In the previous article in this series (January/February 2008), the line of thought of “Andrewism” was shown by a number of quotations from JJ Andrew’s writings. These quotations were from his book called “The Blood of the Covenant” and his magazine, “The Sanctuary Keeper”, which sought to advocate his teachings and counter Brother Robert Roberts in “The Christadelphian”.
In the article below certain key passages of Scripture are considered that were at the centre of JJ Andrew’s contentions. The consistency of the New Testament writings is considered, which highlights the large picture of Apostolic teaching on the Atonement. The unique sinlessness of Christ is given its central importance in what was achieved; in both his death and his life the righteousness of God was exhibited to all. The great gulf between Andrewism and Central teaching is thus made plain.

This article begins with a quotation from Andrewism, followed by a comment upon it from Central Fellowship.

  • “The penalty due toAdam was death by slaying and as all his descendants sinned in him (Rom 5:12), they deserve, whether actual transgressors or not, a violent death in the execution of the Edenic law.”[1] (bold ours)
  • “This makes Christ deserve a violent death through inheritance, and leads to the conclusion that Christ, himself, was condemned legally for being born mortal and therefore was legally subject to a violent, bloodshedding death, with all its indignities. And if the penalty for sin-nature is the same as that for  transgression (as JJ Andrew affirmed), then how could Christ be redeemed without having to be forgiven for possessing it?”[2]

It is apparent from the above how widely divergent was the understanding of JJ Andrew from that of the Central Fellowship. His teaching was a “doctrine of original sin”, amazingly similar in kind to that of Augustine of the Roman Church. Adam’s sin becomes the inheritance of all his descendants; the penalty of that sin, it is taught  (by JJ Andrew), was a violent eternal death and that penalty is deserved by all his descendants. They all sinned in Adam and therefore they all deserve the penalty of a violent, blood-shedding death! Yet God does not count a man responsible for the sin of another (Ezek 18:4).

The greater gravity of this teaching is highlighted when these things are related to Christ. The “original sin” theory means the sin and its penalty are passed on to all descendants of Adam, “whether actual transgressors or not”. Searching for a reason to comprehend the death of Christ, it is proposed that this law of “original sin” gives sufficient reason for the death of Christ by crucifixion even though he was not a transgressor. Thus a legal nonsense is made the basis, the rationale of the death of the Son of God! It is not surprising that faithful brethren find this teaching abhorrent; it is the greater grief that even to this day these teachings have not been officially repudiated. Re-union must ever be frustrated whilst these beliefs linger in the literature of the Advocate Fellowship of North America. Even recent publications support these strange ideas. When it is further taught that Christ also needed atonement because he was of the nature of Adam who sinned, then the folly is only multiplied. We then have two causes of original sin, Adam’s actual sin and Adam’s nature, for which we inherit Adam’s penalty of a violent death, transgressor or not! Christ also, then, had these two counts against him.

Romans 5:12

From the above quotation we see how important it is that we understand certain key passages. In the av the latter half of Romans 5:12 reads, “so death  passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. But  the marginal rendering says “in whom all have  sinned”. So JJ Andrew insisted on the marginal rendering as it better fitted his theory that everyone sinned in Adam.

However, other translations (the rv and rsv)  confirm the Authorised Version.The immediate  context also confirms the av. Verse 14 says that  death reigned over Adam’s descendants, “even  over them who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression”. Yet the idea of original sin above is that all men sinned the sin of Adam because they were “in him”! Furthermore, verses 15 and 16 expressly state that in Eden it was only ONE man who sinned ONCE, not the many that have come after! So no-one else sinned within  Adam – of course! The consequences of the sin of Adam have come down to others but his sin was  not ours nor are we held responsible for it.

The same phrase “all have sinned” is found  earlier in Romans, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”(3:23). There can be no  question that the apostle Paul is speaking about our  own sins and this earlier use of the phrase confirms the meaning of 5:12.

Even if we accepted the marginal translation, “in whom all sinned”, we are reminded that the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:22 writes, “For as in  Adam all die”, but no-one supposes that we died when Adam died! We die our own death, though it  is related to the mortality of Adam.

