First to the Lord, and to us – Have we had it the Wrong Way Round?

Reading 2 Cor 8:5. ‘And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God’. , I ventured to suggest we have in the past put things the wrong way round. It came to me that we have been relying on all that good teaching, the meetings and our relationships with our brethren – and then we have attached the Lord to what we have set up. He has been gracious and supported us, but is He saying.

Dear Friends

 

First to the Lord, and to us

– Have we had it the Wrong Way Round?

If we desire to walk in the light of the assembly, we must always be mindful as to the One whose assembly it is.  I look over some of the things I have written over the past few years, even on ADOSS, and see how much I have been governed by a mind-set, structured in accordance with right scriptural teaching, but without the Lord Himself as my prime object.  What the Lord is looking for?  Soundness of teaching is important, but it is not the most important thing.  Being close to our Lord Jesus, and being true to Him, surely is.  Many true believers without the teaching have a much closer relationship with our Lord and Saviour than I do.

Paul teaching

A couple of weeks ago, I was writing to a brother, and the scripture came to mind in 2 Cor 8:5. ‘And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God’.   Interesting: ‘not as we hoped’.  Paul commended them for putting the Lord before them.  Paul would not have wanted them to be in a subservient position, so ‘to us’, I take to mean Paul’s teaching and the practical fellowship and service to the Lord.  That Saturday afternoon, a nearby gathering arranged a meeting for prayer to seek the Lord’s guidance, and I gave a short word, reading this scripture, and ventured to suggest we have in the past put things the wrong way round.  It came to me that we have been relying on all that good teaching, the meetings and our relationships with our brethren – and then we have attached the Lord to what we have set up.  He has been gracious and supported us, but is He saying ‘Put me first’

 

The Lord has given us an Opportunity.

It has been a very turbulent year amongst the Christians with whom we have been gathering.   I do not want to go into details, other than to say we concluded that the ground of their gathering was sectarian.  Many readers will be fully aware of what I am referring to.  Whereas we had been in an average-sized company my wife and I are now breaking bread with just one elderly sister.  Sadly, we felt we had to leave the gathering where we had been for 42 years and the brethren that we still love.  Having been found in the situation, we broke bread simply, in answer to our Lord’s request, based on two-or-three gathered together to the Lord’s Name, and seeking to call on the Lord out of a pure heart (Matthew 18:20 and 2 Timothy 2:22).

Next, were there others with whom we could share full Christian fellowship?  There are many gatherings nearby with sincere devoted lovers of the Lord Jesus, but are they gather on a sectarian basis, or are they run by human clerical organisation, or are they follow an open or independent path, not recognising the unity of the body.  We can share experiences with individuals there, but cannot have part with them collectively.   Thank God, we found three other gatherings, within an hour’s drive, with whom we can share full fellowship.  They may be small, and we are having to travel more, but we are learning to work things out in love, above all putting our Lord Jesus first.

As to the future, who knows?  God does of course, and it is for us to be with Him, and we are sure that Satan will attack.  In the early 1800’s, many believers in small gatherings were moved to leave the organised denominations, where clericalism and established form has impeded the operations of the Holy Spirit.  They did not know what the Lord was going to do, and that it would lead to a worldwide movement.  It was said at a recent meeting, ‘When we come to practical fellowship, it is not for us to make rules, but to test everything – Is it in accord with the death of Christ?’  It is for us, first individually, and then as we find others, to seek to be faithful to Christ in the power of the Spirit, to walk simply as believers.  Then let us see where the Lord leads.’

It is not an easy path.  We have not been promised it.  But it is a blessed one – and the Lord’s coming is very, very near!

 

‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’

My wife and I with some who had been through similar experiences (and a few others) met in Northern Ireland in October.  I believe the Lord showed clearly in those meetings that there is ‘another way’.   Accordingly, I have taken on the exercise of publishing these and other meetings. Under the title, ‘Today if you will hear His Voice.  if you would like a to receive this by email to you please click on the heading below.   The first issue was distributed last month – on ‘Seven – what is Perfect, and what is Maintained in a Day of Reduction’: seven months, seven bullocks, seven loaves, seven baskets, seven lamps, seven stars, seven assemblies and seven overcomers (Word by Martin Cook).   Two more issues are in the works.

