Behold the LAMB of GOD which TAKES AWAY the SIN of the world
1990 years ago, in the solemnity of a large appropriately furnished upper room, a Passover was prepared unlike any that had preceded it. It was the custom that the elder brother—the firstborn of the household “when the hour had come” to answer the question, “what do you mean by this service?” “It is the sacrifice of Yahweh’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” (Exodus 12:26-27). Sacrifice and deliverance from a cruel despot, the enemy of God, contending for the dominion of the world, are combined as constituting Yahweh’s Passover. The Lord Jesus, on the occasion of the last Passover until he would eat it again in the kingdom of God, said “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16). With sacrifice and deliverance from a cruel despot, the enemy of God, that constituted Yahweh’s Passover, Christ merges two epochs; “Christ our Passover sacrificed for us” and the fulfilment of Yahweh’s sacrifice in the deliverance of God’s children in the kingdom of God who will “Behold the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”
God’s gracious invitation
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David” (Isaiah 55:1-3).
Here is a timeless invitation to anyone who knows their desperate need. This most gracious of invitations has an historical background (2Chronicles 30). In the days of King Hezekiah Yahweh put it into his heart to bring about a great reformation in the kingdom of Judah and to extend that reformation to the northern kingdom of Israel and even to the Gentile sojourners who lived amongst them (2Chronicles 30:25). We read that Hezekiah “decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem” (2Chronicles 30:5). The Passover was that solemn occasion when the children of Israel were commanded to bring to remembrance how Yahweh delivered their fathers from Egyptian bondage. This deliverance was accomplished first of all by the children of Israel being instructed in the means by which Yahweh was going to declare His righteousness throughout the land of Egypt by the infliction of the 7th and final plague that had fallen upon the Egyptians alone. The death of the firstborn throughout the land of Egypt would compel their enemies to release them from bondage. The only way in which Israel could escape this universal destruction was by them strictly keeping what Yahweh commanded them through Moses. It was only by the blood of the Passover lamb, sprinkled on the lintel and door posts of the houses of those who feared God where the families of Israel resided eating the Passover lamb with bitter herbs, could the families of those moved by fear be spared the judgement Yahweh was about to inflict.
The apostle Paul reminds us “Christ our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1Corinthians 5:7-8). In the days of Hezekiah, Jew and gentile, symbolized by the two door posts sprinkled with the blood of the Passover lamb, were invited to respond to these great principles. As in the days of Moses the nation was being threatened with extermination. The Assyrian had already destroyed much of the northern kingdom of Israel. In a few years the northern kingdom would cease to exist as a result of further Assyrian invasions. Hezekiah’s invitation was therefore a last divine appeal to that generation! It was an appeal on the basis of identification with the means of God’s great salvation, symbolized by the Passover lamb—“the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world”.
“Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary…For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him... So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. However, some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem” (2Chronicles 30:7–9).
As in the days of King Hezekiah, the world is witnessing the movements of the latter-day Assyrian or the Russian Gog in its imperialism viciously attacking territories North of Israel (Ezekiel 39:1–2) in the very region that the prophet Ezekiel is caused to prophesy against him before he is providentially caused to ascend into the middle east with worldwide consequences. The prophet Daniel warns that these events will correspond to “a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1). We may only have a few short years remaining to avail ourselves of the gracious invitation Yahweh has extended through the prophet Isaiah to this generation that will witness the judgements of God poured out on this wicked world (Revelation 16:12-16).
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).
Wine is used as a symbol in the Scriptures for doctrine (Jeremiah 51:7; Isaiah 25:6). When the Lord Jesus came to open the new and living way by his blood (Hebrews 10:19–20) he first of all prepared, “fresh wineskins” for disciples to receive the new wine of the new covenant (Matthew 9:17) he preached, which “brought life and immortality to light by the gospel” (2Timothy 1:10). It was at the last supper when he took the cup, in which was the wine of the Passover, and giving thanks for it, he gave it to his disciples saying “drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27–28). Associated with this wine is the symbol of “milk”. The apostle Peter urges the disciple to act “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1Peter 2:2-3). Here then are fundamental principles by which the disciple must be nourished mentally and morally to “make wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2Timothy 3:16).
“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Isaiah 55:2).
Why indeed! There is nothing more fundamental to a man’s existence then the money (PNG Kina) obtained from his hard labour, the means to provide what he and his family require to satisfy their needs. Why would you waste your time in the sweat of your face day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year for that which can never satisfy! What is the spiritual lesson? Bro. Thomas states, “Men have not yet learned the lesson, that all they are called upon by God to do is to believe His word and obey His laws. He requires nothing more at their hands than this. If they neither believe nor do, or believe but do not obey, they are evil doers, and at enmity with Him. He asks men for actions, not words; for He will judge them “according to their works” in the light of His law, and not according to their supposititious feelings and traditions. The reason why He will not permit men to prescribe for their own moral evils is because He is the physician, they the lepers; He their sovereign, they the rebels against His law. It is His prerogative, and His alone, to dictate the terms of reconciliation. Man has offended God. It becomes him, therefore, to surrender unconditionally; and, with the humility and teachableness of a child, to receive with open heart and grateful feelings, whatever in the wisdom, and justice, and benevolence of God, He may condescend to prescribe” (Elpis Israel Part First Chap. 3– A Good, And An Evil Conscience).
The Lord Jesus taught “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). That which God says is right is right, and that which he forbids is sin. The Lord Jesus taught “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23). The apostle Paul also uses the phrase “the righteousness of God” in reference to the means or method of justification by which God forgives men and women who are not righteous, of their sins on the basis of their belief in what is described as “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). Paul says that the gospel he preached was the power of God for salvation “for in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith” (Romans 1:17). If, however, one was to believe in “a different gospel”, in different doctrines or method of justification, in “another Jesus” not taught by the apostle Paul (2Corinthians 11:3-4), where would be “the power of God for salvation”? Where is the power of God for salvation in believing myths, speculations, or different doctrines to that which God revealed through His Son and His apostles, in turning your back on sound teaching, from listening to the truth, but are influenced by wicked deception, so much so that God sends a strong delusion so that they believe what is false!
“Charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1Timothy 1:3-4).
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2Timothy 4:3-4)
“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of the adversary with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2Thessalonians 2:9-12).
For many deceivers have gone out into the world—those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works (2John 1:7-11).
The Divine invitation through Isaiah is to “Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” This is the source of true eternal satisfaction and the man and woman who “diligently” and prayerfully gives themselves to the task of searching out the scriptures are those the Lord Jesus pronounces as “blessed” “who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” These are they of whom Yahweh invites, “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David” (Isaiah 55:3).
The everlasting covenant made to David
In 2Samuel 7 we read of this covenant made to David which he said was “ALL his salvation and ALL his desire”. The everlasting nature of this covenant is presented to David first of all with the promise that God would build him a house or household. This is prefaced with the knowledge that David was to die, and like Abraham, not receive the promise but was caused to embrace it in hope with great joy and to see it’s fulfilment afar off. The means by which this great household was to be established was by a son of promise, who would descend from David and whose destiny is the means by which God would establish His kingdom. To accomplish this great work Yahweh Himself would intervene to “raise up your seed after you” (1Samuel 7:12). The implication of this divine intervention was later given more detail in the Emanuel prophecy (Isaiah 7–12). The power of God would cause a “child to be born” in order that “a son could be given” as the means by which God would “show His truthfulness… to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs” which necessitated this Son’s resurrection, upon whose shoulder the divine government—the throne of David and his kingdom—will be established for ever more (Isaiah 9:6-7; Romans 15:8). This son would build God’s literal house and his household who constitute God’s temple when the kingdom as envisaged in this promise is fulfilled and God himself would establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
The means already alluded to is then clearly defined; “I will be his father and he shall be my son. In suffering for iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod due to men, with the stripes due to the sons of men” (2Samuel 7:14 - Adam Clarke’s translation which brother Thomas quotes in Elpis Israel). The emphasis is as our “A Statement Of The Faith” states in Clause X. “That being so begotten of God, and inhabited and used by God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was Emanuel, God with us, God manifest in the flesh—” Yahweh as Jesus’ father gave the son by virtue of his miraculous begettal a predisposition to the character of the Father and then later was anointed by the same spirit without measure at his baptism, to do his Father’s work, enabling him of his own free will to always to do the will of the father and therefore by birth and perfect obedience be God’s son.
Clause X. continues “—yet was, during his natural life, of like nature with mortal man, being made of a woman, of the house and lineage of David, and therefore a sufferer, in the days of his flesh, from all the effects that came by Adam’s transgression, including the death that passed upon all men, which he shared by partaking of their physical nature.” Here is the combination of the two essential elements necessary to provide the great salvation David so yearned for and was the mission of this Son of promise to secure. This mission “necessitated the miraculous begettal of Christ of a human mother, enabling him to bear our condemnation, and, at the same time, to be a sinless bearer thereof, and therefore, one who could rise after suffering the death required by the righteousness of God” (Clause IX.).
God’s will required the “suffering for iniquity” which culminated in the “condemnation of sin in the flesh, through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all, as a propitiation to declare the righteousness of God, as a basis for the remission of sins” (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 10:10; Romans 3:25 Clause XII.). Despite the necessity of this public condemnation of sin in the flesh, God’s steadfast love would not depart from this Son, as it had been taken away from Saul whom Yahweh put away from “before” David. Clause VIII summarizes the reason this was the case, “These promises (which were made to Adam, Abraham and David) had reference to Jesus Christ, who was to be raised up in the condemned line of Abraham and David, and who, though wearing their condemned nature, was to obtain a title to resurrection by perfect obedience, and, by dying, abrogate (to repeal or do away with) the law of condemnation for himself and all who should believe and obey him.” Just as assuredly as David witnessed what Yahweh had done in the downfall of Saul “before you,” so he was promised he would witness the making sure of his household and his kingdom “for ever”—“before you” (2Samuel 7:15–16). This promise necessitated the resurrection of David and those who would constitute his household (2Samuel 7:29) to eternal life as an eternal witness of the re-establishment of the Davidic throne and he who would sit upon that throne forever. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Then “Yahweh of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, before his ancients gloriously” (Isaiah 9:7; 24:23; Luke 1:32-33). The gospel of the kingdom invites us to identify with these ancients which of course preeminently includes David who are to inherit glory.
The resurrection of the Son of promise
The everlasting nature of the covenants made to Abraham and David rests on the resurrection of the Son of promise, through whom all that believe in the great work of salvation, as accomplished in him, may be justified from their sins so that they, with Christ, will fellowship the glory of the kingdom age in the eternal love of the Father. The apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of this great truth in quoting Isaiah 55:3 along with the Psalms in preaching the Lord Jesus; “We declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David… Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:32–39). In these words the apostle Paul conclusively shows that the everlasting nature of the covenants of promise rested in the resurrection to eternal life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the same promise is extended to those who will constitute the household of the beloved who have faith in his saving name. It is this hope which constitutes “the sure mercies (or blessings R.V.) of David” — “sure blessings” which join the household of the beloved in eternal fellowship with Christ Jesus, as David states in concluding his moving prayer of thankfulness in 2 Samuel 7, “For thou, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee. And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee: for thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever”.
We have noted the words of the apostle Paul that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to all those who believe (those who wish to be a part of the household of David or the “Beloved” and be blessed forever) for in it (in the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith.” To the gospel we must go and to its focal point of the Son promised to David through whom “the righteousness of God” was declared, that we may exercise faith in those holy things unto salvation; “who by God's power (or the gospel) are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1Peter 1:5). We find the apostle Peter at Pentecost declaring, “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it… For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord (Yahweh) said to my Lord (Jesus), Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
The witness of John the Baptist
We read of the story of this Son promised to Abraham and David in the four Gospels. In all of them, unitedly, they culminate in the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. In our desire to understand the scriptural significance of how and more particularly why “the righteousness of God” is said by Paul to have been declared in Christ’s crucifixion, we need to have a very clear picture of that crucifixion as the Bible describes it, from God’s point of view in our minds. It is a picture in fact that is before the reader of the holy Scriptures from the foundation of the world! As the apostle Paul says to the Hebrews “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Think of all that had been prophesied from the foundation of the world from Adam through the law and the prophets—all the shadows and in the types of some 4000 years of Bible history! At the end of that long line of prophets we are led to the last of those prophets, to a man sent by God as the forerunner and herald of Christ—John the Baptist, whom the Lord Jesus described as the greatest of the prophets. He heralds the Christ in very dramatic language indeed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
We ought to pause and think how extraordinary this declaration was when it was made and the insight God had given John. This is particularly highlighted when we compare this Divine declaration through John with how this great truth was hidden even from Christ’s disciples even though they were repeatedly told of what had to come to pass for all righteousness to be fulfilled! John had been told by God how to recognize who the Messiah he heralded would be, “I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” Again the very next day after making this dramatic declaration we read that John “was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus” (John 1:31–36). In these two declarations we have John the Baptist identifying the Son of promise, the subject of the everlasting covenant given to David, which we have just considered. In that covenant we remember the words of Yahweh in explaining the means by which Yahweh would accomplish his promise to David through this Son, “I will be his father and he shall be my son. In suffering for iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod due to men, with the stripes due to the sons of men” i.e. the Son of God and the lamb of God.
Encapsulated in the phrase “the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” is the whole divine work of the atonement—the means by which God covers, cleanses, purges and purifies us from sin by the sacrifice of the lamb he provided. Why a lamb? In Revelation 13:8 (KJV) we read of “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” This was a sacrifice, and the word sacrifice simply means “to slaughter” therefore scripturally when we read of sacrifice it refers to a putting to death. It may also be observed that this act of slaying was not indiscriminate, for the animal chosen had certain characteristics which pointed forward to what had to be presented in the real sacrifice, or he who would be identified some 4000 years later “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world!”
