We live in an age dominated by philosophies which teach that there are no such absolutes as right or wrong, truth or lies, good or evil. These viewpoints promote the notion that no one has the authority to define truth or impose upon others their ideas of morality. As such, they cut right across the biblical declarations concerning God’s view of the matter.

The words of the Lord Jesus Christ are very clear: “Thy word is truth,” he declared (John 17:17). Nothing could be plainer. This word is God-breathed and able to make mankind wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15-17). Time and again the apostles reiterated the fact that the truth of God is expressed in the gospel.

Paul calls it “the truth of the gospel” in Galatians 2:5, 14. When he wrote to various Ecclesias, he spoke about “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph 1:13); “the word of the truth of the gospel” (Col1:5) and “the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). He thanked God that the faithful in Thessalonica had “received the word of God…not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess 2:13). James put it this way: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:18).

As time went on false brethren began to arise and it is significant that Paul pointed out the seriousness of their false teachings. They were incompatible with the truth. He describes these people as “destitute of the Truth” (1 Tim 6:5); as erring from the truth (2 Tim 2:18); as refusing to acknowledge the truth (2 Tim 2:25): as never being “able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim 3:7); as resisting the truth (2 Tim 3:8) and as turning “away their ears from the truth” by turning to fables (2 Tim 4:4).

The Apostle John was equally clear: if we “walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth”; “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:6,8); “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). Knowing the truth is defined as continuing in the words of our Lord (John 8:31-32).

Worship in sincerity and in truth

In every one of these quotes the truth becomes the benchmark for doctrine and behaviour. Christ himself declared that “they that worship him (the Father) must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). This is not some ‘take it or leave it’ statement. This is the way the Father has asked us to worship Him – in sincerity and truth. The same idea was expressed concerning those who can participate in the bread and wine: “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor 5:8).

As individuals we must hold fast to the form of sound words (2 Tim 1:13) and this axiom holds true for Ecclesias as well because Paul described the ecclesia as “the pillar and ground (or base) of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). A pillar supports an edifice. A base provides a firm foundation. Ecclesias therefore have a responsibility to preserve the Truth and provide a solid basis for growth and support within the meeting.

As has been noted in previous articles, whilst the Scriptures are the ultimate authority on the Truth, the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith (with positive and negative clauses and the Commandments of Christ) together with explanations of clauses 5 and 12 by Brethren Carter and Cooper, are considered by our community here in Australia to be a true definition of our understanding of the One Faith.

Every one of the 30 clauses of our Statement of Faith has its rightful place and altogether they represent a scripturally-based statement, all related to each other, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation. Combined with the Lord’s practical teaching, they provide an accurate summary of the key elements of the Truth of the Scriptures.

Do we have the Truth?

Do Christadelphians have ‘the Truth?’ Brother Roberts wrote this simple declaration in the 1873 Christadelphian: “In our days the truth has been brought to light by Dr. Thomas … We yield not a slavish deference to the judgment of Dr. Thomas; but we rejoice to be able to see that by the grace of God, he exhumed for us the whole truth; and for this we shall stand till death, or the Lord’s coming end the fight. This is our ‘platform’: here we shall be found or not at all.” Stirring words indeed. But what they reveal is that from the earliest days of the brotherhood, there has been a consistent acceptance that the whole truth has been brought to light by God’s work through the instrumentality of Brother Thomas.

We are a distinct and unique body of believers. Our doctrines are built upon the whole counsel of God and are characterised by a biblical understanding of the Atonement, the mortality of man, the resurrection, the true nature of the Godhead, the principles of God-manifestation, the true meaning of the devil, the reality of the Hope of Israel and true teaching concerning the Kingdom of God on earth at our Lord’s return. These key subjects, combined with the commandments of Christ, all come together to form ‘the Truth.’ Anything outside this boundary is, by logical extension, not the truth.

The truth shall make you free

Should we be judging other ‘Christians?’ When this question is asked, what is really meant is: should we be denouncing the beliefs of churches as being in error or as being contradictory of Scripture teaching? The answer can be found in the way our Lord and the apostles spoke out against error.

In John 8:31-32 we read, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” These Jews had passed a milestone in understanding. They had begun to believe, but they still had a way to go and the Lord was to try their faith even further. They proudly trusted in their lineage from Abraham (v39) but when the Lord spoke the truth they wanted to kill him. They had no idea of what being the seed of Abraham really meant and how they needed to be justified by faith and not by works of law. They knew nothing about a gracious son of Abraham and David who would give his life for the salvation of mankind. They had no knowledge that Jesus came direct from God, his Father. They revelled in the architecture of their temple but were completely unaware that this physical building could and would be destroyed. The death and resurrection of Messiah was no part of their understanding, nor the ascension of the Son to the right hand of the Father. They made the boldest claim to know their God, yet they knew not His Son, nor what he had come for (v53-55). Until they believed these things they could never be free from the ravages of sin and death.

