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Why Christians Should Reject the "Christian" Church Calendar

There is nothing wrong with having a calendar to help us organize our schedules and on which to write important dates.  Often calendars have beautiful photographs of nature or famous artwork.  We should be thankful that time has been ordered for us into days, weeks, months, seasons, and years. 

However, in addition to this normal, “secular” calendar, there is another religious calendar used by many who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ.  Some call it the liturgical calendar, the church calendar, or even the Christian calendar.  Where did such a calendar come from? 

It should not be called a Christian calendar because it did not come from Christ.  God’s Word is all-sufficient and never-changing; nowhere in God’s holy word do we find any mention of such a calendar, nor do we find any of the religious holy days and seasons found on this church calendar.  The truth is that this calendar was a manmade invention of the Roman Catholic Church.  It is the Pope of Rome’s calendar.  And it has been adopted and modified by numerous other Christian groups, including the Eastern Orthodox, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Methodists.  Even many Presbyterians and Baptists have adopted a religious church calendar, despite the strong opposition of their spiritual ancestors to such a calendar. 

Many Protestant Christian groups long opposed the use of such a calendar because it is a human invention, which imposes humanly-invented religious holidays and seasons on God’s people, declaring them to be holy or sacred—set apart to a religious purpose[1]

The great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther voiced his opposition to the observance of church holidays.  He lamented, “. . . we have made holy days unholy and working days holy, and do no service but great dishonor to God and His saints with all our holy days.”[2]  Martin Luther wrote in 1520:


        XVII.
          Therefore He commanded also that the seventh day should be kept holy and that we cease from our works which we do the other six days.  This Sabbath has now for us been changed into the Sunday, and the other days are called workdays; the Sunday is called rest day or holiday or holy day.  And would to God that in Christendom there were no holiday except the Sunday; that the festivals of our Lady and of the Saints were all transferred to Sunday; then would many evil vices be done away with through the labor of the workdays, and lands would not be so drained and impoverished.  But now we are plagued with many holidays, to the destruction of souls, bodies and goods; of which matter much might be said.[3] 

While later Protestants also did away with festivals in honor of the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints, Luther’s point shines through the writings of Presbyterians, Baptists, the Puritans, and many other Christian groups in church history.  They believed that there was no need for Christians to follow a religious church calendar because under the new covenant God never declared any day to be holy except for the first day of every week, Sunday, which is the Lord’s Day.  God says this day belongs to Him and therefore it is holy. 

God is holy.  Holiness is one of God’s perfections or attributes (Exod. 15:11; Lev. 20:26; Josh. 24:19; Ps. 99:9; Rom. 1:4; Eph. 4:24; Heb. 12:10).  Since God is holiness itself, any holiness that exists in the world, any holiness that any mortal creature possesses or any land or object possess, is derivative.  Only God has the power to declare a person, place, or object as holy. 


Churches, apart from God’s Word, do not have the authority to declare something to be holy.  It is sinful to declare something common (i.e., not holy), if God says it is holy.  Likewise, it is sinful to call something holy, which God does not call holy.


If we read through the New Testament, there are no holy days mentioned except for the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, which is the day in which Jesus Christ was raised from the dead (Rev. 1:10; cf. Isa. 58:13-14; Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). 

Yes, in the New Testament, we find no Christmas, no Good Friday, and no Easter.  There is no record that the apostolic church, as founded by Christ’s apostles, observed any such days, nor is there any suggestion that they annually observed Epiphany, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Ascension Day, Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, All Saints' Day, or Christ the King Sunday.  Nor did they observe Mother's Day, Father's Day, Children's Day, or Grandparent's Day on the Lord’s Day, as an increasing number of churches now do. 

If we read through the New Testament, there is no holy week, such as the modern “Holy Week,” with special services spanning from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. 

If we read through the New Testament, there are no holy months.  There are no holy seasons such as Advent or Lent.  And there are no holy years.[4]  On the contrary, the Galatians were strongly reprimanded for departing from the faith for following the teachings of the “false brethren” (Gal. 2:4) who had infiltrated their church.  These false teachers called the Judaizers were teaching them they must observe the old covenant holy “days and months and seasons and years,” which were all fulfilled in Christ (Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16-17).  Paul feared that the Galatians had failed to understand the Gospel and that his work among them had been in vain (Gal. 4:11).

John Calvin, a founder of Reformed and Presbyterian churches, comments that the false apostles Paul confronts in Galatians sought to fill the minds of God’s people with “wicked superstitions.”  Their observance of religious holy days and seasons corrupted the worship of God, made void the grace of Christ, and suppressed believers’ freedom of conscience.  Calvin argued that the Gospel was of no value anymore to those who consider “holy days to be part of the worship of God just as the false apostles did.” 

