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False Distinction #6:
False Distinction #7:
False Distinction #8:
False Distinction #9:
False Distinction #10:
The phrases "commandments", "The commandments" "my commandments", "the Lord commanded", "what Moses commanded" are uses so many times in the Old Testament in reference to what Adventists call the Ceremonial law to the exclusion of the 10 commandments, it would take 10 pages to list all the verses!
Lev 27:34 These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the sons of Israel at Mount Sinai.
Num 36:13 These are the commandments and the ordinances which the Lord commanded
Deut 30:10 obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law
Jesus defined the commandants to include the Law of Moses: Mt 19:17-19 Jesus said: "keep the commandments." The man replied "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself"
Deut 5:1 The Ten commandments are called "My statures and all My ordinances"
Ezekiel 20:19-21 The weekly Sabbath is called "My statures and all My ordinances"
Mal 4:4 Book closes with a call to keep "statutes and ordinances" which obviously include the 10 commandments because it would be unthinkable for such a doxology to leave them out completely!
Neh 9:13-14 the weekly Sabbath is included without distinction: "right judgments, true laws, good statutes, commandments"
Lev 19:1-37 The Ten commandments and the ceremonial law are mixed together without distinction and called "My statures and all My ordinances"
Deut 5:1-6:25: Two whole chapters that deal exclusively with the 10 commandments and the following 5 terms are used interchangeably without distinction: "statutes", "ordinances", "commandments", "judgments", "testimonies".
Lev 23 The Weekly Sabbath is lumped in with all the yearly Sabbaths without distinction and they are all called "The Lord's appointed times" and "holy convocations".
Ezek 20 calls the first and fourth commandment, "My statutes and My ordinances"
Neh 8 uses interchangeably without distinction, the following terms: "the book of the law of Moses", "the law", "the book of the law", "the law of God", "book of the law of God" and includes
V. A distinction between the tables and the book cannot be established merely because a few different things said about them!
A. Two Paul's because opposite things said about them? Paul said he was a Jew and a Roman: Acts 21:39; 22:35
B. Two Christ's because opposite things said about them?
VI. "The Law" of the Old Testament is NOT the "Law of Christ": 1 Cor 9:21
1 Cor 9:21 "to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law, to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law"
VII. 10 reasons that refute there is any difference between the 10 commandment law and the ceremonial law:
(How they use circular reasoning and selective reading to establish a false distinction that doesn't exist!)
The 10 commandments given special treatment, over what was in the book, not because they were a separate code of law, but because they were the actual Covenant themselves.
1. Historically the Jews never made the distinction that the Sabbatarians make.
2. However, the Jew did view the 10 commandments as the Sinai covenant!
Exodus 34:27-28: "Then the Lord said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments."
Deuteronomy 4:13: "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 9:9: "When I went up to the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord had made with you, then I remained on the mountain forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water.
Deuteronomy 5:2-3: "The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today."
1 Kings 8:9,21: V9 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the sons of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt." ... V21 "And there I have set a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord, which He made with our fathers when He brought them from the land of Egypt."
2 Chronicles 6:11: "And there I have set the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord, which He made with the sons of Israel."
Hebrews 9:1,4 "Now even the first covenant had ... the tables of the covenant"
3. It was this covenant that was abolished in Heb 8:13 - 9:1-4
A Response to "Why the Seventh Day?"
Will Eva, editor of Ministry, the Seventh-day Adventist magazine, recently asked an important question in a two-part editorial titled "Why the seventh day?" (Ministry, July 1999, pp. 4-7, and September 1999, pp. 4-8). His discussion is interesting and worth comment.
I commend Eva for asking the question, for not simply relying on his church's tradition for stock answers and dogma. I further commend Eva for his willingness to go against some of his tradition even in his effort to support the tradition of seventh-day observance. And I commend him for wanting to bring all doctrines into "the light of the arrival of Jesus and the rest He brought, indeed the rest He is through faith" (July, p. 4).
Eva has recognized that "the traditional Adventist approach to such issues as `the perpetuity of the law' simply does not seem, by itself to answer the legitimate, seminal questions posed by the contemporary antisabbatarian initiative" (by which he means our denomination as well as Adventists who are "moving out of Adventism into independent congregations"). He recognizes that his own approach "is not traditional Seventh-day Adventist fare." Eva wants to put the Sabbath into "a thoroughly scriptural and new covenant setting" (ibid.).
It seems that the traditional Adventist approach did not address some important questions. The foundation had some pieces missing, even some defects, and now it seems that the conclusion needs to be shored up in some other way. This is of course a reasonable thing to do when traditional doctrines are challenged, and it is also reasonable for us to assess whether Eva has given adequate answers.
Even on the first page, Eva assumes rather than proves "the permanence of the Decalogue…the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments." This is a common Christian assumption, and one that he gives some support for in part 2 of his article, but this pivotal point seems more assumed than proved. I will have more to say about it later. First, I wish to address the Old Testament material he treats in part 1.
