EXCEPT IN THE CROSS
It was as much as a half century ago that Brother A. E. Knoch worked on a series of studies concerning crucifixion as the form of death. It was never completed, as he turned to other matters, especially work on the Hebrew Scriptures. . . . Some of his thoughts were left undeveloped, but it is evident that Brother Knoch intended to lay emphasis on Paul’s unique use of the words "cross" and "crucifixion" in presenting his evangel. God’s highest glories flow from this most shameful form of death and are based on it. Consequently, we say with Paul, "May it not be mine to be boasting, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal.6:14).
CHRIST died. He shed His blood. He was crucified. These terms differ from one another in their relation to us. Each brings a special benefit, which is its opposite. He died that we might live. Through His blood, He suffered that we may enjoy His salvation. He was crucified that we may be glorified.
Through their sacrifices, the Jews were familiar with death and bloodshed. But none of their ritual gave specific foreshadowing of the shameful execution of a criminal. It is in Paul’s evangel for the nations that the theme of crucifixion comes to the fore. Here it is revealed that this shameful death brings not only life and joy, but celestial glory.
The fact that the sin offering in Israel, which foreshadowed the great Sacrifice, was neither painful nor shameful, suggests that we consider closely the circumstances connected with the crucifixion of Christ. There we will find that the priests of Israel who were appointed to offer the sacrifice would not and could not use this method. Even Herod could not. Only Pilate, by the authority vested in him by Rome, the ruler of the nations, could crucify the Lord of glory (Luke 22:66-23:25).
The Nation of Israel
Although the nation of Israel, in the flesh, was not founded on any association with crucifixion, it did commence in death. The Creator must not have something with which to work. His glory demands that there be nothing on which to base His achievements. So the nation of Israel began with the dead bodies of Abraham and his wife. And from such a source will spring the greatest of all nations. Neither were they petted and protected from all harm, so that they could become greater than the rest by their own power. Rather the opposite, so that their future glory will be entirely due to Yahweh Elohim Himself.
The sacred scrolls committed to Israel contained many types and predictions concerning their promised Messiah, not only His glories, but His sorrows also. But the latter did not appeal to them, so were largely overlooked. When He came to them in lowliness, as a Man of sorrows, they rejected Him. Even His own disciples had overlooked these, expecting that He was about to be redeeming Israel, rather than be rejected and crucified. So, after His resurrection, He said to them, "O foolish and tardy of heart to be believing on all which the prophets speak! Must not the Christ be suffering these things, and be entering into His glory?" And, beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted to them, in all the scriptures, that which concerned Himself (Luke 24:19-27).
The Chief Priest
After He was arrested, Christ was taken to the house of the chief priest (Luke 22:54). Although they charged Him with blasphemy and demanded His death, and would probably have stoned Him if the Roman law had allowed it, the chief priests were compelled to turn His execution over to the nations. If left to Israel and their religious leaders, Christ would probably never have been done to death by crucifixion.
The law of Moses called for sacrifices for sin. The victim had to be without blemish, so that there was no fault in it, no just cause for being killed. It was the duty of the chief priest to see that this was so. In this light, it was right that Caiaphas sought to put the great Sacrifice to death, but he was very wrong in his motives and in trying to convict Jesus of blasphemy (Matt. 26:57-68). Moreover, the sacrifices were not allowed to suffer. The blood was drained from their veins, so that they lost all sensation before they died. But Caiaphas allowed them to buffet Him and slap Him. The blood was not allowed to leave Him until just before He let out His spirit (Matt. 27:49-68).
Under the law, in Israel, and especially in connection with the sacrifices, crucifixion was unknown. The chief priest and Israel were the instruments God used to accomplish the death of Christ, but not the form of that death or the indignities and sufferings that accompanied it. Pilate was convinced that Christ was not guilty, and sought to assert his own innocence, but he and the nations whom he represented are the means God used for the suffering and shame and the curse divine that led Him to be forsaken by His El (Matt.27:46).
Pilate was a "good" politician. Though he was not deceived by the priests and populace, and was convinced that Christ was not guilty, and desired to release Him, yet he judged that the interests of the state demanded that the majority should have their way, even though he washed his hands of it. Here we have a good example of human government in this present wicked world. Justice must often give way to expedience, and God’s word concerning His Christ receives no hearing except among the few who have been chosen and called to suffer with Him.
Baptism and Crucifixion
Baptism was only a symbol of spiritual cleansing under the law of Moses and the ministries of John and Christ. In Paul’s evangel it went much further, so that it signified death, and entombment, as well as rousing from among the dead (Rom.6:4; Col.2:12). But there is no thought of shame or suffering or alienation from God, which are the vital features of Christ’s death for us, sinners of the nations. Crucifixion on our part goes much further and affects our life far more vitally than baptism, to which no shame is attached.
The reason why Paul no longer baptized, after he had done so is that baptism makes void the cross (1 Cor.1:17). This change in the apostle’s practice just at the time when the present secret administration was being gradually introduced should show clearly that, as an outward act, it is not in keeping with the foundation truth of this era.
The vast difference between baptism and crucifixion may best be seen in the literal occurrences. The crucifixion degraded Christ to the lowest level of human shame and abasement. What could be more disgraceful and humiliating than to be gibbeted on a pole, suffering not only the insults of men, but the curse of God? In contrast, His tomb (pictured by baptism), with its rolling stone as a door, was that of a rich and honorable counselor, Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50).
Crucifixion, Brief in Time
The fact that Christ could have saved the malefactor at the time, as the unbelieving criminal suggested (Luke 23:39), and, could have saved Himself, as some suggested (Matt.27:40; Mark 15:30; Luke 23:37), and indeed, it would have been possible to avoid the cross altogether, as His own disciples desired (Matt.16:23; Mark 8:33)—all this suggests that God had a most important object in crucifixion, and that was the revelation of His highest attributes by means of it. He could save none who were not lost, nor manifest the depth of His love except to His enemies. But there is one vital difference, and that lies in the realm of time.
