedom from slavery in Egypt. When Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh, they told the Egyptian ruler that the God of Israel commanded him to “let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness” (Exodus 5:1).

Moses and Aaron had earlier called for the elders of Israel to assemble and had explained to them God’s plan to deliver them (Exodus 3:16-18). Then Moses and his brother, Aaron, performed a series of God-directed miracles in sight of the people (Exodus 4:29-30). As a result, the Israelites (although they later faltered) believed God would deliver them and fulfill His covenant with Abraham, as He had promised (Exodus 4:31; 6:4-8).

What followed was ancient Israel’s first Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. Much later the New Testament Church kept these same days as a reminder of Christians’deliverance through Jesus Christ. For instance, Paul told members of the Church at Corinth–both Jews and gentiles–that they should be “unleavened,” or without sin, because “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1Corinthians 5:7). In the next verse Paul said, “Therefore let us keep the feast,” referring to the same festival God had instituted in ancient Israel many centuries before.

The Holy Days in the New Testament

From Jesus’earliest childhood years, He observed the Holy Days with His parents. “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover,” Luke 2:41 tells us. The following verses describe Jesus, at age 12, engaging the theologians of His day in a spirited discussion during this festival season (verses 42-48). Clearly, He astonished these religious leaders with His understanding and insight. John writes of Jesus continuing to observe the annual Holy Days as an adult during His ministry (John 2:23; 4:45).

In one of the most instructive examples, Jesus risked His personal safety to attend two of the festivals, the annual Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day (John 7:1-2,7-10,14). “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, (which) those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39).

Many churches believe that the apostle Paul fundamentally changed the way Christians are to worship. This notion assumes Paul taught gentiles that observance of the Holy Days was unnecessary. Although some of his writings were difficult to understand, even by his contemporaries (2Peter 3:15-16), Paul’s explicit statements and actions contradict any notion that he annulled or abolished Holy Day observance.

In 1Corinthians 11:1-2, for example, Paul told his followers to “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ,” and “keep the traditions as I delivered them to you.” Afew verses later he explained: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me‘” (verses 23-24).

If Paul’s practice had not been to observe the Holy Days, his comments to the Jews and gentiles in Corinth would have been meaningless. Clearly, evidence is lacking that Paul ever discouraged anyone from keeping the annual festivals; such a notion would have been for him unthinkable (Acts 24:12-14; 25:7-8; 28:17).

On the contrary, the biblical record of Paul’s ministry repeatedly depicts the Holy Days as important observances, milestones in his life. For example, he told the Ephesians that “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem” (Acts 18:21). In Acts 20:16 and 1Corinthians 16:8 we find Paul arranging his travel schedule to accommodate the Feast of Pentecost. In Acts 27:9 Luke, Paul’s companion in his travels, referred to the time of year as after “the Fast,” a reference to the Day of Atonement.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, in a reference to Acts 20:6, notes that Paul, unable to arrive at Jerusalem for the Passover, “remained at Philippi to celebrate it and the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread . . .” (Richard N. Longenecker, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1981, Vol. 9, p. 507). Regarding Acts 20:16, the same commentary notes that Paul “wanted, if at all possible, to get to Jerusalem for Pentecost on the fiftieth day after Passover . . .” (p. 510).

Paul’s ministry included observing the Holy Days with the Church. In defending the gospel he preached, Paul said he brought the same message the other apostles taught: “Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (1Corinthians 15:11).

Paul and all the apostles taught a consistent message of the Christian’s obligation to follow the example of Jesus Christ in all matters. The apostle John, who wrote near the close of the first century, summed up this message: “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1John 2:6).

Jewish believers continued to uphold the Holy Days, as did gentile Christians (see “Colossians 2:16 Shows Gentile Christians Kept the Holy Days,” pp. 60-61). From all these references we can conclude only that the practice of the early Church was to continue the observance of these God-given festivals, the first of which is the Passover.

22 Comments

  • Reply December 23, 2016

    Varnel Watson

    Tom Steele Galatians 4:10-11 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Larry Ray Talley

      It makes me think of all the nonJewish Christians who have embraced the Jewish holidays in the apparent impression that by observing these holy days somehow they would be better Christians!!

  • Reply December 23, 2016

    Tom Steele

    Try context Troy Day, Galatians 4:8-11 But at that time, WHEN YOU DID NOT KNOW GOD, you served those who by nature are not gods at all. But now you have come to know God—or rather you have come to be known by God. SO HOW CAN YOU TURN BACK AGAIN to those weak and worthless principles? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain! (emphasis added)

    It would appear Paul is saying that he labored in vain because they kept turning back to their pagan ways, which would include pagan celebrations. Clearly this is not saying that they were “turning again” to God’s Holy Days.

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Daniel Blaylock

      They’re turning back to a trust in mere ritual apart from faith in Christ–whether pagan feasts or Old Testament ones, to think that God is impressed with our rituals apart from faith is a deadly mistake. Even in Jeremiah and Malachi God makes clear that such rituals alone merit nothing unless they are symbols of a heart fully devoted to Yahweh.

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Tom Steele

      That is true, ritual alone means nothing. The same would be said of dead religious Pentecostal Churches, of which I have been in a few. That said, the Torah-observant Apostles were most certainly not teaching against observing the Holy Days listed in Torah, quite the contrary as they themselves are found observing them within the NT record.

