Answering the Sabbath Observance

by Jefferson David Tant

Those who claim that the Sabbath (Saturday) is the day God has ordained from the beginning certainly believe that their claims are based on Scripture, and vigorously defend their belief and practice. But a careful examination of the Scriptures shows a problem with the arguments they make to support the practice of keeping the Sabbath as a holy day in the New Testament era. Let us consider the arguments that are made to support the claim, and then see what the Bible has to say.

Proposed Reasons for Observing the Sabbath

The Sabbath is a holy day, for God blessed it and set it aside.

"Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it..." (Genesis 2:3).

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8).

Response:

The truth is that God also set aside other days as "holy." "On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you" (Leviticus 2:27). It is obvious that the "tenth day" of the month is not a Sabbath. The fact is that there are various things in the Old Testament that were holy, but which were confined to the Old Testament period, and were not included in New Testament practices. "These are the appointed times of the LORD which you shall proclaim as holy convocations, to present offerings by fire to the LORD -- burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each day's matter on its own day" (Leviticus 23:37). We would agree that burnt offerings are not a part of the New Covenant, even though God said they were "holy."

The Sabbath was to be perpetual, everlasting, forever, etc.

"So the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed" (Exodus 31:16-17).

Response:

Notice that the passage says the Sabbath was to be perpetual "throughout their generations." When the nation of Israel ceased to exist, "their generations" also ceased to exist. There were also other "forever" and "perpetual" matters that obviously are not to be observed today. For example, when God brought Israel out of Egypt, the Passover feast was inaugurated, as the Lord "passed over" the houses with blood on the doorpost. "Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance" (Exodus 12:14). I am not aware that Sabbath observers observe the Passover feast today.

The fact that something was "permanent" is modified by "throughout your generations." We further note that there were other observances that were "perpetual," "continual" and "throughout your generations."

"When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations" (Exodus 30:8).

"It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD..." (Exodus 29:42).

"Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year; he shall make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD" (Exodus 30:10).

In these passages, we note that the Passover, the burning of incense, and the offering of atonement carry the same language of perpetuity that the Sabbath does, yet it is understood that they are not considered a part of God's arrangement with us today.

Jesus kept the Sabbath.

Response:

Certainly Jesus kept the Sabbath. He lived under the Law Moses. "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law" (Galatians 4:4). As an observant Jew, Jesus was circumcised (Luke 2:21.) He kept the Passover (Luke 22:15). There is no mention of his observing the Sabbath after his resurrection, even though he remained on the earth for some 40 days. That would include at least five Sabbath days.

The reason we find no further observance of the Sabbath is seen in the fact that the Sabbath and other Old Testament observances were abolished at the death of Christ. "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ" (Colossians 2:13-17).

The Scripture says Christ took the decrees out of the way, having nailed them to the cross. Therefore, we are not to be judged any more concerning food or drink (dietary laws), or the observance of special days (including Sabbath days) or seasons. One commentary states: "The word 'judge' here is used in the sense of pronouncing a sentence. The meaning is, `since you have thus been delivered by Christ from the evils which surrounded you; since you have been freed from the observances of the law, let no one sit in judgment on you, or claim the right to decide for you in those matters'" (Albert Barnes). The apostle Paul, by inspiration declares that the Sabbath day has no more significance to us any more than the feast days, etc. We do not live under the Old Testament system at this time.

Sabbath is mentioned 59 times in the New Testament, and, therefore, must be binding.

Response:

As a matter of fact, the Temple is mentioned 115 times, yet we are not obligated to go to the temple for worship today, while there was such a command in the Old Testament. "The people of the land shall also worship at the doorway of that gate before the LORD on the Sabbaths and on the new moons" (Ezekiel 46:3).

Circumcision is mentioned 55 times in the New Testament, yet is not bound. In Acts 15, the Jerusalem conference dealt with the problem of Jewish converts seeking to bind circumcision on the Gentile converts. Peter, who was the first of the apostles to go to the Gentiles (cf. Cornelius in Acts 10), stood up and testified, "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" (Acts 15:10). The "yoke" referred to the Law of Moses in general, and circumcision in particular. Yet we know that in the Old Testament circumcision was God's law for the Jews. "He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:13). Note that circumcision was a "must," and that it was an "everlasting covenant." But we note that this "everlasting covenant" was with Israel, and as noted before, was to continue "throughout their generations," so long as the nation existed.

