Walter Martin, Adventists & The Law Of God in ‘The Kingdom Of The Cults,
General Editor; Ravi Zacharias, Bethany House Publications, Minneapolis, 2003
I concluded the previous post by asking why would Walter Martin, or the publishers of ‘Kingdom of the Cults’, state in the Quick Facts list on page 534 that for Adventists, “Salvation requires personal works combined with God’s grace”, when in his refutation of Hoekema in defence of Adventists Martin says, “literally scores of times in their book Questions on Doctrines, and in various other publications, the Adventists affirm that salvation only come by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross.”
Walter Martin’s apparent self-contradiction is strange indeed. But my comment continues from an earlier post when I had not caught up with Walter Martin’s The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, now incorporated into his book, The Kingdom of the Cults. I can now affirm Dr. Heppenstall’s analysis and rebuttal to Martin’s article on the Adventist view of the Ten Commandments.
Having the recognition as an elite among Christian apologists I found it surprising to read Martin’s view of the Ten Commandments stated so authoritatively, with his criticism of Adventists and “many historical Protestant groups (who) have been guilty of carrying over into the New Covenant some of the legalistic functions of the Law of God” (p. 611).
Martin doesn’t identify the “many historical groups” but it seems to me the highly esteemed Christian thought leaders and theologians who are no longer with us such as Charles Spurgeon, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Dr. John Stott are representative of mainstream churches in their belief in the Ten Commandments.
As I said in the previous post, a sting in the tail follows Martin’s defence of Adventism against Hoekema’s accusations. From page 610 to page 617 in The Kingdom of the Cults Walter Martin seeks to put Adventists right on Law, Grace and Salvation. Where he defends Adventist as holding essential Christian teachings . . . Adventists have got it wrong about Law, Grace and Salvation. I am a Seventh-day Adventist so I have to take this personally.
Dr. Edward Heppenstall has already replied to Walter Martin on behalf of Adventists. I just want to draw the parallel between Martin and Hoekema. Just as Martin rebuts Hoekema on the grounds that he is coming from his extreme Calvinism, so one can see that Martin rebuts Adventism’s view of the Law of God from what I see as a dispensationalist view of salvation – believers in the Old Testament are saved by works of the law whereas New Testament believers are saved through God’s forgiving grace. Adventists believe along with so many other Christians that Law and salvation have been there right from the Fall. The sin of our first parents introduced sin to all of us. God immediately introduced forgiveness and grace to all of us beginning with our first parents (Genesis 3:15; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:24). From the very beginning salvation has not been through our works but completely by faith in the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 11: – 12:2).
p. 612. On Galatians 3:24 Walter Martin declares that the Apostle Paul, certainly an authority on “the law” dogmatically affirms that that the role of the schoolmaster has ceased and the Christian is “dead to the law”. Note, also, that word ‘schoolmaster’ is in the singular, which destroys the Adventist notion that there is more than one law. If the moral law was separate from the ceremonial law, instead of both being aspects of one law, Paul would have had to write that the laws were a schoolmasters to bring us to Christ, and that now, “we are no longer under schoolmasters”.
p. 113. The Law is a single gigantic structure comprised of several aspects, moral, ceremonial, civil, judicial, prophetic, – all headed under ‘Law’ by Christ and the Apostles. “Instead of the Adventist belief that the Law must be ‘kept’ as a sign of obedience to God, Christ here teaches that the Christian obeys God when he obeys the supreme commandment of love.”
“Christ, . . . has forever condensed or summed up, comprehended or gathered together, the law in all its aspects and divisions under the all-embracing principle of love.” And here is the indictment, “by not adhering strictly to the established law of sound biblical interpretation, Seventh-day Adventists seemed to have overlooked this fact in the New Testament.”
p. 616. “This is the law of the New Testament. We are no longer under the law, but under grace,” and the function of the ‘schoolmaster’ (Galatians 3:24) has forever and irrevocably ceased.”
So as well as Adventists, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Stott along with other mainstream Christians, have all got it wrong about the Ten Commandments! They, as well as Seventh-day Adventists are guilty of “not adhering strictly to the established law of sound biblical interpretation.”
p. 619. Says Martin, “The Adventist contention that since the Ten Commandments were spoken by God, inscribed on stone, and placed within the Ark, they are superior to the law written by Moses in a book and placed by the side of the Ark is fallacious. This is true because the book placed by the side of the Ark actually contains more moral law than does the Decalogue itself. It is, therefore, superior to the Decalogue, at least in scope.”
p. 622. “The apostle John defined the issue when he wrote, “The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). As a governing principle, a measure of righteousness, a schoolmaster, and an instrument of death, the law was supplanted by grace – the unmerited favour of God.” There it is, the law was supplanted by grace!
