Dreadful straits; millions dying through [the Sudan] famine. [like the Coronavirus epedemic in 2020 – Sosthenes] Is God unmindful? He is not. You may be assured, He will get His harvest through grace
…the masses of humanity, everyone needing a Saviour…and let our hearts share God’s feelings for men. Dreadful straits; millions dying through [the Sudan] famine. [like the Coronavirus epidemic in 2020 – Sosthenes] Is God unmindful? He is not. You may be assured, He will get His harvest through grace in all these calamities; it must be, in all things he has the pre-eminence; it is a great comfort to think of that. God allows these things to happen and we should not do other than reflect His feelings. We should never live remote from the needs of men. A calamity should bring out in us sympathies and express God in them.
Oh, the relief of a living faith in a living Man who bore that load for me. Why did He do it? Oh that “why”; “why hast Thou forsaken me?” Who can answer that “why”? We would have to tell you of the ocean of the love that lay behind the reason why Jesus died. Love held Him there. He could have come down. He could have called on all those angels. He did not. He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross…But more than that, as my substitute He bore the judgement due to me because of my sins. Oh, do you not know and love a Saviour like that? Thank God I do and I commend Him to you.
(Extracts from a preaching by Brian Deck, Adelaide,
I trust that you proved God’s mercies over the Christmas period (however you did, or did not, celebrate it), and hope that He will give you health and happiness in 2019, as you enjoy Christian fellowship.
As we start a new year, I thought it might be a good idea to remind one another of those things which motivated Darby and others in the early 1800’s, and their relevance to us now.
A reminder that the Lord’s coming even closer now. Paul wrote, ‘It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light’ (Rom 13:11-12). Paul was, I believe, looking forward to the rapture – the salvation of our bodies which will be changed. As we look around we see the darkness of the world, getting even darker as God’s honoured relationships are discounted. At the same time the public sphere is becoming more and more confused – in the UK, USA and in the Rome-backed EU, with oppressive regimes and wars elsewhere). The love of the many may have grown cold, but the light shines even brighter amongst Christians who have the hope of our Lord’s coming, and amongst those enduring persecution.
A reminder that the calling of the church’s mission is heavenly. It’s sad: so often we hear that striving to be better Christians we can make this world a better place. We cannot; we never will. Jesus said, ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world’ (John 17:14), while Paul wrote, ‘For our conversation [or ‘commonwealth’ – Darby or ‘citizenship’ – NIV, ASV etc.] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself’ (Phil 3:21) .
A reminder that Christians are called to be apart from religious organisations which are based on the principles of the world – human organisation with one person in charge of an assembly be it a pastor, vicar, priest or whatever, and human performances with beautiful music and liturgical rituals on one hand emotional excitement on the other, all pandering to the flesh.
So, what do we see? Small Christian companies which are unattractive outwardly, and if we are honest somewhat struggling. You ask ‘How will they grow and spread, and what is the future?’ If the Lord’s coming is just round the corner, why be worried about the future? Maybe our faith is being tested – meanwhile let’s just obey the Lord – ‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you’ (John 15:12). ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13:35).
God’s blessings in 2019.
PS – A thought about Corinth
Thinking about the above, last week we had a meeting for ministry meeting and I was moved to give a word on what constitutes a good local assembly:
Not Corinth – Good numbers, gifted speakers but factions and politics
Not Ephesus – Absolutely correct teaching and well ordered – but no love
Just ’the poor of the flock’ – like Philadelphia – just a little power but as the city’s name implies – brotherly love
A brother followed speaking about Corinth and orderly meetings (1 Cor 14). You could imagine a large hall: I guess they didn’t have seats, but a several (men and women?) speaking simultaneously People gathered round the speaker they liked.
Ephesians 4and 5 give us a guide to the walk of an enlightened Christian. Here are some excerpts.
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ch. 4:1-6)
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with hishands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ch. 4:17-32)
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. . . . Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (Ch5:1-2, 14).
Putting off and Putting on – Our Life, what we are
We have learned the truth as it is in Jesus. We have put off the old and put on the new – ‘created after God in righteousness and true holiness’ (ch 4:24). Darby notes – not yet love.
God has been perfectly revealed through the work of Christ. Evil has been dealt with and Christ is glorified: He is sitting at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens (see Heb 1:3) : He is the righteous One who hates evil and delights in what is pure and good: He is holy. If we are to be ‘after God’it must be in righteousness and true holiness.
