Debating Bible Basics Duncan Heaster  


8-4-2 God's Standard

Final Megiddo Mission Statement

We of the Megiddo Church feel sad at the path our Christadelphian friends have followed in this debate. Anyone can make statements. Anyone can say " The Bible teaches...," but the question is, what is true? What is the supporting evidence? What does the Bible really teach when one looks at it honestly, fairly, without any pre-formed conclusions?
While quoting heavily from the Bible, the Christadelphians go to the Bible to support a position, rather than seeking honestly to learn what God is teaching through His Word. The result: They see what they want to see, rather than the true Biblical teaching about salvation.
But of what value is any belief if it is not founded in the written word of God? Without that solid foundation, any conclusion we may draw is worthless. However popular, it will not secure our salvation unless God is behind it. What the Christadelphians believe or what the Megiddoes believe will not alter the facts one iota. God will bestow salvation just according to His design. We are not making His plans, nor can we execute them. If we have not believed and complied with His program, we will be the losers.

AND...OR?--Christadelphians Contend For Both Sides

Our Christadelphian friends seem to have changed the thesis for this debate, taking the two sides as complementary rather than opposing. In other words, they are choosing to contend for both sides. Most perplexing is their statement that " while we will not be saved without works, we are not saved because of them." In other words, salvation requires compliance with both sides of the thesis, i.e., a life of obedience and virtue and merits that derive from the literal death or blood of Jesus Christ. If such is their belief, they should not have consented to the thesis as stated.
God is not two-faced, nor is His plan ambivalent. Take, for example, a man in society who is brought into court for alleged misconduct. If he is vindicated by the record of his upright life and character, what need for any penalty or sacrifice for his sin? So also, if our life of virtue and obedience merits God's blessing of eternal salvation, where is there any need for merits to be drawn from the death and blood of Jesus Christ? On the other hand, if the sacrifice of Christ is the condition upon which our salvation depends, then what need for virtue and obedience? Truly we might accept the sacrifice of Christ to take away our sins and respond by a life of good works, but this does not make the good life a condition of salvation. And if we believe the Bible, we must acknowledge that God's demand for obedience is not a voluntary request, nor is it an option. It is a command. If a life of obedience and virtue is not mandated, if it is optional, if it is a " do as much as you can" command, then where is there any force in the divine edict, " Obey and live, disobey and die?" Why Jesus' warning, " Repent, or else..." (Rev. 2:16)? And why are all His blessings reserved for " Him that overcometh" (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21)?
The Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles were intensely concerned about human conduct. All preached righteousness, truth, morality, and uprightness as a solid mandate from God. " This do, that ye may live" is repeated again and again through scripture (cf. Eph. 4; Col. 3; Rom. 12; Phil. 3; I Tim. 4:12-16; Ps. 37:8-9, 11, 29, 34, 37; Isa. 56:1-2; 58:13-14).
If, like the Christadelphians, we state that God wants a life of virtue but that it is not a requirement, we have removed all force from the divine " Thou shalt" and replaced it with a polite " You may." And what is left? Only a take-it-or-leave-it-as-you-like obedience that falls far short of the complete devotion Jesus commanded when He said, " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" (Mark 12:30,31).
Why did Jesus say, " Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24). Why the need to " strive" if the righteousness of Christ can be imputed to us? And why Jesus' stern warning, " Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 18:3) if Jesus did not emphasize repentance, if we can be counted as righteous when we in reality are not? Such a claim makes God a God of untruth, of dissembling, inconsistent of impurity, if one time He condemns the evildoer and another time overlooks evil and calls it " good" for the sake of one who was supremely good. Is this the way human institutions operate? Does the bank teller say, " Your check isn't good, but I will count it as though it were because I have a good check from someone else?"

