There are definite reasons why ecclesiastical leaders prefer the observance of holy days by their church members. And it is not at all difficult to understand if one is open-minded towards the issue. Essentially, it comes down to the matter of having control over the minds of the people. It is far, far easier to gain religious authority over people if the people are having to mold their lives (every moment of their lives) around “church affairs.” And the performance of rituals (which most Protestant denominations conveniently call ceremonies) is a main way of gaining human authority over other humans. You see, not only will the ecclesiastical authorities be in command of people’s lives while they sit in church on Sunday or Saturday mornings, but their control will reach into their homes (kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedrooms) – on a twenty-four hour basis! That is why food laws, days, times, seasons, and years are important to religious leaders. By telling people when they are expected to do things, and what they have to do to be in good circumstances with the church and God, they then have the authority over people that they need to rule effectively.
This is what happened in Judaism in the time of Christ. The whole nation was really under the control of the religious authorities–those who sat on “Moses’ seat” (Matthew 23:1-4). Christ said that those authorities had bound upon the people multitudes of laws (do’s and don’ts) that made the lot of the people a burdensome task. And what was bad about it was the teaching of the religious authorities that the people had to do as they said in order to obey God. And indeed, the common people had to look to those religious men all the time for direction. Their whole lives were governed around what the “church” said. For example, the calendar year was ordained (not by civil authorities which would normally have in mind a convenient calendar for commercial or agricultural advantage), but it was controlled to maintain the advantage of those who determined religious requirements. It led to much corruption among religious authorities because they could sell their “religious decisions or philosophies” to the highest bidder–because there was considerable money involved in the regulation of the calendar and other ritualistic requirements. Most of the priests (who were in high ecclesiastical positions) were extremely rich and very aristocratic in their life-styles. After all, they were supposed to represent none other than God himself, and the people were expected to do just what they said no matter how deceptively corrupt some of the decisions were.
Christ, however, was not too considerate of their religious excesses and the human control they had over the people. He called them hypocrites, blind guides, fools, serpents, a generation of vipers (Matthew 23). They were basing their decisions on the commandments of God as found in the Old Testament, but by their additional interpretations they were making those laws into the commandments of men (Matthew 15:1-9).
Nevertheless, since the Jews were under the old covenant relationship with God (the New Covenant only had its initiation with Christ’s death on the cross–Matthew 26:27,28), Christ still expected the Jews to bear the heavy burden that those “on Moses’ seat” demanded (Matthew 23:1-4), but that all changed with the introduction of the Christian church (Acts 2). Note that the apostles were castigating those same ecclesiastical leaders (and not obeying their dictates) not two months after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 5:27-32).
As time went on and even the Gentiles were brought into the pale of Christianity (and the Gentiles had never been under the Mosaic religious authorities in the first place), the apostle Paul began to inform people that they no longer had to pay attention to the decisions of any religious authorities regarding the eating of food, keeping of days, months, times, and years (Colossians 2:16). [Note: Read ESN article on this verse.] He said that one day was the same as another (Romans 14:1-6), but that if the individual wanted to observe any day, he could make up his own mind on the issue. He did not have to have men inform him what to do (Galatians 4:10).
With mature Christian teaching, the matter of physical rituals or ceremonies fell into disuse. These were the mere types of Christ and once the reality came in the person of Christ, one’s attention was to be directed to serving him–not days, months, times, and years (or the men who governed such calendar periods).
In effect, the rescinding of the necessity to observe the Old Testament calendar dates relieved Christian believers from the yoke of bondage imposed on those under the old covenant legislation.
The apostle Paul, however, criticized some Gentiles who wanted to adopt such a government over their lives. “How turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, wherein ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days and months, and times, and years” (Galatians 4:9,10). The apostle Paul taught that there was only one mediator between God and mankind (and that mediator was Christ–only Christ!), and that a Christian did not need any man over him (I Timothy 2:5).
And this was the teaching the apostles left the church of the first century. However, in the next 300 years the church got so powerful in the world that they had to bring politics and civil rule into effect. This is when the church once again imposed “days and rituals” (though different from the Old Testament times). It was necessary to control the people and their money. Even today, there are some church organizations which demand a ritualistic calendar that they control. Paul would have none of it. We’re free in Christ.
~Article submitted by former member of Worldwide Church of God