Is Church Festivals are Biblical?
Ann: Hello pastor, How are you? I have not seen you for a long long time.
Pastor: We have a ministry in another state and I have been there. Praise the Lord. I returned only two days back. I rejoice in Christ there.
Ann: It is hot outside. What would you like to drink?( Ann gives a coke to drink)
Pastor: I came yesterday to talk to you. But I was told that you had gone for the church festival. How was it ? Was it in grandeur scale ?
Ann: It was not in grandeur scale. But it was a blessed one. Three Bishops attended it. It was our Jubilee. Why are you laughing?
Pastor: Nothing really! Praise the Lord. I know you have some Biblical knowledge. So why do you believe in this …..?
Ann: What do you mean?
Pastor: See, I was asking, if it is Biblical to celebrate these festivals and so forth. We – sons of God – will not accept the traditions of the Church Fathers or canons, but just the Bible.
Ann: A person like you has lots of Biblical knowledge. Still you doubt the validity of a festival ? That is surprising.
Pastor: Praise the Lord. We are anointed in Holy Spirit. Basis of our life is the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will live accordingly. But the church festivals are not biblical and so we won’t celebrate it.
Ann: So what you are telling me is that there is no evidence for festivals in the Bible. Had there been any, you would have celebrated also. Is this correct?
Pastor: Yes. Praise the Lord. Do you know why we are given the Bible by God? To learn and live according to it. Then you will be saved, anointed and will rejoice with our Lord. For salvation, if it had been enough for some traditions, or canons or these festivals, then why did our Lord give us the Bible. I know that you know all these things. Therefore you should not follow these ill-practices. So I request you to in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, to come into our fellowship.
Ann: let us look at what the Bible witness regarding the festivals and fellowship. What does it mean by festival? It is an important day for the church.
Pastor: Every day is same for a Christian. Every day sun rises and sets. I don’t know why you want to give special importance to certain days?
Ann: If all days are the same, why did God bless the Sabbath day and make it holy? Besides it is written “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad “ ( Psalms 118:24)
Pastor: Oh Sabbath! That is the day God rested after creation. So the reference here is for only that day!
Ann: So you agree that at least one day is holy and important. Now I will describe the other festivals. Please refer to your Bible.
1. Our Lord said “Keep, then this custom of the unleavened bread. Since it was in this very day that I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt, you must celebrate this day through out your generations as a perpetual institution” (Exodus 12:14-17)
2. Festival of Pentecost – also known as The Feast of Weeks (Ex 34:22) or of Harvest (Ex 23;16) or Pentecost ( Acts 2;1)
3. The feast of Purim :”He (Mordecai) ordered to celebrate every year both the 14th and 15th of the month of Adar. They were to observe these days with fasting and gladness, sending gifts to the poor” ( Esther 9:21, 22)
4. New Years day – “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites: On the first day of the seventh month you shall keep a Sabbath rest, with sacred assembly and with the trumpet blasts as a reminder. You shall then do no sort of work and you shall offer an oblation to the LORD”
5. The feast of the Booths – “The LORD said to Moses. “Tell the Israelites: The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Lord’s feast of Booths”. Next few versus are a command from LORD how to observe it.
There are many festivals in the Bible. Then why are talking as if you have not heard or seen any of these?
Pastor: Yes Bible describes about some of these festivals
Ann: So, then why are you telling me that all days are the same and that we should not observe festivals and so on?
Pastor: See, these are all Old Testament festivals. Our Lord changed all those and gave us a new covenant. In that new covenant there are no festivals. That is what I said.
Ann: Really? Our Lord Himself said that “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mathew 5:17,18) . Besides our GOD commanded us to observe those festivals for “generations as a perpetual institution” not by some generations. So some days are important and we have to observe festivals. Therefore you have to agree that these are Biblical too. Please read John 7:8Pastor: “You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast because my time has not yet been fulfilled.” See it proves I am correct. He told this to his disciples to go but He did not go . This is because He couldn’t participate in the ill-practices of the Jews!
Ann: If He felt that festivals are unnecessary or participating in festivals is not a good thing, our Lord would have asked His disciples not to participate in it. We have to think of our Lord better than that. Read the next verse.
Pastor: “But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up not openly but [as it were] in secret.”.
Ann: So it is clearly written that our Lord also went for the festival. Are you convinced now that festivals are according to the Bible?
Pastor: I cannot comment based on one or two sentences from the Bible. Much more thorough examination is required.
