Seventh-Day Adventists/More detail please?


Dear Bro. Sal:

I saw your recent answer to Bro. Karl "What was added in Gal. 3:17?" I was helped by the answer. But I was wondering if you could give more detail?

Thanks for all you do,
Bro. Tim

Dear Brother Tim:

I will try to flesh out my answer for you. It is really very simple and obvious. God gave the Abrahamic Covenant and then 430 years later at Sinai gave Israel the Old Covenant Law. This Law could not make the promise to Abraham void. My answer should not have to be so detailed. However, because SDAs try to split every hair I have to give rather lengthy answers such as this one. I pray this is helpful to you.  

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 Law (see Hebrews 8: 8-9:4; 2 Corinthians 3).   

“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. “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6 NIV). The Old Covenant was based on works. “The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them’” (Galatians 3:12 NIV). The Old Covenant was one ball of wax. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10 NIV). It was the Old Covenant Law that was added to faith not just the ceremonial law.

Ceremonial sacrifices were nothing new to be added to the Abrahamic Covenant. God’s people were offering sacrifices at least as early as Cain & Abel (see Genesis 4:3-5). Abraham was no stranger to sacrifices (see Genesis 22:1-13). Immediately after the Ten Commandments were given to Israel God spoke of sacrifices (see Exodus 20:24). So ceremonial sacrifices were nothing new to God’s people; therefore, they could not be what were added to the Abrahamic Covenant. The Levitical priesthood was new; however, it was not “the Law”. The Law covenant of Sinai was the temporary addition to the Abrahamic Covenant spoken of by Paul.

“What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise” (Galatians 3:17-18 NASB).

In the Old Covenant inheritance was not based on keeping the ceremonial law it was based on keeping the whole Old Covenant law.

“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the Lord has done in the case of Baal-peor, for all the men who followed Baal-peor, the Lord your God has destroyed them from among you. But you who held fast to the Lord your God are alive today, every one of you. See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:1-8 NASB; cf. 5:32-33; 8:11; 28:15; Leviticus 26:14-16).

One purpose of the Law was to make man realize his sinfulness. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Romans 7:7 NKJV; cf. Romans 3:20; 5:20; 7:13). Ideally this knowledge should drive man to seek the Savior (cf. Galatians 3:24). The Old Covenant Law was not contrary to or at cross purposes to the covenant of grace. The Law highlighted the absolute necessity of grace for salvation. There is no conflict between Law and grace in God’s plan. Only when men try to emphasize what God has de-emphasized does a conflict develop. Paul warned against those who emphasize the law, in whole or in part, that they would persecute those who are of the Spirit. “But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also” (Galatians 4:29 NASB).

The Law in v. 17 included the ceremonial law, but was not limited to it. (Note “this whole law” in quote above.) 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. “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them’” (Galatians 3:10 ESV). The Book of the Law contained all the law the Israelites were obligated to obey. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8 NIV; cf. Deuteronomy 31:24-26). The addition of Law to the Abrahamic Covenant would be a major addition. The Abrahamic Covenant was for all people.  “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Genesis 22:18 NKJV). The Old Covenant was only for Israel. “And there I have put the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord which He made with the children of Israel” (2 Chronicles 6:11 NKJV). “Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us (the Israelites), who are all of us here alive today” (Deuteronomy 5:3 NRSV). 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, but “this whole law”.  

In 3:19 Paul tells us why the Old Covenant Law was added to the revelation of God. It was added due to man’s sinfulness. The Law was given to show man that he could not possibly obtain salvation by his law-keeping. “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void” (Romans 4:13-14 NRSV).  

In 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 didn’t; however, they did believe that keeping the whole Old Covenant Law could impart life. “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:25 NKJV; review Deuteronomy 4:1-8 above).

“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. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2 NASB). What is the law of sin and death? Is it only the ceremonial law? No, it was the whole Old Covenant Law that was centered on the tablets of stone. “But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones…” (2 Corinthians 3:7 NASB).

If one still does not understand his point that the Old Covenant has passed away, Paul states this fact once more.  

“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar” (Galatians 4:21-24 NKJV).

Paul says in no uncertain terms that Hagar represents the Old Covenant. So what are Christians to do with that covenant?

“ Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (Galatians 4:30-31 NKJV).

Paul is crystal clear that Christians are to cast out the Old Covenant Law and live by faith for we are not children of the Law. He warns the Galatians not to put themselves under any of the Old Covenant laws or their freedom in Christ will be jeopardized. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 NASB). Even though the Galatians had accepted Christ by faith they wanted to add Old Covenant observances which Paul expressly forbid. He called the Galatians foolish for thinking that they could be saved by faith and yet add law-keeping to perfect them.   

“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:1-5 NASB).

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.

“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).

Was Jesus born under the ceremonial law to redeem those who were under the ceremonial law? Or was he born under the Law to redeem those who were under the whole Old Covenant Law?

When Paul writes that Sarah & Hagar are two covenants one of whom began at Mount Sinai, how should one interpret “two covenants”? (see Galatians 4:24). Are they not the Old (Hagar) and the New (Sarah) covenants? Is that not the natural interpretation based on the context? To be honest with Scripture one must see that interpretation is the only one that makes sense of all the evidence. Paul says to cast out the Old Covenant. “ Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’” (4:30 NKJV). Paul does not make any distinction between so-called moral and ceremonial parts. It’s all one Law and unless one learns that he 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.

God Bless You,
Brother Sal

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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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