Click here:

An interesting observation

I don’t spend much time on social media, but going for a walk yesterday I sat down and logged into Twitter on my iPhone.  Correspondence between two brothers with whom I correspond came up:

The first sign that Moses did was to turn water into blood – judgment (see Exodus 7:20). The first sign that Jesus did was turn water into wine – grace (see John 2:10-11). ‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’ (John 1:17).

And … 3,000 die at the giving of the law, the first Pentecost (see Exodus 32:28); 3,000 given new life at the giving of the Spirit, the second Pentecost (see Acts 2:41). ‘For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’ (2 Cor 3:6).

God’s blessings and greetings in our Lord

Sosthenes

 

Christian Fellowship is an Experience, not a Membership System

The essence of my current view of fellowship is that it is experience and not a membership system. I seem to discern believers amongst ban elaboration of Paul’s statement that the Corinthians had been called into the fellowship of God’s Son with which I am uncomfortable. It suggests that this is a calling, which is additional to the call in the gospel, and that there are those who have responded to the call in the gospel but have failed to respond to the call into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I don’t accept this. It implies a division in the body of Christ between those who have entered into this fellowship and those who have failed to do so.

In answer to my paper on What do we mean by Christian Fellowship?
Brother Jim in Scotland writes:

The essence of my current view of Christian fellowship is that it is experience and not a membership system.

Paul went to Corinth in Acts 18 and, as was his custom, made his way to the synagogue. When it was finally clear that his message was firmly rejected by the Jews, he said that he would go to the nations. However, he was received by Justus; Crispus believed with all his house and many of the Corinthians, who had heard and believed, were baptised.

These people, from diverse backgrounds, now had the things relating to the faith of Jesus Christ in common in every circumstance of life. Whether they met together by arrangement or bumped into one another in the street, they had a link, related to their common faith, which they had with no others. This was Christian fellowship. It was known to them before Paul wrote his first letter to them. In chapter 1 of his first letter, he refers to this known link and enlightens them as to its exalted level – it is the fellowship of God’s Son. FER refers to having the things before we have the words and I think that this applies here.

I seem to discern believers amongst ban elaboration of Paul’s statement that the Corinthians had been called into the fellowship of God’s Son with which I am uncomfortable. It suggests that this is a calling, which is additional to the call in the gospel, and that there are those who have responded to the call in the gospel but have failed to respond to the call into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I don’t accept this. It implies a division in the body of Christ between those who have entered into this fellowship and those who have failed to do so.

There is the intimation, in this point of view, that fellowship is a membership system which is narrower than membership of the body of Christ. It has been ministered that ‘we form an association and all the members of the association are governed by the same thoughts and feelings and ‘All those breaking bread form part of the association, as we all partake of one loaf.’ An inescapable conclusion from these statements is that those members of the body of Christ not breaking bread have no part in this membership system. Fellowship is thus defined as a membership system which is narrower than membership of the body of Christ. This is the definition of a sect.

There is no higher expression of that which Christians have in common, i.e. Christian fellowship, than participation in the breaking of bread but I think that it must be borne in mind that that we do this for a calling of Him to mind, according to His request. To make the breaking of bread the confirmation ritual of membership of a fellowship, which is narrower than membership of the body of Christ, is to degrade it from what was instituted by the Lord.

If, as I believe, fellowship is experience, expressions such as ‘a fellowship’, ‘the fellowship’, ‘in fellowship’ and ‘out of fellowship’ lose their force; they all seem to me to imply membership. We, very simply, walk with others and find fellowship with them as we do so. The scriptural warrant for this, which includes moral and spiritual requirements, is in 2 Tim 2 and 1 John 1.

You refer to FE Raven Vol. 17 p40-41. Also are relevant is Vol. 18, p.63: ‘I have nothing to do with anybody else save to walk with them’ and so on. I have the impression from his ministry in the USA in 1902 that FER had become increasingly concerned with the way in which brethren were institutionalising. My view is that this concern about “brethrenism” was disregarded and accounts for the development of corporatist views of fellowship.

What did John Nelson Darby and the Brethren hold?

Darby and the brethren held to all the fundamentals of the Christian faith:

There is one God, eternally blessed – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,.
The Lord Jesus was and is human and divine. He was born of a virgin and was raised from the dead and is now glorified at the right hand of God.
The Holy Spirit, having descended on the day of Pentecost, dwells in believers who are waiting for the promised return of the Lord Jesus.
The Father in His love has sent the Son to accomplish the work of redemption and grace towards men. Jesus, the Son, finished the work on earth which the Father gave Him to do. He made propitiation for our sins, and ascended into heaven. Now He is the great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
As to the brethren, nobody would be received into fellowship who denied any of these fundamental truths, and any who undermined them would be excommunicated. They are essential to living faith and salvation, and to the life which all Christians live as born of God.