Ann: You are the one who did the thorough examination. Tell me, if there is a verse in the Bible which says that there should not be any festivals or that we should not participate in one? But on the contrary there are Biblical verses to prove that celebration of festivals are as per God’s commands and that the Jewish Church and our Lord too celebrated festivals. What do you say now?
Pastor: Bible talks about festivals. But they were all Old Testament festivals
Ann: Was Passover a festival?
Pastor: It was a Jewish festival.
Ann: Did our Lord and His disciples celebrated that festival?Pastor : Yes, they did
Ann: Isn’t there a God’s command that “you must celebrate this day throughout your generations as a perpetual institution” ? Isn’t this according to the Bible? Didn’t our Lord too obey this command? Isn’t it by celebrating this festival that our Lord established Holy Communion which is the New Testament Passover?
Pastor: It is not mandatory that this Old Testament festival be celebrated in the Christian church.
Ann: Why do you say so? What is the proof for your argument? God has established the Passover and has commanded that “you must celebrate this day throughout your generations as a perpetual institution”. Our Lord Jesus Christ renewed this festival and commanded us to celebrate this festival till the end of ages when He will come back. Now think of it. Our Lord said celebrate it. You are saying ‘No,it is not necessary’. Pastor, why are you talking like this against the Bible and against the commands of our Lord?
Pastor: What I said is that the New Testament does not have any thing about festivals.
Ann: Lord Jesus Christ went for the festival and sent His disciples also for the festivals. Aren’t all these in the New Testament? Is Apostle Paul a New Testament person?
Pastor: Yes. But he has not asked as to celebrate festivals.
Ann: Oh, I see. He has only shown us by celebrating festivals. (Remember he also said that we should do everything that he taught orally or by letter or by observing him). ““ Pastor : (reads ) “ Paul had decided to sail past Ephessus in order not to lose time in the province of Asia, for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if at all possible, for the day of Pentecost. “
Ann: Is any more proof required in support of celebration of festivals? Apostles Paul regarded so highly about festivals. These are simple straight versus that do not require any explanations. In Acts 21:17-26, we can see that Apostle Paul took four people who had taken a vow, to the Jerusalem to offer sacrifices and offerings.
Pastor: Do we have more evidences about festivals?
Ann: Lots of them. Read Acts 20:6
Pastor : “We sailed from Philippi after the Feast of the Unleavened Bread”.
Ann : This is the festival of the Passover. He said that he would start sailing only after the festival of the Passover. He celebrated the festival with such reverence, faith and passion. “I shall stay in Ephesus until Pentecost” ( 1 Cori 16:8). This is a proof that Apostle Paul celebrated the festival of Pentecost with reverence. Acts 24:17 says that Apostle Paul gave offerings and sacrifices.
Pastor : Enough, Enough, I got to go. I have to be some where.
Ann: Don’t be in a hurry. Wait for a few more minutes. You came here to examine the Bible and to invite me into your fellowship. Pentecost is the day in which the Holy Spirit descended from heaven and dwelled on the disciples. Your church has accepted the name of that important day. These are all New Testament incidences. So are you convinced that all these are as per the Bible?
Pastor: See, you are celebrating as festivals, the death anniversary of certain church fathers who are dead? Any Biblical evidence for this? Praise the Lord.
Ann: Ok, for example we celebrate the death of St. Ignatius as our church festival. Do you believe that he was a saint?
Pastor: Yes. He was really a saintAnn: Read Proverbs 10:7 “The memory of the just will be blessed”. It is for this blessing that we celebrate the festival of St. Ignatius. We also celebrate the festivals of other saints also.(Pastor takes the Bible and stands up)Pastor: Ann, not any more today. I am really busy … I will come later.
Ann: Psalm 112:6 says “the just shall be remembered for ever”. So to remember the just in God’s presence and celebrate their memory is really God’s command. All the faith and practices of the of Malankara Orthodox church is as per the Bible. But you have to learn it. Remember that this church was in existence for more than 1960 years.(Pastor says bye and leaves)
________________________________________ Please refer Helps to the study of Bible, Oxford (Page 338) gives list of festivals in Old Testament Feast of Booths: The joyful observance of the vintage and fruit harvest. During the seven days of the fest the Israelites camped in booths of branches erected on the roofs of their houses or in the streets in commemoration of their wanderings in the desert where they dwelt in booths “Amen, I say to you ,until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But who ever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven “ (Mat 5:18-19). “Paul rushed saying “I must by all means celebrate the coming feast as is my custom at Jerusalem” (Peshetta Bible) Passover – Commemorated the redemption from slavery and the departure of Israelites from Egypt by night.