Talking with Christadelphians | John Ankerberg Show

Talking with Christadelphians

By: John Ankerberg Show
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By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©1999
When talking with a Christadelphian, one of the most fruitful areas of discussion will be a

thorough presentation of salvation, including our inability to keep the Law of God,
especially in light of God’s requirements for moral perfection.

Critique and Dialogue

When talking with a member, one of the most fruitful areas of discussion will be a thorough
presentation of salvation, including our inability to keep the Law of God, especially in light
of God’s requirements for moral perfection (Gal. 3:10-13). Once Christadelphians
understand the extent of their sinfulness before God, that even their righteousness is “filthy
rages” (Isa. 64:6), and once they further ponder the infinite nature of God’s holiness, they
have no alternative but to cast themselves upon the mercy of God and to trust in the
biblical Christ alone for salvation. Only the true Jesus can save because only He could pay
the divine penalty for sin. Stressing the completed nature of the atonement should also be a
priority (Heb. 9:26-8; 10:10-18). Discussion of relatively minor teachings (such as their
belief in non-participatory democracy—no voting, politics, or military service) is better
avoided, regardless of personal feelings on the subject.

The Death of Christ
Christadelphian Christian
Forgives past sins (incomplete) Forgives all sins, past, present, future (complete)
Representation and sacrificial Propitiatory and atoning
Provides the possibility of earning salvation by works and obedience (conditional) Secures salvation by faith alone (unconditional)
To secure the death of the sinful nature To secure full forgiveness of all sins
Died also for his own salvation Died for others’ salvation

A second major issue to stress is “who is Jesus Christ”? If the Christadelphians are wrong
about Jesus, it matters little what else they may be right on, because a denial of Jesus Christ
will prevent salvation and lead to damnation. The Bible is clear on this. “He who has the
Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). “No one
who denies the Son has the Father…” (1 John 2:23). Jesus Himself warned, “If you do not
believe I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24). “No one
comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). “He who rejects me rejects him who
sent me” (Luke 10:16). “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my
words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day” (John 12:48).

Christadelphians argue that Jesus was only a man and not God, and they cite many
scriptures to prove that Jesus was a man. Of course, it is easy to select scriptures that will
prove Christ was a man. No Christian denies this. Thus, as a man He was weary, thirsty,
wept, prayed, submitted to the Father and died. After the resurrection He said, “I am
returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17), a perfectly
reasonable statement coming from one who was a man (1 Tim. 2:5). But it is irrational to
argue that, because the Bible calls Jesus a man, the Scriptures that speak of His deity cannot
be true. To maintain that the second Person of the Trinity could never incarnate is logically
indefensible if Scripture declares that He did incarnate (Phil. 2). Simply listing Scriptures
stressing Christ’s man-hood prove nothing. The issue is, “Was he also God?”

Some of the common Christadelphian (and cultic) arguments used to deny Christ’s deity
are:

  • God cannot be tempted; therefore Christ is not God.[1]
  • God cannot be born; therefore Christ is not God.[2]
  • Jesus could not be a true conqueror or exalted were He God, since God is

sovereign and omnipotent (Acts 5:30-31).[3]

  • It is a logical impossibility for Jesus to be both God and God’s son.[4]
  • Jesus is described in the Bible “as being in need of redemption (Heb. 5:7-9; 9:12;

13:20),”[5] hence he could not have been God.

  • He is referred to as “the MAN Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5; Acts 2:22)[6]
  • He calls the redeemed “brethren”; he could not speak this way if He were God.[7]
  • He admitted limitations on His knowledge (Mark 13:32; Rev. 1:1).
  • He could not be forsaken if He were God (Mark 15:34).[8]
  • He could not be subject to the Father if He were God (1 Cor. 15:28).[9]
  • Christ disowned co-equality with the Father; and co-eternity is impossible for a

Son.[10]

We will discuss some of these points. However, it goes without saying that nearly all of
these statements are possible if Jesus was both God and man. Philippians 2:6-8 clearly tells
us that Jesus Christ preexisted as God (cf. Greek), but that He willingly became a man (took
on a sinless human nature) and submitted Himself to the Father’s will by dying on the
Cross. Jesus laid aside the prerogatives of deity, so He could truly represent humanity, but
He could never relinquish His own divine nature. Thus, in the incarnation He was the true
God-Man.

