Clericalism. – A Cautionary Tale

Well, he seems to have strong views on some things. But don’t talk to me about clericalism. He may not have the title of pastor or minister, but he clearly runs his little meeting, and is very pleased with the way he has it!’

A few years ago I was with a Christian colleague, visiting a client a few miles from his home.  My colleague, a real lover of the Lord, was preparing to become a Baptist minister.  I had had conversations with him about the principle of clericalism.  He said that in his church all were involved, the principle that one man should be in charge were probably not right, but that is how things were, and there was nothing one could do about it.

There was a respected, well taught brother in the town we were visiting, and, though I did not know him well, I thought he could be of help to my friend, so I called on him, with my colleague in tow.  We had a good talk, maybe not as I had planned, certainly nothing on clericalism.

After we left I said to my colleague ‘How did you get on?’  His answer ‘Well, he seems to have strong views on some things.  But don’t talk to me about clericalism.  He may not have the title of pastor or minister, but he clearly runs his little meeting, and is very pleased with the way he has it!’

Oh dear!

JN Darby and the so-called Plymouth Brethren

I am often asked about John Nelson Darby and his relationship with the so-called Plymouth Brethren or Exclusive Brethren. This is a subject I can speak of only with sadness, humility and ‘eating the sin-offering’

Darby was totally opposed to sectarianism, so anything that smacked of a humanly organised church was anathema to him. He did not ‘found’ the Plymouth Brethren as such.

Why John Nelson Darby would have left the Exclusive Brethren Sect

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I am often asked about John Nelson Darby and his relationship with the so-called Plymouth or Exclusive Brethren.  This is a subject I can speak of only with sadness, humility and ‘eating the sin-offering’

Darby was totally opposed to sectarianism, so anything that smacked of a humanly organised church was anathema to him. He did not ‘found’ the Plymouth Brethren as such.

In the 1800’s a lot left the establishment and other sects and the those Christians came together in simplicity.  The term ‘brethren’ – small-B  – was used among them, and at that time Darby who was the most prominent, was in Plymouth –  hence the name.  In the course of time the Plymouth Brethren developed and what did that become?   Another sect!  I have read letters (in French) of JND in his latter days and he talked about leaving the brethren.

Taylor Hales Exclusive Brethren – the Plymouth Brethren Church

If you have read anything about the brethren you will now see a microcosm of Christendom.  At one extreme there are the Taylor-Hales Exclusive Brethren, who frankly have every feature of a sect – some say even a cult, though I would not go that far, since fundamentally they believe the simple gospel.  They have a public profile in which they now call themselves the ‘Plymouth Brethren Christian Church’ (PBCC) with hierarchical leadership, strict rules, central organization, their own schools and businesses.  They practice an extreme level of separation, for example, forbidding normal relationships between split families. Sadly money and alcohol feature widely, and they have made headlines for the wrong reasons.   This trend developed during the 1960’s when I was a boy, and I can be thankful to God to have been delivered from it in a crisis in 1970.  My wife was too.  This sect is relatively strong in UK, Australia (where it is headquartered), New Zealand, and parts of USA/Canada and West Indies. What makes me sad is to think of the number of sincere lovers of the Lord caught up there, some of whom I knew in my earlier life.  I am sure John Darby would have been heart-broken – but with his knowledge of man after the flesh, not surprised – to see what that sect has come to.  I am absolutely certain that Darby would have had nothing to do with the Plymouth Brethren Church.

Open Brethren and Others

At the other end are the Open Brethren, which in many ways are similar to the Baptists but without pastors.  Meetings are independent of one another, some stricter than others; some have embraced the charismatic movement.  They are heavily involved in missionary work.

Then sadly there are a few dozen little groups in between!  Some groups Kelly-Lowe-Glanton/Continental and Tunbridge Wells groups are quite strong in America, and the former in Continental Europe. It has been due to man’s failure that there are so many –  “I don’t agree with you so I’ll leave – and I’ll take some with my views” and division spreads with a lot of personal feeling.  That is not of God.  Oh that there could be healing!  But if we tried humanly to put groups together that would not be of God either.

Where I Stand

I can be thankful therefore, that in the goodness of God, I can enjoy happy normal Christian fellowship a few of the Lord’s people, many of which have come from other brethren groups, scattered through several countries with:  no headquarters (other than heaven), no leader (but Jesus), no written statement of beliefs (other than the Bible), and no name – (Can’t use Plymouth Brethren any longer, thank God).  I can say, that there is a general desire to be faithful to the Lord working things out simply.  Of course Satan is ever active to get us on the old human paths of human effort, legality or looseness, but the power of the Holy Spirit is felt, restraining what is wrong, and causing saints to enjoy a living ministry and amazing experience in the Service of God.