There was no need for sacrifice until “by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin” (Romans 5:12). The first sacrifice we read of, as alluded to in Revelation 13:8, was just after man had rebelled against God’s command, and their eyes being opened, were made aware of their shame and guilty conscience and sort to devise their own means of trying to cover their sin and shame with an invention of their own imagination, which simply compounded their hopeless alienation before God! They were yet ignorant of the great principle, that “without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). They did not understand the divine necessity of sacrifice—of “the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” They were as the apostle Paul reminds us in relation to the whole gentile world which is similarly ignorant, “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” and are as a result “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 4:18; 2:12). At this point we would like to quote some passages from Elpis Israel,
“They (Adam and Eve) were not aware of this necessity; for it had not been revealed: neither did they understand, that as offenders they would not be permitted to devise a covering for themselves. They had everything to learn as the ground of reconciliation with God. They had no idea of religion; for hitherto they had needed none. It yet remained to be revealed as the divinely appointed means of healing the breach which sin had made between God and men.”
“Having then, been made subject to evil, and consigned to the bondage of a perishing state, the Lord God repudiated their fig-leaf invention, and "appointed coats of skins" for their covering. In this testimony there is much expressed in few words. To appoint coats of skins implies a command for the sacrifice of the animals whose skins were converted to this purpose…When the sacrifice was accepted, the offence was provisionally (subject to further confirmation) remitted; for the scripture saith, that it is not possible for the blood of animals to take away sins (Heb. 10:4). It was impossible, because sin was to be condemned in sinful flesh. This required the death of a man; for the animals had not sinned: so that, if the whole animal world, save man, had been made an offering for sin, sin would still have been uncondemned in his nature. Besides the necessity of a human sacrifice, God deemed it equally necessary, that the victim should be free from personal transgression; and that when he had suffered, he should rise from the dead so as to be "a living sacrifice."
If the death of a transgressor would have sufficed, then, Adam and Eve might have been put to death at once, and raised to life again. But this was not according to the divine wisdom. The great principle to be compassed was the condemnation of sin in sinful flesh, innocent of actual transgression. This principle necessitated the manifestation of one, who should be born of a woman, but not of the will of man. Such an one would be the Seed of the Woman, made of her substance, with Him (God) for his Father who by His overshadowing spirit, should cause her to conceive. He would be Son of God by origination; and Son of Man by descent, or birth of sinful flesh. Now, it is not to be supposed that Adam and Eve did not understand this: God doubtless explained it to them; for they had none to teach them but Him; and without His instruction, they would not have known what they should believe. It was from them, that Abel derived the knowledge which was the foundation of his faith to which God testified in the acceptance of the firstling of his flock and the fat thereof.
Adam and his wife had faith, or God would not have accepted the sacrifices with whose skins they were clothed; for it was as true then as it is now, that "without faith it is impossible to please God." Faith, then, in the Seed of the Woman, first as a sacrifice for sin, wounded to death by his enemies; and afterwards the destroyer of the sin-power: in connection with the sacrifice of animals as representative of the bruising of his heel — was the ground of their acceptance with the Lord God. It was the Way of Life.” (Elpis Israel– The Way of the Tree of Life; Part First, Chapter V).
John the Baptist in directing his disciples’ attention to Jesus as “the lamb” directs attention to him as the sacrificial lamb, as brother Roberts reminds us in The Blood of Christ “he was born that he might die.” In defining this sacrifice John does not say that the lamb is merely of the flock but “of God.” This is of the highest importance. We have noted, in keeping with everything that has been revealed of the Son of promise, the subject of God’s promises and prophecy from the foundation of the world, that he who was born that he might die a sacrificial death, is described to be “of God!”
The apostle Peter reminds believers, “Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1Peter 1:18-21). In this quotation the apostle Peter shows that the Lord Jesus as the sacrificial lamb = “blood of Christ” and explains the “of God” = “without blemish or spot” indicating that the “of God” is a reference to Christ’s perfect character always doing those things that pleased the Father.
This is further confirmed by the apostle Peter’s words of the next chapter, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1Peter 2:21-24). Here again we see the lamb = suffering, with a dying body subject to the physical defilement of sins consequence—“bore our sins in his body” while explaining the “of God” = “no sin” mentally or morally. Finally the apostle Peter shows how “the lamb of God” “takes away the sin of the world” = “by his wounds you have been healed.”
In placing these three aspects of John 1:29 together, the means by which God was going to take away the sin of the world was by the sacrificial condemnation of a body under the dominion of death because of sin = “the lamb”. “The lamb of God” would be without spot mentally or morally, who should do no sin himself, being just, holy and obedient in all things while made sin and treated as sin for us. The means of justification of a believer in being invited to “Behold the Lamb of God,” rests therefore in the humble acknowledgement of God’s righteous requirement publicly declared by the condemnation of the nature defiled in the beginning because of sin, which subsequently became the source of all rebellion against God’s holiness. To “Behold the lamb of God” is to humbly acknowledge that the source of all rebellion—referred to in scripture as “sin in the flesh” and personified as “the evil one”, “the prince of this world”, “the devil” etc. —is fit only for destruction, and was destroyed in a representative man bearing the same defiled inherited nature as those he came to save but was himself free of personal transgression. In reversing the rebellion of the first Adam by which “sin entered the world and death by sin,” the second Adam was required to manifest perfect obedience to God’s will through the suffering of severe trial which culminated in the destruction of sin, smiting it at its very source—in the flesh. The bruiser of the serpent’s head could then be righteously raised from the dead, through whom sin at last might be destroyed root and branch—the taking away of the sin of the world.
Bro. Roberts reminds us that as a result of “the obstacle being removed in the condemnation of sin in the flesh: sin having been nailed to the tree in the body of His (God’s) beloved one. According to His abundant mercy, which He was not compelled to show, He raised His beloved from the dead for our justification, that we who were dead in trespasses and sins might have hope who had none. The Father begat us again to this lively hope by the resurrection of His Son. The resurrection is everything, without which the condemnation of sin in the flesh would have been nothing. The apostasy destroys this by making the condemnation everything and the resurrection of Christ a thing of which no reasonable account can be given so far as effecting our salvation is concerned. It errs also in making the condemnation bear on the—soul "so-called”—the immaterial principle of life—instead of on the flesh—that "body of His flesh" in which through death we are reconciled (Colossians 1:20). Certain good words and fair speeches have been sounded in our ears which would drag us in the same fatal direction. Let us be on our guard. There is need for the apostolic exhortation that we take heed that we lose not those things which we have wrought.
The comfort is to realise the whole arrangement as the Father's love. It is His way for His own honour and our salvation. We have but to learn what that way is and worship. The love that has devised it is a love passing knowledge. The goodness that will come of it eludes the highest effort of imagination. We are begotten "to AN INHERITANCE" such as no mortal ever possessed…"an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 1:5). (Seasons of Comfort Volume 1 pgs. 9-13 R. Roberts).
That we might understand the things freely given us by God… comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).
“Behold the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
“He (Christ) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant (Hebrews 13:20).
In simply comparing the above Scripture we conclude, “The Lamb of God” was “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ” and was brought again from the dead by “the blood of the everlasting covenan”t, by the blood of his own sacrificial death.
Yet the churches teach that Jesus was God! If that was the case how can the eternal die? The Scriptures say that God “only has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1Timothy 6:16). If mortal man cannot see God, why is it John the Baptist declared in seeing Jesus “Behold the Lamb of God.” Did his disciples behold the eternal God who dwells in light which no one has seen nor can see! What John directs his disciples to and the reader of this eyewitness account was “God manifested in the flesh,” as the bearer and fulfiller of the memorial “Yahweh” name—“He who shall be” (manifested) in one, and through that one, in a multitude. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself”, and it was God the Father who brought his son from the dead (1Timothy 3:16; 2Corinthians 5:19; Hebrews 13:20). There are also false doctrines on the atonement which state that the way in which Christ took away the sin of the world was by his perfect life of obedience; that his crucifixion was but the crowning achievement of his life of obedience and was not required for his personal salvation! The above quotations prove that the sacrifice of Christ through the offering of his body constituted him the lamb of God who was “brought from the dead by the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Hebrews 13:20)—by the blood of his own sacrificial death.
The mission of “the Lamb of God” was “to take away the sin of the world” or “to put away sin” which we have seen was by “the sacrifice of himself” “through the offering of the body of Christ.” This is further explained in Hebrews 2:14-18. So let us now compare this most important passage with John 1:29.
“Behold the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-18 KJV).
Hebrews 1 invites us to behold the lamb of God aspect to consider the greatness of Christ while chapter 2 concentrates on Christ as the lamb of God and his sacrificial work. It is difficult to see how more emphasis could be given to illustrate how the Lord Jesus was constituted “the lamb”—a 6-fold emphasis (the number 6 representing man and the flesh throughout scripture)— he, also, himself, likewise, took part, of the same; in all things made like unto his brethren, having a nature subject to death, he suffered being tempted. James reminds us that “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13) but the Lord Jesus suffered temptation because he was born of the same defiled, subject-to-death nature as the children he came to deliver. How was he to deliver? “Through death” which speaks to us of sacrifice and therefore “the lamb of God.” The object was to destroy death by a sacrificial death providing a way of deliverance from the bondage which binds man universally to a terrible master, which Paul says has the power of death, that is the devil. In comparing John 1:29 with Hebrews 2:14, the mission of Christ was to take away the sin of the world which is to destroy the devil.
In summarizing the passages, we have so far compared, “the sin of the world” = “the devil” which has “the power of death” = the “same” “flesh and blood” nature as those Christ came to deliver “by the sacrifice of himself” “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Therefore, the body of Jesus offered in sacrifice = the devil destroyed.
Identifying the bible devil
A correct identification of the bible devil is essential to understanding how the lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. Let us compare important passages with the key of Hebrews 2:14;
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14)
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12)
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8)
The bible devil has the power of death = man who sinned and death by sin = the devil that has been sinning from the beginning, for death entered the world by the first man’s sin. We note that the bible devil is synonymous with fallen man.
The bible devil Christ came to destroy must be related to man’s nature, which was defiled from being “very good” when Adam and Eve were first created, to being subject to death as a result of man’s rebellion against God’s law. This defiled nature inherited by all Adam’s descendants became the source or root of all transgression, and is termed “sinful flesh”. “This” says bro. Thomas “is human nature; and the evil in it, made so apparent by the law of God, he personifies as ‘pre-eminently A SINNER’. This is the accuser, adversary, and calumniator of God, whose stronghold is the flesh. It is the devil and satan within the human nature; so that ‘when a man is tempted, he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed” (Elpis Israel– Part First Chapter 3 God’s Law, and how Sin entered into the world).
This is further confirmed when we compare Hebrews 2:14, Romans 8:3 and Romans 6:6 remembering our starting point of John 1:29–
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same things; that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3)
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin (no longer be enslaved to sin)” Romans 6:6 ESV).
The bible devil = sinful flesh = The sacrifice of the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world = the devil destroyed = condemned sin in the flesh = the body of sin destroyed.
We note Paul states that it is “the devil” which has “the power of death” which subjects man to lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:14-15) and it is “the body of sin” which “enslaves” (Romans 6:6) therefore the Bible devil is “the body of sin”. Paul in his further commentary in Romans 8 is very definitive, he concentrates on the problem of Sin, the source of rebellion against God’s law– “sin in the flesh.”
The two senses in which the word ‘sin’ is used in scripture.
The biggest barrier between God and man is man’s transgressions of God’s commandments. David illustrates this in his moving plea for mercy recorded in Psalm 51;
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:1-4). Then in verse 5 David touches upon the root or source of the problem—the other sense the word ‘sin’ is used in the scriptures; “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, the youngest of eight sons. David is not referring to having been born illegitimately but rather to the fact that as a descendant of Adam who broke God’s law and “was adjudged unworthy of immortality and sentenced to return to the ground from whence he was taken—a sentence which defiled and became a physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity” (A Statement of The Faith, Clause V). As a part of the list of passages which brother Roberts puts forward to prove this clause is Psalm 51:5, no doubt because it greatly exercised bro. Thomas’ mind as well; “If he (a person in covenant relationship) turn his thoughts back into his own heart, and note the impulses which work there, he will perceive a something that, if he were to yield to it, would impel him to the violation of the divine law. These impulses are styled “the motions of sins” (Romans 7:5). Before he was enlightened, they “worked in his members”, until they were manifested in evil action, or sin; which is termed, “bringing forth fruit unto death”. The remote cause of these “motions” is that physical principle, or quality, of the flesh, styled indwelling sin, which returns the mortal body to the dust; and that which excites the latent disposition is the law of God forbidding to do thus and so…” (Elpis Israel – The Two Principles).
“Ere on my bed my limbs I lay,
It hath not been my use to pray
With moving lips or bended knees;
But silently, by slow degrees,
My spirit I to Love compose,
In humble trust mine eye-lids close,
With reverential resignation
No wish conceived, no thought exprest,
Only a sense of supplication;
A sense o’er all my soul imprest
That I am weak, yet not unblest,
Since in me, round me, every where
Eternal strength and Wisdom are.
David’s introspection, moved by the spirit at this most poignant crisis in his life—of his great and “presumptuous sins” which for a season had “dominion over him” (Psalm 19:13)—is caused to think deeply upon the cause of his personal rebellion against God and His holy law which threatened everything; every–thing!!! It is not just any man who can discern the enormity of the godless evil which David was caused to face—more confronting than Goliath in the valley of Elah– so much more! David in his anger against the man of Nathan’s parable exclaimed, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” (2 Samuel 12:5-6)
“But yester-night I prayed aloud
In anguish and in agony,
Up-starting from the fiendish crowd
Of shapes and thoughts that tortured me:
A lurid light, a trampling throng,
Sense of intolerable wrong,
And whom I scorned, those only strong!
Thirst of revenge, the powerless will
Still baffled, and yet burning still!
Desire with loathing strangely mixed
On wild or hateful objects fixed.
Fantastic passions! maddening brawl!
And shame and terror over all!
