We will not make spiritual progress till we know establishment in liberty. The Corinthians and Galatians had fallen from liberty. It was the natural mind in Corinthians and religiousness in Galatians.
We might admire truth, but we will not make spiritual progress till we know establishment in liberty. The Corinthians and Galatians had fallen from liberty. It was the natural mind in Corinthians and religiousness in Galatians.
The Natural Mind – Corinthians
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord
The Corinthians were led away by their natural minds, they gloried in their own wisdom, were not beholding the glory and were not in liberty.
Our Saviour is in glory, and we are drawn out of the ruin here to Christ where He is. That is the gospel of the glory. It is a ministration of righteousness from the glory. The glory of God is the expression of all His attributes. In much of Christendom the gospel does not go beyond the Passover – pardon for sins – Christ’s death on the cross. But being in the food resurrection is a step further. When I see Christ risen, I am justified and have peace with God. In Romans, the apostle brings me to the Person – that is deliverance:
As I look on the Lord’s glory we are transformed (2 Cor 3:18). Now, seeing Christ in glory, we brought into moral correspondence with Him. I cannot enjoy the gospel of the glory unless I am in liberty. The word transformed (μεταμορφούμεθα/metamorphoumetha/Strong 3339) – changed into another form or metamorphosised[i]. When I behold Him in the assembly, His things totally absorb me. It is like the queen of Sheba: when she came to Solomon and saw his glory, she was so entranced that there was no spirit left in her. So it is in beholding the Lord’s glory, self is displaced.
Merely reading the Bible will not conform me to be like Him. The two disciples going to Emmaus had a wonderful exposition of Scripture, but it was not which changed their course. Everything changed when the Lord made Himself known to them. Scripture corroborates our enjoyment.
Religiousness – Galatians
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
In Galatians it was religiousness. They had put themselves back under the law. They had begun in the Spirit, but were now seeking to be made perfect in the flesh. That is religiousness.
When Isaac was weaned, Abraham made a feast: all in the house were doing honour to Isaac – that is all except Ishmael, a youth of fourteen, who mocked. Sarah says he must be cast out. The first great thing in is that If Christ is to have an acknowledged right to everything that I have, I have to get rid of the religious man. Nobody has liberty till he has parted with one man (Adam), and is in another (Christ). Then he is able to say, ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me’ (Gal 2:20). Nothing is more difficult than to say honestly that I have done with the old man – he is eclipsed. Man tries to improve himself, he does not like to be eclipsed.
Traditional doctrine says in effect, ‘Get Isaac to improve Ishmael’. There are beautiful traits in man but none of them acknowledge Christ. Ishmael was Abraham’s son, brought up in Abraham’s house, but he persecuted the heir of promise. Finding hat the best quality in my nature does not like Christ, is an even more painful experience than that of Romans 7,. Flesh will always be flesh: I cannot improve it . As J.G. Bellett said, ‘You may sublimate the flesh as much as you like, it will never yield spirit.’[i]
There are two things:
1. I acknowledge Christ – the true Isaac – in His place.
2. I do not tolerate Ishmael.
A person in liberty rejoices in Christ Jesus and has no confidence in the flesh; he shrinks from the flesh. Everything must come divinely. The more effective a man is, the more correctly will he quote Scripture.
I might say, If I put Ishmael out of the door he will come in at the window. However, I have the Holy Spirit within me, resisting the flesh, so as not to do fleshly things. I have a power in me that keeps the door like a policeman. It is more than self-control. It is positive: ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6:14). There is not a word about sins in this passage, it is pure liberty – a new creation.
Now I can say, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me“. And now comes the practical course – “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God“, etc. It is transcendent!
[i] I cannot find the citation of this from Bellett. According to Stem Publishing, the expression was used by Charles Mackintosh and Walter Woolston . Both must have been quotes but this was not acknowledged. John Gifford Bellett predated both of the above by 25 and 50 years respectively.
[i] Strong’s note to this word: STRONGS NT 3339: μεταμορφόω
μεταμορφόω, μεταμόρφω: passive, present μεταμορφοῦμαι; 1 aorist μετεμορφώθη; to change into another form (cf. μετά, III. 2), to transfigure, transform: μετεμορφώθη, of Christ, his appearance was changed (A. V. he was transfigured), i. e. was resplendent with a divine brightness, Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2 (for which Luke 9:29 gives ἐγένετο τόεἶδος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἕτερον); of Christians: τήν αὐτήν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα, we are transformed into the same image (of consummate excellence that shines in Christ), reproduce the same image, 2 Corinthians 3:18;
Biblical history is divided by God into dispensations, defined periods or ages to which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles
J N Darby is sometimes referred to as the father of dispensational theology. Whilst the thought was not new, and it is clear from scripture, there was in his time (and still is) a lot on muddled thinking amongst believers. Many teach that we are part of a steady continuum, with for example the church replacing Israel, and that Christ’s kingdom is present, and that the interpretation of periods is purely spiritual or figurative – sometimes called ‘covenant theology’.
In view of this, A Day of Small Things is presenting a short outline of what we mean by the term ‘dispensation’, and where we fit in now.
J N Darby’s teaching, and also that of many servants of the Lord, has been based on the understanding that Biblical history is divided by God into dispensations, defined periods or ages to which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles. Dispensationalists’ presuppositions start with the harmony of history as focusing on the glory of God and put God at its centre – as opposed to a central focus on humanity and their need for salvation[*].
The Word ‘Dispensation’
The word, οἰκονομία/oikonomia/Strong 3622— (Eph. 1:10), and translated “dispensation” there — is a compound word “house” and “law – the rules or administration, of a household, as in our word “economy. In the phrase, “dispensational truth,” it looks at the world as a great household, in which God is dispensing, or administering, according to rule of His own establishing, and in whose order He has from time to time introduced certain changes, the understanding of which is consequently needful, both to the intelligent interpretation of His word and to intelligent action under Him[†]
List of Dispensations
There are several lists of dispensations, and to my knowledge, Darby did not produce a formal list, but the classic view lists the following, each associated with a covenant between God and man[‡]:
Innocence– Adam under probation prior to the Fall. Ends with expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Some refer to this period as the Adamic period or the dispensation of the Adamic covenant or Adamic law. (Gen 1:28)
Conscience– From the Fall to the Great Flood. Ends with the worldwide deluge. (Gen 3:7)
Human Government– After the Great Flood, humanity responsible to enact the death penalty. Ends with the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. Some use the term Noahide law in reference to this period of dispensation. (Gen 8:15)
Promise – From Abraham to Moses. Ends with the refusal to enter Canaan and the 40 years of unbelief in the wilderness. Some use the terms Abrahamic law or Abrahamic covenant in reference to this period of dispensation. (Gen 12:1)
Law– From Moses to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Ends with the scattering of Israel in AD70. Some use the term Mosaic law in reference to this period of dispensation. (Ex 19:1)
Grace– From the cross to the rapture of the church. The rapture is followed by the wrath of God comprising the Great Tribulation. Some use the term Age of Grace or the Church Age for this dispensation. (Acts 2:1)
Millennial Kingdom– The 1000 year reign of Christ on earth centred in Jerusalem. Ends with God’s judgment on the final rebellion. (Rev 20:4)
Around Easter it was reported that the Pope was unsure as to the existence of hell. The Vatican unsurprisingly said that the Pope’s comments had been misrepresented. Nevertheless, a survey in the USA came up with the statistic that 30% of people identifying themselves as Christians did NOT believe in hell. (Evangelicals – 25% not believing in hell, ‘Mainline protestant’ 40%, Mainly-black Pentecostal’ 18%, Roman Catholic 37%, Orthodox 41%). Surprisingly 36% of those who said they had no religion DID believe in hell. (Source Pew Research Center – Belief in Heaven and Hell among US Adults 2014).
This cause me to look into what J N Darby had to say about the subject, and found he was battling with ‘universalists’ who said that God was such a loving God that everybody would be saved, even if they had to wait a bit, and ‘annihilationists’ who believed that the fire would consume souls completely, so nothing would remain. Of course, both are wrong, and both views continue to be prevalent today.
Whether we have many old-fashioned hell-fire sermons designed to frighten souls into submission, I don’t know. But one thing is certain ‘Hell exits; hell is eternal, and we all deserve to go there as sinners. ‘By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God’ (Eph 2:8). We are called on to warn souls of the consequences of rejecting God’s grace in the gospel, whilst saying, ‘Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?’ (Rom 2:8).
JND and Hell
JN Darby did not write much about hell, but a paper met the then-current thought (and just as current now). ‘Brief Scriptural Evidence on the doctrine of Eternal Punishment, for plain people’. Collected Writings Vol 7 (Doctrinal 2) page 1.
The lake of fire is consistent with God’s love. God has almighty power, and it would be inconsistent with divine love to tolerate lawlessness. God may tolerate it for the moment, but in result He will limit it in the lake of fire. From Righteousness and Salvation Ministry by F E Raven Vol 18 p 117
What about those 36% of who said they had no religion and who DID believe in hell.
What must grip them. FEAR! How do we reach them with the glad tidings?
Remember it says: ‘But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, . . . and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Rev 21:8)
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb 2:14-15)
And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (1 Peter 1:15-21)
What could be more eloquent than scripture?
Greetings in the Name of our blessed Saviour who has redeemed us from Hell by His blood.
In it, Darby listed a number of scriptures to arrest believers and make them consider that is certainly the truth. Hell, the Lake of Fire, is eternal. He wrote that ‘God meant to produce on the mind of the reader the conviction that eternal misery is the portion of the wicked, and I do not believe that He meant to produce the conviction of a lie, nor frighten them with what was not true. Now I shall quote many plain passages, adding my unhesitating conviction that the attempts to undermine this doctrine of scripture (and I have been compelled to examine a good many) have entirely failed, and that the arguments used are either dishonest, some of them flagrantly so, or contradictory and fallacious, and that all of them subvert other fundamental truths.
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. . . he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast itfrom thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thatthy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast itfrom thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thatthy whole body should be cast into hell.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. . . .But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemny againstthe HolyGhost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the worldto come.
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. . . So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
In those two verses, 40 and 49, it will be said “world” means age or dispensation; be it so, I believe it does; but that does not affect the judgment pronounced as to that which is to follow
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast themfrom thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast itfrom thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
Here everlasting fire or hell-fire is in contrast with life; if they go into one, they do not go into the other; nor is any particular word used which. might, as they allege, make it apply to a peculiar period of happiness. Life and hell-fire are contrasted.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. . . But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores, and it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God.
For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Now in this, as in Mark 16:16, perishing and being damned is contrasted with being saved, so that any plain person must conclude that they are not saved. Some are saved, and others perish because they reject the cross.
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
For it isimpossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put himto an open shame.
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongethunto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It isa fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption. . .
These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. . .For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of. . .
Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive hismark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
And they [Satan and his army] went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever .
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
This booklet by Malcolm W. Biggs (1875-1941) was referred to, in some meetings in Northern Ireland, published in my ‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’ series (Not yet on-line). Also referred to was a book by the same author ‘Fellowship, its Nature and Possibilities’. Neither are available on-line. The former is published by Kingston Bible Trust – 2015 Catalogue .
The latter is out of print, and unavailable through normal channels.
As neither of these publications are on line, I have digitised the shorter one, and it is beliv made available here. I would value an offer of assistance to digitise the other.
PRINCIPLES RELATING TO CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
If a path of a collective character pleasing to the Lord is to be taken by us, not only must the moral features consistent therewith be maintained—such as righteousness, holiness, faith and love—but the principles carried out in practice. It will be profitable, therefore, to consider some of these principles and note their practical application.
No believer has a right to regard himself purely as an individual. He has been called to the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; and if we seek to walk in the path pleasing to the Lord, the Christian’s path, it is imperative that we regard our relations one with another. We have been called into the great partnership of Christian fellowship.
The principles therefore, to which we shall first refer are those which govern Christian fellowship. From 1 Corinthians 1:9, it is clear that all believers are called to the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Hence in 1 Corinthians 1:2 the epistle is addressed not only to the assembly which is at Corinth, but to ‘all that in every place call the name of Jesus Christ our Lord both all theirs and ours’. Whether all have responded to, or answered to the responsibilities is another matter, but from the passage quoted it is evident that all believers are called to it
The fellowship being that of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, the Lord Himself is the bond of our fellowship. To us Christians there Is one Lord. We must be true to his name. This is a matter of immense importance. We must ever remember the necessity of confessing Christ as our Lord and owning His authority over every department of our lives. If the reader knows of anything of his own life, his personal conduct, habits, etc., business or domestic which does not please the Lord, let him judge himself, for until he does so it is useless, indeed damaging, for him to attempt to take up the question we are about to consider. To discuss church questions when we know there is something in our lives individually that is not pleasing to the Lord, is damaging to a degree. If we are to speak about ‘our Lord’, and His will for us, each of us must recognise Him as Lord, and do His will in our personal lives individually. We cannot be right collectively, unless we are right individually; but in addition to our individual history with the Lord, we have a collective responsibility as forming part of the assembly which He loved and for which He gave Himself. It is to this side of our spiritual exercises, obviously, that our inquiry applies.
TO US THERE IS ONE LORD
It is very evident that anyone whose life is moulded on the On the principles inculcated by the word of God, of obeying the Lord Jesus, will find little real companionship with those whose life is fashioned according to the world; the whole principle of life is different, and practically there will little or nothing in common. The believer, however, is by no means to lead a life of isolation. He may find himself very isolated from the mere worldling, from worldly-minded Christians also. They may separate him from their company; he may be despised and rejected, as was his Master before him. But although isolated as to the world, the believer can say, as the Psalmist did, ‘I am a companion of all them that fear thee’ Psalm 119:63. It is here that fellowship comes in.
There is no part between him that believeth and an unbeliever; but there is a very great deal in common, and a very real and vital bond between all believers, and if our lives are what they should be in practice, we shall find real companionship in those that do the will of God. The One we obey is the One they obey ; and obedience to that one Lord will blend our lives together. Not only does each individual believer know Jesus as Lord, but as together in the same path of obedience to His will we can say, ‘Jesus Christ our Lord’. To us there is ‘to us there is … one Lord, Jesus Christ’,(1 Cor 8:6). The fact of every believer owning the same Lord, establishes a bond between them. We are called into the Fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We must be true to this bond and His fellowship. Fellowship is only practically realised as we recognise in our conduct and in our associations what is in keeping with the Lord’s name.
Hence, before fellowship becomes realisable the believer must be true to the name of the Lord not only in his personal conduct, but in all his associations. It is important to see that we may be defiled by our associations as well as by actual conduct. Numbers 19:22, makes this very clear : ‘And whatever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even’ See also Lev 13 & 14 and Hag 2:11-14 This same principle of defilement by association is seen in the New Testament: see Gal 5:9, 1 Cor 5:6-7, 2 John v.10-11.
If a believer’s personal conduct is inconsistent with the name of the Lord, who is the Holy and the True—he is by that very fact morally, or spiritually, unclean. It is not always seen, however, that if others associate with such a one, that is to say, if he ‘touches’ them, or they ‘touch’ him, they also unclean. Further, if a believer, whose personal conduct may be otherwise consistent, identifies himself with those who are associating with the unclean person, he also becomes unclean This fact is very exercising and sobering. We may have opportunity again to refer to this important matter.
Each of us is to own the Lord and be consistent with His name in every sphere of our lives. If we own Him thus, fellowship ceases to be a mere term, and becomes a practical reality. Clearly, if things are otherwise, and man does what is right in his own eyes, fellowship is impossible. One Lord is to control all. What is consistent with His name is to be recognised by each of us. So only can the expression, ‘To usThere is one Lord’ (1 Cor 8:6), have vital meaning.
THE COMMUNION OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
Christian fellowship is also the fellowship of Christ’s death, the communion of the blood of Christ, of which the Lord’s supper is the repeated expression, and to which we commit ourselves by partaking of the Supper, by drinking of that one cup.
As an Israelite who ate of the sacrifices was professedly in communion with the altar of Jehovah, so a believer who partakes of the Lord’s supper avows his communion, or fellowship, with the death of Christ. Nothing inconsistent with the death of Christ can ever be allowed. Christ in His death has become our altar—the basis of fellowship for all believers—at once severing us Judaism, or that which answers to it today; that is, any system of worship of a material or formal kind, and from idolatry, whether in its past or present-day forms. How really exclusive Christian fellowship is! The more we consider the communion of the death of Christ, the more we shall see how necessarily it shuts out all that is of the world, religious or profane
We may well speak of the cup as ‘the cup of blessing which we bless’, but we must remember equally that it is the communion of the blood of Christ. If we are partakers of the benefit secured by the death of Christ, we must be true to that which that death witnesses, and to which we are committed. The death of Christ forbids any link with the world. This is involved in our baptism. It is again forced upon our attention, as we partake of the Lord’s supper. He who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. To be one with the world would be virtually to deny the death of Christ of which the blood of Christ ” is the witness. The cup of blessing is the communion of the blood of Christ. How great the blessing secured thereby! How great the love expressed therein! It was a love that gave up all for us, so that endless and measureless blessing might be ours. We are sharers together in that cup of blessing; we must together, as one, refuse the world. Any worldliness would provoke the Lord to jealousy. His love is so great He can have no rival, no idol in our hearts. We must not allow another to share our hearts with Christ. To do this after committing ourselves to such a bond of fellowship, would provoke Him to jealousy, and we should find ourselves, typically speaking, under the curse (See Numbers 5). here is a suggestion of this type in 1 Corinthians 10:22 and 16:22. Worldliness among God’s people is very serious
The world has a religious form as well as a profane one. Judaism has its present-day features in much that is current in the professed circles of Christianity. ‘Sodom and Egypt’ are typical of the profane world; ‘where also our Lord was crucified’ speaks of the religious world. See (Revelation 11:8). Worldliness is most seductive when it wears religious clothing. Idolatry is most deceptive when linked with a feast to the Lord. (See Exodus 32:4,5). May the Lord keep us clear of such unholy associations, ever remembering that by the Lord’s s upper we are professedly in the ‘communion of the blood of Christ’.
THE COMMUNION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
‘The communion of the Holy Spirit’ is a remarkable expression ; it is found in 2 Corinthians 13:14. We have been baptised by one Spirit into one body. We may have occasion to develop this side of our subject a little later on. Here we may remark that, since the Holy Spirit is the power of Christian fellowship, anything of the world or the flesh, anything in the way of mere human arrangements in the assembly of God, or maintenance of merely social links one with another, must necessarily greatly hinder the fellowship. It need scarcely be remarked that the setting aside practically of the liberty of Spirit described in 1 Corinthians 12-14 by appointment of a minister, or any attempt to arrange the service or of God, must greatly grieve the Holy Spirit and thus hinder and prevent what is normal to our collective experience. Moreover, in the measure in which we in our assembly life, friendships on basis of what is merely natural, links of social kind, etc., in that measure fellowship is hindered, yea, it is impossible.
