by Wayne Willey
One of the chief complaints of evangelicals, including evangelical Seventh-day Adventists, is that the majority of Seventh-day Adventists seem to be so obsessed with the Sabbath that they pay little attention to anything else, not even the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
These evangelicals have heard Seventh-day Adventists say:
The Sabbath is the memorial of creation.
The Sabbath is a memorial of redemption.
The Sabbath is the sign of sanctification.
The Sabbath is the chief test of loyalty to God.
The Sabbath is the chief identifying mark of the remnant church.
The Sabbath is the final test which will separate those who worship
The Sabbath is the seal of God which indicates who will be saved
When Seventh-day Adventists talk about "keeping the commandments of God", they mean keeping the Sabbath.
When Seventh-day Adventists talk about "resting from one's labors", "resting in Christ" and "entering into Christ's rest", they mean resting on the seventh-day Sabbath.
When Seventh-day Adventists talk about "decisions" in the context of evangelism, they mean decisions to keep the Sabbath and join the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.
This obsession with the Sabbath reminds me of a similar obsession among the Pharisees during the time of Jesus.
I have read that the Pharisees believed that Israel must keep one perfect Sabbath in order for Messiah to come. The Pharisees rejected Jesus as Messiah because He was too "liberal" in His teachings about the Sabbath, making such "liberal" statements as "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath". Ultimately, the Pharisees conspired to murder Jesus because He was a threat to their desire to restore and purify "historic Judaism" through proper Sabbath observance. The spiritual descendants of the Pharisees in Judaism are still trying to restore proper Sabbath observance in Israel today.
Seventh-day Adventists need to remember that keeping the Sabbath can never be the basis for our salvation. If our keeping of the Sabbath were the basis for salvation, then every one of us would be without hope. We fall short of God's ideal in our Sabbath-keeping, just as we fall short of God's ideal in every other area of our lives. We are all Sabbath-breakers -- in our thoughts and attitudes as well as in our deeds.
There has been only one man who has ever attained God's ideal in His Sabbath-keeping and every other area of life -- the man we know as Jesus Christ -- God incarnate in human flesh.
Jesus offers me forgiveness for the sin of Sabbath-breaking just as He offers forgiveness for every other sin.
Jesus offers me cleansing from the guilt of Sabbath-breaking just as He offers me cleansing from the guilt of every other sin.
Jesus offers me the righteousness of His own perfect Sabbath-keeping just as He offers me the righteousness of His own perfect obedience in every other area of life.
Jesus' offers of forgiveness, cleansing from guilt and perfect righteousness before God come to us in the gospel. This is the reason why the preaching of the gospel is so important.
Many Seventh-day Adventists will be surprised to hear me say that many of their evangelical neighbors who have attended church on the wrong day (Sunday) all their lives will be accounted as perfect Sabbath-keepers in the judgment because they have received the gift of Christ's perfect righteousness (and perfect Sabbath-keeping) through the gospel. On the other hand, many Seventh-day Adventists and other Sabbatarians who have attended church on the right day (the seventh-day Sabbath) will be "weighed in the balances and found lacking" because "they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own" righteousness and "did not submit to God's righteousness" (Romans 10:3, NIV) which is offered in the gospel. This is the reason why I counsel people to attend a church where the preaching of the gospel is the central theme of worship every week, even if that church meets on Sunday rather than the Sabbath. The gospel without the Sabbath is more effective in building and maintaining faith in Christ than the Sabbath without the gospel. Those who enjoy the privilege of attending a church where the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached every Sabbath should thank God that they have received a "double blessing".
God gives us all His gifts (forgiveness, cleansing, righteousness and eternal life) through the gospel -- the good news that Jesus Christ has done everything that needed to be done for our salvation. We cannot add anything to what Christ has done for us.
"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."
"Clad in His righteousness alone" I am "faultless to stand before His throne."
"On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."