Links to elsewhere on this Web site: 1. /apologetics.html /book.html /doctrinal.html /essays.html /links.html /sermonettes.html /webmaster.html For the home page, click here: /index.html
Why does God Allow Evil? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm
May Christians work on Saturdays? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Protestant Rhetoric vs Sabbath Refuted.htm
Should Christians obey the Old Testament law? /doctrinalhtml/Does the New Covenant Abolish the OT Law.htm
Do you have an immortal soul? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Here and Hereafter.htm
Does the ministry have authority? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is There an Ordained Ministry vs Edwards.html
Is the United States the Beast? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Are We the Beast vs Collins.htm
Should you give 10% of your income to your church? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Does the Argument from Silence Abolish the Old Testament Law of Tithing 0205 Mokarow rebuttal.htm
Is Jesus God? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is Jesus God.htm
Will there be a third resurrection? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Will There Be a Third Resurrection.htm
Does the New Covenant Abolish the Letter of the Old Testament Law?
Do Christians have to obey the Sabbath? Are the Ten Commandments relevant for Christian conduct today? Are Christ’s pre-Crucifixion teachings in the Gospels still binding on Christians ? Do you have to tithe to your church?
Recent Changes in WCG Doctrine Reconsidered
[Fourth revised version, with subtitles]
By Eric V. Snow
With the fourth commandment having recently been declared a mere suggestion, it's worthwhile to review much of Pasadena's present doctrinal agenda. Are the Sabbath, Holy Days, and tithing all voluntary? According to Mr. Tkach, they are: "But the Sabbath and Holy Days, along with the other ceremonial observances of the old covenant, are fulfilled in Christ and are not binding in their physical observance in the new covenant." "Under the new covenant the tithe is voluntary, done out of love and allegiance to Jesus Christ." On the contrary, below it shall be argued that the Sabbath, tithing, and the Holy Days are all still binding on new covenant Christians, drawing heavily upon Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) and other sources concerning the law and the Sabbath.
KEY ASSUMPTIONS OF PASADENA’S IN INTERPRETING THE BIBLE
Certain key assumptions buttress Pasadena's reasoning abolishing the Sabbath, the Holy Days, and tithing. As powerful and disturbing as its reasoning may seem initially, once its principles of Bible interpretation are exposed for closer examination, they become highly questionable. Often little time has been spent really proving these assumptions, as opposed to applying them in abolishing various Old Testament laws as applying to Christians. Here we'll list some of Pasadena's key assumptions and/or assertions:
1. Dispensationalism, the view that God works with His people in [very] different ways during different stages of his master plan for humanity, is the most important foundational belief of these new teachings: "Prophecies [such as Zech. 14's about the Feast of Tabernacles being celebrated in the millennium] (whether New Testament or Old Testament, whether about Sabbaths or sacrifices or circumcision) are not a reliable source of proof regarding Christian practice. Our doctrines must be based on scriptures that are applicable to the age we live in. . . . We should use the law in a lawful way--and the new covenant, the law that Christians are now under, does not permit us to dictate when and how much time other Christians should give to the Lord. . . . We want to uphold the law in the way that is appropriate to the age after the coming of Christ and the Holy Spirit."
2. Accordingly, a radical discontinuity is asserted to exist between Christianity and Judaism, in which basically everything about the latter was abolished or transformed by the death and resurrection of Christ, instead of being merely reformed, modified, or fulfilled in the sense of completion, not abolition: "Just as the sacrifices were shadows that pointed to Christ and were superseded by him, the old covenant worship days were also shadows that pointed to Christ. Now that he has come, the days are no longer standards by which we are judged. The proper standard is Jesus Christ. At the last judgment, the definitive questions will not be about days, but about faith in Jesus Christ. His coming has made an enormous differences in the way God's people should worship in spirit and truth. We have only recently begun to realize how significant his death and resurrection have been to both faith and practice."
3. Correspondingly, since in this new covenant dispensation Christ's sacrifice has changed everything, an Old Testament law can only be assumed to be in force if repeated in the New Testament [especially in Paul's letters]: "A New Testament authority is needed before any old practices are continued. That's because the law of Moses, the old covenant, the Torah, is obsolete." "We must look elsewhere in the Bible to see which laws have continuing validity and which do not. We cannot assume that 'old covenant laws are still valid unless specifically rescinded in the new'?the new covenant has made the old covenant obsolete and the old laws have been set aside."
4. The old covenant is asserted to be the same thing as the Old Testament law, and the former has clearly ended, thus abolishing the latter’s commands as binding on Christians: "The Ten Commandments were not separate from the old covenant--they were the old covenant (Exodus 34:28). They were the preamble and the core of the covenant. . . . The law--the entire old covenant--was in force until Christ came (Galatians 3:25; Hebrews 9:10)."
5. The law of Moses, the Torah, the old covenant and the Old Testament law are essentially all one and the same thing, and it all got obliterated in one huge chunk: "When the book of Hebrews says that the old covenant is obsolete, it is discounting the whole package of Old Testament law. Some individual laws, of course, are still valid, but the package as a whole is not an authoritative package. . . . The law of Moses included civil laws, religious ceremonies and prophecies. It referred to everything that Moses wrote, the books of Moses, the Torah or the Law. The law of Moses includes everything in those books, and that's what the Jerusalem council [of Acts 15] was about. . . . The writings of Moses do not have authority over Christians. Some of the laws, of course, are still valid, but they are not valid merely because God gave them to Moses. Rather, if they are valid, they are valid for other reasons."
6. Finally, the argument from silence is employed, using implicit dispensationalist premises: If a law isn't mentioned in the New Testament, it must be abolished. For everything must be changed, unless the New Testament (and Paul in particular) says otherwise: "If the Sabbath were a requirement, it would be astonishing that the New Testament never mentions such an important command. It has space for all sorts of other commands, including holy kisses, but no occasion to command the Sabbath. Sweeping statements are made regarding the old covenant law, but never does anyone say, 'except the Sabbath.' . . . Paul dealt with numerous problems of Christian living, and he lists numerous sins that can keep people out of the kingdom of God, but he never mentions the Sabbath."
Such reasoning may initially sound very persuasive. No doubt, because the world's Christianity, especially evangelical Protestantism, believes these tenets, they come to have an emotional resonance because rejecting them puts us in a small, despised, "cultic" minority. However, surprisingly, some of these positions summarized above are assertions that often got little or no proof in the WCG writings announcing these changes, such as those favoring dispensationalism and the radical discontinuity theses. (Indeed, Pasadena rarely uses the "D" word in anything I've read, which may imply they are taken this belief 's truthfulness for granted). Others, such as the view that the old covenant and the Ten Commandments (or the Old Testament law) are one and the same thing, are simply flatly wrong. The assertion that all Old Testament laws are abolished unless repeated in the New Testament, instead of them being in force unless specifically abolished is just that: an assertion, based heavily upon dubious claims about Acts 15 abolishing the entire law of Moses, not just circumcision. The argument from silence is a logical fallacy, which is furthermore assuming at its base that the dispensationalism and the radical discontinuity theses are true: Saying nothing obliterates the laws of the Old Testament, as opposed to assuming silence means nothing has changed. Let's begin to examine these assumptions below.
THE FOUNDATIONAL ASSUMPTION OF DISPENSATIONALISM
First, we need examine carefully the foundational doctrine being pushed by Pasadena nowadays: dispensationalism, laced with some antinomian tendencies. Dispensationalism can be defined as the view that God works with humans in (often) very different ways at different times. Basically, it says the Old Testament was a regime of law, while the New Testament revealed an era of grace. Normally, it adds the view that the Jews are still God's chosen people, and He will continue to deal with them spiritually differently, including even during the millennium (not just physically differently, as HWA's "British-Israelism? evidently posited). Dispensationalism often is associated with antinomianism, which is the belief the law is abolished and not binding on Christians. Here Pasadena hasn't gone whole hog: "In other words, we observe the principles we find in the Ten Commandments, not because they were given at Mt. Sinai, but because Jesus Christ and the apostles commanded them in the new covenant." Nevertheless, with tithing, the Holy Days, and Sabbath observance being made voluntary, excepting the "forsaking our own assembling together" (Hebrews 10:25, NASB throughout, unless otherwise noted), the general antinomian tendency compared to our past is evident. The SDAs summarized the school of prophecy now popular among evangelicals (the futuristic/dispensationalistic type of premillennialism ) this way:
Along with this came the development of an elaborate division of the Bible into dispensational compartments (with antinomian tendencies), in a doctrine of mutual exclusiveness between law and grace. . . . Stemming also from this futurist view that the Jews are to be God's elect, to whom all the kingdom prophecies must yet be literally fulfilled, is an unprecedented interpretive system with dangerous tendencies. It embodied in a dispensationalist emphasis that rebuilds the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile that Jesus obliterated, that separates law from grace in thoroughly antinomian fashion, and that deflects from the Christian church the promises and the covenants and large portions of the Bible, especially the Gospels, giving to the Jew, rather than to the Christian, not only the Decalogue, but also the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer.
Now, having seen this whole system influence WCG doctrine, we should now ask ourselves the following question: Is dispensationalism true?
Hence, it isn't mere coincidence that Pasadena's new emphasis on the differences between the new covenant and the old covenant, a key teaching of traditional evangelical dispensationalism, is closely tied to its present antinomian tendencies. The way evangelical Protestant theology often mixes together futurism, dispensationalism, and antinomianism in greater or lesser amounts serves as the theological background for these recent changes by Pasadena. They aren't occurring in a vacuum.
IS DISPENSATIONALISM TRUE?
Whether or not dispensationalism is true leads us to this question: Has salvation always been only by grace through faith, or did God require literal works of ancient Israel to earn or achieve salvation? For Abraham, the patriarch, salvation must have been of grace, even as he obeyed God's laws (Gen. 26:5), as we find in Gen. 15:6:6: "Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." Compare Rom. 4:l-2. Noah "became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Heb. 11:7). Did this change for Israel? Note Habakkuk 2:4: "But the righteous will live by his faith." Also note Jeremiah 31:2, especially when compared to Hebrews 3:18-19: "Thus says the Lord, 'The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness--Israel, when it went to find its rest.'" (Compare the use of "rest" here with Heb. 4:1-11, where it is referring to a condition of salvation spiritually). Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, goes from Abel and Enoch to David, implying no change occurred in how men and women are saved by repetitively saying it was "by faith" over twenty times, finally, coming down to verses 39-40, showing salvation was by grace then as well: "And all these, having gained approval through their faith [not by their works!], did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect." Notice David in Ps. 119:146: "I cried to Thee; save me, and I shall keep Thy testimonies." Works are the fruitage of salvation here, not the means of obtaining it. David knew in Ps. 51:17 that sacrifices (i.e. works) didn't reconcile him to God, but a repentant attitude would: "For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." Paul sees David as speaking of "the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: "'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account'" (Rom. 4:6-8). Yet, Pasadena seems incorrectly to imply once or twice otherwise: "Christians have a relationship with God based on faith, not on law. Of course we obey God, but we obey according to the new covenant, not the old. . . . The new covenant has a new set of laws, though many are the same, and our relationship with God is on a different foundation, based on a different agreement." For never could anyone be saved (justified) by obeying the law, because law-keeping doesn't expiate (wipe off) sin--only Jesus' sacrifice does that.
Now you may say: So what? Why does the doctrine of dispensationalism matter in our current doctrine crisis? Consider this description of how extreme applications of dispensationalist ideas have damaged even evangelical Protestant theology, as seen by an evangelical:
The age of law/age of grace division in particular has wreaked havoc on dispensationalist theology and contributed to confusion about the doctrine of salvation. Of course, there is an important distinction to be made between law and grace. But it is wrong to conclude, as [dispensationalist theologian Dr. Lewis Sperry] Chafer apparently did, that law and grace are mutually exclusive in the program of God for any age. . . . Salvation has always been by grace through faith, not by the works of the law (Galatians 2:16).
Hence, the same problems will be apt to affect WCG theology that trouble evangelical theology the more Pasadena accepts their system of dispensationalism.
DISPENSATIONALISM VERSUS THE WORDS OF JESUS
An excellent example of how dispensationalism works is how Pasadena in its study paper on the Sabbath dismisses evidence from Eze. 44:24 showing the Sabbath is binding in the millennium as being in force today: "Prophecies (whether New Testament or Old Testament, whether about Sabbaths or sacrifices or circumcision) are not a reliable source of proof regarding Christian practice. Our doctrines must be based on scriptures that are applicable to the age we live in." Similarly, John Curry stated: "Jesus was speaking to an audience who were under the old covenant. [He also was during the Sermon on the Mount?EVS]. Verse 23 [of Matt. 23] records part of Jesus' condemnation of Pharisaic legalism (see the entire chapter). . . . Just because Jesus instructed this man [in Mark 1:40-43] to offer sacrifices according to the requirements of the Mosaic law does not mean that his words have universal applicability for Christians. The context determines the application. Jesus was speaking to a Jew under the old covenant."
So--Why are Jesus' words invalid? Because Jesus was still alive when He said it! Or, really, because Jesus lived under the old covenant, He had to obey the ritualistic law to the extent it applied to Him as well as the moral law (the Ten Commandments, etc). (Gal. 4:4 proves this, so long as the word "born" refers to Him, and not His mother). Hence, Jesus' words, so long as He was human, aren't necessarily considered valid for doctrine. However, on the contrary, He said in the great commission to "make disciples of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). This statement doesn't fit the view Jesus' words and actions were mostly only for old covenant Jews or a restored Israel during the millennium, but for Christians now. Similarly, Paul said to "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1), which becomes a progressively more useless or misleading injunction the more Christ's statements or actions are seen as only fit for old covenant Jews or Israel during the millennium. Peter, while he was speaking specifically about suffering, stated a principle that can be taken more broadly: "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" (I Pet. 2:21). Note also I John 2:6: "(T) he one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." Jesus was the messenger of the new covenant (Mal. 3:1; Dan. 9:27) and the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15), describing both before being ushered in. Hence, we should assume that His words are valid for doctrine unless specifically and clearly set aside by Paul, Peter, etc. later due to being tied to something that has been abolished (i.e., the offerings to priests for being healed from leprosy).
THE OBSTACLE OF MATT. 5:17-19
The biggest obstacle Pasadena faces in saying Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection massively changed God's ways of dealing with humanity, ushering in a radical discontinuity between Judaism and Christianity which obliterated the Old Testament law, is surely Matt. 5:17-19 (New World Translation (NWT)):
Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I came, not to destroy, but to fulfill; for truly I say to you that sooner would heaven and earth pass away than for one smallest letter or one particle of a letter to pass away from the Law by any means and not all things take place. Whoever, therefore, breaks one of these least commandments and teaches mankind to that effect, he will be called 'least' in relation to the kingdom of the heavens. As for anyone who does them and teaches them, this one will be called 'great' in relation to the kingdom of the heavens.
Hence, Jesus says, "Do not think I came to destroy the Law [i.e. the Torah]," but Pasadena in denial says: "Rather, the law?the books of Moses?was a temporary measure until Christ, the Seed, came . . ." Since the Greek word translated "fulfill" in verse 17 is put in direct contradiction to "destroy," it is illegitimate to claim "fulfill" means something that sounds slightly different, such as "transform," that amounts to the same result. This same word "plerosai" (to fulfill) is used in Matt. 13:48 to refer to a net full of fish, in Luke 2:40 to refer to Jesus becoming filled with wisdom, and Luke 3:5 to filling up a valley. In such a context (v. 17), when it's placed in contradiction to "destroy," it can't mean "abolish," but it must mean "completion," or "addition."
Now, dispensationalists will claim that in v. 18 the word translated "fulfill" in the KJV (above in the NWT it was translated "take place")?"genetai"--still allows for the Law to be abolished, by Jesus somehow "fulfilling" it in a way that destroyed some parts of it. Using the KJV translation, it gets treated as a second condition to the statement that the heaven and earth must pass away first before the Law passes away. However, this stratagem is exposed when using a more modern translation that translates these two Greek words?"plersoai" and "genetai"?differently. Suddenly, Jesus isn't saying the law won't pass away unless heaven and earth pass OR something else gets (NASB) "accomplished." Instead, Jesus is saying the law won't pass away "until ALL is accomplished" i.e. the "period of restoration of ALL things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time" (Acts 3:21) up to the time a new heaven and earth are created (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; Rev. 21:1). Simply put, the Law is continuously binding on humanity up until at least the new heavens and earth are created, in contradiction to this idea it gets abolished during a present age of grace just to get restored during the millennium. After all, just how does the second coming cancel out the effects of Jesus' sacrifice supposedly abolishing the law?
Also, Matt. 5:19 shows that Jesus didn't just mean that the Law (i.e. the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament) in the abstract are still binding on Christians, but that their specific laws would be too. This view would contradict the idea all laws are abolished unless repeated somewhere in the New Testament. The "least of these commandments," must refer to the Old Testament law, not just His new teachings bringing out more clearly the spirit of the law. Again, He sets up a rather similar parallel opposition in v. 19 between the words "annuls" and "commandments" that exists in v.17 between "abolish" and "law." Indeed, the Greek word rendered "annuls" (luo) in v. 19 is related grammatically to the word translated "abolish" (katalu) in v. 17. "These commandments" doesn't just refer to Jesus' "new commandments," for the reasons described best by The Expositor's Bible Commentary:
But what are 'these commandments'? It is hard to justify restriction of these words to Jesus' teachings . . . for the noun in Matthew never refers to Jesus' words, and the context argues against it. Restriction to the Ten Commandments . . . is equally alien to the concerns of the context. Nor can we say 'these commandments' refers to the antitheses that follow, for in Matthew houtos ('this,' pl. 'these') never points forward. It appears, then, that the expression must refer to the commandments of the OT Scriptures. The entire Law and the Prophets are not scrapped by Jesus' coming but fulfilled. Therefore the commandments of these Scriptures--even the least of them . . .--must be practiced . . . The law pointed forward to Jesus and his teaching . . . so he, in fulfilling it, establishes . . . the way it is to be obeyed.
Hence, it's illegitimate to say v. 19's "commandments" don't refer to laws seen by Jesus as binding from the Old Testament, who was the Jehovah God of Israel.
Notwithstanding the hurdles posed by Matt. 5:17-19, dispensationalism is often pushed to amazing extremes. Paul Wierville, the founder of the unorthodox sect (I refuse to say "cult") the Way International, maintained that the four Gospels were really part of the Old Testament, since they were mostly concerned with Jesus' actions and words before His crucifixion! MacArthur notes encountering similar thinking:
Other dispensationalist writers did weigh those ideas and went on to state in more explicit terms what Chafer only hinted at: that the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount 'have no application to the Christian, but only to those who are under the Law, and therefore must apply to another Dispensation than this.' This lamentable hermeneutic [approach to biblical interpretation] is widely applied in varying degrees to much of our Lord's early teaching, emasculating the message of the gospels. It is no wonder that the evangelistic message growing out of such a system differs sharply from the gospel according to Jesus. If we begin with the presupposition that much of Christ's message was intended for another age, why should our gospel be the same as the one He preached? But that is a dangerous and untenable presupposition. Jesus did not come to proclaim a message that would be invalid until the Tribulation or the Millennium. He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He came to call sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:13). He came so the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). He proclaimed the saving gospel, not merely a manifesto for some future age. His gospel is the only message we are to preach--any other gospel is under God's curse (Galatians 1:6-8). . . . It is a mistake of the worse sort to set the teachings of Paul and the apostles over against the words of our Lord and imagine that they contradict one another or speak to different dispensations. The gospels are the foundation on which the epistles build. The entire book of James, for example, reads like a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. Those who want to consign the Sermon to another age must still deal with the fact that nearly all its principles are repeated and expanded upon by later New Testament writers.
Yet, as documented above, Pasadena is beginning to lead us down this road of making Jesus' words only conditionally applicable to Christians, applying only upon Paul's, John's, Peter's, etc. seconding them. Dare we trifle with the words of God in the flesh so casually? Perhaps publishers created those red-lettered Bibles to help us find faster what we can now mostly ignore!
DISPENSATIONALISM VERSUS TITHING?
A key verse for tithing still being binding on Christians is Matt. 23:23 and its parallel in Luke 11:42. The context of Matt. 23:23's affirmation is especially interesting, for Jesus was blasting the Pharisees' legalism: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are things you should have done without neglecting the others." Unlike with the Sabbath, where He attacks their overkills (such as in Mark 2:23-28), here He does not. There's nothing here about tithing setting a limit on how much you give. (Hasn't the WCG taken up offerings based in part upon what your heart was willing to give in the past? On Holy Days, hasn't II Cor. 9:7 been quoted?) He doesn't say, "Give from the heart instead, you legalists!" or "You should be willing to give far more." In John 8:5, 10-11, Jesus was willing to relax the law about executing adulterers before He died, which implies His ministry's message is applicable to new covenant Christians, and wasn't rendered obsolete by His death (until, perhaps, Israel's restoration in the millennium). In contrast, One can't find Him abolishing the Sabbath, but rather he protests against legalistic abuses and overkills concerning its application to God's people (Luke 13:15-16). For the Pharisees, and the oral law of the Jews in general, had come to overemphasize the "stop" or "cease" aspect of Sabbath observance as opposed to that of "freedom" from the burdens of work or the "liberty" of rest and relaxation. Of course, since Jesus didn't abolish Sabbath observance, but sought to reform the oral law's abuses of it, men will seek to evade His words' authority over us today by such constructs as extreme dispensationalism. However, the presumption should be Jesus' words apply to Christians today unless Paul (etc.) specifically and clearly say otherwise.
RADICAL DISCONTINUITY IN HEBREWS 7?
Presently, as part of its present program to prove a radical discontinuity exists between the contents of the Old and New Testament law, Pasadena cites Heb. 7:12, 18-19 to abolish not just tithing, but the entire Old Testament law: "How much has been changed? It is not just a matter of who receives the tithes, but the entire old covenant, with its commands, is obsolete. . . . These verses [vs. 18-19] are discussing the same law as verse 12 is--the entire old covenant has been set aside." In context (especially note vs. 14-16), what occurs here is a change in the law concerning the priesthood in order to allow Jesus of Judah to become a priest when the old covenant's priests had to be of Levi, with a corresponding transfer of duties from one priesthood (Levi's) to the other (Melchizedek's). Note how the translation of verse 12 in the Amplified Bible (its brackets) contradicts Pasadena's expansive reading of this text: "For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is of necessity an alteration of the law [concerning the priesthood] as well." For, while "the Law made nothing perfect" (v. 19), it was itself perfect (Ps. 19:7; James 1:25), and remains a guide to Christian conduct, even if knowing its requirements can't make you obey them by itself. Hence, while one could argue about whether Heb. 7:12 "transfers" the law to tithe from one priesthood to another, or (I think) just changes the priesthood itself, it's clear these texts don't abolish the whole Old Testament law, but just the Levitical priesthood. The dispensationalist spin placed on these verses to annihilate the whole Old Testament law is absurd upon some analysis.
Indeed, concerning the whole subject of dispensationalism theoretically a priori (that is, before examining the facts) we could take two basic approaches concerning whether Old Testament laws still apply to Christians:
1. The Old Testament laws are done away with, unless specifically reconfirmed in Paul's epistles, etc.
2. All Old Testament laws are still in force, unless specifically abolished in Paul's epistles, etc.
Then, you need to judge whether or not and to what extent Jesus' words are valid for doctrine for Christians despite mostly being spoken while the old covenant was in force. This summary simplifies things excessively, but it throws the issues involved into stark relief.
THE GOSPELS AS RELEVANT TO CHRISTIANS TODAY
An enormously powerful argument that His words should normally be seen as applicable to Christians is the idea that the Gospels were written not just as biographies of the life of Christ,
but as theological handbooks to help promote the Christian faith. The selection that the Evangelists made of what Jesus said and did was determined by the prevailing concerns of their time. The fact that the Evangelists report no less than seven Sabbath healing episodes in addition to the ensuing controversies indicates the great importance attached to Sabbathkeeping in their respective communities at the time they wrote their Gospels.
Support for this view comes from how, without the church yet in existence, Jesus made it the final decision maker in case of disputes between brethren (Matt. 18:15-17). Hence, Luke 23:56 suddenly becomes a much more powerful witness for the Sabbath command still being in force after Jesus died, for this statement was inspired by the Holy Spirit long after Jesus had been crucified (KJV): "And they [the women who would visit Jesus' tomb] returned, and prepared spices and ointments, and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment." Nothing is said about it being a ?now? abrogated commandment. Ample reason exists to believe we should put our weight toward the second of the two options listed above.
Also, evidence for the second viewpoint can be based upon the idea of a covenant only including what was done before it was ratified, for afterwards it can't be changed (Gal. 3:15; Heb. 9:16-17). Note what the SDA John L. Tucker said along this line:
Here a man's will is used as an illustration of Christ's will, testament, or covenant. As is plainly stated (in the above scriptures cited) and is an obvious fact, a man's will is of force after the man dies. And after the man dies, nothing more can be added to his will. Here is a significant truth when applied to the new covenant. The new covenant is Christ's will. He ratified it with His own blood. All the terms, provisions, promises and truths of His will must be written before He dies; for nothing can be added after the death of the testator. "No man . . . addeth thereto." Galatians 3:15. Let us be practical and apply this rule to our religious beliefs and practices. No doctrine, no commandment, no new truths or religious practices, which Jesus did not teach or practice, are to be required of anyone. Nothing can be "added thereto." [Here follows a list of twelve items. I will cite only two, being as they are relevant to my purpose: Tithe paying--Matthew 23:23. . . . Seventh-day Sabbath--Mark 2:27; Matthew 24:20. . . .] Thus we see that all these and many other precious truths received the sanction of Jesus before He died. Now let us raise the question on a widely accepted practice--the observance of Sunday. Did Christ speak of it before Calvary? Every student of the Bible will say No! But remember nothing can be added after He dies. Ninety-nine Christians out of one hundred when asked why they observe Sunday will quickly reply, "It is because Christ arose from the dead on that day." But here we are faced with the plain, pointed statement that nothing comes into the will of Christ, or the new covenant, after His death. Jesus died on Friday, the sixth day of the week; He ratified the new covenant then. If Sunday worship started two days after Christ's death, it is two days too late to come into His will and to be required of men.
Does Jesus' death abolish what He did or said during His life? Or, rather, did the crucifixion make them all the more binding? The force of this argument is plain in implying Jesus' words are valid for doctrine, unless clearly set aside in the epistles as being only relevant for the old covenant.
THE NEW TESTAMENT BUILDS UPON THE OLD, BUT DOESN’T REPLACE IT
A remarkable fact about Pasadena's argumentation in favor of the abolition of the law based upon dispensationalist premises is that little actual time was spent, at least in the first six months of the new teaching, arguing in favor of these premises. Rather, they are taken almost for granted, including the assumed radical discontinuity between Judaism and Christianity that comes from extreme dispensationalism. Yet, one can find almost endless citations by the New Testament authors of Old Testament books, from both Moses and the prophets. Why cite so often something which, "under the new dispensation of grace," had become largely irrelevant as an authority for doctrine binding on Christian conduct? One can't say they did this merely to convert Jews by showing the folly of what they now believed in, when Jesus himself said He came not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17-19; Luke 16:17). Citing the Old Testament to abolish its authority is a dubious proposition at best, which Pasadena effectively maintains the author of Hebrews did in citing Jeremiah 31 in dealing with the old covenant. Where was it prophesied in the Old Testament that the law would be done away, instead of being written on men’s hearts? In contrast, the New Testament will affirm clearly the binding authority of the Old Testament. For example, note I Cor. 10:6, 11: "Now these things [that happened during the Exodus and the wanderings in the wilderness] happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. . . . Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." Similarly, consider Rom. 15:4: "For whatever was written in early times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Abraham's example in being justified by faith also applies to us (Rom. 4:23-24): "Now not for his sake only was it written, that it [righteousness] was reckoned to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be reckoned, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead." Similarly, we find Paul saying that (II Tim. 3:15-17): "[A]nd that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. ALL Scripture [not just the New Testament, or Paul's own epistles] is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness . . ." Paul's own letter told Timothy to look primarily to the Scriptures he was raised with, which had to be the Old Testament since that was all they had when he was young. Hence, when Paul repeatedly points to the value and authority of the Old Testament for Christians today in general terms?indeed, the examples cited in Romans 4, 15 and I Corinthians 10 were from the Torah!--he badly undermines the extreme dispensationalists' fixation with his own letters as describing what is mainly binding for Christian conduct today. They have failed to prove from the New Testament in general, or Paul's letters in particular, that the Old Testament can be safely ignored, outside of the highly questionable analyses of Acts 15's council supposedly abolishing the law of Moses and Heb. 8-10's new covenant supposedly destroying Old Testament law.
SHOULD WE ASSUME THE OLD TESTAMENT IS ABOLISHED AS BEING BINDING?
In contrast to the extreme dispensationalists' fixation on the epistles, the presumption should be that our Savior's words are applicable to Christians, unless clearly only appropriate for the Jews of His day (dispensation). Note, for example, Jesus said almost nothing about circumcision, or people still needing to do it, despite being circumcised Himself. By contrast, He had a lot more to say about the Sabbath, which would imply its continuing validity, using Pasadena's own argument from silence. Only in John 7:22-23 does He discuss it, and only then while rebuking a legalistic overkill about the Sabbath, saying that when these two laws conflicted, the law of circumcision was to be followed. It's true Jesus ordered a leper he healed to make an offering for his cleansing to a priest (Luke 5:14), and one can't cite a specific verse in the New Testament abolishing giving offerings for being cured of leprosy. Concerning this problem, one could say the end of the Levitical priesthood would indirectly end such offerings so clearly tied to it (Heb. 7:12, 18-19; Lev. 14:2+), unlike tithing (Gen. 14:20; 28:20). The "gifts and sacrifices" noted in Heb. 9:9-10 were abolished. (See also Heb. 10:1-4). For if Abraham offered a tithe of his spoils to Melchizedek, and the Melchizedek priesthood continues today, there's reason to believe tithing does as well (Gen. 14:18-20; Heb. 7: 1-11, 17, 21-25). (Whether tithing was voluntary for Abraham can't be decisively settled with the scriptural evidence available, but we do know Abraham did strive to obey God's law (Gen. 26:5): "Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.") What Jesus said about tithing in Matt. 23:23 should be enough to assume it is still in force, especially when it was mentioned in the form of a command and when there's evidence this law existed before the old covenant started.
Pasadena uses the "argument from silence" in conjunction with dispensationalist premises to say various Old Testament laws were abolished. So now, suppose we put a twist on such reasoning, using the argument of Tucker above, and say evidence against a law still being applicable to Christians can be found simply in Jesus' not mentioning it in the New Testament: To oversimplify, if it's never mentioned, it's gone. By this line of reasoning, the commandment about not wearing clothes of different material mixed together (Lev. 19:19) gets abolished since it's never mentioned in the New Testament. Unfortunately, for Pasadena's purposes here, tithing, the Holy Days, and the Sabbath all get mentioned and/or observed by Christ. By contrast, unlike the latter three doctrines, it's tempting to say Paul was almost obsessed with the subject of showing circumcision was no longer binding on Christians. Such words by him constitute the plain and clear words necessary to set aside anything Christ may have discussed which was actually only applicable to the Jews.
Pasadena heavily relies on the argument from silence in conjunction with an assumed extreme dispensationalism that maintains unless the New Testament repeats Old Testament commands, the latter aren't binding. Besides noting in passing it is a logical fallacy?a subject we will return to later?it seems to assume the God who inspired the Old Testament was a highly whimsical God concerning what we ordered would be forgotten if enough time passed since a command was given, like some human beings. Yet the Eternal said (Mal. 3:6): "For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed." Similarly, we find this description of this same God who later came and died in the flesh (Heb. 13:8): "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever." Men, when ignoring such logic by extreme dispensationalists, find silence indicates change has NOT occurred as the following brilliantly pragmatic example by a UCG laymember in the Ann Arbor, Michigan church shows:
I work in the automotive industry. I supervise the buildup of vehicles using prototype parts. Both hardware and software are constantly being changed during the development process. When I receive a "new" part, the supplier tells me what has been "changed" from the "old" part, not what hasn't been "changed." Silence on a particular point indicates no change took place, not the other way around.
This point powerfully argues why it makes more sense to say the Old Testament laws are still in force unless specifically abolished, than the other way around. After all, neither the law against bestiality nor the second commandment against idolatry is quoted in the New Testament, yet we wouldn't want to assume the literal letter of these laws were abolished. For after all, would the Eternal be such a poor planner as to create an entire system of law in the Old Testament, just to scrap the whole thing and start over, instead of bringing the existing system to something more glorious and complete? (Note Isaiah 42:21).
Let's consider Pasadena's premise of the "radical discontinuity" between Judaism and Christianity more closely, and how it affects interpreting the Bible. Consider the key text in this whole controversy, which is about the new covenant replacing the old covenant, as found in Hebrews 8:8-10: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the House of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers . . . For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts . . ." Now?exactly how does putting "MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS" obliterate the Old Testament's law? Couldn't someone, perhaps sarcastically, reply, "Doesn't this mean the law of clean and unclean meats has been written on my heart?" Surely, if you could ask what Jeremiah meant by the word "laws" here, for this is a quote from Jer. 31:31-33, he would have said it was a reference to the then existing Old Testament law of the Eternal now being put into people's lives better than it had been in the past. For writing the law on our hearts makes the law all the more binding, instead of freeing us from it. Similarly, Jesus in the Sermon of the Mount pointed to the spiritual intent of the law, over and above its literal letter (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44), making it all the more binding, as prophesied (Isa. 42:21), instead of abolishing it. The coming in of the new covenant changed the administration of the law, not the law itself, as far as these verses of Jer. 31:31-33 point to. One must turn elsewhere, such as Eph. 2:15 or Heb. 9:9-10; 10:1-4, to find what specifically has been abolished. Yet, because of Pasadena's assumption of radical discontinuity between Judaism and Christianity, it will read Scriptures to make the Old Testament law and Christ's law very different, when in fact they are largely the same, with a very different mode of operation (the Holy Spirit, as opposed to physical human effort).
HOW DO WE KNOW WHEN OLD TESTAMENT LAWS WERE ABOLISHED?
Now, how do we know whether certain laws in the Old Testament are still in force for Christians today when they aren't cited again by Jesus and/or Paul, John, etc.? For it seems inconsistent to say the third tithe law is still in force, yet state the command against (say) wearing clothes of mixed materials isn't (Lev. 19:19, 28). Ron Dart's approach on the law concerning making tassels on clothing (Deut. 22:12) was to note many such Old Testament laws were in the form of judgments, which meant if certain situations arose, then people had to obey certain laws or suffer certain penalties:
We encounter some judgments in the law for which the underlying principle is either dimly seen or entirely obscured. In such a case one makes his own judgment and carries on. No one makes garments of linen and wool mixed anymore, so there is no direct application. Does it apply to wool and dacron? Probably not. In any case, it is not done to please God, but to protect man. . . . The meaning behind verse 12 has been lost in antiquity. It probably has its roots in customs long past and has no meaningful application. Remember that the law does in some cases address human customs which can change (as in the law pertaining to men's and women's clothes). . . . None of this means that any of these laws have been abrogated. However, some of them have no discernible or meaningful application outside of the culture in which they were given. The law requiring fringes on garments probably made a statement in that culture, but the meaning of the statement has been lost. Scholars may someday tell us what it meant. When that happens, we probably will still not need to put fringes on a garment, but we will understand an underlying principle that applies nonetheless.
In contrast, if the Sabbath as part of the Ten Commandments is still in force as part of the moral law, it is in a different category of its own. For the Ten Commandments say nothing directly about the Holy Days or tithing. (However, one could argue the Sabbath command extrapolated spiritually would imply the Holy Days are still in force, and that the eighth commandment, with an eye on Mal. 3:8-10, would imply the tithing command is still in force). Concerning the specific subject of the second and third tithes, it would seem Jesus' discussion in Matt. 23:23 would include all three tithes as a part of the general system and principle of tithing since the overly-zealous, legalistic Pharisees when tithing their dill, mint, cummin, etc. would presumably be doing all three tithes. Jesus could well have been discussing not just first tithe here, but the overall whole array of tithes.
THE TWO PARTS OF THE LAW OF MOSES
But now we need to note that there's reason to believe the law of Moses had more than one part, one of which is still binding. It had both ritualistic laws, and civil laws, which gave more specific applications of the Ten Commandments' general spiritual principles. The whole Levitical system of burnt offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, etc. are examples of the former part of the law of Moses. Such laws would no longer be binding, since they were typical in nature since they pointed to Christ's sacrifice. Also, the New Testament clearly abolishes them (Heb. 9:9-10; 10:1-10). The civil laws would include such statutes as the laws prohibiting fornication, incest, bestiality, homosexual sex, etc. as a broader, spiritual application of the seventh commandment, which literally only prohibits adultery. Such laws can still be seen as being in force since they do what Jesus did in the Sermon on the Mount: "magnify the law" (Isa. 42:21, KJV; "to make it great and glorious," NASB; compare Matt. 5: 21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-40, 43-45). Should we assume that since the command against bestiality isn't repeated word for word in the New Testament that it is no longer in force? To reply, "Christ's spiritual law prohibits that as well," evades the point that since Jesus is God, Christ's law and God's law are going to be the same. God was the author of the law of Moses as well (Ex. 25:1; 31:1). Such ritualistic aspects of the Holy Days, such as the wave sheaf offering concerning Pentecost (Lev. 23: 11-17) would have ended with the Levitical priesthood's end (Heb. 7:12, 18-19), while in their likely civil aspects there's reason to believe Pentecost and the other Holy Days remained in force after Jesus died (Acts 2:1; 18:21(KJV, NKJV), I Cor. 16:8). For they are memorials as well, not just shadows of Christ or God's plan for humanity. For it must be noted where the Holy Days are mentioned (Ex. 23), and Ex. 21-23 is generally an exposition of the civil law, not ritualistic. The death and other penalties for violating the civil law are no longer in force, since God no longer has a direct theocratic rule over any nation. For the church is a very different kind of organization from the nation or kingdoms of Israel, which had to punish criminals with their police powers like any gentile nation or kingdom must today, or centuries ago. This possible aspect of the ministration of death (compare II Cor. 3:3-9) is now gone. You can't argue that because there was a death penalty for Sabbath-breaking (Ex. 31:14-15), therefore, it is abolished, without also saying ending the death penalty attached to raping an engaged woman legalizes rape (Deut. 22:23-25). Once we realize there is more than one part to the law of God outside of the Ten Commandments, the ritualistic and the civil, and how Christ's death affected them differently, much confusion over what is still in force can be cleared up.
THE MORAL LAW AND THE CEREMONIAL LAW
We can know that the ritualistic law and the moral law (the Ten Commandments, Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5) are different because the New Testament would be self-contradictory otherwise. For example, we know something got abolished concerning God's law in the following verses: Eph. 2:15: "by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances." Heb. 9:9-10: "Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation." (Compare Heb. 10:8-9). Heb. 7:12, 18-19: "For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. . . . For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God." On the other hand, other verses show the law is still in force: Rom. 3:31: "Do we nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law." James 2:10-12: For whoever keeps the whole law (compare Gal. 3:10) and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not commit murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty." Rom. 7:16, 22, 25: "But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. . . . For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man [with a yoke of bondage?] . . . So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin" [i.e., his evil human nature]. The two laws both get mentioned in I Cor. 7:19, with one being kept and the other abolished: "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God." So, it's obvious extreme antinomians (whom Pasadena hasn't joined) are wrong in saying God's law is completely done away.
SHOULD LOVE BE LEFT UNDEFINED BY THE LAW?
But this leads us to the next issue: Does the fact Christians are under the New Covenant do away with the specific points (i.e. "the letter") of the law in favor of an ill-defined, amorphous, hard-to-fully-grasp "law of Christ" or "commandments of love"? Do the latter two do away with the Ten Commandments as binding on Christians, as well as the points of the law of Moses which are civil and non-ceremonial in nature which build upon the Ten Commandments' generalities? (For example, the laws against incest (Lev. 18:6-15) are more specific applications of the seventh commandment against adultery). Fundamentally, we need something to define "love" so that the standards for Christian behavior don't fall into subjectivism and/or relativism. If we say the Holy Spirit is leading us to do such-and-so, how do we know it isn't our carnal mind telling us to do it? Suppose we thought "love" could be shown by killing our fellow man on the battlefield. Would that justify killing? We still need the written word of God (i.e., revelation) to know what to do fundamentally, for the law of God remains a mirror to correct bad conduct (James l:23-25), even though the Holy Spirit will help us interpret it and apply that written word in our daily lives. For while the Holy Spirit will guide us into all the truth (John 16:13), this doesn't mean the written revelation of God, which the Holy Spirit also created through various inspired men, is unnecessary.
True, Christ in us will help us obey God's law, and the law is now written on our hearts under the New Covenant. But, this doesn't mean the individual, specific points of the law have ceased to exist (i.e., the literal letter of the law). We find many of the commandments quoted from in the New Testament without anything said to abolish the law's specific points (James 2:11; Eph. 6:2-3; Matt. 19:18-19; Rom. 7:7). To say wherever the law is still in force is "the law of Christ" while wherever it is abolished or limited is "the law of Moses" or "the law of the Eternal (Jehovah)" is to read something into the texts in question unless such longer terms are being used. It assumes, but does not prove, a radical discontinuity existed between Judaism and Christianity. How Romans 13:8-10 mentions loving your neighbor as fulfilling the law can't be used to abolish the Sabbath since it discusses the love of other people to begin with (except by the indirect principle found in I John 4:20-21), not the love of God as the first four commandments do. (You should be able to find plenty of secular humanists and agnostics who believe in loving their neighbor, but not God). Nor can it really be taken to mean specific commands listed are abolished, especially when Christ didn't understand it this way (Matt. 19:16-19 with 22:36-40). Rather, to love your neighbor as yourself is a shorter way to state the last six commandments. To sum something up doesn't mean the whole ceases to exist or be relevant, just as a book review may summarize a book well, but doesn't make reading the book irrelevant. For the fact that the New Covenant means that God's law is written on our hearts through the Holy Spirit doesn't mean its specific literal commands are now done away with.
PAUL’S CLEAR STATEMENTS AGAINST CIRCUMCISION
Let's compare Paul's strikingly clear statements about circumcision being unnecessary, with the vagueness of the three key texts by him used to do away with the Sabbath. "Was any man called already circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God [which, presumably includes the fourth commandment as part of the moral law of the Ten Commandments, etc.] (I Cor. 7:18-19). "Behold, I, Paul say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you" (Gal. 5:2). "If therefore the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? [Again, note we find the moral law contrasted with part of the ceremonial law]. And will not he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? For He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God" (Rom. 2:26-29). "But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished" (Gal. 5:11). "For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Gal. 6:15). "(A) renewal in which there is not distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:11).
By contrast, to abolish one of the Ten Commandments, proclaimed by God's own mouth (Deut. 5:4-5,22-27), the best the anti-Sabbatarians can come up with are these three texts: "One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God" (Rom. 14:5-6). "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Col. 2:16-17, KJV). "(B)ut now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days, and months and seasons, and years! I am afraid I have labored over you in vain" (Gal. 4:9-11, RSV). If you are honest, you have to admit the latter three scriptures are rather vague in their ostensible job of attacking the Sabbath, especially (in Romans and Colossians) with their emphasis on what men are judging or thinking for themselves about the time periods in question, as opposed to what God says about them. Two of them don't even mention the Sabbath or Holy Days by name. Paul's thunderbolts against circumcision as being binding on Christians are much clearer.
IS THE LAW THE SAME THING AS THE OLD COVENANT?
Before examining these three key anti-Sabbatarian texts more closely, we need to examine what is the foundational fallacy in the first two thirds of Mr. Tkach's videotaped three hour sermon: Should the old covenant be seen as more or less identical to the law? Or, are the two substantially different entities altogether? Initially, Pasadena defines "covenant" the way a dictionary would: "We can start by defining the word covenant. In simple terms, a covenant is a formal agreement. It can be an agreement between two people, a treaty between nations, or a relationship between God and a human individual or nation." However, soon a truly CRUCIAL term switch (equivocation) occurs, and Pasadena starts basically saying the law and the old covenant are the same, thereby confusing what the agreement (contract) was about with the agreement itself:
The Ten Commandments were the words of the covenant. . . . The Ten Commandments formed the core of the Sinaitic, or old covenant, but the covenant also included all of Exodus 20-24. . . . The old covenant, as a package of laws regulating a relationship between God and his people, is obsolete. . . . This "setting aside" is not just talking about Levitical and sacrificial laws that were added to the old covenant--it is talking about the old covenant itself. The whole package was set aside and replaced by Christ.
David Albert expressed this viewpoint even more succinctly and clearly:
I didn't know and nobody had ever taught me in my 35 years in the Church that the Ten Commandments were the old covenant, as is to clearly stated in Ex. 34:28 and again in Deuteronomy 4:13. I see now that we were ignorant about such basics as how God in his Word defines the old covenant--namely, by the Ten Commandments and vice versa. Nobody ever taught me the truth and the sweeping implications of these two vitally important verses.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS ISSUE CAN'T BE STRESSED ENOUGH NOW. For I suspect most of us listened to the first two hours of Mr. Tkach's sermon, and saw nothing wrong with it. Ah!--a fatal fallacy!
Here it shall be maintained that the Ten Commandments, and indeed all the laws God gave to Israel, are not the same thing as the old covenant. Instead, the old covenant shall be described as being, basically, a contract between God and Israel in which the latter made a generic promise of obedience in return for material (not spiritual) national blessings. (Lev. 26 and Deut. 28 describe the physical promises, and these won't be the focus of this analysis). True, the Ten Commandments are called a "covenant" in Deut. 4:13; 9:9-11; I Kings 8:9,21. But is this covenant the same covenant as the old covenant? No--instead, we shall assert two covenants were made with Israel in Ex. 19-24, one of which was the Ten Commandments, the other which is the old covenant in which God made Israel His chosen people with various (material) blessings in exchange for their promise of obedience. But--how do we know they are different covenants?
Evidence that these covenants are different is found in how Paul's descriptions of the Ten Commandments or the law don't fit those made about the old covenant. (Here we're setting aside the issue that Israel had other covenants, such as the one that made the Sabbath a sign "forever" between Israel and God that He sanctified them (Ex. 31:13-17)). For example, the author of Hebrews (8:6-7) said about the old covenant: "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, WHICH HAS BEEN ENACTED, on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second." Consider carefully as you read through the Ten Commandments: Can you find anything wrong or weak with their promises? Paul quotes the fifth commandment in Eph. 6:1-3, inserting the parenthetical thought "(which is the first commandment with a promise)" concerning its statement, "that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth." Now, what's wrong with that promise? Don't the meek inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5) for life evermore? As Walker put it: "It is scripturally impossible for the Ten Commandments to be the old covenant, for there are no defective promises found therein." This text also implies Paul thought individual parts of the Ten Commandments were still binding, when he so-matter-of-factly cites the fifth one.
Consider--the old covenant wasn't "faultless" (Heb. 8:7). Do the Ten Commandments have any faults in them? Would you dare call something written by the finger of God (Ex. 31:18) and thundered aloud by His own voice (Ex. 19:11-12, 19-20; 20:1; Deut. 5:4-5, 22-27; 9:10) defective or faulty? Ps. 19:7 says: "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul." James 1:25 says: "But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does." In Romans 7:12, Paul maintains: "So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good." Could such a law be faulty as well if it is "perfect," "holy," "righteous," and "good"? Can you honestly maintain these descriptions of the Ten Commandments or the law fit the old covenant? (Remember, Paul had just quoted the tenth commandment in Rom. 7:7, so this should be the "law" he has in mind in v. 12). God found fault with the people of Israel (Heb. 8:8), not His law itself, because they tried to obey it by human effort. For the basic flaw of the old covenant lies not in the law Israel was supposed to obey in its contract with God, but in them trying to do it without God's Holy Spirit to aid them in their attempt (Ex. 19:8; 24:3, 7).
The old covenant now no longer exists, which is what Heb. 8:13 really says: "When He said, 'A new covenant,' He had made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." But does God's law continue to exist? James thinks so (2:10-11): "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not commit murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law." Paul also thinks so in Romans 7:7-8: "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting [i.e as a sin] if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet.' But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead [i.e. doesn't exist]." Hence, the law couldn't be the same thing as the old covenant since one still exists and the other doesn't. Similarly, if the law was substantially identical to the old covenant, then one could insert into Romans 3:31 "old covenant" where "law" appears, and it would make sense: "Do we then nullify the (old covenant) through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the (old covenant)." The absurdity of saying the law and the old covenant are substantially one and the same is evident.
Now the giving of the law is implied to be different from the covenants in Romans 9:4: "(W)ho are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and the temple service and the promises." Implicitly, the law is not made identical to the covenants (plural) mentioned since it is listed separately from them. The old covenant wasn't the law itself, but it was made "concerning all these words" (Ex. 24:8, KJV) of God's law in written form. A similar distinction exists in Ex. 34:27-28 in which the covenant between God and Israel is different from the Ten Commandments: "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Write these words, for after the purpose and character of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel'" (v. 27, Amplified). "It was not the law itself but over the keeping of the law--'the tenor of the words'--that the Old Covenant was made." Moses called the golden calf Israel worshipped "your sin, the calf which you had made," yet this wasn't the sin itself (compare I Cor. 10:19). "In the same way the Old Covenant was not the law, but it was concerning the law. Thus it is called the covenant." Again, we have more reasons to doubt the view the law and the old covenant are basically identical.
Another way to look at the relationship between the old covenant and the Ten Commandments is to see the latter as the basis for the former. For the failure of Israel to obey God (i.e., uphold its part of the contract) doesn't make its basis cease to exist, since the contract is about or concerns the basis, but isn't it itself. Garner Ted Armstrong put it this way:
Then, is a covenant a law? No, read your dictionary definition again. A covenant is an agreement, not a law! Fix that in your mind . . . A covenant is an agreement about certain obligations: "to do or not to do a certain thing." A covenant is a formal agreement concerning performance, and IS NOT A LAW! . . . Any agreement has two facets. One part says, "I will do such and such if you will do so and so." The other party agrees to perform his part. This agreement becomes the covenant. . . . [Notice:] It [the Torah] is the book "of" or about the covenant, but is not the covenant [itself].
For God found "fault with them" (Heb. 8:8), that is, the people, not his perfect law (Ps. 19:17; James 1:25). The basic flaw with the old covenant was on the human end (trying to obey without spiritual help), not God's (concerning His law). To even say the law, sacrificial or moral, was the old covenant is dubious, as opposed to saying it was about, concerning, or was the basis for, Israel's general promise to obey in return for material national blessings.
IS THE SABBATH A CEREMONIAL LAW BECAUSE IT CAN?T BE PROVEN BY HUMAN REASON?
Pasadena, falling back on the logic of Protestant reformer John Calvin and the "Angelic Doctor" of Roman Catholicism, philosopher-theologian St. Thomas Aquinas, now runs the argument that the specific day upon which God's people should rest is ceremonial (i.e. temporary), while the general principle of mankind needing time to worship God and rest is permanent.
The spiritual purpose of the Sabbath is still valid, but the spiritual purpose is not in the avoidance of work on a specific day. The spiritual purpose is to point us to Christ. Now that we have come to Christ, the pointer is of such diminished importance that (whether we understand its function or not) Paul can say that it is not a matter on which Christians should be judged. . . . However, the practical aspects of the Sabbath are still practical. We still need time to worship, and we need time devoted to God. If we work seven days a week, we will most likely drift away from God and starve ourselves spiritually. . . . But we realize that the New Testament does not specify when this ought be done, nor exactly how much time it must involve.
Pasadena's reliance on natural law theory--the view among philosophers that moral laws can be discovered by human reason, and aren't arbitrary, relative, or subjective--is underscored by a endnote found in the same article: "In Romans 2:14-15, Paul says that some gentiles do by nature the things required by God's spiritual law. It is highly unlikely that anyone keeps the Sabbath by nature." The implicit error here is to equate the moral law with natural law, and the ceremonial law with arbitrary commands by God. We can't use unaided human reason to determine what God has decreed as temporary (i.e. ceremonial) among His commands, and which are permanent (i.e. moral), with certainty. Such an issue must be settled by referring to God's revelation, not by assuming that whatever we can prove by human reason is permanent, and whatever we can't is ceremonial. For what the gentiles do by nature (i.e. human reason) involves a cloudy, limited understanding of what God's will is for us, and normally undershoots what He requires of us.
The idea that the specific time aspect of the Sabbath is arbitrary (thus ceremonial and temporary), but that the general need for time with God and for physical rest (thus moral and permanent) is a traditional prop of Catholic/Protestant reasoning for justifying the switch from Saturday to Sunday. Accordingly, the Worldwide Church of God has hinted it may eventually do a similar switch:
On his way back to Jerusalem, Paul stopped seven days in Troas (Acts 20:6). But we do not hear anything about the Sabbath. What we hear is that the church ("we") waited until the first day of the week to come together and break bread, and Paul preached after the Sabbath was over [i.e. a Saturday night most likely--see the TEV and NEB--EVS] (verse 7). Why wait till then? Apparently the first day of the week was the time that the believers could get together. Although Paul was in a hurry (verse 16), he had to wait until the first day of the week. This is a significant example, too. . . . Because of these reasons, we will meet on the Sabbath for a long, long time [but not necessarily permanently!]
Here, a major error is committed, for (as the SDAs) put it, if the Sabbath was created before sin entered into God's creation, the specific time element couldn't have been typical or ceremonial in nature, since at that point no Savior was yet needed. By this command referring back to creation in Ex. 20:11 for its origin, "[B]oth aspects of the day--its seventh-day-ness no less than its sabbath-ness?are inseparably linked with creation." Furthermore, the mere fact God HIMSELF actually observed this day in Gen. 2:2-3 implies its permanent, moral nature as coming from His own essence after "(re)creation week." As Bacchiocchi observes: "Do we not regard a law moral when it reflects God's nature? Could God have given any stronger revelation of the moral nature of the Sabbath than by making it a rule [or action] of His divine conduct?" Further, the idea that the Bible intends a specific day to be kept, not just one in seven, is implied by the priests not having a day off themselves (compare Matt. 12:5). Hence, to say the specific time element is ceremonial, while the physical rest/time with God element is permanent, is to read something into Scripture that simply isn't there.
THE “BEER CAN” THEORY OF THE SABBATH
This analysis leads us to the "beer can" theory of the origin of the Sabbath. Pasadena maintains that God's rest in Gen. 2:2-3 was a one-shot action that didn't create a permanent institution or rule of conduct. "In fact, it is not even clear whether God blessed only one day (the seventh day of creation week), or every seventh day thereafter." There are several problems with this argument. The first is that the period of creation in Gen. 1-2 involved the making of species of plants, animals, and humans (i.e., life forms that were to continue in existence, and weren't just ephemeral improvisations), so why would the creation of the Sabbath be any different? Moses recorded in Ex. 20:11 God referring to His rest in Gen. 2:2-3 to justify observance of the Sabbath for Israel: "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy." The idea the Sabbath suddenly popped out of nowhere in Ex. 16:4-5, 23, 27-30 looks suspicious a priori, especially when the name "Sabbath" or how to observe it weren't actually mentioned in v. 4-5, which presupposes Israel already knew something about it. Furthermore, certain New Testament passages point back to a creation origin of the Sabbath, especially Heb. 4:4, Mark 2:27-28, and (by implication) John 5:16-18. For when Jesus says He was the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28), such a claim to authority doesn't make much sense except that He, being the Creator of the Sabbath, had authority over it. He had just mentioned the creation in the proceeding verse, putting the creation of the Sabbath at the same time man was by strong implication: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (v. 27). Heb. 4:4, especially when joined with verses 9-11, effectively refute Pasadena's claim that: "It [Gen. 2:2-3] does not say that God created the Sabbath." For here we find Gen. 2:2 cited, followed by a divinely inspired analysis that uses this reference to the seventh-day to discuss the Sabbath's continuing existence: "There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His" (Heb. 4: 9-10). After all, wouldn't it have been deceitful for Moses to refer back to Gen. 1-2 to justify keeping the Sabbath, when He in fact was its real originator under God? There are good reasons to doubt the "beer can" (i.e., single use) theory of the Sabbath in Gen. 2:2-3 that maintains it gained no permanent validity from or continued existence since the creation.
DID THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL IN ACTS 15 ABOLISH THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW?
The Jerusalem Council's decision to exempt the gentiles from being circumcised in Acts 15 is a truly crucial passage for Pasadena's interpretation of the Old Testament law being done away with. It's a major prop for their radical discontinuity thesis:
Next, let's examine the phrase "law of Moses." If we want to understand the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), we must understand what was being debated. "Some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses'" (verse 5) . . . It referred to everything that Moses wrote, the books of Moses, the Torah or the Law. The law of Moses includes everything in those books, and that's what the Jerusalem council was about. Some people claimed that the gentile Christians had to be circumcised and to keep al the laws of Moses. The council concluded that they did not have to keep all those laws. Instead, they gave only four prohibitions [in v. 28].
The main a priori problem with this interpretation has always been that if ONLY the four restrictions listed in v. 28 were all that was in force, it would mean that gentile Christians would be free to murder, steal, worship false gods, etc. It also would abolish the two great commandments of loving God above all and your neighbor as yourself (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18) which Jesus discussed in Matt. 23:37-40. Pasadena attempts to duck this enormous objection by saying it meant "that they were to avoid murder and blasphemy because of Christ, not because of the law of Moses." This argument is worthless, because the Council said no such thing about [a law of] Christ replacing the law of Moses, or any other such construction. This view has to be read into Acts 15, for it most certainly can't be found there explicitly. Nobody said, "Well, now with Christ having come, He, not the law of Moses, is the Christian standard." This kind of argument assumes the radical discontinuity it seeks to prove.
So then, what exactly IS going on in Acts 15? First, we need a paradigm shift: It's not so much about all the laws required for Christian conduct in this life, but primarily about how people become accepted by God at their initial acceptance of Him. For the Jews looked upon circumcision as what brought them into the covenant community and into a relationship with God. It was the Christian equivalent of baptism (a rite the Jews also practiced). The issue raised was more one of "justification"--the initial stage of the salvation process--than "sanctification"--the second, lifelong part of the process of salvation that involves holy living through divine and human effort. As Wilf Hey and John Meakin observed in a very valuable essay on Acts 15: "What happened specifically is that these Gentiles were enfranchised as covenant-members in Israel (the Church)?surely because this is seen as part of the salvation process!" However, there was a division in the Jewish community over whether gentiles who desired a relationship with the Eternal had to be circumcised to enter into the covenant community of Israel and thus a relationship with God. The Pharisees said yes, while the alternative competing interpretation of the law among Jews said no. It is very important to note that the four prohibitions listed in verses 20, 29 the Jerusalem council chose weren't arbitrarily plucked out of thin air. These restrictions, based upon Lev. 17-18, were the same four prohibitions this standard alternative non-Pharisaical interpretation of the law had said should be imposed on the gentiles who wished to convert to Judaism. For the primary issue in question was stated in Acts 15:1: "Unless you [gentiles] are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." It is then restated periphrastically (with more words more indirectly, as by a circumlocution) in Acts 15:5: "But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees [i.e. those of the group that within Judaism had said gentiles should be circumcised to begin their relationship with God] who had believed, stood up, saying, 'It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.'" Pasadena's interpretation of this verse, which sets their interpretation for the entire chapter, assumes that "circumcision" and "the law of Moses" are separate issues that the conference took up, but this becomes quite questionable when the Greek gets analyzed. As Hey and Meakin note:
[T]he Greek actually has three verbs, all infinitive [i.e. verbs in the form of "to speak," (in Spanish, "hablar") "to work," (in French, "travailler"), etc. that haven't been conjugated with subjects (e.g. I, she, he, they) yet--EVS]: 'to be circumcised', 'to charge' and 'to preserve.' The last two are shorn of modifiers and joined together with 'and'. This is periphrastic ["the use of indirect or roundabout methods of expression"]: the first is accomplished with a view to the second. In effect a rewording can be that the Gentiles are 'to be circumcised, charged [thereby] with a view to preserving the law of Moses'. Note that the 'and' is actually placed between the second and third verbs (in the original Greek text), very much suggesting a periphrastic interpretation.
Hence, if Acts 15:5 was just restating the issue first raised in Acts 15:1, and the Jerusalem Conference was really ONLY about circumcision and the related subject of how to admit gentiles to the beginning stage of the salvation process (i.e. the covenant community of the church), then Pasadena's interpretation of it suffers a mortal blow. "What has been decided [at this conference] is NOT a break from the law, but specifically that the Pharisaical interpretation of Exodus 12:48 [concerning circumcision] was not required of them." "The law of Moses"?the Torah generally--is still in force then, contrary to Pasadena's viewpoint.
There are further problems with Pasadena's interpretation of Acts 15 in an attempt to prove radical discontinuity in the law Christians still must obey. To say that this conference ended the authority of the writings of Moses on Christians runs headlong into the raw fact James, who summarizes the conference's decision, first cites Old Testament prophet Amos (in verses 16-18) and then Moses's authority more obliquely (v. 21) to justify his decision. Nothing from the words of Christ or about His (alleged) role in ending the law by His sacrifice is mentioned. As Bacchiocchi observed: "[H]ow can the authority of Moses be negated when the four ritual laws are drawn from Moses himself (Lev 17-18)?" When Peter mentioned in v. 10 the "placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our father nor we have been able to bear" the issue was circumcision, not the authority of the Torah, which had earlier been called "living [not dead] oracles to pass on to you" in Acts 7:38. Note that Peter doesn't identify directly what this "yoke" is in his speech as it is recorded in Acts 15. One must avoid assuming the "yoke" was "the law of Moses" as opposed to "being circumcised as an adult," which would make it an attack on the traditional Pharisaical view that adult gentiles should submit to circumcision based on their interpretation of Ex. 12:48.
DOES ACTS 21 PROVE THE OLD TESTAMENT’S LAW WAS ABOLISHED IN ACTS 15?
Now Pasadena will use Acts 21:25 to prove that only these four restrictions listed in Acts 15:20, 29 are still binding out of the law of Moses. The context of this restatement of the Jerusalem Council's decision is a request of Paul by James and the elders of the Jerusalem church to undergo a purification ritual to squelch the rumor among Christians that he was telling gentiles not to circumcise their children and to forsake Moses. These Jewish Christians were "all zealous for the Law" (v. 20). He was to show that he himself "also walk[ed] orderly, keeping the law" (v. 24) by doing so. Then comes the key verse (NKJV, v. 25): "But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality." The words underlined are found in the received text used by the NKJV and KJV, but not in the Greek text that underlies most modern Bible translations, the Westcott-Hort/?critical" text. The Greek words (ei mi) translated "except" here can also mean "but," "only," or even "rather" or "instead." The issue comes down to what the antecedent "no such thing" refers back to. The antinomian viewpoint would be it refers to the purification rites that Paul was asked to go through to settle the concerns of the Jewish Christians he was preaching against the law. Hey and Meakin propose that the antecedent was that the "no such thing" that had been taught concerned the Jewish Christians thinking it was no longer necessary for them to circumcise their children or walk according to the customs:
If one searches the context, the logical answer is--'not to circumcise their children nor walk in the customs (verse 21). That is, the disciples are stating clearly (in the Textus Receptus) that their judgment did NOT endorse the abandonment of circumcision of children or the observance of custom even for the Gentiles! (See note in the NIV Study Bible on Romans 3:31) The rumor was that Paul taught antinomianism to the Jews; the Jerusalem Council had not only denied that (v25)?they denied he had even taught such to Gentile Christians!) Rather, or instead (EI MI), their judgement had endorsed the view that Gentile Christians were effectively foreigners grafted into Israel and should obey certain rules. The Church of God is not the replacement for Israel--it is the continuation of Israel.
The problem with this analysis is its radically reactionary implications?it means infant circumcision is still binding on Christians, as well as various aspects of the ceremonial law, such as these purification rites, which one would think have been clearly abolished (Heb. 9:9-10; 10:1-10). Paul's endless denunciations of circumcision never seem to be so hedged. It may merely mean the purification rites and related ceremonies these Jewish Christians wished to participate in were abolished, but not the laws required of gentiles to live with the Jews mentioned in Acts 15. But this wouldn't mean the whole Torah had been nullified. Nevertheless, this subject is in need of further study?but to say Acts 15 generally obliterated the Torah, including not just the Ten Commandments but the two great commandments, is a non-starter. It's time to look for alternatives.
WAS THE LETTER OF THE LAW CONSIDERED ABOLISHED IN II CORINTHIANS 3?
Now in this light we should examine that happy hunting ground of antinomians known as II Cor. 3:3-11, especially verses 7-8 (NWT): "Moreover, if the code which administers death and which was engraved in letters in stones came about in a glory, so that the sons of Israel could not gaze intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, [a glory] that was to be done away with, why should not the administering of the spirit be much more with glory?" These verses could be describing one of two different things, depending on what the "tablets of stone" (v. 3) and the "letters engraved on stones" (v. 7) are referring to. If they both refer to the stone tablets Moses brought down from God that He had written the Ten Commandments on (Deut. 4:13; Ex. 31:18), which strongly seems to be the context (v. 7 when compared to Ex. 34:29-30), then they mean that the mode of how the law is now obeyed has changed, not the law itself. Again, if the new covenant concerns God's promise to "put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts" (Heb. 8:10), it's not obvious how this automatically changes the actual contents of the law, as opposed to its mode of administration (compare Rom. 7:14). It's clear now since "the Spirit of truth . . . will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13) and from Israel's general failure to obey God that human effort enforced by the laws of a physical nation's government doesn't create converted spiritual minds, but that the Holy Spirit working within us can and does (Rom. 8:12-14). But this doesn't mean the Ten Commandments' specific points have been abolished in their literal letter (James 2:10-11), for the law STILL brings death if disobeyed before conversion after Jesus' crucifixion occurred in 31 A.D. (Rom. 7:11): "for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment deceived me, and through it killed me." Hence, as per verse 6, the letter kills (not the past tense of "did kill," which it should if it had been abolished), but the Holy Spirit gives life because having it is the pledge or guarantee that we are saved (II Cor. 5:5; Eph. 4:30; 1:13-14). Hence, "that which fades away" (v. 11) here wouldn't be referring back to the law itself, but to its spiritual death penalties (compare Rom. 7:5-6). For while the law sets the standard of righteousness (James 1:23-25), it gives us no power to obey it (Heb. 7:19), and condemns us when we violate it (Gal. 3:10; Rom. 7:8-13). This is why "the letter kills." The law brings wrath, not mercy (Rom. 4:15). For we must realize that the law and the Spirit have different roles to play in Christians' lives. Basically, the law reveals to us what to do in order to obey God, while the Spirit helps us to obey the law, and is what will make us immortal, thus granting us eternal life (Gal. 3:3; II Cor. 5:5; Rom. 8:10-11). Of course, various parts of the letter of the law were abolished (Eph. 2:15; Heb. 9:9-10, etc.), but this doesn't mean ALL of the letter of the law has been abolished. However, under the new covenant the law is written on our hearts (Heb. 8:10), not just on tables of stone or by phylacteries on foreheads (Deut. 6:8), "in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4).
However, we need to consider the possibility of an alternative or secondary meaning to II Cor. 3. "The ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones" (v. 7) may refer to the words written to administer the laws of the nation of Israel as engraved on large stones, as mentioned in Deut. 27:2-4, 8 and Joshua 8:32. "Paul was not talking about stone tablets. He was talking about massive stone walls!" In Deut. 27:2-3 Moses commanded: "So it shall be on the day when you shall cross the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God gives you, that you shall set up for yourself large stones, and coat them with lime and write on them all the words of this law [not just the Ten Commandments], when you cross over, in order that you may enter the land which the Lord your God gives you . . ." Such a writing on stones of the civil laws of Israel was not a practice unique to them, for the ancient Roman republic by 450 B.C. had posted on twelve brass tablets its laws on the speaker's stand in the Forum. This was done so that average people (the plebians) could read the laws for themselves and avoid being taken advantage of when ignorant of them in court cases, etc. By this interpretation, the (ad)ministration of death would be the physical death penalties Israel's theocratic government (ad)ministered against those who violated the law (Lev. 24:16, 20:9; 24:17; 20:10; Ex. 31:15; Deut. 22:22). Since the church and state aren't directly authorized to be united by God in the post-crucifixion, pre-millennial period, this civil "ministration" has ended as well. Note again that doing away with the old (ad)ministration of the law doesn't abolish or "transform" [i.e. change the contents] of the Ten Commandment themselves so far as this passage goes. However, the end of Israel's theocracy would also end the physical death penalties found in its civil law, under this viewpoint. For the old covenant's end doesn't abolish the Ten Commandments, since neither "the ministration of condemnation" (v. 9, KJV) nor the old covenant were the law itself.
LAW OF CHRIST VERSUS THE LAW OF THE ETERNAL?
A tiresome argument that attempts to evade how Paul would also speak about the law positively is to say the law of Moses, or the Law of Jehovah is no longer binding, but the law of Christ is binding. For example, John Curry states: "The Mosaic law was God's law for the physical nation of Israel under the old covenant. The law of Christ is God's law for Christians in the New Testament era. The two are not the same." Such a distinction can only survive by constantly reading it into such texts as Rom. 3:31 and 7:7-12. After all, Paul quotes the letter of the Old Testament law in v. 7, the tenth commandment against coveting, and says nothing about it being abolished. One should find some general statement where Paul says "[the law of] Christ replaced the law of Jehovah [or Moses]," but such a scripture won't be found. The law of liberty is or includes the Ten Commandments (James 2:8-12). While no doubt various aspects of the letter of the law were abolished, and now the Holy Spirit writes the law of God on our hearts (Jer. 31:33), this view of the law assumes but does not prove such a radical discontinuity concerning the specific points of God's law that are still in force. Basically, weren't Christ and Jehovah (the Eternal) one and the same? So, why should their laws be any different, unless clearly specified to be otherwise? It's suspiciously convenient how this magical dispensationalist change in the law gets rid of the things we don't want to do, such as observe the Sabbath, the Holy Days, tithing, the clean and unclean meats distinction, etc., but keeps everything else. This procedure in which all Christians agree the letter of the other the nine commandments is still binding, but the new covenant 'transforms' the law such that the letter is no longer binding for the fourth, is highly suspicious a priori. It implies, by some sort of natural law theory, that these "Jewish laws" that were just supposed to be landmarks that distinguished the Jews from the gentiles as "the works of the law" are abolished, but that the rest of the laws that are kept because they are universal in nature. Really, such a theory only becomes a priori plausible thanks to some 1900 years of traditional Christian apostasy from them.
WHAT WAS THE LAW THAT WAS DISCUSSED IN GALATIANS 3?
Now how to properly interpret what and which law(s) were referred to in Gal. 3:24-25 provoked enormous controversy in the SDA church at its 1888 convention at Minneapolis, spilling over into the issues of righteousness and justification by faith. Now we face the same debate they did: Is the law of Gal. 3:24-25 a reference to the ceremonial law? Or is it the moral law (i.e., the Ten Commandments, Deut. 16:5, Lev. 19:18, etc.)? The best view is that it was both. Note that Gal. 3:10 refers to "ALL things written in the book of the law to perform them." Verses 10, 12, and 13's references in the Old Testament point to or are in the context of the moral law when looked up, not the ceremonial. The second half of v. 21 strongly points to the moral law: "For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law." But now, we turn to the biggest and trickiest issue in interpreting this passage: What does Paul mean by "under the law" (here in v. 24-25, "tutor," NASB, "schoolmaster," KJV)? Is the dispensationalist interpretation correct, which means we are no longer under the jurisdiction of the law? Or, rather, does it mean we personally are "under the law" (i.e., under condemnation) when we are personally guilty of violating it until we accept Jesus as our personal Savior? Obviously, nowadays, Pasadena pushes the dispensationalist view:
Christ is the Seed, and the old covenant is now obsolete. The new covenant has a new set of laws, though many are the same, and our relationship with God is on a different foundation, based on a different agreement. . . . We are not under the old covenant laws--except, of course, those that are also part of the new covenant.
But, is this view of what "under the law" means the ONLY one possible?
WHAT DOES “UNDER THE LAW” REALLY MEAN?
Consider how Paul defines "under the law" in Rom. 3:19, KJV: "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world [not just the Jews] may become guilty before God." Here "under the law" means to be under its condemnation, not its jurisdiction. We also find this meaning in Romans 6:14-15: "For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!" If "sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4), then the law still exists although we aren't personally under it once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior. Shall we break God's law (i.e., sin) because we aren't under the law (i.e., its condemnation)? Of course not. Also note how Paul sees sinners as "under sin," which seems to be analogous to being "under the law." "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks ('all the world'--v. 19) are all under sin" (Rom. 7:14). Speaking of himself, Paul said his evil human nature--"the law of sin"--was "making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom. 7:23). (Note that the "law of sin and death" in 8:2 is likely a reference to evil human nature when considering the preceding context). In Rom. 5:21, "sin reigned in death" i.e., was over us, as a king is over his subjects. If the curse of the law is being condemned for breaking it, Gal 3:10 also gains significance here: "For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.'" You become cursed when you fail to obey--that is, sin--thus meriting eternal death. Hence, there is good evidence that when Paul uses "under the law" phraseology, it can be used to mean condemnation rather than being under the jurisdiction of the law during an old covenant dispensation.
Now, in order to argue for the jurisdictional interpretation of "under the law," the following verses are cited (I Cor. 9:20-21): "And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; 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." But do these verses clearly support this interpretation? One could interpret v. 20 to mean these unconverted Jews felt a sense of being condemned by the law, i.e. as sinners due to breaking it. But Paul, "not being myself under the law" as he said, wasn't a guilty sinner due to accepting Christ as his personal Savior. Therefore, since he was no longer under the condemnation of the law (Rom. 8:1), he wasn't "under the law." The gentiles are "without law" in the sense of not knowing the Eternal's (Jehovah's) Old Testament revelation of his Law. (However, as a kind of "natural law" theory, the gentiles did have a law based upon their human reasoning of what was right and wrong on their own--Rom. 2:14-15). Hence, they aren't as apt to feel personally guilty for failing to obey God being in a state of relative ignorance. While the wording is convoluted--"though not being without the law of God"--it appears Paul sees it as largely the same as "the law of Christ." After all, if Christ is God (John l:1, 14; 10:30, 33; 20:28), as well as the Eternal of the Old Testament who inspired Moses' writing the law, then the "law of Christ" and "the law of God" aren't apt to be very different! Hence, this seeming "proof text" for the jurisdictional interpretation of what "under the law" means is ambiguous enough that it can easily be made to fit the personal condemnation interpretation instead.
When examining Gal. 3:15-25, we have to determine whether Paul is using a dispensationalist/jurisdictional interpretation, or means our personal condemnation as sinners is resolved by Christ's sacrifice. Very suggestive here is v. 22: "But the Scripture has SHUT UP ALL MEN UNDER SIN, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." Isn't it rational to see "under sin" as analogous as to being "under a tutor," judging from the above? To be under sin to be on death row spiritually speaking (Rom. 6:23), so it can 't be easily said the law was a shield protecting the people of God here. Then v. 23 seems to be similar in saying, "We were kept in CUSTODY UNDER THE LAW." Both verses seem to be referring to personal condemnation then, if we use v. 22 to explain v. 23's greater ambiguity, remembering to be under sin's penalty leads to a spiritual death penalty (Rom. 6:23). And if we are sinners condemned by the law as God's standard of righteousness (note James 1:23-25), what are we to do? "Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). We look to Christ and His sacrifice to save us from our sins: "For Christ is the end (goal, NASB margin) of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:4). "Therefore, the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). As Walker commented: "So Paul was not talking dispensationally, but experimentally. He was not speaking of conditions which existed before the cross. He was speaking of his standing as an individual after exercising the 'faith of Jesus Christ' as contrasted with his personal 'shut-up' condition before the exercise of this releasing faith in Jesus Christ." Hence, the dispensationalist/jurisdictional interpretation of Gal. 3:19-25 is highly dubious compared to the personal condemnation interpretation.
THE LAW WAS “ADDED”?
Note Gal. 3:19, which may be the most mysterious verse in this passage: "Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions ("to make transgressions manifest"(NWT), "for the sake of defining" (NASB, margin)), having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made." The phrase "it was added" seems analogous to Romans 5:13 and 5:20: "For until the Law sin was in the world" and "the law came in," in implying the law had no existence until Sinai. But we know the law existed before Sinai (Gen. 26:5; Ex. 16:4, 28-29; 18:16). Furthermore, since the law defines sin (I John 3:4; Rom. 3:20, 4:15; 7:7-9; I Cor. 15:56; James 1:23-25; Lev. 4:27), there could be no sin if the law didn't exist: "But sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Rom. 5:13). Are we going to make Romans 5:13 self-contradictory in order to prop up antinomian dispensationalism? What is meant here is that the law didn't exist in written form, and had largely, if not completely, been forgotten by Israel while in Egypt. God had to reveal it again to bring it clearly to their attention, and make them personally responsible for it by ending their great ignorance (compare John 9:41), so "that the transgression might increase" (Rom. 5:20). Hence, "it was added" doesn't mean the law got created for the first time at Sinai.
But, what was it added TO? The SDAs agree with Pasadena that the law given at Sinai didn't set aside the Abrahamic covenant "based on faith in God's promise." However, they go on to say that the law was added to the Abrahamic covenant, but didn't cancel it, based upon Gal. 3:15. As Moore put it: "The law could be added to the promise to explain and enhance it, but it could not replace the promise or even hold a superior position over the promise." This idea is brilliant, but it seems hard to reconcile with the plain meaning of v. 15, although he deals with that objection. Gane reconciles v. 15 with v. 19 in this interpretation as follows: "Just so, God's will, His agreement with Abraham, was not changed in any particular when the law was given at Sinai." Another solution, based upon a suggestion of Wheeler's, with support from the interlinear New Testament translation, the Emphatic Diaglott, is to note the alternative textual reading in various manuscripts, with them saying "It was appointed." Clearly, further research is needed on this question.
THE ALLEGORY OF GALATIANS 4: WHAT DOES IT PROVE?
Next on our hit parade, we should take up Paul's allegory of Hagar and Sarah and their children representing the old covenant (or fleshly Israel) and the new covenant (or the church) in Gal. 4:21-31). Pasadena presently cites this allegory to help prove its case that the Sabbath is voluntary:
But the physical keeping of the Sabbath is not part of our new covenant obligation (Galatians 4:1-31). . . . As Galatians 4:31 sums it up, 'Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.' The slave woman is a figure for Mt. Sinai (verses 24-25), and the free woman is a figure for Jerusalem above (verse 26), whose children are born of the Spirit under the new covenant, and not under the terms of the law given at Sinai (Galatians 3:18). The old covenant [here equated with the law, a false proposition as shown above--EVS] is not applicable to Christians. Our relationship with God is governed by the new covenant and is based on faith in Jesus Christ, not on the law.
While properly Pasadena gives these texts a dispensationalist interpretation, too much gets extrapolated from them nevertheless.
Note that Paul plays a word game on the term "law" in verse 21, using it dispensationally and as a reference to Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch: "Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?" He immediately follows this quote with a reference to Genesis, not Exodus, "For it is written . . ." (v. 22). As Walker commented, "But not withstanding the fact that he (Paul) started quoting from Genesis rather than from the twentieth chapter of Exodus, the dispensationalists still must have it that when Paul said 'the law' here, he had his mind exclusively on the Ten Commandments." When we turn to Galatians 5:1-13, where Paul gives us the "bottom line" of this allegory, he repeatedly condemns circumcision and also condemns justification by law. There's nothing here about Sabbath-keeping, the Holy Days, tithing, or the Ten Commandments as being non-binding on Christians. (For just because you aren't justified by the law doesn't mean you don't have to obey it). Hence, Pasadena and other dispensationalists are reading way too much into Gal. 4:21-31 if they think the latter are abolished as well.
Furthermore, when Paul said, "You who want to be under law," he well may have meant primarily the law of circumcision, and the ceremonial law generally, not the moral law or the Ten Commandments. Again, Gal. 5:1-12 is full of condemnations of circumcision. Also, judging from v.4, it is a condemnation of Christians trying to justify themselves by their works, which is hardly the same as saying God's law need not be obeyed by Christians (Rom. 3:31). As in Gal. 3:2-5, he also condemns those trying to be righteous while ignoring the Holy Spirit's role in helping us in v. 5: "For we through the Spirit by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness." Now, the dispensationalist interpretation here is surely in the main correct, for the ceremonial law was done away at the cross (Heb. 9:1-4, 9-10; Eph. 2:15). However, this doesn't prove the Ten Commandments were, or other laws you can find New Testament support for (Lev. 19:18) were abolished also. Again, Pasadena simply infers too much from this text.
THE CONTROVERSY OVER COLOSSIANS 2:16-17
Now, let's consider that key anti-Sabbatarian text, Col. 2:16-17, KJV: "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." Pasadena maintains that Col. 2:16-17 shows the weekly Sabbath was a shadow pointing to Christ, and since He came, the fourth commandment is no longer binding on Christians: "The Lord of the Sabbath has come, and the reality has replaced the shadow (Col. 2:17)." "Colossians 2:16-17 tells us that the reality, or substance, is Christ, and now that he has come, now that we have the reality and have entered into it, there is no more requirement for the physical figure, just as there is no more need for the physical sacrifices." But, is this correct?
The first problem that needs to be considered is whether Col. 2:16-17 even mentions the weekly Sabbath. This line of reasoning says that since the Greek word in Col. 2:16 translated "Sabbath days" (KJV) can be translated in the plural, and so therefore refers to the annual Holy Days of Lev. 23. Therefore, only they get abolished in v. 17 when "the body is of Christ." An example of this reasoning is found in The SDA Commentary, which points out that the word translated "sabbath days" in the KJV is ambiguous, and could be either plural or singular. It goes on to say since the weekly Sabbath is a memorial of creation, it can't be a shadow of things to
come, unlike the annual Holy Days. An example of this kind of reasoning by a Sunday observer is made by Albert Barnes, a Presbyterian commentator on the Bible:
The allusion here is to the festivals of the Jews. . . . There is not the slightest reason to believe that he meant to teach that one of the Ten Commandments had ceased to be binding on mankind. If he had used the word in the singular number--'THE Sabbath'--it would then, of course, have been clear that he mean to teach that the commandment had ceased to be binding. . . . But the use of the term in the plural number, and the connection, show that he had his eye on the great number of days which were observed by the Hebrews as festivals. . . . No part of the moral law--no one of the Ten Commandments--could be spoken of as 'a shadow of good things to come.' These commandments are, from the nature of moral law, of perpetual and universal obligation.
However, this interpretation faces the kind of devastating counterattack Bacchiocchi launches in his work defending the seventh-day Sabbath as still being in force. He notes verse 16 mentions the three time periods in sequence. For it starts with "an holyday" (annual), progresses to "the new moon" (monthly), and ends with "the sabbath days" (weekly). Five times in the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX), these terms appear in a similar or reverse order. To say the Greek word translated "sabbbath days"--sabbaton--refers to the annual Holy Days is illogical, for it means two different words in the same verse refer to the same time periods. This interpretation breaks the progressive order of going from yearly events to a weekly one. Also, the Septuagint uses a compound expression to refer to the annual Holy Days--sabbata sabbaton, "Sabbath of Sabbaths," not just the word "Sabbath" (sabbaton). (However, note that John 19:31, when mentioning the First Day of Unleavened Bread, doesn't use this compound expression). As HWA said himself:
Whenever the Bible uses the expression 'sabbath days' with new moons and holy days, it is referring to the weekly Sabbath days, the new moons and the annual holy days or feast days. The 'sabbath days' of Colossians 2:16 refers to the weekly Sabbath. Compare I Chron. 23:31 with II Chron. 2:4, 31:3; Ezra 3:5; Neh. 10:33; Ezek 46:3. If Colossians does away with the one, it also abolishes the other.
Hence, the SDA argument Col. 2:16-17 abolishes the Holy Days, but not the weekly Sabbath, is ultimately untenable. After all, would an Almighty God leave it up to whether one Greek word was plural or singular to tell us whether the weekly Sabbath was still in force, as Barnes seemed to believe?
IS THE SABBATH A MEMORIAL AS WELL AS A “SHADOW”?
But now, does this text really accomplish what it's said to do? One is faced with the factor that seems to be impelling Barnes toward the above interpretation: Could something created before Adam and Eve sinned, which is plainly a memorial of creation (Ex. 20:11; Heb. 4:4; Mark 2:27-28; Gen. 2:2-3), be a type of sin that Christ was later to take away? Note that this text is far more ambiguous than Paul's ringing denunciations against circumcision still being binding (I Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:2, 6, 11), which you would think a priori (before investigating the evidence) would be necessary to abolish one of the Ten Commandments. Verse 16 involves not letting other people--in context, the false Gnostic teachers harassing the Colossians--judge the Colossians concerning these activities (compare v. 22), which hardly qualifies as an abolishment. To say the "anyone" of v. 16 includes other Christians judging them is falsified by the surrounding verses, which aren't about Christians judging one another, as in Rom. 14 and I Cor. 8. The real force of this text lies in v. 17 for anti-Sabbatarians. But notice a funny thing here: These things "ARE" a shadow of things to come, not "were," which would make much more sense if they had been abolished at the cross. After all, we in the Church had long maintained that the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day are pointing to future, unfulfilled events at Jesus' second coming and afterwards. For here the type has not met the antitype, unlike the case with the Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost. Curiously, HWA's view that "the body of Christ," for the word "is" isn't present in the Greek, in v. 17 is a reference to the Church judging these things instead of outsiders, wasn't attacked specifically by the WCG in the latest round of changes. I've never seen an official refutation of this view, although it apparently got dropped by the time the November/December 1990 Good News came out, long before the 1992 Holy Day booklet revision. Dr. Stavrinides' view, which had replaced HWA's evidently, was that Paul was telling the Colossians to ignore the heretical teachers that they were dealing with. The latter were taking them to task concerning how to observe or do these ceremonies or activities. We can simply see all acts of obedience to God as being secondary to the reality that is Christ, which can't replace Him. Hence, we may say the Holy Days and the Sabbath are binding, but realize Christ is far more important than observing any of God's laws. Col. 2:16-17 simply doesn't prove as much as Pasadena likes to think.
But let's take another approach to dealing with Col. 2:16-17 if you dislike either HWA's or Dr. Stavrinides' views on interpreting it. Suppose for the sake of argument we say this text abolishes only what can be shown elsewhere as not binding. We shouldn't assume that a type (a prediction of the future) when fulfilled necessarily does away with type if their is a moral law component to the observance in question. After all, the Sabbath is a memorial of creation, and is firmly ensconced in the middle of the Ten Commandments (i.e., the summary of the moral law), not just a type of our rest of salvation in Christ (Heb. 4). One could say the Holy Days are indirectly derived from the fourth commandment in the same way a prohibition against fornication can be derived from the seventh. But do any texts portray the Holy Days as voluntary after Jesus died? Notice Zech. 14:16-19:
Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.
Here we find the type ("the shadow") has met the prophetic reality, the anti-type, yet it isn't abolished. Indeed, it remains involuntary under the pain of death. (Plagues and famines (due to a lack of rain) do kill people!) If these days are a yoke of bondage, proving those who observe them strictly are still under the old covenant mentally, why would Christ restore them during the millennium? Contrast Zech. 14 with Pasadena's claim it is voluntary: "So like the Sabbath, we keep the Festivals to celebrate salvation in Christ. . . . But the decision to take time from work belongs to the member." Again, why would Christ abolish these shadows through Paul, then turn around and make them binding again under the pain of physical death in the millennium? A dispensationalism run amuck can try to accommodate such twists and turns, but let's remember the basic truth of Heb. 13:8, and reconsider whether God would deal with humans so differently in varying time periods.
AMILLENNIALISM VERSUS THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
Two arguments are used against Zech 14:16-19 (or Isa. 66:23) as showing the Holy Days (or the Sabbath) are still binding on Christians. The first one could be called the amillennialist critique. Amillennialism, of which St. Augustine was one of the chief originators historically, chooses to take the book of Revelation and the kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament very unliterally. Most of them get spiritualized away and/or applied to the Church. This view denies both a literal millennium and that Jesus will come back to earth to rule with a literal government--the kingdom of God--over fleshly humans with material prosperity for all. There is only one resurrection for all humans, and Jesus comes at the END of the "millennium," not at its beginning. This school then says Zech. 14:16-19 proves nothing concerning the Feast being binding on Christians since such prophecies shouldn't be taken literally. Indeed, it appears some in the WCG go further, and say that the prophets were limited by their understanding of the future by the culture they were in. They simply projected what they knew to be enjoyable or good onto the future, and therefore what they wrote about can't be seen as binding for Christians. This latter view obviously amounts to repudiation of the Bible as the infallible word of God. Concerning amillennialism itself generally, its basic problem is that it has little respect for the Old Testament's kingdom prophecies as its prophets understood them themselves. Vance A. Stinson maintained:
[A]s Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., rightly notes: "To treat the older Testament merely as a vessel that has little or no content until the interpreter imports Christian meaning from NT texts is demeaning to both the older revelation of God and to those who first heard what they thought was the abiding word of God" (The Uses of the Old Testament in the New, Moody Press, Chicago, 1985, p. 145). Supposing for a moment that the spiritualized interpretations of Old Testament prophecies are correct, think of how disappointed the prophets would have been had they learned that God's promises to heal the breach between Israel and Judah, re-establish them in their land, and bless them abundantly were not to be taken literally. Kaiser is right: To strip Old Testament texts of their literal meaning and import spiritualized "Christian" meaning is demeaning--both to those who first believed God promises and to the inspired text itself! . . . [T]his by no means gives the interpreter license to strip away the literal meaning of those prophecies, or to understand them in a way in which the prophets would have never understood them.
Hence, before using the amillennialist critique against Zech. 14:16-19 as a prooftext for the Feast of Tabernacles, Pasadena would have to argue the general case for amillennialism to begin with, including making so much of the Bible so unliteral when the context would seem to demand literalness.
DISPENSATIONALISM VERSUS THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
The second argument against Zech. 14:16-19 proving the Feast is binding today is based upon (surprise!) dispensationalist theology. Here it will be pointed out that we see that things such as the animal sacrifices and a temple will exist during the millennium (Eze. 40:5, 42:1, 13-14, 20; 44:7, 9, 11, 15). Therefore, if such things are binding then, but have been plainly abolished during the New Testament age (Heb. 9:9-10; 7:18-19), therefore "(A)ll My appointed feasts" (Eze. 44:18) would get logically included in getting abolished for now. Here the problem is whether we can make distinctions in what laws are kept for Christians and which ones are abolished, as described earlier above. Since the New Testament church can be found to be observing these days, by implication or explicitly, there's good reason to believe they are still binding. The second point is whether God's dealings with man involve so many Old Testament practices getting abolished, then restored from scratch again in the millennium. Wouldn't it make more sense to see many of these practices, such as tithing, the Sabbath, and the Holy Days, continuing on in Christian forms before the second coming, instead of getting completely abolished then restored? Dispensationalism in its more extreme forms comes quite close to saying all that REALLY matters for Christian doctrine are the epistles, Acts and Revelation--some 12-13% of the word of God. Does that really make sense a priori? Shouldn't we use the whole word of God more fully than this? Doesn't it make more sense to assume certain things are kept in force, unless they get clearly canceled (such as circumcision) through the epistles or Acts, rather than saying it is all abrogated unless found ("seconded") in the letters to the churches? As Vance A. Stinson pointed out:
Many people take a "backward" approach to understanding the Scriptures. They attempt to understand the New Testament without the benefit of the Old Testament background, or they form ideas based on certain New Testament passages (or traditional interpretations of New Testament passages), and then read those ideas into the Old Testament. If we were to lay aside everything we have been taught about what the Bible supposedly says, begin afresh with a study of the Old Testament, and then, with our new foundation of understanding, study the New Testament, we would come to a much clearer understanding of what the apostles taught and of what the early church believed.
For the correct model of Bible interpretation involves an interactive approach, in which one uses the Old Testament to interpret the New Testament, and vice versa, as well as using the Gospels to interpret the epistles, and vice versa. One shouldn't assume that quoting the New Testament authorities on a given question exhausts all that really matters on the subject, since the Old Testament may have far more on a given subject than the New. The subject of creation clearly proves this point. It's unwise to take some of the most complex, ambiguous parts of God's revelation to man?Paul's epistles (note the warning in II Peter. 3:15-16)?and use them as your principal or exclusive lens for interpreting the rest of the word of God. For, taking Brinsmead's approach (in the Verdict articles distributed to elders and deacons in the WCG) of interpreting the Gospels by the letters, and the Old Testament by the New, prejudices your ultimate results when you start off with an incorrect interpretation of Paul.
THE ASSUMPTION OF RADICAL DISCONTINUITY
A basic assumption of dispensationalism is that a truly radical break occurred between the practices of Christians and Jews, something which is historically questionable. For example, note Acts 20:10: "And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law." And instead of rebuking these fellow Jewish Christians for being zealous for the law, he consented to doing a purification rite for himself at the temple (v. 21-26). Was Paul as much against "the Law" as dispensationalists commonly believe? Didn't he say to Felix (Acts 24:14): "But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets"? As Bacchiocchi noted:
One must not forget, however, that Christianity sprang up out of the roots and trunk of Judaism. The early Jewish converts viewed the acceptance of Christ not as the destruction of their religious framework, but as the fulfillment of their Messianic expectations which enhanced their religious life with a new dimension. The process of separating the shadow from the reality, the transitory from the permanent, was gradual and not without difficulty.
Hence, while an obvious degree of transition is occurring here, for these purification rites have been abolished (Heb. 9:9-10; 7:12, 18-19), such a historical situation puts the weight on the side of "It's not changed, unless Paul, etc. say it was," rather than the dispensationalists' version of, "It's changed, unless Paul, etc. say it wasn't."
COULD SHADOWS BECOME MEMORIALS?
Instead of following this topsy-turvy, woolly-eyed dispensationalism, which sees man's (and/or Israel's) relationship with God oscillating from law to grace and back again through the dispensations of the old covenant, the new covenant, and the millennium, let's consider an alternative possibility about the Holy Days: Couldn't "shadows" become "memorials" as type meets anti-type? Indeed, the Passover even started out as a memorial (Ex. 12:14). In this case, the memorials remain binding on Christians, but the meaning of the days in question have changed. I Cor. 5:7-8 is the best evidence for this view, for it has both literal and spiritual aspects to it: "Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." Since the Corinithian church at this time was full of sin and problems, to claim "just as you are in fact unleavened," has only a spiritual meaning is highly dubious. It becomes rather contradictory to claim "unleavened" and "leaven" have only spiritual meanings of getting sin out of our lives. For it tells them to "Clean out the old leaven" at the same time he says "you are in fact unleavened." Also, v. 8 could mention both types of leaven: "not with the old leaven, NOR with the [spiritual] leaven of malice and wickedness." The Greek word translated here as "just as," "kathos," according to Thayer's means "according as, just as, even as: in the first member of a comparison" which would imply a transition from what is spiritual to what is literal in this context. The man who had to be disfellowshiped for some type of incest (v. 1) who was the "little leaven" threatening the "whole lump of dough" (the local church) who had to be cleaned out as well. To say the principle of Rom. 8:1 is what makes them "in fact unleavened" runs into the problem that Paul in I Cor. 5 was clearly judging and condemning them in this passage (note verses 1-3, 12-13). For while "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus", we also have to remember I John 3:6: "No one who abides in Him (i.e., 'in Christ Jesus') sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him." Also, by writing to a primarily gentile church, to talk about being unleavened spiritually may have been hard for them to understand unless they actually had been doing it physically, for they would have lacked the Jewish background to automatically know what he was talking about. Therefore, there are good reasons to believe Paul was being both spiritual and literal concerning the Feast of Unleavened Bread, since the Corinthians literally had taken bread out of their homes then.
More evidence that the Holy Days "shadows" are likely becoming "memorials" is found in how the Passover service (communion, "the Lord's supper) commemorates Jesus' death. Note I Cor. 11:24-25: "'This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'" Note how the Passover was a memorial of Israel's deliverance from Egypt, which was a type of sin (Ex. 12:14): "Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord." Is it not now a memorial of Christians' deliverance from sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? And wasn't this memorial observed once a year (annually) on each Nisan 14-15? Why should we think the choice of when to observe it is totally arbitrary? The Passover had its symbols changed from slain lambs to the bread and wine, which correlated evidently with it going from a shadow to a commemoration or memorial. Similarly, we can find a number of New Testament references after the resurrection to these days, without the Christians mentioned nearby to them obviously having the possible motive of wanting to convert Jews to Christianity, which gets applied to Paul's visits to synagogues on the Sabbath (Acts 27:9; 18:21 (KJV, NKJV); 20:6; 12:3-4; 2:1; I Cor. 16:8). If they had been abolished, why mention them so often? Pasadena says they are often just time markers concerning the time of the year certain events occurred in Acts. But remember, Luke in Acts was evidently writing to a Greek (Acts 1:1, "Theophilus"), and if you didn't have a background in the Old Testament, you wouldn't find these "time markers" of much value. How many of us not raised in the church ever heard of these days before reading its literature and coming into it, except (say) as something you saw on a news broadcast about what the Jews were doing? Why, according to one of my handwritten marginal notes in my NASB Bible, do they get mentioned more in the New Testament (including the Gospels) than in the Old, yet are considered canceled? Again, the dispensationalist assumption that all of these things got abolished after the death of Christ needs to be proven, not assumed. Further, if observing a shadow denies Christ (compare on circumcision, Gal. 5:3-4), then why does Paul (according to the more reliable received text) in Acts 18:21 say: "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem"? Far more strained exegetical (interpretive) moves exist to establish Sunday observance than Holy Day observance.
THE CONTROVERSY OVER ROMANS 14’S DAYS
Romans 14:5-6 is another important text Pasadena urges upon us for making the Sabbath voluntary (KJV): "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.? When we examine this scripture, we find the context of Romans 14 doesn't involve discussions of the law, the new or old covenants, or the Sabbath and the Holy Days. Instead, it dwells rather narrowly on the subject of eating meat or vegetables, and not offending others or defiling your own conscience. Like Col. 2:16, there is this issue of human judgment involved, which might not be what God thinks: "[F]or that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). It could be that the Roman Christians were affected by the then-popular idea certain foods shouldn't be eaten on certain days, and they ended up judging each other for observance or non-observance. As Bacchiocchi observes:
Fifth, the fact that Paul devotes 21 verses to the discussion of food and less than two verses (14:5-6) to that of days suggests that the latter was a very limited problem for the Roman Church, presumably because it had to do with private conviction on the merit or demerit of certain days for doing some spiritual exercises such as fasting. Support for this view is provided by the Didache (ch. 8) which enjoins fasting on Wednesday and Friday than on Monday and Thursday, like the Jews.
Also, there's the possibility "every day" refers to work days only, not the Sabbath. For we find in Ex. 16:4-5 the manna fell "every day," but this was clarified later to exclude the Sabbath (v. 28-29). (Note incidentally how these verses prove the Sabbath existed before Sinai or the old covenant's ratification as a clear command not to work). And, as Bacchiocchi observed that there wasn't a fully converse situation concerning he who does not "observe the day to the Lord,": "[Paul] does not even concede that the person who regards all the days alike does so to the Lord." Certainly before we rip out one of the Ten Commandments, we had better come up with something more clear than this text.
GALATIANS 4’S DAYS AND SEASONS: A REVERSION TO PAGANISM?
Galatians 4:9-10 is another text Pasadena is now citing to prove the Sabbath and Holy Days have been done away : "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years." The basic problem with saying this refers to the Sabbath and Holy Days is that in the immediate context of the passage Paul discusses how the Galatians came out of paganism: "However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are not gods." What the Galatians would be apt to do if they would "turn back to the weak and worthless elemental things" would be to go into paganism again. For it must be noted that Paul didn't write the words "Sabbath" or "Festival" or even "new moon" (the Feast of Trumpets lands on a new moon). Unlike Col. 2:16-17, the targets here aren't obviously Old Testament observances. The term translated "elementary things" ("elemental spirits"--RSV), "stoikheia," which were what the Galatians were returning to, could well be a reference to gentile practices. Since the Galatians were gentiles, and hadn't practiced Old Testament rituals, it doesn't make much sense to say they were RETURNING to that which they had never been involved with before becoming Christians. Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich's lexicon (p. 769) mentions how according to some authorities "stoikheia" refers to (their emphasis) "the elemental spirits which the syncretistic religious tendencies of later antiquity associated w. the physical elements. . . . It is not always to differentiate betw. this sense and the next, since heavenly bodies were also regarded as personal beings and given divine honors." While various scholars will say this term is at least in part a reference to Old Testament practices, such an interpretation doesn't make much sense in the immediate context of v. 8. Compare this appearance of "stoikheia" to Col. 2:20's use: "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees . . ." Perhaps some worldly gentile philosophy ("according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world"--v.8), and maybe some kind of ascetic Jewish gnosticism judging from verses 21-22, were mixed together at Colossi, with the former predominating. Hence, to assert Paul in Galatians 4:9-10 was referring to Old Testament practices is dubious when the context of v. 8 is considered.
THE ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE AGAINST THE SABBATH
Now Pasadena says there is no affirmative command for the Sabbath in the New Testament: "The Sabbath does not appear in any of the 'sin lists' in the New Testament. Nor does it appear in any of the commands or lists of virtues in the New Testament." Here a tempting logical fallacy gets committed: the argument from silence. Robert Morey described it as fallacious because: "making positive pronouncements on the basis of silence is logically invalid." I could reply neither slavery nor polygamy get condemned by those names in the New Testament, therefore, both are permissible. If the dispensationalist assumptions get rejected, does it really matter no affirmative command is found in the New Testament? Wouldn?t the Old Testament be enough? Further, here's a tempting argument from silence to make in reply: If abolishing circumcision created such an uproar (Acts 15, etc.), why don't we find the abolition of the Sabbath creating a similar uproar that ought to have been recorded? In point of fact, let's consider a command of Jesus in Matt. 24:20: "But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath." Since in context this applies to both the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and to the second coming, Jesus' ordering Christians to pray this makes little sense unless the Sabbath would continue to be holy time to God. Pasadena attempts to duck this text by saying Matthew was written to the Jews primarily, and concerning the difficulties of Christians fleeing from cities where gates, etc. would be closed on the Sabbath by Sabbathkeeping Jews. The problem with this interpretation is that it takes Matt. 24 much to narrowly, and sees it primarily as a message concerning the prophesied events of 66-70 A.D. to Jews or Jewish-Christians, forgetting Jesus' message in Matt. 24 was for all Christians until the time he would return. Indeed, the most specific events concerning the encirclement of Jerusalem are found in the gentile Luke's version of the Olivet prophecies (Luke 21:20-21, 24), not Matthew's. Although flight to the place of safety, as with other emergencies, would be a good enough reason to do a kind of work on the Sabbath, nevertheless, Jesus told us to pray in advance to avoid an ox-in-the-ditch situation. And remember, the root of the word "Sabbath" means "to cease, desist" (Vine's), so just because the wording of 24:20 in ordering us not to work on it isn't repeated here doesn't mean we can. We should assume nothing has changed concerning how to observe it, unless specifically told in scripture otherwise. We need to stop assuming dispensationalism is true necessarily--that a command of God isn't in force unless repeated nearly word for word in the New Testament or in Paul's letters, etc.
A positive command to keep the Sabbath is implicitly found in Mark 2:27-28: "And He was saying to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Now if the Sabbath was made for "man," not just the Jews, this implies it still would exist even after God's special relationship with the Jews ended. Even Pasadena says, "Jesus did not argue with the Pharisees about whether to keep the Sabbath--but he certainly argued about how to keep it." Note the similarity to John 8:2-11, where he told the woman caught in adultery to sin no more (so the basic law was still in force). However, He refused to stone her (releasing her from the requirement of the civil law of Moses that required her death by execution which was to end with His own death). Similarly, the disciples were fulfilling a humanitarian need by plucking the ears of grain for food, which follows a basic part of the New Testament Sabbath command ("So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath"--Matt. 12:12), but Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their legalistic overkills concerning the Sabbath (v. 24-26). So this text can easily be seen as affirmative evidence for New Testament Sabbath observance, for it was made for, not against, us. As Tucker commented: "Here Jesus says that He made the Sabbath for man. I am a man. If the Creator stands there saying to you, 'I made the Sabbath for you, it contains a bit of love in every minute of the day,' I ask you, 'What further command do you want?'"
IS THE SABBATH ALSO LITERAL IN HEBREWS 4?
Now let's carefully look at Hebrews 4, to see if the Sabbath here only has a spiritual meaning, or a literal as well. Here we can see the Sabbath is spiritually a reference to a condition of salvation for Christians, although strictly speaking it doesn't literally mention the millennium or the kingdom of God here. Note how we get something literal in verse 4: "For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day, 'And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.'" For God's rest on this day at creation was a literal event, and by doing so he made the day holy. Yet in the next verse, we have an obvious spiritual meaning, as it refers to salvation: "And again in this passage, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" Now notice verse 9: "There remains a Sabbath rest (Vine's has "a keeping of a sabbath" as one rendering) for the people of God." Here, suddenly, a different Greek word is used to refer to rest from that found elsewhere in the chapter: Could this change not imply it's also literal in meaning? Bacchiocchi points out that: "This term occurs only once in the New Testament, but is used several times as a technical term for Sabbathkeeping in post-canonical literature by Plutarch, Justin, Epiphanius, the Apostolic Constitutions and the Martyrdom of Peter and Paul." Then notice v. 10: "For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His." Note that God literally did rest during the "creation week," so to interpret this as ONLY having a spiritual meaning is absurd. Then v. 11: "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest . . ." For while the spiritual meaning of the Sabbath is paramount here, a literal meaning is present as well, for God incontestably literally did rest on the seventh day. Therefore, this "Sabbath rest for the people of God" should be seen as literal as well.
PAUL’S VISITS TO SYNAGOGUES
Now when Paul's preaching in synagogues on the Sabbath gets discussed (Acts 13:14-15, 42-44; 17:2; 18:4), surely the main anti-Sabbatarian reply back is that Paul believed the Sabbath had been annulled, but he had to go to synagogues on the Sabbath to find Jews to preach about Christ to. This argument suffers from a problem in that it remains to be proven Paul thought the Sabbath was abrogated. But then, suppose we could find Christians likely worshipping on a Sabbath separate from visiting a synagogue? Note Acts 16:3: "And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women assembled." If preaching to the unconverted on any day was equally good in Paul's view, given an available audience, he presumably didn't need to go by this riverside on the Sabbath to find someone to speak to. Any day might have been equally good, if women were washing clothes, etc. by it. Similarly to Isa. 66:23, in which the Sabbath is shown to exist after the millennium, we see Christians engaged in religious activities on the Sabbath after the crucifixion. Should we assume that all these mentions of religious activities on the Sabbath have no force in proving it still exists?
Now Pasadena says that while Christians should still assemble on the Sabbath, there's no command for them not to work on the Sabbath:
"We know that we should not neglect assembling with the Church (Hebrews 10:25). . . .But to say that the Sabbath is a binding command on Christians in the New Testament and to forbid employment as a requirement for membership, is to misunderstand and misapply the scriptures. . . . (On the other hand, to play golf or go to sports stadiums instead of assembling for worship is wrong)."
"We are under the new covenant, you see, and the new covenant simply doesn't require the Sabbath in the same way that the old covenant did. We see New Testament examples of Sabbath-keeping, but we don't see commands like the Old Testament had: Do not gather food, do not carry a burden, do not travel out of the city, etc."
But here again Pasadena falls into the dispensationalist trap of tending to throw away the Old Testament and maybe even most of the Gospels as ethically insignificant for Christian behavior. Comparing with Matt. 23:23, it's obvious the Jews often had obeying the letter of the law down well, as Jesus' arguments with the Pharisees about proper Sabbath observance show. However, they needed to follow the spirit of the law more (Matt. 5:22, 28, 34, 39; Matt. 23:23). They needed to realize their need of Jesus to save them in their sins and from future sinning. Hence, given this evident cultural bias, God wouldn't inspire the New Testament writers to emphasize what the Jews often were already obeying well, but to do what they were neglecting: "the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness" (Matt. 23:23). Jesus and the apostles are naturally going to spend more of their time correcting the Jews' biases and mistakes, instead of repeating the Old Testament to them, which they often knew already well enough. Arguing from silence, combined with dispensationalist presuppositions, commits a logical fallacy, and simply isn't enough to go ripping out of the heart of the Ten Commandments the fourth one, or even to abolish other laws not in them (Note Acts 15:19-20). After all II Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof," not just the New Testament or the epistles, etc.
DOES HUMANITARIAN NEED OVERRIDE KEEPING THE SABBATH?
Also Pasadena wildly extrapolates from Jesus' arguments with the Pharisees about doing miracles of healing and the apparently very casual labor of the disciples in plucking grain (Mark 2:23-28) on the Sabbath to allowing full regular work on the Sabbath. "Jesus often healed on the Sabbath. There again, a humanitarian need was more important than Sabbath rules." True, it is correct to emphasize more it's good for Christians to do humanitarian work on the Sabbath. For we need to realize the Sabbath command involves a continuum or balancing act between its "stop" or "cease" side and its "freedom" or "deliverance" side. Here Pasadena has a legitimate point. The Seventh-day Adventists don't close their hospitals on the Sabbath. But it's quite a leap to go from doing divine miracles of healing, emergencies, and some casual grain plucking (which sure doesn't sound like serious gleaning) to saying working at your local Burger King restaurant or a General Motors assembly plant is acceptable. The precariousness of this extrapolation is evident for all to see.
Now Pasadena maintains: "But it is not correct to say that God demands that a breadwinner lose his job over the Sabbath. . . . If the choice is between working on the Sabbath and providing food for the family, it is not a sin to work on the Sabbath." To see the fallaciousness of this argument, consider a woman getting sexually harassed by her boss, and is given the choice to obey either the seventh commandment and get fired, or commit adultery with her boss, and so keep her job. If she obeys God, she gets fired, and her family may go hungry eventually. If she obeys her boss, her family may not go hungry, but she is then violated as a woman, and disobeys God. Which should she do? While Acts 5:29 applies most clearly to the state, it can sensibly be seen as applying to employers as well: "We must obey God rather than men." The same reasoning is equally true for the fourth commandment, not just the seventh.
THE DILEMMA OF MORAL ABSOLUTES WHEN THEY CONFLICT
Someone may reply to this argument that I Tim. 5:8 would override the need to keep the Sabbath in case of a conflict between the two for a breadwinner: "If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." An inflexibly enforced Sabbath command may cause another command of God to be violated. (Here we aren't dealing with short-term, temporary emergencies, or an "ox in the ditch" situation, but something that goes on for many weeks or months). This argument's problems go much deeper than it may seem on the surface, for it becomes a matter of philosophical discussion concerning the problem of obeying moral absolutes. As the philosopher James Rachels maintained:
The principal argument against absolute moral rules has to do with the possibility of conflict cases. Suppose it is held to be absolutely wrong to do A in any circumstances and also wrong to do B in any circumstances. Then what about the case in which a person is faced with the choice between doing A and doing B--when he must do something and there are no other alternatives available? . . . Do such circumstances ever actually arise? . . . During the Second World War, Dutch fisherman regularly smuggled Jewish refugees to England in their boats, and the following sort of thing sometimes happened. A Dutch boat, with refugees in the hold, would be stopped by a Nazi patrol boat. The Nazi captain would call out and ask the Dutch captain where he was bound, who was on board, and so forth. The fisherman would lie and be allowed to pass. Now it is clear that the fisherman had only two alternatives, to lie or to allow their passengers (and themselves) to be taken and shot.
The main solution to Rachels' dilemma, as well as the objector using I Tim. 5:8 against strict Sabbath observance, can be summarized in one word: faith. By praying to God, He can deliver us out of such dilemmas when one of His moral laws may conflict with another. For the God of the Bible is a living God, an intervening God, and He doesn't abandon His true servants without possible help in such situations. Note I Cor. 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." Such an argument as the objector's use of I Tim. 5:8 against the Sabbath observance could easily be used to overthrow the ninth commandment against lying if some "humanitarian need" would be served by it. Rahab's lie (Josh. 2:4-5) wasn't the best way out of her situation in God's sight. But since she was a gentile and a recent pagan, in her state of faith it may have been the best she could do (Heb. 11:31). God may be asking us when Sabbath observance conflicts with our job whether we will put our trust in Him rather than material things.
DOES “FULFILLED” MEAN ABOLISH?
Pasadena these days says "fulfilled" means to abolish effectively: "That doesn't mean that the Sabbath is done away, but it means the Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ. . . . It is holy, of course, in that we dedicate it to God, not in the sense that it is binding on Christians. The Sabbath has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ." So, does the word "fulfill" mean what it is asserted to mean here? Does "fulfill" mean to obey, to satisfy, to occur, or to abolish? Furthermore, which meaning of "fulfill," if any, is applied by Scripture to the Sabbath? If we use (say) Young's concordance to find out what this word can mean, we find it often means to obey. Gal. 5:16, KJV: "Walk in the Spirit, and yet shall not fulfill (i.e. "carry out"--NASB) the lust of the flesh." James 2:8: "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well."
In Matt. 5:17-19, Jesus denies "fulfill" means "abolition" relative to the law: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. . . . Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." The question here is how did Jesus "fulfill" the law--in one way, as a prophetic fulfillment, or in another, as in obeying the spiritual law in the letter and the spirit? When the context of v. 19 is considered, as well as the rest of Matt. 5, where the law is clearly not just "transformed," but intensified or made more strict in its burdens (v.21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-40, 43-45), it's dubious to claim Jesus didn't fulfill the law in the second way also. Verse 19 shows he wasn't only using "law" to mean the Pentateuch in verse 17. Hence, different laws mentioned in the Old Testament were logically "fulfilled," by Jesus in different ways. The animal sacrifices were fulfilled in the prophetic manner, while the laws against, say murder or adultery, were fulfilled by Jesus through Him obeying them. Unlike in prophecy, where when something occurs that means it has been "fulfilled," such as in Mark 13:4, the demands of the moral law can't be satisfied by a one-time event. It is a continuous principle in action that governs human affairs, so doing it--obeying it--constantly is necessary to fulfill it. Hence, Pasadena, in order to prove its case about certain requirements of the law being "fulfilled" in Christ, has to cite specific clear scriptures that show this or the law was a shadow of things to come, etc. which has a prophetic "fulfillment" in Christ that would end them, such as the animal sacrifices (Heb. 9:9-10). Also, there could be things which do point to Him weren't abolished, but changed in meaning from being a shadow--a prediction of the future--to a memorial of the event in question. This changes is implied by the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles in the millennium (Zech. 14:16-19) and the literal observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread in I Cor. 5:7-8. Hence, it is necessary to cite specific, clear verses to prove something has been fulfilled in Christ, which Hebrews 4:1-11 certainly doesn't concerning the Sabbath, for the latter doesn't even mention Christ. While the Sabbath typifies the millennium or the kingdom of God in advance, the fact it also has a memorial function concerning creation is disastrous to the idea that when it is "fulfilled," it is abolished. Anyway, since neither the millennium nor the kingdom of God have come yet, the type by this standard hasn't been "fulfilled" now anyway. Nowhere do we find Jesus doing away with the letter of the law in Matt. 5, except to modify it as to make it more binding (compare v. 31-32 to Matt. 19:8-9). For a foundational premise of Pasadena's views on the new covenant is that somehow having the law written on our hearts does away with the letter of the law in areas where the Old Testament law has not been clearly abolished (the Sabbath, the Holy Days, and tithing), a view Jesus gives little support to in Matthew 5 taken as a whole.
JAMES AND THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW
Note the issues raised by James 2:8-12: "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not commit murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty." First, notice how the command to love your neighbor as yourself doesn't obliterate the specific points or letter of the Ten Commandments as still being in force for Christians. For Romans 13:8-10 or Gal. 5:14 evidently get used by dispensationalists to obliterate the letter of the law (i.e. its specific points as written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit). Rather, there is a short way to describe the law (in which it is "summed up in"): love fulfills--i.e. allows you to obey, not abolish--the law, instead of stating it in the longer form of Ten Commandments. For while Jesus gave us "A new commandment . . . that you love one another," we can see from I John 2:7-10 that the command to love your neighbor as yourself wasn't only new. Note how Jesus quotes Lev. 19:18 in Matt. 22:40. It's a dubious operation to quote from the law (i.e. Lev. 19:18) to obliterate the rest of the law's specific points!
Consider again part of James 2:10: "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." If we are to obey the "whole law," (which evidently has a different definition here than it does in Gal. 5:3, where it includes the sacrificial law), can that be satisfied by obeying only nine points of a ten point law? Can you honestly argue the "whole law" excludes the fourth commandment? The Ten Commandments are treated as a unit in Scripture (such as in Deut. 4:13; 10:4; Ex. 34:28) and are treated as special and different from God's other commandments in various ways. The ark of the covenant had a copy of the law in it (Deut. 10:5), which means it copied something in heaven (Heb. 8:5). If the fourth commandment has been canceled, it means Christ as our high priest in heaven is officiating over a law that has been abolished! (Heb. 9:24; Rev. 11:19). Hence, it is dishonest to claim the fourth is done away without abolishing the rest without clear scriptures to such effect. You need something with the clarity of Paul's denunciations of circumcision to be able to tear out the fourth commandment out of the law, or for that matter, tithing and the Holy Days. (Unlike many Old Testament laws, the latter two do get mentioned in the New Testament, without a clear abrogation being attached to them).
THE SABBATH AS A YOKE OF BONDAGE, NOT A DELIGHT
Pasadena comments about the Sabbath: "But it is not a yoke of bondage around our necks. And God does not expect Christians to go into a poverty cycle to keep it." But, shouldn't we have a more self-sacrificing spirit, if indeed the Sabbath is commanded for us to obey literally, and not just "spiritually"? What about the great commandment in the law all Christians should obey: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37). Has God given us a religion of personal convenience? Note Hebrews 11:37-38 and how others sacrificed so much more than most of us members of the WCG have in this life in order to serve God: "They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground." Is Sabbath-keeping REALLY all that difficult for most WCG members today? Normally, we living in the English-speaking countries have it relatively easy, for our governments have left us alone concerning our religious beliefs and practices today. Indeed, in America, the '64 Civil Rights Act legally forces employers to hire us even when they don't want to!
SOME APPLIED “GAME THEORY” CONCERNING THE LAW AND THE SABBATH
Now, suppose you find yourself only half-persuaded by all the arguments above. Suppose you remain honestly uncertain whether these doctrine changes by Pasadena are correct. Let's take Pascal's wager about having faith in God's existence, and substitute in whether the Sabbath, the Holy Days, and tithing are still binding on Christians. Let's arbitrarily assign a 50% probability to each of the two possible situations: 1. These Old Testament practices have been abolished. 2. These Old Testament practices are still binding. You as an individual have two choices as well: 1. You can continue to obey them. 2. You can choose not to obey them. Applying some crude basic "game theory" to this situation, four outcomes are possible:
1. You obey, but they were abolished.
2. You obey, and they are in force.
3. You don't obey, and they were abolished.
4. You don't obey, and they are in force.
Which choice should you make? If (1) you obeyed, but they weren't in force, you are still saved. You just went above and beyond the call of duty, and spent (likely) more money supporting the preaching of the Gospel, and more time resting, fellowshiping, praying, and studying on certain days. If (2) you obey, and they were in force, you've done you duty to show works manifesting your saving faith in Christ, just as you would obey avoiding killing, stealing, coveting, etc. You are still saved then. If (3) you didn't obey, and they were abolished, then presumably you've managed to increase your pleasures in this life. But now notice (4): You don't obey, but they were in force, and they were just as binding as the laws against adultery, murder, theft, etc. Could you be saved then? No, for it's those who manifest their faith by obeying God who will be saved (James 2:14-26; Rom. 2:13; Matt. 19:16-22; Acts 5:32; Heb. 5:9). (Evangelicals will call this "Lordship salvation"--See MacArthur's The Gospel According to Jesus for details). Hence, the best strategy in a situation in which you are uncertain indicates you should continue observing the Sabbath, the Holy Days, and tithing once you were called to know these truths.
Somebody might reply, "Well, if Pasadena told me I didn't have to obey these things, and I didn't, God wouldn't hold me responsible because it was Pasadena's fault. Therefore, I would still be saved." This argument simply isn't convincing, for salvation is an individual matter, and Pasadena (the church's hierarchy) isn't you intercessor with God, especially if there are Christians in other churches besides the WCG: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). Fundamentally, you're the one who determines whether you are saved, not Pasadena, once it's clear God has called you to salvation in this life (John 6:44, 65). You can't claim ignorance of these commands, unlike most in the world, if you are a WCG member (compare John 9:40-41). To blame Pasadena for you not obeying these commandments, and expecting God to let you off, is similar to the excuse various Nazis gave at the war crime trials after World War II: "My superiors ordered me to kill the Jews, etc., therefore, I'm not responsible for my actions." I can assure you what could be dubbed "the Nuremburg excuse" won't save you on the day of judgment. Therefore, if you are uncertain whether or not to obey and are a WCG member who has received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, its' a lot safer now to obey rather than not to obey the Holy Days, the Sabbath, and tithing. Is taking even a small chance of ending up in the lake of fire, and losing eternal life, worth it?
“NEW COVENANT” CHANGES NOT NECESSARY TO PROVE WCG NOT A CULT
I suspect, although this obviously can't be proven by me, that a fundamental reason for these changes is that Pasadena is determined to prove we aren't a cult to evangelicals, and sees the way to accomplish this objective is to say the Holy Days, the Sabbath, and tithing are no longer binding on Christians as a requirement for salvation. Hence, to prove we believe in salvation by grace through faith, it seems Pasadena wants to throw these doctrines overboard to show we aren't a cult. The error here is that even the SDAs, who observe two of these Old Testament practices, and have Ellen White as a prophetess, are normally not called a cult by anticultists. The late Walter Martin, the most prominent of these, gave the SDAs a clean bill of health concerning the fundamentals. Their soteriology (salvation theology), being Arminian and espousing "Lordship salvation" may be unpopular with various Calvinistic, antinomian evangelicals, but having neither of these two positions makes a group a cult. Similarly, having earlier accepting the Trinity, the WCG fundamentally could not be called a cult by a doctrinal definition of this term. Basically, if a group affirms the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, says saved Christians exist outside its communion, and denies extra-biblical revelation, it can't be called a cult. Therefore, fundamentally, THIS LATEST ROUND OF DOCTRINE CHANGES WAS NOT NECESSARY TO PROVE WE AREN'T A CULT! Pasadena evidently commits the same mistakes the Hollywood elite make in Michael Medved's Hollywood vs. America: Just as that elite would rather turn out box office bombs and lose money to gain the artistic respect of left-wing art and film critics, Pasadena will do away with tithing and so imperil its own finances, to gain the respect of evangelicals that have called the WCG a cult. The main error of the character of Peter Keating in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead comes to mind in this context as well: He was far more concerned with what other people thought of him or the world as it appeared to them, rather than with what was true or right, even if unpopular. Mr. Tkach said recently that: "I'm sure you will understand that I have nothing personal to gain from our recent doctrine changes. In fact, I may end up with a few more enemies and more difficult decisions regarding how to manage our income." This is obviously true financially, as the present truly disastrous financial condition of the WCG shows. However, other things motivate men besides money, as Ayn Rand makes clear in The Fountainhead. Under this rather speculative analysis here, if Pasadena thinks that doing away with tithing, the Holy Days, and the Sabbath are necessary to prove we aren't a cult, it's sadly mistaken. And, since when should we please men rather than God?
IS LITERAL OBEDIENCE A CONDITION TO SALVATION?
True, our soteriology under HWA contained some legalistic overkills. He denied imputed righteousness, which is simply nonsense (Rom. 4:6): "Just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works." He overemphasized badly the "third" definition of salvation, meaning being turned into a spirit being at the resurrection ("glorification"), and neglected the other two in which you were saved in the past at baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit ("justification"), and are now being saved ("sanctification"). Nevertheless, as a whole, his system of soteriology is workable, and is acceptable in its broad outlines when compared to such an evangelical work as John A. MacArthur Jr.'s The Gospel According to Jesus (1988), the key "lordship salvation" work, or such SDA books as George R. Knight's The Pharisee's Guide to Perfect Holiness A Study of Sin and Salvation (1992), Arnold Walentin Wallenkampf's What Every Christian Should Know About Being . . . Justified (1988), and Questions on Doctrine (1957). However, if literal obedience is a condition to sanctification, which is the second stage of the salvation process, then we may have to say HWA was right to insist that literal obedience, not just an obedient attitude, was a condition to salvation. (Note Matt. 19:16-19; Rom. 2:13; 6:16, 19, 22; Heb. 5:9; James 2:19-26). For if, as shown by the MMT of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the term "the works of the law" has only a narrow, ceremonial law meaning that primarily deals with separating gentiles from Jews (compare the context of Gal. 2:12 and Eph. 2:12-14), then Luther was wrong to say faith only and no works in obeying the moral law were a condition to salvation. And so then we would have to bear the cross of "cultdom" permanently because of our soteriology if we sought to put the Bible's teachings before evangelical Protestant respectability.
PASADENA’S ERRORS SUMMARIZED
The foundational flaw of Pasadena's new-found quasi-antinomian dispensationalism is that the law gets equated to the old covenant without adequate proof this is the case. It believes the letter of the law, meaning its specific points, are done away with because of Jesus' death and because of the law now being written on our hearts under the New Covenant. It says the law of Christ is different from the law of the Eternal (Jehovah), even when these Personages are really one and the same. It treats the law of the Old Testament as one big package deal that go obliterated altogether, instead of seeing the law of Moses as having civil and ritualistic parts to it as well as, separately, the Eternal's Ten Commandments. It believes the change in how the law is obeyed by being written on our hearts by itself does away with the specific points of the law. Instead of assuming the Old Testament law is still in force, unless indirectly or directly abolished by various specific New Testament texts, it maintains that we can assume nothing from the Old Testament is in force unless found in Paul's letters, etc. concerning what was done after Jesus' death. Hence, all citations of texts mentioning Sabbath, the Holy Days, or tithing from either the Old Testament or Gospels can be evaded by saying they are for another dispensation than ours, whether it be for past Old Covenant Israel or the future millennium. Ultimately, all that is relevant for Christian behavior is some 12-13% of the word of God. It believes mere silence on some particular part of the law in this 12-13% is enough to obliterate it. Or, if something does get mentioned repeatedly in that 12-13%, such as the Holy Days, one needs a further specific command to observe it. It seems to assume obedience to God's law contradicts faith in Christ when it concerns these "Jewish" laws. Indeed, it takes for granted how traditional Christianity says these particular laws were really for Jews only, as marks of their covenant with God, by an implied reference to "natural law" theory, saying such laws can't be justified by it, unlike laws such as "Thou shalt not murder." Further, we get this rather ridiculous situation in which virtually everything gets herein discussed abolished for Christians now, but restored when Christ is personally on the scene directing the world during the millennium. Hence, Christ's once-for-all death only TEMPORARILY cancels ALL "old covenant" law, instead of PERMANENTLY ridding us of this terrible monster FOREVER, which certainly would make more sense if Pasadena's exegetical assumptions were really true. Doesn't it make more sense to see these things continuing on in the present New Covenant dispensation in which part of the Old Testament law is abolished, rather than all of it? A priori, the more extreme this swing from old covenant to new covenant to millennial kingdom is in creating and obliterating and restoring the law, the more unlikely it sounds. It may be assuming a rather ill-defined "love" is all that Christians need to obey God once they are saved, instead of seeing more specific direction is often needed (compare James 1:23-25, 2:8-12). For how do you know when it is the Holy Spirit which is leading you, instead of your carnal mind, except by using God's written revelation? It assumes a radical break occurred between Judaism and Christianity, instead of proving it. Ultimately, its greatest error is to imply grace contradicts law, forgetting that if there was no law, there would be no sin, and therefore no need for forgiveness by God's grace. Was all this what God had in mind when He said (Jer. 31:31-33): "'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah . . . 'I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people'"?
Eric V. Snow (alias "Jacques-Pierre Brissot")
P.S. This essay is declared to be in the public domain. This essay may be freely copied by others, both electronically and by xeroxing. Doing this, indeed, is HIGHLY ENCOURAGED. However, the author reserves the right to publish it under his own name.
Revised January 16, 1996
Click here to access essays that defend Christianity: 1. /apologetics.html
Click here to access essays that explain Christian teachings: /doctrinal.html
Click here to access notes for sermonettes: /sermonettes.html
Does Islam cause terrorism? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Moral Equivalency Applied Islamic History 0409.htm
Is the Bible God’s Word? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Is the Bible the Word of God.htm
Why does God Allow Evil? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm
Is Christian teaching from ancient paganism? /Bookhtml/Paganism influence issue article Journal 013003.htm
Which is right?: Judaism or Christianity? /Apologeticshtml/Is Christianity a Fraud vs Conder Round 1.htm
/Apologeticshtml/Is Christianity a Fraud vs Conder Round 2.htm
Should God’s existence be proven? /Apologeticshtml/Should the Bible and God Be Proven Fideism vs WCG.htm
Does the Bible teach blind faith? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Gospel of John Theory of Knowledge.htm
Links to elsewhere on this Web site: /apologetics.html /book.html /doctrinal.html /essays.html /links.html /sermonettes.html /webmaster.html For the home page, click here: /index.html