If the necessity of circumcision, which was an everlasting covenant, is no longer bound, then the Sabbath, which was an everlasting covenant was also subject to coming to an end. If not, why not?

In addition, Passover is mentioned 28 times in the New Testament, yet we are not told to observe the Passover Feast. In fact, we have a new Passover-Christ. "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed" (I Corinthians 5:7).

The women rested the day after the crucifixion, therefore they observed the Sabbath.

Response:

All the truth had not yet been revealed. Shortly before his death, Christ told the disciples, "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come" (John 16:12-13). The full teaching of the New Covenant did not begin to be revealed until the Day of Pentecost50 days after the resurrection. In fact, the church had not even been established until that day.

Jewish Christians observed the Sabbath in the Book of Acts.

Response: In a period of transition, many of the Jews did not free themselves immediately from the Law. It was mentioned earlier that the conference in Acts 15 dealt with this very matter. Some Jewish converts were insisting that the Gentile converts had to submit to certain provisions of the Law, such as circumcision. But the apostles quickly showed that God had released men from the Law. "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" (Acts 15:10).

Paul kept the Sabbath 84 times in the book of Acts.

Acts 13:14-15—two Sabbaths; 16:13—one Sabbath; 17:1-2—three more Sabbaths; 18:1-4, 11—a year-and-a-half—78 Sabbaths.

Response:

Acts 18:6-7 removes about 75 of those Sabbaths. "But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, `Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue." When the Jews refused to listen to him, he ceased meeting with them and turned his attention to the Gentiles, who obviously did not observe the Sabbath.

But did Paul go to the synagogues while he was a Christian? "To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law" (I Corinthians 9:20). He had Timothy circumcised, not because of the Law, but in order to make him able to go in among the Jews, as his mother was Jewish. "Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek" (Acts 16:1-3).

But Paul refused to have Titus circumcised. "But not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised" (Galatians 2:3). Neither of Titus" parents were Jewish, so there was no reason to accommodate the Jews in this situation.

When Paul went into a city, and sought out a place where he could testify to Jews about Christ, where would he go? "And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, `This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ'" (Acts 17:2-3). "And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks" (Acts 18:4).

In Acts 17:22, Paul was in the city of Athens preaching to a group of people assembled. "So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, `Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.'" Just what is the Areopagus (Mars Hill—KJV)? "From Ares (the name of the Greek deity of war) and a derivative of 4078; rock of Ares, a place in Athens:--Areopagus, Mars' Hill." (Strong's Greek Dictionary). The fact that Paul went to a place that honored a false god certainly does not mean that he worshipped that God. And the fact that Paul went into a synagogue of the Jews does not mean that he went there to worship. He went to both places in order to teach the people gathered there.

If we wanted to address a gathering of Muslims in order to teach them about Jesus Christ, where would be a likely place? How about a mosque, where they gather on Fridays? But that certainly would not mean that I went to worship the Muslim god Allah. So the fact that Paul went into the synagogues on the Sabbath in no way proves that he was "observing" the Sabbath as a good Jew observing the Law.

The Law of Moses (ceremonial) was taken away, but the Law of God (the 10 Commandments) remains in force.

Response:

This argument is often made, that the fourth commandment (remember the Sabbath), is a part of the Law of God, and the Ten Commandments are still in force, but the other Old Testament commandments are part of the "ceremonial" law, and that is what was removed or taken away.

On one occasion when the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus, he asked them: "Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?" (John 7:19). The sixth commandment forbade killing, yet Jesus said this was a part of Moses' Law. In Mark 7:10, Christ attributes the fifth command to Moses: "For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother.'"

In Luke 2:22-23, a "ceremonial" practice is called the "Law of the Lord." "And when the days for their purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, 'every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD')".

The truth is, nowhere in the Bible is there a distinction between the Law of Moses and the Law of God. That difference exists only in the minds of men. If there is a distinction, it should be made plain in a statement of Scripture somewhere. To date, such a Scripture has not been produced.

Some object with this reasoning: "If the Ten commandments have been done away, then is it OK to murder, commit adultery, and the other things that are mentioned?" An examination of the New Testament reveals that nine of the ten are mentioned in the New Testament, but one is not mentioned — Sabbath keeping. In the State of Georgia, a new constitution was enacted several years ago. It is against the law in Georgia to commit murder — not because the former law forbids it, but because the present law forbids it. In like manner, murder is against God's law, not because the Ten Commandments forbid it, but because the Law of Christ, the New Testament, forbids it.

