Critique of David Wilber’s “Christian Guide to Biblical Feasts”

By Brian Holda

I apologize that this critique is a bit rushed. But I ask all readers would do with me what I plan to do with Wilber: Be willing to consider what I say, then examine the Scriptures to see if I’m correct (Acts 17:11).

I’ve only reviewed the first 15 pages, but I’m convinced this is enough to expose some major biblical errors.

Wilber (1): “Let us therefore celebrate the festival. – Paul, 1 Corinthians 5:8”
Response: This is a serious error in taking this verse out of context (sadly, Satan is shown to do similar tactic in Matt. 4:5-6 by quoting only a part of Psalm 91, and completely removing the context). Since Wilber repeatedly goes back to this verse, I want to spend a little time unpacking.

The context of 1 Corinthians 5 deals with sin that is not being dealt with in Corinth. It is a daily issue. They were “boasting” in how gracious and forgiving they were by not dealing with sin. But Paul rebukes this with multiple O.T. passages and allusions to make his point.

1 of these allusions is to Passover/Unleavened Bread:“Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (5:6-8)

Look at the portions in bold. These are metaphors Paul is drawing from the O.T. feast of Passover/Unleavened bread. Jesus does a similar thing in Matt. 16:6 in comparing the Pharisees’ bad teaching with leaven/yeast. The disciples completely missed this metaphor and thought Jesus was referring to actual bread and actual yeast (see Matt. 16:7). Wilber is doing the same thing in making 1 Cor. 5:6-8 speak of actual Passover.

Instead, 1 Cor. 5:6-8 is saying (in brief):
* The sin you are allowing to persist = yeast/leaven
* You need to confront it = removing the yeast
* If you do this, the church = unleavened bread (that is, a holy offering to God)
* Christ = Passover Lamb who was sacrificed (note: this on it’s own should show that he is not talking about a literal celebration of passover where you get the lamb and slaughter it, etc.)
* When you address sin = you are truly celebrating God’s festival in spirit, truth, and heart (regardless of a physical feast)

This reading can be further emphasized throughout 1 Corinthians when Paul says things like:
* “Though not being myself under the law” (1 Cor. 9:20)
* “All things are lawful for me,” (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23)

Wilber (2-5): Jesus teaches that He came to uphold the law (Matt. 5:17) and expects his followers to do likewise (Matt. 5:19). In fact, the righteousness of a citizen of God’s kingdom is measured by their adherence to this law – which should go beyond the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20).
Response:It is true that Jesus is showing here that the law has value (when you use it lawfully – 1 Tim. 1:8). It is true that our righteousness will be measured by the law, and that even the Pharisees and Scribes have only scratched the surface on adherence to the law.

This is because the scribes and Pharisees only do the superficial letter of it. When Jesus says, “You have heard it said…” He is quoting the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees. But notice what He says after that, “But I say to you…” (Matt. 5). He always probes deeper to show that God’s standard is HIGHER, DEEPER, WIDER than anything the self-righteous Pharisees could concoct. The Pharisees and Scribes thought the law was attainable by their own efforts, and thereby their righteousness was attainable by their own efforts. But Jesus says emphatically, “NO!”

According to Jesus:
* If you look with lust = GUILTY of Adultery
* If you wish harm on another = GUILTY of Murder
* If you don’t love your enemies = GUILTY of not loving in God’s way

The point is that NO ONE can live by such a high standard. Ah, except 1 person: Jesus who “fulfilled” the Law (Matt. 5:17). He is the only 1 who lived in perfect accord from the heart to God’s righteous law. Further, He is the one the law predicts as coming to save us from our falling short of the law.

Jesus here is using the law to show how truly holy God is and how not 1 person meets these standards (apart from Jesus). He does the same elsewhere. See Mark 10:17-22, for instance. In Mark 10:18 Jesus asserts that NO ONE IS GOOD (except God…and, by inference, Jesus who is God). Then he starts to use the law to expose the self-righteousness of this man. NO ONE can be righteous enough.

Of course, this is one of the major themes of the New Testament (and Old Testament). Read Romans 1-3, for instance (especially Romans 3:9-20). This shows that when we use the law correctly, it is meant to expose our sin. Then in Romans 3:21 and following, he shows that it also points to Jesus as a Savior. And that all who repent and believe/trust Jesus as their Savior are “counted as” righteous in God’s eyes (see Rom. 4-5, especially on that).
In that way we fulfill the law. We repent and believe the gospel. Thereby we are given God’s Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit produces the fruit of His Spirit. And we are able to love in God’s ways.

As Jesus said, this is the whole purpose of the law: God’s love (Matt. 22). We fulfill this only by trusting Jesus alone as our savior. And by doing it get His Spirit to enable us to walk in His ways (2 John 2:6). Read Galatians 5. This is superior than a legalistic adherence to the letter of the law.

