Part Nine

by A.E. Knoch

I HAVE been glad to see that gradually the great difference between the evangel of the Circumcision and that of the Uncircumcision is spreading among the saints. But it disappointed me that in some cases it does not seem to take, so I am more and more impressed with the necessity of going to the bottom of these things. There is enough clear teaching as to what the Scriptures say, but we lack a deeper apprehension of why these things are so.

There are a great many philosophies in the world today. Men have a lot to say and some imagine that they really know something about what is going on in the world. But if you simply ask one question, they all are dumb. That one word is, Why?

I think it is our privilege, if we become mature in our understanding of God's Word, to go beneath the surface and know why certain things are so. Then it will be much easier to avoid what is wrong and to conform to what the Scriptures have to say.

In our studies we now have come to the subject of the law - the law of Moses. There is a good deal said about the law in Paul's epistles, especially in Romans and Galatians. The attitude we should take toward the law is clearly set forth in these epistles and, of course, in some others also, showing that there is a tremendous difference between the evangels of the Circumcision and of the Uncircumcision with regard to the law. Now it might be well if we should go back and see where Christendom got on the wrong track. Why is it that the Lord's people are in a haze about this matter in spite of the clear revelation we have in Romans? Very few seem to grasp the great difference between the two evangels.

Let us consider the main points of distinction: In the evangel of the Circumcision we have law. It is not abrogated. As a matter of fact, the law continues throughout the millennium. Then Israel will still be under law. There will be a great difference in contrast to what was before, but nevertheless, the main object that God has in view continues right straight through that whole eon, with regard to the Circumcision. The law was not given to be observed. It was not given that men should obey it and get a recognition from God, but to show them their inability to keep it. That is why we have the long list of failures in Israel. The law given at Sinai was a great success from the viewpoint of God's intention. It showed that man is not capable of conforming to its standards. Yahweh's people had all sorts of special advantages. They are given this law and they excel only in making a failure of keeping it. That was God's intention, although it was contrary to His expressed will. This continues in the millennium, even though the law is written on their hearts. Perfection is not reached, even in that blessed era.

Perhaps it will help to show how futile law keeping is if we will briefly consider its effect on the other nations. In the millennium there will be blessing through Israel to the world. The knowledge of Yahweh will cover the earth as the waters cover the floor of the sea. If that is so, why those various occasions when the nations turn against Yahweh? In the land of Israel the knowledge of Yahweh will be universal, but not among the nations. There will be a great defection at the end of the millennium. I used to think that the millennium would be a time of perfection. But no consummation is possible under law. Israel, at present, is not keeping the law. Yet those of them who believe in Christ now, instead of being devoured by fiery judgments, are raised to heights supernal like all the other members of His body.

We will now consider a problem that has troubled the servants of God quite a good deal, and so far as I know there has never been a real solution. That is, what is the place of the law today? Once, when I treated this subject, one of my friends said that he thought it a fine thing that, in the churches of Christendom, the children should be taught the law, in order that through it they might come to a knowledge of sin. That is what the law was given for. To me this was not very convincing, and became less so when I considered it in the light of actual practice. I spent a few years in a land where everyone was an amateur theologian. They all knew the ten commandments and lengthy explanations of them by heart. It was really surprising what a place was given to the law of Moses in that country. It was practically a part of the school system, an educational essential. Yet the tendency was to make people self-righteous. It seldom led to conviction and salvation by faith.

The Supreme Court has held that we are a Christian country. Otherwise it would be difficult to realize it! But in this place to which I refer, religion was brought in constantly. Now, if such teaching were calculated to prepare men for the evangel, it would he a good thing. Well, I tell you plainly, I never saw such a dead place in my life. You could talk Bible with the people but it had no more effect than it had in Israel. The law was not given to save. The evangel alone can do that. The law is not needed in order to prepare men for the evangel. It was never given to the nations.

I will read a passage to show what the law did for Israel, and it seems to me that it has the same effect elsewhere: "But their minds were calloused, for until this very day the same covering is remaining at the reading of the old covenant, it not, being discovered that, in Christ, it is vanishing" (2 Cor.3:14). So you see the law's effect on Israel. It made them callous. And that is what you also see in Christendom. Many Christians speak of themselves as if they were spiritual Israel. I think it would not be far off if we called them "unspiritual Israel."

We find this same covering in Christendom. When I went to Sunday School they told me: If you are a good boy and obey God, you will go to heaven. That is Christianity, but not Scripture. It makes the heart callous and puts a covering upon it.