So likewise in Romans 5:12, the sins we sin and the death we die are traceable to the sin of Adam; the consequences of his sin are reflected in our own sins and in the death we die because of our sins. To teach that we sinned in Adam is a legal fantasy.

The general teaching in Romans

If we take this matter up and ask the question, “What is the principal issue for which man needs atonement as in the book of Romans?” it is not difficult to find it. Chapters 1 and 2 are all about the sins of the Gentiles and the sins of the Jews. Chapter 3 says “we are all under sin” (v9), have transgressed in all our faculties (v10–18), for which cause we are all guilty before God (v19). We have “faith in his blood” for “the remission of sins” (v25), from which we are justified (v26). So David’s joy is recounted as, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (4:7). And, in the last verse of chapter 4 we read that Jesus “was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification”.

Romans 5 summarizes the whole matter: finding joy in justification from sins, for which “atonement” or “reconciliation” was required that we might avoid the wrath of God. “As sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign…”(5:21).

Romans 6 is all along the same lines, baptism to wash away sins, the actions of “the old man”; the resolution to refuse the temptation to sin; and that now being free from sin we become servants to God, “for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v23).

Can there be any question that the cause for which we seek atonement is the sin we have committed? There is no other reason given in all these chapters of Romans, the great letter dealing with the Atonement. So it was at Pentecost, so it was at the apostle Paul’s baptism, so it is with ours. Noone speaks at a baptismal ceremony of atonement or reconciliation for human nature. There is a burial of “the old man”, a repudiation of the sins of the flesh but we never teach baptism for the atonement of our nature.

“Atonement for nature” is an expression never found in the Bible and absent in the pioneers’ writings. Chapters seven and eight of Romans speak eloquently of the power of sin residing in our minds, struggling against the law of God and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin which is in our members; for which we are “wretched” and in need of deliverance (7:7,8,13,17,18,23,24). We wait for “the deliverance from this body of death” but we never read of estrangement from God simply because we possess this mortal nature.

This broad sketch helps us to see the wood from the trees lest, being ensnared in unhealthy legalism, we find ourselves distracted or confused by complex theories of three justifications for Christ, of two atonements, of partial forgiveness, delayed forgiveness, of “physical sin” that has no guilt, of a reconciliation of Christ when in fact he had given no offence!

Is the letter to the Hebrews any different to Romans?

It is sometimes implied that the Law of Moses is the place to go for a deeper perception of the atoning work of Christ. Because the epistle to the Hebrews is written to Jewish brethren it is inferred that there are critical matters of atonement in Hebrews that are not elsewhere in the apostolic writings. Just standing back from this for a moment we shall soon realize that this is a very unlikely scenario. The fact that the Hebrews were at home in the Law of Moses is no doubt why so much of their letter is based upon the Law. But were there two gospels, one for the Jews who knew more of the Law and one for the Gentiles? Emphatically this is not true. We may say confidently therefore that there are not essential matters of the Atonement in Hebrews that are not in Romans, and vice versa.

How does the letter to the Hebrews express the central matter of Atonement?

1:3 “when he had by himself purged our sins”

2:17 “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people”

3:17 “was it not with them that had sinned”

6:1 “the foundation of repentance from dead works”

8:12 “their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more”

9:7 “blood… offered for… the errors of the people”

9:14 “purge your conscience from dead works”

9:28 “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many”

10:4 “not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins”

10:12 “this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever…”

10:17 “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more”.

The central matters in Hebrews are the same as we found in Romans, as in all the New and Old Testaments.

  • “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3).
  • “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa 53:11).

The unique position of Christ

When we return to Romans 5 we see the uniqueness of Christ’s position. He is not described in this chapter, this pivotal and summary chapter, as in the same need of reconciliation, atonement, expiation which all other men have. He is the reconciler (Rom 5:11). He bore the consequences of one born of a woman from the line of Adam but he is not presented as having to be reconciled to God. This fact is stated in many verses of this magnificent chapter. Let us hear them.

Romans 5:15 “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.”

Romans 5:17 “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”

Romans 5:18 “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation [mortality]; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”

Romans 5:19 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners [ie in the sense of v12], so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

In all this beautiful section the uniqueness of Christ’s position is emphasized. Is there any hint of his need for repentance, expiation, atonement or payment of a personal debt to God? There is no such hint, not for personal transgression or in any other sense. The emphasis is upon his sinlessness; “by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men” (v18), “by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (v19). Any teaching which cuts across this apostolic emphasis is seriously wrong.

The same in Hebrews

The uniqueness of Christ Jesus was his sinlessness and the following list of passages from the letter to the Hebrews shows how consistent this is with Romans:

1:3 “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power…”

1:9 “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows”

2:10 “… to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings”

4:15 “but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”

5:8 “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered”

7:2–3 “… first being by interpretation King of righteousness”

7:26 “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Please note: both Brother Thomas and Brother Roberts apply this passage to the mortal life of the Lord)

9:14 “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

So in Hebrews as in Romans the distinctiveness of Christ is his sinlessness. In the work of reconciling man to God the sinlessness of Christ was a profoundly important ingredient. If “the wages of sin is death” then what is the reward of obedience? “…by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous”; “by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom 5:19,18).

All through this magnificent 5th chapter of Romans there is celebration for the victory of Christ, the conquest of sin, the reigning of righteousness, the abundance of grace, the escaping of wrath and the greatness of the salvation in his life.

Does the record go back and say, “Ah, yes, but don’t forget that he had still to make an atonement for his nature, the nature that was defiled and unclean before God; for which cause even Christ needed justification and reconciliation before God?” Do the apostles teaching that Jesus was still, despite his sinlessness, deficient and unacceptable before God until he ‘made up’, till he made expiation for the nature God gave him? Was there a separation between Father and Son because he had yet to ‘make up’ to God in this? Where in all the Bible is there such teaching? Certainly his death was essential to the plan; we have stressed this over and again in this series on the balance of the Atonement. “Much more then, being now justified by his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom 5:9). His sacrificial death was essential. But what kind of “blood” is this? We “are justified by his blood”! This wasn’t blood spilt upon the ground as a cleansing operation, as though Jesus was cleansed the more it was spilt. This would have made him cleaner in his death than in his life! This blood was “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet 1:19). It represented a perfect life.

“Only obedience?”

A recent lengthy publication was critical of the Central Fellowship because, it says, we teach that all Jesus had to do was be obedient. It is felt that if we can’t see that he needed atonement for nature then it was merely his obedience that saved him!

It is hard to see how one could think that way and especially a parent! An obedient child? An obedient son? A perfectly obedient Son? A Son perfectly obedient unto death? This is “mere obedience”? The whole picture of God’s Son is unique and wonderful. Nor does the obedience omit his sacrificial death. The death of the Lord was part of his obedience, the crowning act of a life of sinlessness. He was championing his Father’s name and honour, presenting the vanity of flesh and declaring the righteousness of God. Let us not forget the pivotal statement of Romans: “to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past” (3:25–26). This is the teaching of the Day of Atonement and the teaching of the Lord Jesus and his apostles. Here is the core of the matter, the dominating principle in the mind of the Lord Jesus. We have seen this before in this series. This is no quasi doctrine of Divine offence because God found him in the nature He gave him! There was no “physical sin” in Christ that meant that God held him apart and for which He required expiation. If his nature was literally sin then he was a sinner and had need of forgiveness for the guilt of his nature!

Everyone reels back at the word “guilt” which means that we instinctively know this is not relevant to the Son of God. But if we are speaking of human nature as literal sin then Jesus had sin; and for sin there is guilt and for guilt there must be repentance and forgiveness.

So we perceive two diverging paths. At the end of one there is a big sign saying, “sin and guilt”; at the end of the other there is a sign for “righteousness and life”. Which path fits the Lord Jesus Christ? The paths may have appeared to begin close together but when the line is crossed which states that the bias to sin is actual, literal sin then that road diverges inevitably till there is a great gulf between it and the Truth.

Unity of Father and Son

Did the Son need atonement for sin, or for his body? Here are some of his beautiful words that express the greatest fellowship between him and his Father.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

“If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him” (John 14:7).

“Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake” (John 14:11).

These supremely beautiful words answer many questions: they restore the balance of the Atonement.

References

[1] JJ Andrew “The Blood of the Covenant” p24 – Advocate Fellowship.

[2] J Hensley “The Relationship of Christ to His Death on the Cross” p24 – Central Fellowship