Are Christians required to observe the feasts of the Old Testament?

FAQ: I know people who are teaching that we Christians today are required to observe the feasts and ceremonial holidays that the Jews in the Old Testament observed? Is that true?

Although that idea is not prevalent in what is known as mainstream, evangelical Christianity, it is prominent in “Messianic Judaism” and in certain other groups today. As usual, when it comes to the only source of truth regarding spiritual matters, we must ask “What does the Bible say?” But that vital question needs a qualifier: To whom?

The question must be: “What does the Bible say to christians?” Why? Because what God now says to Christians is in many respects different than what He said to the Jews of the Old Testament. The sad news is that too few Christians understand the differences, and, as a result, many are unnecessarily trying to live according to directives given by God to other people at other times. This leads at best to confusion about the things of God, and at worst to spiritual and emotional bondage.

And, as is so often the case in examining a biblical issue, we must consider the critically important subject of the administrations in Scripture. Unless we understand what parts of God’s Word are written to Jews, what parts are written to Gentiles, and what parts are written to Christians, we can neither understand nor apply its truths in our daily lives.

We are currently living in what the Bible calls the “Administration of the Sacred Secret” (Eph. 3:9), which began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1 and following) and will conclude with the Rapture of the Church (all living and dead Christians meeting the Lord in the air—1 Thess. 4:13-18). The primary curriculum for Christians (i.e., people born again of God’s incorruptible seed by adherence to Romans 10:9) is found in the Church Epistles: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 & 2 Thessalonians. It is there that we must look to find God’s specific directions for us today.

When it comes to which parts of the Bible are written to whom, we must be sensitive to exactly “whom” is being addressed. Is it a group, such as Israel, Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the Babylonians, or the Christians, or is it to an individual, such as David, Solomon, Mary, or Paul? If we are ever going to separate what is written to us from what is written to others, we must first of all be aware that not everything in the Bible is written to us or even applies to us, and secondly, pay attention to what is written to whom. When it comes to the Church Epistles, they are written to Christians, those born again of the spirit of God, something that was not available to Old Testament believers because they lived prior to the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and his subsequent exaltation as Lord.

Most folks readily see that the Old Testament is primarily regarding Israel, but what about the Four Gospels? Despite what most Christians today have been taught, Jesus was speaking to Jews, not Christians, because there were no Christians until the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. That is the first time anyone was “born again” of God’s spirit, His incorruptible seed. And there will be no Christians after the Rapture. As such, today’s “Administration of the Sacred Secret” (Pentecost until the Rapture) is the most unique time in history.

As the promised Messiah whose coming was heralded throughout the Old Testament, Jesus came to Israel, and, as he said, his message was specifically to them. Certain things, e.g., Luke 6:38 (“Give, and it shall be given to you…”), are pertinent to us today, but most of what he said is directly regarding Israel, and based upon what is written in the Old Testament, which is all they could understand. Much of that which was specifically addressed to Israel was superseded or changed in the Church Epistles, which are written specifically to Christians. “Uh-oh,” some people say, “you’re placing the words of Paul above the words of Jesus.” No, the Church Epistles are also the words of Jesus, as per Galatians 1:11. The question is: to whom was Jesus speaking?

The Greek word oikonomia appears nine times in the New Testament, and is best translated “administration,” that is, a way in which God relates to mankind, the “rules and regulations,” if you will, for the people on earth during a particular time. Let the record show that God is very clear in His communication to people about what He expects from them in each administration. This is much like presidential administrations in the USA. When a new president is inaugurated, some things remain the same and other things change, depending upon his decisions as to how things will be during his presidency. Then people choose whether or not to adhere to the rules.

It was during the administration of the Law (Exod. 20:1—Acts 1:26) that Jesus first came to the earth to Israel. He was born, lived, died, was resurrected, instructed his disciples about the coming gift of holy spirit, and ascended to heaven. As a Jew, he kept the ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic Law by observing the Sabbath, keeping the feasts of Israel, etc. But look at the instructions the Lord Jesus gave to Paul for the Christian Church:

Colossians 2:16 and 17
(16) Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
(17) These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

In Colossians, the “you” is those born again of God’s holy spirit, for whom no such holiday observance is ever prescribed. In fact, the above verses are saying that there is no such thing that is relevant to the Church, the Body of Christ, Christians. Do the Church Epistles say that Christians should get together with others and celebrate, sing, praise, worship, pray, minister, hear the Word—and eat? Absolutely. But there is no prescribed day—or way.

Consider this: if Christians are to keep the feasts of Judaism, should they not keep the whole Law? In Galatians 5:3, Paul says just that, substituting “circumcision” as the part of the Law in question. Take a good look at verses 1-15 in order to get the whole context, and to see what Paul (writing by revelation from Jesus Christ) thinks about Christians being put under any part of the old Mosaic Law. If we are to keep the feasts, what about animal sacrifices to worship God? No, Christians are not required to keep these laws.

The epistle to the Hebrews is one of the earlier epistles, and was written primarily to ex-Jewish Christians, many of whom were still clinging to their old ways. In Hebrews 7-10, God works hard to show them that the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law were no longer applicable. For example: (7:18 and 19) “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless, (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God;” (9:9 and 10) “[The Tabernacle was] an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order;” (10:1) “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—and not the realities themselves…” Amen.

Some Christians who do not understand the administrations in Scripture, and who thus believe we should observe the Jewish feasts, etc., cite Matthew 5:17-19, where Jesus said that he had not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. First, to whom was he speaking? Jews. The Mosaic Law never did have anything to do with Christians. A key phrase in what Jesus said in Matthew 5:18 is that nothing would disappear from the Law “until everything is accomplished.” Jesus did accomplish everything he needed to relative to the Levitical Law, and that is why it is no longer in effect. Today, we have no Temple, no Levites, no Aaronite priests, no animal sacrifices, etc. For both Jews and Gentiles, adhering to Romans 10:9 is the only way to salvation. When either does so, he is then “neither Jew nor Gentile” (Gal. 3:28), but a Christian, a member of the Body of Christ.

Remember Hebrews 10:1 (above)? The Law was not the reality to which God looked forward. Then remember what Colossians 2:17 said about the festivals and holidays? “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” In that light, consider the following verses:

1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NKJV)
(6) Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
(7) 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.
(8) 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.

What’s the point? That because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, and his giving the gift of holy spirit on the Day of Pentecost, believers today (“Christians”) are unique in the annals of spiritual history. If you have made Jesus Christ your Lord and believed that God raised him from the dead, you are born again of God’s spirit and forever righteous in His sight. in Christ, you have been cleansed of sin from the inside out. The Redeemer to whom the Old Testament feasts and rituals pointed now lives in your heart. There is no ritual or work you need to do in order to stand approved before your heavenly Father. Knowing your standing as a son of God should make every day worth celebrating!

31 comments

  1. We have the 4 blood moons coming up in the next 2 yrs starting with the first one on 4/15/14. They are said to be a “big deal” because they fall on Jewish holidays. Do these biblical holidays still mean anything to God and would he still use them for a sign as suggested by some when referring to the 4 blood moons?

  2. should we follow easter

    1. We should not celebrate pagan feasts like Easter. We should celebrate the Feasts of Israel, which would be Passover and in place of Easter it would be First Fruits, Jesus being the “First Fruits from the grave.”

      1. Using words like “should” and “should not” completely nullifies Colossians 2:16-17. Just sayin.

  3. Got the notice of the teachings on the Feasts via Facebook. Have gone through session 6. I gather that the rest will come later. Also looked at the notes.

    I have practiced, off and on, Judaism (also was an Advanced Class Grad) over the years. I started seeing the parallels to Christianity several years ago. The Spring feasts (Passover, Unleaven Bread, First Fruits and Weeks) most Christians get. What they do not understand is that the spring was for planting. Then comes a long growing season followed by the Harvest. We are now in the growing season, the summer. Soon will come Harvest. By Jewish tradition (as commented in your notes), Rosh HaShonnah is the beginning of harvest, the day that we are judged. Yet the judgement does not come at that time but 10 days later (like the period of the Tribulation) with the day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Even then in Jewish tradition judgement can be put aside during the Feast of Booths (Sukkot, which is like the Messianic Era or Millennium).

    I have been drawn to doing the Feasts, sensing that it is closer to 1st century Christianity than much of the pagan traditions that make up current Christianity.

    One thing, the first 500 years of the Church was a corruption by paganism followed by a 1000 years under the Catholic/Orthodox churches. But the last 500 years G-D has been drawing us back. We are close to seeing the 1st century church alive in the 21st century. I believe is is because G-D just wanted to thumb his nose at the Adversary (HaSatan), saying “I did it in spite of you!”

    1. Greg Dean Well said! Shalom

  4. Even though we are no longer required to observe the feasts does that mean we are not free under grace to do so? And if so would not our participation in such feasts bring us deeper revelation of the person of Christ of whom the feastse point to. In other words can we get to know Him better by observing the feasts under grace?