There are a few very simple things that most of us do not fully grasp in connection with the law. If I only mention them, you will see what I mean. I wait particularly to lay upon your heart that law is not God's way of dealing with humanity. Yet that is the idea you get in Christendom and its publications. They insist that God has given us His law and that we must obey it.

To begin with, God left humanity without law for over two thousand years. He did not even give the law to Israel until they came to Mt. Sinai. Not only that, but He did not give it to humanity at all. The law is a very limited thing. God is using only a very small portion of humanity in this demonstration of the weakness and inability of the flesh. It is not for all mankind. God never intended it for the whole race. In time and scope it was limited. Not only that, but it is a national thing. It was given to only one nation, as such, not merely to individuals in that nation.

When we hear Israel at Sinai say, "All that Yahweh has spoken we will do," we cannot help pitying them. How dark they must be with regard to their own heart and ability! The idea, that they could fulfill God's holy law! But what is that compared with the nations today? They have seen what happened to Israel. God has given us this lesson. We have it in the Scriptures. God has made it very plain, so plain that the present administration is based upon this demonstration that those who are in the flesh cannot please God or obey His law. Notwithstanding this, Christendom puts itself in the same place as Israel had done. I am getting over the idea of looking back to these bad people in the past. We can find worse failures much nearer home. Christendom has taken a place of far greater self-confidence and conceit than Israel ever did, and for that reason it seems to me that Christians are altogether astray when they think they should put themselves under the law.

I hope you will get this contrast. Many real believers want to get under law. That is far worse than Israel at Sinai. Considering the light which believers should have now, I think we can find greater failure in our own midst. When we get the idea that, in our own strength, we can fulfill God's will, we sin against light such as Israel never had. It seems to me that one cause of the darkness and of the covering lying on the heart of Christendom today, the reason why we cannot reach them with the truth, and the evangel has so little appeal to them, is because, strange to say, they know so much of the Bible, but of the wrong parts. They have deliberately ignored the fact that God never gave the nations the law, and have arrogantly put themselves under it. How conceited and silly that is!

They recognize to some extent the impossibility of their keeping it all, for they divide the law into the moral and the ceremonial, to evade some parts that they cannot fulfill, such as going to Jerusalem every once in a while. There are parts of the law which can only be fulfilled in the land of Israel, and if you are not in the land, you cannot fulfill the law.

Here we have one clue as to why so many are led astray by various errors in connection with Israel. If we had not wandered from the way, and had really grasped the fact that even Israelites now are exhorted by Paul to die to the law, then a great deal of the teaching that today deceives the Lord's people could not find any hearers. Many are trying to prove, for instance, that this nation is a part of Israel, and as a result, of course, they would immediately put themselves under law - at least they ought to. Well, if that is the case, what are they doing in the far corners of the world? There is something very, very wrong with them. If they are not in the promised land, it is because they have not obeyed the laws and are under the curse of the law. The very fact that they are scattered shows that they are not eligible to the blessings, but to the curses of Israel. If they want to claim anything, let them claim those.

In Christendom today we have the cover lying on the heart of almost everyone. Last Sunday I was given a tract, entitled, "Rays of Living Light." I will give a bit of it to you in order to reveal some of this cover. It is a Mormon tract. Here is just a small sample. It shows how little is known of this truth that I have been trying to put before you. Here we have what is called Saint Paul's testimony: "The apostle Paul is generally set forth as the preacher of the great doctrine of justification by faith alone." This man sees something. He knows what is in the Word of God. Quoting again: "But that he is misunderstood on that subject is evident from his epistle to the Romans..." This is remarkable. I did not think anyone would ever go to Romans to prove that justification by faith is not true. But here it is: " which, while he proclaims the doctrine of justification by faith, he also emphasizes the necessity of good works as the fruit of faith, for instance, when he says: 'Who will render to every man according to his deeds...'" But one passage deals with God's judgment of all mankind, apart from faith. The other gives the grace that is shown the believer in Christ Jesus. So we are to accept that which is not concerned with us, and to reject what is our special portion.

By such a practice the evangel of the grace of God is absolutely eliminated from the Word of God. All that this man has is what the unbeliever has who goes on to judgment. There is no evangel in it at all. You see, he has the very thing that I have been talking about - justification by means of works. And he finds it in the book of Romans!

It is almost the same cover as Israel's. Yet Israel once had a revelation. So this man has a revelation. He actually quotes from Scripture! Nevertheless there is a cover, and it seems to me that this cover comes through the nations seeking to observe the law that was given to Israel. The nations have the Bible, but, like Israel at the foot of Sinai, their hearts rebelled at receiving God's grace and they themselves wanted to work for their own salvation.

