JN Darby Simplified – Am I Gathering to the Lord as a Member of the Body of Christ, or as a Member of a Sect?

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

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 21 Cor. 12:13),  Christians became one in 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.

Divisive Sects

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.

 

Based on J N Darby’s paper ‘What is a Sect’Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362.

Summary by Sosthanes

May 2017

 

 

 

What did John Nelson Darby and the Brethren hold?

Darby and the brethren held to all the fundamentals of the Christian faith:

There is one God, eternally blessed – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,.
The Lord Jesus was and is human and divine. He was born of a virgin and was raised from the dead and is now glorified at the right hand of God.
The Holy Spirit, having descended on the day of Pentecost, dwells in believers who are waiting for the promised return of the Lord Jesus.
The Father in His love has sent the Son to accomplish the work of redemption and grace towards men. Jesus, the Son, finished the work on earth which the Father gave Him to do. He made propitiation for our sins, and ascended into heaven. Now He is the great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
As to the brethren, nobody would be received into fellowship who denied any of these fundamental truths, and any who undermined them would be excommunicated. They are essential to living faith and salvation, and to the life which all Christians live as born of God.

 

lefrancaisA summary by Sosthenes of a letter entitled ‘ A letter to the Editor of Le Français’ – published in J N D’s letters Volume 2 page 431.

In 1878 the editor of ‘Le Français’, a catholic newspaper wrote to J N Darby asking him about what he and the brethren held.  Although he did not like writing articles for newspapers, believing that they were not compatible with the Christian’s heavenly calling, Darby said, ‘I have given him in all simplicity what he asked for. He avowed himself a Catholic and devoted to Catholicism. His letter was simple and honest: I replied to him as Christian.’

 

A summary of his reply:

Darby and the brethren held to all the fundamentals of the Christian faith:

  1. There is one God, eternally blessed – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,.
  2. The Lord Jesus was and is human and divine. He was born of a virgin and was raised from the dead and is now glorified at the right hand of God.
  3. The Holy Spirit, having descended on the day of Pentecost, dwells in believers who are waiting for the promised return of the Lord Jesus.
  4. The Father in His love has sent the Son to accomplish the work of redemption and grace towards men. Jesus, the Son, finished the work on earth which the Father gave Him to do.  He made propitiation for our sins, and ascended into heaven.  Now He is the great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

As to the brethren, nobody would be received into fellowship who denied any of these fundamental truths, and any who undermined them would be excommunicated.  They are essential to living faith and salvation, and to the life which all Christians live as born of God.

 

Darby’s early Christian Days

After John Darby was converted he spent six or seven years under the rod of the law, feeling that although Christ was his Saviour he did not possess Him, or that he was fully saved by Him.  He fasted, prayed and gave alms, but did not have peace.  He felt that if the Son of God had Himself forgiven him, he owed Him his body, soul and means.

At length God gave him to understand that he was in Christ, united to Him by the Holy Spirit.  Though he had always accepted that the word of God was the absolute authority as to faith and practice, God had now implanted in his heart the conviction of it.  Scriptures which bore on that were:

  • At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you’ (John 14:20)
  • He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit’ (1 Cor 6:17)
  • Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost who is in you’ (1 Cor 6:19)
  • There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1)
  • I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’ (John 14:3)
  • Having believed, ye have been sealed for the day of redemption’ (Eph 1:13)
  • For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body’ (1 Cor 12:13)
  • Even when we were dead in sins, [he] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)’ ( 2:5)
  • Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, who shall transform our body of humiliation into conformity to his body of glory’ (Phil 3:20-21)

From the above scriptures he deduced that the Holy Spirit has given us as believers the full assurance of salvation.  We have been set apart from this world, sealed to do God’s will here.  We are citizens of another world, awaiting the return of our Lord and Saviour.

 

The body of Christ is composed of those who are united by the Holy Spirit to the Head – Christ in heaven.  We are seated in the heavenly places in Christ, and are already there in spirit, just waiting to be actually place us up there, our bodies changed.

 

The Public Church

This brings us to the thought of the church and of its unity.

Let us look around we see how far we as Christians have got from what God had set up on the earth.  Where is the church?   Darby said that he gave up Anglicanism as not being it. In his early days he had been attracted to Rome.  But then he realised that the idea of a sacrificing priesthood down here was inconsistent with Heb 10:14-18  ‘For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. . . . Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin’.  As a result of the work of Christ, we have direct access to God in all confidence. ‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.’ (Heb. 10:19).  Rome pretended to be the whole, but that excluded half or more of Christendom.  Protestant sects were divided amongst themselves – unity was not possible.  In fact, most of those who call themselves Christians are of the world, just as much as a pagan might be.

 

The Fall of the early Church

 

The church was formed on the earth at the descent of the Holy Spirit.  It ought always to have been clearly identifiable, as something distinct, separate from the world.  Alas this has not been the case.  The Lord foresaw this: ‘The wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep’ (John 10:12) but, thank God the same faithful Shepherd also said,  ‘No one shall catch them out of my hand’ (v.28).

The apostle Paul, bidding farewell to the faithful of Asia, said, ‘I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock, and of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.’ (Acts 20:29-30).  Moreover, Jude noted that deceitful men had crept in among the Christians, ‘Certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men’ (Jude v.4).  This would lead to apostasy, those inside the public confession entirely abandoning the Christian faith. ‘There are there many antichrists: whereby we know that it is the last time. hey went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us’ (1 John 2:18-19).