Eva makes these claims:
These claims are defensible, but they do not require a Sabbatarian conclusion. The argument is based more on inference than on connections that the Bible actually makes. Genesis 2:1-3 does not call the seventh day the Sabbath. It does not call it a day of rest. God rested on that day, but nothing is said about any need for humans to rest on that day. There is no suggestion that humans are to imitate what God did on any of the days of creation.
The sixth day, just as much as the seventh, has a connection with creation, the creation of humans, an unchangeable historical occurrence, therefore with a meaning that transcends Hebrew history. The connection of a day of the week with creation is a nonargument, since they are all given some connection to creation.
Now, the fact that God blessed the seventh day is more significant. But we should ask, how were humans supposed to respond to its sanctity?
Before sin entered, humans lived in a blessed and holy time, in which humans were in a state of peace with God, trustful and obedient. They did not need to labor in the way they later did. They did not need to set aside a day for communion with God, for they had it continually. They did not need a weekly Sabbath until after sin had entered. The first human did not need to rest on the second day of his life. It is significant that the Sabbath, as a command, was not given until after sin entered.
It is important to distinguish the concepts of "seventh day" and "Sabbath." They were joined in the old covenant, but the Bible does not show that they were joined at creation. I commend Eva for talking of the "seventh day" (instead of calling it by the later term "Sabbath") of creation, but he still expects readers to equate the two. But this obscures the fact that the Sabbath, as a command, is found only in a covenant that God has declared obsolete. And when we are discussing whether the Sabbath is commanded today, we must distinguish the command from the day itself. It is only through Moses that God tells anyone to treat this day as different from other days. We should not try to read Christian commands into an ancient Hebrew narrative.
Perhaps it is helpful here to compare two creation concepts: reproduction and Sabbath. The first is commanded in Genesis 1:28, the second is not commanded anywhere in Genesis. Although reproduction is a creation-based command, it is not required for all Christians. Despite this, some people claim that the Sabbath, which is not a creation command, is required for all Christians. This is to make exceptions for what is clearly in the Bible, and to inflexibly require something that is not clearly there. The logic of "creation command" is thereby called into question.
Eva writes, "This prelapsarian [before sin] existence of the seventh day must be allowed at least to call into question the assumptions of a theology that dismisses the seventh day because of its 'old covenant' connections" (p. 5). But this is confusing the issues. We are not concerned about the seventh day – what we are concerned about is the seventh day as a commanded day of rest. The command did not enter until after sin entered, and it entered as part of the old covenant. That brings us to the next passage Eva discusses.
Eva sees the following significance in the Exodus 16 manna-Sabbath story:
These arguments do not seem to have any merit. First, these Sabbath instructions came only a few weeks before Sinai, and the fact that they came earlier is no more significant than the fact that Passover sacrifices were commanded before Sinai, and the Festival of Unleavened Bread was commanded before Sinai, and the consecration and redemption of firstborn animals and humans was commanded before Sinai. All these belong to the old covenant, the Law of Moses, the law given 430 years after Abraham, the law that is now obsolete. There is no theological significance in the few weeks' difference.
Second, the wording in Exodus 16 does not presuppose that the Israelites knew anything about the Sabbath before this. For one thing, the account is abbreviated – it was written well after the events, for people who already knew the details of the Sabbath command, and the entire history does not need to be explained in this chapter. Not every word of God has to be repeated.
And further, there is no presupposing in the chapter. Moses simply tells the people to gather twice as much on the sixth day (v. 5), and on the sixth day he tells them that the Lord had commanded, "Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord" (v. 23). This does not indicate that Moses is assuming anything about what the Israelites know – he is telling them as if they knew nothing about it. Even Eva recognizes this when he writes, "It is entirely possible, even likely, that Israel while in Egypt had all but forgotten the Sabbath" (p. 5). So where is the presupposing? I think it is in the presupposition that the Sabbath predated Moses.
Last, Eva suggests that if we "discount the pre-Sinai consciousness of seventh day sacredness, we might also question the existence of a pre-Sinai moral heritage in Israelite life behind the other nine commandments" (p. 5).
I am not questioning the validity of the principles behind the other nine commandments, but I do think it fair to "question the existence of a pre-Sinai moral heritage in Israelite life." The patriarchs did many immoral things. They also worshipped God with sacrifices, circumcision, and other obsolete practices. Genesis simply tells the story – it does not tell us to do likewise or to avoid the likewise. To see whether it is right to imitate their behavior, we must turn to other biblical books. In other words, since some aspects of their behavior are wrong, every aspect of their behavior must be questioned.
The principles behind God's law were indeed operative in the time of the patriarchs, but that is a conclusion we reach from other biblical books, not from Genesis itself. To proclaim that the Fourth Commandment must have pre-Sinai validity just because the other nine commandments do, is begging a question that needs to be addressed, not assumed. In both of the places where the Decalogue is mentioned by name, it is equated with a covenant that in the New Testament is called obsolete. We cannot assume that all the parts of an obsolete covenant must stay together, or that they were together before the covenant was given.
"It is begging the question," Eva writes, "to say that there is little or no evidence of Sabbath keeping or Sabbath consciousness before Sinai. It is true that there is not a high volume of biblical material, but no fair-minded person can ignore the evidence that is there, along with its clear implications. Historically, Genesis 2 and Exodus 16 precede Exodus 20" (p. 6). But on the contrary, when we want to make claims about the Sabbath before Sinai, it is not begging the question to point out the lack of evidence. When somebody says that Abraham wore phylacteries, for example, it is not begging the question to point out the lack of evidence.
No fair-minded person can ignore the fact that Genesis never mentions the word Sabbath and never commands anyone to do anything in particular on the seventh day. If the implications were so clear, why could the Talmud state that Abraham did not keep the Sabbath? And when we are discussing a time period of more than 2,000 years, Exodus 16 (set in the Sinai peninsula after the Exodus) cannot fairly be categorized as "pre-Sinai." It is certainly not pre-Mosaic, and it would not be profitable to insist on a distinction between pre-Sinai and pre-Mosaic.
Eva suggests that further evidence for "pre-Sinai seventh day consciousness in Israel is found in Exodus 5:1-9 and 15:25, 26" (p. 6). He admits that they are "allusions" to the "pre-Sinai existence of some cultic material or custom." Why they should be connected with the Sabbath (as if worship could not take place on any other day) is completely unexplained. This seems to be grasping at straws in an attempt to create evidence for a theory that doesn't have enough.
Exodus 19 and 20
Eva makes the following observations about the Ten Commandments:
Yes, it is true that the decalogue is distinct from other laws. It has a specific name: the ten words, which are equated with the Sinai covenant (Ex. 34:28; Deut. 4:13). No matter how many miracles were performed, no matter how awesome the displays, the Ten Commandments are the old covenant. As Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 3, the Ten were glorious, but they had a fading glory. They were God-given, but it was a covenant that did not last (2 Cor. 3:11; Heb. 8:13). If we equate great displays of glory as a sign of permanence, we are wrong (Heb. 12:18-19). If we equate stone with permanence, we are wrong. The Bible does not assign that kind of significance to these facts.
True, the Fourth Commandment is in the heart of the Ten. It is in the center of the old covenant. Should we read any significance into that? Perhaps it is a legitimate exercise, to explore the possibilities, but its significance would then pertain to the old covenant, not the new.
When we are arguing for Christian requirements, we cannot build our arguments on inferences. No matter how good the other nine commandments are (and they arenot a sufficient guide to Christian life), we cannot assume that the Fourth must remain with them in perpetuity. There are a lot of good laws in Leviticus 19, too, including some exceedingly high principles, but we cannot assume that all its verses are equally valid today. We cannot judge a verse by its neighbors. We are dealing with a covenant that has been declared obsolete. The fact that it alludes to creation does not diminish the fact that it is the old covenant.
True, the Fourth Commandment begins with the word "remember." But in Genesis 9:15, "remember" refers to something that began that very day. This is a nonargument, an argument by inference and English word-association, and I think Eva recognizes its weakness when he writes, "this again suggests or refers back to the existence of the Sabbath in some form before Sinai" (p. 6). When we are dealing with a doctrine that commands Christians to give up their jobs, to alienate their families, to look to the movement of the sun, we need more than suggestions, allusions and inferences. We need clear commands, and the fact remains that the only commands for the Sabbath are in a covenant that has been declared obsolete.
As Eva notes, the Sabbath command refers to creation. But the connection comes from Sinai, not from Eden. Since Genesis does not refer to the Sabbath command, the reason we know that there is a connection is Exodus 20. The Sabbath command is patterned like the creation sequence. But so what? The connection is clear in the old covenant, but it is valid for the new? We are again dealing with an argument by inference, by hypothesis. The land sabbath can also be connected to creation, but this connection does not imply a permanence of command. Reproduction is also connected to creation, but it is not required of every person.
The old covenant commemorated the first creation, but Christians are in a re-creation. Instead of commemorating "first things," we look to future things. Instead of looking to "original being," we look to eternal being. Instead of looking to a creation connected with the first Adam, we look to one connected with the second and final One. If we want to commemorate a creation, we need to commemorate the more important one. The New Testament tells us that the new is more important than the old. The old is instructive, but it does not have legal authority over us.
Last, was the Sabbath given a national significance? Not in the Fourth Commandment when removed from its context. But in its context, it is set in the center of a national covenant between Israel and God. The Decalogue begins with, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt." It is given to a people brought out of a specific land. The creation account is mentioned as an example, a paradigm for the Sabbath, but not as a command that dated from creation. Rather, it looks to what God did at creation, not at what he commanded at creation.
The pattern in Exodus 20:11 is consistent with the evidence of Genesis: the seventh day was blessed at creation, but it was not commanded as a Sabbath, a day of rest, before the Exodus from Egypt. Indeed, the decalogue in Deuteronomy connects the Sabbath with the Exodus, not with creation. It is connected with a deliverance from slavery. That is an application of a timeless principle, but that does not make the Sabbath itself timeless. The Jubilee year is also an application of eternal truths. Truths are eternal, but applications are not necessarily eternal.
