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Other chapters are available free (request only). Christology
The Tri-Unity of God
Chapter "Christology" from "Christadelphianism Astray"
This chapter covers only two aspects of Christology.
Generally, Christian theology has consistently taught that the Son of God has eternally existed, and
that He was in 'the beginning with God', as
the very 'image of the invisible God' (Jn.l:2
1 Cor.4:4 Col. 1:15). So we should expect biblical evidence showing Christ is
not only Son of Man, but also Son of God. "Not so",
claim Christadelphians and concerning the OT confidently boast "There
is no hint in the Old Testament that the Son of God was already existent or in
any way active at that time. There is no word from him and no word about him to
suggest that an already existent Son of God would later appear on earth." (1)
Christadelphian's believe that if the OT contained a clear teaching of this nature then, the Jews would not have had such difficulty, in accepting him when he appeared. For they were certainly waiting for a Messiah, but not for one already existent in heaven.
The Christian would reply firstly by suggesting there's good evidence that many among the Jews did accept and follow Christ (Mt. 9:26 15:32-39 21:8,9 Jn.4:41,42 6:2) and secondly, that had they have all believed and known thoroughly the OT, then, they would have known who He really was. Instead, 'He came to His own, and His own received Him not' (Jn.l:11). However, the reaction of the unbelieving Jews to the Son of God surely cannot be the critical test as to whether the OT contained adequate Messianic information regarding His advent. Neither, could their faithless reaction lay waste His Messianic qualifications, or cast a doubt as to the validity of His nature as the Son of God.
Isa.9:6. 'For unto us a child is born - and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace'. Mainstream scholarship advocates that the word 'wonderful' can only truly apply to God. Also, the word 'Counsellor' has the idea of 'The' Counsellor above all others, which only the omniscient God could be, (Psa.16:7). The appellation 'The everlasting Father' with the words 'I and My Father are one' (Jn.l0:30) would literally mean 'the Father of Eternity', and pictures Christ as the paternal source of Eternity. (2) For this reason, Christians believe "no more emphatic language could be employed to state the Eternity of Christ". (3)
John Thomas said the expression, 'The everlasting Father', meant "the Father of the future age", (4) for Christ shall rule upon the throne of David as King. There is some truth in this analysis, but these essential characteristics are framed to exalt the 'child' above all others, and this is just one of the phrases. Another reads, 'The Mighty God'. This phrase occurs concerning the coming child and occurs again in Isaiah (10:20,21), and is even identified by the author (43:10,11). This 'God' stated that there is no other God - 'beside Me' (44:6). So the Jews could have sung Isaiah's song when Christ was among them, "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation." (Isa.25:9)
Christadelphian's say Christ "was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Pe.l:20) and the OT abounds with promises, made concerning the Christ who was come. (5) They claim, "his person was as clearly present to the divine mind as if he had stood before Him in actual fact". (6) Roberts gives an OT example; the Lord said to Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jer.l:5). Roberts points out that Jeremiah did not exist before his conception, yet these words would seem to teach that he did. That is, if they are understood in the manner of interpretation used by those who believe in the pre-existence of the Son of God. (7)
Roberts however, fails to appreciate the differences between the Son at God and Jeremiah, in his discussion. Christ claimed equality with God and invariably is proclaimed, the sinless One of God who came down from heaven. Jeremiah never made such a claim to be conscious before birth, and the word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah, states clearly, that Jeremiah was only formed in the womb and came out of the womb. The purpose of the dialogue between the Lord and Jeremiah is to comfort the prophet, with a promise that the One, who will be with him, is One who knows the end from the beginning. It is to install in the prophet's heart, the fact that Yahweh has sanctified and ordained him for a work, (Jer.1:5-10,17,19).
Yet Christadelphian's bulldoze aside evidence, by saying that in the OT Christ was only the plan, wisdom, or the logos of God, and nothing more. They believe as a man's thoughts are always apart of him, thus it was with God. He had a plan which John calls the logos, and this logos, was in the beginning with Him. (8) In this sense alone will the Christadelphian's accept Christ as eternal, as one who came to embody the plan of God.
It's true, Christ is the 'Wisdom of God', and 'Plan of God', but He's more than that, "for in Him was life", and He is "the Life" (Jn.1:4 11:25 14:6). No mere man could claim this and make sense. The identification of Jesus with the wisdom of God is first found in the synoptic Gospels, "especially Matthew's Gospel which portrays Jesus, as the new Torah". (9) 1st Corinthians identifies Christ with the wisdom of God (1 Cor.1:24,30) then, with the pre-existence of wisdom. This wisdom was 'hidden', (2:6-9) then revealed through the Spirit in the Crucified One (2:10-13).
We should consider again, 1 Cor.8:5-6, the formula of 'from-through-unto' proclaims the pre-existence of Christ before the existence of the historical Jesus. Since Christ was the agent of creation, as taught in this verse, this becomes terminal for the Christadelphian predicament, that Christ was only the thought or plan of God. Unlike Jeremiah, Christ's superiority is witnessed by His power in creating the universe. Through the Son, God created the worlds or ages (Jn.1:1-3 Col.1:16 Heb.1:2).
In the light of Jn.17:24, Roberts said Christ, "did not teach that he existed from the foundation of the world but, that the Father, regarded him with love, from the beginning and that therefore, to the Father's mind, he was present." (10) While this passage in John's Gospel is proof that the Father loved the Son, 'before the foundation of the world', it's not verification the Son was a mere concept in the Father's mind before the foundation of the world.
By drawing attention to this verse, Roberts unintentionally refers to where Christ made an interesting statement (Jn.17:5). Here, Christ as the Son of God said, "Father, glorify thou me in thy presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was". W.McDonald comments, "Before Christ came into the world, He dwelt in heaven with the Father. What Christ is saying here is, 'let the original glory which I shared with thee before my incarnation be resumed'. This clearly teaches the pre-existence of Christ." (11) Note the words 'with thee' (ie 'shared') this silences the idea of just a 'thought' in God's mind.
Christadelphian's today use the same argument as Roberts, (12) and say the same style of language, is adopted with reference to Christ's people, 'He hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world' (Eph.1:4). This could not prove the existence of believers before the world began, for it only indicates a divine foresight. So, they insist the glory which Christ had before the world, was the glory God purposed for him from the beginning. (13) If we carefully think about this, we will see that Roberts is confused. The phrase 'before the foundation of the world' found in John's Gospel (17:24 & Eph.1:4, 1 Pet.1:20) simply, 'looks back to the past eternity'. (14) Election relates to God's foreknowledge, not to, pre-existence. (15) Likewise, when the Scriptures say 'the Lamb that hath been slain from the foundation of the world', (Rev.l3:8) the meaning is, 'the death of Christ was a redemptive sacrifice decreed in the counsels of eternity'. (16) However, the expression used by Christ is "...I had with thee before the world was", (Jn.17:5) this is clearly different, than the phrase used in Jn.17:24.
Jn.8:56-58. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad...Before Abraham was I am". Then they 'took up stones to cast at Him.' If we ask how these verses relate to Christadelphian doctrine, we're told Jesus "only meant to express the fact stated by Paul" (17) and then, Heb.11:13 is quoted, "these all died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them afar off". It was seeing the promises of God 'afar off' that made Abraham glad. So Christadelphian's say the Jews, 'mistook Jesus' and Jesus 'deepened their bewilderment by using another form of speech, which still more obscured his meaning'. (18) Jesus said He was purposed before Abraham existed and the Father, of whom He was a manifestation, existed before all.
Questions arise with such an interpretation. Why would Christ mislead those who confronted Him? Or, of the many words to use, why use the divine title I Am? The Jews asked Jesus if He had personally seen Abraham, because He implied Abraham had seen Him. They should have known that while Abraham was living he spoke with God. They objected to Christ who identified Himself with 'the angel of the Lord', and spoke with Abraham (Gen.17,18). The title 'I Am' resulted in a reaction showing the Jews understood what Jesus said. If, as Christadelphian's imply, Christ had "deepened their bewilderment", then surely, their actions resulted from righteous indignation. They acted according to the law of blasphemy, rightly justified in their actions (Lev. 24:11-16). But this was not so (Jn.5:38 8:44,46,55).
