Recently I got detailed questions from someone connected with the movement that believes Christians should keep the Law of Moses. Below I summarize the incoming question (with supporting verses) and then give my point-by-point response:
The core of your questions is this: “I am wondering why Christians don’t celebrate the Lord’s feasts.” You raise several points in favor of our doing so:
a. God says the feasts are a “perpetual” command (e.g. Lev. 23:14). You favor the assumption that it also applies to Christians since we have been grafted in (Rom. 11:17) and are now part of the people of God.
b. Jesus observed the feasts (e.g. John 10). You say we are to be like him.
c. You dismiss Col. 2:16-17 by referring to an Aramaic/English Bible and an interpretation from it that Paul was referring to pagans judging Christians.
d. You cite Acts 20:16 [“he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem,if possible, by the day of Pentecost” (NIV)], Acts 18:21 [“I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem” (KJV)], John 10:22-23 [“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade” (NIV)], and John 12:20 [“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast” (NIV)]. You use these quotes in support of two ideas: (1) “the apostles did celebrate the feasts after Jesus’ ascension” and (2) “it would be right” to celebrate the feasts as Jesus did.
I will try to deal briefly with each of the points. However, even at this point I must say that I seriously doubt that you or any other Christian can possibly be keeping these feasts in accordance with the Law of Moses because you are not making all the required sacrifices, have no earthly High Priest to perform some of the steps, and have no Temple standing at which to perform the appropriate worship. These are serious problems! James says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10, NIV 2011).
Now let’s take your points one-by-one:
Claim: God says the feasts are a “perpetual” command (e.g. Lev. 23:14). You favor the assumption that it also applies to Christians since we have been grafted in (Rom. 11:17) and are now part of the people of God.
Response: The short answer here is that we are not Jews. The fact that Paul uses the metaphor of grafting a wild branch into the olive tree does not mean that the wild branches are the same as the natural branches. If they were, what would be the point in naming two different types of branches and talking about how God is dealing with them differently?
You are correct in saying these feasts are a “perpetual” command, but the verse says “it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings” (Lev 23:14, ESV), and the “your” is not a reference to Christians either historically or now. This involves the Jews.
Claim: Jesus observed the feasts (e.g. John 10). We are to be like him.
Response: The key here is that these events all take place before Jesus died on the cross in satisfaction of all that God required. His death changed everything profoundly, and we live after his death not before it. Jesus obeyed the Law of Moses because that was what was required of him. It does not logically follow that all that was required of Jesus is required of us as well. For example, Jesus died for the sins of the world. Must we do so as well? Jesus lived in Nazareth. Must we do so as well? Being like Jesus has serious limits.
Claim: You dismiss Col. 2:16-17 by referring to an Aramaic/English Bible and an interpretation derived from it that Paul was referring to pagans judging Christians.
Response: Actually it does not matter who was doing the judging. What matters is that we as Christians are not to be involved in those practices mentioned in Col. 2:16, and the reason is simple. Col. 2:17 says, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (NIV 2011). The feasts were part of the “shadow of the things that were to come,” but Jesus did come! So, now we put aside the shadow-things in favor of the reality found in Christ. As I said before, his death and resurrection changed everything.
As a person who studies Bible translations closely, I do not recommend you rely on an Aramaic translation of the NT. The NT was revealed to us in Koine Greek, and the Greek text is hard enough to translate into English. Putting Aramaic into the picture makes matters worse, not better.
Claim: Your next points all involve the apostles allegedly observing feasts after the ascension of Jesus. [I am leaving out the verses about Jesus in John 10 and John 12 because I have previously covered the fact that these events happened before Jesus’ death.]
Response: You cite Acts 20:16 [“he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem,if possible, by the day of Pentecost” (NIV)]. So far, so good. However, this verse does not state that Paul was doing that in order to observe the feast like the Jews. It is far more likely, in light Paul’s theology and mission, that he wanted to be in Jerusalem at Passover because there would be a maximum number of Jews to whom he might proclaim Christ. In any event, he did not observe the feast due to violence plotted against him.
In a similar case, I have been to the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, but that does not mean I went there to worship like a Mormon. We must be careful about assumptions.
Claim: You cite Acts 18:21 [“I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem” (KJV)].
Response: No modern English translation retains that clause because it is not supported by the best Greek manuscripts of the NT. Thus, it is not a valid basis for Christian doctrine.
Summary: Although it is true that the feasts have many interesting analogies in relation to Christ, we now have Christ himself and no longer need the analogies.
Hebrews 3:1–3: “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.”
[For further information on this topic, I suggest you read the two posts that begin here.]
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide.