Obedience flows from Jesus’ New Exodus

2016-10-03

The most fundamental problem with Adventist – and for that matter, a part of visible Christianity — is that it is insensitive to the fact that Jesus accomplished a New Exodus on behalf of his people.  Adventism focuses on the old exodus that separated Israel to the Lord.  It skips over the fact that the Ten Commandments are founded upon a specific historical event: the Red Sea exodus – “I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt” (Ex.20:1).  This act of redemption was a type and shadow of a future exodus that the Messiah would accomplish for his people.  It was never intended to be an end in itself.  Just as the exodus out of Egypt brought with it 613 commands of which the ten commandments were just a handful of ten laws), so the exodus Jesus completed at Golgotha brought with it a New Covenant way of life for the church, flowing out of the commandment to love one another as Christ loved us.
 
The old covenant at a certain point in history was “in force.” (Heb.7:11). But this first covenant came to an end when the Temple veil was “torn in half” and Christ’s work was “finished” (Mt.27:51; Jn.19:30; Heb.8:13). Heb.8:6 indicates that the New Covenant was put into effect as that which is legally in force, and will continue on as the blood of the everlasting covenant (Heb.13:20).  
 
 
The New Exodus
 
In Luke 9:28-36 we find Moses and Elijah speaking with the glorified Christ.  What are they talking about?  They “spoke of His exodus [or, departure] that he would accomplish in Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31).  The New Exodus is the springboard for Christian obedience, as the old exodus was the foundation for Israel’s obedience.
 
Just as Israel in the Old Testament was constantly called to think back to the Red Sea exodus that liberated them from Egypt, so the church in the New Testament is repeatedly referred to the New Exodus at Golgotha. Especially in the Lord’s Supper believers “remember”  — not the Sabbath – but what Christ did on the cross. 
 
Israel’s covenant obedience was to be in response to God’s gracious act of mercy to them as they went through the Red Sea on dry ground.  The church’s obedience is to flow out of what Christ has done in sealing the New Covenant with his blood.  The New Exodus/New Covenant, not the old exodus/old covenant, has been put into place by the Lord as the starting point for the body of Christ (Heb.8:6).
 
“Listen to the Son”
 
Therefore, to ask, “have we been released from keeping the Ten Commandments?” is to speak as if moral duty can only be found in connection with Israel’s exodus out of Egypt.  But the Christian responds to the moral imperatives flowing of out the New Exodus.  Jesus, not an exodus out of Egypt, is now the starting point. 
 
Remember, Adventist claims that the Ten Commandments are “the only definition of sin in the Bible” (Refer to their literature and official writings).  This is false teaching.  Under the New Covenant, Paul says, “whatever is not done in faith is sin” (Rom.14:23).  For people “in Christ” sin takes on  a much broader and deeper significance than just the violation of a moral code.  Paul taught that if our eating of something draws a weaker brother or sister to eat a food that they cannot eat in good conscience, we grievously sin against that person and against Christ (1 Cor.8:9-13).  The Ten Commandments are not sufficient to define “sin” under Christ’s leadership of the body of Christ.
 
Marriage As A Type of Christ and His Bride
 
Let’s consider “sin” in relationship to marriage.  If the Ten Commandments “are the only definition of sin in the Bible,” then we would find the adultery command as our benchmark for marriage.  Is it sufficient to think of “sin” with reference to marriage only in terms of this command?  Of course not.  Years ago, I read an article on the seventh command in an Adventist Magazine.  The author said many good things, but something was missing.  There was nothing in the piece about how marriage was intended by the Lord to be a picture and reflection of Christ the groom and the church as his bride.  It did not portray “unfaithfulness” as a contradiction of Christ’s unfailing commitment to his bride.  The article was command-centered, not Christ-centered.  The supreme reference point for the Christian husband is the New Exodus – “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph.5:25).  “Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you“ (Eph 4:32). “Sin” under the New Covenant goes far beyond anything that was written on stone tablets. 
 
 
Under the New Covenant we must always ask ourselves regarding any issue – “What is the truth as it is in Jesus?”
 
Going back to the Transfiguration in Luke 9, we see that the Shekinah glory enveloped them, Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets) disappeared, the Father’s voice speaks from the cloud – “This is my beloved Son, Hear him” – and the disciples look up and see Jesus only.  In Deut.18 Moses had told of a person like him who would come as the final Prophet with words which must be heeded.  In Heb.1:1-2 we are told that God spoke in the past in various ways, but in these last days has spoken definitively in the Son.
 
Love your neighbor vs. Love one another as Jesus love you
The Mosaic command from Leviticus required “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18). There was room for hating your enemy. Jesus went on to say, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I [Jesus] say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-45). Jesus’ new commandment is based, not on a mere demand to love, but now on a love for one another that was first demonstrated by Jesus’ love for us. The old says love your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18); the new says to love one another. The old says love your neighbor as yourself; the new says to love one another as Jesus loved us (John 13:34).
 
 
The Son and the Sabbath
 
Thus, the real question is – since the New Covenant alone is in force – what does the Son teach us in the New Testament Scriptures about the Ten Commandments?  The answer is that all are dealt with forthrightly.  Nine appear as moral duties, and the Sabbath is seen as a ceremonial law – a type and shadow – with Christ as the fulfilling reality (Col. 2:16-17). 
 
 
Matthew 12:5
 
The ceremonial nature of the fourth commandment is demonstrated in Mark 2:23-28 and Matthew 12:1-9.  Sabbatarians alludes to Mark 2:27-28, but never deals with the two incidents Jesus cited when the Pharisees murmured about their picking of grain on the Sabbath.  The first example Jesus cited was David and his friends who technically “sinned” by eating the consecrated bread, which was only to be eaten by the priests (Mt.12:3-4; Mk.2:25-26).  The second case is very revealing.  Jesus said, “or have you not read in the law how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the Temple broke the Sabbath and yet were without guilt?”  According to Moses the priests broke the Sabbath every week by doing their “work,” yet they were without sin in this matter.  Now, if the Sabbath is a moral command like stealing or adultery, how could it be violated without guilt and condemnation associated?  Can one think of any circumstances where any of the other nine commandments and the numerous moral commandments in the Old Covenant could be transgressed without sin being committed? Doesn’t Matthew 12:5 show conclusively that the Sabbath is “different” from the other nine?  The priests worked on every Sabbath and did so without sinning. Interestingly, in the new covenant, Christians are the priests of God (1 Peter 2:9), and how would Jesus respond to those who accuse the new covenant priesthood for breaking the Sabbath assuming the Sabbath law is in force in the new covenant? Not guilty! 
 
Martin Luther, the great reformer taught the validity of the moral law of the old covenant but saw the Sabbath as ceremonial. “Scripture has abrogated the Sabbath day; for it teaches that since the gospel has been revealed, all the ceremonies of the old law can be omitted” (Article 28, The Augsburg Confession(1530).  
 
 
Mark 2:27, 28
 
Christ’s statement, “the Sabbath was made for man and not man [made] for the Sabbath,” plainly reveals the ceremonial nature of the Sabbath. Adventists only read, “the Sabbath was made for man”. They need to digest the rest of the verse. Sabbath was made to serve man, and man was not made to serve the Sabbath. Therefore man is above the Sabbath law. When, or under what circumstances, can man lawfully commit adultery or steal? Obviously, never! Man’s life is not above God’s holy and moral laws. Yet even a sheep’s life is more important than the enforcement of the sabbath (Matthew 12:10-12). Yet even circumcision is more important than observing the Sabbath. John 7:21-23 “Jesus said to them, …Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath?”. “The Sabbath was made for man and not man [made] for the Sabbath”. Moral law was not made for man, but it was eternal. Man was made to serve the eternal moral law. We are “servant of righteousness” (Romans 6:15-23), but we were not made to serve the Sabbath or circumcision or other rituals. It’s in light of these texts that Adventists teach a cultic Mark of the Beast for Sunday worship.
 
Adventists assume that the Sabbath was made for all mankind, but the text in Mark 2:27 doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say, “The Sabbath was made for “mankind”, it says, “the Sabbath was made for man”. When the Scripture is meant to be inclusive of all mankind it is clear. See Matthew 28:19; John 3:16; Acts 2:17; I Timothy 2:4; Titus 2:11. These verses clearly indicate that when God offers something to all mankind He clearly offers it to all. Numbers 9:10 reads, “If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD”. Did God give the Passover to all mankind because the text says “man“? 
 
 
Col. 2:16-17
 
Regarding Col.2:16-17, Adventists assume that it does not include the weekly Sabbath embedded in the fourth commandment, but only refers to “special annual Sabbath days” which were ceremonial. This opinion reflects the Sabbatarian assumptions, for it is inconceivable that the Jewish mind would make such distinctions.  The following Old Testament Scriptures speak of festival days, new moons and Sabbaths.  There can be no doubt that in these examples the weekly Sabbath is included in the word “Sabbaths”: Ex.31:13; Lev.26:2,34-35; 2 Ki.4:23; 2 Chron.36:21; Isa.1:13, 56:4, 66:23; Lam.2:6; Ezek.20:12,13,16,20,21,24; 22:8; 44:24; 46:1; Amos 8:5.  Hosea 2:11 says “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, her Sabbaths.”  There is every reason to believe that in Col.2:16-17 Paul is teaching the Christian community that the Jewish weekly Sabbath is ceremonial and is no longer a norm for judgment. This is supported by Leviticus 23 which identifies the weekly Sabbath with one of God’s feasts.
 
