What Seventh-day Adventists Believe About Christian Behavior
You’d be hard-pressed to find a person on this earth who doesn’t think behavior is important. Or that the way we treat one another is crucial to our collective wellbeing.
The patterns of actions, words, and more that make up behavior are unavoidably central to any type of belief system. Seventh-day Adventists look to the Bible, with Jesus as the perfect example, for guidance on shaping daily behavior.
Adventists also believe that good behavior isn’t what saves anyone—instead, it is the evidence of a life that has been saved. Any person’s behavior is positively affected as it becomes rooted in love, and as the Holy Spirit works on the heart within.
We’ll look more closely at:
- The relationship between a Christian lifestyle and salvation
- Why Christian behavior is important to Adventists
- How Adventist’s health practices and other principles fit into a Christian lifestyle
- Why love must be the underlying principle in Christian behavior and lifestyle
Let’s first look at the official statement of the Adventist Church below:
“We are called to be godly people who think, feel, and act in harmony with biblical principles in all aspects of personal and social life.
For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord, we involve ourselves only in those things that will produce Christlike purity, health, and joy in our lives.
This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty.
While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit.
It also means that because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we are to care for them intelligently. Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures. Since alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and the irresponsible use of drugs and narcotics are harmful to our bodies, we are to abstain from them as well.
Instead, we are to engage in whatever brings our thoughts and bodies into the discipline of Christ, who desires our wholesomeness, joy, and goodness.”
What is the relationship between Christian lifestyle and salvation?
Adventists understand that their only hope of salvation and eternal life comes from the death of Jesus Christ for them. There is nothing that can save us but Him.
They claim this gift by faith, meaning salvation is not granted based on merit, by perfectly following the law or by the perfect execution of a Christian lifestyle.
They understand that “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (Romans 3:20-22, NKJV).
Behavior is important, as surely no one would ever argue against. But it is not our behavior that brings us the “righteousness of God.”
Instead, it’s what Jesus did for us that gives the promise of eternal life which we receive by faith alone.
But directly tied to what Christ has done for us is the question of Christian lifestyle and behavior.
And “behavior” here isn’t about a one-time act.
It’s about habits, priorities, and the tendencies in someone’s life. This is because God rarely gave attention to people’s grand gestures, but often noted those who quietly went about doing good regularly.
In James 2, we find a good exposition of why faith and works go hand in hand.
We read that faith has its paramount place in salvation, but “by itself, if it does not have works, [it] is dead’ (James 2:17, ESV).
Because “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, ESV).
Just like how “the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26, ESV).
But the Christian’s good works are not the reason for their salvation.
Rather, it’s a loving response to the Gospel, and to the salvation that we already have in Jesus Christ. It’s evidence of the Holy Spirit working within someone as they grow.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12: 1-2, NKJV).
Isn’t it fascinating that these words about how we live are found near the end of the book of Romans?
Romans is often considered a book which presents one of the clearest and deepest expositions of salvation by faith alone in the Bible. How come it also has this powerful call to honor our Creator and Redeemer by how we live?
This makes perfect sense because the Gospel and the whole plan of salvation is about restoration. And about ending evil, suffering, and death.
The story of how humanity fell into sin, and how Jesus is working to ultimately restore us and our world to its original state.
Though this process ultimately ends with the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, it starts with us now after we accept Christ.
As Paul shows it in the following verses, there’s expected to be marked transformation in the life of the believer after accepting Christ:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV).
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15, NKJV).
“Put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10, NKJV).
Why is a Christian lifestyle important to Adventists?
Interestingly, the answer goes back to the early days of ancient Israel.
According to the Bible, this nation was meant to be a model to the world. An example of what it looks like to know and serve the true God and Creator of all things.
They were to live pure lives and remain faithful to God amidst the surrounding nations. Nations that were full of idolatry and false religions. They were called to be “a light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 49:6, NKJV)—with the word “Gentiles” there meaning “the nations.”
That’s why just before they entered the promised land, God told them:
“Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’” (Deuteronomy 4:5–6, NKJV).
There are two crucial things here.
First, God gave the Israelites “statutes and judgments.”
To put it simply, these were directions about their behavior and lifestyle. It was the how and what to eat, how to dress, how to treat others—all that!
Then second, and perhaps most importantly, they were to carefully follow these principles of lifestyle and behavior.
The reason was because this would be their “wisdom and [their]understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”
In other words, it wasn’t just about having principles. Rather, it was doing them that would be a witness to the pagan world around them of the goodness and greatness of their God.
Centuries later, Jesus expressed the idea in a simpler manner when He said:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).
And the Apostle Paul expressed the same idea when he said that we “may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15, NKJV).
In the same way, Seventh-day Adventists believe that by living out the principles of the Gospel, they can be a witness for God. Witnesses to the world of the goodness and love of God who has given us so much in Jesus.
This is manifested by their daily lifestyle and behavior.
Does this mean that Seventh-day Adventists think that they are better than others?
Adventists understand what the Bible says about the sinful human nature. They’re careful to remember Paul’s words to the Romans:
“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin” (Romans 3:9, NKJV).
And they understand that God loves all people the same, and wants the best for all of us. That Jesus came so that all men “may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, NKJV).
So, by following biblical principles in their behavior and lifestyle, Adventists believe they’re experiencing the abundant life that Jesus promised.
Then as others see the benefits they receive from the way they live, they’ll be curious. They’ll be drawn to learn more about what they believe and why. And this gives them the opportunity to teach others about Jesus.
But they don’t try to impose their spiritual or cultural expectations on those who are not familiar with them, or are still learning about them. They know that that is the role of the Holy Spirit.
How Do Seventh-day Adventist Health Practices Fit into the Emphasis on Christian Behavior?
Seventh-day Adventists are known around the world for their health practices. And these practices have proven beneficial.
In 2008, National Geographic writer Dan Buettner published a bestselling book called, The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. And the one Blue Zone in the United States is an Adventist Mecca called Loma Linda, in California.
Seventh-day Adventists take the Bible seriously when it says that “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NKJV).
That means they understand that our bodies are gifts from God both by creation and by redemption.
So, as good stewards of what God has given them, they take as good of care of their health as possible.
And at the same time, Adventists understand that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, NKJV).
So they also try to be careful not to make an idol of what they eat or drink, or of healthy living in general. Instead, they see healthy living is a way to glorify God.
Just as Paul said when he wrote that, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, NKJV).
Some of these principles cover
Seventh-day Adventists recommend a vegetarian diet, but it’s not required for church membership.
They seek to align their diet as much as possible to the foods that God gave to man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:29).
And in the recent past, medical science has shown the health benefits of this kind of diet over and over.
With exercising, you don’t need to be a marathon runner. Just regular, consistent exercise can bring great health benefits.
It’s also interesting that in the Garden of Eden, our first parents were to engage in physical work which provided basic exercise (Genesis 2:15).
Science shows how important sunshine can be for our bones and overall health. Just ensure you don’t overdo it and get sunburned.
Our bodies are composed mostly of water. That’s why daily doses of clean water provide wonderful health benefits.
Spending time outdoors and breathing clean, fresh air offers massive health benefits. This is especially so because the healthful functioning of our bodies and minds depends on oxygen intake which is found in the air that we breathe.
This is a principle where we completely avoid things that are harmful to our health, and use the good things in a balanced way.
As Paul wrote, “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (Philippians 4:5, NKJV).
We need adequate sleep each night for optimal health.
Rest also includes balance in the work life.
Aspects of lifestyle and behavior that are essential in living a love-based life
Though Adventists put a lot of emphasis on health, it’s not the be-all and end-all of lifestyle.
There are other biblical principles that are just as important.
For instance, they believe that the way we dress shouldn’t be immoral or showy. This is based on biblical principles of modesty and humility (1 Peter 3:3; 1 Timothy 2:9).
They believe that “simplicity of lifestyle and appearance sets Christians apart. It puts us in stark contrast to the greed, materialism, and gaudiness of pagan, twentieth century society. A society where values focus on material things rather than on people.” 1
And they also guard their thought life.
Adventists seek to follow Paul’s counsel when He wrote:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8, NKJV).
And these same principles guide them in all other choices. Like in recreation, relaxation, relationships, music, hobbies, entertainment, etc.
Though making right choices in our world today can be like a minefield, they go forward claiming the promise that they “can do all things through Christ who strengthens [them]” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).
Love underlies all principles of Christian lifestyle and behavior
Adventists believe that all Biblical principles are important.
But if one had to choose the most prominent, we could go with what Paul wrote in the famous verses in 1 Corinthians 13. He talks about all the different spiritual gifts and accomplishments. And in conclusion, he says:
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NKJV).
In short, though Adventists believe the things listed above are important, none of them matter if their lives don’t reflect the love of God to others.
And we reflect that love by ministering to others. As John wrote in this very context of helping those in need:
“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17, NKJV).
This is why all over the world, Seventh-day Adventists have built hospitals and medical clinics. They also run orphanages, as well as places to help the needy, the hurting, and the suffering.
They do this out of love for God, which is expressed in love for others.
No question, love is the most important manifestation of Christian lifestyle and behavior. Loving others just for the sake of loving them, as people for whom Christ died.
 Seventh-Day Adventists Believe, Ministerial Association: General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2005, pp. 320-321.
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