God is a God of holiness, and He demands holiness in those whom He will choose from the human family. " Be ye holy, for I am holy" (I Pet. 1:15,16).
God is a God of perfection, and He demands the very highest standard of moral attainment of which His human children are capable. " Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Any attempt we may make to explain away these plain Bible teachings, which are supported by hundreds of passages throughout scripture, is only explaining away our opportunity to obtain the salvation which God has offered us.
But God does not ask what we cannot give. " He knoweth our frame," and our limited abilities (Ps. 103:14). We are not naturally good; we must grow in moral character to reach the standard He requires. And He gives us time to make this growth. He also has arranged to help us ‑ through prayer, through His Word, through the examples of those who have gone before us. Left alone to ourselves, we could never accomplish the transformation to His moral likeness.

Christadelphians Carefully Omit Key Words From Scripture Quotations

We cannot help but notice in this debate numerous instances where the Christadelphians have carefully omitted a portion of a verse or a key word that does not align with their position. For example: In countering the Megiddo position that the Apostles preached " a need for repentance rather than faith in the blood and death of Christ," they say, " But Jesus told them to preach 'remission of sins in his name' (Luke 24:47)." Then the Christadelphians draw the conclusion: " Remission is through Christ, not just through our personal repentance and obedience." Here is a deliberate omission of the key word " repentance" in Jesus' statement. Jesus told his Apostles to preach " repentance and remission of sins in his name." Remission comes through repentance. To omit the word " repentance" is to be unfair to Jesus. If we can omit words of Scripture in this manner, just about any idea may be supported by Scripture.
Another example of omitting key words in a passage is their citing of I Pet. 1:18-22. " Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things...but with the precious blood of Christ [his sacrifice]...unto unfeigned love of the brethren [obedience]." They comment, " The blood of Christ purges our conscience." But this was not Peter's statement, if we read it in its entirety. Peter said, " Seeing ye have purified yourselves through obeying the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren" (I Peter 1:22). Peter says clearly how we purify ourselves: " By obeying the truth."

Christadelphians Read Into The Scriptures What Is Not There

Neither can we overlook a number of statements in the Christadelphian rebuttal which read into the scriptures what is not there. For example, they cite our quoting of Isaiah 1:16,17 and reply, " God will make our scarlet-red sins 'as white as snow...as wool.' It is Christ who is 'white like wool, as white as snow.'" This is the Christadelphian position, but is this what the prophet Isaiah said? Let us read the next verse: " If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" (vs. 19-20). Here is the condition upon which our scarlet-red sins may become as white as snow: " If ye be willing and obedient," if we " cease to do evil, learn to do well" (v. 16). There is no hint or suggestion in this passage of any need for or merit in the blood of Christ.
We note also the Christadelphian's comment on our citing of Revelation 22:14. Can anything in this verse possibly be construed as including " our need for the sacrifice of Christ?" Jesus' words are crystal clear: " Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life." What is the condition upon which we may have the right to partake of the tree of life? Did Jesus say, Blessed are they who rely upon My sacrifice for their righteousness? No, he said, " Blessed are they that do his commandments." Any suggestion of the need for Christ's sacrifice in this passage must be read into it. Jesus did not say it.
Notice also the Christadelphian comment on I John 2:17, " He that doeth the will of God abideth forever." They comment that " an integral aspect of the will of God is that we should believe on Christ as a sacrifice provided by God" and refer to John 6:33-40, but in this passage is no mention whatever of the need for Christ's sacrifice to remove our sins.
Another example of the Christadelphians reading into scripture is their citing of Habakuk 2:4, " The just shall live by his faith." They comment, " We are justified by our faith in his [Christ's] imputed righteousness." But the passage contains not even the remotest reference to Christ. By whose faith does the just man live? Habakkuk wrote that the just man lives by his own faith.
The Christadelphians grossly distort scripture when they read into Jesus' words in Matthew 7 any suggestion that He was talking about His sacrificial death and blood. Citing our reference to the parable about the man building on the rock or the sand, they comment that " The rock was Christ," inferring that Jesus was talking about His blood and death. But no such idea is even hinted in Jesus' sermon. Jesus said clearly, " Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them" here is the subject of the parable. Jesus is comparing the man who hears and does with the man who hears and does not do (Matt. 7:24-26). Jesus was pointing up the necessity of both hearing and doing, that hearing alone is not enough.
Another example of the Christadelphians' reading into scripture is their conclusion about why Abel's sacrifice was accepted and Cain's was rejected. Where do they find any evidence in scripture that Abel's sacrifice was accepted because it was an animal sacrifice and Cain's was rejected because it was " the fruit of the ground?" The answer is nowhere. Under the law of Moses, sacrifices other than animal were accepted, even required (see Lev. 5:11; 7:12; 23:12,13).
Why was Cain's offering rejected? The Bible does not leave us to wonder. We read that Cain killed Abel because " his own works were evil and his brother's righteous" (I John 3:12). And following the rejection of Cain's offering, the Bible says clearly that it was because sin lay at his door (Gen. 4:7). Any other idea must be read into the scripture, not out of it.

Christadelphians Overlook The General Teaching Of Scripture

If we go to the Bible to support a position, we can easily find isolated statements which, read out of context, seem to be in line with that position. But if we go to the Bible with an open mind to learn what God is teaching us, what can we possibly conclude when we find many hundreds of passages which are clear directives to obedience, holiness, purity, and uprightness of character? How can we miss the strong emphasis on virtue and obedience which the Bible presents by illustration, by example, by parable, by symbol, and by the plainest of statements? What type of persons are commended? Look at Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter and Paul. Why were they esteemed ‑ because of righteousness imputed to them by Christ? No, they are commended because of their own life of obedience and virtue. And " the things written aforetime were written for our learning" (Rom. 15:4).
We may disallow God's principle to reward every man according to his works, but we find it repeatedly in the Old Testament ‑ in Genesis, in Joshua, in Deuteronomy, in Psalms, in Ecclesiastes, in Jeremiah, in Isaiah; and in the New Testament ‑ by Jesus in numerous of his parables; by Paul in Romans, in I Corinthians, and in Galatians, and by Jesus again in Revelation. We can say what we think God means by what He says, but if we misunderstand, His meaning does not change, nor will our misunderstanding get us salvation on our terms.
We can say that every reference to the blood in the New Testament is a reference to the literal blood of Christ and deny its symbolic use, but such a position only militates against the entire thrust of scripture. Either we must see the blood of Christ as a symbol of His words and life-giving teaching, or we must establish a contradiction of terms and say that the New Testament authors did not understand the plan of God correctly. I John 1:7 is a case in point. John wrote, " If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." John first states a condition: We must " walk in the light as he is in the light." What need, then, for the blood of Christ, if understood literally? But if we understand the blood as a term for the life-giving word of Jesus, another way of stating how we " walk in the light as he is in the light," we have a statement in harmony with the general teaching of the Bible, as Jesus himself said: " Now are ye clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3).

Christadelphians Make Summary Statements Which Contradict Scripture

The Christadelphians state, " The moral stature of Christ is unattainable once we have sinned." This statement is a direct contradiction of the words of Paul: " Till we all come in the unity of the faith unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13). How can we possibly " all come to the stature of Christ" if the least sin blocks the way? But nowhere does the Bible say we cannot attain the stature of Christ once we have sinned. God has a merciful provision for our forgiveness, and no one ever appreciated this fact more than the apostle Paul. He spoke of himself and his brethren as having been forgiven (Eph. 4:32; Col. 2:13-14). Any sin can be forgiven, once it has been forsaken (Ps. 130:7; Prov. 28:13; Ezek. 33:14-16). The idea that we are wholly depraved by nature and unacceptable to God because we have all sinned is a doctrine designed by Augustine, not by the God of the Bible. God's plan is plain: " Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:7). This passage states two facts: 1) that we will sin; and 2) that our sins need not be fatal, that God will pardon as we reform.

God's Standard vs. Human Interpretations

God's standard is not like human standards ‑ relative, arbitrary and flexible. The Christadelphians are grossly in error about the use of the word " perfect" in scripture, and their statement in its use " There is no implication of sinlessness" but rather that it indicates " a point of completion of spiritual development in certain aspects." They concede that we must " develop toward some point of perfection," but where is the strong moral imperative in such a statement that we find all through the Bible? Did Jesus say " Develop toward some point of perfection even as your heavenly Father has developed toward some point of perfection" (cf. Matt. 5:48)?
It was written of Zacharias and Elisabeth that they were " both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:6). It is written of the saints who stand with Christ on mount Zion that they are " without guile before the throne of God." If this does not imply sinlessness, what is its meaning? Again, the conclusion to the book of Jude reads that Christ will present His faithful " faultless before the presence of his glory" (Jude 24-25). The apostle Paul said of his brethren that he labored " to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight" (Col. 1:22), that he might " present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col. 1:28). Paul did not imply moral sinlessness, he stated it. Did God call Abram to walk before Him and develop toward some point of perfection? (See Gen. 17:1) No, He said, " Walk before me and be thou perfect."
The Christadelphians apparently overlook the fact that the Bible is a translated work, and that one must check the meaning of a word in its original language. The case in point is a passage about King Asa, that he was " perfect of heart all the days of his life" yet still he sinned (II Chron. 15:17). The Christadelphians use this statement to buttress their position that " perfect" does not mean " without sin." However, if we check the original Hebrew word translated " perfect" in II Chron. 15:17, we find that it is not the same word translated " perfect" in Gen. 17:1, where God called Abram to be perfect, or where it is written that Noah was perfect (Gen. 6:9), or that God's way is perfect (II Sam. 22:31; Deut. 32:4), or that the offerings brought to the tabernacle had to be " perfect." The word " perfect" used to describe Asa is shalem, and means " friendly, just, made ready, peaceable, quiet, whole" (Strong's Analytical Concordance). The word used for " perfect" in all the other above-mentioned passages is tamiym, and means " pious, entire; integrity, truth, without blemish, complete, full, sincerely sound, without spot, undefiled, upright." These definitions describe the standard which God ultimately requires in His human children, and which the statement about Asa does not weaken.
The Christadelphians object strongly to any idea of " meriting" eternal rewards. It is foreign to their thinking, but it is not foreign to the Scriptures. The saints are described as being " accounted worthy to obtain that world" (Luke 20:35,36). And Jesus said He would walk with some in white because " they are worthy" (Rev. 3:5). Paul admonished his brethren to " walk worthy of the vocation" by which they were called (Eph. 4:1-2). In fact, the believers will be called to judgment to receive according to what they have done, whether good or bad (II Cor. 5:10).

In Summary

In this debate, we have touched upon only a small part of what the Bible teaches about salvation. And this subject is only one among the entire teaching of scripture. If anyone is interested in learning more about this or any other topic of scripture, we will be pleased to send you our Set of Booklets on Bible Topics. Write to: The Megiddo Church, 481 Thurston Road, Rochester, New York 14619.
What is the conclusion of this debate? It all comes down to an honest appraisal of the facts. We can read the Bible with a pre-drawn position in mind, and try to fit everything we read to the supporting of that position; or we can come to the Bible with an open and honest heart and mind, eager to learn what God wants us to know. But whatever conclusions we draw, God will not change. His plan is fixed, and we feel compelled to set aside our own ideas and in the words of scripture, " Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Eccl. 12:13-14). Whatever we believe, our final accounting is to God. And He will judge us, not by the merits of Christ but by what we ourselves have done.
We have no wish to make a difference just for the sake of differing. We differ because we feel we must, because we are very serious about salvation. Everything of this world is temporary. Life is brief, and we love life. We love it so much that we want more of it. But only God can give life, and for this reason, we do not want to rely on any man-made creed. We want to be sure that what we are staking our future upon is really of God.
A little more time will decide this debate. Jesus Christ is coming, as Judge, Savior and King, and He will make known God's glorious plan to the ends of the earth. Then all will be compelled to acknowledge His way of salvation and will be invited to participate. For that Day we are eagerly, humbly, earnestly preparing and praying. " Even so come, Lord Jesus."

Ruth Sisson, November, 1992