 

What the Faithful should understand

Paul tells us, ‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work (2 Tim 2:19-21).

The public church is a great house with vessels of all kinds: a call comes to the faithful man to purify himself from the vessels to dishonour.  In the next chapter he speaks of perilous times.  Men will be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud etc., but also ‘Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof’ (2 Tim 3:5).  They were evidently in the professing church, not pagans as in Romans 1.  And it goes on, ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse’ (2 Tim. 3:12, 13); but true believers have assurance through the scriptures, given by inspiration of God, making them wise to salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

At the beginning, ‘the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2:47)  Soon false brethren crept in, tares were sown, the house was filled with unholy vessels, from which the faithful were to purge themselves, persons with a form of godliness without power, from which the faithful were to turn away.

Evil in the church continued.  ‘The mystery of iniquity doth already work’ (2 Thess 2:7). The wicked would be destroyed by the brightness of His coming.  Elsewhere the Lord speaks of the good grain and the tares growing together until the harvest (See Matt 13:24-30).  We must distinguish between the work of Christ, and what is done by men – heresies and schisms.

However, the gates of hell are not to prevail against that which Christ has built. The enemy will never destroy what Christ has built (the church of God).  That is the house made of living stones, and the holy temple in the Lord (See 1 Peter 2:5 and Eph 2:21.  Alongside all that, the Word declares that where two or three are gathered to the name of Jesus, He would be in their midst. (See Matt 18:20).

 

The early Brethren

This is what Darby recognised.  Initially only four met together, not in a spirit of pride or presumption, but deeply grieved at seeing the state of that which surrounded them, and praying earnestly about it. Darby said they were not thinking of forming a new sect.  Indeed, they did not believe that the thing would have gone any further. They were just satisfying the need of their souls according to the word of God and found the promised presence of the Lord.

Independently following the same road, the work extended in a way they did not expect – in the British Isles, France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and on through the rest of Europe, the British Colonies, the United States, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere.  As the gospel was preached, the Spirit of God acted, and produced soul yearnings that the established religious systems could not meet.

Those brethren rested on the authority of the word of God.  They saw our Saviour:

  • first as accomplishing redemption on the cross,
  • then as seated at the Father’s right hand, the Holy Ghost being down here,
  • and finally, as coming back to take His own to be with Himself.

These Christians had the full assurance of their salvation  They had faith in the efficacy of Christ’s redemption, and being sealed with the Holy Spirit, they were waiting for the Son of God to come from heaven without knowing when it would happen.  Bought with a great price, they felt bound to regard themselves as no longer belonging to themselves, but to please the Lord Jesus in everything, and to live only for Him.

 

The Brethren’s Walk

Whilst Darby had to admit that not all the brethren walked at the full height of the heavenly calling, they acknowledged the obligation to do so.  Brethren walked in a morally right way, excluding any who held heresy or engaged in immorality.  They abstained from the pleasures and amusements of the world.   Evening parties would be occasions of encouraging one another and discussing the word.  Brethren did not vote or get involved in politics.  They submitted to the established authorities, whatever they may be, so long as they were not called upon to act contrary to the will of Christ.  They took the Lord’s supper every Sunday, and those who had gift, taught from the scriptures and preached the gospel of salvation to sinners.  Everyone felt bound to seek the salvation or good of his or her neighbour, as they were able. Feeling that Christendom was corrupt, they were not of the church-world.

Asked as to how many such believers followed this course, Darby had no idea.  Brethren did not number themselves, wishing to remain in the littleness which becomes Christians. In any case, they reckoned as a brother or sister in Christ every person who had the Spirit of Christ.

 

Conclusion

What is the advantage of this course?  We acknowledge Christ as the Son of God and  know that we have been saved by Him.  In obeying Him, in spite of our weakness, faults and failures, we have as an indescribable source of joy.  Looking ahead, we have an earnest or advance of eternal happiness, with no failures, where our Lord will be fully glorified in all believers.

Sosthenes

November 2016

 

Confusion as to the Church – – The House and the Body

People confuse what Christ builds with what man builds, physically and metaphorically. Christ said to Peter in Matthew 16:18 that He would build the Church and that the gates of hell (Satan’s deadly power) would not prevail against it. Resurrection was the proof of that. Peter’s confession, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (v. 16), was the rock on which Christ would build his church. Peter was the first stone in importance, but he was not the builder.

 

Based J. N. Darby: The Church – the House and the Body – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p 91

 

JohnNelsonDarbyThe word ‘church’ means different things to different people:

  1. The Established Church (in Britain the Church of England)
  2. Those who are enrolled members by baptism etc.
  3. The buildings
  4. What is being built spiritually
  5. The clergy
  6. The congregation
  7. Christendom in general
  8. The body of Christ here
  9. What the Lord will present to Himself without spot or blemish

 

Baptism and the Church

No 2, above (enrolled members), is at the base of Romanism and much of Protestantism.  A person becomes a Christian by being baptised into the church, whether as an adult or a young child.  It is taught that one is saved because one is a member of the church, not that one is a member of the church because one is saved.   Immediately after Pentecost, of course, everybody in the church were true believers.  But soon the likes of Simon Magus got in, and introduced formality and other Jewish sacraments.  They may have been baptised and enjoyed the privileges of the church.  But they did not have eternal life, and were not members of the body of Christ.  As described in the epistle of Jude, they were ‘ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Jude v 4).

