What did John Nelson Darby and the Brethren hold?

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

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

 

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

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

 

A summary of his reply:

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

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

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

 

Darby’s early Christian Days

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Public Church

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

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

 

The Fall of the early Church

 

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

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

 

What the Faithful should understand

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

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

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

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

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

 

The early Brethren

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Brethren’s Walk

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

Sosthenes

November 2016

 

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

Darby on the Effects of Democracy in Britain – How Prophetic he was!

J N Darby wrote a short paper ‘Progress of Democratic Power, and its Effects on the Moral State of England*’ sometime after the Reform Act of 1832. It is interesting to look back and to see how perceptive that servant of God was maybe 170 years ago. Some things have certainly come true. Other things he did not directly foresee.

House of commonsJ N Darby wrote a short paper ‘Progress of Democratic Power, and its Effects on the Moral State of England*’ sometime after the Reform Act of 1832.  It is interesting to look back and to see how perceptive that servant of God was maybe 170 years ago.  Some things have certainly come true.  Other things he did not directly foresee.

The Reform Act served to create the democratic structure that we enjoy in Britain now, with the primacy of the House of Commons (in theory anyway), and the weakening of the House of Lords.  It moved voting power from the landed gentry to the cities, evening the voting power.  Universal suffrage and other reforms followed naturally.  Then the two main parties were the Conservatives (or Tories, largely ruled by the upper class and the Church of England) and the Liberals (or Whigs, largely urban, non-conformist and middle class).

 

Here is a short summary of the points he made.

  1. A Christian ought not to meddle in politics.
  2. No political party can be trusted.
  3. Politicians have no idea of principles, but only of existing influences to which they must be subject.
  4. To conform to the politics of the time, the Church (of England) would descend into ritualism on Popish lines, and semi-infidelity.
  5. With universal suffrage the ‘poor’ would cease to be that, and be the masters.
  6. The aristocracy, no longer governing, would lapse into luxurious living and pleasure.
  7. Religious dissenters would have little effect.
  8. Man’s efforts and success would be vaunted. God would be left out.
  9. Violence would not be used to bring these things about.
  10. Power would move to central government.
  11. An unpaid magistracy would have considerable influence.

 

Let us look at these individually.

A Christian ought not to meddle in politics.

This was true in JND’s time; it is true now.  I must confess to an undue amount of interest in politics and if I were not a lover of the Lord, I would probably have become involved in politics.  We must, of course, be politically aware in order to pray righty for those in authority.  It is clear that Darby was.

As we have been taught our citizenship is not here.  We belong to another kingdom and we are waiting for the rightful King to take up His universal rights here.

 

No political party can be trusted.

Few would dispute this.  Indeed we can see how the main political parties have changed their ground over the past few years to appeal to marginal voters in the electorate.  Modern parties with their professional politicians and advisors, all look at the polls and focus groups.

 

Politicians have no idea of principles, but only of existing influences to which they must be subject.

This seems an extreme statement.  But the main bent of politicians is to be elected, or re-elected at the next general election.  The result is a focus on short-term issues and what would appeal to those minority sections of the community whose vote would swing on the basis of their vote.   Politicians have been found to be untrustworthy, witness the expenses scandal.

 

To conform to the politics of the time the Church (of England) would descend into ritualism on Popish lines, and semi-infidelity.

This would appear to be prophetic.  Synods debate issues, seeking to adapt the church to modern ways of thinking.  This includes women priests and bishops, attitudes to homosexuality including the practice of it in the clergy.  Scripture is seldom referred to, and no account is taken of God’s rights.

As to ritualism, there are those who are ‘evangelical’ but most would regard themselves as ‘traditionalists’.  Moves to reconcile the Church of England to Rome are well known, as is the ecumenical movement.

 

With universal suffrage the ‘poor’ would cease to be that, and be the masters.

This is an interesting thought.  Having been brought up in a one-man-one-vote democracy, it is difficult to think of this.  But the effect of it can be appreciated by some of us who are a getting on in years.  We can look back to the 1960’s and 70’s when the trade unions were holding Britain to ransom.  Both main political parties yielded to their demands.

We can be thankful for the welfare state in providing for the basic needs of all, paid for by taxation.  However even this has led to less dependence on God, and a lack of charity on those with means.

 

The aristocracy, no longer governing, would lapse into luxurious living and pleasure.

Maybe it is not just the aristocracy.  We now have this ‘celebrity culture’.  These as well as the high profile aristocrats have become icons leading to the popularity of magazines such as ‘Hello!’  They are pictured in parties, yachts etc.  People like it this way.  Darby noted this trend even in the 19th century.

