Follow-up Interview with Clinton Baldwin About His Book, The Person of Jesus: God’s Obligatory Sabbath
By Chris Daley, November 20, 2017: In an evening pregnant with historic irony (The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting theses), Dr. Baldwin and I met to have a follow-up dialog regarding his provocative, book, The Person of Jesus: God’s Obligatory Sabbath. The questions were submitted ahead of time and several additional questions were added through our electronic exchanges. Baldwin remains steadfast in his convictions. His scholarly self was dominant as he effusively responded to the questions.
It’s been several months since your book was published. What are the major positive responses you have received?
Some have said, “I am reading the book and I just can’t put it down.” Or, “I was up until after 3:00 a.m. reading it. It is fantastic!” Others have said, “It is clear, easy to understand and mind blowing.” And others, “I did not know there were so many issues pertaining to the Sabbath.”
What are the top challenges you have received?
One is negative bad mouthing, persecution and sabotage from members and leaders of the Adventist Church. Sad that so many people, even some scholars, would rather attack me personally; rather than deal with the real theological issues. Another is simply gathering enough resources to keep pace with the building momentum.
Have any comment or concern changed your position?
No. My core position that the historic and resurrected Jesus continues to embody all that the Sabbath represented and that by virtue of accepting him one has met all God’s requirements regarding Sabbath-keeping has not changed. What has changed however, is that I now feel a greater urgency to call on Adventist Bible scholars and pastors who know this or dimensions thereof, and to be more transparent with the membership of the church. The acid and unrelenting persecution from countless Adventists at all levels has forced me in this direction of calling on them to tell the whole truth.
Additionally, I also feel a greater need to call out Adventist scholars to stop trying to salvage, nuance and tweak the untenable doctrine of the investigative judgment and just let it go. The deleterious effects that it continues to have on many Christians, particularly in the 2/3 world is an injustice to them. Why should church members continue to hold that the Adventist denomination is the remnant church? Why shouldn’t the regular Adventist member know that the Sabbath is no longer the seal of God? Why shouldn’t they know that there is no moral-ceremonial separation of laws in the Bible when this is common knowledge among our scholars? The members have a right to know that the Sabbath is not a creation requirement. Why should they not know that Col 2:14-16; Gal 4:10,11; Rom 14:5,6 also refer to the seventh-day Sabbath? Why shouldn’t Adventist Bible scholars inform the church that there is an inseparable link between all the Sabbaths and thus what obtains for one Sabbath, from an exegetical and theological perspective holds for all Sabbaths? Why should church members continue to believe that the so-called ceremonial Sabbath only pointed to the cross and not to creation as well? Why should the members not be made to see that all the Sabbaths have their roots in the creation story? Why shouldn’t they know that God’s laws within scripture are always given within the context of covenant, and that they are only obligatory based on the covenantal regime within which they fall so that, and whereas the Siniatic covenant is no longer obligatory, the Ten Commandments being a part of that covenant, is no longer obligatory? Why should they not be made aware that God’s laws as revealed in Jesus far outstrip God’s law as revealed in the Ten Commandments and that the Christ event (the New Covenant) is the only obligatory platform from which to enforce any law? Why shouldn’t they know that Rev 6:12-14 and Matt 24: 29-30 do not refer to the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, the 1833 meteor shower and the so-called dark day of May 19, 1780? Why should church member continue to believe that Rev 13: 11-12 was referring to the United States?
Most Adventist Bible scholars know that the church’s position on these issues are incorrect yet they have little or no passion to inform the members otherwise. I constantly see the negative sociological, psychological, financial and spiritual effects of these beliefs on sincere members and it is just not fair to them. So what has changed? My passion to call out Adventist scholars to stop being politically correct and be more transparent on the above doctrines and more. It will cost them, because all along they have been preaching “Stand up like a Daniel and God will deliver you.” Let’s see if they really mean it. Let’s see if their God is alive or “he has gone on a journey.”
