J N Darby Simplified – The Body of Christ (the Assembly here) and the House of God (Christian Profession)

A clear view of the way the church is presented:

The body according to the purpose and work of God, its members quickened with Christ, raised up and sitting in heavenly places in Him.
The body manifested on the earth by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (not water), outwardly expressed by union in partaking of the Lord’s supper.
The spiritual house in the thought and purpose of God, built on the foundation of apostles and prophets of the New Testament, growing up a holy temple to the Lord.

 

The Body of Christ (the Assembly here) and the House of God (Christian Profession)

Based on a Paper by J N Darby – ‘The House of God; the Body of Christ; and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.

JND Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p15 –74

 

J N Darby

Throughout Christendom, in both Roman Catholic and Protestant circles, there is confusion as to the difference between the house of God and the body of Christ.  The error that is rampant throughout Christendom, is that these two things are regarded as essentially the same, and that membership of a church gives a person all the privileges and blessings of Christianity.

We have to distinguish between:

 

  • The Body of Christ This comprises living members on earth, born of God, quickened of the Spirit, with all their sins forgiven. They have been perfected by one offering and are heirs of the inheritance of glory.
  • The House of God, a more general concept, encompassing the whole Christian environment or profession. Many are brought into it by birth.

 

If the house and the body were the same thing, all persons attending a church, adults or infants, believers and unbelievers, would be regarded as saved and members of the body of Christ.   There would be no value in the death of Christ or the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Assembly or Body of Christ

In the New Testament we have the word ἐκκλησία/ekklésia/Strong 1577  This is translated as ‘church’ in the King James Bible, and in most other modern English translations.  In our minds when people use the word ‘church’ they would think of a physical building, or a particular denomination.  Calling a physical church building a ‘house of God’ adds to the confusion.

It is for this reason that J N Darby preferred to use the word ‘assembly’- (see Matt 16:18 Darby Version).  This is a more literal rendering of the Greek word (ἐκ-κλησία/ek-klésia = out-called = a-sembled).  Where two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in their midst – that is the true church.   Darby noted that the rendering was better in other languages, the word in German, Gemeinde, the word normally used for ‘community’.  The French église, and Welsh eglwys come directly from the Greek.

He also noted the words used in the Old Testament.

  • Qe-hal or kahal (Strong 6951)– congregation or assemblage – Strong uses convocation (See 2 Chron 30:25)
  • Mo-w-ed or moed (Strong 4150) – the appointed place of meeting where they met God (See Ex 33:7)
  • Ha-ed-ah or hedah (Strong 5712) – congregation or assembly – a company formed together by appointment (See Ex 12:3)

Israel was the assembly of God, but having rejected the Messiah, it is set aside, we might say, by the death of Christ.  Israel failed in its witness of the unity of the Godhead, by the adoption of idolatry.  So when the Lord Jesus came, Israel as a nation failed to recognise God’s visitation, and rejected Him.

From the time of the prophets onwards, God has always had a remnant of Israel who were devoted to Him.  Prophecy looked forward to a remnant which would be preserved and brought back in the last days.

In Psalm 22 we have the Lord’s death as seen by the remnant (the seed that would serve Him v. 30).  The Lord was to be been forsaken, and then heard of God – answereed from the horns of the buffaloes (or unicorns) (v. 21). The response is ‘I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation [kahal] will I praise thee (v. 22).  This corresponds to Lord declaring to Mary Magdalen, ‘Go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and [to] my God and your God’. (John 20:17).  What delight God has is in the value of His sacrifice when sin is put away.

In Matthew 16:19, Peter is given the keys the keys of the kingdom of heaven: he is not given the keys for the church (assembly).  The church has no keys.   Neither Matthew nor Peter give us teaching as to the assembly.  We have the house – Peter, in his epistle says, ‘Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:5).

For teaching as to the assembly we have to come to Paul: ‘The Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God (Col 2:19).  Whereas Peter sees things here, Paul sees the centre in heaven, where the Head is now.

When the Holy Spirit came, we have many Jews converted – 3000 in one day.  Soon after in Acts, we have the introduction of the Samaritans, and then the Gentiles.   Christians were persecuted, culminating in their rejection of Stephen’s testimony to Christ in heaven, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:56). Paul is converted having witnessed Stephen’s martyrdom and testimony, and in what the Lord said to him from heaven, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest’ (Acts 9:5).   Thus Paul received the light of the living body united to the Head in heaven, and us seated in the heavenly places in Christ (see Ephesians 1:20).  Paul also showed that the body comprised living members, all fitted together perfectly – no dead members, and not a mutilated body.  That is the body of Christ here.

 

The Church in a Scene of Responsibility Here

Israel had failed in responsibility: now we see the Church in responsibility now.  It is important to see that the house has been is established, because in the house there can be failure even to apostasy.   On the other hand, the assembly cannot fail, because Christ is ‘head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all’ (Ephesians 1:22-23).  As Head over all things to the assembly Christ, the glorious Man, is Prophet, Priest and King.  Whereas man had failed, you have Christ such perfection that He will be ‘glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe’ (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

In Ephesians 1:1 to 2:10, we have the assembly according to the purpose and counsel of God, There is no dependence on man.  Paul’s prayer was ‘That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 1:17-20).

From Ephesians 2:11 we have the actual condition down here.  It is being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ being the cornerstone, and what is being built is  the dwelling place of God through the Spirit. In Ephesiuans Paul refers much to the mystery, and it can be seen in the church livingly here.  Augustine spoke of an invisible church, and this is still referred to, but this is not invisible.  There is the outward manifestation of the church its unity, recognition of the work of the Spirit of God on earth.  We see it in the gifts (apostles, prophets, teachers) which have been given in the whole (not the local) assembly.  They are placed in the assembly, on earth, among ‘them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints  (1 Corinthians 1:2).

The Assembly as God’s Habitation

The second aspect of the assembly in Ephesus is a dispensational one.   Christ builds an assembly secured from Satan’s power.  We have the assembly according to the councils of God God workmanship in an ordered condition – not as what it has become was in the hands of man.  We have in Ephesians ch 1-2, facts rather than opinions – Jews and Gentiles made nigh by the blood of Christ, the middle wall of partition broken down, and all reconciled into one body by the cross, and formed together growing to a holy temple in the Lord.  This is a work going on in grace on earth – God’s habitation by the Spirit.   It does not say that God animates and unites believers, but He has a place where He dwells. Unity will result.

In chapter 4 we are told walk in love, worthy of the calling, and to use diligence to keep the unity.   We are given the unity from God’s point of view ‘There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all’  (Ch 4:4-6).   This is not the view according to man’s responsibility that we get in 1 Corinthians 3:12.  There you get what is being built on the good foundation  – good things – gold, silver, precious stones, and worthless things – wood, hay, stubble.  All man’s bad building will be lost.  In 2 Timothy 2, we get the great house – with vessels to honour and dishonour also those professing Christians with the form of godliness but denying its power. The true believer to is to purge himself (or turn away), from these and follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  (see 2 Tim 2:21-22 and 3:5).

After the rapture the apostate church will remain, led by the man of sin.

 

Summary

In summary, these scriptures referred to give us a clear view of the way the church is presented:

  1. The body according to the purpose and work of God, its members quickened with Christ, raised up and sitting in heavenly places in Him.
  2. The body manifested on the earth by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (not water), outwardly expressed by union in partaking of the Lord’s supper.
  3. The spiritual house in the thought and purpose of God, built on the foundation of apostles and prophets of the New Testament, growing up a holy temple to the Lord.
  4. The building of this house in fact by the labours of man. Paul might have been the wise master-builder; but there were others not building with good materials.
  5. The great house with vessels to dishonour to purify themselves and turn away.
  6. Finally, after the rapture, the actual apostasy ending in judgment.

 

What Church Leaders have Taught

In the subsequent thirty pages of the paper, J N Darby looks at the writings of the various church fathers starting just after the apostolic period (Barnabas, Clement etc) up till the eighteenth century – Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox.  If you wish to read this in detail, it is in the original article, starting at page 39.

 

Here is a Summary of happenings in the Great House:

In short, almost nobody saw the assembly in its heavenly character according to the purpose of God.  This was because most walked by sight.  Water baptism became the method of entry, this being held by most.  And the house of God was taken to be he physical building.  Many considered being a member of the church as being the same as salvation.  They acquiesced in evil, quoting the parable of the wheat and the tares – God would have it all right in the end.  Priests became mediators.  That was supposed to be Christianity!

 

Sosthenes

January 2018

The Jews and the Church

The idea of a church transcending dispensations is false.  There was no collective expression of faith until the establishment of the Jewish nation, and persons were in that by birth and not faith.  It was not faith that united the Jews, it was their descent from Jacob.   Now we see this idea being introduced into Christianity,  Salvation is not the Church, nor the Church salvation. 

An expression that was current in Mr Darby’s time was ‘Jewish church’.  I googled the expression, and the only relevant information was on Jews in the church.  So whilst the error is not widespread now (except in the way that public Christianity has been judaised), a short paraphrase of part of Darby’s paper on ‘Law’ would be useful.

Start with the truth.  The Church, the body of believers, never existed till the Holy Spirit came forty days after Christ’s ascension.  It could not exist till its Head, had been exalted as Man having accomplished redemption. When exalted, God ‘gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, the fulness of Him who filleth all in all’. (Eph 1:22-23.)   He has made both [Jew and gentile] into one new man, a habitation of God in the Spirit (see Eph 2:14-22).  Only now is the church known to the principalities and powers [i.e. angels][*] and they see the manifold wisdom of God.  Before then, men were not built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.  The entity did not exist.

The idea of a church transcending dispensations is false.  There was no collective expression of faith until the establishment of the Jewish nation, and persons were in that by birth and not faith.  It was not faith that united the Jews, it was their descent from Jacob.  Physical circumcision was the witness to a (male) person’s position.  Now we see this idea being introduced into Christianity, with baptism replacing circumcision.   Salvation is not the Church, nor the Church salvation.  Conscience, faith and consequently salvation and sonship are all individual.  The church is formed of those who have been saved, those with faith.  They are baptised by one Spirit into one body.  ‘The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2:47).  That is how the church started.

Original Article ‘Law’ – Collected Writings Vol 10 Doctrinal 3 p1

[*] [xxx] signifies my clarification

Confusion as to the Church – – The House and the Body

People confuse what Christ builds with what man builds, physically and metaphorically. Christ said to Peter in Matthew 16:18 that He would build the Church and that the gates of hell (Satan’s deadly power) would not prevail against it. Resurrection was the proof of that. Peter’s confession, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (v. 16), was the rock on which Christ would build his church. Peter was the first stone in importance, but he was not the builder.

 

Based J. N. Darby: The Church – the House and the Body – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p 91

 

JohnNelsonDarbyThe word ‘church’ means different things to different people:

  1. The Established Church (in Britain the Church of England)
  2. Those who are enrolled members by baptism etc.
  3. The buildings
  4. What is being built spiritually
  5. The clergy
  6. The congregation
  7. Christendom in general
  8. The body of Christ here
  9. What the Lord will present to Himself without spot or blemish

 

Baptism and the Church

No 2, above (enrolled members), is at the base of Romanism and much of Protestantism.  A person becomes a Christian by being baptised into the church, whether as an adult or a young child.  It is taught that one is saved because one is a member of the church, not that one is a member of the church because one is saved.   Immediately after Pentecost, of course, everybody in the church were true believers.  But soon the likes of Simon Magus got in, and introduced formality and other Jewish sacraments.  They may have been baptised and enjoyed the privileges of the church.  But they did not have eternal life, and were not members of the body of Christ.  As described in the epistle of Jude, they were ‘ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Jude v 4).

