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Author Topic: Ratzlaff Struggles (Again) With Matthew 5:17-19  (Read 2485 times)

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Azenilto Brito

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Ratzlaff Struggles (Again) With Matthew 5:17-19
« on: April 29, 2008, 01:48:24 PM »

Ratzlaff Struggles (Again) With Matthew 5:17-19

       In the March/April 2008 issue of Proclamation! Magazine we find Mr. Ratzlaff struggling again with the text of Matthew 5:17-19, as had been the case in the January/February 2007 issue. His dominant preoccupation is to “prove” that this text doesn’t refer solely to the 10 Commandments, leaving the impression that Seventh-day Adventists think so. But I never learned as an SDA that this passage is limited to the Decalogue, nor is what one can see reading the SDA Bible Commentary about it. In fact, it’s so clear that Jesus refers also to the ceremonial aspects of the Torah, in vs. 23, 24 as He mentions the offer taken to the altar, which shows how this Mr. Ratzlaff’s straw man is one more futile attempt to denigrate the image of Adventist theology on his part.
       Noticing this preoccupation of Mr. Ratzlaff to get rid of any impression that the 10 Commandments would be the main point in Jesus’ discourse in these texts, I addressed him some questions, as you can see in my initial discussions, that can be found through the following link:

In this forum, the link is: (see 2nd thread from top)

       He never gave me any answer to these questions (he receives personally all the material published here).
       Now, since he returns to this subject, through another questionnaire whose final result would be the admission that Matt. 5:17-19 doesn’t refer solely to the 10 Commandments, how about examining what important and highly reputed theologians and Bible commentary authors have to say regarding these texts? But before doing that, it would be interesting to point out two things:

       a – Jesus admittedly is not referring SOLELY to the 10 Commandments in these texts, but these 10 Commandments are not EXCLUDED from it, either.

       b – The context of this passage emphasizes, not “abolition” of laws, but, on the contrary, an attitude of obeisance to God reflected in performing good works, which attract man’s praise to Him (see vs. 16: “Let you light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”.) So, instead of the INTENTION of Jesus’ words having to do with freeing men from any of God’s laws, they highlight the importance of practicing what is contained in God’s laws faithfully in a way that even “exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (vs. 20). That is the framework of vs. 17-19 that Mr. Ratzlaff and other anti-Sabbatarians generally don’t take into account.

       Now, let’s see if what different Bible specialists have to say regarding the text under consideration, (their comments concentrate mostly in the clause, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law”):

Albert Barnes:

Our Saviour was just entering on his work. It was important for him to state what he came to do. By his setting up to be a teacher in opposition to the scribes and Pharisees, some might charge him with an intention to destroy their law, and to abolish the customs of the nation. He therefore told them that he did not come for that end, but really to fulfill or accomplish what was in the law and the prophets.

Adam Clarke:

Do not imagine that I am come to violate the law . . ., I loose, violate, or dissolve - I am not come to make the law of none effect - to dissolve the connection which subsists between its several parts, or the obligation men are under to have their lives regulated by its moral precepts; nor am I come to dissolve the connecting reference it has to the good things promised. But I am come, . . . to complete - to perfect its connection and reference, to accomplish every thing shadowed forth in the Mosaic ritual, to fill up its great design; and to give grace to all my followers, . . . to fill up, or complete, every moral duty. In a word, Christ completed the law:

       1st. In itself, it was only the shadow, the typical representation, of good things to come; and he added to it that which was necessary to make it perfect, His Own Sacrifice, without which it could neither satisfy God, nor sanctify men.
       2dly. He completed it in himself by submitting to its types with an exact obedience, and verifying them by his death upon the cross.
       3dly. He completes this law, and the sayings of his prophets, in his members, by giving them grace to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves; for this is all the law and the prophets.

It is worthy of observation, that the word . . . gamar, among the rabbins, signifies not only to fulfill, but also to teach; and, consequently, we may infer that our Lord intimated, that the law and the prophets were still to be taught or inculcated by him and his disciples; and this he and they have done in the most pointed manner. See the Gospels and epistles; and see especially this sermon on the mount, the Epistle of James, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. And this meaning of the word gives the clear sense of the apostle’s words, Col_1:25. Whereof I am made a minister, . . . to fulfill the word of God, i.e. to teach the doctrine of God.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes:

Christ did not come to bring any new way of righteousness and salvation into the world, but indeed to fulfill that which was shadowed by the figures of the Law, by delivering men through grace from the curse of the Law: and moreover to teach the true use of obedience which the Law appointed, and to engrave in our hearts the power for obedience.

Robertson Word Picture:

. . . The verb “destroy” means to “loosen down” as of a house or tent (2Co_5:1). Fulfil is to fill full. This Jesus did to the ceremonial law which pointed to him and the moral law he kept. “He came to fill the law, to reveal the full depth of meaning that it was intended to hold” (McNeile).

