The writer says:
“Your article ‘Christ Given’ (CHRISTADELPHIAN, May, page 127) is certainly one that strikes the core of the matter and in my opinion brings to light the fact that I have long suspected, that many of the extremists in the former “Berean” fellowship, now quite fittingly supporters of ‘The Old Paths’, are in reality closer to the teaching of J. J. Andrew than they realise.
“I wonder if the ‘Old Path’ supporters endorse the belief which I know is a part of their followers’ doctrine and those with whom they are in fellowship now of the Berean side, i.e., that it is a sin to be born into the human family.
“Consequently they say Christ is a ‘sinner’ in that respect and alienated from God by being a son of Adam. I think the time has come when those who are so keenly concerned in ‘heresy hunting’ should be given some information in starting to clean their own house; or else agree the things they fellowship are believed by them too as being truth.”
THAT WE ARE ALIENATED FROM GOD BY CONDEMNATION IN
CITATION: (from Bro. ————) “Before being baptised a believer is dead in being alienated from God (a) by ignorance, (b) condemnation inherited from Adam, and (c) trespasses and sins.”
COMMENT: (by Bro. Carter) The Bible supports (a) and (c) (see Eph. 4:18; Col. 1:21), but is silent about (b).
CITATION: “The trespass in Eden produced two related
results, both of which excited God’s displeasure and were causes of
Adam’s position as an outcast. These were (a) his personal guilt and (b)
his unclean physical condition.”
“No one in Adam can cease to be ‘by nature’ a child of wrath on his own terms.”
“Paul in Eph. 2:3 declares all to be ‘by nature children of wrath’. The wrath here referred to is the wrath or displeasure of God. Now only one thing is the cause of His disfavour namely sin. With what sin, then, in a newly born irresponsible infant is God displeased? Obviously not disobedience but inherited sin is the answer.”
COMMENT: These statements are full of errors. Although what we
do arises out of our nature, yet it is for what we do, and not for our nature,
that we are “children of wrath”. The context in Eph. 2:3
shows this. That “by nature” is too narrowly construed is
evident when we note that Gentiles “by nature” fulfil the law
(Rom. 2:14). It is clear that “by birth” or “by
physical constitution” is not the meaning. To talk of “inherited
sin” is to talk jargon. We inherit mortality and a tendency to sin but
this does not make us the subject of wrath until we sin. Otherwise, since Jesus
was of our nature he would be a child of wrath: which is absurd.
CITATION: Speaking of Romans 8:1, 2, we are told: “this
simply means that the release (by the sacrifice of Christ) from the condemnation
inherited from Adam plus transgression was the answer—cherished by them
‘in faith’—to the indwelling deathfulness which was their
weakness when experiencing persecution.”
COMMENT: This is “simply” not correct. The
only “condemnation” inherited from Adam is mortality: we do
not inherit any personal condemnation; we shall receive personal condemnation
for our sins unless they are forgiven now and our mortality will be swallowed up
of life at the coming of the Lord.
CITATION: He speaks of men “by legacy from Adam”
being still “children of wrath” and then adds: “But those
‘in Christ’, not being ‘in the flesh’—i.e.
‘in Adam’—can please God; not because baptism renders
physically inactive their fleshly tendencies to transgress, but because by
baptismal induction into Christ their relationship to the constitution of sin
involving the condemnation inherited from Adam—is, as a basis for
the blotting out of past sins, cancelled; and that, conditional on their walking
‘in the light’, they are cleansed from all future unrighteous acts
through the mediation of Jesus their High Priest (1 John 1:9; Heb.
COMMENT: This is a confused sentence. We are all ‘in
Adam’ so long as we live; for ‘in Adam’ defines the
physical relationship we sustain to the first man. However, the paragraph
affirms that our relationship to the ‘constitution of sin’ involves
a condemnation inherited from Adam. This we believe to be unscriptural.
Moreover, “in the flesh” cannot be equated with “in
Adam”. “In Adam” denotes only physical decent, but
“in the flesh” in Rom. 8:9 means to have the mind of the
flesh in opposition to God.
CITATION: Further since we are told: “Because it was the
result of, and conditioned by sin, this ‘corruption’ or
‘unclean-ness’ defiled the nature it cursed. That its possession
caused estrangement from God is decisively proved by the fact that
myriads of human beings, innocent of transgression (infants) have died and still
die. If transgression (as ‘the only form of sin’) left Adam’s
‘very good’ body unchanged and if (as logically follows) infants, at
birth, are at one with God, why do they die?”
COMMENT: There is here more confusion. Infants die because
they inherit the mortality that has come by sin. But that does not mean they die
because they are estranged. Estrangement arises from ignorance or wicked works:
the word can only be rightly applied where reconciliation is possible; babies
are just flesh and as such sustain no relationship personally to God one way or
the other. To talk of “possession” of human nature causing
estrangement misses entirely the essential factors of separation from God and
reconciliation to Him. Its fallacy is shown by the fact that Jesus possessed our
nature, but he was never estranged from God.
