IS CELEBRATING PASSOVER MANDATORY FOR GENTILES?
As a Messianic Jewish ministry, we often receive questions such as, “Are Gentiles required to observe the Jewish Sabbath? What about the holidays?” In particular, we understand that many of you may be wondering if it is mandatory to observe Passover and perhaps have a Seder of your own.
Believers have been asking these questions for centuries, even during the days of the apostles. During the early church, some Jewish believers in Yeshua were insisting that Gentile believers in Jesus obey the Law of Moses and keep the Feasts of Israel.
On one such occasion, a sect of the Pharisees who believed in Yeshua were troubling Gentile believers in Jesus, insisting that they keep the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5). The Apostle Peter responded, “Why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are” (vv. 10–11). Thus, Peter and the apostolic council agreed that Gentiles did not need to observe the Law or Jewish customs to be accepted by God.
Similarly, when some within the church at Colossae were pressuring Gentile believers to observe Jewish dietary laws and holy days, Paul wrote to them, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16–17). In other words, Gentiles do not have to live as Jews.
For that reason, Paul refused to circumcise Titus, a Gentile believer in Jesus, for the sake of the gospel (Galatians 2:3–5). He did not want Gentiles to think they needed to observe Jewish customs in order to follow Jesus. But Paul did circumcise Timothy, a Jewish believer in Jesus, also for the sake of the gospel (Acts 16:3). Paul believed it was necessary for Timothy, as a Jew, to identify with his covenant people of Israel through circumcision.
It is important to remember in this discussion that the holy days and the Law were given to a specific people—the Jewish people. The Jewish people entered into covenant with God to keep His Law and observe His holy days. This covenant was not made with Gentiles. But Gentile believers in Yeshua are grafted into Messiah (with the Jewish people) through a New Covenant, not like the old covenant (Jeremiah 31:32).
Under the New Covenant, believers in Yeshua are no longer under the Law of Moses (Romans 6:14), but under the Law of Messiah (1 Corinthians 9:21; cf. Romans 10:4; 7:1–6). Therefore, we are justified through faith in Him, and we can walk in obedience to God by heeding the words contained in the New Covenant (New Testament). However, many Jewish believers in Yeshua continue to observe the holy days, eat kosher, and honor the Sabbath to remember the covenant God made with them and to identify with their people.
In conclusion, although Scripture does not command Gentile believers to celebrate Passover or the other feasts, observe the Sabbath, or obey the covenant God made with the Jewish people, they are certainly free to do so. In fact, celebrating the Jewish feasts, especially Passover, serves as a great tool to remind Gentiles of the Jewish roots of their faith and the One to whom they all point—Yeshua the Messiah.