The Dais or “Judgment Seat”
of God and His Christ
GOD’S WORK IS PERFECT. Ours is full of failure. Happy are those who can keep them separate, who do not adulterate His doings with their feeble efforts! Much of human misery comes from the lack of discrimination between the divine and human sides of salvation, in its various aspects. If we mingle these, we do not raise the puny putterings of man to the pure perfection of the divine, but drag down the glorious achievements of God to the low level of human shortcomings. We must draw a clear line between redemption and ransom, conciliation and reconciliation, Christ’s work and our walk, His suffering for our sins on the cross and our loss for lack of endurance at the dais. The divine side has practically disappeared in Christendom, and has been swallowed up by the human.
This distinction comes into sharpest contrast where the same phrase is affirmed and denied. On the divine side all is out of God (Rom.11:36). Yet our Lord, when speaking of the human aspect, averred that those who do not hear God’s declarations, are not out of God (John 8:47). The usual reaction is to join the latter class and insist that this proves that all is not out of God, even if God Himself is the One Who gives a spirit of stupor, eyes not to be observing, and ears not to be hearing (Deut.29:4). Those to whom the Lord spoke were calloused by God (Isa.29:10), so that it was out of Him that they were not out of Him! These two passages occur in entirely different contexts. One deals with the basic position of God in His universe, the other with temporary human relationships to Him. Both are true in their own place, but contradictory when cut out of their contexts.
REDEMPTION AND RANSOM
Theology makes no distinction between these two, hence the greatest and grandest thoughts connected with the divine side have been branded heresy. Because redemption is limited both as to time and extent, ransom is also contracted, notwithstanding the plainest possible passages to the contrary. Because God wills all mankind to be saved, the Man Christ Jesus gives Himself a Ransom for all (1 Tim 2:6). This is the divine side which should be believed in its own context, not rejected because the human side is set forth elsewhere. Only believers are redeemed by His soul, which figures His blood, that was shed for many (Matt.20:28).
Redemption is clearly limited in time. It ends with the jubilee. All legal obligations such as mortgages and slaves might be redeemed in Israel before the time of expiration. But redemption became inoperative in the jubilee, because it was not needed. Then it practically became transmuted into ransom, for God had made provision for all to be freed, and for all land to revert to its allottees every half a century.
THE DIVINE IN THE HUMAN
The great advantage of distinguishing the divine from the human side in God’s eonian operations is further heightened when we discover the divine element in the human. This will bring us into harmony with the basic truth that all is of God (Rom.11:36), and the final perfection when God is manifestly All in everyone. Not only is ransom the divine side of redemption, and conciliation God’s side of reconciliation, but even at the dais, where the conduct of the saints is especially in view, we may see clearly that it is God Who is operating in us to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight (Phil.2:13).
THE DIVINE IN REDEMPTION
God is not limited in His operations to man’s relations to Him. He also controls the acts of men with regard to each other. This is plainly apparent in Israel where He gave them laws which regulated their relationships. No other nation could possibly have a law like that of redemption and the jubilee, because this was a type of the eonian times, of which no man could know apart from revelation. It was God Who instituted it in order to reveal His ways. He made it possible for a man to redeem his kinsman in order that their hearts should grasp what He would do for them and the nations through His Messiah, their glorious Redeemer. It was God Who arranged matters so that there should always be poor people among them, because the sorrow of loss would be more than compensated by the joy of a redeemed or restored allotment. He gave the famine which brought Ruth from a foreign land to enjoy redemption at the hand of Boaz.
It was God Who limited redemption to the period before each jubilee. That man would never have made any such provisions is evident from the fact that, in modern theology, this feature is absent. All who are not redeemed are utterly lost, eternally tormented, or hopelessly annihilated, according to orthodoxy. God’s idea is just the opposite. Whatever failed to be redeemed in Israel went out free at the jubilee. Christendom knows of no jubilee, with its joy and exultation, apart from redemption, and has reversed it into wailing and gnashing of teeth. It rejects the jubilee altogether, and opposes the plain statements that speak of it as the time when all mankind will be saved and justified, and all the universe redeemed. Redemption under the law, in Israel, and under Christ, was all the work of God, Who alone knew the great lesson which it is intended to teach. It could not be left to men, for they did not grasp its force.