Reasons for Not Observing the Sabbath

The Sabbath was given only to Israel.

During the Patriarchal Age, there is no command or example of people observing the Sabbath as a religious requirement, and no penalty is mentioned for not observing the Sabbath. During the Mosaical Age, we have all three—commands, examples of observance and a penalty for failing to keep the Sabbath. The penalty? "So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses" (Numbers 15:36). His crime? He had gathered wood on the Sabbath. During the New Testament age — no command, example or penalty. Note also that this penalty of "stoning" is said to be a part of the "ceremonial" law or Law of Moses. Yet this passage said it is a commandment of the Lord. Therefore, by the reasoning of the Sabbatarians, those who break the Sabbath today should be stoned to death. If not, why not?

The Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel, commemorating their deliverance from Egypt. In the midst of giving the Ten Commandments, we have these words in Deuteronomy 5:15: "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." (cf. Exodus 20:2). The same thought is expressed in Nehemiah 9:13-14: "Then You came down on Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven; You gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments. So You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, and laid down for them commandments, statutes and law, through Your servant Moses." Note that the Law was given on Sinai when they came out of Egypt, not before — not with their fathers.

In the account of the giving of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5, note what was said about the covenant: "The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today" (Deuteronomy 5:2-3). If the Ten Commandment covenant was not made with their fathers, then the Sabbath commandment was not given until Moses! Therefore it was not "from the beginning."

The entire covenant ended at the cross.

Earlier we noted Colossians 2:14-17, but let us be reminded again: Christ "blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross; having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ's." Note further that the Sabbath day and the things associated with it are said to be a shadow of things to come, but Christ is the substance. If you see the shadow of a person coming around the corner, you know that is not the real thing. Then when the real person appears, the shadow is gone. So it is, Paul says, with the things connected with the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

When Solomon had completed the building of the temple, he addressed the people who had assembled for the dedication. His remarks are recorded in I Kings 8:12-21. That last verse (21), reads, "There I have set a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD, which He made with our fathers when He brought them from the land of Egypt." What was made when Israel came out of Egypt? The "covenant of the Lord." What was included in that covenant? The Ten Commandments — the law concerning the Sabbath.

The writer of Hebrews elaborates on the change in the covenants in Hebrews 8. "But now has he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then would no place have been sought for a second. For finding fault with them, he said, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, That I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers In the day that I took them by the hand to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt; For they continued not in my covenant, And I regarded them not, says the Lord" (Hebrews 8:6-9). Then Hebrews 8:13: "In that he says, A new covenant he has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxes aged is nigh unto vanishing away." Who is it that made the covenant? God. And what did he say about the first covenant? He made it "old" and it was "vanishing away," because he made a "new covenant."

"But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, `You shall not covet'" (Romans 7:4-7). Paul says we have been "released from the Law," meaning we are no longer bound under it. Which Law? The one that included "you shall not covet." Which Law is that? The Ten Commandment Law! The same one that tells us to "remember the Sabbath."

Those who would be justified by the Law given on Mt. Sinai are severed from Christ and fallen from grace.

"Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother" (Galatians 4:21-26). Hagar represents what was given on Mt. Sinai—the Ten Commandments, and Paul says this represents slavery. Thus those who wish to be under that Law are in slavery, but Paul says there is something better — a new law coming from the Jerusalem above — heaven.

Then Galatians 5:4: "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." Paul is referring to the same law, the one given at Mt. Sinai, and says if we seek to be justified by it, we have fallen from grace and are cut off from Christ. Why would anyone desire that condition? Yet those who seek to bind the Sabbath are in that very situation.

All commands of the Decalogue are repeated in the New Testament, as was mentioned earlier, except for the fourth command concerning the Sabbath.

The first commandment is referenced some 50 times either by direct statement or by inference; the second, 12 times; the third, 4 times; the fourth, none; the fifth, 6 times; the sixth, 6 times; the seventh, 12 times; the eighth, 6 times; the ninth, 4 times; and the tenth, 9 times. Does it not seem odd that if God wanted Christians to observe the Sabbath, he would have communicated that to the early church in some manner? Yes, the Sabbath is mentioned many times, but not once are Christians commanded to observe it. Yet, in the Old Testament there are many ways in which God expressed his desire for the Jews to keep this day.

