This is part 1 in the Bible study series: Let Us Keep the Feasts. Should we observe the Biblical Festivals? In this study we’ll examine the Biblical teaching of Christ and the disciples. Our discussion will also pose the question: Are these days necessary for Christians today? Join Steve Myers as he digs in to Scripture to find the example of the New Testament Church.
[Steve Myers] Good evening, everyone. Welcome to our midweek Bible studies. We’re going to be starting a new series tonight that’s called, “Let Us Keep the Feast.” And so we’re going to be exploring many different aspects of God’s plan of salvation that’s revealed through His Holy Days. So we’re going to be exploring the festivals. We’re going to be looking at why did God give these days. We’re going to be looking at different aspects of why we should keep them, what’s the meaning behind them, and try to get in to some details maybe perhaps we haven’t delved into in our personal studies. And so this is going to start those series of Bible studies that will continue on all the way up to the very end of May. And so we’re going to be in this series for just a little bit, and I think it’ll give us a good opportunity to discover more of what God has to say about his holy days. And so we’re going to begin the very first one tonight.
So before we begin, let’s go ahead and bow our heads and ask God’s blessing on our study. Great loving Heavenly Father, God, thank you so much for your wonderful blessings. We are so thankful for your love and your mercy and your way. Thanks for caring for us God. Thank you for your wonderful plan of salvation that we’re going to delve into tonight and try to gain a deeper understanding of. We pray for your blessing. We pray for your inspiration. We pray for your guidance on every aspect of our study tonight. Just give us an attentive ear that we may hear and understand things more deeply for ourselves so that we can be more pleasing in your sight. So we thank you for these things and pray for your guidance on the whole evening as we put it into your hands. Praying this and asking your blessing by the authority of our savior, Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
Well, this first study tonight in, “Let Us Keep the Feast.” I thought it might be helpful to try to understand the feasts themselves and why we should keep them. Why would these days of God be any better than traditional days of man? Why would these be the days that we should concentrate on? After all, most of the Christian world doesn’t think too much of the festivals that God mentions in the Bible. Why is that? Why are they important to us but not important to the majority of Christians? Is there something behind that? What does God say about his purpose and his plan? I thought that might be a helpful place to begin with as we begin this entire series about keeping the Feast.
There is one passage I think that sets the tone a little bit for what God is doing and there’s…it’s a passage that’s over in the book of Jeremiah. You want to turn over Jeremiah 29:11 Jeremiah 29:11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
American King James Version×. God tells us about the plan that He has for us, for each and every one of us, and He tells us the type of plan that it is. So God doesn’t just haphazardly do things. There is a purpose and a reason behind the things that God does. He does have a purpose. In fact, Jeremiah 29:11 Jeremiah 29:11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
American King James Version×, tells us exactly about God’s perspective on each and every one of us. Here’s what he says, Jeremiah 29:11 Jeremiah 29:11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
American King James Version×. He says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
What a wonderful blessing it is to have hope, to have hope for the future as He spells out here. Now, I believe this, in a way, points to what God is doing. What is God doing? What is His plan? What is His purpose? We know that when Jesus Christ first began preaching about God’s purpose and His plan, in the book of Mark, right at the very beginning chapter 1:14 points to the fact that He came preaching the Kingdom of God is at hand. And he said, “Repent and believe the gospel.” Believe the good news. Believe that God has a plan and a purpose that He is working out. That things aren’t just happening by chance, but that God has a specific purpose in mind. That the gospel message, the good news, involves the message that Jesus Christ preached, what He taught. It certainly involves Jesus Christ himself and His sacrifice for each and every one of us, and yet, God gives us another way that we can gain insight into what He’s doing. What is God’s purpose? What is His plan?
Well, we can begin to understand more about that plan through the days that He set aside to be observed, the days that spell out his plan. Now, part of the reason tonight is to go through these days but in a way that shows us why we need to keep them. Not so much the purpose behind them. We’re going to have quite a few studies to get in to more of that. I thought it might be helpful to recognize, what are these days and why do we need to keep them? Is there importance to observing the days? God set aside certain festivals to be kept, but why should I keep them, and why aren’t they important to others? Well if God has a future and a hope that’s spelled out in His plan, I believe that it is illustrated in the purpose behind His holy days, and He tells that we should keep them. It’s interesting there’s a passage all the way back in the book of Exodus that begins to show us some insight into why. Why should I observe the festivals of God? Why should I celebrate his feast?
Well way back in Exodus 23:14 Exodus 23:14Three times you shall keep a feast to me in the year.
American King James Version×, I think begins to give us a little bit background of why we need to do this. In fact, makes maybe an important point to begin with. Exodus 23:14 Exodus 23:14Three times you shall keep a feast to me in the year.
American King James Version×, here God is speaking Himself, and He says, “Three times you shall keep a feast to me in the year. You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread.” Then He says, “You shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it, you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty.” Then verse 16 He says, “And the Feast of Harvest. The first fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you’ve gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.” Now, many would look at this, and say, “Well, God is speaking to ancient Israel, so what does this have to do with me? What does this have to do with modern Christianity? Isn’t this all something that was way in the past that doesn’t even apply to Christians today?”
