THE ILLUMINATION which comes through a knowledge of
Gods secrets, the so-called mysteries, is most important in order
to merit much applause when we are presented before the dais, after we meet the
Lord in the air, and are arrayed in our bodies immortal and spiritual. It is most
significant that applause is mentioned in this connection, and, if we probe deeper,
it is easy to see why this is so, for the measure in which we enter into Gods
secrets largely determines our doctrine and deportment, whether it is pleasing or
displeasing to Him (1 Cor.4:1-5).
I cannot express how
immeasurably thankful I am to God that He opened my eyes to the divine
mysteries so early in my career, for I can see now, as I look back, how often they
have decided my course, and kept me from making mistakes and even shipwreck of the faith.
Among the first of the great tasks I undertook was a series of books elucidating
Gods secrets, which were summarized in the pamphlet on The Divine
Mysteries. Many of these secrets have now been published in books or pamphlets. Most
of the differences in doctrine which divide the saints would disappear if they were all
versed in these secrets, for the present is a secret administration (Eph.3:9), yet
almost all ignore this vital point and seek for present truth in portions of the
Scriptures which were written before these secrets were revealed.
Most men who minister to
the saints would hardly care to characterize themselves as administrators,
especially not of secrets. How seldom is such an idea incorporated in the subject
of a sermon or announced in the public press! The truth for today is supposed to be found
everywhere in the Bible, no matter to whom it was written or of whom it speaks. Many make
it all equally pertinent and applicable at all times. Some would find the same things in
the so-called Old Testament as in the New, only the latter
explains the former. But of secrets they are hardly aware. To apply the term to the
whole of this administration, seems deplorable to them, as it robs us of all
except what is found in Pauls writings. If they only knew what Paul has for us they
would be glad to leave Gods lesser gratuities to those to whom they are sent, and
not seek to rob them!
Paul and Apollos, in
Corinth, did not present the divine revelation given to Israel through prophets and
apostles, except as a background for a special and unique message, especially revealed to
Paul, which was unknown to the Sacred Scrolls as confided to Israel. The revelation given
through, and to, that nation had come to a dead end, due to the rejection of their
Messiah, not only when personally present in the land, but as presented after His
crucifixion and resurrection and ascension by the apostles in the land. The kingdom could
not come, yet its repudiation prepared the field for the display of Gods
transcendent grace in a measure and manner altogether beyond what had been revealed
heretofore. It was hid in God until Paul was chosen to bring it to the nations.
THE SECRET OF THE EVANGEL
attitude toward the nations, ever since He took up with Israel, was one of distance and
opposition. He plagued Egypt and drowned their army in the sea. He dispossessed the
nations in Canaan and killed great numbers and enslaved the rest. The very word guim
became a synonym for all that is abominable, and it has by no means lost all of its odium
among the Jews today, and is still evident in the term gentile. Jehovah became
the God of Israel, and the gods of the nations were abhorred. The knowledge of God was
almost confined to the people of the covenant. This continued until Israel had rejected
Jehovah in the prophets, and Messiah in the evangels, and Gods spirit in the Acts
period. It was only then that He turned away from them to the nations, and, as a
consequence, His attitude has been reversed.
It was not until after the
call of Saul and his special mission to the nations that all physical distinctions were
set aside, and God threw open His arms of welcome to all the nations. This change was so
radical that Paul compares it to the new creation (2 Cor.5:17). He labels Israels
fleshly function as primitive, and insists that it has passed by. All that
is out of date. Corresponding to the future physical new creation, in which the tabernacle
of God will be with mankind and He will be tabernacling with them, and they will be His
peoples (Rev.21:3), so now God has conciliated the world to Himself in Christ, in that He
is not reckoning their offenses to them. He is friendly toward the world in place of
God has placed in
us this message of conciliation (2 Cor.5: 18-21), and has given it to us to dispense it. This
is the essential essence of the evangel for today. We are ambassadors of peace.
God does His entreating through us. Our theme should always be, For Christs
sake be conciliated to God! God has made Him a sin offering for our sakes, that we
may be becoming Gods righteousness in Him.
It was a tremendous relief
to me when I first grasped the import of this evangel. I was among a company of people who
held what is now known as fundamentalism, and prided themselves in preaching a
pure gospel, according to the Scriptures. We never realized that it belonged mostly in the
old creation, that it was primitive and had passed by. We took a text almost anywhere, but
especially in the so-called gospels, preferably John 3:16, which was supposed
to he the pure and perfect passage for today.