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Daniel Blaylock

      But the case in Galatians goes further. The question is not what should Torah observant Jewish Christians STOP observing such days,but should Gentile converts to Christianity START observing them. The Jerusalem Council in Acts and Galatians both argue “No”! Since they have the substance in Christ, there is no need to cling to the shadow any longer. And there is no evidence from the first 300 years after the apostles that Saturday Sabbath keeping, circumcision, or these feasts continued as part of the passed on apostolic tradition.

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Tom Steele

      I shared this with someone else on here. It is an Assemblies of God Pastor, worth taking the time to watch through his teachings on this topic. http://riverofpraisefellowship.com/category/video/letters-of-paul/galatians/

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Tom Steele

      Have you ever read “The Torah Blessing” by Pastor Larry Huch? He opens it up with a story about a Synagogue that was dedicated in the 3rd or 4th century (sorry, off the top of my head don’t remember which) that was dedicated by the grandchildren of the Apostles.

  • Reply December 23, 2016

    Tom Steele

    Alan N Carla Smith, did Troy Day really take this passage out of context? 😉

  • Reply December 23, 2016

    Varnel Watson

    observe is a compound word, signifying not only “to observe,” but “to observe scrupulously.” The word is used by Josephus in his paraphrase of the fourth commandment: “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy”

    Days — Jewish sabbaths but other fasts or festivals which occupied a single day may be included.

    Months.—The description mounts in an ascending scale—days, months, seasons, years. The “months,” however, mean really “the first day of the month,” the “new moon.”

    Times are seasons: such as the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

    Years – the sabbatical year and the year of jubilee. The Apostle is giving a list which is intended to be exhaustive of all Jewish observances, so that it would not necessarily follow that the Galatians had actually kept the year of jubilee, or even that it was kept literally by the Jews at this time.

    As to the bearing of this passage on the general question of the observance of seasons, it is to be noticed that the reference is here to the adoption by the Galatians of the Jewish seasons as a mark of the extent to which they were prepared to take on themselves the burden of the Mosaic law. Paul places all such matters under the head of “elements” or “rudiments.” They belong to the lowest section of Christian practice, and the more advanced a Christian is the less he needs to be bound by them.

  • Reply December 23, 2016

    Tom Steele

    So, was Paul talking to Jews or Gentiles in this passage? Seeing as the Jews know God, and merely needed to be persuaded that Jesus was and is the Messiah, I doubt that this passage is written to Jews. It seems pretty plain that it is addressing Gentile converts who left pagan religions. This would also make sense in the common interpretation of Galatians as being written primarily to Gentile converts, since it is the alleged “smoking gun” for people that want to contend that trying to convince Gentiles to follow the Hebrew Scriptures is “Judaizing”.

  • Reply December 24, 2016

    Varnel Watson

    I believe this is very much the case Larry Ray Talley

  • Reply December 24, 2016

    Dan Irving

    Clearly, Paul is referring to the Jewish ordinances and rites; that is the entire CONTEXT of Galatians. CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT.

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Tom Steele

      Check out this series of messages and then see if your statement still holds true. Please do not reply unless you actually to take time to watch the messages, I am not here to argue with people who do not review subject matter first. Thanks. http://riverofpraisefellowship.com/category/video/letters-of-paul/galatians/

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Dan Irving

      ???? Don’t reply unless I devote extensive time to your “series” of messages? Frankly, any one of us should reply without having to be subjected to a lengthy line of teaching; particularly a line which errs on its face.

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Tom Steele

      They are not my messages, just a very well conducted study on the Book of Galatians by a Pentecostal Pastor that completely shatters what you state. The point is, I have had it happen too many times on this group where I share something and people refuse to review the material before starting an argument. I am not going down that road. Sorry.

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Dan Irving

      Your directions to me suggest you are more interested in Indoctrinating than Discussing; when THAT, is primarily what this format involves. For centuries, Judaizing Christians have attempted to wrest the context of the Galatian epistle. So this is nothing new.

    • Reply December 24, 2016

      Tom Steele

      I am interested in discussing, but at the same time if I present information I feel it should be considered. That’s all. No worries though, do what you want to do. It’s all good.

  • Reply December 24, 2016

    Charles Page

    anything the church does should begin with food and then end with food and various ceremonial snacks in between.

  • Reply December 24, 2016

    Varnel Watson

    And that’s how you get Dear Fat Pastors… http://thedirtychristian.com/2016/02/08/dear-fat-pastors/

  • Reply December 24, 2016

    Jim Price

    The observance of special days in the church year is a good way to build friendship, fellowship and powerful memories. The North Cleveland Church of God recently had a retired pastors and their spouses special dinner . More than sixty were in attendance. I expect that was a great booster of moral and of memories, something that said thanks for your years of service. Undoubtably it was a day that they will always remember.

  • Reply December 24, 2016

    Grover Katzmarek Sr

    Well I thought I had settled the question until in the last few weeks I came across Ferrar Fenton’s translation of the bible.

    It is a very interesting translation in many respects. At the time the only one which directly translated it from the original into English, fifty years he worked on it.

    In it he says the feast days were an everlasting covenant. Those who argue against it have no problem observing the pagan holidays of today. My observation

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.