Our links as Christians are not in the flesh or according to what we are naturally, socially, nationally or racially, but according to what we are ‘in (the) Spirit.’ Here we have a power, the Holy Spirit, that binds us all together, that gives us spiritual tastes in common one with another, spiritual sensibilities and perception. And in the measure in which we recognise what is of the Spirit in a practical way, we shall prove what is ‘the communion of the Holy Spirit’. Many practical considerations flow from these facts. May we not each ask himself the questions:
Am I minding the things of the Spirit?
Am I walking in the Spirit?
Am I endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit?
To do these things we must, surely, refuse the flesh in its many subtle forms, and make room for the Holy Spirit and for what is spiritual. To the Corinthians the apostle had to write, ‘I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal’ (1 Cor 3:1). Were he writing to us now would he have to say the same thing? Are there not schools of thought? Are there not some Christians who are definitely boasting in following the ideas propounded by some Christian leader of so-called thought? Let abandon those fleshly habits, dear reader, and seek only to be led by the Spirit, and thus answer to the beautiful type of Rebecca of whom it is written, ‘the servant [a type of the Holy Spirit] took Rebecca, and went his way’ (Gen 24:61)
To summarise, then, what has been before us: the Lord is the bond of Christian fellowship, the death of Christ is the basis thereof, and the Holy Spirit is the power of this fellowship, making it subjectively real.
Now it is obvious that the character of Christian fellowship being such, it must of necessity be universal in its bearing.
THE UNIVERSAL CHARACTER OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
The universal character of fellowship is a fact of wide and practical bearing. Whether in Europe, Asia, Africa, America or Australasia, the fellowship is one, and wherever we are we must be true to it. Conduct suitable to it in one place, is suitable to it in any other place; and what is unsuitable to it in one place is unsuitable to it in any other. Locality can make no difference in a matter of this kind, for the considerations are moral, and therefore universal, in their application. Let us ever remember this fact.
Moreover, the same principle has its application to persons. If anyone is suitable or fellowship in one locality, he is obviously suitable for it in any other locality. Hence, in the early days of the assembly, letters of commendation were customary, which enabled a believer going from one place to another to be received suitably by those into whose district he might going. See 2 Cor 3:1, Rom 16:1, Acts 18:27. Similarly, if the conduct or associations of anyone are such that he is rendered unfit for fellowship in one place, he is unfit for it in any other place. If we seek to be true to Christian fellowship, we must always and everywhere recognise this principle. How often it is, and has been, overlooked by believers. To do so is to deny the character of fellowship.
The principle applies equally to actions of a collective nature. If evil exist in one locality, unless dealt with according to God, those in any other locality acknowledging bonds of fellowship with those allowing such evil are identified therewith and are responsible as to the matter, as being involved in the evil by association. Any discipline that might be necessary as to dealing with evil, would have to be exercised in the locality in which it is, as the apostle shows in 1 Corinthians 5; but nevertheless, the acknowledgment of the bonds of fellowship carries with it all that fellowship implies, which is complete association, and, let us remember, association with evil defiles.
Moreover, fellowship being universal, nothing relating thereto can have a purely local character or effect. This fact entirely forbids anything in the nature of an independent or local fellowship. Hence, in like manner this principle necessitates that the action of any one gathering walking consistently with Christian fellowship involves every other gathering acknowledging the bonds of fellowship therewith; and similarly, if a gathering refuse to judge evil in their midst, this involves in its guilt those in fellowship with it. No action can be purely local in its character or effect.
We would ask the thoughtful reader to consider how seriously these principles have been overlooked or ignored by many Christians, however unwittingly. It is not uncommon to find believers meeting together in a place to take the Lord’s supper and maintaining that their fellowship is purely local, and that they are an independent local company of Christians. This is, in practice, to deny the very fellowship professedly expressed in their assumed action of taking the Supper. The Supper cannot rightly be taken apart from recognising the fact of ‘one body’ being here on earth, and nothing is clearer than the apostle’s words in the 1 Corinthians 10:17, ’Because we, being many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf’. This ‘we’ is what may termed the Christian ‘we’, that is to say it embraces the universal ‘one body’ of all believers, the one fellowship of which is normally expressed in taking the Lord’s supper. To attempt to take the Lord’s supper and at the same time profess to be an independent local company, is to deny the first principle of Christian fellowship; for Christian fellowship is universal. It may be replied, however,’ But we are in fellowship with all Christians!’ Yet this, surely, cannot really meant. Do such mean to that they are in fellowship with every professing Christian, whatever his conduct or associations, be he immoral or a blasphemer or in fellowship with such, or be he linked with some antichristian, or religious system, which they who so speak would denounce as wrong? If so, this is evil indeed! It is true that all Christians are called to Christian fellowship, the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and we should be true to this fellowship, as we have already seen. But are all Christians true to it? If not we cannot say we are in fellowship with them. Were the Corinthians in fellowship with the man whom they were told to remove from among themselves? Clearly not. They had to cut their links of fellowship and not even to eat with the incestuous person. No, dear reader, fellowship means partnership, and this involves identification, and for any to be identified with evil means that they are evil too.
Now that the assembly, so far as its outward profession is concerned, is in confusion, and all manner of evil exists in the sphere of Christian profession, it becomes increasingly necessary to adhere to divine principles. we are to take a path of a collective character, the Christian’s path in days of difficulty, we must recognise the principles governing Christian fellowship; we must also constantly remind ourselves that, as believers on our Lord Jesus, we are not merely so many individuals.
THERE IS ONE BODY
However separate from evil and from evil associations we each must be individually, since we have received the Holy Spirit, we are vitally linked with all believers on earth; ‘We all have been baptised by one Spirit into one body’ (1 Cor 12:13). Therefore, in addition to the principles already considered as governing Christian fellowship, we must also consider the principles governing the assembly as ‘one body’.
The fact of assembly being one body has both a local and a universal application. Though local assemblies are recognised, Scripture makes it abundantly plain that the assembly is one universally. Those who composed local assemblies, as having been baptised with all other believers by ‘one Spirit’, made but ‘one body’; though the local assembly was to have the character of Christ’s body as we may see farther on.
Whatever breakdown may have taken place in the public profession of Christianity, the assembly Of God, as already remarked, has in no way ceased or changed in its vital existence and character. The apostle addresses Christians thus in 1 Corinthians 1. Let the reader pay attention to this epistle. The manner of address shows that although the epistle was written to the particular assembly in Corinth, its bearing was universal. Hence we find such expressions as, ‘so ordain Iin all churches’ (1 Cor 7:17). ‘We haveno such custom, neither the churches of God(ch. 11:16), and again, ‘as in allchurches of the saints’ (ch. 14:33).
