THE OLD TESTAMENT AND
For many years the question of who is subject to resurrection and judgment has been discussed among Christadelphians. Among them are two major differences concerning responsibility to be resurrected and judged.
1. Among one section of Christadelphia it has long been believed and taught that a knowledge of the truth makes individuals responsible to be baptized without fail, and that failure to be baptized classifies individuals as rejecters of the word, and that such will be raised from the dead to be judged for their failure to accept baptism into Christ.
2. Among those of the other section, the Unamended Christadelphians, it has been understood and taught (as it was throughout Christadelphia for the first thirty-five years), that baptism into Christ and taking on God’s covenant after sufficient enlightenment renders individuals subject to resurrection and judgment with the possibility of receiving life eternal.
Historically, Unamended Christadelphians have called attention to the fact that throughout the four thousand years of Old Testament history, there was not one indication that resurrectional responsibility was a factor in the absence of being under enlightened covenant relationship. Only in very recent times has there ever been any semblance of a questioning of that position. Even in recent days the only challenge ever to be noticed has sought to prove it wrong by misrepresentation.
It has been the position of the Unamended all along that the concept of resurrection is certainly found in the Old Testament. Also, it was a fact that qualification to attain to that resurrection was held out to the ancient worthies, as testified in the honor roll of the faithful in Hebrews chapter eleven, and elsewhere.
The only attempt of which we are aware to question and discredit the above mentioned Unamended position was on the web site BibleJournal@aol.com. The misrepresentation found in the attempt to discredit the Unamended position was to the effect it seemed to have been understood by the brother who wrote the article, that the Unamended had questioned that the resurrection was even taught in the Old Testament and that nobody had ever attained to the qualification for resurrection. It was never mentioned that he recognized that the Unamended brethren had for many years asked for proof that the Old Testament taught the resurrectional responsibility of Gentile Rejecters not under covenant. Neither was it shown that the Unamended questioned even the responsibility of Israelitish rejecters in Old Testament times who were under God’s temporal covenant, but refused to enter into God’s covenant on a scale equal to the Faithful enumerated in Hebrews eleventh chapter. Now let us ask:
Does the Old Testament ever indicate that any person who is not under covenant and is sufficiently enlightened to the point of being qualified to make a valid covenant possible, will be liable to resurrection and judgment if he or she fails to make such a covenant with God?
Sometimes, the writer has been referred to Psalms 49:20 and told that the passage says that only those who “understand not” are like the beasts that perish; that the statement indicates that there are, therefore, those who do understand and that when they die, they are not like the beasts that perish. Nowhere in Scripture are we ever informed that Psalms 49: 20 indicates that a person who knows the truth, but refuses covenant relationship incurs responsibility to be judged for that failure. That position is read into the passage without the slightest indication in Scripture that such would be the case.
TO WHOM ARE THE OLD TESTEMENT ORACLES APPLICABLE?
The question presses hard upon us regarding Psalms 49:20. Is the verse applicable to Israelites or to Gentiles? That question is important, for we must remember that the difference between the various Christadelphian communities regards whether only those under covenant are responsible to resurrection and judgment; or whether those who are not baptized but are enlightened are also responsible.
We must remember also that in answer to Unamended reminders that postulation regarding resurrection for those not under law and covenant to God, more easily leads to universal resurrection rather than to a few so-called rejecters. Such reminders have repeatedly brought forth the explanation from Amended brethren that God’s requirement for men to be baptized becomes a law to them as soon as they know it through their enlightenment. Acts 17:30-31 is often quoted in support of the claim that baptism is a command from God.
THE TERM “COMMAND”
It is important to realize that the term “command” in Acts 17:30 comes from the Greek term “paraggello” (parangello). Young’s Concordance on page 190 gives the meaning of the term as “to announce alongside of”. The term is word number 3852 in Strong’s Concordance and Strong renders the term as meaning “to transmit a message, (by impl) to enjoin, - (give in) charge, (give) command (ment) declare” The ecclesia of last century
understood Paul to have made his statement in the sense of to announce, declare or invite as is proven by Brother Robert’s statement in the Ambassador Vol. iv (1867) P. 25 in the article “The judgment seat of Christ”. Notice:
“An invitation has gone out to the ends of the earth, for people of any ‘kindred and nation, and people, and tongue,’ to become servants of the Messiah and heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to them that love him.”