Further, in Col.2:16, when Paul says, ‘do not let anybody judge you…with reference to a feast or a new moon or Sabbaths,” there is a specific chronological progression from yearly to monthly to weekly.  The festivals were yearly, the new moons were monthly, and the Sabbaths were weekly.  To suggest that “Sabbaths” refer only to “annual Sabbath days” would break up Paul’s clear Jewish division of time. That’s why the SDA scholar Samuel Bacchiochi had to eventually agree that Col 2 does refer to the weekly Sabbath.
 
 
To Whom Was the Sabbath Given?
 
Sabbatarians suggests that Abraham and other Gentiles who lived long before the Law was given kept the Sabbath.  That is a huge assumption.  In terms of explicit statements of Scripture, it is never said that anyone kept the Sabbath before the Red Sea exodus.  There are, however, several Scriptures that affirm that the Sabbath was indeed given to Israel alone.  Deut.5:15 – “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.Therefore keep the Sabbath day.”  Neh.9:13 – “You came down also upon Mt. Sinai…and made known to them the holy Sabbath.”  Ezek.20:12 – “Moreover, also I gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them.” How can a sign that distinguished the Jews from the the rest of the world be also a sign that identifies with all nations?
 
The New Covenant Scriptures teach that the Sabbath was a shadow, and that Christ is the reality (Col.2:17).  If a type and shadow is fulfilled in a person, why would you continue to focus on the shadow?  Lambs were slaughtered under the old covenant.  Once the fulfillment, Jesus, came and offered himself, why would we keep on killing animals?  Once the reality comes, the type/shadow is discontinued.
 
God’s rest is not the weekly Sabbath day rest in Genesis
Adventists assume that God ordained a weekly Sabbath day in Genesis, but there is absolutely no “thus saith the Lord” command for man to observe a weekly rest day. Neither is there any restrictions on how to observe a day in Genesis and neither is there a condemnation for not observing a day, and neither is there an example of man observing a Sabbath day. Adventists are free to observe any day, but why enforce a law that God doesn’t command mankind to observe or condemn man for non-observance? Yes, God rested on the seventh day. But what type of rest does this seventh day offer? The first six days had “work” that was demarcated by an “evening and morning”, but the seventh day “rest” did not have a demarcation of “evening and morning”. The rest was open for the people of God to enter from the seventh day onward, and even today “a promise remains of entering His rest” (Hebrews 4:1). What is the requirement to enter God’s rest? “For we who have believed enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:3). The  Jewish weekly Sabbath day was entered not through belief but through ceasing from labor, but God’s rest is entered through belief! Even Jews did not enter God’s rest even when they had the weekly Sabbath.  “For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS”; and again in this passage, “THEY [Israel] SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” (Hebrews 4-5). 
 
When God rested is not on day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6—each one of those days ends with, “There was morning and there was evening.”  But on the seventh day, when God rested, you don’t read those words because the rest of God was not a day of the week.  It was not one day of the week.  It was a state.  God had now completed the work; it was a state of rest. How do we know? Because God did not restart a “work for six days and rest on the seventh” cycle. He rested from His creative work on the seventh day. He rested from His creative work on the 8th day, the 9th day, the 100th day, and He is still resting from His creative work today, so we can enter His rest today. We are not commanded to enter a labor and rest cycle in Genesis. We enter His rest today! Hebrews says, “He [God] again fixes a certain day, (what day? Seventh day? No) “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.” For if Joshua had given them [God’s] rest, He (God) would not have spoken of another day [which is today] after that” (Hebrews 4:7-8) 
 
Early Christian fathers some of whom learned from the mouth of the apostles clearly saw what God’s Word said about a Sabbath day in Genesis.
 
Justin Martyr, who wrote only 44 years after the death of St. John, and who was well acquainted with the doctrine of the apostles, denied that the Sabbath originated at creation. Thus after name Adam, Abel, Enoch, Lot and Melchizedek, he says: “Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned, though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God.”Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 19.
 
Eusebius, A.D. 324, the father of church history, says: “They (the patriarchs) did not, therefore, regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath, nor do we.” Eccl. Hist., book 1, chapter 4.
Later Christians came to the same conclusion:
 
John Bunyan says: “Now as to the imposing of the seventh day Sabbath upon men from Adam to Moses, of that we find nothing in holy writ, either from precept or example.” Complete Works, page 892.
 
 
Abraham kept the Sabbath?
Adventists assume that Abraham kept the Sabbath, for God said:  “Abraham kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws”  (Gen.  26:5).  But Adventists could just as well assume that Abraham was baptized and observed the Lord’s supper, for both of these are commandments of God.  Adventists assumes that “my commandments”, “my law” always means the Ten Commandments. In Ex 16, “my laws” includes the law about manna. “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not”. Lev 23:28-31 shows “my commandments” includes sacrificial laws: “And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day. On the same day it shall be eaten up; ye shall leave none of it until the morrow: I am the LORD. Therefore shall ye keep my commandments, and do them: I am the LORD”
 
My laws, My commandments do not mean it includes the Ten or the Sabbath. Abraham was commended for obeying particular commands God gave him, not Ten Commandments. He obeyed God when he was asked to go to a foreign country (Genesis 12). He was instructed on certain things that Israel was not. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, but God condemned child sacrifices in the law of Moses. God ordained one woman for man in Genesis and the Law of Moses, however, Abraham disobeyed that instruction. Gen 25:1 “Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah”. Hence God commended Abraham for keeping certain specific instructions.  Abraham did not keep the Sabbath law, for Moses, while speaking of the covenant that contained the Sabbath commandment, said:  “The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob], but with us [Israel], even who are all of us here alive this day”  (Deut.  5:3). Think about this. The Sabbath was a sign of the covenant between God and Israel (Exodus 31), but Abraham was given a different sign. If the Sabbath marked the people of God from all nations as distinctively God’s, couldn’t it just as easily mark Abraham as distinctively belonging to God? Besides, even if Abraham observed the Sabbath or circumcision, none of these rituals apply to Christians under new covenant (Col. 2:16,17). 
 
 
Romans 14:5
 
When Paul deals with the Jewish and Gentile believers functioning together in harmony, he makes an amazing statement – “one person esteems one day above others; another person regards every day the same” (Rom.14:5).  If it is required by God of all believers to observe some particular day, especially Saturday or Sunday, then how could Paul give the option for believers to regard every day the same?  Or, to put it another way, if sin is incurred by not observing a certain day, how can Paul allow for the non-observance of any days? 
 
These were the days enjoined in the law (Torah) for it is of the law that Paul treats all through the book of Romans. He makes no exception of the Sabbath day, but says plainly “every day.” It does not avail to say that Paul means only the annual Sabbaths or fast days because he mentions eating meat and herbs as these are classed with the weekly Sabbath. In Lev. 24:1-8 the Weekly Sabbath is classed with the offerings of oil, bread, frankincense. In Num. 28:9-10 it is classed with the offerings of lambs, meat and drink offerings, burnt offerings, etc. In 1 Chron. 23:29-31, the weekly Sabbath is classed with meat offering, sacrifices, new moons, feasts, etc. Paul confirms that in Col. 2, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days”.  I suggest that under the New Covenant there are no holy days or holy places (Jn.4:20-24) – only holy people.  
 
Matthew 5:17-18
 
Adventist point to Mathew 5:17-18 and says, Jesus did not abolish the Ten Commandments. Adventist think the Law and the Prophets is a reference to Ten Commandments, but the Law and the Prophets is a reference to the entire Old Testament. 
 
If what Adventists are saying was true, then, according to Matthew 5:17-18, every jot and tittle of the Law and the Prophets (entire Old Testament) is still in force…very little of which is observed by Adventist followers. They do not offer animal sacrifices (far more than a mere “jot” or a “tittle” of the Law!). They do not make pilgrimages to the temple thrice a year (as the Law and the Prophets commands). They do not observe the 613 commands in the Torah (and probably could not even name them)! 
 
If Jesus has not fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets, then every one of the 613 commandments remains in force, since not the least of them were to pass away until they were all fulfilled. Either they have now all been fulfilled (as the New Testament writers believed) or every jot and tittle remains—and cannot be followed without a Levitical priesthood, a bronze altar, animal sacrifices, levirate marriage, and capital punishment for rebellious children, witches, adulterers, homosexuals, kidnappers, blasphemers and Sabbath-breakers. Do the Adventist people advocate enforcement of all these duties?
 