But the more I meditated on
the Scriptures, the more perplexed I became. If Paul was sent especially to the nations,
why preach from a text in John? I found the new birth to be in the plural in the
Originalye must be born againand it seemed to indicate the nation of Israel,
especially when compared with the ancient prophets. And why does Paul use the far more
radical figure of a new creation? That Israel was the wife of Jehovah and would be the
bride seemed clear from the prophets and the Unveiling. How could the nations be included,
especially as Paul brings in a new figure, the one body?
IN YOUR ROOM AND STEAD
was especially troubled, in preaching the gospel, by the phrases I copied from other
speakers and tracts. If Christ died in the room and stead of the sinner, how
could he be lost and suffer eternal torments in hell? In ordinary life this cannot be. If
I should be infirm or incapacitated, so that I could not perform my duty, and a friend
graciously takes my place and does it for me, no judge on earth would punish me for my
delinquency. Yes, and even if I did not believe that he had done it, I could not be
held. It does not depend on my faith at all, but upon the justice of others. Will God be
less lenient than humans? Will He be more unjust than they?
HE PAID YOUR DEBT
idea was well expressed in the song, Jesus paid it all. And we reasoned quite
logically that payment He will not twice demand, first at my bleeding Suretys
hand, and then again at mine. But here also, the introduction of faith was
quite contrary to our experience. If someone kindly pays our debt and gives us a receipt,
we cannot be forced to pay it again if we fail to believe. It is a fact that does not
depend on our faith at all. It is true even in unbelief.
Even in those days it was
my habit to check teaching with the Scriptures. But when I read the likeness of the ten
thousand talent debtor, it only made matters worse. The eternal security of the
believer was one of the main pillars of our theology, but here was a debtor who had
his loan remitted, yet afterward he was given up to the tormentors till he may pay all
that he owed (Matt.18: 23-35). The remission of debts was conditioned on their conduct,
not on the sacrifice of Christ or the grace of God. If they did not remit the debts of
those who owed them, neither would their heavenly Father remit theirs. And so also with
offenses (Matt.6:12-15). I stopped using the remission of debts and the forgiveness of
offenses in my preaching of the evangel.
was nullified by our gospel. So I made a close study of the words which were supposed to
mean instead, and found that the principal one denoted for the sake of. But
even this did not satisfy, for the whole theory of the atonement, as the
learned called it, was out of line with both Scripture and experience. It was only when I
confined myself to Pauls epistles and studied the terms that he used that I found
full satisfaction, and embodied my findings in The Mystery of the Gospel.
My great mistake had been
that I had not made a clean cut between the secret evangel of Paul, and the
previous primitive gospel. I had mixed and muddled that for the flesh and that for the
spirit, that for Israel and that for the nations. I had ignored the great differences
between the new birth and the new creation, the bride and the body, and had known Christ
after the flesh as well as after the spirit. Mine was a mongrel mixture until I saw that
the evangel for today was a secret hushed up during Gods dealings with
Israel, and is not to be found in the Scriptures for the Circumcision.
CONCILIATE VS. RECONCILE
especially grateful to God that He had led me to study the Original in spite of the
opposition of my friends. Humanly speaking, I never would have understood the evangel for
today, unless I had noticed that the word translated reconcile represented two
slightly different words in the Greek. The longer one had the word FROM- prefixed to the
shorter DOWN-CHANGE. It took me a long time and much study to discover that only the
longer one denoted reconcile, mutual friendliness, of two parties. The
shorter meant conciliate, a one-sided amity. In the providence of God, I had
studied Edmund Burkes Conciliation with America, in school, so was familiar
with the force of the word conciliate. Burke was appealing to Britain, not America.
He demanded that England change its attitude toward the Colonies.
Here is an evangel we can
preach without reservations! It is really good news! It is true whether it is accepted
or not, for it has two grades or degrees, one for the unbeliever and an added one for
the believer. God is conciliated to both. Man is conciliated only if he believes.
God is not reconciling the world now, as the A.V. says (2 Cor.5:19).
