An Open Letter to Our Adventist Family and Friends

20140108-080505.jpg By Leif L.

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, without whose sacrificial death and victorious resurrection, we would have no hope in this world or place in the next. To Him be all praise forever and ever.

This post is a break from the regular programming of this blog. Some of my articles have garnered the attention of our Adventist friends and family, with discussion and concern ensuing. This an open letter is a response to the people my wife and I have been connected with for much of our lives.

We were both raised in an Adventist environment but stopped attending regularly around 1990. We never became members of the Adventist church. The doctrines and history of Seventh-day Adventism are well known to us, as we attended weekly services in our youth, were taught in the educational system, and studied the baptismal classes. Through our youth we were treated well by the Adventist people, who taught us about Jesus and the importance of the God’s word. Many of the things we learned have been embedded in our spiritual DNA. We are thankful for the Christian upbringing that we were blessed with.

I would like to open with a note that we have much in common with Adventists: our belief in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; the divinity of Jesus, His incarnation, miracles, death, resurrection and ascension; the inspiration of the Scriptures, special creation, the fall, redemption through the blood of Christ, the promise of the resurrection and eternal life to those who accept Christ, etc.

We parted ways with Adventism to follow Scriptural truth where we feel the teaching and practice falls critically short on several counts. It is my wish to clarify our views on one of these, the Sabbath.

It is not the Sabbath or Sabbath keeping that we have a problem with, but the insistence by Adventists that Christians must observe it or be lost, that true Christians must worship on this day and no other, and God’s people have done so throughout history.

In evangelism, Sabbath observance is presented as an essential point of entrance into Christ and His body, in violation of new covenant principles. We consider Adventist teaching on the Sabbath to be unsupported by the Bible, misrepresenting the history of the Christian church, and opposed to the gospel.

There are articles on this blog that expand further on this issue, so I will refrain from a thorough defense here.

1. We consider all those who trust in Christ alone for their salvation to be brothers and sisters. Salvation is not found in a “church” or in denominationalism, for “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

2. My wife and I are active members of a small evangelical church. We hold leadership and teaching positions in this congregation, where our family receives the spiritual blessings of fellowship among brothers and sisters in Christ, and solid Biblical and practical teaching. The example of faithfulness to Scripture, Christ-centered teaching, the space granted for individual belief and expression (“individual soul liberty”) and non-sectarianism have been refreshing and revelatory.

3. We agree with Adventists that Saturday is the Sabbath. The Jewish nation has kept it faithfully through most of their history from the Exodus until today. It is a pillar of their belief system, and forms a crucial theological link in their access to God.

The Jews know that the Sabbath was given specially to them, and was never intended for Gentiles, because this is taught in the Torah. Exodus 31:12-18 is a passage intended as a commentary on the Ten Commandments, in order to specify the intention, jurisdiction, and duration of the fourth commandment. More

The Sabbath was patterned after God’s rest after the creation of the world, but there is no Biblical or historical record of the Sabbath being commanded or observed before Moses. Jews are also clear on this fact. More

4. Though Saturday is still the Sabbath (in that no other day has replaced it), Christian worship never revolved around the sanctity of any holy week-day, but rather was founded on the historical redemptive events of the death and resurrection of our Lord. Christians have access to God through the cross of Christ, not through the Sabbath. (Hebrews 7: 18, 19; 10:19, 20)

Christians are not bound to the Mosaic regulations that concern the observance of this day. The New Testament never records a Christian meeting or assembly on the Sabbath, never instructs Christians to keep it nor how it is to be observed, and never warns them about or reprimands them for breaking it. In fact, the apostles admonished the early church against setting aside the holy days and other ordinances from the law and judging other followers of Christ by them (Romans 14, Galatians 4:10, Colossians 2:16). The veneration of holy people, days, and places was forbidden.

5. Colossians 2:16 is plain that the Sabbath was a shadow that pointed toward, and was fulfilled by, Jesus. Paul seems to be making a reference to Hosea 2:11, where Hosea prophesied that the Lord would cause Israel’s feast days, new moons, and Sabbaths to cease in the gospel age – compare Colossians 2:14 with Hosea 2:11.

The context of the first two chapters of Hosea are about the coming new covenant. Paul and Peter both borrow verses from these chapters to show that the fulfillment of the promises to Israel were realized in the church, and the gathering of Gentiles as the people of God in Christ. (Compare Hosea 2:23 with Rom. 9:23–26 and 1 Pet. 2:9, 10)

In Colossians 2, Paul taught that in the New Covenant, Christ is the fulfillment of circumcision and the Sabbath for Gentile Christians, where they would find their perfect rest, and be complete in Him because of his work on the cross, without the signs and observances of the Mosaic law – as foretold by the prophet.

6. Christians have the liberty in Christ to meet on Saturday (or any other day) for fellowship and worship, but they are forbidden to judge other Christians in this matter. Please read Romans 14.

7. Sunday is not the “Christian Sabbath” – it never was, and never will be. The Saturday-Sunday debate is hardly a Biblical or relevant cultural issue at all. Not many thoughtful and learned evangelical Christians view Sunday as the Sabbath, recognizing that Saturday was the day that the Lord gave to Israel – this has been the prominent evangelical position since the Protestant Reformation, please refer to the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Large Catechism. More

Puritan Sabbatarianism is largely a relic of the past. Protestant evangelicals would never think of forcing Sunday observance or persecuting other believers or non-believers for not resting or worshiping on that day. This idea is ridiculous, and is used as a fear tactic to separate Adventists from other Christians and view them with mistrust. Religious liberty and tolerance lie at the base of most of modern Christianity. Even Catholic countries have never in history enacted or enforced such a Sunday law.

8. The only record of a Christian meeting (for the purpose of observing the Lord’s supper and preaching) in the New Testament is found in Acts chapter 20, and it took place on the “first day of the week”. Does this sanctify Sunday? I think not, however from it we can draw these points: First, that it at least allows for and approves Christian meetings to be held on that day, and, Second, it indicates that it was the practice of the apostolic church.

Writings from the earliest church historians demonstrate that Christians chose the first day of the week to worship their Lord, because of the resurrection, and after the example of the apostles. But it is a voluntary, and not a mandatory, set time. A list of early quotes can be found here.

Here is a quote from an Eastern bishop, Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius was a direct successor of John the apostle, and a martyr for his faith. He wrote these words about 15 years after the Revelation was written:

Those [Jews] who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day, on which also our life has sprung up again by him and by his death. (Letter to the Magnesians 8, A.D. 10)

The Adventist scholar Samuele Bacchiocchi disagreed with Ellen White’s view that the Christian practice of worship on the first day of the week originated with Rome in the fourth or fifth century – history is all too clear on this point. The practice can be traced back to the late first and early second centuries, to the Apostolic and Eastern churches, and not to the Roman church, which would not ascend to prominence for some centuries after the practice was firmly established. Dr. Bacchiocchi also could find no evidence that the Waldensian believers were Sabbath keepers as Mrs. White affirms. Waldensian ministers and scholars insist that they have never been Sabbath observant. (References on request).

The fact that despite the universal acceptance of Christian worship on the first day of the week (acknowledged by Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and secular sources), that there was not a single voice of protest in the Christian church in those early centuries (a complete absence of a Sabbath-Sunday controversy), is certainly evidence that this issue was completely misunderstood by the founders of Seventh-day Adventism.

There is no reliable evidence to connect idolatrous sun worship with the origin of Christian worship of Jesus on the first day of the week. Christians in the second and third centuries (who gathered on Sunday) gladly gave their lives to avoid small compromises with pagan practices. Certainly they would not have exchanged the Sabbath for a pagan day of worship, if such claims were valid.

9. The moral injunctions in the law of Moses, whether contained within or outside the Ten Commandments, are still valid for today. The Decalogue is not strictly moral, and the rest of the Mosaic law is not all ceremonial, but contains valid moral instruction. There are simple, fundamental differences between moral and ceremonial laws. Moral or ethical laws are concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character. Ceremonial or ritual laws relate to or are used for formal events of a religious or public nature.

Distinguishing between moral and ceremonial laws should not be difficult. The prophets, Jesus and the apostles speak of the Sabbath in context with ceremonial, and not moral, commands. For example, Moses lists it with as one of the seven feasts of Israel (Lev. 23), and Jesus speaks of it with Levite laws in Matthew 12 and circumcision in John 7. Jews themselves teach that the Sabbath is a ritual law given among nine moral laws. More

10. In the old covenant, circumcision was a sign of covenant entrance (a once-only initiatory rite) and Sabbath a sign of covenant maintenance (a recurring rite of remembrance). These religious signs of the covenant between God and Israel were essential for all Jews. The new covenant also has an initiatory and a recurring remembrance rite. These are baptism (initial entrance into the covenant) and the Lord’s Supper (a repetitive remembrance of the covenant). These are are the only two ordinances given to the Christian church, and replace the signs of the old covenant. A weekly day of worship was never included as a Christian ordinance.

11. All Christians who trust in Christ are both circumcised and Sabbath keepers, in the truest sense. In the new covenant, their heart is cleansed, and they rest in Christ’s completed work through faith (“we who BELIEVE have entered that rest”, Hebrews 4:3). The Jewish nation had the Sabbath, but failed to enter THAT rest. This is where mandated Sabbath observance cuts across the principles of the gospel, for it overlooks the fact that what the Jews were looking for but could not find in the Sabbath, Christians have been given in Jesus. Once we know Christ, and rest in him by faith, we can not return to the Sabbath to fulfill our need for spiritual rest. (Matt. 11:28-30)

12. Finally, we believe that the principle of Sabbath is beneficial, and that it can be a blessing. We do not oppose Christian worship or rest on Saturday, only the works based salvation and condemnation that is naturally the fruit of combining the Sabbath with the gospel. We continue to take that day off of secular work, but do not attach any redemptive value to the practice. More

The twelve points are meant to charitably express our positions and some of our differences with Seventh-day Adventism. If they cause offense, I am sorry about that, and apologize for my clumsy pen, but have no shame for my beliefs. Hopefully you will take some time to ponder these points, using a good Bible translation and non-denominational church history for reference. We firmly believe that the 66 books of the Biblical Canon is God’s complete and sufficient revelation, and the final word on doctrine. We are willing and open to discuss any of these issues with you.

We are willing to accept our Adventist friends and family with their differences, all we ask is for the same respect in return. Let us strive to find our unity at the foot of the cross, and not at the foothills of Sinai. (Galatians 4:21-31)

In Christian Love,

Leif and Tanya

6 responses to “An Open Letter to Our Adventist Family and Friends

  1. You see clearly how the Sabbath (and ceremonial laws) given to Israel contrast with what the New Testament teaches. But you miss some of the same contrast when it comes to “moral” principles given to Israel. While the N.T. affirms certain moral laws from the O.T., even its key use of “love your neighbor” involves some contrast with that law as understood in Leviticus. In Lev. 19:18 the neighbor is defined as “the sons of your people” (that is, fellow Jews). But when Jesus refers to this law in Mt. 5:43-44, he says they have heard about “love your neighbor, and hate your enemy,” but that now his new kingdom (of disciples) is to love even their enemy. Thus a verse like Lev. 26:7, which says Israel is to chase its enemies (the Canaanites) and they will fall before them by the sword–or a whole chapter like Deut. 20, about war against their enemies–are moral laws about good and bad behavior (for Israel) that no longer apply to his disciples.

    • Actually…Jesusandthebible, many of the so called moral laws were given because of the “Hardness of your hearts”. Just because a wife or a woman disobeys a law (whether by purpose or accident), and there was no forgiveness, God gave laws to recompense the one injured (by divorce or stoning), because the one injured could not forgive (hence Christ died on the cross to show that forgiveness (grace), which would eliminate any need for the law. In fact it would bring reconciliation, which is much more than the law (the fulfillment of the law on both sides). So Moral laws actually fall short of the Spirit of God (it falls short of His glory). That would be the only reason why the moral laws could be said to be done away with at the cross (but only if there is the presence of love).

      It’s not clear to the one under the law because all that one may be thinking (especially if being offended) is JUSTICE. But as John MacArthur says: We need grace not justice.

      Let me illustrate with an example, to bring it closer to home.

      Suppose I was driving my car home one day, and one of my tires blew causing me to accidentally drive into one of your beautiful trees. In your mind you may have thought that I was doing it with evil intent (since we had a disagreement the other day).

      And so, you decide to take revenge and take 2, 3 or say 10 of my trees. Of course, I take offense by it, because like you, I have not seen grace yet, nor have any idea what to do to prevent your onslaught. (By the way, would you still call the police or the law to handle a lawbreaker?)

      So eventually we wind up in court. The “good” judge seeing that you and I are unable to forgive each other (hardness of heart), finally pass a law stating:

      “For every X widgets you lose because of your neighbor, your neighbor is only required to return X widgets, no less and no more (i.e. Eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth).”

      This is the LAW. There is no reconciliation or fellowship.

      Now let’s suppose on the other hand, you decide to forgive me (or I forgive you), and one of us saw the grace or love in it. In sorrow, you decide to return not 2, 3, 10, but 20 trees. Or I decide that I am going to give you a fruit bearing tree (cherries) to replace the tree I “purposefully” destroyed. But you and/or I insist on forgiving each other, and tell each other that there is no need to return anything.

      Where is there any law in this? The law has been done away with (by grace, by forgiveness).

      It’s sad that many of us think of making the law mandatory because of lawlessness. But in really, it is actually mandatory because we have no grace, no forgiveness.

  2. Jesusandthebible, your point is well taken. I think that it reinforces the biblical teaching that we are indeed under a NEW covenant, not simply a renovated covenant. To live according to the law is not possible – even in the case of the Sabbath, the list of restrictions that the Lord put on the Sabbath that is violated by “Sabbath keepers” would only count toward their condemnation, not their exoneration. That is why no flesh will be justified by the law.
    “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.” (Hebrews 7:12, NKJV)
    “For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18, 19; NKJV)

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Leif. I can tell they come from an honest heart that has thoroughly researched its position.

    I’d be interested in discussing this and other topics in depth with you but would prefer to do so one on one. We’ll have to get together one of these days like we said we wanted to!

    I really appreciate your passion for the Lord! Peace brother!

    • Joe, thanks for the kind words. Yeah, I’d love to have a great discussion, brother-to-brother, face-to-face. Until then, blessings to you and yours.

  4. You present a cogent summary of Christianity’s position on the Sabbath/Lord’s Day relationship. Judaism is about the Jews. Christianity is about Christ. Hence, you are correct to say, “This is where mandated Sabbath observance cuts across the principles of the gospel, for it overlooks the fact that what the Jews were looking for but could not find in the Sabbath, Christians have been given in Jesus. Once we know Christ, and rest in him by faith, we can not return to the Sabbath to fulfill our need for spiritual rest. (Matt. 11:28-30)”

Please let me know what you think! I learn from your comments.

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