A REVIEW OF THE ENDEAVOUR MAGAZINE (JUNE 2001)
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Is 8:20)
One of the most fundamental elements of “the things concerning the kingdom of God,” (Acts 8:12) as taught by the Apostles – and long recognised by Christadelphians -is that this kingdom is to be the ancient Israelitish polity restored. Whilst it is true that the extent of Messiah’s reign shall be global (cp Ps 72:8), nevertheless the Scriptures reveal that his dominion shall be focalised upon Israel as his “first dominion” (Mic 4:8), as he exercises power over the tribes of Jacob in accordance with the Angelic promise to Mary (Luke 1:33). Indeed, we find that immediately following a 40 day period of instruction by the Master “of the things pertaining to the kingdom” (Acts 1:3), the Apostles held this understanding of the matter, for they asked of Christ: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Of the timing of things, the Master had not informed them; it was not for them to know, as he told them in his reply. But are we to suppose that after more than 5 weeks tuition on the subject by the Master himself, that they failed to understand the very essence and fundamental constitution of that kingdom? Certainly there is no recorded correction or rebuke from the Master, concerning their expectation of a restored Israelitish kingdom, and if they were in error to suppose this, their error would certainly be great.
But if the June 2001 issue of Endeavour is to be believed, we must indeed conclude that the risen Master failed in his extensive teaching, and that in the assumption which their question expressed, the Apostles were “misrepresenting God”. For there the editor informs us:
“The kingdom, as it manifested itself in the OT was clearly second-best and this must not be forgotten when we turn to trying to foresee what God might yet do or allow in pursuit of his real purpose … should we forget this, and insist on an idealized version of the OT kingdom having to be restored, we are likely to be misrepresenting God as repeating features of this OT kingdom that he allowed but did not approve of …” (p 8).
“When we read the OT promises of a restored kingdom and pretend that the kingdom to come is modelled plainly on what can be simply read easily off the pages of the OT by anyone, aren’t we being rather naïve?” (p 9)
“Jesus was arguing for a kingdom which is “not of this world”, a kingdom which was truly God’s kingdom and not just a bigger and better version of the kingdom of Israel. If what Samuel’s generation desired was not what God really wanted, why are we modelling or future kingdom on their misconceived kingdom … we are wrong to model our expectations of the kingdom that Christ brings on the Kingdom of David” (p 9)
To conclude that the “kingdom to come is modelled plainly on what can be simply read” in the Old Testament might well be considered ‘naïve’ by the Editor, but we believe that it is more preferable to be considered naïve by men, than disbelieving by God. The Divine testimony is plain, and unequivocal, that the ancient Davidic kingdom is to be restored under the reign of the Great King, who shall indeed pattern his dominion after the ancient order of things. Consider the following testimony:
“After this I will return, and will build again the Tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up” (Acts 15:16,17).
These are the words of James, one of those who were duly instructed by the Master on these things—yet citing from one of those prophecies (Amos 9:11,12), which can indeed be “read easily off the pages of the Old Testament”. Again, the testimony of Gabriel to Mary was equally clear
“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32,33).
And again, we find that these words are directly derived from the prophets of old (Cp Is 9:6,7), thus directly challenging Endeavour’s unsupported assertion that the coming kingdom is not to be modelled on the plain Old Testament prophecies concerning it. Here we see a notable contrast indeed; whereas Endeavour teaches that “we are wrong to model our expectations of the kingdom that Christ brings on the kingdom of David”, and is compelled to reject the prophetic record in support of such a teaching, the New Testament, uses the Old Testament records to prove otherwise, that Christ shall be given the throne of his father David, that he shall reign, as David did, over the House of Jacob. And Peter affirms that such a use of the Old Testament prophets is indeed correct, saying that those things which God spake by their mouth will indeed be brought to pass: “He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). So it is, that the rebellious people of Yahweh will be brought to repentance as the New Testament plainly teaches (cp Rom 11:26,27 etc), and have their kingdom restored exactly as predicted by the prophets of old. So, it is written of Yahweh: “Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come. For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. So the heathen shall fear the name of Yahweh, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory” (Ps 102:13-15). Men of faith will humbly accept that what the Father has promised, He will indeed perform.