The "kenosis" or emptying Himself of the form of God to become like a human, and the consequent humiliation and obedience even to the death of the cross (Phil.2:6-8), occupied only about thirty-three years, a third of a century. In contrast to this short span of time, His glory in the future as a result of this, will be immeasurably prolonged. The first thirty years of His humanity was a comparatively mild form of lowliness, without much suffering or dishonor. His ministry in Israel for three years was accompanied by a greater measure of humiliation and disrepute due to the priestly and secular rulers and unbelieving Jews, but tempered by the faithful few who loved and adored Him. This lasted for only about a tenth as long as His previous preparatory period.
The climax of His career came when the religious leaders and political powers abused Him and reviled Him and mocked His royal rights with a crown of thorns, and prepared to offer Him up as the Sacrificial Victim, finally fixing His human form upon a pole. This was the lowest depth of depravity to which humanity could sink Him. This occupied but a minute measure of His ministry, to be counted in hours. It brought Him as low as man could bring Him, and is the basis for the truth of the cross, which speaks to us of debasement, degradation, dishonor, and brought with it the curse of God Himself. This terrible, intense torment lasted for three hours, but it is the basis of blessing for the infinite future.
Shame and Glory
From this we can see two things clearly, that future glory is based on a contrast with shame, but especially that the shame is comparatively short, the glory of limitless duration. It will be of the greatest help to us to seek to realize this, especially if we are in the midst of humiliation or pain or perplexity, when due to faithfulness to God.
The element of shame and disgrace, added by crucifixion to the sacrifice of Christ, will find its counterpart in the sublime celestial glories which will come to Him and to those who count themselves crucified with Him in spirit. They, along with Him, will become channels of the highest blessing in the future, among the celestials, but, with Him, they must first suffer, in a minute measure, the hatred and contempt of the wicked world.
Although Peter refers to the crucifixion of Christ in the book of Acts (Acts 2:36; 4:10), it is given to Paul, in his epistles, to speak of the crucifixion of the believer together with Christ. It is Christ’s cross and our association with Him that us with Him into glories of the Celestial sphere.
Knowing God’s plans for the blessing of those chosen in Christ in the highest place among the celestials, it is easy to see why He was not only a Sacrifice under the law, for those under it, like the offerings in Israel, but had to suffer much direr pain and shame. His death was not merely for salvation from the penalty of sin and transgression, but for justification and reconciliation and glorification of the believer in close association with Christ Himself, in His great work of subjecting and reconciling all to God the Father.
The Word of the Cross
By Adolph E. Knoch
CRUCIFIED TOGETHER WITH HIM
THE CROSS is the basis of the evangel for today. The essential place of Christ’s humiliating death was never heralded before Paul, and even he did not proclaim it in the book of Acts, because Israel was still on the scene, and it was not yet recognized in their evangel. or that matter, it is not given its proper place in Christendom today, which does that for which Paul was not commissioned, and is founded on human wisdom and effort. The world, in its wisdom, demands something of man, either the deeds that had to be done under the law, in Israel, such as repentance, baptism, and corresponding conduct, or a life of doing and giving and self-improvement, utterly ignoring the sentence of crucifixion passed upon it by the Supreme.
Nevertheless, with boldness and clarity, the evangel of grace and peace has now been made known in Paul’s epistles, firmly founded on the crucifixion of Christ. "Yet we are heralding Christ crucified, to Jews, indeed, a snare, yet to the nations stupidity" (1 Cor.1:23). "For if we have become planted together in the likeness of His death, nevertheless we shall be of the resurrection also, knowing this, that our old humanity was crucified together with Him ..." (Rom. 6:5,6). "With Christ have I been crucified" (Gal.2:20).
When we died with Christ we did not die an ordinary death of gradual dissolution, simply from lack of vitality. We died as sinners, as incorrigible criminals, worthy of being wiped off the face of the earth. All this was within us, even if it never showed much on the surface. Christ received our deserts. His death was fraught with a time of terrible torture and disgrace from the hand of man and awful distress from the hiding of God’s face.
Those Crucified With Christ
It may help us to grasp the momentous truth of our crucifixion with Christ, in spirit, if we consider the literal occurrences when He was nailed to the stake. He was not the only one who was executed in this way on that occasion. Four in all, two robbers (Matt. 27:38; Mark 15:27), and two malefactors (Luke 23:32) were crucified with Christ on that day. These were representative and illustrative of the great truth that the world (Gal. 6:14), and the flesh (Gal. 5:24), and the old humanity (Rom. 6:6), and Paul (Gal. 2:20) and we ourselves are reckoned to have died together with Him (Rom. 6:8-11; Col. 2:20), on that, the greatest crisis in human history.
The Four Criminals
It is generally supposed that only two others were crucified with Christ, but a careful consideration seems to show that there were two kinds, malefactors and robbers, each of which represents a different division of mankind. Malefactors are, literally, simply
EVIL-ACTers. It is used only in Luke, which is written about the Son of Adam, and includes a view of all humanity, all of whom do evil. All are sinners. Robbers, however, which is used in Matthew, refers especially to the people under law, and the nation who, not only sinned, but transgressed and offended. The AV actually uses the word "rob" in Malachi 3:8 where the whole nation is accused of defrauding Yahweh of tithes and heave offerings. In our Lord’s day, especially at His trial and crucifixion, the chief priests were far more guilty than Herod or Pilate.
The World Crucified
The simple fact that Christ not only suffered and died, but underwent the shameful, humiliating ordeal of crucifixion for the world, should show that it greatly deserves the same sentence. But we will never be able to see this if we do not view it as it appears in God’s sight, and consider it in its relation to Him. Not until then will we, like the malefactor (Luke 23:41), acknowledge the justness of our crucifixion, in spirit.
Let us consider mankind as a whole. We have God’s opinion of them before the deluge: "And seeing is Yahweh Elohim that much is the evil of mankind in the earth, and every form of the devices of its heart is but evil all its days" (Gen. 6:5). And is not the world today altogether deserving of a similar assessment?
When Paul writes, "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), he is not referring to 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 the shameful death. The end of the flesh is in view here. There are all kinds of movements today to make man better. They have been at it for four or five thousand years, and behold, where we are! We cannot expect any more from human efforts now than in the past, for the simple reason that God has already crucified the world.
