The Red Sea – JN Darby Bible Notes & Synopsis

J N Darby on The Red Sea by Subject – the second subject in this series

·     The Red Sea –  JN Darby Bible Notes & Synopsis

·     Israel’s Experience in the Red Sea

·     Red Sea and Jordan

·     The Red Sea and Prophecy

·     The Red Sea and Wilderness and God’s Purpose

·     Christian Teaching from the Red Sea

·     Moses’ Song after the Red Sea

·     The Waters of Marah


  1. Scripture quotations here are from the Darby Translation
  2. The notes are a combination of those from the 1890 and 1961 editions of the Darby Bible. Where notes refer to another scripture, the notes from that scripture are used. In many notes in the 1890 edition there is a list of which manuscripts (MSS) use which terms.  These MSS have not been listed.
  3. The Synopsis has been slightly edited to simplify the English.

Exodus 13

The Pillars of Cloud and Fire

17And it came to pass, when Pharaoh let the people go, that God did not lead them the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, That the people may not repent when they see conflict, and return to Egypt. 18And God led the people about, the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea; and the children of Israel went arrayeda out of the land of Egypt. 19And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for he had made the children of Israel swear an oath, saying, God will be sure to visit you; then ye shall carry my bones with you hence. 20And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, at the end of the wilderness. 21And Jehovah went before their face by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them [in] the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; so that they could go day and night. 22The pillar of the cloud did not remove [from] before the people by day, nor the pillar of fire by night.



ai.e. ‘in battle order, or ‘by fives, i.e. ‘five in a rank, or ‘girded’


Exodus 14

Pharaoh Pursues the Israelites

1And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, 2Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea: before Baal-Zephon, opposite to it, shall ye encamp by the sea. 3And Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness has hemmed them in. 4And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he may pursue after them; and I will glorify myself in Pharaoh, and in all his host; and the Egyptians shall know that I am Jehovah. And they did so.

5And it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled; and the heart of Pharaoh and of his bondmen was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from our service? 6And he yoked his chariot, and took his people with him. 7And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. 8And Jehovah hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel; and the children of Israel had gone out with a a high hand. 9And the Egyptians pursued after them, — all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them where they had encamped by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, opposite to Baal-Zephon.


10And Pharaoh approached; and the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and the children of Israel were much afraid, and cried out to Jehovah. 11And they said to Moses, Is it because there were no graves in Egypt, thou hast taken us away to die in the wilderness? why hast thou done this to us, that thou hast led us out of Egypt? 12Is not this what we told thee in Egypt, when we said, Let us alone, and we will serve the Egyptians? For [it had been] better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. 

13And Moses said to the people, Fear not: stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah, which he will work for you to-day; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. 14Jehovah will fight for you, and ye shall be stillb

Parting the Red Sea

15And Jehovah said to Moses, Why dost thou cry unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. 16And thou, lift thy staff, and stretch out thy hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go on dry [ground] through the midst of the sea. 17And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall pursue after them; and I will glorify myself in Pharaoh and in all his host, in his chariots and in his horsemen. 18And the Egyptians shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have glorified myself in Pharaoh, in his chariots and in his horsemen.

19And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before them, and stood behind them. 20And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and was a cloud and darkness, and lit up the night; and the one did not come near the other all the night.

21And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and Jehovah made the sea go [back] by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry [land], and the waters were divided. 22And the children of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry [ground]; and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23And the Egyptians pursued and came after them — all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen, into the midst of the sea. 24And it came to pass in the morning watch, that Jehovah looked upon the camp of the Egyptians, in the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and embarrassed the camp of the Egyptians. 25And he took off their chariot wheels, and caused them to drive with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, Let us flee before Israel, for Jehovah is fighting for them against the Egyptians!

26And Jehovah said to Moses, Stretch out thy hand over the sea, that the waters may return upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and upon their horsemen. 27And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its strength toward the morning; and the Egyptians fled against it; and Jehovah overturned c the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28And the waters returned, and covered the chariots and the horsemen of all the host of Pharaoh that had come into the sea after them; there remained not even one of them. 29And the children of Israel walked on dry [ground] through the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left 

30Thus Jehovah saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the sea-shore. 31And Israel saw the great power d [with] which Jehovah had wrought against the Egyptians; and the people feared Jehovah, and believed in Jehovah, and in Moses his bondman.



a Or ‘by’

b Or ‘ye shall hold your peace’

c Lit. ‘shot off’

d Lit ‘hand’




At the Red Sea, God acts in power according to the purposes of His love.  Consequently the enemy, who was closely pursuing His people, is destroyed without resource.  This is what will happen to the people at the last day, already in reality – to the eye of God – sheltered through the blood.

As a moral type, the Red Sea is evidently the death and resurrection of Jesus.   It shows deliverance by redemption, and of His people as seen in Him.  God acts in the people to bring them through death, out of sin and the flesh, and give them absolute deliverance from sin and the flesh by  death, into which Christ had gone, and consequently from all the power of the enemy

Romans 3:20 to Romans 5:11 gives Christ’s death for sins, and resurrection for our justification; thence to the end of chapter 8, death to sin. Sin in the flesh is not forgiven, but condemned (Romans 8:3); but we as having died are not in the flesh at all, we are alive unto God through, or rather in, Jesus Christ. This takes us no farther than the wilderness, though passing through it as alive to God in Christ.

As to our standing and acceptance we are brought to God: our actual place is thus in the world, become the wilderness on our way to glory. We are made partakers of it already through faith. Sheltered from the judgment of God by the blood, we are delivered, by His power which acts for us, from the power of Satan, the prince of this world.  The blood keeping us from the judgment of God was the beginning.  The power which has made us alive in Christ, who has gone down into death for us, has made us free from the whole power of Satan who followed us, and, as to conscience, from all his attacks and accusations. We have done with the flesh as our standing, and Satan’s power, and, brought to God, are in the world with Him. The world, who will follow that way, is swallowed up in it.

Considered as the historical type of God’s ways towards Israel, the Red Sea terminates the sequel of events; and so for us. We are brought to God. Thus the forgiven thief could go straight to Paradise. As a moral type, it is the beginning of the Christian path, properly so called; that is to say, the accomplishment of the redemption by which the soul begins its Christian course, but is viewed as in the world, and the world become the wilderness of its pilgrimage; we are not in the flesh.

This is a solemn warning;  worldlings who call themselves Christians take the ground of judgment to come, and the need of righteousness, but not according to God.  The Christian goes through it in Christ, knowing himself otherwise lost and hopeless; the worldling in his own strength, and is swallowed up. Israel saw the Red Sea in its strength, and thought escape was hopeless: their conscience was awakened to death and judgment.  But Christ has died and borne judgment for us, and we are secured and delivered by what we dreaded in itself. The worldling, seeing this, adopts the truth in his own strength, as if there were no danger, and is lost in his false confidence.

