The Church of Christ traditionally does not observe Easter—no Easter service, no Easter Egg hunt at the church, no sunrise service, no Holy Week services, no “Seven Last Words” service.
Indeed, such activities are traditionally viewed as sinful within the Churches of Christ, at least major portions of it.
Per this traditional view and interpretation of the Bible: God commands us not to engage in such activities since they are not authorized in the New Testament, e.g., in 1 Corinthians 4:6 (“… ‘Do not go beyond what is written’”), 2 John 9, and Colossians 3:17. Also, God commands us not to observe special religious days, like Easter, in Galatians 4:8-11 (“when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who … are not gods. … how is it that you are turning back to those … miserable forces? … You are observing special days … !”). Violating God’s commands is a sin.
Effects of Long-Term Easter Deprivation?
One of the effects of this aversion to Easter is that members are deprived from hearing very often about:
When women, including Mary Magdalene, were the first to see the resurrected Jesus on that Easter morning, Christ said to them: “’Go … to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘ “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee ….”
Mary went to the assembled disciples and spoke to and taught them: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ … she told them that he had said these things to her.” (Matt 28:8-10; John 20:10, 17-19; Luke 24:9, 33)
That Christ “first appeared to the women” is commonly recited within the Churches of Christ.
That Christ asked women to be the first to speak the good news of his resurrection, to be the first to tell others what Christ would like them to do after his resurrection, and to go and speak to the assembled men and other such details is not.
Despite, on the first Easter morning,
- Christ asking women to be the first to speak to a group of men about his resurrection,
- Christ asking women to be the first to instruct others on what Christ would like them to do post-resurrection, and
- Christ choosing women as the first to stand and speak and teach and tell a group of others of the experience of the resurrected Christ and what Christ would like them to do now, to be the first evangelists post-resurrection,
the vast majority of Churches of Christ today completely prohibit women from speaking in the worship service. Women are barred from reading scripture, leading prayer, leading singing, preaching, etc. They are also typically barred from teaching a class with men in it.
That is, despite Jesus asking women to speak to and instruct the assembled disciples first thing that Easter morning, most Churches of Christ completely exclude women from speaking to or instructing the assembled church members today.
CoC Nearly Alone and Falling
The Churches of Christ are nearly alone among Christian groups in the United States in completely prohibiting women from speaking in the worship assembly.
Virtually all other denominations recognize that neither of the Bible passages to which people point mean that women are completely prohibited from speaking there.
Meanwhile, meaningful parts of the Church of Christ world refuses to even study the Bible on the subject or discuss it. This is even though 20+ passages in the Bible ask women to speak to, teach, and have authority over men, in an assembly and elsewhere.
The traditional Easter aversion may have lessened appreciation for Christ’s request of women—it is among the very first things our saviour did upon his resurrection—and of women at the tomb and their role in the teaching of the good news of the resurrection.
I. The Church of Christ on Easter: Traditional View
Here are a few excerpts over the years from the Gospel Advocate, a leading periodical in Church of Christ circles, expressing the traditional Church of Christ view of Easter:
(1) If your church observes Easter, it is an apostate church:
“All who are familiar with the New Testament know that there is absolutely no authority for observing … Easter. … It will be found in the pronouncements of an apostate church, not in the teaching of the New Testament. …”
(2) Observing Easter is sinful:
“[T]here are some concrete reasons why the church of Christ will not conduct its worship any differently on Easter Sunday than on any other first day of the week. … Christ has not authorized it. … [I]t is sinful to sanction and observe Easter as a special religious day.”
(3) Easter Sunday customs are worthless:
“Another Easter Sunday, with its accumulated worthless and unscriptural customs, is just a few days off. …
(4) Nothing Christian about Easter and will bring a curse from God:
“There is nothing whatever Christian about Easter. … God does not command a … yearly celebration of the resurrection of Christ. … Any worship or service for which there is neither precept nor example in the word of God is displeasing to God and will bring a curse ….”
(5) That time the King James Version was wrong:
(Acts 12:4 of the KJV says “… he put him in prison …; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”)
“If it be suggested that the word “Easter” occurs in Acts 12:4, we answer that a faithful translation of that verse would remove “Easter” and substitute “Passover.””
(6) If Easter has religious significance, you must not understand or love the Bible:
“To those who understand and love the Bible as they should, Easter has no religious significance whatsoever. … God’s word instructs us in the observance of one day only, the Lord’s day, and to elevate one Lord’s day above another is to go beyond that which is written.”
II. Traditional View Persists Today.
Here are some excerpts from other, recent sources—church web-sites and other article sources.