Just as England, had it heeded the advice of Burke, would have held out the olive branch
of peace to the American Colonies instead of using an armed force (which might have
prevented the Revolutionary War), so God refuses to fight with the world now, but sends us
as ambassadors of peace who refuse to hold mens offenses against them. So long as we
are here, God is at peace with the world, no matter how much they may offend Him, and wish
to war with Him.
Peace! Quite the opposite
of the popular conception of gospel preaching. As a young preacher I was advised to
take a look over the brink every time before I began to preach the gospel.
That is, I should visualize the fearful fate of the sinner writhing in the lake of fire.
This would add fervor to my message. Alas! such artificial stimulants may add feeling but
cannot create faith. They hinder rather than help. It is not the wrath of God that
draws the sinner, but His love. Dire threats of a dreadful doom are not good news,
and entirely misrepresent Gods present attitude. He is not only at peace with the
saints who have accepted the Saviour, but with the world which has not.
True, this may change at any time to the day of His indignation. But not so long as His
ambassadors are here, so long as we are privileged to preach the evangel.
administrators of Gods secrets we are to be faithful. In view of the almost
universal lack of this in present evangelism, we can see how apt is this exhortation. Expedience
is the chief motive today. The question as to the faithfulness of the message hardly
arises, unless adherence to the horrors of orthodoxy is intended. The aim in view is to
stir up the souls of the people and have a mighty revival, with many
won for Christ. There is a great effort to bring the people to Christ, rather
than to present God and Christ to the people. But how often do we hear Gods secret
evangel, unknown to Peter and the Circumcision, faithfully set forth as Paul presents it
in his preparatory epistles? I once saw a sermon on Reconciliation advertised. The speaker
was one of the most prominent fundamentalists. So I thought I would go, although it was
quite a distance away, and later than I care to keep awake. I went. The word
reconcile was mentioned once, I think. The rest of it was really contrary
to this great truth. I mention this because this was probably the best that fundamentalism
I once sent a letter to the
head of a Bible Institute who was one of the sponsors of the Scofield Bible, pointing out
that the two words for conciliate and reconcile had not been distinguished
in the margin of that work. As he was a Greek scholar, I enclosed a concordance of the two
terms cut out of Bruders Greek concordance. In reply he said he understood the
matter and also had concordances in his library. My well-meant effort was thrown back into
The usual objection to
conciliation on Gods part is that He does not change. Essentially that is true. But
the fact that He changes His attitude toward His creatures is abundantly evidenced
in the Scriptures. One passage should suffice to show this. He condoned the times of
ignorance, but now is charging mankind that all everywhere are to repent (Acts 17:30). His
dealings with Israel were continually changing. Now, as a nation, He has sent them a
spirit of stupor (Rom.11:8), and sends salvation to the other nations. These are all
connected with His conciliation to the world, after the setting aside of Israel. There is
no change in the world, apart from the few who accept Gods friendship. The vital
fact is that God has drawn near and welcomes all to accept and partake of His
transcendent spiritual gratuities by faith. This is the evangel for today.
Until we believe, these
eonian blessings are in no sense our due through Christs death, for all that He did
was for our sake, not in our stead. The eonian fruits of His
sacrifice are only for faith. After the eons, then, indeed, the value of His
sufferings and death will overflow to all, for then reconciliation will reach the whole
universe (Col.1:20). But those then reconciled with God will miss the bliss of eonian
salvation, which is the subject of the evangel, as well as the high honors which are ours
with Christ in His celestial kingdom.
It seems that the
Corinthians would like to have examined Paul and tried him according to human standards.
But this he considered trivial. So it is today. I have been condemned by many because of
my faithfulness to the evangel. It is claimed that I rob the saints of most of the Bible.
And this in the face of our years of painstaking toil to restore the Scriptures to the
people by concordant versions! We do not confine our efforts to Pauls epistles. By
all means read and study and believe all the rest. That will have the same effect, for it
is not addressed to the nations as a rule. Only superficial unbelief appropriates
everything even when it is clearly labeled, and is to, for, and about
Even if I have a clear
conscience to the effect that, for many years, I have been faithful to the secret evangel,
I have no desire to justify myself, but to leave it all to the Lord. In the midst of such
utter confusion on this elementary theme it would seem to be impossible that anyone be
entirely clear, no matter how hard he may try. Then there is the past. I am sure that I
will not be commended for much that I preached in those days, notwithstanding the fact
that it led to the acceptance of Christ on the part of some. If God used only perfect
presentations of His evangel, how many would be called? In this He is gracious, as in all
God looks on the heart.