There is more about the Brethren on Wikipedia –with many inaccuracies.  Also on the site My Brethren , even if I do not concur with the editorship in everything!

 Simplified Darby on the Evil of Clericalism – One Man should not Run a Church or Assembly

When John Nelson Darby, a former clergyman himself, published ‘The Notion of a Clergyman, dispensationally the sin against the Holy Ghost.’ with its understandably provocative title, it was said that he was accusing every clergyman or appointed leader of committing the sin against the Holy Spirit. He was at pains to show that this was far from the truth.

Darby’s issue was that any human appointment, whether by delegation or election, substituted the direct sovereign action of the Holy Spirit, by that of man. This is the notion of a clergyman. The system is wrong. It substitutes man for God. True ministry is by the gift and the power of God’s Spirit, not by man’s appointment.

If the authority of the clergy is derived from man, it follows that anything that is of God, by the Holy Spirit must be condemned by the system and classed as evil. This, then, is the sin against the Holy Spirit in this dispensation.

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s 

“The Notion of a Clergyman, Dispensationally the sin against the Holy Ghost”

J N Darby

When John Nelson Darby, a former clergyman himself, published ‘The Notion of a Clergyman, dispensationally the sin against the Holy Ghost.’ with its understandably provocative title, it was said that he was accusing every clergyman or appointed leader of committing the sin against the Holy Spirit.  He was at pains to show that this was far from the truth.

Darby’s issue was that any human appointment, whether by delegation or election, substituted the direct sovereign action of the Holy Spirit, by that of man. This is the notion of a clergyman.  The system is wrong.  It substitutes man for God.  True ministry is by the gift and the power of God’s Spirit, not by man’s appointment.

If the authority of the clergy is derived from man, it follows that anything that is of God, by the Holy Spirit must be condemned by the system and classed as evil.  This, then, is the sin against the Holy Spirit in this dispensation.

To view the complete paper – The Notion of a Clergyman, Dispensationally the Sin against the Holy Ghost – Click here

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 1 Ecclesiastical 1 – p36) containing this article click here

The Church as a Worldly Institution

The word ‘clergy’, or the clerical principle, has the characteristic mark of apostasy in it – that is the substitution of man’s privileged order on God’s Church.   This has resulted in the Holy Spirit’s being despised in the Church.  Instead of those who had the lot of being instructors or spiritual overseers, ministers have now made themselves lords over the people and even the very Church itself.  So people speak of “going into the Church”.

Because this power is attached to the ministry, it has become the Church itself in the eyes of the world.  The world can therefore save itself the trouble of being religious by throwing all on to the clergy, so that irreligious people can regard religion is the clergy’s business, not theirs.  The substitution of the clergy for the Church is essentially apostasy.

It may be asked whether this is not really the sin against the Holy Spirit, merely resistance to Him.  However anything that interferes with the Holy Spirit’s vicarship of Christ in the world is a direct sin against Him is pure, dreadful, and destructive evil.  It is the very cause of destruction to the church.   Alas, even if not knowingly or willingly, every clergyman is contributing to this.

The Exclusive Authority of the Clergy

The Holy Spirit gives the word by whoever and whenever He choses.  But if clergymen have the exclusive privilege of preaching, teaching, and ministering communion, which is what they claim, then in their eyes anything else must be disorder and schism.

This accusation is therefore levelled directly against the sovereign operations of the Spirit of God.  That is ascribing to the power of evil that which comes from the Holy Spirit.  This is the sin (or blasphemy) against the Holy Spirit.  – This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils…whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him (Matthew 12:24,32).

God’s truth is always profitable, and by it the testimony is maintained in the world.  But the principles of the truth were established before their being subjugated by the papal power.  Believers have now to rest on the Lord, or sink into the system.  But dependence on the Lord is by the work of the Holy Spirit.  That is not resting on the official church, so it is condemned by the clerical system.  Hence, the very notion of a clergyman is effectively apostasy and rebellion against God.

 

Appointment of Clergymen and Bishops

Are all clergymen and bishops, occupying a humanly appointed office, converted themselves?  Whilst many are truly godly, there are some who are even haters of God.  If so why are they in that position in the church?  It must be that there is honour attached to the position and that they are authorised to confer honour on others.

