Free Bible Students

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The Free Bible Students is the branch of the Bible Student movement that discarded most of Watch Tower Society founder Charles Taze Russell's writings as error. The Free Bible Students form independent, autonomous assemblies and the name, "Free", is given to them to distinguish them from Bible Students, with whom they share historical roots.

History[edit]

In 1905 Paul S.L. Johnson, one of Russell's pilgrims and a former Lutheran minister, pointed out to Ch. T. Russell that his doctrines on the New Covenant had undergone a complete reversal: until 1880 he had taught that the New Covenant would be inaugurated only after the last of the 144,000 anointed Christians had been taken to heaven,[1] but from 1881 he had written that it was already in force.[2] Russell reconsidered the question and in January 1907 wrote several Watch Tower articles not only reaffirming his 1880 position - that "the new covenant belongs exclusively to the coming age" - but adding that since the church was under no mediated covenant, it had no Mediator at all.[3] Further, the church itself would join Christ as a joint Messiah and Mediator during the Millennium. Several prominent Bible Students vigorously opposed the new teaching.

New Covenant Believers[edit]

On October 24, 1909 former Society secretary-treasurer E.C. Henninges, who was by then the Australian branch manager of the International Bible Students Association, based in Melbourne, wrote Russell an open letter of protest trying to persuade him to abandon the teaching and calling on Bible Students to examine its legitimacy. When Russell refused, Henninges and most of the Melbourne congregation left Russell's movement to form the New Covenant Fellowship Hundreds out of the estimated 10,000 US Bible Students also left, including pilgrim M.L. McPhail, a member of the Chicago Bible Students and A. E. Williamson of Brooklyn. The dissidents formed the New Covenant Believers. In 1908 they began publishing "The Kingdom Scribe", which ceased publication in 1975. Since 1956 they have published "The Berean News", a small newsletter. The founding group is now known under the name Berean Bible Students Church in Lombard, Il.[4]

Christian Millennial Fellowship[edit]

In 1928 the Italian Bible Students Association in Hartford, CT., withdrew their support from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and 1938 established the Christian Millennial Fellowship as a publishing arm for their ministry work. In 1940 they began publishing The New Creation, a Herald of God's Kingdom.[5] The publishing house eventually reorganized and has relocated to New Jersey, with branch offices in Australia, Austria, England, Ghana, Germany, India, Italy, Japan and Romania.[6] They withdrew their support in 1928, and in 1940, they produced the New Creation - a Herald of Christ's Kingdom magazine. However a few years later, Gaetano Boccaccio, began to be influenced by the writings of E.C. Henninges and M.L. McPhail. The CMF eventually discarded most of Russell's writings as error. Gaetano Boccaccio was its leader since its inception, having been with the Society since 1917, he died in 1996. Today, the ministry work is now known as Christian Discipling Ministries International.[7]

Free Bible Students Association[edit]

Conrad C. Binkele the former Branch Manager of Watchtower Society founded in 1928 the community of "Free Bible Students Association" in the German region with other brethren. He began publishing "Der Pilgrim" a religious magazin from 1930 to 1934. These efforts were all suspended around the advent of the Nazi regime. Members of this community were made as well in the Concentration camps under the "Purple angle" of the Bible Students.[8] After the war, the Free Bible Students were again able to receive literature and the Mission again at startup.

All Christian of all this Missionworks they refer to themselves as "Free Bible Students", implying that they are no longer under the control of a man or organization.[5] Unlike the Bible Students, they eventually discarded most of Watch Tower Society founder Charles Taze Russell's writings as error.

Beliefs[edit]

The Bible[edit]

The Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, is God’s inspired Word. Inerrant in its original writing, the Bible is the only authoritative and infallible rule of faith and conduct for humanity.

God the Father[edit]

God the Father of whom are all things, whom no one has seen nor can see, reigns in the heavens and transcends our complete knowing. He is revealed as our loving heavenly Father by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, God will restore perfect harmony to all creation through Christ and reign eternally over the redeemed.

Jesus the Son[edit]

They believe that Jesus Christ is God’s one and only begotten Son. As begotten, not created, He shares the nature, names, and attributes of God with the Father. As Son, not Father, Jesus is subordinate to His Father in rank. From eternity, the Son was with the Father, shared the Father’s glory as the pre-incarnate Word, and with Him created and sustains all things. Jesus the Christ (Messiah) was born of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, thus uniting two natures human and divine. Jesus lived without sin, died as an atoning sacrifice for sin, was entombed for three days and three nights, was resurrected bodily, and ascended to His Father to serve as mediator and high priest. He reigns as Lord in heaven and will return to earth as judge and king. Now it pleases the Father that the Son is preeminent in all things and receives our worship.[9]

The Holy Spirit[edit]

The Holy Spirit is the promised divine helper who proceeds from the Father and Son. The Spirit is God’s presence and power in the world and indwells believers. By the Holy Spirit, God inspired and illuminates the Scriptures; convicts and regenerates sinners; sanctifies, teaches, comforts, guides, and preserves believers; and empowers them for service. Evidences of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life are faith in Christ, obedience to God, and the spiritual fruit of love.

