THE CONTEXT is vital in qualifying the meaning of
words. In these days of chain references and concordances there is a
strong tendency to ignore the setting of words. This is quite as
essential to a true interpretation as to grasp their meaning. Moreover,
the lack of close scrutiny of the context leads to apparent contradictions
and obliterates vital distinctions. Those who do not use microscopic care
in consulting the context will often be able to find passages which seem
to deny some of the great and glorious truths for which we stand. We will
consider a few of these. We hope that the examples given will lead all to
canvass the context at all times, before coming to any conclusion.
JUSTIFICATION AND CONDEMNATION
We have taught, and will continue to teach the great
doctrine of justification by faith. We deplore the fact that the
preciseness of this grand truth has been destroyed by mixing it with
pardon or forgiveness. We insist that a pardoned criminal cannot be
justified. We further assert that the rendering of the A.V., that, "all
the world may become guilty before God" is incorrect, and subversive of
the truth. It should read, "subject to the just verdict of God"
(Rom.3:19). Justification is acquittal. It is vindication. It pronounces
the defendant not guilty. One who has been pronounced not guilty by a
judge cannot be pardoned by an executive. "Consequently, nothing is
condemnation now to them that are in Christ
But do we not read that all mankind are condemned? It
was for all mankind for condemnation (Rom.5:18). Here, in the same
epistles, we have two utterly contradictory statements. We may put them
There is no condemnation
All mankind are condemned
Both are true. But both are utterly false outside
their own context. One is in Romans five. The other is in Romans eight,
verse one. One is in Christ Jesus. The other is in Adam. One deals with
the individual sins of believers. The other is the penalty of Adam's one
transgression. One fends from future indignation. The other has brought
upon us suffering and death. In Adam we are now serving our sentence. In
Christ we have been acquitted.
The scope of the fifth of Romans has been almost universally ignored. In
the third chapter, while sentence is not passed on the unbeliever, there
is no question but that he will be condemned in the judgment. He is not
justified as to his own sins, and will not be at that time. He will
suffer fury and affliction (Rom.2:9) suited to his sins and will enter
the second death. But, in the fifth chapter, the whole race is constituted
just with reference to Adam's offense. The condemnation came from one man,
at the beginning of the race's history. The justification will also come
from One, but at the close of the eons. In between these two, men are
sinning and will be acquitted or condemned with reference to their own
JUSTIFICATION AND PARDON
Another disturbing context is imported from Colossians.
We have said that justification obviates the possibility of pardon or
forgiveness. But some one turns to a concordance and finds the same Greek
word in the prison epistles, and immediately concludes that we are
mistaken. How we wish that we could burn it into the hearts of students of
the Scriptures that, while the meaning of words may be determined by the
occurrences, the resultant interpretation must include all of the context
and accord with the scope. In Romans we are in the courtroom. The
decision is handed down by a Judge. The language is legal. In Colossians
we are in a kingdom, the subjects of a Sovereign. The language is
governmental, and is the same as that used of the kingdom for Israel.
Colossians is the corrective of Ephesians. There also we read of
forgiveness (Eph.1:7). But, lest we confuse this with the pardon proposed
by the evangel of the circumcision, the word is immediately guarded and
glorified by the added phrase "in accord with the riches of His grace."
The previous kingdom pardon was temporary and terminable. It was so
probational that many who were once enlightened fell aside (Heb.6:4-6).
It had little grace. We have much. It could be lost. We cannot lose ours.
There is an unutterable gulf between a probational pardon and the wealth
of favor which is ours in Ephesians. We have no right to ignore the
But why use the royal figure of pardon, or forgiveness, in the perfection
epistles, rather than the legal figure of acquittal, as in Romans? At the
time that Romans was written, the nations had no standing in the only
kingdom then in view. All is either individual or racial. The King had
been rejected. After the revelation of the secret there was a great
change. Christ is acknowledged as the Head of the universe (Eph.1:10).
The heavens are included in His sway. Not only that, but Colossians
introduces us to a new kingdom, quite unlike that spoken of by the
prophets, and by our Lord and His twelve apostles.
