Why does God’s Church today observe Old Testament, so-called, Jewish Feast and Holy Days? After all, the Church of God is a New Testament Church and its Head is Jesus Christ, and He preached the New Testament Gospel.
During His ministry Christ never observed the temporary customs of the Law of Moses, Christ never once offered an animal sacrifice, and yet He kept God’s annual Holy Days. Read Luke 2:41-43 this deals with the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread; John 7:2, 10, 14 and 37 deals with the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.
Why is it that people really don’t understand that Christ set us an example that we should follow? I John 2:6 “He that saith he abides in him ought himself also so walk, even as He walked.” Christ never did observe Christmas, Easter, Lent or any other pagan holidays; He kept God’s Holy Days and we are told to follow in His steps.
So anyone who might say: “I don’t see that it makes any difference what day we observe”, to the carnal mind, it doesn’t, but it does make a difference to God!
Long after the death of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul gave these instructions to the Church at Corinth which was predominately of Gentile origin: I Corth. 5:7-8 “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump.” Why put out leaven, which was a type of sin?
“For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” Sin has been paid for. Christ paid for and conquered sin in the flesh! Therefore, says Paul, let us keep sin out of our lives! How? By what annual reminder? Here is Paul’s answer. ”Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven” that is, put away leaven, a type of sin, out of your houses each feast – “neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness,” but keep the feast “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Not one word is mentioned about Easter, or Lent, but instead the New Testament Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. In I Corth. 11:18-34 Paul explained in detail how to keep the Passover in the local congregation.
Now turn to Acts 20:6: “And we (Luke and those with him) sailed away from Philippi (a Gentile City) after the days of Unleavened Bread.” Notice Luke did not sail after Easter or some other pagan holiday of the Roman calendar. They sailed away after they had observed the Days of Unleavened Bread!
The strongest proof of all is found in Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians. It is there and yet you may never have noticed it! The very scripture most often quoted against God’s truth is, in fact, the strongest proof that God’s festivals were being kept!
The Gentile converts at Colossae, like the Thessalonians, “became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus” (I Thess. 2:14). The Churches of God in Judaea kept God’s festivals. They followed the example of the Headquarters Church in Jerusalem. And the scattered Churches of God in the Gentile world followed their example!
Notice Paul’s commendation of the converts at Colossae. “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ” (Col. 2:5). The Church at Colossae was following Jesus Christ, doing the things He did, keeping the days He kept. They ceased their pagan practices and customs.
They had quit their heathen practices. “And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now that He (Jesus Christ) reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight. If you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not be moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:21-23).
These Gentile converts had been called out of this world (v. 27), called to separate from the traditions of the world, but they still had to live in a world steeped with pagan superstition and customs. They were under pressure from their neighbors to give up their new found faith. Their Gentile neighbors did not like them taking up the Biblical practices. They did not want any Jewish practices developing in their community! They wanted everybody to continue with the traditions and doctrines of the pagan philosophers, whom the world respected. They weren’t about to have their pagan holidays replaced by God’s Holy Days, or their sun-worship rites superseded by the weekly Sabbath, or the pagan Roman calendar replaced by God’s calendar.
Colossae was a very ascetic community. The people there did not believe in enjoying pleasure. They believed in a religion of severity. The believed in rigidly suppressing the body “in order to purify the soul.” They thought that any indulgence of the senses was wrong. They fasted often, punished themselves, were vegetarians for the most part, refused to eat even those clean meats God created for us, and thought drinking wine was terrible!
To keep everybody in line they brought social pressure, and instituted local “blue laws” (see The Church in the Roman Empire before A.D. 170 by Ramsay, chapter Ten). The pagan ascetic beliefs were commonly known to the heathen by the name philosophy. Paul used this very word in Col. 2:8 “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments (or basic concepts) of the world, and not after Christ.”
Philosophy was the doctrine that one could pay for his own sins by denying himself the pleasures of the body. It was a pagan doctrine which denied the need of a Saviour. It was called philosophy because the pagan philosophers were responsible for its introduction.
The early Catholic writers used this same expression in their day to mean asceticism. “It was very common to call an ascetic mode of life ‘philosophical or ‘the life of a philosopher.” The growing sentiment had its roots partly in the prevailing ideas of contemporary philosophy, which instinctively emphasized strongly the dualism of spirit and matter.”
