A few days ago, I telephoned my financial advisor to discuss the current economic situation. I opened the conversation with the words, ‘Christians don’t panic; unbelievers do!’. He replied “Amen”. Of course, he is a fellow Christian.
The media is full of nothing else at the moment. It dominates news, and it monopolises the government’s agenda. Other important matters such as the war and humanitarian situation in Northern Syria and Yemen have vanished from the news. Politics circles around the crisis. Here in Britain we have a lot to thank God for: there is a national health service, which for all its shortcomings is geared for emergencies like this. In the USA, the situation could be a lot different. Many poor people do not have health insurance and run the risk of infecting others when trying to work when ill. We are told to pray for the authorities and be subject to them (Romans 13).
As we are in our 70s, we are having to curtail our activities – ‘social isolation’ they call it. We will miss our Christian meetings much. It brings home how much we rely on meetings, and how little we rely on our individual links with the Lord. In our pathway we are alone yet not alone.
Indeed, many churches are closing their doors. What do Christians do? – At the start we read ‘And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2:43-47). Maybe something of the simplicity of the early Christian church will return.
Andrea Williams – The Church must repent of being ‘just another club’
Barrister Andrea Minichiello Williams, co-founder of Christian Concern, who represents persecuted Christians legally, has some forthright words. Maybe the current crisis will cause people to put Christ as the centre – not the congregation or community – and then learn what His church here really is. Read her full article:
This brings me to another subject. Some believers look on those with whom they do not meet as being on an independent path. There is only one path for a Christian, the Christian path. If by putting the company first we view others as ‘independent’, we must be unintentionally trying to walk on two roughly parallel paths at the same time – one foot in each. They must slowly diverge – then where will we be?
‘The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day’. (Proverbs 4:18)
Through waves, through Clouds and Storms
This morning I had an email from our brother Leonard in Secunderabad, India. He drew attention to Paul Gerhardt’s hymn ‘Through Clouds through Waves and Storms’ or ‘Through waves through clouds and storms’
I have posted it on the site, along with Leonard’s comments:
The question comes up. ‘Who do you meet with?’ –
Answer – ‘We don’t have a name’.
Question ‘I see, so which of the many groups of Brethren are you?’
However much we try, it seems as we cannot get away from that label.
Why do we like to Fall Back on Labels?
I am guilty of a serious thing. This week I met a fellow believer and we enjoyed a happy conversation. Then came up the inevitable question ‘Who do you meet with?’. My friend said something indirectly pointing to a group of Christians. Immediately I pigeonholed him into a division of that united vessel (I wish I could think of another word) and associated this with preconceived negative thoughts and doctrinal differences. The result – our warm and happy conversation was marred, and we went away thinking of differences, not of our Saviour, His glory and His return to rapture His saints. I owe that brother an apology.
Why do I do such a thing? Doubtless, Satan has us resting on this or that group of Christians. We are comfortable with the fellowship, the structure and the part we can play.
This is so different from what we have been taught. There is only one church – the assembly of the living God, purchased with the blood of our Lord Jesus; there is only one fellowship – the fellowship of God’s Son. We have confused the true function of the church – something perfect, with its origin and destiny in heaven with what we as Christians can and should do down here. In God’s grace, we may have been led to reject human organisation and church leadership, sectarianism, the building up of things here.
The question comes up. ‘Who do you meet with?’ –
Answer – ‘We don’t have a name’.
Question ‘I see, so which of the many groups of Brethren are you?’
However much we try, it seems as we cannot get away from that label.
The Church with No Name
Here is a picture of a little chapel or meeting room, about an hour’s drive from where I live. Formerly an evangelical church, it was disused and in a bad state when a few lovers of our Lord bought it and painstakingly renovated it. When finished they invited many from the area to join in prayer – not to bless the room or any group, but to seek the Lord’s guidance as to what they should do. I was led to give a little word from 2 Cor 8:5 – ‘They gave them selves first to the Lord, and to us by God’s will.’ (Darby). (See ‘Have we had it the Wrong Way Round?’)
