A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s
Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity
But we are in a secular and religious world that is full of evil, and God cannot be united with evil. The Christian must separate from what is evil before unity can be considered. Christ – who died, rose again and ascended is to be the Centre, and the Lord’s Supper the symbol and expression of unity and fellowship. Let us go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
If the Church is to be maintained separate from evil, it is called upon to judge them that are within. Only thus can Christian unity be maintained in the power of the Holy Spirit and with an honest conscience.
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Christians desire Unity, but how?
Every right-minded Christian feels the need of unity now. Saints appreciate both grace, truth, and also the one body. However, we all feel the power of evil, in Christendom. Christians of all types cannot be blind to that.
But there are many opinions as to how unity can be achieved. Some people might continue to trust in their existing bulwarks in spite of the many shortcomings they find; others might trust in a particular aspect of the truth, others to a union through a compromise agreement. None of these are ever satisfactory.
Some may abstain from any agreed union, generally due to existing obligations or relationships. They tend only to form a party.
If denominationalism is used as a basis of some kind of church unity, any divergence is regarded as divisive. Denominationalism attaches the name of Christian unity to what is not God’s centre and plan of unity.
God Himself has to be the Spring and Centre of Unity
God Himself has to be the spring and centre of unity, which He alone may be in power or name. Any centre of unity outside God is a denial of His Godhead and glory, an independent centre of influence and power. God is one – the righteous, true, and sole centre of true Christian unity. What is not of God is rebellion. God should be the centre in blessing and power.
Unity in Creation
The principle of unity is true in creation. It was shaped in unity with God as its only centre. It will be brought back into unity once more, centred in Christ as Head, since all things were created by him, and for him. (Colossians 1:16).
It was man’s glory to have dominion with Eve as his dependent help-mate. He was the image and glory of God. His dependence made him look up to God.
The Fall of Man
Man’s fall reversed this. Man became independent – in sin and rebellion he has become the slave of a mightier rebel than himself. Initially, he was in innocence, a blessed but not a divine state. But this was lost in his assertion of independence. If man became as God, knowing good and evil, it was because he had a guilty conscience. He knew evil and had become the slave of it. And he could not sustain himself. He had morally lost his dependence on God to rely on himself.
Separation from Evil necessarily becomes sole Basis of Unity
Evil then exists. The world is in wickedness, while the God of unity is the Holy God. God cannot be united with evil. Thus, separation from evil necessarily becomes the sole basis and principle of unity. As evil and consequently corruption exists, those who desire to be in God’s unity must be separate from it. Otherwise one is attaching God’s authority to evil, rebelling against His authority, and being independent of Him. God must be the centre and power of that unity.
Worldliness destroys Unity
Worldliness always destroys unity. The flesh cannot ascend to heaven, nor go down to meet every need in love. It walks in schismatic self-importance. “I am of Paul,” etc. ” The sectarian minded Christians in Corinth were earthly-minded and unity had disappeared.
False Unity is not of God
Latitudinarianism or the maintenance of outward unity by broad religious tolerance unity might be respectable and amiable in the religious world, as it is often connected with good intentions. However it is permissive and does not exercise the conscience. Often those with liberal views will regard those who do not subscribe to these views as narrow, divisive and sectarian.
Confederacy, or the outward bringing together of different groups, is not unity. This unity is professed to be of the church of God, but it is not based on separation from evil. Bringing companies together without evil being dealt with is a serious matter. The only way that such confederacy is held together is by the clerical principle. Indeed, the Holy Spirit cannot be its power, and clericalism takes its place, guides and rules in its place. Otherwise such a body falls apart.
God is Working in the Midst of Evil to Produce a Unity of which He is the Centre and the Spring, and which owns His authority
God is not doing this by judicially clearing away the wicked. But He cannot unite with or have a union with anything that serves the wicked. So He separates the called ones from the evil. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:17-18
God says “Come out from among them“. He could not have gathered true unity around Him otherwise. Since evil exists (our natural condition) there can only be union where the Holy God is the centre and power by separation from evil. Separation is the base of unity and union.
