32. Is it true that Adventists are legalists, who do not believe we are really saved by grace but by works?

No.  This is another oft-cited 'proof' that supposedly makes the Seventh-day Adventist Church a cult.  However, Adventists fully confirm the belief in sola fide – justification is by faith alone. As noted in SDA publication Questions on Doctrine, Adventists believe:
“13. That salvation through Christ is by grace alone, through faith in His blood.
14. That entrance upon the new life in Christ is by regeneration, or the new birth.
15. That man is justified by faith.
16. That man is sanctified by the indwelling Christ through the Holy Spirit.”
No doubt, some individual Adventists behave like legalists, but this is no different from most other Christian groups – including the religious leaders in Jesus’ own day.  As further observed in SDA publication Questions on Doctrine:
“There has been regrettable misunderstanding as to our teaching on grace, law, and works, and their inter-relationships. According to Seventh-day Adventist belief, there is, and can be, no salvation through the law, or by human works of the law, but only through the saving grace of God. This principle, to us, is basic. This transcendent provision of the grace of God is emphasized both in the Old and the New Testament, although the truth of God's wondrous grace reaches its fullest unfolding, and most complete manifestation, in the New Testament times and record….
Salvation is not now, and never has been, by law or works; salvation is only by the grace of Christ. Moreover, there never was a time in the plan of God when salvation was by human works or effort. Nothing men can do, or have done, can in any way merit salvation. While works are not a means of salvation, good works are the inevitable result of salvation. However, these good works are possible only for the child of God whose life is inwrought by the Spirit of God. It is to such believers that John writes when he bids them keep the commandments of God (1 John 3:22-24; 5:2, 3). This relationship and sequence is imperative, but is often misunderstood or reversed.” (emphasis added)
As again re-stated on the SDA Church South Pacific Division website:
Do Adventists believe they need to do good works to go to heaven?
“Adventists believe only Jesus’ death and His resurrection make it possible for people to overcome sin and be forgiven. God provided the ultimate sacrifice so we may have the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation can be achieved only through believing in Jesus and what He did.
Adventists also believe that the way we live in faith should reflect the love and gratitude we feel for Jesus and His sacrifice. This means, among other things, helping people in need, observing the seventh-day Sabbath, and treating our bodies as “temples of God”. These ‘good works’ are a response to the assurance of salvation we have received because of our faith in Jesus, not in themselves a passport to heaven.” (emphasis added)
With respect, most of the critics who claim Adventists are legalists do so because they are themselves advocating a form of Antinomianism’, which is a person who believes that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law’ (Oxford English Dictionary).  Somewhat ironically for these critics, Antinomiansim itself is considered by most 'mainstream' and 'orthodox' Christian groups as a Gnostic-influenced heresy.  
Finally, as even acknowledged by Roman Catholics, who have no reason to show bias to any Protestant group over another:
…Adventists also subscribe to the two Protestant shibboleths, sola scriptura (the Bible is the sole rule of faith) and sola fide (justification is by faith alone). Other Protestants, especially conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, often attack Adventists on these points, claiming they do not really hold them, which is often used as "proof" that they are "a cult." However, along the spectrum of Protestantism (from high-church Lutherans and Anglicans to low-church Pentecostals and Baptists), there is little agreement about the meaning of these two phrases or about the doctrines they are supposed to represent.”  (emphasis added)


  1. I am a Seventh-day Adventist.

    It is funny in most Churches you can talk about why one shouldn't commit adultery, or should not steal, one worship God and not other gods and idols, or honor one's father or mother and the congregations would say amen. No one would stand up and say - 'Legalist!' Yet as soon as Adventists say, 'hang on, what about the 4th commandment', other Christians automatically stand up and say, 'Legalist, legalists, legalist!'

  2. I am an adventist (50 Years now) and love the Lord and feel that the holy spirit is calling me out of out of the church. He is drawing me nearer to Him each day and the first gift HE gave me is the assurance of my salvation (whether I attend church on Sat. or Sun) What does an adventist have to say about that? Is it possible that the holy spirit would lead someone out of the church? Or is the TRUE holy spirit only working on those who worship on Sat.? Are my holy spirit leadings false? With Adventists in general the reply would be that I am being misled by a bad spirit and that their spirit is better than mine...how sad...

    1. Anonymous, I taken it you are no longer an Adventist? You seem to have the fury of an ex-Adventist. No one said attending Church on Saturday will make you go to heaven and attending on Sunday will mean you go to hell. If we previously thought, taught and told others in your 50-years as an Adventist then you were wrong. But you are wrong to suggest the Sabbath is not important; otherwise, it wouldn't be in the 10 commandments. Similarly, I can take the Lord's name in vain, and I doubt I'll go to hell for it, but it doesn't make doing it right or good either, given it also is one of the 10 commandments.

    2. Maybe in your 50 years of being an Adventist you were a legalist, and maybe the local church you attended was full of legalists like you. Maybe you did worship the Sabbath as an idol. Maybe you never did have a born again experience, realising that you are truly saved by grace through faith. If you have for the first time - praise the Lord.

      However I can tell you I am an Adventist and I am no legalist, nor is the local SDA Church I attend full of legalists. I truly believe Jesus was the incarnate God, you came down to earth, suffered a horrible death and rose again - all so I can have the free gift of eternal life in the blood of Jesus Chris.

      If anyone thinks they can work their way to heaven then they are horribly mistaken. However, you seem to be suggesting that because we are justified in Christ that means sanctification is not important? Or do you take the views of Rasputan, largely mirroring the early Christians in Rome and Corinth, who believed because we are saved by grace we should deliberately keep on sinning? I think Paul had the balance right when he said in Rom 6:1-2:

      "What shall we say, then?Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?"

