"THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" The Danger Of Religious Holidays (4:8-11) INTRODUCTION 1. The observance of holidays is a common feature in many religions... a. Judaism and Islam have their many feast days and holy days b. Catholicism and Protestantism are known for their holidays like Christmas and Easter 2. Holidays in New Testament Christianity, on the other hand, are strikingly absent... a. The church did assemble on the Lord's Day (Sunday) to observe the Lord's Supper b. But there is no record of celebrating any holiday like Christmas, Easter, Lent, etc. 3. In fact, Christians were warned regarding religious holidays... a. Not to let others judge them regarding their observance - Col 2: 16-17 b. Concern was expressed regarding those who observed them - Ga 4: 10-11 4. One might wonder regarding the New Testament and religious holidays... a. Why didn't the early church observe such holidays? b. Why was Paul concerned about their observance? c. Are there circumstances when Christians might observe religious holidays? [To answer such questions, let's take a closer look at Ga 4:8-10 where we learn...] I. THEY CAN ENDANGER OUR LIBERTY IN CHRIST A. THEY ARE WEAK AND BEGGARLY ELEMENTS OF RELIGION... 1. Paul refers to rites and ceremonies, such as found in Judaism and paganism a. He has in mind those who have come out of paganism - Ga 4: 8-9 b. Who evidently were being encouraged to observe elements of Judaism - Ga 4:10 2. Mentioned specifically were those found in the Law of Moses - Ga 4:10 a. Days - e.g., the Sabbath b. Months - e.g., the new moons c. Seasons - e.g., festivals like the Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, Pentecost d. Years - e.g., annual atonement, sabbatical years, jubilees 3. They are described as weak and beggarly elements - Ga 4:9 a. Weak - powerless to save the soul or justify the sinner - cf. Col 2:20-23 b. Beggarly - unable to impart true spiritual riches
- cf. Ep 1:3 c. Elements - rudimentary, designed to be replaced - cf. Col 2: 16-17; He 9:9-10 -- Religious days, like other elements of the Law of Moses, were carnal ordinances designed to be replaced with a more spiritual form of worship - cf. Jn 4:20-24 B. THEY CAN BRING ONE INTO BONDAGE... 1. Those under the Law were under guard a. Like children under guardians and stewards - cf. Ga 3:23; 4: 1-2 b. In bondage to the elements of the world - cf. Ga 4:3 2. Those in Christ had been redeemed (set free) a. God sent His Son for this very purpose - cf. Ga 4:4-5 b. They had become sons and heirs - cf. Ga 4:6-7 -- Observing religious holidays can be a return to bondage, when Christ came to set us free! - Ga 4:9-10 [Many believe observing holy days enhances their faith, when in fact it can be a step backward from true spirituality! From Ga 4:11, we learn something else about the danger of religious holidays...] II. THEY CAN ENDANGER OUR SALVATION IN CHRIST A. APOSTASY IS POSSIBLE... 1. Otherwise, why would Paul be fearful? a. Doubtful over their condition? - Ga 4:11,20 b. Aware of the possibility of his own apostasy?
- cf. 1Co 9:27 2. The Bible teaches one can fall from grace a. In the book of Hebrews - He 12:15; cf. He 3:12-14 b. And in many other places - cf. Jn 15:2,6; 2Pe 2:20-22; 3: 17-18; Re 2:5 -- If we observe religious holidays based on the Law of Moses out of a sense of necessity for our salvation, then we have fallen from grace! - cf. Ga 5:4 B. WORSHIP CAN BE IN VAIN... 1. Paul described the vanity of "self-imposed religion" - cf. Co 2:20-23 a. Based on the commandments and ordinances of men b. Which were of no true value against the indulgence of the flesh 2. Jesus warned against vain worship - Mt 15:9 a. Such worship is based on doctrines commanded by men b. Especially when its observance displaces the commandment of God - cf. Mt 15:3-8 -- If we impose religious holidays through man-made traditions, then we offer worship that is in vain! [Perhaps we can see why observance of holy days was a major concern to Paul. But we should also note that he wrote of...] III. CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THEY MIGHT BE OBSERVED A. ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS... 1. Paul spoke of one observing a day above another - Ro 14:5-6 a. Likely a reference to the Sabbath Day b. But generic enough to refer to exalting any day above another for religious purposes c. In the context, it appears to have been something allowed a weak brother 2. Paul himself observed certain rites of Judaism a. He took vows, sought to attend the feasts in Jerusalem
- Ac 18:18,21; 20:16 b. On one occasion, he even helped the completion of a vow involving animal sacrifices, evidently to accommodate weaker brethren - Ac 21:17-26; cf. Num 6:1-20 -- Note carefully: these were things done on an individual basis, not as a work or the worship of the church B. AWARE OF CERTAIN LIMITATIONS... 1. They cannot save one, they cannot be done for the purpose of salvation a. This was the issue of the controversy in Antioch
- cf. Ac 15:1,5 b. This was Paul's point in Galatians - cf. Ga 5:4 2. They cannot be imposed on others a. This was the conclusion of council in Jerusalem - cf. Ac 15: 10-11 b. This was illustrated by Paul in Galatians - cf. Ga 2:3-5 -- Note carefully: this is why religious holidays should not be church functions: lest they leave the impression they are necessary, plus such functions are necessarily imposed on others CONCLUSION 1. Christians need to be careful about their liberty in Christ... - cf. Ga 5:1 a. Jewish Christians have been redeemed from the bondage of the Law b. Gentile Christians have been redeemed from the bondage of weak and beggarly elements 2. What liberty we have in Christ must be handled carefully...
- cf. Ga 5:13-16. a. We should be careful not to impose our liberty in ways that cause division b. We should progress to a higher plane of spirituality, not regress to carnal forms of religion What about your observance of religious holidays? If Paul wrote to you today, would he say: "I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain."...? - Ga 4:11