John Stott on the Law in Galatians:
Martin has quoted Galatians 3:24 above as support for Grace supplanting the Law of God. I have quoted the late Dr. John Stott on the law previously, from his Romans commentary. This is what he says in his Commentary on Galatians, (1976, Intervarsity Press), the opposite to that of Walter Martin:
p. 95. Speaking about the law and the promise (or the gospel) Stott says,“The tragedy is that so many people separate them by wanting one without the other. Some try going to Jesus without meeting Moses. They want to skip the Old Testament, to inherit the promise of justification in Christ without the prior pain of condemnation by the law. Others go to Moses and the law to be condemned, but they stay in this unhappy bondage. . . . they have never gone to Christ to be set free.”
P. 97 on Galatians 3:24: In what sense is the law like a prison gaoler and a child’s disciplinarian or tutor? The law expresses the will of God for his people, telling us what to do and not what to do, and warns us of the penalties of disobedience. Since we have all disobeyed, we have fallen under its just condemnation. We are ‘all under sin’ (verse 22, AV), and therefore we are all ‘under the law’ (verse 23), . . . but thank God, he never meant this oppression to be permanent. He gave the law in his grace in order to make the promise more desirable.”
Going back to p.87 Stott says, “We cannot set Abraham and Moses, the promise and the law, against each other accepting the one and rejecting the other, tout simple. If God is the author of both, he must have had some purpose for both.”
And this purpose? Says Stott, “the law illumined God’s promise, and actually made it indispensable.” P. 89. He (Paul) was far from declaring the law unnecessary, for he was quite clear that it had an essential part to play in the purpose of God. The function of the law was not to bestow salvation, however, but to convince men of their need of it.”
“After God gave the promise to Abraham, he gave the law to Moses. Why? Simply because he had to make things worse before he could make them better. The law exposed sin, provoked sin, condemned sin. The purpose of the law was, as it were, to lift the lid off man’s respectability and to expose what he is really like underneath – sinful, rebellious, guilty, under the judgment of God, and helpless to save himself.
And the law must still be allowed to do its God-given duty today.”
p. 93. “This is how Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it: ‘It is only when one submits to the law that one can speak of grace . . . I don’t think it is Christian to want to get to the New Testament too soon and too directly.’” Says Stott, “We must never bypass the law and come straight to the gospel. To do so is to contradict the plan of God in biblical history.”
What two sentences these are that follows: “People cannot see the beauty of the pearl, because they have no conception of the pigsty. No man has ever appreciated the gospel until the law has first revealed him to himself.”
Stott concludes on Galatians 3:15-22 by saying: “Not until the law has bruised and smitten us will we admit our need of the gospel to bind up our wounds. Not until the law has arrested and imprisoned us will we pine for Christ to set us free. Not until the law has condemned and killed us will we call upon Christ to set us free. Not until the law has driven us to despair of ourselves will we ever believe in Jesus. Not until the law has humbled us even to hell will we turn to the gospel to raise us to heaven.”
One final quote from John Stott on the complimentarity of the law and the gospel from ‘Authentic Christianity’ p. 184: “The Law leads us to Christ to be justified, and Christ sends us to the law to be sanctified”
I have previously quoted John Stott, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Charles Spurgeon on the law of God. These have been my mentors when it comes the teaching on the law and its purpose. For all his several pages of explanation and rebuttal of the Adventist view of the law, grace and salvation, Walter Martin not only doesn’t convince me but I fear it is he who has misled others over the veracity and purpose of the law of God and is a cause of dismay as expressed by Bill Meuhlenberg.
I hope I have made my point. As gracious as Walter Martin has been in defending Adventists against Dr. Anthony Hoekema’s criticisms, Walter Martin has committed the same mistake as Hoekema, who, in criticising Adventists was also criticising a vast body of other fellow Christians without telling his readers who the “many historical Protestant groups” are – who “have been guilty of carrying over into the New Covenant some of the legalistic functions of the Law of God” (p. 611).
Martin then is rightly criticised by Dr. Edward Heppenstall, when he says, “To fail to understand the simple difference between “law” as the revelation of God’s will and “under law” as man’s life situation in the flesh when brought under its dominion, is tragic. It seems incredible that a man who claims to be a serious student of the Bible should be guilty of such gross misinterpretation. But the worst tragedy is that many who will read his book will probably believe it.”