Concrete or Abstract Concepts
by Dale Brown
Religious people often approach the Bible from two different perspectives. There are those who see everything as concrete rules or laws, then, there are those who see things in a more broad or abstract way. The Seventh Day Adventist approach is the concrete approach, in which everything must fit into a nice program. They will give you a list of Bible verses having to do with the Sabbath proving that Saturday was the Jewish tradition even until the time of Apostle Paul who met with Jews in the synagogue. (Ex. 31:12-18, Neh. 13:15-21, Isa. 58:14, 66:22, 23, Luke 4:16, Acts 13:14, 42, 43 etc.)
They will conveniently avoid passages such as Acts 20:7 where Paul met with believers on the “first day of the week”. Then they will claim that Saturday Sabbath keeping is necessary for today's Christians.
Apostle Paul addresses this “concrete” problem in his epistle to the “foolish” Galatians who thought they too could receive the spirit simply by faith yet add more rules to further please God (Gal. 3:1-3). He goes to great length to remind the people that a previous covenant given to Abraham some 430 years before the Law of Moses is just as valid, but then goes about to take it apart. The sign of this “everlasting” covenant was circumcision (Gen. 17:11). He points out that his Greek friend and fellow believer Titus was in no way in need of being circumcised (Gal. 2:3) and further claimed over and again that man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 2:16, 3:11). He even says that if one receives circumcism Christ is of no benefit. Then, in another place he mentions that another believer named Timothy, who had a Greek father, he had circumcised in order to reach out to the Jews without causing an offense (Acts 16:3). Outside of God's grace, in the mind of the concrete thinker this sounds contradictory or hypocritical. But he said to the Galatians, “For in Christ neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything but faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6).
Paul was an abstract thinker. In his epistle to the Colossians he goes after those who were making concrete rules about the Sabbath and dietary laws. “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16). Over time, in honor of Christ who was discovered resurrected on the first day of the week (Mark 16:2) this new covenant in which the law is written on our hearts by faith is celebrated on Sunday, which would be the eighth day. Strangely enough, Jews to this day circumcize their babies on the eighth day not even recognizing the interesting parallel symbolism.
Concrete thinkers do similar things with baptism. They get hung up on methods and formulas and miss the more important point that has simply to do with ones identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.