Part Ten

by A.E. Knoch

WE HAVE DIED with Christ. This is not applicable to God's earthly people. You will not find it in the epistles to the Circumcision, for the simple reason that God is not through with them yet, but is still dealing with them in the flesh, and will deal with them so in the eons to come. Those with Paul skip all that, and have already attained to the consummations of the eons (1 Cor.10:11). We are far ahead of the Circumcision, in spirit. O, if our religious leaders could only see this! Sometimes, in studying the Hebrew, I have thought it well to consider what others teach, and so have read what they had to say. Among other things it is hard for them to see that Israel in the thousand years will have sacrifices and a priesthood. Why, all that is done away with, they imagine. How can it be revived again? They do not distinguish between God's dealings with the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision. They do not see that, in spirit, we are beyond the millennium, so that our blessings are not yet due even in that eon of physical marvels.

We have gone beyond those things, and when Christ comes, there will be in a sense, retreat, and the flesh will again have a place. Death with Christ refers only to us. I want to emphasize particularly that it is not death in Christ. A little later we have that fine figure of speech regarding what we are in Him. Our death is not the same as His death. He died for us and we died with Him. When we look to Him crucified we cannot picture ourselves as being in Him, because He was there on our behalf. Rather, we can see our place in those that were actually crucified with Him. It is remarkable that the Scriptures should give us any account of these executed criminals. Their crucifixion does not affect our salvation, nevertheless much is said concerning them, so that we may recognize ourselves in these doomed men.

A marvelous passage in Galatians sets forth these great dividing truths. It reads as follows: With Christ have I been crucified, yet I am living; no longer I, but living in me is Christ (Gal.2:20). Notice that this reads somewhat differently from the A.V. It is a beautiful example of emphasis. Christ has the emphatic position. It begins with Christ and ends with Christ. We are given the least emphatic place, together with a negative. The very form of this passage teaches us the truth which it sets forth.

We are not overly much concerned about the personalities of the two thieves and two malefactors. The whole point lies in the fact that they were crucified with Christ, at the same time and place with Him. That is the great point we ought to press today - crucifixion with Him. In them we see what we were in God's sight. He would put us there if we had our deserts. The point here is that we also deserve, not simply death, but a shameful death, and that ignomious end is pictured for us by these four who were crucified together with Him.

What kind of characters were they? Most of us would not like to be associated with them. But, thank God, we are! Because, unless we can see ourselves in their place, suffering the same shameful death that He suffered, until we can see that, we can never enter fully into the great truths that are for the Uncircumcision. As I said before, before God even commences with us, there is no need of further demonstrations. He had already proven just what we are, and that we cannot sink any lower. Later, the apostle shows the practical side: Now those of Christ Jesus crucify the flesh together with its passions and lusts (Gal.5:24). Notice that! God is demonstrating what men amount to in the flesh, so, at the very beginning of the truth for the Uncircumcision, Paul shows the foundation of it, the crucifixion of the flesh. Then again, in Gal.6:12, "Whoever are wanting to put on a fair face in the flesh, these are compelling you to circumcise, only, that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ Jesus." Ever so many of the Lord's people are included in this category Where are those who do not try to put on a fair face in the flesh? Christianity is largely an attempt to make something out of the flesh. But Paul says: "Now may it not be mine to be boasting, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world" (Gal.6:14). You see, it is not the death of Christ merely, for salvation, but the cross of Christ for humiliation. So few make the distinction, but there is a tremendous difference. It is the shameful death. The end of the flesh is in view here. All the attempts to be spiritual Israel, to associate ourselves with the physical features of the evangel of the Circumcision, all that is in connection with the flesh and is finished in our case. Alas, how few indeed see the truth that we have been crucified with Christ.

Crucifixion applies not only to us, but also to the whole world. If that truth were owned today, it would change the entire face of this earth. If the so-called Christian nations acknowledged that the world has been crucified, practically everything they are doing today would be stopped and they would do the opposite. If we realized what is written here concerning the world, it would change everything for us and give us peace.

If I did not have these truths and looked out on the world today, I would have to be exceedingly callous to endure what I see. There are all kinds of movements to make man better. They have been at it for four or five thousand years, and behold, where we are! And some folks seem to think they are really going to accomplish something! Those of us who went through the first world war are a bit skeptical, altogether apart from what the Scriptures have to say. And those of us who know man and the flesh, as we have them in the Scriptures, don't expect any more from human efforts now than in the past, for the simple reason that God has already crucified the world.

Even in the accounts of our Lord's life, if we look beneath the surface, we can see intimations of this truth. There we have these four who were crucified with Him. There is a good deal of truth in connection with numbers in Scripture, and it may be that the figure four brings before us the world number. Years ago, when we were taught that there were only two crucified with Him, I could not understand why there were just two. But later I found out there were four, two robbers and two malefactors. They give us a picture of what we have in the world today. There are all sorts of pretense, but, if you will boil it down, this is what it amounts to. You can take your choice whether you are a malefactor or a robber, but we are all worthy of crucifixion. Indeed, we are both, for we not only wrong God, but rob Him every day. It may be very difficult to believe it, yet there is exactly where peace lies. We talk about peace, but there will be no real peace until we and the whole universe come to the conclusion that, not Christ should have been crucified, but we. When we get to that point, the rest will be comparatively easy.

The two malefactors were crucified with Him right at the beginning (Luke 23:32). Afterwards, when the soldiers had cast lots for Christ's garments and placed the inscription above His head, the two robbers were crucified (Matt.27:38). Doesn't it seem remarkable that here are four men and one of them, although he is a malefactor, is saved? He believed. Does it not seem that he is a picture of those who believe, who take their place by faith? We can add amen to what he has to say: "We are getting back the deserts of what we commit, yet this One commits nothing amiss" (Luke 23:41).

This man was crucified, not in Christ, but with Him. The others were also crucified with Him. At Golgotha we have the world and ourselves crucified, and on the other hand we have Christ crucified unjustly. And When we once see that it seems to me it ought to be clear that the demonstration, which God began when He took up Abraham and Israel, is no longer needed in connection with the nations. If they were crucified with Christ, they are through with the flesh. We, having been crucified with Christ, have found the answer to the demonstration. There is absolutely nothing in the flesh for God. Those that are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom.8:8). The only thing we can do with it is to crucify it. Not a decent death, but a dreadful execution. Only thus can we recognize its ignominious character, its utter shamefulness. We acknowledge that we are not only worthy of death, but the disgraceful death of a criminal. This goes to the root of the matter.

God has gradually been working out through the history of Israel a demonstration that there is nothing good in the flesh. One trial follows another, and so it will be in the future, for it will continue to be necessary so long as the flesh is given any place. But it is no longer needed for us. God uses Israel in order to demonstrate what the flesh is, not only to themselves but to the whole creation. But with us He has another purpose, so the lesson is shortened. Here we have one of the great distinctions between the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision. A main reason why so-called Christianity and the so-called church, even believers, fail to understand God's purpose, is that they are still along the old line. They still give the flesh a place. They do not realize the place that God has given it - crucifixion. Neither do they realize the place God has given the world - crucifixion.

Saints sometimes come to me and are discouraged about the way things are going in the world. Things are going all right because they are going all wrong. God's intention, His ultimate purpose, is being fulfilled in it by that very fact. I do not expect things to go right, because this is the world that has been crucified with relation to us. We should not expect anything good from it. We should expect robbery from robbers. And that is what the world is in relation to God, a gang of robbers and malefactors. It is because of this that God will be able to glorify His grace. So you see that this great truth must first be laid down as a foundation before you can understand this favor.

Much good teaching concerning grace has failed to be fruitful because those who heard did not realize their need of it. They cannot consider themselves so utterly degraded, so grace is wasted on them. My prayer is that God may in some way or another make the reader of these lines realize the death to which God has put them by crucifixion. Then it will not be difficult to reveal His grace to them. As a matter of fact, the reason why we have been crucified with Christ is that God may reveal His grace, not only to us, but through us to others. Grace is not very easily apprehended by many of God's creatures. It is not His purpose to put them all through the mill that the Circumcision are going through. God is going to use us to display His wisdom and power, but particularly and especially His grace. In order to do that, He must treat us distinct from the Circumcision. They had certain privileges. They were near to God and, logically speaking, God should give them the highest place. But God will do something very much greater than that. If He gave them the highest place in the universe, He would not be able, to display that greater grace which makes us the highest.