Most godly clergymen and bishops will admit that their appointment is not by God. Accordingly, in their position of being clergymen, they are forced either to resist God in the Holy Spirit or to resist the bishops and higher authorities from whom they derive their authority.  Darby ventured to say that the most successful clergymen were the blindest, darkest and most ignorant in the external practice of religion.

And what about the bishops?  Their appointment varies, but they may receive Letters Patent, in Britain by the Sovereign, with the support of the secular authorities.  They, with their invested authority, are not appointed by God at all, but often by godless, worldly politicians.  And if they are honest they will recognise it, even though the system must charge anybody who does not accept their authority with dissention and schism.

Resistance to the Gospel

When the gospel is preached, there is witness to the Redeemer’s love: people are bought into the communion of the Lord’s love, to bear witness to their sole dependence on His dying love.  This witness is by ordinary lay persons.  But their testimony is not accepted because they are not, nor have been brought together by – clergymen!

It will therefore be observed that where there is lay evangelical activity, which is blessed of God, opposition will come from the clergy. Some will even condemn it as evil.  In Britain this will be from the vicars and bishops, in American from the presiding bishops and clergy, in Southern Europe, Latin America and Egypt from the Catholic and Coptic priests, in the Greek church from the papas – even if their numbers fall.

Darby cited a movement at that time in Ireland known as the Home Mission.  Opposition from the Establishment was so strong that meetings were forcibly broken up, and those involved were excommunicated.  This is despite the fact that thousands flocked to hear and enjoy the gospel.  No doubt the clergy thought that it was their exclusive prerogative to preach, and therefore they should hinder any who were not ordained.

The situation is the same whether in Protestantism or Roman Catholicism.  Indeed the status is the same; they are mutually respected,  [witness the 21st century ordinariate].  If one is bound to acknowledge the one, he is bound to acknowledge the other in the same title and office. They are their own witnesses that there is no difference between them in title as clergymen.  The only difference is that one authority is passed down from the Pope, the other from the Sovereign.  In either religion, this is the notion that meets you, as the barrier to God’s truth and work.

The Clergy in the Dark Ages and Afterwards

As Christianity became the imperial religion, the church sunk into worldliness and embraced the world’s methods and standards.  The world therefore became its head.  The world cannot manage a spiritual office, but it can manage global, national, regional and local authorities.  So it set up these authorities to minister, guide and manage the church.

For a long time, due to ignorance and superstition, ecclesiastical offices wielded more power than kings and the secular nobility.   Later secular power reassumed supremacy, but the ecclesiastical structure remained the same.  The world’s geographical secular powers used the church as an instrument to manage the mass of people.  Those who desired to put themselves in Christ’s hand would be regarded as rebellious, because people were taught to rely on the Church rather than on Christ’s hand by the Holy Spirit.  Meanwhile the official church’s – not the true Church of God’s – influence declined.  The church, bound up with the world, has become merely a compound of secular influence and remaining superstition, where spiritual energies are cramped.

The Clergy in the Reformation

The reformation introduced a statement of individual faith, and broke off from the power of Rome and Popery.  But it did not separate the Church from the world.  Outward signs changed, but Christ and His Spirit did not rule.  Darby said he believed that eventually the principle of the clergyman would result in the re-introduction of the power of Popery, since in all cases the religion is based on a doctrine of succession, not on the presence of the Holy Spirit.  No Protestant minister, as a clergyman, can prove his title any more than the Pope can.  It is not a question of what doctrine is held, though in a great number of instances the clergy do not preach the truth, and many would question whether some are even Christians.

The Influence of the Clergy

As a position, the rank of clergyman has an amazing pernicious influence on the minds of people.  This has grown up though its association with the world, and a hindrance the operation of God’s Spirit.  Indeed, it charges the operations of the Spirit of God with evil, as rebellion to its authority, because it does not act within its defined territorial limits, or conform to its secular and ceremonial arrangements. Nor too does the true Church recognize ecclesiastical hierarchy.   Their godly and faithful brethren, acting under the Spirit of God are rejected, and branded divisive schismatics.

The Gifts to the Church

There are gifts: He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:5711); so in 1 Corinthians 12To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit But these are known only as gifts. The notion of a Clergyman substitutes something which cannot be said to be of God at all in the place of all these.  And is not found in Scripture either.

