Category Archives: HOLIDAYS

Should Christians celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day?

SHOULD CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE SAINT PATRICK’S DAY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Thank you for that question. We will look at it from a historical standpoint and then use the Bible to provide an informed answer.

WHO WAS “SAINT PATRICK?”

“Saint Patrick” is a rather enigmatic individual because myth and legend have distorted the record of his life. Some of the dumbest, most superstitious, tales are attached to him. He was definitely a real man, having lived sometime during the A.D. 400s. Regrettably, ancient authoritative records on his life are scarce. Thus, historians are not even agreed concerning his birth year or death year. Some have suggested he has been confused with another “religious” man who lived contemporaneously. The possibility of these “blended” lives makes it very difficult to distinguish Patrick from the other man, and we must be careful to differentiate Patrick’s likely actions from outright fantasy.

Furthermore, church tradition has also clouded the matter. The Roman Catholic Church, attempting to bolster itself in Ireland, has “hijacked” Patrick and made him one of its “patron saints.” Personally, I am not convinced Patrick was ever a Roman Catholic. From what I have been able to ascertain through a variety of sources, Patrick was the first known Christian missionary to the pagans in Ireland. He was a Bible-believing Christian whom the Holy Spirit used to bring countless Irish souls out of dark heathenism (that would be a far cry from a Roman Catholic!). Born and raised in Great Britain, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland around age 16. He returned to Britain years later, and after obtaining an education in theology, returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary, supposedly becoming a church leader late in his life. March 17 is commonly believed to be his death date—again, the precise year is debatable, but somewhere between 460 and 500.

On the religious calendar, March 17 is the Roman Catholic feast day for “Saint Patrick” (a parody of the previously-mentioned real, non-Catholic, Christian missionary to Ireland). Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox adherents, and Lutherans largely observe March 17 as well. For Roman Catholics in Ireland, March 17 is a “holy day of obligation.” Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations closely resemble Mardi Gras celebrations here in Roman Catholic southern Louisiana—alcoholic beverages and drunkenness, parades, dances, et cetera. (See our Mardi Gras study linked at the end of this article for more information.) Once a “religious” holiday, Saint Patrick’s Day is largely just another excuse to sin (carouse) in the name of “religion” and “holiness.” Still, some genuinely celebrate the day to commemorate Christianity’s arrival to Ireland. In a non-religious sense, March 17 is also a celebration of Irish culture and heritage in general.

THE PROTESTANT/ROMAN-CATHOLIC DEBATE

It is important to note that Ireland’s national flag is a tricolor, from left to right—green, white, and orange. Green represents Ireland’s Roman Catholic heritage, orange represents Ireland’s Protestant heritage, and white (in the middle) represents the “aspiring peace” between the groups that have fought against each other for centuries there. So, those who wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day are either (1) Roman Catholic, or (2) ignorant Protestant. Orange is the color that Protestants wear on March 17. Every March 17, keep an eye out for these two colors and see who draws attention to what color they are wearing!

As previously mentioned, the Roman Catholic Church claims “Saint Patrick” was a Roman Catholic. Catholic apologists reason that he could have not been a “Protestant” since the Protestant/Catholic split did not occur until some 1000 years after Patrick’s death. Of course, if Patrick was not Roman Catholic, and from what I have read, he was not Roman Catholic, then “Protestant” would be the opposite of “Roman Catholic,” no?

WHAT SHOULD THE CHRISTIAN DO?

If you are a Bible-believing Christian with Irish ancestry, and/or you are a Bible-believing Christian living in Ireland, and you just want to remember your relatives and your country of origin on March 17, I see no sin in that. (I have Irish ancestry on my maternal grandfather’s side of the family, but I have never actually celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day.) If you live in Ireland and you want to celebrate Christianity’s arrival to your country, you may do so. I see no sin in that. Still, and this is most important of all, in light of the information presented above, just remember that your participation in such a holiday may cause other Christians to stumble. Consider the verses I will share with you shortly, and use your judgment accordingly.

For example, a fellow Christian may approach you about Saint Patrick’s Day, saying, “Hey, is not this holiday something sinful, something of heathen origin? Why do you do it? Christians should not get involved with that! There is a lot of superstition, and drinking, and false religion!” At that point, you would need to address his or her concern, lest the Adversary get the advantage.

Any weaker Christians should definitely not engage in Saint Patrick’s Day activities at all (until they resolve in their minds that they can keep themselves spiritually pure, they will damage their spiritual health). A general rule of thumb for all life decisions, is the following: If there is doubt about doing it, then do not do it. “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b). If you think you can keep yourself spiritually pure in Saint Patrick’s Day activities, it is not a sin. Just walk in charity, keeping others in mind. If you regard Saint Patrick’s Day as something to be avoided entirely, then it is your prerogative to avoid it. The Bible never outright says “yes” or “no.”

If you do want to engage in Saint Patrick’s Day, you are highly encouraged to read Romans 14:1-23, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, and 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. These passages are reminders of how we are to exercise our liberty in Christ without harming other Christians. A common conundrum among the Gentile believers of Paul’s day was, “Is it okay to eat meat (or, food in general) that was once sacrificed to pagan idols? Will that diet of heathen offerings give me a bad standing before God? Can that idol (false religious system) defile me by means of that food?”

The Bible says in Romans chapter 14: “[7] For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. [8] For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. [9] For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. [13] Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. [14] I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. [15] But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. [16] Let not then your good be evil spoken of: [17] For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. [18] For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. [19] Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. [20] For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. [21] It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. [22] Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. [23] And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

Notice that the Christians stronger in the faith (more mature in the Word of God)—such as the Apostle Paul—knew there was nothing wrong with that food that had been offered to idols. The idol was dead (unable to defile the food), the food was hence still good, and Paul had no problem eating it. He had a strong conscience about it. That was his liberty in Jesus Christ. Still, Paul would also walk “charitably,” seeking the good of those around him. If a weaker Christian (a Christian with a weak conscience, someone who was less mature in the Word of God) had a problem with Paul’s action, if the weaker Christian voiced concern that eating meat offered to idols was sinful, then Paul said he refrained from doing it for the brother or sister’s sake. The Apostle knew that it was better to do without something, than to have it and then use it to spiritually harm another believer. He did not want to do Satan’s work. He refused to be a stumblingblock to others when it came to this or any other action. Friends, grace living seeks the benefit of others; grace living is not selfish living but selfless living!

We read of this matter further in 1 Corinthians chapter 8: “[1] Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. [2] And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. [3] But if any man love God, the same is known of him. [4] As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. [5] For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) [6] But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. [7] Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. [8] But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. [9] But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. [10] For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; [11] And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? [12] But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. [13] Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”

The Apostle continued in 1 Corinthians chapter 10: “[23] All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. [24] Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. [25] Whatsoever is sold in the shambles [marketplace], that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: [26] For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. [27] If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. [28] But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: [29] Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? [30] For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? [31] Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. [32] Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: [33] Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”

In Greek culture such as in Corinth, animals were offered as sacrifices in pagan temples and then the meat was sold in the marketplace. Some Christians just refused to eat any meat, fearing they would pollute themselves with that which came from a heathen temple. Other Christians, the more mature ones, knew the idols were nothing and the idols did not harm the food, so these Christians considered the meat clean to eat. Regardless of which type of Christian they were, Paul urged all Christians: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” We should ultimately seek God’s praise and glory in all that we do, paying close attention that we build up other Christians with our actions instead of tearing them down.

CONCLUSION

Like many popular “religious” holidays—Christmas and Easter, primarily—Saint Patrick’s Day has become highly secularized. It is not even a decent “religious holiday.” There is a lot of nonsense and myth associated with it. Still, if you want to observe it in the privacy of your home, by all means, do it. If you want to celebrate your Irish heritage, fine. If you do not want to celebrate your Irish heritage, that too is fine. This is the liberty of grace—God did not make all the decisions for us! Rather, He gave us Bible verses and we make the best choices that we can based on them.

