THe basf - it's importance and teaching
BASF – CLAUSE 8
“That these promises had reference to Jesus Christ, who was to be raised up in the condemned line of Abraham and David, and who, through wearing their condemned nature, was to obtain a title to resurrection by perfect obedience, and by dying, abrogate the law of condemnation for himself and all who should believe and obey him. -1Cor 15:45; Heb 2:14-16; Rom 1:3; Heb 5:8,9; 1:9; Rom 5:19-21; Gal 4:4,5; Rom 8:3,4; Heb 2:14,15; 9:26; Gal 1:4; Heb 7:27; 5:3-7; 2:17; Rom 6:10; 6:9; Acts 13:34-37; Rev 1:18; Jno 5:21,22,26,27; 14:3; Rev 2:7; 3:21; Mat 25:21; Heb 5:9; Mk 16:16; Acts 13:38,39; Rom 3:22; Ps 2:6-9; Dan 7:13,14; Rev 11:15; Jer 23:5; Zech 14:9; Eph 1:9,10”
Most of the clauses of the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith which we previously considered have a direct bearing upon one or more facets of the Atoning work of God in Christ. But this clause – perhaps more than any other – succinctly expresses many vital truths concerning both the way in the law of condemnation (brought into being by Adam’s transgression) impacted upon, and was borne away by the Sacrifice of Christ. The word “condemnation” is repeatedly emphasised in it’s relation to our Lord: he was “raised up in the condemned line of Abraham and David”; he wore “their condemned nature”, and he abrogated “the law of condemnation” “by dying”. And notice the terms used; “by dying” he abrogated the law of condemnation “for himself and all who should believe and obey him”. It is this latter aspect of things which is so often denied today – that the Lord died first for himself, to remove the condemnation of his own nature, in order that his offering could also be efficacious for those who believe and obey him also.
The reasoning which we are presented with from time to time, is that because the Lord bore no guilt, or accountability for the nature with which he was born, he therefore did not need to die for himself. For example, consider the following; “But as he bore no moral accountability for his mortality, he did not have to make an offering for the nature he received at birth” (Editorial, p 467 The Christadelphian, December 1993). But such is contrary to the BASF which explicitly states that precisely because of the nature he received at birth, Christ did need to die “for himself”, to “abrogate” the “law of condemnation” inherently within it – that he might also save others. And more importantly, it is also contrary to the Oracles of God upon which the BASF is founded.
FOR HIMSELF THAT IT MIGHT BE FOR US
The inspired Word speaks of the Lord’s offering up of himself by comparison with the Mosaic sacrificial system: “for such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily (Greek “day after day”), 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 7:27). The allusion here, is to the Day of Atonement when the High Priest would enter beyond the Vail once a year as the people’s representative. The record in Leviticus describes how that before Aaron (or his successors) could do anything by way of atoning for the people’s sins, he had to firstly offer for himself: “And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself …” (Lev 16:11). Notice the 3-fold emphasis; there can be no doubt that under the Mosaic system, for a High Priest to appear acceptably before the Presence of the Most High, he had to firstly offer for himself.
But the writer to the Hebrews informs us that he did this “for his own sins”. The High Priest under the Law was a transgressor – a sinner in his own right, and therefore himself in need of sanctification and forgiveness before he could appear acceptably before the Most High. From this, some deduce that there is therefore a difference in the antitype; that because Christ never transgressed, he needed no such sanctification, and thus his sacrifice was for one effect only, that is, for the people. So, it is claimed that “it is wrong to say that his offering was ‘for himself, then for us'” (J Martin, Saved By His Life, p 48). True, the Lord’s personal sinlessness is a vital difference, for without it his sacrifice itself could not have been acceptable. But that difference does not negate the Type, for the words of the Spirit are clear; that as the Aaronic High Priest would offer “first for his own sins, and then for the peoples” in the case of the Lord Jesus, he achieved both effects also: “this he did once, when he offered up himself”. This he did – that is, in his single offering both effects were achieved. But how is this so?
