Our walk here

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

In this short article, based on a lecture by J N Darby entitled,32 p  ‘This one thing’ – Collected Writings vol. 32 (Miscellaneous 1) page 347 ,  he goes over Paul’s experiences from his arrest on the Damascus road till his writing the epistle.  He saw the Lord in glory, and at that point everything that he had trusted in was smashed.

Philippians 3

  • There are two ways in which we may look at the Christian. One is according to the counsels and thoughts of God (Hebrews – in respect to the grace Christ obtains for us as Priest on high)
  • The other as walking in this world (Philippians – down here, and the energy and power of the Spirit of God working in him). Philippians is the book of experience, the Christian on earth.

We have to pass through the world, and there are difficulties in our path.  As we walk in the power of God’s Spirit, we rise above these difficulties.

In Philippians, we have a person entirely above it all the troubles; one who can ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ (ch 4:4). Paul had been four years in prison at that time, which must have been very trying, as he could not engage in his missionary service.  He could have reproached himself for going up to Jerusalem, but he remained positive saying, ‘I can rejoice in the Lord always’ (see Phil 4:4).

We know Paul’s early career. He used to have an earthly righteousness, and he boasted in it.  He said, ‘touching the righteousness which was in the law, blameless’ (ch 3:6). But the Lord met him, and he discovered that all that had been gain to him had brought him into open enmity with God.  All that Saul of Tarsus could clothe himself with outwardly, was utterly smashed[1], and he was left to dwell in darkness three days.  During this, he discovered in his own soul what this terrible revelation meant.

Seeing Christ in glory resulted in his setting aside and putting away all that was of man. Whereas the first thing we need as sinners is ‘redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins’ (Eph 1:7), with Saul of Tarsus it was different.  His own righteousness had kept him away from God, and that had to be put away.  The upright, honest, law-keeping Pharisee had been full of enmity against God.  Now he learned the end of the first man, not just as a doctrine, but practically.  The best man in the world (best as man goes) was the chief of sinners.  Now he knew what redemption through the blood meant.

The law had required righteousness from man for God, but, nobody had attained it. So it does not say, ‘not having my own sins’, but ‘not having mine own righteousness’ (see ch 3:9).   Paul saw that God would not accept him clothed in the human Adamic robe of his own righteousness..

He needed Christ who appeared to him on the way to Damascus and said, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth’ (Acts 9:5).’ He saw the Man in the glory – the rejected carpenter’s son.  Paul was totally and entirely condemned.  But he soon learned that Christ had taken the place of everything, and that everything he had counted gain was finished.  He came to that  ‘There is … now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1).  The whole standing of the first man was judged in his soul; and another Man, Christ in glory, would now be for him.

When Paul was writing to the Philippians many years later, it was still a present reality to him – ‘I… do count them but dung’ (Phil 3:8).    Right from his conversion, Paul was a man whose whole course and career were marked by one object before him.  That object was Christ.

Having judged all that he was naturally, Paul was brought him face to face with all kinds of difficulties.  An example of this was his death sentence[2].  He was going to be tried for his life; but he had done with the old ‘Paul’.   He no longer trusted in himself, but in God: in effect he says, ‘The God I know, has raised Christ from the dead, so I am not afraid of death or of anything that might come on the road; I can glory in it all.’

Have we had a revelation of Christ?  Are we following Him?  Is He our  only object? As we follow, we are called to suffer in a small way for Christ’s sake.  But as we go through the world of sin and sorrow that crucified Christ, we also learn what it is to suffer with Him.  It may be a difficult road, and we might get distracted, but we get refreshment as we go: it is the road that He travelled.

A term used by some Christians is ‘higher life’.  But in reality they are following the world.  The Christian has no calling to anything down in this world.  His calling is to a risen, glorified Christ –  this is the only Christ.  Christ down here is a pattern for our walk, but we cannot attain Christ down here.  Attempting it only lowers the standard of holiness: instead of being ‘higher Christian life’, it is lower life.  It is the hope of being like Him in glory in glorified bodies, that makes us purify ourselves even as He is pure (See 1 John 3:3).  I may get to heaven now in spirit, and be happy there with Him, but I never attain to or win Him, until I am with Him in the glory.   Then I shall have won Christ.

In these days, when people are giving up Christianity everywhere, it is well to know what Christianity is. Christianity is perfect peace, perfect reconciliation with God, perfected for ever before Him.   Then as regards my path in this world, it is having our eye on Christ Himself in glory, with all our energy in following Him. In every step we take, we get to knowing Him better, and we become more like Him.

Of course, when it says, ‘as many as be perfect’ (ch 3:15), it does not mean being being perfect like Christ was, when He was down here.  But in walking with Him up there,  we become like Him down here.  That is what is meant by being a  perfect, or fully grown, Christian.  He knows that all his debts have been paid, and in running the race, he says, ‘I have seen the excellency of Christ Jesus, my Lord, and it has set aside everything here. I have done with it all; I belong to another place, and no longer own this old man’.

