Calendar Apostasy, a response and a reply

Joseph Richardson 1:08 am on April 18, 2014Permalink | Reply | Edit

Hey, whoa, slow down, man. Let’s think this through. [Indeed, let’s.]

The first Christians, I’m sure you realize, were Jews. They continued to celebrate the Passover (Pascha) and the Sabbath for at least the first century after Christ. [If they did so, it was without any authority from God. From Colossians 2:13-17 we learn that the cross of Christ: (1) “wiped out” Moses’ Law with none remaining (just like a sinner’s sins, Acts 3:19); (2) took Moses’ Law “out of the way” (removed it from further use, like sins, John 1:29); (3) “nailed” Moses’ Law at the same time (if there is no “judgment,” there is no law to enforce, Romans 4:15)] Christ didn’t die to “remove” these things: He came to fulfill them (cf. Matthew 5:17) [Jesus life “fulfilled,” His death cancelled God’s former Law through Moses, therefore Jews are “free” to marry Christ’s Law (Romans 7:1-4)]. Paul says in Colossians 2:16 “let no one pass judgment on you” with regard to practices of Jewish festivals or traditions. This is essentially his message in Romans and Galatians — in which he does not condemn circumcision per se, or condemn any Jewish Christian who had received circumcision (for he himself had, as did Timothy, Acts 16:3) [which under Christ’s Law is optional, not commanded, Galatians 5:6-11], or declare that Jewish believers should no longer practice the traditions of their heritage. What he taught (in opposition to the Judaizers) was that no Christian was justified by the works of the law (cf. Romans 3:20), but rather by faith (Romans 3:20-26). Did God no longer justify believers who had been circumcised? Did Jesus “remove” the covenant of Abraham or of Moses? Can God go back on His promises, or nullify the covenants He has made? [“Fulfilling” is not “going back on His promises,” rather it is completing what God said that would lead to Jesus Christ, Galatians 3:9-25] No, of course not. He justifies the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by faith (Romans 3:30); and by faith in Christ, even the Gentiles become children of Abraham and heirs to God’s promises through him (Galatians 3:29).

So to the idea that observing religious festivals is tantamount to idolatry: The first, Jewish Christians did, and their Gentile brethren followed suit; so this is a practice as old as the Christian Church. [If they practiced it, find where they did in the New Testament] Jesus is our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) — so should Christians no longer care about the Passover? [All of the ceremonies of Moses’ Law were but “a shadow of things to come” in Jesus’ Law, Colossians 2:16-17] Are we not heirs to God’s promises then, too? Jesus presented Himself as the fulfillment of that sacrifice, even instructing us to keep a remembrance of it, in the very language of the Passover celebration (Exodus 12:24; 24:8, Luke 22:19). [But Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover elements because that was the last time Passover was to be observed under Moses, Mark 14:12-26 ] Paul, in reference to this, instructs us to “celebrate the festival” (1 Corinthians 5:8). [Since Christians’ “Passover” is “Christ,” then “the feast” is the one where Jesus changed the elements from a lamb under Moses to The Lamb of God Himself, Luke 22:7-20]

For what it’s worth: The Resurrection of our Lord has only ever been called “Easter” in England and English-speaking countries (in both Greek and Latin, it was called “Pascha,” Passover, since the first century); and the Christmas season has only ever been referred to as “Yule” among Germanic peoples. So you may thank our Anglo-Saxon forebears for that “idolatry,” not the early Christians. [“Easter” was a calendar term for that particular season which coincided with the Jewish “Passover,” and so was termed in the King James Version. The Jews are the one who have kept practicing some of Moses’ Law, after Jesus had removed it by His cross, not Christians!] The practice of fasting before celebrating our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection is by all appearances apostolic, in emulation of our Lord’s own fasting (Matthew 4:1-11), and He did not at all condemn fasting (in the very verse you cite, Matthew 6:16, he instructs us regarding “when [we] fast”). [Jesus condemned the public display of “fasting,” which is what “Lent” is all about! “ Christians who “fast” do so as a consequence of their activity, not as a goal for spirituality, Luke 5:30-39; Acts 14:23; 1 Corinthians 7:5]

As for all your other charges of “idolatrous practices” and “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1) — you should be prepared to back that up before lobbing such accusations at fellow believers. No one in the early Church read or applied these Scriptures the way you are applying them. [Then why did the Holy Spirit direct Paul to write them to the Colossians, Galatians, Timothy, and why did the Jews persecute Paul for preaching, Galatians 5:11?] There is nothing in Scripture that forbids remembering and celebrating the great events of the history of salvation — in fact, it’s an essential part of the faith and covenant we have inherited from our Jewish Lord. No, these things do not contribute to our salvation in themselves, and no one believes they do; but the calendar is, as it was for the Jews, an ancient model and pattern and custom for worshipping God, for setting our minds and our hearts on Him and on His promises — especially now, in the Christian caledndar, on Christ’s Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection. [Christians are not to re-enact Jesus’ life, but re-mold their hearts to conform to His teaching, Romans 6:1-18; 12:1-2]

I respect your position, brother, but I think you’re mistaken. If the Christian calendar so leads a believer away from Christ — why is every bit of it focused on Christ’s work of salvation in our lives? God bless you, and His peace be with you! [There is no “Christian calendar,” except to meet every first day of the week, remembering Christ’s resurrection (Acts 20:7); break bread for the Lord’s Supper, remembering Christ’s death (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Every sinner must enter Jesus’ death by repenting and being baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). These are not re-enactments, but realizations of Jesus Christ within.

By-the-way, Joseph, thank you for reading and taking the time to respond. JTPII]