THE EVIDENCE AGAINST EXAMINED
But what evidence does the Endeavour editor provide us with to support his remarks in denial of the Spirit’s teaching? Firstly, it is postulated that the Ancient Kingdom itself was not desired by God. We have already seen this in the citations above: “If what Samuel’s generation desired was not what God really wanted, why are we modelling our future kingdom on their misconceived kingdom?” (p 9). And again if we teach that the kingdom of Israel is to be restored, “we are likely to be misrepresenting God as repeating features of this OT kingdom – that he allowed but did not approve of” (p8). And again, So then, it is assumed that the Father did not “approve of” the Davidic kingdom, and that therefore any kingdom he will yet be establish, will not be patterned on that kingdom. We notice that there are no passages of Scripture given to support this conclusion, it is a simple deduction from an assumed premise.
In actual fact, we find that the assumption itself is incorrect. There is no passage of Scripture which states that the Father “did not approve of” the Kingdom of David (hence none are cited) – on the contrary, the Father himself stated the opposite, speaking of David: “He raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also He gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22). This is proof indeed, that despite the assertions with which we are being presented, David was indeed a man “approved of” Yahweh – he was to fulfil all of Yahweh’s will concerning him; he was a man after Yahweh’s own heart. And he was specifically chosen, for the purpose of reigning as king over Yahweh’s people: “Yahweh Elohim of Israel chose me before all the house of my father to be king over Israel for ever: for he hath chosen Judah to be the ruler; and of the house of Judah, the house of my father; and among the sons of my father, he liked me to make me king over all Israel …” (1Chron 28:4). David was a man liked, or beloved of God, and appointed to be King. Indeed, such was the splendour of his reign over Israel, that in the Divine estimation, his throne was considered to be that of Yahweh Himself; “Then Solomon sat on the throne of Yahweh as king instead of David his father …” (1Chron 29:23). In none of these words can we find even a slight suggestion that Yahweh “did not approve of” the Kingdom over which His Chosen King reigned, from His Throne.
It is, of course quite true that the request of the people to have a king in Samuel’s day (which the editor is alluding to) was displeasing to Yahweh – and for particularly important reasons, as we shall see. But it is quite wrong to assume that therefore David’s Kingdom was not what He desired, or purposed for the people. Indeed, even before the people desired a King, Yahweh had already decreed that he was going to provide them with a king and kingdom in due time – under His conditions. Thus, Balaam prophesied: “how goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel … his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted” (Num 24:7). Again, Jacob predicted “the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come” (Gen 49:10), thus confirming that there would be a sceptre-bearing lawgiver emerging from Judah prior to the appearance of the Christ. And that “king” was David (Ps 78:68-72), whom Yahweh “liked,” and whose throne was Yahweh’s throne.
The choosing of Saul, the people’s king was different. Because he failed to exalt his kingdom and throne over that of Agag in the way commanded, namely by destroying it utterly (1Sam 15), he was rejected. He failed to destroy Agag, Samuel having to do that work instead (1Sam 15:9,33). Saul, though he were selected by Yahweh, was the kind of king requested and desired by the people, one who would not reign in obedient submission to, and on behalf of Yahweh – but instead of Him. That is the reason for Divine displeasure at the people’s request, as the inspired narrative amply testifies: “Yahweh said unto Samuel, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (1Sam 8:7). That was the problem; rather than to wait for the King promised to them, who would reign in submission to Yahweh, the people wanted a King who would reign instead of Him, and Saul epitomised this spirit, by himself forsaking the Master of Israel. But by contrast David (for all his failings), subjected himself to the supreme Sovereignty of the King of Kings, being selected by the Father for that purpose. And significantly, whilst the kings who follow are all said to sit upon David’s throne – none sat upon Saul’s. The Kingdom which the Father has promised is One centred around Jerusalem (Jer 3:17), with David’s Greater Seed reigning upon the Ancient Davidic seat of power restored, over the tribes of Jacob (Luke 1:32,33), the Kingdom restored to Israel (Acts 1:6); and there is a strange irony in the fact that some seem to reject both this kingdom as promised, and therefore it’s King, on the basis of the People’s rejection of the things of the Most High in times past.