The Believing Malefactor
Even though a malefactor, one of the men who was crucified with Christ had faith in Him and looked to the future. He did not even ask for present relief, but rebuked his companion for his lack of godly fear. He then acknowledged the justice of his own judgment and recognized the sinlessness of the Saviour. He had evidently heard of His proclamation of the kingdom and believed, so looked forward, in faith, to a future salvation in that day. For those who are crucified with Christ, there is no glorification in this life, but only in that which is to come. We are "joint enjoyers of Christ’s allotment, if so be that we are suffering together, that we should be glorified together also" (Rom. 8:17).
Of the four who were literally crucified with Christ, the believing malefactor comes closest to our spiritual position. The unbelieving malefactor may well be taken as representative of the world today. He it was who blasphemed Him, who challenged Him to bring about a present salvation from the evils that beset them. But the believer was like us. He acknowledged the justness of his fate, yet justified Christ, and believed in His salvation in the future.
The Malefactor Stands for Humanity
Perhaps the most important point about this malefactor is the total lack of good works, or any effort whatever to merit salvation. Indeed, what could he have done in his position? He acknowledged his guilt, but had no opportunity whatever to do any works fit for repentance. He begs to be remembered by the Lord when He may be coming into His kingdom. But he had not fulfilled any of the conditions for entrance into it. So our Lord does not promise this boon, but assures him that he would be with Him under conditions the very opposite of the suffering and distress which he was enduring. This was best expressed by the term "paradise."
The name paradise is often used in the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures for a protected place, or garden. It is the Persian word for a park. It describes, no doubt, a literal garden in the new earth (Rev. 2:7; 22:1-5), in the midst of which will be the log of life, yet, at the same time, a symbol of future bliss in the spiritual as well as the physical sphere. Our Lord chose this term as a type of future felicity as a contrast to present suffering. Until He Himself returns in glory, the saints have no promise of physical pleasure or glory apart from His presence. There is an earthly paradise in the new earth. But Paul was snatched away to the third heaven, so it may also be symbolic of future bliss in any location.
Present Pain and Future Bliss
The great difference between faith and unbelief came to a focus at the crucifixion. The unbelieving malefactor, representative of mankind as a whole, in accord with Luke’s account, voices his skepticism by saying "Are not you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" (Luke 23:39). But he received no answer from our Lord. This exposes the heart of humanity. They want a present release from their woes. They will follow a leader who will promise them health, wealth, and happiness in this life. The world is continually striving to improve the condition of humanity in this eon and will follow any antichrist who promises them immediate relief from their troubles. They do not believe God or look for bliss in the future, through His Anointed.
Like the malefactor on the cross, we have no promise of present relief. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we are under trial, as a preparation and a contrast to future bliss, so that we will all the more glorify God for it when it comes. God is faithful, so will not try us above our ability, and, as in the case of the malefactor, we are told the sequel, in order to enable us to undergo it (1 Cor.10:11-13). The AV gives us a false hope in this passage, when it translates "a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it." This is self-evident, for, if we had a way of escape, what need is there of ability to bear it? No, indeed! Apart from His presence in glory, our place is that which the world gave Him, in crucifixion, like the malefactor who died in faith, and will not be glorified until Christ comes in His kingdom.
Blessing Through Death
To the spiritual student, the Scriptures contain intimations of blessing through death from the first, for only thus can God reveal Himself as the Resurrection and the Life. To Adam and the race He gave the experience of dissolution, or dying. In His great love plan, we can look at it only as a preparation for resurrection, in which He may reveal Himself as the Life. Later, in preparation for Israel, He gave some special experiences of life out of death. Abraham was as good as dead before He gave life to the chosen Isaac was also doomed and resurrected in a figure. And last and greatest of all, all our blessings come to us, not the life, but through the death of Christ, His Son.
The Word of the Cross
By Adolph E. Knoch
UNITY BY CRUCIFIXION
PAUL writes of his personal relation to crucifixion twice. Once, in connection with the Corinthians, he insists that he had not been crucified for them (1 Cor. 1:13). And again, in relation to his own justification, he says that he had been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). As he was the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), these seemingly contradictory statements may help us to clarify our own relationship to the shameful death of our Saviour and Justifier. The point is that neither Paul nor any other man is the center and unifier. They are all reckoned as crucified criminals. Christ alone was crucified for them, and so He is the Center and Basis of unity.
Death by crucifixion is the basis of the unity in the joint body of Christ. Any other method will divide. Baptism is a good example. It united believers of the Circumcision in the Acts period. Cornelius, the proselyte was also joined to them by baptism (Acts 10:47-48). Paul himself was baptized (Acts 19:10) and baptized others. Why did he not continue?
Baptism is not nearly so offensive as the cross. Hence Paul says to the Corinthians (1:17), "Christ does not commission me to be baptizing, but to be bringing the evangel, not in wisdom of word, lest the cross of Christ may be made void."
Paul and Crucifixion
First of all, let us acknowledge that Paul really had been the greatest of all sinners, for he not only endorsed the assassination of Stephen, but he devastated the ecclesia, going into the homes, dragged out men and women, and gave them over to jail (Acts 8:1-3). Besides breathing out threatening and murder against the Lord’s disciples in Jerusalem, he requested letters from the chief priest, so that he might bind the saints in Damascus and lead them to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2). Was there ever any other private person who went to such lengths to wipe out the disciples of Christ? The Saviour endured a most shameful death Himself in order to reconcile and glorify sinners, but Paul sought to deal out distress and death to the saints.
Some might suggest the high priests and Pilate, who actually were responsible for Christ’s crucifixion, were the most reprehensible, so they have the foremost places in the rank of sinners. But God does not reckon that way. They were officials, and probably deemed it their duty to please the populace. Pilate, especially, was not doing what he wished to do. Besides, they were under the compulsion of the divine decree, and fulfilled the page of prophecy. Their heart was not in it as was the case with Paul. So we cannot well dispute Paul’s claim to the foremost place in the rank of sinners.
Paul Crucified With Christ
Paul is probably the best example we have of crucifixion with Christ. Although easily the foremost and finest example of the so-called "Christian" life, his experience, his sufferings, his debasement, were a tremendous contrast to the fortunate and honorable positions of the leaders of today. Paul sought no following, no glory from men.
