Jesus Christ came from heaven bearing a startling message from God to man. That message was the gospel of the Kingdom of God. He came to train disciples who were to eventually establish the New Testament Church. That Church would carry the same gospel world-wide. What were the practices of Jesus? What did He teach His disciples?
It’s shocking but true, the teachings of Jesus Christ and the inspired early New Testament Church are not being preached by most churches today. The hundreds of denominations which resulted from the Protestant Reformation have never regained the true faith which was corrupted for centuries by the great apostasy that occurred immediately after the death of the apostles.
The apostasy was working secretly in Paul’s day (II Thess. 2:7). Later Jude wrote with great anxiety that the brethren should contend earnestly for the true faith which was delivered by Jesus and the apostles, because there were certain men already had crept into the True Church who were perverting the true gospel (Jude 3, 4).
It’s time we examined the teachings of Christ, the apostles and the early church. Was Sunday the day for religious worship? Were Christmas and Easter the festivals of the original church?
Almost 2,000 years ago, Christ came from the throne of God bearing a message, the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15). He came to the Jews who were steeped in Judaism, and practiced the traditions of the elders. In almost every act, and in almost every statement, he was in conflict with their man-made teachings.
You have probably heard the customary assumption that the traditions, which were so fashionable among the Jews, were the teachings of God contained in the Old Testament. This common assumption is false!
Christ himself said: “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition, teaching for doctrines the commandment of men” (Matt. 15-9). Judaism is not the pure Old Testament religion. It is a system of man-made additions and fables that, as Jesus said, make the law of God of no effect. He never followed these foolish customs that the Jews developed.
Yes, the Jews in Christ’s day claimed to follow Moses. But did they really believe Moses? “But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” said Christ in John 5:47.
Christ often turned to the writings of Moses to prove that He was the prophesied messenger of the New Covenant (Heb. 8:6; 12:24). In connection with preaching the New Testament message, Christ came to set His Church an example of the way of life which they should follow (I John 2:6). Since Christ rejected Judaism and set an example for the New Testament church, let’s see which days he observed and what he commanded his disciples to teach the church.
Luke tells us that from a child Jesus observed the Passover and feast of unleavened bread with his family (Luke 2:41-42). It was also the custom of Jesus as a youth to attend services on the Sabbath. When starting his ministry, “he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Luke 4:16).
So we would not be in doubt about Jesus’ teaching for the church, the gospel writers devote entire chapters to Sabbath controversies which Jesus had with the Jews. Notice in Mark 2:23-28 the reply of Christ when the Pharisees accused his disciples of breaking man-made regulations for the Sabbath. Here was the perfect opportunity for Jesus Christ to tell his disciples exactly what they should do about the Sabbath. What did He tell them?
“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Here Christ rejected the legalistic restraints imposed by Judaism, but he upheld the original purpose of the Sabbath, it was made to serve man’s welfare.
By what authority could Jesus give this explanation? By the fact that He was “Lord” also of the Sabbath.” He originally instituted the Sabbath at creation (Gen. 2:2-3). Paul said God created everything by Jesus Christ (Col. 1:16). Because Jesus created the Sabbath, he taught the disciples, the future leaders in the church, exactly how he, as the Lord of the Sabbath, intended that day to be used. Notice how different this is from most church teachings today.
Now let’s turn to another account in the gospels. Luke 6:6-12, describes him explaining to the Pharisees that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Although continuously discrediting the traditions of the Pharisees, Christ never once in his entire ministry told the disciples that then or later the Sabbath would become a day of secular work.
According to the Encyclopedia Biblia p. 4173, “Jesus revered the Sabbath.” This is the conclusion of the scholars and critics who have studied the life of Jesus.
Once the Jews accused Christ of breaking the Sabbath (John 9:16).This charge, of course, meant only that he was violating their human rules for that day. Jesus never once broke the Sabbath. He taught his disciples how to keep the Sabbath.
Now bear this in mind, Jesus Christ never taught his disciples that his observance of the festivals should not be followed by the Church. This silence of Jesus is vital because Jesus always spoke openly against every evil of Judaism. His practice among a people keeping these festivals can mean nothing less than full approval of their observance.
The apostle John devoted an entire chapter to the presence of Jesus at the feast of tabernacles in the last autumn of his ministry (John 7).
Almost entirely overlooked by writers is the fact that Jesus never offered sacrifices on these days, except the Passover lamb. This corresponds exactly with Jeremiah’s statement, that when originally instituted, no offerings (except the Passover) were placed upon them (Jer. 7:22).The sacrifices placed upon them later were given to the Levitical priesthood to offer.
The Passover is only one of the seven annual festivals which Jesus observed. It is a memorial ordained forever. (Ex. 12:14). For that reason Jesus observed it and instructed his disciples on that last night how it should be continuously observed annually after his death by the New Testament church in remembrance of him. “This do in remembrance of me.” That is a command for the church about one of God’s annual festivals, the Passover (Luke 22:19). Even the apostle Paul, who was converted much later, understood that Jesus set an example that night for Jewish and Gentile converts alike (I Cor. 11:2-34).
The sad service occurred after sunset on the 14th of Nisan. The eating of the Passover lamb at supper, having already ended, and the ordinance of foot washing having been instituted (John 13:14). Jesus sat down and explained to the disciples that, hereafter; the commanded offering of a lamb in anticipation of the death of the Messiah would be replaced with new symbols because the Lamb of God would have been slain for the world. Jesus used unleavened bread and wine as the new symbols.
God never permitted leavened bread to be used at the Passover. Also the “fruit of the vine” could not have been unfermented grape juice. Grape juice could not at that time be preserved till spring. It either became wine, about 40 days following the harvest, or else the grape juice was made into heavy syrup. Any knowledge of the practices of the Jewish community in the days of Jesus will reveal that fermented wine was used exclusively at the Passover (Hasting’s Dictionary, article “Wine”).
The strange doctrines that entered the church in the later years and the perversion of Jesus’ teachings are one of the most sordid episodes of church history.
You have probably heard that even though Jesus Christ did not once during His whole life preach against the days God instituted that they were abolished by his death.
Now notice this. After the handwriting of ordinances was abolished by Christ’s death (Col. 2:14), the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to say that the day after the death of Jesus was a high day, the first annual Sabbath in the festival of unleavened bread (John 19:31), and that the 7th day was still the Sabbath according to the 4th commandment (Luke 23:56). The followers of Jesus rested on that Sabbath!
The first Sunday after the resurrection, the women came to the tomb because it was a work day. Later that Sunday did Jesus appear to the eleven disciples as they were gathered, in honor of the resurrection? NO! He appeared to them behind closed doors, “for fear of the Jews” as they were eating their evening meal. And Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief because they did not believe the accounts of the resurrection that the women gave (Mark 16:13-14; and John 20:19). How different this is from the fables commonly taught!
If you would like to learn the Truths Christ taught His disciples enroll today in our Mini-Correspondence Course. And, if you would like to learn the Truth about today’s “traditional Christian doctrines” enroll in our series “Traditional Christian Doctrines.” We should follow Christ’s example, not man’s!