REASONS FOR OBSERVING THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK

Christ was raised on the first day of the week.

"Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons" (Mark 16:9). This was one of the most historic events in the history of the world, and God chose the first day of the week for this marvel.

Christ was declared to be the Son of God on that same day.

Paul states that he "...was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 1:4). Since he was raised on the first day of the week, and by his resurrection was proven and declared to be the Son of God, then that was the day of God's declaration.

Christ met with the disciples on the first day of the week.

"So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, `Peace be with you'" (John 20:19). "After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, `Peace be with you'" (John 20:26).

The church was established on the first day of the week.

Pentecost came on the first day of the week. Leviticus 13 gives the conditions for observing the Feast of Pentecost. "You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete Sabbaths" (Leviticus 13:15). "Pen'tecost, that is, the fiftieth day (from a Greek word meaning fiftieth), or Harvest Feast, or Feast of Weeks, may be regarded as a supplement to the Passover. It lasted for but one day. From the sixteenth of Nisan seven weeks were reckoned inclusively, and the next or fiftieth day was the day of Pentecost, which fell on the sixth of Sivan (about the end of May)" (Smith's Bible Dictionary).

It was on that first day of the week, Pentecost, that:

  1. The church was established. "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place" (Acts 2:1).
  2. The Holy Spirit began his mission of leading men to Christ. Christ had promised to send the Spirit when the gospel was to begin at Jerusalem. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

We see this fulfilled on Pentecost, the first day of the week, as the apostles "were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance" (Acts 2:4).

The New Testament church assembled on the first day of the week.

"We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days. On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight" (Acts 20:6-7). It is well understood that this "breaking of bread" refers to the Lord's Supper, or Communion. It is worth noting that Paul arrived in Troas on a Monday, but waited until the first day of the next week to meet with the disciples.

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come" (I Corinthians 16:1-2). Some may claim that this contribution is to be put aside at home, but that would defeat what Paul wanted. He said he did not want to have to collect the money when he came, as he wanted it all together. Obviously, this was money contributed into the common treasury on the first day of the week, as Paul directed.

This question comes to mind. If the church met on Saturday, then why would Paul instruct them to come the next day for the collection? These early Christians did not have the luxury of having Sunday off as most of us do. Many were slaves, and would rise before dawn to meet with fellow Christians before going to their delegated tasks. It would make no sense for them to be commanded to meet the second time just to make their contribution. Since this is a clear command, I have asked members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church if they came together on Sundays for this purpose. None that I have asked have admitted they did so. If this is a command, why do they ignore it?

Didn't the Pope Change the Day?

The charge is made that the Catholic Pope is the one who changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. We have already noted that this was done from the very beginning. Besides, there was no official pope until Boniface III in about 607 A. D.

We have many documents from the early years showing that the early church did indeed meet on the first day of the week. Consider just a few of many quotations.

Ignatius (c. 110 A.D.):

"If therefore those who lived according to the old practices came to the new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but living according to the Lord's Day, in which also our life arose through him and his death (which some deny), through which mystery we received faith..." (Magnesians 9).

Justin Martyr (c. 150 A. D.):

"We are always together with one another. And for all the things with which we are supplied we bless the Maker of all through his Son Jesus Christ and through his Holy Spirit. And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or a rural district...We all make our assembly in common on the day of the Sun, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the world and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day" (Apology I, 67:1-3, 7).

Tertullian (c. 200 A.D.):

"Others... suppose that the sun is the god of Christians, because it is well-known that...we regard Sunday as a day of joy" (To the Nations I:13). "To us Sabbaths are foreign" (On Idolatry 13:6). This was long before any pope arrived on the scene. The charge that the pope changed the day is a false charge.

Ellen G. White

Although there have been other proponents of observing the Sabbath day in modern times, Ellen G. White is the most prominent, as she is considered to be the founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. A full examination of her work would be the subject of another writing, but there are a few pertinent facts that we should note here.

Ellen White (1827-1915) was a prolific writer. She wrote more than 5,000 articles and 40 books. Seventh-day Adventists believe she was more than a gifted writer; they believe she was appointed by God as a special messenger and prophetess to help prepare people for Christ's second coming. During her life, they believe God gave her approximately 2,000 visions and dreams. As a teenager, she and her family accepted the views presented by William Miller and his associates, who predicted the return of Christ to earth October 22, 1844. This failed prophecy was called the Great Disappointment.