So you can see today that the law, instead of doing what a good many theologians think it does, that is, break the ground for the evangel, makes peoples hearts callous. God never intended it to do anything else. God did not have to give the law in order to prepare for salvation, but rather to demonstrate what was in the human heart - to put man in his place so that He, Himself, might be given His exalted position as the Saviour and Justifier of all.


Most people imagine that there is only one new covenant. But there is a new covenant to be made with Israel in the land that is limited to them, and there is another new covenant brought before us by Paul, that is not limited to Israel, and is for today, while the new covenant for Israel is for them in the future when they are once more gathered in the land.

Not only that, but there are two laws. This may be a little confusing. As one of the new covenants is not a literal covenant, but is called one only because it replaces the covenant given to Israel, so it is with the law. The law given to Israel had a purpose. It was not given to be obeyed. It was given to be broken, and, as a matter fact, before Moses could reach the people, he himself broke the tablets of stone on which it was written. It was God's intention that it should be broken.

If Christendom could only realize that the law was given to make sin a transgression - to aggravate its character - then they would want to be without law.

This scene down here is only a stage on which the tragedy of humanity is going to be used by God to reveal Himself to all creation. The law is merely a side issue.

Now I want particularly to point out to you that, when the truth for today is presented to us by Paul in Romans, it is not based on law, but on the failure of law. The great point here is that we have come to an end of the law. God has demonstrated that there is nothing in the law by which to attain salvation or blessing. That is not so with the Circumcision. God still keeps on in the kingdom eon with the law in order to make His demonstration complete. God limited His law to only a small people. Later on He actually writes the law upon the hearts of His people and even that does not bring in perfection. When we come to the end of the dispensation of law and to the time when Paul begins to write, we have a divine righteousness entirely apart from law.

I thank God that, early in my experience as a believer, I was led to make a study of Romans. On this point Paul's evangel is radically different from what the Circumcision apostles had for Jews and proselytes. In order to further press the point that each passage must be kept in its context, let us consider the following statement in Romans 7:13: "The doers of the law will be justified." Let us not read the context. In this demonstration we do not want the context. We simply read that the doer of the law will be justified. "But," you say, "that is altogether different. In Romans 3:20 we have: '...because by works of law no flesh shall be justified before Him.' Now you see how the Bible contradicts itself!" Such contradiction ought to be corrected if there is one. It ought to read: "The doers of the law will not be justified." But, between these two passages, we read: "Not one is just - not even one. "Instead of being a contradiction, it is simply a logical result. If there are no doers of the law, then it is very plain no one will be justified - no flesh shall be justified before God.

That is only one example. The particular passage I want to bring before you is like it. In Rom.1:18 to 2:16 we read about those who are not under law. God will be paying each one in accord with his acts: to those, indeed, who by endurance in good acts are seeking glory and honor and incorruption, life eonian (2:6,7). Here we have a great statement of fact. All will acknowledge that it is true and we dare not contradict it. God must do the right thing to all His creatures. He must reward those who fulfill the conditions.

But who is going to get this reward? I have had a trying time over this in Europe. Some claimed that there were such people. We might imagine that such a character exists, even if we have never found one. But God has made it plain that not one is even just, let alone good (Rom.3:10). That should settle the matter.

I have made it clear now that there is no contradiction whatever, but that the argument requires first of all that God will be righteous and treat everybody according to this standard of righteousness. If we will go on a little further in Romans, we will see that God does not reckon on anyone justifying himself. In the fifth of Romans we read: "Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation..." Thank God, there are no exceptions! It would nullify the work of Christ, if a single soul should be able to work its way into salvation or justification or anything of that kind, either through law or apart from law.

Conscience, is God's law for the nations. As Paul says, "Whenever they of the nations that have no law, by nature may be doing that which the law demands, these, having no law, are a law to themselves, who are displaying the actions of the law written on their hearts, their conscience testifying together..." Just as the law of Moses condemns those to whom it was given because they had not the power to fulfill it, so the nations were given conscience without the necessary ability to heed its monitions at all times. In the judgment it will take the place of the law for those who are not enlightened by divine revelation.

But the believer should not walk according to this dim light, nor should he fear the judgment to which it leads, for he has the blazing brightness of God's greatest grace both as luminary and as a vital power to enable him to live far above the monitions of conscience or the thunders of the law.

[Forward to Part Ten]

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