To say we are members of Christ by baptism is a falsification of the truth of God.   Alas, many of the early Church fathers, such Justin Martyr, Origen, Clement and later Augustine, espoused this heresy.  They may have been clear as to the Person and divinity of Christ, but they regarded the outward body as the Church, and its privileges was attributed to all who were baptised.  This has continued.  The (Anglican) Book of Common Prayer says ‘baptism wherein I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven’.

Much of this confusion comes about by taking what the Lord said literally when in fact He was talking figuratively.  He could say, ‘I am the true vine’ (John 15:1), ‘I am the door’ (John 10:7), etc.  He is not a vine nor a door.  The outward act is confused with true life from God.  Life and membership of Christ are by the Holy Spirit.  We are born of the Spirit, and by one Spirit baptised into one body (see 1 Cor 12:13).

Man fell and was driven away from God.  If there is to be a remedy, there must be new birth.   We are born of God and receive the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.   As we become conscious of the sinfulness of the flesh, and say ‘O wretched man that I am!’ (Rom 7:24),   we need a change of place, position or standing – reconciled to God.  Baptism is that change of place.

We are baptised to His death, buried with Him unto death.  Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, therefore we are alive, risen and quickened together with Him.  Death has totally taken us out of our old place; we have died out of it, as Christ died out of the world  we are alive with Him –   walking in newness of life (see Romans 8).

The Lord’s Supper

There were many sacraments in Judaism.  Some have been carried over into the public church, whereas only two are scriptural.  We have looked at baptism.  The other scriptural sacrament, the supper, demonstrates the unity of the body.  The Lord’s supper is received in common – the assembly or Church participate.  Hence we have (Eph. 4:4-5), ‘one Spirit, one body, one hope of your calling’ (belonging to the Spirit and spiritual persons, and), ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (the outward profession of faith and the recognition of Christ as Lord).  Again there is a misinterpretation here: partaking of the Lord’s supper involves eating Christ’s flesh and drinking Christ’s blood.  The true meaning of that is lost.  (I hope to address this in a later article – see Address to his Roman Catholic brethren by a minister of the Gospel. and Second Address to his Roman Catholic brethren).

 

What is being Built

See Nos 3 & 4, above.   People confuse what Christ builds with what man builds, physically and metaphorically.   Christ said to Peter in Matthew 16:18 that He would build the Church and that the gates of hell (Satan’s deadly power) would not prevail against it.  Resurrection was the proof of that.  Peter’s confession, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’  (v. 16), was the rock on which Christ would build his church.  Peter was the first stone in importance, but he was not the builder.  In his epistle Peter addresses other stones coming to Jesus, ‘To whom coming, a living stone disallowed indeed of men but chosen of God and precious, ye also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:4).  They come by faith and are built up.  There are no human rules or ordinances; there is no literal building, only faith.  Man’s building has no part in this.  And nothing prevails against it.

Paul amplifies this, developing the doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ.   But Paul does not build either.   He says, ‘Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord’ (Eph 2:21-22).  Only in Corinthians, where it is a matter of responsibility, does he write about our building.   ‘Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon’ (1 Cor 3:10).  Wood, hay and stubble are not compatible with gold, silver and precious stones.  Man’s work will be burned up; Christ’s work never will.

Puseyism, the high church movement, does not distinguish between the perfect building which Christ builds, where living stones grow to a holy temple in the Lord, and what man has built and continues to build.  The professing church may have a good foundation, but its superstructure is questionable.  It has been built of wood and stubble, which will be burned up in the day of judgment.  Those who corrupt the temple of God dishonour Him by assuming that what they build has His seal of approval – in effect that God sanctions evil – what wickedness!   That is why Paul writes, ‘If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are’ (1 Cor 3:17).

Paul tells us in 2 Tim 2 what our path should be.  But that is another subject[*].   May we distinguish between those admitted by baptism and the body, and between the Church which Christ builds, and the sham that man builds.   All man has put his hand to has failed.  But God has put His hand in first, by the Man who never fails.

 

 

[*] See:

Simplified Darby – Separation from Evil and Christian Unity – Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity

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

J N Darby – French Letter No. 141 – The Present State of the Church

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

141[1]

London – 22nd November 1870

To Mr B

Dear Brother

You ask me for some words on the apostasy. I do not hold to the word apostasy. It expresses rather the public denial of Christianity, which abandons the principles by those who make profession of it. But fundamentally, the matter itself is of all importance for the heart and for the conscience. As long as this word is not applied to Romish sectarians, there would be no trouble in using it, but when it is realised that, if this decline of Christendom has come about, the consequence of it would be universal, one begins taking exception to the use of the word. The open apostasy has not yet come, but rather the abandonment of faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit, the substitution of the clergy’s authority over the immediate rights of the Lord over the conscience; the degeneration of justification by faith, the efficacy of sacraments in place of the work of the Holy Spirit. In a word, the full development of the mystery of lawlessness is preceded by an abandonment of the first estate of the church and the principles on which it is founded, which is a moral apostasy. John says, “ye have heard that antichrist comes, even now there have come many antichrists, whence we know that it is the last hour”[2]. Thus, the apostasy has not come in the sense of a public renunciation of Christianity, [but rather] of the Word, and of Christ Himself, which characterises the majority of the population of Western Europe. It is rationalism properly speaking, and the spirit of rebellion that accompanies it. Men’s minds have no place for the word of God, the authority of which is no longer accepted; the will of man no longer desires the authority of Christ. If the antichrist is not already there, antichrists have existed for a long time; if the apostasy is not there, the spirit of the apostasy has already taken over the minds of men a long time.

I say that the thing is serious. If the assembly – for the word church confounds us a lot, since it begs the question what the church is – if the assembly of God does not keep its first estate, if it has said: “My Lord delays to come”[3], and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and to drink and to be drunken; there has been a long time, centuries, when it has done this, and it will be cut in two and have its part with the hypocrites. It is said that Christ built His assembly on the rock, and that the gates of hades will not prevail against it. I believe it, thanks be to God, with all my heart. But that has nothing to do with our question. Certainly, what Christ built will not be overthrown by the enemy; but it is a matter of what man has built. It is not the same there. Paul says, “as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation, but another builds upon it. But let each see how he builds upon it”[4]. Here the responsibility of man comes in for something – in a certain sense for all – into the question of the building. It is indeed God’s building, as the apostle says, but put up under man’s responsibility; a present thing on the earth. It is not about the salvation of individuals, but of the state of the system in which these individuals are found. When the end of Judaism under the first covenant had come about, pious souls, believers, were transferred into the church – God had finished for ever with the first system. At the end of the Christian system, the faithful will be transported to heaven, and judgment will come finally on the system from which they have previously come; nothing is simpler. The old world has perished: Noah and his own were saved. The judgment of a system does not affect God’s faithfulness; it is only to put it into evidence in showing that He keeps His own, even if all that encircles them collapses under the weight of His judgment. But can there be anything more serious than the judgment of what God established on the earth, for it is a hard thing to His heart; if Jesus could weep over Jerusalem, how much should His own not be moved at the sight of the approaching judgment of what was even more precious than Jerusalem. It is thus that Jeremiah, instrument of the groaning of the Spirit of God under the old economy, shows in words of a touching beauty, his deep sorrow at the ruin of what belonged to God. “And he hath violently cast down his enclosure as a garden; he hath destroyed his place of assembly … The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath rejected his sanctuary” (Lam 2: 6, 7). See the spirit in which the faithful had to think of the ruin of what is called by the Name of Christ. But it will be said to me: ‘Yes, that is understood, when it was a matter of Judaism, but this cannot happen to Christianity.’ This is exactly what the unbelieving Jews said in Jeremiah’s time: “for law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor word from the prophet” (Jer 18: 18): false confidence which brought ruin on the people and on the holy city. But there is more than this. It is precisely against this false confidence that Paul, in Romans 11, solemnly warns Christians among the Gentiles, that is to say ourselves, in establishing the parallel between the Jews and Christianity. “Behold then the goodness and severity of God: upon them who have fallen, severity; upon thee goodness of God, if thou shalt abide in goodness, since otherwise thou also wilt be cut away”, that is to say that the Christian system in the midst of the Gentiles is subject to the same judgment as the Jewish system. If the Gentiles who are only standing by faith alone, do not persevere in the goodness of God, they will fall away in the same way as the Jews. Is Romanism perseverance in the goodness of God? Are the “difficult times” the fruit of perseverance in the goodness of God, or indeed this form of piety which denies the power of it, and from which the Christian must separate? (2 Tim 3). If the apostle can say that all seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ[5], is that persevering in the goodness of God? If Paul foresaw that after his departure evil would come in straightaway[6], the powerful hand of the apostle not being there to hold the door shut against the adversary; if Jude had to say that already those who were the objects of judgment had slipped into the church; if John has said that they had forsaken the Christians, being gone out from among them[7], a step further than what Jude spoke of; if he has said again that there were many antichrists and that it was recognised from this that it was the last times; if Peter announces to us that the times were come for judgment to begin at the house of God[8]; does all this lead us to believe that the Gentiles have continued in God’s goodness, or rather that the Christian system, established among the Gentiles, will be terminated by judgment, the terrible judgment of God? – that, as outward profession, it will drink the cup of His wrath unmixed, or will be spewed out of His mouth like something nauseously lukewarm[9]? This is solemn for our consciences. Do we go as a system before the judgments of God? Assuredly, the faithful will enjoy a more excellent part; a heavenly glory, but the Christian system, as a system on the earth, will be cut off for ever.

As to the quotation made by Mr B, it is entirely false. The Scriptures speak of the assembly as being God’s habitation down here: the whole question lies here. In a house, it is not a matter of union, but of dwelling.

As to the body of Christ, there could be no dead members. One can deceive men, but he who is in fact united to the Lord is one Spirit with Him. The body is formed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12). Then Christ builds a house which will only be realised when the last stone is put there; it increases to be a holy temple in the Lord. But we have seen down here the building being confided to men, it may be that the building is ill-built and attract the judgment of God on what has been done. As the church has been established as the pillar and base of the truth, it will always be responsible to maintain this position; it is another thing to say that it has maintained it.

The first epistle to Timothy depicts for us the order of the house of God, and how man must conduct himself in this house. Does he conduct himself so? That is the question. If yes, whence comes Popery? The second epistle to Timothy regulates the conduct of the faithful when disorder has been introduced. Already, things in Christianity were no longer in the state in which they were found beforehand. At the beginning, the Lord added each day to the church those who were to be saved. They were manifested and added under the eyes of the world, a body well known. But when the apostle wrote to Timothy his second epistle, all was already changed. What he can say is that the Lord knows those who are His; it could well be that they remained hidden to man, as the 7,000 faithful to Elijah. But with this there is a rule for the faithful, that is, whosoever names the name of the Lord withdraws from iniquity[10]. Then comes the thought of the great house. One must expect to find in a great house vessels to dishonour as well as vessels to honour. But here again is a rule for the faithful: it is necessary to purify oneself from vessels to dishonour, and not only that, but one must pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. In this state of disorder, I cannot know as at the beginning all those who are God’s; but as to my personal walk, I must associate myself with those who have a pure heart. Moreover, in chapter 3, the apostle teaches us that, in the last days, difficult times will be there, where there will be a form of piety while the power of it is denied. Not avowed apostasy, for there is the form of piety, but real, moral apostasy since the power of it is denied. Mr B says that I must stay there and content myself. The apostle tells me: “From such turn away”. Who must I obey? When Mr B tells me that it is impossible to distinguish the true faithful from those who make profession of Christianity, while the apostle says that he who invokes the name of the Lord should withdraw from iniquity, that I must purify myself from vessels to dishonour, to seek the Christian graces with those who invoke the name of the Lord, out of a pure heart; how can I listen to him who tells me that it is impossible to distinguish one from the other? If he tells me that there may be many souls that the Lord knows that we do not recognise, I answer, ‘Without doubt, the Lord knows those that are His, but I have directions for my conduct in this state of things, which contradict yours’. I must recognise those who invoke the name of the Lord out of a pure heart and associate myself with them, and thus to distinguish them; to purify myself from vessels to dishonour, and thus to distinguish them, and to avoid those who have the form of piety while denying the power of it. It is therefore very necessary to distinguish them. However, it is a frightful principle to say that one cannot distinguish between the children of God and the people of the world. It is not true that it cannot be done. I have said, ‘a frightful principle’ for it is said: “By this shall all know that ye are disciples of mine, if ye have love amongst yourselves”[11]. For if I cannot discern them, I can no more love them, and the testimony that God wants is lost; then, it is not true in practice that one cannot discern them, for one enjoys brotherly fellowship, and every faithful Christian makes the distinction between a child of God and those who are not so. That there are others that are not discerned, but whom God knows, is not denied; but the passages that I have cited in 2 Timothy direct us as to this … What would become of a family’s affections if a father said to his children: You cannot know who are your brothers and who are not; you must associate yourselves with everybody without any distinction whatsoever? I do not look in the dictionaries, as we are told to do, but into the consciences and hearts of those who love the Lord, in taking the word of God to see what the state of the church is at the beginning, and what it is now. What does this Word say to us to make us know what the church has become in the last times? The word could not be clearer on the decadence of the church, on the character of these last times, and on the setting aside of the Christian system. The word is clear enough on the unity which must subsist as testimony rendered to the world that He lives (John 17). If a letter was addressed by the apostle to the church of God which is in Turin, who would collect the letter from the post, unless those of the Romish system? The church as it was at the beginning no longer exists. Call it what name you want, provided that the heart feels it and provided that they take to heart the glory of the Lord trodden underfoot by men. If the church, in its present state, is not yet the harlot sat on the beast, of which the Revelation speaks, the indifference of conscience which can make a squabble about the use of a word is the most sensitive proof of lukewarmness which results, at the end, in Christ spewing the church out of his mouth.