Personally, based on the verses given earlier, I believe that would it be a stumblingblock to other Christians if you engaged in any type of parade revelry, drinking alcoholic beverages for all to see and mock (these are common drinks during the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, remember). More than anything, I believe you should wear orange and celebrate your Protestant (Bible-believing) heritage on March 17. You are not a Roman Catholic, so it does not make sense for you to make a “big deal” about, “I am wearing green for Saint Patrick’s Day!” Wear orange, and when people ask you why you do not have the “traditional green,” explain why (or just tell them to Google “Ireland’s tricolor flag”). It may be a wonderful opportunity for you to share the Lord Jesus Christ and the soul salvation found in Him!

Using the above applications of grace living (excerpts from Romans and 1 Corinthians), we can better understand what we should do in regards to Saint Patrick’s Day. It is a personal decision. While eating meat offered to idols is not so much an issue today, the principles of charity remain the same. If we use our liberty in Christ and offend other Christians with our actions, it is best not to engage in those activities again in their presence. If you think it would be in your best interest and the best interest of others to engage in Saint Patrick’s Day, then you are free to do so. Just keep in mind that some activities are not profitable to others or ourselves. Certain activities are not sins but weaker Christians may see them as sins, and we have to keep these precious people in mind.

Saint, if you do not believe you should participate in Saint Patrick’s Day, do not do it. “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b). Saint, if you want to participate in Saint Patrick’s Day, you are free to do so, just use your liberty in Christ with caution, exercising attentiveness to any Christians who may be offended, and exercising in grace accordingly!

Also see:
» Should Christians celebrate Mardi Gras?
» Should Christians observe Lent?
» Should Christians celebrate “Good Friday?”

Why do people use “Xmas” instead of “Christmas?”

WHY DO PEOPLE USE “XMAS” INSTEAD OF “CHRISTMAS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Every Christmas Season, you have seen and heard the phrase, “Merry Xmas.” Have you ever wondered why people do not just write and say “Christmas?” Should we Christians use the term “Xmas?”

Here are three reasons why “Xmas” is a popular expression:

Firstly, our English word “Christ” is transliterated from the Greek christos (Χριστός). The letters are “CHi-Rho-Iota-Sigma-Tau-Omicron-Sigma.” The first character, the Greek letter “chi” (pronounced KI), as you can see, resembles our English letter “X.” So, when people use “Xmas,” they are actually referring to Christ (although, to English speakers, this is not obvious.)

Secondly, “Xmas” is much shorter than “Christmas.” This abbreviation can be written quicker and it can fit limited spaces more easily.

Thirdly, some people use “Xmas” just so they do not offend non-Christians. (Furthermore, some do not like to say, “Merry Christmas,” so they say, “Happy Holidays,” not realizing that “holiday” is from the Old English word for “holy day.” If they do not like spiritual connotations, they had better not say “Happy Holidays” either!)

Personally, I have never used and I will never use “Xmas.” I just say and write “Christmas” because Jesus Christ means so much more to me than some “offended” person!

Also see:
» Was Jesus Christ really born on December 25th?
» Should I display a Christmas tree?
» What is the real “Immaculate Conception?”

Should Christians celebrate Mardi Gras?

SHOULD CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE MARDI GRAS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Should we as Christians celebrate Mardi Gras? Firstly, we need to define what “Mardi Gras” is, and then we need to search the Scriptures to see whether or not such a holiday is Biblical. As always, my goal is not to attack or condemn anyone, but to share God’s Word with you and let you come to your own conclusions about what God would have you to do. Compare it with the Scriptures and see what God says about the matter!

ORIGIN OF MARDI GRAS

The History Channel’s website (www.history.com) has the following opening remarks about Mardi Gras:

“A Christian holiday and popular cultural phenomenon, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival, it is celebrated in many countries around the world–mainly those with large Roman Catholic populations–on the day before the religious season of Lent begins. Brazil, Venice and New Orleans play host to some of the holiday’s most famous public festivities, drawing thousands of tourists and revelers every year.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday.” From where did this celebration originate? According to secular historians, not Bible believers, Mardi Gras “dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites!” In other words, even people who do not believe the Bible understand that Mardi Gras was never Christian; it was simply a pagan celebration given a “Christian” appearance. The History Channel’s website continues:

“According to historians, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous [wild, disorderly] Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess [gluttony] and debauchery [wickedness] of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

“Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the meat, eggs, milk and cheese that remained in their homes, preparing for several weeks of eating only fish and fasting. In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” The word “carnival,” another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, may also derive from this vegetarian-unfriendly custom: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat.”

* * *

Today, Mardi Gras is celebrated in Roman Catholic countries as well as here in Louisiana (mostly in the city of New Orleans). Mardi Gras is marked by partying, drunkenness, gluttony (overeating), parades, costumes and masks, eating a “King Cake,” and throwing beads and other trinkets. A few years ago, I wrote a Bible study about Mardi Gras titled, “God’s Grace on Parade.” I have reproduced it in its entirety below, in hope and prayer that you can profit from it and/or use it for others’ benefit regarding this time of year.
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GOD’S GRACE ON PARADE
by Shawn Brasseaux

Here in Louisiana, a state dominated by Roman Catholicism, Mardi Gras is perhaps the most celebrated festival. Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” is a day when religious people consume as much alcohol as they want, eat as much rich and fatty foods as they want, and party as much as they want. While I love the dear people who participate in these events, I, as a Bible-believing Christian, object to such activities. Please understand that the following study is not intended to belittle or attack, but to provide sound doctrine regarding a matter that many enjoy but few understand.

A BRIEF SUMMARIZATION OF FAT TUESDAY, ASH WEDNESDAY, AND LENT

Religious people are told that, after they have “sinned all they want” on Fat Tuesday, to repent of that wickedness, to mourn, and turn to God. On the day after Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, clergymen place ashes on the foreheads of the church members as a sign of their “repentance.” “Lent” is the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. During these weeks, religious people endure “penitential preparation” for Easter Sunday. They are encouraged to “get closer to God” and make their lives more closely resemble Jesus’ life. How?

Their clergy urge them to pray, do penance (suffer and apologize for their sins), have repentance (feel sorry for their sins and/or turn from their sins), give alms (give material goods/money to others), and seek self-denial (temporarily give up luxuries such as a hobby or favorite food). These dear souls are even told they cannot eat meat on the Fridays during Lent (fasting). Did you know that God’s Word says that “commanding to abstain from meats” is a “doctrine of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)?

So, why do they observe Lent? They claim to be following “Jesus” when He fasted for 40 days (Matthew 4:2; Luke 4:2). To Satan’s delight, Mardi Gras appears so innocent and it hides behind the cloak of religion. People are completely blinded regarding Mardi Gras, just like they are regarding much of the other activities in “Christian” circles today. Let me further demonstrate this.

THE DECEPTION AND PAGANISM OF MARDI GRAS EXPOSED

Why is Mardi Gras a period of drunkenness, overeating, and partying followed by a time of fasting? Historians tell us that Mardi Gras can be traced back to the pagan Roman festivals Saturnalia and Lupercalia, wild and shameful celebrations of fertility and springtime. Lupercalia was noted for its orgies and sexual excesses while Saturnalia was celebrated with overeating and revelry (drunken parties). And then, after the excess, the pagans fasted. Does that sound familiar? Is that not what Mardi Gras is all about? Despite its “Christian” veneer, history claims that Mardi Gras is not a Christian celebration at all. Pagans originally celebrated it, albeit they called it other names (Lupercalia and Saturnalia).

How did Mardi Gras become associated with Christianity? Well, when Christianity came to Rome in the first centuries A.D., church leaders knew that it would be impossible to convince the pagans to abandon their ungodly practices, worthless idols, and unbiblical beliefs. What was the solution to uniting the Roman Empire? The church leaders simply incorporated that heathenism into Christianity! This is the origin of several “Christian” holidays, including Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas.