 

lefrancaisA summary by Sosthenes of a letter entitled ‘ A letter to the Editor of Le Français’ – published in J N D’s letters Volume 2 page 431.

In 1878 the editor of ‘Le Français’, a catholic newspaper wrote to J N Darby asking him about what he and the brethren held.  Although he did not like writing articles for newspapers, believing that they were not compatible with the Christian’s heavenly calling, Darby said, ‘I have given him in all simplicity what he asked for. He avowed himself a Catholic and devoted to Catholicism. His letter was simple and honest: I replied to him as Christian.’

 

A summary of his reply:

Darby and the brethren held to all the fundamentals of the Christian faith:

  1. There is one God, eternally blessed – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,.
  2. The Lord Jesus was and is human and divine. He was born of a virgin and was raised from the dead and is now glorified at the right hand of God.
  3. The Holy Spirit, having descended on the day of Pentecost, dwells in believers who are waiting for the promised return of the Lord Jesus.
  4. The Father in His love has sent the Son to accomplish the work of redemption and grace towards men. Jesus, the Son, finished the work on earth which the Father gave Him to do.  He made propitiation for our sins, and ascended into heaven.  Now He is the great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

As to the brethren, nobody would be received into fellowship who denied any of these fundamental truths, and any who undermined them would be excommunicated.  They are essential to living faith and salvation, and to the life which all Christians live as born of God.

 

Darby’s early Christian Days

After John Darby was converted he spent six or seven years under the rod of the law, feeling that although Christ was his Saviour he did not possess Him, or that he was fully saved by Him.  He fasted, prayed and gave alms, but did not have peace.  He felt that if the Son of God had Himself forgiven him, he owed Him his body, soul and means.

At length God gave him to understand that he was in Christ, united to Him by the Holy Spirit.  Though he had always accepted that the word of God was the absolute authority as to faith and practice, God had now implanted in his heart the conviction of it.  Scriptures which bore on that were:

  • At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you’ (John 14:20)
  • He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit’ (1 Cor 6:17)
  • Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost who is in you’ (1 Cor 6:19)
  • There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1)
  • I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’ (John 14:3)
  • Having believed, ye have been sealed for the day of redemption’ (Eph 1:13)
  • For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body’ (1 Cor 12:13)
  • Even when we were dead in sins, [he] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)’ ( 2:5)
  • Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, who shall transform our body of humiliation into conformity to his body of glory’ (Phil 3:20-21)

From the above scriptures he deduced that the Holy Spirit has given us as believers the full assurance of salvation.  We have been set apart from this world, sealed to do God’s will here.  We are citizens of another world, awaiting the return of our Lord and Saviour.

 

The body of Christ is composed of those who are united by the Holy Spirit to the Head – Christ in heaven.  We are seated in the heavenly places in Christ, and are already there in spirit, just waiting to be actually place us up there, our bodies changed.

 

The Public Church

This brings us to the thought of the church and of its unity.

Let us look around we see how far we as Christians have got from what God had set up on the earth.  Where is the church?   Darby said that he gave up Anglicanism as not being it. In his early days he had been attracted to Rome.  But then he realised that the idea of a sacrificing priesthood down here was inconsistent with Heb 10:14-18  ‘For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. . . . Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin’.  As a result of the work of Christ, we have direct access to God in all confidence. ‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.’ (Heb. 10:19).  Rome pretended to be the whole, but that excluded half or more of Christendom.  Protestant sects were divided amongst themselves – unity was not possible.  In fact, most of those who call themselves Christians are of the world, just as much as a pagan might be.

 

The Fall of the early Church

 

The church was formed on the earth at the descent of the Holy Spirit.  It ought always to have been clearly identifiable, as something distinct, separate from the world.  Alas this has not been the case.  The Lord foresaw this: ‘The wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep’ (John 10:12) but, thank God the same faithful Shepherd also said,  ‘No one shall catch them out of my hand’ (v.28).

