Supplementary Comments on Question 5 – “Sin in the flesh”

5) Do you believe that “sin” is used to mean both the unclean (defiled) nature. with its carnal inclination and actual transgression?

We reject the false teaching that our nature is a ‘form’ of sin or contains “sin-in-the-flesh” and is treated by the Father in the same way as our moral sins or that it requires reconciliation, atonement, justification or a covering. We also reject the false teaching that the Lord Jesus Christ died for the purging, cleansing, remission, forgiveness or justification of ‘Adamic Sin’, or to make reconciliation or atonement for human nature. Rather, we believe that Christ condemned sin, first, by mortifying in himself those impulses within his nature that lead to sin throughout his life of faithful obedience; secondly, by the public condemnation of that nature upon the cross at his death as a demonstration that flesh and blood is rightly related to death; and, finally, on account of his subsequent resurrection and change to spirit nature when he was cleansed from the defilement of human nature.

The following expresses Central Christadelphian understanding of the principle of metonymy as it relates to how the word ‘sin’ is used to describe our flesh and blood natures:

Paul describes the desires of the flesh in this way, as a law dominating his members, and bringing him into captivity inasmuch as he gives way to it. There is no such thing as a physical substance called ‘sin’ in man, but the lusts of the flesh. This desire of the flesh to assert itself against the law of God is described as ‘sin’ which is therefore metonymical for human nature. The word ‘metonymy’ is used of the practice of giving a descriptive word to something: as ‘the bottle’ instead of ‘strong drink’. But in such a use of language the words must be related, as in our illustration. Why then, is human nature called ‘sin’? Because it was manifested in its present form (mortal and sinful) as the result of sin in the beginning.

(‘Human Nature Styled Sin’ – Bro. HP Mansfield)

The word “sin” is here used by him metonymically for those impulses of the flesh which, obeyed, constitute sin, which is “the transgression of the law.” These impulses are referred to by Paul as “the motions of sins“; hence he says of himself, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man (the mind which has been renewed in knowledge is thus styled- Col. 3:10 ); but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

(The Christadelphian, Vol. 38, Page 325, 1901 . Bro. CC Walker)

What is sin? We have the apostolic answers concerning transgression and knowing rebellion. But is that all? No, for Bible usage speaks of “sin” in other connections by metonymy, whereby the term is applied to the flesh and to objects connected with sin. And this must be borne in mind.

(Christadelphian, Vol. 44, Page 124, 1907 – What is sin? – Bro. CC Walker)

Adam was driven out of Eden because of disobedience. He was therefore thrown back upon himself, so to speak, and he soon found in himself and his progeny how weak and evil a thing the flesh is, for his first son was a murderer. And because disobedience or sin, was the cause of his expulsion, and that sin was the result of the desires of the flesh, and because all the desires that are natural to the flesh organization are because of native ignorance, in directions forbidden, there is no exaggeration, no high figure in talking of sin in the flesh. It is Paul’s figure. He speaks of “sin that dwelleth in me” and as he defines ‘me’ to be “my flesh”, ‘Sin that dwelleth in me’ is “sin in the flesh” – a metonym for those impulses which are native to the flesh, while knowledge of God and of duty is not native to the flesh.

(The Slain Lamb – Robert Roberts)

But how could Paul speak of these impulses which were latent in him, which sprang to life as he said, when the commandment came? How can he speak of them as sin? By a well known figure of speech; the figure of speech of metonymy is that where a word which stands related to another as cause or effect, or a mere adjunct maybe, is put for that to which it stands related. And sometimes we find brethren speaking of two aspects of sin. It might be permissible to use the phrase, providing it is understood. But I want to enter here and now a mild caveat against the use of that phrase, “two aspects of sin.” There are not two aspects of sin, there are many aspects of sin. Sin is what? Well you have a list of the works of the flesh; Adultery and all the abominations with a list of other things such as ill-will, bitterness, wrath, anger, strife, sedition and so on. All these are aspects of sin. They are all aspects of something that comes within the one category.

(The Atonement. . John Carter -Malvern Town Hall, Melbourne, 1958)

His [Christ’s] flesh was crucified, so that he died. But figuratively he had crucified his flesh day after day, as he put to death its desires and refused to submit to them ( Luke 22:42 ). He taught that sin came from within ( Mark 7:21.23 ), and is therefore used as a metonym for the flesh, so that it is said, “He died unto sin once” (Rom. 6:10). In that crucified body, the desires of the flesh were rendered inactive, teaching his followers what they must do figuratively: “For they that are Christ.s have crucified the flesh with the affections (RV: ‘passions’) and lusts” ( Gal. 5:24 ). His blood was poured out, as a symbol of a dedicated life. The Law taught that “the life of the flesh was in the blood” (Lev. 17:11) and in sacrifice this had to be smeared upon the altar, as a token that the person.s life would be dedicated to doing God’s will.

(Key to Understanding of the Scriptures, 1997. HP Mansfield)

“Sin in the flesh”

In your presentation, you make reference to the phrase “sin in the flesh” and Doctrine To Be Rejected (DTBR) Clause #27. We believe that the phrase ‘sin in the flesh’, found only once in Scripture in Romans 8:3, is indicative of the relationship between the flesh and sin and the method by which God condemned Sin and reconciled the world unto himself.

Doctrine To Be Rejected Clause 27 was added to the Birmingham Statement of Faith as a result of the “Free-Life” Controversy in the late 19th Century. Bro. David Handley, from Maldon, was a former elder of a Pentecostal sect, who held the belief that Jesus did not share the same condemned nature of Adam’s descendants because God had given him life directly just as He had given life to Adam. In other words, he reasoned that Jesus had the same nature as Adam did before he sinned, and was, therefore, free from mortality and the consequences of Adam’s sin.

He was, therefore, Bro. Handley argued, always entitled to life, hence the term ‘Free-life’. Bro. Handley appears to have convinced Bro. Edward Turney of Nottingham of this “Free-Life” theory, who, subsequently, ‘renounced’ his previous beliefs on the nature and sacrifice of Christ. In 1873 Bro. Turney issued an eight-page pamphlet containing “Thirty-two Questions and Answers concerning Jesus Christ“. He acknowledged his indebtedness for the ideas he was promoting to Bro. David Handley. The first lines of the concluding paragraph of this pamphlet read as follows:

“Brethren and friends, Whatever I have taught by mouth or pen contrary to the views of Jesus Christ herein set forth, I now renounce.

Hence the terms “Renunciationist” and “Renunciationism” were born (latterly becoming known in the 20th Century as the theory of ‘Clean Flesh’.) Unfortunately the things that he “renounced” were true, and the new things that he was now teaching were false, containing the hallmark of the belief of apostate Christianity which taught that “Jesus did not come in the flesh” (Cp. 2 John 1:7).

On the evening of July 28th 1873 Bro. Turney gave a lecture at Temperance Hall in Birmingham to explain his new beliefs under the Title: “The Sacrifice of Christ“. He set out his beliefs as follows:

The last Adam… came into the world as free as the first Adam, not under condemnation to death… that (free) life was the price or ransom that had to be paid for those who had lost their’s by Adam’s transgression… That the body of Jesus did not inherit the curse of Adam, though derived from him through Mary; and was therefore not mortal; that his natural life was ‘free’; that in this ‘free’ natural life, he ‘earned eternal life,’ and might, if he had so chosen, have avoided death, or even refused to die upon the cross, and entered into eternal life alone; his death being the act of his own free will, and not in any sense necessary for his own salvation; that his sacrifice consisted in the offering up of an unforfeited life, in payment of the penalty incurred by Adam and his posterity, which was eternal death; that his unforfeited life was slain in the room and stead of the forfeited lives of all believers of the races of Adam.

(The Sacrifice of Christ . Edward Turney, 1873 . p.9)

(Another man has said) that for 15 years he has not been able to understand what Dr. Thomas meant by ‘sin in the flesh.’ That is the fixation of sin in the flesh which he speaks of in ‘Elpis Israel’ pg. 126, …and I confess to you without reserve, neither have I been able to understand it. But still I have many a time taught it. I have taken the 15th article of the book of common prayer and pulled it to pieces, and said that Christ came in flesh full of sin; for, said I to the people, what can ‘sinful flesh’ mean, but flesh full of sin? Well now, since my mind has been more especially directed to the study of this subject, I have arrived at this conviction that there is no such thing as flesh full of sin, and never was, nor can be.

(“Sacrifice of Christ,” – Edward Turney, 1873 – pg. 16.)

There was no sin in the ‘nature’ after it had transgressed. There was mortality. There was man destined to die; but sin was not a fixed principle in man’s flesh.

Our early brethren recognised the detrimental effect that these false teachings of Bro. Turney could have upon the brotherhood and consequently, made three changes to the Birmingham Statement of Faith (BSF). All three changes were to the ‘Doctrines to be rejected’ (DTBR). The first is Clause 4 which rejects the belief, That Christ was born with a “free life”. The second is Clause 5 which rejects the false doctrine, That Christ’s nature was immaculate. The third is Clause 27 which rejects the false doctrine “That there is no sin in the flesh” and was written in direct contrast to the following false statements made by Bro. Turney:

“There is no such thing as flesh full of sin…”

“There was no sin in the ‘nature’ after it had transgressed…”

“Sin was not a fixed principle in man’s flesh…”

We fully support DTBR Clause #27 and believe that any teaching that states otherwise, that mankind or the Lord Jesus Christ himself did not inherit mortality or a sin-prone nature, is contrary to the gospel of Truth and that such teaching has no place in the ecclesias of God being in conflict with 1 John 2:7, that Jesus came in the flesh and Clause 5 of the Statement of Faith which states that:

That Adam broke this law, and was adjudged unworthy of immortality, and sentenced to return to the ground from whence he was taken – a sentence which defiled and became a physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity.

The following explanations express Central Christadelphian understanding of Romans 8:3 and the phrase “sin in the flesh”.

Bro. John Carter on the phrase .sin in the flesh. (Romans 8:3):

“(Christ) condemned sin, in the flesh**… Sin is condemned by God the judge, and the issue is decided in Christ. Since Christ has not yielded to sin, Sin has lost his claim in the very domain that he regarded as his own – the domain of the flesh. So Paul.s figure runs. But the force and significance of “in the flesh” now emerges. The conflict takes place in the flesh – there Sin is overcome, and then as the final act, the very climax of the conflict, Jesus lays down his life as a sin-offering. In this was shown the fitness of the flesh for the divinely decreed end of death, and God’s righteousness was declared; but in this very way Christ provides the conditions upon which sins are forgiven (he is the sin offering) and so Sin loses its hold on forgiven and redeemed men and women.”

John Carter, The Christadelphian Magazine, Vol.93, 1956, pages 127-132

Bro. Ron Abel on the phrase “sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3):

“Now sometimes people have spoken of sin in the flesh as if it is some kind of substance. that is part of your constitution. Romans 8:3 should not be read as a hyphenated word but rather “God condemned…” God condemned what? “God condemned SIN…” Where did he condemn sin? “God condemned sin IN THE FLESH“! That expression becomes very obvious when you read it that way. And so you see that God condemned sin in the sacrifice of Christ where the prince of this world was cast out IN THE FLESH, the very area, the arena of sin’s domain. And so sin was dethroned in the death of Christ Jesus.”

Audio tape by Ron Abel, The Atonement; Livonia Online Bible Class Library

Bro. Ron Abel on the phrase “all men sin” (Romans 5:12):

“Do we die only because we are personal sinners? Do we inherit in some sense the guilt of Adam’s transgression, and that is because we die? Is it simply because God considers us, on the basis of a federal principle that we are related to a constitution of sin because we are of the Adamic line? And just as Levi was in the loins of Melchizedek, we are in the loins of our father Adam and on that ground we are constituted sinners? In what way do we sin “in Adam”? Paul is not saying that we are guilty for Adam’s sin. Paul is dealing on the federal principle in so far as one man sinned and many died through one man’s trespass… ‘For by one man were many made (gk: ‘constituted’) sinners. (v.19). How were many ‘constituted sinners’? As a result of the fall of Adam he bequeathed to all of his descendants a nature that is prone to sin, so prone to sin in effect that it rendered them inevitable sinners… Paul here as he does in many other places uses the language of metonymy. Instead of speaking of us having a nature that is ‘prone to sin’ Paul talks of us as being ‘sinners’ because the figure of metonymy, putting the cause for effect, or the effect for the cause.”

Audio tape by Ron Abel, The Atonement; Livonia Online Bible Class Library