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The Festivals, or Holy Days, observed by the early Church, Christ and the Apostles are largely ignored by mainstream Christianity. Is this something we should be concerned about?
The Holy Days described in Leviticus 23 are very much a part of the legacy left to us by Jesus Christ and His apostles and are commanded in both the Old and New Testaments. Yet many observe “religious” holidays not commanded or observed by God’s servants in either the Old or New Testaments, while at the same time ignoring those days which are commanded and were kept by both the Jewish and Gentile New Testament Church.
It is certainly clear the Messiah did not observe Christmas, Halloween, Easter or any similar days. Jesus Christ observed the annual Passover. “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (John 2:13). This annual observance is here called the Passover of the Jews because the Jews observed it; whereas Gentiles of other nations did not, unless they were called of God. In reality, God gave all the Holy Days as His days, saying “These are My feasts” (Leviticus 23:2).
In John 5:1 we see Jesus’ involvement in another of the biblical feasts, although John didn’t specify which. Then, in John 7, He is shown keeping the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day (described in Leviticus 23:33-36): “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand” (John 7:1, 2).
The practice of the Apostle Paul in regard to which days he kept was the same as that of His Saviour, Jesus Christ. Many theologians today believe Paul removed the obligation to observe these days. Yet, Paul made his personal practice plain: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1), and the New Testament clearly shows that the Apostle Paul kept the Holy Days.
Next, consider the very day the Holy Spirit was sent. “When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). Christ had just been with them for 40 days following His resurrection. He had obviously not told them they didn’t need to observe Holy Days or it is doubtful that the 120 would have been gathered together on this day. If anything, this historical account shows the biblical Holy Days were being emphasized through the giving of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the New Testament Church.
When writing to Theophilus, who is considered to have been a gentile, Luke, also a gentile, related the time of James’ murder and Peter’s imprisonment to the Days of Unleavened Bread (Acts 12:2, 3). Both men clearly understood when the Days of Unleavened Bread occurred and the timing of these events. In fact Luke repeatedly mentioned the biblical Holy Days throughout the book of Acts, knowing that his readers would understand what he meant as they would have been observing these days.
Next, note what Paul said in Acts 18:21, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” It would appear this was the Feast of Tabernacles. (Some translations, such as the NIV and NRSV, do not include the clause about the feast.) Two other references in Acts refer to the Days of Unleavened Bread in Acts 20:6, and the Day of Atonement in chapter 27:9. This day, “the Fast,” according to virtually all biblical scholars, refers to the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 23:27-32.
God’s Holy Days have tremendous meaning and are relevant to us. Commentaries say these days continued to be kept from the second to the fourth centuries. Then, as Adam Clarke says in his commentary, they began to be prohibited. By the fourth century the annual festivals of the Bible were considered to be too Jewish. Easter had long since replaced the Passover and Sunday had crowded out the seventh-day Sabbath, although the record of what Christ and the apostles did is clear.
When a person looks into the commands and examples in the Bible to determine which religious festivals to observe, there is only one choice to be found: the annual festivals and Holy Days of God. God does not apportion to us the right to decide what is holy and unholy, or what is right and wrong. It is His prerogative. Our choice is whether we will obey.
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