The Way We Now Know Christ

2 Corinthians 5:16  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 6
In 2 Cor. 5:1616Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. (2 Corinthians 5:16) we have a very clear statement of the way in which we now know Christ. We read, "Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more." That is, Christ had been known as a man in flesh down here; but now that was ended. He had gone into heaven, and henceforth He was to be known as a living Messiah on earth no more. Yet not unknown, but living in a more wonderful way than before. His death was the closing of man's history in responsibility; but as risen from the dead, He is Head of the new creation, as well as Head of His body the Church.
In that relationship we know Him now. Christ the Head is in glory, unseen and unknown by man in the flesh; we, the members of His body, are on earth. The Spirit of God has been sent down, and He unites us to the Head in glory, giving us the consciousness of our relationship. What a wondrous place is ours! but how feebly it is apprehended by us.
To know Christ after the flesh is a Jewish position. We have an illustration of it in Thomas (John 20); Jesus (v. 29) says, "Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." This points to a much more blessed way of knowing Christ: "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." 1 Pet. 1:88Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (1 Peter 1:8). It is interesting to mark how the Lord prepared His disciples for this change. In John 14 He tells them that He is going away. All their hopes were centered in Him as Messiah on earth. His death would crush all these; and, lest these might think that all had been a mistake and a delusion, He says, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me." Then He tells of the Comforter who would be given consequent on His going away. That His disciples understood little of this is apparent; still, Jesus places them morally in the position which they were to occupy afterward. In the world their hopes were to be connected with an absent Christ, and the Comforter sent down to dwell in them and with them forever. In keeping with this, when He rises from the dead, He says to Mary, "Touch Me not." Mysterious change, one would say, in the One who never discouraged the advances of a single true heart. But He was gently teaching Mary the truth that she was to know Him no more after the flesh; she had known Him thus.
It is very touching to see how that, even after He had risen from the dead, the disciples still clung to Him as an earthly deliverer, their thoughts never rising beyond earthly position. The two disciples going to Emmaus, speaking of their disappointed hopes, say, "We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel" (Luke 24:2121But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. (Luke 24:21)); but at the very last, the disciples say, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" Acts 1:66When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6).
But there was to be something far higher and more wonderful than this-they were to be witnesses for an absent Christ whom the world had cast out. He was going up into heaven, and they were to know Him no more after the flesh. The Holy Ghost was to be sent down to dwell in them, the power for the testimony committed to them, and, as we find elsewhere, to connect them with Him in glory and give them the knowledge of Himself there. This could never be while He was on earth. In His life, and in His death, He was emphatically and absolutely done, but as risen from the dead and gone on high, we are associated with Him by the power of the Holy Ghost sent down. Hence Jesus says, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come." Expedient, because they would know Him in a far closer way, and as brought into union with Himself.
Let us look for a moment at the practical effect of this. We get an illustration of it in Peter. With his eye on Christ he could walk over the stormy billows. Stephen, looking "steadfastly into heaven," sees Jesus there and, forgetting his own troubles, he thinks of his enemies: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." What a beautiful manifestation of the Spirit of Christ. The manner of this conformity is doctrinally stated in 2 Cor. 3:1818But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18): "We all with open face beholding... the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord." We thus see that there is transforming power in the knowledge of Christ in glory; and we do not get this by looking at His lowly path on earth, but at what He is now.
It is our place to know Him where He is. We can know Him nowhere else, just as a friend is known in the place where he is for the time being. What a wondrous thing is this intimacy with the Lord Jesus. How little we know of it, yet it is the secret of power. See the effect it had on Paul: "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord"; and as if he were just commencing to sound the depths that are in Himself, he goes on, "That I may know Him."
Ah, if we only knew a little more of Him, how the world would lose its attractions-how self and the flesh would be denied-how we would surmount trials and difficulties! In short, the deeper our knowledge of Christ, the more power there will be for worship, for service, and for walk. Have we not to mourn over weakness and failure and poverty of soul? The cause of it is here: we are not sufficiently occupied with Christ on high. Do we often mourn the low tone of our worship? It is because Christ is not fully engaging our hearts; for just in proportion as we know Him there, shall we delight to think of Him as He was down here. As we gather around the symbols of His broken body and shed blood, the deeper our practical knowledge of Himself in glory, the more true and real will be our remembrance of Him in His suffering and death.
Another practical effect is that we prove this world to be "a dry and thirsty land, where no water is," because the only One that satisfies our affections is absent, and is disowned and cast out. Thus the blessed hope of His return is kept clear and bright. We long to see Him. The two things are connected. We remember Him till He come, but the measure in which we do so depends on our knowledge of Himself where He is now.
Let us judge ourselves as to these things. I believe there never was a time when a growing personal knowledge of Christ was more needed. The tide of indifferentism has set in, and mere intelligence will not give us power to stand against it. Christ, as the known and loved object of our hearts, will alone preserve us. What an instance of intelligence without faith we find in Matt. 2:3-63When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. (Matthew 2:3‑6). The chief priests and scribes had a perfectly correct knowledge of the prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus; yet so far as we know, it never took them out of the court of Herod. The wise men from the East were left to seek out the Child.
May the Lord have the supreme place in our hearts, so that we may be kept true to Him.