The following statement on the doctrine of the Atonement was prepared by a group of brethren in Queensland and endorsed by the Brisbane and Wilston Ecclesias in July 1996. Other ecclesias have also found this document to be helpful in clarifying certain aspects of the important subject and it has been useful as a basis for reconciliation among a number of Australian ecclesias.

This document is not an addition to the Unity Basis. It has been developed as an aid to understanding between the Brisbane and Wilston Ecclesias. Both Ecclesias meet on the accepted basis of unity in Australia as outlined in the Unity Book published in 1963.

Doctrinal clauses are presented in positive (p) and negative (n) form for the purpose of clarity. The working paper developed out of meetings between the Brisbane and Coorparoo Ecclesias between 1986 and 1989 formed the basis of this statement.

The statement does not purport to be a full expression of all the elements of the Atonement. The issues addressed are those which have been the subject of previous discussions, and in some cases, a source of difference between the parties in the past. Accordingly, some matters not specifically mentioned in the accepted basis of fellowship (Unity Book) have been included for the sake of clarity and to resolve past differences. Some wording has been selected from the following Christadelphian writings which should be referred to for fuller context:

  • Unity in Australia—The Accepted Basis (Unity Book 1963)
  • The Blood of Christ (Bro Robert Roberts)
  • Principles and Proverbs—Chapter 12 (Bro Islip Collyer)

 Doctrinal Clauses

 1p God’s purpose in creation was the development of a people upon whom He could bestow immortality, that they might eternally manifest His glory. Man at creation was created capable of dying, but was not made subject to death until he had sinned. As both immortality and subjection to death speak of destiny that has been determined, Adam and Eve were in neither condition at creation. Their destiny was only determined after a period of test. Gen 1:26–29; 2:7; 2:16–17; 3:17–19; 1:31; Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:45–47. Unity Book page 14 (1st paragraph).

1n God did not create man with the intention that he should return to the dust. Man was not subject to death at creation.

2p Adam and Eve manifested no decline towards death prior to sinning. They were not dependent upon eating of the Tree of Life to preserve them in their “very good” condition of nature prior to sin. Eating of the Tree of Life is set forth in Revelation 2:7 as a beautiful symbol of the bestowal of immortality by Christ at his coming. Gen 2:17; 3:17–19; 3:22–24; Eccles 9:2–5; Rom 5:l2; 2 Pet 1:4; Rev 2:7.

2n The Tree of Life was not a tree that would preserve Adam and Eve in their “very good” condition of nature prior to sin.

3p Sin was the product of lust. Lust in its original manifestation was strong illicit desire incited by the appeal of the serpent’s reasonings. Thus God-given desires, good in themselves, were misdirected and incited towards an unlawful object by acceptance of the serpent’s carnal reasonings (reasonings that excluded all moral responsibility to God). This was tantamount to rejection of God’s word. James 1:14; Eph 4:22; John 8:44; Gen 3:1–6; 1 John 2:16,17. Unity Book pages 74–75.

3n Man was not created with deceitful lusts or any inherent tendency towards sin.

4p Proneness to sin became part of Adam’s experience as a result of his transgression of God’s law. Proneness to sin (not to be confused with an irresistible compulsion to sin) is understood to mean the inclination of the flesh towards the committal of sin. This implies a very strong pull towards sin. Human nature is now inherently prone to sin from birth. Gen 3:17–19; 3:22–24; 8:21; 1 Kings 8:46; Rom 3:23, 5:12–19; Eph 4:22; Psa 58:3; Prov 22:15; Jer 10:23; 17:9; Rom 7:15–25. Unity Book pages 74–75, page 14 (1st paragraph).

4n God is not responsible for introducing sin into the world or of injecting sinful desires into man’s nature, making him prone to sin. 1 John 2:15–16

5p Adam was subjected to death by the imposition of the sentence in Eden by God. This is defined as mortality in our basis of fellowship, being that “mortality that came by sin”. The imposition of the sentence by God fixed the operation of the physical processes unto death as an inevitable part of human experience. Hence, “it is appointed unto man once to die”, and “in Adam all die”. Gen 3:17–24; Rom 5:12; Heb 9:27; 1 Cor 15:22, 53–56. Unity Book pages 74–75.

5n The physical constitution of human nature was not in the same condition after transgression  as before.

6p (a) There are two related reasons why the shedding of the blood of Christ was essential in providing a basis for the forgiveness of sins and the ultimate salvation of the race:

(1) For the condemnation of sin.

 Jesus repudiated and triumphed over all impulses to sin arising from his nature (that nature being our nature and so prone to sin), but it was not until his submission to death by crucifixion that his conquest of sin was complete and a final repudiation of sin was made at its very source. Rom 8:3, 6:10; Heb 2:l4, 9:26; 1 Pet 4:l–2; Eph 2:l4–17; John 3:14; Col 2:11–15. Unity Book pages 39,40,53.

(2) For the declaration of God’s righteousness.

God’s righteousness and wisdom was revealed in the provision of the promised seed of the woman, who was made under the law that he might redeem all those convicted by it of sin and therefore worthy of death.

Though sharing all the hereditary effects of Adam’s sin, Jesus remained sinless.

His voluntary submission to death upheld God’s righteousness in subjecting the whole race to death by the operation of the physical law of sin and death in our members.

Through the work of this representative redeemer foreshadowed in Eden, God was honoured in not destroying man completely, but in providing new hope for mankind by developing a new creation out of the old. Gen 3:15; Gal 4:4; Rom 6:9,10; John 10:18, 12:31–33, 8:28,29; Rom 3:24–26; Col 1:12–22; Psa 40:6–10, 98:2–3; Rom 8:l9–23. Unity Book page 38.

(b) Christ’s sacrifice was a necessary element in his own redemption because he lived and died as a representative of those he came to save. He did it for himself that it might be for us, for like us he needed redemption; namely, salvation from death. He did not have a title to eternal life prior to his crucifixion. His perfect obedience to his Father, which included his death upon the cross, ensured his resurrection to life. Though he was the first to benefit from his own work, it must be kept clearly in mind that the purpose of it all was that we might be saved through him. Phil 2:8–9; Heb 5:7, 9:12,10:19–20; Psa 31:5. Unity Book pages 21, 78, 81.

6n The shedding of Christ’s blood was not required for the forgiveness of sins for himself for he had none. He needed only cleansing (effected by change of nature after resurrection) from the sin stricken nature in which he had wrestled with and conquered the diabolos. Christ must not be separated from the work he came to do. 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 2:9,14, 9:12–14, 23–28;1 John 3:5,8. Unity Book page 21.

7p Because it is appointed unto men once to die, Jesus Christ’s body was rightly related to death under this divinely appointed physical law (in consequence of Adam’s sin). In Christ’s sacrificial death there was involved a recognition of his yielding to the claims of this law by his voluntary death, thus terminating its individual application to him. But because Jesus had no moral relationship to death (having never sinned), and because God could not suffer His Holy One to see corruption, God raised Jesus, thus vanquishing death’s hold on him, and demonstrating it had no moral right to hold him. Thus its power was broken for us also in a representative man who can plead our cause now for the forgiveness of sins, and ultimately redeem all those who remain in him unto the end, faithfully walking in a newness of life. John 10:18; Heb 9:12–14, 27,28; Isa 40:6–8; Psa 16:10–11 (Acts 2:24–28 added to this psalm); Rom 6:9,10; Heb 5:7, 1 Cor 15:20–22; Rom 8:1–4.

7n Death by other than the divinely appointed means was not sufficient to abrogate the law of condemnation for Christ (His perfect obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, was necessary to secure his resurrection from the dead). Phil 2: 8–11; John 12:27–32; 10:17–18.

8p The objective of the law of Moses was to educate man in his desperate need for a saviour as well as introducing him to the work of that saviour. Though “holy and just and good” the law was not designed by God to give eternal life but to manifest sin. It condemned all men, because all (except Christ) proved to be guilty of breaking it, exposing their inability to keep it through the weakness of the flesh. Even Christ himself, in his crowning act of obedience, was “made a curse for us” by a provision of the law concerning the mode of his death, thus showing that his title to eternal life was not through the law but through faith. Gal 3:11–13,17–25, Rom 8:3, Heb 7:l9; Rom 7:7–13, 3:19–23; Heb 12:2.

8n The Law of Moses could not give eternal life, being weak through the flesh. Gal 3:21; Rom 8:3.

9p Both the word of God and experience testify sinlessness to be beyond the reach of any human  being other than Christ. Even with assistance from the word of God and prayer we sin and fall short of God’s glory. This is despite the fact that God will not test us beyond what we can bear, but always provides a way of escape from temptation. Rom 3:23; 1 Kings 8:46; Psa 130:3; 1 John 1:8–10; Rom 7:14–25; 1 Cor 10:12–13. Unity Book pages 52, 74–75.

9n One born of God must not deliberately continue to sin, but attaining perfect obedience is not possible for men born of two human parents. However, one born of God cannot afford to think negatively and fail to aim to do God’s will. Rom 8:5–8; 1 John 3:2–10; Phil 3:12–14.

10p During the days of his mortality Jesus had identically the same nature that we possess with all its attendant weaknesses, pain, sorrows and temptations. Heb 2:14–18; Gen 3:15; Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 4:4; 1 John 4:2,3. Unity Book page 81.

10n Jesus was not born free from subjection to the operation of the law of sin and death in his members, ie Jesus did not have a free life.

11p Alienation from God is a moral condition brought about by ignorance and/or wicked works. The possession of weak human nature is a burden to be borne, not a crime. Children of wrath are such by their actions and not by birth. Eph 2: 1–3, 4:18,19; Col. 1:21; Isa. 59:2. Unity Book pages 59–71,75,77.

11n Man’s nature as such does not alienate him from God.

12p Transgressions can only be put away by the forgiveness and forbearance of God. Physical uncleanness of nature (ie a nature prone to sin and death stricken) can only be put away by the power of God. The sacrifice of Christ is the divinely appointed basis in which God in mercy and forbearance offers forgiveness of sins now, and ultimate redemption of the body by a change of nature after the resurrection and judgment. Rom 3:23–24, 4:7, 8:23; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; 1 John 1:9, 2:12.

12n The concept that a believer entering into the sacrifice of Christ by baptism secures, at that time, provisional justification from condemned human nature, as well as the forgiveness of sins, is not scriptural. Unity Book pages 59–71, 76.