For his dastardly deeds, Paul was crucified in God’s reckoning. The unbelieving malefactor blasphemed Jesus and demanded "Are not you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" Then, "answering, the other one, rebuking him, averred, ‘Yet you are not fearing God, seeing that you are in the same judgment! And we, indeed, justly, for we are getting back the deserts of what we commit, yet this One commits nothing amiss’ " (Luke 23:39-41). This should be the language of every believer in this era of God’s grace. When our eyes are opened to see ourselves in His light, then we acknowledge that the crucifixion of Christ for us, demands that, in spirit, we are crucified with Him.
Paul Not Crucified For Us
Negatively, Paul was not crucified for us (1 Cor. 1:13). This is of far greater importance than appears on the surface, especially in these last days. Positively it may be stated thus: In Paul’s ministry, the crucified Christ is the only Center of unity. No other one was crucified for us, so He alone is the focus of our affections. In Christendom, great men, good men, pious men, and capable men, have risen and gathered disciples about themselves or their teaching, but they have created conflict and confusion and destroyed the unity which depends alone on Christ and His crucifixion.
The Corinthian ecclesia was richly endowed with gifts, yet inclined to division by following human leaders. In the beginning, some of the Corinthians became partisans for Paul. Some preferred Apollos, others Cephas. Yet others would not join them, so made their own division under the name of Christ. Thus they not only parted Christ among them, but strove with one another as to the right leader. At that early stage of minority, before most of present truth had even been revealed and some of it would eventually be discarded, when they were still observing by means of a mirror, in an enigma (1 Cor.13:3-13), there was much more excuse. Christendom today is mostly in the same condition.
It is easy to see why some of them were Paulists. He was the one who brought the evangel to them. As he reminds them later, he planted. Apollos came later, and irrigated (1 Cor. 3:6). There seems to be no record that Cephas ever went there. But none of these proclaimed themselves, but Christ. That there is a tendency today to be partial to Paul, especially among those who are, in a measure, mature, can easily be understood. But it is a very different matter than forming an exclusive party. Indeed, Paul personally is not in question, but his teaching, and that should unite all the saints, especially as a part of it is this very passage, which bases all unity on crucifixion, which applies only to Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
Crucifixion is the proper basis of all vital spiritual unity among believers among the nations. As offenders against the Divine Majesty we all alike deserve crucifixion. Not one is worthy to head a separate party. Especially today, almost all saints are immature, and in different stages of development, and under the influence of false teaching and practice, so they choose, or rather drift, into a "body" with another head than the crucified Christ.
There is only one Christ and one cross, and this should be the center and rallying point of all believers in Him. Paul and Apollos and Cephas were all good and great men, but they divided those who followed them. Even Paul, although he is the channel of the truth for us today, is not the center. He was not crucified for our sakes! Christ is the focus of all God’s operations and the Head of the body. But, for us, He is the Crucified, and we are associated with Him, not in the earthly glories, but in the cross of His shame. There He was the lowest on earth, and we with Him. Only thus can we be with Him as the Highest in glory (1 Cor. 1:13-31).
The Word of the Cross
By Adolph E. Knoch
THE STUPIDITY AND THE WISDOM
OF THE CROSS
A DEATH of shame and ignominy is the very opposite of what the world is striving for, and the pathway least able to lead to success and glory. Yet in the case of Christ, His lifework was a failure, and His death was a disgrace as judged by every human standard. No wonder, not only His lowly life, but His scandalous death became a snare to the nation of Israel (1 Cor. 1:23), and they repudiated Him. They, like the rest of the world, wanted a great Leader and a successful King, Who will not be gibbeted on a pole, but triumph over all who dare to oppose Him. Such a One they will have, in the future, but His earthly glories, as well as His celestial supremacy, will be based on His death for deliverance, His suffering for salvation, and His disgrace for glory.
The fleshly rite of circumcision was given to Abraham and to his people as a sign of the cutting off of the flesh. But the chosen nation perverted it to a badge of honor which elevates them above the other nations in the flesh. They reversed its significance and cancelled its power. Not until they are taught to strip off the flesh by the power of the spirit, will they be set over the other nations, not to tyrannize over them and degrade them, but to teach and help them to know the blessing of subjection to their Yahweh, the Subjector.
In Paul’s day, many of the saints were conducting themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ, of whom he spoke often with lamentation (Phil.3:18). Today Christendom as a whole adores the ornamental crucifix in their ritual, but neither knows nor cares about conduct which is in accord with His death upon the accursed stake, and our crucifixion with Him. Paul, in their day, exemplified this, so that they could see it in action. But how few, today, even approach to it, or even desire it? And how many oppose and decry it, even if a feeble attempt is made in that direction!
The Wisdom of the World
Worldly wisdom is the opposite of the word of the cross. The wise of this world can see no sense in the cross of Christ, nor in a way of life according to it. "For the word of the cross is stupidity, indeed, to those who are perishing ....Christ crucified ... [is] to the nations stupidity" (1 Cor.1:18,23). Their chief effort is to obtain as much wealth and honor and power as the world can give, without any regard to the life to come. They do not realize that this life is a very brief preparation for the perpetual hereafter (cf 2 Cor. 4:17).
Even if they could see the difference in time, it is even more difficult for them to see the sense in undergoing suffering and shame in view of the future, or how this can prepare them for the glory. Alas! Most believers, like the Corinthians, do not realize that this present life is not our goal, but only a prelude to perpetuity. Indeed, they might ask, If God is love, why does He not display it by present earthly, soulish blessing? They cannot see that this brings little or none of the heartfelt response that He craves, or that this prepares us for our great mission of revealing His love to other creatures in the universe.
Stupidity In The Scriptures
The greatest stupidity, perhaps, is to be ignorant of God’s words and ways, and so ignore them. That is the way of the world. The supreme wisdom is to study God’s words and conform to them. That should be the aim of all the saints. Almost everyone has a vague idea of what is meant by stupidity, yet it may help us to comprehend its force in the Scriptures, especially when associated with crucifixion. We will first consider the occasions on which our Lord used it in His ministry. In each case, there is an underlying principle that applies at all times, which may help us avoid some of the stupidity with which we are engulfed.
