Some Thoughts on Easter

Garden Tomb

As the religious world prepares for the Easter holiday this Sunday, let us be reminded of what the Bible has to say on the topic.

Is Easter in the Bible? Yes and no, depending on what is meant by the question. Is the word Easter in the Bible. Yes, if you are reading the King James Version. When Herod killed James and saw that it pleased the Jews, he intended to do the same to Peter. Luke recorded, “And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quarternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people” (Acts 12:4).

However, if you read from a different translation, such as the New American Standard Bible, a different word is used instead of Easter: “…intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people.” Which is the correct translation? The Greek word used here is pascha (Passover). It refers to the feast of Unleavened Bread that was instituted for the Jews under the Old Law (cf. Exodus 12:1-27). Easter does not belong in Acts 12:4.

What about other passages? There are simply no other passages that speak of Easter in any way. It is a religious holiday that has been instituted by man and put into practice after the time of the New Testament.

Is there anything wrong with churches observing Easter today? It is plainly evident that many churches embrace the Easter holiday. But is this approved by God? The only way we can answer this question is by consulting the Scriptures. Our opinions about what we think God will accept or not accept are meaningless.

We have already noticed that Easter is absent from the Bible except for one poor translation in the King James Version when the word Passover should have been used instead. Therefore, we have no command for the church to observe the Easter holiday. There is no instruction regarding the practice of it. We find no example of the Lord’s church engaging in the observance of Easter. Further, there is no divine implication from which we can infer this was done. Therefore, there is absolutely no Biblical basis for a church to observe Easter.

But does that matter? Absolutely! Paul wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). Doing things “in the name of the Lord” does not mean we simply claim to do things for Jesus. If it did, then anything goes. But we know it does not because Jesus spoke of “many” who would claim to do things “in [His] name,” but He would tell them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:22-23). To do things “in the name of the Lord” means we do them by the authority of the Lord. With no Bible authority to observe Easter, a church is wrong to do so.

There is only one religious observance that the New Testament reveals (authorizes). This is the Lord’s Supper which was instituted by Jesus Himself (Matthew 26:26-29) for the purpose of remembering His death (1 Corinthians 11:26). It is observed on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) in the assembly of the church (1 Corinthians 11:33). Churches that follow the New Testament pattern will be observing this memorial on Sunday, just as they do every first day of the week. Aside from this, there is no other observance given for the church – whether Easter or Christmas or anything else.

What about the message of Easter? The purpose of the Easter holiday as man invented it was to remember the resurrection of Christ. Is this an important topic? Of course! Paul said the resurrection was part of the foundation of the gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope for eternal life (Romans 6:5; John 11:25-26). The resurrection of Jesus from the dead needs to be proclaimed, not just during the time of Easter, but throughout the year.

Is Easter a good time to focus on the resurrection? This is an interesting question. It is similar to the question: Is Christmas a good time to focus on the birth of Christ? It all comes down to this: Should we accommodate and embrace religious misconceptions in our teaching of the gospel?

There is nothing wrong with teaching about the resurrection of Christ (or His birth) at any time during the year. But how do we present the message? Do we simply talk about the facts of the resurrection and the hope it provides? If so, how is that different than the message that will be taught in every pulpit of every denomination on Easter Sunday? If there is no difference between our message and the others, how do we expect to lead people out of the religions of men and to the religion of Christ?

The New Testament provides no authority for the religious observance of Easter. But how many people in the religious world know that? What a golden opportunity to show people – from the Bible – what the risen Christ expects of us: obedience to Him (Hebrews 5:9) by observing “all that [He] commanded” (Matthew 28:20). Will we present the distinctive message of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:8), in its entirety (Acts 20:27), in season and out (2 Timothy 4:2)? Or will we choose to join the echo chamber of denominational preachers all teaching the same message?

Jesus “purchased” the church “with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). We should never be ashamed of His church or His gospel (cf. Romans 1:16). Rather than embrace the norms of denominationalism, let us pattern our work, our worship, our beliefs, and our practices after the New Testament. As Paul told Timothy, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me” (2 Timothy 1:13).

Is such a message popular? No. Generally, people want to do what they are comfortable with and they follow the churches and preachers that satisfy them. Paul warned Timothy about this: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

What was Timothy’s response to be to this situation? Was he to change his message or focus on the things that people wanted or expected? No, he was told, “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Let us as Christians, preachers, teachers, and churches strive to proclaim the gospel in such a way that people might be persuaded to forsake the churches of men and become part of the church that belongs to Christ.

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  1. Brandon Humble says

    Excellent timing Andy.