There is no name. All you can say that is where there is a gathering of a few simple Christians who seek to be true to our Lord in very confused circumstances. They break bread in obedience to the Lord’s request ‘This do in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19). Those who go there regularly know the certainty of their eternal salvation and have received the Holy Spirit. They are not connected with any humanly organised sect – nor are they in that meeting by membership. Collectively, they do not know who they are, apart from a collection of lovers of the Lord Jesus, and, though bound for glory, do not know where the Lord is leading them in their testimonial pathway. May it remain that way!
Branch of Theology Darby’s Probable Position
Hermeneutics – concerning the Biblical text Qualified-literal – Passages are literal, figurative or symbolic, and recognised as such. Also, that which relates to Israel and the law (OT) is distinct from that which applies to the church and grace (NT).
Soteriology – concerning salvation Classic evangelical – God-given faith in the blood. Without the atoning work of Christ, man must bear the guilt of his sin and remain at a distance from God without knowledge of Him or of His love. More Calvinist than Arminian but claiming neither
Should there be an Introduction to a Little Basic Theology?
At a discussion about ‘A Day of Small Things’ with a few friends, the suggestion was made that there should be an introduction to a little basic theology. This is a subject many like myself have steered clear of, even regarding the term as a dirty word, and for very good reason.
– We read the scriptures, we have bible readings and other occasions, and we pray with a view to ‘knowing God’ and in an assembly setting it can be said that we are ‘taught of God’ and guided by the Holy Spirit.
– On the other hand, theology is the critical study of the nature of the divine. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. (Wikipedia) – Trying to mentally encompass the inscrutable God is futile, even profane!
However, there are times when we desire to help fellow Christians who have been subjected to a different system of teaching. It is then useful to understand lines of thought, which we might feel are not fully in accord with, or a misinterpretation of scripture, even when they are held by seriously devout godly believers.
So recently I have been seeking to produce a short guide to some of the theological terms that we might encounter – not to make theologians of us, wasting time on ‘foolish and unlearned questions (2 Tim 2:23)’. But it is useful to know what is meant, for example, by the difference between Calvinism (and its five points) and Arminianism, pre-, post- and a-millennial eschatology etc. Through this we can see how we might relate to those from Baptist (Calvinist), Wesleyan/Methodist/Pentecostal (Arminian), and other backgrounds, and to be able to bring in what is positive in a meek way without giving offence. We are exhorted: ‘In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth’ (2 Tim 2:25) – a scripture which follows the instruction as to separating from iniquity.
Love is of God, and every one that loves has been begotten of God, and knows God. He that loves not has not known God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 Darby)
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent(John 17:3)
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings (Phil 3:10)
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (John 5:39).
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth(2 Tim 3:7)
Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Eccl 12:12)
A Call for Help
I am no theologian – I studied economics and statistics, not theology. So I would like to invite several to review my draft when I have done my bit. There are two or three persons I have already contacted, but if you feel you could help please let me know.
John Nelson Darby
Meanwhile, for a start, here is what might be written about Darby theology
Branch of Theology
Darby’s Probable Position
Hermeneutics – concerning the Biblical text
Qualified-literal – Passages are literal, figurative or symbolic, and recognised as such. Also, that which relates to Israel and the law (OT) is distinct from that which applies to the church and grace (NT).
Soteriology – concerning salvation
Classic evangelical – God-given faith in the blood. Without the atoning work of Christ, man must bear the guilt of his sin and remain at a distance from God without knowledge of Him or of His love. More Calvinist than Arminian but claiming neither
Eschatology – concerning prophecy
‘The Father of Premillennial Dispensationalism’ – The pre-tribulation secret rapture with the Church returning with Christ at the start of the millennium
Ecclesiology – concerning the church and church form
The true church is heavenly, unified and perfect – publicly it is in ruins – the call is to depart from iniquity and gather to the Lord’s name – without form, organisation or ordained leadership.
Christology – concerning the Person of Christ
None! – How can the blessed Object of our worship be studied academically?
This is no substitute for:
Reading, remembering the Holy Scriptures (see 2 Tim 3:15)
Knowing that your sins are forgiven and rejoicing in the Saviour (see 1 John 2:12)
Awaiting our Lord’s return with a heart aglow (see 2 Peter 1:19)
Enjoying a wonderful relationship with one another, with he Lord’s presence when two or three are gathered to His Name (see Matt 18:20)
Worshipping our great ‘God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13 Darby and others)
I have only recently come to realise how much the glad tidings are under attack. In the past few weeks several things forced themselves on me. I had drafted a blog on the subject: Know about God or Know God. I may come back to this later – but this is more urgent.