Your core thesis is that the new covenant of love instituted by Jesus removes the obligation of a specific Sabbath day observance as the keeping of the Sabbath was a sign of commitment to the covenant. Genesis 15 has this marvelous record of the covenant between Abram and God, where God is taking all the risks in the covenant just like he did on Calvary. How did we come to a works-based coupling of the covenant and by association implicate the Sabbath?
I am not sure what you mean by “implicate the Sabbath.” If by you mean it is no longer obligatory, then that’s not from a works-based orientation but from a grace-based orientation. The greatest and final blow to the obligatory nature of the Sabbath is that Jesus continues in his heavenly resurrected existence to embody all that the Sabbath represented in the Old Testament. So, whereas in the Old Testament a day represented mankind’s sanctification, redemption, justification, covenant sign/seal, messianic hope, et cetera, now, the physical person of the resurrected Jesus is the only entity that God accepts as the representation, or rather, the reality of these salvation realities. That is, the embodiment of grace.
You cited the covenant with Abram, and that is a good example. Circumcision, like the Sabbath, was a sign of the Sinaitic covenant. Whereas circumcision was the entry sign and the Sabbath the continuous sign, circumcision was deemed greater than the Sabbath in terms of a covenant sign. In Romans 4, Paul teaches that circumcision was not obligatory because it was a symbol of the reality of justification by faith now resident in Jesus. Paul made the point that Abraham received circumcision as a symbol of a reality which he had before he was circumcised, namely, justification (Rom 4:9-25). However, because Jesus is now the reality of justification, its symbol, circumcision, was deemed unnecessary. The principle is, once the reality of justification, Jesus, is present, the symbol of justification (circumcision and Sabbath-keeping) is rendered unnecessary.
It is analogous to having Paul say that the major symbol of justification (circumcision) is no longer obligatory but at the same time the minor symbol of justification (Sabbath-keeping) is obligatory, yet Jesus is all sufficient as the representation of our justification. I think historic Adventism was not keenly aware of the fact that Jesus is not only the one who sanctifies us by his death but that the ontological reality of his literal person now living in heaven continues to be the only acceptable reality that we are justified, sanctified, redeemed, saved and sealed. The Adventist Church has always been more of a law-centered church than a grace or cross-centered church. Now we have shifted to somewhat of a Christ-centered legalism, where it is “Jesus plus,” as the representation of our salvation realities before God. The New Testament would have us realize that it is Jesus plus nothing, as the reality that we are justified, saved, sanctified, sealed and glorified (Rom 8:30; Gal 2:15,16; Col 2:10; Heb 10:10,14).
Given that the 10 commandments represent God’s transcendent character, why would the Fourth Commandment be the only one to have a term limit?
This question reflects a false notion that Adventists hold pertaining to the Ten Commandments. It is otherwise stated as the Ten Commandments being “the transcript of God’s character” and “God’s perfect … all encompassing … eternal … moral law.” As I have demonstrated at length in my book, all the above claims are embarrassingly false. The Ten Commandments is not the transcendent character of God, and it is not the gold standard where God’s law is concerned. As I will demonstrate shortly, the entire decalogue had a term limit. The Ten Commandments were fulfilled in Jesus and as such the constitutional basis for obedience is no longer the Ten Commandments but God’s new revelation in Jesus (Matt 5,6; John 5:38-40). The fulfilled expression of the law in Jesus does not have a one-to-one correspondence with its Exodus 20 format, in that the fulfilled expression of the law entails a reinterpretation, modification and reformulation of the entire law, not just the Sabbath. Thus, the Ten Commandments is no longer applicable in its Exodus 20 format, but as it is now re-expressed in Jesus. In such an expression the required Sabbath is no longer a day, but a person. Consequently, the Christian has met all the requirements of Sabbath-keeping by accepting Jesus and by being Christlike in all his/her behavior. In keeping with these principles kindly note the following:
First, in several places throughout the Bible, the decalogue is explicitly shown to be an integral part of the Sinaitic or Old Covenant. In fact, it is even called the [Sinaitic] covenant (Ex 34:28; Deut 4:13; 9:15; 2 Cor 3:6, etc.). This covenant, the NT teaches, has exhausted its term limit and is no longer binding upon the Christian (Gal 3: 24, 25; 2 Cor 3; Heb 8:13). Therefore, it is not accurate to say or imply that the Sabbath has been wrongly given a term limit and the others have continued to be binding. All ten stipulations along with the entire Sinaitic covenant were fulfilled at the cross, have lost their constitutional basis for obedience and hence are no longer enforceable upon anyone (2 Cor 3; Gal 3; Heb 8:13, etc.). SDA’s miss this point, because, unfortunately when they think about the Old Covenant, they think only of the laws pertaining to sacrifices or of the so-called ceremonial laws. The fact is, the Ten Commandments cannot be separated from the Sinaitic covenant, and what happens to that covenant, namely, abolition, termination, discontinuation, logically, happened to the Ten Commandments as well. I can just hear the SDA response of disapproval to this statement. But hold tight.