Regardless of whether the Sabbath command is cosmic or cultic, the command is found in a covenant that is obsolete. We cannot invent categories of command such as "primal" or "original creation" or "cosmic" and then declare all such commands to be perpetually binding, when Scripture says no such thing. Especially when Jesus categorizes the law as a ceremonial law, and his apostles write that it is no longer in force. More on that later. With that, we turn to part 2 of the article.
Eva begins part 2 by summarizing part 1: "We showed that the seventh-day Sabbath, based on its Creation origin, its pre-Hebrew, pre-law, pre-sin, and divine infrastructure was invested with qualities clearly transcendent of anything limited to Hebrew or 'Jewish' covenantal constructs" (September, p. 4). He assumes more than he has proven. He has shown that the seventh day was made by God before sin and before Moses. He has not shown that the seventh day as a commanded day of restwas made at creation or that it would have been necessary for humans to keep the Sabbath before they sinned. He has not shown that any Sabbath command existed before Moses. He has sidestepped the Sabbath's importance in the old covenant and has ignored the biblical equation of the decalogue with the old covenant and what it means for the covenant to be obsolete.
In part 2, he approaches the important task of seeing "how Jesus' Messianic arrival actually affected or impacted the role of the law." He focuses particularly on Galatians 3 and Romans 7, as well as touching on a number of other relevant passages.
Eva rightly identifies the Galatian heresy as Judaizers who "held that the Gentile Christian was obligated to continue keeping the whole law (as Paul identifies in Gal. 5:1-6) in order to achieve standing with God. Although their perceived obligations involved observances such as circumcision, behind that the whole Mosaic system was involved, which by all means included the Sinai decalogue" (p. 4).
He asks, "What law was Paul referring to when he told the Galatians that 'the law was our custodian…until Christ came'?" (pp. 4-5). And he gives the right answer: "Both the ceremonial and the moral code." In saying this, Eva appears to be arguing against some Adventists, for he takes space to show that his answer agrees with 19th-century Adventist authorities. It seems that some modern Adventists are afraid of the idea that Paul might be including the Ten Commandments in his argument against the Law.
I think it is clear from Galatians 3:17 that the entire Mosaic law is under discussion; Eva turns to Galatians 4:24 to show the same thing: "The reference to Mount Sinai shows unequivocally that Paul has the moral law or the Sinai decalogue (the Ten Commandments) in mind in his Galatian teaching, and not just the 'ceremonial law' as many Adventists have maintained" (p. 5).
Eva further connects this to Romans 7:7, where Paul quotes the tenth commandment as part of "the law." He mentions Romans 7:4 and implies that the same law is in view: "Through Christ we died to the law (including every one of the Ten Commandments)." Eva notes that we now belong to Christ, not the law. "A fresh center of moral or ethical definition has been introduced – not now a written code, but the living Word Himself." Excellent! We belong to Christ, not to the law. This is true.
However, how does a person die to the Ten Commandments? How does this connect to verse 1: "The law has authority over a man only as long as he lives"? Since the law under discussion in this passage includes the Ten Commandments, verse 1 is clearly saying that the Ten have authority over us only as long as we live, and then the passage proceeds to tell us that we have died to the law. The next step is to conclude that we are no longer under the authority of the Ten Commandments. But Eva does not make this step, at least not in those words. He is aware that many Adventists will be uncomfortable with what he is saying. "It seems to me that historically, Adventists have not grasped this watershed reality" (p. 6).
"The point is that under the 'old covenant' the ethical or moral emphasis was on the validity of the written code, the law. Since the arrival of Jesus the emphasis has shifted to the divine, definitive person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the giver of the law in the first place. There is a significant difference in theological orientation and practical result between obedience that comes by merely observing the written code, and the loving discipleship that develops when…one simply follows the living Christ, the One who is the believer's righteousness to begin with" (p. 6).
"Many have been so afraid of the perceived negative implications that dying to the law would produce, that they have been unable to see the three fabulous resultant principles," which I summarize as belonging to Christ, serving in the Spirit, and following Christ.
It is in the latter concept, of imitating Christ, that Eva tries to re-insert the commandments he has so ably dismissed in his discussion of Galatians 3 and Romans 7. He is trying to argue, in effect, that we are under the authority of Christ, not the law, but that Christ's example immediately puts us back under the authority of the law. So we obey the law not because the law says so, but because Christ tells us to. This does not seem to be the significant breakthrough that Eva suggests that it is.
On page 7, he acknowledges that "this dying to the law includes all ten of the commandments' – but then argues that since the other nine are "an abiding, continuing core of human morality residing…in the very person of God Himself," then the fourth commandment must be, too. "There is no reason to exclude the fourth commandment from this core." But this again assumes something that should be proved. We cannot assume that an Old Testament command is valid simply because its neighbors are. If the thrust of the commandments "does not decrease a 'jot or tittle'" (p. 7), then in what sense can we say that the tables of stone were a covenant that did not last (2 Cor. 3:11)? Something must have changed.
