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Christmas and Romans 14:5-6a
by Joe Garnett
Proponents of Christmas often appeal to these verses1 to defend their celebration2 of this pagan holy day. At first glance this scripture appears to support their position. But the Bible student should look closer, determining the context and whether this passage can have application to the syncretistic festival of Christmas.
Most commentators teach that Romans 14 deals with Christian liberty. It does, by way of interpretation, only narrowly. By way of interpretation merely two problems are covered, that of whether or not to eat certain meats and whether or not to observe certain days. With regard to Christmas, it is needful that we deal only with the observing of days.
The disputes in this passage take place not because there are simply differences of opinions. The disputes arise because some in the church are weak (immature) and others are strong (mature). This is important to keep in mind because in time one should expect the problem to be solved by the immature becoming mature. (Of course we understand that there might be others coming into the church continually with the same problem, thus protracting the dilemma for some time).
The goal of Biblical instruction is to make the saint a mature person in Jesus Christ (Col. 1:28). Thus in regard to this passage, we need to understand that if all the believers in the church had reached a certain degree of maturity, the problem would not have existed. The solution that Paul gives should be considered a temporary solution for these weak brothers and not a permanent one. (No one would disagree that Christians should always respect and love each other). We should expect these who are now weak to one day become strong as they reside under proper instruction.
The specific problem in verses 5-6a concerns the keeping of days. It appears that the majority of commentators understand the problem to arise from young Jewish converts to the Christian faith. These converts feel obligated to continue to observe Jewish holy days. This should not surprise us for these were proper days for them to observe prior to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have not at this time received the understanding that it is no longer necessary for them to observe these days under the new covenant. We find them in a transition period in which they are confused. If they were to not observe these days they would feel that they were not being obedient to God. They don't have a grasp on the glorious truth that the work of the Lord Jesus Christ is complete and the days that they observe are only shadows of His fullness (Col. 2:17).
To summarize, I make these observations:
This is the question which now comes before us: Is the Christian
observance of Christmas protected by way of application in this passage?
To determine this let us consider the circumstances involved in both cases
and see if there are any likenesses.
Thus, this writer concludes that Romans 14 does not exonerate the practice of Christmas from scriptural condemnation. The day that the weak Jewish convert observed was a day formally warranted by scripture with designated disciplines. It was observed outside the church without involving the strong.
The weak brother could be expected in time to mature in conscience and no longer feel obligated to observe it.
In contrast, the "day" the Christmas celebrant celebrates is a pagan originated festival of unknown duration having no basis in scripture nor God-ordained disciplines. It is celebrated in the church and considered immutable. Thus we see that there is no relationship between the two "holy" days.
The scripture condemns such practices as Christmas. Jeremiah 10:2,3 tell us to "learn not the way of the heathen" and that "the customs of the people are vain." In Matthew 15:9 Jesus explains that men worship Him in vain, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." In Colossians 2:8 we are told to beware lest someone should spoil us "through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world." I Timothy 1:4 instructs us to "neither give heed to fables ... which minister questions."
Jude 3 exhorts us to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." The "faith" is the body of truth contained in the scripture. Matthew 28:20 reveals that what is to be taught and observed are "all things whatsoever I (Jesus) have commanded you." Titus 2:1 commands us to "speak thou the things which become sound doctrine."
Christmas is a deceitful Babylonian fable with assorted heathen traditions added through the centuries. You cannot mix it with Christianity and call it "worship in spirit and truth" any more than you can mix skunk manure with honey and call it a feast.
Christmas is not part of the faith for which we are to contend. It is
not that which the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded us to observe. It is
not sound doctrine. Christians should abhor it for the demonically inspired
Babylonian myth that it is.
1Another verse often used by the proponent of Christmas is Colossians 2:16, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days." They interpret this to mean that they can eat and drink what they want and celebrate any day they wish. However the context shows that evil men were demanding that the Christians keep certain laws. Paul instructs them that they do not have to adhere to these commands and that they shouldn't. His instruction is not that they can keep a certain day, but that they are not obligated to do so by those who would make them.
2Celebrate has become a memorialized word in current Christianity. One celebrates Jesus, the Lord's supper, Christmas, etc. The common biblical term is keep with the idea of observe or do. I'm not sure whether these words should be interchangeable. The 1966 College Edition of Webster's New World Dictionary makes some distinction. "Celebrate implies the marking of an occasion or event, especially a joyous one, with ceremony or festivity. Observe and the less formal keep suggest the respectful marking of a day or occasion in the prescribed or appropriate manner." There may likely be other distinctions that have become clouded as our language degenerates. However, I have not done the homework to know for sure. But for the purposes of this paper, observe will be used to refer to the day found in scripture and celebrate will be used when referring to the festival of Christmas.
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