Second, the Person of Jesus is the only transcendent representation of God’s character that has ever been given to humans, not the Ten Commandments (Heb 1:1-3; John 1-he has revealed him). It is really not the character of God that people should be enslaved. The Sabbath commandment allowed for slavery. Neither is it the character of God that the iniquity of the fathers should be visited upon later generations. Ezekiel informs us that every man, even those whose parents hated God shall suffer only for their own sins (Ezekiel 18), and Jesus indicated the same (John 9:3). Certainly, it is really not the character of God that one should respect only the life of the members of his own clan. (The sixth commandment, “You should not kill” meant that the Israelite should only refrain from killing his fellow Israelite, and only under certain circumstances. However, he was free to kill a wide range of violators. See for example, Ex 21:15; Ex 22:18; Lev 20:10-12). The transcript of your grades is your real grades not an approximation thereof. Only in Jesus has the character of God been fully duplicated because Jesus is fully God. He is the only true transcript of God’s law that has ever existed, not the stipulations of Ten Commandments. The principle behind the Ten Commandments, that is, love, is indeed eternal; however, love here cannot render the particular stipulations of the Ten Commandments eternal, lest all the particular stipulations of the so-called ceremonial laws are also eternal and obligatory because they too are based on love. (Note, I say so-called ceremonial laws, because contrary to standard Adventist teachings there is no dichotomy of laws into moral and ceremonial categories in the Bible.)
Third, Jesus fulfilled all the laws of the Old Testament (OT) including the Ten Commandments. In fulfilling the Ten Commandments he reinterpreted, modified and reformulated all of them, so that they are no longer enforceable in their Exodus 20 format, but they are now required as they are communicated through the lens of the Christ event. Again, it should be noted that the reinterpreted/modified/reformulated expression of the law in Christ does not hold a one-to-one correspondence with the OT expression of the said law. For example, the first commandment is reformulated, in that, whereas in its Exodus 20 format it allowed for the physical ontological existence of other Ancient Near East (ANE) deities, in Jesus, no such allowance is accommodated. The second command stipulated punishment based upon the behavior of one’s ancestors (Ex 20:5,6). In Jesus, no such transference of punishment or blessings; each person is responsible for his own sins. The sixth commandment is reformulated, in that whereas in its Ten Commandment format, it allowed for the Israelite to kill under certain circumstances, in Jesus, no such allowance is granted, to the extent that even anger is prohibited (Matt 5: 22). The seventh commandment (Ex 20:14) did not prohibit the Israelite male from having more than one wife. However, it did not allow the Israelite woman to have more than one husband. In fact, adultery here was really an act committed against another man and not so much an act committed against a woman. In Jesus however, no such practices are allowed. Finally, the Sabbath commandment allowed the Israelites to keep slaves, only that they should be kind enough to allow their slaves to rest once per week. They were not required to be kind enough to release them from slavery, except once per seven years, or every 49/50 years, when only Israelite male slaves could be released (Exodus 21:7). With Jesus, you cannot enslave the person you love, as Jesus loves them (John 13:34, 35; 1 John 3:16). Therefore, it is not accurate to say that only the Sabbath has been modified. No one obeys any of the other nine commandments as they were meant to be obeyed in their Exodus 20 expression, and all persons including Sabbatarians accept some modification and limitations of the fourth commandment.