Unity must have a sole and unrivalled Centre – It is Christ
For unity to be maintained there must be an intrinsic power holding the union to its exclusive centre. When such a centre is found it denies all others. There must also be a power separating from evil from it when it arises. The answer is simple for the Christian – Christ. He is the object of the divine counsel – the manifestation of God Himself – the unique vessel of mediatorial power, entitled to unite creation as He is the one by whom and for whom all things were made. To the church He is its Redeemer, its head, its glory, and its life. This is a double headship – He is the head over all things to the church which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:23).
Christ becomes, as the centre of divine affections in man, the One round which Christians are to be gathered. He is the sole divine centre of unity. Hence Jesus says “he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” (Luke 11:23). Even in death He said: “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32) And more specifically, He gave Himself “not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God which were scattered abroad.” (John 11:52) But here again, we find this separation of a peculiar people, “He gave himself for us that he might . . . purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”(Titus 2:14). He was the very pattern of the divine life in man, separate from the evil around. He was the friend of publicans and sinners, displaying grace and love to men; but He was always the separate Man.
The Church’s Centre
Christ is the both centre of the church and the high-priest. “Such a high-priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” – and, it is added, “made higher than the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:26) So the centre and subject of this unity is heavenly. By His death He broke down the middle wall of partition, dividing Jew and Gentile, making them into one. Now as risen, higher than the heavens He becomes the centre and exclusive object of unity amongst Christians.
Let us go forth to Him without the Camp, Bearing His Reproach
“Let us go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” (Hebrews 13:13). The Lord’s own were not to be taken out of the world, but kept from the evil, and sanctified through the truth. Accordingly, Jesus has set Himself and us apart to this end.
The Holy Spirit is the Centre and Power down here of the Unity of the Church in Christ’s name
The Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven to identify the called ones with their heavenly Head, and to separate them to Christ out of the world in which they were to remain. Hence God Himself in the Holy Spirit, as dwelling amongst them, becomes the centre and power down here of the unity of the church in Christ’s name. The saints, therefore are gathered into one, became the habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). Indeed, the very name of Holy Spirit implies it; for holiness is separation from evil. Otherwise we would provoke the Lord to jealousy, as if we were stronger than He.
The Lord’s Supper is the Symbol and Expression of Unity and Fellowship
For we, being many, are all one bread (loaf), for we are all partakers of that one bread.(1 Corinthians 10:17).
Unity is maintained by the judicial function in the church
How will separation from evil maintain unity? Here we must touch on mystery of iniquity, since the very nature of the Holy God cannot be put aside. Separation from evil is the necessary result of The Holy Spirit of God’s presence. Through holiness there is the power to reject evil. This has a direct effect on believers’ conduct and fellowship. When evil arises there is the power against evil because of the need to maintain the sanctity of the position. Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)
Thus the church maintains its separation from evil. And unity is maintained within the power of the Holy Spirit and an honest conscience.
Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity
The Lord exposes evil to the body through the word or by judgment. In so doing it maintains the body’s spiritual energy, holding to His glory and its place. If the church refuses to answer to God’s nature and character, by not separating from evil, it becomes a false witness for God. Then the primary and changeless principle recurs, the evil must be separated from. “Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19). Whatever the consequences are, it makes no difference: it is a matter of faith.
For the saint in these days who seeks to walk truly and thoroughly with God, these principles are fundamental.
J N Darby – Summary by Sosthenes – August 2013
About JN Darby
John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), an Anglo-Irish evangelist, was led to the fierce conclusion that all churches, as man-made institutions, were bound to fail. The believer’s true hope was the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. With others Darby gathered in a less formal way, free of clergy and human structure, founded on a desire to be separate from unholy organisations.
Darby, after resigning his curacy in the Church of Ireland, became a tireless traveller, talented linguist and Bible translator. His influence is still felt in evangelical Christianity.
For more on this servant of the Lord please see JN Darby – Biographical Note