Is there a Collective Christian Position? – Frederick Raven

Some say there is now no collective Christian position and that it is impossible for Christians rightly to break bread together in view of the public breakdown of the church.  However I think we can free from sectarian organisation.

 

I have heard it said that there is now no collective Christian position. I understand what they mean.  Some have though that it meant it was now impossible for Christians rightly to break bread together in view of the public breakdown of the church.  However I think we can free from sectarian organisation.

I believe that the Lord is reminding His own as to the subject of gathering.    A brother recently wrote to me, referring back to when he was ill in 1970 (a significant year for some readers).  He wrote:

“I was crying out to the Lord in pain, when the Lord came back to me with the rebuke, ‘You don’t really love me! all you love is ‘the assembly’, I am secondary to all you do!’ 

By putting ‘the assembly’ in quotes, I am sure he was referring to a religious body, not the body of Christ.  That challenged me: does my little round of meetings and the fellowship I enjoy mean more to me than the Lord Himself. Frederick Raven said he did not understand a ‘collective position’. Many resisted him then – maybe we would have been preserved from a lot of sorrow had we gotten the gain of his ministry since.  Here are a few extracts (slightly edited for sense) from a reading on the parables of the mustard tree and the leaven in Matthew 13:31-46 (1901) – See Ministry of F E Raven Vol 15 p 359).

 

F E Raven

Frederick Raven

The mustard tree conveys the idea of imperialism, the hierarchical system of things, a great conspicuous figure, which affords shelter; the leaven hid in the three measures of meal represents a great inflated mass leavened by corrupted doctrine.  When Christianity assumed a form and character which God never intended, it was morally a ruin.  The ruin has come in upon Christianity as a whole. I think everyone who takes a place outside the great world order is a witness to the ruin.  We must go on without any pretension, without any idea of what is called corporate witness, an ecclesiastical company in any sense.  We are in danger of becoming a tree: well let us say, a small tree.

 In reply to the remark ‘Our collective Christian position is a witness to the ruin’.  Raven answered. I do not understand a collective position.  I think our position is essentially individual. I cannot see any warrant for anything save what is individual in the present state of things.  Find ‘those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart’ (2 Tim 2:22), I do not mind who: I am not recognising a company.  I cannot see any warrant for anything save what is individual in the present state of things.  Scripture says, ‘Two are better than one’ (Eccl 4:9).  If you get two people walking in righteousness they will naturally be drawn together. I should not recognise a company. If I were asked to what company I belong, I should say, “To none”.

 Abiding in Christ meets every difficulty.  The sad thing to me is, that I see a great number today who do not seem to be abiding in Christ. I do not say that they are not Christians, but the only antidote to lawlessness is abiding in Christ.

We break bread in view of all Christians; we cannot compass all in fact, but in our mind we take in all saints.  The moment we go out in thought to the whole church all is plain sailing.  A Christian who isolates himself is lawless.

When asked, ’Is there any company that can act with authority?”.  FER answered ‘No’. Then asked ‘How then can we deal with evil?’, ‘You do not go on with evil. We seek to act according to the truth.  As to putting away, I am a bit afraid of the collective idea. The only thing that can act with the authority of Christ is the church. However, two or three acting in Christ’s name is not really the church, only they are guided by the principle of the church.  ‘We being many are one body’ (Rom 12:5). I do not see any warrant for taking the place of a company; we stand apart from the organisation of Christendom.

My Conclusion

Perhaps we all need to be with the Lord and do a bit of rethinking.  I fear lest in leaving or rejecting the tenets of one company, we join or espouse the ideas of another.  Occupation with Christ is the only antidote.

 

Sosthenes

September 2019

 

 

Full Text of Reading

Following some criticism for ‘selectively quoting’ from FER, I am reproducing the whole reading.
See Ministry of F E Raven Vol 15 p 359).
Obtainable from Kingston Bible Trust
I do not believe that my extracts detract in any way from the whole reading

READING ON MATTHEW

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Matthew 13:31 – 46 (KJV) – Darby version on hyperlink

 

The Mustard Tree

Ques. In reference to the tree — is it the thought that the outward proportion is according to the inward corruption?

F.E.R. Yes; but I think you must distinguish between them. The leaven and the mustard tree are two different similitudes. One represents one thing, and the other represents another. The tree conveys the idea of imperialism, a great conspicuous figure, which affords shelter. On the other hand, the leaven hid in the three measures of meal represents a great inflated mass leavened by corrupted doctrine — they are two distinct figures.

Rem. The mustard tree represents the hierarchical system of things.

F.E.R. Yes, it becomes conspicuous in the world, ruling over the kings of the earth. The harlot will ride the beast. That is imperialism. The three measures of meal leavened represent a great inflated mass.

Rem. Permeating a given sphere.

F.E.R. Exactly.

Ques. Do you get the end of those two views in Revelation 17 and 18?

F.E.R. I should think what you get in Revelation is more the mustard tree. It is the great city Babylon that rules over the kings of the earth.

Ques. Does the apostle speak of leaven in 2 Timothy 3 where he gives a moral description of the last days? Does that give the idea of leaven?

 

The Adaptation of Christianity to Man

F.E.R. Not quite to my mind. I think leaven is very much more what is human. It is the adaptation of Christianity to man. Everything is humanised.

Rem. That is the point — Christianity adapted to human ideas.

Ques. Is it what is spoken of in Colossians 2?

F.E.R. Yes, that is it. “After the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world”.

Rem. “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world hears them”.

F.E.R. What is our place in regard of all these things? We have a perception of them, and are professedly apart from them, but I do not know whether we are apart from them morally, and I fear in many minds there is a kind of hankering after them. What was said at the beginning was that if you stand outside these things, as recognising the character of them, you are a witness to the ruin. It is a poor kind of thing to be a witness to the ruin, but that is pretty much where we are. I do not know how far it is understood.

Rem. That is what was before me, that we might see how far we are sensible of the ruin and outside of it. The mustard tree is the ruin.

Ques. This is a picture of the ruin of what?

Rem. It is the ruin of the kingdom of heaven that is spoken of here. The mustard tree is the ruin.

 

The Church and the Kingdom of Heaven

Ques. Do you distinguish between the church and the kingdom of heaven?

Rem. I do; but in bringing in the kingdom the church comes into view. The mustard tree is a great hierarchical system which Christ never intended the church to be.

Rem. It is the product of a false kingdom instead of the true. Babylon is a false system.

Rem. You get the beginning of it in 1 Corinthians. “Ye have reigned as kings without us”.

F.E.R. It is worth while to know what is in our minds when we speak about the ruin. When christianity assumed a form and character which God never intended, it was morally a ruin. God never intended that there should be clergy and sacramentalism and all that sort of thing; but that is the form that christianity has taken to a very large extent.

Ques. When we speak of the ruin, do we not think rather more of it in connection with a house than a tree? You would say that the house has broken down.

F.E.R. I do not know that I should say that. I think Christianity has.

Rem. Christianity was really intended to produce a moral witness for Christ here, and in that sense it has failed.

Ques. Does the failure embrace both the kingdom and the church phase of things?

F.E.R. I think the ruin has come in upon Christianity as a whole. I think every one who takes a place outside the great world order is a witness to the ruin.

Ques. Are you not a witness to what cannot be touched by ruin? Was not Paul?

F.E.R. You are not qualified to be a witness to the ruin if you are not up to the mark.

Rem. Our collective position is a witness to the ruin.

 

I do not understand a Collective Position.

F.E.R. I do not understand a collective position.

Ques. “With those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart”, does not that imply a company?

F.E.R. I do not mind who it is: it is anybody who calls on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Ques. What was in your mind when you said that you do not understand a collective position?

F.E.R. I think our position is essentially individual. I cannot see any warrant for anything save what is individual in the present state of things.

Rem. But Scripture says, “Two are better than one”.

F.E.R. I agree to that. I cannot see how we can be a witness to the ruin if we are lawless. A lawless man cannot be a witness to the ruin, he is in the ruin. If you get two people walking in righteousness they will naturally be drawn together.

 

‘Our Fellowship’

Rem. A good deal has been said about our fellowship.

Rem. I think that means christian fellowship.

Ques. I often hear the expression, ‘So-and-so is not in our fellowship’. If we use such terms, what is meant?

F.E.R. I should suppose that what is meant is that So-and-so is not walking in the truth. If a man is going on in Bethesda, I should not say that that man is really in the fellowship of the truth.

Rem. I have heard you say that the only warrant for our going on together in fellowship is in that passage in 2 Timothy: “follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart”.

F.E.R. Quite so. It is the only warrant I know for it.

Rem. Then we must go on without any pretension, or without any idea of what is called corporate witness.

Rem. What you mean is that we cannot claim to be an ecclesiastical company in any sense.

Rem. We are in danger of becoming a tree.

F.E.R. Well, a small tree.

Rem. I suppose we cannot help walking together if we are each walking in the truth.

F.E.R. I do not mind at all if the truth is the bond. There are, I fear, a great many in fellowship with us who look upon brethren as an association, or something of the kind, on scriptural lines, and they are borne along with it.

Rem. I suppose it is that you really stand aside and through grace wait for Christ, and if there are any others waiting they are glad to break bread with you; not forming anything.

F.E.R. Quite so.

Romanism and Protestantism

Rem. I do not see in the seven churches that anything is under the eye of Christ but Romanism and Protestantism — Thyatira and Sardis; all the sects, and so on, are not anything under the eye of Christ, they are all part of Protestantism. It is Romanism on the one hand and Protestantism on the other.

Ques. What about Laodicea?

Rem. That is part of Protestantism.

Ques. What of Philadelphia?

Rem. That is also part of Protestantism.

Rem. Do you think these parables have any connection with the previous part of the gospel — the tree and the fruit — and the tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is cut down? I thought of Christ as the green tree. He was removed. The trees of the earth were cut down because of the evil in them.

F.E.R. I think the fig tree has been cut down for good; but the fig tree represents man under culture, and it is cursed.

Rem. The tree that is spoken of here is not in connection with fruit good or bad. It is connected with shade and overshadowing.

Ques. When you speak of ‘individual’, is there not such a thing as the unity of the Spirit?

F.E.R. Yes; but if you are a witness to the ruin, you do everything right, else you are no witness. If you are lawless you are involved in the ruin. The mystery of lawlessness already works, and it is only as we are apart from it that we are a witness to the ruin.

Ques. Is there any company that can act with authority?

F.E.R. No.

How can we deal with Evil?

Ques. How then can we deal with evil?

F.E.R. You do not go on with it. There is no need to go on with evil.

Ques. Are we to look for “faithful men” today?

F.E.R. Yes, I think so. I think we seek to act according to the truth.

Rem. It has often been said that it is only the assembly that can put away.

F.E.R. I am a bit afraid of the collective idea. The meaning of putting away is to get apart from evil. I think the only thing that can act with the authority of Christ is the church. I do not think two or three acting in Christ’s name is really the church, only they are guided by the principle of the church.

Ques. If you went into a place you would try to find those who are calling on the Lord out of a pure heart?

“I should not recognise a company. If I were asked to what company I belong, I should say,’ To none’.”

F.E.R. Yes, certainly; but I should not recognise a company. If I were asked to what company I belong, I should say, To none.

Ques. Would you address a letter of commendation to the saints?

F.E.R. Yes; but it is not because I recognise a company, but because I know there are saints there who call upon the Lord with a pure heart; but those few saints are not the church.

Ques. What is it if it is not a company?

F.E.R. A sort of two or three held together by the truth. In acting we can only act in the light of the church.

Ques. Would the expression “Tell it to the assembly” hold good now?

F.E.R. The principle of it would, but I think we are in danger of getting into an organisation. We have lists of meetings or address books.

Ques. When you speak of a company you are using the word in a sense of an ecclesiastical company?

F.E.R. Yes. People do their best to force us into some ecclesiastical position. Brethren are not an addition to the system around us; it is the very thing we have to contend against. I do not see any warrant for standing apart from what is in christendom, but in seeing that it is not according to God, and this is individual.

Ques. How would leaven affect us now?

F.E.R. You will find in christendom that the precepts of christianity are very largely adapted to man as man. Men can take up an official position as men. For a clergyman it is not necessary that a man should be converted. I have no doubt that a great part of the world is largely affected by the precepts which you get in the epistles, but they are applied to man as man.

Ques. We have heard recently that many have taken the path without faith in it; is that what is in your mind to guard against?

F.E.R. Yes; if people take account of brethren as a company, and attach themselves to them as such, there is no faith for the path, and they are hanging on some one else. I do not know what the end of it will be. We are, I fear, dragging on a lot of unwilling people.

Ques. What about young people who desire to take their place to remember the Lord? May they not be instructed?

F.E.R. Yes; but they not only want instruction but faith for the path.

Rem. Abiding in Christ meets every difficulty.

F.E.R. The sad thing to me is, that I see a great number today who do not seem to be abiding in Christ. I do not say that they are not christians, but they are in measure lawless. The only antidote to lawlessness is abiding in Christ.

Ques. What is our warrant for breaking bread at all if you get rid of the company idea?

“We want to walk in the light of the church”

F.E.R. If you do not act in the light of the Lord, you are lawless. We want to walk in the light of the church. The moment we go out in thought to the whole church all is plain sailing. If a christian isolates himself he is lawless; but we want to keep ourselves and our own minds clear of the company idea.

Rem. There is a sense in which you can look at the company by taking in all saints.

F.E.R. Yes, you are on plain ground then.

Rem. You would have a great objection to a christian isolating himself.

F.E.R. Yes, I think he is lawless.

Ques. Does not breaking bread give the thought of a company?

F.E.R. I break bread in thinking of the entire company.

Rem. The one loaf takes in the whole of the saints.

F.E.R. Yes. In mind you take in all saints, and you break bread in view of all christians; we cannot compass all in fact, but in our mind we take in all saints.

Rem. You take in in your mind what is in God’s mind.

F.E.R. Yes, exactly. “We being many are one body”. I do not see any warrant for taking the place of a company; we stand apart from the organisation of christendom.

Rem. The use of the word ‘company’ involves in many minds the idea of some kind of corporation.

Rem. The brethren.

F.E.R. Yes. The great point is that we must each individually be in faith. I take myself as an example; if any one challenged me as to what I belong to in christendom I should say, ‘To nothing’. It would not be a quibble in my mind.

Rem. 2 Timothy is a great book for us now. It shews a clear path. Follow first righteousness, then faith, then love.

F.E.R. Yes; but it is with those who call, &c.

Calling on the Lord out of a pure Heart is Individual

Rem. It would be unbecoming for any company of christians to claim that they were calling on the Lord out of a pure heart.

F.E.R. Yes, the individual does that.

Ques. When you speak of a company, would not that imply every one forming that company?

Rem. It is very difficult to convey an idea of what it is to others. It is inexplicable to people outside.

F.E.R. I am not considering what they think, but what is in my own mind. My point is as to where we are in regard of these things in our own minds. I believe the thought in a great many minds is that brethren are a company in christendom gathered together on scriptural ideas.

Rem. You would refuse their putting you in a false position.

F.E.R. I am anxious to be out of a false position in my own mind. I have no doubt the position is an exceedingly difficult one.

Ques. When we use the plural number, ‘we’ and ‘us’, ought we not to take in in our minds the whole church?

F.E.R. Yes, I think so. The point with regard to it all is the idea that people have in their minds of the position taken up, and of our relation to all that is going on.

Ques. Did not all this come out some years ago in Fragmentary Remarks?

F.E.R. I am quite sure all this was in Mr. Darby’s mind. No one was more averse to anything like organisation than he was. The very fact that any one of us is seeking to pursue the truth of necessity brings us together for the moment; but there can be no collective witness to the ruin; it is individual.

Rem. Mr. Darby maintained that we were only two or three, and if we were a witness to anything we were a witness to the ruin.

Rem. You are a witness to the ruin by abiding in Christ rather than by taking pains to let people know whom you are associated with.

F.E.R. I think so. I want to see an end of lawlessness amongst those with whom we are associated. If we were abiding in Christ we should stand clear of a great many things we are now associated with. I see many people in fellowship who assent to the truth, but who are not governed by the truth. Do you think if people were abiding in Christ, they would be found in picture galleries? Is that suitable to abiding in Christ? If you are not abiding in Christ, you are sure to be lawless.

Ques. How is this difficulty to be met with regard to those who seek for help?

 

Faith for the Path

F.E.R. The difficulty is, there are people who have not faith for the path.

Ques. What do you mean by faith for the path?

F.E.R. Take Moses. Moses had every opportunity in the world, but he had faith for a path. If people have faith for the path they will be prepared for self-abnegation. If they want to get the best of both worlds, to get the things of this world as well as the things of Christ, they will not be much good. It is not that we make a company, but our bond is the truth. What we want to know more of is living down here in relation to the One in heaven. I defy anybody to find any antidote at all to lawlessness excepting abiding in Christ. It certainly means the entire setting aside of our own will.

Ques. Do I get a right impression that the only thing for us is for the truth of God to be made good in our souls individually?

F.E.R. Yes.

Ques. What would you say abiding in Christ is?

F.E.R. It is like the earth abiding in the sun. It is coming under the influence of Christ; you are held by attraction to Christ.

Rem. If we are walking in the Spirit, we shall be abiding in Christ.

