'Replies from Christadelphians'

6.  Simon Richardson……(cont.)

10th January, 2005 >

(Continued from page 248)

Had there been righteousness in the human heart, there would have been no need for the Incarnation of the Son of God.  And only in the self-righteous heart of the religious, moral man, satisfied with himself, do we find the careless indifference to the Gospel of redemption.  When a man assumes a righteousness all his own, he is outside the reach of the Great Physician.  The man who excludes his own need of Christ misses the purpose of the Saviour's coming and will not be saved.  Each of us must say with the Apostle Paul: " This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (I Timothy 1:15).

However, tragically for the Christadelphian, he has rejected the fact that only God saves us from sins No creature can do that. You must receive Jesus (John 1:12). You must fellowship with Jesus (1 John 1:9). You must put your faith in the Jesus who is prayed to (Acts 7:55-60; 1 Cor. 1:2 ); called God (Heb. 1:8; John 20:28); who is the First and Last (Rev. 1:17); who cleanses from sins (1 John 1:7); who discloses Himself to us (John 14:21); who draws all people to Himself (John 12:32); who gives eternal life (John 10:28); who opens the mind to understand scripture (Luke 24:45); who reveals grace and truth (John 1:17).

Until Christadelphians acknowledge the Biblical Saviour their claims on the 'last Adam' are futile, for He will declare that He 'never knew' them (Matthew 7:15-23).

You write:   This also makes sense of another question: will there be sin after God returns to live with Man? The Bible seems to say not, (Rev. 22:3) but why not? Here is the answer - when we  are in the Presence of God, we will no longer be able to sin.

TCE: This is the flimsiest of 'evidence' on which to base such an assertion.  The Bible makes it clear that it is the 'new birth', being 'born again', by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour that justifies us - through grace alone - to be holy and blameless before God.  Nobody clinging to their sinful nature can dwell for long in the 'Presence of God' - as Isaiah testified (Isa 6:1-7):

1 In the year that King Uzzi'ah died
I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" 6 Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven."

This was the experience of sinful Isaiah.  But is there a way that man's sin can be removed and ensure that he can live in the Presence of God for eternity?  Yes, through the 'once for all time sacrifice' of the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:12), and not through any works that man can do!

You write:   '... God went away, and left Adam to see what he would do. Adam chose to disobey God.'

TCE:   'God went away, and left Adam to see what he would do'?!  The God of the orthodox Christian is described in the Bible as All-knowing.  God knew that Adam would sin!

You write:   So what about Jesus? If Paul's parallel between Adam and Jesus were accurate, Jesus would be in the Presence of God throughout his life (John 10:38) until the time when God leaves Jesus alone, to see if Jesus will make the same  mistake as Adam. This is why Jesus was without sin, and why we cannot do the same. Jesus was in the Presence of God throughout his life, until the hour when God left him alone to make his choice. Now if Jesus were God, how could God leave Jesus alone?

But He did - read Mark 15:34!

Come to that, if Jesus were God, how could God die? If God died, other than the instant and certain doom for His creation, who would get to raise God from the dead?

TCE:   John 10:38 reads 'that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father' and Mark 15:34 declares:  34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "E'lo-i, E'lo-i, la'ma sabach-tha'ni?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

'Forsaken' is the Greek
enkataleipo, and denotes "to leave behind, to forsake, abandon, leave in straits, or helpless," and was said by, or of, Christ in Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34; Acts 2:27, 31.  In what sense was Christ 'forsaken' by His Father?  Since He was paying the price (propitiation) for all of mankind's sin by dying on the cross of Calvary, as the perfect man He experienced exactly, but proportionately, the spiritual separation from God that all men will experience when they die in their sins.  In what sense would the 'last Adam' be forsaken' by His Father?  In His spirit and soul, exactly in the manner of all men.  Does that mean that His divine nature died?  Obviously not, for God cannot die.  Indeed, Scripture makes it clear that Jesus had the ability to raise Himself from the 'dead'. 

Clearly, the Father was part of the godhead who raised the Son from the dead - as testified in
Acts 2:23-4:

23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But
God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.'

But, in
John 2:18-22, Jesus said:

Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"  19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."  20 The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

and in
John 10v17-18 He said:

I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from me, but I lay it down on my own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from my Father.'

So, to put it crudely, the whole nature of Christ was never so completely 'dead' that He could not raise Himself from the dead!  Jesus raised himself (the
same temple - the same body!) from the dead, the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10v9 and 1 Cor 15v15), and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8v11; 1 Peter 3:18) also raised Jesus from the dead.  The 'Trinity,' raised Jesus from the dead!