Finally, even if the other nine commandments were not modified in Jesus, the Sabbath by virtue of its distinctive nature would, and does, qualify for reinterpretation, and hence it is reformulated and terminated in Jesus. Yes, the Sabbath is distinctively different from the other nine commandments. It is different primarily in the fact that it is a symbolic commandment. It is repeatedly called the sign of the [Siniatic] covenant (Ex 31:13-18; Ezekiel 20:12, 20). A sign naturally demands a ceremony for its expression, hence twice as many sacrifices were offered on Sabbath as on the weekdays (Num 28: 9,10). It was inseparably tied to the OT sanctuary and its rituals, and also to all the other so-called ceremonial Sabbaths. It was symbolic of Israel’s redemption, sanctification, and liberation (Deut 5:15; Ex 20:8-11). It pointed backwards to creation and forwards to Israel’s messianic hope (Deut 12 9; Dan 9:24). Indeed, it was the sign or seal of the Sinaitic covenant.
Every single symbolic meaning that the Sabbath had in the Old Testament, the New Testament attributes to the person of Jesus and to the Holy Spirit, without ever attributing these said meanings to the seventh day in a mandatory or obligatory manner. Jesus is our creator, redeemer, sanctifier, Messiah, rest, and seal of the New Covenant. Not only does the New Testament attribute these qualities to Jesus, it also affirms that he is all sufficient in his representation of these realities and it is a sin to make mandatory any other companion symbol of these realities. Once the reality is present, the symbol of the same reality is no longer a requirement. So yes, the Sabbath has been terminated but it has been so rendered by the fact of the crucified and resurrected Jesus himself.
In John 14:15, Jesus explicitly states, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” What is your view of this text?
Yes, this is another traditional Adventist proof text to enforce the obligatory nature of the Ten Commandments and by extension, the Sabbath. It is past time for Adventists to stop using this text in this manner. The term “my commandments” or “his commandments” in the Johannine writings refers to the commands emanating directly from the person of Jesus. “My commandments” is summed up as belief in Jesus and the command to love one another. (1 John 3:22-23) The term does not refer to the letter of the Ten Commandments.
John makes a distinction between the words or commands/commandments (entole) and law (nomos). Entole is used ten times and nomos fifteen times. Entole always refers to the teachings of Jesus, that which emanates directly from him, as opposed to nomos, the instructions of the Torah consistently referred to as “their law” or “your law” or “the law of Moses.” On the former see John 10:18; 12:12, 49, 50; 13:34; 14:15, 21; 15:10,12. On the latter see John 1:17, 45; 7:19, 49, 23, 51; 8:5, 17; 10:34; 12:34; 15:25; 18:31; 19:7.
Please note, love stemming from the life and teachings of Jesus is not one and the same as love stemming from the Ten Commandments. As shown above, love stemming from the Ten Commandments will allow, among other things, for one to enslave another person (the fourth commandment), kill the enemy and certain types of sinners (the sixth commandment) and acknowledge the ontological existence of other gods (the first commandment). Needless to say, God’s higher standard of love stemming from the historic and resurrected Jesus does not allow for any such actions. So, Jesus was not here trying to prop up the Ten Commandments; he was enforcing his own authority as God’s final and definitive law of love in which he himself, and not a day, continues to represent our sanctification, justification, covenant sign/seal, redemption and salvation. We no longer need a day for the same function, we already have the person of Jesus.
There are also practical aspects of the Sabbath beyond the moral component to consider. In the western world where folks get their value from work, the Sabbath offers an opportunity to break the unending cycle of toil and labor. Those are the boundaries established by the Sabbath. Is there a downside from your perspective when these boundaries are removed?
Let’s not mix up the practice of work and rest, with working then resting on a mandatory and specific 24-hour period. The act of working and resting certainly does have practical benefits but the act of working then resting in a specific and mandatory 24-hour time slot every week is not a moral command, nor is it obligatory. It is like saying you ought to eat on time each day but then say unless you eat at 8 a.m. in the morning, exactly 12 noon, and 5 p.m., you are sinning against God. It like saying getting adequate sleep each night is a moral practice, but, it is a totally different thing to say that if you do not sleep between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. every night, then you are immoral and you are sinning against God. Adequate sleep and rest varies from person to person.
