One of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church’s favorite proof texts is John 14:15. This is because they think it bolsters their teaching around the law of God—but more specifically seventh-day sabbatarianism. They will often cite this verse to say they are the church that “loves Jesus” because they are the only ones keeping “all 10 of the commandments, not just 9.”
Whenever they see the word “commandments” in scripture, they import “10 Commandments” into it—engaging in what is called word association fallacy. Just because the word “commandment” is used doesn’t automatically mean it is referring to the 10 Commandments. This is one of those instances.
But also, because they uphold the writings of Ellen G. White to be both divinely inspired and correcting of inaccurate interpretations of scripture, they are beholden to her commentary on the text which is what’s found in the SDA Bible Commentary. She erroneously states that, in this verse, “is the sum and substance of the law of God. The terms of salvation for every son and daughter of Adam are here outlined.”
This verse is not talking about the 10 commandments. We know this from both the immediate context as well as the Greek grammar. The word found in this verse for “commandments” is entole, not nomos. Entole is a generic term that can pertain to any sort of command or injunction someone may give. It is not how one refers to the law. Entole is commandment, nomos is law.
More specifically, in Greek (which is what John 14 was written in), the 10 commandments are the dekálogos which most literally means “the 10 words.” In the Hebrew, the phrase “10 Commandments” doesn’t even exist. It’s the 10 words. Both in biblical Hebrew and Greek it’s the 10 words, not the 10 commandments. Therefore, it’s crystal clear that when Jesus says keep His commandments, he’s referring to the things He commanded the disciples. He doesn’t say keep the ten words, but keep His commandments.
Jesus is talking with His disciples in this pericope regarding his soon physical absence and return to the Father (John 14:1-7). Within this exchange the disciples experience confusion over both Jesus going to His Father (John 14:8-11) and how they are going to function as His disciples in His physical absence.
Jesus then encourages them by saying He will send the Holy Spirit who will indwell them (foretelling of what would happen at Pentecost—Acts 2:1-4) and they will do many great works because of it which would bring God glory (John 14:12-17). He then explains that His physical absence will not leave them as orphans because the Holy Spirit will comfort them (John 14:18-20).
Jesus’s exhortations in John 14:15 and 14:21 are not speaking about the 10 Commandments, but to the commands that Jesus had given His disciples throughout His ministry which they were to walk out in as His ambassadors in the world as the foundation laying laborers of the New Testament Church that Jesus would be building (Ephesians 2:20). This chapter is an outflow of chapter 13 with the focus being on the command to love one another which is how the world was to know that they were His disciples in His physical absence (John 13:34-5).
The Adventist Church will be quick to assert that by disagreeing with their interpretation you are then disparaging the law—engaging in yet another fallacy, the fallacy of false dilemma. The point is that John 14:15 isn’t referring to the 10 Commandments. Understanding this has no bearing on one’s position as to whether or not the 10 Commandments are still binding and valid. The verse simply isn’t talking about the 10 Commandments.
Ultimately, the Adventist Church understands all of scripture through the Great Controversy Theme which is, in large part, the primary problem—not the Bible or that Christians hate the law of God (a charge they often make).