Wednesday
Sep242008

You Observe Days

The inspired writer of a letter to the first-century churches of Christ in Galatia expressed doubt and disappointment about his audience’s sudden acceptance of certain elements of orthodox Judaism.

“You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain” (4:10-11).

It was not the observance of Christmas Day or Easter Sunday that he described, but rather the old Hebrew festivals and sabbaths that many Judaizing teachers were imposing upon them as false tests of fellowship. These Gentile believers were effectively being turned into Jewish proselytes after their conversion to Christ because of the forceful opinions of “the circumcision party” (see Galatians 2:12).

Paul would just as plainly inform the Colossians to, “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath,” reasoning that, “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17). Having escaped heathen idolatry, these misled and unfortunate saints were now being enslaved again by “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world” (Galatians 4:9), having “the appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion” (Colossians 2:23).

The Holy Spirit determined that a religion which mixed outdated Judaism with pure Christianity was “self-made” and “worthless.” Since Christ exercises all authority in heaven and earth as the sole head of his church, it is an unscriptural imposition to augment the “church calendar” with days and seasons that have no New Testament precedent.

The Sabbath observance, along with all the other Hebrew festivals, was abolished at the cross (see Ephesians 2:14-16, Hebrews 8:13). The believer’s focus was shifted onto the first day of the week, the day on which Christ arose from the tomb and the church was established (see Matthew 28:1, Acts 2:1). The first day of the week became the day upon which believers proclaimed the Lord’s sacrifice by joining for worship and having fellowship in the communion supper (First Corinthians 11:23-26, Acts 20:7).

The imposition upon a church calendar of any event which lacks scriptural precedent and which threatens the uniqueness of the Lord’s Day is just as much a violation – no matter how well-intentioned – as that of the Judaizers. Hear Jesus: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). 

Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, when celebrated as religious events, impose human innovation upon Heaven, detract from the uniqueness of the Lord’s Day, and threaten the submissive role of the worshiper. Discipleship is thus made vain by well-meaning intrusions into the Lord’s authority.