To say we are members of Christ by baptism is a falsification of the truth of God.   Alas, many of the early Church fathers, such Justin Martyr, Origen, Clement and later Augustine, espoused this heresy.  They may have been clear as to the Person and divinity of Christ, but they regarded the outward body as the Church, and its privileges was attributed to all who were baptised.  This has continued.  The (Anglican) Book of Common Prayer says ‘baptism wherein I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven’.

Much of this confusion comes about by taking what the Lord said literally when in fact He was talking figuratively.  He could say, ‘I am the true vine’ (John 15:1), ‘I am the door’ (John 10:7), etc.  He is not a vine nor a door.  The outward act is confused with true life from God.  Life and membership of Christ are by the Holy Spirit.  We are born of the Spirit, and by one Spirit baptised into one body (see 1 Cor 12:13).

Man fell and was driven away from God.  If there is to be a remedy, there must be new birth.   We are born of God and receive the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.   As we become conscious of the sinfulness of the flesh, and say ‘O wretched man that I am!’ (Rom 7:24),   we need a change of place, position or standing – reconciled to God.  Baptism is that change of place.

We are baptised to His death, buried with Him unto death.  Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, therefore we are alive, risen and quickened together with Him.  Death has totally taken us out of our old place; we have died out of it, as Christ died out of the world  we are alive with Him –   walking in newness of life (see Romans 8).

The Lord’s Supper

There were many sacraments in Judaism.  Some have been carried over into the public church, whereas only two are scriptural.  We have looked at baptism.  The other scriptural sacrament, the supper, demonstrates the unity of the body.  The Lord’s supper is received in common – the assembly or Church participate.  Hence we have (Eph. 4:4-5), ‘one Spirit, one body, one hope of your calling’ (belonging to the Spirit and spiritual persons, and), ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (the outward profession of faith and the recognition of Christ as Lord).  Again there is a misinterpretation here: partaking of the Lord’s supper involves eating Christ’s flesh and drinking Christ’s blood.  The true meaning of that is lost.  (I hope to address this in a later article – see Address to his Roman Catholic brethren by a minister of the Gospel. and Second Address to his Roman Catholic brethren).

 

What is being Built

See Nos 3 & 4, above.   People confuse what Christ builds with what man builds, physically and metaphorically.   Christ said to Peter in Matthew 16:18 that He would build the Church and that the gates of hell (Satan’s deadly power) would not prevail against it.  Resurrection was the proof of that.  Peter’s confession, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’  (v. 16), was the rock on which Christ would build his church.  Peter was the first stone in importance, but he was not the builder.  In his epistle Peter addresses other stones coming to Jesus, ‘To whom coming, a living stone disallowed indeed of men but chosen of God and precious, ye also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:4).  They come by faith and are built up.  There are no human rules or ordinances; there is no literal building, only faith.  Man’s building has no part in this.  And nothing prevails against it.

Paul amplifies this, developing the doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ.   But Paul does not build either.   He says, ‘Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord’ (Eph 2:21-22).  Only in Corinthians, where it is a matter of responsibility, does he write about our building.   ‘Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon’ (1 Cor 3:10).  Wood, hay and stubble are not compatible with gold, silver and precious stones.  Man’s work will be burned up; Christ’s work never will.

Puseyism, the high church movement, does not distinguish between the perfect building which Christ builds, where living stones grow to a holy temple in the Lord, and what man has built and continues to build.  The professing church may have a good foundation, but its superstructure is questionable.  It has been built of wood and stubble, which will be burned up in the day of judgment.  Those who corrupt the temple of God dishonour Him by assuming that what they build has His seal of approval – in effect that God sanctions evil – what wickedness!   That is why Paul writes, ‘If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are’ (1 Cor 3:17).

Paul tells us in 2 Tim 2 what our path should be.  But that is another subject[*].   May we distinguish between those admitted by baptism and the body, and between the Church which Christ builds, and the sham that man builds.   All man has put his hand to has failed.  But God has put His hand in first, by the Man who never fails.

 

 

[*] See:

Simplified Darby – Separation from Evil and Christian Unity – Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity

Knowing where we are, and what God wants us to do, in the Confused State of Christendom – The Faith once delivered to the Saints

The Power, Hopes, Calling, Present Position, and Occupation of the Church

We need to understand what the church really is, and to distinguish between the kingdom and the church. In the kingdom we get the display of God’s power and government, whereas in the church it is union and fellowship

The church is Christ’s representative on earth. By one Spirit we have been baptised into one body, whose Head is at the right hand of God in heaven, united to the members, formed into a body down here on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture calls this ‘the church.’

The hope of the church is founded on her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. She is united to her Head there, seated in heaven in Him, waiting to be there physically. The occupation of the church ought to be in constant, incessant reference to her Head. If not, she cannot act for Him. She looks, to her Head, the only source of power, and joins with the Holy Spirit in the cry ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come’ (Rev 22:17).

A summary of a paper by J.N. Darby entitled:

The Church – What is it? Her Power, Hopes, Calling, Present Position, and Occupation.

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

Published in Darby’s Collected Writings –  Volume 12 (Evangelical 1) Page 372.

Click here for the original text

 

Summary

We need to understand what the church really is, and to distinguish between the kingdom and the church.  In the kingdom we get the display of God’s power and government, whereas in the church it is union and fellowship

The church is Christ’s representative on earth.  By one Spirit we have been baptised into one body, whose Head is at the right hand of God in heaven, united to the members, formed into a body down here on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture calls this ‘the church.’

