The Evangel

by A.E. Knoch

Christ is the solitary subject of the evangel, and three facts concerning Him, all of which took place within the narrow compass of three days, constitute its essence. He died, was entombed, and has been roused. His death was for our sins; His resurrection is a token of their removal. So simple, yet so sublime, is the message that saves! Who can measure the depths of love which it reveals, or scale the heights of glory which it unveils? It sinks the most august Personage in the whole universe down into the deepest degradation and it carries Him up to the highest heights in the heavens. It concerns God's anointed Saviour and that part of His career which effects our salvation. Apart from these three facts there is no evangel. The death of Christ is sad news, not glad tidings, apart from His resurrection. To be sure, there is much more to be said as to the effects of His sacrifice Godward and manward. Especially today, as the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians makes clear, we should herald the conciliation, for God is conciliated in this administration. If we faithfully bear witness to the work of Christ and the influence it has had upon God, then its application to mankind will not fail to accomplish its mission.


Many a time, in my early efforts to serve my Lord, have I heralded the evangel to the lost. In preparation, I often pondered the opening words of the fifteenth of First Corinthians, and sought to make it the basis of my message. But the bare facts of the evangel are soon stated, and more was needed to fill in its outline. So it was that I gradually took to what was then called a "teaching gospel," and this eventually led to teaching the saints in place of evangelizing sinners. I would heartily commend this "teaching evangel." It seeks to fill out the skeleton here given from other portions of the Word. This is, in fact, suggested by the phrase "according to the Scriptures," which is twice used in this condensed outline, as if to show its importance, and to intimate that these brief words are but an epitome of vast fields of truth which are elaborated elsewhere in the Sacred Scrolls. The great subject of sacrifice is involved in His death. And the greater subject of resurrection is implied in His rousing. All of the themes in this series on the Secret of the Resurrection may serve as appropriate enlargements of the third item of the evangel. The secret for today--the conciliation--must not fail.


Until we know Who it is that died, the evangel will have little meaning or power. In Christendom somewhat is known of His life of humiliation on earth, but how little of His official glories as God's Anointed Prophet and Priest and King! The mere mention of the name "Christ" in any gospel assembly should awaken feelings and thoughts such as the name "Messiah" brings up in an intelligent synagogue of the Jews. The most Blessed Being in the universe, the Image of the Deity, the Channel of all creation, the Effulgence of God's glory, His Beloved Son, the promised Seed of the woman Who will bruise the serpent's head, the Seed of Abraham and David's Heir, the Prophet like Moses and the Priest after the order of Melchisedec, the promised Saviour of the world--such is the One Who died, was entombed, and rose. He should be made known to all as the Lord of life so that they may realize, in some degree, what it meant for Him to die. He should be exalted to His place supreme so that men may get at least a glimpse of His humiliation.


That such a Christ should die--this is the great marvel. That He, through Whom all life has come, should enter the realms of death, opens up to our gaze the vast vista of God's love, for death could never have touched Him except as a Sacrifice for the sins of others. But here, again, false conceptions of death rob the truth of all reality. Death has lost its sting. It is regarded as only a higher form of life. Apart from the physical sufferings, Christendom makes death a portal to glory instead of the gate to shame. Knowing not the high honors of Christ nor the deep disgrace of death they cannot compute the vast distance between them, so cannot realize or appreciate the descent of Christ to the cross or the glory of His resurrection.


To trace the types of Christ which speak of His death for sin is a task by itself, beyond the scope of the present treatise. Before the entrance of sin God provided Him, as a flawless and unspotted Lamb (1 Peter 1:20), Whose precious blood alone could cleanse away the sin that was to come. And when sin actually entered, Jehovah straightway made coats of skins for Adam and his wife, to clothe them (Gen.3:21), and these must have come from animals who died for their sins. Abel brought to Jehovah the firstborn of the flock and of their fat (Gen.4:4). When God chose to dwell among His people Israel He could be approached only through the death of victims on sacrificial altars slain, all of which foretold the death of Christ. Unnumbered multitudes of animals yielded up their souls merely to portray His death for sin. Rivers of blood have flowed merely to point onward to the precious blood of Golgotha.

In every case the shadow had the shape of the reality. There is a marvelous harmony between the types and the august Antitype. Under the ritual of the law, only flawless animals could be offered, so that His flawlessness might be recognized. All of the details of His death were presented typically by the various offerings, especially those for sin, and by the Passover lamb, and the sacrifices on the day of "atonement" or propitiation. I would press upon those who preach or teach the gospel, to dwell upon the way in which His sacrifice fulfilled all that was written of it in the Scriptures. Let not the mere statement suffice. So may we kindle a living faith in God and His Word in breasts that know Him not, should we show how fully the substance satisfies the shadow.


