Easter, Lent, Christmas and other holidays not in the Bible - Feature Image
Posted On 03/13/2014

Easter, Lent, Christmas and other holidays not in the Bible


iStock_000015976881SmallIn our current series, Behind the Stained Glass, we are looking at what made the church what it is today. Religious holidays are the most significant long lasting traditions carried over from the ancient world. Some of them date back to as early as the 4th century. However, as passionately as they are observed, there is absolutely no reference to them in Scripture.

Just because it’s not in the Bible does not make something  bad. Obviously, there is no mention of churches meeting in a light industrial building (like we do at Life Bridge Church) having a Live Puppy Bowl to attract visitors or doing the Harlem Shake.

Not in the Bible

The following are holidays not even hinted about in the New Testament. The book of Acts covers several years of the first early church. Yet, there are no religious holidays practiced by the early Christians.

    • Lent: Lent has a long history. Its beginning dates back to the 4th century. It has evolved over the years. At times it has been a voluntary form and other times it a mandatory form of penance.
  • Easter: Easter was a tradition Christians in the 2nd & 3rd century began to observe during the Roman persecution of the church. However, the exact date it was to be observed on was debated. It wasn’t until the persecution lifted that the church made the date official.
  • Christmas: Christmas is even more of a stretch because it is not linked to the actually time of year Jesus was born. Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. This was  celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, and singing naked in the streets. As the Roman empire became more Christian, the church imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it.  Christian leaders succeeded in converting  large numbers of pagans to Christianity by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.

Is it wrong to observe these?

The answer to this is specifically spelled out in Romans 14:5-6:

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Easter, Christmas and Lent are perfect examples of this. Some find no need to observe them, yet have a devout belief in Christ. Others, consider it a vital part of their worship to Christ.
On the other hand, there are some warnings given in scripture about some teachings that lead people away from the gospel. In 1 Timothy 4:3-5, Paul warns Timothy about a group of false teachers in Ephesus.

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.  For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Here’s where the issue starts to matter. If someone is teaching that you must observe certain holidays as a requirement for salvation, then there is a problem. Salvation comes not by religious practice, but by faith in Christ alone.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesian 2:8

If your motivation for observing these holidays is simply a voluntary form of worship to you, then it is good. If, however, your motivation to celebrate is to earn salvation or God’s favor, then the observance of the holiday is not beneficial. As with everything it comes down to the motivation of your heart. Fasting, for example, makes sense if it is a sincere effort to deny yourself the physical things so that you can focus on spiritual things. If, on the other hand, fasting is an attempt to make God answer your prayers, this just isn’t how a relationship with God works.
 
 

About The Author

Grant Agler

Teaching Pastor/Communications Champion Central

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Grant is our resident farmboy. He grew up in the cornfields of northwest Nebraska. He spent his early days living far from God. As Grant says, "I gave God the middle finger and didn't really care about faith at all." As a young man, he became convinced that God was real. He gave his life to Jesus and experienced God's amazing grace that previously made no sense to him. After experiencing that grace, Grant felt God calling him to teach the message of the gospel. Over the past 20 years, he has been preaching and teaching. Grant, his wife, Bethany, and their four children moved to Michigan in 2011, and he joined the 2|42 team in 2019. Grant is always good for a laugh, but more importantly, he explains biblical concepts in ways anyone can understand.
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