In itself, it is Christ’s death and resurrection. But that is not only meeting the holiness of God’s nature, which is the blood-shedding, but entering into the whole power of evil that was against us and making it null. Hence, though it be not our realising death and resurrection so as to be in heavenly places, we are owned as having died in Him, and He our life, so that we have left our old standing altogether. In Colossians, we are risen with Him; in Ephesians, also sitting in Him in heavenly places. Colossians is the risen man still on earth, the subjective state, what refers to heaven but is not there, as Christ Himself for forty days-Jordan crossed, but not Canaan taken possession of.

The Red Sea is in contrast to the Jordan representing our death with Christ, and, as to our state subjectively, our resurrection with Him-analogous to the forty days He passed on earth. To this the teaching of Colossians answers. Hence heaven is in hope.  In Romans we are not risen with Christ. That involves, as a consequence, our being identified with Him where He is; and so, by the Holy Ghost when we are sealed, union. In Colossians we are risen with Him, but not in heavenly places. Colossians treats of life, with a hope laid up for us in heavenly places; not at all of the Holy Ghost. In Ephesians 2 we are risen with Him and sitting in heavenly places in Him, and then begins the conflict with spiritual wickedness in heavenly places, and testimony according to what is heavenly; so far this is Jordan and Canaan, and here the sealing and gift of the Holy Ghost is fully spoken of, and our relationship with the Father and with Christ, as sons, and as body and bride. Only Ephesians begins with our being dead in sins, so that it is a new creation; it is not death to sin. The blood-shedding, however, in one respect, has a more glorious character. God is glorified in it, though by crossing Jordan we are experimentally placed higher. That too is the fruit of the blood-shedding, in which there is not only the bearing of sins to meet our responsibility, but a glorifying of God, so as to bring us withal into God’s glory with Him, which is beyond all questions of responsibility.


Exodus 15

Moses’ Song of Deliverance

(2 Samuel 22:1-51)

1Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song to Jehovah, and spoke, saying, I will sing unto Jehovah, for he is highly exalted: The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

2My strength and song is Jah a, and he is become my salvation: This is my God, and I will glorify him; My father’s God, and I will extol him.

3Jehovah is a man of war; Jehovah, his name 

4Pharaoh’s chariots and his army hath he cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.

5The depths covered them; they sank to the bottom as a stone.

6Thy right hand, Jehovah, is become glorious in power: Thy right hand, Jehovah, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.

7And by the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown thine adversariesb: Thou sentest forth thy burning wrath, it consumed them as stubble 

8And by the breath of thy nostrils the waters were heaped up; The streams stood as a mound; The depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.

9The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my soul shall be sated upon them; I will unsheath my sword, my hand shall dispossess them 

10Thou didst blow with thy breath, the sea covered them; They sank as lead in the mighty waters.

11Who is like unto thee, Jehovah, among the gods? Who is like unto thee, glorifying thyself in holiness, Fearful [in] praises, doing wonders?

12Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.

13Thou by thy mercy hast led forth the people that thou hast redeemed; Thou hast guided them by thy strength unto the abode of thy holiness.

14The peoples heard it, they were afraid: A thrill seized the inhabitants of Philistia.

15Then the princes of Edom were amazed; The mighty men of Moab, trembling hath seized them; All the inhabitants of Canaan melted away.

16Fear and dread fall upon them; By the greatness of thine arm they are still as a stone; Till thy people pass over, Jehovah, Till the people pass over that thou hast purchased.

17Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, The place that thou, Jehovah, hast made thy dwelling, The Sanctuary, Lord, that thy hands have prepared.

18Jehovah shall reign for ever and ever!

19For the horse of Pharaoh, with his chariots and with his horsemen, came into the sea, and Jehovah brought again the waters of the sea upon them; and the children of Israel went on dry [ground] through the midst of the sea.

20And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the tambour in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambours and with dances 

21And Miriam answered them, Sing to Jehovah, for he is highly exalted: The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.


The Waters of Marah

22And Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. 23And they came to Marah c, and could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? 25And he cried to Jehovah; and Jehovah shewed him wood, and he cast it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There he made for them a statute and an ordinance; and there he tested them. 26And he said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of Jehovah thy God, and do what is right in his eyes, and incline thine ears to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the complaints upon thee that I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am Jehovah who healeth thee. 

27And they came to Elim; and twelve springs of water were there, and seventy palm trees; and they encamped there by the waters.


a ‘Jah’ may be a short form of ‘Jehovah’. But it seems to express His absolute rather than His continuous existence.  See Ps 68:4 ‘His name is Jah’ – The existing one objectively.


b Lit ‘them that rose up against thee’.


c Bitterness



The people, their loins girded, having eaten in haste, with the bitter herbs of repentance, begin their journey; but they do so in Egypt: yet now God can be, and He is, with them. Here it is well to distinguish these two judgments, that of the firstborn, and that of the Red Sea. As matters of chastisement, the one was the firstfruits of the other, and ought to have deterred Pharaoh from his rash pursuit. But the blood, which kept the people from God’s judgment, meant something far deeper and far more serious than even the Red Sea, though judgment was executed there too [See Note #2]. What happened at the Red Sea was, it is true, the manifestation of the illustrious power of God, who destroyed with the breath of His mouth the enemy who stood in rebellion against Him-final and destructive judgment in its character, no doubt, and which effected the deliverance of His people by His power. But the blood signified the moral judgment of God, and the full and entire satisfaction of all that was in His being. God, such as He was, in His justice, His holiness, and His truth, could not touch those who were sheltered by that blood  Was there sin? His love towards His people had found the means of satisfying the requirements of His justice; and at the sight of that blood, which answered everything that was perfect in His being, He passed over it consistently with His justice and even His truth. Nevertheless God, even in passing over, is seen as Judge; hence, so long as the soul is on this ground, its peace is uncertain though the ground of it be sure-its way in Egypt, being all the while truly converted-because God has still the character of Judge to it, and the power of the enemy is still there.




Nehemiah 9

The People Confess Their Sins


9And thou sawest the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red Sea;

10and didst shew signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants, and upon all the people of his land; for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them, and thou didst make thee a name, as it is this day.

11And thou didst divide the sea before them, and they went through the midst of the sea on dry [ground]; and their pursuers thou threwest into the depths, as a stone into the mighty waters.

12And thou leddest them in the day by a pillar of cloud, and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go.








Psalm 106

Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is Good


1 Hallelujah! Give ye thanks a unto Jehovah; for he b is good; for his loving-kindness [endureth] for ever. . . . 

6We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.

7Our fathers in Egypt considered not thy wondrous works; they remembered not the multitude of thy loving-kindnesses; but they rebelled c at the sea, at the Red Sea.

8Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his might.

9And he rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; and he led them through the deeps as through a wilderness d

10And he saved them from the hand of him that hated [them], and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy 

11And the waters covered their oppressors: there was not one of them left.

12Then believed they his words; they sang his praise.

13They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel:


a Compare 1 Chron 16:34-36


b  Or, ‘it is good’


c Or, ‘provoked him’, as v. 43


d Or, ‘the wilderness’.  See Ezek 34:25



It is the practical piety which proves, in its own confession, enduring mercy. It then goes through all the history of Israel with this view; and at the close shows that, in spite of all, Jehovah, remembering His covenant, thought on their affliction, and caused them to be pitied of the heathen, among whom they were. For this mercy he now looks, that they may triumph in the praise of Jehovah.

Acts 7

Stephen Addresses the Sanhedrin


35This Moses, whom they refused, saying, Who made thee ruler and judge? a  him did God send [to be] a ruler and deliverer

Withb the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 Hec led them out, having wrought wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years. 37This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, A prophet shalld God raise up to you out of your brethren like me [him shall ye hear]e. 38This is he who was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers; who received living oracles to give to us; 39to whom our fathers would not be subject, but thrust [him] from them, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, 40saying to Aaron, Make us gods who shall go before us f


a Ex 2:14

b ἐν /en/Strong 1722 ‘in’ or ‘within’ Some MSS read σὺν/syn/Strong 4862 – ‘by’



Strong846 intensive pronoun ‘the same’


dOne MSS reads ‘the Lord your God’


e Deut 18:15-18


f Ex 32:1




1 Corinthians 10

Warnings from Israel’s Past

(Numbers 16:41-50; Numbers 25:1-5)


1For a I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2and all were baptisedb  unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank of a spiritual rock which followed [them]: (now the rock was the Christ;) 5yet God was not pleased with the most of them, for they were strewed in the desert.


a γὰρ/gar/Strong063 ‘indeed’.  Some MSS read ‘now’ or ‘but’.




b Some MSS have ἐβαπτίσαντο/ebaptisanto ‘were baptised’ (middle voice).  For ἐβαπτίσθησαν/ebaptisthēsan   ‘were baptised – (passive voice)’.  The middle form of the verb is used in Acts 22:16 ‘get baptised’. The difference is difficult to express in English as we have no middle voice which has a reflective force. It is when an act returns back in its effect on oneself.  Paul was to act in this case as Acts 22:6; not to baptise himself: that would be active; but ‘ get bapised’. ‘ Be baptised’ gives this where the command is to the person. Here we must say the same in English. They passed through the sea and so got baptised. There was no action of course of a baptiser here, hence the middle voice. The many MSS which have the passive, overlooking this, used the habitual passive word, in which the action is that of another (as Acts 10:47-48).  -(My note – Looking up the Greek another said that the middle voice could be translated ‘get yourself baptised’ – which is fine in English.





Hebrews 11

The Faith of Moses

23By faith Moses, being born, was hid three months by his parents, because they saw the child beautiful; and they did not fear the injunction of the king. 24By faith Moses, when he had become great, refused to be called son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25choosing a rather to suffer affliction along with the people of God than to have [the] temporary pleasure of sin; 26esteeming a the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures of b Egypt, for he had respect to the recompense. 27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing a  the wrath of the king; for he persevered, as seeing him who is invisible. 28By faith he celebrated c the passover and the sprinkling of the blood, that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. 29By faith they passed through the Red sea as through dry land d; of which the Egyptians having made trial were swallowed up.


a These are aorist, the English present participle is joined to the perfect tense, as characterising the action.  ‘He refused. . . choosing’,  ‘he refused. . .having chosen’, would make a different time of it, not the same.   In Greek all is referred to the time of speaking.


b Some MSS read ‘in’

cb Here and v. 17, as to the offering up Isaac, the verbs are in the perfect; this is remarkable. The other facts are generally passing facts, part of the whole history; these are of standing significance, either figuratively setting the believer on a new ground, or viewed as continued till the time of the epistle: ‘by faith Abraham has offered,’ ‘by faith he has celebrated;’ only this is not possible in English. It was not external continuance, for the blood sprinkling was only once.


d Some MSS omit ‘dry’


The power of God is manifested, and manifested in judgment. Nature, the enemies of God’s people, think to pass through this judgment dry-shod, like those who are sheltered by redeeming power from the righteous vengeance of God. But the judgment swallows them up in the very same place in which the people find deliverance – a principle of marvellous import. There, where the judgment of God is, even there is the deliverance. Believers have truly experienced this in Christ. The cross is death and judgment, the two terrible consequences of sin, the lot of sinful man. To us they are the deliverance provided of God. By and in them we are delivered and (in Christ) we pass through and are out of their reach. Christ died and is risen; and faith brings us, by means of that which should have been our eternal ruin, into a place where death and judgment are left behind, and where our enemies can no longer reach us. We go through without their touching us. Death and judgment shield us from the enemy. They are our security. But we enter into a new sphere, we live by the effect not only of Christ’s death, but of His resurrection.

Those who, in the mere power of nature, think to pass through (they who speak of death and judgment and Christ, taking the Christian position, and thinking to pass through, although the power of God in redemption is not with them) are swallowed up.

With respect to the Jews, this event will have an earthly antitype; for in fact the day of God’s judgment on earth will be the deliverance of Israel, who will have been brought to repentance.

This deliverance at the Red Sea goes beyond the protection of the blood in Egypt. There God coming in the expression of His holiness, executing judgment upon evil, what they needed was to be sheltered from that judgment to be protected from the righteous judgment of God Himself. And, by the blood, God, thus coming to execute judgment, was shut out, and the people were placed in safety before the Judge. This judgment had the character of the eternal judgment. And God had the character of a Judge.

At the Red Sea it was not merely deliverance from judgment hanging over them; God was for the people, active in love and in power for them.  The deliverance was an actual deliverance: they came out of that condition in which they had been enslaved, God’s own power bringing them unhurt through that which otherwise must have been their destruction. Thus, in our case, it is Christ’s death and resurrection, in which we participate, the redemption which He therein accomplished, which introduces us into an entirely new condition altogether outside that of nature. We are no longer in the flesh.

In principle the earthly deliverance of the Jewish nation (the Jewish remnant) will be the same. Founded on the power of the risen Christ, and on the propitiation wrought out by His death, that deliverance will be accomplished by God, who will intervene on behalf of those that turn to Him by faith: at the same time that His adversaries (who are those also of His people) shall be destroyed by the very judgment which is the safeguard of the people whom they have oppressed.
















February 2018

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

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

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – Luke

In Luke we get a beautiful exhibition of the state of the pious remnant in Israel at the time of our Lord’s first appearing. We also get the working of the Spirit of God among them, and at the same time the public state of the nation under the Gentile

Outline of Bible coverIn Luke we get a beautiful exhibition of the state of the pious remnant in Israel at the time of our Lord’s first appearing. We also get the working of the Spirit of God among them, and at the same time the public state of the nation under the Gentiles (chap. 1).

We get the whole political world set in motion to bring a carpenter to Bethlehem (chap. 2).

