R. C. Sproul, Jr., is only partly right…

Recently, a friend forwarded a short article to me by highly respected Reformed Christian theologian, R. C. Sproul, Jr.  Having been raised in a Reformed Presbyterian home and having spent more than ten years as an ordained and seminary trained pastor in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, there was a time when I very much respected Sproul’s voice as a leading thinker and opinion sharer.  Today, I am much more careful in holding, particularly, the ‘giants’ against the Word of God before accepting what they say.

Because the article is so short, I will copy it in its entirety before sharing my thoughts on the title and subject.  My hope is that we all learn a bit about critical reading/thinking and recognizing error when we see it, no matter the source.


Should We as Christians Celebrate the Jewish Feasts of the Old Testament?

from Jan 11, 2014 Category: Articles

Without question the most vexing challenge faced by the early church was understanding how believing Jews and believing Gentiles ought to relate to one another. The theme gets major play in Galatians, Hebrews, Acts, and is even the root of the issue that led to Paul’s stern and public rebuke of Peter. That so much time and attention was paid to this issue might incline us to believe it was settled. Or it just may prove how deep runs the temptation to botch this up.

Let’s start here—we have peace with God by trusting in the finished work of Christ alone. Add anything to that and you have fallen into a false gospel. You do not have peace with God by trusting in Christ and by being circumcised, or by trusting in Christ and keeping the Feast

 of Weeks. Add anything to the work of Christ, and you lose the work of Christ.

God gave the feasts to point our spiritual fathers toward Christ. They were shadows and He the real thing. The author of Hebrews warns his audience, professing believers who were tempted to go back to the Temple and the Old Covenant shadows, that to go back is to deny that Christ has come.

If we grasp that these were types, shadows that pointed to Christ, we will reach two conclusions. First, they were not bad things. Too often some treat the Old Covenant like it was flawed, something to be thrown aside. But God Himself ordained these feasts, for the good of His people. Second, however, Christ is greater than the shadows. We do not keep the feasts by keeping the feast. Instead we keep the feasts by clinging to Christ. He is our feast.

So should we celebrate these feasts? Not if by “should” we mean we have an obligation to do so. May we? Well, that certainly depends on where our hearts are. The Bible prescribes liberty, Paul telling us:

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks (Romans 14:5-6).

I have no quarrel with a person celebrating these feasts. Instead I have a caution. My concern about some who celebrate these feasts is that while they profess their dependence on the finished work of Christ alone, some seem to believe that feast keeping somehow elevates their Christian walk. All of our sub-culture convictions within the church carry this danger. Whether it be speaking in tongues, observing feasts, modesty, or reciting the prayer of Jabez we are inveterate second blessing seekers. We want to be superior Christians who have glommed on to the secret way. Then we go out with all the zeal of an Amway salesman trying to get our friends all on board.

Paul, however, is far more easy-going. He described his Hebrew roots as dung (Philippians 3:1-8). What matters is that we know Him, and the power of His resurrection.


The title is enough to ‘set off alarm bells.’

Should We as Christians Celebrate the Jewish Feasts of the Old Testament?

Sproul commits several serious errors here and had me on my guard from the beginning.  Here are three problems with the title:

  • Dichotomy drawn between Christians and Jews (error of early church)
  • Feasts mislabeled as ‘Jewish’ (error of early church)
  • Labeled feasts as ‘old…’  (error of early church)

Early practice of believers in Messiah was not ‘Christian’ or ‘Jewish,’ rather, the example we see in the Book of Acts is one Body composed of Jew and non-Jew keeping feasts, worshiping on the Sabbath and being obedient to God’s instructions (Torah).  The division between ‘Christian’ and ‘Jewish’ did not even begin to happen for until a generation or two later and all historical evidence is that the the two were still so closely connected in 325 CE that the Council of Nicea and Constantine used pain of death to drive a wedge between the two.  I have addressed some of this in my ‘(Not So) Quotable Church Fathers‘ series.  An additional point that simply cannot be overstated is that Yeshua (Jesus) did NOT come to start a new religion!  He couldn’t, or He is NOT the Messiah.  We’ll get back to that one in a minute.

As to the Feasts being labeled ‘Jewish,’ this is shameful inflammatory language that is patently false.  The Feasts aren’t Jewish.  Yes, the Jews celebrate them, but Scripture clearly says who the Feasts belong to and Sproul is not ignorant.  In Leviticus 23:1-4, Yehovah clearly says, ‘My Appointed Times (Feasts)…’

Further, the Feasts aren’t ‘old testament’ stuff.  First, Sproul’s use of ‘old testament’ to some how imply their passing away is another falsehood.  I would remind the reader that the distinction of ‘old’ and ‘new’ testament is a man-made fallacy that has no basis in Scripture  and is used only to promote the false dichotomy of ‘Christian’ and ‘Jew.’  See point one in this article…  The simple fact is that there are numerous references to Yeshua and the Apostles, including Paul, sacrificing and keeping feasts, even after Yeshua’s death.  Further, prophecy, among the Words of which Yeshua said ‘not one jot or tittle will pass,’ clearly states there will be feast observance in the future by all nations or they will not get rain!