The Church Leader
For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come (Heb 13:14).
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep (John 10:12-13).
We went to an ‘open garden’ at the residence of a senior clergyman. The weather was perfect, and the gardens, specially the roses, were beautiful. We had the obligatory tea and cakes – very tasty. As we left, the curate himself was standing at the entrance shaking hands. I said to him, ‘You’ve created a paradise on earth; you won’t want to leave.’ He smiled and demurred, but really accepted what I said. I said, ‘Are you trying to make things better here’. To which he replied, ‘Of course!’ My retort: ‘Jesus died for my sins, and He is coming soon. I don’t want to stay here; I want to be with Him.’ He was at a loss what to say – my wife was flabbergasted. ‘Not even a recognition of the Lord.’
I looked at one of his recent sermons. He was arguing for hope for the vulnerable, admitting that they would have hope if Jesus had turned their lives around. Did our friend himself have hope?. He needs our prayers.
The Charismatic Church
Neither . . . foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. . . .Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.(Eph 5:4-7)
I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)
A brother was talking to me about his daughter who belonged to an apostolic charismatic church which insisted on the overriding words of its leaders. Earlier he had been attended the church too. One of the sect’s leaders told him, ‘You obey your house group leader rather than the bible’. That finished him.
He had seen other churches like that – attractive in many ways, re-baptising more and more members especially amongst the young who liked the happy, uninhibited atmosphere and the music. It was satisfying to the flesh, but not to God. They say, ‘You need Jesus as your friend’. Little mention is made of sin, repentance, and the precious blood, though they do mention the risen Saviour. Money is important. I understand a leader said in his sermon, ‘If any of you have not signed a covenant for £X to be given to this church each week, you cannot be members and need to check you are believers’. What part of scripture does that idea come from? Oh yes! ‘I am not like other men; I tithe everything I gain!’ (Luke 18:12).
I am reminded of the recent sermon by Bishop Michael Curry at the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. On one side it was a positive message of the love of God. But behind that is the suggestion of ‘All you need is love’ – a theme popularised in the 1960’s by John Lennon and the Hindu seeking Beetles. There may have been an acknowledgment that Jesus died, but not of repentance and faith in the blood.
They talk of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Is it really of the Spirit, and is it baptised to the death of the Lord?
Formalism and Legality
Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (Acts 15:10-11).
This is something that has dogged the church from its earliest days. The early believers were almost entirely Jewish: they were brought up under the law of Moses and took it into Christianity, and insisted that Gentiles kept the law too. Peter, a previously devout Jew, whom Paul had once to withstand, was clear to them in the above account of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.
The flesh is content when there are boundaries, with liberty to do what we like within them. A child is brought up that way. Are we to remain children? Paul’s most severe condemnation was on those who would bring persons back under bondage (see the whole book of Galatians).
The Roman Catholic Church is, of course, the clearest example of legalism – and with that formalism, where so many features of the Jewish system migrated into a new quasi-Christian form of worship – priests, altars, vestments etc. Persons are kept unsure of salvation, and the fear of purgatory holds them in bondage. If only they knew the scriptures; if only they knew the Saviour!
But we see it closer to home. What started in the early 1800’s as a simple movement of believers under the Spirit of God, gathering separately to the Lord’s name forsaking formalism and legality appear to have split into several groups with some of this legalistic line of thinking. Why is it that as soon as liberty comes in, dear believers want (with the best of intentions) to mount a rear-guard action as to ‘standards slipping’. No one would doubt that the flesh wants licence – but let us present Christ. Be like Him; keep near Him. If the state amongst Christians is to be raised, present Jesus.
Liberalism and Political Correctness
They glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen (Romans 1:21-25).
Much has been written about this. Militant secularists and humanists, supported by the media and many politicians have put acceptance of moral corruption and unholy relationships above God’s law. Confronting this can result in prosecution. Cases have been numerous.
Frederick Raven wrote ‘The gospel is very little understood by many believers. The defect is in preaching the benefitsof Christ’s death instead of CHRIST Himself. If anyone asked me what the gospel was, I should say, ‘CHRIST’ (Address on ‘The Gospel’ – FER’s Ministry Vol 14 page 157)
J B Stoney wrote in a letter, ‘I am more and more convinced that the real check to our spiritual growth is from some defect in infancy — an imperfect apprehension of the gospel. The death of Christ and all involved in it must be entered into before the value and greatness of the resurrection can be estimated.’ ( Discipline of the Servant No. 4 Letters vol. 1 page 190)
But let’s be thankful wherever the gospel is preached – God can use anything: Paul wrote, ‘I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. . . .But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that. . . [I am] much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some also of good will; the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice (Phil 1:7-18).
In grace, your brother
PS – My previous letter on ‘Eternal Punishment’ attracted much less comment than usual. Whilst we don’t preach judgment, is it a subject we are shy about? Think about it, how many of those in churches marked by the above, eternally lost? Comments?
Around Easter it was reported that the Pope was unsure as to the existence of hell. The Vatican unsurprisingly said that the Pope’s comments had been misrepresented. Nevertheless, a survey in the USA came up with the statistic that 30% of people identifying themselves as Christians did NOT believe in hell. (Evangelicals – 25% not believing in hell, ‘Mainline protestant’ 40%, Mainly-black Pentecostal’ 18%, Roman Catholic 37%, Orthodox 41%). Surprisingly 36% of those who said they had no religion DID believe in hell. (Source Pew Research Center – Belief in Heaven and Hell among US Adults 2014).
This cause me to look into what J N Darby had to say about the subject, and found he was battling with ‘universalists’ who said that God was such a loving God that everybody would be saved, even if they had to wait a bit, and ‘annihilationists’ who believed that the fire would consume souls completely, so nothing would remain. Of course, both are wrong, and both views continue to be prevalent today.
Whether we have many old-fashioned hell-fire sermons designed to frighten souls into submission, I don’t know. But one thing is certain ‘Hell exits; hell is eternal, and we all deserve to go there as sinners. ‘By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God’ (Eph 2:8). We are called on to warn souls of the consequences of rejecting God’s grace in the gospel, whilst saying, ‘Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?’ (Rom 2:8).
JND and Hell
JN Darby did not write much about hell, but a paper met the then-current thought (and just as current now). ‘Brief Scriptural Evidence on the doctrine of Eternal Punishment, for plain people’. Collected Writings Vol 7 (Doctrinal 2) page 1.
The lake of fire is consistent with God’s love. God has almighty power, and it would be inconsistent with divine love to tolerate lawlessness. God may tolerate it for the moment, but in result He will limit it in the lake of fire. From Righteousness and Salvation Ministry by F E Raven Vol 18 p 117
What about those 36% of who said they had no religion and who DID believe in hell.
What must grip them. FEAR! How do we reach them with the glad tidings?
Remember it says: ‘But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, . . . and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Rev 21:8)
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb 2:14-15)
And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (1 Peter 1:15-21)
What could be more eloquent than scripture?
Greetings in the Name of our blessed Saviour who has redeemed us from Hell by His blood.
This morning in our family reading we read from the first chapter of Colossians:
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (v12-20).
What struck me was the juxtaposition of His having the pre-eminence and His being Head of the body, the church. Christ is the Head – that is incontrovertible. However does He have the first place in our local assemblies? I am not saying that is always the case but a vicar, pastor or minister might have that place because of his position or ability (though he – it should be ‘he’- would want to think otherwise). Those gatherings which, more scripturally sound, do not have a single person is head, but might have a more specious fault – the gathering in itself having the first place (example Laodicea- Rev 3:14-22). If that the case, human politics doubtless come into place – assertiveness on the part of the brothers, and an undermining influence on the part of the sisters.
The main trouble in Colosse was the temptation to bring in rules, another evidence of the church – not Christ – having the first place (Touch not; taste not; handle not – ch. 2:21) – and philosophy and vain deceit (ch. 2:8). Godly men and women like Epaphras, Philemon and Apphia were not philosophers or politicians.
But Corinth! They were reigning as kings, puffed-up, showings off their abilities, and not mourning despite serious immorality in their midst (see 1 Corinthians 4:8-5:2).
If only love for our Lord Jesus, and love with respect for one another, pervaded we would be occupied with Him, not troubles and rejoicing with all in bad times and good.
Today if ye will hear His Voice
In addition to A Day of Small Things, I edit the publication of ministry under the heading ‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’. This comprises words of ministry, readings and addresses, generally amongst the group of Christians with whom I am privileged to break bread. Issues are approximately monthly, depending on availability of material. Whilst I might move them to a separate website, they are now posted in a separate section in adayofsmallthings.com – see ‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’ . If you want to be added to the list for Today if ye will hear His Voice’, please click here.
A Call for Help
I am 72, and there is no way I am going to do summaries of all the articles by JND. In addition I am conscious that many can be improved, and there is a need for hard copy publication. For this I need assistance. If you are interested in helping me, please send me a personal email. Of course to do so, you must be fully assured of your eternal salvation, and be doctrinally in tune with that servant of the Lord. I look forward to hearing from you.
There are many sincere believers, and sound teachers who work in these institutions. There are many earnest young Christians, men and women, desirous of serving the Lord, who attend them, and have gone on to serve Him faithfully. But is there any scriptural basis for them?
I have looked at a few websites recently and there are some noble statements. The Dallas Theological Seminary, for example, is very much influenced by the ministry of John Nelson Darby, and has produced some worthy alumni, such as my friend Paul Wilkinson. It states, ‘The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders for the proclamation of His Word and the building up of the body of Christ worldwide.’ Nobody could criticise that – in fact the church needs more and more workmen. But what do many desire? A Doctor of Ministry degree? A wonderful graduation ceremony in robes? And how much does it cost? not that a degree should be without cost, of course. Timothy was told ‘for those who shall have ministered well obtain for themselves a good degree, and much boldness in faith which [is] in Christ Jesus.’ (I Tim 3:13 JND). They get their degree by ministering; they do not get their degree in order to minister.
Furthermore, like any college, it is a social institution with sports, clubs etc., and you only need to look at Facebook to see that. Nothing wrong, of course, with sport and social activities, but are they part of the church?
There was the School of Tyrannus in Corinth. It was a place to read and discuss the word, and for interested persons to come to the Lord. If it was a formal school, I don’t think it was more than a place of convenience for Paul. Then there was the home of Aquila and Priscilla. I don’t think either had a doctorate, but they were able to take Apollos (who maybe had one) expound unto him the way of God more perfectly (Acts 18:26).
So, maybe the best place to learn is in the assembly. We are to learn in the school of God. There is a good book by James Butler Stoney (1814-1897) – Discipline in the School of God. Maybe this is a good place to start. Though we had best start on our knees first.
February 2018 – A Day of Small Things has been going almost five years. It is time to take stock, see what the Lord has prospered and what He has not, see what Christians have shown interest in. It is also time to brighten things up. I hope you like the changes. Please email me, firstname.lastname@example.org , to suggest improvements.
I’ve changed the template. I hope the new one is cleaner, brighter and easier to follow.
I’ve added a drop down menu at the top, like many other similar sites.
I’ve made some changes to improve ‘SEO’ so more find the site. However the best way of increasing is introduction. I’ve made it easier to do this. Here it is.
I’ve switched from Bible Hub to Ministry Search Engine for the scriptures. This shows the KJV and Darby versions in columns, like the 1890 Parallel Edition. I will still use Bible Hub for the Greek original etc. I will also use Ministry Search Engine for the ministry of JND and others.
Instead of ‘For Christians in Perilous (or Dangerous) Times, I’ve added, ‘Who are waiting for Jesus’ Call at the Rapture.’ This reflects a change of outlook – from the negative side (still necessary) of judging the errors of ‘systematised Christianity’ to the positive enjoyment of gathering simply, as at the start of the dispensation, as they turned ‘to serve the living and true God; and to await his Son from the heavens, whom he raised from among the dead, Jesus, our deliverer from the coming wrath’ (1 Thess 1:9-10). Those who moved out of ‘system’ in the early 1800’s, experienced the same. What gripped them was the Head in heaven (Eph 1:22) and His body here (Eph 5:30), and the imminence of His coming to rapture His own (1 Thess 4:16), shortly thereafter to return to reign with us, His saints (1 Thess 3:13). His coming is much nearer now!
