Summary: Should Christians have a worship calendar? Should we use the worship calendar from ancient Israel? How can we celebrate great events of Christ’s ministry?
Should Christians have a worship calendar? Should we use the worship calendar from ancient Israel? How can we celebrate great events of Christ’s ministry? Purpose: Let’s look at principles of a worship calendar. Plan: We’ll discuss Leviticus 23, Romans 14 and the Christian worship calendar.
Leviticus 23 Worship Calendar
Leviticus 23 was Israel’s annual worship calendar. Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread commemorated the Exodus, foreshadowing the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world. 50 days later, Pentecost remembered the law and foreshadowed the law written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The blowing of Trumpets pictured judgment, announced a special assembly and foreshadowed the Second Coming of Christ. The Day of Atonement was a fast day for the cleansing of sins and reconciliation with God. The Feast of Tabernacles reminded Israel of the 40 years wandering, foreshadows the final harvest of souls and Jesus who tabernacled with us, by coming in the flesh.
Romans 14 Calendar Choices
Romans 14:5-6, 10, 13 gives principles about worship days. “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it… But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ… Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
Judaizing and Romanizing
Judaizing was an attempt by Jewish converts to enforce Jewish traditions upon Gentiles (Galatians 2:14). It made things such as circumcision, worship days and dietary requirements prerequisites to salvation. One could argue that Romanizing did the exact same thing from a Gentile point of view, making Roman Christian traditions prerequisites to salvation. Romans 14 helps us understand that we have freedom to eat as we choose, and set aside worship days of our choice, and we may not boss others around by our worship preferences. As the Hebrew calendar celebrated ancient events, so Christian calendars celebrate the life of Christ, but any such days are not mandated for the Church.
Easter and Passover
Easter is Passover in most languages. Early Christians continued celebrating the 14th day of the first month, but it could occur on any day of the week. Some preferred Thursday through Sunday, the same days of the week each year. Rather than tolerating both opinions, division and the “Quartodeciman Controversy” occurred. The principles of Romans 14 allowed a change of observance, even including our current Easter calendar. Some few Christians still observe the Hebrew calendar and they are free in Christ to do so. Mandating either is contrary to Paul’s instructions in Romans 14. Christians prefer highlighting, in their celebrations, the Resurrection of our Lord, and that is a good thing.
Pentecost is 50 days from the Sunday during Passover. A “sheaf of the firstfruits” (Leviticus 23:10) hinted at Easter Sunday and “firstfruits to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:20) were also offered on Pentecost. Pentecost is also the Feast of Weeks, counting seven weeks, and “the day of the firstfruits” (Numbers 28:26). Firstfruits pictures “Christ the firstfruits” (1 Corinthians 15:23) and we “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:23). Pentecost celebrates the giving of the law on Mount Sinai and the law being written on men’s hearts through coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2; Jeremiah 31:33; Romans 2:15; Hebrews 8:10; 10:16).
Tabernacles and Christmas
The Spring festivals commemorated Christ’s first coming and Autumn festivals prepared for His Second Coming. The “memorial of blowing of trumpets” announced “a holy convocation.” (Leviticus 23:24) The ram’s horn announced an alarm or a celebration. (Numbers 10:9) Trumpets announce Jesus’ return (Matthew 24:31; I Corinthians 15:52; I Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 8). The Day of Atonement pictures reconciliation through the cross and resurrection (Romans 5:11). The Feast of Tabernacles pictures our earthly abode as a temporary dwelling and our hope of a permanent abode with God (2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:1; Psalm 103:15-16). Interestingly, Christmas celebrates when God tabernacled with us in Christ.
Some Christians celebrate great events and heroes of our faith every week of the year, while others only celebrate the three major seasons. Romans 14 gives us permission to celebrate various alternative worship days. The most important thing is that we do worship God and not judge between our various traditions. “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’” (Romans 14:10-11)