Sproul is off to a pretty bad start in my book, but let’s keep going.  I’ll take his short piece and address it paragraph by paragraph.

Without question the most vexing challenge faced by the early church was understanding how believing Jews and believing Gentiles ought to relate to one another. The theme gets major play in Galatians, Hebrews, Acts, and is even the root of the issue that led to Paul’s stern and public rebuke of Peter. That so much time and attention was paid to this issue might incline us to believe it was settled. Or it just may prove how deep runs the temptation to botch this up.

First, James tells us exactly how believing Jews and Gentiles are to relate to one another.  Possibly the most ignored verses in Acts are his decisive declaration that non-Jews were to learn the Torah, in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  On numerous occasions I have pointed to Acts 15:20-21 as clear directive for how we are to relate/act.  Here is one place those verses are invoked as I take another theologian to task in a multi-part series.

Sproul says, ‘Galatians, Hebrews, Acts,’ but none of those draw the distinction he wants.  Galatians is about the misuse of oral tradition for salvation.  Hebrews is about a change in the priesthood, and Acts records history as Paul teaches Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue!!  Among other demonstrations of what Paul’s expectation was, this piece has a direct quote from Acts.

As to Sproul believing that the matter was attempted to be settled and that we can still botch it up is evidence that Christendom got it wrong a long time ago and is still getting this wrong.  One Lord, one faith….  The Reformation is not yet over!!

Let’s start here—we have peace with God by trusting in the finished work of Christ alone. Add anything to that and you have fallen into a false gospel. You do not have peace with God by trusting in Christ and by being circumcised, or by trusting in Christ and keeping the Feast of Weeks. Add anything to the work of Christ, and you lose the work of Christ.

Sproul starts at the right place.  We do have peace with God by faith in the Messiah.  His false assumption is that being obedient to God’s Instructions is an attempt at adding to the work of the Messiah.  Keeping the Feasts of the Lord is simple obedience to what He said was to be observed ‘forever, in all your dwelling places, throughout your generations.’  See Exodus 12:14, 24, 42, 49; 13:10; Leviticus 23: 14, 21, 31, 41!!  Sproul further invokes ‘trusting’ in the finished work of Christ, though he fails to understand that a Biblical understanding of ‘faith/trust’ is obedience.  A true faith will be obedient.  Period.  Just as God’s Word commands that we not lie, steal, covet, it also positively commands that we guard/keep the feasts.

God gave the feasts to point our spiritual fathers toward Christ. They were shadows and He the real thing. The author of Hebrews warns his audience, professing believers who were tempted to go back to the Temple and the Old Covenant shadows, that to go back is to deny that Christ has come.

This paragraph makes my head hurt.  In fact, this whole article does precisely because it uses all these false Christian memes strung together in an attempt to sound educated, but I have found all of this stuff to be nothing more than theological gymnastics to avoid the obvious truths, but, I digress.

Yes, the Feasts were given to point toward Messiah Yeshua.  NO, they are not even all fulfilled yet, therefore, we have ZERO reason to stop keeping them.  Yes, they are shadows, but does the person’s presence make the shadow go away??  Of course not!  The shadow actually gets sharper!  Like much of Christendom, Sproul errs by not understanding the context of Colossians 2, which I cover in some detail in an email to the Minister and His Works Committee of my former denomination before they decided I no longer fit their doctrinal stance.

If we grasp that these were types, shadows that pointed to Christ, we will reach two conclusions. First, they were not bad things. Too often some treat the Old Covenant like it was flawed, something to be thrown aside. But God Himself ordained these feasts, for the good of His people. Second, however, Christ is greater than the shadows. We do not keep the feasts by keeping the feast. Instead we keep the feasts by clinging to Christ. He is our feast.

Another perplexing paragraph!  Sproul starts off right.  The Feasts are a good thing!  Obedience brings blessings and deeper insight into the word, the Messiah and experiencing Him in a real tangible way.  Further, as I have explained before, these are marvelous manipulatives for teaching our children!  Sproul fails to understand that keeping the feasts IS clinging to the Messiah!!  Does “If you love Me, keep My commandments” ring a bell?  Whose commandments does Sproul think these are?  He really needs to read and ponder Was Jesus on Mt. Sinai? Does it Matter?  Christ cannot, by definition, do away with or abolish even a single letter from the Torah!  To do so violates Deuteronomy 13 and disqualifies Him as the Messiah!  PERIOD!

So should we celebrate these feasts? Not if by “should” we mean we have an obligation to do so. May we? Well, that certainly depends on where our hearts are. The Bible prescribes liberty, Paul telling us:

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks (Romans 14:5-6).

Sorry, R.C.,  the Bible never prescribes liberty that allows us to ignore God’s Instructions.  In fact, quite the opposite, Psalm 119:44-45 clearly demonstrates that keeping the Torah IS liberty.  Israel only ever went into bondage when they broke the Torah.

