Questions ???

Recently I received a letter from a reader who agrees with our perspective on Righteousness by faith but feels that it is incompatible with several doctrines taught by the Seventh-day Adventist faith, especially those which involve the law and observance of the Sabbath. I attempted to answer the objections of this person and as I believe that the answers given to these questions may be helpful to others I have published the questions as well as the answers given.

I am not always in harmony with how most Adventists EXPLAIN their doctrines. When I go to the pioneers I find that in many cases their understanding and explanations make far more sense, but even then I cannot say that I always agree with them 100% in everything. Nevertheless I have found consistency and good Scriptural sense in the teachings of Adventism when properly understood and explained. I cannot think for others or see things from their perspective, but that is the truth where I am concerned.

The questions and answers follow.

Q. If resting in Christ is such a simple matter once we grasp the concept, why is it that Adventist and other groups insist that they are the remnant because they are the only ones who understand doctrine? And they are the only ones who are keeping the correct day of worship? They are the only ones who are keeping the commandments? And the only ones following a “true” prophet? etc...

A. I am in agreement with you on this point to some extent. I do believe that the remnant will have certain characteristics which are not true of any group of people on the earth at this moment. I believe that the perception held by the SDA church and other groups that they are the remnant is based on a misconception of what is really involved in salvation and a misunderstanding of what is the true definition of God's church. However, I do believe that there is a certain standard by which genuine Christian experience may be measured and that this involves the keeping of God's commandments. Therefore as the Bible says so clearly in Revelation, those who are the remnant (when they are finally revealed) will keep the commandments of God (Rev. 12:17; Rev. 14:12) not as the ground of salvation, but as the fruit of a life which is truly lived in Christ.

There are many who claim to have faith who have no faith at all. Those who have true faith know that they have faith, but the only way a third party may be able to see that faith is by the works which appear in the life. These works, according to the Bible include the keeping of the commandments of God. One sure sign of a false profession is that there is no fruit borne in the life including the fact that such a person does not walk in harmony with the commandments of God.

Of course, it is possible for a sincere Christian to genuinely think that he is pleasing God while he ignorantly breaks the commandments of God. But obedience to revealed light is certainly the fruit of a converted life and is a yardstick by which the genuineness of a person's faith may be assessed.

Q. As Adventists we are taught that in the end times the Sabbath will be an issue. It will be such a huge issue that those who reject it will receive the mark of the beast and be lost.

Forgive my mental block here but isn't that salvation by keeping a day? What does resting in Jesus who is our Sabbath rest have to do with that kind of thinking?

A. The question as to whether or not the Sabbath will be the issue in the mark of the beast crisis is, admittedly not plainly stated in the Bible. It is difficult to prove it conclusively and simply from the Bible alone. If it were unmistakably identified would there be confusion and controversy about it? However, the idea that God would use a single issue involving a certain action to demonstrate the spiritual condition of people is not difficult for me to accept because it is consistent with the way He has acted in the past, as well as with Scriptural principles.

Many profess to have faith, and agree that faith and faith alone is the basis on which we are saved. However, they use that concept as the ground for condoning sin and for choosing to disregard the expressly revealed will of God and in this way, demonstrate that they have no true faith at all. It seems reasonable to me that God would choose one single commandment expressing His will for mankind, focus the attention of the world on that commandment and then allow men to demonstrate their relationship to Him on the basis of how they respond to His revealed will. This would bring the world to the place where there is a public and clear separation between those who have true faith (faith which works) and those who only profess to have faith (dead faith which does not work). So while faith and faith alone is the basis of our salvation, yet that faith is revealed and demonstrated by the works which we do. It is not salvation by commandment keeping, but salvation which results in, and is demonstrated by, commandment keeping.

Q. The Sabbath was given 430 years after Abraham to teach the plan of salvation and how that in Jesus we would have total and complete rest that Adam and Eve enjoyed at creation before sin. It was not a 24 hour rest that God had with Adam and Eve on one day of the week. It was from the 7th day of creation onward, the first day of Adam and Eve's existence and everyday thence, until sin entered the picture.

And this is why Paul said in Col 2:16-17 that we are not to act as judge regarding food or a Sabbath day which were all shadows of Christ.

Paul clearly says in Hebrews 4:6-10 that there remains a Sabbatismos — a sabbath-like rest. That Sabbath rest is Christ and that sabbath-like rest is Everyday, “Today”. Why would it say “there remains” if the Apostles did not understand that the Old Covenant laws were shadows of spiritual things fulfilled and no longer observed by Christians as salvational once they understood the meanings. Why would he remind them not to forget the assembling of themselves together if Sabbath was still required. Even the clean and unclean meats had spiritual meaning and fulfilled in Christ's day. All the pitifully nit picking laws of the OT had meaning of a spiritual matter and fulfilled in Christ.

A. I believe your concept of the Sabbath is wrong and is not supported by Scripture. Consider the following facts.

God blessed the Sabbath (placed a special benefit on it. What else could the word blessed imply?). God sanctified the Sabbath (set it apart for a holy purpose). All this was done from the seventh day of creation. (Genesis 2:2,3).

This day was set apart for a holy purpose from the first week of this earth's existence. This was God's purpose in including it in the week. Apart from this purpose there would have been no seventh day. The week would have had only six days.

Notice also that God blessed this day only BECAUSE He had rested on it. Read Genesis 2:2,3 carefully. He established the day as a set apart day because of the experience which He had enjoyed (with Adam and Eve?) on that day. The idea that it was the start of a rest which has continued up until now (or until the introduction of sin) is contradicted by Scripture. It was a single day's rest as the following verse proves.