Well, I think that’s a reasonable question, one we should probably look at for just a moment. If we really dissect what He’s saying here, we recognize immediately who these Feasts, what these festival days are doing. He says we’re keeping the Feast to who? Who is being honored by the observation of these Feasts? He says verse 14, “Keep a feast to me.” So God starts out all the way back here at Exodus by giving us a command. Let’s notice this that God actually commands these days to be kept. He says, “It wouldn’t be nice.” He doesn’t say, “Well, why don’t you think this? Why don’t you consider doing this,” or, “It might be a nice idea if you observe these days.” No, he says, “You shall. You shall do this. You shall observe a festival to me.” And he immediately names three aspects with the Days of Unleavened Bread, he says also the First Fruits, which points to the Feast of Pentecost, and then he says the Ingathering, the Feast of Tabernacles at the end of the year.
Now, it’s also interesting, when did He actually give this command? Was it something that was just for the Israelites that were coming out of Egypt at the time? They were exiting away from Pharaoh, and so some people would say, “Well that was for them and not for me today.” One of the interesting things about this, it’s before the time that sacrifices were offered. This is before the sacrificial system was instituted. So it was long before that that these days were revealed to God’s people. And so I think that’s an important thing to recognize, that Holy Days do not require or they’re not intricately connected to these physical harvests. So immediately we begin to see there’s more to it that just an Israelite thing or just a Jewish thing. In fact, we’ll talk more about that in just a little bit. And so we begin to see there’s more to the story, that God actually says, “Keep them to me.” God says that He is honored by these days.
So as we begin to consider why celebrate the festivals, why keep the Holy Days, God says we should. He says we honor Him by these days. Of course, one of the challenges I think for all of us is, is Old Testament scripture really that important? Is it really that important? Or is that something that’s old and it’s Old Testament and so it’s not as valuable as the New Testament? I know a while back we had met in a hall that had these various pews, and they had Bibles in the back of the pews. In fact, even on the cover of the Bible, it said, “The Holy Bible.” I picked it up, and it only was the New Testament. I was like, “What happened to the other part of the Bible?” Because oftentimes, even Christians, feel that, “Well that’s old, and it’s done away, and I don’t have to be that concerned with that.” But I think to help give us a little perspective, we cannot forget what the Apostle Paul told Timothy.
If you look over at 2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
American King James Version×, spells out something interesting about the Old Testament. 2 Timothy 3: 16 gives us some direction, I think, when it comes to the entire Word of God. And so as we look at 2 Timothy, notice what Paul wrote to the young minister about scripture. He says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Now of course, it’s important to recognize when Paul was writing this to Timothy, what was considered scripture? Well, didn’t really have the New Testament at that time. So he’s talking about what we would call “Old Testament Scripture.” He says, “All of that, those writings are given by God’s inspirations.” So God inspired what we read in Exodus 23. God inspired that, and notice what he says about Old Testament scripture. He says, “It’s profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
And so as we begin considering how God commands these festivals to be observed, we can’t deny the fact of what Paul told Timothy. That scripture, Old Testament scripture is good for righteousness. It’s to thoroughly equip us in every way. And so amazing that we could learn how to be righteous from Old Testament scripture. So it’s not a part of the Bible that we could just take and tear this book in half and just keep the new, doesn’t work that way. There are valuable things that we can learn, and one of the things that we see immediately here, is when it comes to observing the festival days, God says, “Do it to honor me,” that this is good for instruction. This is good to fully equip each and every one of us as God’s people.
And so I think one the chief reasons we begin to understand a deeper meaning in God’s Holy Days is to recognize the fact that God commands us, for our own good, for our own reproof, for our own correction, for our own instruction, for our own equipping that we can learn about God. We can learn about His plan. We can learn about His way, and we can understand His purpose more effectively because we obey God and because we keep His days. And so these Holy Days are intricately tied into God revealing what his purpose is all about.
Now, that brings us to a second thing that we can find right here in the Old Testament. If we look back just a few passages, if you go back to Exodus 12, we were revealed something else. Something else I think that is important when it comes to recognizing why. Why should I keep these days? So if you go back to Exodus 12, look at verse 14. In Exodus 12:14 Exodus 12:14And this day shall be to you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
American King James Version×, we see some instruction that God gives about one of those festivals where he talks about the Passover and then the Days of Unleavened Bread. And he says, “This day shall be to you a memorial. You should keep it as a feast to the Lord.” So we recognize once again it’s God’s feast. He says on the first…then he says, “Throughout your generation, you should keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.” Then he goes on in verse 15, “Should eat unleavened bread,” and He points out how we remove leaven from our homes, from the first day to the seventh day.
And so He begins to point out here in Exodus 12. In fact, it’s interesting to note, when was this given? When did God make this command? Well once again, we see this was before Mount Sinai. This was before what people often call the Old Covenant or Moses’ Covenant. This is before that time, and He talks about the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. He talks about two of these feasts to the Lord, and he tells us something interesting about them. How do we keep them? How long are they valid? Well, He points out the fact that these are forever. These are forever. These days are to continue to be kept. Now, I know some people will argue, “Well, sometimes forever in the Bible, or this phrase, ‘throughout your generations.’” People might argue, “Well that doesn’t mean it goes on, and on, and on forever and ever.” Some people would say, “It just really means age lasting or for a specific era.”