It is the man of a broken and contrite heart, well acquainted with the word of God, His holiness and truth, who struggles against the ceaseless undercurrent which ever threatens to sweep into the abyss, who is more receptive to the revelation of God. In the midst of many sorrows, this man is caused to receive with greater clarity the Divine means of salvation; in order that he can sing aloud of God’s righteousness and declare his praise (Psalm 51:14-17). Mishap, fatigue, the desire for temporary relief causes the man of God who “delights in the law of God in his inner being” (Romans 7:22-25) to be swept along for a time with this death-ending current. At such a time this man looks into himself. It may be a time of great fear or disappointment, lost opportunity, personal failure which inflames pride, anger, bitterness, covetousness; which disrupts the normal course of life. It is when these unexpected tempests incite “a something” deep within, resulting in the turbulent propensities to create a maelstrom, revealing the deadly reality beneath what deceptively seems a placid surface.
“Deeds to be hid which were not hid,
Which all confused I could not know
Whether I suffered, or I did:
For all seemed guilt, remorse or woe,
My own or others still the same
Life-stifling fear, soul-stifling shame.
So two nights passed: the night’s dismay
Saddened and stunned the coming day.
Sleep, the wide blessing, seemed to me
Distemper’s worst calamity.
The third night, when my own loud scream
Had waked me from the fiendish dream,
O’ercome with sufferings strange and wild,
I wept as I had been a child;
Those who have battled an addiction will particularly know of what we speak. Psalm 51 however is an invitation for all to identify with David and his wrestling with that which is the source of all that is corrupt and corrupting, the source of death and those maddening unlawful desires and the Divine remedy. In this identification we exclaim with Paul, “Oh wretched man that l am who shall deliver me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24). When a man has done everything he thinks he can, perhaps has stared at the source of temptation and is resolved to “not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on;” yet because of one of those disturbing influences—anger, loneliness, sadness, envy, sexual frustration, covetousness—the stare is prolonged and not immediately rebuked; “Begone satan, for it is written you shall worship Yahweh and him only shall you serve.” David had a weakness not uncommon to man and the added temptation of the opportunity and means to obtain it. Into David’s bosom he had in fact been given many wives, “so that satan (or the adversary within) may not tempt because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
The word of God does not dwell on David’s sin; it is just a glance and turns away, but a great deal has been recorded about its spiritual consequences and memorialized Yahweh’s abundant mercy extended only upon the recognition of God’s righteousness. David becomes the Divine conduit to “Behold” what any honest brother or sister unchained from the theological biases of the Roman apostacy and its many more subtle variants must acknowledge. God’s servants who have battled any addiction incessantly prompted by Sin’s flesh, sorrowfully but so thankfully knows the truth as to why the Divine way of reconciliation necessitated the nature that was defiled by the first man’s rebellion, had to be “destroyed” (Hebrews 2:14). Such brethren and sisters perceive with greater clarity that “something” which has the power of death and is the root of all unlawful desire, is the reason why God required it to be publicly condemned. This was done through a representative man—the son of David, one who never succumbed to temptation’s desire and under the most terrible trial, did what Adam failed to do, so that we might, with inexpressible thankfulness, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world”.
“And having thus by tears subdued
My anguish to a milder mood,
Such punishments, I said, were due
To natures deepliest stained with sin,—
For aye entempesting anew
The unfathomable hell within,
The horror of their deeds to view,
To know and loathe, yet wish and do!
Such griefs with such men well agree,
But wherefore, wherefore fall on me?
To be loved is all I need,
And whom I love, I love indeed.”
(The Pains of Sleep by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
In David’s earnest contemplation he is mercifully guided so that he could see in his experience that he was being set forth as both the federal head of all who, though in covenant relationship, may “yield your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness” and remarkably by the steadfast love of Yahweh, the divine conduit of the means which Yahweh purposed its removal! This divine means ensured “that you (Yahweh) may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgement” (Psalm 51:4) or as Paul states “It (the means by which God’s righteousness was declared) was to declare his righteousness… so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith” (Romans 3:26) in the beloved. In this public declaration David like John the Baptist twice invites us to “BEHOLD.” In the first it is the humble contemplation of the root of all rebellion and in the next it is the divine means of its reversal in the flesh of sin!
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”
In the first we are being invited to understand what bro. Thomas referred to as “incarnated sin” and in the second “incarnated obedience.” David humbled by confession of his sin and seeking the means of reconciliation; the spirit bringing his Lord again before his eyes (Acts 2: 25), he understood that it could only be by “’the word made flesh’ obedient unto death” that he could be purged clean and be whiter than snow (Psalm 51: 7). David says “as the heavens are above the earth so great is His steadfast love to those who fear Him.” The reader is reminded of bro. Thomas’ words quoted earlier, “Men have not yet learned the lesson, that all they are called upon by God to do is to believe His word and obey His laws. He requires nothing more at their hands than this…. It is His prerogative, and His alone, to dictate the terms of reconciliation. Man has offended God. It becomes him, therefore, to surrender unconditionally; and, with the humility and teachableness of a child, to receive with open heart and grateful feelings, whatever in the wisdom, and justice, and benevolence of God, He may condescend to prescribe.” Then and only then, “As far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Nothing can be more egregious to the Divine mind, nothing so confronting to the Divine holiness and truth than those who refuse to bow before his majesty and impose on him their carnal intellectual devices motivated by uncontrolled propensities and their unenlightened sentiments!
To assist us in beholding the true enormity of the problem of Sin and the surpassing divine love made plain in Yahweh’s extraordinary means which sets free from Sin’s bondage, we invite the reader to carefully consider the following quotations from the work Elpis Israel. This exposition has been described as the greatest uninspired work ever written and contemptuously cast aside in seeking compromise with those who refuse to recognize the principles and conditions of God’s reconciliation. With the subtly of the serpent but with far greater sophistry and culpability, the righteousness of God has been utterly obscured by Serpent flesh’s reasoning and deceitfulness.
The scriptures use of the word “sin” as set forth by bro. John Thomas in Elpis Israel
When the work of the six days was completed, the Lord God reviewed all that He had made, and pronounced it “very good”. This quality pertained to everything terrestrial. The beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, reptiles, and man, were all “very good”; and all made up a natural system of things, or world, as perfect as the nature of things required. Its excellence, however, had relation solely to its physical quality. Man, though “very good”, was so only as a piece of divine workmanship. He was made different from what he afterwards became. Being made in the image, after the likeness of the Elohim, he was “made upright”. He had no conscience of evil; for he did not know what it was. He was neither virtuous, nor vicious; holy, nor unholy; but in his beginning simply innocent of good or evil deeds. Being without a history, he was without character. This had to be developed; and could only be formed for good or evil, by his own independent action under the divine law…
While in the state of good unmixed with evil, were Adam and Eve mortal or immortal? This is a question which presents itself to many who study the Mosaic account of the origin of things. It is an interesting question, and worthy of all attention. Some hastily reply, they were mortal; that is, if they had not sinned they would nevertheless have died… in their novitiate, Adam and his betrothed had a nature capable of corruption, but were not subject to death, or mortal. The penalty was “dying thou shalt die”; that is, “You shall not be permitted to eat of the Tree of Life in arrest of dissolution; but the inherent tendency of your animal nature shall take its course, and return you to the dust whence you originally came”. Mortality was in disobedience as the wages of sin, and not a necessity.
The apostle Paul informs us that the first Adam was created a natural body (1 Corinthians 15: 45-46). He was created “very good;” he was not created immortal, nor was he created mortal or subject to death. This is confirmed by the facts that after man was sentenced, he was driven from the garden to prevent him eating of the tree of life, and live forever. Likewise, disobedience to the law of Yahweh would result in death—not an instantaneous death, but as the Hebrew implies, “dying you shall die” which speaks of the corrupting nature of the defilement man’s natural body became subject to as a result of disobedience. As bro. Thomas observes the natural body with which man was created was not suitable for endless life but eminently suitable for the purpose of probation characterized by trial to form character evidenced by the obedience of faith. Both immortality and a nature subject to and in due course, resulting in death were placed before man dependent upon trial, testing his reverence for his Creator and belief in His Divine law. This “very good” physical quality of man in his novitiate provided the circumstances, so that as long as they continued in a childlike obedience and ate and drank and breathed, they could continue however long Yahweh Elohim determined suitable to form such a character which would perfectly reflect their Heavenly Father. As bro. Thomas states, man “was made different from what he afterwards became.”
When man rebelled against God’s law, God passed sentence upon them which defiled their previous “very good” bodies and they became mortal or subject to death. This mortality corrupted every organ of man’s body including his brain, so that all the tendencies of this “physical law of his being” would lead to a mental, moral and at last physical dissolution. Job laments “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble… Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one” (Job 14:1–4). To argue man was created mortal or subject to death, is to affirm blasphemously that God was the author of sin. Scripture testifies that the defiled nature we inherit, described by Paul as “the law of sin and death,” is solely the blame of man—“by one man sin entered the world and death by sin” (Romans 5:12). The Genesis record fixes our attention on the physical quality of man’s nature by contrasting it with what it became as a result of man’s rebellion, highlighting the immediate and long-term consequences. It is the physical defilement of the nature of what man became, contrasted with the nature with which he was originally created—in quality “very good,” to become subject, because of sin, not only to death, but to the propensities or lusts of his flesh; so that the very nature physically defiled is subsequently described as “sin in the flesh” or flesh full of sin! This is the root of the problem of sin—our defiled nature—sin nature or “sin in the flesh”—“the devil”—which the mission of Jesus was to destroy, as “the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” This of necessity was a sacrificial work that had to be accomplished by “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ” “by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 10:10; 9:26).
Bro. Thomas states:
Now, the law of God is given, that the thinking of the flesh, instead of being excited by the propensities within and the world without, may be conducted according to its direction. So long as Adam and Eve yielded to its guidance, they were happy and contented. Their thoughts were the result of right thinking, and obedience was the consequence. But when they adopted the Serpent’s reasonings as their own, these being at variance with the truth, caused an “enmity” against it in their thinkings, which is equivalent to “enmity against God”. When their sin was perfected, the propensities, or lusts, having been inflamed, became “a law in their members”; and because it was implanted in their flesh by transgression, it is styled, “the law of sin”; and death being the wages of sin, it is also termed, “the law of sin and death”; but by philosophy, “the law of nature” (Elpis Israel – Part First Chap. 3 The Carnal Mind).
In a further section summarizing these principles bro. Thomas describes the enormity of man’s rebellion, “At this crisis, there appeared a natural system of things, with two transgressors, in whom sin had enthroned itself; and who were endued with the power of multiplying such as themselves to an unlimited extent. This population, then, was either to act for itself under the uncontrolled dominion of sin; or, things must be so constituted as to bring it into order and subjection to the sovereignty of God…Man when left to himself never improves. God made man upright; but look at the wretched specimens of humanity which are presented in those regions where God has left them to their natural tendency, under the impulse of their uncontrolled propensities…”
Yahweh did not abandon man to his vices “which” says bro. Thomas “would have destroyed his own race” and is the only reason the world has not been consumed in these latter days by a nuclear holocaust. “Though transgression upon transgression marked his career, ‘God so loved the world’, that He determined that it should not perish, but should be rescued from evil in spite of itself. This He purposed to do in such a way as to make man reflect the divine nature in his character: and to display his own wisdom, glory, and power in the earth. But chance could not bring this to pass. Human life, therefore, was not to be a mere chapter of accidents; but the result of a well-digested and unvarying plan. Things, then, were to be arranged according to this purpose; so that in their original constitution should be contained the rudiments of a ‘glorious manifestation”.
These rudiments, or elements, are exhibited in the sentences upon the serpent, the woman, and the man; and in that institution styled, “The Way of the Tree of Life”. Out of these things was afterwards to arise the Kingdom of God; so that in constituting them, a foundation was laid upon which “the world to come” should be built; even that world of which Abraham was constituted the heir; and which, when finished at the end of six days of a thousand years each, will manifest the woman’s Seed triumphant over the Serpent-power…
Fundamental to being an heir with Abraham of the world to come is a recognition of what the “rudimental constitution of the world” consisted of, that we might exercise faith in Yahweh’s “well-digested and unvarying plan”. This plan would culminate in “The destruction of the Sin-power by a personage to be manifested for the purpose; and the consequent victory of divine truth, and establishment of the Kingdom of God.” We would suggest it is essential for the exercising of faith in God’s means of salvation to clearly understand what constitutes “the Sin-power” the Seed of the woman was to destroy! Bro. Thomas therefore begins the list of rudimental principles with:
1. Sin in the flesh, the enemy of God, contending for the dominion of the world.
2. Mankind in a state of nature, subject to the propensities; and to pain, trouble and death.
(Elpis Israel Chap IV – The Foundation of the World)
A thoughtful contemplation of the above assists us in our understanding of why “sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3) personified as the devil and Satan is spoken as ruling over mankind like a tyrannical despot having “the power of death” so that man “all his lifetime is subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:15). Brother Thomas’s exposition enlightens us as to why “death” is said to “reign” (Romans 5:14, 17) and of its close associate; “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies” (Romans 6:12); of the apostolic warning, “you are slaves of the one whom you obey”; “that you who were once slaves of Sin… once yielded your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness” (Romans 6:17– 19); “I am of the flesh, sold under Sin” (Romans 7: 14); “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18); “Sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:20); “with my flesh I serve the law of Sin” (Romans 7:25); “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). This very same tyrannical despot “Sin” is described by the very same spiritual language as “the law of sin in my members” to which Paul says he likewise is held “captive” so that he exclaims “who will deliver me from this body of death” (Romans 7:23 – 24).
The personal experience of enslavement, captivity, bondage, wretchedness to the tyrannical despot of “sin’s flesh”, “the law of sin in my members”, “the body of death”, “the devil” must also have a universal application, for “death passed upon all men for all have sinned” (Romans 5:12); “For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isaiah 60:2). The world has been utterly corrupted; its population unenlightened by the truth are “subject to the propensities, to pain, trouble and death.” As bro. Thomas again reminds us at the beginning of Elpis Israel, “Hence, at successive periods, the earth has become the arena of fierce and pandemoniac conflicts; its tragedies have baptized its soil in blood, and the mingled cries of the oppressor and the victim have ascended to the throne of the Most High.