O, that we could see ourselves as crucified! Then God would reveal to us our glorious place in Christ, and we, would revel in the grace that make us the highest trophies of His love.


Perhaps the best way to get a grasp of these things is to go to the cross and see just how those who were associated with that great tragedy acted, and what they said. When we see justification actually in the experience of an individual, then it is much easier to understand. We will try if possible to give an example of how it works. In Germany I went to Witttenberg where Luther lived a great part of his life. It was an interesting place and contained many engaging objects. Not only that, but while I was there, attending a conference, I met about two hundred editors of religious papers, and I was always on the watch to see if any of them knew about justification. But they could not see any difference between it and forgiveness or pardon. All was put into one pot. But to me the distinction between the two things is tremendous. If the creation of God at the end will only be patched up, what kind of an achievement will that be? That would be very trying, not only for me, but for God. But if we get a grip of justification there will not be any patching, but, on the contrary, a vast display of the wisdom and grace of God. Evil will not only be absent, but it will be transformed into good, and only God can do that. And do not make a mistake as to my meaning. Somebody said that I taught that we should do evil that good may come. God can make good come out of evil, but we are not, by any means equal to God. He can do it, we cannot.

This may help us to distinguish between the two evangels.

Let us consider the case of the soldier that pierced Christ's side. In him the Scriptures give us an illuminating example of the possibility of justification, and, on the side, how God can use evil. The passage reads (John 19:31): "The Jews, then, since it was the preparation, lest the bodies should be remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for it was the great day of that sabbath), ask Pilate that they might be fracturing their legs and they may be taken away. The soldiers, then, came and fracture indeed the legs of the first and of the other who is crucified together with Him." (Let us note, in passing, that they came to one, then to another and then to the Lord, Who was in the center. This is only one proof that the pictures which you see of the crucifixion are not complete. There were two robbers crucified with Him besides two malefactors-five altogether. Not merely three). "Yet, on coming to Jesus, as the perceived He had already died, they do not fracture His legs. But one of the soldiers pierces His side with a lance head, and straightway out came blood and water. And he who has seen has testified, and true is his testimony. And he is aware that he is telling the truth, that you, also, should be believing. For these things occurred that the scripture may be fulfilled, "A bone of it shall not be crushed." And again, a different scripture is saying, "they shall see Him Whom they stab."

Let us see if we can justify one of the soldiers who stabbed Him. I think we can do it very easily. He has done something that you and I would never think of doing. We would think it a very, very terrible thing. Nevertheless what about him? It seems to me that God intended he should be more or less a representative of the Uncircumcision there at the cross. Now the first thing we should allow is that this man was there doing his duty. He was not there alone, but a centurion was standing by to see that he played his part. So you see, from the human standpoint, we cannot condemn the man for doing what he did. Yet this man did a grievous sin, he actually thrust a lance into the side of the Lord. Nevertheless, it was his duty to do it. If he had not done it, he might have been court-martialled. The centurion was right there to see that he did it.

Now in Matthew 27:54 we read: "Now the centurion and those with him who are keeping Jesus, perceiving the quake and the occurrences, were tremendously afraid, saying, `Truly this was the Son of God!'"

And contrast these men with the Circumcision. Were they saying that? The Jews, because they were so holy, or thought they were, did not want the bodies left on the cross during that great sabbath day. So they asked Pilate that His legs should be fractured. Pilate and the soldiers did not know it, but the Circumcision knew that, according to the Scriptures, a sacrifice should not have its bones crushed. Yet here they were, actually demanding that the bones of the greatest Sacrifice of all should be broken! That was the kind of holiness they had! It was all superficial and hypocritical.