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown:

Not to subvert, abrogate, or annul, but to establish the law and the prophets - to unfold them, to embody them in living form, and to enshrine them in the reverence, affection, and character of men, am I come.

Matthew Henry:

Let none suppose that Christ allows his people to trifle with any commands of God's holy law. No sinner partakes of Christ's justifying righteousness, till he repents of his evil deeds. The mercy revealed in the gospel leads the believer to still deeper self-abhorrence. The law is the Christian's rule of duty, and he delights therein. If a man, pretending to be Christ's disciple, encourages himself in any allowed disobedience to the holy law of God, or teaches others to do the same, whatever his station or reputation among men may be, he can be no true disciple. Christ's righteousness, imputed to us by faith alone, is needed by every one that enters the kingdom of grace or of glory; but the new creation of the heart to holiness, produces a thorough change in a man's temper and conduct.

John Calvin:

God had, indeed, promised a new covenant at the coming of Christ; but had, at the same time, showed, that it would not be different from the first, but that, on the contrary, its design was, to give a perpetual sanction to the covenant, which he had made from the beginning, with his own people.

       “I will write my law, (says he,) in their hearts,
       and I will remember their iniquities no more,”
       (Jeremiah 31:33, 34.)

By these words he is so far from departing from the former covenant, that, on the contrary, he declares, that it will be confirmed and ratified, when it shall be succeeded by the new. This is also the meaning of Christ’s words, when he says, that he came to fulfill the law: for he actually fulfilled it, by quickening, with his Spirit, the dead letter, and then exhibiting, in reality, what had hitherto appeared only in figures.

With respect to doctrine, we must not imagine that the coming of Christ has freed us from the authority of the law: for it is the eternal rule of a devout and holy life, and must, therefore, be as unchangeable, as the justice of God, which it embraced, is constant and uniform. With respect to ceremonies, there is some appearance of a change having taken place; but it was only the use of them that was abolished, for their meaning was more fully confirmed. The coming of Christ has taken nothing away even from ceremonies, but, on the contrary, confirms them by exhibiting the truth of shadows: for, when we see their full effect, we acknowledge that they are not vain or useless. Let us therefore learn to maintain inviolable this sacred tie between the law and the Gospel, which many improperly attempt to break. For it contributes not a little to confirm the authority of the Gospel, when we learn, that it is nothing else than a fulfillment of the law; so that both, with one consent, declare God to be their Author.

18. Till heaven and earth pass. Luke expresses it a little differently, but to the same import, that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one point of the law to fail The design of Christ, in both passages, was to teach, that the truth of the law and of every part of it, is secure, and that nothing so durable is to be found in the whole frame of the world.


John Wesley:

Think not - Do not imagine, fear, hope, that I am come - Like your teachers, to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy - The moral law, but to fulfill - To establish, illustrate, and explain its highest meaning, both by my life and doctrine.

Dr. James D. Kennedy:

“We live in a time when the institution of the Sabbath has come under great attack from several different points of view. There are those who declare that it was abolished by Christ and is no longer in effect today. But what do the Scriptures teach? The Scriptures do not teach that Christ ever annulled, abrogated, or abolished the Sabbath or any of the Commandments. On the contrary, the Scripture very plainly teach that the Commandments remain in effect today and have been strengthened by Christ who declared that not only the deed but the thought and the word are part of that which God has given us. He clearly states that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. . . .

“Even as late as the Book of Revelation we read that here is the patience of the saints of God, those who have the faith of Jesus and keep the commandments of God. In the very last chapter of the Bible we read of those who keep the commandments of God and have the right to the tree of life.” – Sermon by Dr. James Kennedy, “The Gift of Rest,” quoted by Elder Samuele Bacchiocchi in his Endtimes Issues Newsletter, # 79


Notes: Dr. Kennedy’s sermon was broadcast nationwide on November 4, 2001 through the Coral Ridge TV Network. He passed away in September 2007].

The “. . .” amidst the quotations mean that there were Greek and Hebrew characters that this forum format won't accept. It can be checked in the Maritime SDA Forum, where they are exhibited. The link for the first page of the discussions there is indicated above, and this text, with the referred to characters, appears on page 7.

« Last Edit: April 29, 2008, 01:59:32 PM by Azenilto Brito »

Azenilto Brito

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Re: Ratzlaff Struggles (Again) With Matthew 5:17-19
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2008, 09:33:10 AM »

The Danger of Ratzlaffism

       We have already seen how dangerous it is to misinterpret the Bible, especially when it involves faithfulness to keeping God’s law, reflected in the Ten Commandments, as Luther, Calvin, Wesley and the most representative confessional documents of Christendom (both Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) expose its role as normative to the conduct of those belonging to the Christian community. By the way, St. Peter even stressed how those who practice this terrible art of Bible twisting will face a terrible destiny:

       “. . . our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned  and unstable wrest, and they do also the also scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved . . . beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” (2a. Ped. 3:15-17).