God is known now not merely as a Creator, but One whose whole nature is revealed in the work of redemption. Through redemption we have new creation: we are quickened out of our state of death in sin, and are raised as Christ out of His grave. By new creation we have become partakers of the divine nature.
The Presence of the Holy Spirit
God Himself dwells in us by His Spirit. His love is shed abroad in our hearts, sealing us for the time when we shall fully enjoy Him. We are not to grieve such a holy and blessed Guest. The Holy Spirit guides, orders, reveals the things of Christ to our minds, communicates what is blessed to us, filling us with what is divine. So nothing inconsistent with His presence, where all is peaceful with holy love flowing in our hearts. This governs our walk and speech.
God is Love
God has two essential names: Love (1 John 4:16) and Light (1 John 1:5). These characterise the Christian’s walk, Christ being the model. The measure of the Christian is not what he or she ought to be, but what God is morally, in holiness and love. God is sovereign: He can love without a motive. We need a motive and an object which we find in the Lord Jesus and His work.
Imitators of God
We are to be imitators of God, as His beloved children. As we are born of Him, partaking in the divine nature, we walk in love. We are to be tender-hearted and forgive, showing grace to one another. God has forgiven and shown grace to us (See Col 3:13).
There are two evidences of divine love in man:
It says, ‘And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour’ (Eph 5:2). This means that sorrowing over the evil in myself and in the world, I offer up myself, as Jesus did, perfect in love. Our path is to follow Him in this. As in 1 John 3:16, ‘Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren’.
Christ offered Himself to God – with a motive – He did so for us, despite our worthlessness. The object and motive were perfect. Hence, we are called to add brotherly love to love (see 2 Peter 1:7), which, we are told, is the bond of perfectness. We are therefore told to present our bodies living sacrifices (see Rom 12:1) – weak and sinful they may be, but self must be given up to God.
God is Light
God is light – essentially pure in nature. Christ was the light of the world: now He is our life. We are to be shining lightsamid a crooked and perverse generation (see Phil 2:15). We were in darkness, but nowwe are shining, and we are exhorted to walk as children of light. ‘For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’(2 Cor 4:6) – The fruits of light contrast with the darkness of the world. ‘But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord,(2 Cor 3:18). We are irreproachable. But in spite of all that, the apostle has to say, ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light’(Eph 5:14).
Such, then, is the true measure of Christian walk – what God is in His nature as love and light, has its true, perfect, and blessed expression on the earth, in man, in Christ. Thus we are to be followers of God as dear children, the fruit of the light and the purity of the divine nature being seen in us.
How much does the hope of the Lord’s return (the rapture) feature in our Christian meetings – an expectation – a hope. Is it the hope of troubles being ended, of divisions being over, of our poor old bodies being changed – or the hope of seeing our Saviour whom we love, and being with Him? Is it also the joy of knowing that at that time, Jesus will have His bride (us!) united to Him in glory. Is the degree of the expectation of Christ’s imminent return, the thermometer measuring our company’s spiritual warmth?
A few weeks ago, I was at a meeting for fellowship and ministry in the pleasant town of Malvern in Worcestershire England. The brother serving gave an address on the Lord’s coming. He started with a story:
An elderly sister had spoken to him recently, and said how she woke up during the night with troubles on her mind, especially those amongst the Christian group she was with. But there were others – the world, her family, herself – particularly her health. Then she said “Wouldn’t it be great if I woke up thinking, ‘This is the day the Lord is going to come!’ Wouldn’t that make a great difference to the day – and to me?”
The brother serving read from:
Luke 12:45 ‘That bondman should say in his heart, My lord delays to come’
1 Peter 5:1 ‘The elders which are among you I exhort, who am their fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of the Christ, who also am partaker of the glory about to be revealed’
1 Thess 4:17 ‘We, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall be always with the Lord’
This raises questions:
– Am I really looking forward for Him to come?
– Is there anything I ought to put right before He comes?
– Is what I plan to do today according to the Lord’s will?
This made me think of our Christian gatherings. How much does the hope of the Lord’s return (the rapture) feature in our meetings – an expectation – a hope. Is it the hope of troubles being ended, of divisions being over, of our poor old bodies being changed – or the hope of seeing our Saviour whom we love, and being with Him? Is it also the joy of knowing that at that time, Jesus will have His bride (us!) united to Him in glory. Is the degree of the expectation of Christ’s imminent return, the thermometer measuring our company’s spiritual warmth?
Darby wrote his poem ‘Hope’ in 1881, shortly before he was taken. Unlike many of his poems, it was written in the plural – the company rather than the individual.
And shall we see Thy face, And hear Thy heavenly voice, Well known to us in present grace! Well may our hearts rejoice. We wait to see Thee, Lord! Yet now within our hearts Thou dwell’st in love, that doth afford The joy that love imparts. Yet still we wait for Thee, To see Thee as Thou art, Be with Thee, like Thee, Lord, and free To love with all our heart.
Many of the churches in our area have websites. I have been looking at these, sometimes with blogs, or reproduced sermons, and often with a ‘Statement of Faith’ (either their own or that of the Evangelical Alliance, or in some cases the Nicene Creed[†].
There were traditional churches – Church of England, Baptist, Methodist
There were evangelical churches – Missions, FIEC affiliates, former Open Brethren
Many were charismatic and Pentecostal Churches with names such as: Kings Church , The Word House, King’s Treasure, New Life, Elim Pentecostal, the Incorruptible Word Ministries, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Redeemed Evangelical Church of Christ, Jesus Revival Ministries, Beulah Christian Fellowship, House of Favour, Peace & Love Assembly
What saddened me was that not a single one of these seemed to have any appreciation of the present living hope of the church – His imminent coming and the joy of being with Him. Their outlook appeared totally earth-bound – helping less fortunate people, enjoying exhilarating services, music with choirs and bands, youth outreach (now using social media) etc. I do not doubt that there are many real lovers of the Lord Jesus in those gatherings, with the full knowledge of their eternal salvation, and who have received and have the knowledge of the indwelling Holy Spirit. They have light of the Lord’s coming to take up His glorious kingdom on earth, but it is based on a ministry that is wholly earthly.
Even those citing the Lord’s return might be hazy doctrinally. The ‘Statements of Faith’ below†, seem not to distinguish between the rapture and the appearing and the millennium and eternity. I guess if these things are viewed as generations in the future, they do not appear important. Or are the church leaders wanting to avoid contention?
This does not just apply to the churches. There are many books on prophecy which accurately portray the future, based on the Bible. But they concentrate on events and judgments. The joy of our Saviour’s return is often lacking.
Of course, I may be mistaken, in some ways I would like to think that I was, and if there were more who had the light, joy and hope of the rapture, I would be immensely happy. I have not been to any services in these churches. I have not read every book on prophecy.
We can thank God there are some places which are different. I am aware of a couple of places who do not, nor would not, have websites, and where there is a true expectation of the Lord’s return – the meeting where we were till recently, and a nearby Gospel Hall where we know several who go there. Maybe there are other small companies of believers meeting separately, enjoying the Lord’s support and awaiting His return. But all this is very few in a conurbation of a quarter-million people.
May the Lord’s return be ever brighter in our hearts – and may the hope of it, and our desire to be with Him, affect our lives individually, and may it enliven our gatherings too.
May God bless you in 2018.
[*] In ‘A Day of Small Things’, I have several articles on the rapture (mainly in summaries of J N Darby’ works – especially ‘The Present Hope of the Church’. These cover the dispensational teaching, and the reality of the rapture, which could happen at any time, since no prophecies have to be fulfilled first. More importantly, they also help us see the real hope – the real joy – our Lord and Saviour’s return, and our being with Him.
[†] The new UK Evangelical Alliance’ New Statement of Faith states, ‘The personal and visible return of Jesus Christ to fulfil the purposes of God, who will raise all people to judgement, bring eternal life to the redeemed and eternal condemnation to the lost, and establish a new heaven and new earth’. The older Worldwide Statement reads, ‘The expectation of the personal, visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory’. Also the ancient Nicine Creed (referenced by the Methodists) states, ‘I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come’.
Reading 2 Cor 8:5. ‘And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God’. , I ventured to suggest we have in the past put things the wrong way round. It came to me that we have been relying on all that good teaching, the meetings and our relationships with our brethren – and then we have attached the Lord to what we have set up. He has been gracious and supported us, but is He saying.
First to the Lord, and to us
– Have we had it the Wrong Way Round?
If we desire to walk in the light of the assembly, we must always be mindful as to the One whose assembly it is. I look over some of the things I have written over the past few years, even on ADOSS, and see how much I have been governed by a mind-set, structured in accordance with right scriptural teaching, but without the Lord Himself as my prime object. What the Lord is looking for? Soundness of teaching is important, but it is not the most important thing. Being close to our Lord Jesus, and being true to Him, surely is. Many true believers without the teaching have a much closer relationship with our Lord and Saviour than I do.