Here we have an exposure of the hearts of these Pharisees and of the Jewish nation. They were not allowed to break His bones or to crucify Him. But you will find all through the Word of God that they were the ones that did it. It was the attitude of the heart that counted. So here we have a great contrast between those present at the cross. It was Israel that was called upon to repent, not so much the centurion or the soldier. Repentance is in reference to the heart. It was not in reference to the fact of their crucifying Him with their hands, but with their hearts. And so it was, also, with reference to the lance head that went into His side. A little further along John quotes: "They shall see Him who they stab" (Zech.12:10). They, Israel, not the soldier. And in the Unveiling the same apostle says: "Every eye shall be seeing Him - those also who stab Him - and all the tribes of the land [of Israel] shall be grieving over Him."

John does not blame that centurion. He blames his own people. And he is right. They were doing their best to keep God's Word from being fulfilled. God had said that the bones of the sacrifice should not be broken and they wanted the Romans to do it.

The Jews are like that. A rich Jew in Denver would not light a fire on the sabbath, but wanted a friend of mine to do it. Yet the Scriptures had said it was wrong to get another person to do it. So they were breaking the law just the same.

But the soldier with the lance fulfilled the Word of God, inasmuch as it prevented the breaking of Christ's bones. That reminds us of what we have in Romans, that the nations are able to fulfill some of the law, even if not under it. And not only did his act uphold the law, but he fulfilled one of the prophecies by thrusting the lance into Christ's side. We certainly cannot blame him for fulfilling the prophecy. It seems to me that, if we were the judges, we would acquit him. We are not going to acknowledge that he did anything wrong. He did right. The things that he did were in fulfillment of God's Word. It had to be fulfilled. We are all agreed that he was justified in acting as he did. Now that is justification. The evil that took place there is connected with the greatest good to God's creation, and I am sure all of us are very, very glad this man committed this deed, even though we would rather not have anything to do with it ourselves.

The fact is that, at the cross, we have God actually using the nations to fulfill His will. Israel went counter to His will, though to fulfill His intention. And the nation of Israel, His own people, we find doing their worst to keep the nations from fulfilling His will. There we have more or less of a ground work for seeing why it is that God deals with the nations differently than with Israel.

The offense of Israel here was exceedingly great. I do not see how it could have been greater at that time. No worse conduct could be imagined than the conduct of Israel at the crucifixion.

The nations were not entirely guiltless. They derided Christ and plaited the crown of thorns, but it was a small thing compared with what Israel did. We must look at the heart. Yet Israel did nothing to speak of. They did not act, but they spoke, and it is by their words that we find where their heart is. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." But the nations - very little of what they did would be called an offense. They were not bitter against the Son of God. I suppose they would have treated any prisoner in the same way as they did Him. But there was some offense on their part. Today God has removed that. Now there is conciliation. If that soldier had heard and accepted the evangel, he would have been justified. God meets with the whole of mankind on the ground of what they did at the cross.

I hope you can keep these thoughts clear - the difference between sin and offense. We are all sinning most of the time. Some people think they are not sinning, but I doubt that we can take many steps without destroying one of God's creatures, which might be considered a very serious crime. We take wrong steps frequently even as believers, but I hope none of us who do that would actually hurt the feelings of God. A child can take your watch and give it a good scrubbing, but if the child did not know any better, you could not very well feel hurt about it.

And so it is today. God is conciliated to the whole world, just as if they were like this soldier whom we have been considering. Whatever he did was in line with God's expressed will. Israel was not in line with His will, but with His intention, hence they also will be justified at the consummation. I am satisfied that this soldier had no idea of what a good thing be was doing, and as I said before, I would not advise him to do it again. But God can take all acts, even those as bad as that, and transform them into good. That is the basic truth that we have in Romans, in the present administration of God's grace. Not forgiveness, not pardon, that is for Israel temporarily in the eons. What we have is infinitely better, acquittal, not guilty, justification.

Don't think for a moment I am justifying myself. I cannot do that. This is all on God's side. The day is coming when all of us will see one of the most wonderful things it is possible to see - the wisdom of God in dealing with evil and sin.

[Forward to Part Eleven]

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