(a) The Churches of Christ do not celebrate Easter:
“It comes as a shock to many that we in the churches of Christ do not celebrate Easter Sunday. …
Not one time do we ever read of the church of the first century holding “Easter Services.” Since we desire to pattern ourselves after the New Testament church, we do not hold Easter Services ….”
(b) Religious practice of Easter is useless before God:
“… modern-day “Easter” festivities are … nothing more than the “doctrines and commandments of men,” which make any religious practice thereof, … vain and useless before God ….”
(c) Easter is not a God-pleasing celebration of Christ’s resurrection:
” it still amazes me when I … see people purchasing products … which seek to imply that “Easter” has anything whatsoever to do with a biblical and God-pleasing celebration of Christ’s resurrection. It doesn’t!”
III. But Some Churches of Christ Now Hold Easter Services.
A Google search locates reports of several Churches of Christ who hold Easter services and Easter Egg hunts today. That is, many today do not follow the traditional view.
It appears to still be a minority, but a meaningful number. It is difficult to tell the percentage that observe Easter merely on observation. A review of sermon topics and bulletins on Easter Sunday 2018 for a few Church of Christ congregations suggests it is meaningful percentage but still a small minority that observes Easter, but the review was limited and not scientific.
Happy Easter this Sunday!
If you observe Easter, take a moment to remember that Christ, after rising from the dead, asks women to deliver the good news and to instruct the men what to do next.
Then, ask yourself if you see Christ’s example reflected in the service by folks insisting that women not speak.
And if you observe Easter but your church still restricts women from speaking, please ask yourself why, and remember there is no verse in which God asks us to observe Easter. But there are many in which God asks women to speak to, teach, and have authority over men, in an assembly and elsewhere.
And if you observe the resurrection every Sunday with communion or otherwise, take a moment every Sunday to remember: Christ, after rising from the dead, asks women to deliver the good news and to instruct the men what to do next.
Then, ask yourself if you see Christ’s example reflected in the service, by sex discrimination against women, by women being barred in the service from delivering the good news, by women being barred in the service from instructng men, by women being barred in the servce from reading scripture, by women being barred in the service …. after Christ’s example.
It is way past time for this prohibition on women speaking in the assembly to end.
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Notes & Sources
After carefully studying scripture—including recognizing what Christ asked of women on that first Easter morning—a growing number of Churches of Christ recently lifted their prohibition on women speaking in the assembly. An article introducing the scripture-study material of 10 such congregations is here. 20+ passages in which God asks women to speak to, teach, and have authority over men, in an assembly and elsewhere, are here. How the 1-2 sentences used to bar women from speaking have been misperceived and used to support a tradition of exclusion is discussed here, here, and here.
It recently became the case, too, that most Church of Christ colleges no longer completely prohibit women from speaking in their worship chapel.
Also sometimes given as part of the traditional reasons: God desires people assemble every first day of the week to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23; Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25) and Easter activities encourage less frequent, vanity worship. Indeed, God tells us to “Learn not the way of the heathen …” (Jeremiah 10:2), and Easter was originally a heathen festival. And “What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” (Deut. 12:32.) Everything we do in worship must be authorized in the New Testament. John 4:24; John 17:17; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 John 9; Colossians 3:17; and John 14:15
(1) — B.C. Goodpasture, Editor, Gospel Advocate, April 5, 1951, page 210.
(2) –Dan Gardner, “Easter–Why Christians Do Not Observe It,” Gospel Advocate, April 6, 1950, page 211.
(3) — Gospel Advocate, April 9, 1936.
(4) — James A. Allen, “Current Comment,” Gospel Advocate, April 15, 1926, page 337 (“There is nothing whatever Christian about Easter. It is purely heathenish in origin, being a festival dedicated to the heathen goddess, Eastre. … God does not command a monthly or yearly celebration of the resurrection of Christ. The fact that God does not command such celebrations makes them unacceptable service and prohibits them. ” What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” (Deut. 12: 32.) The Lord’s Supper, in commemoration of the death and sufferings of Jesus Christ, to be observed “upon the first day of the week,” ” the Lord’s day,” is the only celebration that God commands. … Nothing is acceptable service to God except that which God authorizes and commands. Any worship or service for which there is neither precept nor example in the word of God is displeasing to God and will bring a curse instead of a blessing. Men cannot honor God by doing that which their own wisdom suggests and approves.”)
(5) — “Easter,” Gospel Advocate, April 18, 1946, page 364.
(6) — H.L. Meeks, “Easter,” Gospel Advocate, April 30, 1931, page 515.
(a) — “Easter Terminology,” Oceanside Church of Christ, March 31, 2013.
