What is the Heavenly Vision or Call of the Church?

Recently a brother wrote to me needing to answer the following question:
What is the heavenly vision or call of the church?   People I speak to want to know what is the purpose of the church?  I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking about this question, but what is the best approach or angle to take when answering?  I believe it’s a very important question that I should be able to answer when I’m asked.
This question affects a lot of things. What should be our focus as a local church? The gospel, soup kitchens, ending poverty (social gospel), trying to change culture, etc.

My answer: The true Church – and what it is in the Sight of Men

I have been giving more thought to this question.  We need to see what the church is in the sight of Christ – which is the true Church – and what it is in the sight of men – a religion here.
Before starting, Christians must realise that their calling is a heavenly one.  ‘Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus’ (Heb 3:1).
The Greek word ἐκκλησίᾳ /ekklēsia/Strong 1577 .  The word implies people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church or assembly comprised of all believers formed into one by the Holy Spirit. It is viewed as the body of Christ and also the habitation of God.  In a more general sense. it meant simply assembly – e.g. calling together for a civil function.  Incidentally, the English word ‘church’ or German ‘Kirche’ comes from the Greek word κυριακός/kyriakos/Strong 2960, ‘belonging to the Lord’ (kyrios), the French ‘église’ from ‘ekklēsia’.  The Hebrew word ‘קָהָל/qahal/Strong H6951’ has a similar meaning.
We must recognise the direct role of the Spirit of God.  It has been said that the Holy Spirit ‘is here; but He has taken a lowly place, . . .and has been here on earth for over 1,900 years in that lowliness. He maintains what is due to God according to what God is in heaven; there is a perfect answer to that in the presence of the Spirit down here, and the Spirit is here in the assembly; and that brings out the greatness of the assembly’s place too, but nevertheless the assembly is never part of the Deity.’  and ‘The assembly is nearest to Deity in the whole realm. What is sovereign is seen in the assembly.’ [*]  That being the case what has the assembly to do with the things of this world?

The Church in the Sight of Christ

The church is a perfect vessel (for the want of a better word), formed exclusively of saints worked on by the Spirit of God, apart from sin.  It has been said that it is of heaven in origin and destiny.  It is here in the body of Christ and its hope is totally towards Jesus – as a bride is towards her bridegroom.  Her desire is to be with Him – and therefore has no part here.  But she does care for His interests here.  His interests are what is for Him, His glory and to worship the Father, and for the members of His body to point to Him.  The church’s view is God-ward, not man-ward.
Ministry is for those of the church universally (as there is only one church) – ‘we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness’. (Romans 12:5-7)
The fact that it is ‘called out’ is important.  If it is ‘called out’ it cannot be ‘part of’.  Over the centuries Christians have been called out of every other religious organisation – in the earliest days Judaism and paganism, later Catholicism, later nationally established churches, later clericalism, and more recently social liberalism, charismatic Christendom or systematic legalism.  Importantly, if we are called out of something, we cannot reform it.  It is in the attempt to reform the old lump that Christians have become unstuck.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 makes this clear ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.’
This brings me to:

The Church in the Sight of Man

This is something different, and different people will have different ideas.
1.     A group of disparate organisations with common central beliefs and many interpretations, grouped together loosely for example in the World Council of Churches – sometimes preaching the gospel.
2 A humanitarian force for good, seeking to make the world a better place, while preaching a gospel, but not always the gospel.
3.     A place of religious exhilaration and excitement with rousing music – usually with the gospel but this is sometimes distorted – or a liberal ‘inclusive’ community – no matter what the bible says.
4.     Beautiful buildings, ornate robes and trained choirs, with or without the gospel
5.     A system of contention and oppression, having a form of piety but denying the power of it.
Many Christians see their role and that of their ‘local church’ in terms of no 2 above, preaching the gospel, having a good church community engaged in the support of local and other needs.  But think of it – it is an earthly Christianity.  Whilst there are many genuine believers, sorry to say that in some places the gospel has been corrupted to salvation (if such a thought exists) through works and presenting Jesus just a Model.  This is hardly Christian. I see it differently, as should all true lovers of our Lord Jesus.

So where does that leave true Christians?