Wilber (10): Colossians 2:16-17 refers to humans passing on judgment to the Christians not according to God’s law.
Response: Again, read all of Colossians in context (especially all of ch. 2). Yes, it is manmade tradition Paul rebukes (2:8). That manmade tradition, though, includes the insistence that we can somehow become righteous by living up to the law. This reverts back to the Pharisees/Scribes that Jesus rebukes everywhere (especially see Matt. 5).

Before Col. 2:16-17, Paul writes that in Christ we are complete, we are circumcised (spiritually), Christ took away the need to be righteous by living out the law.

Then he begins Col. 2:16 with “Therefore…” Meaning, this is connected to the paragraph before it. Then he shows that the feasts and sabbaths were mere shadows, but Jesus is the substance (so it is wrong to judge people who are in Christ on how well they do with the “shadows” i.e. the written commands of the law). He goes on even further saying that Christians are not under commands of “don’t” and “do” eat certain things, etc. (2:20-23).

This is all clearly talking about righteousness in Christ vs. righteousness by the law.

“Judaizers” (as they were called, and as Wilber seems to be) were rebuffed all throughout the New Testament. It’s not that there is a problem with the Law. Paul loves to use it! The problem was with how they were using it.

The law:
* Exposes our sinfulness and need of a savior
* Points to Jesus as that savior

But the “Judaizers” thought that if people lived by the law they could be righteous. And those who don’t were unrighteous. So you can trust in Jesus, but must also live by the law to be righteous. The New Testament has the strongest language for this kind of tendency, as it completely twists and disarms the gospel. It is called “manmade tradition” because it misses the actual purpose of the law.

One tendency that accompanies this teaching is the praise of angels. The N.T. teaches that angels were present when Moses received the law (Gal. 3:19). So some would point to this as proof that following the law for your righteousness is always a Godly thing to do. “Angels affirm this!” they might say.

But it’s for this reason that Hebrews 1-2 begins by showing Jesus is greater than angels. And Paul makes the same point in Gal. 3. And later here in Colossians (when he talks about the “worship of angels”). The law must bow to Christ who fulfills it. We don’t worship the law (or the angels who gave it) but only Jesus, who now makes even “the ungodly” to be righteous for belief in Christ (Rom. 4:5). Our righteousness in no way is dependent on legalistic obedience to the law. Acts 15 was the first statement on this, and it has been confirmed over and over and over.

I feel there’s so much more to say and so little said here. But I have plans to write a more sufficient document on how Christians should approach the law that I hope will fill in the gaps here.

I also didn’t address every point made by Wilber, but I lean on the promise in Scripture that sin can be exposed by 2-3 witnesses. So I looked at 3 points he made to try to show the flaws in his teaching (that I believe are incredibly severe if I’m reading them correctly).

Finally, I’d encourage people to read (and re-read) the New Testament over and over to see how God speaks to these things. Consider this brief survey of a few books:

  • Romans – Paul confronts Judaizers who teach that adherence to the law makes you righteous. He instead shows that the law exposes your sinfulness and that no one can live up to it (and that the law itself declared this if you read it carefully). But the law also teaches Jesus would come and when we believe in Him we are considered completely righteous in God’s eyes (removed from how well we did at following the letter of the law). As such, things like sabbath days and eating certain things are at the discretion of the individual. They don’t make you more/less righteous in God’s eyes on their own, but if your conscience is telling you to do it, do it. Just don’t project that as necessary for all.
  • Galatians – Paul confronts Judaizers who taught circumcision is necessary for righteousness before God. Even if you knew Jesus, that wasn’t enough, according to them. But Paul completely rebukes them in the strongest language. And he rebukes the Galatians for listening to this nonsense (see Gal. 3). Instead, it is faith in Christ alone that makes your righteous. And the evidence of this is that God (the Holy Spirit) lives in you and you have God’s fruit of a changed character (which was what the law was aiming for, but could not do without the Holy Spirit indwelling): “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal. 5:18)
  • Hebrews – The entire book is a warning to Christians who started to think that they needed to adhere to traditions of the law in order to be righteous before God (in addition with following Christ). But the writer shows in every way that Christ is superior as a means of righteousness: Christ is better than angels (Heb. 1-2), Christ is the ultimate Sabbath (Heb. 3-4), Christ is the ultimate priest, the ultimate sacrifice, etc. “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete.” (Heb. 8:13 – quoting from Jeremiah 31:31-34, wherein Jeremiah shows that the new covenant would be superior because God’s law would be inside us [which happens by the Holy Spirit indwelt]).

Again, sorry that this only scratches the surface on this important topic. But please pray and seek the Scriptures yourself. And ask if I can make things more clear in anyway!

Brian

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