The coming kingdom will displace the kingdoms of this world. Not so that
of Colossians. The Father already has rescued us out of the authority of
darkness and has transported us into the kingdom of the Son of His love
(Col.1:13). It is by this spiritual Sovereign, Who opposes the wicked
spirits (rather than their earthly dupes), Who has already rescued us out
of their clutches, though we are still subject to earthly sovereignties,
it is with Him as spiritually regnant that we have the deliverance, the
pardon of sins (Col.1:14). We have not only sinned against the Deity,
but, we once walked in accord with the chief of the aerial jurisdiction,
the spirit now operating in the sons of stubbornness (Eph.2:2). As the
subjects of Satan, we opposed the spiritual sovereignty of God's Son. This
is a political crime, and calls for pardon, not adjudication.
In the Circumcision evangel, pardon is by no means deliverance. Those who
have studied this word concordantly have seen that it means much more than
redemption. It is its fulfillment. We are as independent of the powers of
darkness now as Israel will be of the governments of earth in the
millennium. Here again we may make two contradictory statements:
The kingdom is future.
The kingdom is present.
Both are true. Ordinarily we would object to the
second, because it is usually associated with much Scripture which is for
the future. The kingdom of Christ, of the Son of David, of the Son of Man,
of the nation of Israel, is future. Then earth's present governments will
go. These are not disturbed now. Only the spirit powers, who really rule,
have lost our allegiance. We are in the kingdom of the Son of His love.
LIFE AND VIVIFICATION
Emphasis is attained by repetition. The statement of an
obvious fact not only stresses its force, but may specialize its meaning.
If a man tells you his occupation, knowing that you are perfectly aware of
it, he expects to impress you with his standing in his profession. Our
Lord used a notable phrase when speaking of the two resurrections. He
called one a resurrection of life, the other a resurrection of
judgment. If we will turn to the description of the latter in the
Unveiling, we will find that its subjects do not live until after the
thousand years (Rev.20.5). Indeed, how can there be a resurrection
without life? So there seems a surface contradiction. The resurrection
of judgment seems to be called a resurrection of life.
The same distinction is made by the apostle Paul in the fifteenth of first
Corinthians. In Christ a resurrection or rousing becomes a
vivification. A resurrection outside of Christ is not "of life." In the
Unveiling this is further enforced by the statement that the dead were
seen standing before the throne (Rev.20:12). It will only lead to
confusion to ignore the context in Corinthians, and argue that those
before the great white throne are alive. They are not alive in Christ.
Paul speaks only of vivification in Christ. "As in Adam all are dying,
so in Christ shall all be vivified," cannot refer to those out of Christ.
They will not be in Christ until long after this judgment.
WORKING OUT SALVATION
Many who have seen that Paul's perfection epistles are
for us have never clearly differentiated between them. Philippians,
especially, should be contextually expounded. It was not written by Paul
the apostle. The word apostle does not occur in it except when applied
to Epaphroditus, the apostle of the Philippians (2:25). It was written by
two slaves, Paul and Timothy. It is concerned with the service, the
experience, which follows the teaching of Ephesians. It does not deviate
from the doctrine there developed. Unfortunately the phrase "work out" has
the idea of solving, accomplishing, and leads to a false idea in
Philippians (2:12). The C.V. rendering is much better: "Be carrying your
own salvation into effect." Yet even the A.V. would lead no one utterly
astray if they would only confer with the context: "for it is God that
worketh in you." The context often corrects discordant translations.
Another section of Philippians has suffered greatly from dislocation
(3:4-16). The subject is the example of Paul. It is followed by the
exhortation, "Become imitators together of me" (3:17). Paul forfeited all
his fleshly advantages, in order to know Him the participation of His
sufferings the power of His resurrection to attain to the resurrection
out from among the dead not that he already obtained or had already been
The possibility of having attained to the "out resurrection," at the time
he wrote the epistle is admitted, but the fact is denied. He is not
speaking of actual resurrection, but its present power to affect
his conduct. The sufferings of Christ are past, yet we may participate in
them in our experience. The out-resurrection is future, yet we may walk in
its power now. This is a present attainment, not a future reward. No doubt
it will be rewarded, but literal resurrection is a part of the gracious
salvation which is a part of that which is ours in Christ, not in