F.E.R. I think the whole universe will abide in Christ, and that is how God intends to set lawlessness aside. In the meantime we abide in Christ and He in us. I do not think Christ will abide in you if you do not abide in Him. If Christ is your Head Christ is your intelligence, and you view everything according to Him. Christ in the gospels never viewed anything according to man. Man’s thoughts were continually presented to Him, but He never viewed anything according to man. We have the mind of Christ, and we view everything in relation to Christ and not to ourselves.

Rem. I remember a brother saying that practical christianity may be summed up in two expressions: the sum of the Spirit’s teaching is abide in Christ, and the sum of Christ’s teaching is “Love one another”.

Rem. I suppose if two persons were abiding in Christ they would be loving one another, and there would be unity?

F.E.R. I think so. The true principle is — “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another”. We cannot get out of that — “We have fellowship one with another”.

Our Collective Testimony from F E Raven

Last Lord’s Day the Lord took our brother Mark Lemon of Sevenoaks to be with Himself.  Many readers will have known Mark, not least as editor of the magazine ‘Living Water’, and also for managing the Stone Publishing Trust, a distributor of bibles, tracts and current and old ministry.  I knew Mark for over 60 years:  he was a very dear brother for whom I have had much affection and esteem, who served the Lord well.  He will be sorely missed by his dear wife Monica (they celebrated their golden wedding recently), the gathering in Sevenoaks and many throughout the world who received encouragement from him.

Handing on the Torch

In 1994 Mark Lemon compiled a book entitled ‘Handing on the Torch[i]’ comprising extracts from the Ministry of F E Raven.  I know some readers of A Day of Small Things have problems with certain aspects of F E Raven’s ministry, and I do not want to get into a discussion about other subjects here. I just ask my readers to consider without prejudice some of the things he said as to the church and collective Christian experience.  He was very much set against claiming positions – something that brought him into conflict with big-B Brethren.

Some Selections from Mark’s Book.

Here are some selections from Mark’s book.

Frederick Raven

The church is in ruins; and I am sure we ought to be more under the burden of this than we are. I have felt how little sense I have of the defection of the church, of how far the church is from the mind of God in regard to it. . . . The fact is we have had far too much in our thoughts the idea of setting up an expression of the original, and have been pretty much contented with it. That means that we are losing sight of the ruin of the church. From F E Raven: Fellowship, Privilege and Testimony[ii]

The tendency with man, if he has any sense of the failure of the church, is to begin again, to try and set up a sort of pattern of what the church originally was. It has been said that if we are a testimony to anything it is to the ruin of the church, but people do not quite like that, they want to be ‘a local expression’ of something. . . . If you have apprehended the ruin you can stand apart from what is contrary to the Lord, and be guided by the light which was from the beginning, without making any pretension to ecclesiastical order.  F E Raven: Notes of Readings on Romans – Chapter 8[iii]

We cannot return to the power, to that which was at the beginning; but even in recognising that the Holy Spirit is still here, we get great good. The remnant in Malachi could not go back to the Solomon state of things. If Christianity could be set up as at the beginning, it would only fail again. It is a great assumption to imagine that we can set up a representation of the church, From ‘The Divine Side of “in Christ” and its Effect in the Saints’[iv]

I decline altogether the idea of attaching any peculiar value to a particular company because that company holds something distinctive. The only value of any company in the present dispensation is that they return to what was from the outset; that is that they represent morally the church as before Christ.   From The Holy City Jerusalem[v]

If you ask me what Christianity really is, I should say it is Christ formed in the saints by the Spirit. It is not holding a certain system of doctrine.  . . .  I cannot conceive of anything more wonderful than to be able to say that the spiritual constitution of the believer is really derived from the heavenly, so that it can really be said,‘As is the heavenly, such are they also which are heavenly’. From The Last Adam[vi]

 

Conclusions

From the above, there are a number of significant points.

  1. The church is in ruins and we are to feel our own part in it.
  2. We cannot correct it by setting up a new representation as to what was from the beginning (I personally have recently got help as to this one)
  3. If we did it would fail again, and we would fall back into sectarianism with its structure and formality
  4. We should not claim to have anything distinctive, setting us apart from other believers
  5. We need to recognise that we derive from what is heavenly, so our gathering should reflect that.

Increasingly, I have come to the conclusion that, if the Lord has, in His goodness and wisdom has put a few simple believers together enjoying assembly privilege, they are to reflect Christians in testimony, valuing all believers equally.  As the Lord said, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’John 13:35

 

Affectionately in our Lord

Daniel Roberts (a.k.a Sosthenes)

 

 

[i]Available from Stone Publishing Trust, or Bibles Etc,

[ii]Ministry of F E Raven Vol 1 page61, available from Kingston Bible Trust

[iii]Ministry of F E Raven Vol 9 page 449, available from Kingston Bible Trust

[iv]Ministry of F E Raven Vol 14 page 248, available from Kingston Bible Trust

[v]Ministry of F E Raven Vol 8 page 149, available from Kingston Bible Trust

[vi]Ministry of F E Raven vol 19 page 55, available from Kingston Bible Trust

Establishing, or Planting Churches

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.

 

Based on a Paper by J N Darby – ‘On the Formation of Churches’

JND Collected Writings Volume 1 (Ecclesiastical 1) p 138 –

For the original Click Here 

churchIn the town where I live there are several churches – three Church of England, one Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Salvation Army. There is a Gospel Hall, a ‘Free Evangelical’, a ‘Gospel Mission Church’ as well as evangelical groups gathering one in a shop and another in a local school. There may be more. Then an old CofE church was taken over by mostly Afro-Caribbean believers, and you can hear their music when we come from our meeting on Lord’s Day morning 150 yards away! They must take Psalm 150 literally. Then on Sunday mornings there is a sign outside of a community hall – ‘Peace and Love Assembly’ – whatever that is. Of course there may be more. And of course there is the little meeting room where I go.   I am sure there are many devout Christians in each one.

Were these assemblies formed as a result of Godly concern as to evil working in a gathering from which it was necessary to separate, and to find other believers with whom to walk, or were they formed through Christians uniting behind a particular cause or person?

In his essay, summarised below, John Nelson Darby looked at the various church organisations amid the confusion that is Christendom. Many churches have adopted the title ‘Church of God’ formally or informally, seeking to strike a balance between keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3), and separating the precious from the vile (see Jer. 15:19).

The Lord’s Purpose in the Gathering of the Saints on Earth

The gathering together of saints into one was the immediate object on earth of Christ’s death. Salvation had always been in place; saints of the old dispensation were saved through the death of Christ. Now by the Spirit we are gathered as well as saved. That is what forms the church.

Hypocrites and evil men have crept into the church, but for that there must have been a church for them to creep into.

National Systems

National churches ensued from the Reformation. Whilst the Reformation brought out more clearly the doctrine of salvation, it did not touch the question of the true character of God’s church. Instead of restoring things to their original state, it made the state the supreme authority, replacing the pope.   By definition, all citizens of a country were regarded as Christians, and automatically members of the national church.

Any serious believer must realise that a national church (the Church of England for example) cannot be regarded as the complete assembly of God. People refer to a visible and an invisible church, the national church being the former and the true church encompassing all believers the latter.   But scripture says, Ye are the light of the world. A city set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matt 5:14).   Of what use is an invisible light?   To say that the true church is invisible, is to say that it has lost its original standing and departed from the purpose of God.

Non-Conformist, or Dissenting Congregations

Can any of the dissenting Protestant churches (Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal etc) attain to what God has in mind in the gathering together in one of His children – universally or locally?

In scripture, believers were gathered in various localities. The Christians in each town or city formed one body:- the Assembly of God in ‘X’. At Corinth, for example, a letter addressed to the church of God would have found its way to a known body. There may have been many physical gatherings in private homes and other places, but they formed one body in the place. God raised up shepherds and teachers in the assembly, but they served the whole. So we have the union of all the children of God universally, and the union of all the children of God in each city or town.

According to Scripture the sum of all the churches here on earth composed the whole church; and the church in any given place was no other than the regular association together of whatever formed part of the entire body of the church on earth; and he who was not a member of the church in that place , was not a member of Christ’s church at all.

Now the unified state that we see in the Bible has ceased to exist. What should Christians do when the condition of things set before us in the word no longer exists?

Maybe we should reform it?  That presupposes:

  1. That it is God’s will.
  2. That we are capable and authorised to restore it.

We recognise that we have sinned. If we set about doing what was right, by being upright out of a sense of duty, that would be self-righteousness, and not pleasing to God. Apply the same logic to the church. We, as Christians, have departed from the original state, and are guilty of that sin. If we undertake to re-establish it ourselves, it would be in the same spirit of self-righteousness, and we would not have God’s support.

Now if we set up another body, taking the name of the church of God, by definition, we would have to regard all non-members of that body as schismatic strangers to God’s church.   So what we now have is a large number of partial voluntary churches in different places, with tight hierarchical centralised organisations at one end of the spectrum and loose affiliations of independent assemblies at the other. The practice of making churches with various forms, has in itself led to the separation of the thoughts of universal and local church. The idea of God’s complete church, has been lost sight of.

 

Can Man Restore the Fallen Condition?

The church cannot fail. The Lord said, The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Matt 16:18). The salvation of the elect is secure; the glory of the church will be seen in resurrection, with Satan defeated. Meanwhile God will maintain the confession of Jesus here on earth until the church has been taken away. That is not in question. Popery would maintain that it has not failed publicly, and that it is the whole church. But that line is leading to apostasy.

Publicly, the dispensation is in ruins, and in a condition of entire departure from its original standing. Persons are trying to set it up again, without any warrant to do so.

Because of man’s sin, believers have been scattered. Has there been anybody who has undertaken the apostolic office of re-establishing things on their original footing, and in so doing, re-establish the entire dispensation, apprehending the divine will, having by the Holy Spirit the power to accomplish the task? Of course not. He may have desired to, but like David in building the house was not able to do so.

What can be Done?

Bless God that the Word and the Spirit still remain in the church. May the church lean on that.

I do not have the competency to re-establish the first condition of the church. I humbly feel the real condition of the church, and this preserves me from activities which are unauthorised by the word.

I have to accept that the condition of the dispensation at its close will be just the reverse of what it was at its opening. Sadly, the wild olive tree which had been grafted in, has now been cut out (See Rom. 11:22). But there can be a revival. Nehemiah saw the fallen condition of Israel, and that they were in great distress. He did what he was authorised to do – not more. He did not re-make the Ark or the Urim and Thummim, or imitate the Shekinah. Neverthless we are told in that he had blessing such as had not been ‘since the days of Joshua’; (Neh. 8:17) because he was faithful to God in the circumstances in which he stood.

God has left faithful Christians sufficient directions for us to follow. And the Spirit of God is with us to strengthen us in the path of true obedience.

 

How it Can be Done.

The Spirit of God, foreseeing all that would happen in the church, has given us help and warnings. He tells us that there would be perilous times, and tells us that we should turn away from certain men. (See 2 Tim 3:1-5) We cannot break bread with all – maybe just with two or three gathered to His name. Indeed the Spirit gives us even more precise directions: he that names the name of Christ should depart from iniquity. Where I find iniquity, I must leave it – I am in the great house (the Christian profession) but I must purge myself from vessels to dishonour so as to be a vessel made to honour, fit for the master’s use. And the man of God is exhorted to follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. See (2 Tim 2:19-22)

 

Planting of Churches

There is an expression that is current now (not in Darby’s time) as to the planting of churches. Those involved draw on Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus as to church order and see it in terms of choosing elders, deacons etc, even buildings. Pastors, teachers, and evangelists are gifts which have their places in the unity of the body, and are exercised wherever God has graciously given them.

So a ‘planted church’ from another nearby one presumes that there was no assembly of God in the target locality. This is almost never the case.

 

How are we to meet then?

To do nothing is not an option. But before doing anything we must feel deeply the ruined state of the church, and act with less presumption and more diffidence.

You say , ‘I have separated myself from evil , because my conscience disapproves what is at variance with the word’ That is good: now assemble together. Jesus aaid, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ (Matt.18:20). However, if you organise a church, choosing a president or a pastor, and by implication claim to be the Church of God of the place where you live, I question your commission to do this. I see no trace in scripture of the churches having elected presidents or pastors. It is said that such appointments are necessary to maintain order. Such order, being constituted by the will of man, will soon be seen to be disorder in the sight of God. If there are but two or three who meet together in the name of Jesus, He will be there. Otherwise the appropriate scripture is, ‘He that gathereth not with me scattereth’ (Matt 12:30). If God raises up pastors (that is persons who shepherd, not an official position), it is a blessing. But ever since the day when the Holy Spirit formed the church, we have no record of the church choosing pastors.

We must acknowledge our weakness and dependence upon God. God is sufficient for His church. Despite the ruin, power is available. Call upon Him. He can raise up whatever is needed for the blessing of the saints. He will do that – have no doubt about it. Acknowledge the authority of Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep. He rules as Son over His house, whose house are we, and the Spirit of God is the sole power in the church. Anything else is pretence, and is under the domination of man. There is no promise in favour of the system by which men organise churches, but there is the promise of the Lord’s presence for those who ‘assemble together’.

We need to humble ourselves before the Lord, as we separate from that which we know to be evil, bearing with those persons who continue ignorantly as to the evil, though I may have to leave them.   We must lean upon Him who is able to do all that is necessary, without assuming to do more, ourselves, than the word authorises us to do. Such is the position, humble it may be, but it is blessed by God, even if it is despised by men

 

Conclusions

1. 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.

5. A commission from man to preach the gospel is a thing unknown in the New Testament.

6. The choosing of presidents or pastors by the church is also altogether without warrant in the New Testament. The choosing of pastors is an encroachment on the authority of the Holy Ghost, who distributes gifts according to His will.

7. It is clearly the duty of a believer to separate himself from every act that he sees to be not according to the word.

J N Darby – Nearness to Christ and Its Effect (Humility)

We need to watch ourselves, lest, after having been preserved from the corruption of the age by the very precious truths revealed to us in our weakness, we should be taken in the net of presumption, or thrown into insubordination. These are things which God can never recognise or tolerate, since we are called to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

This article by John Nelson Darby was published in JND’s Collected Writings Miscellaneous 5.

This is a more recent collection of papers by JND, and is available from Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, IL 
Lightly edited by Sosthenes
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.’ (Psalm 126:5); ‘
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.(Matthew 18:20)

 

Man’s pretensions and energy manifest themselves strongly,  But to learn to be still in a clay of grace, and know that God is God, is completely above the education of the flesh.

The spirit of the age affects many Christians, who labour to restore old things for the service of God.  They should be broken before Him with the sense of their downfall.

To confess openly that which we are in the presence of that which God is, is always the way to peace and blessing.  Even when only two or three are together before God, there will be no disappointments nor deluded hopes.  God’s word for the remnant is, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”  (1 Peter 3:15)  He is the only centre of gathering.

The Holy Spirit does not gather saints around mere views, however true they may be.  It is not q question of what the church on the earth is, or has been,  or may yet be;  He always gathers saints around that blessed Person, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matt. 18:20.

We need to be watchful against boasting, as people do in these days.  We need to be still, in the presence of God.  There is much independence and self-will almost everywhere.

If anyone speaks of separation from evil, without being humiliated, let him take care lest his position becomes simply sectarian, and produces doctrinal heresy. Sectarianism is the most natural weed of the human heart.  (Sectarianism is getting an interest in a little circle round ourselves.)   Nearness to Christ would keep us from that.

Now I know, at the present time, of no service which is worthy of Him, if it is not done in humiliation.  This is not the time to speak of a place for ourselves.  If the church of God, so dear to Christ, is dishonoured in this world; if it is scattered, ignorant, afflicted, the person who has the mind of Christ will always take the lowest place.  True service of love will seek to give according to the need, and because of the need, he will never think of slighting the objects of the Master’s love because of their necessity.

Men taught of God, for His service, go forth from a place of strength, where they have learned their own weakness and their own nothingness.  They find that Jesus is everything in the presence of God, and Jesus is everything for them in all things, and everywhere.  Such men, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, are real helps for the children of God, and they will not contend for a place, or a distinction, or for authority, among the scattered flock.   A man in communion with God about the church will show his willingness to be nothing in himself, and he rejoice in his heart to spend and to be spent.   He is faithful in the path of separation, in sorrow, and in the conflicts he is obliged to pass through.

When persons think of the church, they would rather think of the church in power.  We can learn from the conduct of Zerubbabel, recounted in the book of Ezra.  Also, despite the position Solomon had occupied, as heir,  in days of his prosperity and glory, he did not speak of either his birth or his rights.

If we speak of our testimony upon the earth, it will soon be evident that totally in weakness.   Like the seed by the wayside, the testimony will likewise ends in shame.

Neither the anger,  prudence, or pretensions of man can do anything, in the state of confusion in which the church is now.  I freely own that I have no hope in the efforts which many make to assure themselves an ecclesiastical position.  When the house is ruined in its foundations by an earthquake, it matters little how one tries to make it an agreeable dwelling place.  We had better remain where we first discovered of the ruin of things by man’s action – with our faces in the dust.  S uch is the place which belongs to us by right,  After all, it is the place of blessing.

I have read of a time when several were gathered together in such sorrow of heart, that for a long time they could not utter a single word; but the floor of the meeting room was wet with their tears. If the Lord would grant us such meetings again, it would be our wisdom to frequent these houses of tears. “They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy.” Psa. 126:5.

This is not just true for the earthly remnant;  it is also written for us.  I would willingly take a long journey to join these afflicted ones; but I would not go a step to to receive power from men, however excellent,  to overturn the present and reconstruct the future.

J.N.D.

Lightly edited by Sosthenes – May 2014

I am indebted to our brother Jeff in Illinois for bringing this article to my attention.  S.

The Bethesda Circular – JN Darby

This is the text of a letter, written by J N Darby in regard to the ‘Open Division’ of 1848. It refers to the action of several prominent brothers including George Müller and Henry Craik, who met at the Bethesda Chapel in Bristol. It specifically referred to their action in receiving some from the meeting in Plymouth where B W Newton taught heretical doctrine as to the person of Christ, and from which Darby and others had to withdraw.

 

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

This is the abridged text of a letter , written by J N Darby in regard to the ‘Open Division’ of 1848.  It refers to the action of several prominent brothers including George Müller and Henry Craik, who met at the Bethesda Chapel in Bristol.  It specifically referred to their action in receiving some from the meeting in Plymouth where B W Newton taught heretical doctrine as to the person of Christ, and from which Darby and others had to withdraw.

Beloved brethren,

I feel bound to present to you the case of Bethesda. It involves to my mind the whole question of association with brethren, and for this very simple reason, that if there is incapacity to keep out that which has been recognized as the work and power of Satan, and to guard the beloved sheep of Christ against it — if brethren are incapable of this service to Christ, then they ought not to be in any way owned as a body to whom such service is confided: their gatherings would be really a trap laid to ensnare the sheep. But I will not suppose this, my heart would not; nor will I suppose that the influence or reputation of individuals will induce them to do in one case what they would not do in another. I press therefore the position of Bethesda on brethren. It is at this moment acting in the fullest and most decided way as the supporter of Mr. Newton, and the evil associated with him, and in the way in which the enemy of souls most desires it should be done. The object of Mr. Newton and his friends is not now openly to propagate his doctrine in the offensive form in which it has roused the resistance of every godly conscience that cared for the glory and person of the blessed Lord, but to palliate and extenuate the evil of the doctrine, and get a footing as Christians for those who hold it, so as to be able to spread it and put sincere souls off their guard. In this way precisely Bethesda is helping them in the most effectual way they can: I shall now state how. They have received the members of Ebrington Street with a positive refusal to investigate the Plymouth errors. And at this moment the most active agents of Mr. Newton are assiduously occupied amongst the members of Bethesda, in denying that Mr. Newton holds errors, and explaining and palliating his doctrines, and removing any apprehension of them from the minds of saints, and successfully occupied in it.…

I do not charge Mr. Müller with himself holding Mr. Newton’s errors. He declared that he had said there were very bad errors, and that he did not know to what they would lead. Upon what grounds persons holding them are admitted and the errors refused to be investigated, if such be his judgment, I must leave every one to determine for themselves. I only ask, Is it faithfulness to Christ’s sheep? … Members of Ebrington Street,[Newton’s meeting in Plymouth], active and unceasing agents of Mr. Newton, holding and justifying his views, are received at Bethesda; and the system which so many of us have known as denying the glory of the Lord Jesus (and that, when fully stated, in the most offensive way) and corrupting the moral rectitude of every one that fell under its power — that this system, though not professed, is fully admitted and at work at Bethesda. This has taken place in spite of its driving out a considerable number of undeniably godly brethren, whose urgent remonstrance was slighted. …

I do not desire in the smallest degree to diminish the respect and value which any may feel personally for the brethren Craik and Müller, on the grounds of that in which they have honoured God by faith. Let this be maintained as I desire to maintain it, and have maintained in my intercourse with them; but I do call upon brethren by their faithfulness to Christ, and love to the souls of those dear to Him in faithfulness, to set a barrier against this evil. Woe be to them if they love the brethren Müller and Craik or their own ease more than the souls of saints dear to Christ! …

It has been formally and deliberately admitted at Bethesda under the plea of not investigating it (itself a principle which refuses to watch against roots of bitterness), and really palliated. And if this be admitted by receiving persons from Bethesda, those doing so are morally identified with the evil, for the body so acting is corporately responsible for the evil they admit. If brethren think they can admit those who subvert the person and glory of Christ, and principles which have led to so much untruth and dishonesty, it is well they should say so, that those who cannot may know what to do. [Darby’s emphasis]. I only lay the matter before the consciences of brethren, urging it upon them by their fidelity to Christ. And I am clear in my conscience towards them. For my own part I should neither go to Bethesda in its present state, nor while in that state go where persons from it were knowingly admitted. I do not wish to reason on it here, but lay it before brethren, and press it on their fidelity to Christ and their care of His beloved saints.

Ever yours in His grace, J.N.D.

Click here for the full text.

DRAFT – Keeping the Faith in a Ruined Church – The Faith once Delivered to the Saints

Keeping the Faith in a Ruined Church – The Faith once Delivered to the Saints

To download the full draft booklet in PDF form please click here Faith Once Delivered-complete 

Faith once delivered - cover

 

Forward

 

This is a preliminary version of a planned publication of my summaries of ‘The Faith once Delivered to the Saints’.  It is therefore not for general distribution.

 

Readers should go through it with a critical eye and let me know where

  1. It does not make sense
  2. It does not read well
  3. There are typographical errors

 

My aim is that it should be intelligible to young and untaught believers who know the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour and are looking for His soon return.

 

Please e-mail me at sosthenes@adayofsmallthings.com

 

This work is committed to the Lord for blessing and I trust that with the help of God, guided by the Holy Spirit there will be blessing and instruction.

 

 

Sosthenes Hoadelphos

Rochester, England

May 2014

sosthenes@adayofsmallthings.com

 

Copyright Notice

This document may be freely quoted and/or reproduced on condition that the authorship adayofsmallthings.com is acknowledged.

 

Unless John Nelson Darby is clearly quoted, it should be made clear that this is an unauthorised summary, not the original.

 

There is no copyright on the works of JND.

 

Contents

Forward…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 2

Copyright Notice……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 2

Easy to Read, Summaries of Papers on the Church and our Dispensation by John Nelson Darby    6

The Faith once delivered to the Saints…………………………………………………… 8

Summary of Summaries……………………………………………………………………………… 8

“The Faith once delivered to the Saints”   – or -Knowing where we are, and what God wants us to do, in the Confused State of Christendom………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 8

Church Unity and Sectarianism – or -The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ. 8

Separation from Evil and Christian Unity- or – Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity          9

God’s Love and Grace – Holiness, Unity and Christian Gathering – or Grace, the Power of Unity and of Gathering……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 9

Independent Churches, Independent Local Assemblies, Personal Judgment and Conscience – or – On Ecclesiastical Independency……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 9

The Church as the Body of Christ, the Church as the Habitation of God, and Local Churches – or – Churches and the Church…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 10

The Evil of Clericalism – or – The Notion of a Clergyman, Dispensationally the sin against the Holy Ghost                10

Knowing where we are, and what God wants us to do, in the Confused State of Christendom   12

“The Faith once delivered to the Saints”………………………………………………… 12

Trusting in God……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 12

Man spoils what God sets up………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 13

There was soon Failure in the Early Church…………………………………………………………………………….. 13

Have a Conscience about our Position in the Church…………………………………………………………….. 13

We may have to act Individually……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 14

The Church teaching? – and the Holy Scriptures…………………………………. 14

We are in the Last Days –and it is a time of Judgment…………………………………………………………….. 14

The Lord Judging the Churches………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 15

The Public Ruin of the Church…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 15

The Answer to the Church’s Condition is in Jesus……………………………………………………………………… 16

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus will be Persecuted………………………………………………… 16

Seeing the Church Here……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 16

The Work of the Holy Spirit……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 17

A Warning………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 17

Darby on Church Unity and Sectarianism……………………………………………… 19

The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ……………………………………… 19

The Truth of the Gospel……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 19

The Sectarian Situation of the Public Church…………………………………………………………………………. 20

Unity in the Early Church…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 20

The Church in the Dark Ages…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 20

The Reformation…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 20

Non Conformist Movements and Sects…………………………………………………………………………………………… 21

Could there be a Union of Protestant Churches?…………………………………………………………………… 21

Non-sectarian Christian movements………………………………………………………………………………………………. 22

How God sees the Disunity in the Christian Church………………………………………………………………… 22

The Self-complacent Christian Church……………………………………………………………………………………….. 23

The original State of the Christian Church cannot be restored…………………………………….. 23

The Christian’s Call………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 23

The Practical Way for the Christian Believer………………………………………………………………………… 24

Two or three are gathered together in His name…………………………………………………………………… 24

In the Lord and His Death on the Cross we find Christian Unity………………………………………. 25

The Lord’s Supper is the Symbol of Christian Unity………………………………………………………………… 25

Unity of the Spirit…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 25

Let us go forth to Him………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 25

A Plea for the Church………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 26

Darby Simplified – On Separation from Evil and Christian Unity………. 27

Christians desire Unity, but how?……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 27

Partisan Sectarianism………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 28

God Himself has to be the Spring and Centre of Unity………………………………………………………….. 28

Unity in Creation…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 28

The Fall of Man………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 28

Separation from Evil necessarily becomes sole Basis of Unity………………………………………….. 29

Worldliness destroys Unity………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 29

False Unity is not of God……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 29

God is Working in the Midst of Evil to Produce a Unity of which He is the Centre and the Spring, and which owns His authority……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 29

Unity must have a sole and unrivalled Centre – It is Christ……………………………………………….. 30

The Church’s Centre………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 30

Let us go forth to Him without the Camp, Bearing His Reproach…………………………………….. 31

The Holy Spirit is the Centre and Power down here of the Unity of the Church in Christ’s name       31

The Lord’s Supper is the Symbol and Expression of Unity and Fellowship……………………. 31

Unity is maintained by the judicial function in the church…………………………………………………. 31

Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity…………………………………. 32

Darby Simplified – On God’s Love and Grace – Holiness, Unity and Christian Gathering         33

God’s Holiness, Love and Grace………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 33

Our Heavenly Position…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 34

“Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity.”…………………………………………………………………….. 34

The Danger of becoming Occupied with Evil………………………………………………………………………………. 35

Real Holiness is not merely Separation from Evil, but Separation to God from Evil 35

Love precedes holiness………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 36

The true Character of Christian Fellowship – with Him, where He is, where Evil cannot come          37

Active Love Gathering Us……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 37

Law and Grace…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 37

Darby Simplified – on Independent Churches, Independent Local Assemblies, Personal Judgment and Conscience…………………………………………………………………………………………. 39

Personal Judgment and Conscience………………………………………………………………………………………………… 39

Assembly Judgment and Personal Judgment……………………………………………………………………………….. 40

One Assembly’s Act Binds Another………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 41

What is an Assembly Judgment?………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 41

What about Serious Church Matters?…………………………………………………………………………………………. 41

What the Church must Judge……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 42

What if there are Difficulties in the Assembly?………………………………………………………………………. 42

Is “Two or three Gathered Together” the Assembly of God?…………………………………………….. 43

Darby Simplified – on the Church as the Body of Christ, the Church as the Habitation of God, and Local Churches…………………………………………………………………………………. 44

What is the Church?………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 44

The Church as the Body of Christ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 44

The Church as the House (or Habitation) of God……………………………………………………………………. 45

What are Churches or Assemblies?………………………………………………………………………………………………… 45

The State of Churches Now………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 46

The Scriptural View of Churches……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 47

How should a Christian view the State of Christian Churches?……………………………………….. 48

Darby Simplified – on the Evil of Clericalism – or………………………………… 49

The Church as a Worldly Institution…………………………………………………………………………………………… 49

The Exclusive Authority of the Clergy………………………………………………………………………………………… 50

Appointment of Clergymen and Bishops……………………………………………………………………………………….. 50

Resistance to the Gospel……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 51

The Clergy in the Dark Ages and Afterwards………………………………………………………………………….. 52

The Clergy in the Reformation………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 52

The Influence of the Clergy……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 53

The Gifts to the Church……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 53

Not being Lords over God’s Heritage……………………………………………………………………………………………. 53

Speaking of “My flock”…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 53

The Clerical System vs. Individual Clergymen…………………………………………………………………………… 54

Conclusion – The clergy identifies the Church with the world, not God with the Church    54

J.N. Darby – A true Churchman…………………………………………………………………. 55

Copies of JND’s Collected Writings are available from………………………. 55


 

 

The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints

Easy to Read, Summaries of Papers on the Church and our Dispensation by John Nelson Darby

During the 1800′s, and up to the early 1900′s God gave His Church teaching which has been of great blessing to millions.  Men like John Nelson Darby (JND), Macintosh, Wigram, Stoney, Raven, Coates, Taylor (Sr), with others perhaps less known like Bellatt, Dennett etc opened up the thoughts of the Lord’s coming, the hope of the Church, deliverance from sin, eternal life, the person and glory of the Holy Spirit, the Service of God, household baptism and much else.  They also helped Christians navigate their way through the confusion caused by the public breakdown of the Church, freeing them from sectarianism and clericalism.  Words like ‘dispensationalism, pre-mellenniumism, pre-trib(ulationism)’ have been used – but their object was to be free of what dishonoured the Lord to serve Him to His glory.

Some writings, like Darby’s are convoluted long and difficult, particularly to the young believer.  Even at 68, I cannot claim to understand all myself, but for the benefit of my brethren (and my own),  I am seeking to produce simplified summaries of a number of JND’s classic papers, books and words.  This task has just been started.

I trust that God gives me the strength and resolve to continue, and I also pray that He helps me to bring out accurately and comprehensively the teaching of the papers without losing their appeal to exercised souls. Your comments are valued.

I also am happy to enter into correspondence (using my real name) with any about the truths, but will avoid contention and arguments.

In God’s grace

Sosthenes

Special Note

These are summaries, in my own words, and whilst I have sought to convey the spirit and meaning of the original, I am only too aware of my limitations.  Care should be taken, therefore, in quoting from A Day of Small Things.  Also, please do not attempt to attribute what has been written here to the original author, except where it is clearly a quotation.

  J N Darby The Faith once delivered to the Saints
  J N Darby Darby Simplified – The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ
  J N Darby  Darby Summary – Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity
   J N Darby  Darby Summary – Grace, the Power of Unity and of Gathering
   J N Darby Darby Simplified – On Ecclesiastical Independency 
   J N Darby Darby Simplified – Churches and the Church 
  J N Darby Darby Simplified – The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ
   J N Darby Darby Simplified – The Notion of a Clergyman, Dispensationally the Sin against the Holy Ghost

 

 

 

The Faith once delivered to the Saints

Summary of Summaries

The Faith once delivered to the Saints”   – or -Knowing where we are, and what God wants us to do, in the Confused State of Christendom

 

In this paper John Darby notes that whatever God sets up perfectly, man ruins.   This applies equally to the Church and we must accept our part in its public failure.  But it remains the Church, and it is for us to be faithful to the Lord.  We are in the last days and the Lord’s coming is imminent, so we are exhorted to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude:3).

Despite the public situation, we need to have a conscience as to what is evil, and keep close to the Lord,   We must heed the Holy Spirit, judging evil, resting the word, not the teachings of men.  We must be prepared to act alone or with just a few.  Only then we can then get a view of God’s work, and know what God’s mind is for us on our path, individually and collectively.  And we can trust in God, not in our own reasoning – in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:” (Isaiah 30:15)

Church Unity and Sectarianism – or -The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ

 

That they all may be one; John 17:21

In this paper Darby’s objective was to show Christians how the Church can be united according to the Word of God, and how it should operate consistently.  The Church would therefore be strengthened in its hopes, showing the world the power of God’s grace.  At the same time believers would be led to rely more on the Holy Spirit and less on human plans and co-operative schemes.

Darby looks at the way in which the public Christian Church has degenerated with worldliness, human organisation, tolerance of evil and sectarian fragmentation, running counter to the Lord’s words That they all may be one.

Church unity cannot be achieved by human compromise and confederacy.  It can only be in looking to the Lord Himself, giving Him His place, by the Holy Spirit, going forth to him without the camp and being not of the world.

Separation from Evil and Christian Unity- or – Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity

 

Darby observed that, despite the brokenness of the church publicly, right-minded Christians were craving for unity.  However, for Christians to be united, their union must be centred on God, who is righteous and holy.

 

But we are in a secular and religious world that is full of evil, and God cannot be united with evil.  The Christian must separate from what is evil before unity can be considered.  Christ – who died, rose again and ascended is to be the Centre, and the Lord’s Supper the symbol and expression of unity and fellowship.  Let us go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

If the Church is to be maintained separate from evil, it is called upon to judge them that are within.  Only thus can Christian unity be maintained in the power of the Holy Spirit and with an honest conscience.

God’s Love and Grace – Holiness, Unity and Christian Gathering – or Grace, the Power of Unity and of Gathering

 

After maintaining that separation from evil must be the principle of unity, Darby was at pains to show that it cannot be the power to gather Christians.  Holiness may attract them together, but the power to gather is grace, working in love – love through faith.  If Christians gather purely out of separation from evil, they become occupied with the evil, which is not of God.

We are to be separated from evil, but separated to God.  And that is in grace, so we abound in love towards one another, our fellowship being with the Father and the Son, grace alone having revealed God’s heart.  Active love gathers us together.

Independent Churches, Independent Local Assemblies, Personal Judgment and Conscience – or – On Ecclesiastical Independency

 

Darby observed the tendency of Christians to confuse their private, independent judgment with their conscience.  My individual judgment, even if well intentioned, may be as a result of my own will, and I will act independently, whereas conscience relates to God’s rights, the Word and the Lord’s authority.  If I am disobedient, I am acting independently, in self-will, and am despising God’s authority.