A few weeks ago, a local Roman Catholic priest wrote a column in my local newspaper. The poor soul actually defended Mardi Gras as something godly, withholding the historical facts that he should have known. He claimed, “Getting drunk and wreckless [sic] is not the spirit of Mardi Gras in its origin. Rather, it was to tap into the rhythm of life of celebrating and mourning, of eating and fasting, of laughing and crying. It is what the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes was inspired to write….” Basically, he argued that since Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says there is “a time for” everything, Mardi Gras is no exception! He concluded his article with, “As long as there is no sin, celebrate Mardi Gras with gusto so the 40 days of Lent will be entered into with willingness and even a sense of joy.” (Bold emphasis mine.) According to him, you can celebrate Mardi Gras, a sinful holiday, without committing sin. Shame! Shame! Shame!

I wrote a letter to the editor, and surprisingly, it was published. In that letter, I objected to this priest’s statements and pointed out that his entire argument was misleading. Some may argue that this was an honest mistake on his part, so be it known, that, to my knowledge, that priest made no attempt to correct his untruthful statements. He never recanted or retracted his claims.

More recently, this same Catholic priest wrote yet another column in our newspaper, and this time, his topic was Lent. He wrote, “Marked on this coming Wednesday with ashes as a reminder that we are dust and unto dust we all shall return, we enter this season to reflect on how best we can walk with Jesus, knowing that ‘if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him’ (Romans 6:8). This is a holy time—a time to believe more and more in the good news of Jesus.” Notice again how Mardi Gras and Lent is associated with Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Lent is a “holy” time? Well, as long as we compare Lent to the shameful carousel on the previous Tuesday, I guess Lent IS holy!

MARDI GRAS ON PARADE

Quite frankly, religious people use Mardi Gras as a license to sin. Mardi Gras parades, complete with bead tossing from floats, involve alcohol, gluttony, and dancing. Sexual acts—including exposing certain body parts—are prevalent. People just seem to lose all temperance, doing whatever they want and how much they want. And, may we add masks are donned as to keep their identities secret! When the parades are over, the streets are covered with vomit and polluted with literally tons of litter. Do you know what is most pitiful? They claim that this is a “holy time!” Now do you see why Jeremiah 17:9 explains that man’s heart is “wicked,” “deceitful above all things?” They have deceived themselves into thinking that ungodly activity honors God, since they will confess it and repent of it all the next day! Sadly, there is no shame whatsoever. The Mardi Gras parades are broadcast on television and published in our newspapers. While wearing cross necklaces (of all things!) these revelers drink and party. And guess what? The media even refers to them as “revelers.” Again, they are open about their sin.

GOD’S GRACE ON PARADE

Every Mardi Gras, I am reminded of a verse in Romans: “…Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (5:20). Mardi Gras is sinful in that it involves drunkenness and sexual promiscuity. But it is all the more wicked because this blatant sin is committed in the name of “God!” The Mardi Gras colors purple, green, and gold represent justice, faith, and power, respectively. Again, Mardi Gras appears to be “Christian.”

In addition, a notable confection of Mardi Gras is the “king cake,” which is decorated with green, purple, and gold icing. It symbolizes the “three kings” who visited the baby Jesus. A plastic baby is even hidden in the king cake. Regardless of all its biblical allusions (ILLUSIONS!), Mardi Gras is still evil and anti-God.

Despite all this sin, even when it is committed in the name of “God,” the Lord Jesus Christ in His abounding grace and mercy, continues to tolerate mankind. Year after year, Mardi Gras Season after Mardi Gras Season, mankind parades his sin, and God parades His grace. God holds back that wrath that mankind so rightfully deserves. People believe they are getting away with their sin, but the Bible says this about their “payday.” “[God] Who will render to every man according to his deeds: Unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;” (Romans 2:6,8,9). There is “pleasure of sin,” but the Good Book says, it is but “for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

WHERE THE SAINTS STAND

Throughout my short life, I have personally known scores of “Christians” who find Mardi Gras totally acceptable. They believe it is godly, when, in fact, the Bible exposes “revelry” as sin, a “work of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21). Even the Apostle Peter—who Rome claims was its “first pope”—disagrees with and condemns reveling (1 Peter 4:3). Peter forbade “excess of wine, revellings, and banquetings” (1 Peter 4:3). Galatians 5:19-21 claims that “drunkenness” and “revellings” are “works of the flesh.” Paul wrote, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess” (Ephesians 5:18). The Holy Spirit, speaking through the Apostles Peter and Paul, was clearly against Mardi Gras reveling and drunkenness. So why do we have professing Christians engaging the very activities that God the Holy Spirit condemned?!

Mardi Gras is completely offensive and unacceptable to God and to those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Christians should speak out against such foolishness. It mocks our Saviour… even more so because they commit sin using HIS name!!!! As Christians, we are taught to “deny” the activities that accompany Mardi Gras.

Titus 2:11-15 explains: “[11] For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, [12] Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; [13] Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; [14] Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. [15] These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”

There is nothing biblical about Mardi Gras. It is not “sober, righteous, or godly.” It does not reflect the grace life that we have in Jesus Christ. Mardi Gras entails riotous and careless living. God’s grace teaches us Christians not to sin, to lead lives that are responsible and temperate. Sin is not who we are anymore. Romans 6:11-15 says: “[11] Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. [12] Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. [13] Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. [14] For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. [15] What then? shall we continue in sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”

Can the Bible be any clearer? Mardi Gras is not for Christians.

CONCLUSION

So, perhaps I have gotten your attention, and have made you see things you never realized before. To the Lord alone be the glory if that is true! Maybe you are a Mardi Gras reveler. Perhaps you are still dead in your trespasses and sins and destitute of eternal life. The key is not to stop the Mardi Gras revelry in your own strength. Come to God as you are and He will take care of the rest. He will clean up your life and give you peace, joy, righteousness, and love. God accepts us in His Son, the beloved, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:6). The wonderful Gospel of the Grace of God declares that God did for you at Calvary what you could never do: “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Jesus Christ shed His sinless blood and died to put away all of your sins, Mardi Gras revelry included.

No fasting, no penance, no confession, and no self-denial will ever merit the favor of God. By trying to please God in your own strength, you will only condemn yourself. You are a sinner, so you cannot do anything to please God. But, because you are a sinner, God can save you. You can be made “the righteousness of God in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21). How?

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for everything that is wrong with you. Why not trust in Jesus Christ alone, that His finished crosswork is sufficient to pay for your sins? God has forgiven you and you do not have to go to hell! Come to God as you are, and by faith, rest in Christ Jesus alone as your Saviour. If you do, God will save you forever, and make a trophy of His grace. And then YOUR life will be God’s grace on parade!
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WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN TO DO?

Perhaps a dear Christian reading this, would reply, “Oh, Brother Shawn, do not judge! We are under grace not law! Do not be legalistic! I am a Christian and I see nothing wrong with Mardi Gras parades and my having a good time there. I do not drink alcohol there, I do not riot there, et cetera, so I do not see what the big deal is.”

Over the years, many dear friends, lost and saved alike, have posted pictures on social media of the parades that they attended. What is most troubling is that yes, Christians are seen in these questionable situations. Dear friends, we need to be careful as to what type of message we are sending with regards to our actions. Even if we are behaving, not getting drunk or being rowdy, why put ourselves in the midst of those who misbehaving? If it is a holiday known for its drunkenness, rioting, vulgarity, and religious nonsense, and it is, why do we Bible-believing Christians want to participate in it at all? Is not saying, “I go to the Mardi Gras parades but do not drink or act vulgar” just as ridiculous as claiming, “I frequent the local bar or pub, not to drink, but to socialize?” Why set yourself up for stumbling into sin, dear friend and Christian?

While people are free to do as they want, God’s Word has already judged the matter. I am just repeating what the Bible says, so you need not get angry with me. Friend, talk to God about it, but He has already made up His mind. We are to “use not our liberty for an occasion to the flesh” (Galatians 5:13). Just because we are under grace and not law does not mean that God does not care how we live (do you see why denominationalists object to our beliefs by saying, “You people use grace as a license to sin?”). In fact, we should not be using grace as permission to do things that would offend a fellow brother or sister in Christ. If our Christian testimony means anything to us at all, we will “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)—if the activity appears bad, then we should avoid it. Furthermore, for the sake of the spiritual wellbeing of another Christian, we need to be sure we are not using our liberty to destroy those for whom Christ died!

The most non-legalistic person in all of the Bible, the Apostle Paul, wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” While we do not have a bunch of rules and regulations to follow in this the Dispensation of Grace, there are still activities that are “not expedient” (not profitable or beneficial). Later on, the Holy Spirit penned through Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24: “[23] All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. [24] Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” Not all activities build up others; we need to keep other people in mind, especially Christians, before we engage in any behavior. Friends, we must keep that in mind, lest we cause them to stumble in similar sins. Christian living is not selfish living.

We read in Romans 14:19-21: “[19] Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. [20] For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. [21] It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” Again, dearly beloved, we should engage in behavior that edifies (builds up) others. As a Christian, it offends me to see other Christians participating in pagan Mardi Gras celebrations, parades abounding with immature, riotous, vulgar, drunken, religious people. I can only imagine what kind of stumbling-block Mardi-Gras-celebrating Christians are for Christians struggling with alcoholism or sexual sins. Just some things to keep in mind, dear readers.

In conclusion, our purpose here has been to enlighten you about Mardi Gras so that you can make an informed decision. It is certainly not our goal to “have dominion over your faith;” our desire is to be “helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). We will not dictate to you what you can and cannot do regarding Mardi Gras, but we do offer this study for your consideration. Our goal is to have your faith rest in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word, so that you may have joy and peace in believing God’s Word (Romans 15:13). Let us use this time of year on the religious calendar often used to “live in sin and abuse grace,” as opportunity to share the wonderful news of the new life we have in Christ, and the new life that they can have in Jesus Christ, too, if they trust Him alone as their personal Saviour. This is the wonderful Gospel of the Grace of God, and it alone is the life-giving message that lost people need to hear—at Carnival-time and every other time!

NOTE: The reader is greatly encouraged to search the internet to learn more about Mardi Gras’ history, and not take this author’s word for anything.

You may also see http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mardi-gras.

Also see:
» Should Christians observe Lent?
» Is there any divine authority in church tradition?
(LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Is Roman Catholicism true Christianity?
(LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

What Scriptural advice can you give me for the New Year?

WHAT SCRIPTURAL ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE ME FOR THE NEW YEAR?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Welcome to 2015! In our first Bible Q&A for this new year, we would be honored to give you some spiritual counsel.

Every New Year’s, it is common for people to make resolutions—something they want to accomplish in the next 365 days. It may be quitting a bad habit, starting a good routine, finishing an education, getting a job promotion, purchasing a new home, et cetera. At this time every year, we stand before a fresh slate—a year not yet tainted by our mistakes, a year to begin again, to start fresh, to leave behind a year that could have been better. We want to briefly look at the new year from four perspectives, verses that can orient us into God’s direction for our lives for the coming 12 months.

THE PAST IS PASSED, AND THE IGNORANCE IS LESS

We read in Titus 3:1-7: “[1] Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, [2] To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. [3] For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. [4] But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, [5] Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; [6] Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; [7] That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

There was a time when we Christians were foolish—dead in our trespasses and sins, we believed that we had to work our way to heaven, to make up for all the wrong we had done. We were doing whatever we wanted, not what Father God wanted; He did not want reformation, He wanted regeneration. He did not want dead people doing dead works, He wanted living people doing works that were literally alive with His life! It is when we heard Paul’s Gospel—Jesus Christ’s death for our sins, His sinless blood atoning for them, His burial to put away our sins, and His resurrection to give us a brand new life (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)—that we came to the end of our “goodness,” and we trusted it for our right standing before God. That new life is ours in Christ, now and forever: that old identity in Adam is gone forever (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Mistakes are necessary in this fallen world, and thus, we cannot escape them. We should not “live in the past,” for we cannot change the past. What we can do is learn from the past, act in the present, and then change the future. We are all one year older, and hopefully, one year wiser. Once, we were more ignorant of the Bible; we all still have much more growing to do! Saints, now, we have a fuller understanding of how God’s grace operates in us and how we operate in Him. We need to let last year’s mistakes go. Those were sins that Jesus Christ took care of 2,000 years ago; by faith, we need to leave them under His shed blood and quit dredging up something God put away by the sacrifice of Himself. “If only I did this” and “If only I did that” will haunt you if you do not send that guilt to Calvary’s cross!

NOW MORE SKILLFUL IN THE WORD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

Whether being a new Christian who just believed the Gospel of Grace, or being a Christian who just came to understand the Bible (dispensational Bible study), we should have a fuller understanding of God’s will for us. We should have learned more verses to apply to various situations in life; this year, we have more verses in mind than we had the previous year. The Bible says that we are to walk in Christ according to the spiritual light we have. This is the key to learning from our mistakes: we should not lapse back into the ignorance we once had.

The Ephesians were once lost, dead in their trespasses and sins, enemies of God, and on their way to eternal hellfire (Ephesians 2:1-3). Then, the Apostle Paul preached the Gospel of God’s Grace to them, and they trusted it for their eternal salvation. They gave up their religious works and their pagan ideas, and they relied exclusively on the finished crosswork of Jesus Christ. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). They, by faith in that Gospel message, embraced God’s grace, what He can do for them through Calvary’s cross, because they can do nothing for Him (Ephesians 2:4-9). Ephesians 2:10 says that Christians are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before ordained that [they] should walk in them.” After salvation unto justification, God wants to work in Christians—a Christian is to then walk in that new identity in Christ. Whether you have just trusted Christ for forgiveness of sins and a home in heaven, or you have been saved for many years, you should be more aware of your identity in Christ than you were when you were first saved. The eternal life you have received in Christ, it is now to live itself out in and through you. It all starts when you study and believe sound Bible doctrine.

In Ephesians 5:15-17, Paul wrote to these Christians: “[8] For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: [9] (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) [10] Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. [11] And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. [12] For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. [13] But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. [14] Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. [15] See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, [16] Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. [17] Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. [18] And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;…”

Despite 2,000 years of Bible schools and seminaries, 2,000 years of a completed Bible canon, 2,000 years of Bible reading in churches, several decades of “Christian” television and radio, and just over a decade of widespread use of “Christian” websites, how sad that Bible ignorance is still quite extensive (it is as if God never gave His Word to start with!).

Frankly, the Church the Body of Christ needs to wake up! Ephesians 5:14 says, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Paul, loosely quoting Isaiah 60:1, reminded us that the spiritual ignorance that gripped Israel in Isaiah’s day seized Christians in his day—and it still grips Christians 20 centuries later. Feel-good sermons, enjoyable “worship” services, and rites, rituals, and ceremonies will NOT solve this problem—they exacerbate it! If we want to be godly spouses, godly parents, godly children, godly employers, and godly employees—Ephesians 5:21–6:9 and Colossians 3:17–4:2—it all starts by learning who God has made us in Christ. We must daily renew our minds, reading and studying God’s Word every day, “letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16). Dispensational Bible study allows us to understand just what Bible doctrine God wants us to believe and apply to life, and then our lives will be filled with His Word and His life!

Yes, the Christian life is a growth process: even the Apostle Paul, 30-plus years after he trusted Christ, confessed that he was still trying to grasp why Jesus Christ had saved him. Philippians chapter 3 says: “[12] Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. [13] Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, [14] I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. [16] Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. [17] Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”

If we trusted Christ 30 years ago, we should have more experience in the Scriptures than someone saved just a few days or weeks ago. God expects us Christians to grow spiritually, to be less confused about the Bible as the years pass, to be more aware of His Word’s doctrines, to better grasp how we fit into His purpose and plan for heaven and earth. We must be willing to abandon information we heard in denominational churches all of our lives, and come to see God’s Word for the plain and clear book that it is. We see that God wants us to follow the pattern, Paul’s life and ministry, in order to bring Him glory. That sound Bible doctrine that God committed to Paul the Apostle is the key to having Jesus Christ live His life in and through us. Only Jesus Christ can live His life, remember!

REMEMBER TO WALK BY FAITH, AND NOT BY SIGHT

As the apostasy, the departure from God’s Word rightly divided, becomes more pronounced in the professing church (2 Timothy 4:3-4), we need to remember not to be distracted from God’s words to us. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith is believing what God says to us (Romans 10:17). We should not look at circumstances, astronomical phenomena, weather patterns, and so on, and try to “read God’s will for us.” We have no interest in “discerning God’s attitude toward us” by looking at our health, our romantic life, our financial state, and so on. We should not look to church tradition and human wisdom to “find God’s will for our lives”—that is not faith, that it is doubt, for God’s Word is found only in the Holy Bible (not in human intuition or religious tradition).

We must go to Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, and then take a stand in these verses. Once we understand our identity in Christ, we can then walk in that identity. Unlike the average church member and preacher, we do not have to grope in darkness, wandering around in ignorance, wondering what God wants to tell us and what He wants us to do. Furthermore, we do not have to fear the trials, troubles, and heartaches the new year will bring. Paul’s epistles remind us that no matter what happens to us, Father God has provisions for us in Christ that will see us through the entire year. To have that victory be brought into life, we have to simply rely on His words to us through Paul rather than struggling on our own.

FULFILLING GOD’S WILL TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT IS RIGHT

God’s will for us is two-fold: salvation from our sins and salvation from doctrinal error. “[God] will have all men to be saved…” (1 Timothy 2:4a). Do you want this New Year to count for God’s glory? First, you need to get saved from your sins and the eternal hellfire all sinners deserve! You need to become a Christian by trusting in and relying on Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for your sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). That is only part of God’s will for you, for 1 Timothy 2:4b continues, “[God] will have all men… to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Now, God’s will for your Christian life is daily, personal Bible study to renew your mind, so your faith in those verses can cause God to work in your life—again, it will be His life, thus making you “perfect [spiritually mature], throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The phrase “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5) urges us to buy back the time Satan has robbed from God (time created for God’s glory). By faith, we need to make that time glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by applying His Word, particularly Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon, to our lives. This is grace living, God’s grace so filling our hearts that it fills our lives. It is Jesus Christ living out His Word in and through us, that the printed Bible page become a life manifested in a human body, our bodies, that we be the Body of Christ in practice!

“[1] I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. [2] And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

You can download our free “One-Year Bible Reading Schedule.” Also, you can sign-up for our free daily grace Bible email devotionals “333 Words of Grace.” Lastly, you can direct your Bible questions to “For What Saith the Scriptures?” Have a good year in Christ!

Also see:
» What is the Lord’s will for my Christian life? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» I am new to the Bible, so where should I begin?
» What is dispensational Bible study?

Was Jesus born on the 25th of December?

WAS JESUS BORN ON THE 25TH OF DECEMBER? IF NOT, SHOULD CHRISTIANS STILL CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Some professing Christians believe that we should celebrate Christmas because it commemorates Jesus Christ’s birth. Other professing Christians believe that we should not celebrate Christmas because of its pagan (non-Christian) origins and elements. In this Bible study, we will evaluate Christmas from the historical and Biblical perspectives, to answer two crucial questions—(1) Was Jesus actually born on December 25th? (2) If He was not, then should we as Christians still celebrate December 25th as though it were a legitimate Christian holiday? We will let our readers come to their own conclusion as to what they should do about Christmas. To the Scriptures we go to search and see!

Like with Easter, some Bible-believing Christians struggle in themselves whether or not to observe Christmas. As with anything religious, especially concerning the Holy Bible, there is gross, gross, gross ignorance. It is such a tragic testimony, oh how sad it is, that the average Christian cannot adequately convey what he or she believes, let alone actually point to supporting Bible verses, if his or her life depended on it! “Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land…. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:1,6).

Dear friends, if we are to answer the Bible critics with clear, sound, thoughtful statements as God Himself would have us to reply to them, we must make informed decisions and then be ready to defend them. What we need to do is study the Bible and then believe what we read; if the Bible is silent about the topic, we need to study the topic using something other than the Bible, and then we should return to the Bible and compare to it what we have learned elsewhere. The Bible never uses the term “Christmas.” (Still, that does not mean that God’s Word is completely silent about this “feast of Christendom.”) Hence, before we can see what implicit references the Bible makes to this time of year and its associated activities, we should consider the history of Christmas and then compare that to the Holy Bible. We will do just that here.

ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS

According to the “Christmas” article of The New Encyclopædia Britannica:

Christmas, Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. The English term Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) is of fairly recent origin. The earlier term Yule may have derived from the Germanic jōl or the Anglo-Saxon geōl, which referred to the feast of the winter solstice. The corresponding terms in other languages—Navidad in Spanish, Natale in Italian, Noël in French—all probably denote nativity. The German word Weihnachten denotes “hallowed night.”

The precise origin of assigning December 25 as the birth date of Jesus is unclear. The New Testament provides no clues in this regard. December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 and later became the universally accepted date. One widespread explanation of the origin of this date is that December 25 was the Christianizing of the dies solis invicti nati (“day of the birth of the unconquered sun”), a popular [pagan, non-Christian—S.B.] holiday in the Roman Empire that celebrated the winter solstice as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, the casting away of winter and the heralding of the rebirth of spring and summer. Indeed, after December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus’ birth, Christian writers frequently made the connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son. One of the difficulties with this view is that it suggests a nonchalant willingness on the part of the Christian [actually the Roman Catholic—S.B.] church to appropriate a pagan festival when the early church was so intent on distinguishing itself categorically from pagan beliefs and practices.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

“A second view suggests that December 25 became the date of Jesus’ birth by a priori reasoning that identified the spring equinox as the date of the creation of the world and the fourth day of creation, when the light was created, as the day of Jesus’ conception (i.e., March 25). December 25, nine months later, then became the date of Jesus’ birth. For a long time the celebration of Jesus’ birth was observed in conjunction with his baptism, celebrated January 6.”

The secular (non-Christian) New Encyclopædia Britannica is actually more informed about the Bible than most Christians. It clearly displays a fact that the Bible student already knows—the New Testament is completely silent about Jesus Christ being born on December 25th (this idea appeared in the third century A.D., some 150 years after New Testament times). As the Britannica indicates, Jesus’ birth being celebrated on December 25th has a widespread explanation: the Roman Catholic Church, to attract more members from paganism, cleaned up and adopted a non-Christian holiday, blending similarities wherever it could so as to minimize detection. In late December, at the winter solstice, the pagan Romans celebrated the time of the rebirth of the sun (beginning with the winter solstice, daylight hours began to slowly increase).

The History Channel’s website (www.history.com) has the following opening remarks about Christmas:

“A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan [non-Christian!—S.B.] traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts. … It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

These historians—who may not be Christians at all, and who thus would have no “Bible-believing-bias” agenda to advance—assure us that Christmas has “many pre-Christian, pagan traditions.” Not just a few, but many, non-Christian elements!

We continue reading from the History Channel’s website:

“In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

It should be pointed out that these were not Bible-believing Jews or Bible-believing Christians; these were ignorant people in paganism. The Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) led no one to believe in such superstitious nonsense.

The History Channel’s website could not be clearer about why Christmas, a once-heathen holiday, now prevails in the Christian “church:”

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced [COMPROMISE!—S.B.], but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

We find elsewhere in the History Channel’s online article about Christmas’ origins:

Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.”

“In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.”

“In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday….”

“Saturnalia”

“In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic [riotous, carousing] time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.”

“Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. [Notice how the Roman Church adopted the ancient Roman religious belief of a pagan god being born in December, and then “Christianized” it by applying the date to Jesus.] For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.”

“In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

In his classic The Two Babylons (first printed in the mid-1800s), Alexander Hislop expanded on this idea:

“The festivals of Rome are innumerable; but five of the most important may be singled out for elucidation—viz., Christmas-day, Lady-day, Easter, the Nativity of St. John, and the Feast of the Assumption. Each and all of these can be proved to be Babylonian….

“Indeed, it is admitted by the most learned and candid writers of all parties * that the day of our Lord’s birth cannot be determined, ** and that within the Christian Church no such festival as Christmas was ever heard of till the third century, and that not till the fourth century was far advanced did it gain much observance….

“How, then, did the Romish Church fix on December the 25th as Christmas-day? Why, thus: Long before the fourth century, and long before the Christian era itself, a festival was celebrated among the heathen, at that precise time of the year, in honour of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven; and it may fairly be presumed that, in order to conciliate the heathen, and to swell the number of the nominal adherents of Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church, giving it only the name of Christ. This tendency on the part of Christians to meet Paganism half-way was very early developed; and we find Tertullian, even in his day, about the year 230, bitterly lamenting the inconsistency of the disciples of Christ in this respect, and contrasting it with the strict fidelity of the Pagans to their own superstition. “By us,” says he, “who are strangers to Sabbaths, and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable to God, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia, and Matronalia, are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year’s day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar; oh, how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians.” Upright men strive to stem the tide, but in spite of all their efforts, the apostacy went on, till the Church, with the exception of a small remnant, was submerged under Pagan superstition. That Christmas was originally a Pagan festival, is beyond all doubt. The time of the year, and the ceremonies with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin. In Egypt, the son of Isis, the Egyptian title for the queen of heaven, was born at this very time, “about the time of the winter solstice.” The very name by which Christmas is popularly known among ourselves—Yule-day—proves at once its Pagan and Babylonian origin. “Yule” is the Chaldee name for an “infant” or “little child”; * and as the 25th of December was called by our Pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors, “Yule-day,” or the “Child’s day,” and the night that preceded it, “Mother-night,” long before they came in contact with Christianity, that sufficiently proves its real character. Far and wide, in the realms of Paganism, was this birth-day observed. This festival has been commonly believed to have had only an astronomical character, referring simply to the completion of the sun’s yearly course, and the commencement of a new cycle….” (pages 91–94, Bold emphasis mine.)

While much more could be said regarding the above quotes, suffice it to say that Christmas practices certainly have roots in false religion, and much of what is called “Christmas worship” is nothing more than the carryover of superstitious practices that non-Christians followed centuries and millennia ago. These pagan practices have been given a godly appearance—they have been “Christianized”—but, once we expose their superficiality, they demonstrate themselves that they have no relation to the God of the Bible and no association with Jesus Christ.

It is becoming to close this section by quoting one brief statement from the History Channel’s website: “As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday [in the 1800s], old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.”

USING THE BIBLE TO ESTIMATE CHRIST’S BIRTH-MONTH

While it is commonly estimated that the Lord Jesus Christ was born between 7 and 4 B.C., we are more interested in this study to see if the Bible says anything about the time of year He was born. Some church fathers argued Christ’s birth was May 20, others argued January 6, and still others January 10. Rather than studying the traditions of men, we will simply be Bible-believers (before we become that, we must first be Bible-students!).

Luke 2:7-8 are helpful in determining the approximate time of Christ’s birth: “[7] And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. [8] And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:7-8).

As we stated earlier, religious tradition demands December 25th is Christ’s birthday. Was our Lord Jesus really born in wintertime? This passage replies with an emphatic NO. According to the Bible, on the night of Jesus’ birth, there were shepherds out in the fields watching their flock. Would shepherds be abiding outside on a cold winter’s (perhaps snowy) night? This is only one line of biblical evidence that Jesus was not born on Christmas. However, there is a biblical significance to late December.

John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias, was a priest, “of the course [order] of Abia [Abijah]” (Luke 1:5). Under King David, Israel’s priests were organized into 24 courses (1 Chronicles 24:7-19). A priest from each course served a week in the Temple ministration (and thus served one week twice a year). Israel’s calendar began with Abib/Nisan, equivalent to March 16-April 15 (Exodus 12:1,2; Exodus 13:4). Passover was observed on April 14, starting Israel’s religious calendar.

Passover week (The Feast of Unleavened Bread) lasted from April 15-21. The first course of priests served in the Temple around this time. Zacharias’ course, Abijah, was the eighth course after Passover (1 Chronicles 24:10), thus placing Zacharias’ service roughly eight weeks after Passover (or June 17-23). This was the time when the angel appeared to Zacharias to announce John’s conception (Luke 1:8-22). Once Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth leave the Temple and go home, Elisabeth conceives John (late June; Luke 1:23-25).

Six months after Elisabeth conceived John in late June (Luke 1:26), Mary conceived Jesus—in late December. Contrary to religious tradition, the birthday of Christ is not December 25. Late December is the time of Christ’s conception. The conception of Christ in Mary’s womb, not Mary’s conception in her mother’s womb, is the biblical immaculate conception: it was Christ’s conception, not Mary’s, that was sinless (Luke 1:35).

If a perfect human gestation lasts 280 days (9 months), late September/early October is the time of Christ’s birth. During this time of year, recall that God had Israel observing the Feast of Tabernacles, when Jews would dwell in “booths” (tents, tabernacles) for seven days (Leviticus 23:39-44). We will take some moments to look at this in more detail.

God had commanded Israel through Moses that Jews were to celebrate many feasts year-round. One of them was the Feast of Tabernacles, observed during late September/early October. Again, during this seven-day feast, Jews were to dwell in “booths” (tents, tabernacles) (Leviticus 23:39-44; Nehemiah 8:13-18).

The Bible likens our physical bodies to “tabernacles” for our souls and spirits (2 Corinthians 5:1-4; 2 Peter 1:13-15). Furthermore, Isaiah 40:22 says God “spreadeth [the heavens] out as a tent to dwell in:” God created the universe so He could dwell in it, specifically on a little planet… earth. When Jesus Christ was born, “the Word was made flesh [God became a man], and dwelt among us [He “tabernacled” in a human body]” (John 1:14). Jesus Christ came to tabernacle/abide with mankind on earth, to establish that earthly kingdom prophesied throughout the Old Testament!

To make the Word flesh (for Jesus Christ to be a man), God’s Holy Spirit conceived a physical body inside of the virgin Mary, a body in which Jesus’ Spirit could dwell (Matthew 1:18-20; Luke 1:35; Hebrews 10:5-9). Jesus was named “Immanuel,” or “God [dwelling] with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). The Bible indicates that Jesus was conceivednot born—in late December. Again, Jesus Christ was actually born in late September/early October (coinciding with the Feast of Tabernacles).

So, to conclude this section, we remind you that, while Israel was observing Tabernacles in September/October, God was born as a man (Jesus Christ) of the virgin Mary, and dwelt (“tabernacled”) with them! Sadly, very few Jews paid any attention to Jesus, “Emmanuel,” “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; cf. Matthew 1:23; Zechariah 8:23). The rest of Israel ignored “God dwelling among them” (John 1:14).

WHY ALL THE CONFUSION?

Why there is so much confusion about pagan practices and Christian practices is simple to explain. Satan is the master counterfeiter: from Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures reveal how the devil schemes to “be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). Whatever God does, Satan defiles that work by introducing false doctrine, distracts mankind from God’s truth by mimicking His actions, discourages God’s people from His ministry by using incorrect thinking patterns, and so on. Why? Satan wants the worship that God alone deserves (Matthew 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8).

Consider Eastertime. Centuries before Christ, Satan had pagans worshipping fertility deities and new life in early spring, near the date that Jesus Christ (God the Son) died for our sins and resurrected victoriously over sin, death, hell, and Satan to give us new life! Now, consider Christmastime. Centuries before Christ, Satan had pagans worshipping the birth of the sun god in early winter—near the date that Jesus Christ (God the Son) took upon human flesh in the virgin Mary’s womb! (To Satan’s delight, today’s average church member is not mindful of relevant sound Bible doctrine during Christmastime and Eastertime—the devil’s distractions have never lost their efficacy!)

