The Gospel That Is Never Preached

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1. The Bible Needs Explanation

What did John the Baptist mean by the strange statement "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world"? What was the sin he referred to and how did Jesus take it away? The answer to this question is the key to understanding the Gospel, but it can only be discovered by putting together a number of apparently un-related facts scattered through the Bible. They are outlined here, together with a few of the relevant texts and though our interpretations will come as a surprise to most people it is suggested that the reader should make his own test of their soundness by comparing them with what he knows of Scripture. We do not think it is practical in these days to expect people to discover the truth by reading the Bible for themselves and it is only with the benefit of a study of the controversies which have raged during centuries of Christianity that we can today put together a coherent and logical explanation of why God chose to base our hope of salvation upon the awful death by crucifixion of the man who was His Son.

2. Sin and Death in Genesis

Adam was created at the beginning a man of flesh and blood of the same corruptible nature as all other living creatures, and in order to develop character he was placed under a law requiring simple obedience. He disobeyed God and incurred the penalty of sin. The account in Genesis is almost universally misunderstood, but the usual theory is that it was the sin which caused Adam to become corruptible and that natural death which we all inherit was the punishment he deserved. But if we read what actually happened it will be seen that this is not so. He had been warned that in the day he sinned he would surely die, yet in fact he lived for more than 900 years! What is the explanation? Did God change His mind? If we look up other instances of the same expression, e.g. 1 Kings 2:37-42, we find that "dying thou shalt die" implies an inflicted death, and under the Law of Moses a presumptuous sinner was to be put to death (see Genesis 20:7). This is what Adam had actually incurred and he knew it because he was afraid. But how could he possibly escape if God was not to be untrue to His word? The explanation is in the plan of Redemption, whereby he died in law but under a typical sacrifice his life was spared and he lived to become the father of the human race. Adam was delivered from imminent death as Isaac was delivered when Abraham was about to kill him, by the offering of a substitute. God did not change His mind but He made it possible in His own wisdom and mercy to open to man the hope of regaining by faith the life which had been lost by disobedience.

3. Born Under Sin

Most Christians believe in original sin. We believe this is completely wrong because it would mean that God is responsible for us being sinners. Children are not born sinful but they need to be taught to behave properly. Human nature is morally neutral and natural needs and desires are not evil, but they can become the cause of sin when they are uncontrolled. But there is a scriptural doctrine of sin which we must understand because it affects all responsible people. In the letter to the Romans the apostle Paul shows how God has chosen to regard all men as involved in the sin of Adam, "By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners." We were not made sinners in the sense of being created evil or obliged by nature to become sinful. The meaning is that we are legally classified as under the reign of sin in a similar way to that in which we are by law citizens of the country in which we are born. Paul says death "passed upon" all men, implying that the sentence of death incurred by Adam hangs over all his descendants, since all who share his life would have perished in him if he had been put to death on the day of his sin. We would never have existed. So that Adam is not only the one from whom we are all physically descended, but he is also nominated the federal head of all who are under the reign of sin. This is the relationship of being in Adam, or alienated from God, and its vital importance is because if we remain in it, that is, unredeemed, we are inescapably destined to perish.

4. Justice and Divine Law

Law is the basis of the Divine Plan. The will of God is that we should not perish but have everlasting life, even though because we are all personally sinners we cannot earn it. God wishes to be merciful and show His love towards us, but He will not do so at the expense of the supremacy of law. That is why it is decreed that we are in Adam and under his sin, so that we can be covered by the process of redemption which saved him. So there is a double problem - to show mercy and at the same time uphold a just law which must condemn sin - and it is solved in a very wonderful way by the sacrifice of Christ. Many sincere believers cannot bear the idea that they needed to be saved by a sacrifice involving bloodshed and they think that we can be saved by the simple exercise of unconditional forgiveness, but this can never happen because it would not establish the high principles of justice and law which must prevail and which must be recognized by those who hope for the reward of faith. We must follow God's way or perish! Under the supreme law of a righteous God, a man who is a sinner does not deserve to live; he has forfeited his life, which means that the death which came by sin is not primarily a punishment but a debt. A sinner owes that which he cannot pay without perishing; he owes his life. The principle of the Atonement which is defined in the laws of sacrifice, is that if a repentant sinner brings his offering in faith, its life can be accepted in discharge of his debt. God brought Jesus into the world for this purpose, as He declared - John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life."

5. The Sin-Bearer

When Jesus submitted to His enemies and denied Himself the deliverance He could have asked for, He made Himself the sin-offering, translating into reality the typical salvation which took place in Eden when Adam was clothed with the skins of slain animals. His death was therefore an exact substitutionary sacrifice, His life given in place of the one forfeited, not, as people once thought the infliction of undeserved punishment on the innocent in order that the guilty might escape, which would have been utterly unjust and abhorrent. God did not bring about or demand the death of Jesus; He foresaw what wicked man would do to Jesus, who voluntarily allowed Himself to be taken and condemned, because He saw Himself as paying the price of the redemption of the children of Adam, who was His brother. He was innocent, "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners," the counterpart of the perfect unblemished lamb offered under the Mosaic law. As even Pilate His judge recognized, there was no just reason to put Him to death, but Jesus realized that He alone could pay the price of deliverance by the sacrifice of His own unforfeited life.

6. Why The Virgin Birth?

The accounts in Matthew and Luke are explicit and there is a very special reason why we must accept them as revealed truth. The disbelief of many present-day Christians arises from their failure to understand why Joseph could not be the father of our Saviour. Jesus was a man like other men in every respect except for the origin of His life; He was in no sense divine or different in nature. The circumstances of His birth did not give Him extra power to resist temptation which other men do not have nor did they exempt Him from the weakness and suffering common to humanity. He was made and tempted in all points like His brethren, He had no existence previous to His birth of Mary (except in the sense that He was in the purpose of God from the beginning of the creation), He was not God nor a God-man but one like ourselves. The true reason for His divine origin can now be made clear.

7. A Man but not a Son of Adam

Born of a woman He came into the world as a child like the rest of us, but He was a new creation of life, the same corruptible flesh and blood but begotten by the Holy Spirit, a new life direct from Heaven and not a continuation of the Adam-life. The significance of this is that He was a man born outside the state of captivity explained above in paragraph 3, and therefore His life was His own to start with, and during His trials and temptations He was sinless so that He was never under the dominion of sin. This point about Jesus having His life in His own possession seems difficult for some people to grasp but it is really very simple and it is the only possible explanation of why Jesus was God’s Son and why He alone could save us. He said that He came to give His life a ransom for many. The original Greek word, lutron (Matthew 20:28) means a price paid, and this price was His life; therefore it had to be His own to give. The apostle Paul says that God sent forth His Son to redeem them that were under the law. (Galatians 4:5), and this word exagorazo means to acquire out of the forum for a price; so again, this is how God redeemed us, by sending His own Son into the world to buy us back to Himself. It is of course a figurative transaction, because a life cannot be paid to anybody, but it is a very real purchase because it was completed by the literal pouring out of His life in the blood which was shed upon the Cross, a life which He did not get back because He was raised in the Spirit. The difference between the life that Jesus had as the Son of God and the life that we have as descendants of Adam is a legal one, not a difference in quality but of origin and possession. This is the distinction Jesus was making when He said - John 8:42-44, "I proceeded forth and came from God... ye are of your father, the devil."

8. The Truth About The Devil

There is no supernatural tempter called Satan, but in the Bible sin is personified as the Devil, because the abstract principles of good and evil which we can recognize today would have been incomprehensible to primitive people. In Hebrews 2:14 it says that Jesus came in flesh and blood "that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." The devil was not literally destroyed because he has never existed, but the reign of sin and evil he stands for is ended for all those who accept Jesus as their Saviour.

9. The Future Life

As we have shown, under the Divine Plan of Salvation we can be saved from sin and death, but what are we saved for? In this present existence we are part of the natural creation and subject to the change and chances of an uncertain life. We are made in the image of God, in that we have free will and within our capacity can do whatever we please. But like all natural things we have only a limited span of life and no soul or immortal part of us which goes to heaven or anywhere else after we are dead. When we die we cease to be, our consciousness is at an end and our bodies return to the dust. But this creation is only the beginning of the purpose of God. The Bible shows that He intends the earth to be inhabited by an immortal happy people under the reign of Jesus Christ who will return from heaven to be its King, and it seems likely that this will be the centre of an infinite extension of the glory of God throughout the universe in immeasurable future ages. This chosen people of God, most of whom are dead and forgotten by the world, will be raised to life again in the resurrection when the day of the Lord dawns. They comprise the faithful from earlier ages, chiefly Jewish, together with those both Jew and Gentile, who have accepted Christ as their Saviour, having died in the symbol of baptism (Galatians 3:27) and been reborn as the children of God. These will be raised incorruptible in the first resurrection and share with Christ in the practical process of cleansing and reforming the whole earth for the benefit of the millions of oppressed and ignorant people who have suffered for so long under the greed and stupidity of self-serving rulers. During this reign and though still mortal, all nations will, be able to enjoy the blessings of wise government, bringing the peace and security so desperately needed, and guided and taught by the Saints will ultimately be able to attain by faith and obedience to immortality. Finally, we learn from Revelation 21 that God Himself shall be with them, shall wipe away alltears from their eyes; that there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be anymore pain: for the former things are passed away.

10. The Nazarene Fellowship

The few who call themselves by this name are of course Christians but we are not a sect. Our members are scattered about the world but are united by their acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God and in their understanding of its teaching. We have no formal organization or places of worship; no ministers or creed; we baptize in the name of Jesus but anyone who believes can do this; we do not organize charities or collect money, but, recognizing that the present state of society and the world is clear evidence that these are the last days of the present order - or disorder - we do what little we are able, at our own expense, to explain to our friends the true Gospel of Salvation. We do not hold meetings, but we break bread from time to time in our homes in accordance with the command to do this in remembrance of Him "till He come." The message of hope comes from God and only He can call us, but it is our conviction that all those who sincerely believe in Him and whose common-sense tells them that there must be some great and good purpose for which He has brought us into this world and life, will sooner or later be led to discover what it is and have the opportunity to share in it. Perhaps reader that is why this has fallen into your hands.

May it be so.

Ernest Brady.

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