The question of “feast keeping” has become a source of controversy and division among professed Seventh-day Adventists in recent years. Much like the question of the Trinity, fanaticism and condemnations of heresy have, on both sides of the matter, largely stunted appeals for unity. Likewise, the need to define the term before discussing it is often overlooked in favor of talking – often reciting quotes – past one another.
To be clear, there is no Adventist or Biblical justification for attempting to impose feasts as a test of fellowship, based on the law or otherwise. Some however, in their zeal to reject this error, go too far in condemning and casting out anyone and anything to do with the word. Those who see value in observing the times, not for ceremonial laws or Jewish rites, but for fellowship akin to camp meeting, are often met with a contempt and fervor once exclusive to Sunday legislators from their professed brethren.
This question need not divide sincere Adventists regardless of their view or preferences. Both the requirement to keep feasts and the requirement not to keep feasts are easily revealed as man-made by the Testimonies:
“And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.” (Acts 20:6)
Why was Paul in Phillippi, a gentile colony with no synagogue, during the days of unleavened bread? Mrs. White offers the following commentary:
“At Philippi Paul tarried to keep the Passover. Only Luke remained with him, the other members of the company passing on to Troas to await him there. The Philippians were the most loving and truehearted of the apostle’s converts, and during the eight days of the feast he enjoyed peaceful and happy communion with them.” [AA 390]
Three definite conclusions may be drawn from the above, which should forever settle the question of feast keeping OR not feast keeping as a requirement for both the Apostle’s day and our own:
1) Paul, well after the crucifixion, “tarried to keep the Passover” time with truehearted converts from a gentile colony*, including “the eight days of the feast” thereafter. Therefore, Christian fellowship during the feasts is established in the Apostolic church.**
2) “The other members of the company” did not observe the feast, either in Jerusalem or in Philippi, but passed on to Troas. Therefore, the keeping of the feasts – whether in Jerusalem or in congregations – was practiced by some for fellowship but was not a test of fellowship, nor observed by all equally.
3) Paul, Luke, and the Philippians did not keep the feasts according to the law; they kept them in Philippi rather than appearing before the Lord at Jerusalem as the law required. (Deut. 16:16) Therefore, their fellowship during the feasts was not based upon a demand or observance of the law, but rather “peaceful and happy communion.”
The above conclusively reveals any attempt to require feast keeping to be extremism (as those sailing to Troas did not keep it). It conclusively reveals any attempt to require not keeping feasts as extremism (as Paul and the Philippians kept it). Let the professed people of God enjoy “peaceful and happy communion” without murmuring or unnecessary divisions. Such a gathering would be modernly akin to a “camp meeting,” which is a comparison both Mr. and Mrs. White noted:
“Well would it be for the people of God at the present time to have a Feast of Tabernacles—a joyous commemoration of the blessings of God to them. As the children of Israel celebrated the deliverance that God had wrought for their fathers, and His miraculous preservation of them during their journeyings from Egypt, so should we gratefully call to mind the various ways He has devised for bringing us out from the world, and from the darkness of error, into the precious light of His grace and truth.” [PP 540]
“The forces of the enemies are strengthening, and as a people we are misrepresented; but shall we not gather our forces together, and come up to the feast of tabernacles? . . . Therefore come to the camp-meeting, even though you have to make a sacrifice to do so, and the Lord will bless your efforts to honour his cause and advance his work.” [BEcho Dec. 8, 1893]
“This excellent meeting, with all its labor of preparation, anxiety, preaching, hearing, exhorting, confession of sins and want of Christ, its tears, deliverances, and joys, is now past. Those parents who brought their children to the meeting and saw them converted, and take the baptismal vow, are now glad that they brought them. Those who did not bring their children regretted their mistake. These annual feasts of tabernacles are gatherings of the greatest importance; and there should be a general turnout of all who may be benefited. [James White, ST June 8, 1876; quoted in 3BIO38]
Let there be no more condemnation for those who see value in aligning camp meetings with Biblical times. Let there be no more condemnation for those who do not see value in the same.
“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day [alike]. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:4-5 KJV)
*“Octavius Augustus (42 B.C.) conferred on it his jus Italicum (Acts 14:12), which made the town a miniature Rome, and granted it the institutions and privileges of the citizens of Rome. That is why we find at Philippi, along with a remnant of the Macedonians, Roman colonists together with some Jews, the latter, however, so few that they had no synagogue, but only a place of prayer (proseuché).” [Vander Heeren, Achille. “Philippi.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911]
“A Roman ‘colony’, i.e., it contained a body of Roman citizens. . . The church there was mainly Gentile, there being no Jewish synagogue.” [New American Standard Bible; Cambridge Study Edition; Concise Bible Dictionary, p. 95.]
“(1) We may notice, first, the very small part played by Jews and Judaism at Philippi.
There was no synagogue here, as at Salamis in Cyprus (Ac 13:5), Antioch in Pisidia (Ac 13:14,43), Iconium (Ac 14:1), Ephesus (Ac 18:19,26; 19:8), Thessalonica (Ac 17:1), Berea (Ac 17:10), Athens (Ac 17:17) and Corinth (Ac 18:4). The number of resident Jews was small, their meetings for prayer took place on the river’s bank, the worshippers were mostly or wholly women (Ac 16:13), and among them some, perhaps a majority, were proselytes. Of Jewish converts we hear nothing, nor is there any word of Jews as either inciting or joining the mob which dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates. Further, the whole tone of the epistle. to this church seems to prove that here at least the apostolic teaching was not in danger of being undermined by Judaizers. True, there is one passage (Php 3:2-7) in which Paul denounces “the concision,” those who had “confidence in the flesh”; but it seems “that in this warning he was thinking of Rome more than of Philippi; and that his indignation was aroused rather by the vexatious antagonism which there thwarted him in his daily work, than by any actual errors already undermining the faith of his distant converts” (Lightfoot).
(2) Even more striking is the prominence of the Ro element in the narrative. We are here not in a Greek or Jewish city, but in one of those Ro colonies which Aulus Gellius describes as “miniatures and pictures of the Ro people” (Noctes Atticae, xvi.13).
In the center of the city is the forum (agora, Ac 16:19), and the general term “magistrates” (archontes, English Versions of the Bible, “rulers,” Ac 16:19) is exchanged for the specific title of praetors (stratagoi, English Versions of the Bible “magistrates,” Ac 16:20,22,35,36,38); these officers are attended by lictors (rhabdouchoi, English Versions “sergeants,” Ac 16:35,38) who bear the fasces with which they scourged Paul and Silas (rhabdizo, Ac 16:22). The charge is that of disturbing public order and introducing customs opposed to Roman law (Ac 16:20,21), and Paul’s appeal to his Roman civitas (Ac 16:37) at once inspired the magistrates with fear for the consequences of their action and made them conciliatory and apologetic (Ac 16:38,39). The title of praetor borne by these officials has caused some difficulty. The supreme magistrates of Roman colonies, two in number, were called duoviri or duumviri (iuri dicundo), and that this title was in use at Philippi is proved by three inscriptions (Orelli, Number 3746; Heuzey, Mission archeologique, 15, 127). The most probable explanation of the discrepancy is that these magistrates assumed the title Of praetor, or that it was commonly applied to them, as was certainly the case in some parts of the Roman world (Cicero De lege agraria ii.34; Horace Sat. i.5, 34; Orelli, Number 3785).” [Tod, MarcusN. “Philippi”, International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, 1913.]
**“We for our part keep the day scrupulously, without addition or subtraction. For in Asia great luminaries sleep who shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s advent, when He is coming with glory from heaven and shall search out all His saints such as Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis with two of his daughters, who remained unmarried to the end of their days, while his other daughter lived in the Holy Spirit and rests in Ephesus. Again there is John, who leant back upon the Lord’s breast, and who became a sacrificing priest wearing the mitre, a martyr, and a teacher; he too sleeps in Ephesus. Then in Smyrna there is Polycarp, bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, the bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who also sleeps in Smyrna. Need I mention Sagaris, bishop and martyr, who sleeps in Laodicea, or blessed Papirius, or Melito the eunuch, who lived entirely in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis waiting for the visitation from heaven when he shall rise from the dead?
All of these kept the fourteenth day of the month as the beginning of the Paschal festival, in accordance with the Gospel, not deviating in the least but following in the rule of faith. Last of all I too, Polycrates, the least of you all, act according to the tradition of my family, some members of which I have actually followed; for seven of them were bishops and I am the eighth, and my family have always kept the day when the people put away the leaven. So I, my friends, after spending sixty-five years in the Lord’s service and conversing with Christians from all parts of the world, and going carefully through all Holy Scripture, am not scared of threats. Better people than I have said: ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” [Polycrates as quoted by Eusebius in The History of The Church, Book V, Ch. 24]