Whilst I will continue with simplified summaries, I have embarked on a new approach – J N Darby by Subject – looking at a subject, finding everything he had to say about it, then selecting portions, grouped in a logical way. The first subject was ‘The Passover’; the second ‘The Red Sea’. With each subject I plan, with the Lord’s help, to write a single document covering Darby’s teaching on it. I trust readers will find these useful and helpful
This process will take time – you will see the changes.
You will remember my letter last month: ‘The Lord’s Coming – Is that REALLY our Expectation?’ This was following an address in December on the Lord’s return. How much better it is to be occupied with this, than with all the problems which beset Christians.
As J N Darby, who had his share of battles for the Lord, wrote in his poem ‘Fulness of Joy’
1. O, bright and blessed hope!
When shall it be
That we His face, long loved,
Revealed shall see?2. Oh! when, without a cloud,
His features trace,
Whose faithful love so long
We’ve known in grace;3. That love itself enjoy,
Which, ever true,
Did in our feeble path
Its work pursue?
4. O Jesus, not unknown,
Thy love shall fill
The heart in which Thou dwell’st,
And shalt dwell still.
5. Still, Lord, to see Thy face,
Thy voice to hear;
To know Thy present love
For ever near;
6. To gaze upon Thyself,
So faithful known,
Long proved in secret help
With Thee alone;7. To see that love, content,
On me flow forth,
For ever Thy delight,
Clothed with Thy worth!8. O Lord, ’twas sweet the thought
That Thou wast mine;
But brighter still the joy
That I am Thine!
9. Thine own, O Lord, the fruit,
The cherished fruit,
Of Thine all perfect love!
No passing root
10. Of evil e’er will dim
Thy cloudless rays;
But a full heart pour forth
Thine endless praise!
11. Nor what is next Thy heart
Can we forget –
Thy saints, O Lord, with Thee
In glory met,12. (Perfect in comeliness
Before Thy face –
Th’eternal witness all
Of Thine own grace),13. Together then their songs
Of endless praise,
With one harmonious voice,
In joy shall raise!
14. O joy supreme and full,
Where sunless day
Sheds forth, with light divine,
Its cloudless ray!
PS We heard today of the home-going of the renowned evangelist Billy Graham. Some may have criticised his methods, but we can be thankful for the thousands who have come to know the Lord through his ministry. Let’s not forget to do the work of an evangelist.
How much does the hope of the Lord’s return (the rapture) feature in our Christian meetings – an expectation – a hope. Is it the hope of troubles being ended, of divisions being over, of our poor old bodies being changed – or the hope of seeing our Saviour whom we love, and being with Him? Is it also the joy of knowing that at that time, Jesus will have His bride (us!) united to Him in glory. Is the degree of the expectation of Christ’s imminent return, the thermometer measuring our company’s spiritual warmth?
A few weeks ago, I was at a meeting for fellowship and ministry in the pleasant town of Malvern in Worcestershire England. The brother serving gave an address on the Lord’s coming. He started with a story:
An elderly sister had spoken to him recently, and said how she woke up during the night with troubles on her mind, especially those amongst the Christian group she was with. But there were others – the world, her family, herself – particularly her health. Then she said “Wouldn’t it be great if I woke up thinking, ‘This is the day the Lord is going to come!’ Wouldn’t that make a great difference to the day – and to me?”
The brother serving read from:
Luke 12:45 ‘That bondman should say in his heart, My lord delays to come’
1 Peter 5:1 ‘The elders which are among you I exhort, who am their fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of the Christ, who also am partaker of the glory about to be revealed’
1 Thess 4:17 ‘We, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall be always with the Lord’
This raises questions:
– Am I really looking forward for Him to come?
– Is there anything I ought to put right before He comes?
– Is what I plan to do today according to the Lord’s will?
This made me think of our Christian gatherings. How much does the hope of the Lord’s return (the rapture) feature in our meetings – an expectation – a hope. Is it the hope of troubles being ended, of divisions being over, of our poor old bodies being changed – or the hope of seeing our Saviour whom we love, and being with Him? Is it also the joy of knowing that at that time, Jesus will have His bride (us!) united to Him in glory. Is the degree of the expectation of Christ’s imminent return, the thermometer measuring our company’s spiritual warmth?
