Let us "serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear"
Unscriptural religious celebrations displease God.
The only prescribed day of remembrance for Christians is the
Lord’s day, the first day of the week, the day on which Jesus rose
from the dead. Jesus asked His followers to remember Him by
partaking of a meal (1 Corinthians 11:24). New Testament
Christians met each Sunday1 to partake of the Lord’s supper and
commune with the body and blood of Christ.2 This assembly was
not to be neglected (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
The religious observance of other days, however, is
condemned by Paul: But now after you have known God, or rather
are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and
beggarly3 elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?
You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid
for you, lest I have labored for you in vain (Galatians 4:9-11).
Why this stern admonition? Their observance of special days
was a return to weak and worthless principles. We are not told
exactly what days they were observing. Maybe false teachers had
persuaded them to celebrate Jewish holidays, or perhaps they had
reverted to observing pagan holidays.
Many unscriptural religious holidays are celebrated today.
Their observance is considered a matter of course by many. I
once read in a periodical: I am writing this six days after Easter.
Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ celebrated that day!
Are people who do not celebrate Easter unbelievers? According
to Paul, observing special days is a return to weak and worthless
principles of the world!
Christmas and Easter are based on human tradition.
Christmas probably has a good influence on the world. On
Christmas Day in 1914, during the fighting of World War I,
spontaneous truces occurred at places along the lines. German and
English soldiers laid down their weapons for a day and celebrated
Christmas together in no-man’s-land. But afterwards, the fighting
Paul was happy even when people with false motives
contributed to the spread of the gospel: What then? Only that in
every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and
in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice (Philippians 1:18). This of
course does not mean that he sanctioned their falseness. Likewise,
Christians can be grateful for any good influence Christmas has on
Christmas and Easter are of pagan origin.
Although Christmas and Easter bear witness to the historical
existence of Jesus and to the hope and joy He brought to earth,
they are in essence pagan festivals that have been adopted by the
Roman Catholic Church.4
The first mention of Christmas (Christ’s Mass) being
celebrated on December the 25th was in AD 336. Shortly
thereafter, Pope Julius I declared that the birth of Jesus would be
celebrated on the 25th of December. The Bible, however, does not
tell us to celebrate the birth of Jesus and does not even tell us the
date of His birth.
Nor are we told to celebrate His resurrection on a yearly basis.
Easter Sunday is not the day of the year that Jesus rose from the
dead. It is a day selected by the Roman Catholic Church that varies
from year to year. Without embarrassment, Protestants use the
Catholic date. Orthodox churches have their own dates for Easter.
Faithful Christians celebrate the resurrection by partaking of the
Lord’s supper every Sunday!
Unscriptural worship is not acceptable to God.
Some realize that the so-called Christian holidays are not
found in the Bible, but they are of the opinion that such traditions
are innocent or even useful.
At the time of Christ many Jews had a similar idea. They
worshipped God on the basis of traditions. But Jesus said to them:
Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These
people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their
lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’ (Matthew 15:7-9).
Why was Jesus so harsh? He told them: You reject the
commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition (Mark
People do the same today.
Most of those who flock to church on Christmas Day to
celebrate the birth of Christ (something God has not commanded)
have never been born again of water and the Spirit (something God
has commanded5). They were christened as babies without their
knowledge (something God has not commanded) rather than being
immersed in water on the basis of personal faith (something God
has commanded6). Many of those who have been immersed, were
not baptized for the remission of sins as commanded in Acts
Such worship is vain. For laying aside the commandment of
God, you hold the tradition of men (Mark 7:8).
Most of those who flock to church on Easter Sunday for a
yearly celebration of the resurrection (something God has not
commanded) do not observe the Lord’s supper each Sunday
(something God has commanded7).
Catholics participate in an idolatrous perversion of the Lord’s
supper. They worship a piece of bread (the Host) that, at the ring
of a bell, supposedly has become the physical body of Christ. The
priest sacrifices Christ anew in a so-called bloodless offering,
whereas Christ was sacrificed once for all (Romans 6:10; Hebrews
7:26, 27). The people eat the bread, the priest drinks the wine. The
celebration of Mass is not the Lord’s supper prescribed in Scripture.8
When people observe traditions and reject the word of God,
their worship is in vain.
Someone who worships God according to human
commandments, may have words of praise on his lips but his heart
is far from God. Human traditions are sometimes impressive - for
people that is, but not for God. God is not pleased when people
worship their own way rather than according to His word, when
they exalt their own will above the will of God. This is condemned
as will-worship or self-gratifying religion in Colossians 2:23.
God’s word is normative.
When we worship God we are not free to do just anything we
feel like doing. Paul wanted believers at Corinth to learn not to go
beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).
Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine
of Christ does not have God (2 John 9 RSV).