THERE ARE TWO ASPECTS OF SIN THAT SEPARATE FROM
CITATION: “There is one thing that I firmly believe, that you once believed and that was believed by brethren Dr. Thomas, R. Roberts and C. C. Walker as well as by Bro. J. J. Andrew, viz., that two aspects of sin separate all unregenerate men from God: (a) man’s inherited uncleanness and (b) transgression. The former (a) Paul variously styles ‘the law of sin and death’ (Rom. 7:23; 8:2); ‘him that had the power of death’ (Heb. 2:14); ‘the sting of death’ (I Cor. 15:56); ‘our old man’ (Rom 6:6) and ‘the uncircumcision of your flesh’ (Col. 2:13). The latter (b) he refers to as ‘your sins’.”
“What was the barrier preventing fellowship between God and man? Man’s guilt and inherited sinful nature. In scriptural phrasing ‘transgressions’ and ‘uncleanness’ (Lev. 16:16).” “Between the fall of Adam and crucifixion of Christ, sin as cause and effect existed as a barrier between God and man. Before God can favourably look upon man, his evil and iniquity must be covered. This applies to death and corruption as well as transgression.”
“Accordingly the devil (sin enthroned in the flesh) and his works (disobedience) stood as a barrier or obstacle between fallen man and divine favour, for sin (both as an actuating principle in the flesh, and transgression) is rebellion against the authority of God.”
“It may be asked, what proof have we that the ‘devil’ or ‘sin in the flesh’, as well as disobedience, was a barrier between God and man?”
“That the blood of Christ made of none effect as a barrier between God and His people, that in the flesh having the power of death (the devil) as well as personal sins (the works of the devil), is the direct teaching of the Spirit word, and does not, as some assert, logically result in the acceptance of the Andrew theory of the non-resurrection of enlightened rejectors.”
“The cause of disobedience dwelling in and animating the flesh, is obnoxious to God, and unoffered for, alienates all ifs possessors from Him. That is why, although possessing a spotless character, Jesus required to be ‘brought nigh’.
COMMENT: There are as many aspects of sin as there are
forms of transgression. All the works of the flesh enumerated by Paul are
aspects of sin. The confusion in the above extracts arises from treating sin in
its literal sense and “sin” when used metonymically for the
impulses to sin, as both belonging to one category. Anger and malice are alike
aspects of sin: but impulses are not literally sin until they are expressed in
wrong thought or action.
Sin used as a literal term, and “sin” used by metonymy, cannot be classed in one category. Because we read “all flesh is grass” we do not say there are two kinds of grass—the green variety that is rooted in the soil and a variety that walks on two legs. Because Jesus said “This is my body” as he took the bread of the Passover in his hands, we do not say there are two kinds of bodies of Jesus, one of flesh and one of flour. The Romanist denies the metaphor and believes in “transubstantiation”—although the actual body of Jesus was there when Jesus spoke the words.
The argument we are considering confuses the literal and figurative and brings them both within one category. In addition, if the flesh is the “barrier” between God and man, then it was a barrier in the case of Jesus. This appears to be recognised by saying that Jesus needed to be “brought nigh”. Was there ever a barrier between Jesus and God that estranged him? How did he need to be brought nigh? Was he not always the beloved Son?
JESUS WAS UNDER A CURSE AND WAS A CHILD OF
This is involved in the preceding, but finds precise
expression in the following:
CITATION: “But in possessing the nature of a condemned
race he (Jesus) came under condemnation: ‘sin in the flesh’ could
not have been anti-typically condemned in anyone upon whom the condemnation
common to the race did not rest. Jesus was born under the condemnation or curse,
so that ‘through death he could make it of none effect. At birth,
therefore, his relationship to God was no different from that of other
descendants of Adam, who, ‘by nature’ are ‘children of
wrath’. (Eph. 2:4).
COMMENT: That the disfavour of God towards Jesus is intended
is clear from the further statement:
“to concede that a thing is condemned and yet contend that it is not the object of disfavour, is to postulate a contradiction in terms.”
When in the 1890’s a correspondent used the phrase “alienation of Christ” only to refute it, Bro. Roberts interpolated the phrase “God pardon the expression appearing in THE CHRISTADELPHIAN”. A theory that makes the son of God a child of wrath is self-condemned.
MAN IS ESTRANGED BECAUSE OF HIS NATURE WHETHER
“SINNER OR NO”.
CITATION: “Besides man’s defilement having ‘actual’ or ‘literal’ sin as its source, its inner essence consists in the organic permeation of his ‘being’ by a sin-principle that continually projects into his consciousness ‘contrary to God’ ideas and inclinations; thus perpetually echoing ‘the spirit of disobedience’ infused into the mind of the first man by disobedience.
“This sin-impregnated nature God justifiably views with extreme disfavour and (mainly because that nature is instinct with sin-begotten opposition to His law) He regards its possessors as estranged from Him whether they are transgressors or not. He, therefore, required ‘sin by metonymy’ as well as ‘literal’ sin to be condemned by sacrifice: so that ‘through death’ it—as ‘the devil’ having ‘the power of death’—might be ‘destroyed’, ‘brought to nought’, ‘made of none effect’, ‘put off’ or ‘put away’.
