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Scripture Reading: Psalm 138
EASTER: HUMAN HOLIDAY - NOT HOLY DAY!
1. The “sunrise services” have ended, yet many churches continue today to have some kind of Easter observance.
2. Why is it that we do not have special Easter services? Don’t we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Don’t you want to honor Him for that great event?
I. WHAT EASTER IS TO MANY PEOPLE.
A. To “Christendom”, Easter is the Celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (“About Easter”, Div. of Educ. of the Nat’l Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA).
B. Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ & the Celebration of Easter are not the Same Thing!
1. Early Christians firmly believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – 1 Cor. 15:4, 12-20 (Rom. 4:25).
2. But, an “Easter” celebration was unknown to the early Christians.
a. Not instituted by Christ or His apostles –
b. Not found in the NT. (What about Acts 12:4?)
c. Not mentioned in history until 155 A.D.
C. First Day of the Week Worship Honors the Resurrection of Christ.
1. Resurrection on 1st day of week – Mark 16:9.
2. Resurrection proclaimed & His church established on 1st day of week – Acts 2:1, 24-32, 36, 41, 47.
3. 1st day of week worship – Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2.
4. The Lord’s day – Rev. 1:10.
“The ‘first day of the week,’ the Lord’s Day, was the regular, weekly commemoration of our Lord’s resurrection. It is more than doubtful if there was an annual commemoration (‘Easter’) in Apostolic times.” (James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, Grand Rapids: 1973, Vol.2, p. 133)
D. Question: Is Easter from Heaven or From Men? (Matt. 21:25)
II. THE HISTORY OF EASTER AS A RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY.
A. Easter Represents the Convergence of Three Particular Events.
1. Jewish Passover (month Nisan, first month on Hebrew calendar – always during so-called “Easter season.”)
2. “Christian Passover” (commemoration of crucifixion & resurrection of Christ, which occurred during Jewish Passover).
3. Pagan festival of Spring (goddess Eastre) which fell on the vernal equinox (March 21).
B. An Historical Addition to Worship.
1. “There is no trace of Easter celebration in the NT.” (H. Porter, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, II:889)
2. First definite reference in 154-155 A.D.:
“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)
3. When would the “Christian Passover” be celebrated?
a. Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) decided it should be on Sunday, but did not fix particular Sunday.
b. Rules adopted in 7th century on establishing annual date. Differences in Julian & Gregorian (adopted in 1582) calendars mean there are still different dates in Eastern & Western Churches. (ISBE)
c. Easter now falls between March 22 and April 25. (The Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after March 21. If the full moon occurs on a Sunday, then Easter is on the following Sunday.)
C. Using the Name “Easter”.
1. First called the “Christian Passover” (Philip Schaff, History of the Church, II:206). NT completely silent re. “Christian Passover” – Col. 2:16-17 (cf. Gal. 5:3).
2. “Originally a Saxon word (Eostre), denoting a goddess of the Saxons, in honour of whom sacrifices were offered about the time of the Passover. Hence the name came to be given to the festival of the Resurrection of Christ, which occured at the time of the Passover.” (Easton’s Revised Bible Dictionary)
D. Blending of Pagan Tradition Produced Modern-day Easter.
1. Men often merge secular festivals with their religious observances. This was done with Easter.
a. Eastre: Saxon goddess of spring & fertility. Worshippers celebrated her festival on the vernal equinox (first day of spring).
b. Customs incorporated into “Christian Passover” to (1) help new converts more easily adapt to their new faith in the face of pressures from their old religious practices, and (2) offer a corresponding incentive for people to convert. Blending of paganism & apostate observance produced modern-day Easter!
III. THE PROBLEM WITH THE RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY CALLED “EASTER” IS ONE OF BIBLE AUTHORITY.
A. Easter is a Man-made Religious Holiday – cf. Gal. 4:9-11.
1. It is from man, not God (Matt. 21:25).
a. If man can institute religious observances on the basis of human tradition, then man’s authority is higher than God’s!
b. No NT pattern (authority) for the religious observance of Easter – Heb. 8:5; Col. 3:17.
c. The pattern it follows is human tradition – Gal. 4:10-11; Col. 2:20-23; Matt. 15:8-9.
d. Religious celebration of Easter is a perversion of the gospel – Gal. 1:6-10.
B. Easter is Calling on the Name of the Lord Without His Approval.
1. Example: Acts 19:11-17…
a. Apostles called on the name of the Lord with divine approval & blessings – 19:11-12.
b. Imposters tried to invoke the name of the Lord without approval or success – 19:13-16.
c. The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified (celebrated) – 19:17.
2. 1st day of the week worship is approved & true worship – Acts 20:7; Jno. 4:24.
-It celebrates the name of the Lord Jesus!
3. Easter worship is vain worship (approved by men but not God).
-It does not celebrate the name of the Lord Jesus!
1. We must be content with God’s will in God’s way (1 Pet. 4:11).
a. Worship in spirit & truth – Jno. 4:24.
b. Distinguish between religious traditions of men & the divine will of God! (Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23)
2. Uphold all the truth (incl. the resurrection of Jesus & true worship) and oppose every innovation of men! – 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:2-4