A Lasting Foundation
Even in connection with the kingdom on earth, this principle applies. Our Lord likened His hearers to two men, one prudent, the other stupid. "Everyone, then, who is hearing these sayings of Mine and is doing them shall be likened to a prudent man who builds his house on the rock. And the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blow and they lunge at that house, and it does not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who is hearing these sayings of Mine and not doing them shall be likened to a stupid man who builds his house on sand. And the rain descended, and the rivers came, and the winds blow and they dash against that house, and it falls: and the fall of it was great" (Matt. 7:24-27).
The prudent man looked forward to the future. He knew, even as we all realize to some extent, that the weather is changeable. Hence he reckoned with conditions in the future, where the violence of the wind and water would not damage or destroy his house. Consequently, he founded it on a rock. We should also look ahead, and base our doings on the only firm foundation in the universe—the Word of God. But even the rocks will melt in the final conflagration, so we must build on that which will also stand the fire and be found in the new creation, in which we already have a place, in spirit.
Man’s doing, man’s word, man’s world is continually changing and shifting and forms no firm basis on which to build our lives. It is not merely imprudent, but stupid, to found our future on anything less than the immutable, lasting verities revealed to us through the Scriptures. Those to whom our Lord spoke had to conform in order to enter the earthly kingdom. We have a much greater and grander outlook. Would it not be stupid of us to base our lives on the present evil and evanescent eon?
Later, Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees: "Woe to you, blind guides! who are saying, ‘Whoever should be swearing by the temple, it is nothing; yet whoever should be swearing by the gold of the temple is owing.’ Stupid and blind! For which is greater, the gold, or the temple that hallows the gold? And, ‘Whoever should be swearing by the altar, it is nothing; yet whoever should be swearing by the approach present upon it is owing.’ Stupid and blind! For which is greater, the approach present or the altar that is hallowing the approach present?" (Matt. 23:16-19).
The scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of our Lord’s day, were blind as well as stupid. They put material riches above spiritual values. Subconsciously, by their teaching, they exposed the lack of their own hearts. They claimed that swearing by the temple caused no obligation, but swearing by the gold on it was binding. But is not this true in religious circles today? The divine presence is not nearly so binding as financial obligations. A man must pay his debts, but his obligations to the Deity are not important and may be overlooked.
Stupid and Prudent
In the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-12), Jesus spoke of five who were stupid, who got their torches without a supply of extra oil. "Now in the middle of the night, a clamor occurs: ‘Lo! The bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then roused were all those virgins, and they adorn their torches. Now the stupid said to the prudent, ‘Give us of your oil, for our torches are going out.’ Yet the prudent answered, saying, ‘No, lest at some time there should not be sufficient for us and you.’"
For this life, many seem to be prudent by making due provision for the physical needs as long as they live. Like the five stupid virgins, they have enough oil to last until the bridegroom comes, but have made no provision for the final meeting. They prudently provide for this life, which may not last more than a few moments. Even if it stretches out to a century, what is that in comparison to the rest of the eons, or the unending consummation?
Wisdom and The Cross
What is the wisdom of this world? In order to intelligently appreciate the wisdom of God, as exhibited in the cross of Christ, it would be helpful to have some idea of what the world deems the highest wisdom. Recently my attention was drawn to a public address on the subject, "What is wisdom?" As the speaker was an author as well as a philosopher, and an acute thinker, it may be taken as among the best that a godless human can produce. It was introduced by a fine acknowledgment of the author’s insignificance: "I feel like a droplet of spray which, proudly poised for a moment on the crest of a wave, undertakes to analyze the sea."
He commences well, as follows: "Ideally, wisdom is total perspective—seeing an object, event, or idea in all its pertinent relationships. Spinoza defined wisdom as seeing things in view of eternity. I suggest defining it as seeing things in view of the whole. Obviously, we can merely approach such a total perspective. To possess it would be to be God."
This is really a frank acknowledgment, not only of the limitation of human wisdom, but of its fallibility and folly. In time he can see only a little of the past, and none of the future. In space, he can see only fragments of the universe. Pure reason alone should convince him that he is in need of a divine revelation.
The Stupidity of Worldly Wisdom
Although the very definition which our philosopher gives to human wisdom leads him to the very gateway of all wisdom, he is so stupid that he will not enter. Since he knows that there is a God Who possesses all wisdom, why does he not seek to learn from Him? He has evidently studied many books by human philosophers, yet is still in darkness as to the greatest and most vital theme of human existence. Indeed, he even mentions "Christ" as one of many wise men, but not the Bible as God’s revelation, nor even hints that it denounces the very "wisdom" that he possesses and recommends.
As he rejects the totality of divine wisdom as revealed in Scriptures, he falls back upon patches of human experience: "The first lesson of philosophy is that philosophy is the study of any part of our experience in the light of our whole experience." The individual experiences of the mass of mankind and their vast variety lead them to many and contradictory conclusions, all of which must be mingled with as much folly as with wisdom. All mankind are locked up under sin (Gal. 3:22). Human experience is a very meager source of wisdom.
The Larger Perspective
"The second lesson," we are told, "is that the philosopher is a very small part of a very large whole ...not a possessor, but a lover of wisdom ... fated ... never to possess, but only to desire and adore" it. This seems a wise acknowledgment in a way, but, if wisdom is unattainable, is it wise to spend a lifetime in seeking it? Later on, he speaks of seeing things in a larger perspective, and thus, at least, touching the skirts of wisdom.
In closing, he recommends a perception of nature, of science, and, especially, of history as recorded in the written works of great men. A list is given of the greatest of these, and, in this long list, we read of Confucius, Buddha, Plato, Euripedes, Seneca, etc. Nothing is said of the Word of God, which is the repository of the only true wisdom, or even of Solomon, who focused so extensively on the subject, or the very highest of all revelations of the mind of God, God’s secret wisdom, which not one of the men of this eon knows (1 Cor. 2:8).
Heralding Christ Crucified
"For since, in fact, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom knew not God, God delights, through the stupidity of the heralding, to save those who are believing, since, in fact, Jews signs are requesting, and Greeks wisdom are seeking, yet we are heralding Christ crucified, to Jews, indeed, a snare, yet to the nations stupidity, yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:21-24).