Moreover, the manner in which the apostle addressed the assembly in Corinth also shows it was identified, or associated with ‘all that in every place upon the name Of Jesus Christ our Lord,’ (1 Cor 1:2) who, indeed, was Lord both to them and to all other believers; for to us, Christians, there is but one Lord
THE BODY ONE UNIVERSALLY
Other scriptures show equally that the assembly as ‘one body’ is considered as one whole existing on earth at any given time. Ephesians 4:4 tells us that there is ‘one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling’. For there to be the hope of our calling, the one body must be here. Ephesians 4:15-16 again speaks of the assembly as the ‘whole body’ increasing and growing, Christ being the Head. To increase and grow the body must be here. Then again in Colossians 3:15 we read that ‘we are called in one body’. From the nature of the exhortations given in these passages, it is clear that they could not possibly apply to us when we are in heaven; they refer to us here and speak about what has been brought about on earth. Jew and Gentile have been formed into one body, which clearly refers to what has taken place on earth; and this is confirmed by exhortation in Ephesians 4:3-4, to maintain the unity of the Spirit, because ‘Thereand one Spirit, even as ye have been called in one hope of your calling’.
1 Corinthians 12:13, however, very emphatically asserts this unity as existing on earth, having been brought about by all believers having been baptised by ‘one Spirit’. The ‘we’ of verse 13 is clearly a universal ‘we’, and include every believer on earth, since all have been baptised by ‘one Spirit’. Whereas the ‘ye’ of verse 27, refers to those in Corinthian assembly. ‘Now ye are Christ’s body, and members in particular’. Let the reader carefully note this fact : the assembly is one body on earth at this present time: one body universally. Fellowship is one, and the assembly is one: ‘one body’.
Yet we must equally observe that local assemblies existed. We have seen this to be so in Corinth. Those who composed each local assembly were not only ‘one body’ with all other believers on earth, as we have already seen, but local assembly which they composed was to have the character of the whole; characteristically it was ‘Christ’s body’, as seen from 1 Corinthians 12:27. Notice the change of pronoun: ‘we all’ (verse 13), ‘ye’ in verse 27.
The writer of the of book of Acts refers to many such local assemblies as having been established by Barnabas and the apostle Paul, chapters 14:23, and 16:5, as well as those previously existing in Judea, ch. 9:31. These local assemblies, however, were not independent bodies, but were bound together by the common bond of Christian fellowship, and by the fact that all believers had been baptised by ‘one Spirit into one body’;hence, as remarked, the ‘we’ of 1 Corinthians 12:13, is undoubtedly a universal ‘we’. The local assemblies were to have the features of the whole. ‘Now ye are Christ’s body, and members in particular’ (verse 27).
It is to be regretted that a great number of believers are allowing the idea of independent assemblies. It is difficult to conceive anything more contrary to the teaching of the epistles. We scarcely imagine the apostle Paul, who insists so strongly on the unity ofthe assembly as one body on earth in his epistles to the Colossians and the Ephesians, establishing local assemblies and teaching them that they were not
independent. The assembly is not an aggregate of a number of independent bodies; It is not a confederation of a multitude of local assemblies; it is one whole, as Scripture most plainly asserts, ‘There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling’(Eph 4:4).
However, it is necessary to see that the administration of the assembly is not carried out universally; that is to say, by any central body or authority governing the whole, but is out in the several localities, bearing in mind that their actions have a universal effect, inasmuch as their bonds of fellowship are universal.
This being the case, it is necessary that we take up our places locally in the recognition of what we are as forming with all other Christians ‘one body’ universally. In other words, we approach our local exercises from a universal standpoint. As already remarked, it was God’s desire that the assembly should not be a universal organisation governed by some metropolitan centre such as Jerusalem was, or such as, alas, Rome assumes to be. It was His will that though one universally, it should find characteristic local expression in whatever place believers might be. It was to be truly catholic, that is ‘universal’ (for word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’), a vital organism, ‘one body’ universally; yet to have administrative powers locally, which were to be exercised in the consideration of what was universal. Hence, as we have noticed, the address at the beginning of the epistle to the Corinthians is not ‘unto the church of God which is at Corinth with all that call upon the name Of Jesus Christ our Lord’, but ‘with all that in every place call the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. That is to say, there was the definite recognition of locality in regard of believers as constituting the assembly in the place in which they lived; yet they were not independent, for they were all bound together in the bonds of one universal fellowship, and by the fact that all believers form but ‘one body’ on earth.
The Lord has greatly helped of His beloved people, not only to recognise that dry are vitally linked with every believer on earth as forming with them one body, but to recognise equally their place locally, and to seek to carry out in their own localityprinciples which govern the assembly universally.
THE EFFECT OF ACTION OF ASSEMBLY CHARACTER
From the foregoing remarks it is evident that action of any one assembly in the early days of the Christian epoch would not have had a purely local bearing. If the command of the Lord was carried out in Corinth it would necessarily have to regarded by all who in place called on the name of that Lord. Moreover, the ‘body’ being one universally, those who composed the local assembly were part of the one whole; therefore, their action in carrying out administration in their locality; that is to say, the action of the local assembly, affected the whole, and had a universal bearing
This principle is of the utmost importance, but, it is to be feared, very much overlooked. If we would seek to walk in a path pleasing to the Lord in this day of difficulty, if we today seek to walk in the light that Scripture affords us regarding the assembly, and to depart from all that is contrary to divine principles, we must recognise, at least, that the assembly is one universally, ‘one body’.
The action of any local gathering of such who so walk, therefore cannot have only a local bearing. If today an individual is under discipline as an evildoer, and is so judged by those who act in their locality in the light that Scripture affords regarding the assembly, so that he cannot be allowed to partake of the Lord’s with them, he cannot rightly be received anywhere else. For another gathering to receive him would be an act of independence, and a denial of Christian fellowship and of the fact that the assembly is one universally. As another has said, ‘If a person is to be received in one place when he is rejected in another, it is evident there is an end to unity and common action. The assembly being ‘one body’ universally, and fellowship being universal also, the action of any one gathering of believers walking in the light that Scripture affords regarding the assembly and acting on divine principles, involves all others who are also walking in the bonds of fellowship.
Similarly, if a gathering refuses to judge evil in its midst, it involves in its guilt those in the bonds of fellowship with it. There is no warrant in Scripture for independent assemblies or purely local fellowship. The assembly is one body universally.