Religious dissenters would have little effect.

This seems true.  Evangelical Christians are regarded as marginal.  Some showing their faith are taken to court.  Little attention is paid by the unsympathetic media who love to mock Christianity and Christians.

 

Man’s efforts and success would be vaunted.  God would be left out.

Technological advances, for which we are thankful, have served to make people more and more independent of God.  Men (and of course women) regard themselves as master of their own destiny.  They see the results of some of their action in climate change, but think that they can do what they can themselves to avert catastrophes.  The earth is the Lord’s and He will not allow things to become intolerable – that is until the judgments in Revelation.

 

Violence would not be used to bring these things about.

When we look at the earlier part of the 20th century with two world wars things are relatively safe now.   Indeed, there are claims that man has improved himself and such lawlessness is a thing of the past.  Getting people’s hearts and minds is achieved by peaceful means.  This is over against Islamic terrorism.

 

Power would move to central government.

This has been true.  Local authorities are very weak, and much has been taken out of their control.  Health and education are largely national matters.  Currently there is alarm over the amount of control there is from the European Union.

 

An unpaid magistracy would have considerable influence.

Whilst only the lowest level of the judiciary is unpaid, i.e magistrates, the move to see the magistrates and judges playing to the secular agenda is alarming.   Human rights, inclusivism and non-discrimination have been used to outlaw even criticism of evil practices.  Without money the motivation is power.

What did JND miss?

 

Islam – he did not predict the effect of large scale immigration especially from countries like Pakistan,  Bangladesh and the Middle East.  There are only three passing references to Islam in the Collected Writings.

Promotion of Homosexuality  –  I suppose the subject was not even talked about – as it was not when I was a boy.  But its promotion, along with the acceptance of sexual promiscuity and adultery, are just witnesses to the decline of moral standards, even beyond that which Darby had imagined.

 

Nationalism – There is no reference to independence movements such as Ireland (in the early 20th century) and Scottish (currently).  However I am sure Darby would have recognised this, especially with his Anglo-Irish background.

 

What is the Antidote?

Darby wrote ‘The Christian may walk in peace through it all, waiting for God’s Son from heaven, and keeping the word of His patience; yea, he may have a specially blessed place of testimony in the midst of it all, but a lowly one, content to be nothing in a world which has rejected Christ and is ripening for His judgment. Our part is to keep His word and not deny His name.’

 

* J N Darby Collected Writings Volume 32 (Miscellaneous 1) – page 333.

See Stem Publishing for on-line version.

Sosthenes

January 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christ loves the Assembly

jb-stoneyDo you think that because things are in a disorganised state, that Christ has less love for the assembly than He once had? …. Her very feebleness draws forth fresh expressions of His love.

James Butler Stoney (1814-1897)

How are we to regard other Christians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sosthenes

 

July 2015

Man always spoils what God has set up perfectly

Let me add that God, in His history of man, has shown what flesh is, and even the creature left to himself. The first thing man has always done is to spoil what God has set up good.

An epilogue to

 J. N. Darby‘s

JohnNelsonDarbyUnion in Incarnation, the Root Error of Modern Theology

Let me add that God, in His history of man, has shown what flesh is, and even the creature left to himself. The first thing man has always done is to spoil what God has set up good. Man himself —

  • The first thing we read of him is eating the forbidden fruit.
  • The first Noah did, after offering thanksgiving for his deliverance, was to get drunk.
  • Israel made the golden calf, before Moses came down from the mountain.
  • Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire the first day after being consecrated, and Aaron never went into the holy of holies in his garments of glory and beauty.
  • The son of David, Solomon, loved many strange women, and the kingdom was divided.
  • The Gentile head of gold persecuted the godly, and became a beast, characterising the empires that followed him for the seven times.

What shall we say of the church? How soon did all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ, and forsake the devoted and faithful apostle! John could say, “There are many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time.” But God has worked on in grace, in spite of this, to shew what He is, His longsuffering and goodness and patience. So all those things — man, the law, the priesthood, royalty in the Son of David, He that rises to reign over the Gentiles, His being glorified in His saints — all is made good in its place in the Second Man, the Last Adam. May His name be eternally praised! As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy. As is the Heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

Sosthenes

June 2015

For original see  Union in Incarnation, the Root Error of Modern Theology

For my summary see Christ’s Coming into Manhood – Some Errors Exposed

Two or Three

It would be out of keeping with the Lord’s mind if we should assume to be the collective thing; it would not be according to the truth. We are on individual lines now, in the public aspect; but after all, the principles hold – they are always workable; and the “two or three” of Matthew answers our position. But if we lose sight of the whole church, failing to own the dreadful breakdown, we shall be only a sect, and we shall not have the Lord.

(J. Taylor New Series volume 29, p. 300)

 

Submitted as a Golden Nugget by:-

Saville Street Distribution
Venture, Princes Esplanade,
Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex CO14 8QD

J N Darby – French Letter No. 141 – The Present State of the Church

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

141[1]

London – 22nd November 1870

To Mr B

Dear Brother

You ask me for some words on the apostasy. I do not hold to the word apostasy. It expresses rather the public denial of Christianity, which abandons the principles by those who make profession of it. But fundamentally, the matter itself is of all importance for the heart and for the conscience. As long as this word is not applied to Romish sectarians, there would be no trouble in using it, but when it is realised that, if this decline of Christendom has come about, the consequence of it would be universal, one begins taking exception to the use of the word. The open apostasy has not yet come, but rather the abandonment of faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit, the substitution of the clergy’s authority over the immediate rights of the Lord over the conscience; the degeneration of justification by faith, the efficacy of sacraments in place of the work of the Holy Spirit. In a word, the full development of the mystery of lawlessness is preceded by an abandonment of the first estate of the church and the principles on which it is founded, which is a moral apostasy. John says, “ye have heard that antichrist comes, even now there have come many antichrists, whence we know that it is the last hour”[2]. Thus, the apostasy has not come in the sense of a public renunciation of Christianity, [but rather] of the Word, and of Christ Himself, which characterises the majority of the population of Western Europe. It is rationalism properly speaking, and the spirit of rebellion that accompanies it. Men’s minds have no place for the word of God, the authority of which is no longer accepted; the will of man no longer desires the authority of Christ. If the antichrist is not already there, antichrists have existed for a long time; if the apostasy is not there, the spirit of the apostasy has already taken over the minds of men a long time.

I say that the thing is serious. If the assembly – for the word church confounds us a lot, since it begs the question what the church is – if the assembly of God does not keep its first estate, if it has said: “My Lord delays to come”[3], and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and to drink and to be drunken; there has been a long time, centuries, when it has done this, and it will be cut in two and have its part with the hypocrites. It is said that Christ built His assembly on the rock, and that the gates of hades will not prevail against it. I believe it, thanks be to God, with all my heart. But that has nothing to do with our question. Certainly, what Christ built will not be overthrown by the enemy; but it is a matter of what man has built. It is not the same there. Paul says, “as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation, but another builds upon it. But let each see how he builds upon it”[4]. Here the responsibility of man comes in for something – in a certain sense for all – into the question of the building. It is indeed God’s building, as the apostle says, but put up under man’s responsibility; a present thing on the earth. It is not about the salvation of individuals, but of the state of the system in which these individuals are found. When the end of Judaism under the first covenant had come about, pious souls, believers, were transferred into the church – God had finished for ever with the first system. At the end of the Christian system, the faithful will be transported to heaven, and judgment will come finally on the system from which they have previously come; nothing is simpler. The old world has perished: Noah and his own were saved. The judgment of a system does not affect God’s faithfulness; it is only to put it into evidence in showing that He keeps His own, even if all that encircles them collapses under the weight of His judgment. But can there be anything more serious than the judgment of what God established on the earth, for it is a hard thing to His heart; if Jesus could weep over Jerusalem, how much should His own not be moved at the sight of the approaching judgment of what was even more precious than Jerusalem. It is thus that Jeremiah, instrument of the groaning of the Spirit of God under the old economy, shows in words of a touching beauty, his deep sorrow at the ruin of what belonged to God. “And he hath violently cast down his enclosure as a garden; he hath destroyed his place of assembly … The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath rejected his sanctuary” (Lam 2: 6, 7). See the spirit in which the faithful had to think of the ruin of what is called by the Name of Christ. But it will be said to me: ‘Yes, that is understood, when it was a matter of Judaism, but this cannot happen to Christianity.’ This is exactly what the unbelieving Jews said in Jeremiah’s time: “for law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor word from the prophet” (Jer 18: 18): false confidence which brought ruin on the people and on the holy city. But there is more than this. It is precisely against this false confidence that Paul, in Romans 11, solemnly warns Christians among the Gentiles, that is to say ourselves, in establishing the parallel between the Jews and Christianity. “Behold then the goodness and severity of God: upon them who have fallen, severity; upon thee goodness of God, if thou shalt abide in goodness, since otherwise thou also wilt be cut away”, that is to say that the Christian system in the midst of the Gentiles is subject to the same judgment as the Jewish system. If the Gentiles who are only standing by faith alone, do not persevere in the goodness of God, they will fall away in the same way as the Jews. Is Romanism perseverance in the goodness of God? Are the “difficult times” the fruit of perseverance in the goodness of God, or indeed this form of piety which denies the power of it, and from which the Christian must separate? (2 Tim 3). If the apostle can say that all seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ[5], is that persevering in the goodness of God? If Paul foresaw that after his departure evil would come in straightaway[6], the powerful hand of the apostle not being there to hold the door shut against the adversary; if Jude had to say that already those who were the objects of judgment had slipped into the church; if John has said that they had forsaken the Christians, being gone out from among them[7], a step further than what Jude spoke of; if he has said again that there were many antichrists and that it was recognised from this that it was the last times; if Peter announces to us that the times were come for judgment to begin at the house of God[8]; does all this lead us to believe that the Gentiles have continued in God’s goodness, or rather that the Christian system, established among the Gentiles, will be terminated by judgment, the terrible judgment of God? – that, as outward profession, it will drink the cup of His wrath unmixed, or will be spewed out of His mouth like something nauseously lukewarm[9]? This is solemn for our consciences. Do we go as a system before the judgments of God? Assuredly, the faithful will enjoy a more excellent part; a heavenly glory, but the Christian system, as a system on the earth, will be cut off for ever.