A couple of weeks ago, I was writing to a brother, and the scripture came to mind in 2 Cor 8:5. ‘And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God’. Interesting: ‘not as we hoped’. Paul commended them for putting the Lord before them. Paul would not have wanted them to be in a subservient position, so ‘to us’, I take to mean Paul’s teaching and the practical fellowship and service to the Lord. That Saturday afternoon, a nearby gathering arranged a meeting for prayer to seek the Lord’s guidance, and I gave a short word, reading this scripture, and ventured to suggest we have in the past put things the wrong way round. It came to me that we have been relying on all that good teaching, the meetings and our relationships with our brethren – and then we have attached the Lord to what we have set up. He has been gracious and supported us, but is He saying ‘Put me first’
The Lord has given us an Opportunity.
It has been a very turbulent year amongst the Christians with whom we have been gathering. I do not want to go into details, other than to say we concluded that the ground of their gathering was sectarian. Many readers will be fully aware of what I am referring to. Whereas we had been in an average-sized company my wife and I are now breaking bread with just one elderly sister. Sadly, we felt we had to leave the gathering where we had been for 42 years and the brethren that we still love. Having been found in the situation, we broke bread simply, in answer to our Lord’s request, based on two-or-three gathered together to the Lord’s Name, and seeking to call on the Lord out of a pure heart (Matthew 18:20 and 2 Timothy 2:22).
Next, were there others with whom we could share full Christian fellowship? There are many gatherings nearby with sincere devoted lovers of the Lord Jesus, but are they gather on a sectarian basis, or are they run by human clerical organisation, or are they follow an open or independent path, not recognising the unity of the body. We can share experiences with individuals there, but cannot have part with them collectively. Thank God, we found three other gatherings, within an hour’s drive, with whom we can share full fellowship. They may be small, and we are having to travel more, but we are learning to work things out in love, above all putting our Lord Jesus first.
As to the future, who knows? God does of course, and it is for us to be with Him, and we are sure that Satan will attack. In the early 1800’s, many believers in small gatherings were moved to leave the organised denominations, where clericalism and established form has impeded the operations of the Holy Spirit. They did not know what the Lord was going to do, and that it would lead to a worldwide movement. It was said at a recent meeting, ‘When we come to practical fellowship, it is not for us to make rules, but to test everything – Is it in accord with the death of Christ?’ It is for us, first individually, and then as we find others, to seek to be faithful to Christ in the power of the Spirit, to walk simply as believers. Then let us see where the Lord leads.’
It is not an easy path. We have not been promised it. But it is a blessed one – and the Lord’s coming is very, very near!
‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’
My wife and I with some who had been through similar experiences (and a few others) met in Northern Ireland in October. I believe the Lord showed clearly in those meetings that there is ‘another way’. Accordingly, I have taken on the exercise of publishing these and other meetings. Under the title, ‘Today if you will hear His Voice’. if you would like a to receive this by email to you please click on the heading below. The first issue was distributed last month – on ‘Seven – what is Perfect, and what is Maintained in a Day of Reduction’: seven months, seven bullocks, seven loaves, seven baskets, seven lamps, seven stars, seven assemblies and seven overcomers (Word by Martin Cook). Two more issues are in the works.
I don’t spend much time on social media, but going for a walk yesterday I sat down and logged into Twitter on my iPhone. Correspondence between two brothers with whom I correspond came up:
The first sign that Moses did was to turn water into blood – judgment (see Exodus 7:20). The first sign that Jesus did was turn water into wine – grace (see John 2:10-11). ‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’ (John 1:17).
And … 3,000 die at the giving of the law, the first Pentecost (see Exodus 32:28); 3,000 given new life at the giving of the Spirit, the second Pentecost (see Acts 2:41). ‘For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’ (2 Cor 3:6).
‘Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee’. ‘By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. … For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God’. ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness’ (Gen 12:1, Heb 11:8,10, Rom 4:3)
Ruth left her comfort zone:
‘Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. Naomi and Ruth Return to Bethlehem So they two went until they came to Bethlehem’. (Ruth 1:16-19)
Peter left his comfort zone:
‘But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind wascontrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God’. (Matt 14:24-33)
Our Comfort Zone
We visited some brethren in Yorkshire in July. They gave us a photocopy of an article entitled ‘The Modern Smooth Cross’ It spoke about a new comfortable type of Christianity, pleasant, at peace with the world with an entertaining form of evangelism to go with it. It contrasted this with the True Cross, the one about which the Lord said, ‘Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ (Mark 8:34-36).