 
2 Cor.3:1-13 – The Stone Tablets
 
The major assumption Adventists make is that the Ten Commandments have always been a moral code that floats along throughout history.  They emphatically state, “Paul never dismissed the Ten Commandment Law that God wrote with His own finger on stone tablets….God has never used another set of laws by which He judged His people”.
 
The truth is, however, that in 2 Cor.3 Paul specifically affirms three times that the old covenant form of the Ten Commandments were “abolished.” (v. 7,11,13).  You cannot get around the fact that Paul has the Ten Commandments in view for he mentions the “tablets of stone” and that which “was engraved in letters on stones” (v.3,7). In Hebrews 9:1, the first covenant that is now obsolete include the ten commandments (Hebrews 9:1-4).
 
 
Romans 3:31 – Ten Commandments or Old Testament?
 
Adventists states that “in…Romans 3:31…he [Paul] referred to the Ten Commandment Law of God”.  This is a blatant example of reading one’s agenda into a text.  There is nothing in what comes before or after 3:31 that mentions the Ten Commandments.  Paul asks and answers a question – “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all!  Rather we uphold the law” (Rom.3:31).  What does the apostle mean by “the law”?  He means the Old Testament Scriptures.  In Rom.3:10-18 he cited Isaiah and the Psalms, and then said, “now we know that whatever the law says…”  In verse 21 he notes, “but now a righteousness of God apart from law has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.”  Again, the Old Testament is in view here.  In verse 31, then, Paul is affirming that the gospel does not nullify the teaching of the Old Testament.  Instead, the  Old Testament foretold the gospel, and Paul goes on in Romans 4 to confirm that the gospel establishes the  Old Testament writings, using Abraham and David as examples of justification by faith.
 
 
One of the most common meanings of “the law” in the NT is “the Old Testament writings.”  Adventists never point this out because they don’t know.  They often wrongly assume that “law” means the Ten Commandments. But Paul is contending that God’s gospel is validated by the teaching of the OT in regard to the universal sinfulness of the human race and in regard to the justification of Jews and Gentiles by faith in Christ.  The Ten Commandments are nowhere mentioned in the immediate context before or after Rom.3:31.
 
 
What Was Nailed to the Cross?
 
Adventist admits that the Ten Commandments are central in the old covenant, but they also know that it would be fatal to their position if  the Ten Commandments  were part of what was abolished in his flesh, “the law with its commandments and regulations” (Eph.2:14-15; Col.2:14).  Thus, they posit that only “the law of ceremonies” was nailed to the cross, and  the Ten Commandments  were not included.
 
But this is an interpretation driven by an agenda, not by listening to the texts.  Paul says that whatever was nailed to the cross “was against us” and “contrary to us” (Col.2:14).  Wouldn’t Paul’s remarks indicate that he has something in mind that would justly accuse and condemn us?  Wouldn’t that imply something of a moral nature?  What sense does it make to say that the ceremonial things like the mildew laws are against us and contrary to us?  The old covenant law was a unit of some 613 commands (cf. Gal.5:3).  The natural reading of Eph.2:14-15 and Col.2:14 would see that the entire old covenant written code was nailed to the cross, including the Ten Commandments which were the center point of the old covenant (cf. Ex.34:29-34). Hebrews 9:1-4 confirms the first covenant that is now obsolete had the tablets of the covenant.
 
 
The Law As A Dividing Wall Removed
 
Eph.2:14-18 teaches that the old covenant law stood as a barrier between Jews and Gentiles.  Obviously, one important functions of this law was to keep the Israelites separate from the other nations.  In order for Christ to make a “one new person” out of the two widely separated groups, the “law of commandments” had to be removed.  As long as the Law stood, Jew and Gentile had to be kept apart.  In God’s wisdom Christ fully honored the Law by obeying it, fulfilling it, and thereby “abolishing” it, and replacing it with a new covenant, so that he could create “one new person,” the body of Christ.
 
If the entire old covenant law was nailed to the cross, does this leave us with no moral direction?  Absolutely not.  We have already shown that he abolished the old covenant in order to “put legally into place” (“nomotheteo,” Heb.8:6) the New Covenant.  The life of discipleship flows out of the New Exodus, which brings with it commandments and New Command to love one another as he loved us on the cross, which Paul calls the “law of Christ” (Gal.6:2).  Hence, Jesus says, “if you love me, keep my commands” (plural).  Adventist think that that when Jesus said, “keep my commands,” he had the Ten Commandments in view.  That is a biased interpretation of Scripture.  Jesus meant his teachings.  He is the Prophet Moses wrote about in Deut.18, “him you must hear, or be cut off from the people” (cf. Mt.7:24,26).  Just as Israel’s obligations to the Lord arose from his mighty arm in the Red Sea exodus, so the church’s New Covenant life flows out of Christ’s exodus accomplished at Jerusalem.  “My commands” means all that Jesus teaches us in the New Covenant, including the things Jesus gave through the pens of those who wrote the New Covenant documents to the church.
 
 
Grace Teaches Us Not to Sin
 
Paul anticipated the concerns some would have when he asked in Rom.6:15, “What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  Let it never be!”  Some might reason, “if we are not under law, won’t the floodgates of sin be opened?”  Paul’s answer is clear: the gospel that saves us also breaks the dominion of sin in our lives, and the Spirit enables us to walk in the gospel lifestyle described in Romans 12-16.
 
The event that saves us – the cross – also commands us how to live.  The grace of God that appeared in Christ’s incarnation not only brings salvation to people all over the world, it also teaches believers to live a life of godliness while they wait for the Lord’s coming (Titus 2:11-13).  “Grace,” says the apostle, is our sufficient teacher.  Just as Israel’s covenant life was rooted in the exodus out of Egypt (“the law came by Moses,” Jn.1:17a), so the body of Christ’s obedience flows out of the New Exodus at Golgotha (“grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” Jn.1:17b).  The Scriptures of the New Covenant restates many moral commands out of the 613, and the nine of the ten commandments as part of righteous living, but the Sabbath, with many other rituals are viewed as a type and shadow that has seen its day, the reality having come in the person of Christ (Col.2:17).
 
Revelation 14:12, “keeping the commands of God”
 
Whenever Adventists see the word “commandments,” it assumes that the Ten Commandments are in view.  In doing this they utterly fail to recognize that a New Covenant is in effect and that out of it comes Messiah’s commands.  Adventists see the saints “keeping the commands of God” (Rev.14:12) and reads into this phrase “the Ten Commandments”.  But this statement in Revelation, and many others like it in the New Testament, simply mean the numerous commands of Jesus that flow out of the singular command to love one another as he loved us on the cross (Jn.13:34; 15:12-13).  The old covenant had around 613 commands, and it has been fulfilled and taken away.  A New Covenant has been put into effect based on better promises, and its commands are in force.  Indeed, the saints keep the commands of their Savior because they love him.
 
Jesus’ Commandments
 
Jesus gave many commands in Scripture. Some of them were for Jews. When Jesus cleansed a leper He commanded him: “Go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded” (Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14). Why don’t Adventist obey this commandment from Jesus? Some verses were directed at the apostles specifically but can also apply to us today such as “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41). Here are the some of the commands of Jesus. Repent (Matthew 4:17), Follow Me (Matthew 4:19), Let Your Light Shine (Matthew 5:16), Be Reconciled (Matthew 5:23–25), Do Not Lust (Matthew 5:28–30), Keep Your Word (Matthew 5:37), Love Your Enemies (Matthew 5:44–46), Judge Not (Matthew 7:1–3), Do Unto Others (Matthew 7:12), Take My Yoke (Matthew 11:28–30), Honor Your Parents (Matthew 15:4), Deny Yourself(Luke 9:23–25), Despise Not Little Ones (Matthew 18:10), Forgive Offenders (Matthew 18:21–22), Be a Servant (Matthew 20:26–28), Bring In the Poor (Luke 14:12–14). Be Born Again (John 3:5–7), Make Disciples (Matthew 28:19–20). Jesus quotes some of the commandments from the Law of Moses, but it doesn’t mean all of it applies. What is applicable to us has been commanded. He never commanded us to “Remember the Sabbath day” or condemn anyone for breaking it.
 
What Defines “Sin” in the New Covenant?
Adventists dogmatically asserts that “God gave us a clear definition of sin in His Ten Commandments.  Without this, people can’t recognize their pitiful condition and their need for a Savior….God’s moral law – the Ten Commandments – is eternal and the only definition of sin in the Bible”.  These remarks are vastly overstated and ultimately false.
 
Official SDA writings teach that the Ten Commandments are “the only definition of sin in the Bible,” citing 1 John 3:4, “whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”  Later SDA’s say, “sin is the transgression, or breaking of, God’s law (1 John 3:4)”.  Such an interpretation, however, is dubious on three counts.
 