The Church[edit]

The Church of God in Scripture is a spiritual body of believers who hold the faith of Jesus and keep the commandments of God. Under the lordship of Christ and the authority of His Word, the church exists universally and locally for purposes of worshipping God, preaching the gospel, nurturing believers, and serving humanity. Christians should participate in the church’s mission by service to others and fellowship with believers.

Prophecy[edit]

Bible prophecy preserves and strengthens a believer’s hope for the Second Advent. It identifies religious, social, and political trends and events, including the rebirth of the nation of Israel, which point to the imminent return of Christ and the eventual establishment of God’s eternal kingdom on earth.

Christian Ordinances[edit]

Christ prescribed two ordinances that confirm faith in Him: 1) baptism, preceded by a confession of faith in Christ and repentance, symbolizing the believer’s initial union with Christ by death to sins, burial (immersion) in water, and rising to new life; and 2) Lord's Supper, an annual memorial of Christ’s death in which believers eat the bread and drink from the cup symbols of His body and blood. They extend charity toward those who may observe communion at other times. This communion service demonstrates fellowship with our Savior until He comes again.[10]

Ten Commandments[edit]

The Ten Commandments were known and obeyed by faithful people before the law was given at Sinai. Later incorporated into the new covenant by the example and teaching of Christ, they constitute the basic moral code for humanity and are obeyed to demonstrate the believer’s love for God and his fellowman.

Man, Satan, Sin, and Death[edit]

Free Bible Students believe the humanity was created in the image of God: sinless, though not naturally immortal. Through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, all human beings became sinners by nature and by choice. The penalty for our sin is alienation from God, physical death (without consciousness), and, ultimately, eternal death for those who do not receive the salvation offered by Christ. It was Satan, the adversary of God, who tempted our first parents in the garden. The Devil is still capable of transforming himself into an angel of light but will finally be destroyed in the lake of fire.[11]

Kingdom of God[edit]

They believe that the Kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven) is realized in three phases:

  • The Present Kingdom

The spiritual kingdom of grace exists now as God rules in the lives of obedient believers. This kingdom was announced and revealed through the prophets and the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. We enter this kingdom when we turn from sin to serve God through faith in Jesus Christ.

  • The Millennial Kingdom of Christ

Free Bible Students believe that the purpose of the second advent is to bless all mankind, and renew the earth into the paradise conditions that existed in the Garden of Eden. Jesus will return to earth in power and glory to resurrect the righteous dead, bestow immortality and eternal life upon the resurrected and the living righteous, avenge the saints, and be glorified in them. His earthly reign of one thousand years will be a universal kingdom in which all principalities, powers, and enemies are overcome. At its conclusion, the unrighteous will be resurrected to suffer annihilation at the great white throne judgment.[12]

  • The Eternal Kingdom of God

God’s eternal kingdom will begin when Jesus Christ, having put all enemies under His feet, turns the kingdom over to the Father. God will dwell with the redeemed in a new heaven and a new earth where no disappointment, defilement, or death can enter and where righteousness and peace will prevail forever.

Worship style[edit]

Free Bible Students meet in buildings called Church or Ecclesia, like this one in 32 Chapel Lane Somersworth, NH 03878.

Free Bible Students emphasize that worship is not limited to the Sunday gathering, but is a lifestyle of love and service to Christ and dedication to God's truth as revealed in the Scriptures. Most churches expect the members to carry the message of the gospel into the world among their family and friends.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Three Great Covenants", Zion's Watch Tower, March 1880.
  2. ^ "The New Covenant vs the Law Covenant", Zion's Watch Tower, September 1887.
  3. ^ "The Mediator of the New Covernant", Zion's Watch Tower, January 1, 1907, pages 9, 10.
  4. ^ The Berean News
  5. ^ a b Who are the Free Bible Students and what is their history?
  6. ^ The CMF Annual Report for 2006, Nr 2, 2007.
  7. ^ Christian Discipling Ministries International
  8. ^ Detlef Garbe: Between resistance and martyrdom: Jehovah's Witnesses in the Third Reich; Page 100
  9. ^ "How Well Do You Know God?", CMF Advanced Bible Cours, page 11
  10. ^ "Have You Met Jesus?", CMF free booklet, page 2
  11. ^ "Just What is Hell?", CMF tract, page 3
  12. ^ "The Second Coming of our Lord", CMF tract, page 5