As to the quotation made by Mr B, it is entirely false. The Scriptures speak of the assembly as being God’s habitation down here: the whole question lies here. In a house, it is not a matter of union, but of dwelling.

As to the body of Christ, there could be no dead members. One can deceive men, but he who is in fact united to the Lord is one Spirit with Him. The body is formed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12). Then Christ builds a house which will only be realised when the last stone is put there; it increases to be a holy temple in the Lord. But we have seen down here the building being confided to men, it may be that the building is ill-built and attract the judgment of God on what has been done. As the church has been established as the pillar and base of the truth, it will always be responsible to maintain this position; it is another thing to say that it has maintained it.

The first epistle to Timothy depicts for us the order of the house of God, and how man must conduct himself in this house. Does he conduct himself so? That is the question. If yes, whence comes Popery? The second epistle to Timothy regulates the conduct of the faithful when disorder has been introduced. Already, things in Christianity were no longer in the state in which they were found beforehand. At the beginning, the Lord added each day to the church those who were to be saved. They were manifested and added under the eyes of the world, a body well known. But when the apostle wrote to Timothy his second epistle, all was already changed. What he can say is that the Lord knows those who are His; it could well be that they remained hidden to man, as the 7,000 faithful to Elijah. But with this there is a rule for the faithful, that is, whosoever names the name of the Lord withdraws from iniquity[10]. Then comes the thought of the great house. One must expect to find in a great house vessels to dishonour as well as vessels to honour. But here again is a rule for the faithful: it is necessary to purify oneself from vessels to dishonour, and not only that, but one must pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. In this state of disorder, I cannot know as at the beginning all those who are God’s; but as to my personal walk, I must associate myself with those who have a pure heart. Moreover, in chapter 3, the apostle teaches us that, in the last days, difficult times will be there, where there will be a form of piety while the power of it is denied. Not avowed apostasy, for there is the form of piety, but real, moral apostasy since the power of it is denied. Mr B says that I must stay there and content myself. The apostle tells me: “From such turn away”. Who must I obey? When Mr B tells me that it is impossible to distinguish the true faithful from those who make profession of Christianity, while the apostle says that he who invokes the name of the Lord should withdraw from iniquity, that I must purify myself from vessels to dishonour, to seek the Christian graces with those who invoke the name of the Lord, out of a pure heart; how can I listen to him who tells me that it is impossible to distinguish one from the other? If he tells me that there may be many souls that the Lord knows that we do not recognise, I answer, ‘Without doubt, the Lord knows those that are His, but I have directions for my conduct in this state of things, which contradict yours’. I must recognise those who invoke the name of the Lord out of a pure heart and associate myself with them, and thus to distinguish them; to purify myself from vessels to dishonour, and thus to distinguish them, and to avoid those who have the form of piety while denying the power of it. It is therefore very necessary to distinguish them. However, it is a frightful principle to say that one cannot distinguish between the children of God and the people of the world. It is not true that it cannot be done. I have said, ‘a frightful principle’ for it is said: “By this shall all know that ye are disciples of mine, if ye have love amongst yourselves”[11]. For if I cannot discern them, I can no more love them, and the testimony that God wants is lost; then, it is not true in practice that one cannot discern them, for one enjoys brotherly fellowship, and every faithful Christian makes the distinction between a child of God and those who are not so. That there are others that are not discerned, but whom God knows, is not denied; but the passages that I have cited in 2 Timothy direct us as to this … What would become of a family’s affections if a father said to his children: You cannot know who are your brothers and who are not; you must associate yourselves with everybody without any distinction whatsoever? I do not look in the dictionaries, as we are told to do, but into the consciences and hearts of those who love the Lord, in taking the word of God to see what the state of the church is at the beginning, and what it is now. What does this Word say to us to make us know what the church has become in the last times? The word could not be clearer on the decadence of the church, on the character of these last times, and on the setting aside of the Christian system. The word is clear enough on the unity which must subsist as testimony rendered to the world that He lives (John 17). If a letter was addressed by the apostle to the church of God which is in Turin, who would collect the letter from the post, unless those of the Romish system? The church as it was at the beginning no longer exists. Call it what name you want, provided that the heart feels it and provided that they take to heart the glory of the Lord trodden underfoot by men. If the church, in its present state, is not yet the harlot sat on the beast, of which the Revelation speaks, the indifference of conscience which can make a squabble about the use of a word is the most sensitive proof of lukewarmness which results, at the end, in Christ spewing the church out of his mouth.

