Commentary on "The Unity of the Gospel"
Day 7: Friday, October 14, 2011 - Further Study
The foremost writer of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ellen White, has the honor of closing this week's lessons, and she's quoted in relationship with Peter's mistake in Antioch. She wrote:
"At Antioch Peter failed in the principles of integrity. Paul had to withstand his subverting influence face to face. This is recorded that others may profit by it, and that the lesson may be a solemn warning to the men in high places, that they may not fail in integrity, but keep close to principle" ("Ellen G. White Comments",The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1108).
The reader may wonder what Paul would say if Ellen White had been in the hot seat instead of Peter. It's possible that Ellen would eat with the gentiles but only vegetarian food, but it's more probable that, because of their pork on the table, she would prefer to fast on that day. Since she was persuaded that she had to keep the food laws from Leviticus, she would not fail in integrity, being true to her convictions, which is commendable. Much less commendable is that she would be inclined to take sides with those who came from Jerusalem, pressing for submission to food laws and denying Christian liberty.
Unfortunately, the issue of Christian liberty is the ultimate issue when people's adherence to the gospel is revealed. Many times the denial of the gospel does not take an obvious form. On the surface it seems that people are able to dot their i's and cross their t's, and their statements sound orthodox. Still, the point where the rubber meets the road is the denial of Christian liberty. Denying Christian liberty in regard to food is an example of the underlying deviation from the gospel within Adventism. While freedom from the jurisdiction of the Old Covenant may involve other things more important, such as the Sabbath, still in the denial of liberty regarding less important aspects of Christian life (food, drink) exposes the judgmental, legalistic mindset. The controlling and imposing attitude reflects the perfectionistic mentality of those who close the door of heaven over the issue of food, drink, or a Sabbath day (Col. 2:16).
Officially the Adventist Church tried to put some distance between its current position and the older, more perfectionistic stance. Still, the issues that were alive at Antioch are at least partially relevant for them because of the mixing of law and grace, Old Covenant law with New Covenant gospel. The problem is that even on their own terms, the food laws are not part of the Decaloguewhich they call the eternal moral law. Adventism states that the Mosaic ceremonial laws were fulfilled in Christ, but they believe the Decalogue is eternal. Without changing their position on the Decalogue, integrity would require an abandonment of the food laws if they don't want to emulate Peter's example.
If they want to stand for the gospel, letting go of the food laws would be the first step in the right direction.
Copyright 2011 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised October 14, 2011. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Glendale, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
The Sabbath School Bible Study Guide and the corresponding E.G. White Notes are published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, which is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. The current quarter's editions are pictured above.
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