The apostle Paul, bidding farewell to the faithful of Asia, said, ‘I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock, and of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.’ (Acts 20:29-30).  Moreover, Jude noted that deceitful men had crept in among the Christians, ‘Certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men’ (Jude v.4).  This would lead to apostasy, those inside the public confession entirely abandoning the Christian faith. ‘There are there many antichrists: whereby we know that it is the last time. hey went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us’ (1 John 2:18-19).

 

What the Faithful should understand

Paul tells us, ‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work (2 Tim 2:19-21).

The public church is a great house with vessels of all kinds: a call comes to the faithful man to purify himself from the vessels to dishonour.  In the next chapter he speaks of perilous times.  Men will be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud etc., but also ‘Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof’ (2 Tim 3:5).  They were evidently in the professing church, not pagans as in Romans 1.  And it goes on, ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse’ (2 Tim. 3:12, 13); but true believers have assurance through the scriptures, given by inspiration of God, making them wise to salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

At the beginning, ‘the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2:47)  Soon false brethren crept in, tares were sown, the house was filled with unholy vessels, from which the faithful were to purge themselves, persons with a form of godliness without power, from which the faithful were to turn away.

Evil in the church continued.  ‘The mystery of iniquity doth already work’ (2 Thess 2:7). The wicked would be destroyed by the brightness of His coming.  Elsewhere the Lord speaks of the good grain and the tares growing together until the harvest (See Matt 13:24-30).  We must distinguish between the work of Christ, and what is done by men – heresies and schisms.

However, the gates of hell are not to prevail against that which Christ has built. The enemy will never destroy what Christ has built (the church of God).  That is the house made of living stones, and the holy temple in the Lord (See 1 Peter 2:5 and Eph 2:21.  Alongside all that, the Word declares that where two or three are gathered to the name of Jesus, He would be in their midst. (See Matt 18:20).

 

The early Brethren

This is what Darby recognised.  Initially only four met together, not in a spirit of pride or presumption, but deeply grieved at seeing the state of that which surrounded them, and praying earnestly about it. Darby said they were not thinking of forming a new sect.  Indeed, they did not believe that the thing would have gone any further. They were just satisfying the need of their souls according to the word of God and found the promised presence of the Lord.

Independently following the same road, the work extended in a way they did not expect – in the British Isles, France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and on through the rest of Europe, the British Colonies, the United States, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere.  As the gospel was preached, the Spirit of God acted, and produced soul yearnings that the established religious systems could not meet.

Those brethren rested on the authority of the word of God.  They saw our Saviour:

  • first as accomplishing redemption on the cross,
  • then as seated at the Father’s right hand, the Holy Ghost being down here,
  • and finally, as coming back to take His own to be with Himself.

These Christians had the full assurance of their salvation  They had faith in the efficacy of Christ’s redemption, and being sealed with the Holy Spirit, they were waiting for the Son of God to come from heaven without knowing when it would happen.  Bought with a great price, they felt bound to regard themselves as no longer belonging to themselves, but to please the Lord Jesus in everything, and to live only for Him.

 

The Brethren’s Walk

Whilst Darby had to admit that not all the brethren walked at the full height of the heavenly calling, they acknowledged the obligation to do so.  Brethren walked in a morally right way, excluding any who held heresy or engaged in immorality.  They abstained from the pleasures and amusements of the world.   Evening parties would be occasions of encouraging one another and discussing the word.  Brethren did not vote or get involved in politics.  They submitted to the established authorities, whatever they may be, so long as they were not called upon to act contrary to the will of Christ.  They took the Lord’s supper every Sunday, and those who had gift, taught from the scriptures and preached the gospel of salvation to sinners.  Everyone felt bound to seek the salvation or good of his or her neighbour, as they were able. Feeling that Christendom was corrupt, they were not of the church-world.

Asked as to how many such believers followed this course, Darby had no idea.  Brethren did not number themselves, wishing to remain in the littleness which becomes Christians. In any case, they reckoned as a brother or sister in Christ every person who had the Spirit of Christ.

 

Conclusion

What is the advantage of this course?  We acknowledge Christ as the Son of God and  know that we have been saved by Him.  In obeying Him, in spite of our weakness, faults and failures, we have as an indescribable source of joy.  Looking ahead, we have an earnest or advance of eternal happiness, with no failures, where our Lord will be fully glorified in all believers.

