Seventh-Day Adventists/Laws, Sabbath and Romans 14:5,6

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Question
Dear Sal,

I have been struggling with Romans 14:5,6 after a stubborn-faith Pentecostal girl let me choke on it while saying to me, "It doh matter what day!" So, I went home, studied my Bible and prayed to God for the Holy Spirit to reveal what this text says. So, here is what i found:

1) The Law of God was not abolished. Texts that support that are Matt. 5:17, James 2:10-12, Matt.19:16,17, Rom.6:1-23, Rom.7:7-25.

Forgive me when i can't give you the exact text, but I read that were there is no law, there is no sin, and if you study the bible and Seventh Day Adventist prophesies, you would see that his law is in heaven with the fourth commandment with the most emphasis.

2) Some Ceremonial Laws are still in effect. The bible said those that are "shadows of things which were to come". For example, God commanded the Jews not to commit incest and not to eat unclean meats. If we really say that the entire ceremonial law is done away with, then we could say incest is morally correct, and that the animals stated in Deuteronomy 9 are clean, which they are not

Note: Jesus when he was speaking on the subject about what defiles a man, he was talking about the Jewish hand-washing ceremony, not the food laws.

3) His Laws are not changed. Yes, you might show me the text in Hebrews 4 which speaks about the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, but if we take it in that context, then what Jesus said in Matthew 5 is nothing! Plus, if we take Romans 14:5,6 in the well-known context, we gotta think on it first! Did man esteem the Sabbath? Or was it ordained and spoken from the holy mouth of God who said that he would not alter anything that had gone from his lips, who changes not, and what John said he saw what on Earth was the representation of the Lord (ark of the covenant) when in heaven he saw the real thing! The Bible says that not to follow our own opinions, because compared to God's holy Laws, it is nothing. So, did man esteem it, or did the Lord Sanctioned it forever! If i think that Monday is better than a Tuesday, that is what I esteemed, But I highly doubt that Paul would contradict the Bible like that and put what I esteemed over what God says.

P.S. I forgot some of the texts i quoted there. Sorry!

Please study, comment, and if possible, clarify. Thanks!

Answer
Dear Mikkel:

You make a lot of good comments. I cannot respond to all of them in one answer because of the length that such an answer would require. You reference Matthew 5 a couple of times. Perhaps that is a good place to start in order to better understand the place the Law given to the Israelites has in the New Covenant.

Seventh-day Adventists, and other sabbatarians, are fond of using Matthew 5:17-19 as a proof-text for Sabbath-keeping. They reason that the Ten Commandments are not abolished; therefore, we are obligated to keep the 7th day Sabbath. Is that what the text says? Let’s take a look at it in some detail.

It is acknowledged by sabbatarians and non-sabbatarians alike that Matthew 5:17-19 is the pivotal statement from which the whole New Testament theology of law grows. Therefore, it is of great importance that we properly interpret this passage.

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19 NASB).

Immediately let’s note that the SDA Church teaches its members to read v. 17 in a different manner than the rest of Christian churches. They teach that it says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Ten Commandments. I have come not to abolish them, but to continue them.” This way of reading v. 17 has been reported by ex-SDAs and confirmed by my own work with current SDAs. The text does not mention the Ten Commandments but “the law”.  By the term “law” Jesus means all the law of the Old Covenant not just the Ten Commandments. Another key term in this passage is “fulfill”. By the term fulfill Jesus means to complete. This being so he will bring an end to the Old Covenant that includes the Ten Commandments.

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus uses the word “law” seven times (5:17, 18; 7:12; 11:13; 12:5; 22: 40; 23:23). If we, for the moment, exclude 5:17 & 18 we can see that Jesus always means the whole Law of the Old Covenant, all 613 laws, never once does he mean the Ten Commandments apart from the other laws. This is extremely important information that the SDA church has not transmitted to its followers. I will present just one example from the seven above showing that Jesus meant more than the Ten Commandments when he referred to the law. [Please read all seven references in your own Bible.] “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?” (Matthew 12:5 NASB). Obviously Jesus is not referring to the Ten Commandments which do not address this issue at all (see Numbers 28:9-10).


