The Lord’s Coming – Is that REALLY our Expectation?

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 12:45That bondman should say in his heart, My lord delays to come’
  • 1 Peter 5:1The 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 4:17We, 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?

He quoted J N Darby: ‘The expectation of the return of Christ is the exact measure (the thermometer, so to speak) of the life of the church’ (Collected Writings vol 2 – Prophetic 1 p 292 – Lecture 3 of 11 on ; The Hopes of the Church of God) – See also A Day of Small Things summary – The Second Coming of Christ [*]

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.
 

Hope by J N Darby (1800-82)

Little Flock 1962/1973 editions – Hymn no 270

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.

Sosthanes

 

[*] 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.

Some of these are:

 

 

 

[†] 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’.

Malcolm Biggs: Principles Relating to Christian Fellowship

INTRODUCTION

 

This booklet by Malcolm W. Biggs (1875-1941) was referred to, in some meetings in Northern Ireland, published in my ‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’ series (Not yet on-line).  Also referred to was a book by the same author ‘Fellowship, its Nature and Possibilities’.   Neither are available on-line.  The former is published by Kingston Bible Trust – 2015 Catalogue .

The latter is out of print, and unavailable through normal channels.

As neither of these publications are on line, I have digitised the shorter one, and it is beliv made available here.  I would value an offer of assistance to digitise the other.

 

PRINCIPLES RELATING TO CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP

 

If a path of a collective character pleasing to the Lord is to be taken by us, not only must the moral features consistent therewith be maintained—such as righteousness, holiness, faith and love—but the principles carried out in practice. It will be profitable, therefore, to consider some of these principles and note their practical application.

No believer has a right to regard himself purely as an individual. He has been called to the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; and if we seek to walk in the path pleasing to the Lord, the Christian’s path, it is imperative that we regard our relations one with another. We have been called into the great partnership of Christian fellowship.

The principles therefore, to which we shall first refer are those which govern Christian fellowship.  From 1 Corinthians 1:9, it is clear that all believers are called to the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Hence in 1 Corinthians 1:2 the epistle is addressed not only to the assembly which is at Corinth, but to ‘all that in every place call the name of Jesus Christ our Lord both all theirs and ours’.  Whether all have responded to, or answered to the responsibilities is another matter, but from the passage quoted it is evident that all believers are called to it

The fellowship being that of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, the Lord Himself is the bond of our fellowship.  To us Christians there Is one Lord.   We must be true to his name. This is a matter of immense importance.   We must ever remember the necessity of confessing Christ as our Lord and owning His authority over every department of our lives. If the reader knows of anything of his own life, his personal conduct, habits, etc., business or domestic which does not please the Lord, let him judge himself, for until he does so it is useless, indeed damaging, for him to attempt to take up the question we are about to consider.  To discuss church questions when we know there is something in our lives individually that is not pleasing to the Lord, is damaging to a degree.  If we are to speak about ‘our Lord’, and His will for us, each of us must recognise Him as Lord, and do His will in our personal lives individually.  We cannot be right collectively, unless we are right individually; but in addition to our individual history with the Lord, we have a collective responsibility as forming part of the assembly which He loved and for which He gave Himself.  It is to this side of our spiritual exercises, obviously, that our inquiry applies.

 

TO US THERE IS ONE LORD

It is very evident that anyone whose life is moulded on the On the principles inculcated by the word of God, of obeying the Lord Jesus, will find little real companionship with those whose life is fashioned according to the world; the whole principle of life is different, and practically there will little or nothing in common.  The believer, however, is by no means to lead a life of isolation.  He may find himself very isolated from the mere worldling, from worldly-minded Christians also. They may separate him from their company; he may be despised and rejected, as was his Master before him.  But although isolated as to the world, the believer can say, as the Psalmist did, ‘I am a companion of all them that fear thee’ Psalm 119:63. It is here that fellowship comes in.

There is no part between him that believeth and an unbeliever; but there is a very great deal in common, and a very real and vital bond between all believers, and if our lives are what they should be in practice, we shall find real companionship in those that do the will of God.  The One we obey is the One they obey ; and obedience to that one Lord will blend our lives together.  Not only does each individual believer know Jesus as Lord, but as together in the same path of obedience to His will we can say, ‘Jesus Christ our Lord’. To us there is ‘to us there is … one Lord, Jesus Christ,(1 Cor 8:6).  The fact of every believer owning the same Lord, establishes a bond between them.  We are called into the Fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We must be true to this bond and His fellowship.  Fellowship is only practically realised as we recognise in our conduct and in our associations what is in keeping with the Lord’s name.

Hence, before fellowship becomes realisable the believer must be true to the name of the Lord not only in his personal conduct, but in all his associations.  It is important to see that we may be defiled by our associations as well as by actual conduct.  Numbers 19:22, makes this very clear : ‘And whatever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even  See also Lev 13 & 14 and Hag 2:11-14  This same principle of defilement by association is seen in the New Testament: see Gal 5:9, 1 Cor 5:6-7, 2 John v.10-11.

If a believer’s personal conduct is inconsistent with the name of the Lord, who is the Holy and the True—he is by that very fact morally, or spiritually, unclean.  It is not always seen, however, that if others associate with such a one, that is to say, if he ‘touches’ them, or they ‘touch’ him, they also unclean.   Further, if a believer, whose personal conduct may be otherwise consistent, identifies himself with those who are associating with the unclean person, he also becomes unclean This fact is very exercising and sobering.  We may have opportunity again to refer to this important matter.

Each of us is to own the Lord and be consistent with His name in every sphere of our lives.  If we own Him thus, fellowship ceases to be a mere term, and becomes a practical reality.  Clearly, if things are otherwise, and man does what is right in his own eyes, fellowship is impossible.  One Lord is to control all.  What is consistent with His name is to be recognised by each of us.  So only can the expression, ‘To us There is one Lord (1 Cor 8:6), have vital meaning.

 

THE COMMUNION OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST

Christian fellowship is also the fellowship of Christ’s death, the communion of the blood of Christ, of which the Lord’s supper is the repeated expression, and to which we commit ourselves by partaking of the Supper, by drinking of that one cup.

As an Israelite who ate of the sacrifices was professedly in communion with the altar of Jehovah, so a believer who partakes of the Lord’s supper avows his communion, or fellowship, with the death of Christ.  Nothing inconsistent with the death of Christ can ever be allowed.  Christ in His death has become our altar—the basis of fellowship for all believers—at once severing us Judaism, or that which answers to it today; that is, any system of worship of a material or formal kind, and from idolatry, whether in its past or present-day forms.  How really exclusive Christian fellowship is!  The more we consider the communion of the death of Christ, the more we shall see how necessarily it shuts out all that is of the world, religious or profane

We may well speak of the cup as ‘the cup of blessing which we bless’, but we must remember equally that it is the communion of the blood of Christ.  If we are partakers of the benefit secured by the death of Christ, we must be true to that which that death witnesses, and to which we are committed. The death of Christ forbids any link with the world.  This is involved in our baptism.  It is again forced upon our attention, as we partake of the Lord’s supper.  He who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. To be one with the world would be virtually to deny the death of Christ of which the blood of Christ ” is the witness. The cup of blessing is the communion of the blood of Christ.  How great the blessing secured thereby!  How great the love expressed therein!  It was a love that gave up all for us, so that endless and measureless blessing might be ours.  We are sharers together in that cup of blessing; we must together, as one, refuse the world.  Any worldliness would provoke the Lord to jealousy.  His love is so great He can have no rival, no idol in our hearts.  We must not allow another to share our hearts with Christ. To do this after committing ourselves to such a bond of fellowship, would provoke Him to jealousy, and we should find ourselves, typically speaking, under the curse (See Numbers 5).  here is a suggestion of this type in 1 Corinthians 10:22 and 16:22. Worldliness among God’s people is very serious

The world has a religious form as well as a profane one.  Judaism has its present-day features in much that is current in the professed circles of Christianity.  ‘Sodom and Egypt’ are typical of the profane world; ‘where also our Lord was crucified speaks of the religious world. See (Revelation 11:8).  Worldliness is most seductive when it wears religious clothing. Idolatry is most deceptive when linked with a feast to the Lord. (See Exodus 32:4,5).  May the Lord keep us clear of such unholy associations, ever remembering that by the Lord’s s upper we are professedly in the ‘communion of the blood of Christ’.

 

THE COMMUNION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

‘The communion of the Holy Spirit is a remarkable expression ; it is found in Corinthians 13:14.  We have been baptised by one Spirit into one body.  We may have occasion to develop this side of our subject a little later on.  Here we may remark that, since the Holy Spirit is the power of Christian fellowship, anything of the world or the flesh, anything in the way of mere human arrangements in the assembly of God, or maintenance of merely social links one with another, must necessarily greatly hinder the fellowship.  It need scarcely be remarked that the setting aside practically of the liberty of Spirit described in 1 Corinthians 12-14 by appointment of a minister, or any attempt to arrange the service or of God, must greatly grieve the Holy Spirit and thus hinder and prevent what is normal to our collective experience. Moreover, in the measure in which we in our assembly life, friendships on basis of what is merely natural, links of social kind, etc., in that measure fellowship is hindered, yea, it is impossible.

Our links as Christians are not in the flesh or according to what we are naturally, socially, nationally or racially, but according to what we are ‘in (the) Spirit.’  Here we have a power, the Holy Spirit, that binds us all together, that gives us spiritual tastes in common one with another, spiritual sensibilities and perception.  And in the measure in which we recognise what is of the Spirit in a practical way, we shall prove what is ‘the communion of the Holy Spirit’. Many practical considerations flow from these facts.  May we not each ask himself the questions:

  • Am I minding the things of the Spirit?
  • Am I walking in the Spirit?
  • Am I endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit?

To do these things we must, surely, refuse the flesh in its many subtle forms, and make room for the Holy Spirit and for what is spiritual. To the Corinthians the apostle had to write, ‘I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal (1 Cor 3:1).  Were he writing to us now would he have to say the same thing?  Are there not schools of thought?  Are there not some Christians who are definitely boasting in following the ideas propounded by some Christian leader of so-called thought?  Let abandon those fleshly habits, dear reader, and seek only to be led by the Spirit, and thus answer to the beautiful type of Rebecca of whom it is written, ‘the servant [a type of the Holy Spirit] took Rebecca, and went his way’ (Gen 24:61)

To summarise, then, what has been before us: the Lord is the bond of Christian fellowship, the death of Christ is the basis thereof, and the Holy Spirit is the power of this fellowship, making it subjectively real.

Now it is obvious that the character of Christian fellowship being such, it must of necessity be universal in its bearing.

 

THE UNIVERSAL CHARACTER OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP

The universal character of fellowship is a fact of wide and practical bearing.  Whether in Europe, Asia, Africa, America or Australasia, the fellowship is one, and wherever we are we must be true to it.  Conduct suitable to it in one place, is suitable to it in any other place; and what is unsuitable to it in one place is unsuitable to it in any other.  Locality can make no difference in a matter of this kind, for the considerations are moral, and therefore universal, in their application.  Let us ever remember this fact.

Moreover, the same principle has its application to persons.  If anyone is suitable or fellowship in one locality, he is obviously suitable for it in any other locality.  Hence, in the early days of the assembly, letters of commendation were customary, which enabled a believer going from one place to another to be received suitably by those into whose district he might going.  See 2 Cor 3:1, Rom 16:1, Acts 18:27. Similarly, if the conduct or associations of anyone are such that he is rendered unfit for fellowship in one place, he is unfit for it in any other place.  If we seek to be true to Christian fellowship, we must always and everywhere recognise this principle.  How often it is, and has been, overlooked by believers.  To do so is to deny the character of fellowship.

The principle applies equally to actions of a collective nature.  If evil exist in one locality, unless dealt with according to God, those in any other locality acknowledging bonds of fellowship with those allowing such evil are identified therewith and are responsible as to the matter, as being involved in the evil by association.  Any discipline that might be necessary as to dealing with evil, would have to be exercised in the locality in which it is, as the apostle shows in 1 Corinthians 5; but nevertheless, the acknowledgment of the bonds of fellowship carries with it all that fellowship implies, which is complete association, and, let us remember, association with evil defiles.

Moreover, fellowship being universal, nothing relating thereto can have a purely local character or effect.  This fact entirely forbids anything in the nature of an independent or local fellowship.  Hence, in like manner this principle necessitates that the action of any one gathering walking consistently with Christian fellowship involves every other gathering acknowledging the bonds of fellowship therewith; and similarly, if a gathering refuse to judge evil in their midst, this involves in its guilt those in fellowship with it.  No action can be purely local in its character or effect.

We would ask the thoughtful reader to consider how seriously these principles have been overlooked or ignored by many Christians, however unwittingly.  It is not uncommon to find believers meeting together in a place to take the Lord’s supper and maintaining that their fellowship is purely local, and that they are an independent local company of Christians. This is, in practice, to deny the very fellowship professedly expressed in their assumed action of taking the Supper.  The Supper cannot rightly be taken apart from recognising the fact of ‘one body’ being here on earth, and nothing is clearer than the apostle’s words in the 1 Corinthians 10:17, ’Because we, being many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf’.  This ‘we’ is what may termed the Christian ‘we’, that is to say it embraces the universal ‘one body’ of all believers, the one fellowship of which is normally expressed in taking the Lord’s supper.  To attempt to take the Lord’s supper and at the same time profess to be an independent local company, is to deny the first principle of Christian fellowship; for Christian fellowship is universal.  It may be replied, however,’ But we are in fellowship with all Christians!’  Yet this, surely, cannot really meant.  Do such mean to that they are in fellowship with every professing Christian, whatever his conduct or associations, be he immoral or a blasphemer or in fellowship with such, or be he linked with some antichristian, or religious system, which they who so speak would denounce as wrong?  If so, this is evil indeed!  It is true that all Christians are called to Christian fellowship, the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and we should be true to this fellowship, as we have already seen.  But are all Christians true to it?  If not we cannot say we are in fellowship with them.  Were the Corinthians in fellowship with the man whom they were told to remove from among themselves?  Clearly not.  They had to cut their links of fellowship and not even to eat with the incestuous person.  No, dear reader, fellowship means partnership, and this involves identification, and for any to be identified with evil means that they are evil too.

Now that the assembly, so far as its outward profession is concerned, is in confusion, and all manner of evil exists in the sphere of Christian profession, it becomes increasingly necessary to adhere to divine principles. we are to take a path of a collective character, the Christian’s path in days of difficulty, we must recognise the principles governing Christian fellowship; we must also constantly remind ourselves that, as believers on our Lord Jesus, we are not merely so many individuals.

 

THERE IS ONE BODY

However separate from evil and from evil associations we each must be individually, since we have received the Holy Spirit, we are vitally linked with all believers on earth; ‘We all have been baptised by one Spirit into one body (1 Cor 12:13).  Therefore, in addition to the principles already considered as governing Christian fellowship, we must also consider the principles governing the assembly as ‘one body’.

The fact of assembly being one body has both a local and a universal application. Though local assemblies are recognised, Scripture makes it abundantly plain that the assembly is one universally.  Those who composed local assemblies, as having been baptised with all other believers by ‘one Spirit’, made but ‘one body’; though the local assembly was to have the character of Christ’s body as we may see farther on.

Whatever breakdown may have taken place in the public profession of Christianity, the assembly Of God, as already remarked, has in no way ceased or changed in its vital existence and character.  The apostle addresses Christians thus in 1 Corinthians 1.  Let the reader pay attention to this epistle.  The manner of address shows that although the epistle was written to the particular assembly in Corinth, its bearing was universal.  Hence we find such expressions as, ‘so ordain I in all churches (1 Cor 7:17). ‘We have no such custom, neither the churches of God (ch. 11:16), and again, ‘as in all churches of the saints’ (ch. 14:33).

Moreover, the manner in which the apostle addressed the assembly in Corinth also shows it was identified, or associated with ‘all that in every place upon the name Of Jesus Christ our Lord,’ (1 Cor 1:2)  who, indeed, was Lord both to them and to all other believers; for to us, Christians, there is but one Lord

 

THE BODY ONE UNIVERSALLY

Other scriptures show equally that the assembly as ‘one body’ is considered as one whole existing on earth at any given time. Ephesians 4:4 tells us that there is ‘one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling’. For there to be the hope of our calling, the one body must be here. Ephesians 4:15-16 again speaks of the assembly as the ‘whole body’ increasing and growing, Christ being the Head. To increase and grow the body must be here. Then again in Colossians 3:15 we read that ‘we are called in one body’.  From the nature of the exhortations given in these passages, it is clear that they could not possibly apply to us when we are in heaven; they refer to us here and speak about what has been brought about on earth.   Jew and Gentile have been formed into one body, which clearly refers to what has taken place on earth; and this is confirmed by exhortation in Ephesians 4:3-4, to maintain the unity of the Spirit, because ‘There and one Spirit, even as ye have been called in one hope of your calling.

1 Corinthians 12:13, however, very emphatically asserts this unity as existing on earth, having been brought about by all believers having been baptised by ‘one Spirit’. The ‘we’ of verse 13 is clearly a universal ‘we’, and include every believer on earth, since all have been baptised by ‘one Spirit’. Whereas the ‘ye’ of verse 27, refers to those in Corinthian assembly. ‘Now ye are Christ’s body, and members in particular. Let the reader carefully note this fact : the assembly is one body on earth at this present time: one body universally. Fellowship is one, and the assembly is one: ‘one body’.

 

LOCAL ASSEMBLIES

Yet we must equally observe that local assemblies existed.   We have seen this to be so in Corinth. Those who composed each local assembly were not only ‘one body’ with all other believers on earth, as we have already seen, but local assembly which they composed was to have the character of the whole; characteristically it was ‘Christ’s body’, as seen  from 1 Corinthians 12:27.  Notice the change of pronoun: ‘we all’ (verse 13), ‘ye’ in verse 27.

The writer of the of book of Acts refers to many such local assemblies as having been established by Barnabas and the apostle Paul, chapters 14:23, and 16:5, as well as those previously existing in Judea, ch. 9:31. These local assemblies, however, were not independent bodies, but were bound together by the common bond of Christian fellowship, and by the fact that all believers had been baptised by ‘one Spirit into one body’;hence, as remarked, the ‘we’ of 1 Corinthians 12:13, is undoubtedly a universal ‘we’.  The local assemblies were to have the features of the whole.  ‘Now ye are Christ’s body, and members in particular(verse 27).

It is to be regretted that a great number of believers are allowing the idea of independent assemblies.  It is difficult to conceive anything more contrary to the teaching of the epistles. We scarcely imagine the apostle Paul, who insists so strongly on the unity ofthe assembly as one body on earth in his epistles to the Colossians and the Ephesians, establishing local assemblies and teaching them that they were not

independent.  The assembly is not an aggregate of a number of independent bodies; It is not a confederation of a multitude of local assemblies; it is one whole, as Scripture most plainly asserts, ‘There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling (Eph 4:4).

 

LOCAL ADMINISTRATION

However, it is necessary to see that the administration of the assembly is not carried out universally; that is to say, by any central body or authority governing the whole, but is out in the several localities, bearing in mind that their actions have a universal effect, inasmuch as their bonds of fellowship are universal.

This being the case, it is necessary that we take up our places locally in the recognition of what we are as forming with all other Christians ‘one body’ universally.  In other words, we approach our local exercises from a universal standpoint.  As already remarked, it was God’s desire that the assembly should not be a universal organisation governed by some metropolitan centre such as Jerusalem was, or such as, alas, Rome assumes to be.  It was His will that though one universally, it should find characteristic local expression in whatever place believers might be.  It was to be truly catholic, that is ‘universal’ (for word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’), a vital organism, ‘one body’ universally; yet to have administrative powers locally, which were to be exercised in the consideration of what was universal. Hence, as we have noticed, the address at the beginning of the epistle to the Corinthians is not ‘unto the church of God which is at Corinth with all that call upon the name Of Jesus Christ our Lord’, but ‘with all that in every place call the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  That is to say, there was the definite recognition of locality in regard of believers as constituting the assembly in the place in which they lived; yet they were not independent, for they were all bound together in the bonds of one universal fellowship, and by the fact that all believers form but ‘one body’ on earth.

The Lord has greatly helped of His beloved people, not only to recognise that dry are vitally linked with every believer on earth as forming with them one body, but to recognise equally their place locally, and to seek to carry out in their own localityprinciples which govern the assembly universally.

 

THE EFFECT OF ACTION OF ASSEMBLY CHARACTER

From the foregoing remarks it is evident that action of any one assembly in the early days of the Christian epoch would not have had a purely local bearing.  If the command of the Lord was carried out in Corinth it would necessarily have to regarded by all who in place called on the name of that Lord.  Moreover, the ‘body’ being one universally, those who composed the local assembly were part of the one whole; therefore, their action in carrying out administration in their locality; that is to say, the action of the local assembly, affected the whole, and had a universal bearing

This principle is of the utmost importance, but, it is to be feared, very much overlooked. If we would seek to walk in a path pleasing to the Lord in this day of difficulty, if we today seek to walk in the light that Scripture affords us regarding the assembly, and to depart from all that is contrary to divine principles, we must recognise, at least, that the assembly is one universally, ‘one body’.

The action of any local gathering of such who so walk, therefore cannot have only a local bearing.  If today an individual is under discipline as an evildoer, and is so judged by those who act in their locality in the light that Scripture affords regarding the assembly, so that he cannot be allowed to partake of the Lord’s with them, he cannot rightly be received anywhere else. For another gathering to receive him would be an act of independence, and a denial of Christian fellowship and of the fact that the assembly is one universally.  As another has said, ‘If a person is to be received in one place when he is rejected in another, it is evident there is an end to unity and common action.  The assembly being ‘one body’ universally, and fellowship being universal also, the action of any one gathering of believers walking in the light that Scripture affords regarding the assembly and acting on divine principles, involves all others who are also walking in the bonds of fellowship.

Similarly, if a gathering refuses to judge evil in its midst, it involves in its guilt those in the bonds of fellowship with it.  There is no warrant in Scripture for independent assemblies or purely local fellowship.  The assembly is one body universally.

It may be added here that owning these great spiritual realities and principles, would lead us to recognise that a believer is local in the place where he resides.  Hence if anyone were under discipline by an assembly and were, while in that state, to move into another locality, if or when the Lord graciously brings about recovery, his case would have to be dealt with by saints in the gathering in the locality in which he is at the time of his recovery. If he is living in Corinth, so to speak, he is local there; if in Colosse, he is local there.

All administration, whether of discipline or recovery, must be carried out locally.

  • ‘Now ye (Corinthians) are (the) body of Christ.’ (1 Cor 12:27)
  • ‘Do not ye judge them that are within?’ (1 Cor 5:12)
  • ‘Ye ought rather to forgive him.’ (2 Cor 2:7)

These passages put this question beyond controversy. The person is recovered in the place where he resides at the time of recovery.

In dealing with such a case, the few who desire to act according to principles proper to the assembly, would rightly get all the help they could from those who had to deal with the person when the discipline was exercised; they could in the Lord’s name call upon any one anywhere to give evidence to them; but clearly those in the locality Where the person resides would have the responsibility of handling the matter, and the Lord would support them in the discharge of their responsibility.   It is well that this fact should ever be remembered.  The present state of a person is only known in the place where he lives; and the Lord supports those in that place in discerning matters, for it is their responsibility.

M. W. BIGGS.

 

 

 

 

Eternal Punishment

Christians have differed as to the subject of everlasting punishment.

Simple Bible-believing Christians accept that the consequence of rejecting the gospel is eternal punishment in hell. Unfortunately, many modern teachers proclaim lies:

Eternal does not mean ‘without end’
Everybody, including unbelievers, will be saved – Universalism
The wicked will be consumed and annihilated – Annihilationism.
Souls will return in another body – Re-incarnation

 

J N DarbyChristians have differed as to the subject of everlasting punishment.

Simple Bible-believing Christians accept that the consequence of rejecting the gospel is eternal punishment in hell.  Unfortunately, many modern teachers proclaim lies:

  • Eternal does not mean ‘without end’
  • Everybody, including unbelievers, will be saved – Universalism
  • The wicked will be consumed and annihilated –  Annihilationism.
  • Souls will return in another body – Re-incarnation

The simple believer has no doubt that persons who reject the glad tidings will suffer in hell eternally.   The English Bible leave him/her in no doubt that the punishment of the wicked is eternal.  ‘And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever … And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. …And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire’ (Rev 21:10,12,15).

However, the theological intelligentsia has created alternative arguments:

  • The Greek word αἰώνιος/aiónios/Strong 166 does not really mean ‘eternal’. For example, some confine both life and punishment to the next age, i.e. the millennium.  But that cannot be eternal.

 

  • All will be saved: God is too loving to allow such a thing as eternal misery in the lake of fire. (Universalism)

 

  • The wicked will not be saved. Their souls will no longer be immortal, for that the fire of hell will in time consume (or annihilate) them.  (Annihiliationism).

 

  • I add re-incarnation – that the soul is reborn into another being

 

These arguments are mutually exclusive.

 

The Greek Word αἰώνιος

Darby was a Greek scholar and he was perfectly satisfied that the word meant ‘without end’  God warns the reader that eternal misery is the portion of the wicked.  If that were not the case, would God frighten people with something that was not true?  Strong defines αἰώνιος as ‘age-long, and therefore: practically eternal, unending; partaking of the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting’.

Rev 5:14 says, ‘And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.’  The worshippers worship for ever and ever.  On the other hand, ‘The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name’ (Rev 14:11).  For ever and ever is just that – eternal.

 

 

All will be Saved – Universalism

These persons call themselves Christian universalists.  The idea that all will be saved is monstrous and unscriptural lie.   Scripture makes it clear that some are saved and others are damned.  If this were not the case what would be the point of Christ’s atonement, because those who rejected Christ’s work would be saved anyway?  It would follow that even the devil would have to be saved – without Christ.  When scripture says ‘should not perish’ – they argue that none would perish; when scripture says ‘whose end is destruction’ – they have no answer since they believe that all will come into happiness, but the wicked would have to wait a little longer.  They argue that the condemned are such for a time only – like the Catholics believe in purgatory.

 

Hell will in time consume (or annihilate) the Souls of the Wicked – Annihilationism

This view, Darby said, was much in vogue in Britain during his lifetime.  I believe it still is.  Annihilationists say that death means simply ceasing to exist, as it does for the animals.  If life is to be found only in Christ – ‘He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life’ (1 John 5:12), then those who do not believe have no life.  They claim that after a certain quantity of punishment, the wicked will be turned out of existence, annihilated or consumed by the fire of hell, and exist no more.  However, if when they died they ceased to exist, how were they to be made alive (without the work of Christ) in order to exist?  Are they to be revived just to be punished?

Both of the above subvert God’s claims and the work of Christ.

 

Reincarnation

As far as I can see, there is no reference to reincarnation in Darby’s writings.  I am adding it though since, sadly many Christians have, in more recent times, borrowed this notion from Buddhism and Hinduism.  It becomes a way of avoiding having a direct experience with God and accepting the work of Christ.  ‘Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation’ (Heb 9:26-28).

The Truth

Christ endured the wrath of a majestic and holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.  Eternal punishment is the terrible consequence of the enmity of man’s heart against God; eternal blessedness is the result of God’s free and blessed grace. Simple-minded Christians believe this, as they believe scripture.

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.  And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son’ (1 John 5:10-11)

 

An Appeal by J N Darby

Poor sinner, you are to meet God.  Are you competent to judge how much punishment He should assign to you for your quantity of sin.  He is to judge you in love.  Love is what He is. But He is God, and does what pleases Him.  His love for His Son; His love for those who have accepted the work of His Son, obliges Him to punish you eternally if you refuse His love.  Mark this:  if the Spirit of God has touched your conscience, you know that you deserve to be shut out of the presence of God for ever.  You are conscious that you have deserved eternal wrath and punishment. You are a sinner: — What, in your own conscience, does sin deserve?  And further, if it is a question what sin deserves, it is a question of what Christ bore, what His atonement was; for He bore our sins and was made sin for us.  (Lightly edited by Sosthenes).

 

This is a summary of a paper by John Nelson Darby ‘A Brief Scriptural Evidence on the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment, for Plain People’. It is published in Collected Writings Volume 7 (Doctrinal 2) page 1. 

Sosthenes

August 2017

 

James Montgomery – The Lord Himself shall come

How shall we meet those eyes?
Ours on Himself we’ll cast,
And own ourselves the Saviour’s prize,
Mercy from first to last.

James Montgomery

1 The Lord Himself shall come,
And shout a quickening word;
Thousands shall answer from the tomb;
“For ever with the Lord”.

2 Then as we upward fly,
That resurrection-word
Shall be our shout of victory:
“For ever with the Lord”.

3 How shall we meet those eyes?
Ours on Himself we’ll cast,
And own ourselves the Saviour’s prize,
Mercy from first to last.

4 There with unwearied gaze
Our eyes on Him we’ll rest,
And satisfy with endless praise
Our hearts supremely blest.

5 Knowing as we are known,
How shall we love that word!
How oft repeat before the throne,
“For ever with the Lord!”

6 That resurrection-word,
That shout of victory!
Once more “For ever with the Lord,”
Amen, so let it be.

by James Montgomery (1771-1854)
v. 4 J. N. Darby 1800-82
S.M.

Maria Carlsson-Carren – What will it be with God to dwell,

Before Christ’s judgment seat to stand,
With Him look back on all the way;
To learn the meaning, at His hand,
Of every deed in every day!

What will it be with God to dwell,
And there to gaze on Jesus’ face!
To meet the One we’ve known so well
As Priest and Saviour – in that place!
 
Before Christ’s judgment seat to stand,
With Him look back on all the way;
To learn the meaning, at His hand,
Of every deed in every day!
 
Clearer than ever shall we see
The grace which God our Saviour showed,
The love that led so faithfully
Along the pathless desert road.
 
How blessed when this time is o’er,
To find that love had all-sufficed,
As there upon the heav’nly shore
We reach the day of Jesus Christ!
Maria Carlsson-Carren (circa 1865-1955)

Little Flock Hymn Book No 299

The Things which shall be Hereafter (Rev 1:19)  – The Judgment Seat of Christ

The judgment seat of Christ will be the first thing that the believer in Jesus will experience following the rapture. It is a great blessing that we shall be with Jesus and have exactly His view on everything in our lifetime.

What’s upsets me, is that Christians sometimes confuse the judgment seat of Christ with the Great White Throne. The two things are totally different – the Greek word is also different The Great White Throne is for unbelievers – people who have refused the glad tidings.

The judgment seat of Christ will be the first thing that the believer in Jesus will experience following the rapture.  It is a great blessing that we shall be with Jesus and have exactly His view on everything in our lifetime.  As one wrote, ‘Not a cloud above – not a spot within’ (G.V. Wigram (1805-1879). – For full hymn click here.

What’s upsets me, is that Christians sometimes confuse the judgment seat of Christ with the Great White Throne.  The two things are totally different – the Greek word is also different (I will refer to that later).  The Great White Throne is for unbelievers – people who have refused the glad tidings.   They will be judged without mercy according to their works.   It says, ‘This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire’ (Rev 20:14-15).

 

What is the Judgment Seat of Christ?

2 Cor 5 tells us, ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad’ (v.10).  The word ‘appear’ is in Greek is φανερόω/phaneroó.  This means ‘make clear or manifest’.  So it is not like appearing befor a court with prosecution and defence.  It is more, seeing everything in our lives, good and bad, just as Jesus saw it.  The thought of a judgment-seat is taken from Greek tradition.  The word used is βῆμα/bēma – a step or foot (up).  A judge, or umpire would sit on a slightly raised platform and would adjudicate.  For example he would judge the games, disqualifying cheats and giving prizes (usually a crown wreath of leaves) to the first, second and third places.  It is also like a tribunal, before which my namesake Sosthenes was beaten in Corinth (see Acts 18:17).  By way of contrast judgment at the Great White Throne is κρίμα/krima – the sort of judgment you get in a trial, from which, of course, we get our word ‘crime’.

The important thing here is that the Judge is also our Saviour, and what abounds is mercy.  Our time of responsibility will have finished.  There will be no guilt and no penalty.  Any idea of a period of purgatory is totally foreign.  Look at it from the Lord’s point of view.  He has finished the work, His church is complete, His bride is ready, He wants the marriage to take place immediately – ‘The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready’ (Rev 19:7).  We will be able to enjoy the Lord’s presence eternally, and the Lord will enjoy His bride in her perfectness.

The only other direct reference to the judgment seat of Christ is in Rom 14:10 ‘But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ’.  Here it is a question of judging our brother (or sister). The message here is that we should good relationships with the Lord and with our brethren now, so no adjustment will be necessary at the judgement seat.

A couple of hymns bring the positive aspects of the judgment seat of Christ

How shall I meet those eyes? 
Mine on Himself I’ll cast, 
And own myself the Saviour’s prize, 
Mercy from first to last

James Montgomery (1771-1854)

 

What will it be with God to dwell,
And there to gaze on Jesus’ face!
To meet the One we’ve known so well
As Priest and Saviour – in that place!
 
Before Christ’s judgment seat to stand,
With Him look back on all the way;
To learn the meaning, at His hand,
Of every deed in every day!
 
Clearer than ever shall we see
The grace which God our Saviour showed,
The love that led so faithfully
Along the pathless desert road.
 
How blessed when this time is o’er,
To find that love had all-sufficed,
As there upon the heav’nly shore
We reach the day of Jesus Christ!
Maria Carlsson-Carren (circa 1865-1955)

Little Flock Hymn Book No 299

 

When is the Judgment seat of Christ.

Scripture is not specific as to this. Clearly it must be between the rapture and the marriage of the lamb.  Personally I think of it being VERY quick – maybe as we are changed into our bodies of glory (see 1 Cor 15:52).

Quick and blessed!

 

 

A Little more about the Rapture (See last month)

I would like to thank everybody for the positive reaction to the article on the rapture.

One brother challenged me to back everything up by scripture.  Not that he disagreed, but we should be able to substantiate anything we say by the Word of God.

I wrote and spoke to several young believers and suggested they came back to me with scriptures.  Disappointingly nobody responded – so here is my attempt, based on the table showing the differences between the rapture and the appearing.  So please go through these and add to them, especially where it shows [?]

 

RAPTURE APPEARING
No one knows when it will be 2 Thes 2:3 [?] It will be 7 years (arguably 3½) after the rapture, but day unknown Matt 24:36 [?]
It will be private [?] It will be very public Matt 24:27
The Lord comes to the air 1 Thes 4:17 The Lord comes to the earth Zech 14:4
He comes FOR His saints 1 Thes 4:17 He comes WITH His saints Col 3:4
It is followed by the great tribulation Rev 3:10 It is followed by the millennium Rev 20:6
He is the Bridegroom Rev 19:7 He is the King Rev 19:6
He is the Morning Star 2 Peter 1:19 He is the Sun of Righteousness Mal 4:2
It is for the Church 1 Thes 4:15-16 It is for His earthly kingdom Rev 11:15
There is little in prophecy 1 Thess 4, 1 Cor 15 etc There is much in prophecy OT Prophets, Matt, Mark, Rev etc
The world will carry on Matt 24:37 Christ will reign Isa 32:1
The man of sin will be revealed 2 Thes 2:3 Satan will be bound Rev 20:2
There will be the judgment seat of Christ 2 Cor 5:10 The world will be judged Rev 18:10
People will be translated 1 Cor 15:51 People will not be unchanged [understood]
People will believe a lie 2 Thes 2:11 The truth will be acknowledged Zech 12:10

 

Additionally, our brother Mr K in Brisbane came back to me with a similar table that he had done.  You can see it at his blog http://hotspuds.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/scoffers-beware.html

 

 

How can a man be just with God? – Romans 1-8

‘How can a man be just with God?’ (Job 9:2). This is the great question in Romans. In the first eight chapters of Romans we learn the answer. Sinners want justification.

There are two aspects of justification, so there are two parts to Romans 1 to 8.

Justification ‘from sins’ – clearing me of my old state,’ (Rom 1:1-5:11)
Justification ‘of life’ – putting me into a new place before God. (Rom 5:12-8:39)

JohnNelsonDarby

How can a man be just with God?’ (Job 9:2).  This is the great question in Romans.  In the first eight chapters of Romans we learn the answer.  Sinners want justification.

There are two aspects of justification, so there are two parts to Romans 1 to 8.

  1. Justification ‘from sins’ – clearing me of my old state,’ (Rom 1:1-5:11)
  2. Justification ‘of life’  –  putting me into a new place before God. (Rom 5:12-8:39)

 

Part 1 – Justification from Sins

Chapter 1

The first thing we see in this epistle is that it concerns God’s Son Jesus Christ’ (See v. 3).  It is not primarily about ourselves.  Romans is about the claims of Christ, the ‘author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him’ (Heb 5:9).  People have lost sight of that.

In chapter 1 we see why justification is needed:  ‘The wrath of God revealed against all ungodliness’ (v. 18).  That is wrath against the sinner, because ‘all have sinned, and come short’ (Ch. 3:23).  It does not say ‘of what we ought to be’, or ‘of the law’, but ‘of the glory of God.’  The glory of God involves the light.  In Christianity we must walk in the light, or we can have nothing to do with God.  It is as simple as that.  God is in the light; He has not hidden Himself behind a veil.  We are to walk in the light, as He is in the light, and even become ‘partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light’ (Col 1:12).  Justification makes us fit for that.  Christ’s work in grace fits us for glory.

Two things are found in the first four verses: promises and revelation.

  1. People rest on promises. But the promises are fulfilled by Him. ‘For all the promises of God in him are Yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us’ (2 Cor 1:20).
  2. God’s righteousness is revealed because there was none in man. ‘Therein [i.e. in the glad tidings] is the righteousness of God revealed’ ( 17).   Faith receives God’s righteousness, whereas the law claimed righteousness from man. The gospel is the righteousness of God.

Chapters 2 & 3

In chapter 1 the righteousness of God is revealed; in chapter 2, we have the proof of this; in chapter 3, having been brought under sin, we are given righteousness.  ‘But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets’ (v. 21).  The Lord our righteousness was witnessed in the prophets who were under law.  However, He is now manifested without (or apart from) law.  Righteousness is ‘through faith in His blood’ (v. 25).  God sits as a Judge, and man is brought before Him and found guilty.  The penalty is death. But the death of a sinful man could not glorify God.  Only the death of Christ alone glorifies Him, and through it He puts away the sins of the old man.  Now we see how God makes a new man.

Under the old system the law required man to establish his own righteousness. ‘The law entered that the offence might abound’ (ch. 5:20).  It is not that sin might abound, but the offence.  The law not only made sin more manifest, but also aggravated its character.  The authority of God was despised, not because of the offence, but because of the people’s disobedience.  In ch. 2:12, what is translated sinned ‘without law,’ is the same word (ἀνομία – anomia) as in 1 John 3:4, ‘transgression of the law’ – (KJV) or ‘lawlessness’ – (Darby and others).’  The Day of Atonement was necessary:-

  • The scape-goat – ‘Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many’  (Heb 9:28) – Part 1 above (sins)
  • The sin-offering – ‘He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself’ (Heb 9:26) – Part 2 (sin).

The blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled on and before the mercy-seat.  This is now the ground of God’s invitation to the sinner.  In Leviticus 16, the sins of Israel were confessed over the head of the scape-goat.  For us, Christ has died, and the blood is on the mercy-seat.  Now I will be received if I come to Jesus.  Not only has the Lord Jesus put away my sin, but He has borne all my sins, and confessed them as if they were His own: they are all gone.  My sins are forgiven: past, present and future.

Chapter 4

In chapter 4 we have, ‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin’ (v. 4).  A man is faultless before God if Christ has made atonement for him.  The first part of Romans, referred to above, has to do with sins and the remedy – Christ dying for our sins.  (In Part 2 below, it is sin and the remedy, my dying with Christ).  This whole work was settled on the cross, resurrection making it complete.  In this chapter it is justification by faith.  ‘If we believe in him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead’ (v. 24).  We are justified, and Christ’s work is ratified.

Unless we see Christ in resurrection, we do not have the assurance of being justified. ‘If Christ is not risen, ye are yet in your sinsif in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable’ (1 Cor 15:17,19).

Chapter 5 v. 1-11

Chapter 5 begins, ‘Having been justified, we have peace’ (v. 1).   We get past, present, and future:

  • Justified, as to the past
  • Having peace with God, and standing in the favour of God, as to the present
  • Rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, as to the future.

What more can I want?  I may have all sorts of trouble, but what a mercy it is that God sees me as righteous!  In God’s eyes I am a righteous man.  Now I can boast in tribulation, knowing that this leads to patience, experience and hope (see v. 3).  I am not ashamed ‘because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us’ (v. 5).  I can rejoice, too, in God Himself (before whom, in ch. 3:19, I was guilty, and my mouth stopped).  Not only do I know myself, but I know God as well – God in His own absolute goodness.  Knowing that everything is settled, and that I am reconciled, I have peace.  Peace is deeper than joy: I may have joy, but not yet know myself reconciled.  The prodigal had some joy when he left the far country, but he did not have peace till he met the Father, and learned what is the Father’s heart was toward him.

Foreknown, predestinated, called, justified, glorified!  No creature power can break that chain of five golden links, for it is purely of God.

 

Part 2 – Justification ‘of Life’

Chapter 5 v. 12-21

From chapter 5:12, we come to man’s condition.  Adam ruined us all.  We are now dealing with the state of the race, not of the individual.  I have a nature away from God, and without the knowledge of the grace of God, I would be driven to despair. But grace has put away my sin.

Even if I know that my sins are forgiven, I can be extremely troubled because of the sin that is in me.  The remedy is not in the fact that Christ has died for my sins, but that I have died with Christ to sin.  I am a sinner because of Adam’s disobedience.  However by the obedience of One (Jesus) I am made righteous, with no condemnation: ‘There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (ch. 8:1).  If that is the case, can I live as I like?  ‘No’, the apostle says, ‘You have died.’  How can I live in sin if I am dead?  I am justified; I have life.

Sin is never forgiven. but condemned. ‘God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and by a sacrifice for sin, condemned sin, in the flesh’ (ch. 8:3).  Sin is got rid of by death.  If a man dies, that is the end.  Adam received a commandment, and lived so long as he obeyed it.  But from Adam to Moses there was no commandment or law, and death reigned over those who had transgressed.  We find no forgiveness there.

Chapter 6

In Romans 6, I am dead and justified from sin.  I reckon myself dead.  I have had enough of ‘I.’  Now Christ is ‘I’.  ‘I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal 2:20).  In Romans I am cleared from what I was as a child of Adam, and get the privileges of a child of God.  I am perfectly free: what am I going to do with myself?  I was once a slave to sin: now I am to yield myself to God.

Chapter 7

In chapter 7 we have the same principle applied to law.  We have died to the law by the body of the risen Christ, so now we are connected with Him in resurrection.  We cannot have both the law and Christ. ‘We are delivered from the law, that being dead by which we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter’ (v. 6 (Darby).  The law isn’t dead; I am dead.  The law is the jailer; I am the prisoner.  The mistake people are making is that they are killing the jailer instead of the thief.  The jailer is not dead, the thief is.

In chapters 2 and 3 we saw what a man does.  In chapter 7 we see is what he is.   Many Christians do not know what verse 7 means – ‘When I was in the flesh’.  It is my previous state.  This chapter is experimental, not just a doctrine.  We must learn the truth not merely as a theory, but experimentally.  I can say that my sins are forgiven – that is doctrine, not experience, but if I tell you something about myself, that is experience.  It is not just that I have done bad things, but I have found by experience that ‘in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing’ (v. 18).

In Romans 7 the soul learns three things:

  1. That in himself, that is, in his flesh, dwells no good thing ( 18).
  2. That the flesh is not himself (he is not in the flesh) – he hates it ( 15).
  3. That the flesh is too strong for him, and he cries out for deliverance. ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ ( 24).

As to the flesh, there is no question of forgiveness.  I do not forgive an offending power; I want deliverance from it.  The more spiritual I am, the more I shall see the infinite value of the cross.  I keep the cross before myself in faith, and hold it the to the flesh (because I am not in the flesh, otherwise I could not do it).  That is what ‘Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body’ means. (2 Cor 4:10)

I have to learn what sin is.  Christ, who has met the consequences of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, becomes the tree of life to me.  Now, in Romans 5:1-11, I learn what God is in love to the sinner.

Chapter 8

Now in Chapter 8 I learn my condition as a believer with God.  The new man in Christ Jesus is in a higher place: God is for me, and I can say, ‘Abba, Father’.

Glory is certain through the promise of God. ‘Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified’ (v. 30).  The whole chain is there, from beginning to end, and depends on His faithfulness in keeping us.

 

Summary by Sosthenes

Based on   How are we Saved? Romans 1-8Collected Writings vol. 21 (Evangelic) page 193

April 2016

 

 

Christ Lifted Up

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

In John 3, the Lord emphasises the fact that He came from heaven.  He works with men from that point of view.  He testifies to man as to what is of heaven, from heaven, and what is man needs to be fit for heaven.  That requires new birth.

John 3

New Birth

Nicodemus had a mere human conviction of Christ; he knew that He was a teacher come from God because of His miracles.  The Lord told him that he had to be born again.  Of course, as he looked on things according to man, albeit a religious man.  He did not understand what the Lord was talking about.

Being born again is not like some say, having a new nature.  That would again be human.  If a person has only a human conviction, his or her conscience is not affected, and has no desire to be with Jesus, because Jesus is not attractive to the natural man (see Isa. 53:2).  Indeed, he doesn’t even care; he is just interested in what is here – family, politics, sport etc.  Although he hopes to go to heaven when he dies, he does not find news from heaven interesting.  But how will he be in heaven if Christ, the very centre of heaven’s delight, has no attraction for his heart?  Unless, of course he has a totally wrong impression of heaven and thinks of it as a purely earthly paradise [Sosthenes’ addition].

On the other hand, the first thing that a person who has been born of the Spirit realises that he is lost and all wrong, like a bad tree which can never get better.  He will be very anxious about that: sin is pressing on his conscience and plaguing his heart.  But there is not a sin that Christ has not died for.  He has put Himself in the sinner’s place before God.  ‘He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Cor 5:21).  So the born again sinner sees Him on the cross, answering for him because he could not answer for himself.  Christ has done everything that could bar his access to God.

 

Christ lifted up

God gave His Son – this is the glad tidings of grace. ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up. … For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:14,16.  Nothing but the crucifixion of the blessed Lord could meet the sinner’s case.