From the above quotation, it is obvious that until a change in doctrine was adopted by the section of Christadelphia that became Amended, the understanding of Acts 17:30-31 was the same as is proclaimed by the Unamended to this day. To declare Paul as having said that God “commanded all men to be baptized” was only resorted to when it became necessary for them to seek to substantiate a new doctrine.
It is likewise important that we be aware that in response to the Ethiopian eunuch’s query as to “what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip replied, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. Note that it was permission that was given to him, it was not in the sense of a law at all. Philip did not at all say to him that if thou believest with all thine heart, thou must be baptized.
Now, let us look at the two possibilities before us regarding who it is to whom Psalms 49:20 relates.
Let us not forget that Israel’s sins were perpetrated under law to God (Exod. 34:27, 28; Rom. 3:1-2, 19). The teachings regarding rejecters at the time of the amendment to the Birmingham Statement of Faith did not relate to those under covenant to God but to those who had the gospel preached to them and who refused to be baptized and come under the law. If it is claimed that Psalms 49:20 refers to both enlightened and unenlightened Israelites under the law, the doctrine of resurrectional responsibility for non-covenanted rejecters is not proven. As for Psalms 50th chapter, verse 5 shows that he is speaking of those that have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. No one has ever denied that the Old Testament declares resurrectional responsibility for those who are enlightened and under covenant.
However, of most Israelites under covenant, resurrectional responsibility was not a factor because of their lack of understanding, for we read of them in Psalms 78:39 that God was merciful to them because “… He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.”
Surely those are the ones referred to in Psalms 49:20 and no implication exists that there is indication in the passage that enlightened persons not under covenant were resurrectionally responsible.
Brother Roberts showed his agreement with this doctrine when he wrote in the Ambassador Vol. III P. 219:
“Out of the law, as a national code, it does not appear any resurrectional responsibility arose.”
In view of Brother Robert’s statement, we ask this question: If no responsibility arose from the law, why is it that responsibility rests on Gentiles simply because of hearing the word preached since the time God turned to the Gentiles?
Brother Roberts goes on from this point to show that resurrection was achieved under the law by certain individuals. Surely no one has ever denied that, and Unamended statements regarding the absence of resurrectional responsibility in the Old Testament concerned the teaching that simply knowing God’s oracles makes an individual subject to resurrection and judgment if he fails to be baptized.
This is proven by the quotation from Psalms 78:39 regarding God’s mercy upon Israel because they were flesh that passeth away and cometh not again. It must be remembered that God commanded that his oracles be written in the book of the law and placed in the side of the ark to be read to the people (Deut. 31:9-13, 24-26; Josh 8:30-35; 23:6). Even though God’s oracles were read to the Israelites, simply a knowledge of those oracles did not make them subject to resurrection if they failed to attain to a full covenant relation in the sense of those in Hebrews eleventh chapter, for the Psalmist clearly tells us that they passed away and come not again. There is surely no evidence that the deliverance of God’s oracles to Gentiles who did not respond had any different effect on them than it had on the Israelites who did not respond.
2. GENTILES NOT UNDER COVENANT.
What was the status of Gentiles throughout the world in Old Testament times? Let us see.
COMMENT: Not only does this passage say that God had no relationship with any people other than Israel, it also shows that God punishes on the basis of the people being known by him in the sense of a relationship (See also Gal. 4:9).
judgments unto Israel. Verse 20-“He hath not dealt so with any nation:
and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord.”
We would point out that Psalms 49:20 could not have been implying resurrectional responsibility for enlightened Gentiles out of covenant. None of them were enlightened. God had not yet sought to draw them to him. According to Psalms 147:20, they did not know his judgments, therefore, how could that be a case of responsibility because of enlightenment? Therefore, Psalms 49:20 does not even by implication show forth resurrectional responsibility for rejecters out of covenant. How could it be said of Gentiles that they had rejected that which God had not even offered them?
There seems to be a mistaken hypothesis in the Amended ranks that now that God has
turned to the Gentiles, that the Gentiles are now in the same position that
unenlightened Israelites were during Old Testament times. That would be a fallacy,
for all Israelites were under a covenant, while Gentiles are not under covenant until
they are justified in baptism.
Proverbs 16:21- “The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.”
We have been offered the above quotation as proof of resurrectional responsibility of the enlightened rejecter in the Old Testament. We must ask if we are expected to believe that a man might be responsible to resurrection and judgment because of being enlightened, then not be responsible to resurrection if he wanders out of the way of understanding? What happened to the responsibility to which he was at first subject?
Again we say, if Solomon in the passage is referring to a non Israelite, we call attention to the fact that God caused it to be written in Psalms 147:19-20 that he had not given his ordinances to anyone but Israel and that the Gentiles had never known them. What folly to suggest that a person who did not know God’s ordinances could possibly wander out of the way of understanding of them? Certainly, covenanted Israelites are of necessity in view in the passage.
We believe that the correct application of the wording of Proverbs 21:16 is correctly explained as follows. To “wander” according to Webster, is: “ 1. to move or go about aimlessly, without plan or fixed destination...” Therefore, a person can move through life aimlessly either “in the way of understanding”, or “out of the way of understanding”. No resurrectional responsibility is even hinted at in the passage, and it takes a vivid imagination to claim that there is.
There are other examples of the misuse of Scripture seeking to point out resurrectional responsibility for rejecters in the Old Testament. However, they all fall short of meeting the issue on the same basis as is shown here regarding Israel being under covenant to God while Gentiles were not. The Unamended mention of resurrectional responsibility not being in the Old Testament regarded the Amended doctrine of resurrectional responsibility for some who were not under covenant to God. Everyone has always known that enlightened Israelites in both Testaments were resurrectionally responsible if they took the proper steps of attaining to the hope of life, as is copiously proven by the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews.
JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
There has historically been a continuous attempt by believers in the resurrection and judgment for some who are not in Christ, to prove, as they believe, that the “order” for all men to be baptized is not only a law, but that Paul also declared that Jesus is going “to judge the world in righteousness.” What is the connotation of the phrase “judge the world in righteousness”? Are we asked to believe that before the judgment seat of Christ, everyone in the world will be gathered, judged and punished? We do not believe that any one among the Amended fellowship believes that. However, that is what the passage says. Therefore, what is Paul saying?
The phrase “judge the world or people in righteousness” is a well-known phrase used in God’s oracles regarding the future reign of Jesus over the entire earth. Paul was well acquainted with this concept that God gave him to speak. It is not unusual to see some insist that the phrase can only mean being judged before the judgment seat of Jesus. Some also claim that the term “judge” never means “to rule” However, Ruth 1:1 declares: “now it came to pass in the days\ when the judges ruled…” Let us now examine passages that use the phrase that Paul used and see what the connotation of it is and has always been.
Isaiah 11:4 “But with righteousness shall he judge the poor…”
Psalms 72:2 “He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with
Psalms 9:8 “And he shall judge the world in righteousness; he shall minister
judgment to the peoples in uprightness.”
Isaiah 11:3-4 “But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with
equity for the meek of the earth…”
Psalms 98:9 “…the Lord, for he cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall
he judge the world, and the people with equity.
Surely, the above passages prove that Paul was not at all proclaiming that God orders all men to be baptized, and that if they do not, God has ordained Jesus for the purpose of punishing those who are not baptized. The truth exists in a multitude of passages from the Bible that He has ordained Jesus to rule the whole world while delivering justice and peace to them. Paul’s message was to that effect, and we should not do violence to Bible testimony to legitimize changed doctrine. Brother Thomas died stating that the judgment at the return of Jesus was for those who had lived under probation (Anastasis P. 10; Eureka Vol III P. 384; 408; 585; 670). Brother Roberts taught the same truth until such time as the change in doctrine.
It is quite remarkable that a doctrine that is as important as the Amended claim their doctrine regarding the rejecter is, that it is only set forth by implication, for in their attempts to prove the doctrine, only passages that could at best imply the doctrine are ever presented. Also, passages are always presented that correctly apply to Jews under covenant and not to Gentiles who were not under law or covenant.
Brother Roberts once published an article in which he showed that rejecters of the. Truth, correctly refer to Jews who heard the words of Jesus and saw his miracles but still rejected him. He taught that a preacher today could not vividly prove what he preaches sufficiently to cause a person to become a rejecter if he refused the preaching of a preacher (See The Christadelphian, Vol. vii (1870) PP. 120-121).
That is no longer the position of the Amended or the Christadelphian magazine. Therefore, there has been an apostation (Greek apostation-a departure or a going away from the first position).
Wayne R. Tanner