The Word of the Cross
By Adolph E. Knoch
According to his Hebrew name, Adam (Hb. adm, most-like) resembled his Creator more than any other creature on earth, so that he was given the position of subjector over them, as Elohim possessed over him. This was passed on to his posterity. It includes the subjection of the sexes, the elder over the younger, the firstborn over his brethren and of humanity as a whole over the lower creatures. But, in each case, this was to be only an image and reflection of the subjection of the whole of humanity to El, the universal Subjector, so that they would learn to know Him, although He was imperceptible to their physical senses. Their failure, moreover, would enable Him to reveal to them the treasuries of His grace and love; which was His ultimate object.
Ideally, then, humanity is a social order based on subjection, in which each member should be subject to another above it, and all, even the highest be controlled by the Supreme. So it will be in the consummation. Our Lord will subject all to His Father, and then be subject Himself (1 Cor.15:28), and thus transform humanity into a family, with the Subjector as its Father. Since Adam transgressed and offended, mankind as a whole has refused to be subject, so God appointed a To-subjector (Eloah) to subordinate them to Him. But when He emptied Himself of His supernal glories, and came as a lowly Human to woo and win them by goodness and grace, they not only rejected Him and killed Him, but crucified Him, putting Him under the curse of God for a time.
That was the spiritual climax of human history. Because He outranks all human nobility in His ancestry, having been the Original of God’s creation (Rev.3:14), and having occupied the most glorious place in His presence (John 17:5), being inherently in the form divine so that He need rob Him of nothing in order to appear as His equal (Phil. 2:6,7), being so supernally pre-eminent, and then voluntarily descending to the level of a lowly human, formed like a slave, spreading more physical as well as spiritual blessing among His people, what was His reward? He richly deserved the greatest gift that humanity could give, the highest honor ever handed to a mortal, which, thank God, He will yet receive.
But this was not all by any means. He was God’s chosen One to bring the greatest blessing to humanity. He was, even before He came in the form of humanity, the great To-subjector, the Eloah, Who has the power to subdue all to the Father’s gentle sway, Who, even then, as a lowly human, could command twelve legions, or nearly a hundred thousand powerful heavenly messengers to do His bidding. Men should have feared Him, they should have honored Him, they should have revered Him, they should have loved Him and showered on Him all the blessings and honors that the race could bestow.
The Death Of The Cross
Instead, the spiritual representatives of the holiest earthly nation, Israel, and a ruler of the mightiest mundane power, Rome, joined hands to bring Him down to the lowest most dishonorable death that mankind can devise, and sink Him below the curse of God, His Subjector and Father. As Jerusalem was the only place where these two species of subjection were found together it was necessary that He should go there for this display of humanity’s utter failure. There the supreme Priest and Potentate of the universe delivers Himself into the highest spiritual and political powers of humanity so that they could display their utter failure as subjectors.
Some may surmise that the chief priest of Israel and the proconsul of Rome were especially bad and blood-thirsty men, but the record seems to indicate the contrary. Caiaphas, the chief priest did not pronounce the sentence alone. He put it up to the elders and the whole Sanhedrin, the highest religious heads of humanity (Luke 22:66). The entire multitude led Him to Pilate (Luke 23:1). So with Pilate. He found no fault in Jesus and sought to shift the responsibility to Herod. Even there the chief priests and the scribes took the lead in denouncing Him (Luke 23:10). Twice more Pilate sought to set Him free (Luke 23:13-16,22). It was the multitude of humanity, especially enlightened religious humanity who encompassed the crucifixion of Christ. They were a sample of the rottenness of the whole race.
What is the just Judge’s sentence on such a horrible humanity? What says His holy law? In it we read "Soul for soul, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Deut.19:21). That defines for us the doom which humanity deserves. It calls for crucifixion, the same doom it dealt out to Him, and thus the sentence stands against the whole human race for the whole of this administration. That is the judgment against it in God’s sight, and should be in ours.
When Adam sinned, the judgment was not confined to him, but the sentence has passed on to the whole race. Humanity as a unit receives this result of Adam’s sin. So it is with the effects of Christ’s obedience. His death is reckoned to all: "...as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind for life’s justifying. For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just" (Rom.5:18,19).
Indeed, Christ’s death was for all, and will yet release all from the Adamic doom. Now, in spirit, those who believe, the crucifixion of humanity, including their own, as the just judgment of God. We see our baptism into the death of Christ as meaning "our old humanity was crucified together with Him" (cf Rom.6:3-6). But we also see this as including all mankind: "For the love of Christ is constraining us, judging this, that, if One died for the sake of all, consequently all died ..." (2 Cor.5:14).
The grandest of Christ’s future glories will not be based upon any eminence that He attained in His earthly career, but rather upon the depth of His humiliation. So, let us not imagine that the future fate of those called into the fellowship of God’s Son depends upon the fame and fortune which they attain in this life, but rather upon the hardship and humiliation that comes to them because of faithfulness to Him. And this is especially true if it comes from the religious dignitaries of the day. Pilate, of himself, would never have harmed the Man of Galilee, but the chief priests, the respected representatives of Israel’s Elohim, they demanded that He be crucified.
Humanity being "most like" to the Subjectors, Christ also came to be in the likeness of humanity (Phil.2:7), even though His spirit did not come through Adam, but direct from God. Although He was rejected and crucified by humanity, or, rather, because He, as a Human, descended to the deepest depth of dishonor for humanity, He will ascend to the highest heights of grandest glory. "Wherefore, also, God highly exalts Him, and graces Him with the name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus, every knee should be bowing, celestial and terrestrial and subterranean, and every tongue should be acclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God, the Father" (Phil.2:9-11).
Included in this exaltation and prior to its full realization, He will call to Himself a selection of saints Who, in spirit, were crucified with Him, and, in a minute measure, have suffered some of the shame and humiliation of His crucifixion. For to us, it is graciously granted, "for Christ’s sake, not only to be believing on Him, but to be suffering for His sake also" (Phil.1:29).
