Bible Question:

My neighbor believes all the right things about Jesus, but also continues to celebrate the OT feasts (but not sacrifices). She says that Leviticus 23 says to do so forever, and it does. But where in the NT does it indicate that feasts aren't necessary anymore? I know about sacrifices not being necessary because of the sacrificial Lamb, Jesus. But what about the feasts?

Bible Answer:

In Acts 21:17 we are told that the Apostle Paul arrived in the city of Jerusalem from his third missionary trip. When he arrived, the apostles in Jerusalem told Paul that there were rumors in the city that he had been speaking against the Mosaic law, had encouraged the men to not be circumcised, and had tried to motivate others to ignore the Jewish customs during his missionary travels (v. 20-21). Consequently, in order to counter these false rumors, the apostles encouraged Paul to purify himself according to Jewish custom (v. 24) and to pay the cost for four Jewish men to have their heads shaved (v. 23-24). In short, they wanted Paul to demonstrate that he still followed the Mosaic customs – not the sacrifices. Paul agreed and did as they suggested (v. 26).

This raises a important question. Why did Paul follow the Mosaic customs? In Acts 16:1-3 we discover that Paul circumcised Timothy himself – a Jewish custom. In Acts 18:18, Paul had his hair cut “for he was keeping a vow” – a Nazirite vow. In Acts 20:6 we are told that Paul observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and in Acts 20:16 he observed the Feast of Pentecost. Why did Paul follow the Mosaic customs?

The answer is not found in the Old Testament in such passages as Leviticus 23:31. Yes, Leviticus 23:31 is an admonishment to keep the Day of Atonement perpetually.

You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.Leviticus 23:31 (NAS95S)

But there are two reasons why we are not bound by this command in Leviticus or the other commands to keep Jewish customs and feasts. First, the commands were given to the Jewish people. They do not apply to Gentiles and they do not apply to the church today. Someone once said that “all of the promises in the Bible are mine.” But that is not true. All of the promises and commands do not apply to Christians and non-Jews. For example, the promise that God would make them a great nation was spoken to Abraham and his descendants – Jews and Arabs. The promise that Jews would be given a land called Palestine does not apply to us. Can you imagine every Christian in the world, trying to live in Palestine today? The commands to keep the sacrifices no longer apply today since Jesus died for the sins of the world making the Mosaic sacrifices obsolete. The requirement to keep the Sabbath no longer applies. However, we are commanded to attend church (Hebrews 10:24-25). There are many Mosaic laws that no longer apply.

The second reason why we do not keep the Jewish regulations and feasts is that they are no longer required to keep them. The apostle Paul himself in 1 Corinthians 7:17-20 said this about circumcision.

Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. 1 Cor 7:17-20 (NAS95S)

Notice that Paul tells the men to remain in the condition that they were before their were saved. If a man was uncircumcised before he became a Christian, he does not have to become circumcised. The Mosaic law does not have to be followed. Notice that originally the rite of circumcision was a command upon Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 17:11-14). In Colossians 2:16-17 Paul tells us that the Jewish feasts are nothing. We can keep them if we desire, and we can ignore them if we desire.

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day — things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Col 2:16-17 (NAS95S)

Paul makes it clear that we are not required to observe the Mosaic law, feasts or customs. We have freedom in Jesus Christ to keep the laws or not keep the laws. It is our choice. We decide.

Conclusion:

The Mosaic Law, the old covenant, was replaced by a new covenant (Heb. 8). We are no longer bound to the old rules of do not eat, do not taste, and do not touch (Col. 2:21). In summary, this means that your friend can celebrate the Mosaic feasts if he or she desires but no one else must do that. May God bless you.

Reference Links:

Fulfilling The Law
The Mosaic Sacrificial System Was Insufficient
Do we have to keep the commandments and laws given in the Old Testament?
What Old Testament laws can we ignore?
A Better Hope
Peace With God