If you decide to celebrate God’s holy days, you may be surprised to discover some of the opposition our family experienced.
Many people are simply concerned that celebrating the holidays may be an “earning salvation” type of works belief. They are afraid of the negative term law and being labeled “legalistic”. They do not fully understand that the Biblical Holidays are a beautiful picture of God’s grace, His unmerited favor.
Q: Isn’t the keeping of the holidays an attempt to earn one’s way with works?
A: No, the holidays are a picture of God’s grace! The grace of God shines forth clearly in the holidays and their stories of blessing, preservation, promise, and fulfillment. God delivered an undeserving people before they entered into His covenant. Before God gave Israel the law, He gave them Himself as their redeemer when he liberated them from Egypt. He didn’t send the Ten Commandments and tell them to obey them before He saved them. He first saved them, then sent His law in response. His instruction (law) is His guidance for our own good, for a good life here on earth.
The Passover story, and other holidays, show God’s grace in action. Obedience is a response to grace. Grace cannot be bought; it is given. Obedience is the fruit of grace. God wants us to tell the story of His grace to our children.
And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD our God hath commanded you? Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand: And the LORD shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes: And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers. (Deut. 6:20-23).
By studying the Old Covenant shadows through the Passover or the other holidays, we can appreciate the New Covenant (John 1:17).
Q: We have grace. Why keep any law?
A: Of course we are saved by grace, through faith in Christ. Is grace a license to go the world’s way and not follow God’s paths? Many of today’s churches are adopting the world’s standards in the name of grace. An unbalanced view of grace results in emptiness, a hollow relationship with God.
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Rom.3:24-31).
A desire to worship and gain more understanding of God should not be thwarted by a fear of being legalistic. Our standard should be holiness, living our lives dedicated to God, not living our lives dedicated to the traditions of men. Praise God, believers are coming to realize that we need to “come out from the world” and be separate. Jesus taught his disciples, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt. 6:24). True godliness, and purity can only come from a biblical relationship with God. That relationship is shown to us through our father Abraham’s love and devotion.
Q: Aren’t the holidays only for the Jews?
A: The biblical holidays were commanded to the Hebrew people in Leviticus. Notice these are not “Jewish” holidays. God said they were His feasts.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings. These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.”
Paul explains in Galatians that, because of God’s grace, Gentiles who came to salvation were not required to keep the feasts. The Gentiles were not raised keeping the Jewish commands and were not expected to keep the 613 laws that identify the Jews as God’s chosen people. They were expected to give up idolatry and obey the seven Noahide laws (see Appendix F: Law for the Noahide laws.). They were glad to be a part of God’s family. The Gentile had the freedom to celebrate the holidays and did sometimes at the risk of persecution. In the year 339, it was considered a criminal offense to convert to Judaism. Several decades later, the Synod of Laodicea ruled against Christians feasting with Jews, classifying those that did as heretics.
God’s mercy and grace through Christ’s death and resurrection saves the Jews and Gentiles then and now.
Q: Are Believing Gentiles Part of Israel?
1. It is explained in Romans 2 that a born-again Gentile, one who has come to faith in the God of Israel through trusting Jesus the Messiah, is a Jew inwardly because his heart is circumcised even though his flesh is not; he is a true God-worshiper, whose praise comes from God in many senses a real Jew. Some Gentiles claim Jews are no longer the chosen peoples they don’t need to celebrate.
2. Romans 2 has been used to prove Gentiles are commanded to keep the holidays because believers are Jews and God commanded the holidays to be kept forever.
3. Romans 2 has also been used to say Gentiles are not commanded to keep the holidays because Gentiles do not need to be circumcised.
It has also been argued that just as certain Scripture (Exodus 13:2; Deuteronomy 21:15-17) is given only to the “first-born, the holidays are only for the Jews. Others believe because we are grafted into God’s family (Romans 11), we are accountable for all of God’s commands. Does God have different rules for His children? He has different commands for priests, for women, and for men. To whom much is given, much is required.
Q: Isn’t it True there is No Longer Jew nor Greek in Christ?
A: Galatians 3:28 says, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. This secluded verse has been twisted to say a Jew must give up his culture. There are differences between male and female, a slave and a free man. According to this verse, all should be treated as equals, thus fulfilling Jesus’ command to love others as yourself. Jewish and Gentile believers (male or female, slave or free) are all equals before God. Continue reading the rest of Galatians 3. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Again, look at Romans 3:25: Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also…”
The law (guidance) was given for the people’s sake, not for God’s sake. It was a gift, a treasure, as explained all through Psalm 119. Jesus never condemned the law. He only rejected what the legalistic men had turned it into. For example, the Sabbath was made for all to benefit. The law specifically said the slaves, domestic workers, and even animals were not to work. It was to be a rest for all, for the benefit of the entire community. Jesus was criticized for healing on the Sabbath. Jesus said, “Man was not made for the Sabbath but Sabbath for the man.” He was recapturing the original point of the law the spirit of the law for man’s benefit. Jesus summed up all of the laws in two commands, loving God with all we have and loving others as ourselves. On these two commands hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt. 22:34-40).
Q: Didn’t Christians Replace the Jews as the Chosen People?
