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Resurectional Responsibility
Bro. Ken Cobb

  1. Introduction
  2. A. Discuss the teaching of the resurrection of the enlightened rejecter.

    Amended: A first principle belief that enlightened rejecters will be resurrected to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Believe that what makes a person responsible to the judgment seat of Christ is “light”, or a knowledge and understanding of the truth.

    Unamended: Believe that not only is a knowledge of the truth necessary, but you must also enter into the Abrahamic covenant to insure a resurrection from the dead. Some believe that others outside of covenant relationship may be brought before Christ for judgment, but this is not plain teaching in scripture and not a first principle

    By making this a first principle, the Amended make this teaching something you must believe in order to be saved, and those who don’t believe it must be excluded from fellowship.

    B. Purpose

    1. Origin of the teaching

    2. Brief history of the conflict that brought about the division

    3. What the Bible teaches about who will appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

    4. What is our assurance of a resurrection.

    5. Examine verses often quoted by the Amended in support of the idea of the enlightened rejecter. Do they clearly teach what the Amended insist is a first principle?

     

  3. Origin of the Enlightened Rejecter

A. Start with a definition of the enlightened rejecter:

An enlightened rejecter is one who has learned and understands the truth, but who rejects the teachings of Christ and decides not to be baptized and walk after the truth.

This teaching is based on the idea that “light”, or knowledge and understanding of the truth, is what makes one responsible to the judgment seat of Christ.

B. The idea began with Dr. Thomas.

“. . . Having attained the maturity of their nature, men become accountable and responsible creatures.

“At this crisis, they may be placed by divine arranging in a relation to His word. It becomes to them a Tree of Life (Prov. 3:18), inviting them to ‘Take, and eat, and live forever.’

“If, however, they prefer to eat of the world’s forbidden fruit, they come under the sentence of death in their own behalf. They are thus doubly condemned. They are ‘condemned already’ to the dust as natural born sinners; and secondarily, condemned to a resurrection to judgment for rejecting the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, by which they become obnoxious to the ‘the Second Death’ (Apoc. 20:14).”

-- Elpis Israel (1848)

“Those who are neither to live in the Aion of the Spirit, nor to rise into the resurrection state, are those who die under helpless ignorance. God does not treat such as he does those who know the truth but will not obey it; or, who have obeyed it, but subsequently turned back to the corruption that is in the world through lust.

“True; no wicked man can claim to be ‘made alive in Christ’ that he may live forever; but he will certainly be made alive that he may be judged and consigned to the dire severities of the Second Death, which is ‘the wages of sin,’ the first death being the common lot of all, both saints and sinners.”

-- The Herald (1861)

The clearest explanation of Dr. Thomas’ ideas on this subject are found in Anastasis. Here he very plainly states his belief in the enlightened rejecter. This is a long quotation, but instructive for showing his understanding of the subject.

“The purpose of Deity is to evolve a righteous and immortal world out of the world of mortal sinners, and to lay the foundation of this great work in their scriptural intelligence and the obedience of faith. This being His purpose, knowledge, belief, and obedience are made the basis of accountability and responsibility. By the former is meant liability to give an account, and to receive reward or punishment for the same, and, by the latter, the state of being answerable for something entrusted to one’s care. Now, Christ Jesus says in John 3:19, ‘this is the ground of judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.’ The light shining into the darkness and divinely attested, makes sinners accountable and saints responsible; but into that region of the shadow of death where the light has not shown with divine attestation, the inhabitants of that region, who do not attain to the comprehension of the light, are not accountable to the resurrection and judgment it reveals. . .

“. . . He that understands the truth, but declines the obedience it commands, will be held accountable for its rejection; for ‘he that believeth not shall be condemned’ ‘in a day of judgment’, ‘when the Deity shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to the gospel Paul preached’ (Rom 2:16, Mark 16:16).

“But sinners understanding and believing the truth, and rendering the obedience it commands, in that enlightened and faithful obedience, become saints. As such, they have received the truth as a sacred deposit, for the use or abuse of which they are held responsible in the great day of account (Jude 6). Saints, who use the truth aright, styled by James ‘doers of the word and not hearers only,’ are the ‘just’ or ‘righteous’; but saints who abuse it, being hears only of the word and not doers, lovers of the world and the things that are in it, striving at once to serve God and Mammon, are the ‘ungodly’ and the ‘unjust’, who like Esau sell their birthright for a morsel of the world’s meat; to whom, in the judgment, will be found no place for repentance, sought ever so carefully with tears (Heb 12:16-17).