The law became flesh
Eva rightly notes that God's Word became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, who lived without sin. "In the living Christ 'the word' was incarnated, law was incarnated, the seventh day was incarnated…. In Christ the written code comes to life…and lives out among us all that the written code was ever meant to convey" (p. 7).
This is good, and I think we can even extend it further. Jesus Christ is the incarnation of the entire law, including the sacrifices, the grain offerings, the cleansing rituals, the clothing taboos, and if there be any other law, the living Christ is the last word on the subject. I believe that these additions are valid, and I believe that they point out the principle that we do not have to keep a law merely because Jesus was the incarnation of it. Jesus is the incarnation of the Sabbath, but that does not mean that we have to keep it in our flesh, too.
When Eva writes that Jesus "gave the written code its fullest expression," he is right, but he skates on thin ice when he adds "thus confirming it and affirming it" (p. 7). Did Jesus confirm and affirm all the laws he kept? The law said to wear tassels on your garments, to go to Jerusalem three times a year, to kill at least one lamb each year, to go through purification rituals after touching a dead person, etc. My point here is simple: We do not have to do everything Jesus did. He lived under the old covenant, and we do not. There is a significant difference, and a "do as Jesus did" is too simplistic. We are to live as if he were us, not as if we were him.
When we belong to Christ and are under his authority, we are to do not as he did, but as he commanded. We do not keep the old covenant laws he did, but we keep the new commands that he gave. And he never commanded the Sabbath. Even his example is not as supportive of the Sabbath as Sabbatarians often assume. His example is always of activity, not of rest. His example is always pushing the edge of what is allowed, with never any word about what is forbidden. His example is always liberty, never restriction.
Eva is right when he says, "The Gospel writers are then seen to have carefully selected, under inspiration, certain illustrative occurrences from the life of Jesus." But then he writes, "There is lavish New Testament verification of the Sabbath just in the accounts of the miracles Jesus performed on that day." He picks Luke 6 to show that "Jesus' words and actions that day definitively expose the true and ultimate meaning of the Sabbath" (p. 7).
In Luke 6, however, Jesus defended the activity of his disciples. He used the example of David eating the tabernacle showbread. He said, if David could eat the showbread, my disciples can pick enough grain to eat. However, notice that the argument doesn't work if the Sabbath is more important than showbread rules – the Pharisees could have said, The Sabbath is more important than showbread, so we have to be more careful about it.
In order for the logic of the argument to work, the showbread has to be at least as important as the Sabbath. Only then could the comparison carry any weight. Only then could the argument conclude, if it was permissible to bend the showbread rules, then we can bend the Sabbath rules, because it is easier to bend the Sabbath because it is not as important. It is important to note that Jesus used a ritual law as a point of comparison for the Sabbath. Elsewhere, he put the Sabbath in the company of circumcision (John 7:22) and temple rituals (Matt. 12:5). Jesus treated the Sabbath as a ceremonial law, not a matter of morality.
Eva notes, "Jesus invested the seventh day with associations of restoration, healing, re-creation and liberation" (p. 8). That is true, but I would like to add that a notable aspect of the Sabbath is missing from this list. Jesus never invested the seventh day with any associations of avoiding work. This apparently was not part of his vision for the Sabbath.
Eva argues that Jesus would not have removed a law so "strongly associated with the unchangeable creation event itself." This is again arguing by inference, not by Scripture. One could just as easily argue that Jesus could not remove a law so strongly associated with Sinai, or a sacrificial law that so perfectly pictures our redemption in Christ. The fact that we can make the argument sound good does not mean it is good. The facts are 1) that creation is changeable and there will be a new heavens and new earth and 2) Jesus can change whatever he wants.
Eva says, "It is true that in many ways type met antitype in Jesus, but one cannot say that the creation of the world was a type of any kind" (p. 8). Wrong. The creation was a type, to be replaced by the new and better heavens and earth. And we already belong to the heavenly. There is no need for a Sabbath in the new heavens and new earth; this is not something rooted in God's very nature so that he lives perpetually by a six-one cycle.
Eva's last argument about Jesus was to note that "he rested in the tomb over the seventh day, apparently confirming by this the significance and the connections this day was designed to have in the light of His arrival. In this He connected Seventh day rest not only to creation, but also to redemption." I think this is grasping at straws again. Does he really think that being dead or comatose is the way to keep the Sabbath? Is this what "rest" means? That seems far removed from the intentions of the Gospel writers. There is no hint in the text that Jesus' time in the tomb had any symbolic significance for the Sabbath day. This is reading things into the text.
Eva then gives one paragraph to Colossians 2, mentioning it merely as "another question that could stand some development." But he acknowledges, "if Paul, in these passages has in mind the cosmic, Creation-sourced, weekly Sabbath of the decalogue, we have some difficult matters to explain" (p. 8). Indeed. If this passage says what it appears to say, then Adventists do have some difficult matters to explain, particularly when we realize that the Sabbath is not creation-sourced, and Paul says that we are not under the authority of the Ten Commandments!
As evidence, Eva mentions the controversy about circumcision that is evident in the New Testament. "One can only begin to imagine the atomic explosion that might have ensued had the issue of the weekly Sabbath been questioned by people such as Paul." We can easily envision an explosion when a modern Sabbatarian church questions the Sabbath, but if we think that first-century Judaism would have had an explosion over this doctrine, we do not understand the culture. First-century Jews did not believe that Gentiles had to keep the Sabbath unless they were circumcised as proselytes under the Sinai covenant. They did not believe that the Sabbath command applied to Gentiles, and there wouldn't have been any "explosion" if Paul said that the Sabbath did not apply to Gentiles. Maybe the Jews were right — and maybe that is why Paul could so easily say that the Sabbath was not a matter on which Christians should judge one another. It never did apply to Gentiles, and still does not.
I will end as Eva did: "Jesus Himself is the rest of the believer and indeed the ultimate personification and terminus of all truth."
Moral and Ceremonial Law?
A serious flaw taught by SDS (Seventh Day Sabbatarians) is that the Law given at Sinai was divided into two parts, which they term the "Moral" and "Ceremonial" Law. They insist that the Ten Commandments was the "Moral Law", and the rest are regarded as the "Ceremonial Law".
They further claim that the Moral Law was written by the finger of God on two stone tablets, and later kept in the Ark, while the Ceremonial Law, they say, was written by Moses in books and placed in a pocket in the side of the Ark.
The point of the matter is that no such division of the Law is found in the Scriptures.
A similar SDS claim is that the Ten Commandments were called "The Law of the Lord" and the rest the "Law of Moses". However Scripture plainly contradicts this statement.
For example, Luke 2:22-23 says, "When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord".
Here it is quite plain that the "Law of the Lord" and the "Law of Moses" are the same thing. This is further confirmed by Luke 2:39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.
Moral Law and Romans 3 & 4
Romans 3:31 … "Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." SDS, use this as evidence to suggest that we must also keep the Law. But looking at the chapter more carefully, if the "Moral Law" is still binding, then look at verse 20. Romans 3:20: "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." This matches up with Galatians 5:4 "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." And furthermore in Romans 4:14: "For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless".
What was taken away at the Cross?
Colossian 2:14: having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. Was it the Ten Commandments? Was it the ceremonial system? Or was it both? SDS believe it was the so-called "Ceremonial Law", but not the Ten Commandments. The hardest thing to keep was the Ten Commandments, it was much easier to keep the ceremonial laws. It is a common mistake that the "written code" or "ordinances" were referring only to ceremonial commands. The Greek word translated here for "written code" is DOGMA, and means, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: "A law (civil, ceremonial, or ecclesiastical)." The handwriting of the Law that was against the Jews was the whole of their Law, for they were condemned by the whole of it, not being able to keep it.
A Few Examples of Obsolete Laws
1. Were the sacrifices and rituals a "shadow" of better things? Heb. 10:1. Were these symbolic rituals spiritually effective? Verses 1, 4. When Christ came, what did he say about sacrifices? Verses 5-7. In saying this, did he set aside the rules required by the first covenant? Verses 8-9. What sacrifice is spiritually effective for us? Verses 10, 14. Are sacrifices for sin still necessary? Verse 18.
Comment: Animal sacrifices served as reminders of sin, but they could not forgive sin or cleanse hearts. Spiritual cleansing comes only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No one needs to offer animals as sacrifices for sin.
However, the old covenant system had not just sin offerings but also many other sacrifices, such as fellowship offerings, grain offerings and thank offerings. Did Christ also fulfill the symbolism of these offerings? These sacrifices are no longer necessary. The food and drink offerings and ceremonial washings were "external regulations applying until the time of the new order" (Heb. 9:10). Jesus Christ brought that "new order" — the new covenant, the new agreement we have with God.
The first Christians continued to participate in temple rituals for several decades, as long as the temple existed, but the point made in Hebrews is that these rituals were not necessary even when the temple stood and the Levitical priests were offering sacrifices. By his death on the cross, Jesus Christ had abolished those ritual commands.
2. What did God command the Israelites to wear on their garments? Num. 15:38. What was the purpose of this law? Verse 39.
Comment: In this law, God required the Israelites to wear distinctive clothing, garments that (at least in this detail) were not like the garments worn by gentiles. Every time the Israelites put on their clothes, they would be reminded of their relationship to God. They were saying, in effect, "We do this because God has commanded us to, and we obey God's commands."
All the people were required to observe this custom showing their devotion to God. This command was not directly related to the priests, Levites, tabernacle or sacrifices. It was a helpful worship custom.
However, this custom is no longer required, even though the New Testament says nothing about this particular command. It does not declare it unnecessary. So why do Christians consider it obsolete today? The only biblical reason we have for ignoring this command is that the New Testament declares the old covenant obsolete.
Of course, the principle is still good: we should remember to obey God. The purpose of the tassels is still valid, but the tassels themselves are not required. Christians obey God not according to the old covenant law, but according to the new covenant. The old package of laws is obsolete. Some of its laws are still valid, but others are not. Therefore, when Christians use the Old Testament for instruction about godly living, they must understand all laws in the light of the New Testament.
Christian conduct should be based on the new covenant. Although the new covenant gives us many commands concerning our behavior, the focus throughout the new covenant is on the spirit of the law, the purpose of the law, and obedience from the heart. It gives us the general rule to love God with all our heart, but it gives fewer rules as to exactly how that love should be expressed.
Some people try to interpret biblical laws with this rule: "Old Testament laws are valid unless the New Testament specifically says they are not." But this rule is not true, as we can see with the example of tassels, and it is proven false by Hebrews 8:13.
The old covenant is obsolete. This does not mean the covenant is mostly valid, except for those laws specifically rescinded. No, it means the covenant itself is obsolete. It is like a law code that the government has declared invalid. It is not a valid source for rules about Christian behavior. Of course, some individual laws, such as the prohibition of adultery, are valid, but their validity is based on something more permanent than the old covenant — the more basic law that existed before the old covenant was given and still exists after the old covenant became obsolete.
3. Did God command the Israelites to kill Passover lambs? Ex. 12:1-8. Was this ritual to be repeated every year? Verses 24-27. Could gentiles participate in this worship festival? Verse 48.
Comment: Jesus told his disciples to break bread and drink wine in commemoration of his death, but he apparently did not tell his disciples that the bread and wine were substitutes for the Passover lambs. The early Christians in Jerusalem, being zealous for the law, would have continued to sacrifice Passover lambs in addition to partaking of the bread and wine. The New Testament does not directly say that lambs are unnecessary.
So how do we know that Passover lambs are not required? Because the old covenant is obsolete. The Passover was instituted two months before the covenant was made at Mt. Sinai, but it was part of the old covenant system. This was one of the laws added 430 years after Abraham.
The law of Moses clearly required gentiles to be circumcised in order to participate in the Passover lamb festival. However, the early church did not require gentiles to be circumcised. This means that they did not require gentiles to participate in the old covenant Passover. Although gentiles could participate in the old covenant Passover if they wished to (if they became circumcised), they were not required to. God did not require that they keep this festival in order to be among the people of God, and he did not require that they be circumcised. Those commands were given to the Israelites, but they were not commanded for the gentiles. The gentiles did not have to celebrate the escape of the Israelites from Egypt. This applies to many other old covenant laws, too — the laws that separated Jews from gentiles, the laws that Christ abolished by his death on the cross (Eph. 2:14-15). The gentiles did not have to keep laws that applied only to Israelites.
4. Did God claim ownership of every firstborn male, both human and animal? Ex. 13:1-2. Were the firstborn animals to be given to the Lord, and every firstborn son redeemed? Verses 11-15.
Comment: Does God require that firstborn animals be given to him today? No. Farmers do not have to donate cows, sheep, chickens or other animals. Nor do firstborn sons have to be redeemed or bought back from the Lord. These old covenant laws are obsolete, because the covenant itself is obsolete.
5. As God was speaking the old covenant from Mt. Sinai, what did he command regarding agricultural years? Ex. 23:10-11. Later, did he also set aside every 50th year? Lev. 25:1-12. Was the entire year holy to the Lord? Verse 12.
Comment: The New Testament does not comment on the validity of these laws. It simply declares the covenant obsolete, and there is nothing in the new covenant that would cause us to conclude that the sabbatical and jubilee years are still required. These laws were given only to Israelites, only for the land of Canaan, only for the time period of the old covenant.
Although we might expect that the law had agricultural benefits, the Bible does not make that claim. Some farmland needs to be left fallow more often, and some less often. The Bible does not give us authority to command these same customs for other people in other lands.
Similarly, the Jubilee year had valuable economic results, but it was a civil law that Christians cannot require today. The economic situation (such as slavery) has changed considerably, and the covenant containing this law has been declared no longer authoritative.
6. Did God command three annual festivals? Ex. 23:14. Did he command all Israelite men to appear before him at a designated site? Deut. 16:16. For the Feast of Tabernacles, to whom was the command given? Lev. 23:33-34, 42. Were offerings a commanded part of the festival? Verse 36. Was this festival designed to coordinate with the harvest season in the land of Canaan? Verse 39. What were the Israelites commanded to gather for this festival? Verse 40. What were they commanded to live in? Verse 42. What did the festival commemorate? Verse 43.
Comment: The old covenant required annual worship festivals. It specified the date and the place, the manner and the people to whom the commands applied. God did not command gentiles to keep this festival. It was one of the ordinances that separated Jews from gentiles, and the early church did not require gentile believers to travel to Jerusalem, to make offerings, to gather palm branches or to live in booths. Those things were part of the old covenant, which God made with ancient Israel. They are not part of the new covenant.
7. Did God command Abraham to circumcise himself? Gen. 17:11. Did this command apply to anyone else? Verses 9, 12. Was this command included in the old covenant? Lev. 12:2-3. To what ethnic group did the command apply? Verse 2.
Comment: God did not command gentiles to be circumcised or to circumcise their children. Nor has he ever authorized his church to make such a command. The early church decided that gentiles did not have to be circumcised (Acts 15). Although they were later concerned about whether Jewish believers were being taught to circumcise their children, they had no such concerns regarding the gentile believers (Acts 21). The command did not apply to gentiles.
Paul explained that physical circumcision was not necessary (Rom. 2:28-29). Uncircumcised people can be declared righteous in God's sight (Rom. 3:30). He warned gentiles that they should not feel compelled to be circumcised (1 Cor. 7:18; Gal. 5:2). However, some people were apparently teaching a false doctrine that gentiles had to come under the old covenant in order to be saved, and in their thinking, circumcision was the key step in submitting to the Torah (Acts 15:5; Gal. 5:3). Paul had to argue against circumcision advocates in several of his letters.
But God never commanded gentiles to be circumcised. It would be a mistake to make this a requirement or even to imply that it is spiritually better. Gentile believers inherit the promises of Abraham, which were given to him before he was circumcised (Rom. 4:9-11). Laws that were added later cannot take away the blessing that God had already sworn to give. In the next section, we will continue to examine some laws that were instituted as part of the old covenant.
Was the Law at Sinai Eternal?
SDS (Seventh Day Sabbatarians) believe that the Ten Commandments are perpetual, by which they mean it always was, and still is, binding upon all mankind. This however is based on a false foundation. Sticking purely to Scripture we can conclude with the following points that the Law was not eternal:
Laws before Sinai
Some may ask what is meant by Romans 5:13: … for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. If the Law given at Sinai began there, then what law if any, were the patriarchs under and other godly persons who lived prior to Sinai?
In answer, we would say that since the Apostle positively states that sin was in the world from Adam to Moses. Also that sin is not taken into account when there is no law, so it naturally follows that the sins committed were not transgression of the law given at Sinai. The people could not transgress a law that wasn’t in existence. But since they did sin it also follows that they were under some other law. Adam and Eve, for example, sinned against the commandments God gave them in Eden regarding the Tree of Knowledge. It is obvious also that some commandments must have been known to Cain and Abel for Cain’s offering of the firstfruits of the ground was not acceptable (Genesis 4:7), while that of Abel, the firstfruits of the flock, was the correct offering.
It is therefore obvious that God gave personal commands to various people, for example, commanding Moses from the burning bush to go to Egypt etc. Therefore it is untrue to use the commands given to individuals before Sinai as evidence that the Sabbath and the Ten Commandments were given since Adam and Eve.
Question: "What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the law, but did not abolish it?"
Answer: In Matthew’s record of what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount, these words of Jesus are recorded: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).
It is frequently argued that if Jesus did not “abolish” the law, then it must still be binding. Accordingly, such components as the Sabbath-day requirement must be operative still, along with perhaps numerous other elements of the Mosaic Law. This assumption is grounded in a misunderstanding of the words and intent of this passage. Christ did not suggest here that the binding nature of the law of Moses would remain forever in effect. Such a view would contradict everything we learn from the balance of the New Testament (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).
Of special significance in this study is the word rendered “abolish.” It translates the Greek term kataluo, literally meaning “to loosen down.” The word is found seventeen times in the New Testament. It is used, for example, of the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans (Matthew 26:61; 27:40; Acts 6:14), and of the dissolving of the human body at death (2 Corinthians 5:1). The term can carry the extended meaning of “to overthrow,” i.e., “to render vain, deprive of success.” In classical Greek, it was used in connection with institutions, laws, etc., to convey the idea of “to invalidate.”
It is especially important to note how the word is used in Matthew 5:17. In this context, “abolish” is set in opposition to “fulfill.” Christ came “...not to abolish, but to fulfill.” Jesus did not come to this earth for the purpose of acting as an opponent of the law. His goal was not to prevent its fulfillment. Rather, He revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law’s prophetic utterances regarding Himself (Luke 24:44). Christ fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic law, which called for perfect obedience under threat of a “curse” (see Galatians 3:10, 13). In this sense, the law’s divine design will ever have an abiding effect. It will always accomplish the purpose for which it was given.
If, however, the law of Moses bears the same relationship to men today, in terms of its binding status, then it was not fulfilled, and Jesus failed at what He came to do. On the other hand, if the Lord did accomplish His goal, then the law was fulfilled, and it is not a binding legal institution today. Further, if the law of Moses was not fulfilled by Christ—and thus remains as a binding legal system for today—then it is not just partially binding. Rather, it is a totally compelling system. Jesus plainly said that not one “jot or tittle” (representative of the smallest markings of the Hebrew script) would pass away until all was fulfilled. Consequently, nothing of the law was to fail until it had completely accomplished its purpose. Jesus fulfilled the law. Jesus fulfilled all of the law. We cannot say that Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system, but did not fulfill the other aspects of the law. Jesus either fulfilled all of the law, or none of it. What Jesus' death means for the sacrificial system, it also means for the other aspects of the law.
Personally and, I think, the position of the church that we do not support the legalisation of prostitution is simply because it contradicts with the laws of the Ten Commandments that "thou shall not commit adultery".
Front page Fiji Times (29 November 2012) Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu.