I. Does God hear the prayers of the unbaptised?
Christ is God’s high priest only over those who constitute by the divinely appointed means ‘God’s house’ (Hebrews 3:6), and then over the world in the age to come (Zechariah 6:12-13). This fact however does not mean God does not hear the prayers of the unbaptized. It is true that “God heareth not sinners” (John 9:31) i.e. men who live in a daily disregard of God’s law. It is likewise true that “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord” but Solomon adds “the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him” (Proverbs 15:8); also note 1 Kings 8:38-39.
The Canaanitish woman who in faith acknowledged herself as a dog under the table of the master and ate the crumbs of that which was fed to the children of Israel i.e. the word of the kingdom, received her earnest request. Likewise the “prayers and alms” of the Roman centurion Cornelius had “ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4). Let it be noted however from this most important record that such prayers do not alter a man or woman’s relationship to eternal life, for though “God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears him (not according to the precepts of men) and work righteousness (the righteousness of God) is accepted of Him;” it was necessary that the attention of Cornelius and his household be directed to “that word which God sent unto the children of Israel by Jesus Christ.” This Cornelius and his household had done, for they had previously abandoned the pagan mythology of Rome as those today must do in forsaking the doctrine of Babylon the Great who has made all nations of the earth drunk (Revelation 17:2) if they desire their prayers to be heard. It is obvious from the record of Acts 10 that Cornelius was also well acquainted with the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, the divine testimony of his miracles, his crucifixion and resurrection.
Bro. Roberts writes “Devout Gentiles, who cast away the gods of the heathen and ‘join themselves to the Lord’ were known as ‘proselytes’ (Acts 2:10), and were allowed to worship at Jerusalem as in the case of the eunuch to whom Phillip preached the word (Acts 8:27). A court in the temple was provided for them, and known as ‘the court of the Gentiles’. The ‘proselytes of the gate’, as they were called, were recognized worshippers. They approached God in the only way open to the Gentiles at that time. God never has shut His ear against those who have come to him in the way appointed. But a wider gate was open when Peter was commissioned to announce, in connection with the case of Cornelius, the abolition of ‘the middle wall of petition’; and the free admission of the Gentiles, upon the terms then disclosed, as ‘fellow heirs of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ of the gospel’ (Ephesians 3:6). All Gentiles are at liberty to partake of ‘the promise in Christ by the gospel,’ but in no other way. Such as are inclined to take heart from the case of Cornelius must remember that Cornelius was in the right way, so far as it was possible for a Gentile to be. Therefore, his prayers were heard and the way of life opened to him by an angel.” (Christadelphian 1872, Vol 9 Bd 9).
Of this way of life that the angel directed Cornelius to, the apostle Peter had been given by the Lord Jesus the keys of the kingdom to unlock its mystery first to the Jew at Pentecost and then to the Gentile at Caesarea “that whosoever believeth in him (Christ) shall receive remission of sins through his Name” as the appointed way (Acts 10:43, 47). The name of Jesus and what constitutes that name are placed in the divine institution of baptism, based on an intelligent, childlike belief of the ‘things of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ’. The record of Cornelius shows us that though someone may not yet be in the fullness of the light that the gospel calls us to, God will always hear the prayer of those who humbly seek to ‘worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him” (John 4:23).
II. The False Doctrine of Substitution Explained and Refuted
The reviving of the Truth in the 19th century in preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus through the providential raising up of bro. Thomas lifted the veil of Roman superstition and blasphemy so that the revelation of the mystery which God purposed from the foundation of the world to its glorious manifestation in the Kingdom of God could be understood. While amongst the many denominations, elements only of the gospel are taught, in none of them is the doctrine of the nature and sacrifice of Christ as set forth in the extraordinarily lucid and consistent explanations of bre. Thomas and Roberts can be found.
Without exception, the doctrine that the churches preach on the subject of the nature and sacrifice of Christ, in one form or another, is a Vicarious (substitutionary) atonement. That is Christ offered himself as a substitute for others, in that he took their place, punished for the transgression of others, dying instead of them. Under this theory, Christ suffered the wrath of God by suffering their punishment, paying the penalty of their sin. The church doctrine is of a wrathful deity, whose justice can only be appeased by passing sentence upon one who had absolutely no relation to the sin condemned on the cross. What lies at the foundation of this extreme Rome-ish doctrine apart from the obvious injustice that it conveys is a complete denial of the two senses in which scripture uses the word sin. This is enshrined in the doctrines that define the anti-Christ - that Christ had not come in the flesh which is the touchstone of the doctrine of the Trinity. The other church doctrine which this subject has an obvious essential application is the subject of the devil destroyed in Christ’s death (Hebrews 2:14).