In connection with the remnant, John the Baptist comes, announcing Him who is to baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire (chap. 3). We now get the genealogy from Adam. Luke gives us Christ as the Son of man in perfect moral display upon earth. He also gives us the grace of God, displayed in His coming, yet still serving in the midst of Israel.

This service in grace, with particular reference to its moral elements, is unfolded in chapters 4-7. Jesus shows its extension to the Gentiles, and the breaking of covenant relations with the Jews. We have not merely the character of the remnant, but the disciples as the remnant, “Blessed are ye poor,” (Ch 6:20) etc. (4-7).

We get (in the demoniac of Gadara – chap. 8) a special picture

  • of the healing of the remnant in Israel,
  • of the ruin of the people,
  • the mission of the delivered remnant, left as a witness instead of going with Him.

In the transfiguration (chap. 9), we find special reference to His intercourse with Moses and Elias as to His decease. Son of man is to be delivered up. The unbelief of the whole generation, including His disciples, will close His whole connection with Israel. Then we see the claim of absolute devotedness to Himself. Meanwhile He insists on the judgment of self in all its forms.

The patient service of Christ to Israel is seen in sending out the seventy (Chap. 10). Israel is warned as to final judgment: whatever power He gave them in connection with the kingdom, their delight should be rather that they belonged to heaven. We then get, further, the principle of grace in dealing as a neighbour, instead of the claim of God towards a neighbour.

The word and prayer with the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to those who ask the Father who hears our prayers. After that, we have the judgment of scribes and Pharisees for the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for He had proved that the kingdom of God had come among them. The power of the enemy is bound, so that He could deliver all who were under it. Now, in the state in which the nation was, He was the test of its deliverance and of its going right. The nation would be left to the power of Satan, in whose power the Lord had been accused of acting.

Hearing the word is more important than being associated with Israel according to the flesh – more than any fleshly tie. Thus the men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba would rise up in judgment against that generation, and the blood of all the prophets should be found in them. They should be tested by apostles and prophets being sent to them; but these they would slay.

He then teaches the disciples to trust in God for everything, and to confess Him, the Lord Jesus, in the presence of all this opposition. The Holy Spirit would be given to them; so that they who resisted and blasphemed the Holy Spirit in them should be judged.

He taught them (the disciples) that all things should be made manifest. They were to be careful for nothing, but to seek the kingdom which it was the Father’s good pleasure to give them. They were to have their treasure in heaven, and wait for the Lord. He then gives the character of the faithful and unfaithful servant in His absence. He shows that His testimony will bring in division among men, even in families, and warns the people to take notice of the signs of the times. They ought to judge what was right, Jehovah being as one going with them to judgment, and they must agree with Him by the way (chap. 12).

We have in chapters 13 and 14, both in a parabolical way and in direct instructions, the setting aside of Israel, and the letting in of the Gentiles. In order to follow Him, men must take up their cross, and be the salt of the earth.

In chapters 15 and 16, the ways of God in grace we have with sinners, still connected with the setting aside of Judaism. Thus we have,

  • grace seeking and receiving sinners
  • future hopes substituted for present enjoyment
  • the veil drawn aside, so that what is heavenly is contrasted with all that had in Judaism been promised to such as were outwardly faithful.

We then get warnings against being an occasion of stumbling to little ones; and, on the other hand, if we are offenced, exhortations to forgive. We have the power of faith in the disciples, but whatever is done, it is no more than duty.

Liberty from Israel is then shown to be the privilege when the Lord is owned in Christ’s person. The kingdom was among them in His person; but He would come unexpectedly in His glory, and execute judgment. Meanwhile we are to know how to discern the righteous from the wicked. In the distress of that day, and at all times, men were to persevere in calling on God, and reckoning on His answer. We are to be meek and lowly in mind in respect to our faults. The Lord points out the danger of riches, as a hindrance to entering the kingdom, and assures us of the blessing of giving up all for Christ (chaps. 17, 18).

He now goes up to Jerusalem by Jericho. In all the three synoptic Gospels there is a distinct chronological point when He begins to deal again, and finally, with the Jews. Luke brings out grace in Zacchaeus; and though a publican, the Lord owns him as a son of Abraham. He is owned as Son of David, yet brings in grace; “for the Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost.” (Chap. 19:10).

Next the parable of the servants to whom money is entrusted differs in Luke, in that the responsibility of man is more brought out. Each gets the same sum, but receives a different reward according to what he has gained; whereas in Matthew He gives to each according to his wisdom and the capacity of each and they all get the same reward.

In His riding into Jerusalem we notice the expression, “Peace in heaven,” (v.38) which is peculiar to Luke. Christ destroys Satan’s power in heaven, and settles peace there, in order to introduce the kingdom. He weeps over Jerusalem – the historical place for the incident.

Chap. 20: We see the various sects – Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians etc. In the Lord’s answer to the Sadducees, we have the introduction of the power of the first resurrection, as the proof of being the children of God. Here, as in Matthew, we get His exaltation to the right hand of God, and that confounds the Pharisees as to all their expectations of the kingdom. He judges the scribes, and owns the poor widow who puts in her mite as better than all the rich.

Then in the prophecy (chap. 21) He does take notice, which Matthew does not, of the soon coming destruction of Jerusalem. He does not speak of the abomination of desolation, but of Jerusalem being compassed with armies, thus referring to the first destruction in AD70. The times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. He enters a great deal more into the spirit in which His disciples are to give their testimony, and how to meet difficulties as they arise.

We find at the Passover the extreme evil of man’s heart: strife among the disciples as to which of them should be the greatest. There is sifting by Satan, with special reference to Simon, for whom Christ had prayed.

Circumstances change now from those of the time in which He exercised power, so as to secure His disciples on the earth.

In chaps. 22 and 23 we have the scenes at Gethsemane and on the cross. The Lord Jesus is presented much more fully as Man in His own perfectness, faithfulness, and grace. It is not here Jehovah smiting His fellow, as in Matthew, but we see Him sweating as it were great drops of blood. It is the suffering man: the perfection of faith and grace.

This characterises Luke all through; We often find Him praying, of which His baptism and His transfiguration are particular examples. Another characteristic of Luke’s gospel is the bringing together circumstances into a single general expression, each bringing out some great moral beauty and truth, such as in the journey to Emmaus.

We have in Luke, Pilate and Herod becoming friends through their enmity to Christ. His opens paradise immediately to the thief on the cross. This is in contrast with the kingdom, and His intercession for the Jews. I may add, natural feeling for Christ is useless unless He is not followed.

We may remark the power of Christ in unspent unexhausted life when commending His spirit to the Father. The centurion owns Him here as the righteous man, and we see the effect also on the spectators and on Joseph the councillor.

In chap. 24 we see the two going to Emmaus. Jesus unfolds the scriptures to them, and makes Himself known in the breaking of bread – the sign of death. He presents Himself very fully as the same Man, Jesus, and eats in the presence of His disciples. He insisted that the scriptures – the Old Testament (law, prophets, and psalms) had being fulfilled in that day. He opened their understanding to understand the scriptures, emphasising ‘thus it is written’ (v.46). He gives them the mission to preach repentance and the remission of sins in His name to all the Gentiles, beginning at Jerusalem. They were to be His witnesses, but they had to wait for the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit from heaven. Then, in the act of blessing them, He ascends.

