Faith once delivered to the saints
The idea of a church transcending dispensations is false. There was no collective expression of faith until the establishment of the Jewish nation, and persons were in that by birth and not faith. It was not faith that united the Jews, it was their descent from Jacob. Now we see this idea being introduced into Christianity, Salvation is not the Church, nor the Church salvation.
Darby and the brethren held to all the fundamentals of the Christian faith:
There is one God, eternally blessed – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,.
The Lord Jesus was and is human and divine. He was born of a virgin and was raised from the dead and is now glorified at the right hand of God.
The Holy Spirit, having descended on the day of Pentecost, dwells in believers who are waiting for the promised return of the Lord Jesus.
The Father in His love has sent the Son to accomplish the work of redemption and grace towards men. Jesus, the Son, finished the work on earth which the Father gave Him to do. He made propitiation for our sins, and ascended into heaven. Now He is the great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
As to the brethren, nobody would be received into fellowship who denied any of these fundamental truths, and any who undermined them would be excommunicated. They are essential to living faith and salvation, and to the life which all Christians live as born of God.
People confuse what Christ builds with what man builds, physically and metaphorically. Christ said to Peter in Matthew 16:18 that He would build the Church and that the gates of hell (Satan’s deadly power) would not prevail against it. Resurrection was the proof of that. Peter’s confession, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (v. 16), was the rock on which Christ would build his church. Peter was the first stone in importance, but he was not the builder.
The concept of local bishops developed in the second century of the church. This led eventually to popery and the subsequent corruption of Christendom. There is no basis for episcopy in scripture, and no evidence of it in apostolic times.
In his paper, ‘Episcopacy: What ground is there in Scripture or History for accounting it an Institution of God?’ (Collected Writings vol. 20 – Eccesiastical 4 – page 307), J N Darby looks back over Christian history, and sees how the early fathers accepted it as an institution. It seemed prudent at the time, maintaining orthodoxy, but it was a human institution whilst claiming to be an institution of God. By the end of the second century, the position of a single person as president of a local assembly was well established, and the church had become organised. How this originate, and who originated it?
We need to understand what the church really is, and to distinguish between the kingdom and the church. In the kingdom we get the display of God’s power and government, whereas in the church it is union and fellowship
The church is Christ’s representative on earth. By one Spirit we have been baptised into one body, whose Head is at the right hand of God in heaven, united to the members, formed into a body down here on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture calls this ‘the church.’
The hope of the church is founded on her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. She is united to her Head there, seated in heaven in Him, waiting to be there physically. The occupation of the church ought to be in constant, incessant reference to her Head. If not, she cannot act for Him. She looks, to her Head, the only source of power, and joins with the Holy Spirit in the cry ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come’ (Rev 22:17).
A few months ago I was approached by a sister in Pakistan for help in publishing this booklet in Urdu. She provided me with a translation, and during the past month I sent her a number of copies in her native language. (Not an easy job as their books go ‘backwards’).
Up till now the Roman Catholic church, despite its idolatry, human organisation and wrong teaching, stood for some things that were right – upholding marriage, condemning homosexual activity etc. Protestantism had already bowed to the times. Now even Catholicism is following suit
The epistles to Timothy and Titus are not addressed to churches, nor were they to be communicated to the churches as such. Of course the church of God has them, guiding us as to the individual conduct which is an unceasing obligation for Christians.
Darby said ‘I do believe the Brethren have something special. But what is important is, not ‘the Brethren,’ but the truth they have. Darby says that God, though full of gracious patience, could set the Brethren aside – if they are not faithful – and spread His truth by others. Their place is to remain in obscurity and devotedness, not to think of ‘Brethren’ (it is always wrong to think of ourselves), but of souls, in Christ’s name and love, and of His glory and truth. Their place is not to press Brethrenism, but to deal with each soul according to its need for Christ’s sake.’
The object to be desired is the gathering of all God’s children.
2. The power of the Holy Spirit can alone effect this.
3. There is no need to wait till that power produces the union of all, because we have the promise that, where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, He will be in the midst. Two or three may act in reliance upon this promise.
4. The idea of ordination for the administration of the Supper appears nowhere in the New Testament. Christians came together on the Lord’s Day to break bread; – see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 23.