The Church of Christ traditionally does not observe Easter—no Easter service, no Easter Egg hunt at the church, no sunrise service, 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’”) and 2 John 9 (“Anyone who … does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God …”).  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:

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)

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.

That is, despite Jesus asking women to speak to and instruct the assembled disciples, most Churches of Christ exclude women from speaking to or instructing the assembled church members.

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 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.  It appears to still be a minority, but a meaningful number.  It is difficult to tell the percentage that observe Easter merely on observation.  An review of sermon topics and bulletins on Easter Sunday 2018 for a few Church of Christ congregatins suggests it is meaningful percentage but still a small minority that observes Easter, but, the review was limited and not scientific.

Conclusion

Happy Easter this Sunday!

If you observe Easter this Sunday, 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 this Sunday 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 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 sex discrimination against women.

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.