Legalism 101

Last Saturday, we went back to my hometown to celebrate my mom’s birthday. It’s a small town called Jaen, near Gapan City and about 20 mins away from Cabanatuan, province of Nueva Ecija. It was a fun weekend. Johann, for the first time, saw real live chicken, goats and a whole bunch of new faces.

I was excited because for the first time after so many years, I can see old friends whom my mom invited. Most of the invitees are members of the local Seventh-day Adventist church where I first learned about Jesus.

After the lunch celebration, I went to join an encircled Adventist friends to say hi and have updates on what’s going on in life. I love these guys. I mean, these are the same guys I grew up with in the church. We were together in youth camps during summer we call Pathfinder festivals. Jaen SDA Most of us back then were officers of the local area organization of Adventist Youths. May pinagsamahan talaga kami nitong mga ‘to. Kuya Monching, Kuya Nor, Kuya Unyo, Bro. Cery, Bro. Genio — man, what can I say, I love you guys. :D You may not read this, but I know some of my relatives will do and and know what I’m saying.

I’m setting up the mood, actually. Because I myself did not exactly agree on what happened after I sat down with them. Apparently, their way of asking how am I was to ask why I left Seventh-day Adventism. I had to answer those questions in the most polite way were they wont be hurt. Unfortunately, I discovered that they were not really asking why I left rather they simply wanted to refute everything I would say, in front of the entire Adventist bretheren present that afternoon.

I got engaged. The sad thing about me being engaged in a theological debate is that the old Arnold normally awakens. My plan was to simply share with them my testimony on what the Lord is doing with me outside of the Adventist church. It turned out to be a real debate. The kind of debate I knew while I was an Adventist. These guys were my debating team! I mean, during those days, no one, and I mean no one — not an Iglesia ni Cristo, not a Baptist, not a Born-again, not anyone — can touch the church and the Sabbath, we would debate with anyone from any denomination.

I can almost hear myself 10 years ago talking through them. The very same things I used to utter were the very same arguments I received from them. And now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I don’t know if I would feel pity or angry — pity on them because they never outgrew that kind of legalism that prevents them from enjoying the love of God, and angry at the Adventist church for not taking care of them.

These fellows still believe that:

* Salvation means God’s grace PLUS good works. I even asked one of them if he should get credit for being saved aside from the death of Jesus. With conviction, he said yes. Apparently, they cannot be sure of their salvation. They can only hope for the best. And hope that they won’t slip once and then die, or else.

* Sabbath is the seal of God, Sunday is mark of the beast. With reference to Eze. 20:12,20, they proudly proclaim that Sabbath is the identifier of a real Christian without realizing that he is quoting from the Old Covenant writings. But for New Covenant Christians, the Bible is very clear that the new seal is the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13).

* I asked what they think about a professing Christian who has a wonderful relationship with Jesus and yet, in their understanding, the Sabbath is an Old Covenant law and is not applicable for New Covenant Christians. They said, kulang (not enough), which means….

* Only Sabbath keepers will be saved. Spiritual arrogance in its fullest.

I’m completely aware that The Seventh-day Adventist church doesn’t necessarily teach the same things. But what are you guys doing at the General Conference? And most especially, what have you done to my friends? These town folks represents the majority of believers in the Philippines. And the Philippines has almost the same numbers of membership as with that of the entire North American Division. They better do something about legalism in their church or they will each answer to God personally when time comes — big time!

Anyway, I had to end the discussion the proper way. I just assured them that even if I don’t believe the way they do, I am enjoying my relationship with God. I am not in anyway trying to convert them to any religion (in the first place, there were the ones eagerly trying to win me back), rather, I’m praying that they will have a powerful relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

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  • http://www.muchclearerpicture.com Bryan

    Hey Arnold I want to apologize on behalf of Adventism for your less-than-effective intervention. I’m sure you know that despite their method, your friends and loved ones are more concerned with your spiritual well-being than in their ability to debate; I sincerely hope this was their intention.

    For your spiritual journey, I congratulate you. It’s important that we as Christians never become satisfied with our being–rather, we should forever be looking to the Being that is our ultimate and ONLY source of hope and salvation, Jesus Christ.

    You are right; Salvation is granted by FAITH; not by works, lest any man should boast(Eph 2:8-10). Our Christian works are a manifestation of our belief; sincere proof that we believe what we profess.

    You are right; heaven will not be Adventist-only. God is the only judge of this matter, and He chooses who has been faithful. However, Jesus stated Himself that not one letter of the law did He come to change, so the Sabbath is still a commandment to adhere (Matt. 5:17-20).

    I’m not going to say that the Adventist denomination agrees with every spiritual choice you’ve made; if it did, maybe you wouldn’t have changed congregations. However you are right in recognizing that what was said through your friends is not necessarily the mantra of the entire world domination.