Skilled in the wisdom which comes from beneath, he is by nature ignorant of that which is “first pure, and then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy”. This is a disposition to which the animal man under the guidance of his fleshly mind has no affinity. His propensity is to obey the lust of his nature; and to do its evil works, “which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, sects, envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like”. All these make up the character of the world, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life”, upon which is enstamped the seal of God’s eternal reprobation. “They who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” but “they shall die”.
Such is the world of human kind! The great and impious enemy of God upon the earth. Its mind is not subject to His law, neither indeed can it be. What shall we say to these things? Is the world as we behold it a finality? Are generations of men, rebellious against God, and destroyers of the earth, to occupy it successively through an endless series of ages? Are men to repeat the history of the past for ever? Is the earth always to be cursed, and sin and death to reign victorious?”
The world—the great and impious enemy of God, this united, evil, and many-headed entity—ruled by the tyrannical despot, “ ‘Sin in the flesh’, the enemy of God, contending for the Dominion of the world,” is said by Paul to be “The Prince of the world, the power of the air (or the rulership of the political and religious high places, which he immediately explains) the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:2-3). It was this Serpent power in the aggregate, which in malice and wickedness, raged and plotted in vain, the kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers (jew and gentile), gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ (Acts 4:25–26). They (the kings of the earth) will again attempt this when Christ comes to complete the work of bruising the Serpent’s head (Psalm 2), only to be seized– the devil and Satan bound for 1000 years (Revelation 20:2).
In laying the anti-typical foundation of the world, the Lord Jesus as the Seed of the woman, knowing what the bruising of the Serpent’s head would accomplish, said to his disciples, “I saw Satan (or adversary– “Sin in the flesh, the enemy of God, contending for the Dominion of the world”) fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy…” (Luke 10: 18-19) and again, “the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me” (John 14:30); “the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:11); “Now is the judgement of this world, now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). The apostle Paul after this foundation was laid in the person of Christ wrote, God “By sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh”; “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:14).
The Serpent in the flesh the god of the world
The following exposition is fundamental to grasping the significance of the above points in their bearing upon the spiritual language of the scriptures, and therefore the key to understanding the means by which God is prepared to purge, cleanse and redeem man from his iniquities without setting aside His own supremacy and righteousness:
“The unilluminated thinking of the flesh gives birth to the works of the flesh… Unchecked by the truth and judgments of God, the world would have been composed solely of such characters. Indeed, notwithstanding all His interference to save it (the world) from the ruinous consequences of its vicious enmity against His law, it (the world) seems to have attained a state of immorality in the apostolic age well nigh to reprobation. “They were”, says the apostle, “without excuse: because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise (or philosophers) they became fools, and changed the glory of the Incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible men, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie… And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…”
If this was the case in the apostolic age what is the present state of the world, groping in “deep darkness knowing not over what they stumble” on the edge of an abyss which the judgements poured out on Sodom and the Antediluvians is the just antitypical recompence!
Such is the carnal mind, or thinking of the flesh, as illustrated by the works of the flesh: a hideous deformity, whose conception is referable to the infidelity and disobedience of our first parents: by whom “sin entered into the world, and death by sin”. It is the serpent mind; because it was through his untruthful reasonings believed, that a like mode of thinking to his was generated in the heart of Eve and her husband. The seed sown there by the Serpent was corruptible seed. Hence the carnal mind, or thinking of the flesh, unenlightened by the truth, is the serpent in the flesh. It was for this reason that Jesus styled his enemies “serpents, and a generation of vipers”. Their actions all emanated from the serpent-thinking of the flesh, which displayed “a wisdom not from above”, which was at once “earthly, sensual, and devilish…” (Elpis Israel – Part First Chap. 3 A Good, and an Evil Conscience)
The thoughtful reader will readily grasp that if a way of reconciliation by the grace of God was to be provided, the means must restore the Divine supremacy which of necessity required the destruction of the enemy of God and its stronghold—sin’s flesh. These two protagonists cannot long coexist for the simple reason that Yahweh’s purpose in creation is for “all the earth to be filled with his glory”. “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Numbers 14:21; Isaiah 55:11). For this to be accomplished the scriptures says satan (or God’s adversary) must “be bound for 1000 years” and then finally eradicated, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (Revelation 20:2; 1Corinthians 15:28). For this to be accomplished the stronghold of God’s enemy had to be assailed. An anointed one had to be provided, and as we have seen in the type, David was anointed and thereafter confronted Goliath who defied the armies of the living God. When Paul in the above quote speaks of the “last enemy to be destroyed” he is quoting from Psalm 8 where David moved by the spirit to memorialize what the victory over the champion of sin’s flesh signified declared, “O Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2). In the antitype this “enemy” was not “stilled” until “the body of sin,” the root of all rebellion against God’s law, was nailed to the cross in a representative man. A work accomplished in David’s greater Son as “the word made flesh” obedient unto death.
Bro. Thomas states,
This enemy within the human nature is the mind of the flesh, which is enmity against God; it is not subject to His law, neither indeed can be. The commandment of God, which is “holy, just and good”, being so restrictive of the propensities (or lusts and desires of the flesh), which in purely animal men display themselves with uncontrolled violence, makes them appear in their true colours. These turbulent propensities the apostle styles “sin in the flesh”, of which it (the flesh) is full; hence, he also terms it “sinful flesh”. This is human nature; and the evil in it, made so apparent by the law of God, he personifies as “pre-eminently A SINNER”, χαθʼ ὑπερβολὴν ἁμαρτωλός. This is the accuser, adversary, and calumniator (slanderer) of God, whose stronghold is the flesh. It is the devil and satan within the human nature; so that “when a man is tempted, he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed”. If a man examine himself, he will perceive within him something at work, craving after things which the law of God forbids. The best of men are conscious of this enemy within them. It troubled the apostle so much, that he exclaimed, “O, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death”, or, this mortal body? He thanked God that the Lord Jesus Christ would do it; that is, as he (Jesus) had himself been delivered from it (“the body of death”, “the body of sin”, “this vile body”, “death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all”) by God raising him from the dead by His Spirit. (Elpis Israel –Part First Chap.3 God’s law, and how sin entered into the world).
The carnal mind (Romans 8:5-8), or serpent in the flesh, is the subject of a two-fold manifestation—namely, individually and collectively. An individual manifestation is more or less observable in persons who “mind the things of the flesh”, or “earthly things”. To do this is to be “after the flesh”, and “in the flesh”; of whom it is testified, “they cannot please God”. By a figure, sin is put for the serpent, the effect for the cause; seeing that he was the suggester of unbelief and disobedience to man, by whom it entered into the world. Hence, the idea of the serpent in the flesh is expressed by “sin in the flesh”; which was “condemned in the flesh” when Jesus was crucified for, or on account of, sin, “in the likeness of sinful flesh”. In the animal man there dwelleth no good thing… “In me, that is, in my flesh”, says he (Paul), “dwelleth no good thing.” Hence, whatever good was in him, did not originate from the thinking of the flesh excited by the propensities… but from “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus”; that is, from the influence of “the testimony of God” concerning “the things of the kingdom and name of Jesus Christ”, upon “the fleshy tablet of his heart”, most assuredly believed. Submission to this “made me free”, says he, “from the law of sin and death”… Sin, though still in the flesh, should no more reign in his mortal body, nor have dominion over him.
But the serpent in the flesh manifests itself in all the high places of the earth. It obtrudes itself upon all occasions, and through all the channels of human life. Popes, cardinals, and priests; bishops, ministers, and deacons; emperors, kings, and presidents; with all who sustain them, and execute their behests, are but the fleshly media through which the thinking of the flesh finds expression. They are “the high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God”, which are to be cast down… As I have remarked before, sin is personified by Paul as “preeminently a sinner” (Romans 7:13); and by another apostle, as “the Wicked One” (1 John 2: 13-14)… Now, they who do the works of the flesh are the children of the Wicked One, or of sin in the flesh… Every son of Adam is “conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity” (Psalm 51: 5), and therefore “sinful flesh”; on the principle that “what is born of the flesh is flesh.” If he obey the impulses of his flesh, he is like Cain, “of the Wicked One”; but if he believe the “exceeding great and precious promises of God”, obey the law of faith, and put to death unlawful obedience to his propensities, he becomes a son of the living God, and a brother and a joint-heir of the Lord Jesus Christ of the glory to be revealed in the last time.
But serpent-sin, being a constituent of human nature, is treated of in the scripture in the aggregate, as well as in its individual manifestations. The “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”, generated in our nature by sin, and displayed in all the children of sin, taken in the aggregate constitute “the world”, which stands opposed to God. Serpent-sin in the flesh is the god of the world, who possesses the glory of it. Hence, to overcome the world is to overcome the Wicked One; because sin finds its expression in the things of the world. These things are the civil and ecclesiastical polities, and social institutions of the nations, which are based upon “the wisdom that descendeth not from above”—the serpent wisdom of the flesh… (Elpis Israel Chap.3 The Carnal Mind)
Sin made flesh, whose character is revealed in the works of the flesh, is the Wicked One of the world. He is styled by Jesus ὁ ἄρχων του̂ χόρμου τούτου the Prince of this world. Kosmos, rendered world in this phrase, signifies, that order of things constituted upon the basis of sin in the flesh, and styled the kingdom of Satan, as opposed to the kingdom of God: which is to be established upon the foundation of “the word made flesh” obedient unto death. Incarnated sin, and incarnated obedience, are the bases of the two hostile kingdoms, of God and of the adversary. The world is Satan’s kingdom… Satan’s kingdom is the kingdom of sin. It is a kingdom in which “sin reigns in the mortal body”, and thus has dominion over men.
The kingdom of sin is among the living upon the earth; and it is called the kingdom of Satan, because “all the power of the enemy”, or adversary, of God and His people, is concentrated and incarnated (possessing bodily form) in it. It is a kingdom teeming with religion, or rather forms of superstition, all of which have sprung from the thinking of sinful flesh.
The kingdom of Satan is manifested under various phases… The lord that dominates over them all from the days of Jesus to the present time is Sin, the incarnate accuser and adversary of the law of God (i.e. “sin in the flesh”), and therefore styled “the Devil and Satan”… Now, sin in its sovereign manifestations among the nations executes its will and pleasure through the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of a state. What, then, is decreed by emperors, kings, popes, and subordinate rulers, are the mandates of “the Prince of the World” (Sin made flesh or Wicked One– “Sin,” because it “reigns in the mortal body”) who works in them all to gratify their own lusts, oppress the people, and “make war against the saints”, with all the energy they possess. Taken collectively from the chief magistrate to the lowest, they are styled ἀρχαί and ἐξουσίαι, principalities and powers; the χοσμοχράτορες του̂ σαότους του̂ αἰω̂νος τούτον, the world-rulers of the darkness of this age; who are τὰ πνευματιχὰ τη̂ς πονηρίας ἐν τοι̂ς ἐπουρανίοις, the spirituals of wickedness in the high places of the kingdoms.
In brief, anything short of faith in the gospel of the kingdom, and obedience to the law of faith, is walking according to the course of the world (Ephesians 2: 1-2). To walk in sin is to walk in this course. Hence, the apostle terms walking according to the course of the world, walking according to the Prince of the Power of the Air (wickedness in the high places as above)—ὁ ἄρχων τη̂ς ἐξουσίας τουͅ ἀέρος: which he explains as “the Spirit now working in the children of disobedience”. The “power of the air”, or aerial power, is the political power of the world, which is animated and pervaded by the spirit of disobedience, which is sin in the flesh; and styled above, the Prince of the Power of the Air. This is that prince of whom Jesus spoke, saying, “Now is the judgment (χρίσις) of this world; now shall the Prince of this World be cast out”, that is, “judged”. The key to this is suggested in what follows: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.”
The judgment of the Prince of the World by God, was exhibited in the contest between Jesus and the civil and spiritual power of Judea… They bruised him in the heel. “The enemy (“sin in the flesh” or “the ruler of this world” manifested in wickedness in the high places) smote his life down to the ground; and made him to dwell in darkness, as those that had been long dead.” But here the serpent-power of sin ended… God “condemned sin in the flesh” through him. Thus was sin, the Prince of the World, condemned, and the world with him according to the existing course of it. But Jesus rose again, leading captivity captive; and so giving to the world an earnest, that the time would come when death should be abolished and sin, the power of death, destroyed. Sinful flesh was laid upon him, “that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil”, or sin in the flesh: for, “for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil”. (Elpis Israel Part First Chap. 3– The Prince of this world).
The Theology of the Carnal mind
Though this glorious foundation has been laid in Christ, the purpose of God noted above is far from complete. The extraordinary transformation of this earth when Christ as “a bridegroom leaving his chamber and as a mighty man to run his course, his rising is from the end of the heaven and his circuit to the end thereof and nothing, nothing! will be hid from its heat” has been obscured because the “enemy” “stilled” (Psalm 8) is not understood or deceitfully dismissed in doctrinal flatulence! “The wicked have bent the bow to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart.” Their arrows shot, carefully concealed in the darkness of the flesh’s imagination, imply in fact, “there is no sin in the flesh!”
The subtility of their serpent dialogue mixing truth with error deceives those who do not exercise themselves in the word of God; for they say there is mortality but there is no “sin in the flesh” as a physical principle but this scriptural term relates merely to a figure of speech (metonymy). They deny that “flesh” is a synonym for Sin in scripture; that the word “sin” applies only to transgression of law; that there is nothing in the flesh called “sin.” Atonement they say is for transgression only and therefore Yahweh does not require an offering, sacrifice or atonement (terms which they say “bear unmistakable moral connotations”) for the purging and redemption of the nature defiled in Eden because of man’s rebellion. Every attempt is made to craftily avoid any acknowledgement of the scriptures which show that man in being subject to death is likewise subject to an evil tendency to transgress God’s law which originates from a physical condition which God’s word calls “Sin.” They maintain that the word “defiled” (clause V of the BASF) refers to “transgression” and therefore moral sin and has no relation to the physical nature of man which the Scriptures, summarized in clauses V to XII BASF (refer “The Baptismal Review Book” under the First Principles tab), states was defiled as a consequence of Adam’s transgression which is inherited by all his descendants. These preachers reassure their unquestioning brethren and sisters that Christ was a “representative” man requiring release from the bondage of death, but Yahweh does not require atonement for the redemption of sinful nature either in respect to the Lord or for us!