First, John never cites “the law” in this epistle.  The “commandments” mentioned repeatedly in this letter, as we have previously shown, refer to Christ’s commandments embedded in the New Covenant.  This is clearly illustrated, for example, in 1 John 3:22-24, “We obey his commands and do what pleases him.  And this is his command, to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.  Those who obey his commands live in him and he in them.”  “As he commanded us” refers to John 13:34 where the New Command was announced.  In the context of 1 John, the author gives no evidence at all that the Ten Commandments are in view; what is specifically mentioned relates to “the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another.  This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn.3:11,16).  “The beginning” in several passages in 1 John refers to the New Creation Jesus inaugurated at his incarnation.  
 
Adventists also cites 1 John 5:3, “his commands are not burdensome,” as a reference to the Ten Commandments.  This is another occasion where the authors just read their conclusions into the text without any justification.  “Commands” in 1 John have in view the New Covenant obligations issued by the Messiah.
 
 
“Lawlessness”
 
Secondly, the Greek word for lawlessness in 1 John 3:4 is “anomia,”  Again, SDA’s assume that this word can only mean “actions which violate the Ten Commandments.”  But this is patently false.  In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus describes people who proclaimed that they had prophesied, cast out demons and performed many wonderful works in Jesus’ name.  Jesus says to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who are working “anomia” (wickedness).  These religious people were guilty of “anomia,” lawlessness, but as you can see it would make no sense to try and define their sin simply as violations of the Ten Commandments.
 
Jesus’ Use of “Sin” in John’s Gospel
 
Thirdly, Jesus defines sin in John’s gospel without reference to the Ten Commandments.  The Lord states that he received his teachings directly from the Father and gave them to his disciples.  Listen to these excerpts from the Gospel of John.
 
“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him.  For I did not come to judge the world but to save it.  There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him on the last day.  For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.  I know that his command leads to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say (12:47-50)….Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you are not just my own.  Rather, it is the Father living in me who is doing his work….If you love me, you will do what I command (14:10,15)….Jesus replied, If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.  These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me (14:23-24)….My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than the one who lays down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command (15:12-14)….They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin.  Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates me hates my Father as well.  If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin.  But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.  But this is to fulfill what is written in their law, “They hated me without reason.” (15:21-25)….but you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning (15:27)….Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  When he comes, he will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.  Concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you see me no more; concerning judgment, because the prince of this world is judged (16:7-11)….I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.  They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.  Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.  For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them (17:6-8)….You have no power over me that was not given to you from above.  Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin (19:11).
 
 
 
I have quoted extensively from this Gospel in order for you to get the full impact of the truth from Jesus’ lips.  From these texts the following key points are obvious:
 
  • The Father said out of the cloud, “This is my Beloved Son, Hear him” (Luke 9:35)
  • The Lord Jesus received his words (commands) directly from the Father
  • The words from the Father were passed on to the disciples
  • The words of the Father to Jesus will judge people on the last day
  • Christ’s followers will obey the commandments he received from the Father
  • Christ’s New Command is for his people to love one another as he loved them in the agony of the New Exodus in Jerusalem.
  • In John 15:21-25 “sin” is not defined with reference to the Ten Commandments, but with reference to the presence of the Messiah among people and their rejection of him
  • The law” mentioned in 15:25 is not the Ten Commandments but refers specifically to Psalm 69:4
  • Sin is not believing in Christ.” This is the “sin” the Spirit will bring worldly people to acknowledge.  There is nothing in this crucial text on the Spirit’s work about conviction by the Ten Commandments as a prerequisite for people recognizing “their pitiful condition or their need for a Savior. The Fourth Gospel more typically links sin and ‘unbelief,’ with sin as the refusal to recognize Jesus as the revelation of God.
  • When Jesus says “My commands,” he means the very words that came to him from the Father.  
  • These texts show that it is a serious error to suggest that by “keep my commands” Jesus has in view the Ten Commandments.
 
 
 
 
Acts 15 – Where are the Ten Commandments?
 
The tradition arose of dividing the old covenant law into three categories: moral, ceremonial and civil.  While there is some truth in this three-fold division, overall it creates more confusion than clarity.  For one thing the Jewish mind viewed the Law as an undivided unit.  The three-fold division to them would be superficial and misleading.  Paul brings this out in Gal.5:3, “Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised, that he is obligated to do the whole law.”  In other words, because the old covenant was a totality, if you put yourself under one part you became a debtor to do every part of it.  You just can’t pick and choose parts of the Law.  Paul’s position is that you are either under all of it or none of it.  There is no middle ground.  (This would provide further evidence that the entire old covenant law in the first covenant – “moral, ceremonial, civil” – was nailed to the cross).
 
Acts 15 is another passage Adventists fail to understand.  Here we find that false teachers had come from Jerusalem to Antioch and taught that “the Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the Law of Moses” (v.5).  After much discussion, the brethren recognized that the Gentile believers were not required to bear the yoke of the Law, “which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear” (v.10).  It was concluded that the Gentiles in Christ should avoid four things: food offered to idols, sexual immorality, meat from strangled animals and blood (vv.20,29).
 
Now if the perspective of the Adventists was correct, then the resolution of the problem in Acts 15 would have been a no-brainer.  If the civil and ceremonial laws were nailed to the cross, but the Ten Commandments were not, then a simple answer for the dilemma would have been at hand.  The council would have reasoned, “Brethren, the ceremonial and civil laws are no longer binding, but the Ten Commandments remain.  Therefore, the Gentile believers are to keep the Ten Commandments, but are not obligated to keep things like circumcision.”  But this is precisely the answer that is not given!  This reveals that those who divide the Law into parts are not akin in their thinking to the first century brethren.  These people knew that the Lord must lead them to a New Covenant perspective in which Jew and Gentile could function together as “one new person” (Eph.2:15).
 
The Benchmark: Saturday Sabbath-Keeping
 
In the final analysis, Adventist are seeking to bring people to embrace a Seventh-Day Adventist agenda.  They say that the Saturday Sabbath is a sign of our allegiance to God, that it must be kept from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, that “Satan wants to make Sunday the mark of his authority”, that the Saturday Sabbath “is not a minor issue”, that it is “about loyalty to God”, that Sabbath-breaking “is an apostasy”, and that not keeping the seventh-day “could separate you from a loving Savior”.
 
 
If a new Christian was to read the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation, would the conclusions listed above jump out at him?  I don’t think so.  Jesus said that the sign by which the world would know we are his people was our visible love for each other, not by observing a day (Jn.13:35).  There is no emphasis in the teachings of Jesus or apostles or Genesis on “remembering” the Sabbath; “remembering” is focused on the Lord Jesus in the context of the meal shared among the disciples (1 Cor.11:24-25).  
 
 
Pick and Choose Sabbath Law: Why No Selling, But No Stoning?
 
Adventists cherry picks a few Sabbath law verses from the Old Testament as warrant to teach that on Saturday secular work and buying and selling should cease, and delighting in the Lord should be encouraged.  However, if Adventists are going to enforce these elements, on what basis does it omit the rest of the Sabbath laws:  “stay where you are” on the Sabbath, “no cooking on the sabbath (Ex. 16:29), no kindling of a fire (Ex. 35:3), and the death penalty attached to Sabbath-breaking in the OT?  A man picked up sticks on the Sabbath and the Lord ordered that he be stoned by the congregation of Israel (Numbers 15:32-36).  This event echoes what the Lord commanded in Exodus 31:14-15.  To suggest that some elements of Old Testament Sabbath-keeping are binding, but others are not, reveals the serious problem of picking and choosing parts of the old covenant law.  The old covenant connected working on the Sabbath and execution by stoning.  Adventist’s want to enforce the strictness of no Sabbath labor, but without the punishment associated with that law.  Why? Do Adventist realize that they are under a curse for not observe every requirement in the book of the law? 
 
 
The Sabbath and Assembly Meetings
 
“The seventh-day Sabbath is the day God set aside for church services”, says Adventists.  If one examines the Old Testament teaching about the Sabbath, this statement is shown to be mistaken.  In Israel there was no congregational worship on the Sabbath.  Everything would shut down and each family met privately in their homes.  It could be noted that under Roman rule the Jews in Jesus’ day gathered together in synagogues.  However, the synagogue was an adjustment to the times, not something the Lord had ever specified in the Law.
 
 
Jesus Was “Under Law”
 
Adventists points out that Jesus kept the Sabbath.  This is certainly true, but this fact does not inherently lead to the conclusion that we also must do the same.  Jesus was born “under law” (Gal.4:4).  The believer’s status is “not under law” (Rom.6:14-15; Gal.5:18; 1 Cor.9:20).  Jesus was required to do a number of things as a Jew for which we have no obligation.  For example, Jesus kept Israel’s dietary laws, but under the New Covenant the clean/unclean distinction regarding foods has passed away.  Even Jesus foretold this in the Gospel: “nothing that enters someone from the outside can make that person unclean….When Jesus said this he meant that no longer was any food unclean for people to eat” (Mark 7:18-19).
 