THE DIVINE IN RECONCILIATION
That fearful travesty of the truth which misrepresents God as threatening the sinner with eternal torment unless he mends his ways, and which demands of him to pray for mercy, and to promise to believe and obey, has almost obliterated the gospel of God’s grace, instead of heralding it abroad. No conciliation is possible on the part of the sinner apart from the previous conciliation on the part of God. The appeasing Sacrifice was offered long, long ago. When the savor of Christ’s offering of Himself ascended into the nostrils of the Deity, then it was that He was conciliated to the world. Nothing needs to be added to Christ’s sufferings and death to conciliate God. Nothing that the sinner can do will add in the least to His satisfaction. And nothing is needed. Nay, it is offensive to God and delusive for the sinner.
But God plays the principal part in reconciliation also. Even when the glorious and gracious truth is presented to an enemy of God, showing that He is conciliated, that He is not offended, that He is offering His friendship, nay, that He is actually entreating and beseeching, “For Christ’s sake be conciliated to God!”—even then there is no response unless that also is due to the power of God’s spirit. Many have heard or read these words, but have neither understood them nor acted upon them. Even in the heralding of the kingdom, a thing which Israel as a whole ardently desired, our Lord could say, “ No one can come to Me if ever the Father Who sends Me should not be drawing him” (John 6:44). Paul is very bold and says, “it is not of him who is willing, nor of him who is racing, but of God, the Merciful” (Rom.9:16).
The laudable desire to drag in everybody with the gospel net brings many deluded hypocrites into the so-called “church.” But, unlike the fisherman in the parable, the bad are not cast away (Matt.13:48). To some extent even man’s methods recognize the fact that men are not able to do anything to save themselves. So they appeal to the soul by music and with promises of earthly and heavenly bliss, instead of appealing to the spirit by means of God’s Word. They do not realize that it is not a matter of flesh or of soul, but of spirit. It is not a question of substance or experience, but of life. And life must come from without. A dead man cannot vivify Himself. The life is imparted only by God’s spirit, through His Word. This should lead us to use His inspired, living, life-giving words alone in our heralding of His evangel.
The subject of the evangel for today is neither the sinner nor his sins. The glad news is for him, not about him. Christ and God are the background of the evangel. They do the work of saving. Christ has offered His sacrifice. God is now calling those whom He chose long ago, before the disruption, through His spirit, by His Word. So it is even in the human side of salvation. God works in and through His saints to do that which delights Him.
THE DIVINE IN THE DAIS
All reward or approval at the dais will indirectly be the work of God Himself. In the full and final treatise on the conduct of the saints, Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, we are told that it is God Who is operating in us to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight (Phil.2:13). If we are in the flesh we will take this as a signal to lay down our tools and fold our hands, for what is the use of working if we can’t do anything anyway? But, if we are in the spirit, it will be the greatest possible encouragement, for we will have such a low estimate of our own powers that we would despair of ever doing a single thing worthy of God’s approval. The perfection which would please Him is altogether beyond our reach. In the light of the dais our best efforts would be so imperfect that we would be ashamed to submit them to the public eye. But if they are His workmanship, the product of His spirit, then we will do our utmost in His service, to merit His applause.
THE BASIC GRACE OF THE DAIS
Superficially, the dais of Christ seems to be a “judgment seat,” as our popular version calls it. But if we probe beneath the surface we will find even its most forbidding aspects suffused with favor to ourselves and to our fellows. Everyone who will be presented there will be a chosen favorite of God and will be treated accordingly. Not only will his sins be absent, having been transmuted into God’s righteousness through the infinite virtue of the blood of Christ, but he will be reconciled through His death. God, in Christ, will not be there as a Judge to condemn us for our sins and offenses against Him, but as a faithful Friend, to reward us for our service and suffering, to adjust our relationship to our fellow saints, and to prepare us for our future glorious service by removing every impediment and hindrance.
The very losses we may sustain for faulty service or failure in conduct will be essentially gracious, for their effects will prepare us for the future. Even their remembrance might mar the bliss of the far-flung eons that follow, unless all were finally satisfactorily settled. Just as we burn up the rubbish that accumulates and threatens to become an eyesore, so the fire will consume only that which has no place in final perfection.