The hope of the church is founded on her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. She is united to her Head there, seated in heaven in Him, waiting to be there physically.  The occupation of the church ought to be in constant, incessant reference to her Head. If not, she cannot act for Him. She looks, to her Head, the only source of power, and joins with the Holy Spirit in the cry ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come’ (Rev 22:17).

The Church and the Kingdom

We need to understand what the church really is, and to distinguish between the kingdom and the church. There are endless theories about the question, ‘What is the church?’ Some say it is ‘visible,’ others ‘invisible’; some, that there will be a church by-and-by, but there is none now; that there is no church on earth (there may be churches), but (when all are assembled in heaven) there will be a church.

The church is Christ’s representative on earth – the epistle of Christ (See 2 Cor 3:3). As the tables of stone represented what God demanded from man, so should the church be the revelation of what God is to man in grace and power.

The kingdom is different. In the kingdom we get the display of God’s power and government, whereas in the church it is union and fellowship. We should also distinguish ‘the gospel of the kingdom’ and ‘the kingdom,’ from ‘the gospel’ (in its full scope) and ‘the church.’   Paul preached the kingdom of God – that is very different from Christ’s reign of power on the earth, when Christ will have His bride united to Him in glory. When Paul speaks of his ministry, he distinguishes between the ministry of the gospel of salvation and the ministry of the church.

 

The Kingdom – Past, Present and Future

Up to the time of Samuel, the point of association between the people and God was through the priesthood. But the priests were unfaithful, and then the Lord wrote ‘Ichabod’ upon what had been Israel’s glory. The ark was taken by the Philistines; the priests were slain and the link between God and the people was broken. However God had a plan that Israel should have a king. But Israel set about it the wrong way: they got Saul who did not understand the signs. David did, and was the type of Christ the King.

After King David is introduced, the priesthood ceases to be the habitual link between the people and God. God says, ‘I will raise me up a faithful priest . . . and he shall walk, before mine anointed [not me] for ever’ (1 Sam. 2:35). A royal person is the link between God and the people. When Solomon dedicated the temple (as a Melchisedek priest), the priests could not stand to minister; the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God, the king praised God and blessed the people

Finally the King was presented in humiliation in the Person of Christ. John the Baptist says, ‘Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’. (Matt 3:2 – the King coming in judgment). After John was rejected and cast into prison, Christ, the mightier One, takes up the same testimony: ‘From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matt 4:17). Jesus went about Galilee, teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, healing the sick. The power of God was with Him, and it was seen. Then, the King having been rejected, the apostles went out preaching the kingdom. They knew ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 13:11), and God was with them. At present it is more testimony than power, but there will be a special testimony to the coming of the kingdom before the close of this dispensation.

The kingdom is still to be set up in the Person of Jesus Christ. He must go to a far country to receive a kingdom and return (See Luke 19:11). This is the ‘world to come’ (Heb 2:5, etc.), and the power of Satan will be set aside. Heaven will be in the seat of the kingdom. We will reign with Him there, joint-heirs with Christ, siting on thrones.’

 

Paul’s Ministry as to the Church

There is another aspect to Paul’s ministry which is beyond the reach of dispensations: man is at enmity with God, Jews and Gentiles alike being known only as children of wrath. Paul preached the gospel to every creature under heaven. He was not simply a minister of the gospel; he was a minister of the church to fulfil [complete] the word of God (See Col 1:25).

Paul deduces that there is a body of which Christ is the Head, associated and connected with Him in His headship over all things. How? – ‘By one Spirit are we all baptised into one body,’ (1 Cor. 12:13). God ‘gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all’(Eph 1:23). By one Spirit we have been baptised into one body, and we have the Head and the body united together. Ministries, gifts of healing, etc., are not in heaven, nor are the ‘joints and bands’. It will be in heaven eventually no doubt, but it is now on earth. The Head is at the right hand of God in heaven, united to the members, formed into a body down here on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture calls this ‘the church.’

 

There is something in Matt 16:18 that is often overlooked. The Lord says to Peter, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ He gives the keys to Peter – the keys of the kingdom, not of the church. The church is that body which the Holy Spirit forms into unity, with the Lord Jesus Christ as Head, He sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

 

The Church – its Power and Responsibility

As to power, In Scripture it is not the power of the church, but the power that works in us – the power of God working in the church. The Head supplies what is needed. ‘Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us’ (Eph 3:20). He nourishes His church according to its need. His powerful operations are however limited by the moral condition of the church. But God is true and cannot act in the power of grace contrary to the moral condition of the church or any individual. He may bear with its state in patience, but God will never sanction publicly what He disapproves of.

When we think of the saving of souls, it is rather the sovereign operation of the Spirit of God through the gospel. But the church is a vessel of power, and miracles testify to the power of Christ as the risen Son of man.

We must understand where we are, before we can get the blessing suited to our being part of the body of Christ. Christ never alters His mind. His grace remains the same, as does what He seeks from the church in responsibility, otherwise faith could not progress. But the ways in which He acts vary. In the days of the apostles the church was adorned with all sorts of miracles. It is different now. Christ will never give up His thoughts about the church; but if we are doing what we feel to be right, He will make sad work of what we have done. ‘He that gathereth not with me scattereth.’ (Matt 12:30).

If Christ gathers, He scatters that which is not gathered in the power of unity with Himself – just like a pack of cards. This may surprise and humble us, but it does not discourage us since we look for God to act. The church’s power is in her weakness and her spirit constant, simple, unmingled dependence.