We have nothing here of Galilee, which we have in Matthew and John, where we have the Jewish thing. That was the connection with the remnant of Israel; here His connection is with heaven.


Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes, July 2014  

– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible  for the original

J N Darby Letter Why I could not be a Baptist. – Believers’ Baptism – Infant Baptism – Household Baptism – the House and the Assembly

Baptists are a sect, and enough to say, in my opinion I would not be part of it. If a brother believes he should be baptised, I would never seek to dissuade him, even though he had already been baptised and I believe him mistaken in the way he sees it. However, if he believes that it is according to the Word, he would be well, I think, to have it done. That does not break the unity of the body.

J N Darby on Household Baptism
John Nelson Darby

The following letter (Letter No 431) written in French by John Nelson Darby, outlines his position on baptism – particularly believers’ baptism as practiced by the Baptists and other Evangelical Christians.   I translated it as part of an earlier task as assisting a brother who desired to have some 475 letters of JND translated into English.  However, I feel that due to the large amount of confusion that exists as to this important subject it is as well to publish my translation (slightly edited) here.

My French is far from perfect, and whilst this translation has been revised by another, I have also included the original text as a separate posting. Click here for …  

Pourquoi je ne Pourrais être Baptiste. – Baptême des Croyants – Baptême des Enfants – Baptême des Familles – la Maison et l’Assemblée

Montpelier, 1851

To Mr L.F..

The State of the Church

In the state of confusion in which the Church finds itself, if its existence is even remembered, it is very natural that in such a matter one acts according ones individual conviction.   But when it is a question of the destruction of the unity of the Church, it is a more serious question.  The Baptists are a sect, and enough to say, in my opinion I would not be part of it.  If a brother believes he should be baptised, I would never seek to dissuade him, even though he had already been baptised and I believe him mistaken in the way he sees it.  However, if he believes that it is according to the Word, he would be well, I think, to have it done.  That does not break the unity of the body.

The Baptists quote, “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”

Having said that, I will give you a few general principles on this subject.  I am not convinced at all by the rationale of the Baptists.  I find in their reasoning, without their suspecting it, inversion of the basic principles of Christianity, and a complete ignorance of what Christian baptism is.  They speak of the baptism of John, and that the Lord says “thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”  Matt 3:15.  Think about it.  Does the Christian achieve righteousness in fulfilling ordinances?  Is that a Christian principle, or is it an perversion of Christianity?  Moreover the baptism of John means absolutely nothing for Christians; it was a baptism just for the Jews, a baptism, which assumed the entrance, through repentance into the privileges of the kingdom, and did not assume the death and resurrection of Christ, rather exactly the opposite.  The baptism of John was not done in His name, nor in keeping with the truths announced in the gospel.  Consequently those who had the baptism of John had to be baptised again later in the name of the Lord, as if they had never had received any baptism beforehand.(Acts 19:4-5) .  I am then urged to be baptised in obedience to an ordinance in order to fulfill righteousness (principle which inverts the fundamentals of Christianity), and a baptism which excludes the death and resurrection of Christ (only true sense of Christian baptism).  This baptism however belongs historically to a system which predated Christianity which one both Jews and heathens received.  The death and resurrection of Christ formed the basis of a new creation, to which the baptism of John did not have any bearing.  When I hear similar arguments, I am the more convinced that that those who use them (though they are very sincere) do not understand the first elements of the subject they are dealing with, and unwillingly and unknowingly invert the foundation of Christian truth.

But there are further points which make me reject the Baptist system.  That is,that I deny their principle of obedience to an ordinance and in particular to the ordinance (they say) of baptism.  Baptism is a granted privilege, and the act is that of the person who baptises, not of the person baptised.  I say that the thought of obedience to baptism is not in in the Word, or that there is a commandment addressed to men, it is that to be baptised

Baptism as a Privilege

Firstly, I say that the idea of obedience to an ordinance does not belong to the Christian system.  I recognize that Christ established baptism and the supper, but obedience to ordinances was destroyed, in principle, at the cross.  (Col 2:14 target=”_blank” Eph 2:15) target=”_blank”.  When it is a matter of the supper “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19), it is a directive as to the purpose of the symbol.  Every time that we eat of it, we should do it with this purpose.  This is not a commandment to do it, but a directive to make one intelligent in doing it.

For baptism in particular, the commandment is to given to go and baptise, that is to say that the act was the act of the apostles in receiving the gentiles into the Church.  And this is so true that the apostles could not be baptised, but they did baptise those who received their teaching.

Through examining the cases presented, I find that the baptism is considered to be a privilege granted to somebody whom one admits in the house of God, and is never an act of obedience nor of testimony.  The apostle says ”Can any one forbid water that these should not be baptised, who have received the Holy Spirit as we also did?” (Acts 10:47).  ”What hinders my being baptised”, says the eunuch (Acts 8:36)  Evidently in this case it was not a matter of obedience, but an accorded privilege, an admission into the privileges that others enjoyed.  I would remark in passing, although an adult, heathen or Jew, must believe to be baptised, the words “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.”  Acts 8:37KJV as foreign to the Word by everybody who are concerned with the authenticity of texts.  The apostles received the order from the Lord to baptise.

I would add that the Baptists’ idea that baptism is a symbol of what we are is also contrary to the Word because it says “buried with him in baptism, in which ye have been also raised (Col 2:12).  That is then not based on the assumption that we are already dead and raised.  On the contrary, in figure, we die and are raised in baptism itself, that is to say that we were not that beforehand.  That is the sign of the thing through which we enter, not the sign of our state to ourselves.

I totally reject the whole Baptist system, because I have received teaching from the Word of God.  I am fully convinced that it is entirely false.  There is an order to baptise given to the apostles, but baptism is not the subject of a particular commandment to the one who is baptised.  The difference is from beginning to end in the character of the act.  If I give to my business agent an order to remit a hundred francs to such and such a person, he is obligated to obey me.  If I give a letter of title to somebody, the obedience the recipient is totally a different matter.

Baptism is the Reception of a Person into the Christian Assembly down here in this World

However to reject what is false is not the only thing one has to do.  It is a matter of knowing the truth in order to be able to glorify God; but the question has become much simpler.  Baptism is the reception of a person into the midst of the Christian Assembly down here in this world.  I do not believe that one who reads the New Testament freely could deny that.  Who then must be received into this assembly, baptism being recognized to be the means of receiving them (for I agree with the Baptists on this point)?  I accept that in regard to the persons baptised, heathen or Jewish, in a word as to any who have not received baptism (as also for a Quaker or the child of a Baptist), those who believe ought to be baptised, because one can only receive an adult (who can act of his own accord) on his won responsibility.  It is all simple so long as one does not try to push the tide back, with the big stick in his hand as Charlemagne harassed the Saxons.

