WE HAVE DIED with Christ. This is not applicable to
God's earthly people. You will not find it in the epistles to the
Circumcision, for the simple reason that God is not through with them yet,
but is still dealing with them in the flesh, and will deal with them so in
the eons to come. Those with Paul skip all that, and have already attained
to the consummations of the eons (1 Cor.10:11). We are far ahead of the
Circumcision, in spirit. O, if our religious leaders could only see this!
Sometimes, in studying the Hebrew, I have thought it well to consider what
others teach, and so have read what they had to say. Among other things it
is hard for them to see that Israel in the thousand years will have
sacrifices and a priesthood. Why, all that is done away with, they
imagine. How can it be revived again? They do not distinguish between
God's dealings with the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision. They do not
see that, in spirit, we are beyond the millennium, so that our
blessings are not yet due even in that eon of physical marvels.
We have gone beyond those things, and when Christ
comes, there will be in a sense, retreat, and the flesh will again have a
place. Death with Christ refers only to us. I want to emphasize
particularly that it is not death in Christ. A little later we have that
fine figure of speech regarding what we are in Him. Our death is not the
same as His death. He died for us and we died with Him. When we look
to Him crucified we cannot picture ourselves as being in Him, because He
was there on our behalf. Rather, we can see our place in those that were
actually crucified with Him. It is remarkable that the Scriptures should
give us any account of these executed criminals. Their crucifixion does
not affect our salvation, nevertheless much is said concerning them, so
that we may recognize ourselves in these doomed men.
A marvelous passage in Galatians sets forth these great
dividing truths. It reads as follows: With Christ have I been crucified,
yet I am living; no longer I, but living in me is Christ (Gal.2:20).
Notice that this reads somewhat differently from the A.V. It is a
beautiful example of emphasis. Christ has the emphatic position. It begins
with Christ and ends with Christ. We are given the least emphatic place,
together with a negative. The very form of this passage teaches us the
truth which it sets forth.
We are not overly much concerned about the
personalities of the two thieves and two malefactors. The whole point lies
in the fact that they were crucified with Christ, at the same time and
place with Him. That is the great point we ought to press
today - crucifixion with Him. In them we see what we were in God's sight.
He would put us there if we had our deserts. The point here is that we
also deserve, not simply death, but a shameful death, and that ignomious
end is pictured for us by these four who were crucified together with Him.
What kind of characters were they? Most of us would not
like to be associated with them. But, thank God, we are! Because, unless
we can see ourselves in their place, suffering the same shameful death
that He suffered, until we can see that, we can never enter fully into the
great truths that are for the Uncircumcision. As I said before, before God
even commences with us, there is no need of further demonstrations. He had
already proven just what we are, and that we cannot sink any lower. Later,
the apostle shows the practical side: Now those of Christ Jesus crucify
the flesh together with its passions and lusts (Gal.5:24). Notice that!
God is demonstrating what men amount to in the flesh, so, at the very
beginning of the truth for the Uncircumcision, Paul shows the foundation
of it, the crucifixion of the flesh. Then again, in Gal.6:12, "Whoever are
wanting to put on a fair face in the flesh, these are compelling you to
circumcise, only, that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ
Jesus." Ever so many of the Lord's people are included in this category
Where are those who do not try to put on a fair face in the flesh?
Christianity is largely an attempt to make something out of the flesh. But
Paul says: "Now may it not be mine to be boasting, except in the cross of
our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me
and I to the world" (Gal.6:14). You see, it is not the death of Christ
merely, for salvation, but the cross of Christ for humiliation. So few
make the distinction, but there is a tremendous difference. It is the
shameful death. The end of the flesh is in view here. All the attempts
to be spiritual Israel, to associate ourselves with the physical features
of the evangel of the Circumcision, all that is in connection with the
flesh and is finished in our case. Alas, how few indeed see the truth that
we have been crucified with Christ.
Crucifixion applies not only to us, but also to the
whole world. If that truth were owned today, it would change the entire
face of this earth. If the so-called Christian nations acknowledged that
the world has been crucified, practically everything they are doing today
would be stopped and they would do the opposite. If we realized what is
written here concerning the world, it would change everything for us and
give us peace.
If I did not have these truths and looked out on the
world today, I would have to be exceedingly callous to endure what I see.
There are all kinds of movements to make man better. They have been at it
for four or five thousand years, and behold, where we are! And some folks
seem to think they are really going to accomplish something! Those of us
who went through the first world war are a bit skeptical, altogether apart
from what the Scriptures have to say. And those of us who know man and the
flesh, as we have them in the Scriptures, don't expect any more from human
efforts now than in the past, for the simple reason that God has already
crucified the world.
Even in the accounts of our Lord's life, if we look
beneath the surface, we can see intimations of this truth. There we have
these four who were crucified with Him. There is a good deal of truth in
connection with numbers in Scripture, and it may be that the figure four
brings before us the world number. Years ago, when we were taught that
there were only two crucified with Him, I could not understand why there
were just two. But later I found out there were four, two robbers and two
malefactors. They give us a picture of what we have in the world today.
There are all sorts of pretense, but, if you will boil it down, this is
what it amounts to. You can take your choice whether you are a malefactor
or a robber, but we are all worthy of crucifixion. Indeed, we are both,
for we not only wrong God, but rob Him every day. It may be very difficult
to believe it, yet there is exactly where peace lies. We talk about peace,
but there will be no real peace until we and the whole universe come to
the conclusion that, not Christ should have been crucified, but we. When
we get to that point, the rest will be comparatively easy.
The two malefactors were crucified with Him right at
the beginning (Luke 23:32). Afterwards, when the soldiers had cast lots
for Christ's garments and placed the inscription above His head, the two
robbers were crucified (Matt.27:38). Doesn't it seem remarkable that here
are four men and one of them, although he is a malefactor, is saved? He
believed. Does it not seem that he is a picture of those who believe, who
take their place by faith? We can add amen to what he has to say: "We are
getting back the deserts of what we commit, yet this One commits nothing
amiss" (Luke 23:41).
This man was crucified, not in Christ, but with Him.
The others were also crucified with Him. At Golgotha we have the world and
ourselves crucified, and on the other hand we have Christ crucified
unjustly. And When we once see that it seems to me it ought to be clear
that the demonstration, which God began when He took up Abraham and
Israel, is no longer needed in connection with the nations. If they were
crucified with Christ, they are through with the flesh. We, having been
crucified with Christ, have found the answer to the demonstration. There
is absolutely nothing in the flesh for God. Those that are in the flesh
cannot please God (Rom.8:8). The only thing we can do with it is to
crucify it. Not a decent death, but a dreadful execution. Only thus can we
recognize its ignominious character, its utter shamefulness. We
acknowledge that we are not only worthy of death, but the disgraceful
death of a criminal. This goes to the root of the matter.
God has gradually been working out through the history
of Israel a demonstration that there is nothing good in the flesh. One
trial follows another, and so it will be in the future, for it will
continue to be necessary so long as the flesh is given any place. But it
is no longer needed for us. God uses Israel in order to demonstrate what
the flesh is, not only to themselves but to the whole creation. But with
us He has another purpose, so the lesson is shortened. Here we have one of
the great distinctions between the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision. A
main reason why so-called Christianity and the so-called church, even
believers, fail to understand God's purpose, is that they are still along
the old line. They still give the flesh a place. They do not realize the
place that God has given it - crucifixion. Neither do they realize
the place God has given the world - crucifixion.
Saints sometimes come to me and are discouraged about
the way things are going in the world. Things are going all right because
they are going all wrong. God's intention, His ultimate purpose, is being
fulfilled in it by that very fact. I do not expect things to go right,
because this is the world that has been crucified with relation to us. We
should not expect anything good from it. We should expect robbery from
robbers. And that is what the world is in relation to God, a gang of
robbers and malefactors. It is because of this that God will be able to
glorify His grace. So you see that this great truth must first be laid
down as a foundation before you can understand this favor.
Much good teaching concerning grace has failed to be
fruitful because those who heard did not realize their need of it. They
cannot consider themselves so utterly degraded, so grace is wasted on
them. My prayer is that God may in some way or another make the reader of
these lines realize the death to which God has put them by crucifixion.
Then it will not be difficult to reveal His grace to them. As a matter of
fact, the reason why we have been crucified with Christ is that God may
reveal His grace, not only to us, but through us to others. Grace is not
very easily apprehended by many of God's creatures. It is not His purpose
to put them all through the mill that the Circumcision are going through.
