Question: I have a friend who keeps insisting that it is necessary for me to keep the Old Testament feasts of the Jews. They also keep the Saturday Sabbath. It is said that the early church kept the Sabbath, Gentiles and Jews together. Many times we read that Paul wanted to return to Jerusalem to keep the feasts. In the Millenium, Zechariah 14 verses 16-21 says that any nation that does not keep the Feast of Tabernacles will be punished and not receive rain. If all these things are merely meanings and symbols, why does the Lord then re-institute them at the end of time?
Response: We have addressed the issue of the Sabbath for believers in past issues of the newsletter. Several seminar ministries make a point of offering a large sum of money for one verse in the New Testament stating that Sunday worship was exchanged for the Sabbath. They might as well offer the same sum of money for one verse proving that Gentile believers are required to keep the Sabbath and Jewish feasts. Both positions are equally secure. In contrast, during what some have called the first church council, the question came up as to whether or not Gentile believers should keep the law: "Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment..." (Acts:15:24). This same thought is in Acts:21:24-25.
Further, we need to realize that we are Abraham's seed. That is the point, as the Law was not given to Abraham, something the book of Galatians makes quite clear. The law was given 430 years after Abraham. The Law was temporary (Gal:3:24-25), the promise to Abraham was eternal: "And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise" (Gal:3:17-18).
Galatians itself was written by Paul to instruct us that the "law was our schoolmaster [or teacher] to bring us unto Christ..." (Gal:3:24) and that "after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (v. 25). Although given by God, in view of its temporary nature Paul said, "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" (Gal:4:9).
The Law, which the Lord calls "good," "holy," "just," "praiseworthy," and other positive adjectives, is also called "weak and beggarly." In Colossians 2, the law (including the Sabbath and the feasts), are said to be a "shadow." The Law is portrayed in a negative manner because Paul is making a comparison. The Law, with all its implications, types, shadows, and facets, was designed to bring us to Christ. Compared to the finished work of Christ, however, it is weak and beggarly. In Galatians, Paul compares Mt.Sinai (where the law was given) to Hagar, the concubine with whom Abraham had a child. This portrays the works of the flesh and "gendereth to bondage." But "Jerusalem which is above" (speaking of the finished work of Christ), "is free."
To insist on keeping the law is to be like someone with a photo of his fiancée, who only looks at the picture, when in fact she has arrived and is sitting there with him. To continue looking at the photograph instead of at the actual person is to turn aside to "weak and beggarly" elements.
It is disappointing to see unsupported generalizations: "many times Paul wanted to return to keep the feasts." According to Scripture, this is an exaggeration. There is no evidence that Paul (a Jew) urged Gentiles to keep the feasts. Paul had purposed to go to Jerusalem but not at the express leading of the Lord, for the disciples at Tyre (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem (Acts:21:4).
The New Testament is full of euphemistic statements. We see this in Paul's use of "the letter" (which kills - 2 Cor:3:6) to describe those who take a legalistic approach to the Scriptures. We see this when the Apostle Paul exhorts us to "keep the feast" (1 Cor:5:8), which some have used as presumed support for keeping the Old Testament feasts. We have already noted the conclusion of Acts:15:24 and Acts:21:24-25.