Seventh-Day Adventists/What was added in Gal. 3:17?


Dear Sal:

In Gal 3:17 the law that was added to the Abrahamic covenant was the ceremonial law only not the entire Old Covenant as you say. It makes perfect sense to see “the law” as the ceremonial law which was added to the Abrahamic covenant 430 years later. It was particularly the sacrifices. So the Sabbath is still a commandment for Christians because it was the ceremonial law that was only temporary.

God Bless,

Dear Brother Karl:

The Sabbath commandment could not possibly “still” be a commandment for Christians since it never was a commandment for Christians!

I believe that it makes “perfect sense” that the law of Galatians 3:17 is the ceremonial law only if you want it to be. In other words, seeing the ceremonial law in v. 17 is theologically driven not contextual.

In context the added law was the Old Covenant law not just a part of it. The Israelites were under the Abrahamic Covenant then at Sinai was added the Old Covenant. The Bible repeatedly says that the Israelites were under the Old Covenant. What was the Old Covenant?

“Then the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone” (Deuteronomy 4:12-13 NASB).

So the law added to the Abrahamic Covenant was the law covenant of Sinai that was centered on the Ten Commandments. The ceremonial sacrifices were not a law unto themselves they were included in the 613 commandment covenant that we call the Old Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant was based on faith (cf. Genesis 15:6). The Old Covenant was based on works (cf. Galatians 3:12). It was the Old Covenant Law that was added to faith not just the ceremonial law as you believe.

The Law in v. 17 included the ceremonial law, but was not limited to it. If Paul meant only the ceremonial law then he would have specified it. To Paul, as to all Israelites, “the Law” was understood to mean the whole Old Covenant all 613 commandments. The addition of Law to the Abrahamic Covenant would be a major addition. The Abrahamic Covenant was for all people (cf. Genesis 22:18). The Old Covenant was only for Israel (cf. 2 Chronicles 6:11). This would be a major change to the Abrahamic Covenant. I believe that these examples prove that the Law that came 430 years after the Abrahamic Covenant spoken of by Paul was the Old Covenant Law not just the sacrifices or the ceremonial law as you say.  

In Galatians 3:21 Paul continues with his theme that the Old Covenant is inferior to and cannot invalidate the Abrahamic Covenant of faith. “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law” (NASB). Did the Israelites believe that the ceremonial law or the sacrifices could impart life apart from observing the rest of the Law? No, they did, however, believe that keeping the whole Old Covenant Law could impart life.

“But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed” (Galatians 3:22-23 NASB). It was the Old Covenant Law that kept the Israelites shut up and in custody until Christ came with the Gospel. The Law taught the Israelites that they needed a Savior. It was not just the ceremonial law that taught this, but “the Law”. “…for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20b NASB). One purpose of the law was to make sin known. This was Paul’s very point in the next verse. “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24 NASB). The Old Covenant Law taught the need for Christ. What happened once its purpose was realized? “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:25-26 NASB). Once its goal was reached the tutor; i.e. the Law was dismissed. Its job accomplished it becomes obsolete to the one who believes in Christ.

To sum up: the giving of the Old Covenant Law cannot invalidate the Abrahamic Covenant which promised blessings for the whole world based on faith in Abraham’s Seed who is Christ. The Law was given so that sinful man would recognize his sinfulness and hopelessness before God. The Old Covenant was designed to drive man to his Savior. Once the God-designed purpose of the Law has been reached the Law is dismissed as a tutor/guardian/disciplinarian. The Law is not of faith, but we are saved by faith becoming children of Abraham and consequently heirs to the promise.  The belief that by the Law Paul means only the ceremonial law is theologically driven not contextual. You want to find justification for your Church’s teaching about the Sabbath so you imagine Paul is referring to the ceremonial/sacrificial law in Galatians 3 and 4.

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5 NASB).

Do you really believe that God sent His Son born under the ceremonial law to redeem those who were under the ceremonial law? Doesn’t it make more sense that God sent His Son to redeem those who were under the whole Old Covenant Law not just the ceremonial part?

Paul does not make any distinction between so-called moral and ceremonial parts. It’s all one Law and until you learn that you will never be able to understand what the Bible teaches. The dividing of the Old Covenant Law into different categories is without Scriptural support. It was all one Law and those in that covenant were bound to observe all the laws. Therefore, I must ask you as Paul asked the Galatians, “Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says?” (Galatians 4:21 NLT).  

Thanks for your comments.

God Bless You,
Brother Sal  

Seventh-Day Adventists

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I am privileged to be able to offer an alternative insight into the complicated world of Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) theology. I will rely heavily on the Bible, but will also consider history and use logic in exposing deficiencies in SDA teachings. I would ask anyone who is considering becoming a SDA or if you are already in the SDA church, but are searching for the truth, to please allow me to offer a different explanation for the claims of the SDA. Remember : "The truth will set you free" (John 8:32). I can answer your questions pertaining to the beliefs and history of the SDA. I am not able to answer questions concerning spirituality or church discipline.


I have extensively studied the theology of the Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) for a number of years. I have many books and tape sets produced by experts in this field of study. I have debated current members of the SDA church. I have a great desire to help these people see the truth.

M.S. degree in Food, Nutrition, and Dietetics

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