by Clem Thurman
via Gospel Minutes, Vol. 57, No. 24, June 13, 2008.
QUESTION: Does Galatians 4:9-11 refer to holy days (religious observance)? Or could it have reference to such days as July 4th or our birthdays?
ANSWER: The letter to the Galatians was written primarily to teach these new Christians that it was foolish to try to return to the Law of Moses for justification. The inspired apostle Paul had shown that Christ is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Galatians 3:16), and thus He is the fulfillment of the law (Galatians 3:19-25). He has shown that we are no longer under the law of Moses, (Gentiles never were) but "in Christ" we are made free (Galatians 4:1-7). Then he writes the text to which the querist refers.
"Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods: but now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again? Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain" (Galatians 4:8-11).
The context shows clearly that the Lord is here speaking of the religious holy days of the law given to the Jews through Moses. Go back and read the book of Leviticus, and you will find dozens of special "holy days" which the people of Israel were to observe. Some of these were weekly, such as the Sabbath. Others were monthly, still others were annually. Some of these "holy days" were actually several days long, such as the "days of unleavened bread" (Exodus 12:7-20), in connection to the Passover. When God's word says that Christ had taken the old law away, "nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14), He then concluded "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ's" (Colossians 2:16,17). Just as the regulations of the "clean and unclean" meats belonged to the Law of Moses, so did the holy days. And that law was done away when Christ died on the cross.
Under the New Testament, or the Covenant of Christ, there is no "holy day" per se, or "holy time" or any special part of a month or year for special observance. To observe such days as holy is to make void the grace of God. That is why Paul says what he does in Galatians 4:11 -- if they observed those "holy days" his labor among them was vain, or without profit. He elaborates on this in Galatians 5:4, "Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace." Even the first day of the week is not a "holy day" as was the Sabbath under the Law of Moses. We come together on "the first day of the week" to keep a holy feast, the Lord's Supper. But the feast and the assembly for it are holy, not the day.
Family days such as anniversaries and birthdays can hardly be categorized as the king of days Paul is discussing in Galatians 4. He is discussing holy days. The subject is that of worship. The keeping of a day as being a "special day for the Lord" is not authorized by the Lord. Unless one considers his birthday, or a national holiday, as a special "holy day," there would be no application of Galatians 4:9-11. The point of Galatians 4:9-11 is that those days which were forbidden were special "holy days" devoted to the worship of God. But God clearly shows that we must worship Him as He directs, and only as He directs.