Synagogue Evangelism
 
“On what day did Paul worship?” asks Adventists.  They reply with Acts 18:4, “and he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded them both Jews and Greeks”.  Adventists left out the crucial phrase, “persuaded them to believe in Jesus.”  This is another example of Adventists using a passage totally out of its context.  Paul’s primary thrust in passages like this was evangelistic.  Paul was not going among a group of believers who were enjoying the Lord’s Supper together and mutually edifying one another.  The synagogue was filled with unbelieving Jews who needed to hear about Christ (not the Ten Commandments) from the Old Testament Scriptures.  It was Paul’s custom to enter synagogues first, as he wished for his people to be saved (Rom.10:1).  Acts 18:4 has nothing to do with a Christian gathering, such as the one mentioned in Acts 20:7.
 
 
Matthew 24:20 and 70AD
SDA’s think the Sabbath was a holy day in A.D.  70 when Jerusalem was destroyed–long after the crucifixion of Jesus–cause Jesus told his disciples to “pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on Sabbath day”  (Matt.  24:20).  But if this passage proves the Sabbath was a holy day in A.  D.  70, it also proves “the winter”  was a “holy season,”  for he told them may that their flight be not in the winter.  It was not the sacredness of the day or the season that Jesus had in mind, but the safety of his disciples.  Flight in the winter time would be difficult.  Also the Jews, who had not accepted Christianity, would still be keeping the Sabbath would have the gates of Jerusalem closed on that day.  Therefore, escape on that day would also be difficult; so they were to pray that they not have to flee on the sabbath or in the winter.

Did the Roman Catholic Church change the day of the Sabbath at the Council of Laodicea?
 
Adventists are confused with the “Catholic Church” and “Roman Catholic” just as they confused with the law and other things. It is amazing how common and widespread this complete mis-information is among sabbatarians! In fact, the Council of Laodicea sat 363-365AD and The Roman Catholic Church did not even exist until several centuries after that! The early “catholic” church, as described in church histories, is the Church which Jesus founded! The word ‘catholic’ simply meant ‘universal’ and the term was often used to separate biblical churches from heretical groups. 
 
Adventist themselves have realized this and some now confessess this but many Adventist are still ignorant. Adventist Today magazine quotes, “The Roman Catholic Church as such had little to do with the change” (Source: https://atoday.org/is-the-author-serious-the-truth-the-whole-truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth-a-commentary/).
 
When Catholics talk about Sabbath being changed to Sunday, they are talking about a practice that started from the apostles in the first century, who they claim are the founders of their Church. Hence, Adventists are naive to claim that a change happened many centuries later through the little horn they identify as the Roman Catholic Church. When all evidence fail them, Adventists have also tried to promote the idea that Sunday practice started with paganism, however, Adventist scholars have refuted this non-sense as well. C. Mervyn Maxwell, Ph.D., professor of church history at Andrews University Theological Seminary, Berrien Springs, Michigan writes:  “There is little evidence that the sun occupied the unique position attributed to it by some modern authors. When the Emperor Caracalla tried to impose sun worship in the early years of the third century, the Romans laughed at him. Although sun worship has always played a role in pagan religions, it wasn’t until the end of that century (3rd century) that the sun enjoyed real prominence among the Roman gods—and by that time many Christians, at least, had been observing Sunday for 150 years. In his Apology addressed to the Roman Government, the great Christian writer Tertullian specifically refuted the charge that Christians worshiped on Sunday in honor of the sun” (Source: Ministry Magazine, 1977).
 
 
The New Covenant View of Days
 
There are four main positions that Bible students have set forth.
 
1. The weekly Saturday Sabbath is required for believers as a fulfillment of the Fourth Commandment.  It is sinful to meet on any other day.  This is the position of SDA’s and other Sabbatarian groups.
 
2.  The weekly Sunday Sabbath is required for Christians as a fulfillment of the Fourth Commandment.  This views posits that the Sabbath principle – one day in seven – was transferred to Sunday, primarily because of Christ’s resurrection on that day.  It is sinful to meet on other days than Sunday in most circumstances.  This view was held in the past by Charles Hodge, Benjamin Warfield, and by those who hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Adventists rightly points out that there is no biblical evidence for this view.
 
3.  The church should meet on Sunday as the Lord’s Day, but not because it has anything to do with the Fourth Commandment.  This position would appeal to certain patterns in the New Testament – (1) Christ was raised on the first day (which in the Greek is literally, “the first [day] after the Sabbath”); (2) some of Christ’s appearances to his disciples after his resurrection were on the first day where there was small service of worship, and Jesus preached an expositional sermon; (3) some Christian gatherings took place on the first day (Acts 20:7).  This view admits that there is no command to meet on Sunday, but submit that it is most in keeping with apostolic example to do so.  
 
4.  Under the New Covenant there are no holy places or holy days – only holy people, who are the Temple of God (Eph.2:21-22; John 4:19-24; 1 Pet.2:5,9).  Paul teaches in Rom.14:17 that days and food are not an issue in Messiah’s kingdom.  Brothers and sisters are free to observe or not observe days as unto the Lord.  One option “in Christ” is “to judge every day the same” (Rom.14:5).  Each person is to be persuaded in his/her own mind in such matters. Now, if there is a day that must be observed or sin is committed, then how could Paul allow for some brethren to “regard every day the same”?  Adventists makes the astounding judgment, “no one can keep every day holy in the eyes of the Lord!”.  But we must give heed to the apostle Paul who by inspiration of the Spirit said that believers can regard every day the same before the Lord.  Under the New Covenant there is no reason to believe that the body of Christ can incur sin by meeting on the “wrong” day.  The brethren must gather together, but they are free to work out the details in light of their New Covenant privileges and responsibilities as priests.  The New Covenant or testament puts no emphasis on keeping a day of worship – neither Genesis.  Rather, we are encouraged to be our brother’s keeper seven days a week.

 
Friday Sundown to Saturday Sundown Forever?
 
The utter Sabbath-centeredness of SDA theology is revealed in it’s conviction that even in the New Heaven/New Earth, “for all eternity, God’s redeemed people will gather every seventh-day Sabbath to have a time of special worship and fellowship with our Creator God”.  But the Book of Revelation makes it clear that in the the new earth the elements necessary for a “weekly” gathering will be non-existent.  “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of the Lord gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp….There will be no night there….There will be no more night, they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Rev. 21:23, 25; 22:5).  The fundamental essence of the age to come is that “history” is finished (in which the sun and moon appear in cycles) and “time” simply is no more. SDA’s make the ultimate error of carrying over a type and shadow literally into an age in which a seventh-day Sabbath is ludicrous.  Further, by focusing on the shadow it misses the glory of the Lamb who is the Sabbath-reality and supplies the light of the New Heavens and New Earth.

In light of Heb.4, it would make more sense to realize that there is indeed a Sabbath rest awaiting the people of God in the New heavens.  The gospel way to keep the Sabbath is to cease from your own works and find rest in the Lord Jesus (Mt.11:28-29).  “Rest” in Christ has a “firstfruits” fulfillment in this age, and looks for the full harvest of rest in the New Heaven/New Earth, where there will be no more tears and no more curse.
 
 
The Glory of Christ in the New Covenant
 
It is a shame that Adventism are so fixated on the Sabbath and Sunday laws.  They are enamored with a law-based exodus out of Egypt (Ex.20).  They exclaim: It was an awe-inspiring event when the Lord spoke His perfect Ten Commandment Law to the assembly of Israel!  You might want to review Exodus, chapters 19 and 20, to contemplate what the people experienced. 
 
In Heb. 12:18-24, Paul distinctly says that Christians do not go to Sinai and the thunders of the law, but they come to Jesus and the new covenant. “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest. And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: But ye are come unto Mount Sion. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.” (Heb. 12:18-24) Adventists are always dwelling upon the terrible scenes at Sinai at the giving of the law and pointing others there; but Paul says, No, do not go there; but to Mount Sion, to Jesus and the new covenant, to its teachings. Isa. 2:3; “Out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” There is where we now go for the law, not to the ark or to Sinai.
 
 
In truth, the really awe-inspiring event was the Transfiguration, and even this occurrence was a pre-figuring of the full glory that would happen in Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension (Lk.9:28-36).  Moses and Elijah spoke with the glorified Christ about the “exodus” he would soon accomplish at Jerusalem.  The Shekinah glory cloud came over the disciples, Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  The Father speaks out of the cloud, “This is my Son whom I have chosen; listen to him.”  As these words came forth, the Lord removed Moses and Elijah, and the disciples “found that Jesus was alone.”  We must fix our eyes on the exodus of Christ that brought a New Covenant and a New Commandment.  That is where the glory of God in the face of Jesus is found.  Adventists focuses on the wrong exodus.  They give more attention to Exodus 19 and 20 than they do to the many New Testament passages that exalt Jesus and the Sabbath rest to be found in him.
 