Let’s think about that for just a moment. What era would these things apply to? What age that would continue to last do these days apply to when he says, “Forever, of an everlasting ordinance,” because he does say this several times throughout scripture. In fact, there’s a section of scripture that labels all of these days over in Leviticus 23. If you just want to flip really quick over to Leviticus 23, not going to spend a lot of time here, but just want to point out this fact of the “everlasting ordinance,” or, “throughout your generations.” Those two phrases point to similar things there that they’re age lasting ordinances. And so when we look at Leviticus chapter 23, it begins to label God’s feast days. In fact, right at the very beginning, it talks about these are feasts not of men, not of Old Testament times, but he says, “They’re feasts of the Lord.” They’re God’s feasts, just like we read in Exodus 12, just like we read back in Exodus 23 as well, that they’re God’s feasts.
And when we read about them, we see it starts with the Sabbath as a feast to God. And so that’s where it begins, and then it goes through the Passover, then it goes through Unleavened Bread. In fact, down in verse 15, we find Pentecost mentioned. Leviticus 23:15 Leviticus 23:15And you shall count to you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
American King James Version×begins a little section that talks about Pentecost, and that it is one of those everlasting ordinance that applies throughout your generations. Atonement is mentioned in verse 26. These days are also mentioned over in Deuteronomy 16. Now, not every section of scripture mentions every single one of these days. I think it’s in Deuteronomy 16 where it doesn’t mention Atonement. Each section is not a complete listing of every day, but here it is very praying that Atonement is one of the festivals of God that does need to be observed. But let’s think about, who does it apply to, who needs to observe it and why? Well what does this mean, “Throughout your generations,” keep that in the back of your mind.
Back to Leviticus 23 for a moment, down in verse 33, we see the Feast of Tabernacles mentioned. Just before that, verse 23 the Feast of Trumpets is mentioned, and we see for Tabernacles, it says, “It’s a statute forever in your generations.” So as we begin to think about what is forever, what is this “throughout your generations,” or what is “age lasting,” I think we can begin to have a little bit of insight when we fast forward to the New Testament, because I think we have to look what did Christ say about it? If Christ is our savior, if He’s our Lord, if He’s our master, what He said about these writings should be very important to us. It should begin to help frame what these words are all about. Did it really mean we need to keep those today? Did it really mean they’re going to be kept until the end of the age, or what exactly was He talking about?
Well, look over at John. The Gospel of John, John 5:46 John 5:46For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me; for he wrote of me.
American King James Version×. The Book of John, we find Christ Himself teaching, and at this time, many of the Jews wanted to kill Him because of His words, and they accused Him of trying to make himself equal with God. Well, we know He was God in the flesh, and here He is describing some of the issues that the leaders at that time had with Him. And one of the things He tells them, down in verse 46 is very interesting. He says, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me,” and Christ then went on to say in verse 47, “If you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” You see, the interesting thing is Jesus Christ is the one that inspired those words that were written in Leviticus 23.
Jesus Christ is the one that inspired those words that were written back in Exodus 23, or back in Exodus 16, or Exodus 12. He inspired those words. He was the one behind those things. And so He could say, “If you don’t believe what I inspired, you don’t understand who I am.” You can’t understand what He’s doing. In fact, He even said just a little bit before this, if you look back at verse 17, he said, “Don’t think I came to destroy the law or the prophets.” In fact, many would lump these days, these festival days in with the law, and try to say, “Well they’re done away with.”
Go back to Mathew 5:17 not John 5. Mathew 5:17, he says that very clearly, “Don’t think I came to destroy the law of the prophets,” but that’s exactly what most people think that these things are done away. But instead, he says, “I didn’t come to destroy but to fulfill.” So He came to fulfill what these days were all about. Well, does that mean He fulfilled them, and they’re done away, and we don’t have to worry about them? Is that the implication here? I know many take it that way, but if you really dig into the meaning behind Christ’s words, fulfill doesn’t mean done and gone and done away with. He’s talking about filling them to the full. He’s talking about showing what the true meaning behind those commands are all about. What is the meaning behind those days that He said to celebrate? Is it just some physical thing that we have to go through, or is there more to the story?
Well, if you read the story of what Christ was all about, He constantly showed the spiritual meaning behind His commands, and of course, the Jewish leadership of the day didn’t get it. They didn’t understand it. They didn’t see that spiritual meaning. They didn’t understand that Christ wasn’t doing away with anything. He was showing the spiritual meaning behind His law, His way, His word. And so these days are to be kept, and He says they’re to be kept throughout your generations. They’re to be kept forever until that time that probably the father comes down from heaven. They’re age lasting way into the new heavens and new earth, and we’ll see more about that in just a minute as well.