He had to be lifted up.  He knew everything that that would necessitate. He had came to do His Father’s will, and that will was our salvation.  Consequently He drank that cup of wrath in love and quietness in order that the sinner might not.  He made peace by the blood of His cross (see Col 1:20)

God set His seal in righteousness when He said, ‘Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool’ (Psalm 110:1Heb 1:13).  Grace now reigns through righteousness (see Rom 5:21) – righteousness having been made good before the whole universe.

 

Go in Peace

Let none of us doubt the efficacy of what Jesus has done.  Have we heard in His quiet voice that the ‘Son of man must be lifted up’ (John 3:14)?    Let Him tell us why.  Let us learn how blessed it is to live in the light of God, where light shows us (not just our sins) to be white as snow. (see Isa 1:18).  May we learn what it is to walk in the light of His countenance.

 

Summary by Sosthenes

Based on   ‘Notes of an Address on John 3’ – Collected Writings vol. 21 (Evangelic 2) page 127 ,

February 2016

 

Luke 15

Luke 15

 

eastmanprodigalIt is wonderful to see how God reveals Himself in certain passages of scripture.  Nobody could manifest God in thoughts, words and actions like the Lord Jesus Himself.  We see that in the parables.

The brightness of God’s glory is too much for man.  Consequently, He graciously hides His brightness in the Person of the Son of man.  Man rejected Christ, constantly finding fault and carping at things with which he could not agree. This however moved God to show that He really was God, clothing Himself in flesh in the person of Christ and showing His heart to man here.  Whilst here He used parables.

In many of them we have the Lord seeking persons in need.  We sometimes tell people to seek Christ.  Doing that is right in one sense, for it is quite true that ‘He that seeketh findeth’(Luke 11:10), but the Lord never said to people, ‘Come unto me’, until He had first come to them.

So in Luke 15 God tells all the truth. God will be God.  In this parable God welcomes the poor prodigal son, making God merry and glad.  God would have His own joy in spite of the men’s objections.  People object to God’s acting in love, prefering to look on God as a judge, believing in pride that their own righteousness will satisfy God.  But God operates in grace, making nothing of man’s righteousness: ‘There is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Rom 3:23).

 

The Woman caught in Adultery

People like to compare one person’s righteousness with another’s.  The scribes and Pharisees criticised the Lord for eating with publicans and sinners.  In this they slighted God’s righteousness and magnified their own.  In John 8 we find the woman caught in the act of adultery, being brought by the scribes and Pharisees.  By the law she would have been justly condemned to be stoned: she was undeniably guilty.  Their motive was that He might be obliged to deny either mercy or righteousness. They thought to place Him in an inextricable difficulty (we might say today, a catch-22 situation).  If He should let her off, He would break the law of Moses; but should He say, ‘let her be stoned,’ it would not have been grace.  How does the Lord act?  He says, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’ (John 8:7).  Their consciences begin to work, they realised that they were all were sinners.  From the eldest to the youngest, all went out: only Jesus was sinless.  It was not time for Him to execute the law, for He had not come not to judge, so He concludes, ‘Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more’ (v. 11).  That was grace, and nothing but grace.

 

Luke 15

We have three parables in the chapter.  Each teaches us something of God’s love:­ ‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Luke 19:10).

  • The first parable is that of the shepherd who sought the sheep that was lost.
  • The second, that of the woman who sought the piece of money that was lost.
  • The third, the father’s reception of the son who was lost.

 

The Shepherd with 100 Sheep

The Lord Jesus justifies God in being good to sinners.  He appeals to man’s heart. ‘What man of you, having an hundred sheep?’ etc. (v. 4). The sheep is lost and the shepherd goes and finds it; he puts it on his shoulder and brings it home rejoicing.  That is like the Great Shepherd of the sheep who would say. “Have I not a right to seek lost sinners?  Is it not a right thing for God to mix with publicans and sinners?”  This may not suit a moralist, but it suits God.

 

The Woman and the Coin

In the second parable we have the woman’s painstaking, eagerness to find the lost coin.  The woman lights a candle, sweeps the house, not stopping till the piece was found.  And then we have the joy when her possession is recovered. ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost’ (v. 9). That is the way of the Lord in love.

The woman is typical of the Holy Spirit.  We see grace operating without anything moving in the heart of the sinner: we also see God’s own joy.  Man’s pharisaic objection to grace only served to emphasise the energy and activity of God’s love. The piece of money and the sheep could do nothing. The shepherd and the woman alike did all; it was their joy.  Worth nothing, in a certain sense, to God’s love the sinner is immensely valuable.

 

The Prodigal Son

The third parable shows the feelings of the wanderer and the way he was received back.  Both the father’s and the prodigal’s hearts are laid open.  What was important was not the prodigal’s estimate of the love of the father, but the real manifestation of the father’s heart.

Picture the situation:  a man is brought to the utmost degradation – voluntarily eating husks with the swine (and we must remember what swine are to the Jew).  Looking at the case in more detail, the rebellious younger son was far happier when leaving home than he was when returning – he was doing his own will. The young man was as great a sinner when walked out of his father’s house, as he was when feeding the swine in the far country.  He had chosen to act independently of God – that is sin.  He reaped the fruits of his actions, and in one sense, the very consequences of his sin were mercies, because they showed him what his sin was.  It is like us: whether we are living in vice or not, we have all turned our back on God.

When he first left the house, he showed where his alienated heart was.  He had turned his back on his father and his father’s house, and his face was towards the far country, typically the world.  He went there to do his own will.  Parents understand that. Our child sins against us and we feel it. But the child does not feel it the same way, if at all.  So when we sin against God we do not feel it. We are all like children: “we have turned every one to his own way’ (Isa 53:6)

Having reached the far country, the prodigal went on gaily in his own will for as long as he could, wasting his money in riotous living (See v. 13).  Any person from a Christian home, who lives beyond his means looks rich and happy for a time. But if he thinks he is happy, he is so only because he has gotten away from God. His will is unrestrained. But then, after all, he is in the devil’s country, and enslaved to him. Liberty of will is just slavery to the devil.

Hearts are not easy in the world; leave a man for a few hours to himself, and he will soon be in want (young people nowadays would say they were ‘bored’).  The prodigal had begun to be in want, but his will was not touched yet. There ‘And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks which the swine did eat: and no one gave unto him’ (v. 14-16).  There is no giving in the ‘far country’, not even of husks.

Satan sells, and dearly – our souls are the price. You must buy everything. The world’s principle is ‘nothing for nothing’; every gratification has its price.  If you sell yourself to the devil, you will get husks: he will never give you anything. If you want to find a giver, you must go to God.

The prodigal awoke and thought, ‘I perish with hunger’; and then he thought of his father’s house – the very place he had been so anxious to get away from at first.  ‘He said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.’ (v. 17-19).

He did not know how he would be received, yet he knew there was happiness and love in the father’s house, even extending to the bondmen and hired servants.  He also knew that there was plenty of food there, and where he was, he was perishing with hunger.  His abject need brought him to value the house.  He knew it was a good place, but did not yet know the extent of that goodness – God’s goodness.

He went back to the father’s house without a true knowledge of the heart of the father, who had seen him already while he was a long way off.  He had prepared his speech: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants’ (v. 18-19).  He measured the father’s love in by the sense of the evil he had done and he thought to get into the place of a servant. Many hearts are in this state, even dictating to the Father what sort of position that would be fit – this is legalism.  God can only receive us in grace.  Had the father received him at a lower level, he would have been miserable.  Having a son in the position of a servant would remind him of the sin that had been committed.  The father cannot have sons in his house as servants.  He rushed to meet him and did not even give him time to say, ‘Make me as one of thy hired servants’. He confessed his sin, ‘I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son’.  When his father is on his neck kissing him, even though all the rags of the far country were still on him, how could he ask to be a hired servant?