Those who followed this philosophy were stern ascetics. They were the opposite of many others who loved pleasure and indulged in the sins of the flesh, whose motto was “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Not so the Grecian Gentiles at Colossae. They severely judged their Christian neighbors for the least infraction of ascetic behavior. They did not like to see the Christians freely eating meat good for food, or drinking wine moderately, or keeping the weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals. That is why Paul wrote: “Let no man therefore judge you for eating or drinking, or in connection with the observance of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days” (Col. 2:16).
These were Gentile converts being judged by relatives and neighbors for doing things that Jesus did. Judged for keeping holy the days made holy by God. Notice with your own eyes this startling proof here revealed!
In Col. 2:16 Paul is thought by many to have abolished the days God made holy. First consider this: Is it logical that Paul would have commanded the Gentiles in Corinth and elsewhere to observe God’s festivals (I Cor. 5:7-8), and then contradict himself by telling the Colossians not to observe them! Yet, most churches would make Paul just that inconsistent!
The truth is so plain here in Colossians. What is Paul writing to the saints in Colossae? “Let no man therefore judge you.” Does this say “God has abolished anything”? Look at the verse again. It says “Let no man judge you” concerning these matters. To judge is not to abolish. Paul is warning the Colossians not to let any judge them about certain matters. Why?
“But why do you judge your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:10-12). God is the judge. Not man. It is by the Word of God that we are going to be judged, not by the ideas of man (John 12:48). Since we are to live as those who are to be judged by the Word of God, then we have to go to other passages of scriptures to find how God will judge us with reference to meats, drinks and festive occasions. It does not matter what man thinks, but it does matter what God thinks.
Now consider Col. 2:8 again. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,” it doesn’t say the Law of Moses. It does speak of pagans who adhered to philosophy. Continuing: “after the rudiments (fundamental beliefs) of the world, and not after Christ.” The evil doctrines Paul is condemning were of the world. The world then was a Gentile world. It was a pagan Roman world, filled with foolish and vain traditions. The Jews prided themselves on being racially separate from the world. So these traditions were Gentiles traditions which Paul warns us to beware of!
Now verse 9 and on: “For in Him (Christ) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” God dwelt in Christ, not in the philosophers. “And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of the all principality and power” (v. 10). We are made perfect in Christ not through asceticism and human traditions. Christ is the Head over all. He is the One we must look to, not to the highly vaunted philosophers.
“In whom (Christ) also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (v. 11). Paul elsewhere reveals we are to be circumcised “in the heart” (Rom. 2:29).
Jesus Christ conquered sin in the flesh. If we surrender ourselves to Christ, He will enter into us through His Holy spirit and clean us up, conquer our sins, circumcise our hearts or minds spiritually. He enables us to completely cut away sin out of our lives, enables us to bury all our past sins in the waters of baptism, as you read in Col. 2:12: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God,” faith in God’s ability to supply us with the Holy Spirit and raise us from a dead past to a new life just as He “hath raised Him (Christ) from the dead.
“And you,” Paul continues, “being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh” these people were, prior to conversion, uncircumcised Gentiles, “hath He (the Father) quickened together with Him (Christ), having forgiven you all trespasses” (v. 13).
God forgives sin. These Gentiles converts had sinned. They had been following the foul, heathenistic practices of the world about them. They had been trying to pay for their own hurt consciences by penance, by asceticism. But they hadn’t found forgiveness.
Now things were different. They had really been forgiven. They were no longer bound to their past sins. They had no longer the guilt of following human customs, human ordinances, human decrees and vanity. Their sins had been blotted out: Christ had taken them away.
Notice that Jesus was nailed to the stake. He bore our sins. When He shed His blood in our stead, He thereby blotted out all our sins by paying for them in full with His own life. It is sin which was blotted out. Notice Acts 3:19, “that your sins may be blotted out.” Have mercy upon me,” cried David, “blot out my transgressions. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities” (Ps. 51: 1, 9). With these two verses we can better understand Col. 2:14. Notice this verse as it stands in the KJV. “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.”