    Adventism is about following Christ, growing in Him, experiencing a greater quality of life, and finding unity with those who believe. With nearly 15 million Adventists and growing, it’s obviously difficult to keep everyone on the same level of understanding. My hope is that your friends haven’t become satisfied with their debating prowess–rather, they’re continuing to gain a truer understanding of God and His ways.

    Because, ultimately, that’s what it boils down to. No matter what you’re told, what you memorize, or how fervently you adhere to it, YOUR active participation in getting to know and having a relationship with Jesus is what will determine whay type of Adventist–or Christian, for that matter–you will be.

    You it seems that you’re actively seeking Him; I’m glad for that. I hope that you’ve not ruled out the truths that you once found in Adventism because of the personal beliefs of thse who, too, are struggling to know Him more.

    In making my site, I’ve discovered a lot of discouraged saints with similar thoughts. Unfortunately, there tends to be a louder cry from specific regions of the globe. Know that there are those of us who are dedicating their lives to answering these needs sensibly.

  • http://www.muchclearerpicture.com Bryan

    Hey Arnold I want to apologize on behalf of Adventism for your less-than-effective intervention. I’m sure you know that despite their method, your friends and loved ones are more concerned with your spiritual well-being than in their ability to debate; I sincerely hope this was their intention.

    For your spiritual journey, I congratulate you. It’s important that we as Christians never become satisfied with our being–rather, we should forever be looking to the Being that is our ultimate and ONLY source of hope and salvation, Jesus Christ.

    You are right; Salvation is granted by FAITH; not by works, lest any man should boast(Eph 2:8-10). Our Christian works are a manifestation of our belief; sincere proof that we believe what we profess.

    You are right; heaven will not be Adventist-only. God is the only judge of this matter, and He chooses who has been faithful. However, Jesus stated Himself that not one letter of the law did He come to change, so the Sabbath is still a commandment to adhere (Matt. 5:17-20).

    I’m not going to say that the Adventist denomination agrees with every spiritual choice you’ve made; if it did, maybe you wouldn’t have changed congregations. However you are right in recognizing that what was said through your friends is not necessarily the mantra of the entire world domination.

    Adventism is about following Christ, growing in Him, experiencing a greater quality of life, and finding unity with those who believe. With nearly 15 million Adventists and growing, it’s obviously difficult to keep everyone on the same level of understanding. My hope is that your friends haven’t become satisfied with their debating prowess–rather, they’re continuing to gain a truer understanding of God and His ways.

    Because, ultimately, that’s what it boils down to. No matter what you’re told, what you memorize, or how fervently you adhere to it, YOUR active participation in getting to know and having a relationship with Jesus is what will determine whay type of Adventist–or Christian, for that matter–you will be.

    You it seems that you’re actively seeking Him; I’m glad for that. I hope that you’ve not ruled out the truths that you once found in Adventism because of the personal beliefs of thse who, too, are struggling to know Him more.

    In making my site, I’ve discovered a lot of discouraged saints with similar thoughts. Unfortunately, there tends to be a louder cry from specific regions of the globe. Know that there are those of us who are dedicating their lives to answering these needs sensibly.

  • arnoldgamboa

    Hi Bryan,

    Thank you for your email. I am encouraged to learn that more and more Adventists are having a great relationship with Jesus. I just hope that people like you will continue to help the members of the church in realizing that what matters is the Person, and no body else.

    I am tempted to refute Matt 5:17 :-), but no I won’t. Let this be an example that Adventists and non-Adventists can understand each other and agree to disagree without being disagreeable. I may not agree with your position, but I believe that we are brothers in Christ for both having a relationship with the same God.

    Rest assured that the great things that Adventism taught me will never leave me. I will apply them in my life as needed.

    God bless you and your family.

    Arnold

  • arnoldgamboa

    Hi Bryan,

    Thank you for your email. I am encouraged to learn that more and more Adventists are having a great relationship with Jesus. I just hope that people like you will continue to help the members of the church in realizing that what matters is the Person, and no body else.

    I am tempted to refute Matt 5:17 :-), but no I won’t. Let this be an example that Adventists and non-Adventists can understand each other and agree to disagree without being disagreeable. I may not agree with your position, but I believe that we are brothers in Christ for both having a relationship with the same God.

    Rest assured that the great things that Adventism taught me will never leave me. I will apply them in my life as needed.

    God bless you and your family.

    Arnold

  • http://Proud2bSDA.blogspot.com Willy Quiambao

    Arnold,

    Like I promised, I am answering your reply on 6th June 05.

    [deleted for spamming. this has been posted all over already]

  • http://Proud2bSDA.blogspot.com Willy Quiambao

    Arnold,

    Like I promised, I am answering your reply on 6th June 05.

    [deleted for spamming. this has been posted all over already]