Not being Lords over God’s Heritage

Peter spoke of those who were elders or instructors: Neither as being lords over God’s heritage (κλήρων, kleron), but being ensamples to the flock(1 Peter 5:3).  That is the real meaning of the word kleros or lot.  The only use therefore of the word ‘clergy’ in Scripture is, as applied to the laity, contrasted with ministers, charging them to assume no lordship.

Speaking of “My flock”

How often have we heard that expression from the mouth of a minister or clergyman – “My flock,” as if it were a virtue to think of the congregation as such.  To claim that is a shocking blasphemy, even if not done so knowingly or wilfully.  Not even an apostle would have dared to claim the flock as his own. It was God’s flock which they might be given to oversee – Christ’s sheep – which they might be entrusted with a portion of, a lot (kleros), to feed and guide.  Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.  For 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 20:28-30)

Vicars, pastors or ministers who talk about their sheep, or their flock, put themselves in the place of God or His Christ.  They do so because they are clergy: they count it their title as clergy – they would effectively be as gods.  What will they say before the Righteous Judge?

The Clerical System vs. Individual Clergymen

Nevertheless, Darby, having been a clergyman once himself, had high esteem for many individuals amongst the clergy, and he did not doubt that there were many others as worthy that he did not know.  But it is not an individual question, but one affecting God’s glory and the whole order of the Church.  For the official church publicly has departed from God, and has become what it is, both in name and title.  It has become the concentration of that which, by its denial of the Holy Ghost and gratuitous blasphemy against Him, brings destruction on all to which it is attached.

Conclusion – The clergy identifies the Church with the world, not God with the Church

The clerical system identifies the church with the world, not God with the Church.  Being of the world it is of Satan, and the world denies, rejects, and even blasphemes the Holy Ghost.

JND concludes: What is the remedy? It must be the recognition of God’s Spirit wherever He operates, personally bowing to His guidance and direction.  The Christian will see as the hand of God, in the Comforter who has been sent to abide with us, and works in us by obedience.  As a result we can possess its joy in boldness, against all that grieves Him.  This we do against joining the world, which cannot own or receive Him, and which denies the truth, of which He is the witness.

May the Lord give us to discern things that are not of the Holy Spirit, and to separate the precious from the vile.

J.N. Darby (1800-1882) – Dublin 1828.

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), an Anglo-Irish evangelist, was led to the fierce conclusion that all churches, as man-made institutions, were bound to fail. The believer’s true hope was the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. With others Darby gathered in a less formal way, free of clergy and human structure, founded on a desire to be separate from unholy organisations.

Darby, after resigning his curacy in the Church of Ireland, became a tireless traveller, talented linguist and Bible translator. His influence is still felt in evangelical Christianity.

For more on this servant of the Lord please see JN Darby – Biographical Note

A summary by Sosthenes – September 2013 

The Path for the Christian in the Ruin of Christendom

“The Faith once delivered to the Saints”

In this paper John Darby notes that whatever God sets up perfectly, main ruins. This applies equally to the Church publicly. But it remains the Church, and it is for us to be faithful to the Lord whilst accepting our part in its public failure. We are in the last days and the Lord’s coming is imminent, so we are exhorted to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints

John Nelson Darby’s Paper on Church Breakdown and Sectarianism in Christendom

J N Darby on church breakdown in Christendom
John Nelson Darby

“The Faith once delivered to the Saints”  – A summary by Sosthenes

In this paper, John Darby notes that whatever God sets up perfectly, main ruins.   This applies equally to Christendom, we see the public ruin of the church.  Despite church breakdown, it remains the Church, and it is for us to be faithful to the Lord whilst accepting our part in its public failure. We are in the last days and the Lord’s coming is imminent, so we are exhorted to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude v.3).

Despite the public situation,  we need to have a conscience as to what is evil, and keep close to the Lord,   We must heed the Holy Spirit, judging evil, and resting the word, not the teachings of men.  We must be prepared to act alone or with just a few.  Then we can then get a view of God’s work.  So we should know what God’s mind is for us on our path, individually and collectively.  And we can trust in God, not in our own reasoning – in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:” (Isaiah 30:15)

To view the complete paper – The Faith once delivered to the Saints

Trusting in God

As Christians, God in grace has put us on a path, both individually and collectively.  It is important therefore for to know where we are on that path and what God’s mind for us on it.   Our circumstances may vary, but God’s principles never vary.  While God’s thoughts do not change, we need spiritual discernment to see where we are, and how we can go on with God, without departing from the great principles laid down for us in God’s Word.