The Christadelphian interpretation of the words 'I Am' as used in John's Gospel are usually completed as 'I am He'. A further completion would be 'I am He that shall save His people from their sins' (Mt.1:21). (19) This explanation is partly correct. But firstly, the verse in Matthew does not come from the Lord's lips, it's part of the dialogue between the angel and Joseph in which the angel says 'For He shall save His people'. Secondly, the words, 'I am He' are used by God in the OT (Deut.32:39 Isa.41:4 43:10,25 51:12 52:6) to indicate Yahweh is God alone, a phrase the Hebrews understand to refer to Deity. So surely, any Bible student recognizes (the phrase) as synonymous with God. (20)
Jn.1:1. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God'. Most Christians consider this conclusive, it declares the pre-existence of the Word, before the Word was made flesh (v.14).
Christadelphian's believe we fail to understand how John is using the Greek 'logos'. In Jewish religious thinking and writing, 'Word' and, 'Wisdom' had come to be applied to God Himself. (21) Christadelphian's do not appear to realise that the Hebrew 'dabar', ('word') used by the Hebrews in the OT 'generally means 'matter' or 'thing', and applies to the spoken word, or written communication'. (22) But even so, Christians believe God became flesh in the person of Jesus so, Jesus is rightly called 'the Word of God' or 'God', (Heb.l:8 Rev.19:13).
Christadelphian's then quote Prov.8:12,14, 22-23,27 to say that "word and wisdom had come to be applied to God" and this passage is proof. (23) But 'wisdom' in Proverbs is viewing life from God's perspective and pictured as 'female' (1:20-23 2:4 8:1-3). So if we put the word 'God', in every place where wisdom is mentioned the idea becomes nonsense. Wisdom is not asserted to be God, or how else could we explain "the Lord created me (wisdom) at the beginning of His work? (see Prov.8:22-24. RSV).
To the Christadelphian, the 'Word' represents God's mind and His wisdom. That is why the 'Word was God'. In becoming flesh, "Jesus became the incarnate Word and the whole mind of God was expressed in Him. The disciples were able to look on and handle what previously was merely a doctrine, or a promise". (24) But how could the 'Word' who, 'was God' merely be a promise, or doctrine? Since Christ is 'the True concept of God' become flesh, (25) He is given the title 'Word of God' (Rev.19:13). The Christadelphian would reply, that Revelation 19:13, only refers to 'his future work, as ruler of the nations of the earth, as the context in the passage shows'. (26) But, the connection between Jn.1:1 and Rev.19:13, indicate that the 'Word' of Jn.1:1, is a Person, not a doctrine. It is true He will have a future work as ruler of the nations, but the titles, 'Faithful and True' (Rev.19:11) and, 'Word of God' are worthy of this Person yesterday, today, and forever.
Jn.6:38. 'I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me'. There is a simple meaning to this verse for Christians, but the Christadelphian can understand this only in a particular way. If we ask in what sense did Jesus come down from heaven? The answer is - "The narrative of his birth describes how Jesus came into existence because 'the Holy Spirit.. the power of the Most High...came upon' Mary his mother. He was born as a result of the direct intervention of God's Holy Spirit. In a unique way he alone among the human race could say he 'came from heaven'." (27)
In this clever manner Christadelphian's deny Christ 'came down from heaven' (Jn.3:13). Surely the phrase, 'come down from' distinctly indicates a presence in one place having departed from elsewhere, (Ex.3:8 Jud.15:12 Mt.24:17 Ac.14:11 Rev.12:12, 20:1). There's nothing in Jn.6:38 indicating Jesus had His birth in mind. To the contrary, the context reveals Jesus purposed to say He had in a real sense come down from heaven (vs.41,42,51,62), and the Father had 'sent' Him from there (vs.39,57). The Jews understood this claim which they questioned among themselves, (v.42) and noted this claim of having come from His Father implied that He was unlike any other.... though He was rich, (the splendour of heaven) yet for your sakes He became poor' (the squalor of earth) (2 Cor.8:9). He had come from heaven to earth.
Christadelphian's draw a parallel with the two wisdoms in James (3:14-18), one from earth, the other 'from above', teaching that Jesus perfectly reflected the mind and wisdom of the Father, in this sense He is from above. (28) So He could say, 'ye are from beneath, I am from above' (Jn.8:23). He "manifested wisdom and characteristics that were Divine". (29)
Note also Jesus said, "no one has ascended into heaven, but he who descended from heaven" (Jn.3:13). He had come down from heaven, to fulfil the mission given by the Father and could ask the disciples "what if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up to where he was before? (Jn.6:62). Such language is too descriptive to be spiritually symbolic.
The fact Jesus said He 'came down from heaven', or 'the Father hath sent' Him (Jn.5:30), is significant. If He said, "I come from God", we might consider He were just a prophet sent with the wisdom of God. But He speaks of the glory that was known to Him while in the presence of His Father, and prayed, "I came forth from Your presence" (Jn.17:8 Amplified Bible). Such claims appeared so ridiculous to some of His disciples, they left Him, (Jn.6:62-66). Apparently, Christadelphian's have regarded Christ's teaching on having come from heaven with a similar kind of fastidiousness, even implying its rejection is necessary for salvation. (30)
Heb.7:3. "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever." (NIV). The Christadelphian interpretation of this is what we expect. That Christ existed in the Father's mind, was His plan and purpose from the beginning, so it has no reference to Christ's nature or origin. For He did have mother, (Mary) and father (God) and a 2nd life when he died. After His resurrection He declared "I am He that liveth, and was dead" (Rev.1:18). (31)
This exegesis fails to answer the implications of this verse. If we say Christ existed only in the Father's mind, in plan and purpose from the beginning, we must realize this can be said of all men. But, the Scriptures do not say of men that they are 'without beginning of days', or 'come down from heaven'. Nor could we say we 'shared the Father's glory'. Meichisedek's antecedents are deliberately not recorded, and he's compared to Christ as resembling Him in some ways. He was "the facsimile of which Christ is the reality". (32) But not, "absolutely like Christ but only in the particulars specified". (33) Only as man did Christ have no earthly father, and only as God the Son did He have no 'mother or ancestry' or 'beginning of days'. If the Hebrew author believed Christ's only beginning was at Bethlehem (the Virgin Mary) why would he make such a statement as 'without beginning of days'? He would have known of the lack of record concerning Melchizedek's father, mother, birth, or death, but Jesus did have these, as the Gospel record shows. Why bring up this matter of 'without father, mother, ancestry, or beginning of days' when these were well known? The answer is because Melchisedek was only a type, or like the Christ, but Christ was superior in everything, He had the better application of the epithets mentioned.
We conclude the Scriptures offer reasonable evidence, to establish the Christian position in defiance of the most vigorous debate from those who deny Christ came down from glory. We have found their teaching fails under examination. While mainstream scholarship tends toward a clear, and obvious interpretation of Scripture, Christadelphianism becomes tremendously elaborate, and is forced to pressurize Scripture into a metaphorical maze.
The Incarnate One.
The doctrine of the pre-existence is a prerequisite to the doctrine of incarnation. It is to this subject we now turn, again, it won't be possible to refer to every Scripture relating to this. But instead, develop the overall concept that will aid to our appreciation of the doctrinal framework, of Christadelphianism.
One Christian writer has said until the incarnation, Christ 'was One Person of the Godhead, being deity alone, but at His incarnation He conjoined with His deity full and proper humanity'. (34) He then laid aside His rights as deity and His glory with the Father when becoming man (Ph.2:7). The Christadelphian teaching, concerning the birth of Christ, is that 'He was divinely begotten by God, had no corporeal existence prior to his birth, and was made in all points, like his brethren, human'. (35) They speak of his birth, as 'the beginning of the ideal man Christ Jesus'. (36)
Traditional Christianity agrees His humanity was indeed 'born', but Christ as God's Son is God Himself incarnate, and was never 'born'. To answer this, Christadelphian's will quote Matthew 1:18, ('Now the birth of Jesus Christ...'). Emphasis is placed on the word "birth", they say Matthew, "Uses the same Greek word for the book of Genesis - it means quite literally 'beginning' and can mean nothing else (Liddell and Scotts Greek Dictionary translates it as an origin, source, birth, race, or descent). From the above it is clear that Jesus was created from the woman by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in being created from the woman, he was susceptible to the same propensities as all mankind - that is mortality and sinfulness. Therefore, capable of sin." (37)
Christadelphian literature has a habit of quoting from authors whose books are not readily available for the general public. And only where the author's quote appears to support Christadelphian doctrine. The first impression one assumes is that Christadelphian's are supported by the scholar quoted. This is not always true, as we will see later, when considering the quote.
The problem with their exegesis on Mt.1:18 is that it fails to note the other Greek words used in Matthew's account. If Matthew meant, 'the beginning of Jesus Christ' he would have used a different word 'Genete', which 'denotes the hour of birth, to become, to be born' (Jn.9:1). (38) In vs.16, we see how Matthew 'shifts from the active "begat", (egennesen) to the passive "was born" (egennethe) to account for Jesus' birth'. (39) Surely, this indicates a unique birth. The reason the miracle of the conception is ascribed emphatically to the Holy Spirit, is to mark the fact that Jesus was conceived sinless and in a manner the most sacred imaginable. Surely this suggests, He might not be 'susceptible, to the same propensities as all mankind', such as sinfulness, as Christadelphianism suggests.
Dr. L. Richards, a Hebrew and Greek scholar comments on the birth Christ, when referring to Psalm 2:7, "You are my Son; today I have become your father". He says, "The text does not suggest a point time when the Son "began". The 'Qal' stem here affirms the uniqueness of the relationship between the incarnate Jesus and the Father - a relationship not definable by parentage alone." (40)
As God the Son Christ had no beginning, He was 'In the beginning with God' (Jn.1:1), the One who laid the foundation of the world and created the heavens (Col.1:16). Christadelphian's would reject this teaching that Christ created 'all things'; by saying this 'would include God Himself, to say nothing of the angels'. They interpret the 'all things' as the 'political heavens' in another effort to deny Christ's deity. (41)
Gal.4:4 "But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law." (RSV) This verse arises in the discussion and it is stated by Christadelphian's, that the expression 'born of a woman' means 'out of a woman', and implies that Jesus partook of her nature. (42) The emphasis is placed on the Lord Jesus as the child of Mary, and this is His only origin.
Christians accept Jesus was truly man, but Gal.4:4 does not deny His incarnation by suggesting His origin originates only from Mary. Bible exegetes call attention to the fact that, 'the same verb is used of the Father, sending forth the Spirit', (v.6). So, 'God sent forth His Son' does not mean God sent One, who became His Son at Bethlehem, for the parallel report 'God sent forth the Spirit of His Son' (v.6) could not mean God sent forth that which became His Spirit upon sending. (43) If Jesus were just human, it would be strange to say that he was 'born of a woman'. How else could a mere man be born? The expression here, 'witnesses to His unique Person and the unique mode of His birth' (44) otherwise, 'the reading in the first clause is absurd, as that would mean 'in the act of being born'. (45)
The fact Jesus is born of Mary indicates for the genealogical record which demanded further explanation, but His miraculous conception and Virgin Birth, is essential to explain His sin-less-ness. If born as others, He inherited the taint of corruption which all have, but He was not, indicating an 'incarnation'. Just as the remarkable words He spoke and the wondrous works He did also affirm His incarnation. Christadelphian's generally do not believe that Christ as all men inherited, 'the taint of sin', or that He committed any sin, but that the unique birth resulted in a unique person. "His uniqueness is insisted upon, especially by the Apostle John, who five times in his writings calls him "the only begotten Son." (46) But what does this expression in John's Gospel really mean? To answer this we will refer to a 'disputed passage' in John's Gospel, John 1:18 - "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known". (NIV)
If we ask how the NIV of Jn.1:18 reflects on their teaching, we are told there are some translations which are 'extremely inaccurate'. (47) The AV, RV, RSV, Moffat, Diaglott, NEB, and Marshalls literal translation of the Nestle Greek Text will all bear out the Christadelphian teaching. We are told that it was the, 'Word made flesh' who was, 'begotten' and there is nothing in Scripture that 'the word was begotten'. We are told, 'Jesus was the Word become flesh, and it was then that he personally existed for the first time'. (48) So, Christ was, 'not part word and part flesh, his nature was one, not two and he was not a God and a man separate and distinct within the one being'. (49) Professor Finlayson gives a Christian perspective when he states - "The Son is called 'only begotten' perhaps to suggest uniqueness rather than derivation. Christ always claimed for himself a unique relationship to God as Father, making himself equal with God. (Jn.5:18)" (50)
If we consider comments of scholars of the NT Greek about 'only begotten', we note that W.E. Vine wrote, "The glory was that of a unique relationship and the word 'begotten' does not imply a beginning of His Sonship. It suggests relationship, but must be distinguished from generation as applied to man. We can only rightly understand the term 'the only begotten' when used of the Son, in the sense of unoriginated relationship. Another reading is monogenes Theos 'God only begotten'." (51)
This is very damaging to the Christadelphian interpretation, it indicates Christ was different from any other. Not that He just had an affinity with His Father no other had, but He was, as Wesley might say, 'God to earth come down'.
Ask how Christadelphian's react to Vine's comment, they reply 'Vine's comment is completely wrong' and, 'this is not sustained by any Greek Lexicon'. They say Vine read into the Greek his own 'bias and does not offer informed comment'. (52) So we ask, who gives a proper explanation of this word? They reply, the 'Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott', and only the words 'monogenes only begotten' are quoted. As previously mentioned, some Christadelphian's quote only what supports their view and from sources unavailable to the general public, and this is true here.
It could be said that Henry George Liddell (1811-1898) and Robert Scott, (1811-1887) compiled their 'Greek-English Lexicon' without the light of the new knowledge, which came to us by the discovery of the papyri. For they based their work upon the Lexicon of F. Passow published in 1812. He in turn had based his work upon that of J.G. Schneider whose work first appeared in 1797-8. (53) Modern day scholars believe that with the new discovery of the papyri 'during the last fifty years this light has brought to bear upon the New Testament with priceless results'. (54) It is well known that these papyri have 'illuminated every aspect of the life of the Greek-speaking people of the ancient world in which the New Testament was written'. (55) They have shown that the NT was not written in the Attic of the classics. The Preface to the fifth edition of Liddell and Scott's Dictionary (1861) refers to the old Attic language and certain difficulties and vagueness with understanding Greek literature which Liddell and Scott experienced. Another edition (1925) mentions, 'the large mass of new material awaiting incorporation' and that Liddell and Scott's Dictionary must be 'largely rewritten'. (56) It was further revised in 1940 by H.S. Jones.
Even so, both Liddell and Scott were of Reformed Theology, (Liddell-Dean of Christ Church. Scott-Master of Balliol College; Dean of Rochester). But regarding the quote in contention, Liddell and Scott's Dictionary not only reads, 'monogenes only begotten' but also, 'one and the same blood'. (57) Which of course the Christadelphian's say nothing, for it is not palatable with their doctrine by suggesting Christ was, 'one and the same as God'.
Modern day scholars of the NT Greek help us appreciate the full impact Jn.1:18. R. Earle (who served on the translation committee for the NIV) says, 'The oldest Greek manuscripts all have monogenes Theos "only begotten God"'. He says, "This then, becomes the strongest possible statement of fully deity of Jesus". (58) G. Ladd, a well known NT scholar, believes John is referring to 'Jesus as the only God'. Ladd says, that while the RSV translates it 'the only Son', it is a fact that, 'all three critical Greek New Testaments read 'the only God'. (59) Another scholar of the Greek L. Richards says, "John concluded, 'No one has ever seen God, but the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known' (v.18)." (60)
The New International Dictionary of N.T. Theology - 'monogenes is used to mark out Jesus uniquely above all earthly and heavenly beings'. (61) The total demise of any Christadelphian argumentcomes from G.Kittel, 'The relation of Jesus is not just compared to that of an only child. It is the relation of the only-begotten to the Father. When John speaks of the Son of God, he has primarily in view the man Jesus (and) also the risen pre-existent Lord'. (62) No wonder Delphians fail to mention all the comment of scholars regarding this word.
Phil.2:6. 'Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness'. (NIV) This verse must enter the discussion for obvious reasons. The word 'morphe' meaning, 'very nature' (NIV) or 'form', (RV) according to R.C. Trench, 'may be assumed, is of the essence of a thing'. (63) This indicates Jesus was God, incarnate before coming to earth. Christadelphians explain what this verse means, "Jesus being the Son of God spoke the words of God, delivered His judgments, promised life in His name. Thus Jesus adopted the position of God towards his fellow speaking with God's authority and in His name; He was Immanuel 'God with us'." (64)
Christadelphian's comment further on this verse by explaining, that the phrase He 'did not consider equality with God something to be grasped', simply refers to an 'equality', which will be given as a 'final reward' for 'faithful service'. This is a 'sharing of God's own dominion'. It is not an 'equality in absolute terms' and 'shown by the way Paul concludes his paragraph...to the glory of God the Father'. (65)
The Christadelphian interpretation is out of context. Paul is not referring to Jesus acting as 'God towards his fellows' and 'speaking with God's authority' over the people, or 'delivering God's judgments'. Paul is writing about the opposite to what the Christadelphian's say, that is, the supreme example of humility by Christ. What characterized Christ's behaviour to others was a selfless, sacrificial serving ministry. Christ consistently thought of others, and Paul is encouraging the Philippians to follow this example. In giving the progression of seven steps, (the Kenosis Theory) Christ who 'began in very nature God', that is equal with God, emptied Himself becoming progressively humble, even to the point of death on the cross. As to the extent of this self-emptying that is another subject, (66) but Paul has described Christ as existing from all eternity as God, not merely as resembling God, but the very 'essence' of Him (Col.l:15 Heb.l:2,3). We draw this conclusion because the first word (Phil.2:6-8) is 'morphe' in the Greek, but the later (v.8) 'schema'. J.B. Lightfoot (that learned Hebraist of the 17th century) emphasizes the truth that 'morphe' means 'what He is in Himself'- truly God become truly servant - but 'schema' indicates 'what He appeared in the eyes of men'. (67) And so, the first word refers to the inner being of Christ, who He is, while the later word refers to the outer appearance that Christ took on while on earth, a servant in the 'truest and fullest meaning of the word'. So, 'there is no ground for taking the phrase in "the 'form' of God", to mean less'. (68)
In considering only some of the many Scripture passages supporting this doctrine, we see Christadelphianism disputes the miracle of the incarnation. Just as human reason rejects the virgin birth as being impossible, and as contrary to the natural order of things, so they reject the incarnation. If "all things are possible with God" (Mk.l0:27) surely, its possible for God to become man. Then Christadelphianism, with its assumption or presupposition, that its not possible for God to become incarnate, reveal a lack of openness to Scripture.
1. TENNANT, H. The Christadelphian's, What They Believe and
Preach.p.85. Birmingham, 1986
2. DOUGLAS, A. One Hundred Bible Lessons. p.27
Overseas Mission Fellowship Publ,1968.
3. GUNN, J. God the Son. p.44
A Symposium. Everyday Publications
4. THOMAS, J. Elpis Israel. p.200
5. TENNANT, H. Ibid., p.85
6. ROBERTS, R. Christendom Astray.
Birmingham, 1951. p.96
7. ROBERTS, R. Ibid p.96
8. CHRISTADELPHIAN'S. The Manifestation of God. p.3
Scripture Study Circle,(nd)
9. SUGGS, M.J. Wisdom Christology and Law in Matthew's
Gospel. p.78. Harvard
10. ROBERTS, R. Ibid., p.96
11. MACDONALD, W. The Gospel of John. p.201
Emmaus Bible College, 1984
12. MANSFIELD, H.P. Who Is Jesus Christ? p.14
The Christadelphian Press
Aust, Jun., 1984.
13. ROBERTS, R. Ibid., p.96
14. VINE, W.E. An Expository Dictionary at New Testament
Words. p.128. Moody Press 1985 Edn.
15. FLINT, V.P. Epistle to the Ephesians. p.8
Emmaus Bible College, 1973.
16. MOUNCE, R.H. The Book of Revelation. p.256
The New International Commentary
on the NT. Eerdrnans, 1984.
17. ROBERTS, R. Ibid., p.97
18. ROBERTS, R. Ibid., p.97
19. PEARCE, F. Jesus - God the Son or Son of God? p.30
20. MARTIN, W. Kingdom of the Cults. p.87
Bethany House Publ.,1985
21. PEARCE, F. Ibid., p.25
22. EDWARDS, R.B. The International Standard Bible
Encyclopaedia. p.1101. Vol. 4
23. PEARCE, F. Ibid., p.25
24. MANSFIELD, H.P. Ibid., p.13
25. EARLE, R. Word Meanings in the New Testament. p.81
Baker Book House, 1988.
26. PEARCE, F. Ibid., p.26
27. PEARCE, F. Ibid., p.27
28. PEARCE, F. Ibid., p.28
29. MANSFIELD, H.P. Ibid., p.10
30. MANSFIELD, H.P. Ibid., p.15
31. MELLES, R. Letter from a Christadelphian 12/10/88
32. HAWTHORNE, C.F The International Bible Commentary. p1518
Marshall Pickering Zondervan.
33. JAMIESON, Commentary On the Whole Bible p.1414.
FAUSSET, Regency Reference Library. Clear-type Edn.
34. ROGERS, E.W. God the Son. p.49
A Symposium. Everyday Publ,1974.
35. MANSFIELD, H.P. The Christadelphian's. Modern Revival of
Apostolic Faith. p.8
Eureka Press Aust, (nd)
36. MANSFIELD, H.P. God is One Not Three. p.10
Eureka Press Aust, 1974
37. MELLES, R. Letter from a Christadelphian 9/4/88.
38. VINE, W.E. Ibid., p.128
39. DORMAN, T.M. The International standard
p.990. Vol.4 Eerdmans, 1988
40. RICHARDS, L.0. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. p.138.
Regency Reference Library, 1985.
41. MANSFIELD, H.P. Who is Jesus Christ ? p.8
42. PEARCE, F. Ibid., p.14
43. JAMIESON, Ibid., p.1269
FAUSSET, & BROWN.
44. MACDONALD, W. Commentary on Galatians. p.52
Emmaus Bible College 1984.
45. PICKABY, S.J. Notes on St Paul. p.263
Burns & Oates Ltd., 1898
46. PEARCE, F. Ibid., p.13
47. MELLES, R.Letter from a Christadelphian 16/6/88.
Delphians will use Vine's Dictionary
when convenient. (See - "Does God
Hear Prayer?" p.3 M.G.Owen
48. TENNANT, H. Ibid., p.100
49. TENNANT, H. Ibid., p.97
50. FINLAYSON, R.A. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary. p.1599.
Vol.3. Tyndale House Publ,1980
51. VINE, W.E. Ibid., p.140
52. MELLES, R. Letter from a Christadelphian 16/6/88.
53. LIDDELL, H. Greek-English Lexicon. Preface.
& SCOTT, R.A Oxford Clarendon Press, 1925.
A New Edn.
54. VINE, W.E. Ibid., Forward.
55. KUBO, S. So Many Versions ? p.27
& SPECHT, W.F. Academie Books, Grand Rapids.
Revised & Enlarged Edn.,1983
56. LIDDELL, H.G. Ibid., Preface.
& SCOTT, R.
57. LIDDELL, H.G.Ibid., p.919
& SCOTT, R. 5th Edn. Revised & Augmented.
Oxford University Press, 1861.
58. EARLE, R. Ibid., p.82
59. LADD, 0.E. A Theology of the New Testament. p.247.
Lutterworth Press Lon, 1981.
60. RICHARDS, L.0.Ibid., p.635
61. BROWN, C. (Ed.) The International Dictionary of New Testament
Theology. p.725. Pata Nosin Press,1980.
62. KITTEL, G. (Ed.) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
pp.740,741. Eerdmans, 1964.
63. TRENCH, R.C. Synonyms of the New Testament p.265
Grand Rapids Eerdmans, 1947. Reprint.
64. PEARCE, F. Ibid., p.33
65. PEARCE, F.Ibid., p.33
66. CONNER, J.K. The Foundations of Christian Doctrine. p.162
67. LIGHTFOOT, J.B. Saint Paul's Epistle to the Philippians. p112
Grand Rapids Zondervan,1953.
68. BRUCE, F. F. Man's Need and God's Gift. p.263
& MARTIN, W.J. Baker Book House, 1976