Consequently, All Died
Furthermore, our hearts leap with still growing exultation as we contemplate the certain consequences of the death of all humanity in the death for them of the Son of God’s love, Who so loves them. If One died for all, consequently all died (2 Cor.5:14). But if all died, if all are included in the crucifixion of the old humanity, consequently all shall be vivified in Christ (cf 1 Cor.15:22) and come to know the joy and peace of living, not to themselves, but to the One dying and being roused for their sakes (cf 2 Cor.5:15).
The Word of the Cross
By Adolph E. Knoch
THE CRUCIFIXION OF THE WORLD
God has three distinct, yet parallel lines in carrying out His grand purpose of revealing Himself. One operates in the material, one in the temporal, and the other the spiritual sphere. One is concerned with the heavens and the earth, the second with the eons, the third with the worlds. These run parallel in space, time, and spiritual operation. In these, there are three major divisions, conforming with the three heavens and earths, or five minor divisions, corresponding to the five eons or worlds. The material changes are comparatively easy to grasp, and the temporal, the eons, are comparatively simple, but His spiritual operations are more difficult, yet they may be seen and apprehended best by their association with the corresponding earths and eons.
The material creation is by far the best example of order which our senses can perceive. The finest human fabrication cannot compare with the solar "system" or with the earth, even in its present state of disintegration. The Scriptures often use this system to illustrate the "world" of humanity, as when our Lord told His disciples, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). That is, apart from Him, mankind gropes in the dark, and does not really know what it is doing or whither it is going, or even why it exists.
The essential meaning of the Greek word for world, is system, order, or adornment. This is easily remembered by our English derivative cosmetic, a substance used for human adornment. system is its basic thought which is largely preserved in the scholarly name for the physical universe, the cosmos, which the dictionary explains as an orderly and harmonious system, contrasted with chaos. Indeed, the CV translates the verb adorn. Slaves are to adorn the teaching (Titus.2:10; 1 Tim.2:9). The walls of the new Jerusalem are to be adorned with precious stones (Rev.21:19). This should always be remembered when the word is used in a context which implies something good.
The Greek word for "world" may also be rendered "adornment" (1 Pet.3:3). There is an element of beauty in all orderly arrangement, so that the "world," as created, was a beautiful as well as an efficient implement for the revelation of God in the beginning, and will be in the consummation. It may be applied to the constitution of human society, especially before sin entered, and when the relations of Adam and Eve to the lower creatures, to each other, and to Elohim were still unspoiled. And it will also apply, with fuller force, to the future, when all creatures will be in harmony with the Father.
The World And The Saints
The fact that the present world is subject to the just verdict of God (Rom.3:19), a criminal as it were ready for trial and sentence, and enemy of the great Judge, while the believer has been justified from all sin and transgression, and is reconciled with God, constitutes the great gulf between the called and the world. But it is not easy to realize how great this chasm is, in practice, and very few, if any, of us are able to walk in fullest recognition of His truth. It may help us, therefore to consider the contrasts as we find them in the case of God’s Son, when He was in the world, as revealed in John’s account, and then those which apply directly to us, as presented in Paul’s epistles.
The Son and The World
The key to the character of the world of mankind lies in its relation to God through His Son. The world came into being through Him, yet, when He became flesh and was in the world, it failed to recognize Him. Even His own nation rejected Him, except the little band who believed on Him and accepted Him, who were especially empowered for this privilege by God. Expressed by means of an illuminating figure of speech the world of mankind had reverted to a chaos like the physical earth at the disruption (Gen. 1:2). They were in darkness, and He came as a light. But they did not like the light, but loved the darkness, because their deeds were evil (John 1:8-12).
In such a case the just course would be to judge the world, and deal with men according to their deserts. Our Lord had the power and the right. He could have called more then twelve legions of messengers to enforce His just sentence (Matt. 26:53), at any time. Even the might of Rome could not have withstood His verdicts. But He did not, at that time, seek to assert His power, or to set right the evils of the world. Indeed, the machinations of the Adversary, and the world which was under his influence, were the essential background for the display of His highest and precious attributes, His grace and love. Apart from His presence, we would never have known the wickedness of the world, or the goodness and grace of God. We know so little of the evil of the world today because we offer so little contrast to it.
The Lamb Of God
When John the baptist introduced Jesus to Israel, He did not announce Him as the grand King for Whom Israel was looking and longing, but as the great Sacrifice, the Lamb of God, Who will take away the sin, not merely of Israel, but of the whole world. In other words, His attitude toward the world was an expression of God’s sacrificial love, rather than one of condemnation. Judgment must come, in the future kingdom, but not during His sojourn among them, in His humiliation.
The Hatred Of The World
The world did not fully vent its hatred of God’s Son until His death upon the accursed stake. Then the two principal divisions of world power, the ecclesiastical and the political, joined in condemning Him, the priests because He exposed their hypocrisy and the political powers because He threatened their authority. Between them both He seemed to sink to the lowest level of human weakness and shame. In reality, however, He offered the Sacrifice that settled for all sin, and laid the foundation for all future power and glory. Then it was that the world exposed its true character. It condemned itself when it crucified the Lord of glory. Throughout this eon, it is worthy of the fate it dealt out to the Son of God. Let us give it this shameful place in our estimation.
The hatred of the world culminated in the crucifixion of Christ, but it did not cease then. It still continues in the various phases of the world, especially the ecclesiastical, for our realm, unlike that of Israel, is not on earth but inherent in the heavens (Phil. 3:20), so we must be subject to the superior authorities on earth (Rom.13:1). But, though we do not wrestle with blood and flesh, we do wrestle with the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials (Eph. 6:10-13). In place of Pilate and the Roman world power, we are opposed by spirit forces among the celestials. This is the principal difference between our opposition and that of our Lord’s day.
There is a widespread idea that, since the crucifixion and the spread of Christianity, the world is becoming better. Indeed, the "church" seems to cherish the mistaken notion that world betterment is its chief function! The fallacy of this false inference is evident from the fact that, instead of improving in God’s sight, it is fast approaching, if it is not already in, one of the perilous periods which characterize the last days. Every one of the twenty indictments of 2 Timothy 3:1-5, from selfishness to a denial of the power of devoutness, is abundantly evident. Politically, notwithstanding the union of the nations, there is perplexity and fear. Morally there is steady deterioration. Religiously, formality and outward show has largely replaced spiritual power. The world is worse and ripe for judgment.