So Christ came to show a spiritual meaning behind these days. And as you begin to think about that, it begins to make more sense, well what is the spiritual meaning behind these various harvest festivals? What was that? Well, we’ll put that on the show for a moment. We’re going to come back to that a little bit later, and we’ll certainly deal with it in some of our future studies as well. But certainly God made this command. In fact, when we recognize who was this God who was making these commands, we find that it’s Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John shows very clearly, this is Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe what he said, he says, “You don’t understand.” You can’t understand. “If you don’t believe the Old Testament,” Christ says you don’t believe Him. You don’t believe Him. It’s impossible to separate those two things.
But let’s look at his example for a minute because I think that’s a third step in what God reveals to us. When we recognize what Christ Himself did, as the Emmanuel, as God with us. Look at Luke 2:41 Luke 2:41Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
American King James Version×. Oh, flip to the New Testament here for a moment because oftentimes, people will say, “What about the New testament? Don’t we find anything here that would lead us to these conclusions that we need to keep these days?” Well Luke 2:41 Luke 2:41Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
American King James Version×, we find a young Jesus Christ with his parents, and notice the scenario of what’s happening at this time. Luke 2:41 Luke 2:41Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
American King James Version×, it says, “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.” So here we are at the Passover time. Of course Days of Unleavened Bread immediately follow. It says, “He was 12 years old when they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.”
So immediately we see Christ and His parents kept these days. They observed those days that we recognized in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16, and those also we read about it Exodus. They kept the Holy Days, and if you skip down just a little bit, go all the way down to verse 49, Christ hung around there while his parents went home, and they forgot about Him, it seems. When they came back to get Him, they found Him. What did He say He was doing? And I think this…what He was doing also included keeping the Passover and keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread. Well He says, “Didn’t you know I would be about my father’s business?” Christ seems to say that those festival days, observing those days, were part of doing God’s business because He recognized the command. He recognized what it stood for, and it wasn’t something that He only did himself. It was so much more than that.
He was the one who commanded ancient Israel to keep those days. He’s the one that said even before the old covenant, these days were in effect. He also told others to keep the feast days as well. If you look over at the Gospel of John, John 7. He gives some instructions about keeping the Feast of Tabernacles. So in John 7, we can follow Jesus’ example when it comes to observing these days and recognize the fact that He told others to keep these days. John 7:8 John 7:8Go you up to this feast: I go not up yet to this feast: for my time is not yet full come.
American King James Version×, let’s go down to verse 8. Here we’ll recognize Jesus Christ telling others to keep this feast. In fact, it’s His brothers. Verse 8, He tells his brothers, “You go up to this feast.” Pretty direct command to them. “You go keep the feast,” he says, “I’m not yet going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” So here we are, just before the Feast of Tabernacles, and He tells His brothers, “You guys need to go and keep the feast.” Now, He doesn’t say, “I’m not keeping the feast,” because we’re a few days ahead of time yet.
He wasn’t immediately going up. He was going to be there to keep those days, but people wanted to kill him. He had to show up for right at the beginning of that feast and not hang out for too long. And so he tells His brothers, “You go up.” Then what does He say in verse 9? Says, “When he had said these things to them, he remained in Galilee, but when his brothers had gone up, then he also went up to the feast. Not openly, but as it were in secret.” See Christ knew it wasn’t time for him to be taken. And so he didn’t want His brothers to know where He was so that they’d be put under pressure trying to figure out where Christ was. So He said, “You go to the feast,” and then what did he do? He went up and kept the feast.
In fact, a couple of verses later, down in verse 14. It says that not only did He keep the feast, but He also taught at the feast, at the Feast of Tabernacles. Verse 14 it says, “The middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught on that great day of the feast.” If you look down to verse 37 and verse 38, He stood up and He cried out. During one of the great traditional things that they did during the feast, He taught, and He called out to the people, and He taught about the plan of God, and He taught about the fact that He was Savior. And He showed the plan through these Holy Days. And so over and over again, Christ points to His example. Think about that for a minute. How important is the example of Christ? Many people would say, “Well of course Christ kept those days, He was a Jew, right? So why wouldn’t He keep them? Why wouldn’t His parents keep those days because He’s a Jew? And so He’d be obligated to keep those days.” But is that all there is to it? Does that mean after His crucifixion that we don’t have to worry about those things? Maybe a question that needs to be answered is why would Christ say, “Follow me”?
If you look through the gospels, over, and over, and over again, Christ says, “Follow Me.” I think if you started listing out how many times He said that, it seems like there’s 20 times throughout the New Testament, he says, “Follow Me.” In fact, there’s a great example right near here. If you go over to chapter 13, John 13. If you’re still there in John 7, just flip over to John 13:15 John 13:15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
American King James Version×. Here we are during the Passover, and Christ is keeping the Passover with His disciples. In fact, not just any old Passover, but just like he came to fulfill and show the true meaning behind these days, He’s showing the true meaning behind the Passover to His own disciples here. And it’s interesting, in John 13, He says, after going through part of the ceremony at the Passover, He says, “I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.”
Certainly, that applies to a specific example there, but it applies even bigger because He’s pointing back to “Follow Me.” Do the things that I have done. In fact, it’s interesting, if you read this section of scripture in the Knox translation, it says, “I have been setting you an example.” And it wasn’t just this one evening that He was setting an example. For all those years that He was with the disciples, He was setting that example. And he also says a little bit later here, down just a verse or two, in verse 17, He says, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” So there’s something to doing. There’s something to following Christ’s example. He tells them specifically, “You need to follow my example.”