But the remaining question is this – Should children of believing parents be received into the Assembly?

I should say a word as to the Assembly itself, because what has given rise to a lot of difficulties is the ignorance of what the assembly of God is on earth.  I say ‘the Assembly’ not assemblies.  Those baptised become, by baptism members of the Christian Assembly on earth, not of an assembly.  However this assembly is the house of God where the Holy Spirit dwells.  The world is the desert where Satan dwells.  The Assembly is “a habitation of God in the Spirit” Eph 2:22).  In this Assembly one is admitted by baptism, and it is true that it is the habitation of the Spirit for Hebrews 6 supposes that one can be partakers of the Holy Spirit without having been converted.  In this case the one having the Spirit thus, was not really part of the body of Christ, but he possessed the Spirit, in the sense of a gift, being in the house where the Spirit lived and acted.  So Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit.  In this case, it was in the Spirit’s presence, not the gift, but for the point we are concerned about it is the same. However it is a matter of knowing if the children of Christians can be received into this house, or are they to be left in the world where Satan reigns.  It is  not a matter of commandment.  I deny any commandment for any ordinance, baptism in particular.  There isn’t one for an adult.  It is a matter of knowing God’s will is in regard to this privilege.  However it is clear to me that according to the Word, children should be received.   It is fully evident that there would have to have been a change in God’s system of things in order not to receive them – a change which moreover has never been announced.  However, here are a few passages which makes me see in a positive way the thoughts of God in regard to this.  Before citing them I pose a recognized principle, because I believe it scriptural, that baptism is the Lord’s desired way to be received outwardly into the assembly of God, and its meaning is the death and resurrection of Christ.  But here, in passing, I must also again remark that the views of many on this point are decidedly unscriptural.  They assume that the ordinances, baptism in particular, are the sign of the state where somebody finds themselves and participates.  However this idea is opposed to the testimony of the Word.  The baptised person participates in an act of ordinance which is no sign at all that he participated beforehand.  Thus, baptism is not a sign that a man participates in the death and resurrection of Christ.  Baptism is (in figure), the participation in these things by the act itself.  The testimony of Col 2:12 is positive in this regard:  ”buried with him in baptism, in which ye have been also raised with him”.  That is an act that the participation has taken place; it is not a sign of the participation that precedes it.  It is the same in regard to the Supper.  One eats (in figure) the body that was broken (1 Cor 11:24 KJV & Martin/Osterheld, not JND or JND-French and the blood that was shed.  It is not a figure that one has done it already.  The same principle is found in Rom 6:4.  Other passages confirm the same.

Baptism and Little Children

Having made this principle clear, and having shown that the Baptist principle is not well founded, that the Word contradicts their idea that baptism is the sign that one is already dead and risen again, whereas the Word teaches that we figuratively die there and are raised.  Having, as I say, brought all this into the light, I come to the passages which authorize me to believe that children of Christians are objects of this favour, baptism being the means of their being able to enjoy it.

Matthew 18 is a striking passage, showing how God considers the children.  The Lord takes a little child (v2), not a converted person (He even distinguishes in v6 the difference between a believing child and others) and declares that one must become such, and that their angels continually see the face of their Father who is in the heavens (v10), that is to say that they are the objects of His special favour.  But the testimony is something much more exact than that.  They are lost; Christ has come, He says (v11) “to save that which was lost.”  “For it is not the will of your Father who is in the heavens that one of these little ones should perish.” (v14).  In receiving a little child in His name, I receive Christ, and I recognize that, even being children, this little being is lost; but that it is the object of the Father’s love which I know, and whom there is not other means of salvation, even for a child, than the death and resurrection of Christ.  So I introduce it into the house by this means.  The testimony is therefore very clear, we are born children of wrath.

I have already shown that baptism is not a witness rendered to the state of the individual,  but the admission that the individual is a testimony to the value of the work of Christ.  The Baptist will now say to me, I know “But you admit a little heathen child”  The Word tells me totally the opposite.  It says that if one of the parents is a Christian, the children are holy.  However they are not holy by nature, it is a relative holiness, that is to say as a right of entry into the house.  That is the sense of this word in the Bible.  They are not soiled or profane.  A Jew who married a woman from the nations was profaned, and their children profaned, and the woman was to be sent back with them.  But in Christianity it is a system of grace, and the woman, instead of making her husband profane, is sanctified and the children are holy.  And this is the proper force and the evident bearing of the passage, because it concerned the question of whether a believer should divorce his unbelieving wife.  Thus the children, being holy, have the right to enter into the house and it is a real advantage that they enjoy.

To speak of legitimate children is nonsense, because only modern laws have made a distinction in such a case.

One may perhaps ask me, why then do we not give the supper to children?  I answer:  Because the light of the word prevents me.  The supper, considered from this point of view, is a figure of the unity of the body.  We are all one body, and so we all participate of the one loaf.  For in the power of one Spirit we have all been baptised into one body, (1 Cor 12:13), that is to say that one must be baptised of the Holy Spirit to take the supper.

“Children, obey your parents” could not be said to children who were not inside.  One does not address such precepts to heathens.  I see then that Christ, who received the child, wants us to receive such in His name, and by doing that we receive Him, Himself.  Notice that in Matt 18 the Lord applies the parable of the lost sheep to the little children (or to the letter it was to a little child who was there).  I repudiate entirely any dedication to God apart from baptism.  Not only is this Baptist practice a human innovation, but (without wishing it I admit), it pretends to be able to present the children to God without the death and resurrection of Christ.  If one cold present them to God by the death and resurrection of Christ they are then subjects of baptism.  To do otherwise is to deny Christianity:  not to devote them is impossible for a Christian.  In my opinion, the Baptist deprives his child of the protection of the house of God and of the care of the Spirit and leaves it in the world where Satan reigns, instead of (though it is fortunately inconsistent) to bringing it up in the discipline of the Lord…


Finally I deny entirely that there is a commandment to be baptised, as a matter of obedience.  I say that the principle is false and that baptism is always presented in totally the opposite way from that which is the basis of the Baptist system.  Reception into the church, the enjoyment of privilege of being brought into the house where the Spirit is, by citing the baptism of John, is to be ignorant of the first principles of Christianity and of the nature itself of Christian baptism.  Baptism as the Word considers it, is a reception by the church, according to the favour of God,  because they are holy.  It is the opposite of the profanity of a Jew who had married a foreigner.   In the case of a Christian the children are holy, whereas in the case of the Jew they are profane.  I repeat this because I am seeking to use this word not to weaken the scriptural proof, whilst it only makes the truth and the bearing of these passages of scripture clearer.

