ANSWERS TO "QUESTIONS FOR CHRISTADELPHIANS" (2)
In our last issue, we reviewed some questions by a certain Matt Slick regarding the Christadelphian position on the nature and sacrifice of Christ. We have received no response from him, or Jeff Allen who is circulating his “questions”, and so we continue our rejoinder as follows:
- According to Christadelphian theology, Jesus had to die in order to save himself. Yet the Christadelphians also maintain that Jesus was without blemish or defect.
- Question:If this is so, why would Jesus need to save Himself if He had no sin?
- Question:If Jesus needed to save Himself, then that means He was not without defect. If that is the case, then how can he be a pure and unblemished sacrifice?
As we stated in our earlier reply, there is no such thing as “Christadelphian theology”, but there is Bible teaching which Christadelphians believe.
Regarding the use of the word “defect,” see our previous reply:
According to the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ, in his mortal days upon earth, was under the dominion of death. We learn this from the inspired writings of the Apostle Paul, who wrote concerning Christ’s position in glory:
“Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God” (Rom. 6:8-10).
According to Scripture, Messiah had a nature which was mortal, along with all that mortality involves. It was necessary for him to partake of the same physical make-up as his brethren, in order to overcome it, and it’s resident evil, called by the Apostle “sin in the flesh”.
We need to take great care not to separate Christ from the work he came to do. His death was for us: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners …” (1 Tim. 1:15). To say that “Jesus had to die in order to save himself” is misstating the situation. Jesus had to die in order to save sinners, and it was a part of that work that he also redeemed himself. As I say, Jesus saving himself was part of the process of his saving others. As we stated earlier in this issue, the situation is similar to the salvation that came to men in the days of Noah (cp. 1Pet. 3:20-21). The Ark had to float when the flood came. It had to be buoyant enough to save itself from the turbulent waters. In that sense, the Ark saved itself. But the whole purpose of the Ark was to save eight souls through faith, and the animal lives that were brought into it. The Ark saved itself as the very means by which it could save others.
There is a very pertinent reference to the events at Gethsemane by the writer to the Hebrews, speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ:
“… who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared …” (Heb. 5:7).
This testimony demonstrates that Jesus had a need to be saved from death: he offered up strong crying and tears to Yahweh, who was able to save him—and was heard. His Father did indeed save him out of all his afflictions (see Psa. 34:6, 10).
Again, Psalm 31 quotes the words of Jesus upon the cross:
“into thine hand I commit my spirit …” (see Luke 23:46).
But the sentence is completed:
“ … thou hast redeemed me, O Yahweh, God of Truth” (Psa. 31:5).
Hence, Jesus needed to be “redeemed,” and he was redeemed by the God of Truth. In harmony with this, the Apostle wrote of Messiah’s sacrifice:
“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12).
Each year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies, offering a sacrifice for himself first, and having been sanctified, he offered to the people. These two aspects foreshadowed the work of Messiah, for speaking of these things, the Apostle wrote:
“For such an high priest became us … who needeth not daily, as those high priests to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once when he offered up himself.” (Heb. 7:26, 27).
The Scriptures could hardly be more explicit: just as the High Priest offered for himself and then for the people, “this he did once …” when he offered up himself. Of course, Messiah had no committed sin to be forgiven for—but he did have the root cause of sin within himself. He was “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3), as it is testified of him:
“… be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
How was Christ “made sin”? How could he be “the likeness of sinful flesh?” Only by being made of the same flesh and blood of his brethren, as it is written:
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakes of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil …” (Heb. 2:14).
Jesus had to be a partaker of our flesh and blood nature, in order to overcome it’s resident evil, the diabolos, AKA, “the law of sin”. Far from being a blemish in Christ’s sacrifice, the bearing of all the weakness of human nature was part of the virtue of his offering. Without it, there would have been no condemnation of sin in the flesh, and no destruction of the diabolos. And therefore, there would be no declaration of his Father’s Righteousness, and no basis for the redemption of his brethren.
CRUCIFIED THROUGH WEAKNESS
The Apostle speaks of the sacrifice of Messiah thus:
“… for though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God, for we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you” (2 Cor. 13:4).
How was the Christ “crucified through weakness”? Was his “weakness” a blemish? By no means: he was able to be crucified because of the weakness of the nature he bore: if he were, say, an immortal angel, or a pre-existent immortal being (as some teach), then he could not have really died. But being of the same flesh and blood as those he came to save, he was “put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).
Finally, there is the testimony of Jesus himself, already cited earlier in this issue:
“… And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the Truth …” (Jno. 17:19).
The Master, according to himself, had to be sanctified in order to sanctify his brethren. The principles of his redemption laid down the foundation for ours, namely, the condemnation of sin in the flesh, and the declaration of the Righteousness of God. In him, God was declared Right to require the destruction of the diabolos through death, and we must seek to likewise crucify the flesh (Gal. 5:24), and die daily (1 Cor. 15:31) in our endeavours to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.
The final part of the questions we are addressing is:
“If Jesus needed to save Himself, then that means He was not without defect. If that is the case, then how can he be a pure and unblemished sacrifice?”
We did examine this in our previous issue. The Bible does not use the word “defect” in relation to Christ. He was crucified through the weakness of his nature, a nature which contained “sin in the flesh”. Far from making the Sacrifice defective, this was part of it’s very virtue, in Christ “putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). Unless sin had been there, it could not have been “put away” through sacrifice. What made the sacrifice “pure and unblemished” was the moral excellence of the Master who laid down his life for his friends.
It is interesting to consider the position of Messiah’s brethren and sisters. Speaking of Christ’s relationship with the Ecclesia, the Apostle wrote:
“… Christ also loved the Ecclesia, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. That he might present it to himself a glorious ecclesia, not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish …” (Eph. 5:25-27).
What makes the Ecclesia “holy and without blemish”? If the possession of a mortal and sinful nature makes a person a “defect” in the sight of God, then it could not be said that the men and women who make up the Ecclesia are “holy and without blemish.” But the Apostle is not speaking of the physical make-up of the individual members of the Ecclesia, he is speaking of it’s moral condition, holy and without blemish, having been symbolically cleansed by the washing of water by the Word.
When we come to consider the nature and sacrifice of Christ therefore, we see a powerful example for us to emulate. He overcame our nature, which he would not have been able to do, if he did not share it, with all of its weaknesses: And we must stive to do likewise, for Christ died as an example for us to follow:
“… Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but comitteth himself to him that judgeth righteously …” (1 Pet. 2:21-22).