Seventh-Day Adventists/What Law Was Added?

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Question
Dear Sal:

In Galatians 3:17-19 it says, 17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. KJV. I ask you what was added?

I await your answer,
Mikkel

Answer
Dear Brother Mikkel:

Whatever was added in Galatians 3:19 was only a temporary addition to the revelation of God. "...until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made..." The verse in question also tells us whatever this addition was "it was put in place through angels by an intermediary." In v. 17 we read, "This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void" (ESV). Here we learn that the law added in v. 19 is the one which came 430 years after a covenant that was previously ratified by God. It should be obvious from the context of Galatians 3 that the "covenant" was the Abrahamic Covenant and that the "law" that came 430 years afterward was the Old Covenant that was ordained by angels.

"Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it" (Acts 7:52-53 NASB; cf. Acts 7:37-38; Hebrews 2:2-3).

The law that was added was the Old Covenant, the Law Covenant, the Ten Commandment Covenant. All 613 commandments of the Old Covenant were one law. The Ten Commandments represented or summarized the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai.

"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).

The original plan was for God to bless all nations through Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). However, because of sin the Old Covenant was added to the revelation of God. This law dominated covenant did not change the plan of salvation. Salvation was still by faith  both before and after Sinai. The law was added not to change the terms of salvation, but to point out sinfulness. As Paul wrote, "...for through the law comes consciousness of sin" (Romans 3:20 NABRE)and "The law entered in so that transgression might increase..." (Romans 5:20 NABRE). This was necessary because the Israelites were delusional in that they thought that they didn't need a savior. The Law proved them to be liars. The Law makes one cry out for mercy, but the Law has no mercy. It says, "Keep me or die!" Or as Paul put it, "But the law does not depend on faith; rather, 'the one who does these things will live by them'" (Galatians 3:12 NABRE; cf. Romans 10:5). The addition or the Old Covenant was only meant to be in effect until Jesus came and died for sin.

"Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,  for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith" (Galatians 3:23-26 ESV).

Once it had served its purpose the Old Covenant became obsolete and was replaced by the New Covenant. "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).

Some have swallowed hook, line, and sinker the teaching that the Law that came 430 years after the Abrahamic Covenant was only the ceremonial law of the Old Covenant. This is nonsense because the commandments of the Old Covenant formed one Law. All 613 commandments were to be kept. The Bible does not limit the Old Covenant Law to only the ceremonial nor does it separate the laws into categories of moral, civil, and ceremonial. Therefore, James says of the Law, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (James 2:10 NIV).

Many years into the New Covenant era the Old Covenant Law was separated into moral, civil, and ceremonial categories strictly for study, but this was not mandated by the Bible.

Now let's take a look at the verses in question.

17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. (ESV).

In v. 17 Paul sums up what he is writing about. "This is what I mean: the law..." What law? This is at the heart of your question. Therefore, let's look at the preceding verses and see if we can determine what law Paul had in mind. I believe it will be helpful to study the 4 Old Testament verses Paul quotes just before he sums up in v. 17.

"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'" (3:10 ESV). Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26. Note that he quotes, "all things written in the Book of the Law." So we must ask, "What is this Book of the Law?" This book could be one of two possibilities. It may be the book that Moses used to ratify the Old Covenant at Sinai. This book contained all the commandments God gave at Sinai including the Ten Commandments. This book was referred to as the "Book of the Covenant" (see Exodus 24:3-4). The other possibility is that it may refer to the book of Deuteronomy itself. Either way the Book of the Law contains both moral and ceremonial commandments. In fact the Book of the Law contained a recitation of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:1-17 & Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

"Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (3:11 ESV). Paul here quotes from Habakkuk 2:4. Of this verse it can be said that those who rely on their works are cursed for "no one is justified before God by the law". This verse relates back to v. 10 where the Book of the Law is mentioned. Paul's point is that only those who trust in God will live in His sight. As noted above the Book of the Law contained both moral and ceremonial commandments.

"But the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them'" (3:12 ESV). Paul now quotes from Leviticus 18:5. Paul gets to the heart of the matter: faith is necessary for salvation, law-keeping is not. Now that does not mean that we are free to sin. We still keep the law of God, but it is the New Covenant law. This means that the 7th day Sabbath once an essential obligation for the people of God is now an option. "One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5 NASB). Recall that the Judaizers were promoting faith plus Old Covenant law-keeping for salvation (cf. Acts 15:1, 5). Paul's point is that if one tries to keep the Old Covenant Law for salvation he will be under a curse (cf. 3:10). The verse in Leviticus occurs in a chapter primarily concerned with moral sins. So again we see that Paul had in mind moral sins not merely ceremonial sins as some claim.

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'" (3:13 ESV). Next Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:23. Paul tells us that Jesus took the curse for our sins upon himself. The context of this quote is a stubborn & rebellious Israel. Their sins were not only ceremonial, but moral.  

"so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith" (3:14 ESV). This section concludes with Paul teaching that the promised Spirit is received through faith not Old Covenant Law-keeping. It is not even a combination of the two. It is faith alone. In the next chapter Paul uses an allegory to clearly teach that New Covenant faith & Old Covenant Law are mutually exclusive. Sarah represents faith & Hagar represents the Old Covenant Law. Paul says to cast out the Old Covenant Law. "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).

I believe we can conclude based on Paul's use of Old Testament quotations that the law of v. 19 is the entire Old Covenant law. The Old Covenant came in between the Abrahamic and the New Covenant due to the sinfulness of Israel. The covenant was only to last for a specific period of time:430 years after the Abrahamic Covenant until the offspring should come referring to Jesus.

"Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith" (Galatians 3:23-26 ESV).

To sum up: Paul uses 4 Old Testament verses none of which is exclusive to the ceremonial law. He uses verses that in context refer to the Old Covenant Law which contains both moral & ceremonial commandments. After which Paul states, "This is what I mean: the law..." (v. 17) It should be obvious the he is referring to the Old Covenant Law. Therefore, the law that was added because of transgression, the temporary addition, was the Old Covenant Law-all 613 commandments. So, yes, the 7th day Sabbath ended with the rest of the Old Covenant Law. Since the 7th day Sabbath is not restated in the New Covenant, the only one of the Ten Commandments that isn't, we can be sure that it is not necessary for Christians.

Thanks for the question.

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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