Paul contrasts the Christian life with mere profession.  Professors are ‘enemies of the cross of Christ’ (v.18).  They carry the name of Christian, but go on with the world, not perceiving that Satan, its prince, is against Christ.  The world is subject to Christ’s execution of judgment. It does not know HIm as Saviour.

As Christians, our conversation, or citizenship, commonwealth or relationships of life are in heaven (See ch. 3:20).  Though we live, our relationships up there, because Christ is up there – He is our life.   A Christian’s life is not here at all.   Christ is there, and we await our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our hope, therefore, is not to die, for our Saviour to ‘ change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body’ (v. 23).

We are running the race towards the place where our standing is?  Can we say with the apostle, ‘The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God’ (Gal 2:20)?  We are in earthly Is circumstances, but are we living by them, or are we living to Him?   Time presses on; His return is near.  Each of us is to take up our cross and follow Him. May we have a conscious relationship with the One whom we love.  We look for Him to come from heaven to change our vile bodies because they will not suit that place.  May the Lord give us so to have our eyes set on Him in His love, and that we might know real deliverance from the power of sin and the world.  The Lord fix our eyes on Him in steadiness and earnestness of heart, so that we may say with David,  ‘My soul followeth hard after thee’ (Ps 63:8).

Summary by Sosthenes

February 2016

 

[1] Note that it is not that Paul was smashed, as some have erroneously affirmed.  It is what he could boast in according to flesh, and the whole system he relied upon.

[2] Paul says that he was going to be tried for his life, according to JND.  That raises an interesting question as to what is meant,  Was it:

  1. As a sinner, in the race, he is guilty and death is the consequence.
  2. As Paul, it would be the legal judgment for the murder of Stephen
  3. As having to do with sin, and the man who sinned, he was passing the death sentence on himself.

Darby on Romans 16 – Conclusion

Even though he had never been to Rome, Paul’s heart was at home with many there. He knew the faith and service of some, and wrote to them as an assembly. As the apostle of the nations, he had his service for Christ for those in Rome.

He had a comprehensive service, embracing all the counsels of God, bringing the elements of the gospel together, to make the saints complete in Christ. The fruit will be hereafter. The apostle cites many who served diligently in the sphere in which God had placed them – from those who were of note among the apostles, to Phoebe, the deaconess or servant of the church at Cenchrea, who had been a helper of many. God does not forget any.

RomeEven though he had never been to Rome, Paul’s heart was at home with many there. He knew the faith and service of some, and wrote to them as an assembly. As the apostle of the nations, he had his service for Christ for those in Rome.

He had a comprehensive service, embracing all the counsels of God, bringing the elements of the gospel together, to make the saints complete in Christ. The fruit will be hereafter. The apostle cites many who served diligently in the sphere in which God had placed them – from those who were of note among the apostles, to Phoebe, the deaconess or servant of the church at Cenchrea, who had been a helper of many. God does not forget any.

The apostle then tells the us to mark those self-important persons who cause divisions, exploiting their own mental abilities and acting contrary to the doctrine they had learned. We are to avoid them. Such insubject activity separates our hearts from God. True hearts, like John the Baptist, knew consciously by the Spirit that everything that is right is from God. Even if we are weak, and lack faithfulness, we have a testimony from God with more power than the pretensions of man. This preserves us. Our hearts are kept simple, while the mischievous hearts, with their fair speeches, are judged.

So Paul says, ‘I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil(v.19). God has, in His gracious wisdom, traced out a path in the world for us. We do not need to know all the evil, or even any of it: we are just to walk in the wise and holy path, conversant with what is good, lovely, and of good report. If we know the one right path across the waste, and live by God’s word, we do not need to learn from those who lost themselves. ‘By the words of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer’

Paul ends Romans 16  with salutations, for fellowship in love characterises the spirit of the gospel. Tertius, to whom Paul had dictated the letter, gives his salutation. The Roman epistle, along with the others such as Ephesians and Colossians which had the character of commandments of the Lord: accuracy was important. (See 1 Cor. 14:37). The salutation at the end came from Paul’s own hand, verifying that the whole epistle was his, and that it had inspired apostolic authority.

The apostle closes with ascription of praise to the only wise God, owning Him as the One who is able to establish them according to his gospel.   He recalls the character of the testimony contained in that gospel, of which he speaks in so many places in so remarkable a manner.