As an evidence, both of His death and of His resurrection, we must press the fact of His entombment. There must be no question of the reality of His entrance into the death state, or it will react upon the reality of His resurrection. Let us note exactly what is said, for very few in Christendom now believe it. The attack on the great truth of the resurrection begins by setting aside the words, "He was entombed," and putting in their place, "His body was buried, but His soul and spirit were alive outside the tomb." As a matter of fact, few actually believe that He died for our sins. They have no need for the tomb, except as a temporary receptacle for His outer shell, not His real Self.

The reverent student who reads God's account of the creation of mankind will note that Adam was formed of soil from the ground (Gen.2:7). Later this is made still more emphatic. In judging him God said, "In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return to the ground, for from it you were taken, for soil are you, and to soil shall you return" (Gen.3:19). Humanity is not composed of spirits clothed with a mantle of flesh. It has no expression apart from a body. The spirit imparts life and power and makes it a living soul, but, apart from the body, it is not a spirit or a soul. When a man dies he is buried or entombed, not his body merely. If this is not so, resurrection is a farce and deserves the fate which has befallen it. Christendom has repudiated death, so why should it witness to the resurrection? If He was not entombed, neither was He raised.


As we have already occupied ourselves with the recovery of the truth of His resurrection on the third day, and with some of the types which foreshadowed it, this need not be enlarged upon again. These, however, were concerned only with the third day. Besides this there are other pictures of resurrection, such as the two birds used in the cleansing of the leper in the fourteenth chapter of Leviticus. One bird was not enough to set forth the truth, for it was slain and its blood applied. So another was associated with it by dipping it in the blood of the slain bird. With this token of death upon it, it was set free to fly away into the heavens, a blessed and beautiful exhibition of life beyond suffering and death.


At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall a matter be established" (Deut.19:15). Men are fallible, and may be mistaken, so it was laid down in the law of God that matters of importance should not be determined by the testimony of a single witness. The thought of a double witness is employed in a variety of ways in establishing the most important event which has ever occurred in the history of the earth. He was seen by individuals and by more than five hundred at once. Two of the pillars of the Circumcision saw Him, Cephas and James. He was seen at least twice by the twelve, who would be especially competent to testify, as they had spent so many months with Him before.


Still the most striking and satisfactory testimony of all is that of Paul himself. All of the other witnesses were friends of our Lord and inclined toward His teaching. Saul of Tarsus was His worst enemy. He persecuted those who believed in His resurrection. There cannot be the least suspicion that his testimony is biased In favor of our Lord. He lacks what the Circumcision had, a personal acquaintance with Him before His death, but this is far more than balanced by his enmity, which would dispose him to testify against, not for, the truth.

Though Paul saw Him last after His resurrection, at the same time he saw Him first as a foretaste of His return to earth. He saw Him in glory so bright that it struck him blind. He saw Him as Israel will see Him in the future, not as the disciples saw Him in the past. In the regeneration, when the nation shall be born at once, then the Messiah will appear in His glory, and they will see Him as Paul did on the road to Damascus, returned to earth, surrounded with celestial splendor. Will anyone who sees Him thus need any further evidence of His resurrection? So overwhelming was this proof to Paul that it instantaneously transformed him from a fanatical persecutor to an adoring slave, just as will be the case with Israel in the future. Is not this why he calls himself a premature birth? While Israel is not regenerated, he was, in a figure, because he saw the glorified Christ, Whom none of the others had yet seen.

Paul's whole career, after He had met the Lord in glory, was evidence for the resurrection, for the power of Christ's resurrection wrought in him. And this power came to him through the channel of grace. Let us not miss the emphasis which he places on this, the reigning characteristic of this administration. This he declares, in one of those beautiful examples of divine rhetoric in which lovers of literature delight (15:10):

Yet, in the grace of God I am what I am,
And His grace, which is in me, did not come to be for naught,
But more exceedingly than all of them toil I--yet not I,
But the grace of God which is with me.

It is this grace, operating in God's saints today, which first empowered Paul, which bears witness to a living, glorified Christ, at God's right hand. Later, in the Philippian epistle, Paul expands this thought. Through the power of Christ's resurrection, fellowship in His sufferings, and conformity to His death, he strove to attain to an experience such as will be ours in the resurrection (Phil.3:10,11). The conduct of every saint should be ample evidence that Christ is no longer in the tomb, but is risen and gracious in His glory.

Thus the apostle lays before those who deny the resurrection, the evidence which supports it. He gives the historical testimony of actual witnesses, fully competent to decide, in sufficient numbers and reputation to shut out all deception. No event in the history of the world is better attested. But the evidence is not confined to the past. It is a vital force operating in every true believer. Just as in the coming eons, no one will need to fall back upon the testimony of the Circumcision as to the resurrection of the Messiah, seeing that He Himself is present in power, and the whole conduct and attitude of mankind is influenced thereby, so it should be now among the saints. The grace which flows from His glorious resurrection produces a power which should transform our lives so that we may walk as partakers of the power of His resurrection, and living reflectors of His glory.

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