… Besides, there is nothing in this ruin of the assembly which is not in accordance with the history of man since the beginning. As soon as man has been left to himself, he has fallen; unfaithful in his ways; he has cast off his primitive state and never returned to it. God does not re-establish it, but He gives salvation by redemption, and brings man into an infinitely more glorious state, in the second Man, Jesus Christ. When Noah had been saved in the ruin of the whole world, the first thing that we read after his sacrifice is that he got drunk; when the law was given, before Moses had descended from the mountain, Israel had made the golden calf; the first day after the consecration of Aaron, his sons offered strange fire, and entry into the holiest of all was forbidden to Aaron, save on the day of atonement; he never wore his garments of glory and beauty. The first son of David, Solomon, type of the Lord, fell into idolatry, and the kingdom was immediately divided. In all these cases, the patience of God has been gloriously manifested, but the system that God had set up as a system in relation with Himself has been set aside. This is least evident in the case of Noah because a formal relationship did not exist in the same sense. The confusion of Babel having terminated the order of the world, the tyranny and wars came about, but for what concerns man, Israel, the priesthood, the kingdom, whatever had been God’s patience, man has fallen immediately, and the system has never been re-established on its old footing. It is not surprising that this is found again in the history of the church, as being placed under man’s responsibility. It has said: My Lord delays His coming, and has begun to beat the servants and unite itself with the world. It will be cut off. The great principle of Romanism and other systems which are like it more or less, and which makes them essentially false, is that they attribute to Christianity, to the assembly organised by means of ordinances, the stability and the immutable privileges which only belong to what Christ builds, and what is wrought by the Holy Spirit. All sorts of false doctrines are the result of this error. One is born of God, member of the body of Christ, this is what an article says in The Christian Look-out[12]; this is what the passage cited by Mr B says. He forgets one of two principal characters of the church according to the Word, precisely that where man’s responsibility comes in, that of being the habitation of God on the earth. He presents us the state in which the church is presently found, and certainly it is not composed of true members of Christ, without giving us an account, without giving us any particulars whatever on this subject, so that we may know if this state is good or bad, where it comes from or where it will end, and how the Word judges it. The expressions which he makes us of are equivalent to those of the unbelieving Jews in the times of Jeremiah. We are free of all these abominations. Nobody can say that the state of the church, of Christendom, resembles in any way what characterised it at the beginning according to the Word; there was not in any way either Romanism, or the National church, or dissidents. There was the church of God and nothing else. It corrupted itself very quickly, one will say; very well, but was this a good thing? There was then a church to corrupt, an assembly where certain men had slipped in. Was this corruption a good thing, or does it lead to judgment? Has there not been frightful progress since then? Is the church of God re-established on the earth? Must I suffer its state? Must I not seek in the Word how this will end, and take care with it? We have cited the Word, may each judge before God what it says. If we find ourselves in difficult times, does not the Word give us some rules so that we can trace the way in which we must walk?