Now, does 5:17 & 18 follow this pattern? I believe that the answer is emphatically “yes”. Jesus uses the key term “the law or the prophets”. This term means all the laws found in the Books of Moses (the first five books of the Bible) and all the writings of the prophets, these all pointed to Jesus. He was not abolishing any of these, but fulfilling them all. “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled’” (Luke 24:44 NASB).  In doing this Jesus is bringing them to their God-ordained conclusion. “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4 NIV). If Jesus meant only the Ten Commandments he would have had to specify that since his use of “the law” would automatically cause his hearers to recall the entire Old Covenant Law.  Jesus used a similar term “the law and the prophets” two times in Matthew. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (7:12 NASB). This is not from the Ten Commandments, but from the teaching expressed in Leviticus 19:18. “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (22:40 NKJV). The two commandments spoken of by Jesus in 22:40 are not from the Ten Commandments, but from the other 603 laws of the Old Covenant (see Deuteronomy 6:5 & Leviticus 19:18). This should help one to see clearly that Jesus meant more than the Ten Commandments when he said, “the law or the prophets”.

The other key term of v. 17 is “fulfill”. Matthew uses this term 14 times besides the usage in v. 17 (1:22-23; 2:15; 2:17; 2:23; 3:15; 4:14-16; 8:17; 12:17-21; 13:14-15, 34-35; 21:4-5; 26:53-54, 56; 27:9-10). From these usages we learn that fulfill almost always means to complete and end. Jesus brings the law and the prophets to their intended goal. He does not permit us to simply continue with the Old Covenant laws. He has fulfilled and completed them. They have no force over Christians. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Galatians 5:18 NASB). The SDA teaching that the Sabbath command is still binding because of 5:17 is not found in a proper exegesis of the text. The context does not even mention the Sabbath, therefore, the SDA has no basis for the claim that in 5:17 Jesus meant to continue the Sabbath.  

The SDA interpretation of v.18 is very flawed. They see “the law” as the Ten Commandments none of which will pass away. This is nothing more than a denominational interpretation aimed at convincing the person that is not astute in Bible interpretation that one must keep the Old Covenant sign, the 7th day Sabbath. The major problem with the SDA interpretation is that the law always means the entire 613 laws of the Old Covenant. Nowhere in the Bible are we given permission to separate these laws. Accordingly, if the SDA interpretation of v. 18 were correct it would mean that all 613 laws of the Old Covenant are still in effect! This, of course, is absurd. However, it is the logical result of their flawed theology. The key part of v. 18 that is overlooked, either purposely or subconsciously, by SDA apologists is “…not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” This closing phrase is extremely important to the understanding this passage. The Old Covenant, all of it, is done away with because in Christ Jesus it has all come true. Therefore, even if “the law” meant only the Ten Commandments they would not be binding on us today because of the important phrase “until all is accomplished” or “fulfilled”. Once fulfilled, the law and the prophets have reached their intended goal of leading us to Christ. Then the law, like a tutor, is dismissed.

“But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:23-25 NASB).

This passage is extremely clear that the Old Covenant Law, that includes the 7th day Sabbath, is no longer in effect for Christians. We now answer to a higher moral code (see Matthew 5:20-48; John 13:34, 15:12). This moral code is called the Law of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2).

The context of vs. 17 & 18 is that the entire Old Covenant is to remain in force until Jesus fulfills it all.  Once “all is accomplished” it all becomes obsolete.

“Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:1-6 NASB; cf. 8:1, 2; 10:4; Galatians 2:16; 3:23-26; 5:18).

It should not be a new or unique idea to Bible-believing Christians that the Old Covenant should become obsolete. The Bible is clear that it was always God’s intention for the Old Covenant to end. The Bible says that the Ten Commandments, which were the heart of the Old Covenant (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13), were always destined to pass away (see 2 Corinthians 3:7-11); that the Old Covenant was given to Israel only for a divinely appointed time period ending with the coming of Christ (Galatians 3:17-19); that we are to cast out the Old Covenant (Galatians 4:21-31) after it leads us to Christ (Galatians 3:23-26).  

Even if these clear Scriptures were not known one could logically infer that the Old Covenant becomes obsolete once the New Covenant is established. Why live under the Old way when the New is superior? “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6 NKJV). This shows the Old Covenant to be obsolete since the New is “a better covenant”. Paul then logically concludes that the inferior first covenant has become obsolete. “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear” (Hebrews 8:13 NIV). The fact that it was God’s will to completely take away the Old Covenant is overlooked or ignored by the SDA hierarchy. They prefer to believe it was only some of the Covenant that was taken away not all of it.  

