In the early church, it was not too long before there were more Gentiles in the church than Jews. However, many of the Jews had a hard time letting go of their Jewish traditions to only follow Jesus Christ by faith. Paul spoke of this in Galatians chapter 2. Paul is very clear here that faith in Jesus Christ alone is sufficient for salvation and keeping the Law in no way adds to this. He is also clear that it is not keeping the Law that was necessarily an issue but believing that keeping the Law was a necessary part of salvation - that was the issue. Also, those that were keeping the Law were believing themselves to be more spiritual than those who were not. Paul also condemned this way of thinking. Observing the Jewish holidays are part of the Law as they were required by God for Israel to follow. So before we go much further, let's think of the pros and cons of Christians observing Jewish holidays.
1. The fulfillment, or the future fulfillment, of the Jewish holidays as noted in scripture (i.e., Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of First Fruits, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) is related to a Christian's past and future as well. See the previous posts in regards to the prophetic fulfillment of these feasts. Therefore, celebrating these holidays could be considered important for Christians as well. After all, Christ was resurrected on First Fruits and not Easter.
2. Understanding, and celebrating, these holidays can help scripture come more alive to Christians. They can better understand how the Bible relates to their lives, their spiritual history and their future (both spiritual and physical). After all, these holidays will be celebrated in the Millennium.
3. Understanding and celebrating these holidays can help Christians to better identify and understand what it means to be Jewish and build better cultural bridges.
1. Christians keeping these holidays can make them feel more spiritual than other Christians and thereby create divisive feelings.
2. Christians keeping these holidays can make them loose focus on more important matters of spreading the gospel message itself.
3. Christians keeping these holidays can cause confusion to those non-Jews to whom they are witnessing to help them understand the good news of Jesus Christ and how salvation comes through faith in Christ alone.
So...what is the answer? Should we or shouldn't we? I feel the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I think it boils down to what has been termed as Christian liberty. Paul spoke of this in 1 Corinthians chapter 8. The issue in the church at that time was about eating food offered to idols. After all, this was one of the few commands that the leaders of the church in Jerusalem had stated Gentile Christians should abstain (Ac 15:20). Some may feel that Paul straddled the fence on the issue. However, his answer in some ways is no different from one of the models of being a successful communicator: know your audience. What do I mean? Know the message you are conveying and not confuse people from the root message of the gospel. In other words, for our topic here, if you as a Christian want to celebrate the Jewish holidays because it brings significance to you personally, then by all means do so. However, don't necessarily be overt with it to the point that you make others feel they are inferior if they don't and don't confuse other Christians about what it really means to be a Christian.
How important was it for Israelites to obey the Law anyway? It was very important, but they also got lost in the reason for the obedience. God many times stated that he was sick of their sacrifices; he wanted a broken and contrite heart instead (1Sa 15:22; Ps 51:17; Ho 8:13; Ml 1:10). They misunderstood that the actions of sacrifice was to be an outward show of what was in their heart. We as Christians need to understand the same thing. If celebrating Jewish holidays helps one to understand, appreciate and obey God better, then I am sure God is all for that. However, if it is all about the ceremony and one feeling proud they have kept an observance, then it is all in vain. I feel that understanding the holidays and their prophetic significance is very important. However, one does not necessarily have to celebrate these holidays as do the Jews to appreciate them. If you are in part of the country where Jewish holidays become school holidays, then it is a good time to remind your children and family about the prophetic significance of these holidays and what they mean in our future. It is not about the doing but the meaning that is most important.
Now, if you are Jewish and a Christian, then these holidays have an even more significant and richer meaning for you. As a Jew you have the history and tradition to build upon as a Jew but in addition have the same prophetic significance with which to celebrate. Yet again, do so to be thankful to Christ for who he is, what he has done and what he will do in the future. Whether we celebrate these holidays or just understand them, let's give all of the glory to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ to whom all of these holidays point. After all, our lives are really about us glorifying Him. If our actions are giving Him glory, then we are being successful.
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Easter versus First Fruits