As we have demonstrated earlier in this series, the answer lies in the fact that although the Lord committed no transgression, he nevertheless possessed the cause of sin, styled apostolically “the law of sin” or “sin in the flesh”. The propensities were there – yet were never succumbed to. The presence of the diabolos or sin in the flesh of Christ was essential for him to condemn and destroy it there. And the Truth of Scripture is that he firstly needed to “abrogate” the “condemnation” placed upon the diabolic nature of man in Eden by himself taking it to the grave, where it was “Destroyed” (Heb 2:14). It had to be done in himself first, that it might ultimately be done also in others. He had to abrogate the law of condemnation in himself first in order to free others from it.
But how could such a situation be depicted in the Mosaic Law? The Law, whilst it condemned the action of sin, could never deal with the root cause. “What the law could not do… God sending his own son … condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3). What the Law could not do, God did in Christ. And here we see a beautiful situation so often repeated in the Law of Moses – it fulfilled a necessary requirement of the current situation, yet was also a “shadow” of greater things to come in Christ. Here is the ‘problem’: The Law could not deal with the root cause of sin. The man enacting the role of Christ in shadow, was himself a sinner, and in need of cleansing from sin himself. How then could the Law foreshadow the two-fold operation of our Lord’s offering? By the sinner having his own need met, by being cleansed first for himself, then offering for the people! So the shadowy type (the law being but a shadow, “not the very image” – Heb 10:1; of the greater things seen in Christ), both met the contemporary need for all the people – high priest included – and also foreshadowing the principles of the Atonement in Christ, where the efficacy of his offering was far “better”, dealing with the very root of all iniquity, even sin in the flesh itself.
As a final point in this regard – if there is still any doubt as to whether or not the Lord Jesus required personal cleansing, or sanctification in order to provide salvation for us, let us go to his own testimony, in his prayer concerning his disciples “for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (Jno 17:19). As Bro Roberts so often expressed it, it was “for himself, that it might be for us”.
The BASF is explicit in stating that it was through the death of Christ, that the condemnation was removed; he “was to obtain a title to resurrection by perfect obedience, and, by dying, abrogate the law of condemnation for himself, and all who should believe and obey him”. There is, however a train of thought currently being promulgated which states that forgiveness and salvation comes through the mortal life of Christ, not his death. This concept, invariably styled “The Theory of Partial Atonement”, or the “Saved by his life theory” (after the book of the same title by John Martin where the concept appears to have originated in these last days) essentially teaches that the death of Christ was a culminating act of obedience (which it undoubtedly was) – but nothing more. Denying that Sin is a fundamental “law” of the human condition (Rom 7:25), as well as an act committed, it is claimed that the only condemnation of Sin by Christ was the fact that he never transgressed. Further, since he never transgressed; and that there is no “sin in the flesh” in actuality, it is argued that Christ did not require to die for himself, to sanctify himself – the claim we have just examined.
A major flaw of this theory however, is that it essentially denies that death is the Divine condemnation of sin. The condemnation of Death was imposed upon all of humanity consequent to transgression in Eden. “By one man sin entered into the word, and death by sin; and so death passed into (Gk) all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom 5:12). “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23), for it has been Divinely decreed that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek 18:4,20). Death is the means whereby sinners are removed from the sight of God. Death is the Lord’s judgement upon sin, condemning it to utter destruction – in both it’s cause and effect. For when a man dies; not only is it the case that his works of iniquity cease – the very root cause in his nature; the diabolos ceases to exist also – a dead body can have no thoughts (Ps 146:4), either of sin, or righteousness. Even so it was in the case of our Lord, “through death”, he ‘destroyed” that having the cause of death (Heb 2:14), for he brought it to the grave – to destruction – in victory.