God is going to use us to display His wisdom and power, but particularly
and especially His grace. In order to do that, He must treat us distinct
from the Circumcision. They had certain privileges. They were near to God
and, logically speaking, God should give them the highest place. But God
will do something very much greater than that. If He gave them the highest
place in the universe, He would not be able, to display that greater grace
which makes us the highest.
O, that we could see ourselves as crucified! Then God
would reveal to us our glorious place in Christ, and we, would revel in
the grace that make us the highest trophies of His love.
JUSTIFICATION AT THE CROSS
Perhaps the best way to get a grasp of these things is
to go to the cross and see just how those who were associated with that
great tragedy acted, and what they said. When we see justification
actually in the experience of an individual, then it is much easier to
understand. We will try if possible to give an example of how it works. In
Germany I went to Witttenberg where Luther lived a great part of his life.
It was an interesting place and contained many engaging objects. Not only
that, but while I was there, attending a conference, I met about two
hundred editors of religious papers, and I was always on the watch to see
if any of them knew about justification. But they could not see any
difference between it and forgiveness or pardon. All was put into one pot.
But to me the distinction between the two things is tremendous. If the
creation of God at the end will only be patched up, what kind of an
achievement will that be? That would be very trying, not only for me, but
for God. But if we get a grip of justification there will not be any
patching, but, on the contrary, a vast display of the wisdom and grace of
God. Evil will not only be absent, but it will be transformed into good,
and only God can do that. And do not make a mistake as to my meaning.
Somebody said that I taught that we should do evil that good may come. God
can make good come out of evil, but we are not, by any means equal to God.
He can do it, we cannot.
This may help us to distinguish between the two
Let us consider the case of the soldier that pierced
Christ's side. In him the Scriptures give us an illuminating example of
the possibility of justification, and, on the side, how God can use evil.
The passage reads (John 19:31): "The Jews, then, since it was the
preparation, lest the bodies should be remaining on the cross on the
sabbath (for it was the great day of that sabbath), ask Pilate that they
might be fracturing their legs and they may be taken away. The soldiers,
then, came and fracture indeed the legs of the first and of the other who
is crucified together with Him." (Let us note, in passing, that they came
to one, then to another and then to the Lord, Who was in the center.
This is only one proof that the pictures which you see of the crucifixion
are not complete. There were two robbers crucified with Him besides two
malefactors-five altogether. Not merely three). "Yet, on coming to Jesus,
as the perceived He had already died, they do not fracture His legs. But
one of the soldiers pierces His side with a lance head, and straightway
out came blood and water. And he who has seen has testified, and true is
his testimony. And he is aware that he is telling the truth, that you,
also, should be believing. For these things occurred that the scripture
may be fulfilled, "A bone of it shall not be crushed." And again, a
different scripture is saying, "they shall see Him Whom they stab."
Let us see if we can justify one of the soldiers who
stabbed Him. I think we can do it very easily. He has done something that
you and I would never think of doing. We would think it a very, very
terrible thing. Nevertheless what about him? It seems to me that God
intended he should be more or less a representative of the Uncircumcision
there at the cross. Now the first thing we should allow is that this man
was there doing his duty. He was not there alone, but a centurion was
standing by to see that he played his part. So you see, from the human
standpoint, we cannot condemn the man for doing what he did. Yet this man
did a grievous sin, he actually thrust a lance into the side of the Lord.
Nevertheless, it was his duty to do it. If he had not done it, he might
have been court-martialled. The centurion was right there to see that he
Now in Matthew 27:54 we read: "Now the centurion and
those with him who are keeping Jesus, perceiving the quake and the
occurrences, were tremendously afraid, saying, `Truly this was the Son of
And contrast these men with the Circumcision. Were
they saying that? The Jews, because they were so holy, or thought they
were, did not want the bodies left on the cross during that great sabbath
day. So they asked Pilate that His legs should be fractured. Pilate and
the soldiers did not know it, but the Circumcision knew that, according to
the Scriptures, a sacrifice should not have its bones crushed. Yet here
they were, actually demanding that the bones of the greatest Sacrifice of
all should be broken! That was the kind of holiness they had! It was all
superficial and hypocritical.