Christians should do good works – towards the Lord, towards each other and towards their fellow human beings.  They do this because they love their Lord and that is what He would have them to do.  They are not interested in politics – national politics, charity politics or church politics. They do what the Lord gives them to do:  However, they don’t do this as part of the Church, they do it as individuals.
Admittedly, Christians can work with others (informally or in registered charities) to humanitarian ends – the relief of poverty, helping those who are sick or mentally unstable, being of support to victims of crime or raising funds for such activities.  Some of those with whom they might co-operate with may not be believers – so this cannot be part of the Church activity.  Some might be shocked at the thought, but if it is the function of a church community, it might be a misguided one or not even a Christian one.  It is not a function of the body of Christ.
Of course, it is better if those who are working together have confidence in one another.  If they gather regularly from the same Christian assembly, they will no doubt know one another well and be able to work together better.  They may even use their meeting hall (what is a building anyway? – a person or a trust has provided a place for saints to gather)– but this is not the local assembly doing it, and should never be thought of as such,
I could go further, and this might be a bit difficult to grasp. When it comes to testimony the church’s service is heavenward, not earthward (indeed if we look at the testimony of the public church it is ruin and confusion).  Paul wrote ’in order that now to the principalities and authorities in the heavenlies might be made known through the assembly the all-various wisdom of God’ (Ephesians 3:10 Darby).  It follows that preaching the gospel, or teaching (indeed what I am doing now) comes into the individual service – the Lord commissioned His disciples to out individually.  As they did the church grew.
The church doesn’t preach; the church doesn’t teach.  Christians do both.
I trust this helps.  I am conscious that not all will agree totally with what I have written.  However I do believe sincerely that it is accordance with scripture (which is infallible), and also the teachings of that servant of God, John Nelson Darby (not infallible) please feel free to write your comments below (or email me directly if you prefer). sosthenes@adayofsmallthings.com  or my personal email.

Recent Website Additions

The Disappointments of Life – Golden Nugget
Follow Thou Me ‘Today if ye will hear His Voice’
The Church with No Name Sosthenes Letter
Dear Christian Friend
I really would like to get A Day of Small Things out to a wider audience.  Please feel free to pass this on – better still give me a name and email address and I will write to them and invite them to be on our emailing list.  Tell me if you want me to mention your name (and give any background that you feel would be of use in writing individually).
In our Lord’s service
Sosthenes
November 2018
[*] Quotations from the Ministry of James Taylor (1870-1953) Volume 36 page 409 and Volume 61 page 176

Who can Preach the Gospel?

 

Preaching
John Nelson Darby

They that were Scattered Abroad went Everywhere, Preaching the Word  Acts 8:4.

Paul prayed ‘that the word of the Lord may have free course’(2 Thess 3:1).  All true Christians should pray for that too.  But alas, preaching is beset by human perverseness, especially in establishments of any sect or denomination where only appointed or ordained individuals are permitted to preach.  Scripture does not support ordination or authorisation – whichever word is used.  In a world under condemnation, there are sinners ready to perish.  Ordination and the distinction between laity and clergy (which includes so-called lay preachers) was not known in the early church – nor is it scriptural.

No human qualification should be needed in order to declare to them God’s remedy in love: that Jesus died for sinners.  Man has set up restrictions: the gospel which was ‘to be preached to every creature under heaven’(Col 1:23) has been bound and shackled.  Multitudes have been shut out from the springs of life for want of hearing a clear invitation which should have been upon the lips of all who have drunk of the living waters.  The Spirit of God has been grieved.

The questions are –

  1. Do those in appointed office have the Spirit of God?
  2. Can any member of the church of God with love for souls preach if the Lord gives them the ability and opportunity?
  3. Is any human sanction needful for their doing so?
  4. Are those who are not ordained, or otherwise appointed, disqualified from preaching?

As to Christians speaking in the church, the only restriction is, ‘Let your women keep silence in the churches’ (1 Cor 13:34).  Women have other blessed services.  Many godly women have spiritual gifts, and we read elsewhere the directions for their exercise (in the home, with their heads covered – see 1 Cor 11:5).  They were not to use them in the church, because that would be out of order.

The apostle says, ‘every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation’(v. 26).   So, if God has given some men the ability to speak, they were to speak in an orderly way in the power of the Holy Spirit:  not all at once or every day, but as God led them.  Because of the presence of the indwelling Spirit is in the church, it is built up, and God is worshipped  ‘in spirit and in truth’(John 4:24).

It is most mischievous to say that times have changed.  The Spirit of God does not break His own order by systematic rules.   Christ initially gave in his church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers; ‘for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, . . . speaking the truth in love, [that we] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love’ (Eph 4:11-16) .  Some quote to justify ordination, ‘the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2).  But the thing committed here was the doctrine: it does not appear that they were ordained for the purpose.

Human prescription regulates everything in matters of religion, as in politics, commerce, education and most other aspects of life.  The result of this is that much has been lost in the public profession: the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge, for example.    If that is true, then the effectiveness of the word is further weakened by asserting that the Spirit of God is has left the Church.  This then raises the question: ‘What are we, and where are we – are we the church of God without the Spirit?’   If the Spirit is not there, all union between Christ and His members will have been cut off, and the promise, ‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ (Matt 28:20) made of no effect.  It would no longer be the church.

But present-day disciples of Jesus know that He is with them in spite of public failure; and that He said, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matt 18:20).  His Spirit is with them for instruction and blessing.

The question becomes more critical when we consider speaking outside of the church.  We read, ‘They that were scattered abroad, went everywhere preaching the word’ (Acts 8:4). – that was all except the apostles. ’The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord’ (Acts 11:21).  The idea of ordination had never occurred to them.  Paul preached without any other mission than the Lord’s glory and His word.  He preached everywhere including synagogues and encouraged others to do the same.  He said simply, ‘I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak’(2 Cor 4:13) .  Apollos too preached very effectively, and it is said that, when Paul would have sent him from Ephesus to Corinth, he would not go.  He was not ordained, and earlier knew only the baptism of John.  Aquila and Priscilla had‘expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly’ (Acts 18:26). [Note that we have here a woman performing a very vital and authoritative service in the right way.  She was as competent as any].

In the previous dispensation, much of the order was according to birth.  Nevertheless, there was a clear distinction according to position – priests, Levites, princes, Nethinim etc.  However, even in Jewish worship, far greater liberty was permitted than in the restricted systems of the present day. ‘Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on’ (Acts 13:15).   When Eldad and Medad prophesied by the Spirit in the camp, without coming to the door of the tabernacle, Moses said, ‘Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!’ (Num 11:29).

There is therefore ample evidence from Scripture to an impartial mind.  Appropriately gifted Christian men have the liberty and right to speak, in or out of the church, without needing any human authority.   This is the dispensation of the outpouring of the Spirit qualifying for speaking of Jesus all who can do so.  The assumption of priesthood by any person is wrong (save as all believers are priests).  Priesthood and kingship belong to Christ alone.

At Pentecost, 120 were assembled together and spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance (See Acts 2:4).  And Peter, standing up, explains to the Jews that they were not drunk, but it was what was spoken of by Joel, ‘I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy’ (Joel 2:29).  The Spirit was poured on people without distinction – men and women, young and old, rich and poor, even slaves.   Subsequent history has been to create classes according to social, academic, racial, financial and ecclesiastical status.  This has been a cause of the loss of power in Christendom.  And the consequence – unrestrained irregularities in the church.

There are, of course, other services such as pastoral care.   A good shepherd will go after the scattered sheep in order to present God’s glad tidings to them, and to help them further in their souls.  One significant advantage of God’s order is that all men and women are able to fulfil their part according to the gifts that God has given them.  Those who should be teachers, shepherds or evangelists should not be hindered due to the lack of official academic and theological qualifications. This ought to be obvious: God appoints the field of their operations, in order do the Lord’s work.   Persons should not be prevented by the spirit of Diotrephes in the system.   God’s manifold grace and the gifts that He has given to the church blend together in true harmony and love in the body of Christ.

Nothing demonstrates the preference of man’s authority to the Lord’s more than the way in which the free and unrestrained proclamation of the gospel of God’s grace is discredited.  Those who should be preaching are obliged to modify their message and restrict their work, for fear they should be in breach of the authority which has placed them in their appointed position.  For example, an area of the country is destitute of the gospel, despite a lot of religious activity.  One in whose heart God has put the desire and whose mouth He has opened to speak of His love, goes and preaches there, and many souls previously in darkness are blessed.  The district is already full of men and women holding office in the various churches, but who are not shepherds and do not preach a sound gospel – replacing it with the fleshly excitement and emotional happiness of popular charismatics, or teaching doctrines which deny the deity of Christ, or telling souls that God’s love is such that they can attain salvation by their own works – or are just as the word to Sardis – dead.  What is the labourer to do in these circumstances? – Is leave souls at the mercy of these unsound church leaders, or is he to abandon them altogether?  There is no godly righteousness in either.  Faithfulness to Christ demands that he should preach to those who in need.  However, he is restricted in his activities by the systems (of whatever denomination) which have also sanctioned those appointees who harm poor souls.  The church hierarchy, even if formed of devout Christians, must recognise their officially sanctioned ministers and pastors and reject faithful men of God, working in the power and guidance of the Spirit of God, but who do not hold the appropriate office and qualifications[*].