“These three classes are indicated by Peter in the words, ‘if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ (1 Pet 4:18): the enlightened sinner, who rejects the truth; the ungodly, who disgraces it; and the righteous, who do it. . . .

“But illuminated sinners and Sardian saints are obnoxious to a perdition arrived at in different ways. These are they ‘who obey not the gospel of the Deity’ (1 Pet 4:17), or disgrace it; and who come for to anastatsis of judicial condemnation. These two classes are punished on the principle that it is better not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them’ (2 Pet. 2:21). In the apostolic age, this holy commandment was delivered with power descending from heaven; but now, there is no such sanction confirming a faithful teacher’s exposition of the word. Nevertheless, if a sinner come to the understanding of the truth, the result being the same, he is held accountable. An enlightened sinner cannot evade the consequences of his illumination. I have known some of this class flatter themselves that they would not be called forth to judgment; but would perish as the beasts, if they did not come under law to Christ. Such reasoning, however, is simply ‘the deceitfulness of sin.’ When Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom to this class in Israel, among them were the self-righteous Scribes, Pharisees, lawyers, and priests, he told them that, in the judgment, He will say to all workers of iniquity, ‘depart from me!’ And then he added, ‘There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of the Deity, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east and the west, and from the north and the south, and shall sit down in the Kingdom of the Deity. And behold, there are last who shall be first, and there are first who shall be last’ (Luke 13:28). This evidently teaches their anastasis kriseos, or coming forth from sheol, for judicial condemnation and punishment, contemporary with the establishment of the kingdom in the Holy Land.”

-- Anastasis (1866)

In this passage Dr. Thomas very clearly taught that enlightened rejecters would appear before the judgment seat of Christ. There are other passages also that we could quote that reinforce that Dr. Thomas believed and taught this idea.

Yet Dr. Thomas is not entirely consistent on this matter. While in the above passages he clearly states that "light" or understanding is what brings one before judgment, yet in other passages he recognizes that covenant relationship is the means to a resurrection.

“. . . the King of the Jews will first manifest his presence, not to the world at large; which will not know of his being there, or, if told the fact, would not believe it; but to those whom ‘the blood of the covenant’ brings before his tribunal. . . , or judgment seat (bema, not thronos), before which we must all stand that we may be made manifest. The locality of the Throne (thronos) is Jerusalem, about 280 miles in a straight line from Sinai. Mount Zion is the place of the ‘Great White Throne’. . . We have not now to do with this; but with the bema, or Supreme Court, the judicial bench, styled in Rom 14:10 and 2 Cor 5:10, ‘the Judgment Seat of Christ.’ All who have made a covenant with Yahweh by sacrifice, and in any way related to ‘the Covenants of Promise,’ will be gathered (Psa 50:5) and stand before this; but it will only be the chosen few, ‘the called, and chosen, and faithful,’ who will be admitted to share in the honor, dignities, and glory, of the name of Yahweh in Jerusalem enthroned (Jer 3:17).”

-- Eureka (Vol. IIIB, p. 189)

“The reader will remember that before the Judgment Seat of Christ in the wilderness of Teman, there were two classes of saints in Christ Jesus constitutionally; the one class consisting of ‘the called, the chosen, and faithful’ or as Paul styles them in 1 Cor 3:12, ‘gold, silver, and precious stones,’ which are made manifest as such in the day when things are revealed by fire; and the other class consisting of ‘the called’ but not ‘chosen’, because not ‘faithful’ or, as Paul styles them in the same place, ‘wood, hay, and stubble.’”

-- Eureka (Vol. IIIB, p. 256)

We see that although Dr. Thomas clearly taught that the enlightened rejecter would appear before the judgment seat of Christ, he also realized that it is “the blood of the covenant” that brings the saints in Christ before his tribunal. These two opposing ideas were believed and discussed by Christadelphians for 20 years without cause for division, because the differences were not considered to be of first principle importance.