I have no hesitation in saying, that every actual believer would like to
make known the gospel. No matter how stammering is his tongue, or imperfect its
presentation, the heart alone imparts power, and brings real results. I remember once when
I really felt moved to show a fellow worker the love of God. I was repulsed, and felt
rather bad about it. But, after working hours, another person came to me and asked if what
I had said to so-and-so is true of everyone. Was it for him also? I had no idea that
anyone had overheard us, but eagerly assured him that he certainly was included. And his
later life bore witness to the reality of his faith. We cannot choose, but only call
those whom God has chosen. However muddled may be our mind, if our heart is in it,
God graciously uses us, and will applaud our feeble and faulty efforts.
It is a great help to
remember that we are ambassadors, and represent the court of heaven on earth. If God
is angry with the world, which seems to be the basis of the orthodox message, we
ought to hand in our credentials and leave. We are here because He is not angry, because
He is for peace, and refuses to reckon mans offenses to them. A good diplomat does
not deal in threatening demands when his country is proclaiming peace. One of our most
urgent tasks today is to undo the damage done by zealous but ignorant men who assume the
role of detectives or sheriffs or judges or hangmen, ferreting out sins and arresting and
judging and condemning their fellow men, as if the time of His indignation had already
come, or the judgment day were present.
For all such
faithful preaching we may win the commendation of men, but no applause at the
dais of Christ. There faithfulness will not consist in venting our own feelings against
our fellows, but in representing the gracious, pacific attitude of God, which is the only
proper approach to the transcendent favor which follows faith in this administration of
Gods grace (Eph.3:2). In fact the false gospel which is peddled is
largely to blame for the feeble apprehension of the favor which is ours afterward. The
strong tendency towards works and lawkeeping and self, which rules among the saints,
arises from a man-made evangelism badly adulterated with the same base ingredients.
Not only the secret of the
evangel is essential for applause at the dais, but the secret of Christ and of this
administration. The lack of these vitally vitiates the service of those who seek to please
God in this era. Not only the secrets of Pauls preparatory epistles, the
conciliation of Romans and Corinthians, but the secret of Christs celestial glories
and of the place of believers among the nations as joint allottees, and a joint body and
joint partakers in a celestial allotment are essential, for these determine the quality of
our service, and its accordance with Gods operations at this time. They alone enable
us to keep step with Him, and keep us from falling out of line with His affairs.
Most of the man-made
movements in Christendom stress some section of the Bible, but seldom do they settle on
the proper part. In my day I have met overcomers, who wish to be reckoned
among the conquerors of the second and third chapters of the Unveiling. Quite a few enlist
themselves among the 144,000, who will have their place in the next administration. Others
discover their identity with Israel, although God has given the nation the
spirit of stupor, eyes not to be observing and ears not to be hearing, nationally, at this
time (Rom.11:8). Then a great revival goes back to Pentecost and claims the
powers that were present in Israel under Peters preaching, but do not note the utter
failure of that heralding in the book of Acts, and the calling of Paul in its place.
A WORD OF WARNING
of the dais, the worst that can overtake a teacher is not mere ignorance of Gods
secrets but opposition to them. Almost all in this degenerate day were ignorant at
one time, and hear of the truth for today as a heretical and destructive doctrine. It is
grace transcendent to be allowed to listen to the truth correctly cut, for everything in
Christendom is adjusted to produce the apostasy. The tide is against the truth. The desire
for fellowship, for a living, for popularity, for gain and for fame and many other motives
not only discourage a teacher in standing for the truth, but tend to turn him against it.
Those who stand firm must count on apostasy and opposition.
Those who preach Paul must
suffer with him. All those in the province of Asia were turned from him. When we remember
that it was to these, especially the Ephesians and Colossians, that he revealed his
highest secrets, we are astonished that any light at all is left today (2 Tim.1:15). If
the great apostle, at the close of his career, must admonish Timothy to suffer evil with
him as an ideal soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Tim.2:3), what must those expect today who make
his message known? This he repeats (2 Tim.4:5), and warns against those who withstand his
words (15), yet all forsook him at his first defense. May the Lord give grace to all who
read these lines to heed his exhortation!
A. E. Knoch