… Besides, there is nothing in this ruin of the assembly which is not in accordance with the history of man since the beginning. As soon as man has been left to himself, he has fallen; unfaithful in his ways; he has cast off his primitive state and never returned to it. God does not re-establish it, but He gives salvation by redemption, and brings man into an infinitely more glorious state, in the second Man, Jesus Christ. When Noah had been saved in the ruin of the whole world, the first thing that we read after his sacrifice is that he got drunk; when the law was given, before Moses had descended from the mountain, Israel had made the golden calf; the first day after the consecration of Aaron, his sons offered strange fire, and entry into the holiest of all was forbidden to Aaron, save on the day of atonement; he never wore his garments of glory and beauty. The first son of David, Solomon, type of the Lord, fell into idolatry, and the kingdom was immediately divided. In all these cases, the patience of God has been gloriously manifested, but the system that God had set up as a system in relation with Himself has been set aside. This is least evident in the case of Noah because a formal relationship did not exist in the same sense. The confusion of Babel having terminated the order of the world, the tyranny and wars came about, but for what concerns man, Israel, the priesthood, the kingdom, whatever had been God’s patience, man has fallen immediately, and the system has never been re-established on its old footing. It is not surprising that this is found again in the history of the church, as being placed under man’s responsibility. It has said: My Lord delays His coming, and has begun to beat the servants and unite itself with the world. It will be cut off. The great principle of Romanism and other systems which are like it more or less, and which makes them essentially false, is that they attribute to Christianity, to the assembly organised by means of ordinances, the stability and the immutable privileges which only belong to what Christ builds, and what is wrought by the Holy Spirit. All sorts of false doctrines are the result of this error. One is born of God, member of the body of Christ, this is what an article says in The Christian Look-out[12]; this is what the passage cited by Mr B says. He forgets one of two principal characters of the church according to the Word, precisely that where man’s responsibility comes in, that of being the habitation of God on the earth. He presents us the state in which the church is presently found, and certainly it is not composed of true members of Christ, without giving us an account, without giving us any particulars whatever on this subject, so that we may know if this state is good or bad, where it comes from or where it will end, and how the Word judges it. The expressions which he makes us of are equivalent to those of the unbelieving Jews in the times of Jeremiah. We are free of all these abominations. Nobody can say that the state of the church, of Christendom, resembles in any way what characterised it at the beginning according to the Word; there was not in any way either Romanism, or the National church, or dissidents. There was the church of God and nothing else. It corrupted itself very quickly, one will say; very well, but was this a good thing? There was then a church to corrupt, an assembly where certain men had slipped in. Was this corruption a good thing, or does it lead to judgment? Has there not been frightful progress since then? Is the church of God re-established on the earth? Must I suffer its state? Must I not seek in the Word how this will end, and take care with it? We have cited the Word, may each judge before God what it says. If we find ourselves in difficult times, does not the Word give us some rules so that we can trace the way in which we must walk?

If someone has the conviction that we are in these times, let him read 2 Timothy 2 and 3, and place himself before God who has given these instructions, with an entire confidence in Christ. The result as to these instructions is not doubtful. May he know to walk with God. Let us remember that, in every position in which the first Adam has failed, man is gloriously re-established in the second. But that is a subject, very interesting though it be, into which I cannot enter here.

Make use, dear brother, as you see fit of these pages; I have written them in haste. From 7 o’clock in the morning to midnight, I have always to work; I have meetings every day, then other work of every kind, I have still the correction of the new edition of the English New Testament, and often the French also at the same time.

The brethren are well.

I did not know who had sent me the Look-out until the arrival of your letter. My response came a bit late, but that has not mattered much; the subject remains important. Only present the gospel more than the controversy.

I have written on the epistle to the Romans, you will find something there perhaps; this is not yet prepared.

Yours very affectionately

[1] a different version of this letter also appears in JND’s published Letters – vol 3 p94

[2] 1 John 2: 18

[3] Luke 12: 45

[4] 1 Cor 3: 10

[5] Phil 2: 21

[6] See Acts 20: 29; Jude 4

[7] 1 John 2: 19

[8] 1 Peter 4: 17

[9] See Rev 14: 10; 3: 16

[10] See 2 Tim 2: 19 et seq

[11] John 13: 35

[12] JND gives the Italian title – la Vedetta Cristiana – a Christian publication commenced in 1870 by Teodorico Pietrocola Rossetti, a preacher and a patriot of the Italian Risorgimento – a 19th-century movement for Italian unification that culminated in the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861

 

Letter originally written in French, translated by Sosthenes, 2013
Click here for original – If you have any comments on the translation, feel free to let me know.

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – Timothy

The epistles to Timothy and Titus are not addressed to churches, nor were they to be communicated to the churches as such. Of course the church of God has them, guiding us as to the individual conduct which is an unceasing obligation for Christians.

Outline of Bible cover1 Timothy

The epistles to Timothy and Titus are not addressed to churches, nor were they to be communicated to the churches as such. Of course the church of God has them, guiding us as to the individual conduct which is an unceasing obligation for Christians.

Timothy had been charged insist on sound doctrine. However he has to draw attention as to the right order in the church. The first letter gives us the order of the church under normal conditions; 2 Timothy, shows us the path of faith when things are abnormal – in disorder.

You have in 1 Timothy 3:15 the principle of Timothy’s conduct.

 

2 Timothy

In 2 Timothy Paul was at the close of his career, and though the church had fallen into disorder, there is no other epistle in which he insists so much on the unfailing courage and energy of the saints. He calls upon them to endure the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God. We do not have the outward church connected with the body of Christ, but simply individual piety and devotedness wherever he could find it.

Chapter 2:18-22 is indicative of the tone of the instruction as regards the state of the church. The faith of some had been overthrown, so he refers first to the sure foundation of God, the Lord knowing them that are His. Whoever names the name of the Lord is to depart from iniquity. That is individual responsibility. Then he takes the great house as the analogy of the church publicly, showing that in such there are vessels to dishonour, and to be a vessel to honour, a man has to purge himself from these. Then he is to follow righteousness, etc., with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. This distinguishes those who are really saints. Paul associates himself with them, and warns of perilous times in the last days – a form of godliness denying the power. He insists, besides his personal authority, upon the known scriptures as a child might read them, and asserts that they are sufficient to make us wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus. They have been given by inspiration of God, and are adequate to make the man of God perfect [or complete, fit], thoroughly prepared for undertaking all good works.

 

Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes,  September 2014

– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible  for the original

The Spirit in which we should be when the Church is Forced to Exercise Discipline

We ought to remember what we are in ourselves, when we talk about exercising discipline – it is an amazingly solemn thing. When I reflect, that I am a poor sinner, saved by mere mercy, standing only in Jesus Christ for acceptance, in myself vile, it is, evidently, an awful thing to take discipline into my own hands.