If someone has the conviction that we are in these times, let him read 2 Timothy 2 and 3, and place himself before God who has given these instructions, with an entire confidence in Christ. The result as to these instructions is not doubtful. May he know to walk with God. Let us remember that, in every position in which the first Adam has failed, man is gloriously re-established in the second. But that is a subject, very interesting though it be, into which I cannot enter here.

Make use, dear brother, as you see fit of these pages; I have written them in haste. From 7 o’clock in the morning to midnight, I have always to work; I have meetings every day, then other work of every kind, I have still the correction of the new edition of the English New Testament, and often the French also at the same time.

The brethren are well.

I did not know who had sent me the Look-out until the arrival of your letter. My response came a bit late, but that has not mattered much; the subject remains important. Only present the gospel more than the controversy.

I have written on the epistle to the Romans, you will find something there perhaps; this is not yet prepared.

Yours very affectionately

[1] a different version of this letter also appears in JND’s published Letters – vol 3 p94

[2] 1 John 2: 18

[3] Luke 12: 45

[4] 1 Cor 3: 10

[5] Phil 2: 21

[6] See Acts 20: 29; Jude 4

[7] 1 John 2: 19

[8] 1 Peter 4: 17

[9] See Rev 14: 10; 3: 16

[10] See 2 Tim 2: 19 et seq

[11] John 13: 35

[12] JND gives the Italian title – la Vedetta Cristiana – a Christian publication commenced in 1870 by Teodorico Pietrocola Rossetti, a preacher and a patriot of the Italian Risorgimento – a 19th-century movement for Italian unification that culminated in the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861

 

Letter originally written in French, translated by Sosthenes, 2013
Click here for original – If you have any comments on the translation, feel free to let me know.

Adoss Newsletter – No 13 – October 2014

‘Tis not far off-the hour
When Christ will claim His own;
We soon shall hear that voice of power;
The Lord Himself shall come!

The days are passing by,
The years flow on apace;
Lord Jesus, Thy return draws nigh,
We long to see Thy face.

 

Zech 4:10
By Σωσθένης Ὁἀδελφὸς – Sosthenes the Brother

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord

2014 is almost over. When I was a boy, I was told that the Lord would have certainly come for His church by the year 2000. In the 1950’s, 2000 was a lifetime away (so it seemed then). But the years have flown by. We are nearly 2015 and the Lord hasn’t come – yet! But the Lord IS coming soon – we just don’t know when. I am reminded of the verses:

 

‘Tis not far off-the hour
When Christ will claim His own;
We soon shall hear that voice of power;
The Lord Himself shall come!
 
The days are passing by,
The years flow on apace;
Lord Jesus, Thy return draws nigh,
We long to see Thy face.

 

See the full spiritual song: ‘Tis not far off-the hour’

 

An Outline to the Bible

Outline of Bible coverOver the past few months I have been editing a booklet based on J N Darby’s Outline to the books of the Bible.’ This is 80- page summary, highlighting the Holy Spirit’s principal messages, less well known than his five volume synopsis. It is now available in draft form and you can download it by clicking here. Please feel free to circulate it, but note that it is still a draft. If you see anything that looks wrong please send me an email. I would like to put the booklet into print in due course, but I wait on God as to when and how.

 

The Rule Book

A year or so ago a friend of mine gathered a few young people and encouraged them to ask questions – about anything. The majority were of the lines ‘Why are we not allowed to have TV?’ , ‘Why can’t I join a rock band?’ and the like. You can imagine how sad my friend was. Christianity doesn’t have a rule book – the Bible certainly isn’t one, even though it tells us what is pleasing to God and what is not.

I trust that some came away saying ‘I don’t want a TV because of the torrent of filth on it that I cannot control’, and ‘I don’t want to be a member of a rock group, because Jesus would never have been a member.’

The Second Man, and Deliverance from Sin

This caused me to work on two articles for ADOSS based on papers by JND.

The first was based on a preaching. After covering the basics of the gospel, Darby said that sin must be put away perfectly. The sinner brought back to God must be spotless. Christ did not enter heaven again until He had settled the whole question of our sins and of sin itself. The moment I, as a poor sinner, look by faith to Jesus as my divine sin-bearer, all my sins are gone – they are put out of God’s sight for ever.   I am pardoned through His blood, peace having been made through the blood of the cross. And the glorified Man is in heaven, appearing in the presence of God for us – of His Father and our Father, of His God and our God. No sin there

The second paper shows what wonderful freedom we have. Not only as believers are we to be free of guilt, but we are to know deliverance from the law of sin and death. We still have the flesh, its will and lusts, and in our own strength there is nothing we can do. As a result of Christ’s death, the Christian can say, ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death’ (Rom 8:2). As a result we can know newness of life and the liberty of sonship. I am free, because the sin I have discovered in my flesh has been condemned in the cross of Christ. By faith I am crucified with Him; I have a new place before God, beyond death, judgment and Satan’s power. That place is liberty.