There is only one Church of God – the body of Christ.  An action in one gathering is binding on all, even if I personally have reservations about it.  Scripture does not support independent churches, whether in a place or universally.  Although many Christians might prefer to belong to independent assemblies, these are unscriptural, the work of Satan and positively evil, flying in the face of known truth.

If there is blasphemy in a local assembly or association with it, then I have to act.  That is not independence, but I am acting in the light of the whole:  “Because we, being many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17 JND).  We profess to be one body whenever we break bread; scripture knows nothing else.

The Church as the Body of Christ, the Church as the Habitation of God, and Local Churches – or – Churches and the Church

 

In this paper, J.N. Darby introduced the thought of the local assembly and its function.

Most people, Christians included, think of churches in terms of the Anglican Church, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Church, the Roman Catholic Church etc., and the structures, church organisations and buildings associated with them.  However, scripturally the Church is the Body of Christ, and churches the expression of that body in a place.  Teachers, shepherds, evangelists and other gifts apply to the whole Church.  Elders (or overseers) are local.  The idea of a single person, appointed or voted into a professional position is totally of man’s order and sets aside the Spirit of God.

If we believe that the public church is ruined, and governed by man, not the Holy Spirit, then we should humbly cry to the Lord.  He will meet us in our need.

The Evil of Clericalism – or – The Notion of a Clergyman, Dispensationally the sin against the Holy Ghost

 

When John Nelson Darby, a former clergyman himself, published ‘The Notion of a Clergyman, dispensationally the sin against the Holy Ghost.’ with its understandably provocative title, it was said that he was accusing every clergyman or appointed leader of committing the sin against the Holy Spirit.  He was at pains to show that this was far from the truth.

Darby’s issue was that any human appointment, whether by delegation or election, substituted the direct sovereign action of the Holy Spirit, by that of man. This is the notion of a clergyman.  The system is wrong.  It substitutes man for God.  True ministry is by the gift and the power of God’s Spirit, not by man’s appointment.

If the authority of the clergy is derived from man, it follows that anything that is of God, by the Holy Spirit must be condemned by the system and classed as evil.  This, then, is the sin against the Holy Spirit in this dispensation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing where we are, and what God wants us to do, in the Confused State of Christendom

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

“The Faith once delivered to the Saints” 

What God sets up perfectly, main ruins.  This applies equally to the Church publicly.  But it remains the Church, and it is for us to be faithful to the Lord accepting our part in its public failure.  We are in the last days and the Lord’s coming is imminent, so we are exhorted to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude:3).

We need to have a conscience about what is evil, and to keep close to the Lord, recognising the public situation. We must heed the Holy Spirit, so as to judge evil, and rest on the word, not the teachings of men.  We must be prepared to act alone or with few and then we can then get a view of what God has here.  So we should know what God’s mind is for us on our path, individually and collectively.  And we can trust in God, not in our own reasoning – in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:” (Isaiah 30:15)

To view the complete paper – The Faith once delivered to the Saints

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 32 Miscellaneous 1 – p379) containing this article click here

Trusting in God

God in grace has put us, Christians, on a path, both individually and collectively.  It is important therefore for us to know where we are on that path and what God’s mind for us on it.   Our circumstances may vary, but God’s principles never vary.  While God’s thoughts do not change, we need spiritual discernment to see where we are, and how we can go on with God, without departing from the great principles laid down for us in God’s Word.

God said to a rebellious people, under attack in Hezekiah’s time “in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:” (Isaiah 30:15). The people were being called “not my people” (Hosea 1:9).  God’s mind never changed as to His people, but they were protected during Hezekiah’s time. Later they were to experience judgment.  Still those who trusted would be preserved.

Man spoils what God sets up

In Adam, Noah, Aaron, Solomon and Nebuchadnezzar, God set up something good.  Man spoilt it.  That is because of his poor human nature.  We must bear this in mind when assessing our position, otherwise it will become our own ruin.  We cannot plead God’s faithfulness and promises in order to sanction evil.

As God carries on, a remnant is preserved in tune with Him.  So just before the Lord came there were small numbers – Zacharias, Mary, Simeon, Anna – they were awaiting redemption.  They knew one another and were intelligent too as to the Lord’s entry.  Meanwhile Israel rejected Christ when He came.

There was soon Failure in the Early Church

If we look at the Church, God’s assembly on earth, in the early days of the Acts of the Apostles, 3000 were converted in one day.  All had one heart and one mind and they had everything in common.   The power of the Spirit of God was there and the place was shaken where they were.

Evil got in when Ananias and Sapphira made things out to be different from what they were.  But because the Spirit of God was there, these two fell dead and fear came upon all, both inside and outside.  However, that line of corruption has continued, so that even before the close of scripture the whole profession was mixed up with the world, and judgment was called for.   Just look at the church now, the Roman Catholic system included!

Have a Conscience about our Position in the Church

Due to a lack conscience, most do not have a sense of the condition that they are in, and also how God is working.   To be intelligent spiritually, as being part of the professing church, we need a sense of our condition.

We may have to act Individually

Abraham acted alone – Look to Abraham … I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him (Isaiah 51:2) .  Being little was of no consequence.  God blessed him; He will bless us still more.

The Church teaching? – and the Holy Scriptures

The Church’s teaching?  People say the church teaches this and that, but who is that? The church? What do they mean?  We never see the church teaching.  The church does not teach – it is taught; individuals teach. But remember that there is no inspired person in the church now to teach with absolute authority.  So for authority we must turn to the Word of God itself.  We must learn from Peter and Paul.

Paul reminds Timothy of the things he had learned – the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).

The scriptures are the direct authority of God; they determine everything.  Meanwhile we have His Spirit to communicate things.  We have ministry too, which is a help.  But it is a poor thing if we look only to men as guides.

We are in the Last Days –and it is a time of Judgment

It is on the authority of scripture that we know that we are in the last days.  Unfortunately many people do not appreciate that.  Being in them requires us to have a judgment as to the general condition around us.  What so many do, even if they have right feelings as to the condition, is to shelter in what they regard as the church’s teaching, a wrong principle as we have seen.

We see from scripture that the Church has departed from God, and ruined what He set up.  That was already happening when Jude wrote: it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude:3).

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17).   In Ezekiel judgment was to start at God’s house – begin at my sanctuary, (Ezekiel 9:6).

As to the last days John said, Even now are there many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18).  God has borne with the state of the church for centuries: it has not improved.  Now God is calling souls to Himself in grace (as He did Israel).

Our hearts should take notice:  what was set up so beautifully in the power of God’s Spirit – what has it all come to?  It casts us on the strength that can never fail!

The Lord Judging the Churches

In Revelation 2-3, Christ addresses the seven churches in Asia.   He was not speaking to the churches as Head of the body, though He is always that, but as looking on them in their responsibility to maintain His interests down here on the earth.  This was Christ walking in the midst of the candlesticks, judging the state of the churches.  The Churches had to listen to what He had to say.  What had they made of the blessings that had been entrusted to them?   For example, to the young assembly in Thessalonica (Thessaloniki) the Bible speaks of works, labour, faith, love, patience and hope; but to mature Ephesus it is just works, labour and patience – faith and love were missing.  Indeed in Ephesus the spring was missing – judgement was needed, and the candlestick would be removed if they did not repent.  Hence the faithful were exhorted: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 2:7 etc).

The Public Ruin of the Church

Christians were losing their place. “All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philippians 2:21) , but they did not cease being the church.  Nevertheless it says, “In the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of their own selves and so on; (2 Tim. 3:1-2).   Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).  There is the professing church, such as it is, and things would return to the level of heathendom.   Mere formality was leading to infidelity or superstition and it was clear that this is how things were going.

The Church has failed publicly in being the representative of Christ.  It is not a question of apportioning blame or attacking persons, because we are all involved.   Things were set up so beautifully in the power of God’s Spirit – what have they all come to?  It has not ceased to be the church of God.  But the state of the Church has to be judged.  But grace fits the condition.

The Answer to the Church’s Condition is in Jesus

Christ is as sufficient for the Church now, as He was at when He first set up the church in its beauty and blessedness.  We have to look at His word and see what His mind is, whilst not hiding our eyes from the state we are in.  There is power to overcome in the midst of evil.

Things get mixed up – the good and the evil go on together.  The wise and foolish virgins were all asleep, but things changed at the words ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh’ (Matthew 25:6).  The Lord’s coming is imminent.  Our relationship with God is to be more than our testimony to men, otherwise we will break down and fail.  We must renew our strength.  We must remain in that which was from the beginning.  If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father (1 John 2:24).  The great secret of Christian life is our intercourse with God by the Holy Spirit.  And that makes nothing of ourselves.

When the children of Israel failed in Joshua’s time, they had to get back to Gilgal – complete separation from the world.  But the angel of the Lord went to Bochim, the place of tears.  This means that as well as being separate,  we should feel the situation.

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus will be Persecuted

It does not say that every Christian will be persecuted, but all that will live godly (2 Timothy 3:12).  The world will not stand a man showing the power of the spirit of God.  It drew out the enmity when Christ was here, and it does now.  All those who seek to be faithful to the Lord in days of departure can expect that.

Seeing the Church Here

I see what God set up; I see the unity of the body, and Christ as the Head.  That is what the Church was to be on earth.  Jesus said “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).  It is Christ’s building, and that building is going on still.  It is not finished.  Paul says of the building, fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.  (Ephesians 2:21).  Now that is what Christ’s work is – men call it the invisible church.

We are building, and if rightly, on the foundation laid by Paul.  If I build with the wrong materials wood, hay, stubble my work will be destroyed.  But Hades gates will not prevail. 1 Corinthians 3:12 .

The Work of the Holy Spirit

As an individual I find that the secret of power of good against evil, outside or inside, is the presence of the Spirit of God, – the Word being the guide.  Paul said to some going on badly, “Do you believe, beloved friends, that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” 1 Corinthians 6:19).  Then what kind of persons ought we to be?

It is the same collectively, “know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians  3:16 ).  The presence of the Spirit gives power for real blessing – whether in the church or the individual.

Now, we have true and full redemption; the Holy Spirit dwells in those who believe.  We can be the expression of what Christ was Himself when He was down here.  When a person is really a Christian, God dwells in him; he is sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the power for all moral conduct. If we really believe this should not we be in subjection and not grieving the Spirit?

Things which are inconceivable to man are revealed unto us by God’s Spirit  (1 Corinthians 2:9).  The Spirit of God and the spirit of the world are always in contrast.  What God has revealed is, in spite of our state, and this includes our apprehension of the Church in these days of ruin.

In 1 Corinthians 2 the Holy Spirit is seen in three ways

  • Things are revealed by the Spirit;
  • Things communicated in teaching by the Spirit;
  • Things spiritually discerned  – received by the power of the Spirit.

 

A Warning

I cannot have my private judgment in the things of God.  The moment I get my own thoughts into divine things I start judging the Word of God.  Not accepting God’s word in Scripture is one sign of the evil of our times.  But if I own the Word of God, brought by His Spirit, I hear what God says to me: it judges me; I do not judge it.  It is the divine word brought to my conscience and heart, and who am I to judge God when God is speaking to me?  But it has to be the Word of God – what was inspired at the beginning, and nothing else.

If I were to say I understand and judge the Word of God by itself, I am a rationalist – it is man’s mind judging the revelation of God.  But where I get God’s mind communicated by the Holy Ghost, spiritually discerned, I get God’s mind.  God has given us the wisdom and power to meet the state of ruin in which we are now,  just as at first when He set up the church.  That is what I have to lean upon.

 

 

Darby on Church Unity and Sectarianism

 

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ

 

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me  – John 17:21

In this paper Darby’s objective was, with God’s blessing, to show Christians how the Church can be united according to the Word of God, and how it should operate consistently.  It would therefore be strengthened in its hopes and show the world clearly the power of God’s grace, leading believers to rely more on the Holy Spirit and less on human plans and co-operative schemes.

Darby looks at the way in which the public Christian Church has degenerated with worldliness, human organisation, tolerance of evil and sectarian fragmentation, running counter to the Lord’s words That they all may be one.

Church unity cannot be achieved by human compromise and confederacy.  It can only be in looking to the Lord Himself, giving Him His place, by the Holy Spirit, going forth to him without the camp and being not of the world.

To view the complete paper – Considerations on the Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ 

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 1 Ecclesiastical 1 – p20) containing this article click here

The Truth of the Gospel

All genuine Protestant churches profess the great truths of the gospel.   Receiving the gospel by faith leads to our having pure desires in love and a life for Him who died for us and rose again, a life of hope in His glory.

The Sectarian Situation of the Public Church

However, believers’ standards of unity and gathering are generally very mixed, falling far below God’s.  If unity were based on human standards, God would be acquiescing in the moral inconsistency of degenerate man, sinking below the glory of Christ, without even a testimony to His being dishonoured.

Unity in the Early Church

In the early church there was unity. “The Lord added daily such as should be saved“, was when none said anything was his own (Acts 2:43-47), and their conversation was in heaven (Phil 3:20); for they could not be divided in the common hope of that.  It knit their hearts together.

But soon division began about the goods of the church; for where there could be division, there could be selfish interests.

The Church in the Dark Ages

In the hundreds of years leading up to the Revelation, there had been judgments which dishonoured to God.  Meanwhile the church was sinking, and utterly sank in apostasy.   Indeed, apostasy and moral corruption overwhelmed the professing church.

Witnesses sighed and cried for the abominations that were done in the church.  Even without much spiritual understanding and teaching, but the redemption by the Lord Jesus, they testified against the state of the degenerated church.

The Reformation

We are therefore thankful for the Reformation.   However, this did not institute a pure form of church, but re-established “Justification by faith” in which believers might find life. Sadly, it was mixed with human activities and much of the old system remained.  Whilst those involved were excellent saints, the character of the Church remained short of that which was acceptable to God.

Non Conformist Movements and Sects

As religious and world leaders were more secularly minded and alienated from God, many recognising the authority of the Word of God, separated seeking to follow it more closely.   Hence arose all the branches of nonconformity and dissent.

So long as people pride themselves on being Church of England, Presbyterian, Baptist, Independent, or anything else, they are antichristian. How then are we to be united? –  it must be the work of the Spirit of God.  Believers should consider , “Is Christ divided? (1 Cor 1:13) whereas there is among you envying and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Cor 3:3)  Darby wrote: “There is no professed unity among you at all.”

What do we see?   Both the Established and non-conformist churches are using unbelievers to gain secular advantages and honours of that world – the very world out of which the Lord came to redeem us.  Are they behaving  like His peculiar people? What can I to do with these things? Nothing.

Because of the diversity of sects, the true Church of God has no avowed communion at all.  This is an anomaly.   Individuals of the children of God are to be found in all the different denominations, professing the same pure faith; but where is their bond of union?  Indeed, the bond of communion is not the unity of the people of God, but in fact on their differences.

If this is correct, we must conclude that one who seeks the interests of any particular denomination is an enemy to the work of the Spirit of God.   Those who believe in “the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:16) ought therefore to keep separate from such activities, otherwise they are drawing back the church to a state occasioned by ignorance and non-subjection to the word.  A most subtle and mental disease prevails amongst groups of Christians, especially those of higher orders.  This can be illustrated by what the disciples said,  “he followeth not us,” (Mark 9:38). Let us not hinder the manifestation of the church by this spirit.  This line of thinking infests groups of Christians, especially those of higher orders.

Could there be a Union of Protestant Churches?

If Protestants formed a formal union, it would be impossible that such a body could be at all recognised as the church of God.  It would be a counterpart to the Roman Church, but without the power of the word and the unity of spiritual life.

No meeting, which is not framed to embrace all the children of God in the full basis of the kingdom of the Son, can find the fullness of blessing, because it does not contemplate it – because its faith does not embrace it.

Protestants have often professed to the Roman Catholics that their unity in doctrinal faith.  Why then is there not an actual unity?  If they see error in each other, ought they not to be humbled for each other?  If there was diversity of mind, instead of disputing on the footing of ignorance, why not wait in prayer, that God might reveal this also unto them?  Yet I well know that, till the spirit of the world be purged from amongst them, unity cannot be, nor can believers find safe rest.

Unity is the glory of the Christian Church; but unity to secure and promote our own interests is not the unity of the church.  It is confederacy, and a denial of the nature and hope of the church and not the Lord’s work.

Non-sectarian Christian movements

The people of God have found a sort of remedy for this disunion in the Bible Society, and other missionary ventures, giving a sort of vague unity in the common acknowledgment of the word, or of of desire and action.  In many instances the genuine cravings of a mind actuated by the Spirit of God has been behind it, and doubtless partially afforded testimony to what the Church was.

How God sees the Disunity in the Christian Church

Sensing our immense distance from genuinely exhibiting the purpose of God in His church, we ought to be thankful that He still deals with us. It should lead us also to seek Christ’s current mind, so that our path may be according to His present will, rather than our own.

It was God’s purpose in Christ to gather into one all things in heaven and on earth; reconciled unto Himself in Him; and that the church, by the energy of the Spirit should be the witness of this on earth. Believers would know therefore that all who are born of the Spirit have substantial unity of mind, so as to know and love each other, as brothers and sisters.  What is more, they were so to be all one, as that the world would know that Jesus was sent of God.  But this is not all.  Sadly this has not been fulfilled in practice, and in this we must all confess our sad failure.

Are believers happy with the current state of the Church?  Clearly not.  Do we not believe that it has, as a body, utterly departed from Christ?  Has it been  restored so that He would be glorified in it at His appearing?   Is there not a practical spirit of worldliness at variance with the death and coming again of the Lord Jesus as Saviour.

Darby said “I shall seek to establish healthful principles: for it is manifest to me, that it must flow from the growing influence of the Spirit of God and His unseen teaching; but we may observe what are positive hindrances, and in what that union consisted.”

The Self-complacent Christian Church

Christians are little aware how the spirit of the world prevails in their minds and how they seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.  While the spirit of the world prevails spiritual union cannot subsist.  Believers think, because they have been delivered from secular dominion, that they are free from the practical spirit which gave rise to it; and because God has wrought much deliverance, therefore they are to be content.  In this state of self-complacency, the springs of grace and spiritual communion dry up.

We have learned to trust in too much in the outward ‘Temple of the Lord’, adorned with goodly stones and gifts, and have ceased to look to the Lord of the temple.  We have almost ceased to walk by faith.  The unclean spirit of idolatry may have been purged out; but the great question still remains, whether there is the effectual presence of the Spirit of the Lord.

The original State of the Christian Church cannot be restored

Those who parted the Saviour’s garments among them could not rend that inner vest – which was inseparably one in its nature.  That has fallen into the hands of those who do not care for Him, the Lord will never clothe Himself with it again.

The Christian’s Call

Should believers to correct the churches? Darby says, “I am beseeching them to correct themselves, by living up, in some measure, to the hope of their calling. I beseech them to show their faith in the death of the Lord Jesus, and their boast in the glorious assurance which they have obtained by it, by conformity to it – to show their faith in His coming, and practically to look for it by a life suitable to desires fixed upon it”. Let believers testify against the secularity and blindness of the church; but let them be consistent in their own conduct. “Let your moderation be known to all men.” (Phil 4:5)

The Practical Way for the Christian Believer

We as believers can see in ourselves things that are practically inconsistent with the power of Lord’s return.  We are conforming to the world, showing that the cross does not have its proper glory in our eyes.   However,  we can be thankful that we have a way marked out for us in the word.

Our duty as believers is to be witnesses of what we believe.  God says “Ye are my witnesses” (Isa 43:12) in His challenge to the false gods; and as Christ is the faithful and true Witness, such ought the church to be. Of what then is the church to be a witness? – against the idolatrous glory of the world. How? by its members being in practical conformity to His death, with a true belief in the cross,  crucified to the world, and the world to them.

If we are not living in the power of the Lord’s kingdom, we certainly shall not be consistent in seeking its ends.

Two or three are gathered together in His name

Where two or three are gathered together in His name, (Matt 18:20), there is blessing; because they are met in the fullness of the power of the unchangeable interests of that everlasting kingdom in which it has pleased God, the glorious Jehovah, to glorify Himself.  He has been pleased to make His name and saving grace known in the Person of the Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the name of Christ, even two or thrr enter (in whatever measure of faith) into the full counsels of God.  They are “God’s fellow-workmen.” (1 Cor 3:9).  Therefore whatever they ask is done, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13).  As we seek the Lord’s glory of the Lord we will find personal blessing.

In the Lord and His Death on the Cross we find Christian Unity

In the Lord alone we find unity.  He declares, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will drawn all men unto me: this he said signifying what death he should die.”  It is then Christ who will draw to Himself by being lifted up from the earth (John 12:32).  So we find His death is the centre of communion till His coming again. In this rests the whole power of the truth and nothing short of this can produce unity.  Otherwise He that gathereth not with him, scattereth Matt 12:30).

The Lord’s Supper is the Symbol of Christian Unity

The outward symbol and instrument of unity is the partaking of the Lord’s supper – for we being many are “One bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” 1 Cor 10:17 And “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (1 Cor 11:26).  Therefore the essential and substantial unity, to be seen in glory at His coming, is conformity to His death, because that is how the glory was brought about. The Lord’s death is the sole foundation on which a soul is built for eternal glory.

Unity of the Spirit

There are two things in seeking unity, which we have to consider.

  • Are our objects in our work exclusively the Lord’s objects?
  • Is our conduct the witness of our objects?

 

Have we faith in these things? How shall we show it? By acting on these directions of our Lord:  If any man serve me let him follow me, and where I am, there shall also my servant be.  (John 12:26)

Unity of the Christian Church, is the unity of the Spirit, and can only be in the things of the Spirit.  It therefore can only exist between persons who seek to be led by the Spirit of God

So there can only be Christian unity if the Spirit of God brings God’s people together.  And it can only be achieved as they follow the Author and Completer of faith, looking for His return.

Let us go forth to Him

The children of God can but follow one thing – the glory of the Lord’s name, according to the way marked in the word.  They have nothing else left, but as He, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, “suffered without the gate, to go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” (Heb 13:!3)

But what are the people of the Lord to do? Let them wait upon the Lord, according to the teaching of His Spirit, and in conformity to the image of God’s Son, by the life of the Spirit.  Let them go in the footsteps of the flock, as the good Shepherd feeds His flock.  And if this way seem dark, remember the word of Isaiah: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” (Isa 50:10)

A Plea for the Church

The Lord Himself says, “That they all may be one; as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:21-23)

May we as believers consider this word, and see if the Church shining in the glory of the Lord, and fulfilling that purpose for which bit was called.  Do we look for or desire this? or are we content to sit down and say, that His promise cannot be fulfilled?

If we cannot say, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee,”  (Isa 60:1) we should say, “Awake, awake, put on thy strength, arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, as in the generations of old” (Isa 51:9)

“Surely the eye hath not seen nor ear heard what He prepareth for him that waiteth for Him”.  (1 Cor 2:9)

 

 

 

Darby Simplified – On Separation from Evil and Christian Unity

 

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity

 

Every right-minded Christian feels the need of unity. However if Christians are to be united, the union must be centred on God who is righteous and holy. The secular and religious world is full of evil, and God cannot be united with evil. The Christian must separate from the evil – and only then can unity be considered. Christ – who died, rose again and ascended is to be the Centre, and the Lord’s Supper the symbol and expression of unity and fellowship. Let us go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

If the Church is to be maintained separate from evil, it is called upon to judge them that are within. Thus Christian unity is maintained in the power of the Holy Spirit and an honest conscience.

To view the complete paper – Separation from Evil – God’s Principle of Unity – Click here

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 1 Ecclesiastical 1 – p353)  containing this article click here

Christians desire Unity, but how?

Every right-minded Christian feels the need of unity now. Saints appreciate both grace, truth, and also the one body. However, we all feel the power of evil, in Christendom.  Christians of all types cannot be blind to that.

But there are many opinions as to how unity can be achieved.  Some people might continue to trust in their existing bulwarks in spite of the many shortcomings they find; others might trust in a particular aspect of the truth, others to a union through a compromise agreement. None of these are ever satisfactory.

Partisan Sectarianism

Some may abstain from any agreed union, generally due to existing obligations or relationships. They tend only to form a party.

If denominationalism is used as a basis of some kind of church unity, any divergence is regarded as divisive. Denominationalism attaches the name of Christian unity to what is not God’s centre and plan of unity.

God Himself has to be the Spring and Centre of Unity

God Himself has to be the spring and centre of unity, which He alone may be in power or name. Any centre of unity outside God is a denial of His Godhead and glory, an independent centre of influence and power. God is one – the righteous, true, and sole centre of true Christian unity. What is not of God is rebellion. God should be the centre in blessing and power.

Unity in Creation

The principle of unity is true in creation. It was shaped in unity with God as its only centre. It will be brought back into unity once more, centred in Christ as Head, since all things were created by him, and for him. (Colossians 1:16).

It was man’s glory to have dominion with Eve as his dependent help-mate. He was the image and glory of God. His dependence made him look up to God.

The Fall of Man

Man’s fall reversed this. Man became independent – in sin and rebellion he has become the slave of a mightier rebel than himself.  Initially, he was in innocence, a blessed but not a divine state.  But this was lost in his assertion of independence.  If man became as God, knowing good and evil, it was because he had a guilty conscience.  He knew evil and had become the slave of it.  And he could not sustain himself.  He had morally lost his dependence on God to rely on himself.

Separation from Evil necessarily becomes sole Basis of Unity

Evil then exists. The world is in wickedness, while the God of unity is the Holy God. God cannot be united with evil. Thus, separation from evil necessarily becomes the sole basis and principle of unity. As evil and consequently corruption exists, those who desire to be in God’s unity must be separate from it. Otherwise one is attaching God’s authority to evil, rebelling against His authority, and being independent of Him.  God must be the centre and power of that unity.

Worldliness destroys Unity

Worldliness always destroys unity. The flesh cannot ascend to heaven, nor go down to meet every need in love. It walks in schismatic self-importance. “I am of Paul,” etc. ” The sectarian minded Christians in Corinth were earthly-minded and unity had disappeared.

False Unity is not of God

Latitudinarianism or the maintenance of outward unity by broad religious tolerance unity might be respectable and amiable in the religious world, as it is often connected with good intentions. However it is permissive and does not exercise the conscience. Often those with liberal views will regard those who do not subscribe to these views as narrow, divisive and sectarian.

Confederacy, or the outward bringing together of different groups, is not unity. This unity is professed to be of the church of God, but it is not based on separation from evil.  Bringing companies together without evil being dealt with is a serious matter. The only way that such confederacy is held together is by the clerical principle. Indeed, the Holy Spirit cannot be its power, and clericalism takes its place, guides and rules in its place. Otherwise such a body falls apart.

God is Working in the Midst of Evil to Produce a Unity of which He is the Centre and the Spring, and which owns His authority

God is not doing this by judicially clearing away the wicked. But He cannot unite with or have a union with anything that serves the wicked. So He separates the called ones from the evil. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:17-18

God says “Come out from among them“. He could not have gathered true unity around Him otherwise. Since evil exists (our natural condition) there can only be union where the Holy God is the centre and power by separation from evil. Separation is the base of unity and union.

Unity must have a sole and unrivalled Centre – It is Christ

For unity to be maintained there must be an intrinsic power holding the union to its exclusive centre. When such a centre is found it denies all others. There must also be a power separating from evil from it when it arises. The answer is simple for the Christian – Christ. He is the object of the divine counsel – the manifestation of God Himself – the unique vessel of mediatorial power, entitled to unite creation as He is the one by whom and for whom all things were made.   To the church He is its Redeemer, its head, its glory, and its life.  This is a double headship – He is the head over all things to the church which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:23).

Christ becomes, as the centre of divine affections in man, the One round which Christians are to be gathered. He is the sole divine centre of unity. Hence Jesus says “he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” (Luke 11:23). Even in death He said: “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32) And more specifically, He gave Himself “not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God which were scattered abroad.” (John 11:52) But here again, we find this separation of a peculiar people, “He gave himself for us that he might . . . purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”(Titus 2:14). He was the very pattern of the divine life in man, separate from the evil around. He was the friend of publicans and sinners, displaying grace and love to men; but He was always the separate Man.

The Church’s Centre

Christ is the both centre of the church and the high-priest. “Such a high-priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” – and, it is added, “made higher than the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:26) So the centre and subject of this unity is heavenly. By His death He broke down the middle wall of partition, dividing Jew and Gentile, making them into one. Now as risen, higher than the heavens He becomes the centre and exclusive object of unity amongst Christians.

Let us go forth to Him without the Camp, Bearing His Reproach

Let us go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” (Hebrews 13:13). The Lord’s own were not to be taken out of the world, but kept from the evil, and sanctified through the truth. Accordingly, Jesus has set Himself and us apart to this end.

The Holy Spirit is the Centre and Power down here of the Unity of the Church in Christ’s name

The Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven to identify the called ones with their heavenly Head, and to separate them to Christ out of the world in which they were to remain. Hence God Himself in the Holy Spirit, as dwelling amongst them, becomes the centre and power down here of the unity of the church in Christ’s name. The saints, therefore are gathered into one, became the habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). Indeed, the very name of Holy Spirit implies it; for holiness is separation from evil. Otherwise we would provoke the Lord to jealousy, as if we were stronger than He.

The Lord’s Supper is the Symbol and Expression of Unity and Fellowship

For we, being many, are all one bread (loaf), for we are all partakers of that one bread.(1 Corinthians 10:17).

Unity is maintained by the judicial function in the church

How will separation from evil maintain unity?  Here we must touch on mystery of iniquity, since the very nature of the Holy God cannot be put aside.  Separation from evil is the necessary result of The Holy Spirit of God’s presence.  Through holiness there is the power to reject evil.  This has a direct effect on believers’ conduct and fellowship.  When evil arises there is the power against evil because of the need to maintain the sanctity of the position.  Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

Thus the church maintains its separation from evil.  And unity is maintained within the power of the Holy Spirit and an honest conscience.

Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity

The Lord exposes evil to the body through the word or by judgment.  In so doing it maintains the body’s spiritual energy, holding to His glory and its place.  If the church refuses to answer to God’s nature and character, by not separating from evil, it becomes a false witness for God.  Then the primary and changeless principle recurs, the evil must be separated from. “Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19).  Whatever the consequences are, it makes no difference: it is a matter of faith.

For the saint in these days who seeks to walk truly and thoroughly with God, these principles are fundamental.

J N Darby  – Summary by Sosthenes – August 2013

 

 

Darby Simplified – On God’s Love and Grace – Holiness, Unity and Christian Gathering 

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

Grace, the Power of Unity and of Gathering

 

Grace is the active power that unites and gathers saints together.  Separation from evil is necessary, but it cannot be the power to gather Christians. Holiness may attract, but the power to gather is grace, working in love – love through faith.

We are to be separated from evil, but separated to God.  And that is in love, so we abound in love towards one another, our fellowship being with the Father and the Son, grace alone having revealed God’s heart.  Active love gathers us.

If Christians gather purely out of separation from evil, they become occupied with the evil, which is not of God.

To view the complete paper – Grace, the Power of Unity and of Gathering 

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 1 Ecclesiastical 1 – p366) containing this article click here

God’s Holiness, Love and Grace

In God’s nature there is both holiness and love. As Christian saints we possess these because of the life that has been given to us.  Holiness, is needed by all who approach God, but love, the spring of activity, provides the energy for us to do so.  God is holy – God is not just loving, but love.  Wherever love is found, it is of God, for God is love.  This is the blessed active energy of His being.  And God displays His love in the riches of His grace to sinners.  It is to their eternal blessing as He will show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Eph 2:7)

God imputes no sin to the Church. Through grace and redemption this fact is always blessedly and eternally true.

We are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. (Eph 1:4).  God is holy; God is love, and in His ways, blameless.  We are sinners. but in His love God has put sinners in the place of holiness and blamelessness.  He has shown us favour in the Beloved – In Christ the Son, the blessed one.  We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (what we need) – so we can enter where we can be to the praise of the glory of His grace – and this according to the riches of his grace (Eph 1:6-7)

Our Heavenly Position

When Christ was here He was alone; grace was rejected here, but in His death redemption was accomplished and atonement made.  Jesus has revealed God, even though His power is seen in creation, and we thus know Him to be love and light too. Blessed knowledge!

In the exercise of that love God gathers to Himself those who display that love in Christ. He is the great power and centre.

In bringing us into unity, God has the highest thoughts for us.  In Eph 1:3the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.  In John 20:17, Christ speaks of us as His brethren.  Our wonderful part in sweet and blessed grace is up there in the best and highest sphere of blessing, where He dwells.

We therefore have an inheritance.  The Holy Ghost is the earnest of the inheritance, (Eph 1:14) but not of God’s love. That is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us.  (Rom 5:5).

“Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity.”

Darby’s earlier tract “Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity” bore on state of the Church of God in general, and not any member in particular.  However, anybody denying the basic principles of that tract is not on Christian ground at all.  Is not holiness the principle on which Christian fellowship is based?  And the real message of that tract is simply that.

The Danger of becoming Occupied with Evil

Separation from evil, distinguishes the person who separates from the person who is separated from.  The danger when we separate we get over-occupied with our position as separate – this tends to make our position important to us.  Our treacherous human hearts being what they are, mix up our position with self.  If separation from evil becomes the gathering power, then what is in my mind is my position, and I am over-occupied by its importance.

As a Christian separates from evil, it is the evil acting on the conscience of the new man, which drives him out. He knows it to be offensive to God but if he becomes occupied with the evil, he is in a dangerous situation.  Naturally he is anxious about those he has left, to justify and demonstrate to them clearly the ground on which he left.  Meanwhile those he has left tend to cover things up in order to explain their position.  So our friend becomes occupied with proving the evil to others. This is slippery ground for the heart, to say nothing of danger to love.  This is not holiness, nor separation from evil. It harasses the mind, and cannot feed the soul.

God separates us from evil, but He does not fill the mind if we continue to be occupied with it; because God is not in the evil.  Where conflict with evil not maintained in spiritual power, communion is lost, and it becomes impossible to maintain unity.

Real Holiness is not merely Separation from Evil, but Separation to God from Evil

What is holiness?  Holiness is separation to God.  We are brought to God and to know Him.  The prodigal came to himself and said “I will arise and go to my father.” God says “If thou wilt return, return unto me.” (Jer 4:1) A soul is never really restored until it returns to God.  Even if the fruits of flesh have been confessed, forgiveness and restoration are from God in love.