Excerpts from a Paper by J N Darby entitled ‘On Discipline’

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

We ought to remember what we are in ourselves, when we talk about exercising discipline – it is an amazingly solemn thing. When I reflect, that I am a poor sinner, saved by mere mercy, standing only in Jesus Christ for acceptance, in myself vile, it is, evidently, an awful thing to take discipline into my own hands.

But the church may be forced to exercise discipline, as in the case of the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 5. I believe there is never a case of church discipline but to the shame of the whole body. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul says, “Ye have not mourned,” etc.: they all were identified with it. Like some sore on a man’s body, it tells of the disease of the body, of the constitutional condition. The assembly is never prepared, or in the place to exercise discipline, unless having first identified itself with the sin of the individual. If it does not do it in that way, it takes a judicial form, which will not be the ministration of the grace of Christ. Its priestly character in the present dispensation is one of grace.

All discipline until the last act is restorative. The act of putting outside, of excommunication, is not (properly speaking) discipline, but the saying that discipline is ineffective, and there is an end of it; the church says, “I can do no more.”

As to the nature of all this, the spirit in which it should be conducted, it is priestly; and the priests ate the sin-offering within the holy place, Lev. 10. I do not think any person or body of Christians can exercise discipline, unless as having the conscience clear, as having felt the power of the evil and sin before God, as if he had himself committed it. If that which is done is not done in the power of the Holy Ghost, it is nothing.

It is a terrible thing to hear sinners talking about judging another sinner, sinners judging sinners, but a blessed thing to see them exercised in conscience about sin come in among themselves. It must be in grace. I no more dare act, save in grace, than I could wish judgment to myself. “Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” Matt. 7:1, 2. If we go to exercise judgment, we shall get it.

 

The full paper is published in JND’s Collected Writings Vol. 1 Ecclesiastical 1 page 338.

 

When and how should I leave a Company?

Wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst.
If anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, he would … deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence.
If the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not? Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil?

I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity.

If any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension.

 

A Letter by J N Darby on Separation

I am not so afraid of leaving an assembly, or setting up another table, as some other brethren

Wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst.

If any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension.

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

I write rather because of the importance of the point than for any immediate occasion of circumstances: I mean leaving an assembly, or setting up, as it is called, another table. I am not so afraid of it as some other brethren, but I must explain my reasons. If such or such a meeting were the church here, leaving it would be severing oneself from the assembly of God. But though wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst, and the blessing and responsibility, of the church are, in a certain sense also, if any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension, and denying the very testimony to the state of ruin which God has called us to render. It would have ceased to be the table of the people and testimony of God, at least intelligently. It might be evil pretension or ignorance; it might call for patience, if it was in ignorance, or for remedy, if that was possible: but such a pretension I believe false, and I could not abide in what is false. I think it of the last importance that this pretension of any body should be kept down: I could not own it a moment, because it is not the truth.

If anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, he would … deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence.

But then, on the other hand, united testimony to the truth is the greatest possible blessing from on high. And I think that if anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, but he would necessarily deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence. It resolves itself, like all else, into a question of flesh and Spirit. If the Spirit of God is in and sanctions the body, he who leaves in the flesh deprives himself of the blessing, and sins. If, on the contrary, the Spirit of God does not sanction the body, he who leaves it will get into the power and liberty of the Spirit by following Him. That is the real way to look at it. There may be evil, and yet the Spirit of God sanction the body (not, of course, its then state), or at least act with the body in putting it away.

 If the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not?  Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil?

I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity.

But if the Spirit of God, by any faithful person, moves in this, and if the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not? Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil? That is precisely the delusion of Satan in popery, and the worst form of evil under the sun. If the matter, instead of being brought to the conscience of the body, is maintained by the authority of a few, and the body of believers despised, it is the additional concomitant evil of the clergy, which is the element also of popery. Now, I believe myself, the elements of this have been distinctly brought out at [Plymouth?]; and I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity. I do not want unity in evil but separation from it. God’s unity is always founded on separation, since sin came into the world. “Get thee out” is the first word of God’s call: it is to Himself. If one gets out alone it may require more faith, but that is all; one will be with Him, and that, dear brother, is what I care most about, though overjoyed to be with my brethren on that ground. I do not say that some more spiritual person might not have done more or better than I: God must judge of that. I am sure I am a poor creature; but at all cost I must walk with God for myself. . . .

 Some get hold of a particular evil which galls their flesh, and they leave. Do you think that the plea of unity will heal? Never. All are in the wrong.

I should not break bread till the last extremity: and if I did, it would be in the fullest, openest testimony, that I did not own the others then to be the table of the Lord at all.