In the theology of the Serpent’s reasoning, they rephrase Romans 8:3 to mean Christ “condemned sin, (i.e., moral sin, by a life of perfect obedience) in the flesh (of mortality)” to obtain release from mortality. They say that the phrase “condemned sin in the flesh” is metonymy—a figure of speech which simply relates back to the cause of death—sin, and does not refer to the physical defiled nature as the root of all transgression, but rather Christ “condemned sin in the flesh” by not practicing sin! These theologists in so preaching invite one to “Behold” the death of Christ as the crowning act of the life of obedience and an act of martyrdom. Bro. Roberts with reference to Romans 8:3 states, “Some would explain it as meaning the moral condemnation of sin by Christ during his life. This cannot be the meaning in view of the statement with which it is conjoined that what was done was ‘what the law could not do’. The law condemned sin so thoroughly in the moral sense that it is called ‘the ministration of condemnation’… Christ was sent ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ for the accomplishment of the work in question—the condemnation of sin in the flesh. This is, in fact, the reliable clue in the meaning. That he was sent ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh for the accomplishment of the work shows that it was a work to be done in him … Possessing sinful flesh was no sin to him, who kept it under perfect control, and ‘did always those things that pleased the father’. At the same time, being the sinful flesh derived from the condemned transgressors of Eden, it admitted of sin being publicly condemned in him, without any collision with the claims of his personal righteousness, which were to be met by an immediate and glorious resurrection… There is no difference between the shedding of the blood of Christ, and the condemnation of sin in the flesh. For this blood shedding is what is otherwise expressed as ‘the pouring out of his soul unto death’. And what is death but the condemnation of sin?” (The law of Moses pg. 174 – 175).
These men who go up and down in the earth as an adversary to the truth make void by their traditions the key to understanding the atonement and avoid like an uninvited, inconvenient, unannounced visitor to their ecclesias clauses V, VIII and XII of the BASF. They instead welcome more convenient forms of words, inviting their addendum and so-called unity agreements to sit in the chief places of their synagogues. They do not want to be reminded that their salvation depends on understanding and insisting as a matter of fellowship, unhindered by their cunning Mishnah reinterpretations, that Christ as a descendant of Adam, inherited the consequences of the sentence passed upon disobedient and rebellious man, “a sentence which defiled and became a physical law of his being and was transmitted to all his posterity.” Consequently, “Christ was raised up in the condemned line of Abraham and David, who, though wearing their condemned nature, was to obtain a title to resurrection by perfect obedience AND by dying, abrogate (to repeal or do away with the law) the law of condemnation for himself and all who should believe and obey him.” Amongst the passages Brother Roberts quotes proving the above are Romans 8:3- 4; Hebrews 2:15; 9:26 by which Christadelphians of another time faithfully contended that the means by which God “condemned sin in the flesh,” “to deliver all those subject to lifelong slavery” was by sending his son “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”. It begs the question, if perfect obedience was the sole criteria of securing this great salvation why did God not send the Lord Jesus in immaculate flesh as the Roman apostasy teach and why the need of sacrifice at all, if, unless, as a substitutionary atonement???
The Belief Sacrifice is for Moral Sin only and the Doctrine of Substitution
They cry out “we don’t believe in substitutionary atonement,” yet preach that the righteousness of God only required Christ to manifest perfect obedience and the condemnation of sin in the flesh was metonymical, figurative, symbolic and NOT literal and physical! They don’t believe Yahweh requires an offering, sacrifice or atonement for the redemption of sinful nature because they take out of defiled human nature what the scriptures call “sin” (Romans 7:3, 13, 16, 17). If NOT literal and physical why does the scripture state “by means of his (Jesus’s) own blood, he obtained salvation;” “by the blood of the everlasting covenant” he was brought from the dead (Hebrews 9:12; 13:20)? “Yes,” they say “he needed to be saved from death,” but what of “the law of sin and death”? If “sin,” does not “sin” require sacrifice? Did not “the heavenly things themselves” (referring to Christ as the antitype of Mosaic shadow Hebrews 8:5-6) of “necessity” require purification with better sacrifices? (Hebrews 9:23) Was he a representative man or wasn’t he and if so, did he need redemption from “the law of sin and death” which he inherited, being born of a woman? Do our friends even understand the nature and sacrifice of Christ or have they been taught another gospel? If so how could they have possibly been “baptized into the death of Christ” (Romans 6: 3– refer to the Baptismal Review Book under the First Principles tab) if they do not understand what that death represented? We have previously noted bro. Thomas’ explanation of what ALL Adam’s descendants inherit and why it is called “the law of sin and death”– “When their sin was perfected, the propensities, or lusts, having been inflamed, became “a law in their members”; and because it was implanted in their flesh by transgression, it is styled, “the law of sin”; and death being the wages of sin, it is also termed, “the law of sin and death”; but by philosophy, “the law of nature” (Elpis Israel – Part First Chap. 3 The Carnal Mind).
If Christ through his mother inherited “the law of sin and death” where are we to pin the sin? Bro. Roberts writing concerning the symbolic significance of the veil of the tabernacle which “stood particularly for the Christ form of that nature–through which only could the new and living way be opened” states; “ Though a sinless man was needed for this work of wisdom and mercy, yet he had to be a man clothed in the very nature that is the historical sinner, and that has come under death by sin; for the very aim of the whole institution was that this nature should be redeemed in him. Hence the scarlet enters into the composition of the veil. It was not all linen. Had it been all linen, the prophetic import would have been that an angel or an immaculate man (a new man provided outside the Adamic race) would open the way into the holiest of all by death and resurrection. But it was fine linen, blended with scarlet. Scarlet always stands for sin in scripture metaphor… But the difficulty with some is how to associate such an ingredient with the sinless Son of God. There ought to be no difficulty if the whole case is kept before the mind. It is not the whole case that "he was without sin": it is part of the case that he was "made sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21); that he was made of a woman in the likeness of sinful flesh (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 8:3), and that by a figure God hath laid on him the iniquities of us all (Isa. 53:6), and that he bore our sins in his own body to the tree (1 Pet. 2:24). These are the testified facts; they need have no difficulty for us in view of the historic fact that he was born of a mortal woman who was under death because of sin. As we contemplate the babe of Bethlehem, born after nine months' gestation, built out of his mother's blood, and nourished by his mother's milk, we cannot resist the conclusion forced on us by the words of Paul, that "he partook of the same flesh and blood" as those he came to redeem, and that he was made in all points like unto his brethren (Heb. 2:14-17). He was palpably and before our eyes thus made subject to the sin-constitution of things that has prevailed on the earth "through one man's offence", which enables us to understand the otherwise unintelligible statement of Paul that, when he died, "he died unto sin once" (Rom. 6:10). A sinless man made subject to the consequence of sin: this is the combination of the fine-twined linen and the scarlet.” Law of Moses pg. 124-125).
If sacrifice or atonement are for moral sin only then the apostolic explanation that Jesus was made of the same flesh and blood in order to destroy the devil is changed to be something other than “sin in the flesh” even though Paul says that the power of one is the sting of the other—death! (Hebrews 2:14, 1 Corinthians 15:56). The devil then becomes moral sin and not its source or root—the law of sin in our members (Romans 7:23). It then becomes impossible for Christ to “bear our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) “being made sin for us who knew no sin” to physically destroy “the body of sin”.
If sacrifice or atonement is for transgression only and no sacrifice is required for sinful nature, it can only be because there is no sin in the flesh requiring atonement. Christ who is “sacrificed for us” could only have under such theology declared God’s righteousness by the condemnation of sin transgression of which he had none, therefore the sins he bore “in his body on the tree” could only have been the sin of others and not what he stood related to being “made in all points like his brethren” for they—like him according to this theory—have no sin in the flesh! Inextricably the serpent in the flesh leads to a Vicarious (substitutionary) sacrifice! This serpent thinking denies the purpose of Yahweh set forth from the foundation of the world– “namely, the condemnation of sin in the flesh, through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all, as a propitiation to declare the righteousness of God, as a basis for remission of sins. All who approach God through this crucified, but risen representative of Adam’s disobedience race, are forgiven. Therefore, by a figure, his blood cleanses from sin” (clause XII).
The theology that atonement is for transgressions only negates God’s basis for the remission of sins and all hope in correctly and reverentially approaching God is lost. The systematic denial of these truths has returned its adherents and their duped flock to all that is logically left; the doctrine of the anti-Christ—a Vicarious (substitutionary) atonement. We repeat, if atonement is for transgressions only and Christ is “the sin bearer” who did no sin, then all that remains is a Christ who as a substitute, bears our sins in some mysterious, unscriptural, unjust and therefore God dishonoring way upon the cross. The righteousness of God, instead of being declared, is violated in the death of such a Christ! In so being led the unquestioning submissives are unconsciously caused to join the long queues which amass at the doors and snake around the corners of the bazaars of the guardians (Daniel 11: 39) on easter Friday and worship before the idols which hang above the altars of the false prophet whose adherents venerate the shrines of the virgin, the mother of god! All who hold such doctrines behold another lamb whose sacrifice instead of taking away the sin of the world leave them the slaves, eternally bound, to the tyrannical despot– “Sin in the flesh, the enemy of God, contending for the dominion of the world.” They worship at the foot of a cross of “another” Jesus who had absolutely no relation to the sin condemned on the cross of Christ!!! “If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11: 2-3).
The thinking of the flesh predicated on ignorance or misconception of the truth
Sadly, the understanding of these truths have been all but eradicated by the Roman Catholic apostacy which Christ and his Apostles warned would arise as a result of the early ecclesia’s toleration in fellowship of those who taught false doctrine, including on the nature and sacrifice of Christ which became the universal accepted dogma. Protestantism which was liberated from the Roman church as a result of the Reformation and European revolutions, proclaimed “the Bible alone,” as their religion, asserted along with their other freedoms that every man has a right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. In doing so the Protestant thinking of the flesh was doomed to slowly drift back and be embraced by the Roman church’s apostacy.
Dr John Thomas appealed to his readers in 1848 through Elpis Israel, many of whom threw off the chains of Roman catholic servitude and Protestant pretensions to take hold of “the Bible religion” which bro. Thomas reminded them “requires a man to ‘contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3)…no man has a right to worship God as he pleases. This is a Protestant fallacy. Man has a right to worship God only in the way God has Himself appointed. ‘In vain do you worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men’ (Matthew 15:9). This is the judgement pronounced by the wisdom of God upon all worship which He has not instituted.” (Elpis Israel– The Rudiments of World pg.7)
Would the Christadelphian fellowship formed by the preaching labours of brethren Thomas and Roberts remain faithful to the truth until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Roman Catholic doctrine define “sin” as nothing else than “a moral evil.” The Roman church’s doctrine of what it refers to as ‘original sin’ i.e. “the hereditary stain” is defined in terms of a ‘moral deformity’ with which we are born on account of our origin from Adam. This doctrine of “original sin” is explained in terms of inherited guilt, that in some sense we and Adam, being one, bear the guilt for his sin. “It (original sin) is a moral deformity, a separation from God, it is a real sin which deprives the soul of sanctifying grace; it has the same claim to be a sin as habitual sin which is the state in which an adult is placed by a grave and personal fault, the ‘stain’ which St. Thomas Aquinas defines as ‘the privation of grace’…Considered precisely as voluntary, original sin is only the shadow of sin properly so called. According to St Thomas Aquinas, it is not called sin in the same sense, but only in an analogous sense” (Catholic Encyclopedia Online ‘Nature of original sin’).
Note that the catholic view of ‘original sin’ puts emphasis on sin as a ‘moral deformity’ including what we inherit from Adam! So that wherever the word ‘sin’ appears in the Bible it is interpreted in a moral sense with associated guilt and punishment.
This appalling doctrine denies the key to understanding the atonement. The second sense of how the word sin is used in scripture as applying to the devil—that which has the power of death, or ‘sin in the flesh’ similarly described by Paul as ‘the body of sin’, ‘the body of this death,’ as ‘the law of sin and death,’ as ‘sin in my members,’ and again ‘in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing’. Bro. Thomas correctly states in Elpis Israel that what we inherit, is “our misfortune, not our crime.” This second sense of the word Sin is the essential link that unites Christ with those he came to save. It is the means by which God could righteously condemn Sin literally in the flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ and thereby declare His righteousness without setting aside any of His principles of holiness, justice and truth. The denial that Sin refers to a fixed principle in man’s flesh and that the tendency in man to sin originates from this physical condition in his flesh, is the doctrine of the anti-christ. The doctrine of substitution states that our actual sins were ceremonially laid upon Christ at his death, and not as bre. Thomas and Roberts has shown us by God making Christ ‘flesh and blood’ nature (Hebrews 2:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21) common to all men, and subject to the same propensities, which in us, lead inevitably to sin. This is the means by which Christ ‘bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1 Peter 2:24).
The scriptures use of the word “sin” as set forth by bro. John Thomas
Bro. Thomas states, “The word sin is used in two principal acceptations in the scripture. It signifies in the first place, “the transgression of the law”; and in the next, it represents that physical principle of the animal nature, which is the cause of all its diseases, death, and resolution into dust. It is that in the flesh “which has the power of death”; and it is called sin, because the development, or fixation, of this evil in the flesh, was the result of transgression. Inasmuch as this evil principle pervades every part of the flesh, the animal nature is styled “sinful flesh,” that is, “flesh full of sin”; so that sin, in the sacred style, came to stand for the substance called man. In human flesh “dwells no good thing”; and all the evil a man does is the result of this principle dwelling in him. Operating upon the brain, it excites the “propensities”, and these set the “intellect”, and “sentiments” to work.”