 
Adventists are excited that “thousands of Christians are now displaying Ten Commandment replicas on their lawn”.  What a tragedy!  They glory in an exodus that was just a shadow.  What would happen if believers displayed more openly that they were the fragrance of Christ, a letter from Christ written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Cor.3:3).  The command that should be displayed – the New Command to love one another as He loved – is the one that is offensive because it is Christ-centered.  Nobody would tolerate that word of Jesus to be hung in public buildings!  The irony is that the New Command is what is in force; the old covenant form which was on stone tablets, Paul says, was abolished.

Conclusion
 
Adventism claims to be a bible based movement that follows “well organized Bible study.”  Unfortunately, Adventism follows a very selective study of Scripture portions that they find useful to promote their Sabbath-centered agenda.  Judged by the standards of Bible interpretation they appeal to, the truth is, they have succeeded in presenting to the public a teaching that will lead people far astray from the simplicity of Christ.
 
 
We all need a big dose of humility as we search the Scriptures and share with one another what the Lord is showing us.  As Thomas Dubay points out, “Finding the solution to a mathematical problem is possible without humility, but finding God’s will is impossible without this virtue” (“Communication in Community,” ST, 14:4, 1985, p.11). 
 
 
 
 
 

Tawhid or Trinity

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One of the most common points on which our Muslim friends question Christians is on the whole question of the nature of God: in short, is God uni-personal or multi-personal? Does the doctrine of Tawhid (God’s oneness in being and person) or Trinity (God’s oneness in being and pluralness in person) better describe who God is?

Of all the chapters of the Qur’an, there is one Muslim’s recite more frequently than any other. It is Surat-al-Ikhlaas, chapter 112, and its second verse contains the message: “God is not a Father, and He is not a Son.”. Above all doctrines, that is one of the teachings that is taught to a Muslim, the concept known as ‘Tawhid’, that God is absolutely one and cannot be Father or Son. Indeed, in Muslim-Christian engagement, it often becomes the central issue with Muslims painting the Christian as believing in three gods. Hence, a Muslim’s reaction to God’s pluralness is seen as nonsensical, polytheistic blasphemy; self contradictory, a nonsense doctrine in which God could be three and one at the same time.

Our Muslim friends often like to claim that the Islamic concept of God’s oneness is simple (more on this later), in contrast to the complex doctrine of the Trinity. However, simplicity does not equal truth. If it did, we’d have to reject higher mathematics, and quantum physics. Science shows us that there are things in this world so tiny that we can only view them through microscopes, and yet they are incomprehensibly complex. For example, light defies the minds of scientists, being both a particle and a wave, yet this apparent contradiction is demonstrably true. If the world is so complex that it baffles our minds, what about the One who created the world? Now if my Creator has to be simple so that I can understand Him, then I have made Him in my image.

Contrary to the assertion that ‘God is not a Father or He is not a Son‘, the Old Testament, the Jewish scriptures had already referred to God as a Father, and a Son, long before Jesus the Messiah came.

“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” (Malchi 2:10)

“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. And he will be called… Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6).

Muslim friends (and others, you know who) say that the word Trinity is not in the Bible, therefore the concept or the doctrine must be wrong. But the word Tawhid is not found in the Quran either. So is the concept that it teaches wrong as well? Our Muslims friends will say the concept of Tawhid is there. Similarly, Christian’s claim about God’s oneness and pluraness is based on Scriptures. Hence, to discover whether tawhid is qur’anic or the Trinity is biblical, we can’t simply look for a magic word — we need to see what is actually said in each case about the nature of God.

Though the Bible does not use the word “Trinity”, the teachings are certainly there.

Jesus commands us to:

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (plural).” (Matthew 28:19-20)

When Jesus commands us to baptize people, it must be done in the ‘name,’ not ‘names,’ of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That’s because there is ONE name, ONE being, the Yahweh of Scriptures, who exists in three Persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).

The doctrine of Trinity teaches that God is ONE being and three persons. This is not a contradiction, because ‘being’ and ‘person’ are two different things. Your being is that which makes you what you are, your person is that which makes you who you are.

  • Plants have being, but they are not persons.

  • I am ONE being, a single human being, and ONE person, Stephen.

  • Yahweh is ONE being, a single divine being, with THREE persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. Complex? Yes. Unique? Yes. Nonsensical? No.

If someone asks you who you are, you don’t reply, “I’m a human.” You respond by sharing your name, which identifies you as a person. Similarly, when we say God is One being, we are describing the what of God. When we speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are referring to the who of God.

God is more than able to exist like that because he is God. If we say God must be only one person, like humans, then we are making God in our image. Who are we to limit God? It is up to God to tell us who He is, and Jesus commands us to be baptized into “one divine name consisting of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. God of the Bible is absolutely indivisible in substance and nature (one) , but distinct in identity (plural).

The doctrine of Trinity:
  • Does not teach that each persons are three individual gods; that is polytheism or tritheism
  • Does not teach that each persons are three beings like the teachings of Ellen White of the Seventh day Adventists or the Mormons.
  • Does not teach that the three persons are three parts of God.
  • Does not teach that three persons are freakish-looking, three-headed gods
  • Does not teach that three persons are different nature “gods” like in paganism
  • Does not teach that the three persons are: Father, Jesus, and Mary.
  • Does teach that there is only one God or one divine being
  • Does not teach God is one and three in the same sense; which is self-contradictory. Instead, teaches that God is one in ‘being’, three in ‘persons’; being and persons are two different things.

Moreover, the Bible does not teach that the term Son of God applied to Jesus means anything related to biological sonship or physical offspring, as if one day God decided to create another god. The Sonship of Jesus is not physical, but one of role. This explains how Jesus can be inferior to the Father in one sense (His role as a servant), but still be equal to the Father in another (His nature and substance as God). As an illustration, my father is superior to me in terms of role within the family, but he and I are equally human. I am inferior in role, but equal in substance. So the Father can be greater in ‘role’ as seen when Jesus emptied himself and took the role of a servant (Matthew 20:28) when He came to the earth, yet equal in substance, since they are the same Being. Father and Son are equally divine.

Hence, the Bible teaches that the One God is tri-personal not uni-personal. These three persons are co-eternal, co-substantial, and co-existent with each other. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit never began to exist. One God of the Bible is eternal, the creator, the truth, omnipresent: that’s why the Father, Son, Holy Spirit are said to share in the same attributes only a Divine being has (see below).

Father is Son is Spirit is
God is Eternal “from everlasting” (Psalm 90:2) “from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2) Eternal Spirit” (Hebrews 9:14)
God Is Creator “one father created us?” (Malachi 2:10) “All things were made by Him (John 1:1) “The Spirit of God has made me” (Job 33:4)
God is Truth God’s word is truth (Psalms   25:5) “I [Jesus] am the Truth” (John 14:6) “The Spirit of truth” (John 15:26)
God is Omnipresent “Who can hide in secret places” (Jeremiah 23:24) Jesus said, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20) “Where can I run away from the Spirit of God” (Psalm 139:7-8)

That’s why Jesus applies to himself, the same titles and attributes applied to Yahweh of the Old Testament. No prophet would do such a thing:

Yahweh is the: Jesus is the:
I AM (Exodus 3:13-14) I AM (John 8:58-59)
First and Last (Isaiah 44:6) First and Last (Revelation 1:17-18)
Truth  (Psalm 31:5) Truth (John 14:6)
Light (Psalm 27:1) Light (John 8:12)
Lord of Lords (Deuteronomy 10:17) Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16)
Resurrection (1 Samuel 2:6) Resurrection (John 5:25-29)
Judge (Psalm 9:7-8) Judge (Matthew 25:31-32)

Our Muslim friends and others ask us where is this concept of God’s oneness and pluralness found in the Old Testament? Is it not just an after-the-fact justification? If the doctrine of the Trinity is true, then why don’t we find more explicit references in the Old Testament? We will show where in the Old Testament this concept is present. But remember, the culture in which God revealed His will and Scriptures. Israel was surrounded by nations who were all polytheistic – they believed in many gods. It was important for Israel to realize that the God of the Bible is the only God who existed. After this truth was firmly understood by Israel then the Lord revealed further truth about His basic nature: Father, Son and the Spirit. God revealed more of his nature with the coming of Messiah, and we would be foolish to ignore his revelation.

In the first book of Moses, Genesis, we have an indication for God’s oneness and pluralness:

In Genesis 1:26, the One God says, “Let Us make man in Our image”.

A common response is that such wording is a literary device to reflect the “Royal Plural” as in the Quran. Often times kings and rulers would speak in third person (i.e. the plural of majesty); however, the plural of majesty was not used among the Jews nor was it used in the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures, and so such explanation does not adequately address why it is used in Genesis 1:26 and in other places.

Even Genesis begins with the first verse that hints of God’s singularness in one sense and pluralness in another sense:

In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

The Hebrew word for God is Elohim. Elohim is a plural noun but it is used here with a singular verb bara. In the remainder of the Old Testament, when Elohim is used of the true God, it is always used with a singular verb. The conclusion to be drawn is that in some sense God is singular and plural in another sense.

A number of Muslims point to the Shema as evidence for Tawhid. However, instead of supporting Tawhid, it in fact supports the concept of God’s pluralness (ECHAD).

“Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one (ECHAD).” (Deuteromy 6:4).

Unlike the Hebrew word YACHID, which corresponds to  TAWHID from the Arabic, which is the Islamic notion of an abstract numerical oneness , the Bible uses the word ECHAD for God, a word that stands for unity, such as exists between a husband and wife, constituting them “one flesh” (Gen 2:24), or between morning and evening, constituting them “one day” (Gen 1:5), or such as Christians profess when they say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are “one being”, “one essence”, or “one God” or “one” or “echad”.

Moses shows that God is one yet plural in persons. There are two persons called Jehovah active in Genesis 19:24:

‘Then the LORD (Jehovah) rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from the LORD (Jehovah) out of the heavens’ (Genesis 19:24).

In Gen 19:24, there are two individuals called Jehovah, one on the earth who talked to Abraham and called fire down from the other Jehovah in the heavens.

Similarly, there are two persons active as per prophet Amos:

I [Jehovah] overthrew you, as God [Jehovah] overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD (Amos 4:11)

Isaiah shows all three persons active in the following verse:

“Come near to Me [Christ], listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD [Father] has sent Me [Christ], and His Spirit [Holy Spirit].” (Isaiah 48:17)

Jesus himself confirmed in many places that there is one God, yet plural in persons, and then He confirmed it further through His apostles who spearheaded His teachings under the New Covenant.

Jesus said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name [Christ], will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)

‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’ (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Does God’s oneness in being and pluralness in person better describe who God is? The Scriptures and words of Jesus says so. It is neither illogical nor insane to assert that one God exists in three persons as there is a difference between person and being. Yahweh is one being who exists in three persons and this concept of the Trinity is clear in the Scriptures. It teaches that there is only one God (Deut 4:35), but He is somehow plural (Gen 1:1, Dt 6:4, Jn 1:1), and these three persons share the name of Yahweh (Mt 28:19; Phil 2:11 cf. Isaiah 45:22-23). Unique? Yes. Nonsensical? No. Contradiction? No. If the world is so complex that it baffles our minds, what about the One who created the world? If God can exist without a beginning, an idea that is nonsensial and unimaginable, yet God is eternal without a beginning or end, how much more unique is our creator? Now if my Creator has to be simple so that I can understand Him, then I have made Him in my image.

How simple is Tawhid?

Our Muslim friends (and others who insist the same) says Tawhid is a simple doctrine, yet the doctrine of tawhid does not resolve the complexity of God. Quite the contrary, it creates its own set of challenges. According to tawhid, God is absolutely one. This means that in eternity past, before he created anything, Allah was alone. It was not until he chose to create the universe that Allah had anything, or anyone, with whom to relate. This presents an enormous theological problem for Islam, which teaches that Allah is ar-Rahman and ar-Raheem, the Gracious and the Merciful. These qualities imply that Allah is relational in the way he interacts with his creatures.

So, in order for Allah to actually be gracious and merciful, he first has to create an object of his grace and mercy. Put another way, Allah’s attributes are contingent upon creation.

Allah may act graciously toward certain people, but he cannot be eternally gracious by nature, only by acts of the will.

On the other hand, the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that One being have always existed in the three persons, agreed in purpose, and loved one another with a selfless love. Unlike Allah, Yahweh does not merely love; He is love (1 John 4:7). He does not merely extend mercy; He is merciful (Jeremiah 3:12). His grace and mercy are not contingent on creation because they are expressions of His eternal nature.

Because of tawhid, Allah depends on mankind in order to be Allah. Because of his triune nature, Yahweh is truly independent and self-sufficient. So the simplicity of tawhid proves to be a fatal flaw for orthodox Islam; it makes Allah contingent upon his creation.

There is a crucial difference between the monolithic oneness of Allah and the triune oneness of Yahweh. Only Yahweh is eternally loving and relational. His attributes are not contingent on creation. And He creates people with capacity for personality, selfless love, and relationships.

Adapted: https://www.christianity.com/god/trinity/turning-from-tawhid-to-the-trinity.html

Reasons to Rejoice-Reflections from Philippians

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I’m sure we could all identify with various emotions that we felt over the last several weeks. Maybe it’s anger; maybe it’s fear, anxiety, frustration, annoyance. But I’m wondering if one of those emotions that’s defined you over the last several weeks has been joy. You might think that’s kind of a strange thing for me to say. Some might even think it sounds kind of insensitive. But here’s the deal. If your joy is dependent on your circumstances, you’re destined to live a pretty unhappy life. The fact is there are very few circumstances we can control. God’s word shows that Joy is a choice. It’s an attitude, and we make that choice based on what we believe to be true.

So if you were to ask a New Testament scholar what book of the New Testament most celebrates what it means to rejoice or to be joyful as a Christian, I think they’d probably all agree it’s the New Testament book of Philippians. If you happen to have a Bible with you, go ahead and turn to Philippians. It’s helpful to understand the background of the book of Philippians. It’s written by the Apostle Paul and he’s writing from a Roman prison, chained to two guards, waiting to find out if he’s going to be executed or released. So think about this. Over fourteen times in a short, four-chapter letter, Paul talks about the theme of joy or rejoicing. When we’re going through this chapter, we’re not going to go verse by verse, line by line, like we normally do. I’m just going to pick out themes that he talks about—that he rejoices about—because he knows they’re true. I’ve identified six reasons to rejoice, no matter what the circumstances.

1) So the first one I find in chapter 1. He opens in verse 3, talking about thanking God for the Philippian believers, and verse 4, offering a prayer with joy. Why? Verse 6:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now…For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (NASB, Philippians 1:4-6)

Paul is praying for these believers in Philippi and he says he does so with great joy in his heart. Why is that? Because he knows that they have believed in the gospel, and that means that Jesus has started something in them that He’s going to finish. He’s going to complete it all the way to the day of Jesus Christ, all the way to the return of Christ and the ushering in of the new heaven and the new earth. So, Paul isn’t just rejoicing that this is true of him, but rather he knows this is true of these people and because Jesus has started something, he knows He’s going to finish. Think about this. He is sitting in a Roman prison; he is imprisoned because of his commitment to the gospel. They’ve arrested him because he proclaims the message of Christ. He has literally given his life that these people might believe. But now, sitting in a Roman prison, he knows they truly believe and because of Christ, then what the Spirit of God has started, He’s going to complete. They’re going to make it all the way to the finish line, and their future is glorious! And he would say, “That’s something worth dying for!”

Paul says in the book of Galatians 3:5, what the Spirit starts, the Spirit’s going to complete. Jesus doesn’t start something; then you have to somehow complete it. The Spirit starts it; the Spirit completes it. He says in Ephesians 2:10, through His grace, Jesus is going to make you into a masterpiece of His grace, something so glorious that He’s going to hold you up in the heavenlies and the angels will gasp at the wonder of what you’ve become. And since Jesus has started that work, we’re all going to get to the finish line, and it will be glorious! So I would say, “Not only do I find joy in knowing that’s true of me, I find joy in knowing it’s true that Jesus will complete His work in you!”

2) The second reason to rejoice I find in verse 12 and following, where Paul says:

Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,

So think of it this way: Paul finds great joy in knowing that not only he, but also these Philippian believers have trusted Christ, and what Jesus has started, He is going to complete in them. But then he extends it. If that’s true, if the gospel is that wondrous, we need to add more names to the list; we need to advance the gospel. We want more people to know Jesus, to know this joy and to know this future that has been made possible. So when Paul is talking about his circumstances, basically what he’s talking about is on his second missionary journey, he arrived in Philippi, and this is a pretty famous story in the book of Acts, chapter 16:

It’s the story of the Philippian jailer. Paul and Silas are thrown in prison, and God brings an earthquake. Basically the jail is opened up but Paul and Silas remain in the jail, and the jailer says, “What must I do to be saved?” Well, this is the birth of the Philippian church, so these are the people that he’s talking about. They experienced a miraculous deliverance from jail, and perhaps somewhere along the way they concluded that’s the way it’s supposed to always work. But what happens is Paul goes from Philippi to Jerusalem, and when he gets to Jerusalem, he’s arrested. He’s then sent to Caesarea where he spends two years in jail there. As a Roman citizen, he appeals to Rome. Rome accepts the appeal, so he gets on a ship to go to Rome, but the ship gets in a storm. There’s a great shipwreck; almost everybody dies, and he ends up on the island of Malta. While he’s there, he’s picking up sticks for a campfire, and a deadly snake bites him, and finally he ends up being stranded for three months. Then he gets to Rome and in Rome he’s chained to two guards. That’s what he means, by my circumstances. And so they’re trying to figure out, if Paul is the premier church planter, he’s the premier missionary, why would God allow him to seemingly rot in jail and rot in prison? Why not another Philippian jailer story and deliver him so he can advance the gospel? So maybe they’re thinking Paul isn’t telling the truth, or maybe he doesn’t have God’s favor. In their minds, something’s kind of messed up here. So what he’s wanting them to understand is that his circumstances, whatever they may be, have been used by God to advance the gospel. So the second reason to rejoice is the reminder that God uses all of our circumstances to advance the gospel. 