    3. I have the "fury" of an ex adventist? You dont like what I have to say so that makes me angry? Not so my friend. I am passionate about being free from the bondage of legalism found amongst so many. And because I have experienced grace I want more than ever to please him. And if his holy spirit leads me to another church, then so be it. I know that must really bother those of you that believe there is no other church.

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    5. That is fine and I am very glad you have finally found grace in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again so we could have the free gift of salvation by grace in the faith of Jesus Christ. But please don't pretend to judge me by assuming I haven't likewise found that grace.

      I don't know anything about you but I suspect you grew up or attended a very conservative SDA Church that was indeed full of legalists who worshipped the Sabbath rather than God. But please don't go assuming every SDA and every local SDA Church reflects your experience.

      A lot of people making comments appear to have a bad experience growing up or attending conservative SDA Churches. Whilst I don't want to judge anyone, it is important that people realise the SDA Church has and always will have a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices. You will see this if you visit websites such as Spectrum Magazine or Adventist Today, where there are polar opposite views amongst Adventists on topics ranging from: women ordination, homosexuality, Ellen White, investigative judgment, Sabbath-keeping, Trinity, music-style and almost every other issue you could think of.

      You seem to be mistaking what the purpose of this website is. It is not to try and convert you, and I couldn't care less if you are now attending a Church that teaches faith in Jesus Christ rather than works. When I used to live in London I did the exact same thing, because all the local Churches were indeed legalistic and too conservative - I attended the Hillsong Church instead. But I wouldn't trade my local Church for any other the others - and where I can tell you Jesus does live.

      Thus, far from convert you, I am trying to ensure that ex-Adventists you riddicule the SDA Church don't dominate the internet waves. I want ex-Adventists and outsiders to know that just because you had a terrible experience, please don't all judge us by that same brush.

    6. Because adventism failed to show me the joy of the good news found in the gospel does not mean I am judging you or your experience within adventism. You have been blessed with an entirely different experience. I know there are many non legalistc sdas out there. My parents are a wonderful example of sdas who are not bogged down by the negative. I am simply sharing my views as a cautionary tale to others to find a church that is teaching the Good News. I also wish the sda church would simplify baptism and not require one to accept all the tenets listed because there are several we do not agree with. My kids were baptized in a beautiful, emotional ceremony in a non denom church where the sole requirement was that they know and accept Jesus Christ as their savior, and that they understand the meaning of baptism. No clutter of E.White, sanctuary doctrine, invest. Judgement, etc.

    7. I have no problems at all with what you are saying. I also agree that I think the SDA Church has been going a little overboard with adding too many fundamentals. There are so many now (28 in fact) that I recently heard a recent ex-SDA GC President say that not all of the fundamentals are really as fundamental as others. That makes complete sense to me, because one can see that you really do need to accept the Trinity, the Holy Bible, that salvation is by faith through the grace of Jesus' death and resurrection, but something like the gift of prophecy or sanctuary doctrines (even if true for argument's sake), are hardly 'fundamental' for salvation. That is all well and good, but perhaps these non-fundamental fundamentals should not be fundamentals at all! I know some SDAs may disagree with that view (given my points before re the diversity within Adventism) but I think many (especially in the 'liberal' Evangelical wing) would agree.

      If I had my way, there would only be 7 'fundamental' beliefs: Primacy of Holy Bible (sola scriptura), Trinity, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus (sola fide), adult baptism by full immersion, perpetuity of the Ten Commandments (including the Seventh-day Sabbath), conditional immortality (i.e. state of the dead, Christian mortalism and annahalationalism), and finally belief in the visible, literal and imminent Second Advent of Christ.

      I personally think these 7 beliefs encapsulate what almost all Adventists really believe is the essence of the Gospel as found in the Bible. Other doctrines can then be relegated to say teachings on Michael the Archangel - interesting questions but not essential for salvation. So in conclusion, I totally agree with your comment that we should get rid of the 'clutter' of beliefs that are not essential for salvation.

  3. Sam, I was just told by an SDA that if I don't keep the Saturday Sabbath I will be lost. If I loved God I would keep it. We are no longer under the Old Covenant law. That is legalism anyway you slice it. Colossians 2...says not to allow anyone to judge you concerning holy days, new moons, festivals and sabbaths. He is blind to think he can keep the law.....the law condemns but grace acquits. The law demands.....grace supplies.

    1. Elaine, what you are told by one SDA doesn't speak for all 22 million of us. I have been told by Catholics we will be reincarnated when we die; however, I am smart enough to realize their views don't represent official RC doctrine of some 1 billion adherents!

      Col 2 is not about the seventh-day Sabbath - it is about Jewish feast days.

      Is it legalism to say we should have no other gods before us, or that we should no idols, or that we shouldn't blaspheme God - the first three commandments? Do you reject the basis for monotheism - worship of one God?

  4. I have a problem believing any denomination that just began over hundred years ago. How anyone can hop on board to participate in a religion is beyond me. They believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel. They also believe the Sunday Keepers cannot go to Heaven. They do not believe in hell as other denominations. They believe as other Christians on just enough issues to draw them in and then load them up with all the Ellen White prophecy books and that's how the get them hooked. I went to a SDA church for a while and didn't notice anything to different from going to my church. It's when you get into the small groups having bible studies that they try to hood wink you. If you are not strong in the Word it's easy to see how they get you hooked up with them. They really strongly believe that if you don't honor Saturday as the Sabbath then you are automatically barred from Heaven. Col 2 tells us no one can judge us because of the Sabbath,etc. I'm just a Bible Believer saved by the boos if Jesus Christ and led by the Holy Spirit.