It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. (Exo 31:17) 

Notice what it says. God rested (finished action) and was refreshed (also a finished action). Some say the word rested signifies that He began to rest and that there is no evidence that He ever went back to work. But notice the second part of the phrase, and was refreshed. It does not say He is being refreshed, but that He WAS refreshed by His experience of rest. Both the rest and the refreshing were concluded experiences. Of course there is a great truth embedded in this passage because we know that God cannot be tired, yet He was refreshed. But the point is, the verse shows that the rest of God was a finished action which took place on a single 24 hour day.

In fact, Exodus 20:8-11 also shows clearly that God's rest was a single 24 hour day. It says,

“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exo 20:9-11)

Here we see that the seventh day is GOD'S Sabbath. Therefore man is commanded to keep it holy. Why is it God's Sabbath? Because God rested on that day. It is God's rest. Which day must man keep holy? The same day on which God rested. God blessed it and hallowed it (made it holy). When did God do this? Back there during the first week of Creation. It was the same day on which God had rested and which he had blessed which God commanded man to keep holy.

Notice also that this means that from the time of the first seventh day, every subsequent seventh day was also blessed and hallowed. It matters not whether or not anybody had ever kept it holy before the Israelites. It was blessed and hallowed from creation week and all the world should have treated it as a hallowed and blessed day. God gave it to the Israelites when they became His people, but it had already been blessed and hallowed long before, from the time when God had rested on it and been refreshed. Therefore God tells the Israelites to keep it holy BECAUSE it had been blessed 2000 years before.

The truth is, we cannot of ourselves determine what is morally right or wrong. We must modify our understanding on the basis of what God's word reveals. This will lead us to a true and balanced understanding of salvation and of the will of God. If my understanding of righteousness by faith leads me to contradict something which is clearly taught in the word of God, then I know that my concept must be faulty, because it cannot be that it is the word of God which is wrong.

It is true that the Sabbath was later given a typical meaning. It became a type of the rest which we enter in Christ and a type of the millennial rest. However, this does not mean that it has no intrinsic value in itself. The types and shadows were only instituted AFTER sin came into the world. Before that they would have had no value or meaning. However, the Sabbath was blessed and set apart before sin came into the world and this demonstrates that it is a part of God's perfect plan for mankind and which has value above and beyond the typical meaning.

Q. Paul said in Romans 14:5-6 that we are not to judge our brother if he regards a day above another or regards all days alike. If a day was a matter of salvation for end times, he certainly missed his mark here and did not make mention of the importance of keeping Sabbath.

A. The Sabbath was included in the ten commandments. These were deliberately separated by God Himself from all the other laws. This Sabbath commandment was included with others which, reason can only define as being moral laws. These laws are limited expressions of greater truths, but they are eternal expressions nevertheless. It is true that the law of God is deeper and more comprehensive than those ten rules describe, but the fact is, that the greater understanding of the law does not overthrow the requirement of the limited understanding. It includes and goes beyond the limitations of what was written on stone. For example, the command, “thou shalt not kill,” means far more than that we should not remove the life of another person. Jesus said if we even hate our brother we are guilty. Does this mean that we are free to take his life as long as we do not hate him? Of course not. The command includes what it states in the ten laws, but it goes deeper than that. Likewise, the fact that true Sabbath keeping embraces more than just abstinence from work on the Seventh day, does not mean that it does not include the observance of that day as a day set apart for the purpose of worship.

God gave the law, according to Paul, so that sin by the commandment could become exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:13). It was so that the offence might abound (Romans 6:20). It was to be our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The law was not made for a righteous person but for those who commit sin (1 Tim. 1:9). The question is, did God present an artificial standard of righteousness to convict man of his sinfulness? Did He create and hold up before man a standard which did not describe genuine righteousness? Did He deceive us into thinking that this was what was required when it was not really so? Does this make sense? If the law is made for sinners, but not for the righteous, then is the standard of righteousness something to be desired when we are sinners, but to be cast aside when we become Christians? Does God have two different concepts of right and wrong, one for the sinner and one for the saint? Can you see my point?

The sinner's concept of the law is necessarily limited. He is incapable of understanding the deeper implications of the law. However, God gives him enough to see that he is utterly at fault and helpless to help himself. His desire to keep that law is not a desire to attain to a false standard. It is a desire to attain to a standard presented by God Himself. When he becomes a Christian, he sees more fully what is implied by that law, but he does not now set out to live contrary to any part of that law.

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Rom 3:31) 

To do this would be to become a stumbling block to sinners who still have only that law as their concept of right and wrong.

Here is the critical question: Now that we are in Christ, our instinct is to do good. Our natures have changed. We do good without even trying to do so. But, do we still need education as to what is the will of God in terms of what is morally right and wrong? Do we immediately come to a perfect understanding of what is morally right or does God still need to teach us by His word? Does the indwelling presence of the holy spirit mean that we automatically know what God requires or does that spirit still need to teach us God's will through the word of God? I think the word of God makes it plain that the born again Christian still needs to be guided by the word of God.

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” (John 16:13) 

This is why even Paul gives so many commands in his letters. People are transformed and led by the spirit, but they still need to be guided into an understanding of God's will through the word.

There is no consistent way to preach righteousness by faith unless we understand the eternal relevance of the law of God in all its facets, even though it is no longer our governor.

Restoration Ministries

Restoration Ministries is dedicated to the promotion of the truths contained in the word of God. In particular to the restoration of those truths which have been cast down to the ground and trampled underfoot by the papacy, and adopted by her daughters.

Our purpose is to motivate men and women to commit themselves wholly to the task of personal preparation for the coming of the Lord, and to the taking of the final warning message to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.



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