 

Zechariah

It would appear that in 520BC Zechariah, Buddah and Confucius were all engaged in their work. Which one brought people back to God? Who said ‘Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you’ (Zech 1:3). Who had an idea of God’s standard (the measuring line) Zech. 2? Who saw a man’s filthy garments changed to festival robes (Zech 3 – Darby trans. – from our own righteousness to God’s)? And which could speak of the sons of oil (Zech 4 – the limitless supply from God’s Holy Spirit)?

These two wise men from the East were no more than that – giving good advice – but none changing the man which cannot be improved, however much men try!

 

We cry to God for the state of the Church

Up till now the Roman Catholic church, despite its idolatry, human organisation and wrong teaching, stood for some things that were right – upholding marriage, condemning homosexual activity etc. Protestantism had already bowed to the times. Now even Catholicism is following suit. Looking at prophecy, that is not surprising. Let there be a call – not to change the system – but for true hearts to follow Jesus ‘outside the camp’

 

asia_bibi_a_4X3And let us cry to God for those whose Lives are in Danger

The headline on an email I received this week says ‘Aasia Bibi’s appeal against death sentence rejected’. This young mother has been languishing in prison since being falsely accused by some of her co-workers of defiling the name of Mohammed. The government of Pakistan could well bow to international pressure in such a high profile case. But how many others are there? – in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, North Korea knowing the literality of the verse, ‘Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life’. (Rev 2:10).

We may not know them, but they are our brethren.

May we, like they, be kept close to the Lord.

God’s blessings, your brother,

Sosthenes Hoadelphos

 

 

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – The Revelation

he Book of Revelation presents the return of the Holy Spirit’s witness to God’s relationship with the earth. At first we have the church, as an earthly witness, but then the saints of the heavenly calling are seen only in heaven. It sets the stage for the return of God’s First-Begotten to the world. Then we have a prophetic view of God’s judgments, the book introducing the King of kings and Lord of lords Himself to execute judgment and to set up the kingdom which shall never be removed. He is accompanied by the heavenly saints.

lay-preaching

The Book of Revelation presents the return of the Holy Spirit’s witness to God’s relationship with the earth. At first we have the church, as an earthly witness, but then the saints of the heavenly calling are seen only in heaven. It sets the stage for the return of God’s First-Begotten to the world. Then we have a prophetic view of God’s judgments, the book introducing the King of kings and Lord of lords Himself to execute judgment and to set up the kingdom which shall never be removed. He is accompanied by the heavenly saints.

At the beginning and end, we have the thoughts and feelings of the saints:

  • The first refers to the cross, and its bearing on the saints, looking back at their own part in that which laid the foundation of Christ’s title. This brought judgment on the world.
  • At the end we have the saints’ own portion with Christ Himself. They look forward to His glory. Meanwhile they are conscious of it and its present fruit.

Ch. 1 presents God as supreme and eternal. We have the Holy Spirit in His attributes of divine administration, and Christ in His glory as connected with the earth. He is coming. He calls John’s attention to His glory on earth, not in service but in judgment. He walks in the midst of the candlesticks, the place of light in the world, judging the state of the churches. We find a divine person, the Son of man having subordinate representative authority in His hand: the stars and the angels of the churches. These are the things that were seen.

Next we have ‘the things that are’. We get:

  • Ephesus – departure from first love.
  • Smyrna – persecution
  • Pergamos – the world its dwelling-place
  • Thyatira and Sardis – false teachers seducing the saints; their corruption settled there, and the saints thus to wait for Christ’s coming, who is given to them in His own heavenly unseen associations, and the visible kingdom too.
  • Philadelphia – a little power
  • Laodicea – spued out of His mouth

In the four first churches it is a question of personal fidelity od that church to Christ. Christ is walking amidst the candlesticks. In the last three, the stars are not said to be in His hand; they all refer with warnings or promises to the coming of the Lord.

The vision then switches to heaven. The world’s judgment flows from there, and the saints are viewed as enthroned and crowned there. God’s throne of judgment is set up in heaven, and the ministers of His government proclaim His glory, while the saints worship.