The churches preach that Jesus did not come in the flesh, but in a different holier, purer, without spot, immaculate nature than those he came to save! Therefore his sacrifice was but the crowning act of obedience or dedication to God’s will, illustrating what should happen to sinful man. They preach a substitutionary sacrifice because the Christ they preach bore the actual sins of those he came to save, these being imputed to him in some mystical way just before his death. He himself having no relation in himself to the sin condemned on the cross, and therefore no need of personal cleansing, purging, or atonement from the defiled nature scripture says he bore.
Roman Catholic doctrine define sin as ‘a moral evil’ and the renowned Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas says “sin is nothing else than a morally bad act.” Augustine states “there can be no sin that is not voluntary”. Even the churches doctrine of what they refer 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, that in some sense we being in Adam at the time of the fall, we therefore fell along with him. Other variations state that though not directly involved in Adam’s sin, Adam was our representative in Eden and so that in Adam’s sin we sinned, and brought guilt and merited condemnation upon all. “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 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, 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’, which bro. Thomas correctly states in Elpis Israel 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 to sin. This is the means by which Christ ‘bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1 Peter 2:24).
One of the chief errors of ‘clean flesh’ teaching is that Christ condemned sin symbolically on the cross rather than literally and physically. This false doctrine denies that flesh is a synonym for sin in scripture; that there is no sin in the flesh as a physical principle. What there is, they who hold this doctrine say, is mortality. There is no acknowledgement the scriptures show that death, as is the tendency to sin originates from a physical condition which God’s word calls Sin. Bro. Thomas has shown us that you cannot actually ‘condemn sin in the flesh’ when ‘sin’ is not present. Likewise ‘the body of sin’ cannot be ‘destroyed’ (Romans 6:6) if it is not sin, but merely a ritual body like the animal bodies of the Mosaic sacrifices. The crucifixion was a public condemnation by which sin was condemned by God in the body of the Lord Jesus.
Can anyone who stood at the foot of the cross (we have done so via the gospels) and witnessed the scene described therein, by the most deliberate, plain, factual language in the whole Bible, have any doubt as to what was condemned? A determined return by some who once had thrown off the apostasy, to the confused darkness of Roman Catholic theology, have corrupted their minds from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus, so that they are unable to give an answer as bre. Thomas and Roberts on the question of the atonement have. Was it not ‘the son of man’ (John 3:14) who was lifted up, ‘he himself’ (Hebrews 2:14) i.e. ‘the body of Jesus Christ’ (Hebrews 5:10), a body which Jesus himself likens to the brazen serpent (symbol of sinful flesh) which was lifted up in the wilderness (John 3:14-15)? The apostle Paul tells us for what purpose: “Now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death” (Colossians 1:21). Likewise the apostle Peter tells us “who his own self bear our sins in his own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). With respect to this passage, bro. Thomas states of the Lord Jesus “Sins born in a body prove that body to be imperfect; and characterize it as ‘sins flesh.’” In this same article bro. Thomas shows that in contrast to the perfect intellectual and moral status of the Lord (Hebrews 7:26 & 4:15) his nature was imperfect. “That nature was flesh of the stock of Abraham compared in Zechariah 3:3 to ‘filthy garments’ typical of the ‘infirmity with which he was compassed’. For this ‘infirmity’ called ‘himself’ – and for all of the same infirmity associated with him by faith in the promises made with Abraham and David, and in him as the mediator thereof – he poured out his blood as a covering for sin... Sin’s flesh is imperfect and well adapted for the condemnation of sin therein.” (Herald 1860 pg. 12) If sin, as scripture shows us, was condemned in the body of Christ, how was it condemned if his flesh was not sin in the second principal sense of how the word is used? To argue otherwise is to make the Lord Jesus Christ a substitute where his death only condemned sin in others in a ritual sense, since according to the ‘clean flesh’ error, sin was not present in his body.