Here is an outline of what, I am perfectly convinced, is the true idea according to the Word.  This Word allows absolutely nothing of the Baptist system.  Nevertheless if somebody, individually thinks that he has not been baptised, I do not blame him if he gets baptised.  Rather, I respect his conscience like the conscience of one who believes he should only eat herbs.  But if one makes a sect out of this lack of light, then I condemn it totally.  However it is obvious that the Baptist position is one of pure ignorance,  It is truly impossible that a man can speak of fulfilling righteousness, in being baptised according to the example of Jesus with John the Baptist, if he has the lest light of the ways of God in Christ.  He may be sincere but his ignorance as to the truth of the gospel is very great….

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

ADOSS Newsletter – No. 8 – May 2014

Walking in the Light of the Assembly
Theological Seminaries
Money, Money, Money,

Σωσθένης Ὁἀδελφὸς – Sosthenes the Brother – 

ADOSS Newsletter No 8 – May 2014

Dear Christian Friends

Here is the latest ADOSS Newsletter

Walking in the Light of the Assembly

Special Note

Since writing this newsletter in 2014, I have come to it that much of what I had written was faulty. The biblical principles are of course right, but in the application of them we need to avoid what is sectarian.  In seeking to judge one, it is easy to slip into another.  In 2017, my wife and I had to leave the company of Christians we had met with for over 40 years – that was sad,  We have continued to seek to walk in the Light of the Assembly – but that does not need another book.  Hence I have withdrawn this publication,  Please feel free to contact me

This subject has engaged me a lot recently, not least because Satan is doing his best to spoil what is closest to the heart of our blessed Lord.  As soon as man’s mind, with its politics and organisational ability, starts to get involved the result is sorrowful.  The service of praise continues; believers still enjoy bible readings and preachings, but is the Lord still the centre of everything?

Some years ago I was on a plane from San Francisco to Sydney.  Across the aisle from me there was a family of Taylorite Exclusives.  I cried to the Lord for a word for them.  In my bag I happened to have a volume of James Taylor Sr’s ministry (that is the older JT – not his infamous son!).  I found there something I have never found since, though I have tried with the ministry search engine.  It read ‘There comes a time when we realise that the Lord is the centre, not the system’.  So often we make the system the centre, our own sect, our little meeting, our circle of Christian friends or whatever, and we protect it in every way we can.

I am producing another booklet including a paper I have written Walking in the Light of the Assembly.  It is still a draft, so I would appreciate yourcomments and suggestions before putting it forward for publication.  I also include three helpful letters by Charles Coates, and one by J N Darby on the ‘Bethesda’ (ie Open) matter.

May we all have a greater appreciation of the infinite resources available to the Church of Christ, and be filled with grace.  We have been forgiven so much, so we are to be ‘kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you’  (Eph 4:32).

Theological Seminaries – Do we need them?

There are many sincere believers, and sound teachers who work in these institutions.  There are many earnest young Christians, men and women, desirous of serving the Lord, who attend them, and have gone on to serve Him faithfully.  But is there any scriptural basis for them?

I have looked at a few websites recently and there are some noble statements.  The Dallas Theological Seminary, for example, is very much influenced by the ministry of John Nelson Darby, and has produced some worthy alumni, such as my friend Paul Wilkinson.  It states, ‘The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders for the proclamation of His Word and the building up of the body of Christ worldwide.’  Nobody could criticise that – in fact the church needs more and more workmen.  But what do many desire?  A Doctor of Ministry degree?  A wonderful graduation ceremony in robes?  And how much does it cost?  not that a degree should be without cost, of course.  Timothy was told ‘for those who shall have ministered well obtain for themselves a good degree, and much boldness in faith which [is] in Christ Jesus.’ (I Tim 3:13 JND).  They get their degree by ministering; they do not get their degree in order to minister.

Furthermore, like any college, it is a social institution with sports, clubs etc., and you only need to look at Facebook to see that.  Nothing wrong, of course, with sport and social activities, but are they part of the church?

There was the School of Tyrannus in Corinth.  It was a place to read and discuss the word, and for interested persons to come to the Lord.  If it was a formal school, I don’t think it was more than a place of convenience for Paul.  Then there was the home of Aquila and Priscilla.  I don’t think either had a doctorate, but they were able to take Apollos (who maybe had one) expound unto him the way of God more perfectly (Acts 18:26).

So, maybe the best place to learn is in the assembly.  We are to learn in the school of God.  There is a good book by James Butler Stoney  (1814-1897) – Discipline in the School of GodMaybe this is a good place to start.  Though we had best start on our knees first.


This is a subject which creates quite a bit of debate.  Believers’ baptism, infant baptism, household baptism – which is right?  Baptism by water puts us on Christian ground; it puts us into the house.  It does not confer salvation on us.  It does not put us into the assembly (or church) – By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body  (1 Cor 12:13) – That is because of God’s work, and our faith, which itself is God-given.   In an earlier project, I translated a very helpful letter, which I have put on ADOSS – see Why I could not be a Baptist. – Believers’ Baptism – Infant Baptism – Household Baptism – the House and the Assembly.

ADOSS Website

Even after a few months, the ADOSS website is getting a bit unwieldy.  I am therefore reorganising it, using ‘posts’ rather than ‘pages’ and indexing using categories.  Hopefully I shall avoid dead links, but apologies if you find some.

Money, Money, Money

A song of the world, by Abba, I think!  But I really get upset when I receive messages, some in heart-breaking terms, asking for money.  Maybe there is a genuine need; I don’t know, and cannot judge.  I am happy to help a known individual who I have met, and shared Christian experiences together who have a need.  Other than that there are organisations who know what local needs are, and are worthy of financial support.

I don’t like saying ‘No’, so please do not ask.  I will just point you to our heavenly Father who knows what we need and will give us everything necessary to prove His goodness.   Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.3But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt 6:31-33)

May you be blessed

Greetings in our Lord’s name.




Simplified Darby – on the Church as the Body of Christ, the Church as the Habitation of God, and Local Churches

In this paper, JN Darby introduced the thought of the local assembly and its function.

Most people, Christians included, think of churches in terms of the Anglican Church, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Church, the Roman Catholic Church etc., and the structures, church organisations and buildings associated with them. However, scripturally the Church is the Body of Christ, and churches the expression of that body in a place. Teachers, shepherds, evangelists and other gifts apply to the whole Church. Elders (or overseers) are local. The idea of a single person, appointed or voted into a professional position is totally of man’s order and sets aside the Spirit of God.

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

Churches and the Church

J N Darby

In this paper,  JN Darby introduced the thought of the local assembly and its function.

Most people, Christians included, think of churches in terms of the Anglican Church, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Church, the Roman Catholic Church etc., and the structures, church organisations and buildings associated with them.  However, scripturally the Church is the Body of Christ, and churches the expression of that body in a place.  Teachers, shepherds, evangelists and other gifts apply to the whole Church.  Elders (or overseers) are local.  The idea of a single person, appointed or voted into a professional position is totally of man’s order and sets aside the Spirit of God.

If we believe that the public church is ruined, and governed by man, not the Holy Spirit, then we should humbly cry to the Lord.  He will meet us in our need.

