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In over 500 years since the Reformation began, Protestantism has broken with many traditions of the Roman church. Yet it persists in observing unbiblical holidays, while rejecting the biblical festivals revealing God’s plan of salvation for mankind through Jesus Christ.
God commanded ancient Israel to observe special Holy Days during the harvest seasons of the year (Deuteronomy 16:1-17). The physical harvests of crops symbolized the spiritual harvests of human beings in God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ (Matthew 9:37-38; John 4:35; John 15:1-8; Colossians 2:16-17).
Jesus Christ observed these annual Holy Days and we, as His followers, are told to walk as He walked (John 7:8-14; 1 John 2:6)—to follow His example. The Apostles and disciples of the early Church continued to observe these festivals long after Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 18:21; 20:16 and 27:9; 1 Corinthians 5:8).
Over time apostasy—a falling away from God’s truth—set in. Eventually those who continued in the teachings and practices of Christ and His Apostles became a small minority among those who called themselves Christian. Many false teachings and new days of worship were instituted, mostly of pagan origin—weekly Sunday observance and the annual holidays of Christmas and Easter being chief among these.
Even the true Gospel message about Christ’s literal future return to rule all nations in the Kingdom of God was altered into a message about the Kingdom existing in the hearts of believers and Christ’s rule being established through the church which became centered at Rome.
The Protestant Reformation protested against the corruption, false teachings and practices in the Roman church. The intent was to return to the original Christianity of the New Testament, but much Roman Christian ideology still remained, and new problems were introduced. There was no return to the faith and practice of the early Christians.
From the early Reformation period came a set of principles foundational to Protestant teaching on salvation (in contrast to Catholic teaching) known as the five solae or solas—sola being the Latin word for “alone” or “only.” In the earliest articulations of these principles, there were just three—sola scriptura (“scripture alone”), sola fide (“faith alone”) and sola gratia (“grace alone”). Thus the Bible only was to be the rule of faith—not tradition and Roman church decrees.
Two solas were added later that also expressed earlier Protestant teaching: solo Christo (“by Christ alone”), rejecting the need for a special priesthood class and any other mediator but Christ, and soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”), rejecting the veneration of Mary, saints and angels.
Regrettably, the excessive focus on faith and grace alone eventually resulted in rejecting biblical law. The epistle of James explicitly states “a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone” (James 2:24)—which was the reason Martin Luther wanted this book removed from the Bible. The Apostle Paul also stated “not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified” (Romans 2:13). He also said, “...a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28).
There is no contradiction here, when we realize the two stages of justification are being spoken of. A person is initially justified or made right with God every time He sincerely repents, while having faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice—before any actual works of obedience. But a person remains justified by committing to continued obedience with Christ’s help. Sinning thereafter requires new repentance in order to be justified or made right, along with continued obedience to remain justified.
The Apostle Paul continued to observe the annual festivals, presenting them as “shadows” or symbols of the great events in God’s plan of salvation yet to be fulfilled (Colossians 2:16-17). More details about each of the seven annual Holy day festivals can be found in our free study guide God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.
Beyond Today Magazine (Sep-Oct 2017)