It may be added here that owning these great spiritual realities and principles, would lead us to recognise that a believer is local in the place where he resides. Hence if anyone were under discipline by an assembly and were, while in that state, to move into another locality, if or when the Lord graciously brings about recovery, his case would have to be dealt with by saints in the gathering in the locality in which he is at the time of his recovery. If he is living in Corinth, so to speak, he is local there; if in Colosse, he is local there.
All administration, whether of discipline or recovery, must be carried out locally.
‘Now ye (Corinthians) are (the) body of Christ.’ (1 Cor 12:27)
‘Do not ye judge them that are within?’ (1 Cor 5:12)
These passages put this question beyond controversy. The person is recovered in the place where he resides at the time of recovery.
In dealing with such a case, the few who desire to act according to principles proper to the assembly, would rightly get all the help they could from those who had to deal with the person when the discipline was exercised; they could in the Lord’s name call upon any one anywhere to give evidence to them; but clearly those in the locality Where the person resides would have the responsibility of handling the matter, and the Lord would support them in the discharge of their responsibility. It is well that this fact should ever be remembered. The present state of a person is only known in the place where he lives; and the Lord supports those in that place in discerning matters, for it is their responsibility.
Christians have differed as to the subject of everlasting punishment.
Simple Bible-believing Christians accept that the consequence of rejecting the gospel is eternal punishment in hell. Unfortunately, many modern teachers proclaim lies:
Eternal does not mean ‘without end’
Everybody, including unbelievers, will be saved – Universalism
The wicked will be consumed and annihilated – Annihilationism.
Souls will return in another body – Re-incarnation
Christians have differed as to the subject of everlasting punishment.
Simple Bible-believing Christians accept that the consequence of rejecting the gospel is eternal punishment in hell.Unfortunately, many modern teachers proclaim lies:
Eternal does not mean ‘without end’
Everybody, including unbelievers, will be saved – Universalism
The wicked will be consumed and annihilated – Annihilationism.
Souls will return in another body – Re-incarnation
The simple believer has no doubt that persons who reject the glad tidings will suffer in hell eternally. The English Bible leave him/her in no doubt that the punishment of the wicked is eternal. ‘And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever … And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. …And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire’ (Rev 21:10,12,15).
However, the theological intelligentsia has created alternative arguments:
The Greek word αἰώνιος/aiónios/Strong 166 does not really mean ‘eternal’. For example, some confine both life and punishment to the next age, i.e. the millennium. But that cannot be eternal.
All will be saved: God is too loving to allow such a thing as eternal misery in the lake of fire. (Universalism)
The wicked will not be saved. Their souls will no longer be immortal, for that the fire of hell will in time consume (or annihilate) them. (Annihiliationism).
I add re-incarnation – that the soul is reborn into another being
These arguments are mutually exclusive.
The Greek Word αἰώνιος
Darby was a Greek scholar and he was perfectly satisfied that the word meant ‘without end’ God warns the reader that eternal misery is the portion of the wicked. If that were not the case, would God frighten people with something that was not true? Strong defines αἰώνιος as ‘age-long, and therefore: practically eternal, unending; partaking of the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting’.
Rev 5:14 says, ‘And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.’ The worshippers worship for ever and ever. On the other hand, ‘The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name’ (Rev 14:11). For ever and ever is just that – eternal.
All will be Saved – Universalism
These persons call themselves Christian universalists. The idea that all will be saved is monstrous and unscriptural lie. Scripture makes it clear that some are saved and others are damned. If this were not the case what would be the point of Christ’s atonement, because those who rejected Christ’s work would be saved anyway? It would follow that even the devil would have to be saved – without Christ. When scripture says ‘should not perish’ – they argue that none would perish; when scripture says ‘whose end is destruction’ – they have no answer since they believe that all will come into happiness, but the wicked would have to wait a little longer. They argue that the condemned are such for a time only – like the Catholics believe in purgatory.
Hell will in time consume (or annihilate) the Souls of the Wicked – Annihilationism
This view, Darby said, was much in vogue in Britain during his lifetime. I believe it still is. Annihilationists say that death means simply ceasing to exist, as it does for the animals. If life is to be found only in Christ – ‘He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life’ (1 John 5:12), then those who do not believe have no life. They claim that after a certain quantity of punishment, the wicked will be turned out of existence, annihilated or consumed by the fire of hell, and exist no more. However, if when they died they ceased to exist, how were they to be made alive (without the work of Christ) in order to exist? Are they to be revived just to be punished?
Both of the above subvert God’s claims and the work of Christ.
As far as I can see, there is no reference to reincarnation in Darby’s writings. I am adding it though since, sadly many Christians have, in more recent times, borrowed this notion from Buddhism and Hinduism. It becomes a way of avoiding having a direct experience with God and accepting the work of Christ. ‘Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation’ (Heb 9:26-28).
Christ endured the wrath of a majestic and holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Eternal punishment is the terrible consequence of the enmity of man’s heart against God; eternal blessedness is the result of God’s free and blessed grace. Simple-minded Christians believe this, as they believe scripture.
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son’ (1 John 5:10-11)
An Appeal by J N Darby
Poor sinner, you are to meet God. Are you competent to judge how much punishment He should assign to you for your quantity of sin. He is to judge you in love. Love is what He is. But He is God, and does what pleases Him. His love for His Son; His love for those who have accepted the work of His Son, obliges Him to punish you eternally if you refuse His love. Mark this: if the Spirit of God has touched your conscience, you know that you deserve to be shut out of the presence of God for ever. You are conscious that you have deserved eternal wrath and punishment. You are a sinner: — What, in your own conscience, does sin deserve? And further, if it is a question what sin deserves, it is a question of what Christ bore, what His atonement was; for He bore our sins and was made sin for us. (Lightly edited by Sosthenes).
The essence of my current view of fellowship is that it is experience and not a membership system. I seem to discern believers amongst ban elaboration of Paul’s statement that the Corinthians had been called into the fellowship of God’s Son with which I am uncomfortable. It suggests that this is a calling, which is additional to the call in the gospel, and that there are those who have responded to the call in the gospel but have failed to respond to the call into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I don’t accept this. It implies a division in the body of Christ between those who have entered into this fellowship and those who have failed to do so.
The essence of my current view of Christian fellowship is that it is experience and not a membership system.
Paul went to Corinth in Acts 18 and, as was his custom, made his way to the synagogue. When it was finally clear that his message was firmly rejected by the Jews, he said that he would go to the nations. However, he was received by Justus; Crispus believed with all his house and many of the Corinthians, who had heard and believed, were baptised.