 

The Hope of the Church

When Christ leaves the Father’s throne to take the church unto Himself, it will form a glorious body in heaven. Now, while He is sitting at the right hand of God, the only thing He owns as the church is the body down here.

The hope of the church is founded on her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. She is united to her Head there, seated in heaven in Him, waiting to be there physically. As the bride of Christ on earth, she is a pilgrim here, and desires to have no more to do with the world than Christ has. She will see things set right in the kingdom, but this is not her hope: her hope is her marriage with the well-known heavenly Bridegroom. That is how Paul knew that the church’s place was to be with Christ there. In 1 Thess 4:17, Paul says, ‘Then shall we ever be with the Lord’, our bodies changed. What follows? Nothing! A great many things may be happening now, but the church’s hope is to be with Him and like Him, for she will see Him as He is.

We have a heavenly calling, but that does not in itself convey the thought of the church. We must not confuse what we are as members of the church with the church itself. Many things are true of the members that do not apply to the church as a distinct body. As individuals, we are called, and look to be caught up into heaven; we have a heavenly portion as the brethren of Christ, even if we do not know that we are the body and bride of Christ. We are builded together for the habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph 2:22): that is the calling of the church down here.

As to our present position and occupation, one thing is very different from the early church. When the Spirit of God was working in the beginning of the gospel, the testimony had great power, producing a substantial result – a visible, identifiable gathering. There is nothing like this. The sheep have been scattered; the camp has gone wrong. As a result there are all sorts of opinions. Even unity involves separation from evil (See Darby’s Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity). I must look to Christ as the Centre of truth. If my soul is not prepared to look to Him, and gather with Him, I shall be cast into the uncertain condition of the differing opinions of every saint I meet. If Christ is our common object, there will be a coalescing power. I find the church of God in a unity which attaches itself to Christ alone, as the sole centre.

The occupation of the church ought to be in constant, incessant reference to her Head. If not, she cannot act for Him. She must get beyond the crowd of Satan’s power, to the Head, the only source of power. Then she can join in the cry ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come’ (Rev 22:17). So should the church has its own light, the light of the outside being shut .out

 

Conclusion

We should get near enough to Christ to enjoy Him, and to know Him truly, and to gather up all that is like Him. If not separated by affection from the world, we shall be separated by discipline in the world. He will vex our souls to get us separate, ‘Because thou servedst not Jehovah thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart . . . therefore thou shalt serve thine enemies which Jehovah thy God shall send against thee’ (Deut 28:47 – Darby).

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

Have the Brethren got Something Special?

Darby said ‘I do believe the Brethren have something special. But what is important is, not ‘the Brethren,’ but the truth they have. Darby says that God, though full of gracious patience, could set the Brethren aside – if they are not faithful – and spread His truth by others. Their place is to remain in obscurity and devotedness, not to think of ‘Brethren’ (it is always wrong to think of ourselves), but of souls, in Christ’s name and love, and of His glory and truth. Their place is not to press Brethrenism, but to deal with each soul according to its need for Christ’s sake.’

This is based on part of a letter written by JN Darby from America to a Mr J Leslie. The original is in his Collected Writings Volume 31 (Doctrinal 9) entitled Correspondence on recent matters. It is also in JND’s letters Vol. 51 page 339.

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

 

Darby thought that Brethren were entering into a new phase of their existence, which increased their responsibility, bringing greater dangers to them. It arose from the general feeling that Brethren have something that other Christians have not got.

What they have is often refuted, hated and opposed. It may be also often be a matter of curiosity, or there may be genuine inquiry. May there be more!  But this feeling is real. Worldly people feel it, and would use it to show the inconsistency of the public profession, citing Scripture inaccurately. Other Christians, still clinging to the professing church with partial apprehension of the truth and holding much error, boast that they can have what the Brethren have, without leaving the systems they are in.

The Brethren probably do have something special. But what is important is, not ‘the Brethren,’ but the truth they have. Darby says that God, though full of gracious patience, could set the Brethren aside – if they are not faithful – and spread His truth by others. Their place is to remain in obscurity and devotedness, not to think of ‘Brethren’ (it is always wrong to think of ourselves), but of souls, in Christ’s name and love, and of His glory and truth. Their place is not to press Brethrenism, but to deal with each soul according to its need for Christ’s sake.

But if, through grace, they possess more of the truth, they have greater responsibility. Therefore, if they are not more devoted, they would be a stumbling-block to others. Unworldliness, nonconformity to the world, self-denial, and love to others, is called for: The end of what is enjoined is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith. (1 Tim 1:5). Let brethren walk in love, in the truth, humble, lowly, unworldly, holding all for Christ. May they be as little as when they began, and be content about it. Then God will bless them. If not, their candlestick may go – and, oh, after such grace, what sorrow and confusion of face that would be!

Let there be no mixing with the church-world. May the brethren show grace toward it, as beacon-lights, taking the precious from the vile. Then they will be as God’s mouth. May they be a testimony against it, with that earnest gospel of God’s free love to souls that Christ has for His own. May they do the work of evangelists, humble, lowly, devoted, and simple in ministry, devoted in heart and separated to Christ.

Brethren should rejoice in evangelical activity outside of themselves: it is one of the signs of the time. God is sovereign, and can work in love where and how He pleases, and they should rejoice in it.   But in general there is no separation from evil in many places. Indeed there is so much indifference to the truth, especially in America. They even exchange pulpits with infidels.   For a year or two, at the beginning, Darby and others would preached wherever they were invited. Though the trumpet was giving an uncertain sound, the gospel was fully preached and some were brought out. Now the testimony has to be clearer, but still the fullest preaching of the gospel and of the assurance of salvation must continue.

