Does following the health message ensure salvation?
Published on: 12-05-2023
I have been a practicing Adventist for the past 10 years. I accept the Bible teachings on clean and unclean foods and the church’s position on tobacco and alcohol. I otherwise pick and choose the parts I wish to follow from the Adventist health message. I have heard there are Adventists around the world who believe that strictly following the health message ensures salvation. Is this so, and on what grounds can this be justified?
In the Seventh-day Adventist Global Member Survey it was reported that 47 percent of those surveyed believe that complete adherence to the health message assures salvation. There is no biblical or Spirit of Prophecy counsel that supports this view, which is clearly contrary to our formal doctrine as summarized by the apostle Paul: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8, 9, NIV). Our works do not ensure salvation: it is the gracious gift of God! Our prayer is that there will be no confusion in the future on this point.
Some additional details from the survey may be helpful. The survey confirmed that more than 80 percent of those surveyed accepted the wholistic Adventist health message and that it is core to the beliefs of the Adventist Church. They further agree that it is confirmed by health science and may improve both quality and length of life. More than 90 percent of members abstain from alcohol and 97 percent from all forms of tobacco. Despite the church’s strong recommendation of a balanced vegetarian diet, only 19 percent of respondents reported being vegetarian or total vegetarian (vegan).
From Creation, God placed an emphasis on wholistic well-being starting with our parents in the Garden of Eden—spiritual care, physical exercise, nutritious food, and tender relational ties between the members in the first family. After the Fall and the Flood He gave instruction on clean and unclean foods, hygiene, and cleanliness. Jesus developed wholistically in stature (body), knowledge (mind), and favor with God (spiritual) and fellow beings (relational; see Luke 2:52). He clearly stated that He came that we may have life “to the full” (John 10:10, NIV).
When asked why the fledgling church had been given the health message, Ellen White answered that it was because our work was not yet done.* Health is important so that we may be of service, but also that we may have a clear mind and discernment of eternal truths. We are not saved by the health message. Healthful living can help give us mental clarity so that we can more clearly hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and sharpen our understanding of God’s Word. This is especially true when our minds are not clouded by alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Living the health message can strengthen our spiritual journey. Let’s not just accept it—let’s embrace it! “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful” (2 Chron. 20:20, NIV).
*Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publ Assn., 1980), p. 279.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.
Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash