OUR CONDUCT AS SERVANTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Bro. Roberts says in the Bible Reading Companion “While faith turns a sinner into a saint, obedience only will secure a saint’s acceptance at the judgment seat of Christ, and that a disobedient saint will be rejected more decisively than even an unjustified sinner. The rule or standard of obedience is to be found in the commandments of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks very plainly on this subject in the following statements: ‘Ye are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you’, ‘Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded’, ‘If ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them’, ‘Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom…but he that doeth the will of my Father’, ‘Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves’, ‘He that saith I know him and keepeth not his commandments is a liar’. All these are summed up in this saying of his – ‘If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.’ Before we can keep his commandments, we must know them, and in order to know them to any purpose, we must remember them.’ Bro. Roberts concludes this excellent section with the words ‘What excellent men and women are those who keep all these commandments! Where are they? Lord, increase their number.”
It has been our custom at the beginning of each of the parts of the Baptismal Review Book to quote a section from Elpis Israel. Having come to this final part which is so important, we could do no better than to go to a section where bro. Thomas combines two most important scripture which bears directly upon the subject of ‘our conduct as servants of righteousness’. The two passages bro. Thomas combines and then makes a comment upon, are Exodus 34:6-7 and John 14:15. He states “God is not merely an intellectual, He is also a moral, being. ‘The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God’; yet ‘merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments’. Such is the name, or character, of God; hence, as all His works must glorify Him, they must redound to (or reflect on) His praise as a merciful and gracious, a just, holy, and truthful, being…there remained but one other (principle), according to which He could officer His kingdom and empire; and at length fill the globe with an order of beings ‘equal to the angels’. Upon this principle He has worked from the foundation of the world to this day…He (God) placed him (man) under a law, which required belief of God's word and obedience…the principle of life namely, belief of whatsoever God saith, and voluntary obedience to His law. This is the principle to which the world is reprobate (or condemned); and to a conformity with which all men are invited, and urged by the motives presented in the scriptures; even all who would inherit the kingdom of God, and afterwards inhabit the earth for ever, on an equal footing with the angels of the universe…The law of the Lord is perfect, and without a single exception. There are no ‘perhapses’, or ‘maybes’; it is not ‘yea and nay, but Amen in Christ Jesus’. The only way to the kingdom of God, and to a participation in the eternal constitution of the world, is in the path of a faithful obedience to the law of God. Now from these testimonies it is plain, that to attain the rank of the sons of God in the eternal world…without respect to age, sex, or condition, must believe and obey the truth; for ‘without faith it is impossible to please God’. This rule provides for no exceptions; but declares the principle without qualification. If faith then be required, it is manifest that God designed to move men by motive, not by necessity ―but by intellectual and moral considerations.” (Elpis Israel, Part 1, chapter 6, ‘The present world in relation to the world to come’ pg. 180).
141. Having come to this knowledge do you think you know all?
No. I realize that I am only a babe in the truth.
How will you continue to grow?
The Apostle Peter says we ought to “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2).
This is true. Salvation depends upon us first understanding and then becoming one with the Divine ideas, principles and affections set forth in His word. This wonderful process you have commenced starting with your belief of the Gospel, is by no means complete. It takes a lifetime of constant continuance in well doing and a diligent seeking of God in His word to partake of the “Divine nature” mentally and morally so as to be transformed into the image of Christ our Lord.
The Lord Jesus also highlights the essential need of something else in the daily life of His servants, which He says, “men ought always to,” do “and not to faint.” (Romans 2:7; 2 Peter 1:4; Romans 12:1-2; Chapter 8:29; Ephesians 2:10). What is it?
Like the prophet Daniel, we must always pray. (Luke 18:1).
The Lord shows in Luke 17 and 18 that the men or women of faith looking for the coming of Christ witness their faith by constant prayer and that the judgment seat will at last administer the results of faithful prayer. If we have not sought the Lord’s coming in constant prayer, confessing our sins and seeking forgiveness then our sins will not be blotted out.
142. Do you understand the solemn duty acceptance of the Gospel call and response to it through the waters of Baptism, introduces a man or woman?
I understand that one who becomes Christ’s through belief in the Gospel and baptism ceases to be his/her own. One becomes Christ’s property, no longer “servants of sin,” but now, “servants of righteousness.” We are commanded to “yield your members (body) as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.” We become Christadelphians – brethren or relatives of Christ and our service and chief affections must be directed to Him. (Romans 6:4, 6, 11-13, 17-23; Matthew 12:50).
The Apostle Paul says, “We are not our own for we are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit (i.e. in your mind) which are God’s.” The Apostle Peter says we have not been, “redeemed with corruptible things…But with the precious blood of Christ…” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
This being the case, how can we glorify God in our body and mind?
A servant of God must endeavor to the best of their ability, to live a life of sacrifice, to crucify the flesh with its lusts and affections. To bring our life into conformity with our Lord’s teachings and example, to obey Him in everything, to do good to all, especially those of the household of faith and to spread the saving knowledge of the truth whenever opportunity arises. (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; 4:19; 5:22-25; 6:10, 14; Matthew 5:14-16).
Bro. Thomas says “A man cannot honor God more than in believing what He promises, and doing what He commands.” (Elpis Israel Part 1, chapter 3 “Gods Law and how sin entered into the world”).
143. What is a servant of Christ’s attitude towards the ways of the present world?
The Apostle John states, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Therefore, we must set our hearts against defiling habits and worldly pleasures such as smoking, drinking, indecent fashions, amusements, entertainments, associations and affiliations; for says James, “the friendship of the world is enmity with God.” (1 John 2:15-16; James 4:4).
That is true and is very important. Paul reminds us that the servants of Christ are “the temple of the Living God,” and as such he asks, “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” He then answers, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord…and I will receive you.” (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17).
The Apostle Paul taking hold of the analogy of a soldier exhorts the believer to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” He goes on to say, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:4).
Can the servant or soldier of Jesus Christ take part in politics or voting?
No. Paul states we are like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, “strangers and sojourners” of this world. We with the Father of the faithful look for “a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” The Lord said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and Daniel says, “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will…” We do not know who Yahweh will set up or remove and when God’s kingdom is set up it will be manifested in destructive opposition to every form and system of human government, which kingdoms will become the Lord's’ and His saints. It would be totally against Christ’s teachings and principles to vote, for the continuance of any of the “powers that be,” though we must be subject to them, pay our taxes and obey their ordinances where these do not conflict with the commandments of Christ. (Hebrews 11:9-10; John 18:36; Daniel 4:17 & 25; Daniel 2:4 & 7:22, 27; 1 Peter 2:13; Romans 13:1-7; Acts 4:19; Matthew 6:24).
Can you join the armed forces or accept non-combatant service (i.e. civilians who are not taking direct part in hostilities but are nonetheless under military control), work under military supervision/police force or take an oath of allegiance?
No. It is against the laws of God as presented to us by Christ for His children to have any connection with the military combatants or non-combatants – civilians who are under military control, police force or take oaths (Matthew 5:21-22; 43-48; 34-37; Romans 12:14-21; 13:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Note the Berean statement No. 8. MILITARY SERVICE (page 151).
SUING AT LAW AND JURY SERVICE
144. Can we go to law against anyone for any reason or in any way?
No. I believe the principles of the law of Christ, which forbids violence, coercion, resistance to and retaliation for evil, forbid the use of the law or the powers of the law against anyone in any way. To do so in any way is to violate the whole spirit of Christ. (Matthew 5:21-23, 39-48; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; 1 Peter 2:19-23; 1 John 2:6; Romans 12:14-21)
Do you believe you can perform jury service?
Again this is totally inconsistent with the spirit of Christ. Christ commands us, “Judge not, that ye be not judged…” Christ by His own example said to one who asked Him to judge in matters of earthly affairs, “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” The spirit of Christ elevates the servant of Christ to the example of the Lord, which is totally at variance with the requirements of the civil and criminal codes. The servant of Christ stands related to the Divine government of the future age, which the Lord, the righteous judge will administer at “His appearing and kingdom.” (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 12:13-14; James 2:13; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8; Isaiah 11:3).
THE LOVE OF MONEY
145. Would it be right to buy tickets in Pools, Lotteries and Art Unions etc?
No. Scripture states we should not put our trust in uncertain riches but in Yahweh, nor should we labour to be rich for “the love of money is the root of all evil.” In contrast, the servant of Christ gives to those who ask and relieves the afflicted. (Proverbs 14:21; 23:4; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Romans 12:3; James 1:27).
146. What is one’s responsibility when made aware of a brother or sister’s offence?
If you take offence at what another has said or done, you are bound to meet that other brother/sister in private conversation between the two alone. If it is a matter of sin, this private conversation’s aim is for the recovery of the offender. If in such a serious matter the offending brother/sister does not hear you, you must take one or two other brethren to the offending brother/sister in a humble, gentle spirit to convince the brother/sister of their error. If this still fails to bring forth a change then the matter must be placed before the ecclesia. (Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20).
If the nature of the offence is personal problems, what should be your attitude?
The vast majority of experiences in ecclesial life are not to be made subject to such a process, which should be reserved for sin (known or heard of) which could exclude from the kingdom of God if unrepented of.
We must always remember that “he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy,” and our desire is that we ourselves will on the Day of Judgment before Christ, “be judged by the law of liberty.” The Spirit of Christ made plain in our lives will forgive offenses against us for if we cannot forgive others neither will God for Christ’s sake forgive us. A brother or sister imbibed with Christ’s spirit does not heed all words spoken hastily and practices the habit of returning good for evil, blessing always, cursing never but to seek reconciliation, exercising forgiveness to the uttermost extent as Christ’s commandments require. (James 2:12-13; Matthew 7:1-5, Chapter 6:12-15; 1 Peter 2:21-23; Romans 12:9-21)
147. Do you believe we can possess the holy spirit today when baptized or afterwards?
No. The spirit gifts were limited to the first and second centuries through the laying on of hands by the apostles to the Jews and Gentiles. Once these chosen men died, the ability to pass it on passed away with them. (1 Corinthians 12; 13:8-9; Ephesians 3:11-13).
148. What do you understand by the doctrine of fellowship?
It is a practical doctrine, which first separates men and women from the world by their belief in the truth. The truth is made up of a series of essential doctrines, which must be recognized by all who are in the truth. It then associates those separated from the world in obedience to Christ’s commands in fellowship with the Father and with His Son and those of like mind in union. (1 John 1:3-7; John 12:46; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Galatians 3:28; Hebrews 10:25).
Would you be prepared to fellowship someone who though he believes the same doctrines is nonetheless prepared to fellowship those who do not?
No. It is the duty of the friends of the truth to uphold it as a basis of union among themselves, firstly by refusing to receive those who deny any of the truth’s essential elements and secondly, to refuse those who though they may believe the truth themselves are willing to ignore its denial among those in fellowship. (James 3:17; 2 Peter 2: 1-2; 2 John 10-11).
This is most important to understand. It was the failure of the first and second century ecclesias to uphold the doctrine of fellowship, which led to the apostasy. It is the reason why Berean Christadelphian ecclesias do not fellowship other Christians or even other Christadelphian groups because of open error amongst them or in their denial of this vital doctrine, which acts as a wall around the truth to defend it against being lost. (Acts 20:28-30; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; Jude 3-4, 10-13; Revelation 2:14-16, 20).
Please refer to the article written by Bro. Roberts on Fellowship with particular reference to section titled ‘The Second Series’ page 157) items 5-10.
Bro Roberts makes the important case for a written basis of fellowship. He says “Examination implies a recognized basis of fellowship; that is, a definition of the doctrines that are recognized as the truth. Examination would be objectless if there were no such definition recognized, whether written or understood. It is necessary to have the truth defined. It is not enough for an applicant to say he believes the Bible, or the testimony of the apostles. Multitudes would profess belief in this form, who we know are ignorant or unbelieving of the truth, and, therefore, unqualified for union with the brethren of Christ. The question for applicants is, do they believe what the Scriptures teach? To test this, the teaching requires definition. This definition agreed to, forms the basis of fellowship among believers…A mere understanding as to the definitions of truth to be received is apt to become dim and indefinite, and the way is open to the gradual setting in of corruption. So long as it is understood that the written definition is not an authority, but merely the written expression of our identical convictions, there is not only no disadvantage, but the reverse, in reducing the faith to a form that shuts the door against misunderstanding.” (Ecclesial Guide No. 34)
Such a basis of faith is found in A Statement of the Faith forming our Basis of fellowship (pg. 127) Doctrines to be rejected (pg. 130), the Commandments of Christ (pg. 132), and a Restatement (pg. 141) which has been necessary as a result of compromise and wrong doctrine of other Christadelphian fellowships.
THE BREAKING OF BREAD
Bro. Roberts writing in the Ecclesial Guide reminds us of the importance of Christ’s command. He says “It is a law of the house that each brother and sister must meet at the table of the Lord on the first day of the week for the breaking of bread. Nothing but denial of the truth in the assembly or overt disobedience of the Lord's commandments among them, can justify a brother or sister in absenting himself or herself from the breaking of bread. Such will deceive themselves if they think a private breaking of bread will be accepted in lieu of breaking bread with the assembly. It is the latter the Lord has required of us, and it is the latter we must render. What is true of one is true of more. Nothing but rejection of the faith or the law of Christ by the assembly can justify the formation of a separate assembly…” (Ecclesial Guide No. 39). Note the following passages which make allusion to the apostles’ example of when the brethren and sisters came together as an ecclesia to break bread (1 Corinthians 11:20-26; 16:2; Matthew 28:1; John 20:19; Acts 20:7; Acts 2:42).
DIVORCE, REMARRIAGE, MARRIAGE OUTSIDE THE TRUTH AND POLYGAMY
149. In relation to brethren and sisters of Christ, what is the basic principle governing the marriage bond?
“What God has joined together let not man put asunder,” is the basic principle governing the marriage bond. The Lord shows that divorce is a complete departure from Yahweh’s will as set forth at the beginning in the creation of man and woman. The Lord Jesus elevates this Divine principle in the lives of His disciples and forbids remarriage after divorce. (Matthew 19:4-6; Chapter 5:31-32; Chapter 19:8-9)
That is true. The Berean Christadelphians believe that the two evils of divorce and remarriage are not only contrary to Divine command, but are in direct violation of the deep principles of the mind of Christ. (Matthew 5; Chapter 7:1-5)
What about marriage outside of the truth?
Marriage outside of the truth is forbidden both by general principles of scripture and by express command, Paul states that brethren and sisters ought to marry “only in the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 7:39)
Bro. Roberts writing in the Ecclesial Guide states: “The truth may come to man or woman in the married state; in that case, the man or woman is not to leave the unbelieving wife or husband if there be willingness on the part of the partner to continue the association. This Paul plainly lays down (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). But if the unbelievers depart, he says, ‘Let them depart: a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: God hath called us to peace.’ This departing, however, does not release from the matrimonial bond. ‘Remain unmarried’ is, in such a case, the apostolic command – verse 11”.
May I ask in the light of Paul’s inspired words what if one’s wife/husband is being unrepentantly unfaithful?
It is clear that the apostle Paul has the Lord’s basic principle governing the marriage bond (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Mark 10:2-12 & Luke 16:18) in mind for he even prohibits separation. He cannot have in mind the exceptional circumstance of unrepentant adultery or “porneia,” (Matthew 5:32& 19:9) for separation would be the sad consequence of unrepentant sin in this case. Yahweh himself separated and for a time put away his erring wife for the sin of unrepentant fornication or harlotry. (Ezekiel 16; Jeremiah 3) May we however remind you of Bro. Robert’s words of the Christadelphian 1882, “There is nothing in the law of Christ to interfere with the remarriage of a man and woman who have been previously divorced from one another. The law of Christ rather favors every kind of reconciliation and triumph of peace.”
I just want to make a quick comment on the subject of Polygamy. As the truth is being preached all over the world via the internet the truth may find some interested friends in such circumstances. As a general comment, once an interested friend has come to a full understanding of the gospel they will understand that polygamy was a custom dating from pre-Mosaic times. The law found it in existence and made it subject to regulation. But we are not, therefore, to infer for it a divine character. The law similarly regulated divorce: but Jesus told the Jews it was because of the hardness of their hearts that they were suffered to put away their wives (Matt. 19:8); that “from the beginning, it was not so.” On the same principle, polygamy was tolerated without being expressly sanctioned. “From the beginning, it was not so.” Adam had but one Eve; Noah, but one wife. “And wherefore one?” enquires the prophet Malachi on this subject: “That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore, take heed to your spirit and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.”- (Malachi. 2:15.) Paul distinctly recognizes “one wife” in his general allusions to marriage and in his comparison of the ecclesia to the spouse of Christ. - (Titus 1:6; Ephesians 5:31, 33; 1 Corinthians 7:2, 12–27.) Bro. Roberts in an article 1875 Christadelphian says of the mortal population during the kingdom age, “Now as the law of the future age will be the divine law proceeding from Zion (Is. 2:3), we may be quite sure that a provisional, accidental, abnormal, and hurtful institution like polygamy will find no place.”
If one finds the Truth in a country that permits polygamy and is himself in an existing polygamous relationship, we believe Paul’s governing principle of 1 Corinthians 7 is a guide to how circumstances should be dealt with. “If not, as God has divided to each, each as the Lord has called, so let him walk. So I command in the ecclesias.” (v.17); “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” (v. 20); “Brethren let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.” (v. 24). What Paul means by this is don’t change your circumstances and if you do so, only for the purpose of being able to better serve Christ, but ensure in this process, we do not break “the commandments of God.” (v.19). “But,” by “faith wrought through love” (Galatians 5:6) obey God’s commands even if that means we have to suffer, as Paul suffered with Christ, in the sure hope “that we may be also glorified together”. (Romans 8:17). “Therein abide with God.” The Lords words in Matthew 19 and his deliberate emphasis on God’s purpose at the beginning strongly instructs that any desire to add further wives to an existing marital arrangement would not only be contrary to Paul’s inspired general advice, but far more importantly would stand in stark contrast to the Lords understanding of what ought to govern the spirit of all earnest men who desire fellowship with God.
150. I know you have mentioned this but we cannot emphasize enough the importance of daily prayer and the reading of the Holy Scriptures- You understand this?
Yes I do.
Bro. Roberts reminds us in the Bible Reading Companion that, “Salvation depends upon the assimilation of the mind to the Divine ideas, principles and affections, exhibited in the Scriptures…Spiritual-mindedness can only grow with a man/woman by daily intercourse with that mind, there unfolded…The infallible advice then to every man and woman anxious about their salvation is read the scriptures daily.”
151. The Lord Jesus said “No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God” and again “Whosoever does not bear his own cross, and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Have you counted the cost of discipleship, are you prepared to become a Christadelphian or a brother/sister of Christ and to live your life in accordance to his teachings? (Note: Luke 14:25-35; Luke 9:62)
Yes! I thank Yahweh for having learned the truth in these dark days and I shall rejoice to offer myself as a living sacrifice unto the Lord that I may through Yahweh’s grace, be accepted in the day of Christ and enter into His everlasting joy.
I believe you have given a good confession. Another brother is present who may ask you any question that he feels I have not covered.
The Apostle Peter when convinced that those of the house of Cornelius truly believed in the Lord Jesus Christ commanded them to be baptized into His sin-covering Name. We are convinced that you believe these great and precious truths and so we ask the applicant to please prepare him/herself for baptism.