“Could God be other than displeased with and estranged from a nature containing, swayed and energised by ‘a principle contrary to’ Him? Can He be completely ‘at one’ with any possessor (sinner or no) of a ‘tendency so inevitable in its sin-producing power that Paul can say that through Adam’s sin all sinned’?”
“Man’s inherited uncleanness, then—possessed by whomsoever, sinner or no—stands as an obstacle between every unregenerate son of Adam and resurrection to eternal life as well as personal transgression.”
“From this it is certain that at baptism not only are ‘the sins’ of the believer ‘washed away’, the state of estrangement occasioned ‘by nature’ is, provisionally, at an end too. In thus contending Bro. J. J. Andrew was quite right.”
COMMENT: It is important that we note the words
“sinner or no” in these extracts, because the use of these
words clearly includes Jesus, the sinless one, in the estrangement and
displeasure of God. One would have thought such a conclusion was of itself
sufficient to show that there is something wrong with the premises laid down.
God is estranged from individuals, and it is foolish to speak of estrangement
from “a nature”. But there is more.
JESUS WAS PROVISIONALLY CLEANSED BY
CITATION: “That Jesus, being ‘born of a woman’, was no exception is proved by the fact that, like all other Jews, He was provisionally cleansed from inherited sin by being circumcised, and that His mother offered according to the law for her cleansing (Lev. 12:8, Luke 2:21 to 24).”
COMMENT: How could a rite performed on a babe cleanse
anything, provisionally or in fact? Human nature with its weakness and
mortality, will be cleansed by transformation wrought by the Spirit of God after
the resurrection. This mortality is our misfortune and not our fault, as Dr.
Thomas said, and it is an outrage on justice to talk of estrangement as a result
of something a person cannot help. We shall be cleansed of our mortality by the
transforming energy of the Spirit of God when the Lord comes.
JESUS WAS LIABLE TO A VIOLENT DEATH BECAUSE HE SHARED OUR
CITATION: “The plain truth is that any possessor of sinful flesh is liable to pain or death in any form . . . this liability is not negatived by a guiltless character . . . His being ‘born of a woman’ rendered Him liable to suffer a violent death.”
COMMENT: If death is a punishment, and surely an imposed
violent death must be so regarded, then we are now told that the possession of a
nature conferred by birth brings a liability for punishment. To what strange
ends can theories lead us!
BAPTISM IS NOT FOR SINS ONLY.
CITATION: “I deny that baptism is only concerned with the washing away of ‘our sins’ and affirm, in harmony with our pioneers, that it also symbolises the crucifixion of ‘our old man’ (the diabolos or sin-nature) ‘with him’ (Jesus), (Rom. 6) and that, therefore, baptism signifies the provisional cancellation of ‘the racial condemnation which we physically inherit’ as well as the forgiveness of ‘our sins’.”
COMMENT: Bro. C. C. Walker wrote in 1900: “We believe
that in baptism, upon belief of the gospel, God forgives us ‘our
sins’ for Christ’s sake, and that the name of Christ was preached
among Jews and Gentiles for this express purpose by his express commission:
‘Go ye and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things,
whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matt. 28:19). “Thus it is written
and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day,
and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name
among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). He had
forgiven sins himself (Luke 5:20; 7:47). It was ‘thy sins’ in both
cases referred to. How could it be otherwise? He taught his disciples to pray,
‘Forgive us our sins’ (Luke 11:4). The Apostolic preaching of
his name always had reference to the repentance and remission of the sins of
those who heard the word . . . there is no mention of ‘Adamic
“Sin in the flesh ... is the subject of divine reprobation.” (Page 4.)
“Adam’s descendants are ‘made sinners’ (Rom. 5:19) without any exercise on their part.” “Sacrifice is as essential to take away sin in its physical as in its moral aspect.”
“Christ only possessed sin physically, not morally, but all who are sprinkled with his blood possess sin in both forms.” (Page 7.)
The baptism of those who enter Christ is “a practical confession that they deserved for their ‘sin in the flesh’ and for their ‘wicked works’ a violent death similar to that which was inflicted on Christ”.
Abraham “was a sinner by birth and by deed, and needed sacrifice to cover his sin”. (Page 11.)
Circumcision showed that the “child was a sinner by birth.” (Page 12.)
“The sons of Adam cannot be cleansed from sinful flesh without bloodshedding.” (Page 17.)
“Justification from individual sins is necessary as well as justification from the offence of Adam.” (Page 18.)
Speaking of circumcision of Jesus: “This was the first act of justification of which Jesus partook. Its effect was to transfer him from the state of condemnation to death under which he was born into the condition described as being ‘alive’”. (Page 23.)
“To be justified in God’s sight is impossible for anyone inheriting sin’s nature.” (Page 34.)
“Sin in the flesh deserves the same penalty as personal transgression”; and so on with many references to “inherited sin” and justification from it.