“GOD’S ACCOLADE AND FAVOUR ON
THE DOCTRINALLY IGNORANT”
Following on from the last issue of Endeavour, Peter Wright continues his 2 part article of the above title seeking “to illustrate that the accolade and favour of God is obtainable by those in doctrinal ignorance.” As we saw in our last review, his aim is to provide “evidence that disputed doctrines should not divide Christians” (Endeavour, December 2000), and that those who are “doctrinally ignorant” should, nevertheless be regarded as our brothers and sisters:
“Denominational doctrines are traditionally accepted by their adherents as those propounded by Christ. Many were born into these beliefs and being fully persuaded, embrace them unquestioningly. If those with more accurate knowledge mistakenly regard such believes as enemies rather than brothers and sisters (2 Thes 3:15), then we shall be continually impoverished by sectarian divides” (Endeavour, December 2000).
So far, we have seen this “evidence” to be particularly wanting, and this is also the case with this second part. Here, the writer seeks to develop the claim, that the “doctrinally ignorant” are viewed favourably by the Father, by using David’s incorrect attempt at conveying the ark to Jerusalem, as evidence. The article itself begins with a simple factual inaccuracy, of no small significance. Speaking of the slaying of Uzzah, he writes: “To comprehend this, it is necessary to know Uzzah’s position. According to Scripture he was a Levite, descended through Korah” (p 45). So, it is quite definitely stated – this is the position “according to Scripture,” and it is necessary to know of this in order to comprehend the event of Uzziah’s slaying. In actual fact, there is no Bible verse that states this – probably why none is given to prove the point. The Bible rather suggests that Uzzah was of the tribe of Judah, as he is described as being the son of Abinadab, of Judah, in whose house the Ark had been kept (2Sam 6:3). Rather appropriately, Smith’s Bible dictionary states: “there is no proof for the assertion that Uzzah was a Levite”. Whilst this may be regarded as a minor point, we mention it by way of illustrating how Endeavour writers are quick to say “according to Scripture” to ‘prove’ their opinions – but in actual fact, Scripture speaks no such thing at all. It is significant to the article though, as nearly half of it builds upon this assumption to suggest that Uzzah, as a Kohathite would be intimately familiar with the correct method of carrying the ark, but rather than to do that, “he supervised the Ark’s removal on a ‘new cart’”. Again, there is no verse which states Uzzah supervised the affair; that is another assumption. The writer states an understanding of Uzzah is necessary for comprehension of the event; and as what he states concerning the Uzzah is factually unfounded, and incorrect, in his own terms, we can expect his exposition to be at fault. Indeed, we find this to be the case.
The use of this incident to suggest that doctrine is unimportant to obtain Divine Favour is most inappropriate, as even a cursory reading would suggest the exact opposite. David purposed to bring the ark to Jerusalem, yet because it was done in the wrong way, a man died. Uzzah lost his life for handling the Ark in the wrong way; as David expressed it, “Yahweh our Elohim made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order” (1Chron 15:13). The plain teaching – which David recognised – was that there was a correct “order” of approach to the Dwelling place of the Most High, and Uzziah was smitten because that “order” had not been followed. Being of Judah (not Levi), he had no place to carry the ark (cp 1Chron 15:1); and even the appointed bearers, the Kohathites were forbidden to actually touch it, having direct contact with the carrying staves only (Num 4:15). Uzzah’s error, was to approach and touch that which he ought not – he did that which was forbidden to all, even those who came closest to the ark. How odd it is then, to use this incident to show the exact reverse of that which it is plainly designed to teach! It is claimed that doctrinal understanding is not important to obtain Divine Favour – but this incident shows the very opposite, emphasising the importance of understanding the correct “order” of approach before the Most High!
