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

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.

ADOSS Newsletter – No. 8 – May 2014

Walking in the Light of the Assembly
Theological Seminaries
Baptism
Money, Money, Money,

Σωσθένης Ὁἀδελφὸς – Sosthenes the Brother

sosthenes@adayofsmallthings.com – 

ADOSS Newsletter No 8 – May 2014

Dear Christian Friends

Here is the latest ADOSS Newsletter

Walking in the Light of the Assembly

Special Note

Since writing this newsletter in 2014, I have come to it that much of what I had written was faulty. The biblical principles are of course right, but in the application of them we need to avoid what is sectarian.  In seeking to judge one, it is easy to slip into another.  In 2017, my wife and I had to leave the company of Christians we had met with for over 40 years – that was sad,  We have continued to seek to walk in the Light of the Assembly – but that does not need another book.  Hence I have withdrawn this publication,  Please feel free to contact me sosthenes@adayofsmallthings.com.

This subject has engaged me a lot recently, not least because Satan is doing his best to spoil what is closest to the heart of our blessed Lord.  As soon as man’s mind, with its politics and organisational ability, starts to get involved the result is sorrowful.  The service of praise continues; believers still enjoy bible readings and preachings, but is the Lord still the centre of everything?

Some years ago I was on a plane from San Francisco to Sydney.  Across the aisle from me there was a family of Taylorite Exclusives.  I cried to the Lord for a word for them.  In my bag I happened to have a volume of James Taylor Sr’s ministry (that is the older JT – not his infamous son!).  I found there something I have never found since, though I have tried with the ministry search engine.  It read ‘There comes a time when we realise that the Lord is the centre, not the system’.  So often we make the system the centre, our own sect, our little meeting, our circle of Christian friends or whatever, and we protect it in every way we can.

I am producing another booklet including a paper I have written Walking in the Light of the Assembly.  It is still a draft, so I would appreciate yourcomments and suggestions before putting it forward for publication.  I also include three helpful letters by Charles Coates, and one by J N Darby on the ‘Bethesda’ (ie Open) matter.

May we all have a greater appreciation of the infinite resources available to the Church of Christ, and be filled with grace.  We have been forgiven so much, so we are to be ‘kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you’  (Eph 4:32).

Theological Seminaries – Do we need them?

There are many sincere believers, and sound teachers who work in these institutions.  There are many earnest young Christians, men and women, desirous of serving the Lord, who attend them, and have gone on to serve Him faithfully.  But is there any scriptural basis for them?

I have looked at a few websites recently and there are some noble statements.  The Dallas Theological Seminary, for example, is very much influenced by the ministry of John Nelson Darby, and has produced some worthy alumni, such as my friend Paul Wilkinson.  It states, ‘The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders for the proclamation of His Word and the building up of the body of Christ worldwide.’  Nobody could criticise that – in fact the church needs more and more workmen.  But what do many desire?  A Doctor of Ministry degree?  A wonderful graduation ceremony in robes?  And how much does it cost?  not that a degree should be without cost, of course.  Timothy was told ‘for those who shall have ministered well obtain for themselves a good degree, and much boldness in faith which [is] in Christ Jesus.’ (I Tim 3:13 JND).  They get their degree by ministering; they do not get their degree in order to minister.

Furthermore, like any college, it is a social institution with sports, clubs etc., and you only need to look at Facebook to see that.  Nothing wrong, of course, with sport and social activities, but are they part of the church?

There was the School of Tyrannus in Corinth.  It was a place to read and discuss the word, and for interested persons to come to the Lord.  If it was a formal school, I don’t think it was more than a place of convenience for Paul.  Then there was the home of Aquila and Priscilla.  I don’t think either had a doctorate, but they were able to take Apollos (who maybe had one) expound unto him the way of God more perfectly (Acts 18:26).

So, maybe the best place to learn is in the assembly.  We are to learn in the school of God.  There is a good book by James Butler Stoney  (1814-1897) – Discipline in the School of GodMaybe this is a good place to start.  Though we had best start on our knees first.

Baptism

This is a subject which creates quite a bit of debate.  Believers’ baptism, infant baptism, household baptism – which is right?  Baptism by water puts us on Christian ground; it puts us into the house.  It does not confer salvation on us.  It does not put us into the assembly (or church) – By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body  (1 Cor 12:13) – That is because of God’s work, and our faith, which itself is God-given.   In an earlier project, I translated a very helpful letter, which I have put on ADOSS – see Why I could not be a Baptist. – Believers’ Baptism – Infant Baptism – Household Baptism – the House and the Assembly.

ADOSS Website

Even after a few months, the ADOSS website is getting a bit unwieldy.  I am therefore reorganising it, using ‘posts’ rather than ‘pages’ and indexing using categories.  Hopefully I shall avoid dead links, but apologies if you find some.

Money, Money, Money

A song of the world, by Abba, I think!  But I really get upset when I receive messages, some in heart-breaking terms, asking for money.  Maybe there is a genuine need; I don’t know, and cannot judge.  I am happy to help a known individual who I have met, and shared Christian experiences together who have a need.  Other than that there are organisations who know what local needs are, and are worthy of financial support.

I don’t like saying ‘No’, so please do not ask.  I will just point you to our heavenly Father who knows what we need and will give us everything necessary to prove His goodness.   Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.3But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt 6:31-33)

May you be blessed

Greetings in our Lord’s name.

Sosthenes

 

 

Simplified Darby – God’s Love and Grace – Holiness, Unity and Christian 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 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 together.

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

Grace, the Power of Unity and of Gathering

J N Darby

 

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 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 together.

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.

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

A summary by Sosthenes – September 2013 

 

 

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