Part One

by A.E. Knoch

SALVATION, as seen in God's dealings with the Circumcision, differs radically from that which graces us who believe in the present secret administration. What is needed is an intelligent grasp of the underlying purpose of each, so that we cannot help keeping them distinct. This alone will enable us to enjoy the transcendent grace which is ours in Christ Jesus. Then we will never adulterate it with the greatly inferior ingredients which characterize the evangel of the Circumcision, as is almost universally done in Christendom today. We have already set forth the evangel for today at some length, in The Mystery of the Gospel and other works. Now we will explore still deeper, and also consider the evangel of the Circumcision in order to form a foil, to create a contrast, so that our hearts may grasp the transcendently transcendent grace which we enjoy in Christ Jesus. At the same time we will seek to understand why there are two evangels, and why one is concerned with faith and grace and the other with works and reward.

Let him be anathema (Gal.1:8,9)! How solemn are these words! We usually ignore them with the thought that they cannot possibly apply to us. Yet the appalling fact is that, with few exceptions, the beloved saints of God both believe and preach a different evangel, which is not another, and do not even realize it. Unlike the Galatians, they have not been transferred swiftly, but very slowly, away from the grace of Christ. Indeed, the most of them have not changed, for they have never known it. Alas! A few who once seemed to enjoy His grace have suddenly turned from it, as did the Galatians. May God make His grace abound in their behalf!

How terrible it seems, when we look about us, and see great and good men, zealous in the work of the Lord, eager to spread the "gospel," or make known God's truth, that we are compelled to acknowledge that they come under this anathema! We dare not tell them that they are included, lest we give offence, and, figuratively, cut off their ears, and they will not even listen to the truth that alone is able to set them free.

This is probably our last effort to differentiate between these two evangels, so we solicit the prayers of all God's saints, that we may be empowered to reach the hearts of those who are under this solemn adjuration, but have never considered the possibility that it applies to them. We especially pray for those who, like the Galatians, have fallen out of grace (Gal.5:4), after having had a glimpse of the evangel which is ours in Christ Jesus.

Israel's salvation is a great national demonstration, in which that people as a unit are segregated to show what is in humanity. God deals with them in the flesh, and under law, and under a covenant, with a gradually increasing admixture of grace and faith. The prime object of this prolonged and varied demonstration is not their salvation, but to show beyond question that mankind, even under the most favorable conditions is utterly lost without God. Their testings prove conclusively that there is nothing good in the flesh. Their trial shows that men cannot observe a law. The tryout makes it clear that they are incapable of keeping a covenant. Works are of no avail in salvation. Man's failure in this great demonstration is of the greatest value to the race and the universe. Until we see this, we are inclined to question its worth, and charge God with failure, and to repeat the experiment in our own experience, only to involve ourselves in defeat, and in the disillusionment which is bound to follow.

The salvation we have today begins where Israel's leaves off. The Adamic race is discarded and there is a new humanity. We have no confidence in the flesh; we are dead to the law; we keep no covenant; we are crucified and buried with Christ, and, by faith, are roused and seated with Him in a totally new environment, among the celestials. We profit by the failures of the Circumcision, and need not and should not imitate the distressing experiments which demonstrate, for all who can see, man's inability to save himself or to contribute anything towards his own deliverance. If we persist in repeating these tests, it will only further confirm our inability to our own confusion and discomfiture. The admixture of Circumcision truth, the mingling of Peter's evangel with Paul's, has made a medley which lacks the essential features of both. It is this mixture which has caused most of the confusion among the saints, and has well-nigh eclipsed the evangel of the Uncircumcision.


There are really only two means of salvation in the eons, works and faith. Israel is the chosen example to expose the futility of works, even when flavored with faith. Not knowing God, or acknowledging His deity, Christendom is inevitably drawn away by self-confidence into the sphere of works, and seeks to justify this course by appealing to that part of the Bible which belongs to Israel, where works have a place. The continual confusion and conflict on this subject will never be settled until it is seen that both sides have support "in the Bible," when all of it is applied indiscriminately to all, when it is not correctly cut. But when we realize that God uses works in Israel in order to demonstrate their futility, then we are more than ever satisfied to leave salvation to the Saviour, and to repudiate the false foundation of our own deeds.


The contrast between the gospel of the Circumcision and that of the Uncircumcision may be expressed in the same words if we only change their order. Do and live is the order for the Circumcision and all other religionists. Life as the result of human effort is one of the most illogical and preposterous propositions that can well be expressed. Nowhere, in the course of human history, has a man ever evolved life by his acts. He has succeeded infamously in doing his fellows to death. Why, then, should he be so insufferably conceited as to imagine that he can defeat death or bring about life by his puny and powerless practices? On the other hand, no one can do anything without the loan of life from God. This is evident everywhere, not only in the sphere of the evangel. Nothing but the salvation that gives life can enable us to work. The only salvation worthy of the name begins with the gift of life. With us it is live and do. We work because we are saved, not because we want to save ourselves.

The same kind of impermanent, transitory salvation will be found throughout the Circumcision writings. In my early life of faith I was troubled by these scriptures and sought a solution. I was deeply impressed by what we called the assurance of salvation, but could never find a satisfactory explanation of the sixth of Hebrews and other texts of like tenor until I began to see the difference between the truth for the nation of Israel and that for the other nations in this administration. Even the great stress laid on "safety, certainty and enjoyment" by my friends failed to explain how some who had actually tasted of the powers of the future eon fell aside and were disqualified for the kingdom (Heb.6:4-8). This clearly refers to those who listened to Peter on the day of Pentecost, who were saved from that crooked generation and added to the rest by the Lord Himself (Acts 2:40,47). The record in Acts runs along the same lines as the exodus. Many who were saved from Egypt fell in the wilderness, and many who were saved from that crooked generation fell away when the kingdom did not come, in the period of the book of Acts.