Thus the answer to 'God leav[ing] Jesus alone' is found in the doctrine of the Incarnation already described.  The Incarnate Jesus had both the nature of God and the nature of man (see below) and, as a dying man carrying the sins of the whole world as our Redeemer, suffered the experience of being forsaken by God in the manner that all sinners will experience that those who believe in Christ as Personal Saviour will now never have to suffer this desolation.

TCE:   We will now examine the fuller implications of Christ's death in the flesh.  Was He ever separated from God the Father?  Scripture teaches clearly that Jesus was both fully God and fully man and merely limited Himself ('emptied Himself') to walk the earth as a human:

Colossians 1:13-20: He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; 16 for in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything He might be pre-eminent. 19 For in Him all the fulness of God [also rendered 'all the fullness of the Godhead' - the godhead comprising the Father, Son and Holy Spirit] was pleased to dwell, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.

Philippians 2:5-11: 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Does the death of the God-man's body on the cross of Calvary mean God actually "died?" No, because Scripture also teaches that physical death is not the end of the person's life but the separation of the person's soul (their true eternal identity) from their temporary physical body. When our physical bodies die, we are not "dead."  Likewise, when the God-man body of the Lord Jesus Christ died, His Spirit continued to live.  The Bible teaches that God accepted Jesus
* death as a satisfactory substitutionary sacrifice for our sins.  The Bible is also emphatic that it was Jesus* physical death that constituted His suffering for us.  Two texts make this especially clear.  Paul reminds the Corinthians that the gospel says (1 Corinthians 15:3-6):

died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
was buried,
was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

The text lists four events in chronological order: death, burial, resurrection, and appearances. This obviously means the death that Jesus suffered for our sins took place before the burial.  Moreover, in
1 Corinthians 15:3 the burial is the historical proof of the death, just as the appearances are the historical proof of the resurrection. Clearly, the burial is proof of the physical, bodily death of Christ.

Making this even more definite we read (
1 Peter 3:18-19):

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which He went and preached to the spirits in prison.

Peter makes it clear that the death that Jesus suffered was "in the flesh,"  repeating this statement a few lines later: "Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh..." (
4:1).  Again, Scripture makes it clear that it was the fleshly, physical death of Christ that He suffered, "for sins" and to "bring us to God," and no other death is even hinted at, or needed.

Whereas some heretics assert that Christ died spiritually, Peter says that Christ was "made
alive in the spirit" - the very opposite of such teaching.  Christ was made alive spiritually.  This does not mean that Christ was spiritually dead before but that, when Christ died physically, in the physical realm ("in the flesh"), at that moment of physical death He began living spiritually, that is, in the spiritual realm ("in the spirit").  Peter makes this totally clear in the very next line by saying that in this spiritual state or realm Christ "went and preached to the spirits in prison."  In other words, when Christ died He went immediately as a spirit into the spirit realm and proclaimed His victory over sin and Satan to the spirits in the spirit "prison" (Greek: tartaros)  Not only did Christ not die spiritually, but between His death and resurrection He was spiritually alive and triumphantly announcing His accomplished victory on the cross.  It is also very clear, from both 1 Peter 3:18 and 4:1, that Christ*s suffering and death for our sins was "in the flesh." 

Where was Christ at this time?  In the future, at the end of the Tribulation, an angel will descend from heaven with the key of the abyss and with a great chain in his hand (
Revelation 20:1).  The fact he has the key and the chain shows he has been given authority and power from heaven to carry out this assignment.  The word 'abyss' (Greek: abussos), means 'boundless or bottomless.'  This is the bondage place of fallen angels (demons or unclean spirits) and the same place called tartaros in 2 Peter 2:4.  Literally, 2 Peter 2:4 reads, 'and to pits of darkness (gloom), He committed them by casting them into tartaros' (the verb here is tartaraw, 'to cast into tartaros').  This and other verses tell us: (1) that tartaros is an abyss of gloom or darkness, (2) that it is a prison of fallen angels, and (3) that the fallen angels who were bound there were those who sinned in the days of Noah in Genesis 6 (2 Peter 2:5; Jude 6-7; Luke 8:31).  So Jesus did go down into 'hell' in the sense of going down into this intermediate abode of the dead where He declared to them the fact of His sacrifice at Calvary - but He did not go to a place of eternal punishment, nor did He suffer between His death and resurrection.

The fact Jesus was limited does not mean He wasn't divine, for the Bible says it is impossible for mortal man to look upon God in His full glory (Moses only saw God's 'back' - Exodus 33:23). Therefore, if God were to come down to visit us, as Jesus did, He would
have to limit Himself in some manner - and taking on human form is an obviously ideal way - given the purpose of the atonement (which Christadelphians deny!).

Many of Jesus' prayers were for our benefit and to teach us more about Himself and the Godhead. In John 12:30, Jesus said to those listening that the voice from Heaven (God) was for
their benefit, not His. In John 11:42, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and stated that His prayer was for the benefit of those who were around Him.

