Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Paul vs. Jesus??

Click to read the the story of this picture: The Body is CHRIST!

Recently one of Clay Peck's studies was posted on Facebook (link) and a commenter brought a challenge against Clay, arguing that he used only Paul and did not reference Jesus (the commenter admitted Clay had cited Luke as well, but wrote that off since Luke was one of Paul's friends — forgetting of course that Luke gave us 1/4th of the words of Jesus). The comment reminded me of a blog post I had written two years ago...

I wrote a blog post originally in 2006 entitled "Paul vs. Jesus?" because having been raised and educated in Adventism, I had learned a sort of disconnect between Jesus and Paul, mostly the result of not allowing Paul's statements about the law to actually *mean* what they said. We couldn't take them literally because if we did, it would invalidate everything we had staked ourselves on and would seem to also pose grave moral danger. We didn't know the power of the Spirit that Paul spoke of, and having nothing but the sense of sight, indeed it made better sense (in our logic) to re-interpret whatever Paul said about law. Truth is we actually couldn't imagine what taking Paul literally would look like, because we couldn't see the superior power of the ministry of the Spirit over the ministry of the letter (the ministry of death).

Did Paul and Jesus speak differently? Did Paul misunderstand Jesus?
Or were we corrupting Paul by taking him at his word?
Was there something we were missing seeing?

Paul vs. Jesus?
Sunday, July 23, 2006 (edited July 16, 2009)

Recently in the FAF magazine, Proclamation!, Dale Ratzlaff wrote an article entitled, "Did Paul Misunderstand Jesus?", in which he addressed how sometimes people look at Paul's writings less authoritatively than the other parts of the New Testament. It got me thinking of how God helped me see the continuity between Christ and Paul, and how He used a few non-traditional sources along the way.

The faith of the denomination I was raised in was based largely on the Ten Commandments (the words/tablets of the old covenant), and it was basically their emphasis. Many churches in the denomination put the Ten Commandments in stained glass above the pulpit. Most Christian churches would display the Cross, Christ, or the dove of the Holy Spirit. Catholic churches might choose a nativity scene, the virgin Mary, or the Cross with Christ still on it. Consciously or unconsciously this front and center position can show what is at the center of not only our sanctuary, but our heart and thought.

Growing up, however, I didn't realize that we had an unnatural focus on the old covenant law. I learned that God wanted me to obey the Ten Commandments (the words of the old covenant!) before I learned that God is love. Basically, having learned the way of the Old Covenant from a very young age, I viewed the whole of the new covenant (and the whole the New Testament, actually) through the lens of the old! This is backwards; the new covenant is larger and more wonderful than the old. The old has a fading glory, while the new has a surpassing glory that never fades. Viewing things in this backward way would be like trying to see a full-color picture through a black & white lense—it's going to severely distort the reality of the color picture. Likewise there were many side effects and misunderstandings that resulted from reading the New Testament through the lens of the tablets of the old covenant.

One of the side effects was that we tended to overlook things Paul said—or more often we tried to re-explain what he said so that it meant something different from what it obviously meant. Even in our most frank moments of admitting that Paul really meant what he said, we couldn't accept what he wrote because it didn't seem to mesh with what James wrote. We liked the book of James much better because it seemed to make more sense to us when we were reading through the lens of the old covenant law.

As I continued to grow and read Scripture through the lens of the old covenant law, I noticed that Jesus in the gospels seemed to talk a lot more like James than Paul. As I read the gospels (in particular the synoptic gospels—Matthew, Mark & Luke) with the 'Law' focus as I had been taught and raised under, the bold statements of Paul began to seem very alien to the Jesus in the gospels. Paul's words talked of grace and faith, but it seemed that Jesus' words were more based on 'Law'. There seemed to be little harmony between the two.

Even after I came out of the denomination and was set free from the old covenant bondage, a little doubt lingered about the apparently different tones of Jesus and Paul. I prayed and surrendered to God, asking Him to help me understand and see things the way He sees them.

I'd like to share three or four things that helped me see and understand.

Praying to see the Gospel in James

I asked God to see the Gospel—the Good News—in the book of James. Somehow I had never done that. Often we run across things in Scripture we don't understand, but we don't do what ought to be obvious: ask God to explain! Instead we run all over the place and rack our brains trying to figure it out. Finally I laid down my ability to understand and asked God to show me His good news in the book of James. Several Gospel phrases immediately began to pop out:

"God gives generously to all without finding fault." (1:5)
"Mercy triumphs over judgment." (2:13)
"The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (5:11)

Over time the larger message of the book became obvious as well. The key verse is "Humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (1:21-22)

The context of James became clear: James was writing to people who were claiming Jesus' name but were living apart from His Spirit. They did not know His love nor those whom He loved—the poor, for example—and those most in need of His grace. The people Jesus had liked to hang out among were becoming shunned by the Christians that James wrote to. In a nutshell, these Christians knew Jesus' name but they did not know His heart. They knew of Him but they did not know Him.

The "faith and deeds" section was often used by legalists to subvert everything Paul wrote, yet as I looked closer at the example James gave of "obedience", I noticed that James was clearly not putting people back under the old Law. While he did speak to people who obviously knew the Law (and who still prided themselves on keeping it), the example of "deeds" he cited was Abraham sacrificing Isaac—something that the Sinatic Law would expressly forbide! (Not to mention the prostitution Rahab did and the lie she told to the Jericho authorities!) It became clear that James was talking about listening to God and following the voice of His Spirit in your life.

And the command of this voice, James argues, is love. The great commandment Christ gave us was "love one another as I have loved you", and it was this that James wrote about. If they did not know that love, John would've said they didn't know God at all. If they esteemed themselves better than the poorest among them, they had lost sight of the grace that had loved them—God had loved them even while they were His enemies!

"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom" (2:12). James obviously was referring to the law of Grace—which is not to be found dictated in the Torah. Instead it is the clear teaching of Jesus in the Lord's Prayer and in His parables, particularly the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. The law of Grace has set us free, so in turn we're not to act superior as if we've been set free because of something we have done. Instead we are to humbly see people through His eyes and love them just as He loved us.

(For more on James, I did a series of three pictures which I hope helps illustrate what he means by "faith and deeds" --that is, the deeds of faith-- here: The Believe On Jesus Series)

Sophie's World

I was in a bookstore one day and flipped through Jostein Gaarder's popular history-of-philosophy novel, Sophie's World. When I came across the section about Jesus I expected to see some kind of minimizing treatment of Him in keeping with the general unpopularity of Christianity in philosophical circles that I'd seen. What I found instead was something shocking. Here's a passage from the book:

Jesus himself demonstrated that he was not above talking to harlots, corrupt usurers, and the politically subversive. But he went even further: he said that a good-for-nothing who has squandered all his father's inheritance or a humble publican who has pocketed official funds is righteous before God when he repents and prays for forgiveness, so great is God's mercy.

But hang on—he went a step further: Jesus said that such sinners were more righteous in the eyes of God and more deserving of God's forgiveness than the spotless Pharisees who went around flaunting their virtue.

Jesus pointed out that nobody can earn God's mercy. We cannot redeem ourselves (as many of the Greeks believed). The severe ethical demands made by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount were not only to teach what the will of God meant, but also to show that no man is righteous in the eyes of God. God's mercy is boundless, but we have to turn to God and pray for his forgiveness.

In this "secular" book I began to finally see something that I felt I should've known all along: Paul wrote the meaning of what Jesus lived in His life! Jesus' life and actions taught the things that Paul expressed with words.

Having been raised under the old covenant law I could not see this simple fact, and because of it I thought that Paul & Jesus had different teachings! The legalist made his argument with "the Law" and with many of Jesus' harder sayings in the synoptic gospels yet totally missed the message of His actions and their implications.

So strong was the legalist's argument to my veiled eyes that I began to wonder whether Jesus had originally meant Christianity to be something of obeying the right laws fully. Christians today seemed to speak of a "personal relationship" with God, but looking through the eyes of the old covenant law, I couldn't see this taught in His life. This doubt, too, was helped into oblivion by something found a few pages later in Gaarder's book, when he wrote of Paul's visit to Athens and his confrontation with philosophers at the very heart of the philosophical world. About his speech, Gaarder wrote:

Paul in Athens, Sophie! Christianity has begun to penetrate the Greco-Roman world as something else, something completely different from Epicurean, Stoic, or Neoplatonic philosophy. But Paul nevertheless finds some common ground in this culture. He emphasizes that the search for God is natural to all men. This was not new to the Greeks. But what was new in Paul's preaching is that God has also revealed himself to mankind and has in truth reached out to them. So he is no longer a "philosophic God" that people an approach with their understanding. Neither is he "an image of gold or silver or stone"—there were plenty of those both on the Acropolis and down in the marketplace! He is a God that "dwelleth not in temples made with hands." He is a personal God who intervenes in the course of history and dies on the Cross for the sake of mankind.

Philip Yancey's comment about Paul

I had marveled at Paul's deep theological writings without ever really wondering where his concepts came from. Of course Paul spent much time with God, so I—and likely many others—assumed that what Paul wrote was all given him through a vision or revelation. While that is possible, I learned something very important from a comment that Philip Yancey made in his book, What's So Amazing About Grace?

Paul knew better than anyone who has ever lived that grace comes undeserved, at God's initiative and not our own. Knocked flat on the ground on the way to Damascus, he never recovered from the impact of grace: the word appears no later than the second sentence in every one of his letters. As Frederick Buechner says, "Grace is the best he can wish them because grace is the best he himself ever received."

Paul harped on grace because he knew what could happen if we believe we have earned God's love. In the dark times, if perhaps we badly fail God, or if for no good reason we simply feel unloved, we would stand on shaky ground. We would fear that God might stop loving us when he discovers the real truth about us. Paul—"the chief of sinners" he once called himself—knew beyond doubt that God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are.

... [This] man who led a campaign of torture went on to set a missionary standard that has never been matched. Paul never tired of describing that miracle of forgiveness: "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst."

Somehow Paul's conversion story had been something that I never connected with the teachings in his epistles! But now that I looked at it, the connection became obvious and visible all over his writings. Even more wonderful for me was how it brought to life the reality of what Paul wrote. I had seen what Paul wrote as though it were "theology"—that is, truths. Yet now I have begun to see that he was excitedly writing about the reality of what he himself was experiencing! He was discovering more and more meaning day by day from what Jesus had done for him, and he was sharing it with everyone he met. When Paul wrote that we "have died and have been raised with Christ and seated in heavenly places in Him", he was not writing some theoretical concept—no! Instead he was writing a reality that he himself knew was true!

I then began to notice that what other apostles wrote was also born out of their experiences with Jesus. Simon was called a "rock" by Jesus, and so he began to realize and preach that Christ is THE rock, and in fact each person is a precious stone to God (see 1st Peter chapter 2). John saw himself above all as "the one whom the Lord loved", and so he spent his breath telling as many people as possible that God is love and He has loved them. (Perhaps even "James the lesser" arose to champion the poor because he was often in the shadow of the other James, "James the great" —that is, John's brother. Even though the other James was apparently closer to Christ, maybe James the lesser knew he was equally the object of God's love and that God did not play favorites between the James', nor did He play favorites between any one man and another.)

Seeing "grace" as an actual substance

In reading Yancey's book I began to taste grace. Grace began to become a force or substance that I could feel. I could look back into my life and see it. And I could see when it walked into the room. When He speaks, grace comes to me. When He moves, there is grace. We can't always define grace, but once we receive it, we can learn to identify it when it comes our way. "That's it!" Perhaps we only need to learn to recognize its smell.

The rock group U2 has a song called "Grace", with words written by the group's Christian lead singer, Bono:

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace, it's the name for a girl
It's also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she's got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries the world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stains

Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty in everything
Grace finds goodness in everything

Looking Closer at the Sunday Blue Law Scenario

Reduced - coming face to face with the simplicity of Christ and Him crucified, and laying down the many, many volumes of things we have added to Him and His salvation. Click on the picture to read the complete story of the picture

A few months ago I received a comment on my "Why I left Adventism" letter (link) and wrote a somewhat exhaustive reply to it. The comment reads in part:

I inteded to reply briefly, and listed about four major points, but there were several others I thought of after I put up the reply...


Hi Mr. F-----,

Two favors to ask: First, in future comments, could you leave contact info or a link where I can reach you? Second, could you *not* write in all capital letters? It's very difficult to read (and sounds like SHOUTING). Thanks! (^_^)

There are several misconceptions in the topics you've raised and the question(s) you asked. I'll try to briefly summarize:

Firstly, protestants in general are usually not tied to a denominational directive. That is to say, whatever decisions are "made at the top" are not automatically accepted throughout the ranks of the churches. The "top" is generally representative instead of leading. Members look to the Bible for truth and faith, not to the statements of denominational leaders. This is particularly true in the growing trends of churches becoming "non-denominational". Hierarchies are being left behind (thank God!).

In contrast is Roman Catholicism which is probably the most famous hierarchial church system. Since ancient times, the Bishop of Rome (that is, "the pope") has been more than just a representative, but is said to hold the "office" of Peter (etc.). He is looked to for final authority on matters. Seventh-day Adventism works in a very similar way. The GC is looked to for authoritative statements and final say on matters. While there is great flexibility on certain things (but not on others), the hierarchial structure of SDA remains intact and important, and demands a certain submission from even the most diverging of its churches.

Now "off the radar" of Adventism is the case of the Eastern Orthodox churches. The Orthodox church is just as ancient as Roman Catholicism, and claims more members than protestant churches in the world. However, Orthodoxy has no "pope". Authority doesn't reside in one person, but in bishops and more importantly, in tradition. The bishops merely hold to the traditions passed onto them from the "church fathers" of the first millenium. (In a similar way that Judaism holds onto the traditions passed through the Mishna & Talmud, etc.)

I mention all of this to illustrate a fallacy in the question/topic you brought up. The fallacy is assuming that supposed agreements between "leaders" means that whole churches are going to adopt some measure such as "a Sunday law". Leaders in protestantism are not dictators, but are representatives. In Catholicism and Adventism, however, the leader/GC can be more dictatorial to a degree (both positions are subject to constituents, in-house politics, and concern about external image in some extent). Additionally, the rapidly growing reality of "non-denominationalism" seriously undercuts the SDA belief in protestants "uniting" under Rome, because more and more believers are fleeing denominational structures and finding fellowship locally without umbrella organizations.

Secondly, as "anti-Rome" as Adventism is, it does not hold a candle to how "anti-Rome" many protestants are, particularly those from Calvinistic/Reformed churches (which I would guess are about half of churches that call themselves "protestant" -- and are the most vehement about "being protestant"). Reformed churches base themselves on the teaching(s) of the Protestant Reformation, primarily those of John Calvin, but also those of Martin Luther (particularly his later book, The Bondage of the Will). The basis of their severe opposition to Catholicism is different than in Adventism, and this needs to be understood because it is a far more critical point than the basis of Adventist opposition.

Protestant opposition to Catholicism is based primarily on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This was the central teaching of the Protestant Reformation. This is what Martin Luther's message was all about. Salvation is accomplished for us by Christ's finished work on the cross, not by our works.

Adventist opposition to Catholicism, however, is based on the "day" of required worship. Adventism and Catholicism essentially have the same teaching on "justification by faith", which is that it is not by faith alone, but rather is "faith plus works." Adventism wholly misunderstood the Protestant Reformation because it saw the main point as the "wrong" day of required worship. You could say that the Protestantism's beef with Catholicism is about faith instead of works, while Adventism's beef with Catholicism isn't about faith, but rather is about which works... the claim being that the works are salvationally necessary, only Catholicism has the wrong works, while Adventism claims to have the right works ("Sabbath") necessary to be saved.

In short, Protestants have a different doctrine of how salvation is accomplished and how we are saved! Adventist and Catholics, however, have a very similar doctrine of salvation.

In other words, this means that agreement about a mere "day" will not bring Protestants and Catholics together. It would be far, far easier for Adventists and Catholics to unite than it would be for Calvinistic Protestants and Catholics to unite!

Thirdly, the views of Protestants on "Sabbath" are not as unified as the SDA scenario dictates. There are basically two very different streams of belief among Protestants about the Sabbath. One is the Reformed view, based on the Westminster Confession of Calvinism, which sees "Sunday" as the Sabbath. But there is another position which is very widespread and can be found in the Augusburg Confession based on Martin Luther's teaching:

"Does God require us to observe the Sabbath and other holy days of the Old Testament? The Sabbath was a sign pointing to Jesus, who is our rest. Since Jesus has come as our Savior and Lord, God no longer requires us to observe the Sabbath day and other holy days of the Old Testament. Does God require the church to worship together on any specific days? God requires Christians to worship together. He has not specified any particular day. The church worships together especially on Sunday because Christ rose from the dead on Sunday."

- Martin Luther, "Small Catechism" p.66-67

This is the position that the vast bulk of most Former Adventists believe, and which makes the most exegetical sense when reading the Scriptures. It is most apparent in Colossians 2:14-17, but also in Hebrews 3-4, Galatians 4 and Romans 14. The Sabbath, like the sacrifices, was a "shadow" of Jesus Christ. It was not the substance. Rather, the reality is Jesus Himself, who said, "I will give you rest." In Him we lay down our "works" (our attempts to justify ourselves by our works) and trust Him to save us. We rest in Him. In other words, the ancient Sabbath "day" was a shadow of justification by faith.

This was the "first" Protestant position on Sabbath. (It should be noted that one Sabbatarian spent several weeks talking to Luther about the arguments for Sabbatarianism, and that Luther considered them but at the end of the dialogue became convinced that the Bible shows the Sabbath fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and thus we should have a good time and even dance on Saturday!)

The "second" Protestant position is that Sunday is the new Sabbath. Ironically, Protestants of the "second" persuasion are more vehemently anti-Catholic than those of the "first".

However, for both types of Protestants, the doctrine of salvation is paramount; the GOSPEL is paramount. Views on the "Sabbath" are secondary and even flexible (as is in harmony with Romans 14). That is to say, how we are saved and WHO saves us is the most critical thing of all. It is not about a DAY, but rather it is about a MAN---the SON OF MAN! God the Son, Jesus Christ! We are saved by Him, and the "controversy" in the world is not about a "day", but rather about HIM. We are not saved by the "work" of keeping this or that "day". We are saved by faith through His grace.

Fourth, the identification of the Roman Catholic church as either of the "beasts" in the book of Revelation is not exegetically correct -- that is, it's sloppy interpretation, ignoring context and even plain logic. The angel tells John that the inhabitants of the world will be astonished when they see the beast,

"because he once was, now is not, and yet will come." (Rev.17:8)

At the time of this writing (first century A.D.), "Roman Catholicism" did not exist. But the angel said that prior to 100 A.D., the beast "once was". The Roman Catholic church & the Pope did not exist prior to the book of Revelation. If Catholicism/the Pope is the beast, then the book of Revelation (or the angel that instructed John) is a liar.

Fifth, the whole "great controversy" scenario of Ellen White and the early Adventists was not based on study of the Scriptures. It was based rather on the failed calculation of the date of Jesus Christ's return.

The SDA "pioneers" attempted to discover what Jesus said "no man" knew, and they condemned churches that did not follow them (EGW wrote that people who refused to follow Miller "had the blood of souls on their hands"). The message of salvation---the reformation truth of justification by faith---was swept aside. The gospel was considered insufficient to save you. It was more salvationally important to come out to the fields "to meet Christ" on October 22nd in order to be saved. If you didn't "come out", then you "did not love His coming". But Jesus said in Luke 17:20-21 that we are not to follow this kind of leading! (Sadly, because of Millerism there were people who sold their possessions, went insane, committed suicide, committed crimes, and there were people who even DIED out in the fields on the night of October 22nd, 1844, because it was so cold... a lot of the "fruits" of Millerism have been conveniently forgotten.)

The SDA "pioneers" were people who refused to believe that 1843-44 had been an error. The truth is that it was a simple matter: they had been excited by Miller's calculations (which upon examination are far less than scholarly and border on the ridiculous at times). They had been excited and had "stood strong" with Millerism even when churches opposed them. At the end of Millerism, they simply couldn't admit to having made a mistake. They couldn't REPENT. They couldn't fall on their knees and say, "Jesus, forgive us because we did exactly what You told us not to do."

The result of their unrepentant decision was the "Sanctuary" teaching, the "Shut Door", and the "Investigative Judgment". A few years later "the seventh-day Sabbath" was added to this package (having been learned from Seventh-day Baptists). The SDA pioneers then set-up camp on the 7th day Sabbath. It then became necessary for them to elevate the importance of the Ten Commandments (which Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13 and Hebrews 9:4 call the "tablets/words of the Old Covenant". Unconsciously, Adventism rejected the New Covenant as being sufficient for salvation, and preached the Old Covenant instead.

The entire "great controversy" scenario was created to shift churches' focus off of Jesus Christ as our salvation and onto the Old Covenant Law instead. The "great controversy" makes the cross a parenthetical thing in the whole grand scheme of the universe, which is "about God's law".

This can be seen very clearly by examining Miller's most famous calculation for Christ's return in 1843/44 -- see this link: Faith or Fear? (introduction)

The "great controversy" is a uniquely Adventist scenario that is not based in Scripture, but which is based in Ellen White's writings, which are in turn based on the Millerite experience. Again, it's not based on Scripture, but based on their experience. They rejected Christ's warnings about predicting His return and not running out into fields to see Him. Instead of repenting, they came up with a new set of teachings which continued the Millerite tradition of marginalizing the gospel of Scripture.

In blessed contrast is God's view of things. He sees that we have all failed and been lawless in our hearts, and that no obedience of ours could procure salvation for us. So He sent His Son to die in our place, taking the wrath of punishment we deserved on the cross, and giving us a new way---a New Covenant. We enter His kingdom and can say WE ARE SAVED because we believe in what He has done for us, not because of the obedience we render to Him. Our obedience is not done to gain salvation, but rather because we have already been saved. We don't have to work "towards" victory, but rather the victory has been accomplished already for us by Jesus Christ. We don't work "towards" being someday saved, but rather we know that today we ARE saved by Him, and we get to live a life of love and good works free of the weight of our actions determining our salvation.

For one view of the way He sees things, see this picture: Father's Exchange

How can a "day" distract us from such a great salvation?!! It can't. Jesus Himself said that we worship in Spirit and Truth, not by special location or special times. Hebrews 4:7 says that we may enter His rest TODAY, and Hebrews 4:3 says that we enter it BY FAITH. This is the true Sabbath-rest: Jesus Christ Himself. The "seventh day" was a shadow, not the real rest. The idea of "Sunday Sabbath" is no better, but is as equally off-the-mark as is "seventh-day", because God's rest is not a day, it is a Person--His Son, Jesus Christ!

Bless you in Jesus!


There were two very obvious points that I forgot to mention in part one...

POINT ONE: Laws which mandated Sunday-observance existed in the days of the early SDA pioneers.

Actually, that's looking at it backwards, because the coin was flipped around: they were laws that forbade working on Sunday. I think you'll find it hard to locate laws that required people to "attend church" or "worship God" on Sundays. (George Washington apparently would have fallen victim under such a law, since he frequently skipped communion Sundays later in life!)

In a sense, these laws were similar to the Old Testament laws which Nehemiah enacted in Jerusalem to keep people from doing business on the Sabbath. But these laws didn't force people to go to church. I believe that the "forcing" laws did exist at different periods in history, such as in the Middle Ages, in Calvin's Geneva, and in England when the Anglican church had great power. In colonial America there may have been such rules as well among Puritan communities. But by the time the United States of America came about, the accepted concept of separation of church & state (accepted at least by Jefferson, Frankline, Adams & Washington) dictated that people could not be forced to attend religious services. Such a "Sunday law", I believe, will scant be found in American history, or not be found at all.

The "laws" that irked Adventists, however, were ones that would have legislated that businesses must remain closed on Sunday. There is a possibility that in some areas people may have been coerced to work on Saturday, however, again such a thing was unconstitutional. Washington personally wrote to a synagogue once to assure Jews that they would not be discriminated against in the United States because of the faith they chose.

Because of the "end times" scenario that SDA had constructed (which arose out of the ashes of 1844 and the adoption of the seventh-day Sabbath), its members were hyper-sensitive to people treating Sunday like it was the Sabbath. Seeing the occasional Sunday laws in the United States, they took this to be a confirmation of their end-times scenario.

Or rather and more likely, it may be that their end-times scenario developed because of the Sunday laws that existed at the time. In other words, the circumstances made it seem imminent that a national (and then worldwide) Sunday law requiring Sunday worship would soon be passed.

The early Adventists took things they saw locally and made them into a crucial, "global" issues that all mankind "needs to know" to be saved in the end times:

- The "health message" became so important because it was the trend in their days.

- "Spiritualism" was mentioned as a highly important deception in the original "Great Controversy" book, because the center of the spiritualism movement at that time was in Michigan not far from them in Battle Creek!

- And that, in turn, elevated the extreme importance placed on the "state of the dead" doctrine. Nevermind that gospel-believing Christians don't communicate with dead people! Because of the local threat, the early Adventists preached it as a crucial, global issue to which everyone was vulnerable unless they learned the "truth" ...from the Adventists.

- And in the same way, "Sabbath" became a crucial, global issue. Or rather, it became THE issue of all issues in the end times, because it was a local issue in the day of the Adventist founders.

(Mind you, I think we have a lot of Christians in the USA who do this today -- who see Obama, the ACLU, Oprah or Bin Laden etc. as being THE thing, THE person or THE movement that will bring about the Antichrist and mark of the beast, etc., and YOU NEED TO KNOW about it, blah blah.)

POINT TWO: this one is glaringly obvious: No requirement to "go to church" is written in the Bible, nor definition of such a "service" as being "church", nor is there a biblical definition of such a "service" as being what constitutes "worship".

In plain English, the Bible simply does not say "you have to go to church." The Bible tells Christians to fellowship and meet together, and it occasionally calls this meeting "church", but there is no description of what this "meeting" consists of which churches follow today. Modern "church services" are based on tradition, not on biblical command.

This reflects the freedom of the New Covenant. It's not spelled-out-for-us like in the Old Covenant. It's not "worship by-the-letter of the law". It's not the curse of "precept by precept" that Isaiah speaks of. Rather, it's worship by the Spirit.

Because of this, it is clear that if ANY LAW commanded "worship" ON ANY DAY, it would be something that was not commanded to us by God!

God wants us to worship in Spirit and in truth. We enter His rest today. When we "meet" is something that is up to us. There is a tradition of meeting on Sunday, but we are not bound to it. "Church" is wherever Christ is. It is an identity first and foremost (the literal meaning of "ekklesia" is "the called out people"). And as Christ said, "where two or three gather" in His name, He is there. (So I often go the first church of Starbucks, by the way! Ha!)

The definition of "worship" is simply not tied to "a religious service" as it is in modern times. So in the New Testament we see people "worshiping" Christ in the streets, on boats, after fishing, and in many other times and other places. God wants our worship every day.

Again, any "law" that ORDERS YOU TO WORSHIP ON ANY DAY is simply WRONG! Whether Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday or Friday, etc. It doesn't matter. God wants us to worship Him from our hearts. He wants a bride that is willing (see Ps.110:3, for example). Yes, He enjoys our freely-willed worship! (Sorry, my Calvinist brethren! Please don't get distracted by that!) Just like He commands us to "give freely" to one another, not under compulsion, in the same way He wants us to worship Him freely, from the heart, not under compulsion, not under the pressure of a fixed law. Jesus based His whole ministry on appealing to peoples' hearts rather than forcing them to obey Him. The whole "forcing" is indicative of life under the Law -- when obedience meant you got to live (a little longer), and when disobedience meant death right away. But Jesus came and brought truth and grace!! We now live under the Law of the Spirit, which works by convicting us of our sins inside, judging our thoughts and attitudes of the heart with His Word, and appealing to "remain true to the Gospel".

The "seal of God" is not based on the human tradition of attending a "church service". It's conceivable that the "mark of the beast" might be based on some kind of human tradition, but NOT the seal of God! (Especially so when the "seal of God" is specifically defined in Scripture as the Holy Spirit Himself!)

In conclusion, to suggest that God will base our salvation in the end-times on which day we practice a human tradition is basically absurd. In Colossians 2:8 Paul urges us not to be "taken captive" by human traditions, but to be captive only to Jesus Christ Himself. God has not told us that we MUST practice the human tradition of "church attendance" (which did not exist in Christ or the apostles' times, just as certainly as "church buildings" did not exist at their time!).

Of course there are benefits to "going to church" as God leads, but what we do at church is something that is tradition. The service tries to incorporate as many good components into it as it can -- prayer, praise, worship, Scripture reading, teaching, communion (sadly it usually lacks on person-to-person fellowship). Yet as any faithful Christian can tell you, really, you can do all these things ANY DAY OF THE WEEK, and often God places such a hunger in you for HIM that you end up doing them or thinking about these things ALL THE TIME!

That's why many Formers can tell you that we've got "Sabbath" 24/7 now!

Bless you in Jesus!