God is above all. The new holy and divine nature, being exercised in life, revolts from evil when it has to face it.  Natural conscience involves the rejection of evil.  But real holiness is not merely the rejection and the separation from evil, but separation to God from evil.  God is our object.  Real holiness, then, is separation to God, as well as from evil; for only thus are we in the light, for God is light. (1 John 1:7)

So instead of the heart being occupied with the evil, which it abhors, it is filled with good.  This does not weaken separation, but puts the evil quite out of mind and sight. Hence the heart is holy, calm, apart from, and abhorring evil.  God is good, and we can be positively filled with God in Christ.  As we become occupied with good, we become  holy.  Hence we can abhor evil, without occupying ourselves with it.

The soul goes from sin to love, and goes there because love was displayed in Him that was made sin for us.  Love is the power that separates us from evil, and ends all connection with it; for  if I die then to the nature I used to live to, I live hereafter in the blessed activity in love.

Through the Holy Spirit’s working, purifying our affections our souls are  drawn to what is good.   We recognise evil, not by a mere uneasy conscience, but by sanctification.  This is all in the power of God’s grace.

Love precedes holiness

Love comes before holiness, wither mutual amongst the Christian saints , or individual in enjoying the revelation of God.  “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints,” 1 Thess. 3:1213. Also  “Ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. … God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” (1John 1:4-6).  So separation from evil involves walking in the light, in God’s revealed character in Christ, in the truth as it is in Jesus in whom the life was the light of men (John 1:4).  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.  But what makes the fellowship?

Christ therefore becomes the centre.  Jesus had won John’s heart, and was the gathering power into fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  John knew that by the Holy Spirit. He knew that is what made the fellowship.

The true Character of Christian Fellowship – with Him, where He is, where Evil cannot come

As we have been restored to God together, we can gather to a common Christian fellowship.  We are to have fellowship in something, that is, with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus says “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me”  (John 12:32).  Now here was perfect love, entire separation from all sin and in condemnation of it.  But He is risen and ascended, so It is a heavenly place that He takes, and our gathering through the cross is to Him there, in the good where evil cannot come.  There is our communion – entering into the Father’s house in spirit.  And this is the true character of the assembly, the church, for worship in its full sense.  It remembers the cross, it worships, and all known in heaven before God.

Our fellowship or communion, is in that which is good –  heavenly, no evil being there.  Hence it is said: “If we walk in the light as God is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.”  (1 John 1:7) The only way in which we can walk out of darkness is by walking in the light, that is, with God: and God is love, and were He not, we could not walk there.

And this is true even if realised imperfectly.

Active Love Gathering Us

In love we are bought into fellowship, love acting to bring us together.  In love we have our part.  Love, while sanctifying and maintaining God’s holiness, makes us partakers of it, revealing God and gathering weary souls.

Love is active.  Jesus has revealed God, and we know Him to be love and light; He has given us eternal life.  The Lord said  : “My Father worketh hitherto and I work ”. (John5:17He gave himself . . . that he might gather into one the children of God, which were scattered abroad. (John 11:52)

It is evident to the Christian that love gathers to holiness, and on the principle of it.  Grace alone fully reveals God; without grace that to which we are to be gathered cannot be seen.  Grace reaches the heart.

Law and Grace

The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). The law told man what he ought to be. It did not tell him what he was, nor did it tell him what God was; that remained concealed.   The truth is not what ought to be, but what is – the reality of all relationships as they are, and the revelation of Him who must be the centre of them.  And that cannot be without grace, for man is a ruined sinner, and God is love.

Through grace, God Himself, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are revealed as They are, and also what man is in perfection, in relationship with God.  We see the contrasts: obedience and disobedience, holiness and sin, God and man, heaven and earth.  With the fullest revelation of Himself, we see His counsels with Christ as the centre. Hence grace is the acting power in and is alone capable of revealing truth; for Christ’s being here is grace; His working is effective grace.

Now grace is the gathering power, gathering into unity, for it must, being divine, gather to itself.  Every renewed soul must know that all such are drawn together to Christ.

Grace reigns through righteousness.  It does it by uniting souls in the power of the Holy Spirit to Jesus, the one who was here, was on the cross, but now as Christ in heaven, where our true place is by faith.

This is love, infinite, divine; and, through the Holy Ghost, we have fellowship with Him.  We join in it.  Now that, we perceive, is the gathering power for Christians who desire to be separate from evil.

A summary by Sosthenes – September 2013 

 

 

Darby Simplified – on Independent Churches, Independent Local Assemblies, Personal Judgment and Conscience

 

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

On Ecclesiastical Independency

I must not confuse my private, independent judgment  with conscience.  My conscience relates to God’s rights, the Word and the Lord’s authority.  God has vested authority in persons, even though they are not infallible.  But if I am disobedient,  I am acting independently, in self-will, and despising God’s authority.

There is only one Church of God – the body of Christ.  An action in one gathering is binding on all, even if I personally have reservations about it.  Scripture does not support independent churches, whether in a place or universally.  Many Christians might prefer to belong to independent assemblies, but these are unscriptural, the work of Satan and positively evil, flying in the face of known truth.

If there is blasphemy in an assembly or association with it, then I have to act.  That is not independence, but I act in the light of the whole:  “Because we, being many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17 JND).  We profess to be one body whenever we break bread; scripture knows nothing else.

To view the complete paper –  On Ecclesiastical Independency

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 14 Ecclesiastical 3 – p301) containing this article click here

Personal Judgment and Conscience

It is a fatal mistake to confuse your private, personal and independent judgment, with conscience.  To do so leads to chaos, confusion and disintegration.  That is the trouble with Protestantism.

A father has authority.  He is not infallible.  But I have to respect his authority, and submit to it, even if I disagree with my father.  If I disobeyed my father whenever it conflicted with personal judgment, I would be despising his authority.  In fact I am putting my self-will above obedience.   Indeed, in many situations – government, employment and so on, obedience is obligatory although there is no infallibility.  Otherwise there would be no order in the world at all.  There is blessing in doing what we know in obedience.

But if Christ’s authority is a stake, a denial of the Word, or the confession of His name, then that is a matter of conscience.  I am bound to love Christ more than father or mother.

However, obeying God rather than man is not to give liberty to the human will.  Scripture does not tolerate that.  We are sanctified to the obedience of Christ.  And this principle – our doing God’s will in simple obedience, without analysing every matter that comes up – is a path of peace.  Many who consider themselves wise do not regard that, but it is the path of God’s wisdom.

Assembly Judgment and Personal Judgment

The same principle applies in the Church.  Say a Christian assembly has put somebody out for evil.  The assembly feels that he is humbled and repentant and restores him.  I think he is not.  It would be a despisal of the assembly for me to refuse to break bread with that person because of my private judgment.  The same applies if the converse is true.  If I think he is humbled and the assembly is not, then I have to continue humbly in prayer and look to the Lord to set things right.

I might disagree with something that arises in my Christian gathering.  Who am I to impose my individual way of thinking on my brethren?    If I set up my judgment as superior to that of the Assembly of God which has been entrusted to care for the Lord’s interests, I am neglecting God’s word and He will not honour me in that.   Moreover, if I leave an assembly because it does not agree with me in everything, I cannot belong to any assembly of God anywhere the world.  I am denying the presence and help of the Holy Spirit, and the faithfulness of Christ to His people.

Darby said: There is such a thing as lowliness as to self, which does not set up its own opinion against others, though one may have no doubt of being right.

One Assembly’s Act Binds Another

Scripture does not support the idea of independent Christian assemblies.  All Christians are members of the Body of Christ.  When the assembly in Corinth was called to act as to the incestuous man in 1 Corinthians 5, that assembly was responsible for maintaining things pure for the Lord, and action was taken by the whole assembly in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.   The wicked person could not have been received in Ephesus  or nearby Cenchrea.  If assemblies acted as independent churches and received independently of one another, then they would be rejecting the unity of the body.  There could then be no practical unity.

Christian unity is maintained by the headship of Christ, not by His lordship.  Christ is Lord to individuals, but Head to the whole body, – head over all things to the church.  (Ephesians 1:22).  Therefore unity is not by lordship.  Obedient, godly individuals will help to maintain it; but unity is the unity of the Spirit, in the whole body, not in multiple bodies.

As to Church unity, scripture does not speak about churches or a bond linking individual churches. Unity does not consist of union of churches.  The idea of Independent churches: one body of Christians being independent of every other but united by voluntary association, is unscriptural.  It is a simple denial of the unity of the body.

What is an Assembly Judgment?

If a judgment is made by one or a few dominant Christians in an assembly, not by the whole assembly, then the Lord’s place in the midst of an assembly is set aside. Individuals are acting in the flesh.  It cannot be called an assembly judgment.

The saying “Obedience to first Christ, then the Church” is totally unscriptural.  That is separating the two: if Christ is not in the church, then it is not the Church of Christ.  It would justify my putting private judgment above that of the assembly.

What about Serious Church Matters?

If a Christian assembly supports or associates with what is blasphemous, then that is a totally different matter.  I cannot be associated with that.  I cannot use lowliness as to self to justify my remaining in that assembly; I would be setting aside the idea of the Church of God.  I am free to act: we are a flock, not an enclosure.

What the Church must Judge

The judicial authority of the Church of God is in obedience to the word.  Paul says “Do ye not judge them that are within? Them that are without God judgeth. Wherefore put out from among yourselves that wicked person.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)  Where a person has been judged unfit for Christian fellowship,  Christians everywhere are bound to respect it.   Even if something had been done in the flesh, it is met by recognising the supreme authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the presence of the Spirit of God amongst the saints.

It is wrong for one Christian church or assembly to assume the competency to judge another.  Otherwise that would justify independent churches.  This is unscriptural and denial of the whole structure of the Church of God.  Many Christians understandably prefer to be members of independent churches; it is more comfortable, and they can choose an assembly that suits them, but that is wrong.  The Church is not a voluntary association; It is not formed of independent churches, each acting for itself.  When Antioch admitted Gentiles, there was no suggestion that Jerusalem would not.  There is one body and every Christian has the duty to maintain its unity.  Self-will might wish otherwise, but grace certainly does not.

What if there are Difficulties in the Assembly?

We do not have an apostolic centre now, as there was in Jerusalem in Acts 15.  But we do have the the Holy Spirit, acting in healing grace and helpful gift, and the faithfulness of a gracious Lord who has promised never to leave us or forsake us.  The Holy Ghost acts in the body, maintaining its unity.

But what if the flesh acts in the Christian assembly?  It may do.  But what denies the unity of the Church, and splits it up into independent churches, is unscriptural, and nothing but the flesh.  It is the dissolution of the Church of God.  The remedy is in humble, subject minds, helped by God’s Spirit in maintaining the unity of the body and the Lord’s faithful love and care.  If I cite the question of infallibility to justify my judgment over against divinely-ordained authority met by lowly grace, I am on independent lines, rejecting the whole authority of scripture in its teaching on the subject of the Church.  I am setting up a system of man instead of God.

Is “Two or three Gathered Together” the Assembly of God?

If two or three are gathered together, it is an assembly, and if scripturally assembled in the Lord’s Name, an assembly of God.  If it is the only Christian assembly in a place, it is the assembly of God in that place.  But if souls set up an assembly, and assume the exclusive title of the assembly of God, they may lose sight of the ruin of the church.  Any assembly set up by man’s will, independent of the unity of the body cannot morally claim to be the assembly of God in God’s sight.  The whole independent system is unscriptural, the work of Satan and positively evil, flying in the face of known truth.   Ignorance is one thing; opposition to the truth is something else.

It is alleged that because the Church is in ruins the unity of the body can no longer be maintained.  So if we maintain that but gather to break bread, we are in disorder and defying God’s word “Because we, being many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17 JND).  We profess to be one body whenever we break bread; scripture knows nothing else.

 

 

Darby Simplified – on the Church as the Body of Christ, the Church as the Habitation of God, and Local Churches

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

Churches and the Church

Most people, Christians included, think of churches in terms of the Anglican Church, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Church, the Roman Catholic Church etc., and the structures, church organisations and buildings associated with them.  Scripturally the Church is the Body of Christ, and churches the expression of this in a place.  Teachers, shepherds, evangelists and other gifts apply to the whole Church.  Elders (or overseers) are local.  The idea of a single person, appointed or voted into a professional position is totally of man’s order and sets aside the Spirit of God.

If we believe that the public church is ruined, and governed by man, not the Holy Spirit, then we should humbly cry to the Lord.  He will meet us in our need.

To view the complete paper – Churches and the Church – Click here

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 20 Ecclesiastical 4 – p318) containing this 

What is the Church?

The Greek word ἐκκλησίᾳ / ekklēsia simply means assembly – generally of citizens or privileged persons.  God’s Church or assembly comprised all believers formed into one by the Holy Spirit. It is viewed as the Body of Christ and also the Habitation of God.

The Church as the Body of Christ

The assembly is the Body of Christ; – his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:23).  It is by one Spirit we are baptised into one body.  The church is still being formed, and it will only be complete in heaven.

Jesus said “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it“  (Matthew 16:18).  Peter understood this and spoke of unto whom coming, as unto a living stone, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4), and Paul “in whom the whole building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:21).  The Lord continues to add to the church those that are to be saved  (Acts 2:47), and He will have it in perfection.   This has resulted in what some call ‘the invisible church’.

When Christ ascended up on high, He gave gifts to men: apostles and prophets were the foundation (Ephesians 2:20); then there were evangelists, shepherds and teachers.  These were set in the whole church or assembly according to 1 Corinthians 12.  So a teacher in Corinth could teach in Ephesus.  A man with a gift of tongues spoke wherever he was, it was a gift to the whole body, to the perfecting of the saints and edifying of the body till we all grow to the stature of Christ  (Ephesians 4-12:13).  Christians were to wait on one another in prophesying or exhorting.  Women were to keep silent in the assemblies.

The Church as the House (or Habitation) of God

There is another view of the Church, that is the House, a habitation of God, but built by people in responsibility.  God did not dwell with Adam or Abraham, but  He did with Israel after it was redeemed out of Egypt.  He now dwells in the house of the living God, by the Holy Spirit, consequent on Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, His resurrection and ascension.   The house is where the Holy Spirit dwells –  a habitation of God through the Spirit,” (Ephesians 2:22).

That is in spite of the fact that man has built a lot that is not of God.  Paul says “As a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, but let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon (1 Corinthians 3:10)That means that there can be a lot of things which were not sound structurally – wood and hay and stubble, fit only to be burned.  However, God has not yet executed judgment, but this is why, when He does judgment must begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17)

That is how the church or assembly is depicted in scripture.

What are Churches or Assemblies?

In New Testament times, Churches were local.  Believers could not meet all in one place so there were assemblies in each town or city, each forming God’s assembly, the unity of the body, in that place.  There was one church in Corinth, one in Thessalonica, Jerusalem or Ephesus; in Galatia, a province, there were several.  Wherever there was an assembly it could be addressed as such.  Paul could write a letter unto the church of God which is at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2), and that was to the whole assembly in that city.  It could be small or large, from ‘two or three’ to hundreds or thousands.  Elders or overseers looked after God’s flock.

They did not have church buildings – they met in houses.  The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48).  Many houses must have been used, but there was just one assembly in the place and elders related to the whole assembly in the place.  The Christians that composed it were members of the whole body, not the local one, the only membership seen in scripture being of the whole of Christ’s body.

Elders (called bishops in KJV, but the word means ‘overseer’) were local.  Qualifications were needed:  blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach (1 Timothy 3:2) , Gift was not essential, though the ability to teach was desirable.   They were elders in the one assembly of God, in the place in which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers (Acts 14:23Titus 1; Acts 20:28

The State of Churches Now

Churches are totally different now.  Although the Lord still speaks, and those who have been raised up may minister as God has given them the word, man has organized them according to his fancy. The thought of Church of God has been forgotten save for owning some ‘invisible church’ to which the Lord is faithful.  This is sad, because if it is to be the light of the world, how can it be invisible?  It may be more visible when persecuted for there people give their testimony under extreme conditions.

Publicly the church has sunk into popery, or eastern orthodoxy, or Protestantism.  In the latter governments have set up national churches.  For some time after the reformation people were coerced into certain churches, but later there was religious liberty.  This led to the setting up of independent or non-conformist churches, but nobody thought of anything other than systems of organized churches, humanly united.  The unity of the body of which we were all members and that the Holy Spirit was here, the gifts being given by Christ, and those with them bearing responsibility for the whole church; all this was wholly forgotten and left aside.  Truth as contained in scripture as to the Church and the presence of the Holy Spirit was ignored.

In the establishment, episcopal authority is deemed to be passed on by succession.  Furthermore, they claim to make people members of Christ by baptism of water – totally unscriptural, instead of  seeing that one Spirit are we all baptized into one body(1 Corinthians 12:13).  Baptism is to the death of Christ.

Even outside the episcopal system assemblies are formed by men who appointe or vote for a man, or woman, at their head.   Sometimes this causes a division.  People regard themselves as members of this so-formed church or assembly – a body organised by man and acting humanly.  They may be members of Christ or not: what counts is that they are members of a particular assembly.  The way this is done varies but the Holy Spirit is totally left out of consideration.  From beginning to end, all action is of man.

What is more, the assembly has a single church leader, be it a vicar, pastor or minister.  That person, often salaried, will think of it has his flock, not the flock of God.  If gifted, he may be a preacher,  but he preaches in his church; his gift is constrained to one place.  He may even not even be converted, but he has been educated for the ministerial profession and ordained.   His object is to increase the congregation, especially of well-to-do people who can contribute to the church’s funds and influence.  If he does not succeed he may be dismissed or forced to resign.  God’s constitution for the church has ben substituted by man’s and the Holy Spirit’s power and order is ignored, if it is believed on at all.  The results – let us not even talk about them!  The miserable consequences are well known in the church and in the world too.

