Why do we die? - continued
In the previous issue, we demonstrated that the reason we grow old and die is because we have what the Apostle called “mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11). We inherit a dying nature, and so irrespective as to our personal sins, we die because we are mortal—as Brother Robert Roberts expressed it: “men are mortal because of sin, quite independently of their own transgressions” (The Law of Moses, p. 173). We inherit the constitution of the first sinners, which was mortal.
We also considered in some detail the claims of Duncan Heaster, the CBM, the Sale ecclesia website, and the “This is Your Bible” website, that we die because we sin. Coincidently, the August 2022 issue of The Christadelphian Magazine has an editorial where the same teaching is advanced. Andrew Bramhill writes:
“There is nothing we can do about this mortal nature. It is ours from birth and beyond our control. It is the same nature the Lord Jesus possessed, for “he also himself likewise took part of the same” flesh and blood as everyone else (Hebrews 2:14). This mortal nature is relentless and even if we were completely without our own sins, we would still grow old and eventually die. This mortality is symbolised by the man who was born blind. The record makes clear the healing was not about his sins but about the works of God overcoming his blindness. His visual impairment was not his fault, but he still needed saving from it.
The other reason we all die is because we are all sinners. As Romans 5:12 says, “death spread to all men, because all sinned”. We might wish it otherwise, but time and again we have failed our Heavenly Father through the sins we commit. We are all connected to the sinful generation and only when we declare our need is there hope of salvation through Christ. Once we have embraced him through the waters of baptism we must “go and sin no more”. This condition is epitomised in the lame man of John 5.
It is only the sacrifice of Christ which can overcome both these conditions – our mortality and our personal sins. His atoning sacrifice deals with both these matters at the same time. His shed blood is sufficient for the forgiveness of sins and ultimately for the renewal of our bodies at the resurrection. The glorious Sabbath rest to come will bring an end to mortality and sin and it is only through the sacrifice of Christ that a way to life has been opened up.
John’s selection of these two Sabbath Day healings shows that the work of the Lord Jesus is the solution to all ailments, physical and moral. Let us each declare our need, endeavour to sin no more, and look forward with joy to the great age to come.
(The Christadelphian, August 2022)
This extract combines both truth and error, something which gives it a semblance of being right. A little reflection, however, will reveal the severity of the error.
According to Andrew Bramhill, there are two reasons why we die. The first, is that we have a mortal nature, which is “relentless and even if we were completely without our own sins, we would still grow old and eventually die.” So far, so good—we wholly agree with that, as our last issue demonstrated. But then he goes on to say: “The other reason we all die is because we are all sinners”, and cites Romans 5:12 to support this position.
There is an error in logic here: we would die independently of, or “completely without” our own sins, but we also die because of those sins!? By way of proof for this position, Andrew cites a particular translation of one verse: “As Romans 5:12 says, “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” The fallacy of this theory was something that we considered in the last issue, and the error of this translation can be seen from the points we made then.
The citation is: “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” But not all have sinned! Babies do not sin (cp. Rom. 9:11), but they do die, sometimes even in the womb. In their case, there is no “other reason” for their death, except the fact that they are mortal.
How then, are we to understand Romans 5:12? Andrew Bramhill’s remarks differ from the position of earlier editors. Brother John Thomas endorses the AV marginal rendering of this verse: “in whom all sinned”. He wrote the following in his book Elpis Israel to explain his position:
“Sin in the flesh is hereditary; and entailed upon mankind as the consequence of Adam’s violation of the Eden law. The “original sin” was such as I have shown in previous pages. Adam and Eve committed it; and their posterity are suffering the consequence of it. The tribe of Levi paid tithes to Melchisedec many years before Levi was born. The apostle says, “Levi, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.” Upon the same federal principle, all mankind ate of the forbidden fruit, being in the loins of Adam when he transgressed. This is the only way men can by any possibility be guilty of the original sin. Because they sinned in Adam, therefore they return to the dust from which Adam came — εφ ω, says the apostle, “in whom all sinned.”