We should not be on the attack, but to be superior, in grace, for the truth. Peter never attacked the chief priests, but went on his own way. The high ground of the truth and a full gospel preached in grace should distinguish us.   The testimony against evil should be in our own walk and ways. Patience, truth, holiness, and love in the truth and for the truth’s sake, characterise Christ’s revelation of Himself. He influences us in the last days.

God has no need of us, but He does have need of a people who walk in the truth in love and holiness. In the Old Testament it says, ‘I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of Jehovah’ (Zeph 3:12).  The same spirit is in Jude, who speaks of the mixture which would bring on judgment: ‘But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.’ (v. 20-21) We may, and must, rejoice in the gospel. That only makes the testimony of Brethren outside the camp more necessary than ever – but the testimony must be real. May we be waiting and watching for Jesus, because we do so love Him!

      Original letter written by John Nelson Darby, New York, April 8th, 1875.

      Edited for easier reading by Sosthenes, September 2014.

Establishing, or Planting Churches

The object to be desired is the gathering of all God’s children.

2. The power of the Holy Spirit can alone effect this.

3. There is no need to wait till that power produces the union of all, because we have the promise that, where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, He will be in the midst. Two or three may act in reliance upon this promise.

4. The idea of ordination for the administration of the Supper appears nowhere in the New Testament. Christians came together on the Lord’s Day to break bread; – see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 23.

 

Based on a Paper by J N Darby – ‘On the Formation of Churches’

JND Collected Writings Volume 1 (Ecclesiastical 1) p 138 –

For the original Click Here 

churchIn the town where I live there are several churches – three Church of England, one Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Salvation Army. There is a Gospel Hall, a ‘Free Evangelical’, a ‘Gospel Mission Church’ as well as evangelical groups gathering one in a shop and another in a local school. There may be more. Then an old CofE church was taken over by mostly Afro-Caribbean believers, and you can hear their music when we come from our meeting on Lord’s Day morning 150 yards away! They must take Psalm 150 literally. Then on Sunday mornings there is a sign outside of a community hall – ‘Peace and Love Assembly’ – whatever that is. Of course there may be more. And of course there is the little meeting room where I go.   I am sure there are many devout Christians in each one.

Were these assemblies formed as a result of Godly concern as to evil working in a gathering from which it was necessary to separate, and to find other believers with whom to walk, or were they formed through Christians uniting behind a particular cause or person?

In his essay, summarised below, John Nelson Darby looked at the various church organisations amid the confusion that is Christendom. Many churches have adopted the title ‘Church of God’ formally or informally, seeking to strike a balance between keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3), and separating the precious from the vile (see Jer. 15:19).

The Lord’s Purpose in the Gathering of the Saints on Earth

The gathering together of saints into one was the immediate object on earth of Christ’s death. Salvation had always been in place; saints of the old dispensation were saved through the death of Christ. Now by the Spirit we are gathered as well as saved. That is what forms the church.

Hypocrites and evil men have crept into the church, but for that there must have been a church for them to creep into.

National Systems

National churches ensued from the Reformation. Whilst the Reformation brought out more clearly the doctrine of salvation, it did not touch the question of the true character of God’s church. Instead of restoring things to their original state, it made the state the supreme authority, replacing the pope.   By definition, all citizens of a country were regarded as Christians, and automatically members of the national church.

Any serious believer must realise that a national church (the Church of England for example) cannot be regarded as the complete assembly of God. People refer to a visible and an invisible church, the national church being the former and the true church encompassing all believers the latter.   But scripture says, Ye are the light of the world. A city set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matt 5:14).   Of what use is an invisible light?   To say that the true church is invisible, is to say that it has lost its original standing and departed from the purpose of God.

Non-Conformist, or Dissenting Congregations

Can any of the dissenting Protestant churches (Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal etc) attain to what God has in mind in the gathering together in one of His children – universally or locally?

In scripture, believers were gathered in various localities. The Christians in each town or city formed one body:- the Assembly of God in ‘X’. At Corinth, for example, a letter addressed to the church of God would have found its way to a known body. There may have been many physical gatherings in private homes and other places, but they formed one body in the place. God raised up shepherds and teachers in the assembly, but they served the whole. So we have the union of all the children of God universally, and the union of all the children of God in each city or town.

According to Scripture the sum of all the churches here on earth composed the whole church; and the church in any given place was no other than the regular association together of whatever formed part of the entire body of the church on earth; and he who was not a member of the church in that place , was not a member of Christ’s church at all.

Now the unified state that we see in the Bible has ceased to exist. What should Christians do when the condition of things set before us in the word no longer exists?

Maybe we should reform it?  That presupposes:

  1. That it is God’s will.
  2. That we are capable and authorised to restore it.

We recognise that we have sinned. If we set about doing what was right, by being upright out of a sense of duty, that would be self-righteousness, and not pleasing to God. Apply the same logic to the church. We, as Christians, have departed from the original state, and are guilty of that sin. If we undertake to re-establish it ourselves, it would be in the same spirit of self-righteousness, and we would not have God’s support.

Now if we set up another body, taking the name of the church of God, by definition, we would have to regard all non-members of that body as schismatic strangers to God’s church.   So what we now have is a large number of partial voluntary churches in different places, with tight hierarchical centralised organisations at one end of the spectrum and loose affiliations of independent assemblies at the other. The practice of making churches with various forms, has in itself led to the separation of the thoughts of universal and local church. The idea of God’s complete church, has been lost sight of.

 

Can Man Restore the Fallen Condition?

The church cannot fail. The Lord said, The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Matt 16:18). The salvation of the elect is secure; the glory of the church will be seen in resurrection, with Satan defeated. Meanwhile God will maintain the confession of Jesus here on earth until the church has been taken away. That is not in question. Popery would maintain that it has not failed publicly, and that it is the whole church. But that line is leading to apostasy.

