Simplified J N Darby – on Independent Churches, Independent Local Assemblies, Personal Judgment and Conscience – On Ecclesiastical Independency

Darby observed the tendency of Christians to confuse their private, independent judgment with their conscience. My individual judgment 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.

 A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

On Ecclesiastical Independency

J N Darby

Darby observed the tendency of Christians to confuse their private, independent judgment with their conscience.  My individual judgment 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.

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.

J.N. Darby (1800-1882)

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

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

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

 

 

Simplified Darby – Separation from Evil and Christian 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.

 A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity

J N Darby
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.

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

About JN Darby

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

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

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