A: The Jews are the chosen people of God. They were chosen because they accepted God when other peoples rejected Him. Some religions believe the Jews lost that promise. Other groups claim that they are now God’s chosen people.
Replacement theology is a false belief that another group of people have replaced the Jews because the Jews gave up the opportunity to believe in Christ. We must remember the entire first church was completely Jewish. Hundreds of thousands of Jews accepted Christ. Peter and Paul took the gospel to the Gentiles and, praise God, many Gentiles accepted Christ. But remember also, many Gentiles rejected Christ! If someone feels the Jews gave up the right to be God’s people that person believes that works not even personal works, but works of a race save us! We all fall short; all our righteousness are as filthy rags. The Jews are God’s chosen people because of God’s covenant to Abraham. God never broke His promises to the Jews. Revelation is full of references to the Israelites during the end time.
Q: Isn’t keeping the holidays Judaizing?
A: Another huge misunderstanding in the traditional Christian churches is when a Gentile accuses a Jew of Judaizing. The Bible is clear Gentiles are not to Judaize. If a Gentile believes he earns God’s approval by conforming to Jewish practice, he violates the message of Galatians and is involved in true legalism. There are cults that cultivate such legalistic Judaizing of Gentiles.
David H. Stern explains Judaizing and other misunderstandings between Jews and Gentiles, in The Jewish New Testament Commentary:
The Greek word “Ioudaizein” can be rendered, to Judaize, to Judaize oneself, to become a Jew, to convert to Judaism, to live like a Jew, to live as a Jew; there is enough variety here to cover all three of these heresies. But all meanings of “Ioudaizein” assume that those who get “Judaized” are Gentiles, never Jews. In spite of this fact, one of the most tenacious and pernicious phenomena in Christendom is the application of the term “Judaizers” to Messianic Jews attempting to establish for Jewish believers a Jewish way of following the Jewish Messiah.
Messianic Jews, with very rare exceptions, are guilty of none of these heresies. They do not press Gentile Christians to get circumcised or convert to Judaism but usually discourage it on the basis of 1C 7:18. They do not force Gentile Christians to adopt Jewish practices, although Gentiles who voluntarily choose to are welcomed, provided their motives are sound, because they are free in Christ to make that choice. Finally, Messianic Jews do not claim that observance of customs developed in non-Messianic Judaism is either necessary for salvation or a sign of greater spirituality. Instead, Messianic Jews try to develop a Messianic mode of celebrating the Jewish festivals, a Messianic form of Jewish worship, and a Messianic Jewish lifestyle wherein Jewish believers can express both their Jewishness and their Messianic faith.
Yet for obeying the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20), so often neglected by the Church in relation to the Jewish people, Messianic Jews are stigmatized among Gentile Christians as “Judaizers.” Yet how can a Jew, who is already Jewish, be “Judaized”? This is a contradiction in terms, an absurdity. Nowhere in the New Testament are Jewish believers criticized for living like the Jews they are. On the contrary, when Sha’ul [Paul] was accused of teaching Jews not to observe circumcision and the Mosaic Law, he demonstrated that the accusation was false (Acts 21:20-27). Was Sha’ul [Paul] therefore a “Judaizer” for encouraging Jewish believers to continue circumcising their children and observing the Torah?
One of the most frequent and bothersome accusations made by uninformed Christians against Messianic Judaism is that Messianic Jews are trying to build up again between Jews and Gentiles the middle wall of partition which the Messiah has broken down. Without exception the charge is made by those who do not understand what Sha’ul is saying or what Messianic Judaism is really trying to accomplish.
Sha’ul’s point is that Gentiles are no longer separated but can now join the Jewish people and be one with them as God’s people through faith in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. The partition is down, the Gentiles can join us! The critics understand it the other way round: the partition is down, so that once Jews believe in their own Messiah they no longer have the right to maintain their Jewish identity but must conform to Gentile patterns. Amazing! And certainly not what Sha’ul himself did (Acts 13:9).
The object of Messianic Judaism is not to destroy fellowship between Jews and Gentiles in the Messiahs Body but to preserve it; a review of the notes at 1C 7:18b; Gal 1:13, 2:14b, 3:28 will suffice to show that. At the same time Messianic Judaism seeks to provide a framework in which Jewish believers can express their faith in Yeshua through and along with their Jewishness. The Scriptural warrant for this is not only Sha’ul’s own practice but also his principle of presenting the Gospel in a way that minimizes the obstacles to its acceptance by its hearers (GA 1:17, 1C 9:19-22). Messianic Judaism ought to have been preserved continuously since the time of Yeshua, for there have always been believing Jews; there should have been no need to create it afresh. The movement is assertive today only because anti-Jewish pressure within the Church did away with and continued to oppose Jewish expressions of New Testament truth. That the New Covenant itself was made with Israel (v. 12, Jeremiah 31:30-33) adds irony to insult.
On the other hand, frequently those Gentiles who raise the bugaboo of the middle wall of partition are themselves the ones who are building it! For they would have Jews enter the Body of the Jewish Messiah only if they will conform to Gentile customs and ways and give up their Jewishness. Members of no other culture are put upon in this way, only Jews. Their idea of Sha’ul’s remark that the Messiah has made us both one is that the “one” is Gentile!