It is profitable to note what Dr. Thomas had to say about this subject in the introduction to Anastasis:

“But some may be prompted to enquire, Is it necessary to understand all the details of the Resurrection and Judgment in order to possess the faith which justifies? In reply, I would say, if it were necessary, there would scarcely be found, in this generation, a corporal’s guard of justified believers. I apprehend that if a person heartily believe in ‘the resurrection of the just and the unjust,’ and that both these classes will appear in the presence of the Righteous Judge, ‘to give account of themselves to him,’ their understanding so far is sound upon these two first principles. . .”

This seems to the reigning sentiment among Christadelphians until about 20 years after Dr. Thomas died.

 

 

III. Brief History of the Conflict

A. Times of Tolerance

1. As mentioned, two opposing ideas existed for a long time.

2. Not thought to be a first principle.

3. See this in the various statements of faith that were developed.

In 1877, the Birmingham ecclesia adopted the following as part of its declaration of principles (a precursor to the Statement of Faith):

“That at the appearing of Christ, his servants, faithful and unfaithful, dead and living of both classes, will be summoned before his judgment seat to ‘be judged according to their works;’ ‘and receive in the body according to what they have done, whether it be good or bad’. . .” (II Cor 5:10; II Tim 4:1; Rom 2:5,6,16; 14:10-12; I Cor 4:5; Rev 11:18)

In this statement it is “his servants”—those baptized into Christ—that are to appear before his judgment seat. This shows quite clearly what the prevailing opinion was in Robert Robert’s ecclesia just 6 years after Dr. Thomas’ death.

The enlightened rejecter was not mentioned in this declaration of principles. While it was generally believed that such would be resurrected, they were uncertain as to how and when the rejecter would be dealt with. In the original Christendom Astray (1884 and 1890 editions), Robert Roberts wrote:

“Rejecters of the word, who do not come under the law of Christ by belief and obedience may be reserved till the close of the thousand years. It does not seem reasonable that those who put away the counsel of God from themselves should be passed over without judgment, and yet, since they do not become constituents of the household of faith, their resurrection at the time when account is taken of that household would seem inappropriate. May they not be dealt with at the end?”

It is interesting to note that there are no certainties in this statement, but is sprinkled with “may be”, “does not seem reasonable”, “would seem inappropriate”, etc. These are not the phrases of the absolute conviction that are in accord with a first principle belief, but suggestions of the what some scriptures seem to indicate. And this was the general opinion of Christadelphians of the time. (Also note that this paragraph was deleted in printings after 1890, with no reference in the preface that they had done so.)

Sometime before 1890, the Birmingham ecclesia formulated their official Statement of Faith. At that time the article dealing with judgment stated:

XXV. — That at the appearing of Christ prior to the establishment of the Kingdom, the responsible (faithful and unfaithful) dead and living of both classes, will be summoned before his judgment seat “to be judged according to their works;” “and receive in the body according to what they have done, whether it be good or bad.” Romans 2:5,6,16; 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 11:18.

Here it is changed to “the responsible” without defining who they are. This allowed those who believed it was just the saints, and those who thought it would include the enlightened rejecters, to all be in fellowship, because the difference was not thought to be of first principle importance. This is essentially the form that the Unamended use today.

B. J. J. Andrew and “The Blood of the Covenant”

1. J. J. Andrew forced the issue to the forefront with publication of his booklet, “The Blood of the Covenant”, 1894.

2. In the book he claimed:

a. Covenant relationship, not “light”, makes one responsible to the judgment

b. Only those believers baptized into Christ would be raised from the dead

    1. We are condemned because of sinful nature inherited from Adam, not from
    2. personal sins alone

    3. Baptism is not just for forgiveness of sins, but also to remove condemnation
    4. inherited from Adam

    5. God “cannot” raise any others from the dead, because it would go against a

law he established, and God cannot go beyond his own laws

The Unamended today would generally agree with all these points except for the last one, which most view as incorrect and extreme. Most Unamended follow the lead of Thomas Williams, who agreed with J. J. Andrew on the basics, but also recognized that God has in the past dealt with people or nations in exceptional ways, and may do so in the future.

C. The Conflict

1. Roberts and Andrew immediately came into conflict over this issue.

2. During the conflict, both brethren retreated into extreme positions.

3. Roberts, we believe, went much too far in changing his positions in order to support the enlightened rejecter idea, and went into error on such subjects as the nature of man, the nature and sacrifice of Christ, atonement, the purpose of baptism, etc.

4. The Amended in general have held to most of Roberts’ changed positions he adopted during the years of controversy. These positions will be dealt with in other classes in detail.

For example of how other changes were needed to support the enlightened rejecter, consider the following:

– It is a knowledge of the truth that brings one out of the grave, therefore baptism is not for that purpose.

– Since baptism is not related to resurrection, baptism is solely for the forgiveness of personal sins.

– Since “light” is the only thing needed to bring one from the dead, there is no other barrier to resurrection, such as condemnation from Adam.

– Since Adamic condemnation is not a sentence of death (ie, not a legal sentence), then Adamic condemnation only relates to the physical defilement we inherit from Adam — mortality and proneness to sin.

– Since Adamic condemnation is only physical, there is no condemnation removed at baptism from Adam, only the condemnation that comes from personal sins. This physical condemnation can only be removed at the bestowal of immortality at the judgment.

– Since baptism is for personal sins only, that is all atonement relates to.

– Since Christ had no personal sins to atone for, he had nothing to atone for in his own sacrifice (this is basically “clean flesh” teaching, although the Amended would vigorously deny it).

– Many other changes in understanding, both major and minor.

D. The Amendment

1. In 1898, while Robert Roberts was travelling in Australia, the Birmingham ecclesia officially amended their statement of faith to the following:

“That at the appearing of Christ prior to the establishment of the Kingdom, the responsible (namely, those who know the revealed will of God and have been called upon to submit to it), dead and living -- obedient and disobedient -- will be summoned before his judgment seat to ‘be judged according to their works;’ ‘and receive in the body according to what they have done, whether it be good or bad’” (2 Cor 5:10; 2 Tim 4:1; Rom 2:5,6,16; 14:10-12; 1 Cor 4:5; Rev 11:18)

Now the amended require the belief in that enlightened rejecters (those who “know the revealed will of God”, but are “disobedient” to it) will be gathered to the judgment seat of Christ. Note that none of the supporting verses were changed for the amendment.

 

 

IV. Bible Teaching on the Judgment Seat of Christ - who will appear?

A. Verses from the statement of faith.

Rom 14:10-12 “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

This verse is clearly speaking to the brothers at the ecclesia at Rome, who were judging each over things concerning the Law of Moses. There is no reference here to unbaptized rejecters.

2 Cor 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

The “we” in this verse is “the ecclesia of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia”, this is who the letter was addressed to. Again, no mention of any unbaptized here.

NOTE: The above two verses are the only ones that specifically mention the “bema (judgment seat) of Christ,” and in both cases the only people to appear before it are baptized believers.

2 Tim 4:1 “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead”

This epistle is written to Timothy and deals with his care for and protection of the ecclesias. No enlightened rejecter is mentioned.

Rom 2:5, 6, 16 “. . . in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds . . . on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

Paul in this letter is addressing “the beloved of God in Rome, called as saints,” and not any outside the ecclesia. However, the Amended actually quote Rom 2 in support of the enlightened rejecter, so this passage will be dealt with in detail in that section.

1 Cor 4:5 “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”

Again, Paul is speaking to the “brethren” (v. 6) in Corinth, and there is no mention of any enlightened rejecter.

Rev. 11:18 “. . . and the time came for the dead to be judged, and to give their reward to Thy bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Thy name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

The ones being judged here are “the bond-servants”, “the saints”, “those who fear Thy name.” Again, there is no specific mention of unbaptized rejecters.

 

We see from the verses that are included in the Statement of Faith, that all the verses are addressing or referring to “the saints”, “brethren”, “ecclesia”, “servants”, etc. Also note, importantly so, that there is not one verse in this group that specifically mentions any unbaptized but enlightened rejecter of the gospel, which the Amended state is a first principle belief.

B. Other scriptures about resurrection and judgment.

1. Those who “sleep” in Christ.

– Well-known in scripture that those who die in Christ are said to be “asleep”, because they will awaken again at Christ’s return. All others outside of Christ are said to “perish”.

1 Thess 4:13-14 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”

1 Cor 15:16-20 “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.”

2. Parables concerning judgment.

– There are several parables of Christ that refer to the future judgment when Christ returns. Note who is being judged in these parables:

Luke 19:15, the parable of the nobleman, “. . . when he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these servants, to whom he had given the money, be called to him in order that he might know what business they had done.”