The Scriptural View of Churches

In scripture there is no thought of a membership of a particular church, or a vicar, minister or pastor of a flock peculiar to him, and no thought of a voluntary assembly with its own policies or principles.  There is God’s church or assembly, not man’s churches.  If Paul wrote a letter “To the assembly of God in x”, where would it be delivered now?  No such body exists because churches have set aside the Word, the church of God and the Holy Spirit.

There are evangelists, shepherds and teachers.  But they should exercise their God given talents wherever they happen to be, not in a nominated church where they are appointed or chosen, and certainly not amongst ‘their flock’.  Gifts are for the whole church.

How should a Christian view the State of Christian Churches?

When questioned, the answer from Christians who appreciate what is right is often, ‘That is how it is’.  Godly, conscientious people are conversant with the state of things, and may acknowledge the principles that we have seen.  Their groans are heard.  But the system makes them powerless. They are hindered by the fear of man, and the desire to be pleasing to men.  Paul said if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:10).  Exercised souls need to act in faith trusting God, by His Spirit, to rule and bless His own house.

2 Timothy 2 and 3 clearly point out the condition of the church in the last days, and the pathway for the believer who acknowledges that condition.

Darby asks the simple question:  Is the existing order of things scriptural or anti-scriptural? … Happy is he who follows the word, and owns the Spirit, if he be alone in doing so. The word of the Lord abides for ever, as does he who does His will.

 

 

Darby Simplified – on the Evil of Clericalism – or

The Notion of a Clergyman, Dispensationally the sin against the Holy Ghost

 

When John Nelson Darby, a former clergyman himself, published ‘The Notion of a Clergyman, dispensationally the sin against the Holy Ghost.’, with its understandably provocative title he was said that he was accusing any clergyman or appointed leader of committing the sin against the Holy Spirit.  He was at pains to show that this was far from the truth.

Darby’s issue was that any human appointment, whether by delegation or election, substituted  the direct sovereign action of the Holy Spirit, by that of man. This is the notion of a clergyman.  The system is wrong. It substitutes man for God. True ministry is by the gift and the power of God’s Spirit, not by man’s appointment.

If the authority of the clergy is derived from man, it follows that anything that is of God, by the Holy Spirit must be condemned by the system and classed as evil.  This, then, is the sin against the Holy Spirit in this dispensation.

To view the complete paper – The Notion of a Clergyman, Dispensationally the Sin against the Holy Ghost – Click here

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 1 Ecclesiastical 1 – p36) containing this article click here

The Church as a Worldly Institution

The word ‘clergy’, or the clerical principle, has the characteristic mark of apostasy in it – that is the substitution of man’s privileged order on God’s Church.   This has resulted in the Holy Spirit’s being despised in the Church.  Instead of those who had the lot of being instructors or spiritual overseers, ministers have now made themselves lords over the people and even the very Church itself.  So people speak of “going into the Church”.

Because this power is attached to the ministry, it has become the Church itself in the eyes of the world.  The world can therefore save itself the trouble of being religious by throwing all on to the clergy, so that irreligious people can regard religion is the clergy’s business, not theirs.  The substitution of the clergy for the Church is essentially apostasy.

It may be asked whether this is not really the sin against the Holy Spirit, merely resistance to Him.  However anything that interferes with the Holy Spirit’s vicarship of Christ in the world is a direct sin against Him is pure, dreadful, and destructive evil.  It is the very cause of destruction to the church.   Alas, even if not knowingly or willingly, every clergyman is contributing to this.

The Exclusive Authority of the Clergy

The Holy Spirit gives the word by whoever and whenever He choses.  But if clergymen have the exclusive privilege of preaching, teaching, and ministering communion, which is what they claim, then in their eyes anything else must be disorder and schism.

This accusation is therefore levelled directly against the sovereign operations of the Spirit of God.  That is ascribing to the power of evil that which comes from the Holy Spirit.  This is the sin (or blasphemy) against the Holy Spirit.  – This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils…whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him (Matthew 12:24,32).

God’s truth is always profitable, and by it the testimony is maintained in the world.  But the principles of the truth were established before their being subjugated by the papal power.  Believers have now to rest on the Lord, or sink into the system.  But dependence on the Lord is by the work of the Holy Spirit.  That is not resting on the official church, so it is condemned by the clerical system.  Hence, the very notion of a clergyman is effectively apostasy and rebellion against God.

 

Appointment of Clergymen and Bishops

Are all clergymen and bishops, occupying a humanly appointed office, converted themselves?  Whilst many are truly godly, there are some who are even haters of God.  If so why are they in that position in the church?  It must be that there is honour attached to the position and that they are authorised to confer honour on others.

Most godly clergymen and bishops will admit that their appointment is not by God. Accordingly, in their position of being clergymen, they are forced either to resist God in the Holy Spirit or to resist the bishops and higher authorities from whom they derive their authority.  Darby ventured to say that the most successful clergymen were the blindest, darkest and most ignorant in the external practice of religion.

And what about the bishops?  Their appointment varies, but they may receive Letters Patent, in Britain by the Sovereign, with the support of the secular authorities.  They, with their invested authority, are not appointed by God at all, but often by godless, worldly politicians.  And if they are honest they will recognise it, even though the system must charge anybody who does not accept their authority with dissention and schism.

Resistance to the Gospel

When the gospel is preached, there is witness to the Redeemer’s love: people are bought into the communion of the Lord’s love, to bear witness to their sole dependence on His dying love.  This witness is by ordinary lay persons.  But their testimony is not accepted because they are not, nor have been brought together by – clergymen!

It will therefore be observed that where there is lay evangelical activity, which is blessed of God, opposition will come from the clergy. Some will even condemn it as evil.  In Britain this will be from the vicars and bishops, in American from the presiding bishops and clergy, in Southern Europe, Latin America and Egypt from the Catholic and Coptic priests, in the Greek church from the papas – even if their numbers fall.

Darby cited a movement at that time in Ireland known as the Home Mission.  Opposition from the Establishment was so strong that meetings were forcibly broken up, and those involved were excommunicated.  This is despite the fact that thousands flocked to hear and enjoy the gospel.  No doubt the clergy thought that it was their exclusive prerogative to preach, and therefore they should hinder any who were not ordained.

The situation is the same whether in Protestantism or Roman Catholicism.  Indeed the status is the same; they are mutually respected,  [witness the 21st century ordinariate].  If one is bound to acknowledge the one, he is bound to acknowledge the other in the same title and office. They are their own witnesses that there is no difference between them in title as clergymen.  The only difference is that one authority is passed down from the Pope, the other from the Sovereign.  In either religion, this is the notion that meets you, as the barrier to God’s truth and work.

The Clergy in the Dark Ages and Afterwards

As Christianity became the imperial religion, the church sunk into worldliness and embraced the world’s methods and standards.  The world therefore became its head.  The world cannot manage a spiritual office, but it can manage global, national, regional and local authorities.  So it set up these authorities to minister, guide and manage the church.

For a long time, due to ignorance and superstition, ecclesiastical offices wielded more power than kings and the secular nobility.   Later secular power reassumed supremacy, but the ecclesiastical structure remained the same.  The world’s geographical secular powers used the church as an instrument to manage the mass of people.  Those who desired to put themselves in Christ’s hand would be regarded as rebellious, because people were taught to rely on the Church rather than on Christ’s hand by the Holy Spirit.  Meanwhile the official church’s – not the true Church of God’s – influence declined.  The church, bound up with the world, has become merely a compound of secular influence and remaining superstition, where spiritual energies are cramped.

The Clergy in the Reformation

The reformation introduced a statement of individual faith, and broke off from the power of Rome and Popery.  But it did not separate the Church from the world.  Outward signs changed, but Christ and His Spirit did not rule.  Darby said he believed that eventually the principle of the clergyman would result in the re-introduction of the power of Popery, since in all cases the religion is based on a doctrine of succession, not on the presence of the Holy Spirit.  No Protestant minister, as a clergyman, can prove his title any more than the Pope can.  It is not a question of what doctrine is held, though in a great number of instances the clergy do not preach the truth, and many would question whether some are even Christians.

The Influence of the Clergy

As a position, the rank of clergyman has an amazing pernicious influence on the minds of people.  This has grown up though its association with the world, and a hindrance the operation of God’s Spirit.  Indeed, it charges the operations of the Spirit of God with evil, as rebellion to its authority, because it does not act within its defined territorial limits, or conform to its secular and ceremonial arrangements. Nor too does the true Church recognize ecclesiastical hierarchy.   Their godly and faithful brethren, acting under the Spirit of God are rejected, and branded divisive schismatics.

The Gifts to the Church

There are gifts: He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:5711); so in 1 Corinthians 12To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit But these are known only as gifts. The notion of a Clergyman substitutes something which cannot be said to be of God at all in the place of all these.  And is not found in Scripture either.

Not being Lords over God’s Heritage

Peter spoke of those who were elders or instructors: Neither as being lords over God’s heritage (κλήρων, kleron), but being ensamples to the flock(1 Peter 5:3).  That is the real meaning of the word kleros or lot.  The only use therefore of the word ‘clergy’ in Scripture is, as applied to the laity, contrasted with ministers, charging them to assume no lordship.

Speaking of “My flock”

How often have we heard that expression from the mouth of a minister or clergyman – “My flock,” as if it were a virtue to think of the congregation as such.  To claim that is a shocking blasphemy, even if not done so knowingly or wilfully.  Not even an apostle would have dared to claim the flock as his own. It was God’s flock which they might be given to oversee – Christ’s sheep – which they might be entrusted with a portion of, a lot (kleros), to feed and guide.  Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.  For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30)

Vicars, pastors or ministers who talk about their sheep, or their flock, put themselves in the place of God or His Christ.  They do so because they are clergy: they count it their title as clergy – they would effectively be as gods.  What will they say before the Righteous Judge?

The Clerical System vs. Individual Clergymen

Nevertheless, Darby, having been a clergyman once himself, had high esteem for many individuals amongst the clergy, and he did not doubt that there were many others as worthy that he did not know.  But it is not an individual question, but one affecting God’s glory and the whole order of the Church.  For the official church publicly has departed from God, and has become what it is, both in name and title.  It has become the concentration of that which, by its denial of the Holy Ghost and gratuitous blasphemy against Him, brings destruction on all to which it is attached.

Conclusion – The clergy identifies the Church with the world, not God with the Church

The clerical system identifies the church with the world, not God with the Church.  Being of the world it is of Satan, and the world denies, rejects, and even blasphemes the Holy Ghost.

JND concludes: What is the remedy? It must be the recognition of God’s Spirit wherever He operates, personally bowing to His guidance and direction.  The Christian will see as the hand of God, in the Comforter who has been sent to abide with us, and works in us by obedience.  As a result we can possess its joy in boldness, against all that grieves Him.  This we do against joining the world, which cannot own or receive Him, and which denies the truth, of which He is the witness.

May the Lord give us to discern things that are not of the Holy Spirit, and to separate the precious from the vile.

A summary by Sosthenes – September 2013 

 

 

J.N. Darby – A true Churchman

 

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), an Anglo-Irish evangelist, was led to the fierce conclusion that all churches, as man-made institutions, were bound to fail. The believer’s true hope was the return of Jesus Christ. With others Darby gathered in a less formal way, free of clergy and human structure, founded on a desire to be separate from unholy organisations.

Darby, after resigning his curacy in the Church of Ireland, became a tireless traveller, talented linguist and Bible translator. His influence is still felt in evangelical Christianity.  He is credited with opening up the truth of the dispensational character of the ways of God with men, the Lord’s coming and the rapture of the Church – nowadays called pre-trib or pre-millennial dispensationalism

For more on this servant of the Lord please see

 

Copies of JND’s Collected Writings are available from

Kingston Bible Trust – Wembley Gardens, Lancing, West Sussex BN15 9LX Phone: 01903 764373 e-mail: sales@kingstonbibletrust.co.uk  (Malcolm Withell)

Bibles etc – Bibles, etc. Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189 USA – web:http://www.bibles-etc.com e:mail wsc@bibles-etc.com (Bill Chellberg)

Simplified Darby – Church Unity and Sectarianism

In this paper Darby’s objective was, with God’s blessing, to show Christians how the Church can be united according to the Word of God, and how it should operate consistently. It would therefore be strengthened in its hopes and show the world clearly the power of God’s grace, leading believers to rely more on the Holy Spirit and less on human plans and co-operative schemes.

Darby looks at the way in which the public Christian Church has degenerated with worldliness, human organisation, tolerance of evil and sectarian fragmentation, running counter to the Lord’s words That they all may be one.

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ

J N Darby

In this paper Darby’s objective was, with God’s blessing, to show Christians how the Church can be united according to the Word of God, and how it should operate consistently.  It would therefore be strengthened in its hopes and show the world clearly the power of God’s grace, leading believers to rely more on the Holy Spirit and less on human plans and co-operative schemes.

Darby looks at the way in which the public Christian Church has degenerated with worldliness, human organisation, tolerance of evil and sectarian fragmentation, running counter to the Lord’s words That they all may be one.

Church unity cannot be achieved by human compromise and confederacy.  It can only be in looking to the Lord Himself, giving Him His place, by the Holy Spirit, going forth to him without the camp and being not of the world.

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me  – John 17:21

To view the complete paper – Considerations on the Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ 

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 1 Ecclesiastical 1 – p20) containing this article click here

The Truth of the Gospel

All genuine Protestant churches profess the great truths of the gospel.   Receiving the gospel by faith leads to our having pure desires in love and a life for Him who died for us and rose again, a life of hope in His glory.

The Sectarian Situation of the Public Church

However, believers’ standards of unity and gathering are generally very mixed, falling far below God’s.  If unity were based on human standards, God would be acquiescing in the moral inconsistency of degenerate man, sinking below the glory of Christ, without even a testimony to His being dishonoured.

Unity in the Early Church

In the early church there was unity. “The Lord added daily such as should be saved“, was when none said anything was his own (Acts 2:43-47), and their conversation was in heaven (Phil 3:20); for they could not be divided in the common hope of that.  It knit their hearts together.

But soon division began about the goods of the church; for where there could be division, there could be selfish interests.

The Church in the Dark Ages

In the hundreds of years leading up to the Revelation, there had been judgments which dishonoured to God.  Meanwhile the church was sinking, and utterly sank in apostasy.   Indeed, apostasy and moral corruption overwhelmed the professing church.

Witnesses sighed and cried for the abominations that were done in the church.  Even without much spiritual understanding and teaching, but the redemption by the Lord Jesus, they testified against the state of the degenerated church.

The Reformation

We are therefore thankful for the Reformation.   However, this did not institute a pure form of church, but re-established “Justification by faith” in which believers might find life. Sadly, it was mixed with human activities and much of the old system remained.  Whilst those involved were excellent saints, the character of the Church remained short of that which was acceptable to God.

Non Conformist Movements and Sects

As religious and world leaders were more secularly minded and alienated from God, many recognising the authority of the Word of God, separated seeking to follow it more closely.   Hence arose all the branches of nonconformity and dissent.

So long as people pride themselves on being Church of England, Presbyterian, Baptist, Independent, or anything else, they are antichristian. How then are we to be united? –  it must be the work of the Spirit of God.  Believers should consider , “Is Christ divided? (1 Cor 1:13) whereas there is among you envying and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Cor 3:3)  Darby wrote: “There is no professed unity among you at all.”

What do we see?   Both the Established and non-conformist churches are using unbelievers to gain secular advantages and honours of that world – the very world out of which the Lord came to redeem us.  Are they behaving  like His peculiar people? What can I to do with these things? Nothing.

Because of the diversity of sects, the true Church of God has no avowed communion at all.  This is an anomaly.   Individuals of the children of God are to be found in all the different denominations, professing the same pure faith; but where is their bond of union?  Indeed, the bond of communion is not the unity of the people of God, but in fact on their differences.

If this is correct, we must conclude that one who seeks the interests of any particular denomination is an enemy to the work of the Spirit of God.   Those who believe in “the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:16) ought therefore to keep separate from such activities, otherwise they are drawing back the church to a state occasioned by ignorance and non-subjection to the word.  A most subtle and mental disease prevails amongst groups of Christians, especially those of higher orders.  This can be illustrated by what the disciples said,  “he followeth not us,” (Mark 9:38). Let us not hinder the manifestation of the church by this spirit.  This line of thinking infests groups of Christians, especially those of higher orders.

Could there be a Union of Protestant Churches?

If Protestants formed a formal union, it would be impossible that such a body could be at all recognised as the church of God.  It would be a counterpart to the Roman Church, but without the power of the word and the unity of spiritual life.

No meeting, which is not framed to embrace all the children of God in the full basis of the kingdom of the Son, can find the fullness of blessing, because it does not contemplate it – because its faith does not embrace it.

Protestants have often professed to the Roman Catholics that their unity in doctrinal faith.  Why then is there not an actual unity?  If they see error in each other, ought they not to be humbled for each other?  If there was diversity of mind, instead of disputing on the footing of ignorance, why not wait in prayer, that God might reveal this also unto them?  Yet I well know that, till the spirit of the world be purged from amongst them, unity cannot be, nor can believers find safe rest.

Unity is the glory of the Christian Church; but unity to secure and promote our own interests is not the unity of the church.  It is confederacy, and a denial of the nature and hope of the church and not the Lord’s work.