And there’s a wonderful passage all the way back in the book of 1 John that points back to Christ’s example itself. If you want to just write down 1 John 2:6 1 John 2:6He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
American King James Version×. It talks about abiding in Christ. Do you want to remain with Christ? Do you want to be close to your Savior? John says what we need to do is to walk as He walked, or some of the translations have an alternate version of that that says, “Live as He lived.” And I love that version because it’s not pointing to a resurrected Christ. To walk as He walked. That’s not saying here He is today at the right hand of the Father and glory. No, it’s not saying that. If we walk as He walked or live as He lived, that points back to His example. That points back to what He did when He walked the earth. What was His example? Can we just dismiss it? Well, no.
The Bible very clearly says, “We’re to live like he lived,” or some other translations say, “Follow that example. The same way that He walked, the same way that He lived, we should live.” Now, can anyone criticize the way that Christ lived? Well, I think you probably could, but you shouldn’t because He lived a perfect life, and to follow his example, I think is an important aspect of what it means to understand the festival days and why we need to celebrate those days. Our Lord and our Master, our High Priest kept these days and said He was setting an example for us to follow. I suppose that number three alone should be a good enough reason to say, “All right, I do need to keep these days.” These are something that were important to Christ.
They should be important to me as well, but it doesn’t stop there because oftentimes, like we had mentioned, it seems like well Christ was a Jew, so these things were only for the Jews. Well, is that true? Let’s think about that for just a second. Because people will often say, “Well, these days well Christ was just keeping them because He was Jewish, and after the crucifixion, it really doesn’t matter anymore,” or, “It’s just an Old Testament thing,” or, “It’s just an old covenant thing. How would it possibly apply today?” Well, a couple of things to think about. There’s an interesting list over in Hebrews 11. Oftentimes it’s called the Faith Chapter, and when you begin to look through some of those names, there are people that are listed there, like Abel, or Enoch, or Noah that are said to all have died in the faith. They all died in the faith. So these were faithful people, faithful men who all died before any Jews existed.
Okay, why would that be important? They died in the faith. What does it mean to die in the faith? Is there such a negative connotation when it comes to this? Oftentimes say, “It’s a Jewish thing, so I don’t have to do it.” What about that? What about that? I think one of the passages that gives us some perspective is over in Romans 2. Romans 2:28 Romans 2:28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
American King James Version×gives us some guidance as we think about this idea of, “All right, is it a Jewish thing that I don’t have to worry about, or is there more to it?” Is there a sense that Christ fulfilled the law that He literally gave it its true meaning, or in other words, showed the spiritual impact of God’s way, showed the spiritual significance of His law, showed the spiritual significance of the days that we are to worship. Is that possible?
Well, Romans 2:28 Romans 2:28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
American King James Version×, I think points this out so clearly. Notice what it says, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart in the spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from men, but from God.” So what’s he trying to say here? All right, there’s a difference just from the outward appearance of things. He begins to point back to what Christ was talking about, fulfilling the spiritual significance of God’s way and His law. That there’s more to it than just observing a day or recognizing a harvest, there’re some spiritual meaning behind this. If you want to be a true worshipper, he says it’s like you’re a spiritual Jew. You’re a spiritual Jew. In fact, Galatians 3:28 Galatians 3:28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×, you can just write this down. Galatians 3:28 Galatians 3:28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×points to the same concept where Paul says, “There’s neither Jew nor Greek. We’re all one in Christ Jesus, and if we are Christs, we are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”
So we begin to see these days are not just for the Jews. There’s a spiritual aspect. We are to be spiritual Jews, and as we look at the example that the Apostle Paul showed very clearly, even if were to say, “Well, those Holy Days, those festival days, they’re just for the Jews.” Well, what should that tell us? Well, Romans 2:28 Romans 2:28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
American King James Version×says, “We’re spiritual Jews.” So should we keep them as spiritual Jews? If we are a Jew inwardly in the spirit, as Paul says there in Romans 2, then we still have to keep them as spiritual Jews. And we recognize the spiritual intent behind them, and that’s one of the things we’ll get more into in future studies as well. The spiritual intent behind God’s days, and so as we see that, it becomes that much clearer.
That even as spiritual Jews, we keep them. They’re not just for the physical Jews. That’s not it at all. There’s much more to the story than that. In fact, oftentimes people will point to the fact that, well, yeah, the Jews kept these days, and even some of the people in the early church kept them, but that’s just because they were Jews. Have you ever heard that argument before? Well, when you begin to think about that, there is an interesting passage over in 1 Thessalonians 2:14 1 Thessalonians 2:14For you, brothers, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for you also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
American King James Version×. And I think it becomes a little bit clearer even here that this was not something just for the Jewish race, wasn’t just for those people at all. Because here in 1 Thessalonians 2, the Apostle Paul makes an interesting comment. One maybe often will just read right over it, and say, “It didn’t really mean too much,” but when you think about the significance behind this passage, it brings this whole aspect I think to a clearer view.