God said to a rebellious people, under attack in Hezekiah’s time “in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:” (Isaiah 30:15). The people were being called “not my people(Hosea 1:9).  God’s mind never changed as to His people, but they were protected during Hezekiah’s time. Later they were to experience judgment.  Still, those who trusted would be preserved.

Man spoils what God sets up

In Adam, Noah, Aaron, Solomon and Nebuchadnezzar, God set up something good.  Man spoilt it.  That is because of his poor human nature.  We must bear this in mind this when assessing our position, otherwise it will become our own ruin.  We cannot plead God’s faithfulness and promises in order to sanction evil.

As God carries on, a remnant is preserved in tune with Him.  So just before the Lord came there were small numbers – Zacharias, Mary, Simeon, Anna – they were awaiting redemption.  They knew one another and were intelligent too as to the Lord’s entry.  Meanwhile Israel rejected Christ when He came.

There was soon Failure in the Early Church

If we look at the Church, God’s assembly on earth, in the early days of the Acts of the Apostles, 3000 were converted in one day.  All had one heart and one mind; they had everything in common, and the place was shaken where they were.   The power of the Spirit of God was there.

Evil got in when Ananias and Sapphira made things out to be different from what they were.  But because the Spirit of God was there, these two fell dead and fear came upon all, both inside and outside.  However, that line of corruption has continued, so that even before the close of scripture the whole profession was mixed up with the world, and judgment was called for.   Just look at the church now, the Roman Catholic system included!

Have a Conscience about our Position in the Church

Due to a lack conscience, most do not have a sense of the condition that they are in, and also how God is working.   To be intelligent spiritually, as being part of the professing church, we need a sense of our condition.

We may have to act Individually

Abraham acted alone – Look to Abraham … I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him (Isaiah 51:2) .  Being little was of no consequence.  God blessed him; He will bless us still more.

The Church teaching? – and the Holy Scriptures

The Church’s teaching?  People say the church teaches this and that, but who is that? The church? What do they mean?  We never see the church teaching.  The church does not teach – it is taught; individuals teach. But remember that there is no inspired person in the church now to teach with absolute authority.  So for authority we must turn to the Word of God itself.  We must learn from Peter and Paul.

Paul reminds Timothy of the things he had learned – the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).

The scriptures are the direct authority of God; they determine everything.  Meanwhile we have His Spirit to communicate things.  We have ministry too, which is a help.  But it is a poor thing if we look only to men as guides.

We are in the Last Days –and it is a time of Judgment

It is on the authority of scripture that we know that we are in the last days.  Unfortunately many people do not appreciate that.  Being in them requires us to have a judgment as to the general condition around us.  What so many do, even if they have right feelings as to the condition, is to shelter in what they regard as the church’s teaching, a wrong principle as we have seen.

We see from scripture that the Church has departed from God, and ruined what He set up.  That was already happening when Jude wrote: it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude v.3).

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17).   In Ezekiel judgment was to start at God’s house – begin at my sanctuary, (Ezekiel 9:6).

As to the last days John said, Even now are there many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18).  God has born with the state of the church for centuries: it has not improved.  Now God is calling souls to Himself in grace (as He did Israel).

Our hearts should take notice:  what was set up so beautiful in the power of God’s Spirit – what has it all come to?  It casts us on the strength that can never fail!

The Lord Judging the Churches

In Revelation 2-3, Christ addresses the seven churches in Asia.   He was not speaking to the churches as Head of the body, though He is always that, but as looking on them in their responsibility to maintain His interests down here on the earth.  This was Christ walking in the midst of the candlesticks, judging the state of the churches.  The Churches had to listen to what He had to say.  What had they made of the blessings that had been entrusted to them?   For example, to the young assembly in Thessalonica (Thessaloniki) the Bible speaks of works, labour, faith, love, patience and hope; but to mature Ephesus it is just works, labour and patience – faith and love were missing.  Indeed in Ephesus the spring was missing – judgement was needed, and the candlestick would be removed if they did not repent.  Hence the faithful were exhorted: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 2:7 etc).

The Public Ruin of the Church

Christians were losing their place. “All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philippians 2:21) , but they did not cease being the church.  Nevertheless it says, “In the last days perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of their own selves and so on; (2 Tim. 3:1-2).   Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).  There is the professing church, such as it is, and things would return to the level of heathendom.   Mere formality was leading to infidelity or superstition and it was clear that this is how things were going.