Our Present Place In The World
It is of utmost importance that the saints grasp their present relation to the world, for, while they are in this world, they are not of it. God does not, as a rule, call the wise of the world, or the powerful, or the noble, and those who are something, but rather the stupid, and the weak and the ignoble, and the contemptible, and those considered nothing. The reason is simple. No flesh at all shall boast in His sight. There is to be no boasting except in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:26-31).
In his contact with the Corinthians, Paul had already declared this truth by his actions, which, we may well believe, were more effective than words. No doubt he was far superior to most other men in word and wisdom, and he had an excellent opportunity to display it, especially in Greece, where such gifts were highly esteemed. But his theme, a crucified Saviour, was by no means such as would appeal to his audience, nor could it be enforced by the usual persuasive arguments. Apart from God’s intervention by His spirit, there was no likelihood of any response. His weakness, fear, and trembling canceled his personal power, so made room for the outflow of God’s spirit (1 Cor. 2:1-5).
The cross, situated at the very center of the eons and the worlds is the climax of all wisdom when viewed from the divine standpoint. No other occurrence during the eons or in the worlds so clearly reveals, not only the ruin of man, but the love of God, as the crucifixion of the Lord of glory, the utter debasement of the highest of all God’s creatures, the divine curse resting on the Beloved of His heart, for the sake of His sinful creatures. It is utterly impossible to even imagine any other action that would so completely demonstrate the fullness of the divine affection.
The world was crucified to Paul and he to the world by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14). While the world directly in view here is the world of Judaism, it, in fact, is but a picture of the greater system in which we all presently live. The spirit of both is boasting in the flesh. All such glory is shameful, and will give place to a new creation (Gal. 6:15). Most of us have a very vague notion of the force of the term "world" in this connection, and of its place in God’s plan. It is used of the various systems which He uses during the eonian times. Like the respective epochal eons, the five corresponding worlds are arranged as a reversal. The first world was created good, and so with the last. The second from the beginning and end see the entrance and exit of evil, under the first and the last Adams. The central wicked world, in which we live, is the worst of all and comes to its climax in the cross, the summit of human depravity, and will end in the impending era of God’s indignation.
The Various Worlds
There are five different "worlds" mentioned in Scripture which vary much in character, according to the eon in which each is found. We live in the present wicked eon (Gal. 1:4), so it is a hateful (John. 15:18), corrupt (2 Pet. 1:4), world. But the first and last worlds have no such character. Before the disruption, ere sin had entered and man had not even been created, there is no intimation of wickedness. So, also, in the world of the new creation, after the great white throne judgment, everyone is ready to be subject to God, the Father. These two worlds are not wicked, by any means.
Only because the first, faultless world was not adapted to bring about God’s glorious goal, was it rejected and ruined and readjusted for the first phase of His dealings with humanity. This was altogether according to God’s will, and not in the least due to human failure or transgression, although it prepared for it and foreshadowed it. As the great Subjector of all, He not only had the right to work His will in the physical realm, but His innate love demanded reciprocation, and fully justified every temporal evil that would make it possible for Him to reveal His fatherly affection for the creatures of His hand and heart.
The Ancient World
The worlds before and after the present wicked world are alike in this, that subjection, or government, is under the first Adam and his sons in the past, and under the Second Adam in the future. There will be a vast advance in the future, but it is still necessary to deal in judgment with individuals and nations. In the ancient world we have the problem of evil, the disruption of the first earth, repeated in the spiritual sphere. We are now distinctly told that Yahweh Elohim Himself caused the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to grow in the garden (Gen.2:9). Adam did not plant it there, nor did the Adversary. It was God’s doing, and in later revelation, He definitely takes the responsibility (cf Rom.11:32). The reason is clear. Good cannot be really "known" or appreciated apart from the experience of evil.
The Present Wicked World
We are now prepared to see why this world is wicked beyond the rest, and should be crucified. Essentially, wickedness is insubjection to the Deity, Who takes the title of Subjector during the eonian times, in which the world systems operate. The worlds before and after this are held in a measure of subjection by Adam and his greater Son, but today there is no head or central authority in charge of mankind. Noah’s eldest son did not take over the rule of the rest. The divine right of kings is a myth, except in the case of His own nation, Israel. Even there, the Only One Who is equipped to subject others to the Supreme Subjector was crowned with thorns and crucified. The world that committed this accursed crime is fit for nothing else than crucifixion.
The Fourth World
As the deluge destroyed the previous world and prepared for the present, so the impending judgments will clear the scene for Messiah’s kingdom. As in the days of Noah, so it will come, unexpectedly, and by means of tremendous physical catastrophes, clear the scene for the reign of Christ Himself. Because of His presence and power, it will be a glorious world compared with the previous ones, but evil and enmity will only be suppressed on the part of the other nations. So it, more definitely than other worlds, is limited in time (to a thousand years). Then Satan is loosed and deceives the people for the last time. Thus even this world has a share of evil, to set forth the good.
The Fifth World
The fifth world is the result of a new creation, and differs from the first largely in that it is the fruit of its disruption, as well as the other worlds (Rev. 21-22). But, even with all its many blessings, it is not the consummation, when God becomes All in all. The lake of fire is still present (Rev. 21:8).
The blessings are largely confined to one nation, Israel, and their holy city, New Jerusalem, to which the nations bring their glory. They will still need healing (Rev. 22:2). Some will be unjust and filthy (Rev. 22:11). Without the city are evil characters (Rev. 22:15). Throughout the worlds and eons, evil has its place, as God’s means of revealing to mankind the innate operations of His heart.
The Final System
Only Paul can carry us beyond the heavens into the celestial regions, or beyond the eons in the course of time. At the consummation all sovereignty and authority and power, the kingdom of Israel and the nations will be abolished. Those who have died, and are in the lake of fire, which is the second death, will be vivified. Even the Son Himself, Who has succeeded in subjecting all to God, will Himself be subject, that God may be All in all. This is the final, system, in which all have been headed up in the Christ (Eph. 1:10), Who then brings all under the august Headship of the Father.
A. E. Knoch
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