Matt 25:19, the parable of the talents, “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.”

Matt 25:45-46, the parable of the wise servant, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master finds so doing when he comes.”

Luke 12:36-37, “And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes. . .”

In every case it is the servants who are called before their master to give an account. There is no mention of others outside the household.

 

 

V. What is the Assurance of our Resurrection?

A. What is the basis of our resurrection? Knowledge alone or the resurrection of Christ?

The scriptures are plain that the resurrection of Christ is our assurance that we will be resurrected. And to be joined with Christ in the resurrection, we must be joined with him in death through baptism:

Rom 6:4-5 “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.”

John 14:6 “I am the truth, the way, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”

1 Cor 15:17-18, 21-22 “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. . . For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

2 Cor 4:14 “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also by (Greek dia) Jesus and will present us with you.”

B. The purpose of the resurrection is to inherit the promises to which we become heirs at baptism; the promise of resurrection to eternal life in the land with Abraham and his seed. The promise God made to Abraham, and our being heirs of that promise, is our assurance of a resurrection from the dead. The judgment is to determine if we walked worthy of our inheritance.

Rom 4:13 “For the promise to Abraham and to his seed that he would be heir of the world. . .”

Heb 11:19 “He (Abraham) considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead. . .”

Heb 11:39 “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect (immortality in the resurrection).”

Gal 3:26-29 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.”

Heb 6:17-18 “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us.”

Heb 12:15-17 “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God . . . that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.”

 

 

VI. Verses Used by the Amended in Support of the Enlightened Rejecter

– When reading these verses, we must answer the questions: Does the resurrection of the enlightened rejecter seem to be indicated? If so, is it clear and unequivocal enough to warrant being a first principle belief?

A. John 12:48 “He that rejecteth me and receiveth not my words hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”

– This is the verse most prominently used in support of the enlightened rejecter teaching.

– Does it teach what the Amended insist it does?

1. Previous verse, 47, “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”

– If verse 48 is supposed to teach the resurrection of the enlightened rejecter, this verse just even more clearly teaches he will not. This is the very definition of the enlightened rejecter—one who hears Christ’s words but does not believe—but in this verse Christ very clearly says, “I judge him not”.

– Verse 48, even, does not say Christ will raise this rejecter from the dead to appear before the judgment seat. It says, “my words that I have spoken” will judge him “in the last day.” These are not words Christ will speak in a future judgment, but words he had already spoken.

– What were these words Christ had already spoken? We can’t know for sure, but I think the following speaks very clearly about the words Christ had spoken regarding the judgment of non-believers:

John 3:17-19 “For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.”

– Christ does not judge the one who does not believe his words, for he is “condemned already” by his lack of faith.

– Note that the separating line Christ mentions over and over again between those in the “light” and those in “darkness” is not knowledge, but belief, which is not the same thing. Paul says “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” You must first hear and understand the word of God before you can believe it—understanding comes before faith.

– What is the “last day” Christ speaks of here? Dr. Thomas, in The Last Days of Judah’s Commonwealth, says the “last day” was AD 70, when God’s judgment was poured out on the Jews, in accordance with the words Christ had spoken. But it is hard to say conclusively whether the “last day” here is AD 70, the day of Christ’s return, or some other time.

2. This passage, far from providing clear support for the resurrection of the enlightened rejecter, instead suggests the opposite. It clearly states Christ does not judge the one who hears his words but does not believe them. He says “my words” that he had already spoken, would judge him. And it’s impossible to be certain what the “last day” is the Christ speaks of. So this verse does not provide clear and unequivocal support of the enlightened rejecter theory.

B. Romans 2:1-16 The Amended also quote this passage prominently as an explanation of the enlightened rejecter (I have even read an entire pamphlet on the subject by H. D. Bartholomew). The Amended contend that:

1. Paul is speaking in this passage to mankind in general. When he says in verse 1 “you are without excuse, every man who judges” he is not speaking to the saints at Rome, but to man in general.

2. In verse 6, “who will render to every man according to his deeds” is speaking of God’s dealing with all mankind, and cannot be restricted to just the household.

