THE basf - its importance and teaching
“That for delivering this message, he was put to death by the Jews and Romans, who were, however, but instruments in the hands of God, for the doing of that which He had determined before to be done, viz., the condemnation of sin in the flesh, through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all, as a propitiation to declare the righteousness of God, as a basis for the remission of sins. All who approach God through this crucified, but risen, representative of Adam’s disobedient race, are forgiven. Therefore, by a figure, his blood cleanseth from sin. – Luke 19:47; 20:1-16; John 11:45-53; Acts 10:38,39; 13:26-29; 4:27,28; Rom 8:3; Heb 10:10; Acts 13:38; 1Jno 1:7; Jno 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1Pet 3:18; 2:24; Heb 9:14; 7:27; 9:26-28; Gal 1:4; Rom 3:25; 15:8; Gal 3:21,22; 2:21; 4:4,5; Heb 9:15; Luke 22:20; 24:26,46,47; Mat 26:28”
Although earlier clauses of the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith have considered in some detail the principles of the Sacrifice of Christ, this section returns to that theme in order to affirm other vital principles exhibited in the practical outworking of the Atonement. As we saw in the last issue, it was the Master’s claim to be both the Son of the Most High, and the coming Messiah who would possess and occupy David’s Throne that so incensed the Jews to the extent that they sought to put him to death. But it is vital to recognise that the crucifixion of Christ was not merely a murderous act of evil men as is sometimes claimed. It was something foreordained by the Father, and those men – though acting under fleshly motives in the rejection of Divine things – were but instruments by which the Father’s purpose would be worked out. This is the plain testimony of Scripture:
“Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:22,23).
“of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, but Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27,28).
So it was, that both the Jews and Romans became united together in seeking to destroy Yahweh’s Anointed – yet both were unwittingly the Father’s agents in performing that which he had “determined before to be done”.
CRUSHING THE SERPENT’S HEAD
This determination of the Father was expressed immediately consequent to the introduction of sin into the world, when it was predicted that the woman’s future seed would have his walk in life temporarily interrupted as he delivered a fatal, crushing blow to the serpentine head:
“I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15).
And the point to take note of here, is that this was not so much a promise to man these words were rather given in the cursing of the Serpent. The principle is, that only by the crushing of the serpent’s head – the serpentine mind – could man be finally delivered from the law of sin and death. Here was the Father’s purpose stated from the beginning, that the mind of sin would be crushed and destroyed in the Sacrifice of Christ. As Paul expressed it, “God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3).
And notice, the One giving the condemnation here is the Father Himself “God … condemned sin in the flesh” of his son. Those wicked hands that delivered the Master up to be crucified, though motivated by jealousy and hatred, were but the agents through whom the Father’s Purpose might be executed. Indeed, these men were themselves the serpent’s seed, dominated by the serpentine mind of rebellion, as the Master himself declared: “ye are of your father the diabolos, and the lusts of your father will ye do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (Jno 8:44). That was the disposition of the serpent’s seed who were at enmity with the woman’s seed; having murderous lusts, abiding not in the truth, and speaking lies of their own. They dutifully, yet unconsciously enacted their part; their own fleshly lusts being used of the Father for the furtherance of His Purpose to give an arm of salvation to those who would take hold of it.
THE CONDEMNATION OF SIN – IN DEATH
In the May issue (available on request), we examined how the brotherhood is currently being presented with a new doctrine – or rather a resurgence of an old doctrine in a modified form – known as, the Saved by His Life theory, after the book where the doctrine was set forth, or latterly The Theory of Partial Atonement. The notion here, is that ‘flesh and blood’ does not in itself require a sacrificial cleansing (hence the idea of ‘partial’ – for sins only, not nature), and that the condemnation of sin took place in the mortal life of the Master, not his death.
We saw how Bro Robert Roberts was confronted with the same notion, and in speaking of the Father’s determination to condemn sin in Christ rejected it, saying “Some would explain it as meaning the moral condemnation of sin by Christ during his life. This cannot be the meaning in view of the statement with which it is conjoined that what was done was “what the law could not do.” The law condemned sin so thoroughly in the moral sense that it is called “the ministration of condemnation” (The Law of Moses). And the clause of the BASF under our present consideration affirms the same truth, defining how it was that sin was condemned: “ … the condemnation of sin in the flesh, through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all, as a propitiation to declare the righteousness of God as a basis for the remission of sins”. The new theory then, is specifically opposed to the statement forming the basis of Christadelphian fellowship.
A DECLARATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Sin, therefore was condemned in the flesh “through the offering of the body of Jesus.” As we have amply demonstrated in examining the previous clauses, Christ brought the diabolos to destruction upon the accursed tree (Heb 2:14). But associated with this condemnation of sin, is the declaration of the Father’s righteousness; in the Divine Scheme of things, these two principles are the pivotal points of the Atonement. All wrong doctrines we have been presented with on the matter denies either the one or the other. The Saved By His Life Theory in effect, denies the condemnation of Sin in the flesh of Christ. The Substitution theory, held by many Churches, denies the declaration of Righteousness – the principle here is that Christ died instead of us, the innocent man taking the place of the guilty about to be hanged, being a favourite image of the apostasy. But in this idea, where is the righteousness? A guilty man is left to go free – an innocent man is punished instead of him! But the Truth as revealed in Scripture is very plain indeed, as Bro Roberts described it:
“It would not be righteous to put to death one on whom death had no claims. It would not be kindness to say to us, “I will let you go free if that man will die?” The kindness, wisdom, and righteousness of God are all obscured by any idea of that sort; but the Scriptural idea is a masterpiece, a triumph of divine wisdom. God says now: “If you will recognise your position, repent, and come under that man’s wing, I will receive you back to favour and forgive you. My righteousness has been declared in him; I have crowned him with everlasting days; because he loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and was obedient unto death, I have crowned him with life eternal. It is in him for you if you will submit and believe in him and put on his name, which is a confession that you have no name of your own that will stand. Obey his commandments, and I will receive you and forgive you for his sake, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.” This is a splendid issue of kindness and wisdom (The Blood of Christ).
There is no wisdom, or kindness in the theories of men which render void the extension of Divine kindness and love in the provision of Christ, as a sacrificial Lamb to take away our sins. Though it is those who are so bold as to resist those theories who are branded the troublemakers and sowers of discord; the reality is very different in the Divine estimation. Those who stand by and watch the wolves (cp Acts 20:29) devour the flock demonstrate no real love or concern for their brethren and sisters welfare. How can it be loving to grant the wolves free reign to do as they please amongst the flock of God? Those who profess love and toleration towards those who preach another Christ love the wolf more than the flock being destroyed! But those who desire to follow the example of the Great shepherd (Jno 10:11-13) will contend against the wolves to their very last breath, out of love to those for whom Christ died.
CHRIST OUR REPRESENTATIVE
The BASF continues to describe the means whereby believers might be reconciled to the Most High through Christ Crucified thus: “All who approach God through this crucified, but risen representative of Adam’s disobedient race, are forgiven. Therefore, by a figure, his blood cleanseth from sin”.
Having been raised from the bonds of death, the Great High Priest passed through the heavens (Heb 4:14), to appear in the Most Holy Place, even the Dwelling place of the Eternal Spirit Himself – for us, to be our representative there: “Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb 9:24). Even as Aaron appeared once yearly in the Symbolic Holy of Holies as the to represent the people before the Most High (Lev 16), even so Christ appears in the presence of God for us. He appears in the presence of the Almighty as a representative of those who are under the constitution of Sin, yet who seek forgiveness and reconciliation. And as the Almighty beholds the people’s representative, he sees One who is free from sin, having put it away by the sacrifice of himself (Heb 9:26) – One who is holy and undefiled, having been separated from sinners (Heb 7:26). And in that One, He beholds only righteousness, the righteousness of Christ, which is in fact His Own righteousness, as declared by him, and not the sins of the people whom Christ represents. He is able to be a representative, for he was one of us, having laboured under the dominion of death (Rom 6:9), partaking of the infirmities of our nature. Yet he is able to appear before the Father on our behalf, because he overcame that nature, and can stand before Him free from sin. The way of salvation for us then, must involve an identification with that holy man; as Bro Roberts said, we must “become part of him, in merging our individualities in him by taking part in his death, and putting on his name and sharing his life afterwards” (The Law of Moses, p 174). Only then can we be reconciled to the Most High, and have boldness to approach the Throne of Grace (Heb 4:16, cp Rom 5:2) in the hope of Eternal life.