1 Thessalonians 2:14 1 Thessalonians 2:14For you, brothers, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for you also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
American King James Version×, here is the Apostle Paul writing to the Christians in Thessalonica, and he says, “For you, brethren, became imitators of the Churches of God, which are in Judea in Christ Jesus.” Now, it’s a simple little sentence that doesn’t seem like it means very much, but what is he saying? What he’s saying to Christians, those that are converted in Thessalonica, were like or they were imitating the churches, where? In Judea. That would be converted Jews that lived there were being imitated by the Christians in Thessalonica. And he says, “That’s a good thing.” That’s a good thing. Now you might say well that’s only because those Thessalonians, they were Jews too, and that’s why they were imitating those in Judea. But wait a second. If you look back at verse 9, he tells them that he is pleased that they had turned away from idols. They had turned away from idols.
Well, the Jews weren’t idol worshipers, were they? Certainly not at the time of Christ at all. Certainly they misunderstood God’s plan, but they weren’t idol worshipers. Who were idol worshipers? Well, the Gentiles, the Pagans, those that were non-Israelites. Those were the ones that worshipped idols. So Paul is obviously pointing to those in Thessalonica that were Gentiles saying this is a good thing that they imitated the Churches of God in Judea. And that points to the fact that it wasn’t just a Jewish thing that hung on in to the New Testament Church. No, that this was a good thing that they were observing the festivals. And so here Paul is commending them for that observance, commending them for imitating the churches that were in Judea. That’s not a bad thing at all. So I think that’s an important aspect when you think about these days not being just Jewish days. In fact, maybe we can build on this for just a moment as well.
Let’s take a look at the New Testament Church for just a moment. When we think about the example of Christ and the example then of the New Testament Church, the example of that New Testament Church, like we just read in the churches in Judea, they kept God’s way, and Paul said, “Good for you for following their example.” Well, look at the example of the New Testament Church. When did the New Testament Church begin? It began on one of those holy days, didn’t it? It began on the Feast of Pentecost. Acts 2 labels it so very clearly, and it points out the fact, I think, that God did not intend these days just to fade off into history, that it was just supposed to be this Old Testament thing that just goes away at the crucifixion. God does something huge, and miraculous, and big on that beginning of the New Testament Church, and it began on a holy day.
The New Testament Church began, the birth of the Church you might say, was on the Day of Pentecost. So God established His Church, poured out his Holy Spirit on one of those days, and that begins to point us to the meaning behind it as well. That there’s spiritual significance behind these things. After the crucifixion, the New Testament Church kept these days, but now kept them with a deeper understanding. There was a greater meaning behind these days that they began to understand as God revealed the spiritual significance behind those. Wow, what better example than right off the bat, as the Church began? And so over and over again, throughout the New Testament, we find examples of these days being kept. There are several times that days are just mentioned as an aside in scripture. The Apostle Paul mentions the days several times. Just mentions a fast or mentions the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Why bother mentioning those things? Well, there must have been something more behind…or was it just the time marker, some would say, well is it just a time marker, or was it something that was important?
Well, if we look to the Book of Acts, we can see just a couple of examples. Look at Acts 18, and we might as well jump right into it, verse 21. Here Paul is on his third journey, we’re at the time of probably 20, 25 years after the crucifixion. So we’ve had plenty of time for the Church to come to an understanding that these days maybe aren’t that important. They’re not important by now. A quarter of a century later, it should become pretty evident, wouldn’t you think? That we don’t need to do these things, and yet, look what Paul says in Acts 18:21 Acts 18:21But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that comes in Jerusalem: but I will return again to you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
American King James Version×. He says, “I must, by all means, keep this coming feast in Jerusalem,” and there isn’t going to be anything that’s going to stop me from keeping this feast. And then he tells us where he’s trying to head to.
He’s trying to go to Jerusalem to keep the feast. And so Paul says, “This is important.” This is important, it’s significant because remember as well, who was Paul the Apostle 2? What was the main trust of his ministry? Was he preaching and teaching to the Jews of the day, or was he given a commission to preach and teach those non-Jews, to the gentiles? You see, the Apostle Paul was given that commission, to preach to those that were not Jewish, and here he is saying, “I’ve got to keep the feast.” If it’s not significant, why bother mentioning it? In fact, just a couple of verses later, look down to verse 20. I’m sorry, not verse 20, chapter 20:6. In Chapter 20:6, he gives one of those markers, kind of an aside here. He says, “We sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread.” So you might say, “Well, okay. That’s not very significant.” But wait a second. Is it significant?
Couple of verses later, down in verse 16, says, “Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.” So once again, we have one of the Festivals mentioned as Paul keeping that feast. Not just recognizing it as a time marker, the Days of Unleavened Bread and then the Day of Pentecost. No, he wanted to keep the Day of Pentecost. He wanted to observe the day. Look it up in various translations. Some of them say, “Celebrate the day.” Celebrate, in fact, if you read the Expositor’s Bible dictionary Commentary on this section of scripture, it even says that the Apostle Paul remained at Philippi to celebrate the weeklong Festival of Unleavened Bread. Yeah, they got it right. That’s exactly what he was doing.
