A Brief Rejoinder to “Ang Dating Daan”
By Jaymark Molo
The objective of this article is to give a brief evaluation to the lengthy arguments of Mr. Ramos, a member of “Church of God International” (Ang Dating Daan). It is not the purpose of this article to create a tension between two parties (SDA & ADD), but to create a friendly atmosphere by agreeing to point of agreements and respecting point of disagreements with our respective doctrines/beliefs.
The main argument of Mr. A.D.C. Ramos can be summarized as follows: The inauguration of the new covenant puts an end to the law of Moses (ie., Tithe law and Dietary law), specifically the ten commandments, and paves way to the law of Christ. Thus, it implies that there is a discontinuity between those two laws.
In my opinion, many Christians today believe and teach that when the “old covenant” of the Old Testament gave way to the “new covenant”/New Testament of Christianity, the entire “old covenant” law became obsolete. Even though it is quite different to the traditionalist and (dispensationalist view) of Evangelicals, this stand (see above) however is not surprising. The argument of Church of Christ implies that since the seventh-day Sabbath was part of that law, they argue that literal Sabbath observance is no longer relevant or required of Christians.
Here are the following texts that he used to support such claim: Heb. 8:6-10 (cf. Deut. 4:13; 2 Cor. 3:6); Acts 13:39; Heb. 7:5, 12; 2 Cor. 9:7; Mrk. 7:19; Gen. 9:1-3; Matthew 5:21-32. So these texts deserves our undivided attention.
1. Hebrews 8:6-10 (cf. Deut. 4:13) – Is there a change of law? In this text our critic strongly argues that there is insufficiency to the covenant, so a new covenant is needed. But unfortunately, it seems that he equated the covenant with law. In fact, he quoted Deuteronomy 4:13 to validate his point, so logically, the ten commandments will be abolished – surprisingly such equation is totally foreign to the Scriptures.
First, there is no reference to a new law. It is simply “my laws,” suggesting that its meaning was clear to the intended readers.
Second, what is new is that under the new covenant the law will be placed in the human mind/heart.
Third, we must not miss the reference to the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai: “And he [God] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments” (Ex. 34:28). They were “inscribed by the finger of God” (31:18). These tablets are called “the tablets of the covenant” (Deut. 9:9, 15), that is to say the covenant law, and were placed inside the “ark of the covenant” (Deut. 10:8). And in this case, we wholeheartedly agree to the argument of our critic, but in the new covenant, the Lord will inscribe this same covenant law on the human heart. It will be internalized, becoming part of the life of the believer.
Fourth, there is a law the apostle believes has been “set aside” (Heb. 7:18), not because it was bad but because it was “only a shadow of the good things that are coming” (Heb. 10:1). This is the priestly law, and not the Ten Commandments, dealing with the restriction of the priesthood to the descendants of Levi (chap. 7:5, 16, 18), with the sacrificial system (chap. 8:4; 10:8), with ritual ablutions (chap. 9:10), and with the blood of animals (chap. 9:22). Since these laws were “set aside” through the sacrifice and the priestly work of Jesus, they cannot be part of the laws inscribed in the heart of those who accept the new covenant. But, another particular law that was part of the old covenant, namely the Ten Commandments, remains a part of the new covenant. That law is not abolished, rather it is internalized, written on the heart, the Decalogue where distinguished from the so-called ordinances (Exo. 21:1; 24:4, 7; 12; 34; 27, 28).
Thus, we certainly agree to Paul when he said: “For you are clearly a letter of Christ, the fruit of our work, recorded not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in stone, but the Ten Commandments in hearts of flesh.” (2 Cor. 3:3, supplication added)
2. Acts 13:39 (cf. Heb. 7:5, 12) – Is there a contextual connection? On this text our critic argues that “no man will be justified through the law of Moses,” which we joyfully agree, but I found it difficult to understand exegetically when our critic connects this verse in Hebrews 7:5, 12 and jumps in 2 Cor. 9:7. What is only evident here in his argument is our critic lacks exegetical grounds.