       Lately we saw how Mr. Ratzlaff is so much confused in his interpretation of Matt. 5:17-19, and we quoted some important Bible commentaries, like the ones by Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke, the Geneve Bible notes, John Calvin, John Wesley and James Kennedy. Ratzlaff should submit his questionnaire, which has the objective to deny that the Ten Commandments is the expression of God's moral law to the Church, to these authors. None of the mentioned ones agree with his view on the subject. . .
       In Brazil there was a Baptist pastor some years ago who published a book called Sabatismo à Luz da Palavra de Deus (Sabbatarianism on the Light of God's Word) and he refers to the text of Matt. 5:17-19 as “the fortress of the Sabbatarians”. Then he engages himself in trying to prove the error of understanding that Jesus is confirming the validity of the 10 Commandaments as a rule for the Christian conduct in such texts. Rather, he says, Jesus “fulfilled the law” to remove it for the Christian, leaving in its place His own new law.
       The Bible speaks of “the law of Christ”, as Paul refers in 1 Cor. 9:21, but he doesn't quote any commandment of such a law to make us know what it is. . . But we have a good hint in Galatians 6:2, where he is more specific: “Bear ye one another's burden, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” So, that is what the law of Christ is all about--to bear one another's burden. But is that different from “love your neighbor as yourself”? Certainly not, especially as that is part of the “golden rule” uttered by Christ himself. So, would we be wrong if we concluded that the law of Christ is the same “golden rule”? I don't think Mr. Ratzlaff and his admirers and followers would disagree that the answer is YES.
       But, then, when Jesus was uttering this “golden rule” He was not even being “creative”, for he just “plagiarized” Moses, as we can see in Deut. 6:5 and Levt. 19:18! Well, then is the “golden rule” Jesus’ law or Moses’ law?! Wouldn’t the best answer be -- it is GOD’S LAW? Does Ratzlaff disagree with that? If the answer is yes, why then?
       Now, the referred to Baptist author, called Ricardo Pitrowski (seems like being a Brazilian of Polish descent) has this chapter on the fortress of the Sabbatarians, but Arnaldo B. Christianini (a Brazilian of Italian descent) refuted totally his book using mostly material from the Baptists themselves!
       It was funny to see how Christianini simply got all these Baptist authors, Bible commentaries, Sunday School quarterlies and destroyed one by one the arguments of this poor Baptist minister who just showed the theological incompetence of those who try to refute Sabbath keeping as a Christian rule.
       I quoted in my last discussions of Ratzlaff’s ideas how important people in the Theological field analyzed this text, in a way that just confirms how Ratzlaff and his followers are in the wrong way as to how is the best historical theological stand of conservative Protestant scholarship regarding the subject of God’s law.
       But let me add some more authors, as Christianini quotes a few. I will be translating from his quotations in Portuguese for I don’t have access to the same material in English. Some I think were from Brazilian Evangelical authors. So, introducing his arguments, Christianini says, in his book Subtilezas do Erro (Subtleties of Error):

Let’s proceed. To this important text (Matt. 5:17-18) [Pitrowski] calls “the fortress of Sabbatarians”. . . . we will not miss this chance to use this excellent opportunity he grants us to show who are the builders and artisans of such a solid fortress:

l. First of all, as Cornerstone, we have the Author, Architect and Planner: CHRIST, for he was the One to say in crystal clear terms, “. . . Think not I am come to destroy the law . . . I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil”. Did Jesus know what He was talking about? No doubt. “Fulfill” is not to discard a law or cease its validity for having covered all its requirements or for having complied with its precepts, for is that were so, that would simply mean to abrogate it. But in the text Christ declared unequivocally: I am not come to DESTROY”.

Webster defines to abrogate saying that “to fulfill is to obey.” . . . A citizen fulfills his duty to vote, for example. Is the voting institution extinguished because of him having fulfilled it? No! The requirement is permanent; the fulfillment is transient. The fulfillment affects the person, not the requirement; it connects the person with the requirement but doesn’t remove it. Only a superior law that would state it expressly could remove it. . . . Christ fulfilled the baptism, but didn’t abolish it. In Gal. 6:2 we read: “Bear ye one another’s burden, and so fulfil the law of Christ” Imagine the reader whether this means to abolish! That would be a totally distorted and absurd conclusion.  . . .  No doubt, Christ is the foundation of this fortress of Seventh-day Adventists.(1)

2. A. H. Strong, a much quoted Baptist author, who is also in total contradiction with [Pitrowski’s] thesis, also helps to erect this fortress, when he says:

“He [Jesus] should ‘fulfill’ the law and the prophets through complete execution of the revealed will of God. . . . Since the law is a transcription of God’s sanctity, its requirements as a moral rule are immutable. Only as a system of penalty . . . it was abolished by Christ’s death. ‘Think not I am come to destroy the law. . . [quotation of the entire text]”(2)

. . . Thus, Strong is an excellent contributor for the fortress of Sabbatarians, don’t you think so?

3. J. Broadus, highly reputed Baptist commentator also engages himself in aligning among the fortress’ builders. He writes on Matt. 5:17-18: “Fulfill – is the translation of a Greek word that means ‘to fill up’, ‘to complete’. . . . It means ‘to execute plainly’, ‘to realize’, applied to any work or duty. . . . ‘In vain it is attempted to put these Jesus’ words in conflict with what Paul teaches regarding the law. . . . The idea that sometimes emerges, that Jesus was a great and radical reformer that put aside Moses’ law for being imperfect and outdated, IS CONTRARY TO THE ENTIRE SPIRIT OF THE TEXT”  (3) (Highlited in capital letter by myself). 

We thank Broadus wholeheartedly for his uninterested and valuable contribution for the erection of the fortress. 

4. C. H. Spurgeon, the prince of the Baptists preachers, alluding to Matt. 5:17, says: “To show that He never thought of abrogating the law, our Lord exemplified all the precepts in His own life.” (4).
. . . No doubt, Spurgeon also render an excellent service in constructing this fortress of Seventh-day Adventists.

5. S. L. Gingsburg, also a Baptist, referring to the Decalogue, with Mat. 5:17-19, writes: “Those who teach the lie that the law has no more value or authority, certainly have not read yet the texts that are here for us to study:  MATTHEW 5:17-19.” (5)

Gingsburg is a bold worker in the construction of this citadel . . .

6. Moody, the remarkable revivalist, thus understands Matt. 5:17: “Some think that we have already supplanted the Ten Commandment. What did Christ say? ‘. . . Think not I am come to destroy the law . . . I am not come to destroy . . .; Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass form the law, till all be fulfilled.’ The commandments of God given to Moses . . . are as obligatory today as they were when proclaimed to the ears of the people. The Jews used to say that the law was not given in Palestine (that belonged to Israel) but in the desert, because the law was destined to all the nations.” (6)

We better stop here, otherwise the fortress will be excessively large. We browsed about 20 works of authors who don’t belong to the Adventist fold and all agree in one point: Jesus didn’t ABROGATE anything from the Decalogue. So we have to conclude that this fortress belongs less to the Sabbatarians than to other interpreters who built it, a good number of them Baptists. And as [Pitrowski] thought to tear down the fortress—as he imagines . . .—he is attempting to destroy someone else’s work. Yes, because the fortress, as we’ve seen, was built by others and given to the Seventh-day Adventists  . .


(1) Subtilezas do Erro, pp  101-106.
(2) A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, pp. 546 and 875.
(3) Broadus, Commentary to the Gosple of Matthew, vol. 1, pp. 66, 164 and 165
(4) C. H. Spurgeon, sermon published in the Melbourne Age, 1888.
(5) S. L. Gingsburg, The Decalogue or the Ten Commandments, p. 4.
(6) D. L. Moody, Weighed and Wanting, p. 14.

       We see how dangerous it is sometimes attempting to destroy fortresses thinking they are built by poor confused people, aiming at defending inadequate positions. Those who know some of the world’s great literature masterpieces might have read the classic Cervantes’ Don Quijote de la Mancha. To fight against windmills was a no-win situation for him, as is a waste of time to Raztzlaff and his supporters to refute Sabbath keeping. And he seems to have some faithful Sancho Panzas helping him.
      One example of that is the mail in Spanish that I got from an ex-Adventist group, where they argue that there is nothing wrong in keeping the Sabbath, but working on that day for supplying the family’s necessities is okay, for the Bible says that one should work honestly for getting a living. To neglect that, because of a “fanatical” attachment to the Sabbath law, running the risk of facing financial difficulties that could jeopardize the family’s survival, is totally wrong and unbiblical, they allege.
       That is another big danger of false reasoning, because they are discriminating against only ONE of God’s commandment. They forget that this applies to ANY commandment. By this reasoning, if a lady has no professional qualifications that grant her a good salary to support her children, and she is offered a job in which she has to get involved with prostitution, that would be okay with the Church! Or else, if a man has no other professional option, but is offered to sell drugs and make a good profit, it is okay, since his intention is just to make a living to support his family. . .
     Very dangerous ideas, indeed.

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