by A.E. Knoch

WE have died with Christ. 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 this great truth. 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 ignominious 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 Galatians 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 a 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 two world wars 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, do not 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 that 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 who are in the flesh are not able to 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.

      Believers 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, Oh, 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 makes us the highest trophies of His love.

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