(b) — “The Great Easter Verse Hunt,” Church of Christ Articles.
(c) — “Easter and the Resurrection,” Church of Christ Articles.
Easter is a heathen celebration:
“”Easter was a Saxon idol, the goddess of spring, under whose favor our heathen ancestors believed the flowers, grass, and vegetables sprang up. They took the egg as a symbol of life coming up from apparent death, and hence the ‘Easter egg.’ This heathen celebration was adopted by the corrupt Roman church when they ‘converted’ the Saxons. … [T]o take up these discarded practices is a distinct letting down of the spiritual tone of our people.”
— David Lipscomb, “The Word of God, The Sufficient Rule of Faith,” Gospel Advocate, May 3, 1900, page 281.
Let Me Be Clear: I’m Not Celebrating Easter
“Amy Smith … recalls that her family didn’t celebrate … Easter as religious holidays. Her mother would make her a new dress around Easter, she said.“But I wouldn’t wear it for the first time on Easter Sunday, so as not to confuse my friends that I might be celebrating Easter,” said Smith ….”
— Bobby Ross, Jr., “‘Christ’ in Christmas?: Churches of Christ and the holiday season,” The Christian Chronicle, December 1, 2005.
No Biblical Authority
“‘Easter’ as we know it is celebrated without proper Bible authority. … The Lord’s church does not celebrate “Easter.” Members of the Lord’s church celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of every week as we are instructed in the New Testament. … God sets the standard (rules) that we must go by today – not man….”
Also see (current):
http://www.floralheightschurchofchrist.org/Class%20-%20Bible%20Books/Outline%20of%20the%20Book%20of%20Galatians.doc (“Likewise if one were to add to Jehovah’s worship Christmas or Easter it would be sinful. If one wanted to participate in Christmas and Easter in a non-religious way (i.e., exchange gifts and hunt Easter eggs), then no sin would be found.”))
http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVarticles/WhoLoanedUsLent.html (“Lent and Easter are never celebrated in the Bible. Jesus wants His people to remember His death every first day of the week in the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 11:23-26). … Jesus said it is a sin to honor the religious traditions of men as doctrines from God (Matthew 15:8-9). … The only “holy day” God has today is the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10). To place religious significance on any other day is to depart from God’s will (Colossians 3:20-22; Galatians 4:10).”).
Wayne Jackson, “The Significance of Christ’s Resurrection,” Christian Courier (“Christians are not authorized to celebrate Easter as a special annual event acknowledging the resurrection of Christ.”)
Wayne Jackson, “May Christians Observe Holidays?” Christian Courier (“To practice Christmas, Halloween, or Easter religiously would be unwarranted. To do so merely as a cultural custom would be a matter of personal judgment.”)
Also see describing traditional view:
“Conversations I Have Heard,” Gospel Advocate, March 28, 1888, page 3 (Hypothetical conversation with Jewish person …“Easter … If you worship our God, … you are forbidden both by commandment and by most terrible example to do any thing in his worship which he has not commanded. Everything was to be made exactly after the pattern shown in the mount. Whatsover is not of faith, that is not of divine appointment in worship, is sin.”).
Gospel Advocate , March 31, 1898
“Better Living, GA, June 7, 1906, page 356 (“Not that I think disciples of Christ will observe Easter, …”).
Gospel Advocate, April 18, 1907, page 241, 244.
Gospel Advocate, April 18, 1907 (“‘Easter Sunday’ has no more significance with the child of God than any other first day of the week.”)
O.A. Carr, “It is Easy to Fall In Line,” GA, June 12, 1902, page 383 (“How very easy it is to adopt customs and go along with the crowd in observing religious appointments that have nothing to do with Christianity! With some it is much easier than to observe what the scriptures teach. A clear proof of this is given in the observance of what is called “Easter Sunday.””)
E.A. Elam, GA, June 10, 1915, page 568-569.
GA, April 27, 1922
G.C. Brewer, “Heading for the Port of Rome,” GA, December 29, 1932, page 546 (“The word “Easter” itself is from the name of a heathen goddess, and rabbits and multicolored eggs and such things that accompany an “Easter” celebration have only a mythological origin and a heathen signification. How people who claim to honor the Lord and his word can allow any of these things a place in their religious program is beyond explanation. The truth is, people who do that do not honor the Lord nor his word, and it is hard for us to believe that they have any sincere desire to do so. But, again, we see that it is beyond belief that they could make such a claim and ever repeat the Thomas Campbell motto, and then be so inconsistent as to do things that have no semblance of Scriptural authority, but are plainly … heathenish.”)
