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What Is the Real Meaning of NOT OBSERVING
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What Is the Real Meaning of NOT OBSERVING "Days, Months, Times, Years?"
Ambassador College   
Church of God

Ambassador College (1947-1997) was a four-year, liberal arts college run by the Worldwide Church of God. The college was established in 1947 in Pasadena, California by Herbert W. Armstrong, what was then the Radio Church of God, later renamed the Worldwide Church of God. In 1960 a second campus was opened at Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire, England, and in 1964 a third campus was opened in Big Sandy, Texas, Ambassador operated for 50 years.

Many ask about Paul's warning in Galatians 4:10 against observing "days, months, times and years." Just what were these days against which Paul preached? The answer is surprising.

   HERE IS what Paul wrote to the Galatians: "Howbeit then when ye knew not God, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods. But now, after ye have known God... HOW TURN YE BACK AGAIN to the weak and beggarly elements whereunto ye desire AGAIN to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years" (Galatians 4:8-10).
   What is Paul saying? Read it again. Did he say, "Ye observe the Sabbath and annual Holy Days such as the Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Tabernacles"? Was he telling the Galatian Christians not to observe these Holy Days of God? No!
   Paul said: "Days and months, and times, and years" something altogether different!

What Days Were These?

   Notice this entire fourth chapter of Galatians. Paul begins the chapter by addressing the Jews not Gentiles. In verse three Paul addresses these Jews as "we," because Paul was also a Jew.
   But beginning with verse six, Paul ceases to speak to the Jews. Now he is speaking to the Gentile converts. He does not say "we," but "you." Notice it! "Howbeit, then, when ye knew not God" remember, the Jews knew God, but the Gentiles had not known God before the preaching of the Gospel! Jesus said to the Gentile Samaritan woman: "Ye" the Gentiles "worship ye know not what: we" the Jews "know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22).
   Continuing with Gal. 4:8: "When ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God...how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?"
   These converts to whom Paul is now writing were not Jews! They were Gentiles by birth. These Gentile converts in times past did not know God, were cut off from Him (see Eph. 2:13), "were slaves to gods which were no gods at all." They had been serving demons and idols, not the Living God. False teachers were coming among them, perverting the true Gospel, beguiling them to turn again to their former ways. Paul was alarmed. They were departing from the gospel and RETURNING to what? "Days, and months, and times and years."
   They couldn't be returning to God's festivals. They never kept them before Paul preached about them.

What Are "Times"?

   Next, turn Leviticus 19:26 and Deuteronomy 18:10, 14. Here Moses, according to the command of God, ordered the people not to observe "TIMES"! "Ye shall not eat anything with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times" (Lev 19:26).
   This is ABSOLUTE PROOF that the days Paul is forbidding are pagan and not God-given. To observe "times" originally was a heathen practice often attached to the heavenly bodies, especially in determining the pagan calendar and the heathen religious seasons.
   The Catholic Bishop Chrysostom, who lived in the fourth century, admits that these superstitious times which Paul forbids were pagan customs practiced by "Christians" in his day, as in the days of old. He says: "Many were superstitiously addicted to divination ... In the celebration of these times {they} set up lamps in the marketplace, and crown their doors with garlands" (from Binghams' Antiquities of the Christian Church, pp. 1123, 1124).
   Besides times, the Greeks observed special days in honor of the dead. "The rites took place on the... unlucky days accompanied by complete idleness and cessation of business" (from Rest Days by Hutton Webster, New York, MacMillan, p. 79).
   These Gentile Galatians were returning to the customs of doing penance on the old pagan days.

Penance Denounced

   Paul denounced this vain and abominable practice. We are NOT TO LEARN the way of the heathen (Jer. 10, Deut. 12:29-32).
   In connection with the old pagan idolatry were numerous days observed as idolatrous penitential festivals. These days were consecrated to deities of the state religious cults and were "unlucky" because of the supposed influence of the gods!
   These religious holidays were set aside as periods of penance because they were "regarded as unsuitable for many purposes, both public and private: for battles, levies, sacred rites, journeys and marriages. We are told that they owed their unlucky quality to the pronouncement of the Senate and pontiffs" (Rest Days, p. 171).
   As many as one third of the days of the old Greek and Roman calendars were marked as "unlawful for judicial and political business... on which the state expected the citizens to abstain, as far as possible, from their private business and labour" (Rest Days, pp. 304, 305).
   No wonder Paul spoke of "days"!
   And how many "worldly" as well as religious people still have similar beliefs today! Such as "unlucky" Friday the thirteenth!
   Paul was writing to the Galatians to enlighten their minds so they would give up this foolish regard of heathen days.

Other Heathen Holidays

   Notice that Paul also condemns the pagan custom of observing "months and years" another pagan custom!
   Certain months of the year were considered sacred to the Greek gods, Apollo (April, October), Zeus (February, June), Artemis (April), Bacchus (January) and many others which you can read of in the Encyclopaedia Americana, article "Festival."
   Also certain years were set aside quadrennially and biennially during which were national idolatrous feasts and the celebration of the Olympic, Isthmian, Nemean and Pythian games. Every one of these was connected with idolatrous worship and ceremony.
   Paul was forbidding Gentile converts to return to these heathen practices of observing days, months, times and years.

Misunderstood Texts in the Old Testament

   Some claim there are texts in the Old Testament in which God says "My" Sabbaths and festivals "I hate." This is not true. God said: "I hate, I despise your feast days, and... your solemn assemblies" (Amos 5:21). Notice it. "Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: for they are a trouble unto me" (Isaiah 1:14 see also Hosea 2:11 and Amos 8:10).
   These were not divine institutions, but man-appointed days observed in the ancient tribes of Israel. These days God despised.
   Several chapters are devoted by the prophet Ezekiel to a condemnation of ancient Israel for breaking the Sabbaths God had given. Take special note of Ezekiel 20:12-26 and 22:26. The punishment inflicted upon the House of Israel was for desecrating the Sabbaths.
   Ancient Israel did not continue to observe the holy days of God. They refused His judgments and statutes (Ezekiel 20:18-21). They copied the heathen idolatrous feasts of surrounding nations. History proves this fact!
   The chronicler of ancient Israel preserved a record of just such a change in the laws of God, when the House of Israel separated from Judah.
   "And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar... sacrificing unto the calves that he had made... the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart..." (I Kings 12:32, 33).
   Thereafter Israel altered the new moons and changed the Sacred Calendar. They exchanged the Sabbaths for idolatrous days for sun-worship. Israel, taking over the feasts of the heathen Baal sun worship turned them into idolatrous rest days according to the statutes of the kings of Israel (II Kings 17:8).
   God never hated nor abolished His feasts. But He did hate the different days which ancient Israel invented!
   If you would like to know more about God's festivals and their true meaning for us today, read our free booklet Pagan Holidays - or God's Holy Days - Which?

         
Publication Date: 1970
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