(Elpis Israel, page 131, Logos edition)
Again, Brother Robert Roberts wrote along the same theme:
“Adam was condemned for his own sin (see the sentence, “Dust thou art,” &c.), but because the condemnation became in his nature a law of physical dissolution, it passed on all his offspring who inherited that nature; not because they were “held guilty” of his offence, but because they could not, as partakers of his flesh and blood, escape the consequences that had become implanted in his flesh and blood. It was by the offence of one—not by the offence of all—that death came. The “all” were in the “one” at the time of the offence, in the sense that propagation had not commenced, and what affected the one affected the “all,” not on the principle of holding the “all” guilty of the offence of the one, but because death being an infixed physical law, could not pass on the one (before propagation had commenced) without being transmitted to the “all,” his offspring. Paul implies and nearly states this distinction in saying, “Death reigned over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” The theory that makes them to have all sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression is not Paul’s, but a theory of those who wrest Paul’s words, for though Paul said “in whom all sinned,” he did not mean to teach that men can sin who have no existence, but that all being as yet in Adam at the time he sinned, they became partakers of the death that came by his sin, and might, therefore, by the liberty of a figure, be considered as having sinned with him.”
(The Christadelphian 1874 page 480–481)
Again, he further writes:
“As if to show that the death resulting from Adam’s sin was not confined to himself and wife, but extended to the whole of the descendants, the apostle adds: “And so, death passed upon all men, for that (or, in whom – i.e., Adam) all have sinned.” The words “And so” mean thus, or in this way, and are designed to show that the death which has passed upon all men is the result of, or is traceable to, Adam’s sin. The original word translated “man” does not mean men as distinguished from women, neither does it mean adults in opposition to children; it means manhood in general; it comprehends human nature as a whole without reference to sex or age. Therefore the death of all classes of mankind is attributable to the sin of that one man who introduced it into the world. The original word translated “so” is ουτως which has the meaning stated above.
The expression “in whom all have sinned,” means that all have sinned in Adam, and is of similar import to the statement that “Levi paid tithes in Abraham.” In paying tithes to Melchizedec, Abraham performed a righteous act, for which he is worthy of commendation. But the same virtue cannot be attributed to the Levites, neither can they receive any praise for it; Abraham manifested humility and reverence toward the Melchizedec priesthood, but the Levitical priesthood exhibited none, because not then in existence. All that Abraham’s virtuous act did for Levi and his priestly descendants was to define their position as inferior to the Melchizedec priesthood.
In like manner, though Adam committed an unrighteous act deserving of moral reprobation, it is not necessary that his descendants be charged, on that account, with moral guilt. They were in Adam’s loins when he sinned, as Levi was in the loins of Abraham when paying tithes. Adam’s sin defined their position in the sight of God; it did not attribute to them his moral guilt; otherwise they would all be called to account, as he was, at the bar of God, for partaking of the forbidden fruit. It simply transmitted to them those consequences which it had brought upon himself, viz., knowledge of good and evil, disease. toil, sorrow and death. Previous to his sin death was no barrier between him and immortality; but afterwards it was a barrier to both himself and children. By his conduct they were placed under a law which, without divine intervention on their behalf, would have brought them all under the power of endless death. He and they must be viewed, not as so many units originating in different sources, and having no consecutive link or connection, but as one body, of which he is the head, and they the various members.”
(The Christadelphian Magazine, 1876)
And another former editor, brother CC Walker also wrote of this verse:
“Yet again it is written, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Ponder this testimony, ye who think that sin may not exist “without law.” And understand what Paul meant when he said, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,” or, “in whom all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12), i.e. all in him are sinners by natural constitution. By nature they will sin and do sin because they are in Adam.”