3. The phrase “do not obey the truth” in verse 8 is speaking specifically of the enlightened rejecter, one outside of covenant relationship who knows the truth but will not obey it.

4. The phrase “all who sinned without the Law” is referring to enlightened rejecters, who never come under the law of Christ, but sin in rejecting the truth.

5. The phrase “God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” cannot be limited to just the saints.


In answering these contentions, we must first start with some background. The main problem Paul is addressing in the ecclesia at Rome is friction between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews looked down upon the Gentiles for their non-observance of the Law of Moses, claiming they would be judged unworthy. The Gentiles were contemptuous of the Jews for their superior attitudes.

Throughout the letter Paul exhorts the Jews not to judge the Gentiles or act superior; and explained to them in great detail that a man is not saved by the works of the Law of Moses, but by faith in Christ. To the Gentiles he exhorted them to not be contemptuous of the Jews, but be accepting of their customs.

Rom 14:3 “Let not him who eats (Gentile) regard with contempt him who does not eat (Jew), and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.

v. 10 “But you, why do you (Jew) judge your brother? Or you again, why do you (Gentile) regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.”

15:7-9 “Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy.”

Paul many times uses the phrase, “To the Jew first and also to the Greek”, to show the believers in Rome that they were all one in Christ, all accepted by Christ, all heirs of the same promises. That they should work together and be of the same mind in the things of the Spirit.

Keeping these things in mind, let’s examine the contentions of the Amended interpretation.

1. Romans 2:1 is addressing mankind in general. First of all, Paul is writing to the “beloved of God in Rome, called as saints” so when he uses the words “you” or “thou” he must be speaking to the brethren in Rome. Secondly, since he is speaking to “every man who judges”—a phrase consistently applied to the Jewish believers in this epistle—this chapter is primarily addressed to the Jews. But the exhortation applies equally to both groups.

2. The “every man” of 2:5 is all mankind. This is hard to believe. Are they saying that anyone (not restricted to the household of faith) who “by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality” will receive “eternal life”? Of course not! But they do say that anyone, regardless of covenant relationship, who “does not obey the truth” will receive “wrath and indignation.” This, of course, is not consistent.

Paul here is not contrasting the believer with the enlightened rejecter, but the believer who does good with the believer who does evil, “to the Jew first and also to the Greek”. He’s showing that race or nationality or background does not affect how God judges a man. All believers are judged on the same basis, whether Jew or Greek.

3. Those who “do not obey the truth” refers specifically to enlightened rejecters. This is really the cornerstone of their whole explanation of this passage. They say this verse cannot refer exclusively to those within the household of faith, that it must be speaking of those outside covenant relationship. The booklet by Bartholomew spends 8 pages attempting to prove this.

However, he missed a verse in his explanation—Gal 5:7. In speaking to the ecclesia there, he says, “You were running well; who hindered you that you should not obey the truth?” Clearly, the phrase can apply solely to those in the household. So there is no basis in the contention that Rom 2:8 must be speaking of enlightened rejecters.

4. Those “who sinned without the law” refers to enlightened rejecters. The idea behind this contention is that that only those who know the law can sin because “by the Law comes the knowledge of sin”; therefore this is people who know the law of God but refuse to submit to it. This, of course, is absurd, because “until the Law sin was in the world” (Rom 5:13); that is, God still considers their actions to be sinful. Paul here again is contrasting the Jews (“who sinned under the Law (of Moses)”) with the Gentiles (“who sinned without the Law”), and showing that all are condemned because of sin.

5. That “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” cannot be limited to the household of faith. This contention also cannot be supported. Paul says Christ will judge them “by my gospel”, which in 1:16 he says “is the power of salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Only those who believe the gospel with be judged by it.

C. 2 Thess. 1:7-8 “. . . the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

– Again, the Amended contend the phrase “those who do not obey the gospel” is referring specifically to the enlightened rejecter.

In answer, it is obvious that this “retribution” cannot be the judgment seat of Christ, because it also comes to “those who do not know God”. These are not enlightened and will certainly not be at the judgment seat of Christ.

These verses refer to the time after the faithful saints have been immortalized and are working with Christ, where they will together be revealed “from heaven in flaming fire” against the unknowing and unbelieving nations. “When Thy judgments are in the earth, then the people of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9).

  
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Updated last on 2013-04-15.