To the Interested Reader
There exists a body of people, scattered throughout the English-speaking communities of the world, who hold the views advocated in this book of lectures.
They are formed into communities styled “ecclesias,” which is the Greek word translated “churches.” They uso that word in preference to “churches,” because the word “church” does not express the idea of “ecclesia,” either philologically or conventionally. “Church,” in the abstract, means the portion of a lord, and in current use, denotes a building set apart for religious purposes, or any congregation professing the name of Christ, all of which meanings are totally foreign to the idea expressed by “ecclesia.”
“Ecclesia” means the assembly of the called out, and is appropriately employed to designate those who by the truth have been called out both from the world and from the multitude of professing Christian bodies, who hold the traditions of a corrupt ecclesiasticism instead of the doctrines promulgated by Jesus and the apostles. It was the name bestowed by the Spirit upon the communities holding the truth of Christ in the early centuries; and as it has no proper English equivalent, there is no alternative but to use it in its original form.
But there is another name by which those holding the faith herein set forth, are individually distinguished from the profession of orthodoxy. “Ecclesia” applies only to a number, and approximately answers to “church” of popular usage. But there is need for a name of individual application (having a generic significance) answering to the “Christian” of common parlance. The believers in Christ were called “Christians,” at Antioch, in the first century, and afterwards, everywhere else. This was the name by which they were known—the nickname which their enemies originated, and which, at that time, was an epithet of disgrace, though from the disciples’ point of view, a name of honour. But the purpose which the name served in ancient times is no longer answered by it; it no longer distinguishes the brethren of Christ from those who reject the faith of Christ. Everybody European is called “Christian.” The word defines nothing beyond an adhesion to the historical tradition of Jesus Christ. It imports nothing doctrinal. A man can believe anything and be a Christian. For this reason, it has ceased to serve its original use.
But it may be argued, that the abuse of a right word—a New Testament word—does not justify its repudiation on the part of those apprehending it truly. The answer to this is: the word is not necessarily a right word, because it was invented by the enemies of the truth. The word is not a New Testament word, except that the New Testament records that it was used first in Antioch, in reference to Christ’s brethren, and afterwards employs it only once as a current designation (I Peter 4:16), and then only in accommodation to popular usage, in the same way as Agrippa is recorded to have used it in reference to himself in Acts 26:28. No claim can be made for the name on the ground of its divine authority. We must deal with it on the other grounds. It was a name employed for purposes of social distinction. It could be employed with no other object. To call a man a “Christian,” did not make him a saint; it only identified him in the popular eye with a sect which, at that time, was everywhere spoken against. This use of it is sanctioned by Peter, from which it follows that it is Scriptural to acknowledge a distinctive designation if it accord with the truth. “Christian” accorded with the truth in the days of Peter; it does not do so now.
What is to be substituted? Something expressive of the truth, something Scriptural—nothing of human derivation—nothing expressive of human affinities. Everything savouring of the Corinthian schisms must be reprobated. Let no man say, “I am of Paul,” as against another, saying, “I am of Cephas,” let us all say “I am of Christ,” But how shall we do this in a name which shall be scriptural, and yet distinguish from the masses of “Christendom,” who call themselves “Christians”? The answer is before the reader in the word
This answers all the requirements of the case. It is the Anglicised form of the Greek phrase, Christou adelphoi, “brethren of Christ,” and is unmistakably distinctive, never having been employed in the English tongue to designate those who are Christ’s. It has an advantage over “Christian” in being more Scriptural and definite in its significance. “Christian merely expresses the world’s dim and unintelligent apprehension of the position of Christ’s brethren. The world understood not the nature of the relation subsisting between them and Christ. It merely saw the former had something to do with the latter, and called them Christ-ones; but “Christadelphians” goes closer, and reveals the fact that the disciples of Christ are not merely his servants, but his friends (John 15:14–15)—his “brethren” (Heb. 2:11, 17; Matt. 28:10; Rom. 8:29; John 20:17)—“joint heirs with him of the promises made to Abraham” (Gal. 3:29; Rom. 8:17).
But it may be asked, why not express that fact in plain English, and call them “brethren of Christ?” For the simple reason that in plain English these words would be as indistinctive as Christian, since all classes of professors would own to “brethren of Christ.” No one will acknowledge “Christadelphian” but those who, from a knowledge of the truth, realise the necessity of being distinguished from the great apostasy in all its sects and denominations.
If these considerations are not satisfactory to those who object to the Greek form of the phrase, and stickle for “Christian,” let them remember that “Christian” is as much a Greek word as “Christadelphian,” and that the choice really lies between a Greek appellative devised by the enemies of the truth in the first century, and one expressive of the truth affirmed by the Spirit in the same age of the world.
The Christadelphians scattered throughout the world have no ecclesiastical organisation beyond the simple arrangements necessary to conduct their assemblies as effectively as possible for the objects in view, which objects are, 1st—their mutual upbuilding in the faith, by observance of the Lord’s Supper, “upon the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2), and exhortation; 2nd—the setting forth of the truth for the enlightenment and salvation of the ignorant; and 3rd—a mutual care of each other in things spiritual and temporal. They have no “ministers” or paid officials of any kind, and in the absence of the Spirit, no rulers. Official brethren are merely servants for the conduct of the necessary business, and attendance to the general affairs and interests of the ecclesia. The brethren, one and ail, meet on the basis of brotherly love and good sense, all striving, without distinction, to promote the general objects of their union.
Any desiring acquaintance with a view to fraternity on the basis of the truth, can have their wishes gratified, by reference to the address from which this book is issued, where the applicant can procure the address of persons nearest his or her neighbourhood.