We see this ignorance manifested in the “Christmas” article of The New Encyclopædia Britannica:

“Since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus plays the pivotal role.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

If Santa plays the “pivotal role” at Christmastime, then Jesus Christ is pushed aside in favor of someone who does not exist! (Obviously, Satan can and does very easily dupe mankind.)

Let us now see what the Bible would have us to do.

WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN TO DO?

Our purpose here has been to enlighten you about Christmas so that you can make an informed decision. It is certainly not our goal to “have dominion over your faith;” our desire is to be “helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). We will not dictate to you what you can and cannot do regarding Christmas, but we do offer this study for your consideration. Our goal is to have your faith rest in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word, so that you may have joy and peace in believing God’s Word (Romans 15:13).

JEHOVAH, the God of the Bible, sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who once existed as a Spirit, into the womb a sinful daughter of Adam and Eve, Mary, that He become a man so that He could shed blood and pay for that sinful human race. Through Moses who recorded them in Leviticus chapter 23, God gave Israel seven feasts to observe throughout the year, every year. One of these feast-days, called the “Feast of Tabernacles,” pictured/previewed God dwelling in a human body, personally present forever, “tabernacling” (John 1:14) with the nation Israel in her Promised Land.

Backing up nine months from that time frame of late September / early October, we find late December. The Bible believer is not at all surprised to learn that, it is highly likely that God arranged a unique schedule—Jesus Christ’s physical body would be conceived in late December, (which is why the pagans through Satanic influence would counterfeit it), and to be physically delivered from that womb of Mary in early October (the very time that depicted God tabernacling with Israel in her kingdom on Earth!).

As with the case of Easter, Christmas has both good and bad elements: we do not have to avoid either holiday altogether. Yes, the pagans may have “hijacked” this time of year for the devil’s glory, but we can disregard their ignorance: late December seems to be a very important time in the Bible, but it is about Christ’s conception rather than His birth. We can still use this season to bring the God of the Bible glory by remembering that it was around this time of year that He became one of us, a lowly human (although sinless), that, through His birth He might die, and through His death we might die, and through His resurrection we might be born of God’s Spirit! Jesus Christ humbled Himself, He left glory behind, that we might rise from the slums of sin, that we might dwell with Him in glory forever. What a thought! Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day for our justification (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We can trust Him alone and pass from eternal death to eternal life.

If we do choose to “celebrate” (for lack of a better word) Christmas, we should remember not to be get distracted by the trees, the Santa Clauses, reindeer, lights, denominational rites and rituals, and so on. Let us use this time of year—a time when people are most open to “spiritual things”—to share the wonderful news of the new life we have in Christ, and the new life that they can have in Jesus Christ, too, if they trust Him alone as their personal Saviour. This is the wonderful Gospel of the Grace of God, and it alone is the life-giving message that lost people need to hear—at Christmastime and every other time!

NOTE: My own research about Christmas yielded too much information to be reproduced in its entirety here. The reader is greatly encouraged to search the internet to learn more about Christmas’s very complex history, and not take this author’s word for anything.

You may also see http://www.history.com/topics/christmas and

http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas-trees.

Also see:
» Should I display a Christmas tree?
» What is the “Immaculate Conception?”
» How many wise men were there?

What was the “Star of Bethlehem?”

WHAT WAS THE “STAR OF BETHLEHEM?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

What was the “Star of Bethlehem?” (A more correct term would be “Star of Nazareth,” since the Star guided the wise men to Nazareth rather than Bethlehem.) Was it a literal sphere of hot gas (a “star” as we commonly call it)? Was it the conjunction of two planets? Was it a comet? Was it a supernova? Or, was it something else?

The Bible says in Matthew chapter 2: “[1] Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, [2] Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. [3] When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. [4] And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. [5] And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, [6] And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. [7] Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. [8] And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. [9] When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. [10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. [11] And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. [12] And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.”

Various explanations have been offered regarding the identity of the so-called “Star of Bethlehem” (from now on, we will use the term, “Star of Nazareth”). Some say it was a union of Saturn and Jupiter, others say it was a comet (ball of rock and ice burning up as it entered Earth’s atmosphere), and still others say it was a literal star exploding (supernova). These explanations are popular because they enable people to approximate the year Jesus was born (for if we could find some unusual event in astronomical history close to the beginning of the first century A.D., that year would be roughly the year of Jesus’ birth). Historians estimate Jesus’ birth to have ranged from 7 B.C. to 4 B.C.—this estimate is good enough for me, and the year is beyond the scope of this discussion anyway. What we want to understand in this Bible study is that a naturalistic explanation (a supernova, a comet, or a planetary conjunction) is unnecessary and actually not a view a Bible believer would be inclined to have. We do not have to reduce the Bible’s miracles in order to agree with human viewpoint and satisfy scholars’ questions.

WHY MATTHEW ALONE WROTE ABOUT THE STAR

A large number of modern scholars actually believe that Matthew fabricated the account of the Star of Nazareth (since Mark, Luke, and John make no reference to the event in their Gospel records, the Star is not believed to be historical fact). Dear friends, this is unbelief at its pinnacle, since the Four Gospels are not meant to read 100 percent identical (these four books read differently because they are independent witnesses of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and had they read similar, scholars would dismiss them as conspiracies). The reason why Matthew alone records the account is because the Star of Nazareth is associated with Israel’s King, and Matthew’s theme is Jesus Christ as King! Mark portrays Jesus Christ as Servant (the Star is this unnecessary in his account), Luke depicts Jesus Christ as Man (the Star is thus unnecessary in his account), and John depicts Jesus Christ as God (the Star is thus unnecessary in his account).

STARS AND ANGELS IN SCRIPTURE

In the Bible, on at least four occasions, angels are referred to as “stars.”

When Lucifer (later named Satan), the cherub, an angelic-like creature, fell into sin, the Bible says of him: “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north” (Isaiah 14:13). Lucifer wanted an even greater role, a grander position in heaven than what God had already assigned him; he wanted to “exalt [his] throne above the stars of God.” This language is suggestive of Lucifer wanting to rule over other angelic beings in creation, angelic beings Scripture call “the stars of God.”

In reference to the Creation Week, JEHOVAH God says to Job in Job 38:3-7: “[3] Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. [4] Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. [5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? [6] Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; [7] When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Angelic beings were present when God made heaven and earth—they watched Him working and they rejoiced, singing to and praising Him! Notice how they are called “the morning stars” and “the sons of God.”

The Prophet Daniel, when referring to the future rise of the Antichrist, the wicked world ruler of the coming seven-year Tribulation, wrote in Daniel 8:10: “And it [the antichrist] waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.” The Antichrist will be working in accordance with the power of Satan (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9), to the extent that he will influence some of the fallen angels in outer space / the second heaven (cf. Job 15:15; Job 25:5; Ephesians 6:12) to come down to earth and work their wickedness here. Notice how Daniel called these fallen angels “stars.”

In Revelation 12:4, John the Apostle elaborated on Daniel’s prophecy: “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” Again, note how John called these fallen angels “stars of heaven.” These evil spirits will be active on Earth during the latter part of the Tribulation period.

THE LIKELY IDENTITY OF THE STAR OF NAZARETH

Considering the Bible uses the term “stars” to apply to both spheres of gas and angels, the “star” of Matthew chapter 2 that the wise men saw was probably an angelic appearance. The Star of Nazareth did not behave like a celestial star, a comet, a pair of planets, or the like: a natural explanation just would not make sense. Matthew 2:9 says, “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”

The Star “went before [the wise men],” “till it came and stood over where the young child was.” It would be strange for a comet, a celestial sphere of gas, or a pair of planets, to cross the sky and pinpoint the very location of the Christ Child (who was as much as two years old). The Scriptures say that the Star actually led the wise men to the house of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem (which the wise men would not have otherwise located). This activity would be indicative of something living, something that had a mind and that could give directions—planets, comets, and stars as we normally think of them cannot do such things. An angel, however, could reason, provide directions to a house. The Bible is filled with accounts of angelic beings helping people, instructing people, revealing information to people, and so on. It is on the authority of these verses that we conclude the Star of Nazareth was an angel whom God sent to guide the wise men to the house of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth.