Now, why do that a quarter of a century after the crucifixion if it wasn’t important? Why set that example to Gentiles if it wasn’t important for them? Why do that if only some Jews might have been keeping those feast days? Why would that be significant? Why do that at all? Well, his example was very clear. His writings were very clear. He set the example. In fact, he even said, “Follow me or imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Well, Paul imitated Christ. In fact, if you look to the letter to the Corinthians, in his first letter, 1 Corinthians 5:8 1 Corinthians 5:8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×. “After a long discussion of how they should be celebrating the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread,” won’t take time to read through the whole thing. But notice the conclusion that he comes to. Does he come to the conclusion that we don’t have to do these things because they’re just some ancient harvest Festivals that don’t have any meaning for us today, or is there more to it than just that? Well he says, “There’s a lot to it. There’s so much to it.”
1 Corinthians 5:8 1 Corinthians 5:8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×he says, “Because of all these things, therefore, in other words, let us keep the feast.” Then he says, “How to keep that.” He says, “We should keep it in the spirit, not with malice and wickedness,” but he says, “With sincerity and truth.” There’s deep spiritual meaning behind the observation of these days, and it’s shown really clearly when you look at other translations as well. Yeah, they often say, “Let us keep the feast.” Oftentimes they say, “Let us celebrate the feast,” or, “Let us observe the festival.” They recognize the fact these are days that are still supposed to be kept. And so he told the Corinthian Church, a very Gentile congregation. A congregation that had many that were non-Jews in that congregation. He told them they’re to keep, they’re to observe, they’re to celebrate that festival. In fact, he mentions the same thing when it comes to the Passover.
Couple of chapters later in 1 Corinthians. I Corinthians 11, he says, “We should keep the Passover.” In fact, maybe we should look there real quickly. Chapter 11:23, notice the way he says it. Love the way that he words this here because it’s important in how he tells them what they need to be doing, and in this instance, he points to the Passover itself. But I think there’s more to the story than that. Look at 1 Corinthians 11:23 1 Corinthians 11:23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
American King James Version×, he says, “I receive from the Lord that which I also delivered to you.” And then, he starts talking about the Passover and how to keep the Passover, mainly because the Corinthians hadn’t been keeping it properly. But he makes this point. He learned from Christ, and he passed on that truth to the New Testament Church, and he did it exactly. What he received from Christ, he passed on. He gave to the church. He showed them why it was significant.
And so whether it was Unleavened Bread or whether it was the Passover as we read about. Whether it was the Feast of Tabernacles or the Day of Pentecost. All of those things, I think, tie in to what he received form Christ, and then he delivered that, and continued to pass it on to the New Testament Church. And so I think you put these different passages together, and there’s many more we don’t have time for all of them here in New Testament, but it points very clearly that the New Testament Church certainly observed these days. And it wasn’t just the Jews that were converted that kept them. Paul taught them. They needed to celebrate these days, that there was a deep spiritual meaning behind them. So they needed to keep and observe these days.
It’s also interesting, the story doesn’t stop here. We also find that there is a future aspect to the keeping of the Holy Days or the festival days. There’s a future significance as well that point to these days continuing to be kept during this whole age. Zachariah 14:16. Zachariah 14:16, points to a time after Jesus Christ returns to this earth, his second coming. At that time, we find a significant thing happening. And why in the world would this be included in scripture if it wasn’t important? If it didn’t have some meaning behind it? Let’s recognize what it says here. Zachariah 14:16 says, “It shall come to pass. Everyone who has left from all the nations that came up against Jerusalem.” That’s talking about those that were going to fight against Christ. He says, “They’ll come to Jerusalem.” It says, “Go up year to year to worship the king,” when? It says, “And to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” So it gives the example of one of the Festivals, the Feast of Tabernacles.
And so after the return of Christ, the Feast of Tabernacles is going to be kept. In fact, it points to how serious it is if you don’t keep these days. Says verse 17, “Whichever the families of the earth that don’t come up to Jerusalem to worship the king, the Lord of Hosts, on them there will be no rain. The family of Egypt will not come, they’ll have no rain. They’ll receive the plague, which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” Verse 19, “This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” Now a question that comes to mind is if the Festivals are going to be instituted when Christ returns, and Zachariah 14, clearly says this is going to happen. This is going to be something that is commanded that must be observed.
So we found as we began, the Old Testament says, “Keep these days.” The future after Christ returns says, “Keep these days.” Why wouldn’t we keep these days now? If they did it then, they’re going to do it in the future, why wouldn’t we keep these days now? Well, I think we see from Jesus’ example, from the New Testament Church, recognizing the fact that they’re not just for Jews. It does constantly point to the fact that we do need to keep these days. There’s so much criticism against these because some people just don’t want to do them. They don’t want to follow what God says. I was reading an article the other day that said a couple of interesting things about these particular days, and they were saying they’re not necessary. There was a couple of interesting things that were in this particular article that pointed to some interesting facts.
