There must be many people who feel that there is something outstandingly significant about the person and the teaching of Jesus Christ. Yet when they survey "Christianity", both in its history and its modern forms, they find a wide variety of churches and communities, all with their differing foundations, teachings and practices. Feeling bewildered by the existence of so many groups claiming the name "Christian", they may well give up the quest for "the truth" as hopeless.
This short booklet is written to draw the attention of the interested enquirer to the existence of a community of believers in Christ, calling themselves "Christadelphians", organized in groups found throughout the world. Wherever they exist they have a fellowship founded upon an agreed basis of beliefs. Fundamental to their faith is the principle that what Christ and his apostles taught in the first century was truth, and it is still the truth today. The Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are their sole authority.
An Apostolic Fellowship
At the meeting for the "breaking of bread" on "the first day of the week" there are hymns, prayers, readings from the Scriptures and an exhortation. The bread and the wine circulate among all the "brothers and sisters" present. Voluntary collections are taken to meet all the expenses. If some of the early followers of the apostles in the first century could attend such meetings, it is believed that they would immediately
recognize what was going on, for it is patterned on New Testament worship.
Like Jesus' early disciples, they also proclaim his message of life to all willing to hear; they instruct their children and young people in Sunday Schools and Youth Groups, and promote the life of faith and prayer, and obedience to Christ's commands, among their members.
The Name "Christadelphians"
Since 1864 The Christadelphian Magazine has appeared monthly, issued from Birmingham, U.K. It provides informative articles and contains items of news from the ecclesias worldwide. Pamphlets and books are also produced for the use of members and their friends. Other organizations throughout the world promote the preaching of the Gospel in areas where the ecclesia is small or non-existent, and there are special committees responsible for preaching the Gospel in other countries. Still another organization circulates typed exhortations and Bible studies to those members who live some distance from an ecclesia.
The care of the infirm and the elderly has been seen as a pressing need: there are several Homes in various countries. Voluntary contributions are made to help individual members in need.
A Distinctive Foundation
The brief answer is this: their understanding of the teachings of the Bible is quite different from that of other denominations. The difference arose from the conviction of one, John Thomas, that the teachings he was encountering in "Christendom" 150 years ago did not truly represent the faith of Christ and his apostles. Persuaded that the truth must be sought only in the Bible, he embarked upon a conscientious study of the Scriptures. He made no claim to any vision or personal revelation.
He eventually came to an understanding of "the gospel of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) which was different in a number of important points from that of the churches and other religious sects. His labours attracted the support of others who were convinced of the validity of his conclusions. This understanding of Bible truths has been rigorously tested by free enquiry for 150 years. The distinctive views of the Christadelphians today are the result of this process.
The Whole Bible
It arises from the important principle that the Bible must be understood as a whole. It is easy to uphold certain teachings by accepting some parts of the Scriptures and neglecting others. For instance, it is popular today to dismiss much of the Old Testament. Yet these documents - the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets - were accepted by Jesus and his apostles as "the word of the Lord". The Bible is a unity: the revelation of God for mankind begins in the pages of the Old Testament and is continued and expanded in the New. The "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) is to be derived from the whole book.
Christadelphians accept that all of the Bible is the wholly inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). They therefore read it carefully and regularly. A reading plan, called the Bible Companion, enables them to read the Old Testament once in a year, and the New Testament twice.
There is another point of great importance: if man is truly to understand the Bible, he must be prepared for the fact that it is absolutely frank about all issues, and primarily about ourselves. It is the most realistic book in the world, confronting the stark issues of life without wishful thinking. Human problems, both of the race and of individuals, are frankly assessed. The origin of the problems is explained and so is the solution to them. The Bible is the only source in the world to do this in harmony with the facts of history and of human life.
God, Creator and Father
The Vital Earth
God is concerned with the earth as a whole, and the nations inhabiting it. The careers of great empires are under God's control and their fate is predicted. The severe troubles of the modern world are all
foreseen and so is their solution: the establishment by God of a new order in the earth as the only means by which the waywardness of mankind can be controlled.
The Bible, far from being "other-worldly", is realistic and practical in its concern for the fate of the whole human race. Its vision of the future is worldwide in its scope, for "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14).
Though this prophecy was uttered 6000 years before Christ, it represents the world-view of the whole Bible. It is entirely relevant to our modern troubled condition and is unique in the history of our planet.
Israel in God's Purpose
The Bible account shows us that the human race, in the early centuries of its existence, massively abandoned the true worship of God, so that "the earth was corrupt....and filled with violence" (Genesis 6:11), thus bringing the divine judgment of the Flood. It was not long, however, before mankind began to show again the same tendencies to evil. God therefore determined to build up a special community, by whom His Word would be preserved. So he chose Abraham, a man of faith, and made outstanding promises to him and his descendants, involving the future possession of the land of Canaan (later Palestine or Israel) and blessings for all the nations (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14,15).
Abraham's descendants were brought out of Egypt by God's power and were eventually settled in 12 tribes in the Promised Land, Israel. There they lived under the Law, a system of regulations given them by God through Moses, with the intention of training them to be a people devoted to His service. In the following centuries the Jews repeatedly neglected the worship of God and turned to worship the idols of their pagan neighbours, and as a result were driven out of their land by the invasion of foreign powers. They lived for centuries scattered and persecuted, as God has warned them would happen (read Deuteronomy 28). Nevertheless, despite their waywardness, the Jews preserved the Word of God both in the land of Israel and during their exile in other countries.
Promises to the Patriarchs
God's purpose with Israel, then, was to make them a training centre for the faithful in the pagan centuries before Christ. Of them Jesus was born, to proclaim the good news that his faithful servants become children of Abraham by faith and so inherit the promises. So the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:27-29).
The Truth about Mankind
Yet we have strong natural desires which demand satisfaction: the pressure to indulge ourselves in many ways, to acquire material possessions, and to defend our pride. Human history is a record of the way in which men and women have allowed their desires to
dominate them. Strife and suffering have been the inevitable result.
Man is Mortal
But there is hope. The grave need not be the end for us, as we shall see.
The Nature of Jesus
The Gospel of Luke describes how Jesus was born of the young Israelite woman, Mary of Nazareth, by the power of the Holy Spirit. So Jesus was born Son of man through his mother. Thus he inherited our physical nature in the fullest sense and as a result was "tempted in all points like as we are" (Hebrews 4:15). But he was also the Son of God, because God was literally his Father. Experiencing within himself the desire for self-satisfaction, he overcame every temptation. Thus he was able to submit to his Father at the crisis of Gethsemane, declaring "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).
So Jesus was "without sin" and became in his death on the cross the ultimate sacrifice for sin, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). His body was taken down from the cross and buried. But a just God could not leave a wholly righteous man for ever in the grave. Therefore He did not allow his body to "see corruption" (Acts 2:31) and raised him again the third day. Jesus, being granted immortal nature, "death hath no more dominion over him" (Romans 6:9). So he ascended to heaven to sit at his Father's right hand.
Son of God not God the Son
Similarly the Holy Spirit is not presented in the Bible as the third "Person" of a Trinity. It is the power by which God achieves His ends, both physical and spiritual. It is always under the control of the Father, and later of the Son, and is never represented as acting independently of them, or as an object of worship.
It can thus be seen that a right understanding of human nature, and so of the nature of Jesus, lies at the very center of the purpose of God in him for the redemption of men and women from sin and death. It is the very core of the Gospel. Only in the Bible do we find these vital truths about Jesus Christ.
The Devil and Satan
Where the Bible writers, under the inspiration of God, have occasionally used these terms -they are in fact comparatively rare in the Bible - they represent only the evil tendencies of human nature. It is significant that throughout the Bible sinners are never encouraged to blame something or someone else for their failings, but only themselves. The persistent enemy of God is the human mind and its demands for satisfaction.
The true Bible teaching about human nature delivers us from the fear of some supernatural devil and shows clearly where the real enemy of God is to be found.
The Good News
Its message is an appeal to the individual man and woman for "repentance", and then a promise of life. God does not desire that any should perish, says the Apostle Peter, "but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). What is meant by repentance is partly explained by the Apostle Paul's statement: "that they should come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). Having
realized "the truth" about himself, and God's redemption in Christ, the believer is called upon by God to "have another mind". Repentance is not a sudden emotional upsurge, which may pass as quickly as it has arisen, but a sober assessment by the believer of his true position, his acknowledgement of this in confession of sin to God, a prayer for forgiveness and a resolve to re-direct his life in harmony with the commandments of Christ.
God, in His grace and mercy, is prepared to accept those who adopt this attitude and to forgive their sins, bringing them into fellowship with Himself. So, from being alienated from God by sin, sincere believers become sons and daughters of God by their obedience and faith. They are made heirs of eternal life according to God's promise. For even if death should overtake them, they die in certain hope of resurrection from the grave in the day when Christ comes again. The reward of the faithful is in the gift of an undying nature: as Jesus said, "like unto the angels, to die no more" (Luke 20:35-36). If they should be living in the day of the Lord's return, and of the resurrection of the dead, the faithful servants will be granted a change of nature, from mortality to immortality. So will be fulfilled the best-known verse in the New Testament: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
The Kingdom of God
The return of Jesus Christ to the earth, just as literally as he left it, was the unanimous hope of the early believers. The Church abandoned it in the early centuries, because Christ did not come as soon as they had hoped, but even more because it did not square with the popular idea of the righteous enjoying their reward in heaven at death. The New Testament repeatedly asserts the Second Coming; the apostles take it for granted in their writings.
When Christ Comes
Then will come the turn of the nations, who will be summoned to "fear God and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come" (Revelation 14:7). The Bible leaves us in no doubt that the governments of many nations will refuse the summons and will have to learn submission. Thus will begin the re-education of the peoples of the earth under the new kingdom of God with Christ as King. When God's will is understood and obeyed, then peace and justice among men will come to the earth at last.
The Life of Discipleship
Peace of Mind
Christadelphians know from the Scriptures that the present age of man's dominion is coming to an end. While there is still time, they invite all to examine - or re-examine - the true teachings of the Bible. Once he has understood "the truth", the sincere enquirer will appreciate the new view he has gained, both of his own life and of the world in general. He will be better equipped to face that life as it is, with its mingled joy and sorrow, fortified by faith in the power of God and in the truth of His Word, sustained by the assurance that God is a merciful Father and that Jesus is his intercessor; in this life of service and faith, he will enjoy the encouraging fellowship of others who believe the same things.
God is still calling out a people for His Kingdom. Your future depends on your response!
-- Fred Pearce