by Preston Foster
All of my life, I have heard and accepted the Adventist teaching that, at the time of Christʼs death, it was only the ceremonial law that was nailed to the cross. In contrast to most Protestant faiths who claim the entire law was nailed to the cross, Adventists teach that it was the ceremonial laws given to Moses that ended there.
Recently, I heard a sermon that gave me pause and reason to reconsider and investigate the biblical basis of this teaching.
The sermon, by Joseph Prince, a self-proclaimed “radical grace” preacher, focused on Galatians 4. The text re-tells the story of Sarah and Hagar. As you know, Sarah was the wife of Abraham. Hagar was Sarahʼs handmaid. Discouraged that she could not conceive, Sarah took matters into her own hands. Sarah, lacking faith, encouraged Abraham to sleep with Hagar, so that he could have a child through her.
So he did. Ishmael was born to Hagar.
God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of a nation. Later, miraculously, Abraham and Sarah conceived the child of the promise: Isaac (ʻthe heir”). Ishmael was born of a woman in bondage, a result of Sarah taking things into her own hands (“the flesh”). Isaac was born of a free woman, as a result of Divine Intervention (“the promise”).
The apostle Paul declares this story to be an allegory for the two covenants: law and grace. Hagar and Ishmael represent law; Sarah and Isaac represent grace. Notably, Galatians 4:24 explicitly states that the law that is being referenced here is the law from Mount Sinai (the moral law, not the ceremonial one).
This is a very big deal.
About this time, all of my Adventist training rushed my frontal lobe. You mean there is no law? There is no work for me to do regarding the law?
The sermon went on to point out that there was trouble in the house of Abraham (the house of faith). Those who hold to the law (Ishmael) will persecute those who, by the promise, inherit (Isaac) the freedom in grace (Galatians 4:29). Well, I know thatʼs true!
Of course, sin is still sin. There is a law. Creation and the law identify the existence and sovereignty of God. In Christ, we simply are not under that law (Galatians 6:18), but under grace. We put on the righteousness of Christ who fulfilled the law by paying the penalty for all who accept his gift.
I believe what Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15). Clearly, there are things that Christ expects us to do that are related to salvation (Matthew 7:21). Paul, the original radical grace preacher, retained a consciousness of sin (Romans 6:1, Galatians 6:19-21).
It is also very clear to me that there is no working your way to heaven — even by keeping the 10 commandments (too late, youʼve already broken them!). We are saved only by the blood of Christ and His grace.
Like in another column, I am willing to be instructed here, as long as that instruction includes light, not judgment.
To me, it now makes obvious sense that the moral law was nailed to the cross. It was not made void at the cross. The cross PAID for the breaking of the law. “The WAGES of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23). The law was nailed to the cross, marked “PAID IN FULL!” Did Christ die to free us from ceremony only? No, he died to pay for our sins — which are defined by the moral law.
What am I missing? While you consider this question, please consider another one: what are WE missing?