To view the complete paper – Churches and the Church – Click here

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 20 Ecclesiastical 4 – p318) containing this 

What is the Church?

The Greek word ἐκκλησίᾳ / ekklēsia simply means assembly – generally of citizens or privileged persons.  God’s Church or assembly comprised all believers formed into one by the Holy Spirit. It is viewed as the Body of Christ and also the Habitation of God.

The Church as the Body of Christ

The assembly is the Body of Christ; – his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:23).  It is by one Spirit we are baptised into one body.  The church is still being formed, and it will only be complete in heaven.

Jesus said “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it“  (Matthew 16:18).  Peter understood this and spoke of unto whom coming, as unto a living stone, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4), and Paul “in whom the whole building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:21).  The Lord continues to add to the church those that are to be saved  (Acts 2:47), and He will have it in perfection.   This has resulted in what some call ‘the invisible church’.

When Christ ascended up on high, He gave gifts to men: apostles and prophets were the foundation (Ephesians 2:20); then there were evangelists, shepherds and teachers.  These were set in the whole church or assembly according to 1 Corinthians 12.  So a teacher in Corinth could teach in Ephesus.  A man with a gift of tongues spoke wherever he was, it was a gift to the whole body, to the perfecting of the saints and edifying of the body till we all grow to the stature of Christ  (Ephesians 4-12:13).  Christians were to wait on one another in prophesying or exhorting.  Women were to keep silent in the assemblies.

The Church as the House (or Habitation) of God

There is another view of the Church, that is the House, a habitation of God, but built by people in responsibility.  God did not dwell with Adam or Abraham, but  He did with Israel after it was redeemed out of Egypt.  He now dwells in the house of the living God, by the Holy Spirit, consequent on Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, His resurrection and ascension.   The house is where the Holy Spirit dwells –  a habitation of God through the Spirit,” (Ephesians 2:22).

That is in spite of the fact that man has built a lot that is not of God.  Paul says “As a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, but let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon (1 Corinthians 3:10)That means that there can be a lot of things which were not sound structurally – wood and hay and stubble, fit only to be burned.  However, God has not yet executed judgment, but this is why, when He does judgment must begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17)

That is how the church or assembly is depicted in scripture.

What are Churches or Assemblies?

In New Testament times, Churches were local.  Believers could not meet all in one place so there were assemblies in each town or city, each forming God’s assembly, the unity of the body, in that place.  There was one church in Corinth, one in Thessalonica, Jerusalem or Ephesus; in Galatia, a province, there were several.  Wherever there was an assembly it could be addressed as such.  Paul could write a letter unto the church of God which is at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2), and that was to the whole assembly in that city.  It could be small or large, from ‘two or three’ to hundreds or thousands.  Elders or overseers looked after God’s flock.

They did not have church buildings – they met in houses.  The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48).  Many houses must have been used, but there was just one assembly in the place and elders related to the whole assembly in the place.  The Christians that composed it were members of the whole body, not the local one, the only membership seen in scripture being of the whole of Christ’s body.

Elders (called bishops in KJV, but the word means ‘overseer’) were local.  Qualifications were needed:  blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach (1 Timothy 3:2) , Gift was not essential, though the ability to teach was desirable.   They were elders in the one assembly of God, in the place in which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers (Acts 14:23Titus 1; Acts 20:28

The State of Churches Now

Churches are totally different now.  Although the Lord still speaks, and those who have been raised up may minister as God has given them the word, man has organized them according to his fancy. The thought of Church of God has been forgotten save for owning some ‘invisible church’ to which the Lord is faithful.  This is sad, because if it is to be the light of the world, how can it be invisible?  It may be more visible when persecuted for there people give their testimony under extreme conditions.

Publicly the church has sunk into popery, or eastern orthodoxy, or Protestantism.  In the latter governments have set up national churches.  For some time after the reformation people were coerced into certain churches, but later there was religious liberty.  This led to the setting up of independent or non-conformist churches, but nobody thought of anything other than systems of organized churches, humanly united.  The unity of the body of which we were all members and that the Holy Spirit was here, the gifts being given by Christ, and those with them bearing responsibility for the whole church; all this was wholly forgotten and left aside.  Truth as contained in scripture as to the Church and the presence of the Holy Spirit was ignored.

In the establishment, episcopal authority is deemed to be passed on by succession.  Furthermore, they claim to make people members of Christ by baptism of water – totally unscriptural, instead of  seeing that one Spirit are we all baptized into one body(1 Corinthians 12:13).  Baptism is to the death of Christ.

Even outside the episcopal system assemblies are formed by men who appointe or vote for a man, or woman, at their head.   Sometimes this causes a division.  People regard themselves as members of this so-formed church or assembly – a body organised by man and acting humanly.  They may be members of Christ or not: what counts is that they are members of a particular assembly.  The way this is done varies but the Holy Spirit is totally left out of consideration.  From beginning to end, all action is of man.

What is more, the assembly has a single church leader, be it a vicar, pastor or minister.  That person, often salaried, will think of it has his flock, not the flock of God.  If gifted, he may be a preacher,  but he preaches in his church; his gift is constrained to one place.  He may even not even be converted, but he has been educated for the ministerial profession and ordained.   His object is to increase the congregation, especially of well-to-do people who can contribute to the church’s funds and influence.  If he does not succeed he may be dismissed or forced to resign.  God’s constitution for the church has ben substituted by man’s and the Holy Spirit’s power and order is ignored, if it is believed on at all.  The results – let us not even talk about them!  The miserable consequences are well known in the church and in the world too.

The Scriptural View of Churches

In scripture there is no thought of a membership of a particular church, or a vicar, minister or pastor of a flock peculiar to him, and no thought of a voluntary assembly with its own policies or principles.  There is God’s church or assembly, not man’s churches.  If Paul wrote a letter “To the assembly of God in x”, where would it be delivered now?  No such body exists because churches have set aside the Word, the church of God and the Holy Spirit.

There are evangelists, shepherds and teachers.  But they should exercise their God given talents wherever they happen to be, not in a nominated church where they are appointed or chosen, and certainly not amongst ‘their flock’.  Gifts are for the whole church.

How should a Christian view the State of Christian Churches?

When questioned, the answer from Christians who appreciate what is right is often, ‘That is how it is’.  Godly, conscientious people are conversant with the state of things, and may acknowledge the principles that we have seen.  Their groans are heard.  But the system makes them powerless. They are hindered by the fear of man, and the desire to be pleasing to men.  Paul said if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:10).  Exercised souls need to act in faith trusting God, by His Spirit, to rule and bless His own house.

2 Timothy 2 and 3 clearly point out the condition of the church in the last days, and the pathway for the believer who acknowledges that condition.

Darby asks the simple question:  Is the existing order of things scriptural or anti-scriptural? … Happy is he who follows the word, and owns the Spirit, if he be alone in doing so. The word of the Lord abides for ever, as does he who does His will.

J.N. Darby (1800-1882)

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

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

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


[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]