Many Christians tell me they’ve never heard of Christadelphia. It’s not as well known as other cults with similar beliefs (e.g. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses), but there are tens of thousands of Christadelphians around the world.

Much of Christadelphian theology is false teaching, but I’m focusing on four specific areas of their teaching for this current series:

  • Jesus is not God
  • Jesus didn’t exist before being conceived in Mary’s womb
  • Jesus’ death was not a replacement sacrifice for us
  • People have to work for their salvation

We addressed the false teaching of Jesus not being God in the first part of our series, Jesus not existing before His conception in the second part, and Jesus’ death not being a replacement sacrifice for us in the third part.

Replacement sacrifice (also known as substitutionary – penal, vicarious – atonement) is a huge topic in the Bible. It runs from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3 to Heaven in Revelation 22. Because of that, we were not able to finish addressing the false teaching of Christadelphia concerning the death of Jesus. You can look at the last part of the series to catch up on what we’ve seen so far.

The Sacrificial Seed

Satan (the old serpent) has never forgotten God’s curse in the Garden of Eden:

So the Lord God said to the serpent: Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel. Genesis 3:14-15

The Seed of the woman would be the Sacrificial Seed who would “bruise” the head of the serpent’s seed. We know from 1 John 3:8 that the purpose for Jesus coming from Heaven to earth was “that He might destroy the works of the devil.” We know from John’s context that “sin” was the problem.

He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

Satan has a specific type of “hold” on people. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4 that Satan is the “god of this age” and has “blinded” the minds of unbelievers who are “perishing.” Paul wrote in Ephesians 2 that every person, even believers, were at one time “dead in trespasses and sins.” He wrote that they “once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” That’s the sin nature passed from Adam to every human through the millennia. The answer to this problem?

The Sacrificial Atonement

The word “atonement” in Hebrew is kaphar and means “to cover over, pacify, make propitiation.” It is connected with the word kopher, which means “a covering.” The Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint) uses the word hilaskomai. The meaning of the word is “propitiation, appeasement, satisfaction.” The idea of the word in ancient Greek culture was to appease the gods through a sacrifice.

We see the word used in Hebrews 2:17 where it speaks of what Jesus accomplished for us through His suffering and sacrifice:

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. NKJV

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. ESV

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. NIV

Therefore, it was essential that He had to be made like His brothers (mankind) in every respect, so that He might [by experience] become a merciful and faithful High Priest in things related to God, to make atonement (propitiation) for the people’s sins [thereby wiping away the sin, satisfying divine justice, and providing a way of reconciliation between God and mankind]. AMP

The word exilaskomai is a more intensive form of hilaskomai and is used almost 90 times in the Septuagint. The word in English is “atonement.” Here’s an example:

So Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the Lord. The plague has begun. Numbers 16:46

Sacrificial atonement began after God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden. Adam and Eve taught their children how to make offerings to God. Even though Cain killed his brother Abel because God didn’t accept Cain’s offerings, Adam and Eve didn’t give up.

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, ‘For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.’ And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord. Genesis 4:25-26

Men called (qara – proclaim, call) on the name of the Lord again. The worship of God continued through Seth and his son Enosh. As we know from studying Genesis and Luke, Seth and Enosh are in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ. Noah, who we saw in the last part of our series, was in the lineage of Seth and Enosh and it was through Noah that God kept the human race alive following the devastating Flood. Noah and his wife, along with their three sons and their wives, stepped off the Ark and built an altar to the Lord. Noah took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, “and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Genesis 8:20). That pleased the Lord.

Hundreds of years later, God chose a man named Abram to leave his home in lower Mesopotamia and travel to the land of Canaan (now known as Israel). Abram was from the lineage of Seth and Enosh and God used Abram to keep the Sacrificial Seed moving forward. Abram and his wife Sarai would have a son named Isaac: “for in Isaac your seed shall be called” (Genesis 21:12). We know from the genealogies listed in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 that Jesus was in the lineage of Abraham and Isaac. This was all part of God’s eternal plan to bless the nations of the world through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). God is doing that today through Jesus Christ as the Gospel of Christ is preached (e.g. Mark 13:9-11; Acts 1:8).

Jesus Our Propitiation

Another important word in the Septuagint and New Testament is hilastérion. It’s the Greek translation of the Hebrew word kapporeth. We see the words used in Exodus 25 for the “mercy seat.”

You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel. Exodus 25:17-22

Keep in mind that the “mercy seat” was placed in the Holy of Holies – where God dwelt with His people.

Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the vestibule, its houses, its treasuries, its upper chambers, its inner chambers, and the place of the mercy seat. 1 Chronicles 28:11

The Greek word hilastérion and the Hebrew kapporeth concerned the covering and removal of sin. Israel’s high priest sprinkled the atoning blood on the kapporeth (hilastérion) on the Day of Atonement.

The word hilastérion is used twice in the New Testament. The NKJV translates it as “propitiation” and “mercy seat.”

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26

Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. Hebrews 9:1-5

A similar word, hilasmos, also translates as “propitiation” and “atoning sacrifice.” The Apostle John used the word twice in his writings.

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. 1 John 2:2

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

Notice that John said that Jesus Christ “is the propitiation for our sins.” He said that twice in one letter. John didn’t write that Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for “His sins.” John said Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for “our sins.”

Propitiation, the atoning sacrifice, is what God says it is based on His eternal plan. It’s not what man wants it to be or twists it to be.

Christadelphia’s Compounded Errors

The false teaching of the Christadelphian cult has compounded its errors. That’s true of all cults. Their errors are like a giant ball of dirt rolling down the mountain side picking up more and more dirt as it approaches the bottom of its pitiful fall.

First, the Christadelphians say that Jesus is not God. Error #1

Second, the Christadelphians say that Jesus did not exist before He was born to Mary. Error #2

Third, the Christadelphians say that the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was for Himself, not for us. Error #3

Next Time

Those errors lead to another major error that we will look at in the next part of our series – people have to work for their salvation. That is the error of every false religion, every cult, every false teacher.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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