White's writing, traveling and teaching reached a climax in the organization of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in May, 1863. Her most prominent writing was The Great Controversy, first published in 1888. In recent years, a problem has risen concerning this, as it has been well documented that this book was not her own, but large portions were copied from J. N. Andrews. Steve Rudd says of this: "The Great Controversy contains the pillars and foundation of Adventist theology. White copied this key doctrine in the Great Controversy from books written by James White. James White copied his books from books written by J. N. Andrews. Thus the ultimate source of Seventh-day Adventist theology is not God inspiring new truths to White, but plagiarizing (copying) J. N. Andrews." (From Rudd's website Bible.ca)

Numerous quotes from White and Andrews, when placed side by side, show evidence of copying that cannot be disputed. This is called plagiarism, and is, in fact against the law, as well as against moral ethics.

There is an effort today to downplay the claim that she was an inspired prophet of God, but a look at the SDA Creed shows the official position of the church: V 17 "The gift of Prophecy: One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. Support is found in these Bible passages: Joel 2:28,29: Acts 2:14-21: Hebrews 1:1-3: Revelation 12:17: Revelation 19:10. "

With respect to her teaching on observing the Sabbath, we give the following quotes. In "Life Sketches of Ellen G. White," an Adventist publication, they relate her "vision" of the Sabbath day. "Elder Bates was resting upon Saturday, the seventh day of the week, and he urged it upon our attention as the true Sabbath. I did not feel its importance, and thought that he erred in dwelling upon the fourth commandment more than upon the other nine. But the Lord gave me a view of the heavenly sanctuary. The temple of God was opened in heaven, and I was shown the ark of God covered with the mercy seat. Two angels stood one at either end of the ark with their wings spread over the mercy seat and their faces turned toward it. This, my accompanying angel informed me, represented all the heavenly hosts looking with reverential awe toward the law of God, which had been written by the finger of God. Jesus raised the cover of the ark, and I beheld the tables of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written. I was amazed as I saw the fourth commandment in the very center of the ten precepts with a soft halo of light encircling it. Said the angel, 'It is the only one of the ten which defines the living God who created the heavens and the earth and all things that are therein."' (Pages 95 and 96.)

From another source, we have: "In the ark was the golden pot of manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of stone, which folded together like a book. Jesus opened them, and I saw the Ten Commandments written on them with the finger of God. On one table were Four and on the other six. The four on the first table shone brighter than the other six. But the fourth, the Sabbath commandment, shone above them all; for the Sabbath was set apart to be kept in honor of God's holy name. The holy Sabbath looked glorious, a halo of glory was all around it. I saw that the Sabbath commandment was not nailed to the cross. If it was, the other nine commandments were; and we are at liberty to break them all as well as to break the fourth. I saw that God had not changed the Sabbath, for he never changes. But the pope had changed it from the seventh day to the first day of the week; for he was to change times and laws." ("Early Writings of Ellen G. White," page 33.) Again on page 65 of the same book Mrs. White says, "The pope has changed the day of rest from the seventy to the first day."

There are four problems with Mrs. White's "visions" and work.

  1. She was regarded as a pastor and evangelist. The Bible teaches that pastors (also referred to as elders and bishops) were to be men. "Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife..." (I Timothy 3:1-2).
  2. As to being an evangelist, and thus one who does public speaking before mixed audiences, the Word of God forbids women to occupy this position. "But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness" (I Timothy 2:12).
  3. As to her claim to receive visions or prophecies, the Bible teaches that the age of such has passed. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered; and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land" (Zechariah 13:1-2). This is a prophecy of the coming of Christ and the ushering in of a new age. When that time comes, the Word says prophets will cease.

    In the chapter on love, Paul deals with spiritual gifts. "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away" (I Corinthians 13:8-10). The miraculous gifts of prophecy, tongues (which were not known to the speaker) and knowledge (knowledge miraculously imparted from God) would cease when the "perfect" came. What is the perfect? It refers to the completed revelation—the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament is called "the perfect law" in James 1:25. Until the New Testament was completed, the spiritual gifts were aids to help spread the gospel. But when the revelation was completed, that which was "in part" ceased.