This is why in Scripture, by contrast with this theory, emphasis is placed on the death of Christ as the means of Redemption. In his death, sin was condemned to destruction, and therefore a means of reconciling man to God was established – the barrier of Sin having been taken away: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Rom 6:3); “you, that were sometimes alienated … Yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable, and unreprovable …” (Col 1:22); “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb 2:9) “for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:15).
Proponents of the so-called “saved by his life” theory claim (as in the case of a young brother speaking at the South Wales youth weekend at Llanmadog recently), that the efficacy of the Lord’s offering lies purely in his life of obedience – and when the above passages are brought to bear on the matter, the standard reply is that “his death includes his life”. Unfortunately, no passage of Scripture is ever advanced to show that death is, in fact, inclusive of life! Rather than to speak in ambiguous and inexplicable phrases, Scripture addresses the issues in crystal clarity. The Apostolic testimony is clear; reconciliation to the Father comes through the death of Christ: “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us … If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom 5:10). And the ‘life’ spoken of here, is not the mortal life of the Lord as the advocates of the “saved by his life” theory suppose (yet give no evidence for), but as the context plainly demands, is the Immortal life of the risen Christ – the very means whereby we also might be made Immortal. As Paul declared elsewhere: “if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain, ye are yet in your sins… But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1Cor 15:17,20 – see context).
So it is, that in Christ the “law of condemnation” was “abrogated” in himself, as it will yet be in his brethren. The word “abrogate” signifies, “repeal, annul, abolish” (Oxford Dictionary), and a correspondent asks how it can be said that the Law of Condemnation was “repealed”, yet be permitted to have it’s full course in both Christ, and his brethren? If the Law is repealed in our case, we ought never die! But the point is, that we are not speaking of a Law in the sense of a written piece of legislation, but a fundamental law of our physical being – in a not dissimilar way in which we refer to the known ‘laws’ of the universe – apparently immutable principles which govern the way physical elements and objects behave. This physical law can be said to be “abrogated” in Christ, because whereas he was once under the dominion of death (Rom 6:9), he is no longer. He is not subject to the law of mortality any more – he is deathless; immortal. That law of condemnation has lost all power over him. And for his brethren also, they will be freed from it at his appearing – by the bestowal of Immortality, it will be repealed. Though they may once have succumbed to it, and though they will appear before the judgement throne as mortal creatures once again – that law will disappear when, in a twinkling of an eye, this mortal shall put on immortality (1Cor 15:52).
THE PERFECT OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST
Although Scripture, and therefore ourselves (especially in the light of the current distress), place emphasis upon the Death of Christ as being the means of our salvation; that must not allow us to detract in any way from the importance of his mortal life. Indeed, the BASF reflects this balance, in stating that the Lord “was to obtain a title to resurrection by perfect obedience”. It was by the perfect obedience of the Lord Jesus throughout his life – his lifetime of commitment to the doing of his Father’s Will that the death of Christ had any value. “Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first (covenant), that he may establish the second. By the which Will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:9,10). It is by the “Will” of the Almighty, as performed by His Son, that we can be sanctified by the offering of Christ’s body. His life of sinlessness was that which ensured that the grave could not hold him (Acts 2:24), which made him personally undeserving of the wages of death – and therefore entitled, by the principles of His Father’s righteousness, to be raised.
Indeed, it is the life of the Lord Jesus that gives us, as his brethren a supreme example to follow, that we also might inherit the gift of everlasting life: “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 committed himself to him that judgeth righteously …” (1Pet 2:21-23). And this is an aspect of things which it is so easy to neglect in all debates concerning the Atonement. Indeed, we have seen brethren grossly contradict this wonderous example by their very conduct in such debates. But whilst it is of great importance for us to try and comprehend the principles which were being worked out in our Lord’s Sacrifice – we must never lose sight of the wonderful example which was laid down for us to follow, in both his life of holiness, and obedience in death. Hence the Apostles’ exhortation: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought not equality with God something to be grasped; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name …” (Phil 2:5-9). Indeed, let us do likewise.