These people, from diverse backgrounds, now had the things relating to the faith of Jesus Christ in common in every circumstance of life. Whether they met together by arrangement or bumped into one another in the street, they had a link, related to their common faith, which they had with no others. This was Christian fellowship. It was known to them before Paul wrote his first letter to them. In chapter 1 of his first letter, he refers to this known link and enlightens them as to its exalted level – it is the fellowship of God’s Son. FER refers to having the things before we have the words and I think that this applies here.
I seem to discern believers amongst ban elaboration of Paul’s statement that the Corinthians had been called into the fellowship of God’s Son with which I am uncomfortable. It suggests that this is a calling, which is additional to the call in the gospel, and that there are those who have responded to the call in the gospel but have failed to respond to the call into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I don’t accept this. It implies a division in the body of Christ between those who have entered into this fellowship and those who have failed to do so.
There is the intimation, in this point of view, that fellowship is a membership system which is narrower than membership of the body of Christ. It has been ministered that ‘we form an association and all the members of the association are governed by the same thoughts and feelings and ‘All those breaking bread form part of the association, as we all partake of one loaf.’ An inescapable conclusion from these statements is that those members of the body of Christ not breaking bread have no part in this membership system. Fellowship is thus defined as a membership system which is narrower than membership of the body of Christ. This is the definition of a sect.
There is no higher expression of that which Christians have in common, i.e. Christian fellowship, than participation in the breaking of bread but I think that it must be borne in mind that that we do this for a calling of Him to mind, according to His request. To make the breaking of bread the confirmation ritual of membership of a fellowship, which is narrower than membership of the body of Christ, is to degrade it from what was instituted by the Lord.
If, as I believe, fellowship is experience, expressions such as ‘a fellowship’, ‘the fellowship’, ‘in fellowship’ and ‘out of fellowship’ lose their force; they all seem to me to imply membership. We, very simply, walk with others and find fellowship with them as we do so. The scriptural warrant for this, which includes moral and spiritual requirements, is in 2 Tim 2 and 1 John 1.
You refer to FE Raven Vol. 17 p40-41. Also are relevant is Vol. 18, p.63: ‘I have nothing to do with anybody else save to walk with them’ and so on. I have the impression from his ministry in the USA in 1902 that FER had become increasingly concerned with the way in which brethren were institutionalising. My view is that this concern about “brethrenism” was disregarded and accounts for the development of corporatist views of fellowship.
In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, and those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation. The latter is based on held opinions.
J N Darby – Sect or One Body
In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, from those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation. The latter is based on held opinions.
J N Darby – Sect or One Body
The Greek word for ‘sect’ is αἵρεσις/hairesis/Strong 139. Strong says that the word signifies a strong, distinctive opinion and was used in the New Testament to differentiate parties (sects) in Judaism. The term stresses the personal aspect of choice – Sadducees and Pharisees were such by choice (See Acts 23:8). In Acts 24:14, Christianity was described by some as a Jewish sect. Of course, Paul did not own this.
Darby defines the word as signifying adherence to a doctrine or system of philosophy or religion. It is used as describe Christians departing from the truth – ‘There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies’ (2 Peter 2:1). ‘There must also be sects among you, that the approved may become manifest among you’ (1 Cor 11:19 DBY). The Catholics assumed what they held to be ‘universal’, and censured all other believers by branding them as ‘sects’.
The Unity of the Body
The unity of the Church of Christ is seen in the Lord’s prayer in John 17 – ‘that they all may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (v 21). When the Holy Spirit came (see Acts 2; 1 Cor. 12:13), Christians became onein thought, word, and deed. And in this there was testimony to the unity. Satan spoilt that. In the scriptures the Holy Spirit compares the church on the earth to the human body, Christ being the Head (see Col 1:18). So if ‘one member suffer, all the members suffer with it’. (1 Cor 12:13). We members of Christ’s body.
When Christians unite outside this of unity, around a particular opinion, their unity is not founded on the principle of the unity of the body. They form an ecclesiastical corporation, and recognise each other as members of that corporation. This constitutes a sect. The communion service becomes an expression of the union of a church’s members. When a corporation of Christians assumes a right to admit members to it, it forms a unity opposed to the unity of the body of Christ. Being a member of a such a church is not according to scripture.
Of course, many pious Christians find themselves ignorantly in sectarian positions: they have never truly apprehended the unity of the body. They believe they are in that position through the will of God. But, in fact they are in a sect, a denial of the unity of the body of Christ (see 1 Cor 10:17).
Calling on the Lord’s Name
Darby said that his desire was to recognise all Christians as members of the body of Christ, and from an enlarged heart, ‘receive them, from an enlarged heart, even to the Supper, supposing that they are walking in holiness and truth, calling upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart’ (see 2 Tim 2:19-22). He would join with other brethren to take the Lord’s supper as members of nothing else but of the body of Christ, not as members of a church or sect. Unfortunately though, he could not gather with all the children of God, because not all were walking according to the principle of this unity of the body of Christ. They were sectarian.
Although the practical difficulties may appear great by reason of the state of the Church of God, the principle is very simple. However, Christ is sufficient for all. If we are content to be little in the eyes of men, things will not be so difficult. We can cite Matt 18:20 – ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’. This is a precious encouragement in these sad times of dispersion. We are told ‘Youthful lusts flee, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart’ ( 2 Tim 2:22 DBY). This directs us in the path of the Lord’s will, despite the confusion around us.
The judgment seat of Christ will be the first thing that the believer in Jesus will experience following the rapture. It is a great blessing that we shall be with Jesus and have exactly His view on everything in our lifetime.
What’s upsets me, is that Christians sometimes confuse the judgment seat of Christ with the Great White Throne. The two things are totally different – the Greek word is also different The Great White Throne is for unbelievers – people who have refused the glad tidings.
The judgment seat of Christ will be the first thing that the believer in Jesus will experience following the rapture. It is a great blessing that we shall be with Jesus and have exactly His view on everything in our lifetime. As one wrote, ‘Not a cloud above – not a spot within’ (G.V. Wigram (1805-1879). – For full hymn click here.
What’s upsets me, is that Christians sometimes confuse the judgment seat of Christ with the Great White Throne. The two things are totally different – the Greek word is also different (I will refer to that later). The Great White Throne is for unbelievers – people who have refused the glad tidings. They will be judged without mercy according to their works. It says, ‘This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire’ (Rev 20:14-15).
What is the Judgment Seat of Christ?
2 Cor 5 tells us, ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad’ (v.10). The word ‘appear’ is in Greek is φανερόω/phaneroó. This means ‘make clear or manifest’. So it is not like appearing befor a court with prosecution and defence. It is more, seeing everything in our lives, good and bad, just as Jesus saw it. The thought of a judgment-seat is taken from Greek tradition. The word used is βῆμα/bēma – a step or foot (up). A judge, or umpire would sit on a slightly raised platform and would adjudicate. For example he would judge the games, disqualifying cheats and giving prizes (usually a crown wreath of leaves) to the first, second and third places. It is also like a tribunal, before which my namesake Sosthenes was beaten in Corinth (see Acts 18:17). By way of contrast judgment at the Great White Throne is κρίμα/krima – the sort of judgment you get in a trial, from which, of course, we get our word ‘crime’.
The important thing here is that the Judge is also our Saviour, and what abounds is mercy. Our time of responsibility will have finished. There will be no guilt and no penalty. Any idea of a period of purgatory is totally foreign. Look at it from the Lord’s point of view. He has finished the work, His church is complete, His bride is ready, He wants the marriage to take place immediately – ‘The marriage of the Lamb is come, andhis wife hath made herself ready’ (Rev 19:7). We will be able to enjoy the Lord’s presence eternally, and the Lord will enjoy His bride in her perfectness.
The only other direct reference to the judgment seat of Christ is in Rom 14:10 ‘But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ’. Here it is a question of judging our brother (or sister). The message here is that we should good relationships with the Lord and with our brethren now, so no adjustment will be necessary at the judgement seat.
A couple of hymns bring the positive aspects of the judgment seat of Christ
How shall I meet those eyes? Mine on Himself I’ll cast, And own myself the Saviour’s prize, Mercy from first to last
James Montgomery (1771-1854)
What will it be with God to dwell, And there to gaze on Jesus’ face! To meet the One we’ve known so well As Priest and Saviour – in that place! Before Christ’s judgment seat to stand, With Him look back on all the way; To learn the meaning, at His hand, Of every deed in every day! Clearer than ever shall we see The grace which God our Saviour showed, The love that led so faithfully Along the pathless desert road. How blessed when this time is o’er, To find that love had all-sufficed, As there upon the heav’nly shore We reach the day of Jesus Christ!
Maria Carlsson-Carren (circa 1865-1955)
Scripture is not specific as to this. Clearly it must be between the rapture and the marriage of the lamb. Personally I think of it being VERY quick – maybe as we are changed into our bodies of glory (see 1 Cor 15:52).
Quick and blessed!
A Little more about the Rapture (See last month)
I would like to thank everybody for the positive reaction to the article on the rapture.
One brother challenged me to back everything up by scripture. Not that he disagreed, but we should be able to substantiate anything we say by the Word of God.
I wrote and spoke to several young believers and suggested they came back to me with scriptures. Disappointingly nobody responded – so here is my attempt, based on the table showing the differences between the rapture and the appearing. So please go through these and add to them, especially where it shows [?]
People speak about a ‘moral law’, but they have only a vague idea of what is meant by the expression. They say, ‘Live by the ten commandments’ or, ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matt 7:12 NIV). They quote scripture, but in so doing put themselves and others under bondage. That is not Christianity. The Christian has been delivered from the law.
There are expressions which are used by Christians, which as well as being unscriptural, convey a meaning which is also contrary to the truth as presented in scripture. One of these is ‘moral law’.
People speak about a ‘moral law’, but they have only a vague idea of what is meant by the expression. They say, ‘Live by the ten commandments’ or, ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matt 7:12 NIV). They quote scripture, but in so doing put themselves and others under bondage. That is not Christianity. The Christian has been delivered from the law.
Christians under a so-called ‘moral law’ have set aside Paul’s teaching. They show a semblance of piety, but are effectively seeking to be justified by works. Even if the works were good ones, they are under a curse. (see Gal 3:10). A Christian, being of a fallen race, finds himself ruined by the law, deceived by it to his own sorrow. The law knows no mercy. He is spiritually dead.
Paul found that experimentally. Paul saw that the law condemned lust. So, because he lusted he was self-condemned. Lust was in his nature. The law claimed absolute obedience to God, but he found he did not have the power to keep it. He wanted to do what was right but couldn’t. In short, he coveted, and thus broke the law. What was ordained to life, he found to be to death (see Rom 7:10).
Christ and the Law
God gave the promise to Abraham. The law was given later. If the law could have given life, righteousness could have been by the law. But the law did not give either the motive or the power to do right. That is why in Galatians the law is treated as a schoolmaster. The law condemns sins. More than that, it condemns sin.
In Romans 7 Paul insisted that one cannot have two husbands at the same time. A Christian cannot cannot be under obligation to both Christ and the law. A Christian is ‘dead to the law by the body of Christ’ (Rom 7:4). If he (or she) is dead, he is no longer under the law. , ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under the law, but under grace’ (Rom 6:14).
Somebody might say, ‘Yes; but the flesh is still there, so I need the law, not to put away sin, but that it might not have dominion.’ That is false – The Christian is to be consciously dead in Christ. If a person is dead, he is beyond the reach of law by death. The Christian has died with Christ and is resurrection: he is in newness of life – in Christ, not Adam.
I am ‘dead to the law by the body of Christ’ (Rom 7:4). The death that the law sentenced me to in my conscience has fallen on another — Christ. Otherwise I would have been left in everlasting misery. But in love Christ put Himself in my place. Now I am justified and have a right to reckon myself dead, because Christ has died and has risen again. I have received Him into my heart as life: He is really my life.
Godliness is walking with a risen Christ – that is Christian life. The measure of that walk is Christ, and nothing else.
The Divine Law
A true believer always holds difference between right and wrong, to be an immovable and fixed moral foundation. It is revealed by God in His word.
The Lord said ‘Keep my commandments’ (John 15:10) and John wrote ‘This is love, that we keep His commandments’ (1 John 5:2) . Some are afraid of the word ‘commandment’, as if it would weaken the ideas of love, grace and new creation. But keeping the commandments and obeying one we love is the proof of our love. Christ Himself said, ‘I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment, so I do.’ (John 14:31). His highest act of love, in dying for us on the cross, was His highest act of obedience.
The Spirit will produce fruits against which there is no law.
‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law’ (Gal 5:22-23.
‘Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love’ (Eph 5:1-2 Darby).
‘Put on therefore, as [the] elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any should have a complaint against any; even as the Christ has forgiven you, so also do ye. And to all these add love, which is the bond of perfectness’ (Col 3:12-14 Darby).
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)