The father did not stop to ask him anything.  He knew his son had acted very wrongly, but it would have been no use to say, “You have disgraced me and dishonoured my name”. It was not a question of fitness or worthiness on the part of the son – love does not reason that way – the father was acting from himself and for himself.  He fell on his neck, because he loved to be there. It is God’s love, not the sinner’s worth, that accounts for the extravagant liberality of his reception.

The servants are called to introduce him into the house fittingly. ‘But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry’ (v. 22-24).  God shows His love towards us as wretched sinners, and then clothes us with Christ. He brings us into the house where the servants are, with nothing less than the full honour of sonship.  We read about the robe, the ring, the shoes, the fatted calf, and the feast of joy that welcomes the returning prodigal. The father’s mind was that a son of his was worth it all, and that it was worthy of him to give it.

Some might think it humility to desire the servant’s place in the house.  But that is only ignorance of the Father.  In read in Eph 2:7, ‘That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus’.  It would not have been worthy of the Father to leave us as servants.  We would have had a constant memorial of our sin, shame, dishonour and degradation, whereas, ‘The worshipper once purged has no more conscience of sins’ (Heb 10:2).  Our condition must be worthy of God for us to enjoy now.

This requires faith: faith judges as God judges.  We see sin in the light of God’s holiness.  But as our sins and iniquities are not remembered any more, we learn grace and what our Father’s heart really is.  Faith is the only thing that gives me certainty: reasoning does not. Reasoning may be all quite well for the things of this world; but if God speaks about anything, we believe it by faith.  Faith sets to its seal that God is true (See John 3:33).

If I do not believe what God assures me of, I wrong Him. It is a sin not to believe that I am a son – in God’s presence without a spot of sin – through the blood of the Lamb.  If it were only my own righteousness, it would be torn like rags, but it is the blood of the Lamb has cleansed every single sin.

The question is, ‘What is God’s estimate of the efficacy of the blood of Jesus?’  If my soul knows the value to God of the blood of the Lamb, I know the extent of His love.  It would be an evil thing to doubt that, just as it would have been for the prodigal to say, “I have the rags of the far country on” while his father was kissing him.  Like the prodigal, I must be silenced by such grace.

 

The Elder Brother

It might be said that divine grace sanctions sin.  That is the spirit of the elder brother.  Grace pleaded with him: ‘He was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him (v. 28).  We see the the father’s patient love towards this wretched man who refused to share in the joy. The servants were happy; they say, ‘Thy brother is come, and thy father has killed for him the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound’ (v. 27).

His heart turned sour to the love and grace that God showed to a fellow sinner. He would not go in. The father reasoned with him – ‘It was meet that we should make merry and be glad; for this [not my son, but] thy brother was dead and is alive again; and was lost and is found’ (v. 32) In vain, he could not enter into the joyful spirit that pereated the house, from the father down to the lowest maid. He remained outside, and had none of the happiness or joy.  Despite his outward faithfulness and obedience, he refused his father’s grace: this is man.

 

Conclusion

Let us each ask ourselves, ‘How can I know God’s heart?”  We do not get to know it by looking into our own heart. The God we have to do with is the God who has given His Son for sinners, and if we do not know this, we do not know Him at all. ‘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?’ (Rom 8:32).   Let us not say to God, “Make me as one of thy hired servants”. Let us not put our own value on God’s goodness.  Let us not turn back to legalism, and think that it is humility. The only real humility is to forget self in the presence of God.  It may be a humbling process; but it is not in thinking evil of self that we are truly humble, it is in forgetting ourselves completely in the manifestation of the love of God and our Father, who is love to us, and blesses us.

May we poor sinners, know through Jesus, God revealed in love!

Sosthenes

November 2015

Based on a paper by John Nelson Darby.  For original see  Parables of Luke 15 

The True Grace of God wherein we stand.

We have thought quite long enough about ourselves. Let us now think about Him who thought about us with thoughts of good, not evil, long before we even existed, and had any thoughts of own at all. May we see what God’s thoughts of grace about us are, and echo the words of faith in Romans 8:31, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ I am entitled to forget myself; I am entitled to forget my sins; I am NOT entitled to forget Jesus.
True humility does not so much consist in thinking badly of myself, as in not thinking of myself at all. I am too bad to be worth thinking about.

JohnNelsonDarbyBy Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. (1 Peter 5:12)

God is the ‘God of all Grace’ (1 Peter 5:10), but how hard it is for us to believe that the Lord is gracious. Our natural feelings may be expressed by the servants’ statement ‘I know that thou art an austere [or hard] man’ (Luke 19:21). We need to understand the Grace of God.

Some think that grace implies God’s passing over sin. That is completely wrong – God cannot tolerate sin. If I could, after sinning, patch up my ways and mend myself in order to stand before God, there would be no need of grace. The Lord is gracious because I am a sinner: my state is utterly ruined and hopeless, and nothing but free grace can meet my need.

The moment I understand that I am a sinful man or woman, and that the Lord knew the full extent and how hateful my sin was to Him, and that He came to me, I understand what grace is. Faith makes me see that God is greater than my sin, not that my sin is greater than God. The Lord, who laid down His life for me, is the same Lord I have to do with every day of my life. His dealings with me are on the principle of grace. How strengthening it is to know, at this very moment, that Jesus is feeling and exercising the same love towards me as He had when on the cross.

For instance, I have a bad temper that I cannot control. I bring it to Jesus as my Friend: virtue goes out of Him and meets my need. My own effort will never be sufficient. Real strength is in the sense of the Lord’s being gracious. The natural man in us will never believe that Christ is the only source of strength and blessing. If my soul is out of communion, I think, ‘I must correct the cause of this before I can come to Christ’. But He is gracious: the way is to return to Him at once, just as I am, and then humble myself before Him. Humbleness in His presence is the only real humbleness. If I own myself to be just what I am, I shall find that He shows me nothing but grace. True humility does not so much consist in thinking badly of myself, as in not thinking of myself at all. I am too bad to be worth thinking about.

Faith never thinks about what is in me myself: it looks to Jesus to give rest to my soul. Faith receives, loves and apprehends what God has revealed, and what God’s thoughts are about Jesus. As I am occupied with Him,I will be prevented from being taken up with the vanity and sin around. This will be my strength against the sin and corruption of my own heart too. As I am alone in communion with God, I am able to measure everything according to His grace. Nothing, not even the state of the Church, will shake me. I am entitled to forget myself; I am entitled to forget my sins; I am NOT entitled to forget Jesus.

The moment I get away from the presence of God, I rest on my own thoughts, which can never reach up to those of God about me. If I attempt to know God’s grace outside of His presence, I shall only turn grace into licentiousness.

What God is towards us is LOVE. Our joy and peace are not dependent on what we are to God, but on what He is to us: this is grace. All the sin and evil that is in us has been put away through Jesus. A single sin is more horrible to God than all the sins in the world are to us. Yet, despite what we are, God is pleased to be towards us in LOVE.

In Romans 7 we find a person, though quickened, whose reasoning centres in himself. It is all “I,” “I,” “I.”  He stops short of grace, the simple fact that GOD IS LOVE. I have got away from grace if I have the slightest doubt or hesitation about God’s love. I say, ‘I am unhappy because I am not like what I want to be’. Instead I should be thinking of what God is, rather than what I am. All this looking at myself is really pride, not admitting that I am good for nothing. Till I see this I will never look away from myself to God.

Faith looks towards God, who has revealed Himself in grace. Grace relates to what GOD is, not to what I am, except that the greatness of my sins magnifies grace of God. At the same time, grace brings my soul into communion with God, knowing God and loving Him. Knowledge of grace is the true source of sanctification.

We have thought quite long enough about ourselves. Let us now think about Him who thought about us with thoughts of good, not evil, long before we even existed, and had any thoughts of own at all. May we see what God’s thoughts of grace about us are, and echo the words of faith in Romans 8:31, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?

 

Adapted by Sosthenes from J N Darby’s tract of the same name. Similar to, perhaps extracted from, ‘Why do I groan?‘ Collected Writings volume 12 – Evangelical 1, page 186.