Here we have an exposure of the hearts of these
Pharisees and of the Jewish nation. They were not allowed to break His
bones or to crucify Him. But you will find all through the Word of God
that they were the ones that did it. It was the attitude of the heart
that counted. So here we have a great contrast between those present at
the cross. It was Israel that was called upon to repent, not so much the
centurion or the soldier. Repentance is in reference to the heart. It
was not in reference to the fact of their crucifying Him with their
hands, but with their hearts. And so it was, also, with reference to
the lance head that went into His side. A little further along John
quotes: "They shall see Him who they stab" (Zech.12:10). They, Israel,
not the soldier. And in the Unveiling the same apostle says: "Every eye
shall be seeing Him - those also who stab Him - and all the tribes of the
land [of Israel] shall be grieving over Him."
John does not blame that centurion. He blames his own
people. And he is right. They were doing their best to keep God's Word
from being fulfilled. God had said that the bones of the sacrifice should
not be broken and they wanted the Romans to do it.
The Jews are like that. A rich Jew in Denver would not
light a fire on the sabbath, but wanted a friend of mine to do it. Yet the
Scriptures had said it was wrong to get another person to do it. So they
were breaking the law just the same.
But the soldier with the lance fulfilled the Word of
God, inasmuch as it prevented the breaking of Christ's bones. That reminds
us of what we have in Romans, that the nations are able to fulfill some of
the law, even if not under it. And not only did his act uphold the law,
but he fulfilled one of the prophecies by thrusting the lance into
Christ's side. We certainly cannot blame him for fulfilling the prophecy.
It seems to me that, if we were the judges, we would acquit him. We are
not going to acknowledge that he did anything wrong. He did right. The
things that he did were in fulfillment of God's Word. It had to be
fulfilled. We are all agreed that he was justified in acting as he did.
Now that is justification. The evil that took place there is connected
with the greatest good to God's creation, and I am sure all of us are
very, very glad this man committed this deed, even though we would rather
not have anything to do with it ourselves.
The fact is that, at the cross, we have God actually
using the nations to fulfill His will. Israel went counter to His will,
though to fulfill His intention. And the nation of Israel, His own people,
we find doing their worst to keep the nations from fulfilling His will.
There we have more or less of a ground work for seeing why it is that God
deals with the nations differently than with Israel.
The offense of Israel here was exceedingly great. I do
not see how it could have been greater at that time. No worse conduct
could be imagined than the conduct of Israel at the crucifixion.
The nations were not entirely guiltless. They derided
Christ and plaited the crown of thorns, but it was a small thing compared
with what Israel did. We must look at the heart. Yet Israel did nothing
to speak of. They did not act, but they spoke, and it is by their
words that we find where their heart is. "Out of the abundance of the
heart the mouth speaketh." But the nations - very little of what they did
would be called an offense. They were not bitter against the Son of God. I
suppose they would have treated any prisoner in the same way as they did
Him. But there was some offense on their part. Today God has removed that.
Now there is conciliation. If that soldier had heard and accepted the
evangel, he would have been justified. God meets with the whole of mankind
on the ground of what they did at the cross.
I hope you can keep these thoughts clear - the
difference between sin and offense. We are all sinning most of the time.
Some people think they are not sinning, but I doubt that we can take many
steps without destroying one of God's creatures, which might be considered
a very serious crime. We take wrong steps frequently even as believers,
but I hope none of us who do that would actually hurt the feelings of God.
A child can take your watch and give it a good scrubbing, but if the child
did not know any better, you could not very well feel hurt about it.
And so it is today. God is conciliated to the whole
world, just as if they were like this soldier whom we have been
considering. Whatever he did was in line with God's expressed will. Israel
was not in line with His will, but with His intention, hence they also
will be justified at the consummation. I am satisfied that this soldier
had no idea of what a good thing be was doing, and as I said before, I
would not advise him to do it again. But God can take all acts, even those
as bad as that, and transform them into good. That is the basic truth that
we have in Romans, in the present administration of God's grace. Not
forgiveness, not pardon, that is for Israel temporarily in the eons. What
we have is infinitely better, acquittal, not guilty, justification.
Don't think for a moment I am justifying myself. I
cannot do that. This is all on God's side. The day is coming when all of
us will see one of the most wonderful things it is possible to see - the
wisdom of God in dealing with evil and sin.