Error denounced

Our Lord constantly denounced the evil teachings and practices of the religious leaders of his day. “Ye do greatly err,” he told the Sadducees when they refused to believe in the resurrection (Mark 12:27) “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” he warned, “for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven agains men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matt 23:3).

The apostle Paul was equally vocal against error. He denounced Hymenaeus and Philetus, “who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2Tim 2:18). In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 he delineated the formidable evil of the emerging apostasy. He warned the believers that this deception was to be sent by God as a strong delusion, “that they all might be condemned who believed not the truth, but who had pleasure in unrighteousness” (v10-12).

We could add Peter’s voice and Johns testimony as well. Peter spent a whole chapter warning the believers about those who had forsaken the right way “denying the Lord that bought them” (2 Pet 2). John likewise denounced those who professed to be believers but denied the Son. He counselled the brethren to test the different doctrines that were emerging to see if they were of God or of the world (1 John).

All of this testimony implies how important it is to be custodians of the Truth by simultaneously teaching the right ways of God as well as denouncing the evils of doctrinal error. When the Lord returns, Christianity in general will “make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them” (Rev 17:14). Is it not part of our responsibility to warn those who are enmeshed in that system and expose its error.

This brings us to appreciate the value of the Revelation. What is its most consistent theme? Where did all these strange teachers come from that would change the truth of God to a lie? Was the Revelation exaggerating when it gave all its warnings to the brothers and sisters of the last 2000 years? What system was it going to be that would lead this apostasy of the truth and the persecution of its people? It would be the “woman” “that reigned over the kings of the earth?” Hear the Lord’s appeal, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins.” This is the call of the Lord in Revelation 18 and is highly applicable to us today. the Papacy has led the apostasy and all the doctrines are no better. We need to be part of the remnant who refuse to accept their mark in the foreheads (Rev 18:20, 24;  19:2).

Should we peruse a less restrictive fellowship?

 

With all this in mind, should we pursue an ‘Open fellowship’? Should we make our associations less restrictive by inviting members of the public or members of the church to share a meal of fellowship with us at the Lord’s table? Let the apostles answer the questions for us.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers about some of their members participating in idolatrous feasts. Could they participate in these pagan meals and then fellowship the brethren at the memorial table? Paul answers with an emphatic ‘no!’ “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils” (1 Cor 10:21). The devils he mentions were the idols that permeated his society. He later explained that a believer should have no union with the unbeliever: “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel (Gk ‘unbeliever’)?” He went on to command them to come out from among them, not join in with them, and then God would receive them (2 Cor 6:14,17).

Today’s unbelievers and idolaters include pagans and Christians alike (2 Thess 2:12; 1 John 5:10; Rev 9:20). Their fate is described in Revelation 21:8 as being subject to the second death.

Truth and lies

The Apostle John spoke about fellowship matters as well. He considered that “no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21). Truth and lies are diametrically opposed. Hence, “if we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). Are members of the public and members of the church walking in darkness? The answer is ‘yes.’ Without a true understanding of Christ and his work, they have no hope and are without God in the world. They are in darkness (Eph 2:12-13; 5:8). We should therefore “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5:11).

Brother Harry Tennant wrote this in his book, The Christadelphians: What They Believe and Preach: “The weekly breaking of bread service in Christadelphian meetings is the centre of their expression of fellowship in Christ. Members regularly assemble in this way and meet in other Christadelphian ecclesias when they are on holiday or visiting in other places or other lands. The fellowship thus expressed is remarkably alive and there is a real family bond among Christadelphians wherever they go.

It is possible for the exclusiveness of the breaking of bread service to be regarded as unfriendly by nonChristadelphians, particularly those who like to have an open fellowship. As the reader will have gathered from what has gone before, Christadelphians base their fellowship on a common faith and a common way of life. We are heartily glad to welcome new members by belief and baptism, but we do not extend our breaking of bread service to anyone who might care to come along irrespective of his belief or behaviour. We regard this as fundamental to our existence. Fellowship is not simply friendship. It is sharing all that is precious in the truest sense. We believe that to be worth preserving.”

Our responsibility is to “hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim 1:13); to continue in the things that we have learned and have been assured of (2 Tim 3:14); to take heed to the doctrine (1 Tim 4:16); to hold fast to the faithful word (Titus 1:9) and to “speak the things that become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).

May it be that when our Lord returns, he may find “the faith” alive and well in the earth and grant us that inestimable privilege of reigning with him in glory and immortality.