Suppose clericalism so strong that the conscience of the body does not act at all, even when appealed to; is a simple saint who has perhaps no influence to set anything right, because of this very evil, therefore to stay with it? What resource has he? I suppose another case. Evil goes on, fleshly pretension, a low state of things on all sides. Some get hold of a particular evil which galls their flesh, and they leave. Do you think that the plea of unity will heal? Never. All are in the wrong. Now this often happens. Now the Lord in these cases is always over all. He chastens what was not of Him by such a separation, and shews the flesh in detail even where, in the main, His name was sought. If the seceders act in the flesh, they will not find blessing. God governs in these things, and will own righteousness where it is, if only in certain points. They would not prosper if it were so; but they might remain a shame and sorrow to those they left. If it be merely pride of flesh, it will soon come to nothing. “There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest.” If occasion has been given in any way, the Lord, because He loves, will not let go till the evil be purged out. If I do not act with Him, He will (and I should thank Him for it) put me down in the matter too. He loves the church, and has all power in heaven and earth, and never lets slip the reins.

I should not break bread till the last extremity: and if I did, it would be in the fullest, openest testimony, that I did not own the others then to be the table of the Lord at all. I should think worse of them than of sectarian bodies, because having more pretension to light. “Now ye say we see.” But I should not (God forbid!) cease to pray continually, and so much the more earnestly, for them, that they might prosper through the fulness of the grace that is in Christ for them . . . .

 

Lightly edited by Sosthenes

 

For original please see: STEM Publishing: J. N. Darby: A Letter on Separation

Published in JND’s Collected Writings vol. 1 (Ecclesiastical 1) p. 350.

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 Love of God 1 John 4:9 
by J. N. Darby

God presents what He is to men, so we know that He is holy, righteous and love. He is love, and love draws me. Love is the divine nature.

I need to be separate from evil: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14). It is not said, ‘He is holiness’. Indeed I as a sinner would be repelled by mere holiness. He is holy. He is just, and He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. (Hab 1:13) He may be the God of judgment, but He blesses His own so that they might be eternally happy in holiness, for He is holy love.

A summary by Sosthenes

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

God presents what He is to men, so we know that He is holy, righteous and love.  He is love, and love draws me.  Love is the divine nature.

I need to be separate from evil:  “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14).  It is not said, ‘He is holiness’.  Indeed I as a sinner would be repelled by mere holiness.  He is holy. He is just, and He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity(Hab 1:13)  He may be the God of judgment, but He blesses His own so that they might be eternally happy in holiness, for He is holy love.

Whatever our state may be, God is perfect in His love, and He would make us learn, enjoy and walk in it now, not when we get to heaven.

Our selfish, unbelieving nature hinders us down here, but this only serves to magnify God’s grace and love.  In spite of all, He brings us to the knowledge of perfect love because “Perfect love casteth out fear, for fear hath torment” (v.18).   If, when thinking of God, we fear, we have torment.  That is the conscience.   Man may seek to bury his conscience, but only succeeds in hardening it.

If we seek peace in ordinances, it is not love but fear. The effect of true ministry is to put the soul in direct contact with God.  False ministry brings in something between the soul and God.

The soul must have the blessed consciousness of perfect peace with God.  God brings you into the joy of His perfect love in His presence; “Who shall separate us? … More than conquerors.” (Rom. 8:35)

The family character of the children of God is light and love.  It is God’s nature, and seen in both in Christ and in all God’s children.  I must have the new nature to know this; but how do I get it?  Where is it found?  In Jesus Christ Himself, image of the invisible God. (Col 1:15).   In Christ I find a perfect manifestation of His love. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us(v10).

There is no mention of anything required of us, but the simple fact of what we were “dead in trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1)

Though He is a God of judgment, He brought out the means of our approach: through Christ’s sacrifice.  Abel’s faith testified how man was to approach to God, so from Abel downwards God showed mercy.

Man as man refuses to come to God “none righteous.”  (Rom. 3:10) When Christ comes, it is another thing altogether.  God now approaches man in grace; not man approaching God.  He visited men in their sins, “that they might live through him.” (v.9)  All around was darkness, degradation, and idolatry. God took them out of that condition that they might live through Christ. “God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”  (1 John 5:10). Thus we are brought into His presence.

We live through His only-begotten Son. He is bringing us into His presence, before the One in whom all His delight was from eternity.  It is the eternal enjoyment of it to know eternal life in the Son; but down here we often question it, because we do not see this love in us. He is “a propitiation for our sins.(1 John 2:2)

God has loved me not only when I wanted it, but because His knew what I wanted.  He has not mistaken my case; Christ on the cross made the propitiation for my sins.  So I can say, “Herein is love.” (v.10)  I have found God, and my soul rests there. The cloud has been taken away for ever. If you say, ‘I have committed such and such a sin’; I answer, ‘It is for the sins you had or still have that Christ died; for He died for your sins.’

He cannot bear sin, and therefore He must put the sinner in his sins away, because He cannot bear the sins.  I learn to judge sin according to God, because I am brought into the light.  I find many sins in myself. He is the propitiation for my sins. I believe this, and then I enter into communion with Him. Why do I find fear and torment when I find sin in myself?   Can I not trust that love?  Have I not believed the love God has towards me?

God does not expect fruit from man, but His grace produces fruit.  We should feel sin, and know it has been blotted out.  We are told that  “The glory thou hast given me I have given them, that the world may know that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:24)  “There is no fear in love.” (v.18).   It is a matter of communion and we live through Him. “… Perfect love casteth out fear.”

I am not honouring God, if I do not trust the work of Christ in love on the cross.  I come to Him just as I am, and then I know God.  He enables me to trust in blood of Jesus Christ His Son – the perfectness of His work in putting away sin.

 

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)