Publicly, the dispensation is in ruins, and in a condition of entire departure from its original standing. Persons are trying to set it up again, without any warrant to do so.

Because of man’s sin, believers have been scattered. Has there been anybody who has undertaken the apostolic office of re-establishing things on their original footing, and in so doing, re-establish the entire dispensation, apprehending the divine will, having by the Holy Spirit the power to accomplish the task? Of course not. He may have desired to, but like David in building the house was not able to do so.

What can be Done?

Bless God that the Word and the Spirit still remain in the church. May the church lean on that.

I do not have the competency to re-establish the first condition of the church. I humbly feel the real condition of the church, and this preserves me from activities which are unauthorised by the word.

I have to accept that the condition of the dispensation at its close will be just the reverse of what it was at its opening. Sadly, the wild olive tree which had been grafted in, has now been cut out (See Rom. 11:22). But there can be a revival. Nehemiah saw the fallen condition of Israel, and that they were in great distress. He did what he was authorised to do – not more. He did not re-make the Ark or the Urim and Thummim, or imitate the Shekinah. Neverthless we are told in that he had blessing such as had not been ‘since the days of Joshua’; (Neh. 8:17) because he was faithful to God in the circumstances in which he stood.

God has left faithful Christians sufficient directions for us to follow. And the Spirit of God is with us to strengthen us in the path of true obedience.

 

How it Can be Done.

The Spirit of God, foreseeing all that would happen in the church, has given us help and warnings. He tells us that there would be perilous times, and tells us that we should turn away from certain men. (See 2 Tim 3:1-5) We cannot break bread with all – maybe just with two or three gathered to His name. Indeed the Spirit gives us even more precise directions: he that names the name of Christ should depart from iniquity. Where I find iniquity, I must leave it – I am in the great house (the Christian profession) but I must purge myself from vessels to dishonour so as to be a vessel made to honour, fit for the master’s use. And the man of God is exhorted to follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. See (2 Tim 2:19-22)

 

Planting of Churches

There is an expression that is current now (not in Darby’s time) as to the planting of churches. Those involved draw on Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus as to church order and see it in terms of choosing elders, deacons etc, even buildings. Pastors, teachers, and evangelists are gifts which have their places in the unity of the body, and are exercised wherever God has graciously given them.

So a ‘planted church’ from another nearby one presumes that there was no assembly of God in the target locality. This is almost never the case.

 

How are we to meet then?

To do nothing is not an option. But before doing anything we must feel deeply the ruined state of the church, and act with less presumption and more diffidence.

You say , ‘I have separated myself from evil , because my conscience disapproves what is at variance with the word’ That is good: now assemble together. Jesus aaid, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ (Matt.18:20). However, if you organise a church, choosing a president or a pastor, and by implication claim to be the Church of God of the place where you live, I question your commission to do this. I see no trace in scripture of the churches having elected presidents or pastors. It is said that such appointments are necessary to maintain order. Such order, being constituted by the will of man, will soon be seen to be disorder in the sight of God. If there are but two or three who meet together in the name of Jesus, He will be there. Otherwise the appropriate scripture is, ‘He that gathereth not with me scattereth’ (Matt 12:30). If God raises up pastors (that is persons who shepherd, not an official position), it is a blessing. But ever since the day when the Holy Spirit formed the church, we have no record of the church choosing pastors.

We must acknowledge our weakness and dependence upon God. God is sufficient for His church. Despite the ruin, power is available. Call upon Him. He can raise up whatever is needed for the blessing of the saints. He will do that – have no doubt about it. Acknowledge the authority of Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep. He rules as Son over His house, whose house are we, and the Spirit of God is the sole power in the church. Anything else is pretence, and is under the domination of man. There is no promise in favour of the system by which men organise churches, but there is the promise of the Lord’s presence for those who ‘assemble together’.

We need to humble ourselves before the Lord, as we separate from that which we know to be evil, bearing with those persons who continue ignorantly as to the evil, though I may have to leave them.   We must lean upon Him who is able to do all that is necessary, without assuming to do more, ourselves, than the word authorises us to do. Such is the position, humble it may be, but it is blessed by God, even if it is despised by men

 

Conclusions

1. The object to be desired is the gathering of all God’s children.

2. The power of the Holy Spirit can alone effect this.

3. There is no need to wait till that power produces the union of all, because we have the promise that, where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, He will be in the midst. Two or three may act in reliance upon this promise.

4. The idea of ordination for the administration of the Supper appears nowhere in the New Testament. Christians came together on the Lord’s Day to break bread; – see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 23.

5. A commission from man to preach the gospel is a thing unknown in the New Testament.

6. The choosing of presidents or pastors by the church is also altogether without warrant in the New Testament. The choosing of pastors is an encroachment on the authority of the Holy Ghost, who distributes gifts according to His will.

7. It is clearly the duty of a believer to separate himself from every act that he sees to be not according to the word.

The Spirit in which we should be when the Church is Forced to Exercise Discipline

We ought to remember what we are in ourselves, when we talk about exercising discipline – it is an amazingly solemn thing. When I reflect, that I am a poor sinner, saved by mere mercy, standing only in Jesus Christ for acceptance, in myself vile, it is, evidently, an awful thing to take discipline into my own hands.

Excerpts from a Paper by J N Darby entitled ‘On Discipline’

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

We ought to remember what we are in ourselves, when we talk about exercising discipline – it is an amazingly solemn thing. When I reflect, that I am a poor sinner, saved by mere mercy, standing only in Jesus Christ for acceptance, in myself vile, it is, evidently, an awful thing to take discipline into my own hands.