This as we have stated is the essential link that binds Christ to us making his death on the cross a declaration of God’s righteousness, holiness and justice and makes his personal perfecting and cleansing efficacious for us as a true representative, and not as a mere ritual substitution. Thus Christ fulfilled the type of the high priest under the Mosaic ‘shadow of good things to come’ (Hebrews 10:1). The high priest was required in his approach to God on behalf of the people to make offering first for himself, and then for the people’s sins. This, the apostle says (Hebrews 7:27 & 8:3) Christ by ‘necessity’ did, as a true representative, for his own salvation from the nature he bore as the sin-bearer, offered once by the offering up of himself. First by necessity, says Paul again in Hebrews 9:23, for the “purging” i.e. cleansing or purifying of his own defiled nature. This is the foundation that has been laid upon which all else is built. It is a work that is entirely founded upon the eternal redemption Christ obtained in himself (Hebrews 9:12) from “sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). Let us repeat it is on the basis of this redemption Christ obtained in himself first, that God without the compromise of His principles of holiness and righteousness could raise Christ from the dead, and extend grace to all who diligently seek to understand these principles and have faith in what God has done for us in Christ. This eternal redemption Christ obtained first, is then extended to those who humbly submit to the way of salvation God has provided in and through the name of Christ Jesus.
Bro. Roberts in an article written to refute the ‘clean flesh’ theory (see footnote) one of whose key tenets is that Christ did not need to offer for himself and that he was not cleansed and redeemed by his own sacrifice, put a series of questions of which the following are but a sample.
74a. Paul says the substance of the law or things foreshadowed in it are to be found in Christ. (Col. 2:17; Rom. 2:20; Heb. 9:23; 10:1.) This being so, can your theory furnish the antitype to the High Priest offering for himself? (Lev. 16:6.)
75. Can your theory furnish the antitype to the scarlet which entered into the composition of the vail (that is to say, his flesh? Heb. 10:20.)
76. Can your theory furnish the antitype to the uncleanness-imparting bodies of those beasts burnt without the camp? (Heb. 13:11).
77. Can your theory furnish the antitype to the making atonement for the holy place (Lev. 16:16)?
78. Can your theory furnish the antitype to the atonement made for the altar? (Lev. 16:18.)
79. Can your theory furnish the antitype to the atonement made for the holy sanctuary? (Lev. 16:33.)
80. Can your theory furnish the antitype to atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation wherein God dwelt? (Lev. 16:33.)
81. If you attempt an answer, do not content yourself with “yes;” but show us wherein all these things which were typical of Christ, have their counterpart in a theory which teaches he had not the condemned nature on him, and therefore, needed not to offer for himself.
82. Paul says that as it was necessary that these pattern-things in the Mosaic system should be purged with blood, so it was necessary that the things signified should be purged; but with a better sacrifice, that is the sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 9:23). The Christ of your theory needed no “purging:” therefore does it not follow that he is not the Christ of Paul, who required purging from the law of sin and death, by his own sacrifice?
83. Paul says of Christ, “it is of NECESSITY that this man have somewhat also to offer.” (Heb. 8:3.) You say of your Christ, that he was under no necessity to offer himself; but might have refused to die, and entered into eternal life alone. Is it not clear that your Christ is not Paul’s Christ, with whom it was a necessity that he should offer up himself, for the purging of his own nature, first, from the uncleanness of death, that having by his own blood obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12), he might be able afterwards to save to the uttermost, them that come unto God by him? (Heb. 7:25.) (The Christadelphian 1873, Volume 10:467-468)
 The clean flesh theory denies there is ‘sin in the flesh’ (Romans 8:3) i.e. they do not believe the word sin is used in two principal senses in scripture; that the word sin only applies to transgression of God’s law and not to that physical principle in the flesh which is the cause of death and the tendency to rebel against God’s word. They believe that ‘sin in the flesh’ is only a figure of speech and is therefore not real, denying what Paul states in Romans 7:23-24. They preach that God condemned ‘sin, in the flesh’ (note the added comma) by Christ not committing transgression during his mortal life; that he was our sin bearer by symbolically bearing our transgressions, transferred to him before he died on the cross, suffering the punishment due for sins!