|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.
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.
|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:
sovereign and omnipotent (Acts 5:30-31).
13:20),” hence he could not have been God.
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.” 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,” 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.”
Supposedly, Jesus had two sides—“one Deity and the other Man.... The Deity dwelling in him was the Father.” 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.