“Easter Conversions,” GA, September 15, 1936, page 340 (right before article on ordination of women) (“Another Easter Sunday. with its accumulated worthless and unscriptural customs, is just a few days off. …”)
“Easter,” GA, April 18, 1946, page 364 (“There is no authority in the New Testament for regarding Easter Sunday as being more important than any other Sunday. “Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you.” (Gal. 4:10, 11.)”)
Luther W. Martin, “Another Pagan-‘Christian’ Holiday,” GA, July 3, 1947, page 464.
“Observing Easter,” Gospel Advocate, April 5, 1951, page 210-211.
“Easter—Why Christians Do Not Observe It,” GA, April 6, 1950, page 211-212.
“A Misrepresentation,” GA, March 6, 1952, page 150-151.
Also see describing traditional view:
L. Thurman, “That Easter Stuff,” Firm Foundation, March 16, 1937
Basil D. Shilling, “Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and the Word of God,” Firm Foundation, April 14, 1942, page 1 (“of such things as “Easter,” “Holy Week,” “Lent” and “Palm Sunday,” and, hence, do not teach us to observe such days and seasons by participating in some pompous and elaborate ritual, it is in order that we ask: should Christians observe and celebrate such days and seasons with elaborate man made rituals? I have no desire to be rude, critical or unkind, but in answer to that question I must ‘ say that’ such things should have no place in the program of humble, faithful Christians.”)
Wilbur H. White, “Why Churches of Christ Do Not Observe Easter,” Firm Foundations, March 28, 1944 (“The time of the year Christ arose from the grave is unimportant, or else the Lord would have mentioned it. The early Christians knew nothing of Easter. The Lord’s day is the day that Christians should celebrate in memory of their once crucified risen Lord. And this is the day that Christians should celebrate as often as it comes around. If people today would celebrate the first day of every week, in the Lord’s supper, as the New Testament teaches, and would give up the days and festivals of their own devising, they would be following the teaching of the New Testament instead of the doctrines and commandments of men.”)
Maurica A. Meredith, “The Origin and History of Easter,” Firm Foundation, April 11, 1950, page 1.
“Editorial: Easter,” Firm Foundation, April 16, 1957, page 242 (“With Christians neither Easter nor Christmas is a special day. Both are heathen holidays, fostered in the world by the Roman Catholic church. As for making a special religious occasion out of either Christmas or Easter, or attempting to represent them as something which they are not, no Christian should do so. And, we might add, none do–so I far as we know. On the other hand, there are hurtful extremes sometimes taken by a few with respect to either occasion. … There is certainly nothing unscriptural in teaching … in April about his resurrection. Christians should never observe special days, but let us not be unreasonable lest we hurt a just cause. …. We hold no more brief for the word “Easter” than we do for the word “Sunday” or the word “Christmas.” Neither are we allergic to the use of these … words. If some brother wants to call … the first day of the week following the fourteenth day of the first vernal moon following the spring Equinox “Easter,” let him. There’s nothing in the matter to have a fit over.”).
Garland M. Robinson, “Easter Season,” Firm Foundation, March 26, 1985 (“The facts bare testimony that Easter and this seasonal observance stand without any Bible authority whatsoever. There is no command, example, or implication anywhere in scripture that would authorize (sanction, validate) our observance of this day (or time) with any religious significance.”)
Cf. Vernon Parrott, “The Easter Question,” Firm Foundation, April 5, 1977, page 5 (“Although “Easter” is certainly not a religious holiday, I must disagree with those who vehemently condemn the idea of our taking special notice of the fact that the resurrection is a reality. And I protest that it is nothing short of error to teach that the special significance of the Passover or the Resurrection, or annual feast celebrating the resurrection, is Roman Catholic in origin. The practice goes back to an age long before the Roman Catholic apostasy. It is too easy to document the fact that the New Testament church, or at least the church of the second century, observed such a feast annually, to try to pin the practice on the apostate church.”)
Communion is a weekly event in most Churches of Christ. Communion remarks, to my observation, typically focus on (a) the supper in the upper room and Christ’s words there, (b) the meaning of the resurrection, (c) Christ’s death on the cross, or (d) something similar. Rarely, to my observation, do the relatively brief communion remarks discuss the details of the resurrection event itself, and even more rarely the presence and conversation with the women. And virtually never does it discuss Christ’s instructions to the women to go to the assembled men, speak to them about the resurrection and instruct them what to do next, or the women carrying out those instructions. This, compared to a longer Easter service in which the details of the resurrection event are focused on, might explain part of the Churches of Christ not making the connection to Christ’s ask of women to go and deliver the good news.
Photo by Free-Photos 1149060 from pixabay.
All scripture quoted is from the NIV or KJV unless otherwise indicated.