by A.E. Knoch

THE CONTEXT is vital in qualifying the meaning of words. In these days of chain references and concordances there is a strong tendency to ignore the setting of words. This is quite as essential to a true interpretation as to grasp their meaning. Moreover, the lack of close scrutiny of the context leads to apparent contradictions and obliterates vital distinctions. Those who do not use microscopic care in consulting the context will often be able to find passages which seem to deny some of the great and glorious truths for which we stand. We will consider a few of these. We hope that the examples given will lead all to canvass the context at all times, before coming to any conclusion.


We have taught, and will continue to teach the great doctrine of justification by faith. We deplore the fact that the preciseness of this grand truth has been destroyed by mixing it with pardon or forgiveness. We insist that a pardoned criminal cannot be justified. We further assert that the rendering of the A.V., that, "all the world may become guilty before God" is incorrect, and subversive of the truth. It should read, "subject to the just verdict of God" (Rom.3:19). Justification is acquittal. It is vindication. It pronounces the defendant not guilty. One who has been pronounced not guilty by a judge cannot be pardoned by an executive. "Consequently, nothing is condemnation now to them that are in Christ
Jesus" (Rom.8:1).

But do we not read that all mankind are condemned? It was for all mankind for condemnation (Rom.5:18). Here, in the same epistles, we have two utterly contradictory statements. We may put them thus:

There is no condemnation
All mankind are condemned

Both are true. But both are utterly false outside their own context. One is in Romans five. The other is in Romans eight, verse one. One is in Christ Jesus. The other is in Adam. One deals with the individual sins of believers. The other is the penalty of Adam's one transgression. One fends from future indignation. The other has brought upon us suffering and death. In Adam we are now serving our sentence. In Christ we have been acquitted.

The scope of the fifth of Romans has been almost universally ignored. In the third chapter, while sentence is not passed on the unbeliever, there is no question but that he will be condemned in the judgment. He is not justified as to his own sins, and will not be at that time. He will suffer fury and affliction (Rom.2:9) suited to his sins and will enter the second death. But, in the fifth chapter, the whole race is constituted just with reference to Adam's offense. The condemnation came from one man, at the beginning of the race's history. The justification will also come from One, but at the close of the eons. In between these two, men are sinning and will be acquitted or condemned with reference to their own deeds.


Another disturbing context is imported from Colossians. We have said that justification obviates the possibility of pardon or forgiveness. But some one turns to a concordance and finds the same Greek word in the prison epistles, and immediately concludes that we are mistaken. How we wish that we could burn it into the hearts of students of the Scriptures that, while the meaning of words may be determined by the occurrences, the resultant interpretation must include all of the context and accord with the scope. In Romans we are in the courtroom. The decision is handed down by a Judge. The language is legal. In Colossians we are in a kingdom, the subjects of a Sovereign. The language is governmental, and is the same as that used of the kingdom for Israel.

Colossians is the corrective of Ephesians. There also we read of forgiveness (Eph.1:7). But, lest we confuse this with the pardon proposed by the evangel of the circumcision, the word is immediately guarded and glorified by the added phrase "in accord with the riches of His grace." The previous kingdom pardon was temporary and terminable. It was so probational that many who were once enlightened fell aside (Heb.6:4-6). It had little grace. We have much. It could be lost. We cannot lose ours. There is an unutterable gulf between a probational pardon and the wealth of favor which is ours in Ephesians. We have no right to ignore the qualifying phrase.

But why use the royal figure of pardon, or forgiveness, in the perfection epistles, rather than the legal figure of acquittal, as in Romans? At the time that Romans was written, the nations had no standing in the only kingdom then in view. All is either individual or racial. The King had been rejected. After the revelation of the secret there was a great change. Christ is acknowledged as the Head of the universe (Eph.1:10). The heavens are included in His sway. Not only that, but Colossians introduces us to a new kingdom, quite unlike that spoken of by the prophets, and by our Lord and His twelve apostles.