The "Holy Trinity" did not "die in Christ on Good Friday." God the Father did not die on Good Friday, nor did God the Holy Spirit. Only the human
body of Christ, the Son of God, true God and true man, died on the cross on Good Friday, in the manner just proven from Scripture.  A fifth-century heresy ('Patripassianism') tried to insist that in the work of redemption God the Father Himself "suffered and died" for our sins, but the orthodox Christian church has always rejected this clearly un-Scriptural teaching.  We do not believe, teach or confess that "the divine nature" of Christ died on the cross.

People raise many questions of the kind you have postulated merely because they fail to understand that Jesus didn't have to be all-knowing - because He had limited Himself as Philippians details.  At the same time careful study reveals that the "death" of Jesus does not distract from His divinity and  provides a better understanding of the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - summarised as 'the Trinity' (more correctly the 'Triunity' of the Godhead). It also explains why Jesus - as the Perfect Man - demonstrated the relationship all mankind should seek by talking to His Father  in prayer.  He prayed with a heart full of emotion, for "in the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications,
with loud cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard for His godly fear" (Heb. 5:7).  Moreover, the author tells us, "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered; and being made perfect He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb. 5:8-9).  Jesus never sinned, but "learned obedience" just as we all do (so He could be 'tempted as we are, yet without sin" - Heb. 4:15) by taking on more and more responsibility. The older He became the more demands His earthly father and mother could place on Him in terms of obedience, and the more difficult the tasks that His heavenly Father could assign to Him to carry out in the strength of His human nature.  With each increasingly difficult task, even when it involved some suffering (as Heb. 5:8 specifies), Jesus' human moral ability, His ability to obey under more and more difficult circumstances, increased. Yet in all this He never once sinned.  Christadelphians, of course, do not believe this clear teaching of Scripture.  The complete absence of sin in the life of Jesus is all the more remarkable because of the severe temptations He faced, not only in the wilderness, but throughout His life.  The author of Hebrews affirms that Jesus "in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15; cf. Heb. 2:18). If Jesus had not been a man, He would not have been able to know by experience what we go through in our temptations and struggles in this life. But because He has lived as a man, He is able to sympathize more fully with us in our experiences.  That it was only His genuine human nature that could be tempted is proven by Scripture which clearly tells us that "God cannot be tempted with evil" (James 1:13).

You write:   No. Jesus was not a man exactly like us, Jesus was a man like Adam. Had Adam obeyed, Adam would have been given the inheritance of a son, and given the immortal resurrection body (and there would be no Bible between Genesis 3 and Revelation 22). But Adam disobeyed.

Fortunately for us, God ran the test again - and the second time Jesus obeyed instead. Jesus *could* have disobeyed - that is the point of the test - but he decided not to (Matthew 26:39,42; Mark 14:36).

Which leaves us a choice: do we want to be men after Adam (="man"), or men after Jesus (="God saves")? Do we want to be judged on the basis of Adam's test, or on Jesus' test?

Do you see why the question is so vital for salvation?

TCE: The New Testament shows several reasons why Jesus had to be fully man if He was going to be the Messiah and earn our salvation.  We must emphasise that it also shows that Jesus was a man like Adam before he fell!  Jesus was our representative and obeyed for us where Adam had failed and disobeyed. We see this in the parallels between Jesus' temptation (Luke 4:1-13) and the time of testing for Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 2:15-3:7). It is also clearly reflected in Paul's discussion of the parallels between Adam and Christ, in Adam's disobedience and Christ's obedience:

As one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so
one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous (Rom. 5:18-19).  This is why Paul can call Christ "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45) and can call Adam the "first man" and Christ the "second man" (1 Cor. 15:47).  Jesus had to be a man in order to be our representative and obey in our place.

If Jesus had not been a man, He could not have died in our place and paid the penalty that was due to us. The author of Hebrews tells us that:  "For surely it is not with angels that He is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore He
had to be made like His brethren in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation [more accurately, "propitiation"] for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:16-17; cf. v. 14).  Jesus had to become a man, not an angel, because God was concerned with saving men, not with saving angels. But to do this He "had to" be made like us in every way, so that He might become "the propitiation" for us, the sacrifice that is an acceptable substitute for us.  Unless Christ was fully man, He could not have died to pay the penalty for man's sins. He could not have been a substitute sacrifice for us.

Because we were alienated from God by sin, we needed someone to come between God and ourselves and bring us back to Him. We needed a mediator who could represent us to God and who could represent God to us. There is only one person who has ever fulfilled that requirement: "There is one God, and
there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). In order to fulfil this role of mediator, Jesus had to be fully man as well as fully God (other Scriptures prove that Christ was fully God and we will return to these later).

(Continued on page 250)

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