One of the most gracious aspects of the dais is its influence on our present service and conduct. If all realized that much that we do will be made a bonfire in that day, it would radically revolutionize “Christian” service. If we, only remind ourselves that the race is not to the swift, unless they observe the rules, we would be more concerned to heed the Scriptures, and not walk disorderly. Even if we attain the highest honors among men for the passing period of our earthly life, what is that if it puts us in the lowest place in the coming eons? This is a very mean motive, but the grace of it lies in the fact that the very same selfish desire to have the preeminence, when viewed in the light of the dais, will cure us of it now, when we need such help.
The evangel of grace, heralded by Paul, not only differs from that of the Circumcision in doctrine, but radically departs from it in practice. Like the priests of old and like all engaged in the service of the temple, Peter and the eleven had a right to be supported by the saints. Paul also had this right, but it was wrong for him to use it in making known the evangel of transcendent grace. Instead, the greatest of all the apostles, through whom more spiritual wealth was distributed than through any other, refused to claim his rights, and worked with his hands to supply his needs. This is the deportment which accords with the doctrines of grace. Without this spirit back of it, the truth will soon become lifeless and sterile, formal and corrupt.
The demand for and insistence on our rights is a prolific cause of fiction and contention. God recognized it in the service of the Circumcision, but He has no pleasure in it now, for it is out of line with His operations and the spirit of grace in the evangel. Seldom, indeed, do others agree with us in what we consider to be our rights.
This does not necessarily imply that an evangelist must earn all his bread by working. Paul often received gifts, yet these also were the unforced fruits of the evangel, which are in accord with the present grace. But he did not claim them as a right. He should have had enough of these to free him from manual toil, if anyone could claim that right. And if he had received enough, no doubt he would have given all his time and strength to the evangel. This should be the case wherever it is practicable, and does not detract from the spirit of grace, which is the outstanding and essential characteristic of the present administration.
But in our own case, as in Paul’s, who was chosen to herald and defend the evangel, it is best that it be made without expense, if possible. As the central exponent and defender of gratuitous grace, it is fitting that we make no charge for the riches that we distribute, in order to maintain a harmony, a concordance, between our words and our ways. That is why we toiled for many years and gave only our spare time to the work. And even since we have given almost all our time and strength, because we saw that the tremendous task before us demanded it, we have continued to do some manual labor almost every day to help the work. At first we charged half price for our time, in order to pay our way, but the Lord arranged our circumstances so that, for many years, this is no longer necessary. Rather, we are able to contribute to the work.
We, like Paul, would like to be a model in this matter (2 Thess.3:9). We have often been told that the value of our work is such that we have the right to claim the support of the saints. But we wish to exemplify the grace which we seek to share with others by making it free of all cost, so far as we are concerned. At the same time we do not refuse or undervalue the gifts which are sent for our personal welfare. But, unless specifically marked to that effect, all gifts go into the work, which never has enough to carry out our plans. There are still about seven books which should be republished, besides the versions and concordances, the initial cost of which is very high at any time, but especially so at present, when prices have risen higher than ever before.
The vast value of this course was impressed upon us during our stay in Europe. A publisher desired the right to issue a series which had appeared in our magazine in book form. He could give it quite a circulation among the saints, so I was eager to let him have it, and was willing to donate the cost of translation and the use of the set pages free. But the author insisted on a royalty, so nothing came of it. As a result our other writings, which had not the advantage of a popular publisher, have been a much greater blessing than this series, which might have had a much wider circulation.
Let us learn this precious lesson. God’s grace is not exhausted in effecting our salvation. He continues to be gracious in using us in His service. And the measure in which this is true of us is, humanly speaking, the amount of grace which is found in our service. The grace should not only be heard in our preaching, but seen in our practice. It is only when we realize that we have no more rights than the crucified criminals who suffered at His side that we are eager to renounce every claim for ourselves and seek to seize every opportunity to serve others with the same grace with which God has blessed us. And then we will not even claim the credit for our grace, but ascribe to God alone the power and the impulses which have enabled us to will and to work in accord with His delight.
A. E. Knoch
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