When one is a child, mom or dad may insist on a specific time to go to bed and a specific time to wake up but when you become an adult, they may simply remind you of the principle of adequate sleep and rest. To insist on the specific regimen of such regular practices is slavery to a mature adult, and can be very counterproductive.
According to Paul and other New Testament writers, with the advent of Jesus, God’s instructions and directions for mankind have come of age. We have come of age in Christ, and it’s a shame to be re-enslaved by those miserable and childlike instructions such as special days, seasons and years (Galatians 4:10, 11). Note, the Sabbath is included in Galatians 4:10, 11.
Rest and worship yes, but the command to rest on a specific 24-hour period was simply a symbolic command, applicable only to Israel in an agrarian society; it is not applicable to the person who is mature in Jesus. Working unceasingly throughout the week, then “resting” on Saturdays (as the Sabbath command dictates) is not necessarily beneficial to one’s health. It’s like eating only one good meal, once per week, and expecting to be in maximum health. As I mentioned in my book, true Sabbath-keeping means to rest one’s body intermittently throughout the week so as to avoid overwork which cannot be repaired simply by “resting” on day seven. It smacks of hypocrisy to ignore each other all week then suddenly become nice at the end of the week.
Additionally, Sabbath for Adventists is not exactly a rest day; it is a church day, which leaves many persons, especially the pastors, exhausted at the end of the day. Not only do Adventists not rest on Sabbath, but by making Saturday a church day they passively allow and actively permit many categories of workers to work on the Sabbath. However, if Adventists “stay in their tents and rest” as the original framing of the Sabbath stipulates, then they would be disfellowshipped for non-attendance at church or for lack of “good and regular standing.”
Adventists affirm that it is good to take time out for God (which is positive) but deny that the person who takes such time out for God and family, on Sunday or any other day of the week, is a lawbreaker and is sinning against God (which is misguided). Furthermore, Adventists see such persons as not only sinning against God, but more significantly, they do not qualify to become baptized members of the body of Christ, they cannot hold certain jobs, they should not marry other Christians of other denominations and so on. Such is textbook legalism. The same principle as the parent demanding of his adult child to be in bed at 6 p.m. every night—the practice from childhood days.
To dictate mandatory rest at the end of the week sets up the believer to work unceasingly throughout the week, to ignore friends and family throughout the week without any twinge of conscience that such is wrong because they intend to give some attention to such matters at the end of the week. Again, you cannot eat one meal per week and intend to be healthy, you cannot give attention to your loved ones once per week and expect to have healthy relationships. True Sabbath-keeping means that you first recognize that all your time is sacred, and as such you cast your cares upon him daily, which gives you mental, physical and psychological rest each day. It also means you take time out for each other daily, or recognize that any day is fully appropriate to take special time out for each other. That is true Sabbath-keeping, resting in Jesus daily.
The power of positive rituals is one of the great byproducts of sustained Sabbath observance. The boundaries enable time set aside in a very busy world to spend with family, friends, and doing service projects in our communities. When the boundaries become dynamic, the certainty of practice is reduced, and other items come competing for the set aside time. Electronic distractions are taking front and center crowding out our human interaction. The Sabbath offers a means of collaring the digital dragon. When we remove the Sabbath from sacred time what impact do you see?
Again, Adventists continue to confuse the need to take time out for special activities with the notion that a specific 24-hour period is mandatory for such activities. Certainly, it is good to spend quality time with friends, family and also to recess from the digital dragon. It is a totally different question, however, as to whether or not one is sinning by taking such time out on Sundays or Mondays or Fridays as opposed to doing the same thing on Saturdays. Under the Old Covenant that pointed to Jesus, a specific day served such a function. However, in the New Covenant, in which Jesus becomes the fulfillment/embodiment of the Sabbath, all days are now 100 percent holy and are equally valued for the only activities that the Christian is allowed to perform, that is, sacred activities. (Gal 2:20; 1 Cor 10:31; Rom 13:14; Gal 5:16; John 15:5,6.)