Darby wrote his poem ‘Hope’ in 1881, shortly before he was taken. Unlike many of his poems, it was written in the plural – the company rather than the individual.
And shall we see Thy face, And hear Thy heavenly voice, Well known to us in present grace! Well may our hearts rejoice. We wait to see Thee, Lord! Yet now within our hearts Thou dwell’st in love, that doth afford The joy that love imparts. Yet still we wait for Thee, To see Thee as Thou art, Be with Thee, like Thee, Lord, and free To love with all our heart.
Many of the churches in our area have websites. I have been looking at these, sometimes with blogs, or reproduced sermons, and often with a ‘Statement of Faith’ (either their own or that of the Evangelical Alliance, or in some cases the Nicene Creed[†].
There were traditional churches – Church of England, Baptist, Methodist
There were evangelical churches – Missions, FIEC affiliates, former Open Brethren
Many were charismatic and Pentecostal Churches with names such as: Kings Church , The Word House, King’s Treasure, New Life, Elim Pentecostal, the Incorruptible Word Ministries, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Redeemed Evangelical Church of Christ, Jesus Revival Ministries, Beulah Christian Fellowship, House of Favour, Peace & Love Assembly
What saddened me was that not a single one of these seemed to have any appreciation of the present living hope of the church – His imminent coming and the joy of being with Him. Their outlook appeared totally earth-bound – helping less fortunate people, enjoying exhilarating services, music with choirs and bands, youth outreach (now using social media) etc. I do not doubt that there are many real lovers of the Lord Jesus in those gatherings, with the full knowledge of their eternal salvation, and who have received and have the knowledge of the indwelling Holy Spirit. They have light of the Lord’s coming to take up His glorious kingdom on earth, but it is based on a ministry that is wholly earthly.
Even those citing the Lord’s return might be hazy doctrinally. The ‘Statements of Faith’ below†, seem not to distinguish between the rapture and the appearing and the millennium and eternity. I guess if these things are viewed as generations in the future, they do not appear important. Or are the church leaders wanting to avoid contention?
This does not just apply to the churches. There are many books on prophecy which accurately portray the future, based on the Bible. But they concentrate on events and judgments. The joy of our Saviour’s return is often lacking.
Of course, I may be mistaken, in some ways I would like to think that I was, and if there were more who had the light, joy and hope of the rapture, I would be immensely happy. I have not been to any services in these churches. I have not read every book on prophecy.
We can thank God there are some places which are different. I am aware of a couple of places who do not, nor would not, have websites, and where there is a true expectation of the Lord’s return – the meeting where we were till recently, and a nearby Gospel Hall where we know several who go there. Maybe there are other small companies of believers meeting separately, enjoying the Lord’s support and awaiting His return. But all this is very few in a conurbation of a quarter-million people.
May the Lord’s return be ever brighter in our hearts – and may the hope of it, and our desire to be with Him, affect our lives individually, and may it enliven our gatherings too.
May God bless you in 2018.
[*] In ‘A Day of Small Things’, I have several articles on the rapture (mainly in summaries of J N Darby’ works – especially ‘The Present Hope of the Church’. These cover the dispensational teaching, and the reality of the rapture, which could happen at any time, since no prophecies have to be fulfilled first. More importantly, they also help us see the real hope – the real joy – our Lord and Saviour’s return, and our being with Him.
[†] The new UK Evangelical Alliance’ New Statement of Faith states, ‘The personal and visible return of Jesus Christ to fulfil the purposes of God, who will raise all people to judgement, bring eternal life to the redeemed and eternal condemnation to the lost, and establish a new heaven and new earth’. The older Worldwide Statement reads, ‘The expectation of the personal, visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory’. Also the ancient Nicine Creed (referenced by the Methodists) states, ‘I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come’.
Reading 2 Cor 8:5. ‘And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God’. , I ventured to suggest we have in the past put things the wrong way round. It came to me that we have been relying on all that good teaching, the meetings and our relationships with our brethren – and then we have attached the Lord to what we have set up. He has been gracious and supported us, but is He saying.
First to the Lord, and to us
– Have we had it the Wrong Way Round?