Man in his physical constitution is imperfect; and this imperfection is traceable to the physical organization of his flesh, being based on the principle of decay and reproduction from the blood; which, acted upon by the air, becomes the life of his flesh. All the phenomena which pertain to this arrangement of things are summed up in the simple word sin; which is, therefore, not an individual abstraction (not a standalone concept), but a concretion (the joining together of elements to form a whole) of relations in all animal bodies; and the source of all their physical infirmities. Now, the apostle says, that the flesh thinks—τὸ φρόνημα τη̂ς σαρχός—that is, the brain, as all who think are well assured from their own consciousness. If, then, this thinking organ be commanded not to do what is natural for it to do under blind impulse, will it not naturally disobey? Now this disobedience is wrong, because what God commands to be done is right, and only right; so that “by his law is the knowledge of sin”; and this law requiring an obedience which is not natural, flesh is sure to think in opposition to it. The philosophy of superstition is—religion in harmony with the thinking of the flesh; while true religion is religion in accordance with the thoughts of God as expressed in His law. Hence, it need excite no astonishment that religion and superstition are so hostile; and that all the world should uphold the latter; while so few are to be found who are identified with the religion of God. They are as opposite as flesh and spirit.
All the phenomena which pertain to the imperfect physical organization of man’s flesh, defiled as a result of man’s original rebellion, is summed up in such a simple word– “sin.” God’s thoughts upon what He means by the scriptural use of this word show that it is NOT a standalone concept. “Sin,” because the development of the evil in man’s nature as a result of his original transgression, is the cause of disease and death; it is the reason he is subject to the flesh’s propensities and therefore the root of all man’s sin transgression against God’s law. It is so fundamental to what man became as a result of his transgression that we are told “there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sins not” (Ecclesiastes 7: 20). Sin is so ubiquitous that Paul in proving from the scriptures that all “are under sin” states, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless”. He describes the population of the earth as a singularity, every part of which is defiled. Their hands “no one does good”; their throat “is an open grave”; their feet “are swift to shed blood”; their paths “are ruin and misery.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:9-18). So enveloping, “the darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isaiah 60:2) that “the world” itself and all in it becomes a synonym for Sin (1 John 2: 15-17).
All is traceable to the root, the source of the problem, the imperfect physical organization of man’s flesh defiled as a result of man’s original rebellion—“Sin in the flesh, the enemy of God, contending for the dominion of the world”. The divine means of deliverance was perfect obedience, doing under trial what Adam failed to manifest, culminating in the destruction of “the devil” itself. By this divine means both the “devil” and his “works” was destroyed in a representative man made in all points like his brethren. (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). We have seen that to destroy the devil is to destroy Sin and God’s means of deliverance cannot therefore only refer to the works of the devil without destroying the devil itself—the source of those works! If Christ’s condemnation of sin was for transgressions only, his sacrifice would have achieved nothing more than the law of Moses, which, as bro. Roberts reminded us, condemned sin so thoroughly that it was called “the ministry of condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:9). Paul however definitively states that “God did what the law weakened by the flesh, could not do”. God’s means of justification in contrast to the theology of the serpent goes to the very root of the problem. “God sending his own Son (the word made flesh born of the holy spirit giving Jesus a predisposition to the character of the Father that he might under trial manifest the perfect obedience God’s righteousness required) in the likeness of sinful flesh (the nature defiled because of Adamic transgression inherited by Christ through Abraham, David and Mary), and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh (destroy that which has the power of death that is the devil)”. Sin therefore cannot be a standalone concept. It is not as the false deceit—God “condemned sin, (i.e. where the addition of a comma after “sin” alters the divine meaning to imply sin transgression, not practiced) in the flesh (of mortality)” of Jesus (Romans 8:3); but rather a simple profound word which stands for the coalescence of all those elements which form the whole substance called man. Sin—the physical principle of our defiled nature, the root of all the evil a man does, even when he does not want to do it; the poignancy of the word, which does not seem adequate for the enormity of the desperate need it conveys. A word when correctly understood in its two scriptural acceptations indicate how the divine means of salvation was to be made plain, by extraordinary forbearance; that God may be humbly acknowledged and loved, as JUST and the justifier. (Romans 3: 21-26).
Yet the serpent theology in quoting Christ says “out of the heart comes evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, covetousness, wickedness, deceit…” to prove it is the mind and not the flesh that is unclean therefore atonement is for sin transgression not sin nature! Following bro. Thomas’ lucid reasoning above, who was not only one of the greatest students of the scriptures who has ever lived but a medical doctor, a student of physiology, psychology and an avid reader of history and the sciences of his age; shows the folly of separating the brain from the body that supports it!!! What is the purpose of the propensities—inclination or natural tendency to behave in accordance with what the brain senses the flesh desires—if the brain does not have a body to direct, or the body a brain?
“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body” (1Corinthians 12: 14-20).
The body requires the functioning of its ten major systems for man’s continued existence on earth. When man rebelled against God it was not upon man’s evil thoughts He passed sentence, but “out of the ground were you taken…and to the dust you shall return”—upon the man as a whole so that being made subject to death at last “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalm 146:4 KJV). The brain does not continue to function when the body dies. Unless of course the theology of the serpent has also deceived to believe Adam did not really die for an immortal soul continued in conscious existence! The theology of the serpent would have us believe that it is the mind, not the flesh, that is unclean. What is the mind a function of– the brain or that member of the flesh that thinks? To say the mind is what is defiled independently of its brain and the body that makes it function is like saying man breathes independently of his lungs, or sees independently of his eyes, or speaks independently of his tongue and mouth, or thinks independently of his brain. The truth is the flesh breathes by its lungs and respiratory system. The flesh sees via its eyes, the flesh speaks because it has a mouth, and the flesh thinks because it has a brain which controls and regulates, without our perception, the body. As Paul reminds us above the body is made up of “many members, yet one body” and as none can “be clean who is born of a woman” (Job 25:4) therefore the whole body, comprised of many members, is defiled. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing”; “sin that dwelleth in me”, “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:18-24). Does not Paul in Ephesians 2:3 define the “children of wrath” as those “in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the BODY and the MIND”. Paul is definitive; he does not limit the uncleanness to that part of the flesh that thinks, but the law of sin which is IN MY MEMBERS and characterizes it as a whole, “the body of death.” Death in God’s scripture is ceremonially defiling and the physically corrupting principle requires purging and redemption by sacrifice. To those who believe that it is the mind and not the flesh that is unclean we ask, Is the brain made of a different substance? Is it detached from the body, somehow, and our heads float in a solution of formaldehyde perhaps invigorated by some external force? Even in the vile imaginations of man such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the head of the monster is at last attached to a body and dramatically, externally stimulated so that in the book’s climax “It’s Alive!” may be evidently demonstrated; to only become a metaphor of liberation from its creator! The serpent reasoning has always sought to be liberated from the Creator and will sadly do so to the last (Revelation 20:7-10).
Bro, Thomas answers:
Sin, I say, is a synonym for human nature. Hence, the flesh is invariably regarded as unclean. It is therefore written, “How can he be clean who is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4) “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” (Job 14:4) “What is man that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman that he should be righteous? Behold, God putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, who drinketh iniquity like water?” (Job 15:14-16) This view of sin in the flesh is enlightening in the things concerning Jesus. The apostle says, “God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5: 21); and this he explains in another place by saying, that “He sent his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8: 3) in the offering of his body once (Hebrews 10: 10,12,14). Sin could not have been condemned in the body of Jesus, if it had not existed there. His body was as unclean as the bodies of those for whom he died; for he was born of a woman, and “not one” can bring a clean body out of a defiled body; for “that”, says Jesus himself, “which is born of the flesh is flesh”(John 3: 6).
According to this physical law, the Seed of the woman was born into the world. The nature of Mary was as unclean as that of other women; and therefore could give birth only to “a body” like her own, though especially “prepared of God”. Had Mary’s nature been immaculate, as her idolatrous worshippers contend, an immaculate body would have been born of her; which, therefore, would not have answered the purpose of God; which was to condemn sin in the flesh; a thing that could not have been accomplished, if there were no sin there.
Speaking of the conception and preparation of the Seed, the prophet as a typical person, says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me”(Psalm 51: 5). This is nothing more than affirming that he was born of sinful flesh: and not of the pure and incorruptible angelic nature.
Sinful flesh being the hereditary nature of the Lord Jesus, he was a fit and proper sacrifice for sin; especially as he was himself “innocent of the great transgression”, having been obedient in all things. (Elpis Israel Chap. IV– The Constitution of Sin).
In the above quotations bro. Thomas shows us that that it is a nonsense to argue the mind could be defiled and not the body which along with its other nine systems make up the functionality of the human mechanism—a mechanism imperfect because of Sin; a defilement “traceable to the physical organization of his flesh, being based on the principle of decay and reproduction from the blood”.
The law of sin and death is hereditary, and derived from the federal sinner of the race; but the law of the mind is an intellectual and moral acquisition. The law of sin pervades every particle of the flesh; but in the thinking flesh it reigns especially in the propensities. (Elpis Israel Chap. IV– The Two Principles)
The combined testimony of scripture in shadow, type, parable, and at last literally, focuses our attention on what Paul, the appointed explainer of the atonement is first made to exclaim; “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The divine answer concentrates on how Christ himself was to be redeemed from it, in order that those he came to save, exercising faith in this means, may likewise be delivered. “When he (Christ) came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings (bulls and goats) you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;” “by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” That, “the body of sin might be destroyed” so those who were under the law might “become dead to the law by the body of Christ” and we all “who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death” “and might reconcile us both (Jew and gentile) to God in one body through the cross.” “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,” so that “by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,” we might live no longer “according to the flesh… but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Having this hope, we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” “As obedient children”, not conforming to “the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile”, knowing “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself”. As we watch for his return we in loving memory break bread which is “the communion of the body of Christ”; “For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (Romans 1:24; Hebrews10:5; 10:10; Romans 6:6; 7:4; Colossians 1:21-22; Ephesians2: 16; 1Peter2:24; Colossians 2:11; Romans 8:13; 8:23; 1Peter1:14-17; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:21;1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:29).
The Theology of the Serpent Summarized
The real issue, is that serpent theology believes that the sin condemned by Christ’s sacrifice was moral and rejects that it was the “physical principle of the animal nature” which the Lord Jesus inherited as a descendant of David, personified as the devil, styled “sinful flesh,” that is, “flesh full of sin”; or that which “came to stand for the substance called man”—the root of all lawlessness. They in fact work back from Christ to Adam making whatever adjustments necessary so their theology concerning the nature and sacrifice of Christ can fit. By way of summary such theology believes:
- There is no sin in the flesh as a physical principle because it cannot be accepted that Jesus was defiled in any sense, therefore:
- The Lord Jesus’ flesh was not defiled by the law of sin and death requiring redemption by sacrifice.
- To avoid being accused of preaching Christ was not a representative man, they reason Yahweh does not require a sacrifice or atonement for the purging or redemption of sinful nature, either in respect of the Lord Jesus or those he came to save. What Jesus and his brethren require is deliverance from death.
- There is however no physical defilement inherited through Adam to all men.
- The sentence passed upon Adam did not defile the condition of his nature.
- Atonement is for transgressions only.
- The condemnation of sin in the flesh through the sacrifice of Jesus was moral, so Christ destroyed sin in the flesh by not practicing it.
- Christ benefited from his death only because of his obedience to God being released from the bondage of death but NOT as the means by which he abrogated (to repeal or do away with a law) the inherited law of sin and death for himself and all who should believe and obey him.
- The death of Christ was therefore not an offering or sacrifice.
- In beholding the Lamb of God all we see is a martyrdom, the crowning act of a life of obedience.
If there is no sin in the flesh as a physical principle, and Christ had no sin transgression, yet was the sin bearer, i.e. the sin was “laid on him”, then that which he “bore in his body on the tree” (Isaiah 53: 4-8;1 Peter 2:24) can only be substitutionary, dying for the transgressions of others.
As the above denies the purpose of God—namely, the condemnation of sin in the flesh, through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all, a thing bro. Thomas states “could NOT have been accomplished, if there were no sin there” in the flesh of Jesus to condemn—faith in such an offering cannot be a propitiation to declare the righteousness of God. There is therefore no basis for the remission of sins and all who approach God through this other Christ remain strangers to the covenants of promise and without God in the world. Or if the truth is believed as set forth in clauses V–XII of the BASF, the commandments of Christ with respect to fellowship are utterly rejected (refer to “Fellowship its Nature and Conditions– Baptismal Review Book).
The above beliefs reject clauses V–XII of the BASF and require a form of words, such as the Australian Unity Booklet and the Cooper Carter Addendum, to omit the essential scriptural teachings outlined in clauses V–XII, thereby facilitating fellowship between ecclesias that was not tolerated during bro. Roberts tenure of the Christadelphian magazine. As bro. Thomas stated with respect to the covering of the first two sinners with skins of that lamb slain from the foundation of the world “it was as true then as it is now, that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith, then, in the Seed of the Woman, first as a sacrifice for sin, wounded to death by his enemies; and afterwards the destroyer of the sin-power: in connection with the sacrifice of animals as representative of the bruising of his heel — was the ground of their acceptance with the Lord God. It was the Way of Life.”
Casting aside the doctrines of error and compromise
God’s predetermined plan set forth in the son of promise as the means by which Abraham, David and all those who comprise the household of the beloved could obtain the eternal blessing of God, of necessity required this Son not to take “on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham”, “made of the seed of David according to the flesh”, “made of a woman made under the Law” (Hebrews 2:16; Romans 1:3; Galatians 4:4 KJV). As the God-appointed sacrificial lamb, he had to be a partaker of the same “flesh and blood” of the children he came to save (Hebrews 2:14). If this sacrificial work was accomplished in his body as the apostle Paul states (Hebrews 10:10), then the thing the divine plan required to be destroyed had to be in Jesus’s body. He had to be physically of the same “sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3) to be able to “destroy the one who has the power of death that is, the devil” (or the flesh of Sin; Hebrews 2:14; Romans 8:3; 1Corinthians 15:26, 54–56). If Jesus’s body was not of the same “flesh and blood” nature as those he came to save by his sacrificial death, then this divinely stated aim could not be fulfilled; but it was fulfilled! Jesus did destroy the devil in his sacrificial death, so that those who come to the foot of the cross via the gospel records can exercise faith in the means by which God’s righteousness was declared.
“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” (Hebrews 2:9).
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:7–9).
We note that God the Father “made Jesus perfect” which of course means that before this “in the days of his flesh” he was not perfect. This is despite the fact that the son always did those things which pleased the Father (John 8:29). Where then did the imperfection rest? It can only be in relation to his “body” which as “the lamb,” had to be “offered” in sacrifice “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10)—a body of “death” which had “dominion over him” (Romans 6:9) so that “becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8) “that the body of sin might be destroyed, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6).
Several years ago when we visited brother Fasanu’s lovely village of Situm surrounded by gardens and fruit trees of every type, we made the point that if in its midst there grew a poisonous tree “that which has the power of death,” the only way to ensure that it did not infect the whole area was to dig it out root and branch. God wanted to get to the source of all rebellion against himself and it was to its roots that he directed his work. Therefore, in Romans 8:3 we read “what the law could not do, God did,” How? “In sending his own son” God was to root up where the poisonous fruit of rebellion originates, and in doing so, lay a foundation to “take away the sin of the world;” “destroy that which has the power of death that is the devil” or “condemn sin in the flesh.” He did this by sending His provided “lamb” (Genesis 22:8), a possessor of “sin in the flesh” but with the characteristics of gentle resignation and meekness (like a lamb). By his own choice, always doing the father’s will, so that he might accomplish the sacrificial work required to “declare the righteousness of God” i.e. “condemn sin in the flesh”. He combined the two essential aspects which “the righteousness of God” required for his sacrifice to form the acceptable basis upon which God could extend his grace to fallen man—“whom God put forward as a propitiation (or covering for sin) by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25). Uniquely born of the Holy Spirit, he would have a predisposition to the character of the Father to manifest the perfect obedience God’s righteousness required, which the first Adam failed to render. Secondly, as a partaker of the very “flesh and blood” nature defiled as a result of man’s disobedience in Eden, which subsequently became the source of all rebellion against God, he could sacrificially “condemn” or “destroy” the power of sin and death at its root—“sin in the flesh.”
Why is the Bible devil described in Romans 8:3 as “sin in the flesh”? Let the Lord Jesus answer this question himself, “‘Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person’” (Mark 7:18-23). The Lord Jesus in his teachings (i.e. Matthew 5–7) always went to the root of the problem where the evil tendencies come from—what is in the heart of man which leads to sin transgression and rebellion against God. It is a good exercise to compare the words of the Lord Jesus which we quoted above Mark 7:18-23 with his teachings in Matthew 5–7 to illustrate where the problem of sin lies. The root of our problem is as Paul describes, “sin in the flesh”—our minds are a product of the brain which as we have noted is one of the ten vital systems of our defiled body—a physical characteristic of the nature we bear. This physical law of our being makes us, as previously noted from the writings of bro. Thomas, subject to disease and ultimately causes death. It defiles the whole body including our minds. The brain cannot be separated from the function of the body upon which it relies, the mind is therefore by nature darkened (Ephesians 4:18) which remains hopelessly “alienated from the life of God” apart from the gospel which “brought life and immortality to light” (2Timothy 1:10) and is “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105).
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I Yahweh search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds’.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). “Who can understand it?” Only one man, a body prepared, sent from God, “made of a woman made under the Law.” The law which Paul tells us was “added because of transgressions” (Galatians 3:19) that “came in to increase the trespass” (Romans 5:20). It was added to convince man of how truly sinful he is and that it was impossible by his own righteousness to save himself! Therefore, Paul says of man that his “sinful passions were aroused by the law” (Romans 7:5). “Did that which is good (God’s law), then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Romans 7:13–14). It was the Lord Jesus who on one occasion said that he knew what was in man, being of the same sinful flesh, being made to suffer temptation, prepared, and sent by God as a lamb without blemish and without spot in overcoming it and condemning it by destroying it.
It is essential we understand how Scripture directs our minds to the root of the problem as God views it so that we can exercise faith in the Divine solution. Let us be in no doubt, then, what had to be “condemned,” “destroyed” and “taken away” and the reason why such a uniquely prepared sacrifice was provided, to die in such a horrendous way, so that God’s righteousness could be declared, providing the means of justification and redemption so that we might receive it by faith. James states, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15). These desires come from within a person and are the product, as we have seen, of the nature that the Lord Jesus and the prophet Jeremiah describe as defiling, deceitful and desperately sick. This defiled nature is so “deceitful” that the apostle Paul in describing it as he personally experienced, wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:15-17). We note that Paul is talking about the second aspect of how the word sin is used in the Bible, which relates to “the law of sin” intrinsic to the nature of fallen man. Paul then in a way that leaves no doubt, pinpoints the source of the Sin of which he speaks, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:18–20).
Let us remember where the Lord Jesus says our problem arises, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21). We may well ask “from within” what do these evil thoughts arise? Is it not from what Paul in Romans 6:6 refers to as “the body of sin”? Yes, undoubtably so. “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21-23). Paul describes in these verses the battle that waged in him as a result of understanding God’s law and his delighting in it! He wanted to keep God’s law, but found that the very law which commanded the opposite to what the flesh desires, immediately created a conflict within his flesh—within “the body of sin.” No matter how hard Paul tried he found that in this war which waged “in his members,” the perfect obedience God’s righteousness requires was not possible and he was made a captive to his foe—“the law of sin that dwells in my members.” We note that it is not one part of this “body of sin” to which Paul refers but the whole body that is defiled so that he is made to exclaim, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Paul answers his own rhetorical question, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Comparing this to Hebrews 2:14 what do we find?
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus) also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
We need deliverance from that which has “the power of death” i.e. “the devil” (Hebrews 2:14); Paul asks “who shall deliver me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24) i.e. devil = this body of death.
In thanking God through the Lord Jesus Christ for providing the means of deliverance from “this body of death” (Romans 7:25 – 8:2) Paul then describes how God did so in a key passage that has often been quoted in the course of this article:
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3).
Paul calls this physical defilement of our nature “sin” because this physical defilement was the consequence or evil, fixed in the flesh as the result of man’s original transgression of God’s law. In turn it became the great deceitful deceiver or “diabolos” (Bible devil– a scriptural personification of what Paul in Romans 8:3 refers to as “sin in the flesh”) the cause of man’s stumbling, even for the most zealous of Christ’s followers as the apostle Paul!
When we understand the reason why the bible uses the language it does in explaining “the devil” = “sin in the flesh” we can appreciate the reason Paul in Philippians 3:21 refers to our flesh as a “vile body” (KJV). Those who reject that the word sin is used in two aspects in scripture (for transgression of God’s law and the physical defilement of man’s nature—the cause of its disease, death and all the evil a man does as the result of this defilement dwelling in him) fail to understand the root of man’s problem referred to as “the body of sin” (Romans 6:6). As a functioning entity every atom of this defiled body is physically subject to death and therefore its tendencies, including the mental and moral, are always bent towards what is corrupt. With respect to the mental and moral where the power of God’s word is not followed in the discipline which it teaches (Proverbs 5:21–23), the grossest deformity is the result which elicits the wrath of God. Brother Thomas in speaking of God’s judgements upon the Antediluvian world in which Noah and his family alone survived, states that though “the generation of vipers was extinct; sin in the flesh survived—a principle, destined in after times to produce the most hideous and terrible results” (Elpis Israel Part First, Chapter IV “The Antediluvian Apostasy”). Only one man ever rendered the perfect discipline the righteousness of God required, and that man was commanded to lay down his life as a sacrificial lamb and as a representative of those he came to save, to “condemn sin in the flesh” and thereby set forth what is due to this “body of sin” that it is worthy of only destruction as the source of all rebellion against God.
This is the key issue that distinguishes the Truth from the apostasy of the churches on this vital subject of the nature and sacrifice of Christ. It is the heart of the problem with those who cannot clearly see the scriptural meaning of the sacrifice of Christ. Much of the problem we have seen lies in the denial of the second sense in which the word ‘sin’ is used in scripture. Those who deny this aspect say the phrase ‘sin in the flesh’ is merely a figure of speech, and refers to moral, not physical sin. If that was true, it begs the question, how could sin be put to death in the crucifixion of Christ if sin was not actually in Christ’s flesh, and not actually physically put to death? If he himself was unrelated to the sacrificial redemption, then sin was not actually and really put to death, and he never achieved the destruction of the diabolos, the purpose for which he came into the world. His crucifixion then did not manifest the justice and righteousness of God, but the very reverse—injustice and unrighteousness. Therefore the question must be answered in all good conscience: Did he offer as one of those needing the sacrifice as a representative; or did he offer merely on behalf of others, not needing it himself, i.e. as a substitute? Bro. Roberts states “The sacrifice of Christ could not be for us without being for himself inclusively. What was accomplished was accomplished in himself alone. We come on to the foundation he laid. It does not appear how the sacrifice of Christ for us could be scripturally understood without this being perceived. Away from this, the heathen notion of substitution is the only idea that remains” (The Christadelphian, April 1888).
In comparing these many Scriptures, the devil of (Hebrews 2:14) “which has the power of death” from which Paul says God’s servants seek deliverance (Hebrews 2:15) is “this body of death” which Paul likewise asks who would deliver him from? (Romans 7:24) It is a “body of death” because it is defiled by “the law of sin and death” that “dwells in our members”(Romans 8:2; 7:23) which we all inherit from Adam who broke God’s law “and was adjudged unworthy of immortality, and sentenced to return to the ground from whence he was taken—a sentence which defiled and became a physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity” (A statement of The faith - Clause V). Immediately Paul thanks God through Jesus Christ and explains how this deliverance from the “body of death” = “devil” was accomplished by “God sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). The Scriptures clearly show that the root of our problem lies in our defiled flesh or human nature, defiled because it is full of sin, “sin that dwells within me”, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh”—that physical law of our “flesh and blood” nature which causes us to be subject to death and because this defilement is intrinsically evil is an ever-present root of temptation which impairs our ability to carry out the desire to do what is right and instead prompts to keep doing the evil we do not want! (Romans 7:18–19). It was in this “sinful flesh” or defiled human nature that God sent his son, “born of a woman born under the Law.” The book of Job asks, “how can he who is born of woman be pure?”, “who can bring a clean thing out of unclean? There is not one” (Galatians 4:4, Job 25:4, 14:4). “For as much as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus) also himself likewise took part of the same things… Made like his brothers in every respect”, “who was descended from David according to the flesh”, “God made him (Jesus) to be sin for us who knew no sin (transgression)” (Hebrews 2:14, 17; Romans 1:3; 2Corinthians 5:21). This was that “the body of sin might be destroyed” or “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 6:6; Romans 8:3).
Jesus was “made like his brothers in every respect” (Hebrews 2:17) = “made to be sin for us” (2Corinthians 5:21).
So that the body of sin = sin in the flesh = the Lamb of God might destroy, condemn, take away the sin of the world.
Nicodemus and the work of the Spirit
Now that we have clearly recognized the problem, we may with Paul exclaim “who shall deliver me from this body of death?” In so asking and in searching diligently God’s holy Scriptures, the only source of the answer, we inevitably come, walking through the shadow of the law and the prophets (Romans 3:21) to the reality at the foot of the cross, and are invited to behold what Paul says was a divine public declaration and demonstration of certain principles which must be understood so that this great salvation may “be received by faith… So that he (God) might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25–26). The Lord Jesus, as is recorded in John 3, directs Nicodemus, that “ruler in Israel”, to the very same place, at the foot of the cross. He does so in a conversation where the Lord Jesus enlightens Nicodemus of how one may enter the kingdom of God. The Lord speaks of the necessity of being “born again” or “from above”, of being “born of the water” and of “the spirit” which Paul shows us in Romans 6–8 is a process which commences with our baptism into Christ Jesus—baptized into his death (Romans 6:3–6).
The Lord Jesus stressed to Nicodemus that it was essential to understand the work of the spirit, if we are to “enter the kingdom of God”. Nicodemus did not understand at this time the spirit’s message which the Lord Jesus preached concerning himself. Nicodemus heard “its sound” (John 3:8) but did not perceive that the Lord Jesus had come to “abolished death and bring life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Nicodemus did not understand the spirit’s work in relation to Christ’s origin. “You do not know where it (the spirit) comes from” being born of the spirit, Jesus was that “body prepared to do the will of God”. The work of the spirit began by making Jesus of the same death—inheriting nature from Eden as those he came to save; but this man; produced through Mary by the Spirit of God though of the very nature condemned in Eden, should himself not be a sinner. He had to be the Lamb of God’s providing (Genesis 22:8), so that wrong was not done when he was sacrificed to declare God’s righteousness while at the same time “a lamb without blemish or spot” “always doing those things which pleased the Father”. As brother Roberts reminds us “not only had sin to be condemned, but resurrection had to come in harmony with the law that made death the wages of sin; and this resurrection was not merely to be a restoration of life, but the providing of an administrator of the glorious results to be achieved—the raising up of one who should be a mediator between God and man, the dispenser of the forgiveness and the salvation of God through him, and the judge also of who should be fit to receive these great gifts” (The Blood of Christ pg. 11).