One of the things that his particular article said, I won’t tell you the name of the article, but it was an interesting one. One of the things that they wrote was, “The festivals were commanded forever, but so were some of the sacrifices, and so was circumcision. None of these are requirements for Christians today.” Is that true? Think about the spiritual significance of what God is doing. Physically we don’t have to sacrifice, physically we don’t have to worry about circumcision, but spiritually speaking, our entire life is to be a sacrifice. Aren’t we called to be a living sacrifice, doesn’t Romans 12 tell us that? We are called to be a living sacrifice. Christ came to show the spiritual significance of these things. What about circumcision? You don’t have to be circumcised physically, but we read in Romans, there’s a spiritual sense to that whole thing.
So the Festivals were commanded because they show the spiritual significance of what God is doing. We can never forget that. So while that might sound, uh-oh, yeah, we don’t sacrifice today. Yes we do. We’re not circumcised today. Yeah. Yes, we are. Yes we are, but there’s the whole spiritual aspect behind it. Of course the other big aspect of this that people fight against is a statement like this. “The festivals were commanded within the old covenant and only within the old covenant.” Was that true? No, that’s not true either. It sounds like it could be convincing, but like we read back in Exodus before these things, these days were in existence. And so just to say a blanket statement like that could sound kind of scary. Could say, “Oh, that’s a good point,” but wait a second, it’s not true. In fact, in future studies, I’m hoping to go through the covenants themselves.
What exactly is the Old Covenant? What is the New Covenant? What are the components of those covenants, and why would it be important to know the difference? Is the Old covenant done away with or not? So keep some of that in the back of your mind, we’ll come back to that in future studies as well. This was an interesting statement, and I think you’ll find…it almost made me laugh when I read this because it was within this article that was trying to defend the fact that we don’t have to do these things. Imagine this sentence. “Christians should be careful about using Jesus’ example.” What? Then it went on to say, “because of the cultural time-bound circumstances.”
Well, is Jesus’ example limited to just the culture that He lived in? Was His example…did he say, “Follow me, but only to those of you that are in my time-bound circumstances, only those of you who are in my cultural circumference”? He didn’t say those kinds of things. It’s ridiculous to write things like, “The early Church observed the festivals, since the first Christians were Jewish.” Well, the very first Christians were probably Jewish, but by the time we get to the Apostle Paul, there were many that were Gentile, many non-Jews that were converted, and we read that passage that he wrote, that, wow, they were even imitating the Jewish Christian Churches, which was a very good thing. And so don’t be taken in by these broad statements that, wow, it almost seems like they might have something behind them.
When you really begin to dig into scripture, there’s really very little. It’s a lot of hot air I think, when you begin to really see what God says, because I think it all comes down to the spiritual significance. And that’s where we’re going to go with our future studies. When you look at the spiritual significance, which really points to right where we began tonight. It points to the plan of God. What is God doing? What is his plan and his purpose for mankind? These Holy Days show us the deep meaning behind the gospel that Jesus Christ himself was preaching. It’s a step by step outline, not only of what God’s going to do in the future, but what he’s doing right now. And so when we observe the Passover, we begin to understand there is a solution to sin that Jesus Christ sacrificed his life so that we could have forgiveness. And we recognize the Days of Unleavened Bread so that we can come out of sin. That we can put it out just like a piece of unleavened bread we eat that we’re to be unleavened. We’re to be spiritually unleavened.
We can be sin free because of Christ, and of course, Pentecost shows that with God’s spirit, we can accomplish these things. That God’s spirit is what makes it possible for us to obey. And of course, as you get to the fall days with trumpets, pointing to the return of Christ, further expounding the plan of God, that there’s going to be a tremendous blessing at the return of Christ. There’s going to be a resurrection, and He’s going to establish his government on this earth, and the Feast of Atonement reminds us that Satan’s going to be put away. And that he is to be blamed for much of the sin, and there’s a time of repentance and reconciliation. And of course, the tabernacles, the whole world is going to begin to understand God’s plan, and Jesus Christ is going to reign and rule on earth, and so that plan of salvation becomes that much clearer. And of course, the Eighth Day points to the fact that all mankind is going to have an opportunity, that everyone who ever lived will have an opportunity to understand God’s plan.
And so we see some amazing significance behind God’s feast days, and they all point back in one way or another to Jesus Christ. They focus on Him because we worship Him. We rejoice in the fact that He gave His life for us to make it possible to be one with God, the Father, and be one with Jesus Christ. And so these days highlight the hope that we all have, and so there’s tremendous significance. So we observe those Old Testament days with new meaning, with spiritual meaning because Jesus Christ gave it the meaning. And so it points to the fact that we do have hope, and we share in that hope with each other and with what Jesus Christ did for us.
So I think we end up with a nice little outline here of reasons why we keep these days, and I think it points to the fact that the Holy Days outline the plan. They outline not only what God has done, but they outline what God is doing today, and they point to the future showing what God will do. And so let’s never forget the importance of these Holy Days because they illustrate that God does have a plan, a plan for good and not for evil, and it points to his promises. His promise of eternal life by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Well, that will do it for our first study of our series. We hope you’ll join us in just two weeks from tonight. February 4th, we’re going to continue our series of “Let Us Keep the Feasts.” Mr. Darris McNeely is going to be up next, and his Bible study is titled, “Why the Exodus matters.” Why the Exodus matters is our next Bible study. Thanks for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you next time.