If we desire to walk in the light of the assembly, we must always be mindful as to the One whose assembly it is. I look over some of the things I have written over the past few years, even on ADOSS, and see how much I have been governed by a mind-set, structured in accordance with right scriptural teaching, but without the Lord Himself as my prime object. What the Lord is looking for? Soundness of teaching is important, but it is not the most important thing. Being close to our Lord Jesus, and being true to Him, surely is. Many true believers without the teaching have a much closer relationship with our Lord and Saviour than I do.
A couple of weeks ago, I was writing to a brother, and the scripture came to mind in 2 Cor 8:5. ‘And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God’. Interesting: ‘not as we hoped’. Paul commended them for putting the Lord before them. Paul would not have wanted them to be in a subservient position, so ‘to us’, I take to mean Paul’s teaching and the practical fellowship and service to the Lord. That Saturday afternoon, a nearby gathering arranged a meeting for prayer to seek the Lord’s guidance, and I gave a short word, reading this scripture, and ventured to suggest we have in the past put things the wrong way round. It came to me that we have been relying on all that good teaching, the meetings and our relationships with our brethren – and then we have attached the Lord to what we have set up. He has been gracious and supported us, but is He saying ‘Put me first’
The Lord has given us an Opportunity.
It has been a very turbulent year amongst the Christians with whom we have been gathering. I do not want to go into details, other than to say we concluded that the ground of their gathering was sectarian. Many readers will be fully aware of what I am referring to. Whereas we had been in an average-sized company my wife and I are now breaking bread with just one elderly sister. Sadly, we felt we had to leave the gathering where we had been for 42 years and the brethren that we still love. Having been found in the situation, we broke bread simply, in answer to our Lord’s request, based on two-or-three gathered together to the Lord’s Name, and seeking to call on the Lord out of a pure heart (Matthew 18:20 and 2 Timothy 2:22).
Next, were there others with whom we could share full Christian fellowship? There are many gatherings nearby with sincere devoted lovers of the Lord Jesus, but are they gather on a sectarian basis, or are they run by human clerical organisation, or are they follow an open or independent path, not recognising the unity of the body. We can share experiences with individuals there, but cannot have part with them collectively. Thank God, we found three other gatherings, within an hour’s drive, with whom we can share full fellowship. They may be small, and we are having to travel more, but we are learning to work things out in love, above all putting our Lord Jesus first.
As to the future, who knows? God does of course, and it is for us to be with Him, and we are sure that Satan will attack. In the early 1800’s, many believers in small gatherings were moved to leave the organised denominations, where clericalism and established form has impeded the operations of the Holy Spirit. They did not know what the Lord was going to do, and that it would lead to a worldwide movement. It was said at a recent meeting, ‘When we come to practical fellowship, it is not for us to make rules, but to test everything – Is it in accord with the death of Christ?’ It is for us, first individually, and then as we find others, to seek to be faithful to Christ in the power of the Spirit, to walk simply as believers. Then let us see where the Lord leads.’
It is not an easy path. We have not been promised it. But it is a blessed one – and the Lord’s coming is very, very near!
‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’
My wife and I with some who had been through similar experiences (and a few others) met in Northern Ireland in October. I believe the Lord showed clearly in those meetings that there is ‘another way’. Accordingly, I have taken on the exercise of publishing these and other meetings. Under the title, ‘Today if you will hear His Voice’. if you would like a to receive this by email to you please click on the heading below. The first issue was distributed last month – on ‘Seven – what is Perfect, and what is Maintained in a Day of Reduction’: seven months, seven bullocks, seven loaves, seven baskets, seven lamps, seven stars, seven assemblies and seven overcomers (Word by Martin Cook). Two more issues are in the works.
I don’t spend much time on social media, but going for a walk yesterday I sat down and logged into Twitter on my iPhone. Correspondence between two brothers with whom I correspond came up:
The first sign that Moses did was to turn water into blood – judgment (see Exodus 7:20). The first sign that Jesus did was turn water into wine – grace (see John 2:10-11). ‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’ (John 1:17).
And … 3,000 die at the giving of the law, the first Pentecost (see Exodus 32:28); 3,000 given new life at the giving of the Spirit, the second Pentecost (see Acts 2:41). ‘For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’ (2 Cor 3:6).