Everything around has been designed to make us comfortable. No doubt Ur was a comfortable city. I was told that in many ways it was more advanced than Babylon 1400 years later. We have become accustomed to a comfortable kind of Christianity – good meetings, good social relationships, and an ecclesiastical structure we can relate to, the church or meeting where we gather, rather than Christ, being the centre of our lives. The church, to use the modern expression, has become ‘our comfort zone’.
The True Cross separates us from the principles of the world – including the religious world It is the end of man according to the flesh, worldly, intellectual, religious, political, sectarian – whatever. But we have to leave our comfort zone to take up the cross.
Darby and others did just that when they separated from the organised church in the early part of the nineteenth century. They eschewed what was sectarian, seeing fellowship based on the one body – not a voluntary association. When two or three gathered to the Lord’s name, His presence was real and experienced, and they were greatly blessed and added to. They gathered in simplicity around the scriptures and found a Teacher in the Lord Himself and a Guide in the Holy Spirit.
Many are experiencing the same things now. They have left thier ‘comfort zone’. They meet in smallness and dependence, and pray that others they love might share thier joy.
Like Abraham, Ruth and Peter, we need to leave our ‘comfort zones’. If we do, it is a step in faith – ‘But without faith it is impossible to please him [God]’ (Heb 11:6). Of the future, if the Lord does not come, none of us knows. We follow Jesus – ‘the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Heb 12:2) – yes, the true cross.
‘But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him’. (1 Cor 2:9)
With greetings in Christ’s blessed Name
he old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam’s proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather it is friendly pal, and if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference.
In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, and those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation. The latter is based on held opinions.
J N Darby – Sect or One Body
In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, from those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation. The latter is based on held opinions.
J N Darby – Sect or One Body
The Greek word for ‘sect’ is αἵρεσις/hairesis/Strong 139. Strong says that the word signifies a strong, distinctive opinion and was used in the New Testament to differentiate parties (sects) in Judaism. The term stresses the personal aspect of choice – Sadducees and Pharisees were such by choice (See Acts 23:8). In Acts 24:14, Christianity was described by some as a Jewish sect. Of course, Paul did not own this.
Darby defines the word as signifying adherence to a doctrine or system of philosophy or religion. It is used as describe Christians departing from the truth – ‘There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies’ (2 Peter 2:1). ‘There must also be sects among you, that the approved may become manifest among you’ (1 Cor 11:19 DBY). The Catholics assumed what they held to be ‘universal’, and censured all other believers by branding them as ‘sects’.
The Unity of the Body
The unity of the Church of Christ is seen in the Lord’s prayer in John 17 – ‘that they all may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (v 21). When the Holy Spirit came (see Acts 2; 1 Cor. 12:13), Christians became onein thought, word, and deed. And in this there was testimony to the unity. Satan spoilt that. In the scriptures the Holy Spirit compares the church on the earth to the human body, Christ being the Head (see Col 1:18). So if ‘one member suffer, all the members suffer with it’. (1 Cor 12:13). We members of Christ’s body.
When Christians unite outside this of unity, around a particular opinion, their unity is not founded on the principle of the unity of the body. They form an ecclesiastical corporation, and recognise each other as members of that corporation. This constitutes a sect. The communion service becomes an expression of the union of a church’s members. When a corporation of Christians assumes a right to admit members to it, it forms a unity opposed to the unity of the body of Christ. Being a member of a such a church is not according to scripture.
Of course, many pious Christians find themselves ignorantly in sectarian positions: they have never truly apprehended the unity of the body. They believe they are in that position through the will of God. But, in fact they are in a sect, a denial of the unity of the body of Christ (see 1 Cor 10:17).
Calling on the Lord’s Name
Darby said that his desire was to recognise all Christians as members of the body of Christ, and from an enlarged heart, ‘receive them, from an enlarged heart, even to the Supper, supposing that they are walking in holiness and truth, calling upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart’ (see 2 Tim 2:19-22). He would join with other brethren to take the Lord’s supper as members of nothing else but of the body of Christ, not as members of a church or sect. Unfortunately though, he could not gather with all the children of God, because not all were walking according to the principle of this unity of the body of Christ. They were sectarian.