Non-sectarian Christian movements

The people of God have found a sort of remedy for this disunion in the Bible Society, and other missionary ventures, giving a sort of vague unity in the common acknowledgment of the word, or of of desire and action.  In many instances the genuine cravings of a mind actuated by the Spirit of God has been behind it, and doubtless partially afforded testimony to what the Church was.

How God sees the Disunity in the Christian Church

Sensing our immense distance from genuinely exhibiting the purpose of God in His church, we ought to be thankful that He still deals with us. It should lead us also to seek Christ’s current mind, so that our path may be according to His present will, rather than our own.

It was God’s purpose in Christ to gather into one all things in heaven and on earth; reconciled unto Himself in Him; and that the church, by the energy of the Spirit should be the witness of this on earth. Believers would know therefore that all who are born of the Spirit have substantial unity of mind, so as to know and love each other, as brothers and sisters.  What is more, they were so to be all one, as that the world would know that Jesus was sent of God.  But this is not all.  Sadly this has not been fulfilled in practice, and in this we must all confess our sad failure.

Are believers happy with the current state of the Church?  Clearly not.  Do we not believe that it has, as a body, utterly departed from Christ?  Has it been  restored so that He would be glorified in it at His appearing?   Is there not a practical spirit of worldliness at variance with the death and coming again of the Lord Jesus as Saviour.

Darby said “I shall seek to establish healthful principles: for it is manifest to me, that it must flow from the growing influence of the Spirit of God and His unseen teaching; but we may observe what are positive hindrances, and in what that union consisted.

The Self-complacent Christian Church

Christians are little aware how the spirit of the world prevails in their minds and how they seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.  While the spirit of the world prevails spiritual union cannot subsist.  Believers think, because they have been delivered from secular dominion, that they are free from the practical spirit which gave rise to it; and because God has wrought much deliverance, therefore they are to be content.  In this state of self-complacency, the springs of grace and spiritual communion dry up.

We have learned to trust in too much in the outward ‘Temple of the Lord’, adorned with goodly stones and gifts, and have ceased to look to the Lord of the temple.  We have almost ceased to walk by faith.  The unclean spirit of idolatry may have been purged out; but the great question still remains, whether there is the effectual presence of the Spirit of the Lord.

The original State of the Christian Church cannot be restored

Those who parted the Saviour’s garments among them could not rend that inner vest – which was inseparably one in its nature.  That has fallen into the hands of those who do not care for Him, the Lord will never clothe Himself with it again.

The Christian’s Call

Should believers to correct the churches? Darby says, “I am beseeching them to correct themselves, by living up, in some measure, to the hope of their calling. I beseech them to show their faith in the death of the Lord Jesus, and their boast in the glorious assurance which they have obtained by it, by conformity to it – to show their faith in His coming, and practically to look for it by a life suitable to desires fixed upon it”. Let believers testify against the secularity and blindness of the church; but let them be consistent in their own conduct. “Let your moderation be known to all men.” (Phil 4:5)

The Practical Way for the Christian Believer

We as believers can see in ourselves things that are practically inconsistent with the power of Lord’s return.  We are conforming to the world, showing that the cross does not have its proper glory in our eyes.   However,  we can be thankful that we have a way marked out for us in the word.

Our duty as believers is to be witnesses of what we believe.  God says “Ye are my witnesses” (Isa 43:12) in His challenge to the false gods; and as Christ is the faithful and true Witness, such ought the church to be. Of what then is the church to be a witness? – against the idolatrous glory of the world. How? by its members being in practical conformity to His death, with a true belief in the cross,  crucified to the world, and the world to them.

If we are not living in the power of the Lord’s kingdom, we certainly shall not be consistent in seeking its ends.

Two or three are gathered together in His name

Where two or three are gathered together in His name, (Matt 18:20), there is blessing; because they are met in the fullness of the power of the unchangeable interests of that everlasting kingdom in which it has pleased God, the glorious Jehovah, to glorify Himself.  He has been pleased to make His name and saving grace known in the Person of the Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the name of Christ, even two or thrr enter (in whatever measure of faith) into the full counsels of God.  They are “God’s fellow-workmen.” (1 Cor 3:9).  Therefore whatever they ask is done, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13).  As we seek the Lord’s glory of the Lord we will find personal blessing.

In the Lord and His Death on the Cross we find Christian Unity

In the Lord alone we find unity.  He declares, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will drawn all men unto me: this he said signifying what death he should die.”  It is then Christ who will draw to Himself by being lifted up from the earth (John 12:32).  So we find His death is the centre of communion till His coming again. In this rests the whole power of the truth and nothing short of this can produce unity.  Otherwise He that gathereth not with him, scattereth Matt 12:30).

The Lord’s Supper is the Symbol of Christian Unity

The outward symbol and instrument of unity is the partaking of the Lord’s supper – for we being many are “One bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” 1 Cor 10:17 And “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (1 Cor 11:26).  Therefore the essential and substantial unity, to be seen in glory at His coming, is conformity to His death, because that is how the glory was brought about. The Lord’s death is the sole foundation on which a soul is built for eternal glory.

Unity of the Spirit

There are two things in seeking unity, which we have to consider.

  • Are our objects in our work exclusively the Lord’s objects?
  • Is our conduct the witness of our objects?

Have we faith in these things? How shall we show it? By acting on these directions of our Lord:  If any man serve me let him follow me, and where I am, there shall also my servant be.  (John 12:26)

Unity of the Christian Church, is the unity of the Spirit, and can only be in the things of the Spirit.  It therefore can only exist between persons who seek to be led by the Spirit of God

So there can only be Christian unity if the Spirit of God brings God’s people together.  And it can only be achieved as they follow the Author and Completer of faith, looking for His return.

Let us go forth to Him

The children of God can but follow one thing – the glory of the Lord’s name, according to the way marked in the word.  They have nothing else left, but as He, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, “suffered without the gate, to go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” (Heb 13:!3)

But what are the people of the Lord to do? Let them wait upon the Lord, according to the teaching of His Spirit, and in conformity to the image of God’s Son, by the life of the Spirit.  Let them go in the footsteps of the flock, as the good Shepherd feeds His flock.  And if this way seem dark, remember the word of Isaiah: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” (Isa 50:10)

A Plea for the Church

The Lord Himself says, “That they all may be one; as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:21-23)

May we as believers consider this word, and see if the Church shining in the glory of the Lord, and fulfilling that purpose for which bit was called.  Do we look for or desire this? or are we content to sit down and say, that His promise cannot be fulfilled?

If we cannot say, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee,”  (Isa 60:1) we should say, “Awake, awake, put on thy strength, arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, as in the generations of old” (Isa 51:9)

“Surely the eye hath not seen nor ear heard what He prepareth for him that waiteth for Him”.  (1 Cor 2:9)

J.N. Darby (1800-1882) – Dublin 1828.

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), an Anglo-Irish evangelist, was led to the fierce conclusion that all churches, as man-made institutions, were bound to fail. The believer’s true hope was  the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. With others Darby gathered in a less formal way, free of clergy and human structure, founded on a desire to be separate from unholy organisations.

Darby, after resigning his curacy in the Church of Ireland, became a tireless traveller, talented linguist and Bible translator. His influence is still felt in evangelical Christianity.

For more on this servant of the Lord please see JN Darby – Biographical Note

 

 

The Path for the Christian in the Ruin of Christendom

“The Faith once delivered to the Saints”

In this paper John Darby notes that whatever God sets up perfectly, main ruins. This applies equally to the Church publicly. But it remains the Church, and it is for us to be faithful to the Lord whilst accepting our part in its public failure. We are in the last days and the Lord’s coming is imminent, so we are exhorted to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints

John Nelson Darby’s Paper on Church Breakdown and Sectarianism in Christendom

J N Darby on church breakdown in Christendom
John Nelson Darby

“The Faith once delivered to the Saints”  – A summary by Sosthenes

In this paper, John Darby notes that whatever God sets up perfectly, main ruins.   This applies equally to Christendom, we see the public ruin of the church.  Despite church breakdown, it remains the Church, and it is for us to be faithful to the Lord whilst accepting our part in its public failure. We are in the last days and the Lord’s coming is imminent, so we are exhorted to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude v.3).

Despite the public situation,  we need to have a conscience as to what is evil, and keep close to the Lord,   We must heed the Holy Spirit, judging evil, and resting the word, not the teachings of men.  We must be prepared to act alone or with just a few.  Then we can then get a view of God’s work.  So we should know what God’s mind is for us on our path, individually and collectively.  And we can trust in God, not in our own reasoning – in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:” (Isaiah 30:15)

To view the complete paper – The Faith once delivered to the Saints

Trusting in God

As Christians, God in grace has put us on a path, both individually and collectively.  It is important therefore for to know where we are on that path and what God’s mind for us on it.   Our circumstances may vary, but God’s principles never vary.  While God’s thoughts do not change, we need spiritual discernment to see where we are, and how we can go on with God, without departing from the great principles laid down for us in God’s Word.

God said to a rebellious people, under attack in Hezekiah’s time “in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:” (Isaiah 30:15). The people were being called “not my people(Hosea 1:9).  God’s mind never changed as to His people, but they were protected during Hezekiah’s time. Later they were to experience judgment.  Still, those who trusted would be preserved.

Man spoils what God sets up

In Adam, Noah, Aaron, Solomon and Nebuchadnezzar, God set up something good.  Man spoilt it.  That is because of his poor human nature.  We must bear this in mind this when assessing our position, otherwise it will become our own ruin.  We cannot plead God’s faithfulness and promises in order to sanction evil.

As God carries on, a remnant is preserved in tune with Him.  So just before the Lord came there were small numbers – Zacharias, Mary, Simeon, Anna – they were awaiting redemption.  They knew one another and were intelligent too as to the Lord’s entry.  Meanwhile Israel rejected Christ when He came.

There was soon Failure in the Early Church

If we look at the Church, God’s assembly on earth, in the early days of the Acts of the Apostles, 3000 were converted in one day.  All had one heart and one mind; they had everything in common, and the place was shaken where they were.   The power of the Spirit of God was there.

Evil got in when Ananias and Sapphira made things out to be different from what they were.  But because the Spirit of God was there, these two fell dead and fear came upon all, both inside and outside.  However, that line of corruption has continued, so that even before the close of scripture the whole profession was mixed up with the world, and judgment was called for.   Just look at the church now, the Roman Catholic system included!

Have a Conscience about our Position in the Church

Due to a lack conscience, most do not have a sense of the condition that they are in, and also how God is working.   To be intelligent spiritually, as being part of the professing church, we need a sense of our condition.

We may have to act Individually

Abraham acted alone – Look to Abraham … I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him (Isaiah 51:2) .  Being little was of no consequence.  God blessed him; He will bless us still more.

The Church teaching? – and the Holy Scriptures

The Church’s teaching?  People say the church teaches this and that, but who is that? The church? What do they mean?  We never see the church teaching.  The church does not teach – it is taught; individuals teach. But remember that there is no inspired person in the church now to teach with absolute authority.  So for authority we must turn to the Word of God itself.  We must learn from Peter and Paul.

Paul reminds Timothy of the things he had learned – the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).

The scriptures are the direct authority of God; they determine everything.  Meanwhile we have His Spirit to communicate things.  We have ministry too, which is a help.  But it is a poor thing if we look only to men as guides.

We are in the Last Days –and it is a time of Judgment

It is on the authority of scripture that we know that we are in the last days.  Unfortunately many people do not appreciate that.  Being in them requires us to have a judgment as to the general condition around us.  What so many do, even if they have right feelings as to the condition, is to shelter in what they regard as the church’s teaching, a wrong principle as we have seen.

We see from scripture that the Church has departed from God, and ruined what He set up.  That was already happening when Jude wrote: it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude v.3).

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17).   In Ezekiel judgment was to start at God’s house – begin at my sanctuary, (Ezekiel 9:6).

As to the last days John said, Even now are there many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18).  God has born with the state of the church for centuries: it has not improved.  Now God is calling souls to Himself in grace (as He did Israel).

Our hearts should take notice:  what was set up so beautiful in the power of God’s Spirit – what has it all come to?  It casts us on the strength that can never fail!

The Lord Judging the Churches

In Revelation 2-3, Christ addresses the seven churches in Asia.   He was not speaking to the churches as Head of the body, though He is always that, but as looking on them in their responsibility to maintain His interests down here on the earth.  This was Christ walking in the midst of the candlesticks, judging the state of the churches.  The Churches had to listen to what He had to say.  What had they made of the blessings that had been entrusted to them?   For example, to the young assembly in Thessalonica (Thessaloniki) the Bible speaks of works, labour, faith, love, patience and hope; but to mature Ephesus it is just works, labour and patience – faith and love were missing.  Indeed in Ephesus the spring was missing – judgement was needed, and the candlestick would be removed if they did not repent.  Hence the faithful were exhorted: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 2:7 etc).

The Public Ruin of the Church

Christians were losing their place. “All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philippians 2:21) , but they did not cease being the church.  Nevertheless it says, “In the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of their own selves and so on; (2 Tim. 3:1-2).   Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).  There is the professing church, such as it is, and things would return to the level of heathendom.   Mere formality was leading to infidelity or superstition and it was clear that this is how things were going.

The Church has failed publicly in being the epistle of Christ.  It is not a question of apportioning blame or attacking persons, because we are all involved.   Things were set up so beautifully in the power of God’s Spirit – what have they all come to?  It has not ceased to be the church of God.  But the state of the Church has to be judged.  But grace fits the condition.

The Answer to the Church’s Condition is in Jesus

Christ is as sufficient for the Church now, as He was at when He first set up the church in its beauty and blessedness.  We have to look at His word and see what His mind is, whilst not hiding our eyes from the state we are in.  There is power to overcome in the midst of evil.

Things get mixed up – the good and the evil go on together.  The wise and foolish virgins slept together, but things changed at the words ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh’ (Matthew 25:6).  The Lord’s coming is imminent.  Our relationship with God is to be more than our testimony to men, otherwise we will break down and fail.  We must renew our strength.  We must remain in that which was from the beginning.  If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father (1 John 2:24).  The great secret of Christian life is our intercourse with God by the Holy Spirit.  And that makes nothing of ourselves.

When the children of Israel failed in Joshua’s time, they had to get back to Gilgal – complete separation from the world.  But the angel of the Lord went to Bochim, the place of tears.  This means that as well as being separate,  we should feel the situation.

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus will be Persecuted

It does not say that every Christian will be persecuted, but all that will live godly (2 Timothy 3:12).  The world will not stand a man showing the power of the spirit of God.  It drew out the enmity when Christ was here, and it does now.  All those who seek to be faithful to the Lord in days of departure can expect that.

Seeing the Church Here

I see what God set up; I see the unity of the body, and Christ as the Head.  That is what the Church was to be on earth.  Jesus said “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).  It is Christ’s building, and that building is going on still.  It is not finished.  Paul says of the building, fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.  (Ephesians 2:21).  Now that is what Christ’s work is – men call it the invisible church.

We are building, and if rightly, on the foundation laid by Paul.  If I build with the wrong materials wood, hay, stubble my work will be destroyed.  But Hades gates will not prevail. 1 Corinthians 3:12 .

The Work of the Holy Spirit

As an individual I find that the secret of power of good against evil, outside or inside, is the presence of the Spirit of God, – the Word being the guide.  Paul said to some going on badly, “Do you believe, beloved friends, that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” 1 Corinthians 6:19).  Then what kind of persons ought we to be?

It is the same collectively, “know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians  3:16 ).  The presence of the Spirit gives power for real blessing – whether in the church or the individual.

Now, we have true and full redemption; the Holy Spirit dwells in those who believe.  We can be the expression of what Christ was Himself when He was down here.  When a person is really a Christian, God dwells in him; he is sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the power for all moral conduct. If we really believe this should not we be in subjection and not grieving the Spirit?

Things which are inconceivable to man are revealed unto us by God’s Spirit  (1 Corinthians 2:9).  The Spirit of God and the spirit of the world are always in contrast.  What God has revealed is in spite of our state, and this includes our apprehension of the Church in these days of ruin.

In 1 Corinthians 2 the Holy Spirit is seen in three ways

  • Things are revealed by the Spirit;
  • Things communicated in teaching by the Spirit;
  • Things spiritually discerned  – received by the power of the Spirit.

 

A Warning

I cannot have my private judgment in the things of God.  The moment I get my own thoughts into divine things I start judging the Word of God.  Not accepting God’s word in Scripture is one sign of the evil of our times.  But if I own the Word of God, brought by His Spirit, I hear what God says to me: it judges me; I do not judge it.  It is the divine word brought to my conscience and heart, and who am I to judge God when God is speaking to me?  But it has to be the Word of God – what was inspired at the beginning, and nothing else.

If I were to say I understand and judge the Word of God by itself, I am a rationalist – it is man’s mind judging the revelation of God.  But where I get God’s mind communicated by the Holy Ghost, spiritually discerned, I get God’s mind.  God has given us the wisdom and power to meet the state of ruin in which we are now,  just as at first when He set up the church.  That is what I have to lean upon.

_______

J.N. Darby (1800-1882)

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), an Anglo-Irish evangelist, was led to the fierce conclusion that all churches, as man-made institutions, were bound to fail. The believer’s true hope was the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. With others Darby gathered in a less formal way, free of clergy and human structure, founded on a desire to be separate from unholy organisations.

Darby, after resigning his curacy in the Church of Ireland, became a tireless traveller, talented linguist and Bible translator. His influence is still felt in evangelical Christianity.

For more on this servant of the Lord please see JN Darby – Biographical Note