But the church may be forced to exercise discipline, as in the case of the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 5. I believe there is never a case of church discipline but to the shame of the whole body. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul says, “Ye have not mourned,” etc.: they all were identified with it. Like some sore on a man’s body, it tells of the disease of the body, of the constitutional condition. The assembly is never prepared, or in the place to exercise discipline, unless having first identified itself with the sin of the individual. If it does not do it in that way, it takes a judicial form, which will not be the ministration of the grace of Christ. Its priestly character in the present dispensation is one of grace.

All discipline until the last act is restorative. The act of putting outside, of excommunication, is not (properly speaking) discipline, but the saying that discipline is ineffective, and there is an end of it; the church says, “I can do no more.”

As to the nature of all this, the spirit in which it should be conducted, it is priestly; and the priests ate the sin-offering within the holy place, Lev. 10. I do not think any person or body of Christians can exercise discipline, unless as having the conscience clear, as having felt the power of the evil and sin before God, as if he had himself committed it. If that which is done is not done in the power of the Holy Ghost, it is nothing.

It is a terrible thing to hear sinners talking about judging another sinner, sinners judging sinners, but a blessed thing to see them exercised in conscience about sin come in among themselves. It must be in grace. I no more dare act, save in grace, than I could wish judgment to myself. “Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” Matt. 7:1, 2. If we go to exercise judgment, we shall get it.

 

The full paper is published in JND’s Collected Writings Vol. 1 Ecclesiastical 1 page 338.

 

The Bethesda Circular – JN Darby

This is the text of a letter, written by J N Darby in regard to the ‘Open Division’ of 1848. It refers to the action of several prominent brothers including George Müller and Henry Craik, who met at the Bethesda Chapel in Bristol. It specifically referred to their action in receiving some from the meeting in Plymouth where B W Newton taught heretical doctrine as to the person of Christ, and from which Darby and others had to withdraw.

 

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

This is the abridged text of a letter , written by J N Darby in regard to the ‘Open Division’ of 1848.  It refers to the action of several prominent brothers including George Müller and Henry Craik, who met at the Bethesda Chapel in Bristol.  It specifically referred to their action in receiving some from the meeting in Plymouth where B W Newton taught heretical doctrine as to the person of Christ, and from which Darby and others had to withdraw.

Beloved brethren,

I feel bound to present to you the case of Bethesda. It involves to my mind the whole question of association with brethren, and for this very simple reason, that if there is incapacity to keep out that which has been recognized as the work and power of Satan, and to guard the beloved sheep of Christ against it — if brethren are incapable of this service to Christ, then they ought not to be in any way owned as a body to whom such service is confided: their gatherings would be really a trap laid to ensnare the sheep. But I will not suppose this, my heart would not; nor will I suppose that the influence or reputation of individuals will induce them to do in one case what they would not do in another. I press therefore the position of Bethesda on brethren. It is at this moment acting in the fullest and most decided way as the supporter of Mr. Newton, and the evil associated with him, and in the way in which the enemy of souls most desires it should be done. The object of Mr. Newton and his friends is not now openly to propagate his doctrine in the offensive form in which it has roused the resistance of every godly conscience that cared for the glory and person of the blessed Lord, but to palliate and extenuate the evil of the doctrine, and get a footing as Christians for those who hold it, so as to be able to spread it and put sincere souls off their guard. In this way precisely Bethesda is helping them in the most effectual way they can: I shall now state how. They have received the members of Ebrington Street with a positive refusal to investigate the Plymouth errors. And at this moment the most active agents of Mr. Newton are assiduously occupied amongst the members of Bethesda, in denying that Mr. Newton holds errors, and explaining and palliating his doctrines, and removing any apprehension of them from the minds of saints, and successfully occupied in it.…

I do not charge Mr. Müller with himself holding Mr. Newton’s errors. He declared that he had said there were very bad errors, and that he did not know to what they would lead. Upon what grounds persons holding them are admitted and the errors refused to be investigated, if such be his judgment, I must leave every one to determine for themselves. I only ask, Is it faithfulness to Christ’s sheep? … Members of Ebrington Street,[Newton’s meeting in Plymouth], active and unceasing agents of Mr. Newton, holding and justifying his views, are received at Bethesda; and the system which so many of us have known as denying the glory of the Lord Jesus (and that, when fully stated, in the most offensive way) and corrupting the moral rectitude of every one that fell under its power — that this system, though not professed, is fully admitted and at work at Bethesda. This has taken place in spite of its driving out a considerable number of undeniably godly brethren, whose urgent remonstrance was slighted. …

I do not desire in the smallest degree to diminish the respect and value which any may feel personally for the brethren Craik and Müller, on the grounds of that in which they have honoured God by faith. Let this be maintained as I desire to maintain it, and have maintained in my intercourse with them; but I do call upon brethren by their faithfulness to Christ, and love to the souls of those dear to Him in faithfulness, to set a barrier against this evil. Woe be to them if they love the brethren Müller and Craik or their own ease more than the souls of saints dear to Christ! …

It has been formally and deliberately admitted at Bethesda under the plea of not investigating it (itself a principle which refuses to watch against roots of bitterness), and really palliated. And if this be admitted by receiving persons from Bethesda, those doing so are morally identified with the evil, for the body so acting is corporately responsible for the evil they admit. If brethren think they can admit those who subvert the person and glory of Christ, and principles which have led to so much untruth and dishonesty, it is well they should say so, that those who cannot may know what to do. [Darby’s emphasis]. I only lay the matter before the consciences of brethren, urging it upon them by their fidelity to Christ. And I am clear in my conscience towards them. For my own part I should neither go to Bethesda in its present state, nor while in that state go where persons from it were knowingly admitted. I do not wish to reason on it here, but lay it before brethren, and press it on their fidelity to Christ and their care of His beloved saints.

Ever yours in His grace, J.N.D.

Click here for the full text.

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

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

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!