Although the practical difficulties may appear great by reason of the state of the Church of God, the principle is very simple. However, Christ is sufficient for all. If we are content to be little in the eyes of men, things will not be so difficult. We can cite Matt 18:20 – ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’. This is a precious encouragement in these sad times of dispersion. We are told ‘Youthful lusts flee, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart’ ( 2 Tim 2:22 DBY). This directs us in the path of the Lord’s will, despite the confusion around us.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the end of Romans 8, Paul sums up the exercises of our hearts, and the work of grace. We are brought to realise that, in spite of the conditions in the world, and in ourselves, he shows how God is for us. Indeed God had seen all these tests before we even existed.
Earlier in the chapter, we are told that ‘the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be’ (v. 7). But God has given His own blessed Son. We are to enjoy full liberty with God, knowing Him as the Giver. The prodigal thought the status of a humble hired servant would be more in keeping with his failure, but the father had other things in mind. The more we have a conviction of sin, the greater we appreciate God’s giving. Conversely the more we know God, the more we see the evil in sin, and the more we glory in Him, and what our Lord has done.
The accuser is Satan. ‘It isChrist that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us’ (v. 34). We are told that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ. Why the love of Christ, not the love of God? It is the love of God in Christ. He was down here suffering in the difficulties, and now He is at the right hand of God.
So, about the difficulties:
Principalities and powers? Christ was tempted by these, and overcame them for me: they are not going to stop me.
Life? He went through that too. He had plenty of sorrow in it; and I grow through all the sorrow that I might have. The trials of life cannot separate me from Christ – “to me to live is Christ’ (Phil 1:21).
Death? This cannot separate me either. Indeed, it will bring me to Him: ‘to die is gain’ (Phil 1:21).
Persecutions? I triumph in them, because Christ is with me in them.
When the children of Israel were in Egypt, they witnessed the judgment. Then God brought them out via the Red Sea – redemption. He looked after them in the wilderness, giving them the manna (but they had to collect it diligently). The real conflict began when they reached the land. Then the Lord presented Himself to Joshua as captain of the Lord’s host (Jos 5:15). He was with them.
God has brought us to Himself. We are called to fellowship with God, and fellowship means common happiness, common thoughts and common feelings. The Father’s delight is in His Son; and we have fellowship with Him in that. Christ’s delight is in the Father; and we have fellowship with Him in that. So our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Christ Jesus (see 1 John 1:3). ‘If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (1 John 1:6-7).
The psalmist asked God to search him (see Ps 139:23) – not to condemn or impute, but to cleanse. Christ has gone through all the difficulties, and now He is suiting me for the place where He is. May we know perfect redemption, and be consciously in fellowship with the Father and the Son, so that everything contrary to His holiness may be judged and put away.
The blood of the unblemished heifer, represents Christ who knew no sin. The blood was sprinkled before the tabernacle (the place of communion) seven times. But the body of the heifer was reduced to ashes. This shows that we still have to understand the seriousness of sin, and what the Lord had to bear.
In Numbers 19 we learn about being free of defilement. We are in the world but not of it – we belong in the sanctuary. If we come into contact with evil, a remedy is required, otherwise communion will be hindered.
The blood of the unblemished heifer, represents Christ who knew no sin. The blood was sprinkled before the tabernacle (the place of communion) seven times. But the body of the heifer was reduced to ashes. This shows that we still have to understand the seriousness of sin, and what the Lord had to bear.
The person who had been defiled had to wait seven days for communion to be restored fully. He had to gather up the ashes – making him realise the horror of sin. In grace we get a sense of God’s perfect holiness that necessitated the sacrifice. We had been careless, and found ourselves outside of God’s presence. Now communion was restored.
And each of us, therefore, is to learn to regard his or her body as something of priceless value, which can be, and is to be, used for the pleasure of God. It greatly dignifies our bodies to regard them in that light, and our lives become sanctified and valuable to God as they are filled out in the light of the possibilities there are of ministering to the pleasure of God in our bodies. If we think of that it makes things practical. We are exorted in the sixth chapter of this epistle to the Romans to yield ourselves to God as those who are alive from among the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness to God. So that it is not to be a theory with us. It is not to be an abstract idea which does not work out in what is practical, our members are to be held as instruments of righteousness to God, that is to say; our hands, what we do; our feet, where we go; our minds, what we think of; our eyes, what we look at. All these things are practical and our members are all intended to be held at the disposal of our God.
Thanks to Golden Nuggets, published by Saville Street Distribution