The Church has failed publicly in being the epistle of Christ.  It is not a question of apportioning blame or attacking persons, because we are all involved.   Things were set up so beautifully in the power of God’s Spirit – what have they all come to?  It has not ceased to be the church of God.  But the state of the Church has to be judged.  But grace fits the condition.

The Answer to the Church’s Condition is in Jesus

Christ is as sufficient for the Church now, as He was at when He first set up the church in its beauty and blessedness.  We have to look at His word and see what His mind is, whilst not hiding our eyes from the state we are in.  There is power to overcome in the midst of evil.

Things get mixed up – the good and the evil go on together.  The wise and foolish virgins slept together, but things changed at the words ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh’ (Matthew 25:6).  The Lord’s coming is imminent.  Our relationship with God is to be more than our testimony to men, otherwise we will break down and fail.  We must renew our strength.  We must remain in that which was from the beginning.  If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father (1 John 2:24).  The great secret of Christian life is our intercourse with God by the Holy Spirit.  And that makes nothing of ourselves.

When the children of Israel failed in Joshua’s time, they had to get back to Gilgal – complete separation from the world.  But the angel of the Lord went to Bochim, the place of tears.  This means that as well as being separate,  we should feel the situation.

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus will be Persecuted

It does not say that every Christian will be persecuted, but all that will live godly (2 Timothy 3:12).  The world will not stand a man showing the power of the spirit of God.  It drew out the enmity when Christ was here, and it does now.  All those who seek to be faithful to the Lord in days of departure can expect that.

Seeing the Church Here

I see what God set up; I see the unity of the body, and Christ as the Head.  That is what the Church was to be on earth.  Jesus said “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).  It is Christ’s building, and that building is going on still.  It is not finished.  Paul says of the building, fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.  (Ephesians 2:21).  Now that is what Christ’s work is – men call it the invisible church.

We are building, and if rightly, on the foundation laid by Paul.  If I build with the wrong materials wood, hay, stubble my work will be destroyed.  But Hades gates will not prevail. 1 Corinthians 3:12 .

The Work of the Holy Spirit

As an individual I find that the secret of power of good against evil, outside or inside, is the presence of the Spirit of God, – the Word being the guide.  Paul said to some going on badly, “Do you believe, beloved friends, that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” 1 Corinthians 6:19).  Then what kind of persons ought we to be?

It is the same collectively, “know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians  3:16 ).  The presence of the Spirit gives power for real blessing – whether in the church or the individual.

Now, we have true and full redemption; the Holy Spirit dwells in those who believe.  We can be the expression of what Christ was Himself when He was down here.  When a person is really a Christian, God dwells in him; he is sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the power for all moral conduct. If we really believe this should not we be in subjection and not grieving the Spirit?

Things which are inconceivable to man are revealed unto us by God’s Spirit  (1 Corinthians 2:9).  The Spirit of God and the spirit of the world are always in contrast.  What God has revealed is in spite of our state, and this includes our apprehension of the Church in these days of ruin.

In 1 Corinthians 2 the Holy Spirit is seen in three ways

  • Things are revealed by the Spirit;
  • Things communicated in teaching by the Spirit;
  • Things spiritually discerned  – received by the power of the Spirit.

 

A Warning

I cannot have my private judgment in the things of God.  The moment I get my own thoughts into divine things I start judging the Word of God.  Not accepting God’s word in Scripture is one sign of the evil of our times.  But if I own the Word of God, brought by His Spirit, I hear what God says to me: it judges me; I do not judge it.  It is the divine word brought to my conscience and heart, and who am I to judge God when God is speaking to me?  But it has to be the Word of God – what was inspired at the beginning, and nothing else.

If I were to say I understand and judge the Word of God by itself, I am a rationalist – it is man’s mind judging the revelation of God.  But where I get God’s mind communicated by the Holy Ghost, spiritually discerned, I get God’s mind.  God has given us the wisdom and power to meet the state of ruin in which we are now,  just as at first when He set up the church.  That is what I have to lean upon.

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J.N. Darby (1800-1882)

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), an Anglo-Irish evangelist, was led to the fierce conclusion that all churches, as man-made institutions, were bound to fail. The believer’s true hope was the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. With others Darby gathered in a less formal way, free of clergy and human structure, founded on a desire to be separate from unholy organisations.

Darby, after resigning his curacy in the Church of Ireland, became a tireless traveller, talented linguist and Bible translator. His influence is still felt in evangelical Christianity.

For more on this servant of the Lord please see JN Darby – Biographical Note