Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 12, 1970
NUMBER 31, PAGE 2b-3

Holiday And Holy Days

Ronny E. Hinds

It would seem that at this time of the year it would be good for us to examine our views towards holidays and holy days. Certainly no Christian desirous of pleasing God would want to do anything that is contrary to the will of God. Therefore, it is important that we should be willing to study and investigate such things.

The two words "holiday" and "holy day" are the same form of holy day. Yet in our time they are completely different in meaning. In other words, "holiday" is not necessarily a "holy day." When we define "holiday" it has reference to that which has been set aside by civil government. When we refer to a "holy day" we have reference to that which is set aside by a religious body. 'Thus for some these days are merely holidays; for others they are both. It is important that we should keep this distinction in mind.

For the Christian there is no holy day. Under the law of Moses there were many special holy days to he observed. But the Christian knows that the law of Moses has been abolished (Colossians 2:14) and that such days are no longer binding upon mankind. Paul in writing to the Galatian churches, who evidently did not understand this fact about the old law, said "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain." (Galatians 4:10-11). Such days have been abolished for the Christian.

It might be argued by some that the first day of the week would now constitute the Christian's holy day. The first day of the week can in no sense of the word be called a holy day. Nowhere has God sanctified or set apart this day as holy as He did to the Sabbath. The only thing He has done to require certain "holy acts" (Lord's Supper and the contribution) to be done on this day. Holy acts do not make the day holy as singing in our "mid-week does not make that day holy.

But what about holidays? Take for example Independence Day (July 4). Here is a day that is nothing more than a civil holiday set aside by our government to remember our day of independence as a nation. As a citizen the Christian can observe such. But is this not also true of New Year's Day, Lincoln's and Washington's birthday, Labor Day and Veteran's Day? It is also to be noted that other days, such as Christmas, are also considered by many as nothing more than a holiday and not a holy day. Surely no one would argue that an atheist would consider it as a holy day! Can we not see that there can be other meanings to such days as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter than religious? Thus, to engage in harmless social gatherings and activities upon these days, without attaching a religious significance to them, is to observe them merely as a civil holiday.

With these thoughts in mind let us turn to the New Testament to see what is said there. In I Corinthians 9:20 we read, "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews..." So it is then that when Paul started out with a young Jew named Timothy to work among the Jews he took "and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters..." (Acts 16:3). On the other hand, when he took a young Gentile named Titus with him he refused. "But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour..." (Galatians 2:3-5). How then are we going to reconcile these differences in Paul's action?

In the mind of the apostle Paul circumcision was no longer of any religious significance but was merely a custom to observe if one so chose. He expressed it in these words: "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing" (I Corinthians 7:19). Thus he had Timothy circumcised to observe the custom of the day. But when certain false brethren tried to apply it as a religious obligation upon Titus, he refused.

It is in this way that the apostle became a Jew to the Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles. Paul knew that to observe such matters, that within themselves were not wrong, was one way in which he might gain the favor of others, and hopefully to lead them to Christ. To assume a position saying it was wrong to be circumcised at all times would have driven the Jews even further from the gospel. With the same attitude we need to approach Christmas. To take an extreme position that it is wrong to exchange presents, have a tree, etc., is to drive people from the truth. People in the world think we hold many unusual views already without having to accept unnecessary views. (Now, don't misinterpret these last several sentences and say that I am suggesting "giving in" or compromising with error. Of course, we must "obey God rather than men," but let us not bind what God has not. Read what I have said carefully and honestly, and make an effort to see my point). But if there were some who would make you observe it as a religious holy day, then, like Paul with Titus, we would have to refuse. A tree and presents within themselves are not wrong: it is the attaching of a religious significance to it. When we do not attach this religious element then we can observe it as we would any other civil holiday.

Let us point out some other passages. Read I Corinthians 10:23-33. Paul says that if we are invited by an unbeliever to a feast and we want to go, go! Do not worry or inquire as to whether the meat is from an idol sacrifice for to the Christian it makes no difference. But if one comes telling you it is such meat and by your eating you are showing agreement with idol worship then you must not eat. In other words, as long as there is no religious attachment — eat!

Jesus is often condemning the Jews for their washing of hands and human traditions (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13; Luke 11:37-39). But why did he condemn them? It was because they made them a religious responsibility. Surely no one would say that washing of hands and human tradition within themselves are wrong. We have many family and national traditions that are not wrong but it would be if we bound it upon the church to observe as a religious ordinance.

And, if this is not enough to make you think then try figuring out Paul's behavior in Acts 21:17-26. In this reference James and the elders tell Paul to purify himself so the law-keeping brethren might know that Paul keeps the the law. This Paul does! Now play with that one for awhile.

Finally, we would like to ask that if you think it is wrong to observe such, then why do you allow your boss to give you a day off work, perhaps a day with pay and perhaps even a Christmas bonus? Is this not token observance if you take the extreme view?

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