If God’s Holy Day Commandments Have Been Nailed to the Cross Why were the Apostles and the New Testament Church still observing them?
Seven weeks had passed since Christ died on the Cross. It is now time for that old Jewish Holy day called Pentecost; will the apostles observe it? We go to Acts 2:1 and find that right on time, the Apostles were where they should be, observing God’s chosen time for His Pentecostal feast and it’s after the Cross (Lev. 23:16-17). Christ had not told them any different, so why shouldn’t they? But now it became clear why Jesus told them to “… tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49 KJV throughout). Now the Holy Spirit has become available to all who believe, repent, and are baptized (Heb. 6:1-2).
With a great display of power, the New Testament Church has come, and on the very day and time that God had chosen from the beginning of time. Wouldn’t now be a good time to explain that those old Jewish holy days are no longer required since the Cross? But, search as we may, we find nothing.
The next mention of Pentecost is in Acts 20:16, where we find Paul determined to get to Jerusalem, if possible by Pentecost; but why the urgency? Was it because many Jews would be coming there to observe Pentecost so he could explain that those old Holy Day laws were now done away? We find the answer in Acts 24:11-14. Paul had been there about 12 days and had been accused by certain ones of causing a great stir by teaching against the law. He now stands in front of Felix the governor and was invited to speak in his defense: 11 “Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues nor in the city: 13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets”
Two things stand out in Paul’s statements. 1. The reason he went to Jerusalem was to worship on Pentecost. 2. To clarify that he very much believed in all things written in the law and the prophets.
Again Paul mentions Pentecost as a significant Biblical calendar event in his ministry when writing to the Corinthian Church. 7 “For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. 8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. 9 For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:7-9). Paul feels compelled to take advantage of this “open door” and explains why he isn’t coming at this time but intends to come later when he can spend more time with them.
Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread
1 “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people” (Acts 12:2-4). (The word “Easter” is a shameful mistranslation. The word should be Passover and is rendered so in virtually every other translation.) The rest of Acts 12 is an inspiring account of the Holy Spirit answering the church’s prayers for Peter and His miraculous release from prison. Indeed, this would indicate God’s approval of the church and Peter’s holding to the keeping of the Holy days.
In Acts 20:6, we read 6 “And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.” The “we” in this verse includes Paul, Luke, and at least six other Gentile Christians, as cited in verses 4-5, who kept the feast in Philippi.
Before we dismiss this verse as just an offhand reference to the Feast of Unleavened and not a participating observance, we should consider Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church where he states emphatically: 7 “Purge out therefore the old leaven that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore 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.” (1 Cor. 5:7-8).
The Corinthians observed the Days of Unleavened Bread but missed the spiritual aspect by tolerating an openly sinning member. Paul recognizes that they had physically removed the leavening from their lives (Exodus 12:15) but had glossed over the spiritual aspect. They were even proud of themselves for being so tolerant and understanding of sinning members, not realizing the danger that subjected their congregation to.
The Day of Atonement
It is now late in the year, Paul has appealed to Caesar and is on his way to Rome. We break into the narrative in Acts 27:9-11 9 “Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, 10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. 11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which Paul spoke.”
The rest of this exciting story proves Paul’s words to be prophetic, but our interest is in the fast that Luke mentioned in verse nine. Which fast was it? The fall feasts which fell in September or October included Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day (Lev. 23). But of those days, the only one that stipulates a fast is The Day of Atonement and was often referred to simply as “the fast.” It would seem logical that Luke himself and his implied readers observed this fast.
Luke mentions another feast in Acts 18:19-22. 19 “And he (Paul) came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; 21 But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus. 22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church. “Going up” was a common idiom used to indicate going to Jerusalem.
God’s Seventh Day Sabbath
Luke describes Paul’s events in Antioch in Acts 13:14: 14 “But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down.” When invited to speak, Paul gave an inspiring summary of the nation of Israel up to the crucifixion of Christ, summing up with the good news of salvation through Christ. Then we read 43 “Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 44 And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:43-44). Why didn’t Paul tell them that it was unnecessary to wait till the next Sabbath if the Sabbath was nailed to the Cross and has no authority now? The Sabbath is still recognized as God’s chosen day of rest.
Another Sabbath is mentioned in Acts 16:13 when at Philippi. 13 “And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a riverside, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.” Here we are shone that the Sabbath is observed even without being in a Synagogue.
Acts 17:2 2 “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.” Here we are reminded that Paul’s custom was to attend services in the synagogue on the Sabbath the same as Jesus (Luke 4:16). Shouldn’t it be your custom too?
While in Corinth, Paul went to the synagogue. 4 “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4).
Finally, we go to Colossians 2:16-17 and read: 16 “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a Holy Day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
Paul is telling us to let no man judge us of our Christian manners and activities, and he is also telling us who should judge us. But notice that the word “is” in verse 17 tends to confuse the meaning of just who is to judge us. However, the sentence now makes perfect sense if we remove “is,” which is not in the original Greek. The body of Christ is to judge us. And who is the body of Christ? We are told in Col 1:18 “18 And He (Christ) is the head of the body, the church; …” Also in Ephesians 1:22-23, “22 And hath put all things under His (Christ’s) feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is His body, …” So we are to let His body, church, do the judging.
But what was nailed to the Cross?
Let’s exam Colossians 2:14 and find out for ourselves. 14 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” The only ordinances that could be against us are the ones we have broken.
The word “handwriting” is translated from the Greek word “cheirographon.” It was an expression used of a document written by hand as in an IOU, a record of indebtedness. In plain English, it means it is our sins, our breaking of the law written down against us that was nailed to the Cross. Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:17-18. 17 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Since heaven and earth are still here, I believe His laws are still valid.
But aren’t we under the new covenant now with the law of grace replacing that old law of dos and don’ts? The only change God made between the old and new covenant is where He placed His statutes. They are the same laws and the same God, but man is given a heart to obey, read it for yourself (Jer. 31:31-33, Heb. 8:6-10, 10:16). Jesus said: if ye love me keep my commandments. His commandments are sure; they stand fast forever and ever and are done in truth and righteousness (Psalms 111:7-8). How long is forever?