    An illustration would be of the erection of a building. Scaffolding is used to help in the construction, but once the building is completed, the scaffolding (that which is "in part") is taken away. We have those who claim to work miracles today, but none passes the test of what constitutes a miracle in comparison to what Christ and the apostles performed. If miraculous powers exist today, then why doesn't someone raise the dead? Or why not feed the hungry with five loaves and two fish as Christ did? (John 6:9ff).

    Christ told the apostles, "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come" (John 16:1-2). If the Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all the truth, then there is no more truth to be revealed after that first century. If the Spirit did not reveal all the truth, then Christ is a false prophet, and therefore not the Son of God, and we are without hope. There are many passages that proclaim the completeness of God's revelation within the pages of what we know as the Bible, and that we are not to add to it. (See Galatians 1:6-8; Revelation 22:18-19; Jude 3; I Corinthians 4:6; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6).
  4. Many of Mrs. White's prophecies turned out to be false, meaning that she was a false prophet. That Seventh Day Adventists regard her as a prophet is evidenced by many witnesses. Stanley Harris, a SDA pastor is quoted as saying: "...and yet, my dear friends, she did one of the greatest works that I have ever known since John the Revelator. She's to me one of the greatest prophets that have ever lived. Why?
    Because she had the same gift that Daniel had." (From a cassette tape "Greatest Prophet Since John", from God's Last Call, tape #811.)

    That view cannot be dismissed as simply one individual's opinion. This is the official position of the denomination itself. From a statement in 1928: "As Samuel was a prophet of Israel for his day, as Jeremiah was a prophet of Israel in the days of captivity, as John the Baptist came as a special messenger of the Lord to prepare the way for Christ's coming, so we believe that Mrs. White was a prophet to the church of Christ today." Numerous other quotations could be cited, but let us look now as just a few of her prophecies.
    1. Mrs. White prophesied the world would end in 1843, 1844, 1845 & 1851: "Now time is almost finished, (1851) and what we have been 6 years in learning they will have to learn in months." (Early Writings, p. 57) Over a century and half have passed, and the world has not yet come to an end.
    2. Concerning some of her "revelations,'' one author noted: "In one of her visions her accompanying angels told her that the time of salvation for all sinners ended in 1844. She now claims the door of mercy is still open...In another vision she discovered that women should wear short dresses with pants and she and her sister followers dressed this way for eight years. But the ridiculous custom has now been abandoned....'' (Biederwolf, Seventh-Day Adventism, p. 8f).
    3. (First Vision 12/1844) "It was just as impossible for them (those that gave up their faith in the 1844 movement) to get on the path again and go to the city, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another," (Foregoing now deleted) "until we heard the voice of God like many waters, which gave us the day and hour of Jesus' coming. (emp. mine JDT) The living saints, 144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice, while the wicked thought it was thunder and an earthquake. When God spake the time, he poured on us the Holy Ghost, and our faces began to light up and shine with the glory of God as Moses' did when he came down from Mount Sinai." (A Word to the Little Flock, 1847 edition, p. 14).

      Then later she claimed she did not know "the day and hour." "I have not the slightest knowledge as to the time spoken by the voice of God. I heard the hour proclaimed, but had no remembrance of that hour after I came out of vision." (Selected Messages, p. 298, 1889).

Two observations about this "vision." First, Christ said that no one knew the day or hour, not even himself. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah" (Matthew 24:36-37). Second, it is hard to imagine a prophet "forgetting" a revelation from God. No prophet in the whole Bible ever forgot what God had revealed.

There are countless other statements of Mrs. White that were "prophecies" that did not come to pass, or that contradicted the clear teaching of the Bible. Thus this qualifies her to be labeled a false prophet. God spoke about such in Deuteronomy 18:20-22: "But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' "You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him."

God has warned us repeatedly about false prophets, saying they would come in sheep's clothing to deceive us. "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).

Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about those who would claim to be apostles and servants of Christ, but who truly were deceivers. "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds" (II Corinthians 11:13-15). We do not expect Satan's ministers to be wearing red suits, sporting a pitchfork, tail and horns. Noone would believe them. But if they disguise themselves so as to appear godly and righteous, the Bible says they will deceive many. That's why we have John's warning: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).

One final question: If God intended for the church to observe the Sabbath, why was this not revealed in the New Testament? Why did he wait for over 1,800 years to reveal this vital truth?

(Note: While going through some of my late father's (Fanning Yater Tant, 1908-1997) papers, I came across two pages of notes dealing with the first part of this treatise. From those notes, I have expanded the first portion of this material, and then added other material from research.)