Sosthenes

November 2016

 

The Complete Work of Christ on the Cross – And the error as to the Abandonment

I am sure that Jim Taylor (JTJr) and his followers did not, or do not, deny Christ’s atoning work. But what does that error lead to? It leads to the making of the ‘abandonment’ the standard for separation. Instead of the work completed on the cross, they say that there was no communion until the resurrection. ‘No communion’ then is made to affect the relationships even between believers not walking in the same pathway and even in families. It is a complete despisal of God’s grace.

And we all know of the heartache that ensued.

 

I am aware, and have had correspondence with persons who are with the Exclusive Brethren and related systems.  I sorrow over those who have been side-tracked into sectarian error, claiming their way, and their apostolic leadership, is the one and only right Christian path.  My concern is not so much that they eschew normal relationships with other Christians, but that they adhere to a corruption of the wonderful gospel of the grace of God.  We might just feel sorry for them, but it is serious.  Paul said, ‘But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed’ (Gal 1:8-9).  I am seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and of others who are familiar with these groups of Christians, as to how to help our brethren in the spirit of grace.

It has been said that if we go astray, we start by going astray as to the gospel.  It is easy to look at a wrong system and judge it by the outward works.  Indeed, the Lord said, ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’ (Matt 7:20).  You see a system marked by legality, authoritarian leadership standing between the person and the Lord, and the rejection and despisal of others for whom the Lord paid an enormous price.  Persons caught up in that system must feel obliged to follow it in order to assuage their guilt. If so, they cannot have peace with God.  They must be defective in their appreciation of the glad tidings.

Do they believe that our sins were borne by our Lord Jesus and His whole atoning work was complete when He suffered being forsaken by God in the three hours of darkness on the cross?   Or did the ‘abandonment’ – the word used by Taylor – extend to the resurrection, three days later.  If the latter were true, then our Lord would have gone into death with sin upon Him.  He could not have therefore been the ‘offering without blemish’ (Lev 9:2).  He could not have atoned for our sins.

James Taylor Senior (1870-1953)

I believe, and this is supported by scripture – ‘His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree’ (1 Peter 2:24), that He laid down His life in communion with His Father.  James Taylor Senior (1870-1953), whose ministry was totally different from his son’s, said , ‘On the cross you can understand that the thought of relationship ceases when He was abandoned. When the abandonment is over He prayed to the Father and said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46).  But during the forsaking there could be no link. You could not have atonement if there were.  That would be in the three hours.   ‘Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.  I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee’ (Psalm 22:21-22).  The answer to God hearing Him from the horns of the unicorns is resurrection. The cry would be after the three hours of darkness. God would not leave Him in the meshes of the power of evil here.  He was heard from that point.

He was completely forsaken, and this cannot be emphasised too much. He, as bearing sin, was under God’s displeasure at that time; there was total abandonment, otherwise there could not be a true dealing with sin.  At our best, none of us judges sin rightly.  The idea in atonement is that sin was measured not only by God, but by Man.  On the cross the Lord fully measured sin according to what it is in God’s account; we never could do that.  At the cross you have a Man estimating it infinitely. He estimated it according to God’s estimate of it, and removed it accordingly; so that it is only on the cross you have a true estimate and judgment of sin.’

The message is clear, even if the language is a bit difficult.

I am sure that Jim Taylor (JTJr) and his followers did not, or do not, deny Christ’s atoning work.  But what does that error lead to?  It leads to the making of the ‘abandonment’ the standard for separation.  Instead of the work completed on the cross, they say that there was no communion until the resurrection.  ‘No communion’ then is made to affect the relationships even between believers not walking in the same pathway and even in families.  It is a complete despisal of God’s grace.

And we all know of the heartache that ensued.

How are we to regard other Christians

We are called to stand apart from what is evil. But how do we act practically when it comes to our fellow believers, whatever their background or history. I believe that there are several considerations.
1. Do what the Lord would have done
2. Glorify the Lord yourself
3. Cause others to glorify the Lord
4. Go by scripture
5. Do not cause offence
6. Do not get into a dangerous situation – physically, mentally or spiritually.

walking-in-assemblyA most important part of our Christian life is the testimony that we give to others, believers or not. As to other Christians, Paul tells us ‘Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves’ (Phil 2:3). That applies to all – to one strong in the faith and well taught, down to one who, though the Lord’s, is not even sure of salvation.