First, after the preaching of Acts 13:39; the immediate context informs us that “the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath” (v. 42). This leads them to gather on the next Sabbath. Unsurprisingly, “almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord”, (v. 44) including the Gentiles, a suitable text for Sabbath keeping. This biblical account clearly contradicts the unbiblical claim of our critic.
Second, turning our minds in Hebrews 7:5, 12 leads us to different conclusion regarding to the “change of law.” Unfortunately, our critic does not pay attention to it. For the immediate context will inform us that this “change of law” deals not with the “tithe law” but to the “lineage of priesthood” (vv. 14-15). Christ indeed is a “Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” (v.17)
3. Mark 7:19 – Did Jesus make all foods clean? We must admit that Mark 7:15-19 belongs to those passages that are easily misunderstood. People argue that Jesus did away with the food laws and “declared all foods clean.” And in this text, our critic draws his seemingly grounded conclusion. But the closer look of the text will lead you into a different conclusion.
First, The issue in this passage is not clean versus unclean food. It is eating with unwashed (ritual defilement), that is, unclean hands (v. 2).
Second, Jesus is not discussing the kind of food that can be eaten, but only the way it is eaten (v. 3).
Third, He is not addressing a dietary law but a tradition of the elders (v. 4). To include Leviticus 11 (Dietary Law) in the passage is tantamount to say that Mark 7:22 was accidentally added. Because in Mark 7:22 he mentions porneia as something that comes out of humans and defiles them. Porneia refers to different kinds of sexual sins including homosexuality, sins such as those listed in Lev 18. Since Lev 18 is still valid in the New Testament, as Paul shows (1Cor 5), the law of clean and unclean meat as found in Lev 11 is also not abolished by Jesus.
Fourth, the text does not talk about meat, but about food (bromata). To restrict it to meat only is to ignore the Greek meaning of the word. The context talks about the bread that the disciples ate (verses 2, 5).
Fifth, the phrase thus “Jesus declared all foods clean” cannot be found on the original manuscript of the text. It has only been supplied with the people who believed that dietary laws are abrogated.
Lastly, if our critic were correct, the strictness of the Pharisees into the Old Testament would at least cause them to stone Jesus. But the silence of the Pharisees indicates that the issue of unclean food is quite unfamiliar here.
Thus, we must not forget to the real intent of the text: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (vv. 20-23) These verses certainly does not put the dietary law in danger.
4. Genesis 9:1-3 – Does “all” refers to all? The statement: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.” (Gen. 9:#, NKJV) is very general. To conclude that “all” refers to literally “all” belittles the linguistic context, as well as contextual context.
First, the word “all” and “everything” is a very relative word and only context decides what is meant by it – whether all comprehensively, or a majority, or a certain group, etc. For example, in Gen 2:20 Adam named “all” animals and birds; the purpose of the story is not to speak about the comprehensive quantity of named animals and birds, but rather to point out Adam’s recognition that he was alone without a companion. Again in Gen 6:21 “all food which may be eaten” here means vegetarian food needed for survival in the ark, not every possible item of vegetarian food. Likewise Gen 24:1, “The Lord had blessed Abraham in all things,” is a general statement about material things; nevertheless the text demonstrates that Abraham had lost his wife Sarah; he had no son, etc. Thus, “everything” or “all” in Genesis 9:3 does not necessarily mean everything in the sense of completeness or comprehensiveness.