To place emphasis on positive rituals once per week sets up the believer to make “the good the enemy of the best,” in that he/she is now being conditioned to downplay those positive activities all week because he/she intends to accentuate them in a mandatory time slot at the end of the week. It is to fail to realize that these Christlike activities are required every day of the week and that the Spirit of Jesus within the Christian will empower and guide him or her to engage in those Christlike activities at the correct time that is best suited for that person’s situation. There can be no greater ritualization than that segmented by the Holy Spirit, and the work of the Holy Spirit cannot be programmed to a specific day. So again, do the Christian activities or whatever positive rituals you must, but once you make one day mandatory above another for doing such rituals, you have for so many reasons plunged into legalism, depreciated the blood of Jesus and delimited the activity of the Holy Spirit. Paul is clear: there can be no disadvantage when the Spirit of Jesus dictates to you when to exercise Christlike activities (Gal 5:23).
Furthermore, to insist on the mandatory nature of day seven for regular Christian activities, conditions one so that he/she fails to realize that a seventh of his time in Christ cannot be more sacred than six-sevenths of one’s time in Christ. It is to devalue the blood of Jesus that has created such an equalizing reality. To insist on a specific and mandatory 24-hour period for Christlike activities (time out for friends, taming the digital dragon) means that you are living by the letter of the law and not by the spirit of the law. It means that God’s revelation in Exodus 20 continues to be the constitutional basis for your obedience and not God’s revelation in Jesus. It means that one continues to make a one-to-one correspondence with the law as revealed in Exodus 20 and the law as revealed in Jesus. It means that you would have totally misunderstood the meaning of the Sabbath, which is rest in a person, 24/7, and not rest on a specific day once per week. Such misunderstanding reflects the elementary level of Sabbath-keeping bequeathed by our Adventist pioneers.
Think about it, isn’t it legalism to try and determine the specific and original seventh day on a round world in which to practice your positive ritual? How do you determine the original seventh-day when for the first three days of creation there was no sun or moon to demarcate the day as we now know it? Practically, all Adventist scientists will tell you that we have lost millions of years in pre-historic time. How do you determine the specific seventh day in such a context? How do you demarcate the seventh day globally, when the sun does not set or rise in certain parts of the earth for six months at a time each year? How do you determine the specific seventh-day to perform your rituals when in Tonga, for example, Saturday and Sunday falls on the same day of the week? Interestingly, the Bible nowhere gives us a clue as to how to determine the original seventh-day. The traditional Adventist proof-texts from the Gospels (Matt 28:1-3; Luke 23:54; 24; Mark 15:42; 16:1) do not address the issue, but that is for another discussion. Point, the problem is not so much with positive rituals; it is with dictating the specific time for positive rituals and determining a whole host of other things on the specific time for such rituals. Again, Paul is clear, there can be no disadvantage when the Spirit of Jesus dictates to you when to exercise Christlike activities.
Let’s return to the book of Hebrews that speaks to the superiority of Jesus as our high priest, Hebrews 4. The writer of the Hebrews goes to extraordinary lengths to reaffirm the day and the future of the Sabbath mingled with Jesus our High Priest. There remains a Sabbath rest. How do you reconcile this position?
It is incorrect to say that the author of Hebrews goes at length to reaffirm the day-ness of the Sabbath as a mandatory requirement for all Christians. The author of Hebrews affirms the Sabbath as a symbol of the rest to be found in Jesus, not as a continued and mandatory requirement for all Christians. The emphasis of the rest in Hebrews 3 and 4 both for Israel in the Old Time, and the Christian in the New Testament is a state of being, not a day rest. In Hebrews 4:10, the believer is encouraged to cease from his works as God did from his. The nature of both works (God’s and the believer’s) must be determined from the context. Contextually, God’s works is the work of creation, and contextually, the believer’s work is not weekday activities but the works of unbelief/disobedience (3:12-18; 4:1,2), otherwise called dead works (6:1; 9:14), so that he could enter God’s rest by means of faith (4:3), not by cessation from weekday activities.