Have not you assumed this verse to mean God’s law? But look at this verse again. What was blotted out? Sin! It doesn’t read “law of Moses,” or “works of the law.” It read “handwriting of ordinances.” What “ordinances were these?
Let the Bible answer. Paul tells us in verse 20-23 of the same chapter! “Wherefore if ye,” the Gentile converts, “be dead with Christ from the rudiments (fundamental principles or ideas) of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances”? (v. 20) Ordinances, but what ordinances? The answer is in the next verse: “Touch not; taste not; handle not; which are all to perish with the using; after the commandments and doctrines of men?”
There you are! They were human traditions! Continuing: “Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship” – pagan asceticism – “and humility, and neglecting of the body,” appearing outwardly humble and self-denying, but inwardly self-righteous – “but are of no value against indulgence of the flesh.”
Did you catch it? These evil practices were pagan ordinances of customs of men, based on the commandments and doctrines of pagan speculative philosophy. They were forbidding people from touching, tasting and handling those things God allows. We see the same customs today; don’t dance, don’t drink, etc., in much of today’s Christianity!
So the original Greek for “handwriting of ordinances” is not even referring to Moses’ law! In fact this is not a proper translation! The original Greek read cheirographon tois dogmasin. It does not mean a code of laws.
The Greek word of “handwriting” originally referred to “a note of hand, or writing in which one acknowledges that money has either been deposited with him or lent to him by another, to be returned at an appointed time.” It later came to refer to any acknowledgement of debt. We all owe a debt to God because of sin. That is the meaning of the world “handwriting” here, an acknowledgement of debt.
But how was it originally incurred? What did the Colossians do that brought on that debt of sin? The answer is in verse 13. What was blotted out were trespasses (v. 13, last part) incurred through lying dogmas like the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, which was the root of pagan asceticism!
Nothing is said here about any “law of Moses.” Those Gentiles had never heard of or kept that law! So the written record of sins which were blotted out involved the practice of evil pagan ordinances for which Christ paid the penalty and God forgave us.
The Colossian Christians had been taught Christ’s gospel. They believed and obeyed. Jesus Christ was living His life in them as they yielded to Him. They were being knit together in love (Col. 2:2). Love is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom. 13:10).The Colossians were keeping God’s law. Like other Gentiles they had not heard of God’s law before it was preached to them. (See Rom. 2:12-13).They did not know the way of love. But now, they not only knew it, they were practicing it!
They were no longer ascetics, trying to conquer the flesh by themselves. They were conquering themselves through the Holy Spirit. But God gives His Holy Spirit only to those” who obey Him”(Acts. 5:32). Because the Colossian Christians were obeying God, it made their neighbors feel self-condemned and inferior. Their neighbors began sitting in judgment of them, condemning them for following the ways of Christ which they had newly learned. And what were these Christians being judged for?
It was not for keeping Easter, Christmas and Sunday, pagan holidays, not for total abstinence from meats and alcohol! But “Let not man therefore judge you for eating and drinking, the Colossians were no long ascetics, “or in connection with the observance of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbaths.”
That is why they were being judged, “in connection with the observance” (as Moffatt translates it) of God’s festivals, His calendar measured by the new moon, and the Sabbath!
The once-pagan Colossians never kept this day before! They were heathen prior to conversion. Now that they had learned the Gospel, they were keeping holy the days God made holy. And Paul is warning them not to return to or be influenced by their old pagan ways, the ways of their relatives and neighbors who hated God’s law and His festivals.
The original Greek in verse 16 en broosei and en posei means “in eating and in drinking.” It does not mean meat and drink offerings. Every competent scholar acknowledges this to be the true meaning. These verses are speaking of the Christian liberty to enjoy life! Jesus Christ came eating and drinking (Matt. 11:19 and Luke 7:34). Jesus set us the example. He was not ascetic! And neither were the Colossian Christians any longer! They were daily enjoying the Christian life in temperance and self-control, and especially in connection with each Feast, every new moon and the weekly Sabbaths!
What did Paul mean when he tells the Colossians not to let any man judge them ‘in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days? The phrase “in respect of,” as found in the common versions is ambiguous. It is rendered “in part of” in the margin of the KJV.