(The Christadelphian Magazine, 1901)
He also writes:
“Elsewhere by a figure Paul speaks of Levi as being “in the loins of his father (Abraham) when Melchizedek met him” (Heb. 7:10). By a like figure we were all in the loins of our father (Adam) when he sinned, and thus we “all” die—aged and infants, good and bad alike. The expression “in Adam” thus indicates a mortal flesh and blood relationship which is of course coextensive with the human race”
(The Christadelphian Magazine, 1910)
The doctrine that death is a punishment for committed sin breaks down very badly when we consider the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not “all” have committed sin, for he did not sin. Where then, was the righteousness in his death? If death is because of committed sin, then as Messiah did no sin, there would be an injustice in his death. It would be a declaration of unrighteousness, not of righteousness! But the Apostle spoke of the Master:
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26).
How would God be righteous in requiring the death of a sinless man, if death is the punishment for committed sin? He would be condemning an innocent man to die for a crime he never committed—there is no righteousness in that, and such a theory only leads to the substitution idea, which we have considered and refuted elsewhere. To say that the innocent has to suffer for the guilty in order to save them, is almost identical to the standard church teaching concerning the Atonement, which Christadelphians have long rejected.
The truth of the matter, however, is that God declared his own righteousness in the condemnation of the diabolos, aka Sin in the Flesh, when Jesus was crucified unto death on the cross. The shed blood of Jesus confirmed that this man was definitely dead. Since there was no other sin in the man Jesus other than this Sin in the Flesh, and if we accept that the Jews and Romans were but instruments in the hands of God for performing the crucifixion, then the declaration of God’s righteousness was that man is fit for death purely on account of what he is (condemned in Adam), irrespective of what he has done (his personal sins). This is how Jesus is our representative, because what was condemned in him by God, is the exact same problem that we all have as a result of being a descendent of Adam viz Sin in the Flesh or Mortality in the flesh. If it was just that Jesus should die, then by extension it is just that any death suffered by any human descendent of Adam is likewise just. Robert Roberts put this more eloquently than myself in his book “the Law of Moses”
“The crucifixion was a Divine declaration and enforcement of what is due to sin, and as it was God’s righteous appointment that this should be due to sin, the infliction of it was a declaration of God’s righteousness”.
If we do not understand what sin in the flesh is, we will not understand what God was publicly declaring in the death of Christ. Condemned in his death, and destroyed (or rendered null) in the resurrection glory (see the article “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” on page … of this magazine) the root cause of all suffering was dealt with in sacrifice, and destroyed in the resurrection.
OUR PERSONAL SINS
As we saw earlier, when a man has no knowledge of the requirements of his Creator, he will not be held accountable for failing to uphold them. But once we have a knowledge of the gospel-message, we become accountable as to how we respond to it. As Peter wrote to the believers of his day concerning the turning away from the Truth, “it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Pet. 2:21). There is a judgment seat which we will have to appear before (2 Cor. 5:10), and it is then that our personal sins will be judged. Then it will be determined whether we have sown to the spirit, or sown to the flesh (Gal. 6:8). Then, “every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
The day of Christ’s coming will be the day when the gift of life is granted by God, and the wages of sin shall be paid also: “for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). That is the day in which our sins will matter, whether we have developed a Spiritual, as distinct from a Carnal mind (Rom. 8:6). Life and forgiveness will be extended to those who are seeking after the things of the Kingdom before all else in their lives, and condemnation will fall upon those who have chosen not to walk down the narrow path that leads to life.
The community of believers is comprised of “them which believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:3). We must be on our guard against the combination of truth and error which passes for the Gospel in our day. We must hold fast to the teaching of the Holy Writ, and eschew the truth-nullifying theories of men.
So to summarise, the reason why we die is because we are mortal due to being a descendent of Adam. Those who have learned the gospel and been baptised into that gospel will be resurrected and either accepted or rejected – the rejected here will die (a judicial death) because of walking according to the flesh (aka personal sins) committed during their post-baptism life. Those who have heard the call of gospel but not baptised will be resurrected to judgement seat but there will be no accounting of their ‘walk’ in the spirit since they did not take on the saving name in the appointed manner. They will simply be rejected for failing to respond to the call.
Comments from our readers are welcome!