Regarding the Roman Catholic Church, Calvin asked, “. . . what sort of Christ or what sort of gospel does it retain?  So far as respects the binding of consciences, they enforce the observance of days with not less severity than was done by Moses.  They consider holidays, not less than the false apostles did, to be a part of the worship of God, and even connect with them the diabolical notion of merit.”[5]

The observance of “Christian” holidays is even worse than some of the practices of the Judaizers.  John Calvin explained that the Judaizers and their followers “wanted to observe days which had been appointed by the law of God” under the old covenant, but today churches “command days to be kept as holy which they have rashly stamped with their own seal,” but which God never instituted in His Word. 

G.I. Williamson, an Orthodox Presbyterian pastor, once pointed out:

        . . . the people in Galatia could at least prove that the days they observed had once been appointed by God.  Christians today cannot show that God ever appointed Christmas, Good Friday, or Easter.  When Christ came, the ceremonial system passed away.  Included in the ceremonial system were annual sacred days.  For the Galatians to go on celebrating these days was, in effect, to act as if they were still waiting for the Messiah to come.  Yet even so they could at least claim that the days they were observing originated by divine institution.  Christians can make no such claim for their sacred days.  If Paul, then, was afraid that he might have labored in vain among the Galatians because of what they did, what would he say about people today who observe special sacred days God never commanded?[6]


The Christian’s conscience is bound to the word of God alone.  In His Word, God never told us that it is His will for us to remember annually certain events from the life of Christ, nor to celebrate the lives of people on the Lord’s Day.  Such an idea of celebrating such holy days and seasons again and again each year comes from the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.  It is arrogant and presumptuous for men to think that God is pleased by such.  It is legalistic for churches to bind the consciences of Christians and pastors to observe such a calendar in their worship or Christian life.

God told us that it is His will for pastors and teachers to proclaim “the whole counsel of God” from Genesis to Revelation (Acts 20:26-27).  He said that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).  Churches that center their worship and preaching around religious holidays found on liturgical calendars fail to proclaim “the whole counsel of God” as God intended (Acts 20:26-27).  Instead of proclaiming God’s Word straightforwardly and giving due proportion to all its teachings, they inevitably distort the Gospel by giving undue emphasis each year to the particular events emphasized by their humanly-devised liturgical calendar.  For example, only a few chapters of the Bible teach us about the birth of Christ (e.g., Matt. 1; Luke 1; Gal. 4:4; Rev. 12:13), yet most Christian churches devote anywhere from one week to four weeks or more each year to consider Christ’s birth. 

Churchgoers are increasingly Biblically illiterate because their pastors are failing to teach them the whole word of God.  Of course, we should not forget Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection.  But God says that ALL Scripture is profitable for His children, and the Lord’s Supper is what He calls us to do in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24, 25). 

Christians ought to reject the “Christian” church calendar because it is not of Christ and therefore it is not of God.  Instead, they ought to observe only the sacred time that Christ commanded His followers to observe (Matt. 28:20; Exod. 20:8-11).  Christians ought to embrace Sunday, the Lord’s Day, as the day belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is His day, and therefore it is a holy, sacred time for all the faithful. 

Of course, Christians are free to gather together for teaching, fellowship, and worship every day of the week.  However, only the Lord’s Day is sacred, holy time for the Christian because it is the only time that God, who is holiness itself, has set apart as holy.

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[1] Some people today claim that Jesus observed the humanly-ordained eight-day festival of Hanukkah, basing their argument on John 10:22-31.  In this passage, the apostle John tells us that Jesus was present at the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, which was during the winter.  Jesus walked in the Temple, and the Jews disputed with Him.  Jesus responded to them, “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep” (John 10:26).   Then He proclaimed Himself as the Savior of His chosen people.  It is evident that Jesus took advantage of the large gathering that surrounded this Jewish religious holiday in order to preach a message that actually was very condemning of the religious people of the day.  The fact that Jesus was present at this Jewish festival does not tell us whether or not He celebrated the holiday.  The Bible merely tells us that He was present at this festival when many religious people were gathered at the Temple.  His other teachings regarding the Pharisees’ practices suggest that He would not have approved of such a holiday (cf. Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:8, 9, 13). 
[2] Martin Luther, “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate” (1520).  See #18.  Electronically retrieved 29 January 2009 at http://www.lgmarshall.org/Reformed/luther_germannobility.html
[3] Martin Luther, “A Treatise on Good Works Together with the Letter of Dedication” (1520).  Electronically retrieved 29 January 2009 at www.ccel.org/l/luther/good_works/cache/good_works.html3
[4] There is a notable exception, which is the remnant of the old covenant holidays such as the Passover and Pentecost, which were still being obesrved but were passing away.
[5] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, trans. Rev. William Pringle (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 125. 
[6] G.I. Williamson, “On the Observance of Sacred Days” (Havertown: New Covenant Publications, n.d.).


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