Now what is the real meaning of “in respect of”? The Greek word translated “respect” literally means “a part” or a portion.” See Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon.
It was in connection with the sacrificial part or portion that the carnal Gentiles were judging their converted neighbors. They reasoned, as many do today, that one can’t keep God’s days holy without the Mosaic sacrifices. Nothing could be further from the truth! Don’t let any man sit in judgment of this matter Let God speak out!
God commanded no sacrifices except the Passover, which is still continued under different symbols today, when He revealed the holy days to Israel (Jer. 7:22-23).
The weekly and annual Sabbaths were not instituted for the purpose of sacrifice. God says: “For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, obey My voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be MY people: and walk ye in all ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (Jer. 7:22-23).
So we see that Paul is telling the Colossians to know the word of God so thoroughly that they could refute any man who would dare to sit in judgment of them for trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Notice Col. 2:17, “which are a shadow of things to come.” Or better translated, “which foreshadow things to come.” Did these Scriptural days foreshadow things to come?
Do the weekly Sabbaths foreshadow good things to come? Indeed they do! Not only is the weekly Sabbath a memorial of creation, but is also foreshadows the 7th 1000 years, in which man shall rest from his labors of sin.
In speaking of the 7th day of the week, in Heb. 4:4, the apostle Paul goes right on to show that the 7th day foreshadows God’s thousand year millennial rest. But does that do away with the weekly Sabbath? Not at all! “There remains therefore a keeping of a Sabbath to the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). Sabbath keeping is a test of obedience. No one shall enter into an eternal rest unless he first, here and now, is willing to enter into the rest of each Sabbath, each 7th day of the week. And that is exactly what the Colossians were doing, observing the weekly Sabbaths.
In like manner the annual festivals were instituted as memorials of events which also foreshadow the plan of God. They were given to the Church in order to keep the Church in the knowledge of that plan.
Only one festival has been entirely fulfilled in type, the Passover. Yet Jesus said that each year we are to celebrate it again: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Some claim that Colossians 2:16 refers “to annual feasts, new moons, and annual Sabbaths,” not to the weekly Sabbaths. This is not true! Whenever the expression “Sabbaths” is used with “holy days” and “new moons,” the weekly Sabbaths are always meant! There is no exception. Read I Chron. 23:31; II Chron. 2:4; 31:3; Ezra 3:5; Neh. 10:33. All annual holy days are annual Sabbaths!
Notice that in all these verses the weekly Sabbaths are referred to in the plural just as in Colossians 2:16! Colossians 2:16 includes both weekly and annual Sabbaths! If it abolishes one, it abolishes the other. But as it establishes one, so it establishes the other as New Testament practice.
“Let not man therefore judge you” in these matters, said Paul, “but (rather) the body of Christ” (Col. 2:17, last part).
This verse has troubled many. Yet it should not. Notice that the word “is” in the KJV is in italics. It does not appear in the original. The original Greek says only: “the body of Christ.” What is the body of Christ? How does Paul use this expression in Colossians?
In chapter 1 and verse 18 we find that Christ “is the Head of the body, the Church. Read also Col. 2:19. The true Church of God is the body of Christ. Just as the Spirit of God once dwelled in the earthly body of Jesus Christ, so now the Holy Spirit dwells in each member of the Church and together we constitute one body, doing the very work Christ did. We are therefore Christ’s body today! And Christ is the Head as the husband is the head of the wife (Eph. 5:23).
No man is to sit in judgment of our Christian conduct, Paul is declaring in Col. 2:16-17. Man does not determine how we should live. But it is the responsibility of the Church, the body of Christ, to determine these matters! The Church is to teach how to observe the festivals, to explain the meaning of self-control, etc.
So these little-understood verses ought to be translated clearly: “Let no man therefore judge you but (rather) let the body of Christ (determine it).” Greek scholars recognize that the first expression “let no man” demands that there be a subsequent expression which tells who is to do the judging of the matter! How plain these verses are. How clear that the Colossians were keeping holy the time God made holy!
Let us now keep the Feast this autumn with real deep joy, thankful that the great God of Heaven is our Judge and not any man. Let us also keep the Feast with deep appreciation of the wonderful New World it pictures when all the today’s judging fellow humans will be keeping the Feast with us!