It has been said that Christians who seek to be faithful to the Lord should be the humblest people in Christendom, especially if they have been well taught, but have failed in their practical Christianity. The writer can look back to times when he has flaunted his superior knowledge of Christian doctrine and possibly the scriptures, giving the impression of being a ‘superior’, even if not a ‘better’ Christian. He was no better than a Pharisee in the Lord’s time, and even a hypocrite. Indeed, on occasions, he was rebuked by simple believers for what he said or did.

It is not for this booklet to say what one should, or should not do, whether as to general relationships or as to specific instances such as social, family or religious events. To do so would be legality. It will, I trust give the reader some thoughts to consider prayerfully before being confirmed as to what the Lord’s mind is. One of the scriptures that should be considered is 1 Cor 10:28, ‘All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: … Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: … If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

Of course the guidance that Paul gives us in scripture is in relation to unbelievers. Our fellow believers are different, and it is wonderful if we can share our common appreciation of the Lord and God’s goodness with them, even if there are differences of interpretation and practice. In apostolic times there were no denominations or sects, as we know them today. But these thoughts should be relevant to all our relationships with our fellow human beings, believers or unbelievers.

We are called to stand apart from what is evil. But how do we act practically when it comes to our fellow believers, whatever their background or history. I believe that there are several considerations.

  1. Do what the Lord would have done
  2. Glorify the Lord yourself
  3. Cause others to glorify the Lord
  4. Go by scripture
  5. Do not cause offence
  6. Do not get into a dangerous situation – physically, mentally or spiritually.

The Lord’s actions are well known. He went to a wedding, and it was clear that the hosts did not appreciate whom He was. A tax gatherer was a ‘child of Abraham’ and when the Lord accepted his hospitality, He was criticised for it. ‘The Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them’ (Luke 15:2). Put simply the Lord socialised with others, but was totally undefiled by the environment.

We are told to do all things to the glory of God. That is a simple test. Can I glorify God in the company or place where I am invited? If so then I will affect others – wherever you are. On this line is the help I can be to others – practically as well as spiritually. We are told, ‘Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith’ (Gal 6:10). Such help can take many forms.

Scripture does not give us rules, but 1 Cor 10 above is a guide. Some might ask, ‘Why would you be minded to go?’ I would be cautious about going to something religious, where I might be found in a position that I would find compromising. My friend or relative who invited me would understand it if you said, for example, ‘I do not feel I should go because I would be expected to take communion.’ But if I said, ‘I cannot go because the Christians I meet with don’t do this’, then I shouldn’t be surprised to receive the answer, ‘So you think you’re better than us!’   My friend could well have pre-conceived ideas of the sad history of the company I am with, and sees me as marked by the same attitude, even if less extreme than others. One is never going to help others as to the truth of the assembly if one behaves in a supeior way. It is not the Lord’s way. Do not give offence.

I can also give offence to those I meet with. I might feel free to go to something, but know that others would be offended. This is what Paul talked about in Romans 14. This was on the subject of vegetarianism, but it can apply to many situations. ‘Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost’ (v.13-16).

Finally we should not put ourselves in a situation where we might suffer harm – even in the company of other Christians. I guess in this I am mainly addressing myself to my younger brethren. Sadly there are able teachers who teach false doctrine. They might start with what is outwardly the gospel, but are really intent on getting a personal following ‘speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them’ (Acts 20:30) – you will find them calling for money, promising a better life here, telling you what to do to be a better person or a better Christian, or being carried away by emotional responses, not of the Holy Spirit. So if you are being invited to something like this (you can easily find out what they are like from the internet), you can respond with a polite, inoffensive, ‘No’. Your Christian friend will respect your feelings, especially if you can explain, using scripture, why you cannot go the way he or she would like you to go.

See that there be no one who shall lead you away as a prey through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the teaching of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ’ (Col 2:8 Darby).

 

 

Sosthenes

 

July 2015

J N Darby – No 153 – Reasons for delayed work

153
To Mr B R
Dear Brother
Here at last is another notebook
305
. I have been in Ireland, travelling, ill, all sorts of things. Having had, by the delay in my departure for France, several days of at least a
comparative tranquillity, I have used it in part for this work. I hesitate a little: 1) because this will probably be too late for it to be used; 2) because I have had to do it with less care and attention than the gravity of the service required. However, being subject to others, I send it; one would perhaps still correct some things on the proofs, if it is found good, and as the translation requires it, it seems to me. I have not had even a few of the books which I could in
general use, but at last here is the work such as it is. aleat quantum
with you.
Yours very affectionately
________

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.

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

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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!