So Paul basically is saying that everywhere he looks, God is using his circumstances to advance the gospel, and so he rejoices in that.
I can rejoice because He can use any circumstances—including the circumstances we’re in with this virus—and everything that has to do with it. How might God be using that to advance the gospel? He’s doing amazing things around the world, and we need to trust Him and rejoice that God is accomplishing the mission. He’s advancing the gospel.

3) The third one is also in chapter 1. I see it in verse 21 where Paul says:

For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

That’s an amazing statement. Essentially what Paul is saying is, “Either way, I win. There’s no losing in this deal.” Remember, Paul is sitting in a Roman prison and he’s awaiting word as to whether he’s going to be executed or released, so this isn’t just theory for him. This is the real deal, but he says, “I win no matter what.” When he says, “For me to live is Christ,” again he’s not saying the goal is to live to be ninety, sunbathing on the Love Boat. He says to live for Christ is more fruitful labor, in other words, more opportunity to serve, to plant more churches, to advance the mission. But he also says to die is gain. As a matter of fact, he says not just that would be better, he says that would be very much better. The reality is, when we start thinking that this world is where it’s at, that this world is what matters most, that this world is where I’m going to be happy, that this world is what I want to live for, then everything becomes about survival. Everything is about doing whatever we have to do to live to be ninety because what matters most is this life. Then we start fearing death; then we start denying death. All of that changes when we understand correctly that our hope is in the world to come. Our hope is in the promise that Jesus is coming back, that Jesus will deliver us to the new heaven and the new earth.

Historically there have always been problems with diseases and infections. Some of them have been worldwide; some of them have been much more in a particular locality. But historically, when people had a contagious disease, they often were ignored; they were neglected; they were left in the streets to die. But it was the Christians who rolled up their sleeves, who went out in the streets and they treated them with kindness, with compassion, with care. They took care of them, and often they contracted the disease and they died of the disease. It was understood that the goal, the mission, is not to see how long we can live. To live is Christ; to die is gain. It’s about being faithful. It’s about being diligent to advance the mission and being obedient to what God has called us to.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in this particular situation. I don’t know what’s coming five years from now. Nobody knows that. But I do know if there is great sickness and great suffering and there is a need for kindness and compassion and care from people who may actually die from whatever that disease is, that God calls the church to roll up our sleeves, to get in the streets and make a difference— to be the church! We’re never going to live that way unless we understand, as Paul rejoiced, “To live is Christ; to die is gain,” and there’s no losing in that deal. It’s only when we understand the world to come—and that is our hope—that we actually learn to live well in this world now.

4) The fourth reason for joy I see in chapter 3, and that is that Paul identifies that he stands righteous before a holy God, not on the basis of his religious performance or good works, but on the basis of what Christ has done for him—and he believes that by faith. In the first part of chapter 3 he goes through the list of all the things that he accomplished. He was a high achiever; he was a Pharisee; he was full of self-righteousness; he was zealous; he was the best of the best. But he goes on, starting in verse 7-9:

Whatever things were gain to me, those things [those religious achievements] I have counted as loss… in order that he might gain Christ and in order that he might know Christ. and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith  


He even goes so far as to say he counts it as rubbish. It’s just trash in comparison to knowing Christ. He goes on and says that he stands right before God, based on the righteousness of Christ, that he  received by faith. So think about that. What if, in times like this, what was required of us to stand righteous before God was to get to a certain building, was to get to a certain ritual, was to have some pastor or priest or attend some church or observe a holy day on a particular day by attending church on Saturday, or to do some certain thing that makes us right before God, but you can’t get to them because everything isshut down? What a horrible, desperate feeling that would be! But the reality has nothing to do with a building or a pastor or a priest or a ritual or day. It has to do with faith in Christ, and found in Him, not with a righteousness derived from the law, but with His righteousness . And so Paul says, “I rejoice sitting in a Roman prison cell,” because he stands right before a holy God because of his faith in Christ. He goes on in chapter 3, in verse 14:
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

That’s an interesting verse. The upward call is Greek language that would be referencing that when someone won what would have been their Olympic games, they basically were called up to the metal stand, as we would call it, in front of an emperor/king—somebody of significance—and they would receive their prize. So Paul is saying that he presses on because, at the end of the story, (He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it,) and he’ll be invited up to the metal stand and receive his prize. And his prize is this relationship with Christ. It’s the resurrection from the dead. It is the new heaven and the new earth, everything that’s promised in Christ. And it’s not based on his performance. It’s based on his faith in what Jesus has done for him!  So, no matter what, he says, “I rejoice because I’m confident. I know this is true in Christ!”

5) The fifth reason to rejoice is in chapter 4, as a matter of fact in verse 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!

It’s kind of a double joy there, and the reason he says is because he’s able to trade his anxiety for peace. Again, think about this.  He’s sitting in a prison cell awaiting possible execution, but he says that rather than being anxious, he prays to God, and the result is he experiences peace. I once heard somebody define peace as the possession of adequate resources. In other words, Paul is saying, “Because I know Christ has adequate resources for whatever I’m going through, I don’t need to be anxious, but rather I can experience peace.” As a matter of fact, it goes on and says it’s a peace that goes beyond understanding.

I think a lot of people these days are asking what they can do, and people have creatively found ways to help. But it’s hard sometimes to know how we can help in these uncertain times. Maybe the best thing we could do to help would be to display a peace that goes beyond understanding. In other words, could the people around us that are experiencing so much despair and fear and panic, look at you and say, “I don’t understand, why are you so peaceful?” It’s almost like, “Do you not understand what’s happening?” Could we say, “I’m peaceful; I don’t need to be anxious because I know God possesses adequate resources for whatever I’m going through. It’s going to be fine. I just need to trust Him.” But the key to that starts in verse 8, when he says:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Vs. 8-9)

The key to peace and not being anxious has to do with what you choose to dwell on. If you’re going to dwell on the negative, if you’re going to dwell on the bad news, if you’re going to dwell on all the things that annoy us or upset us or concern us, you’re not going to know peace. You’re just going to know anxiety. I can’t emphasize this enough:  In these days of uncertainty, when so many people are stuck at home and wondering what’s going to happen, it’s easy to feed on bad news. It’s on our phones. Every time you open up your phone, there’s some warning about the virus. Every time you get a news’ feed, it’s something about the virus. Almost all the commercials on TV right now have something to do with the virus. The media sensationalizes this thing and creates all kinds of hysteria, and people just feed on that. I would suggest it takes less than five minutes per day to get up to date on what’s happening. You don’t need more than that.

You need to dwell on the things that are good, the things that are right, the things that are beneficial, the things that are pure, that are lovely. You have to discipline yourself to dwell on the right things in order to experience peace rather than anxiety. So one of the things you can dwell on is the book of Philippians. It’s a short book—four chapters. Read it over and over and over again. It’s all about joy in the midst of difficult circumstances.

6) The last reason to rejoice is in chapter 4, starting in verse 10 where Paul says he rejoices, and then he gets to verse 11. Why?

Because he’s learned to be content in whatever circumstances he finds himself in. ..in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret..

Now, again, he’s writing from prison. He’s awaiting possible execution and he says, “I’ve learned to be content.” That’s really quite a remarkable statement! That Greek word content, this is the only place in the New Testament it appears, and it was connected to the Stoics. The Stoics were all about self-sufficiency, and that’s basically what this word means. No matter what was happening around them that they could not control, they, in their own self-sufficiency, would not react or respond to it. Paul is going to essentially redefine the term. How is he able to be content in such circumstances? Well, he tells us in verse 12 that he’s learned the secret. That word secret is an interesting word. It’s a Greek word that referenced mystery religion, and secret had to do with a secret password, a secret passageway. There was some secret they learned in order to enter into this mystery religion. So Paul is picking up on that terminology, and essentially saying, “I’ve learned the secret to contentment. I’ve learned the password; I’ve learned the entrance.”
What is it? Verse 13:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

What’s the secret passageway into contentment? It’s the understanding, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It’s not self-sufficiency; that would be a disaster. But rather it’s Christ sufficiency! It’s understanding that no matter what happens, Christ is enough. Whether I live or die, I win. What He started in me, He is going to complete. He uses my circumstances to advance the gospel, and we understand that is all by faith in what Jesus has done. It’s not based on my performance, so I can experience peace instead of anxiety. None of us know what tomorrow holds. But we do know that Christ is enough. So, every day there is reason to rejoice! Let’s pray.

Our Father, we are so thankful that Christ is enough. We’re reminded there’s very little in this world that we can control, but what we can control is what we believe. Lord I pray that You would remind us we have good reasons to rejoice because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Lord, remind us, day after day, that no matter what, Christ is enough! In His name we pray, Amen.

The above is Adapted from: Messages from Lincoln Berean from Pastor Bryan Clarke.

Image credited to: Transitchurch