Second, in then biblical text permission to consume “flesh” is compared to the eating of “green plants.” In the Garden of Eden God gave a specific vegetarian diet to humans: plants bearing seed and fruit. The “green plants” were in the very beginning given only to the animals for food (Gen 1:30). But now God permits humans to eat meat on the same basis as “green plants,” food which God had previously given only to animals.’ The expression “green plants” is only used twice in the Hebrew Bible (Gen 1:30—food for animals, and in Gen 9:3. This means that the expressionin Gen 9:3 means more than just the original diet given to mankind in the garden of Eden. The additional provisions here include such things as the “plants of the field,” and “eating bread” as a result of the “tilling of the ground.” The earth now produced “thorns and thistles” (a phrase that describes all kinds of weeds and wild plants). The point is that after sin humans could not eat everything (100%) of what they found in the field, because many plants are bitter or poisonous and not fit for human consumption. Humans have to till the ground and choose what to eat. The same is true with the eating of flesh: people have to choose what to eat from the animal world. This means that just as man cannot eat all plants, even though they were given to him, he cannot eat all flesh, even though it too was given to him. The animals have been given different functions; not all were given for food. Some animals were given to provide transport or to carry burdens, others were given for the
Third, there is a practical reason to believe that the claim of our objector is false. Noah could not eat unclean animals, because they were saved only in single pairs in the ark. If he ate them, he would destroy after the Flood what he was supposed to save during the Flood. Clean animals were saved in seven pairs so that they could be used for sacrifices and for food. Glen Blix writes: “This pronouncement could not have initially applied to any but the clean animals since the use of any of the unclean animals that were taken into the ark as a pair would have resulted in their extinction.
5. Matthew 5:21-32 – A revision or magnification? In this lengthy sermon, our critic draws his seemingly uncontestable conclusion: Jesus Christ revised the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, this conclusion is far from the claim of text.
First, the larger context should be consulted: “Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 7:12) Christ emphatically declares that the golden rule is but the epitome of the “law and the prophets.” Hence, His allegedly new commands are simply an exposition of the ”law and the prophets.” This understanding of the matter is in harmony with the classic Protestant view of the Scriptures; namely, that the New Testament is in folded in the Old and the Old Testament is unfolded in the New.
Second, the immediate context clearly contradicts the claim of our objector, for it says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5:17) Any ideas of abrogation of the law should not be welcome in this passage.
Third, the correct term is not revised, but magnified. Christ did not set aside God’s law; instead, He magnified it. And this is what the prophet Isaiah foretold of Him: “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.” (Isa. 42:21)
Fourth, it is noteworthy to note that Christ quoted some of the commandments in the Decalogue, for the words of our Lord to the rich young ruler, who had asked what he should do to “have eternal life”: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:16, 17) And did Christ here set forth a new set of commandments? Surely here was the time to do it, for the eternal life of a human soul was at stake. But when the young man asked Christ to be specific as to “which” commandment, our Lord recited a number of the commands found in the Ten Commandments, and ended with the summarizing command: “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” But our critic may object: “The hearers of Jesus in Matthew 19 are those people whom have loyalty to the Ten Commandments.” On the other hand, it is interesting to note in Matthew 5 – we have the same hearers!
6. John 5:18 – Does Jesus really broke the Sabbath? This text was well used to argue that Jesus broke the Sabbath. However, a second look of the text will lead us to view Jesus, not as an antinomian. John’s usage of this term seems to suggest that also in John 5:18 luō should be translated “to break.” Yet this understanding seems to create a problem, because in other places Jesus cannot be charged with antinomianism (John 10:35; 8:46; 15:10; Matt. 5:17; 15:3-6; Mark 7:7-13, etc). Therefore, it seems that the phrase “He was . . . breaking the Sabbath” is not a comment by the Gospel writer but an accusation of the Jews against Jesus. Two accusations were leveled against him: (1) Jesus broke the Sabbath, and (2) Jesus made himself equal with God. The first was wrong in any case. Jesus may have broken the Sabbath as some Jewish circles understood and interpreted it, but actually He did not break the Sabbath. Rather in His ministry He elevated the law to a new level and summarized it in the commandments of love toward God and the neighbor (Mark 12:28-34). (I will not give my comment on the second accusation of the Pharisees, since the Sabbath is our focus here). So to simply put it, it’s either the Bible or the Jews are wrong. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus is breaking the Sabbath in the eyes of the Jews, but not in the eyes of His heavenly Father.
Thus, the main argument of Mr. A.D.C. Ramos can be found faulty because: (1) There are still some elements of continuity of the old covenant to the new covenant (i.e., Ten Commandments). (2) Most of the passages were taken out of context. (3) It does not represent the whole biblical account of the scriptures.