But this ecumenical thrust is evident throughout the magazine. The preceding article, by Peter Bayliss promotes intercourse with the Churches:
“I have just come back from “Spring Harvest” which is an inter-church celebration of Christianity involving 6,000 Christians! They are light years ahead of what we are doing and ‘we’ could learn a lot from ‘them’ as how to rebuild our church” (p 44).
The writer also criticizes a contemporary magazine, saying “The Christadelphian does NOT have two-sided discussions on subjects such as the role of women, modern hymns, social action, other churches and so I could go on” (p 42). But once a matter is plainly stated from the Word, what profit is there in further discussion about it? Why give an airing to positions which are at variance to what the Creator has revealed? The writer further claims:
“’The Truth’ is a list of theological statements not found as a list within the Bible anywhere. We do not know what is essential for salvation but it was probably much simpler than our complicated man-made procedure of today and therefore we should be far less judgemental of other churches and show some humility and acceptance of fellow Christians” (p 41).
So then, whilst we evidently “do not know what is essential for salvation,” we can assume that it probably was simpler than what Christadelphians accept today! But on what basis can we say that if we “do not know?” What evidence is there for such a probability? None is given. Yet this assertion is the basis of accepting “fellow Christians,” in clear disregard of the Scriptural command to “be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? … wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2Cor 6: 14-17).
But whilst writers for Endeavour may confess ignorance as to what is essential for salvation, the Scriptures are quite clear.
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “the just shall live by faith”” (Rom1:17).
So then, it is written that “The just shall live by faith”, or belief. But belief in what? The Gospel! The Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” – but only “to every one that believeth”. To believe the Gospel is essential for salvation; and that which the Apostles taught as the Gospel, was “the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). The reason why Christ’s brethren do not follow the writer’s lead in attending inter-church festivals and the like, is that those self-professed “christians” do not know the Gospel! Imagining Christ to be some pre-existent deity, as part of a triune godhead who died as a substitute for men, they do not know the things concerning either his Name, or sacrifice. And imagining the Kingdom to be eternal bliss beyond the skies, rather than the ancient kingdom of Israel restored, they do not know “the things concerning the kingdom,” either! They do not comprehend the Gospel preached to Abraham (Gal 3:8) concerning the blessing of all nations through him, and therefore demonstrate themselves to be void of light (Is 8:20), and of that darkened class with whom obedient believers are commanded to have no fellowship.
These people have no scriptural claims to be “Christians,” or followers of Christ, no matter how sincere and genuine they are in their way, for they do not accept the things he taught; and holding on to the fables of men instead, they walk in darkness. The Command of Scripture concerning these, is: “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5:11). How tragic it when those purporting to be Christ’s brethren, rather than reprove them, seek to join with them in their festivities, and exhorts others to do likewise.
Another disturbing feature of this article, is the question: “How many talks, or articles do you the reader experience on ‘how to love yourself? I suspect very few, or probably none at all, and the absence of self-love is fundamental to the cause of the many dysfunctional relationships in our community” (p 43). Yet, what does the Word of the Most High have to say about “self-love?” “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves …” (2Tim 3:1,2). At one level therefore, we are thankful for Peter Bayliss’s exhortation for “self-love,” because such things serve to demonstrate that we are truly living in “perilous times” such as those of which the Spirit speaks, and therefore times near to the appearance of our Master who loved others, and laid down his life for them.
The writer concludes his article by asking the challenging question, “What are you going to do – criticize Endeavour because of your conditioning or dare to face asking some big questions”. We respectfully suggest that a better option than either of these, is to compare Endeavour with the Word of the Most High – and then face asking some big questions regarding the error that it teaches.