In our service to God we may do only what God has instructed
us to do. Easter and Christmas are not from God, but are from
man; these holidays are not from above but from below. God has
never asked us to celebrate such days. When we do so, we exalt
the traditions of men above the word of God.
The Scriptures are a complete guide for serving God.
His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life
and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us
(2 Peter 1:3). Thus, anything that is not part of the knowledge of
Christ does not pertain to life and godliness.
Since Easter and Christmas are not part of the doctrine of
Christ, their celebration does not pertain to life and godliness.
Someone who religiously celebrates such days has returned to the
weak and worthless principles of this world.
The Scriptures are a complete guide for those who want to
serve God. Paul wrote to Timothy: But you must continue in the
things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from
whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have
known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for
salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14,
The Holy Scriptures can make us wise for salvation. We must
remain within the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9). We may not go
beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). Only if we abide in the
word of Christ are we truly His disciples (John 8:31).
Paul continues: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is 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 (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
The Scriptures equip you for every good work. If in your
worship you do something that has not been prescribed for
Christians in the Scriptures, you are doing something that is not a
Easter and Christmas have not been prescribed for Christians
in the Scriptures. Their religious celebration is not a good work but
is a return to the weak and worthless principles of the world.
Jewish holidays are not part of the Christian faith.
To avoid confusion it must be clarified that the Jewish festivals
mentioned in the Scriptures, such as Passover, Pentecost and the
Sabbath, are not part of the Christian faith. Because false teachers
tried to make Jewish holidays binding for Gentile Christians, Paul
wrote to the brethren at Colosse: So let no one judge you in food
or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,
which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of
Christ (Colossians 2:16, 17).
No condemnation was allowed for not celebrating the Jewish
festivals that were only symbols of the spiritual reality Christ would
Jesus, for example, is our Passover lamb. Paul wrote to the
saints at Corinth: Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you
may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed
Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep
the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and
wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth
(1 Corinthians 5:7, 8). Jesus is our Passover Lamb, not one day per
year, but every day. Our unleavened bread is sincerity and truth.
There is a difference between personal practices and religious celebrations.
According to Romans 14:5, 6 optional practices on certain
days were comparable to eating or not eating meat. One person
esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike.
Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the
day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day,
to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord,
for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he
does not eat, and gives God thanks.
What is the difference between the personal practices on
certain days that are allowed here, and the celebration of religious
holidays that is condemned in Galatians 4:10?
In the first instance it is an acceptable personal choice. March
the 4th has meaning for me because I was baptized on that date. I
know a brother from Panama who fasts until 6 p.m. each Sunday.
In Ghana I met Christians who pray every morning at 6 a.m. Some
have a quiet time for prayer and Scripture reading. These are
choices of individuals within a Scriptural framework.
In the second case it is the celebration of certain days as a
matter of faith or religious ritual! We may eat and drink. We may
have a feast. But when the Corinthians had a feast in connection
with the table of the Lord, they were condemned for departing from
the pattern Christ laid down.9
May Christians observe non-religious aspects of religious holidays?
It is definitely wrong to celebrate Christmas as the birthday of
Jesus because it is not His birthday, and He never asked us to
celebrate His birth!
Through the centuries, however, Christmas has become a
cultural holiday celebrated largely on a non-religious basis. Many
traditions have developed that have no religious meaning whatever.
Even atheists celebrate Christmas!
Among Christians who want to follow the Bible, some believe
they should not participate in activities that have any relationship
whatever to Christmas. They should not violate their conscience.
Others believe they can observe non-religious aspects of a
holiday while omitting religious aspects. This is a personal matter
and various circumstances could influence what might or might not
Few would object to Christians having a special dinner on
Christmas Day. Other non-religious traditions might be observed as
well. Many of us have fond memories of joy and love in the family
circle at Christmas time. My parents never celebrated Christmas as
a religious holiday. Yet the house was decorated, we exchanged
gifts and we had a joyous time together.
If a Christian decides to celebrate non-religious aspects of a
religious holiday, he should avoid religious symbols and activities.
What have we learned?
Unscriptural religious celebrations displease God. The only
prescribed day of remembrance for Christians is Sunday, the Lord’s
day! The religious celebration of other days is condemned by Paul.
We must avoid all unscriptural forms of worship because God does
not accept them. Christmas and Easter may not be celebrated
religiously because they are based on human tradition, not on the
word of God. The Scriptures are a complete guide for serving God.
Thus, religious service must be limited to what is prescribed for
Christians in Scripture. Jewish holidays are not part of the Christian
faith. There is a difference between optional Scriptural practices
and unscriptural religious celebrations.
But now after you have known God, or rather are known by
God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly
elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe
days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I
have labored for you in vain (Galatians 4:9-11).
Let us serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear
The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise. Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive