Fulfilled in Jesus

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

Friday, August 07, 2009

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 AM A FORMER SDA WHO HAS LEFT THE CHURCH DO TO "JESUIT INFILTRATION" INTO THE SDA CHURCH!!! I HAVE A SERIOUS DILEMA FOR YOU CONTEMPLATE CONCERNING THE SABBATH AND HOW IT RELATES TO THE MARK OF THE BEAST!!! IN THE BOOK GREAT CONTROVERSY ... IT PREDICTS A TIME WHEN MOST PROTESTANTS WOULD CHANGE THEIR ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE CHURCH OF ROME FROM A POSITION OF DISTRUST OF THE ROMAN CHURCH TO AN ALL OUT CHANGE OF HEART RESULTING IN COOPERATION AND THAT TOGETHER THEY WILL PUSH FOR SUNDAY LEGISLATION .... I DONT KNOW WHAT YOU CURRENT POSITION IS CONCERNING THE GREAT CONTROVERSY!!! BUT I CAN PROVE TO YOU THAT AFOREMENTIONED QUOTE IS VALID AND TRUE, IN 1960 JFK WHO WOULD LATER BECOME THE FIRST CATHOLIC PRESIDENT STATED IN A SPEECH QUOTE "I BELIEVE IN AN AMERICA WHERE THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE IS ABSOLUTE" .. HE GAVE THIS SPEECH TO A GROUP OF "PROTESTANTS" TO ENSURE THEM THAT HE WOULD BE A PRESIDENT WHO "NOT" OBEY THE POPE, THOUGH HE WAS OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH.... BUT LOOK AT THE PRESENT ATTITUDE OF THE PROTESTANT CHURCHES TOWARDS ROME ,, GOOGLE THE FOLLOWING VIDEO "THE NEW WORLD ORDER-THE DEVIL IN THE VATICAN PART-36" AND THEN READ/GOOGLE THE" E.C.T". AGREEMENT BETWEEN ROME AND PROTESTANTS ... AND ALSO GOOGLE PROTESTANTS WHO CURRENTLY ARE SEEKING SUNDAY BLUE LAW LEGISLATION... ALSO GOOGLE POPE CALLS FOR SUNDAY LEGISLATION IN THE EUROPEAN UNION.... THEN YOU CAN DECIDE FOR YOUR SELF, WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON? THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND GOD BLESS!!! Mr F-----/U.S.A.

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...

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PART ONE
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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!
Ramone

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PART TWO
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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!
Ramone

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