As for the idea that Jesus needed redemption from sin, this is a terrible blasphemy. The
Bible repeatedly tells us Jesus was without sin (John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 1:19; 1 John
3:5). Speaking of logical impossibilities, if Christ needed redemption from sin, how could
He redeem others from sin? How can a mere man pay the cost of infinite justice for the sins
of billions of people? “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for
him—the ransom for a life is costly…” (Psa. 49:7-8).

Concerning Jesus’ subjection to the Father, this hardly requires His inequality with God, no
more than a wife submitting to her husband means she is inferior. Christians are to submit
to one another, but this does not mean they are unequal. United States citizens are not
inferior in nature to their President simply because they are subject to him.

Clearly, a few Scriptures do refer to Christ’s limitation in knowledge. But again, He
relinquished the use of His divine powers. Every day there are people who, for various
reasons, give up a capacity to do something that they are capable of doing. Lack of use does
not require the absence of ability. Further, Christ did not disown equality with the Father;
He pronounced it (John 10:30-33). And co-eternity is not impossible for a son if the second
Person of the Godhead became God’s Son through the incarnation and virgin birth.

Christadelphians will, of course, admit that Jesus is called “God,” but, like Jehovah’s
Witnesses, they assert that it is only because such a “title” may apply to people if they are
given positions of divine authority. Although such designations are rare in the Bible,
Christadelphians argue they are “frequently applied throughout Scripture for those who
manifest the authority of God.”[11] The Apostle Thomas’ declaration (John 20:28), Jesus’ own
declaration (John 10:30), Moses (Ex. 7:1, and Zech. 12:8) are given as examples. These
verses are misunderstood by Christadelphians. Whenever Scripture expresses the divine
authority of a person this way it is only a figurative expression to refer to them as “gods.” In
Psalm 82, the phrase “You are gods” is an example. In Exodus 7:1 Moses was to be “a god”
to the Egyptians, which he was. With the powers God gave him, it was as if one of their
mythical gods had come to life. But no Christadelphian believes that Moses was actually
God. However, Scripture demands that we come to such a conclusion about Jesus.
Declarations of Jesus’ deity are frequent in the New Testament (John 1:1, 3; 5:18; Acts
20:28; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8-10; 2 Peter 1:1). Contextually, Zechariah 12:8 means
that the house of David will be divine-like in its invincibility. (But also verse 10 shows that
Jesus is God, for when was the Father ever pierced? The Hebrew dagar means “to pierce
through” as with a lance. Note also the significant change in pronouns.)

Regarding John 10:30, grammar and context dictate that the term “one” means “one” in
essence with God. Christadelphians argue that in John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one”),
the Jews simply misunderstood Christ’s words of unity, or “oneness of purpose,” as a claim
to deity. This view is difficult to accept in light of Jesus’ immediately preceding statement
that He retains the same power of the Father to keep His sheep. He then says, “the Father is
greater than all,” and declares “I and the Father are one.” The meaning is obvious. The Jews
did not misunderstand Him. Their response to try and stone Him to death shows how
clearly they did understand Him. In falsely claiming to be God (as they saw it), He was
guilty of a capital offense. If the Jews misunderstood Him, Jesus (not to mention the Apostle
John who recorded the incident), never bothered to correct their error. Certainly the
Apostle John would have indicated their misunderstanding if this was actually the case. As
a devout Jew, would the Apostle have left his readers with the blasphemously false
impression that Jesus was God? And did the Jews also “misunderstand” Jesus in John 5:18,
where His claim to deity was based on His own declaration that God was His very own Father?
If the phrase “making Himself equal with God” does not mean Christ believed He was
God, what does it mean?