    1. Hi Michael, Yes, we are free to observe the Feasts and there dis nothing wrong with doing so. In fact, there is great benefit to observing the Feasts because they remind us of God’s plan of redemption and the timeline. Consider listen to our teachings on the Feasts at http://www.stfpodcast.com/File/feb2014_feasts_of_israel.mp3

      1. Thank you for such good information…… I have a problem with people saying that we are under the law!!!!!! After what Christ did on the cross….and we are going to bound ourselves and not be free by His shed blood!!!!!! The hold conclusion of the matter is Jesus died for all…..and accepting him and believing on His name is it!!!!!! The rest of what has to be said does not matter!!!! People make it more difficult than it is!!!!!!!! ……… I’m like The Apostle Paul all I know is Jesus and him crucified !!!!!!!!! I will continue to pray…….. Like the scriptures say …. In the last days men will be ever learning knowledge and never coming into the truth!!!!! Amen……. To God be the glory!!!!!!!

        1. I like what someone already said here…we are FREE to observe the feasts, or to NOT observe them.

      2. Very helpful! Thank you! I have been so concerned about my family who no longer keep the seventh day Sabbath or holy days, and we are so clearly living in THE last days!

        Also, the church I belong to does NOT believe in the rapture, but with study, it has become so clear to me that we CAN expect Him to come in the clouds ANY time, now!

        Any clarification would be much appreciated! I use the KJV and Strong’s Concordance, and E-Sword online for my study. Thank you.

        Sincerely,
        Virginia

  5. I have Christian satelite programs from the states, and its disturbing how many , and not just those who at least call them selfs Messanic Christians but those others who claim to be born again spirit filled Christians are teaching feast days. And it is all in getting people to send in money and prayer request .

  6. But what if some insist on being under the written Laws like some of the Galatians did and others? Well, I will let the Apostle Paul answer that at Galatians 1: 1 ” For such freedom Jesus set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.
    ( the Law of Moses all 600 +)
    (2) See! I, Paul, am telling You that if You become circumcised, Jesus will be of no benefit to You.(That was one of the laws nailed to the cross)
    (3) Moreover, I bear witness again to every man getting circumcised that he is under obligation (then) to perform the whole Law! (4) (That would mean the keeping of the sabbath too!) You are parted from Jesus, whoever You are that tries to be declared righteous by means of law !
    You have fallen away from his undeserved kindness. (5) For our part, we by spirit are eagerly awaiting for the hoped for righteousness as a result of faith. (6) For as regards Jesus neither circumcision is of any value nor is uncircumcision, but faith operating through Love is. ~ John 3: 16 ~
    Be happy we are no longer under the Mosaic laws, especially the sabbath law!
    If we were still under the Mosaic laws we would be stoned to death if we did not keep the sabbath. Because Jesus healed the sick and the lame on the sabbath the Pharisees were highly critical of him. ~ Exodus 31: 14; Numbers 15: 32-35 ~
    We are not under any handwritten laws and God writes on hearts in these last days. In the New Testament there are many restating of the moral laws we are to keep, but no where does it show that the sabbath was restated. Hebrews 8: 10 ” For this is the covenant that I shall covenant with the house of Israel after those days, says the Only True God, (Jehovah/Yahweh) ” I will put My laws in their mind, and in their hearts I shall write them. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become My people.” We get them daily from the Spirit of Truth when we are studying and praying.
    2nd Corinthians 3: 3 ” For you are shown to be a letter of Jesus written by us as ministers inscribed not with ink, but with the Spirit of a Living God, not on stone tablets, but on fleshly tablets, on hearts.”
    Jesus set me free from the handwritten laws and the Apostle Paul makes it clear that if you want to put yourself back under a yoke of slavery, then Jesus ‘ sacrifice for your sins meant nothing. Our little congregation called The Way only recognizes and observes the instituting of the New Covenant that Jesus brought in with the Lords evening meal.
    Matthew 26: 26 ~

  7. Thank you for the information it was very enlightening. I have a couple of questions: What is your view on tithing, marriage, divorce, and remarriage according to the bible? Are the Ten Commandments in effect today for Christians? Have you ever heard of a 501(c) 3?

    1. A 501 (c) 3 is a section of the US IRS code that defines what is a not for profit, specifically as a church. You do not need that to be a church. Having compliance with that section merely indicates the IRS recognizes you as a church.

  8. Galatians 4vs 9-11 speaks of observing feasts etc in vain. My friend is a Christian and says God gives blessing to those who do observe them. She is constantly busy doing a feast day, fasting, Sader meals, no work just going about all the feasts and etc. She says I’m pagan to have a tree on Christmas. I don’t worship a tree and Easter in our family is about the Jesus rising from the grave. She seems to be all about works and I just want to witness when an opportunity is there. That is what the lord said to do. The Jewish feasts and holidays do have meaning of what was coming and are fulfilled in Jesus. I see Paul showing us the church and how it was to be run. No where do I see feasts and holy days observed, except the Lords Supper to remember him and what he did for our salvation and freedom from sin.