As to Sproul’s citation of Romans 14:5-6, this passage is not about whether we can choose to obey or not.  It is about the oral tradition of the day that hotly debated which days of the week to fast.  Paul could say about a man-made tradition that was being debated, ‘esteem one day above another…  being fully convinced, etc…’  Paul could not, nor would he ever give his readers the authority to pick and choose days that God commanded!  Firstly, he would be teaching against God’s Torah, punishable by death (see Deuteronomy 13) and his testimony of himself is that he never broke God’s Law or even the traditions of his fathers!  See The Apostle Paul was NOT a Christian!!  and, point number 8 in this post.

I have no quarrel with a person celebrating these feasts. Instead I have a caution. My concern about some who celebrate these feasts is that while they profess their dependence on the finished work of Christ alone, some seem to believe that feast keeping somehow elevates their Christian walk. All of our sub-culture convictions within the church carry this danger. Whether it be speaking in tongues, observing feasts, modesty, or reciting the prayer of Jabez we are inveterate second blessing seekers. We want to be superior Christians who have glommed on to the secret way. Then we go out with all the zeal of an Amway salesman trying to get our friends all on board.

Contrary to what Sproul here says, Feast keeping and obedience to all of God’s Torah DOES elevate one’s walk.  It brings promised blessings that only follow obedience.  It opens doors of insight and understanding into Scripture that only come with immersed experience and it enlightens so many subtle references in Scripture that can only be understood after imitating the Messiah.  Personally, if it was good enough for Yeshua, Peter, James, John, Paul, David, Moses, _____, etc, then it is good enough for me regardless of what theologians and church fathers say.  And, I will be zealous in sharing the truth, just like these guys!!  They are my example.

Paul, however, is far more easy-going. He described his Hebrew roots as dung (Philippians 3:1-8). What matters is that we know Him, and the power of His resurrection.

Ah, yes…  Paul again taken out of context and mutilated…  But, Sproul’s last sentence is correct, yet he doesn’t understand that keeping the Feasts IS one way we have been given to know the Messiah and as we do so we experience some of that power of His resurrection.

As I stated at the beginning, R. C. Sproul, Jr., is only partly right.  Unfortunately, he is missing some incredible blessings and depth to his walk that only come from obedience, rather than justified disobedience.  To answer the question in his title, “Yes, yes we should celebrate the Feasts, but we should also stop defining them as Jewish and should stop defining ourselves against anything that we think is ‘Jewish.”

May his and our eyes be opened to fully understand what it means to ‘walk as He (Messiah) walked.’

Shalom!

BTW:  For those interested, October 12, 2016 is Yom Kippur and the 17-25th is the Feast of Booths or Sukkot.

About Pete Rambo

Details in 'About' page @ natsab.wordpress.com Basically, husband of one, father of four. Pastor x 11 years, former business and military background. Micro-farmer. Messianic believer in Yeshua haMashiach!
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5 Responses to R. C. Sproul, Jr., is only partly right…

  1. Mary Ellen says:

    Thanks Pete for another well written article…love the clarity with which you write. Looking forward to your book! May Abba bless & protect you Kelly while you travel…and may His shalom & protection reign in your home while you are gone!
    Glad tidings,
    Mary Ellen
    🌺😊🌺

    Liked by 1 person

  2. markwise07 says:

    Interesting you went from PCA to observing Israelite feasts (God clearly calls the feasts “His” as well as, “yours” in the law, the prophets as well as in John) and I went from observing the Israelite Sabbath and feast days to PCA for 10 years. It seems quite scripturally clear to me throughout the Bible those days are put on hold during the times of the Gentiles in which we now live. I won’t argue those passages with you as I believe God has given freedom to both the Jew and Gentile, making peace between the two in Jesus. It was a challenging and richly rewarding blessing to understand Jesus in Grace, as I’m sure it was a challenging and richly rewarding blessing to understand Jesus through the 7th day Sabbath and holy days. Peace in Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barry Miller says:

    Thanks Pete,
    That is awesome!

    Like

  4. Peggy Shockey says:

    WELL DONE! May all who read your article take notice of the fact that you, yourself, were “trained” in the “ways of the church system, before coming into the Truth of Torah. Therefore, you know of what you speak, first hand!!! You addressed these critical issues with love and respect. Sadly, R.S. is one of MANY in the “church system” who are teaching wrongly. As you pointed out… ” Sproul is not ignorant”…. nor are most of the others teaching these things. Thanks for bringing correction and clarity for those reading here! And AMEN to your ending thought… ” “May his and our eyes be opened to fully understand what it means to ‘walk as He (Messiah) walked.’ ” ”
    Blessings and Shalom! Peggy Shockey

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tommy Wilson says:

    Pete, amazing job of answering this article! This article is a similar regurgitation (regurgitate: repeat (information) without analyzing or comprehending it) of erroneous doctrines that has been passed down and taught in seminaries for centuries. Thank You Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

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