Thus as R. J. Bauckham, puts it, the new covenant people of God discharge their duty to Sabbath observance by exercising faith. (D. A. Carson, From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, page 231) The entire thrust of Hebrews 3 and 4 is entrance into the rest as a state of being, not entrance of rest on a specific day. Throughout the book of Hebrews, the personalities and institutions of the Old Testament that point to Christ are superseded by him in a manner that renders the literal expressions of these entities no longer obligatory. Moses, Aaron, Levi, the sanctuary, the lamb, the priesthood all point to Jesus but according to the writer of Hebrews, to return to these symbols meant that one was falling away from faith in Jesus (Heb 6:1-8; 8; 9; 10:1f). It would be redundant for the author of Hebrews to be cautioning his readers not to return to the Old Testament covenant and at the same time imploring them to observe in a literal and mandatory way its chief covenant sign, namely the Sabbath. That was certainly not a Jewish way of thinking.
Additionally, for the author of Hebrews, the Old Covenant that pointed to Jesus was only a shadow of things to come (10:1). One would be hard-pressed within this context, to legitimize the author as legislating the principal sign (the Sabbath) of that which he repeatedly affirmed had grown old, was obsolete and ready to disappear, namely, the Old Covenant (8:13; 7:11-19, 28). It is anachronistic to expect the audience of the author of Hebrews to understand their writer to be saying that the Old Testament sanctuary and its rituals were no longer mandatory, yet they should consider the chief day for enacting the sanctuary rituals (the Sabbath) as still binding. How were the readers of Hebrews to see the seventh-day Sabbath as still binding yet, all its companion Sabbaths (particularly the day of Atonement), to which the seventh-day was inseparably linked, were no longer required? Again, such a logic was alien to Jewish thinking. They reasoned holistically and saw all the Old Testament Sabbaths as one complete package; what happened to one happened to all.
Despite these arguments (and there are more), even if one would want to bend over backwards and concede that Hebrews was mandating Sabbath observance, there is another insurmountable fact to consider. The New Testament is not a book of systematic theology. There are diverse and opposite theologies in the New Testament. Certainly, for Paul, the Sabbath was no longer obligatory as a day (Gal 4:10,11; Col 2:14,15; Rom 14:5,6; see also John 5:17). Jesus and his spirit had replaced the day. In Galatians for example, the Sabbath(s) was one of three elements (circumcision 2:3-5; food laws (2:11-17) explicitly categorized as “works of law,” and which have lost their elective functions. In Colossians 2, it is explicitly called a shadow and lumped with other stipulations that were anti-Christ. Therefore, from the totality of the New Testament books, the only enforceable commonality where Sabbath is concerned is that Jesus is the meaning thereof and one has met the requirement of Sabbath observance when he/she accepts Jesus. As I often say, all Christians are Sabbath-keepers, but not all Sabbath-keepers are Christians. So even if the author of Hebrews was mandating Sabbath observance as a day (and he was not) he would only be doing such for his specific audience. Paul saw otherwise. The opposite of a truth can be another truth.
Finally, where do you go from here on this the week-end of reflection of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation?
I continue to commit my life to Jesus and to call for social, economic and theological justice. I am now pouring my energies into building Dikaioma Ministries International (DMI), and The Baldwin Biblical Manuscript Research Institute. DMI is a faith-based charity that emphasizes Jesus as its core with love and social justice as its outer rings. The latter is a manuscript research facility that bridges the gap between the academy and the pew in the area of the manuscript history of the Biblical text. I continue to write scholarly articles and continue my radio program Bible Beyond the Basics. Finally, where do I go from here? Like Paul, who turned first to the faith of his early years, so I will continue to dedicate some effort to bring the gospel to my nascent church (Adventists), particularly in the capacity of calling upon Adventist Bible scholars to be more transparent and forthright.
The featured photo is that of Dr. Baldwin and his new book in his study.
Chris Daley interviewed Baldwin twice for Adventist Today because of the requests we have received and widespread rumors among Adventists in the Caribbean Basin. Daley is a board member for Adventist Today and member of the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland, on the campus of Washington Adventist University.
The first interview with Baldwin was published on June 19 (2017) and can be read this link.