In this epistle Paul does not develop the mystery: his object is to show how a soul stood in liberty before God. Conscience and justification must be individual. Still he shows that ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1). We are in Christ, and in chapter 12, one body in Christ – the full scope of the counsels of God – a mystery hidden from ages, even though they were in prophetic scriptures (v.26 Darby). He does not unfold the mystery in this epistle, but preached according to the revelation of it: Christ the head of all things, Jews and Gentiles forming one body, united with Him in heaven as Head. This had been kept secret since the world began, though it was in God’s counsels before creation. The foundation for our heavenly and eternal blessings had been laid in Christ’s work. Through all the inspired epistles the truth was made known to the nations ‘according to the commandment of the everlasting God.

God, whose counsels were not confined to Judaism, commanded His message to be sent to the nations. He had His counsels and views in man, and in the Son, the Seed of the woman, and would accomplish the counsels in power. Now the original purpose of God was being made manifest for the obedience of faith to all nations.

 

A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – Timothy

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

Outline of Bible cover1 Timothy

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

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

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

 

2 Timothy

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

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

 

Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes,  September 2014

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

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – Corinthians

In first Corinthians, we have the internal responsible ordering of the church by the guidance and power of the Spirit of God. In the second epistle he explains the power of life in Christ, connecting His work, so as to bring in the righteousness of God. He contrasts it with law in chapter 3, showing its supremacy over death in every way.

Outline of Bible cover1 Corinthians

In first Corinthians, we have the internal responsible ordering of the church by the guidance and power of the Spirit of God. Paul acts with it, asserting his own authority in case of need. He begins by owning the power of the Spirit amongst them in gift, and recognises the grace that would keep them to the end. In chaps. 1 and 2, he presses the power of that Spirit in contrast with the wisdom of the flesh, asserting that we, as believers, have the Spirit to search what the eye has not seen nor the ear heard. These things are revealed by the Spirit to whomsoever God pleases, communicated by the Spirit, and received through the Spirit. We thus have revelation, inspired communication, and reception. Also an important thing is that we have the mind of Christ.

Having shown that he had rightly laid the foundation, in chap. 3, the apostle puts the building of God’s building on the responsibility of those who carry it on. He defends his own ministry and authority (chap. 4), and then faces the matter of purity and their conduct, insisting on their exercising discipline on the wicked man. He also covers going to law, marriage, and eating things offered to idols (chaps. 5-8). He again defends his own ministry, and calls their attention to the fact that they may be partakers of sacraments and be lost after all. In connection with the Lord’s supper, he presses the point of not mixing themselves up with idolatry (chaps. 9, 10). Then, in chapter 11, he treats of comeliness in spiritual service, praying or prophesying, Christ being the Head of all men, and men subordinate. From verse 17, we have order in the assembly, especially at the Lord’s supper. He contrasts God’s discipline with condemnation.

The subject of spiritual manifestation follows: the place that gifts hold, the unity of the body, and individual membership of it (chap. 12). Note that gifts are of the Spirit; administration by them is under the Lord; the operations are of God. He shows the more excellent way – love is better than the best gifts, (chap. 13). In chapter 14, he returns to the gifts, and shows that those who have gifts and understanding are subject to one another. So all are edified. Then in chap. 15 we have resurrection, Christ’s glory, an our place in it. Lastly, chap. 16, he refers to the collection for the saints. At the close we get, in the diverse salutations, the abiding liberty of individual ministry – the principle of some giving themselves up to the Lord’s service among the saints, and that all such are to be respected and submitted to.

 

2 Corinthians

Paul had received news from Titus that his first epistle had its effect. He had just been in danger of his life, and, now speaking freely to the Corinthians, he opens up his heart at about it, and explains why he did not come to them on his way to Macedonia. In the first five chapters he explains the power of life in Christ, connecting His work, so as to bring in the righteousness of God. He contrasts it with law in chapter 3, showing its supremacy over death in every way.  In chapter 4, he shows that the practical power of life may be in earthen vessels and that this power of God. The vessel is held to be dead under the cross. Hence only eternal things are looked at; and we do not know Christ after the flesh. The Lord helps His own. Chapter 5 gives us deliverance from judgment as an occasion of fear, while it urges by the love of Christ to deal with men’s souls. We have the ministry of reconciliation, and are to be ambassadors for Christ, saying, “Be reconciled to God.”

In chapter 6, he urges entire separation from the world in order to have a relationship with the Father. He presses their perfecting holiness in the fear of God, while recognising their integrity and their repentance, the news of which had comforted his spirit (chap. 7). He next enlarges upon the collection for the saints (chaps. 8, 9), and is then, against his will, forced to legitimise his ministry by speaking of himself (chaps. 10, 11). He closes that part by reference to his being caught up to the third heaven. His strength, though, did not flow directly from that, but from the power of Christ working in his weakness. He was a little uneasy lest not all should be right, and he be forced to be what they might not like (chap. 12). Lastly, in chapter 13, he appeals to their own certainty of their being Christians as proof of Christ’s speaking by him.

 

 

Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes, July 2014

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