And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 16, Number
In this issue:
April 27 - May 2, 2014
lessons nightly, Mon-Fri at 7:00 PM
Sunday Bible Class: Faith Learned Early
Joe R. Price
The dilemma is not that Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion (Lk. 24:1-12). Nor is there a problem in assessing his resurrection as the keystone of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:12-19). There is no dilemma in appreciating that Christ’s resurrection assures the future resurrection of everyone (1 Cor. 15:20-22). The dilemma is this: Since the New Testament never speaks of an Easter celebration, how do those who profess belief in the Bible justify observing Easter in honor of Christ’s resurrection without giving up their claim of believing and following the Bible as the word of God?
The Scriptures are Silent
Bible believers hold the Scriptures to be inspired of God and thoroughly adequate to equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If an annual Easter festival to celebrate Christ’s resurrection is approved by God such a commemoration will be found in His Scriptures. It is not there. Please understand that belief in the resurrection of Jesus and the celebration of Easter are not the same things. Early Christians firmly believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and so do we (1 Cor. 15:4, 12-20; Matt. 28:6; Rom. 4:25). But, an annual Easter celebration was unknown to the early Christians. It was not instituted by Christ or by His apostles. The King James Version of Acts 12:4 mistranslated pascha as “Easter”, yet all admit it is “Passover”, not Easter. “There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament or in the writings of the apostolic fathers. The sanctity of the special times was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians” (The Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th ed., II:859). And again, “There is no trace of Easter celebration in the NT” (H. Porter, I.S.B.E., II:889). The observance of Easter as a religious holiday is the result of the will of men and not of God. Since Christ said true worshipers “must” worship God “in spirit and truth”, we conclude to offer God Easter worship does not please Him (Jno. 4:24). By what authority do men offer God “Easter” worship services? Not the authority of the Scriptures. This is the Easter dilemma: Offering God something He did not ask for, convincing the world it pleases God, and that you are honoring God with it! Shall we go beyond the word of God and have an annual resurrection festival? No, certainly not (2 Jno. 9; Gal. 1:8-10).
The History of Easter
The history of Easter shows its human origin. The first clear reference to it comes from the middle of the second century. “While there is reason to suppose that Easter had been honored from early in Christian history, the first definite record of its celebration is in connection with a visit of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, to Anicetus, bishop of Rome, in 154 or 155.” (Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, New York: 1950, p. 64) First called the “Christian Passover” (Philip Schaff, History of the Church, II:206), the intervening centuries saw Easter develop through a blending of the Jewish Passover with pagan spring festivals that honored Eastre (the Saxon goddess of spring and fertility) until the present Christian Easter celebration emerged. Facts are a stubborn thing, and these facts are not in dispute: The blending of paganism and the post-New Testament observance of Christ’s resurrection produced the modern Easter holiday. This presents no problem for those who accept extra-Biblical authority in their lives (like popes, synods, councils and creeds). But, how does a Bible believer endorse such things when they are clearly outside the realm of Biblical endorsement without forfeiting allegiance to the Bible? Can men, good intentioned though they may be, define and offer whatever worship pleases them? Nadab and Abihu (not to mention Cain) learned the answer to that question is “no” (Lev. 10:1-2).
This, then, is the Easter dilemma. By offering God Easter worship one acts upon man's authority, not Christ’s (Matt. 28:18-20). God did not ask for it, yet men offer it to Him. Scripturally and historically, the religious celebration of Easter is an invention of men. Being beyond God’s word, it must be refused. If not, then why not sanction and keep all sorts of religious days in celebration of Biblical events like Palm Sunday, Good Friday and the baptism of Jesus? There is as much Biblical support for these as for Easter – none. Be content to believe in Christ’s resurrection and not corrupt it with the worship innovations of men.
Scripture Reading: James 1:21-27
1. God tests the hearts
of men, Psa. 7:9-10.
1 Cor. 8:2: And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.
Pride is of the world, 1 Jno. 2:16.
1 Cor. 14:37: If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.
Requires sober thinking, cf. 2 Cor. 10:7-9. 1 Jno. 4:1, 6; Rev. 2:2; Rom. 8:5-9.
Gal. 6:3: For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Phil. 3:4: though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:
Jas. 1:26: If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:1-6
1. Renewed interest
in death and heaven with the book and movie, Heaven is for Real.
I. INITIAL THOUGHTS ABOUT NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES (NDE).
A. Not Biblical Language, 1 Pet. 4:11. cf. Jno. 11:11-14, 39; 1 Kgs.
2:1-2; 2 Tim. 4:6. (Acts 14:19 and 2 Cor. 12:2-40
II. WHAT THE NEW TESTAMENT SAYS ABOUT THOSE WHO DIED AND RETURNED TO LIFE.
-Lazarus (Jno. 11), Widow of Nain’s son (Lk. 7), Jairus’ daughter (Lk. 8);
Saints after crucifixion (Matt. 27), Dorcas (Acts 9), Euthychus (Acts 20)
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Privilege and Prejudice
Staff members at Western Washington University here in Bellingham have been undergoing sensitivity training described as “viewpoint-corrective training sessions in far-left political topics like ‘heterosexual privilege,’ ‘gender privilege’ and ‘language privilege’” (“University staff members forced to undergo reeducation in ‘heterosexual privilege’”, Robby Soave, The Daily Caller). These meetings were originally mandatory, but are now optional (Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Campus Reform). We are not surprised by such far-left agendas in academia. But, we should consider how prejudice is at the heart of such misguided concepts and indoctrination.
The Bible teaches not to be prejudice in thought, word or deed (Jno. 7:24; 1 Cor. 4:5). We are not to show favoritism, but be fair and just towards all (Jas. 2:1-4; Matt. 7:12). The Bible also says none of us are held accountable for the sins, errors, injustices and misdeeds of our ancestors. The child does not bear responsibility for the sins of the father (Ezek. 18:4, 20).
The “privilege” training mentioned above presupposes a bias if you are white, a man, heterosexual or a particular nationality or language. This is itself, prejudicial. One’s race and gender are beyond one’s choice; we received these at birth. There is no doubt that prejudiced people exist in every society, and sometimes it is institutionalized. When identified, it should be corrected. Christians overcome prejudice, not by making people feel guilty because of things beyond their control, nor by urging others to feel self-pity and entitlement because of such things. Since God does not assess a person by their external traits, we must not do so, either (1 Sam. 16:7).
We must see others the way God does. All have sinned and all need salvation in Christ (Rom. 3:23; 1 Tim. 2:3-4). We are to even love our enemies; a concept very foreign to the world. Additionally, we must see ourselves the way God sees us. Whatever our race, gender, nationality or language, we are accountable to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39). That is the “sensitivity training” taught by the gospel of Christ.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 04/21/2014
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA