Appendix C – John Carter – Knowledge and Responsibility

As indicated in the closing words of the review of The World’s Redemption (Feb. Christadelphian, page 49), we now consider the Scripture evidence that responsibility to the judgment seat of Christ belongs to those who know God’s will. The principle that knowledge and responsibility are inseparable is stated in many passages and its precise application in many more: it is a principle that arises from the very nature of man and his relationship to the Creator. Man is a moral creature, and if God reveals His will man therefore has a responsibility for the actions that he does contrary to it.

We see this when man was first placed under law in Eden. There was a penalty for the broken law; man was punished with death for disobedience. God did not close the account there, but opened up a new relationship by the revelation of how He would restore the harmony disturbed by sin, and in so doing make possible a resurrection to life eternal. Only the first man has stood in the position of Adam when the law was given to him in Eden. While made of the dust he was “very good”, as God’s word declares. No one has “sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression” for death came by his sin; whereas all his descendants began life outside Eden, and all, whatever kind of life they live, die. All Adam’s progeny inherit the effects of Adam’s sin; all find a native tendency to sin at work in them; all inevitably grow old and die. The relationship opened up by God after the fall was new, inasmuch as the conditions had changed. The promise of the serpent-bruised seed would have had no meaning before Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree.

A hope of deliverance was embodied in the first promise, and the means whereby the promise would become effectual was illustrated by the provision of clothing for their nakedness by the slaying of animals. Life through the sacrifice of the Seed of Woman was the divine way. The announcement of the fact made Adam aware of a new responsibility before God. The “first gospel”, like all other revelations of the future good for man, called for the exercise of faith and the obedience to whatever laws accompanied the revelation. Because Abel discerned this he stands at the head of men of faith who have become heirs to a resurrection of life (Heb. 11:4). While the revelation gave a hope of life for faith and obedience, it would be reasonable to expect that a responsibility would accrue from the rejection of God’s offer. The fact that man had power of choice does not rule out obligations on his part; the revealed will of God is not like an offer one man might make to another where the option of acceptance or refusal is equally in the person’s power. God sustains to man the relationship of Creator and Sustainer; though man has sinned, God will yet bring into existence a state where His will is supreme: therefore man either obeys and shares the abiding order God will establish, or he disobeys and becomes liable to that extinction which will come to all who have deliberately thwarted God’s will. In other words, an offer by God carries with it an assertion of His supremacy and of a man’s duty to choose obedience. It is outrageous to think that man can say to God, “I will think about it and make a decision”, as if that decision made no more difference to him than the refusal to enter into a contract with one’s fellow. Men are equal, but God is immeasurably higher than man. He is supreme and His approaches are acts of mercy and of benefaction.

The Edenic promise, so far as we know, was the one declaration of a future purpose made by God until the times of Abraham. The very brief account of two thousand years of human history in the first eleven chapters of Genesis is only an introduction to the records of Israel’s origins; fittingly brief, since the Bible records are God’s oracles committed to Israel for the preservation of the knowledge of His purpose in a world that had become divided by the confusion of human speech. This fact, that Israel were the keepers of God’s revelation, at once put Israel in the position of greater responsibility than other nations—a responsibility based on the fact that the knowledge of God’s will was available to them. This is seen from Paul’s statements that God suffered all nations to go their own ways, and that the times of ignorance God winked at. We should make a mistake if we concluded therefore that God had no regard for the evils of these nations. The statements of the prophets that Edom, Moab, Tyre, etc., would be punished excludes this idea. But Israel had a much greater responsibility as expressed in the words of Amos, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities”. Israel’s responsibility as the people of God, however, was national and was established by the covenant at Sinai. But the Abrahamic covenant was available all the time for faith like that shown by Abraham; a faith which justifies and gives a title to life. Where this promise of eternal life was discerned, a higher responsibility than the one imposed by the covenant at Sinai came into existence.

Before touching on some of the outstanding passages that concern this higher responsibility, we reproduce the groups of passages set out by bro. Roberts in his pamphlet in reply to J. J. Andrew. We remarked before that no collection of passages is available to illustrate the contrary view, but only specious reasoning based upon misconstrued passages of Scripture.

I. That ignorance excludes men from accountability, but that they are responsible to divine judgment at the resurrection when they know the demand that God makes upon them by Christ and the Apostles, whether they submit to it or not.


“Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish” (Psa. 49:20).

“The times of this ignorance God winked at” (Acts 17:30).

“This is the (ground of) condemnation, that light is come” (John 3:19).

“If ye were blind, ye should have no sin” (John 9:41).

“To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17).

“He that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not . . .” (Matt. 7:26).

“Who knowing the judgment of God, that those who do such things are worthy of death . . .” (Rom. 1:32).

“He that believeth not (the Gospel preached to him) shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

“The servant that knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes . . . for to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luke 12:47).

“I received mercy because I did it ignorantly” (1 Tim. 1:13).

“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my word, the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

“Whosoever will not hearken to my words which he (Jesus) shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” (Deut. 18:19).

II. That the scriptures recognize and teach it as according to righteousness and justice that those who rebel against the light should be brought to punishment, even though they be “without or outside”.


“We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things . . . After thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:2, 5).

“Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).

“Them that are without, God judgeth” (1 Cor. 5:13).

“Because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6).

“We were by nature the children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2:3).

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). (This is connected with the judgment seat of the previous verse.)

“Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come . . . I say unto you that every idle word men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:32, 36).

“He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

“The unbelieving . . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).

III. That responsible men are to be punished at the resurrection because they are worthy or deserving of it, and not because of any technical compliance on their part with the divine institutions.


“Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God” (Heb. 10:29).

“They who commit such things are worthy of death” (Rom. 1:32).

“He that knew not and did commit things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes” (Luke 12:48).

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation” (Heb. 2:3).

“Depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:23).

“If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Pet. 4:18). “They that have done evil (shall come forth) to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:30).

IV. That the multitude who shall appear before the judgment seat of Christ will be composed, not only of the faithful and unfaithful members of his own immediate household (who are but a comparatively recent development of the divine principles that have been operative in the earth for 6,000 years) but of all who have refused to submit to the law of God when reasonably attested.


“He (to whom the gospel came in its apostolic presentation) that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). “To them that perish . . . (the apostolic message) a savour of death unto death” (2 Cor. 2:15, 16).

“Those mine enemies who would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither and slay them before me” (this is in addition to the servants entrusted with the talents) (Luke 19: 27).

“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness . . . God shall render to every man according to his deeds . . . to them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish . . . in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus, according to my Gospel” (Rom. 1:18; 2:6, 8, 9, 16).

“Taking vengeance on them that know not God (that is, are not acquainted with him in the sense of submission) and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8).

(To be concluded)3



Knowledge and Responsibility

(Concluded from page 72)

WE will now look a little more closely at some of the statements which illustrate the teaching of Scripture on the subject of responsibility. When God speaks to men it is man’s duty to hearken and obey, whoever may hear, and wherever he may be. God may indeed speak to one man, or to one nation, and the word may have exclusive reference to them unless it is indicated that it has a wider application or is the enunciation of some general principle. Even so, to refuse to hearken is disobedience. This general principle is clearly laid down in the very arrangements made by God with Israel concerning any revelation He would give to them. They had requested that a direct communication as at Sinai should not be repeated but that God should speak through Moses. God approved the request, and extended the arrangement beyond Moses: “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him”. It is true that many messages of the prophets of Israel had reference only to national responsibilities: the penalties in such case would correspond. But when a prophet called upon men “to give ear to a time to come”, then both penalties and blessings belong to that time. The principle laid down clearly is that when God reveals His will men who know that will are held accountable. If at the present time by the preaching of the gospel God has extended His dealings to the Gentiles, and “now commandeth all men everywhere to repent”, then men are responsible for the refusal to hear, for God has “appointed a day in which He will judge the world (and not only Israel) in righteousness by Jesus Christ”.

That God’s word to Israel by “the prophet” included an amenability to a future judgment is clear, firstly by the words of Jesus, preeminently the prophet like unto Moses, at whose words we shall presently look. But two passages may be cited from the Old Testament. Psalm 49:6–12 describes the general state of men engrossed in present affairs, eyes fixed on lands and wealth, without power to redeem themselves from death. They abide not; they are like the beasts that perish (verse 12). The Psalmist then contrasts his own hope of a future with the hopelessness of those others: God will redeem his soul from the grave: but their souls shall go to the generation of their fathers, they shall never see light. But the very contrast which will be evident in the resurrection makes necessary some qualification of the statement in verse 12. Not all perish as the beasts who yet do not attain to the blessedness of the future. What is the principle that governs the beast-like death? It is thus defined: “Man that is in honour and understandeth not is like the beasts that perish”. Where a man understands the eternal purpose of God he has a responsibility that extends beyond the present.

The Proverbs reveal divine wisdom, and in an effective personification flouted Wisdom declares the penalties of her disregard:

Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof: therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil” (Prov. 1:24–33).

The saying clearly goes beyond the present to a time when life’s decisions are beyond repair, when men call in vain, for God will not hear. Not until the end of a man’s life is that stage reached; it is evident therefore that Wisdom looks beyond the present to the future. We shall find Jesus, who was the wisdom of God, using similar words and endorsing the declaration from Proverbs.

Jesus was “the Prophet” of God, and we turn to God’s words which he spake. He had “words of eternal life” and his doctrine concerned the Kingdom and how men should seek it. His “Sermon” begins with “blessedness” on certain people because they were related to future good; it ends with searching counsel based on the parable of two builders. But before the closing parable he had said that not lip acknowledgment of his lordship, but doing the will of God, would open the door to the Kingdom; and that “in that day” he would disown mere lip servers. He contemplates a time when as judge he will despatch from his presence men who have known him and of him, but have not sought to apply the knowledge by obedient service (Matt. 7:21–23). He emphasizes his meaning by connecting with this saying the parable: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them”; he is a house-builder whose work is laid on foundations that stand the crisis of storm; but “everyone who heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened to a foolish man” whose building comes to ruin (verses 24–27). There is no escape from the conclusion that the division between the two is based on “hearing and doing” and “hearing and not doing”, and the division will be made final in the day of judgment. Responsibility comes with hearing, and failure to respond does not exclude judgment.

In Matt. 8:11, following the centurion’s demonstration of his faith in Jesus as a divine messenger, Jesus says that many Gentiles—many who come “from east and west”—“shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of heaven, but the children of the Kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness”. There is a close parallel to this in Luke 13 which refers more specifically to those who are cast out. “Are there few that be saved?” is answered by a warning that the questioner should be diligent to obtain his own “entrance” to the kingdom. There is a distinct personal warning in the identification both of Jesus as judge and of his hearers as the judged when the latter are portrayed as saying, “Thou hast taught in our streets”, but he who had thus taught then says, “I never knew you”.

The matter can be taken a step further. The testimony Jesus gave was continued by his apostles and through their ministry a final appeal, supported by the evidence of God’s approval of Jesus by his resurrection from the dead, was made to Israel. Jesus foresaw what would be the result of this last appeal. He spoke a parable to show that the Kingdom would not come until he had been away “to a far country”; but in the meantime his servants were to be employed in “trading” for his sake. The parable introduces another class besides the servants—the “citizens of the Kingdom”, who would send a message after the nobleman, refusing him as their king. This can only refer to Jewish rejecters of his claims after his ascent—that is, in their rejection of the apostles’ testimony. This class is introduced deliberately, for there is a reference to them again in the settlement at the return of their king. The servants are divided into faithful, and unfaithful, receiving their fitting rewards; but the “citizens” who rejected the message of the apostles are then sentenced to destruction. If to escape the force of the words of Jesus it should be claimed (as it has been) that in the Sermon and the other references Jesus was talking to Jews, it must surely be acknowledged that in this parable Jesus projects the scene into apostolic times—times when Jewish privilege had been done away and the gospel was preached to all without regard to race.

There are three possible states in relation to faith: a person hears and accepts—he believes; a person hears and rejects—he disbelieves; a person never hears and his position is defined as unbelief. The A.V. in Mark 16:16 is ambiguous when it says, “he that believeth not shall be condemned”; but the R.V. correctly translates Mark’s words, “he that disbelieveth shall be condemned”. Jesus is considering the issues which spring from the preaching which he has just instructed his disciples to do: men hear and believe, or hear and disbelieve to their future judgment.

It might be expected that John’s gospel would have something to say on the subject: the antagonism between light and darkness, used in figure by John so much, involves it. Space does not permit for elaboration, but only for brief comments. John 3:18–21: the evidence of God’s work in Jesus is so strong that rejection is wickedness, and a man is revealed for what he is by not believing: he therefore “hath been judged” (R.V.) already—the facts judge him even though the decision is not announced until the day of judgment and salvation. The ground of judgment is that light has come. John 12:46–48: in these words we have the final summing up of the public ministry of Jesus. They clearly are to be connected with the words of Moses in Deut. 18; and the day of judgment is clearly indicated. The supreme act of God in sending His Son is a challenge to sinfulness, and if man does not ally himself with God’s work when the light permeates the darkness of his mind, then he is God’s enemy, and only judgment awaits him.

Leaving aside some statements which define the principle indirectly we quote specific statements from the epistles. In Rom. 2:16 we have one of the most elaborate arguments on the subject. A man who can judge another is by that act shown to be responsible himself (verses 1, 2). If he despises God’s goodness which leads him to repentance (verse 4) he treasures up wrath against the day of wrath (verse 5) when God will render to those who do not obey the truth, indignation and wrath (verse 8). The judgment applies equally to Jew and Gentile (verse 9).

The twofold effect of the preaching — responsibility and blessing—is set out graphically by Paul under the figure of a Roman triumphal procession (2 Cor. 2:14–16). In this there were captives appointed to death, and associates of the victor sharing his triumph. Incense bearers spread fragrance along the route. To this Paul likens “the savour of his knowledge” in them that are saved and in them that perish: to one it is a savour of life unto life and to the other of death unto death. The reiteration “life unto life” and “death unto death” makes emphatic the ends to which men are led.

Peter declares that certain Gentiles who defamed the disciples “shall give an account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead”. He adds the grounds upon which they will be judged. He had just spoken of Noah’s contemporaries to whom the “spirit of Christ” in Noah preached, but who were now dead. The gospel evidently was preached to them as well as to the Gentiles of Peter’s days: “For unto this end was the gospel preached even to the dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit” (1 Pet. 4:6). The two issues which spring from the preaching are both stated—judgment and life.

Do these things matter? They do in several ways. An urgency is given to the preaching of the message when it is recognized that the hearer is being called to obedience and not to an “option”. It is not a question of frightening men into the way of salvation; the appeal is one of love, but flouted love has terrors; a recognition of this affects the spirit of the speaker. Because Paul knew “the terror of the Lord” he “persuaded men”. Men have preached the terrors of hell and believers in the Truth have revolted from it; but the sentiment abroad today would treat God, if He is recognized at all, as a kind of good-natured benefactor. We must keep a just balance between the holiness and righteousness of God, on the one hand, and the love and kindness on the other; so doing we shall uphold His supremacy and declare His love to men.

Bro. Roberts pictures a preacher meeting a man at the judgment who thought he was safe from God’s wrath as long as he did not enter the covenant by baptism and who had not been warned of God’s righteous claims: “How terrible it will be in that day, if through looseness of doctrine in this matter on our part, men should find themselves awake from the dead to judgment who did not expect to be there, and who would naturally turn their reproaches against us. ‘Why did you tell me I was not responsible?’ Paul declared himself ‘free from the blood of all men’, because he ‘had not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God’. In this position we can scarcely consider ourselves if we lull people into a deadly indifference by teaching them that if they choose to disobey God, the worst they have to look for is to be left undisturbed in an everlasting grave. This is not the worst. There is a judgment which shall ‘devour the adversary’ of which every (responsible) soul of man will partake who are ‘contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness’ (Rom. 2:8). There is a class who, having no understanding, ‘shall not rise’ but pass away as the beasts that perish; but to this class those do not belong who, having come into contact with ‘the light that is come into the world’, love darkness rather than light—and who, having heard the words of Christ as the acknowledged words of Christ and of God, have rejected them practically in refusing to walk in accord with them, will be ‘judged by them in the last day’.”



3 The Christadelphian, 1952, pg 72

4 The Christadelphian, 1952, pg 110