The unbeliever's favorite form of salvation is undiluted works, independent of God. The believer's favorite form of salvation is works with the help of the Lord. Few, indeed, dare to trust Him unreservedly as their Saviour. This sad state is largely due to the use of scriptures which do not apply to us today, but concern the Circumcision and their temporary testings, which are intended to show the uselessness of works as a means of salvation. Even those of us who are profoundly convinced that grace is the prime spring of God's dealings with His saints in this administration are inclined to leave it out of our dealings with one another. We prefer justice because we each feel that we have been just and, in case of a clash, the other has been unjust. We would like to display the justice of our cause before the saints and the world, when we ought rather to consider our fellow saint and hide his injustice, if it is that. Let us not seek to get our rights, to square up accounts now, but rather suffer wrong. The bema of Christ will set all right. It cannot be done before that day.


"Enigma" is the divine description of God's earlier revelation to the Circumcision, to whom first were confided the oracles of God (1 Cor.13:12). Our venerable Authorized Version speaks of it as being seen "through a glass, darkly," which is itself difficult to understand in these days of almost invisible glass. Rather, God spoke to them indirectly, and they perceived it as by means of ancient mirrors, or as we see things reflected in an imperfectly polished, uneven surface. Now, however, that we have the later revelation through Paul, all this can be rectified. We can by-pass the mirror and see things as they actually are, face to face (1 Cor.13:12). In order to look beyond the puzzling revelations before Paul came, we should always consider what he has to say, first, in order to get to the bottom, the solid sub-stratum of actuality.


In these studies, before we search for the truth in the Circumcision writings on any point we will first see what Paul has to say, for he gives us the result of the experiments which were tried with Israel, and shows that, beneath the superficial and apparent object, there was a different and deeper aim. The surface failure is deceptive because, in reality, it is a success, seeing that the demonstration was intended to expose the inability of man in all his efforts. Nevertheless, when we examine the earlier records more minutely in this light, we will discover, as a rule, that it contains intimations of the truth which can hardly be seen without the later revelations. God knew very well how His experiments would turn out. He does not try them in order to learn the truth for Himself, but in order to demonstrate them to His creatures, and so prepare them for the consummation, when they will not look for aught in themselves, but find their All in Him.


One cause of confusion is the fact that Paul uses the same terms as the Circumcision evangel to denote the reality which has displaced the riddle. He goes so far as to flatly contradict himself in the most important difference of all. Although he draws a sharp line between the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision in Ephesians, he actually insists that the Uncircumcision are the Circumcision in Philippians (3:3)! As we have the reality, of which circumcision is only the outward sign, he boldly dubs them the Maimcision, who mutilate the flesh, while we are the true and genuine Circumcision, who cut off the flesh entirely. The figurative use of literal terms concerned with God's dealings with Israel, such as kingdom, pardon, etc., leads many to miss the force of God's latest unfoldings, and to mix it all into one incoherent mess.


This highly figurative language has caused much confusion in connection with baptism. Although we are no more baptized than we are circumcised, the mere fact that our baptism is spoken of (Rom.6:4; Eph.4:5; Col.2:12), has led to great confusion of thought between the shadow and the substance. The circumcision evangel demands the shadow, ceremonial cleansing in water, whether the heart is purified, or not. But the evangel of the Uncircumcision insists only on the reality, our cleansing in Christ. An infant may be sprinkled with all the waters of the Jordan river, yet it will not be cleansed from sin. A man may be dipped under all the water in the seven seas, yet his heart will not be pure in God's sight. Baptism in Christ's death, that alone clears us completely from everything that defiles.


Why are there two evangels? Were the object of both merely to rescue the sinner from a terrible doom, then one should suffice. But when we see that one evangel is part of God's great demonstration of the futility and failure of the flesh, hence must be based on flesh, and the other acknowledges the result of this demonstration, hence is based on spirit, then we see that they are nearly as wide apart as the poles. With such totally divergent objects in view they cannot help but differ radically, and any mixture is bound to be confusing and contradictory.

The confusion in Christendom comes from mixing and muddling two evangels with entirely different objects, and the result is a bewildering chaos in which neither one survives in anything like its scriptural form.

Our religious leaders draw most of their doctrines from Peter, and have little patience with Paul, who alone has the truth for today, and who is the only one who can clear up the enigma of Peter's evangel as well. A great deal has been done by pointing out the differences which lie on the surface of the Scriptures. These definite statements should be enough. But there is such a tremendous weight of tradition to overcome that few are able to see what is so plainly written. For their sakes, and to establish those who see the truth, we will try to dig deeper, and examine more minutely those passages which deal with the matter. As Abraham's justification by faith is the seed plot of the uncircumcision evangel, his experiences will be considered at length.

It will be of great interest and profit if we note carefully the striking contrast between Yahweh's dealings with Abram, His friend, before and after his circumcision, the differences between the fifteenth and seventeenth chapters of Genesis. In the former we have faith and righteousness and the star seed. In the latter we have walk and a covenant and the sand seed. These should never be confused, even when they seem to merge in the spiritual members of Abram's physical offspring.

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