The coming kingdom will displace the kingdoms of this world. Not so that of Colossians. The Father already has rescued us out of the authority of darkness and has transported us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col.1:13). It is by this spiritual Sovereign, Who opposes the wicked spirits (rather than their earthly dupes), Who has already rescued us out of their clutches, though we are still subject to earthly sovereignties, it is with Him as spiritually regnant that we have the deliverance, the pardon of sins (Col.1:14). We have not only sinned against the Deity, but, we once walked in accord with the chief of the aerial jurisdiction, the spirit now operating in the sons of stubbornness (Eph.2:2). As the subjects of Satan, we opposed the spiritual sovereignty of God's Son. This is a political crime, and calls for pardon, not adjudication.

In the Circumcision evangel, pardon is by no means deliverance. Those who have studied this word concordantly have seen that it means much more than redemption. It is its fulfillment. We are as independent of the powers of darkness now as Israel will be of the governments of earth in the millennium. Here again we may make two contradictory statements:

The kingdom is future.
The kingdom is present.

Both are true. Ordinarily we would object to the second, because it is usually associated with much Scripture which is for the future. The kingdom of Christ, of the Son of David, of the Son of Man, of the nation of Israel, is future. Then earth's present governments will go. These are not disturbed now. Only the spirit powers, who really rule, have lost our allegiance. We are in the kingdom of the Son of His love.


Emphasis is attained by repetition. The statement of an obvious fact not only stresses its force, but may specialize its meaning. If a man tells you his occupation, knowing that you are perfectly aware of it, he expects to impress you with his standing in his profession. Our Lord used a notable phrase when speaking of the two resurrections. He called one a resurrection of life, the other a resurrection of judgment. If we will turn to the description of the latter in the Unveiling, we will find that its subjects do not live until after the thousand years (Rev.20.5). Indeed, how can there be a resurrection without life? So there seems a surface contradiction. The resurrection of judgment seems to be called a resurrection of life.

The same distinction is made by the apostle Paul in the fifteenth of first Corinthians. In Christ a resurrection or rousing becomes a vivification. A resurrection outside of Christ is not "of life." In the Unveiling this is further enforced by the statement that the dead were seen standing before the throne (Rev.20:12). It will only lead to confusion to ignore the context in Corinthians, and argue that those before the great white throne are alive. They are not alive in Christ. Paul speaks only of vivification in Christ. "As in Adam all are dying, so in Christ shall all be vivified," cannot refer to those out of Christ. They will not be in Christ until long after this judgment.


Many who have seen that Paul's perfection epistles are for us have never clearly differentiated between them. Philippians, especially, should be contextually expounded. It was not written by Paul the apostle. The word apostle does not occur in it except when applied to Epaphroditus, the apostle of the Philippians (2:25). It was written by two slaves, Paul and Timothy. It is concerned with the service, the experience, which follows the teaching of Ephesians. It does not deviate from the doctrine there developed. Unfortunately the phrase "work out" has the idea of solving, accomplishing, and leads to a false idea in Philippians (2:12). The C.V. rendering is much better: "Be carrying your own salvation into effect." Yet even the A.V. would lead no one utterly astray if they would only confer with the context: "for it is God that worketh in you." The context often corrects discordant translations.

Another section of Philippians has suffered greatly from dislocation (3:4-16). The subject is the example of Paul. It is followed by the exhortation, "Become imitators together of me" (3:17). Paul forfeited all his fleshly advantages, in order to know Him the participation of His sufferings the power of His resurrection to attain to the resurrection  out from among the dead not that he already obtained or had already been perfected

The possibility of having attained to the "out resurrection," at the time he wrote the epistle is admitted, but the fact is denied. He is not speaking of actual resurrection, but its present power to affect his conduct. The sufferings of Christ are past, yet we may participate in them in our experience. The out-resurrection is future, yet we may walk in its power now. This is a present attainment, not a future reward. No doubt it will be rewarded, but literal resurrection is a part of the gracious salvation which is a part of that which is ours in Christ, not in ourselves.

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