  9. Thank you so much. Very well said and easy to understand. I now understand the “Administration” Christians are in today and what is relevant to us as of right now. God bless you for your thorough study and for making the truth so plain to see!

  10. but doesn’t God say these are my feasts days, they are his not man’s and if gentiles are grafted into the jew shouldn’t they keep all god’s holy days and the Sabbath.

    1. They are the “appointed times” that God gave to Israel to instruct them about His plan for redemption. The New Testament make sit clear that these were a foreshadow pointing to Christ.

      Col 2:16-17 NIV Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
      17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

      Christ has fulfilled the levitical requirements pertaining to the sacrifices necessary for sin, etc. This is why we are not under any obligation to keep the feasts as Colossians says above. This is the day of the “New Covenant” which replace the Old Covenant that you are trying to live under.

      1. colossians 2:16-17 is talking to people that were celebrating the feasts and keeping the Shabbat, paganism was infiltrating the church, that’s why he said to them don’t let anybody judge you because you feast or keep the Shabbat, this things are shadow of things that are coming, but the body is of the Messiah. ( I paraphrased it )
        Then verse 18 follows saying.- don’t let anyone deny you the prize by insisting that you engage in self mortification or angel-worship. such people are always going on about some vision they have had, and they vainly puff themselves up by their worldly outlook,
        read all the way to verse 23,
        See Paul celebrated the feasts, Paul kept the Shabbat, and in deed paganism infiltrated the church,

        1. Paul makes it clear in Galatians that we are freed from the Law, so why would you want to go back under it? “Oh foolish Galatians (Christian) who has bewitched you…” Do not set aside the grace of God by going back under the Law.

  11. Dan, I have recently been “put away” by one of my dearest friends because I don’t actually celebrate the feasts. In my attempt to understand, I stumbled on a teaching by Mark Biltz in which he states that the ten virgins are all Christians, but that the five wise practice the feasts & therefore will be raptured, while the five foolish do not & so will go through the tribulation. But then joyfully adds that it’s ok because all ten will eventually enter heaven………I find, given the “stage of labor” we are currently in & the signs that are almost daily being opened to us (i.e. Revelation 12:1-5, etc.), Mark Biltz’s teaching disturbing at best. It actually led me to discovery of this article by you &, though still not completely satisfied, am going to explore the links you posted for others here. Thoughts please?

    1. Hi Katherine, Thanks for writng and very good comments. There is great confusion among Christians, and I although I know of Mark Blitz and his writings, I don’t feel I can give a proper critique of his positions since I don’t really follow him or his line of thinking. I think one of the greatest sources of confusion is that people continue to fail to understand the NEw COvenant, the one Jesus established that superceededs the Moasaic Covenant ( a covenant only for the nation of Isreal and the covenant which details the Feasts and requires them to be followed). We are now under a New Covenant, and it is called the “New” covenant because it truly is new. Actually, the discontinuity between the new and old covenants is greater than the continuity. When we become members of the New COvenant we recieve the complete forgiveness of sin becaue Christ completely fulfilled the requirements of sacraifce for sin once and for all time. There is so much that can be said about this and literally would fill a book, The bottom line is the Mosaic Covenant, and all its sacraficial and ritual observations, including the Feasts, do not pertain to us> People were required to do them becaue it demonstrated their faith )loya=lty and allegiance) to Yahweh. We now do that by our faith in Christ (our one time confession and our continue loyatly and alegiance) and by following the greater law, the royal law–the Law of Love.

  12. In addition, we are free from the law of sin and death once we become one with Christ. And not the law of God. Paul makes that very clear in Acts.

    1. Yes, Jesus conquered death and ultimately we are free of it. It is an “already but not yet” situation. I’m sure you understand that Christians still die.

  13. Galatians 3 is what you are reading from. Read all the he way down to vers 11 so you can read that verse in context.

    Verse 11 Says, cursed is every one that continueth not in the things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

    This is the same chapter you reference where Paul calls the Galatians foolish. He calls them foolish for believing you are saved by keeping the law instead of faith.

    With this said, no where does it call anyone foolish for following the law. Read down to the end.

    1. Your reply shows that you really do not understand the greatness of hte New Covenant. Jesus and God called it a “New” covenant becaue it truly is NEW. and it replaces the Old Covenant., the Mosaic covenant. Now we have the law writtenupon our hearts. I tis called the law of love.

  14. What are all of the feasts that a Christians are to observe.

  15. As an x JehovahsWitness I didn’t have real faith in jesus I really want him to be my lord and Saviour. I have prayed and prayed studied the bible and asked God for the gift of faith for many years but I still have doubts. Is it too late for me. I feel condemned. thank you your great bible teaching. I asked to help be complete in my faith.

  16. Thank you for these explanation, kindly explicit Christmas and Easter in lieu of Biblical context.

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