The Nature and Sacrifice of Christ
Bro. Gerald Sankey
The nature and sacrifice of Jesus Christ has been the subject of controversy among
Christadelphians since the troublous day of the 1870s, during which, the erroneous
concept and teaching of so-called Free-Life was imposed upon the brotherhood.
The basic teaching of Free-Life was/is that Jesus Christ did not possess a
nature that is common to all Adams posterity, except to possess mortality; and did
not come under the condemnation that passed upon all men because of Adams sin.
Therefore, his sacrifice was not necessary for himself, but rather, only for the benefit
of others (i.e. substitutional).
This controversy raged during the times of Bro. R. Roberts and J.J. Andrew
(1870s), who together, valiantly refuted the error, while defending the truth of the
Today, Christadelphians continue to be and remain burdened with essentially the same
erroneous concept, because it has been brought to life again, as an outgrowth of and
related subject of the error or the responsibility to the judgment seat of Christ
of the Gentile enlightened rejecter of the gospel.
Beginning with the early 1890s, Bro. Roberts and Andrew parted ways because of
contention over the Responsibility Question. Bro. Andrew (and others), though having
formerly believed it, had determined that responsibility was an inconsistent,
therefore, erroneous concept, that contradicted the fundamental concept of Adamic
condemnation, and the fundamental doctrines related thereto. Bro. Roberts (and others)
were never able to see clearly the conflict and contradiction arising out of these two
opposing doctrines, therefore, defended the Responsibility of the Enlightened Rejecter,
while as the same time, began to modify his former views regarding Adamic Condemnation and
its effect upon mankind.
Today, the Amended (BASF) Christadelphians continue to believe and teach the concepts
concerning the nature of man (since the fall of Adam), the nature and sacrifice of Christ
as Bro. John Thomas established them in our community 150 years ago (ref. Elpis
Israel and later works). Bro. J.J. Andrew and Thomas Williams defended these basic beliefs
after the 1890s.
So, on to the objective of our study, e.g., to prove by scripture and reason, the truth
pertaining to the Nature and Sacrifice of Christ.
- The Nature of Christ
- Nature by definition (Webster) 1-a. the inherent character of
basic constitution of a person or a thing: essence. 2-b. an inner force, or sum of such
forces in an individual. (Note. Cf. Eph. 2:1-3)
- Nature refers to:
- inherent physical qualities and likenesses, and
- to inherent mental and moral characteristics and attributes.
- Both a and b apply to Jesus: cf. Heb. 2:14-18; Phil. 2:6-8; Heb. 4:15; 5:18 (with 7:26);
- Consider the teachings contained in our Statement of Faith:
- Proposition V That Adam broke this law and was sentences to return to the
ground from whence he was taken a sentence which in effect defiled and became a
physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity.
- Proposition VIII That these promises had reference to Jesus Christ, who was
to be raised up of the condemned race of Adam, in the line of Abraham and David, and who,
though wearing the condemned nature, was to obtain a title to resurrection by perfect
obedience, and by dying, abrogate the law of condemnation for himself and all who should
believe and obey him.
- The Principle (or law) of Cause and Effect:
- Jesus nature was identical to the nature of Adam, after Adams fall from
Divine favor and fellowship. (cf. Heb. 2:14-17, Phil. 2:6-8)
- Adams nature, after his fall, is defined in two aspects:
- mentally / morally possessed an inclination to sinning; the propensity to sin; a mental
bias against obedience to God, i.e. a bias (or bent) toward unrighteous thinking and
deeds; i.e. sinful according to nature.
- Physically mortal; possessing a dying, death-stricken, death-doomed physical body, that
will eventually die and return to its mother earth. (Gen. 3:19, Eccl. 2:7, Ps. 89:48, Rom.
- #2 defines the Effect or the result bearing upon Adams nature, and all his
posterity. What was the Cause resulting in the Effect? Answer: Adams sin! What
consists in Adams sin? Adams earthy, natural, mental constitution (make-up)
was aroused and inflamed at the suggestion presented to him by Eve, his wife. That is,
lust that was native to his created state, though initially being latent in Adam, was
aroused and became the cause of his sinning (cf. James 1:14-15). Observation: Adam in his
very good condition (both mentally and physically) had the potential within
himself to think and act in either of two directions: the way of God (elohim), or the way
of the serpent. This is important when we come to consider Christ.
- Adam, the fountain-head of all mankind, became polluted (defiled) in his mental/moral
make-up, by the sin of rebellion against his creator, God. This was the Cause that
resulted in the Effect. Sin (the cause) when it is finished brings forth death (the
effect). James. The wages of sin is death. Jesus.
- This development in Adam became a fixation in his mental/moral nature; a law or
principle of his nature, therefore, resulting in the same mental/moral fixation in the
nature of all his posterity, Jesus included, because being a descendant of Adam (cf. Lk.
3:23,38; Heb. 2:14-18); born of woman.
- As a result of Adams sin (mental/moral rebellion against Gods law), Adam was
condemned to dust (i.e. death); likewise, Adams posterity, legally are included in
his condemnation. The sentence (by law) was pronounced upon Adam, and because his
posterity are constituted in nature identical to Adams after his fall, all are
condemned (by sentence) to death with him, because possessing a nature identical to our
father Adam. It is the sinful nature that was/is condemned to death (cf. Rom. 5:18). Jesus
Christ came into the world possessing this same (or like) sinful Adamic nature, common to
all Adams posterity, therefore, he likewise came into the world under the Adamic
condemnation (i.e., the death sentence in Adam). Proofs: Heb. 4:15 with
Jas. 1:14; Lk. 22:28; Rom. 5:18.
- The Adamic nature, which Jesus possessed, was the Cause (reason) for God
Jesus death. In this, God was just, and the justifier of those that believe in
Jesus (Rom. 3:26), though Jesus himself was sinless, and innocent of the great
transgression. The Adamic nature: (a) mentally/morally, and (b) physically, does not
qualify one to be in fellowship with our creator. Mankind, Jesus included, was/is born
into the world in this stat of disfavor and estrangement, according to the law of
condemnation. Therefore, a transformation, a change, must be effected before fellowship
with God is possible; first, a mental/moral, relative (legal) transformation; and,
finally, a physical transformation (or change). Ref. to (a) Rom. 12:1-2; II Cor.
5:17-19; Eph. 4:22-24. Ref. to (b) Rom. 8:18-23; Phil. 3:21; I Cor. 15:50-52.
II. The Sacrifice of Christ
- The sin of the world what is it by definition? (cf. Jn. 1:29 with
Heb. 2:14; 9:26, I Jn. 3:8).
It is by scriptural terminology defined as:
- The carnal mind Rom. 8:6-8
- The mind of the flesh Rom. 8:5,8,13
- The law of sin in the members Rom. 7:17-25
- The heart of (the natural) man Jer. 17:9; Matt. 15:18-20
- The old man Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22
- The diabolos (devil) Heb. 2:14; I Jn. 3:8
- The sin-in-the-flesh Rom. 8:3
- The sin Jn. 1:29; Heb. 9:26
- The sinful impulses (motions of sin) Rom. 7:5
In short, it is the sinful Adamic nature, which is the cause of all its
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. (Elpis Israel, p. 126)
- Did Jesus possess the Adamic nature, common to all descendants of Adam?
Mentally/morally and physically? Answer: Was Jesus tempted to sinning? Absolutely! (Heb.
4:15) Did Jesus possess a mortal, death-inclining, death-doomed physical body? Absolutely
- How was Jesus different in nature, compared to the rest of humanity, before or since, he
came into the world? Certainly not in his physical bodily nature. How then? Jesus was the
recipient of a mental/moral intellect that far exceeded and excelled and of the sons of
Adam. Whence came this special aspect of his Adamic nature? From God, his father! At an
early age (12 at least), he know who he was, and what was his purpose on earth:
- I came down from heaven - Jn. 6:38
- I proceeded forth and came from God, neither came I of myself, but He sent
me - Jn. 8:42
- the words I speak are not mine, but the Fathers who sent me - John 14:24
- I and my Father are one Jn. 10:30
- If you have seen me, you have seen the Father Jn. 14:9
- As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father Jn.
- But I know him; for I am from him, and He has sent me Jn. 7:29
- I can of mine ownself do nothing I seek not mine out will, but the will of the
Father who hath sent me. Jn. 5:30
He came not to manifest the Adamic nature, though he bore I tin both aspects, but
rather, he was sent to break, as it were , the law (or principle) of his own (Adamic)
nature, in its mental/moral aspect.
He destroyed, in himself, the sinful nature: first, by making it a captive; and
finally, by putting it to death. (Heb. 2:14; Heb. 9:26)
By shedding his own blood, he hath taken away the sin of the world, i.e., the
Adamic sinful nature.
Proposition IX Statement of Faith
That it was this mission that necessitated the miraculous begattal of Christ of a
virgin descendant of Adam, enabling him to bear our condemnation, and, at the same time,
to be a sinless bearer thereof, and, therefore, one who could after suffering the
death required by the righteousness of God; and thus he destroyed in his own mortal nature
that having the power of death, which is the devil; and will finally destroy the devil, or
sin in the flesh in all its forms of manifestation. (see proofs)
- Was Christs sacrifice for himself, as well as, for others; or, was it only for
other, and not for himself? (Free-life?) Answer (with a question) Did he possess
the Adamic condemned nature, common to all Adams descendants? (cf. Heb. 7:27).
- The Adamic sinful nature came under the condemnation; a nature common to all Adams
descendants, as a result of Adams sin. Christ possessed this nature, therefore, his
sacrifice was first for himself, then for the sins of the people Heb.
His Adamic nature, of necessity, had to be cleansed from the defilement of sin, which
results in death, in order to become the means (or way) that others might
benefit from his sin-and-death cleansing sacrifice.
His Adamic nature was first, symbolically cleansed by circumcision and baptism, and
literally, by his own sacrificial death, which resulted in his being glorified with
Gods divine nature. Ref. The Blood of the Covenant, p. 21-23,26-28, by Bro. J.J.
We (i.e., anyone) benefits from Christs atoning (sin cleansing) sacrifice by
symbolically uniting ourselves with him in his literal death to sin, by being
into his name.
We then have the hope of literally becoming completely cleansed of the defilement of
sin and death, when we shall Immortalized at Christs judgment seat.
Though he were a son (of God), yet learned he obedience by the things which he
suffered, and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them
that obey him. (Heb. 5:8-9).
Mainline, conservative Christadelphians, both Amended and Unamended, are agreed upon the
Bible teaching concerning the nature and sacrifice of Christ.
The law of condemnation (e.g. Adamic Condemnation) and its definition and application,
is the root of the division of thought that originally divided and created the two
main divisions of Christadelphia:
Amended define Adamic Condemnation to be mortality and proneness to sin.
Unamended define Adamic Condemnation to be the sentence (by law) to death; the
death state, to which, Adam was sentenced by law; the law of sin and death.
These two contrasting definitions, each have a bearing upon the related teachings
(doctrines) concerning: the Nature of Man; the Nature and (relative) Sacrifice of Christ;
Atonement (which includes baptism and its design and purpose); the design and purpose of
Covenant Relationship; and the Resurrection and Judgment.
In all of these differences of belief and convictions that has divided Christadelphia,
what was/is the single most cause for the great, unfortunate, God-dishonoring,
truth-nullifying division that prevails in Christadelphia?
Without a doubt the theory of the Responsibility of the Gentile Enlightened
Rejecter to the Judgment Seat of Christ!
The division of thought, pro or con, that evolved within the two main factions,
was necessarily influenced, pro or con, by this unfortunate theory.