In order to further bring out the fact that “the law” in vs. 17 & 18 refers to all the Old Covenant laws as well as all the teachings of the Hebrew Bible, let’s look first at clear Biblical evidence that Jesus meant more than the Ten Commandments. “Jesus answered: ‘Is it not written in your law…’” (John 10:34). Then Jesus quotes from Psalm 82:6 not from the Ten Commandments or even from the Torah. Another such example is “However, this only fulfills the text in their law…” (John 15:25). Then Jesus quotes from Psalm 69:5. Next let’s look at an example showing that the Jews of Jesus’ day understood “the law” to refer to more than the Ten Commandments or the Books of Moses. “The crowd objected to his words: ‘We have heard it said in the law that the Messiah is to remain forever’” (John 12:34). This concept is found in Psalm 89:37. So in all three examples the Psalms are called “the law”. This proves that by “the law” is meant something more than the Ten Commandments or even the Books of Moses. It is only the SDA hierarchy that believes that “the law” equals the Ten Commandments. This they believe despite the clear Biblical evidence to the contrary. Further evidence comes from Paul. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul quotes from Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah and calls them “the law” (see 3:10-19). We read in his first Letter to the Corinthians, “It is written in the law…” (14:21). Then Paul quotes from Isaiah 28:11-12. All this serves to show that the use of the term “law” was often used as an easy way to refer to the teachings of the Hebrew Bible. In Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus was simply using a form of speech prevalent in his day to refer to the entire Hebrew Bible.

To sum up, we have seen that the Biblical evidence is clear that Matthew 5:17-19 is Jesus assuring the people that he has not come to destroy the Old Religion. He is the fulfillment of that which the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to. He is the goal of the Old Covenant Law that the Jews so revered.  He is the fulfillment of what the great prophets spoke so magnificently of. Jesus reveals to the people that not the smallest part of the smallest letter will be taken away until it all comes true. Jesus further confirms the Law by saying that if one breaks the least of the 613 Old Covenant laws they will find themselves in God’s disfavor. If one keeps all the laws of the Old Covenant one will be in God’s favor because all the 613 laws are still in effect until he fulfills them all. Then, and only then, the entire Old Covenant will become obsolete giving way to the New Covenant. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25 NIV). Let us note that we not only have a new covenant, but a new sign of that covenant—the Lord’s Supper. There is no place for the 7th day Sabbath in the New Covenant. This is a hard exegetical fact for the SDA Church to accept so they prefer to remain in an Old Covenant mindset.  

In the New Covenant, “a better covenant”, Jesus reveals a new higher standard of conduct for his people. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20 NASB).  Then he gives concrete examples of the superiority of the New Covenant morality (see Matthew 5:21-48). Paul calls this New Way the Law of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2). The great commandment of the New Law is to love. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV; see also 15:9-17). The righteousness of God’s people is no longer determined by conformity to Old Covenant rules, regulations, and sacrifices, but by conformity to the teachings of Jesus, the New Law Giver. The Old Covenant only possessed mere shadows that Jesus was to perfect. “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17 NKJV).

It was absolutely necessary that the entire Old Covenant pass away in order for the New Covenant to be fully established with its unique mark—a universal Church.

“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:11-22 NIV).

When the best arrives the good must disappear. John the Baptist illustrated this for us. “He must increase, while I must decrease” (John 3:30 NASB). John was good as a herald of the coming Christ, but the Christ is far better. Likewise, the Old Covenant was good as a herald of the coming New Covenant, but once the New Covenant arrived the Old Covenant had to be removed. So it is with the sign of the good Covenant, the 7th day Sabbath (see Exodus 31:13, 16-17), it disappears in order to make room for the superior New Covenant. This truth is illustrated for us by the incident on the Mount of Transfiguration. There Moses and Elijah representing the Law and the prophets are removed from the scene leaving only Jesus and his better covenant (see Matthew 17:1-8). Christians, with the exception of sabbatarians, joyfully accept the superior Sabbath rest of the New Covenant—Jesus. We no longer physically rest on a day. We now have a greater spiritual rest in a person.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB).

You may still have questions about the other texts that you mentioned, if so just let me know and I will be happy to explain them in light of the New Covenant.

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.

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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.

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

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