If Nicodemus could not at this stage possibly understand “where it (the spirit) comes from” with respect to the work of the spirit in Christ’s birth, how could he possibly understand “where it goes” (John 3:8)—Christ’s resurrection and ascension to the Father to prepare a place for the family of sons and daughters redeemed by his blood! “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). The means of justification by God’s grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus to be mercifully provided had to be understood as the work of the spirit. “So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit” (John 3:8). The “everyone” begins of necessity with the firstborn of the family of God—the Lord Jesus Christ and the divine mission he as a body uniquely prepared was to perform; to declare God’s righteousness by being put forward as a propitiation, by his blood, to be received by faith (Romans 3:25). All God’s sons and daughters are called upon to closely identify with what God achieved in this firstborn of the many called out from the nations to be his children, who in deep appreciation of his love, are changed mentally and morally by that same transforming spirit which enables the believer to “become a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (Romans 6:1–14; 2 Peter 1:4).
(Note the following five paragraphs are based on Clauses V to XII of “A Statement of The Faith forming our basis of fellowship” which appears at the end of the Baptismal Review Book)
“God was manifested in the flesh” 1Timothy 3:16—begotten of God, and inhabited and used by God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was Emmanuel, God with us; his divine mission necessitated that this miraculous begettal of Christ had to be of a human mother, enabling him to bear our condemnation, and at the same time, to be a sinless bearer thereof, one who could rise after suffering the death required by the righteousness of God.
God manifest was “justified by the spirit” 1Timothy 3:16—Jesus had to be “justified”– vindicated, made right or redeemed from the defiled nature he bore as the Sin bearer, so though wearing the condemned nature of the line of Abraham and David he was to obtain a title to resurrection by perfect obedience, and by dying, abrogate (repeal or do away with a law) the law of condemnation for himself and all who should believe and obey him.
God manifest was “seen by angels” or messengers 1Timothy 3:16—“He (Jesus) was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (Paul)… His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I work harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” 1Corinthians 15:4–11).
God manifest was “believed on in the world, taken up in glory” 1Timothy 3:16—God has exulted Christ to the heavens as the priestly mediator between God and man, in the process of gathering from among them a people who should be saved by the belief and obedience of the truth. “To all who did receive him, who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12–13).
How God loved the world
The Lord Jesus wanted Nicodemus to “receive him” and “believe in his name” i.e., that he was the Christ that should come into the world to accomplish what God had determined before to be done as foreshadowed in the law and the prophets—namely, the condemnation of sin in the flesh, through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all, as a propitiation to declare the righteousness of God, as a basis for the remission of sins. All who approach God through this crucified, but risen, representative of Adam’s disobedient race, are forgiven. Therefore, by a figure, his blood cleanses from sin (Clause XII – A Statement Of The Faith Forming Our Basis Of Fellowship).
The Lord Jesus wanted Nicodemus to “receive him” and “believe in his name.” So Jesus directed his undivided attention to the foot of the cross via “the law and the prophets” which “bear witness to the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22). “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14–15). The section of “the law and prophets” to which he directs Nicodemus’s attention is Numbers chapter 21. In that record we are told how the children of Israel “became impatient in the way” by which Yahweh directed them in their wilderness journey, and as a result “the people spoke against God and against Moses” so that Yahweh “sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died” (Numbers 21:4–9). The children of Israel in their distress, confronted by the consequences of sin—certain death, confessed their sin and implored Moses to act as the divinely appointed mediator and ask Yahweh to “take away the serpents among us”. This request is most enlightening when we consider what the divine means of salvation consisted of, what in type it pointed forward to, and how important it is as we ponder this subject of “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” As we shall see there is a clear link between the peoples request to “take away the serpents” and how God was to “take away the sin of the world”.
Moses was commanded to “‘make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So, Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live (Numbers 21:8–9). The Lord Jesus himself in explaining to Nicodemus how this enacted parable was to be fulfilled, drew comparison between his actual body lifted up and the brazen serpent Moses lifted up in the wilderness (John 3:14-15) symbolizing that which has ‘the sting of death’ which is ‘sin’ (1 Corinthians 15:56). Even as Moses was told how a salvation was to be provided that the people might exercise faith towards the divine means and live; even so the Lord Jesus tells Nicodemus how in reality that which has the “power of death”— “the devil”, “Sin in the flesh” or “the serpent in the flesh” was to be publicly condemned in his sacrifice. The apostle John by way of declaration affirms, as is recorded in the marginal rendering of the ESV, “For this is how God loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
We note that in obedience to God’s command “Moses made a bronze (or copper) serpent.” Brass or copper in colour represents the flesh and is associated with the flesh in many types throughout the Scriptures and pre-eminently under the law of Moses. Had Moses been instructed to simply lift up a piece of copper, then it may be reasoned that ‘the flesh’, through which the means of salvation was to be manifested, had a nature different from those he had come to save— “the nature of angels”. We remember that after the Lord’s resurrection and glorification, he appeared to his disciples and in quelling their terror and disbelief, invited them to handle him for he said that a spirit has not flesh and bone as you see me have. The spirit body that Christ exhibited after his resurrection and glorification was a flesh and bone body that is forever animated by the power of the spirit of God; it was no longer a body of flesh and blood under the Dominion of death (Romans 6:9). Paul reminds us (Hebrews 2:14) in the context of Jesus’s divine mission “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (KJV) pointedly emphasises the physical attributes that of necessity had to be present for this to be possible according to the Divine plan, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things”; “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16 KJV).
Had Moses been commanded to simply place a piece of copper on a pole, it may have been reasoned that salvation was to come through one who had a body like that of Adam before he had sinned—a natural body but not subject to death’s defilement.
Bro. Roberts reminds us in The Blood of Christ—(Begotten of God, yet son of Adam), “It was a spiritual necessity that he should partake of our nature. It is expressly said that he did, and John says that any man who denies it, as many did in his day and many have done since, denies the truth and is indeed anti-Christ (2John 7). He is strong in maintaining that Jesus came in the flesh, that is, the flesh of the children (Hebrews 2:14), the flesh of David (Romans 1:3)—flesh mortal because of sin. Why does he take this strong ground? Because the denial of it cuts at the root of God's arrangement of wisdom and righteousness. It destroys the very principle that made it impossible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin. The object was that God's righteousness might have full play in advancing to our salvation. Christ could not righteously die if death had no dominion over him, and it could not have this dominion except through Adam, through Abraham, David, and his mother, for he had no sin of his own; it was the sin of others that was on him. It was his mission to take this away. How could he do this if it were not on him? "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all", a figure of speech, because God proposed to forgive us all for Christ's sake. Still, in this very real sense, our sins are considered as being laid on him”. And if we should enquire how this is to be accomplished, bro. Roberts answers, “the beginning was made by making him of the same death-inheriting nature from Eden”.
The copper, symbol of the flesh, lifted up by Moses in the wilderness was therefore fashioned like a serpent. The flesh was defined by the form of a serpent, so much so that when the Lord Jesus invited Nicodemus to the foot of the cross through the Mosaic type to understand how God’s righteousness was to be declared as the basis of the divine redemption, the Lord’s emphasis is upon “the serpent lifted up” = “the son of man lifted up”. That serpent represented ‘sin,’ for Paul says, “the sting of death is sin” (1Corinthians 15:56). Therefore, Jesus’ Body crucified = “condemned sin in the flesh” = the brazen serpent lifted up. The serpent’s association with sin at the beginning, it’s beastly reasoning which caused man to question what God had commanded, it being the cause of stumbling and rebellion, makes it a fit symbol for Sin.
We are reminded again of what bro. Thomas states in Elpis Israel, “The word sin is used in two principal acceptations in the scripture. It signifies in the first place, “the transgression of the law”; and in the next, it represents that physical principle of the animal nature, which is the cause of all its diseases, death, and resolution into dust. It is that in the flesh “which has the power of death”; and it is called sin, because the development, or fixation, of this evil in the flesh, was the result of transgression. Inasmuch as this evil principle pervades every part of the flesh, the animal nature is styled “sinful flesh,” that is, “flesh full of sin”; so that sin, in the sacred style, came to stand for the substance called man. (Elpis Israel Part 1 chapter 4 —The Constitution of Sin).
The brazen serpent lifted up symbolises that aspect of sin which is the root of all man’s problems—“sin that dwells within me”, “nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh”, “I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members”, “who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:18–25). This “law of sin in my members” became a fixed principle in man’s flesh, defiling his nature as a result of the sentence God passed upon man because of his rebellion against his law.
This is the reason why in the spiritual language of the Scriptures the terms “the serpent” and “the devil” are inseparably linked. The word ‘devil’ is the Greek noun diabolos which bro. Thomas says, “is the name of that which ‘crosses, or causes to cross, or falls over’ therefore to slander or falsely accuse. Diabolos is therefore a very fit and proper word by which to designate the law of sin and death, or Sin’s Flesh” (Eureka Vol.1 pg. 249), and as a scriptural personification of sin, has slandered or falsely accused Yahweh’s law from the beginning, whose stronghold is the flesh, as a result of man believing the serpent’s lie. Note bro. Thomas does not say the devil is transgression of God’s law but rather what causes it, i.e., “Sin’s Flesh,” the physical “flesh and blood” nature of man. The Bible devil as we have noted throughout this article is manifested in many ways, individually and in the aggregate, in political and religious opposition, but all have their origin in the disobedience of flesh and blood to Divine Law. The Bible presents the ‘devil’ or ‘sin in the flesh’ as the source of all our problems and all the evil man commits as a result of this principle dwelling in us. The devil presents itself in our inner thoughts, and in those who would tempt us to do evil. The devil in its largest manifestation exists in the present religious and political constitution of things upon the earth. The Son of God was manifested expressly for the purpose of destroying the devil and his works, that is Sin in its two scriptural aspects, root and branch. (Romans 7:17-25 & 8:1-3; Hebrews 9:26; Romans 6:23; James 1:14-15 & 4:7; John 13:27 & 6:70; Acts 5:3-9; Ephesians 2:2; 1Timothy 5:14-15 & 1:20; Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33; Luke 4:8; 1Thessalonians 2:18; Revelation 2:12-13; 1Peter 5:8; Revelation 2:10; Romans 16:20; Revelation 12:3 & 17, 17:9 & 12, 20:2; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).
Christ came to “abolish death and bought life and immortality to light through the gospel” in which “the righteousness of God is revealed” (2Timothy 1:10; Roman 1:16-17) for those for whom God would extend his grace, to understand and exercise faith in, as the basis of divine redemption. Bro. Roberts reminds us, “The crucifixion was a divine declaration and enforcement of what is due to sin, and as it was God’s righteous appointment that this should be due to sin, the infliction of it was a declaration of God’s righteousness...for others to recognize, that they might be forgiven.” (Law of Moses pg. 175-177).
“The righteousness of God” required the condemnation of “sin in the flesh,” or the destruction of the devil and his works, and is essential to the things concerning “the name of Jesus Christ” or the second great pillar of “the gospel”, Christ commanded his disciples to go into all the world and proclaim (Acts 8:12; Mark 16:15–16).
Brother Thomas states, “The condition of salvation is belief in the whole gospel and obedience to it. It is not ‘he that believes in Jesus Christ and is baptised shall be saved’ but ‘he who believes the Gospel and is baptised’” (Elpis Israel pg. 198). To believe the gospel Christ and his apostles taught it is essential we see “the serpent lifted up” = Sin = defiled human nature condemned = “the Son of man lifted up”. In bring this article to a conclusion we again remind the reader of bro. Thomas’ words:
Sinful flesh being the hereditary nature of the Lord Jesus, he was a fit and proper sacrifice for sin; especially as he was himself “innocent of the great transgression”, having been obedient in all things. Appearing in the nature of the seed of Abraham, he was subject to all the emotions by which we are troubled; so that he was enabled to sympathize with our infirmities, being “made in all things like unto his brethren”. But, when he was “born of the Spirit”, in the quickening of his mortal body by the spirit, he became a spirit; for “that which is born of the spirit is spirit”. Hence, he is “the Lord the Spirit “, incorruptible flesh and bones”. (Elpis Israel)
In this glorious work of God, we understand how the long shadow of the law and the prophets at last meet at the cross—“the son of man lifted up”. We understand how the prophecy of the serpent bruised in the head—a death blow by the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) = “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), providing the first two sinners with a covering for their iniquity, transgression and sin, and finds its fulfilment in “the serpent lifted” up by which we “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world”. We see Jesus as “the Lamb of God” overcome by perfect obedience, defeat, hold transfixed and at last crucify the power of sin within him. This opened the way so that God could publicly “condemn sin in the flesh” by the sacrifice of “the lamb” of God’s providing and actually destroy the diabolos, or Sin, physically through the death of the cross. In the terms of Genesis 3:15, this was a work accomplished in Christ’s flesh. “Sin in the flesh”, “the serpent lifted up”, having been publicly condemned in Christ’s sacrifice, his body was purified or purged of the physical “law of sin and death” on the third day when he was given immortality. By this divinely appointed means Christ received the right from God to bestow the same blessing on all who should in faith and obedience come to God through him to “take away the sin of the world”.
The whole divine purpose of salvation from death―including of necessity Christ’s own redemption― depended on the seed of the woman overcoming the diabolos through perfect obedience, and then by the body of sin being lifted up in public condemnation so as to declare—“This is how condemned human nature should be treated according to the righteousness of God; it is fit only for destruction” (The Blood of Christ, section ‘The place for forgiveness, pg. 11 Logos ed.). Diabolos was then put to death before all men to make plain and vindicate God’s holiness as the basis of acceptable approach and the forgiveness of sins.
Bro. Roberts presses upon his readers the great truth, “Christ required redemption from Adamic nature equally with his brethren; and the mode of redemption which God had ordained was a perfect obedience culminating in a sacrificial death” (Christadelphian 1895 pg. 262). Christ needed to be purified by his own death and resurrection. His sinful nature had to be removed by his own sacrifice. “Those who deny Christ’s participation thereof (i.e., sinful nature), deny its removal by sacrifice, and therefore deny the fundamental testimony of the gospel, that he is ‘The LAMB of GOD, TAKING AWAY the SIN of the world.’ (Law of Moses pgs. 173 & 238).