Ch. 4-5: The Lamb appears; His glory is celebrated. Heaven owns His title to open the book of God’s ways, and the angels stand around the inner circle of those connected with the throne (24 elders, 4 living creatures). The elders give their reasons for worship. The Lamb now opens the book.

Ch. 6: The providential history of God’s dealings in the Western Roman earth is presented. We see the martyrs who cry for judgment. There is a universal subversion of the subsisting powers, so that men are alarmed as if the day of the Lord were come.

Ch. 7: The remnant of Israel is marked out for preservation; the multitude of the Gentiles to be spared are owned.

Ch. 8: The first four trumpets are the specific judgments on earthly prosperity and the power of the Western Roman Empire.

Ch. 9-11: The next two judgments are on the men of the East. Then we get a parenthesis: the great Western beast. A testimony is given, which comes to a close before the end of the period of the second woe. At last we have the seventh trumpet, which closes the whole scene.

Ch. 12: A new vision of special dealings is now opened, more connected with the religious condition of men. The Jewish people are seen, as heaven sees them, in the counsels and purposes of God. So a Son is to be born, Christ, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron. The whole church is united to Him. But this is taken to heaven and God’s throne, out of the way of the dragon. The woman – the Jewish people in the latter day in distress – flees from three and a half years’ persecution into the wilderness. There is war in heaven. Satan is cast down, having great rage, knowing that his time is short. His career in heaven is ended. He can no longer accuse the saints on the earth, but he persecutes the Jews. They flee, so he turns to persecute the witnesses amongst them.

Ch. 13: Next, we see the earthly agents: the beast, with seven heads and ten horns, who receives his power from Satan for 1260 days. He blasphemes what is heavenly, and persecutes the saints. Then a second beast, in the prophetic and royal character of a messiah, exercises his power, making the world worship him. He does miracles, and gives breath to the image which he has caused to be made.

Ch. 14: We now have the remnant who suffer like Christ. We also have the testimony, judgments and warnings of God. Finally, we have the judgment of the earth, and the destruction of the wicked by the Son of man.

Ch. 15: Another great sign follows, not necessarily at the same time or immediately after it. It reaches down to the the throne of the beast. The saints, who pass through the time of tribulation, are viewed as at rest. The sea of glass is mingled with fire.

Ch. 16: The vials are poured out. They are on the earth, and particularly strike the beast’s kingdom, and those who dwell in it. Then all the kings of the earth gather themselves together. The smiting does not correct them, but galls their pride. Finally, the last judgment of God is executed even on Babylon, the beast remaining to be defeated by the Lamb.

Ch. 17-18: We have a description of what the woman is: how she rides the horned beast, corrupting all nations. The Lamb overcomes both of them. Babylon is Rome.

Ch. 19: After Babylon is judged, the marriage of the Lamb takes place. He comes forth out of His heavenly seclusion, as King of kings and Lord of lords, to be revealed in the earth. As he comes out as the word of God in judgment, the saints, witnessed in righteousness in the fruit of their works, accompany Him. The beast and the false prophet (the second beast), are taken and cast to their final doom, their royal character having disappeared. The rest are slain. This is the judgment of power and war.

Note that the rapture of the church belongs to the church revelation, so it could not come into the Book of Revelation. However, we see the saints in heaven.

Ch. 20: Then Satan is bound, and shut up in the abyss for a thousand years. Sessional judgment follows. All the heavenly saints are on thrones, for this is royal judgment, and judgment is given to them – this is the first resurrection. After that we have the second resurrection, in which the dead are to be judged and condemned.

Ch. 21:1-8: Heaven and earth flee away; death and hades give up all. God is all in all in a new heavens and new earth.

Ch. 21:9-22:5: The Spirit returns to give a description of the heavenly Jerusalem during the millennium (as He had of Babylon and its relationship to the earth).

Ch. 22:6-21: After warnings to those who are in the time of the book, Christ comes forward Himself as the One who had given the revelation. This draws out in the bride, with whom is the Spirit, to express the desire of His coming. Expressed is her position – towards Christ, towards those who hear the word, and towards sinner. John seals the book with his own desires those of the church, ‘Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

The re-introduction of God’s government into this world in Christ, in this book, and the discovery of the heavenly position of the church, is full of interest and doctrine. Meanwhile judgment of the world and its course, is confided to the church which closes the book both historically and doctrinally, the church herself being above the world.

This closes the canon of scripture.

 

Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes,  October 2014

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