Even as Gentiles, the wise men had access to the Old Testament Scriptures. They knew of the prophecy in Numbers 24:17: I shall see him [the Messiah Jesus], but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.” Messiah would come one day, Balaam predicted, and a Star would be associated with His coming. The wise men knew that when they saw this event in the sky during the timeframe of Daniel 9:24-27, the King of Israel had arrived, and they rejoiced to see Him finally on earth!

Also see:
» How many wise men were there?
» What is “the Immaculate Conception?”
» Was Jesus really born on the 25th of December?
(LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

Were there really three wise men?

WERE THERE REALLY THREE WISE MEN? WHAT ARE FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The “wise men” are often called “the Magi,” the Greek word translated as such in our English Bible. They are very enigmatic Bible characters because they only appear in Scripture in Matthew chapter 2. In Nativity Scenes, we see the wise men portrayed as kings—three kings to be exact. While the Bible is silent about their names, church tradition refers to them as Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. The Bible never indicates how many wise men visited the Lord Jesus either. It is assumed that, because three gifts were presented, there were three wise men. Actually, there could have a dozen wise men—it does not matter the number, what we need to guard against is saying something is in the Bible when it is not.

Furthermore, there is no definitive proof in the Bible that the wise men were royalty. Psalm 72:10, which is probably one source of this confusion, is descriptive of kings bringing gifts to King Solomon (historical) and the Lord Jesus Christ when His establishes His earthly kingdom (prophetic)—it is not a verse that applies to Christ’s First Coming but rather His Second Coming. Isaiah 60:6, another confused verse, is not descriptive of Christ’s First Coming but rather His kingdom on Earth (yet future). We will look at Isaiah 60:6 in more detail later.

From Matthew chapter 2, we learn the following eight facts about the wise men:

  1. They were from the East (Matthew 2:1)—perhaps from Babylon. The important thing to remember is that they were living east of Jerusalem when they saw the star. They were undoubtedly Gentiles (non-Jews).
  2. They saw Jesus’s star in the east—the wise men were astrologers, or what we would call today astronomers (people who study the heavens, the movements of celestial bodies). King Nebuchadnezzar had similar officials serving in his court back in Daniel’s day (Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2, 27; Daniel 4:7, 9; Daniel 5:11). Dr. Strong defines the word translated “wise men” (Magi) as “Oriental scientists; by implication, magicians:—sorcerers, wise men.” The Hebrew Bible uses this word in Jeremiah 39:3 and Jeremiah 39:13 when referring to the name of a Babylonian prince, “Rabmag.” The wise men were very educated for their time, men skilled in science (hence their name, wise men”), and, in light of Daniel, probably high-ranking officials in some foreign government.
  3. They have enough knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures to recognize that the King of the Jews is to be born, for His special star has appeared (Matthew 2:2). This star accompanying the Messiah was prophesied by Balaam in Numbers 24:17. Unlike the unbelieving Jews, the wise men believed the Scriptures and were joyful to see them fulfilled.
  4. They know to go to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, where David’s throne was, where the Messiah King of Israel should be.
  5. Unlike the Jewish people who should have joyfully accepted their Messiah (but were rather troubled), the wise men were glad of the arrival of King Jesus, and, to King Herod’s disdain, they were come to worship Him instead of Herod (Matthew 2:1-3)!
  6. King Herod, claiming that he wants to worship Him with them, sends the wise men to locate the child Jesus and report back to him (Matthew 2:8-9). They wise men do not realize Herod wants to secretly kill Jesus—a dream from God later reveals that information to them, and instructs them to sneak away back to their foreign land without convening with Herod (Matthew 2:12).
  7. Contrary to what we see in Nativity Scenes, the wise men did not visit the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem but rather went to Nazareth, to the house of Joseph and Mary. There, they found Jesus was “a young child” (Matthew 2:9,11,13,14). In fact, Jesus could have been as much as two years old here (Matthew 2:16).
  8. They brought Jesus presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and they worshipped Him (Matthew 2:11). They did not present Mary Jesus’s mother with gifts, and they did not worship and pay homage to Mary. They worshipped Jesus Christ and presented gifts to Him.

WHY THE GIFTS OF GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, AND MYRRH? WHAT ARE “FRANKINCENSE” AND “MYRRH” ANYWAY?

Why did the wise men present gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus? Before we get to that, we will analyze what frankincense and myrrh actually are.

Frankincense is the dried sap of trees whose scientific name is Boswellia sacra. These trees are native to Yemen, Oman, and the Horn of Africa, including Somalia and Ethiopia. After being dried, the sap is burned as incense (this expensive product has a lemony, musky odor). Frankincense is thought to have several medicinal properties.

Myrrh is the dried resin of tree species known as Commiphora, trees found in Somalia, Yemen, and eastern Ethiopia. Like frankincense, it is expensive (once as valuable as gold), known for its medicinal properties, and burned as incense (often in religious settings). Myrrh is extracted by using a crushing technique. It has a rich, distinct scent—earthy and bitter. Myrrh was mixed with wine and given to Jesus just before His crucifixion, but, because it was an anesthetic, He refused it (Mark 15:23). Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes to anoint Jesus’ corpse (John 19:39). Interestingly, the city of “Smyrna” (Revelation 1:11; Revelation 2:8) derives it name from the Greek word translated “myrrh” in Matthew 2:11 and John 19:39. Myrrh can also be found in the context of gifts, spices, perfume, and incense in Genesis 37:25, Genesis 43:11, Exodus 30:23, Esther 2:12, Psalm 45:8, Proverbs 7:17, Song of Solomon 1:13, Song of Solomon 3:6, Song of Solomon 4:6,14, and Song of Solomon 5:1,5,13.

Interestingly, the wise men worship Jesus, not Mary and/or the angel, and they bring Him gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). Why these gifts of all things? Gold is for a King, frankincense is for a Priest, and myrrh is for a Prophet—Jesus is all three (King—Isaiah 9:6-7; Priest—Zechariah 6:13; Prophet—Deuteronomy 18:15,18). Amazingly, Isaiah 60:6, written some 700 years beforehand, even prophesied Gentiles would bring God gifts of gold and frankincense. You will notice that myrrh is absent from Isaiah 60:6. Messiah will not suffer at His Second Coming—myrrh is unnecessary here. The only gifts needed in the Kingdom, the context of Isaiah 60:6, are gold and frankincense: Christ being a King (gold; Isaiah 9:6-7) and Christ being a Priest on His throne (frankincense; Zechariah 6:13).

CONCLUSION

According to the Bible, Matthew chapter 2, an indeterminate number of wise men from the east (Gentiles) saw the star of Christ, so they traveled to Jerusalem, inquiring where to find Christ, the King of Jews (verses 1,2). King Herod and Jerusalem were troubled, and Herod summoned Israel’s religious leaders to tell him where the Messiah would be born. They told him, according to Micah 5:2, “Bethlehem of Judaea” (verses 3-6). Herod then sent the wise men to seek Jesus, hoping to find and destroy Him (lest He become king and end Herod’s reign).

The star lead the wise men to Nazareth, where Joseph and Mary lived in a “house”not the manger scene. Also, note that Jesus was not a baby when the wise men visited, but rather a “young child” (verses 9,11). He could have been as much as two years old (verse 16). By the way, according to Numbers 24:17, that star—an angel (cf. Job 38:7)—that the wise men saw signified the Messiah-King of Israel… they were wise in that they recognized and followed it! Sadly, these Gentiles had more respect for Israel’s King than Israel. These wise men recognized fulfilled prophecy… they were wise men indeed!

Also see:
» What is the “Immaculate Conception?”
» What was the Star of Bethlehem? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Was Jesus really born on the 25th of December?
(LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)