Finally, Thomas’ statement in John 20:28 would surely have been rejected by Jesus if Jesus
knew He were only a devout Jew. As a godly Jew Jesus would never have tolerated others
confusing Him with God. Further, the word Thomas uses in 20:29 is theos, the common
word for God.

Christadelphians further argue that, because Jesus received glory from God, He could not be
God, whose glory is immanent and cannot be received. However, we are dealing with
different kinds of glory here: divine glory and human glory. The glory Jesus received as a
man and passed on (John 17:22) is the glory of servant-hood. Here, Jesus’ glory was glory of
service given Him by the Father in His incarnation (for example of bearing the Cross; John
5:36, 44; 17:4-5). But the glory He had with the Father “before the world began” is eternal
(John 17:5).

When Christadelphians stress that “the simple appellation of ‘Son’ as applied to Christ is
sufficient to prove that His existence is derived not eternal,”[12] they misunderstand the
biblical meaning of the term. (“Did you ever hear of a son who did not have a beginning” is
one argument. Of course, the same can be said for the term “Father.”) Men can be children
(“sons”) of God by adoption (1 John 3:1-2). Jesus, however, was the Son of God by nature
(Luke 3:22; Rom. 1:1-4). To be “the Son of God” in this sense was to be deity, just as
Scripture declares (John 5:18; 19:7).

Christadelphians interpret John 1:1 in the following manner: “It is assumed (and it is pure
assumption) that ‘Word’ here used refers to Jesus Christ as a person. We shall see that such
is not the meaning, but that it has reference to the manifestation of the eternal Deity in
Jesus, who first actually came into being when He was born in Bethlehem.”[13]

Supposedly, Jesus had two sides—“one Deity and the other Man…. The Deity dwelling in
him was the Father.”[14] In other words, His so-called “deity” was not innate, but simply
because the Father indwelt Him. In response, according to John 1:1-3, the Word is clearly
declared to be God. The Word is God: Jesus is the Word; therefore Jesus is God—this is
John’s argument. John 1:14-17 further declares that the Word became flesh and that the
Word was the person whom John the Baptist bore witness of, saying “He existed before
me.” Jesus is clearly the Word. If He is not, what was John trying to communicate in verses
14-17? And how could John the Baptist say of Jesus, “He existed before me,” if Jesus did not
even exist until His conception? Jesus was conceived six months after John the Baptist
(Luke 1:24-31, 35-36). Jesus existed before John because He pre-existed in eternity.

In conclusion, the Christadelphian view of Jesus Christ is both deficient and demeaning.
Christians should help Christadelphians ponder Jesus’ words more soberly: “If you do not
believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24). The
following declaration is one all Christadelphians would subscribe to: “We believe there is
one God, who is the Creator and sustainer of all things, Lord of heaven and earth, the Alpha
and Omega, the Lord God Almighty.” There is indeed “one God” and Jesus is part of that one
Triune Deity (Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1). There is only one God, “Who is the Creator”
(Jesus: John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2, 10), “sustainer of all things” (Jesus: Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3),
“Lord of heaven” (Jesus: Rev. 19:16) “and earth” (Jesus: Rev. 1:5), “The Alpha and Omega”
(Jesus: Rev. 22:13 with 1:17; 2:8; 21:6), and “the Lord God Almighty” (Jesus: Rev. 1:8 with
Rev. 22:20; 21:22-23; 22:3, 5 with Rev. 4:8-10; 5:8 and 7:11-12, 17).

Christadelphians may deny that Jesus is God. This they are free to do. But they cannot
logically deny this on biblical grounds, much less claim that they are “true Christians” for
doing so.


NOTES

  1. A. Norris, The Things We Stand For, p. 11
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. A. Hayward, Great News for the World, p. 41.
  5. Who Do You Worship?, pamphlet (Birmington, England: Christadelphians), p. 59.
  6. Ibid., p. 58.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Who Do You Worship?, pp. 60-61.
  12. R. Roberts, Christendom Astray, p. 93.
  13. The Christadelphian Messenger, No. 46, p. 1.
  14. A Declaration of the Truth Revealed in the Bible, p. 26.

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