So why does one take an ecclesiastical office – vicar in the Church of England, pastor or minister in the Baptists or Methodists etc.?  Because it is the only way to serve within the confines of the system.  One who habitually waits on the Lord is obligated to work in an organisation which is not regulated by the Lord’s headship.  The Master’s service can be undertaken in complete, unhindered dependence on the Spirit of God.  If service does not fulfil the Lord’s own time, place, and purpose, servants are what Paul calls busybodies (see2 Thess 3:11), whatever may be the apparent (defective) results of their labours.

One further observation: we ‘should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints’ (Jude v.3).  Look at the multitude of conflicting interests in the church – ‘wars and fightings’(James 4:1) amongst brethren.  So much spiritual and natural energy is spent on defending one human system against another.  Ask calmly: ‘For what are we contending?’  If the contention is for our own views or interests, or to support the system to which we owe allegiance, God cannot support us.  It is not for the things of Christ; it is not of His Spirit.

All this shows that these traditional opinions are worthless and deeply injurious to the glory of God unless based upon His word.  Let it be observed that the liberty of the believer is not the spirit of insubordination, but of entire subjection to the Spirit: not the spirit of enthusiasm, but of a sound mind – of a mind at one with God, which alone gives righteous judgment.  And let the people of God wait on Him for His guidance.  It is a time in which God is separating reality from mere outward form.  May God work abundantly fill His labourers with His spirit!  ‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest’(Matt 9:37-38).

 

Based on J N Darby: ‘Christian Liberty of Preaching and Teaching the Lord Jesus Christ’ – JND’s Collected Writings Vol 1 Ecclesiastical 1 page 68

 

 

[*]In modern times, there may be more lay preachers due to limitations of resources.  Packaged lectures, even with PowerPoint presentations, may be used to spread a word.  Such sermons, cannot be energised by st Spirit of God, meeting the needs of those who attend these preachings. [Sosthenes]

Bishops – How did they come about?

The concept of local bishops developed in the second century of the church. This led eventually to popery and the subsequent corruption of Christendom. There is no basis for episcopy in scripture, and no evidence of it in apostolic times.

In his paper, ‘Episcopacy: What ground is there in Scripture or History for accounting it an Institution of God?’ (Collected Writings vol. 20 – Eccesiastical 4 – page 307), J N Darby looks back over Christian history, and sees how the early fathers accepted it as an institution. It seemed prudent at the time, maintaining orthodoxy, but it was a human institution whilst claiming to be an institution of God. By the end of the second century, the position of a single person as president of a local assembly was well established, and the church had become organised. How this originate, and who originated it?

JohnNelsonDarby

The concept of local bishops developed in the second century of the church.  This led eventually to popery and the subsequent corruption of Christendom.  There is no basis for episcopy in scripture, and no evidence of it in apostolic times. 

In his paper, ‘Episcopacy: What ground is there in Scripture or History for accounting it an Institution of God?’  (Collected Writings vol. 20 – Eccesiastical 4 – page 307), J N Darby looks back over Christian history, and sees how the early fathers accepted it as an institution.  It seemed prudent at the time, maintaining orthodoxy, but it was a human institution whilst claiming to be an institution of God.  By the end of the second century, the position of a single person as president of a local assembly was well established, and the church had become organised.  How this originate, and who originated it?

Paul established Elders or Overseers

Respect for a position of authority is right, and natural.  But if a bishop becomes an object of veneration, God’s authority is set aside.  Superstition and error replaces the truth that sanctifies.  The prestige associated with the position detracts from the glory of the Lord Himself.

In scripture bishops, overseers and elders (Greek ἐπίσκοπος/episkopos[*]) are the same thing, depending on the translation (Acts 20:17; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:7).   Anther word used for an elder in Greek is (πρεσβύτερος/presbuteros*), such as those elders appointed in Acts 14.

There is no evidence that there was a single prelate in churches in Paul’s times.  If there was one anywhere Paul neglected them and charged several to exercise eldership in the church.  Tradition says that Timothy was Bishop of Ephesus, and Titus Bishop of Crete, but this has no basis in scripture.  They were companions of Paul, who sent them to fulfil special services.  Peter, despite being claimed by Roan Catholics to have been Bishop of Rome, had the same view.  He spoke about  ‘the elders which are among you’ (1 Peter 5:1).  The nearest thing we have is James (brother of the Lord?) in Jerusalem.   Whilst he was right in Acts 15, he clearly had a great influence amongst the Jewish Christians, but not always a happy one.  Even then there is no hint of primacy in the Epistle of James.

 

Clement of Rome and Polycarp followed Paul

Likewise, Clement of Rome (d. AD99) knew of no single person leading a church.  He wrote, ‘So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe.   And this they did in no new fashion; for indeed it had been written concerning bishops and deacons from very ancient times; for thus saith the scripture in a certain place, I will appoint their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith’ (1 Clement 42:4-5)[†].

Polycarp of Smyrna (69-155) also did not recognise bishops in the current use of the word.  He referred to one going astray as a presbyter (Polycarp 11:1).   Ignatius of Antioch addressed Polycarp as bishop (Ignatius 1:1), and in his writings used the term as distinct from the elders.  Hence we deduce that recognised local bishops, but not regional or diocesan bishops, as those to whom believers should be subject.

 

Historians and those who supported Bishops

Other late first and early second century writers, such as Barnabas (probably not the Barnabas of scripture) and Hermas, do not refer to bishops.  It was not till the end of the second century their existence as presidents of churches became regarded generally.  Early historians such as Tertullian, Hegessippus and Iranaeus alleged that prelates had existed since apostolic times, making lists of them.  They had no authority for this.

Iranaeus was fighting the gnostics, who taught that Christ was neither God nor Creator.  However he drew on tradition rather than scripture with many historical inaccuracies such as saying that Peter and Paul founded the church in Rome, whereas we know, it was well established before any apostle went there.  He wrote that Paul called over the bishops of the cities around Miletus as well as the elders, and also gave a list of Bishops of Rome up to AD189[‡].  Other historians gave inconstant variants of this list, casting much doubt on their reliability.   Doubtless all of those named from Linus onwards were in Rome at various times, but they did not act as bishops.  Sometimes one would preside over a gathering, sometimes another.

Darby went on to illustrate the confusion by citing many other contradictory writings.  For example, Clement of Alexandria alleged that John, after his release from Patmos, appointed clergy (κλήρων/kleron  – or holders of a lot) in the various churches of Asia.  One went as far as saying that Christ had ordained his brother, James, to be bishop of Jerusalem, having committed His throne on earth to him!

 

Conclusion

Our conclusion must be that scripture refutes episcopy.  If a republic appointed a monarch, it would cease to be a republic.  So the appointment of a single prelate in an assembly changes the nature of the assembly.  This happened in the latter part of the second century and it was not of God.

 

Summary, some footnotes and references to translated texts of Clement and Polycarp by Sosthenes.

June 2016

 

[*] Strong defines ἐπίσκοπος/episkopos/Strong 1985 as (used as an official title in civil life), overseer, supervisor, ruler, especially used with reference to the supervising function exercised by an elder or presbyter of a church or congregation.  Properly an overseer is a man called by God to literally ‘keep an eye on’ His flock (the Church, the body of Christ), i.e. to provide personalised (first hand) care and protection.  It is a masculine noun, derived from ἐπί/epi/Strong 1909on; which intensifies σκοπός/skopos/Strong 4649 watcher’. Pρεσβύτερος/presbuteros/Strong 4245) is defined as a mature man having seasoned judgment or experience.  Whichever word is used it is clear that there are several elders in any assembly.

[†] Despite what the Catholics say, Clement did not claim to be Bishop of Rome.  Of course writings by Clement and other early fathers have no scriptural authority, and indeed may not be in accord with scripture.

[‡] Paul and Peter (to AD68), Linus (68-80), Anencletus (80-92), Clemens (92-101), Evarestus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Hyginus, Pius, Anicetus, Soter, Eleutherus.  Eusebius also gave some dates.  Other historians give variants of this list.

Summary by Sosthenes

Based on   ‘Episcopacy: What ground is there in Scripture or History for accounting it an Institution of God?’  (Collected Writings vol. 20 – Eccesiastical 4 – page 307)

April 2016

How are we to regard other Christians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sosthenes

 

July 2015

J N Darby – French Letter No. 151 – A good State in an Assembly leads to Restoration

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

 

151

Plymouth – 25th August 1846

To Mr Foulquier

We are happy here, thanks be to God; the brethren are quite peaceful and make progress. It has seemed to me that, in the exercise of discipline, we have not given the first place enough to prayer. Without doubt, in flagrant cases, discipline must be exercised. But there are a thousand cases grieving to the Holy Spirit, disturbing His movement in the body, which do not need to become the subjects of public discipline; but do not in the least hinder geral blessing.

Christ loves His church; we are of His flesh and of His bones. For often the heart, instead of being moved to respond, must be pressed towards Jesus, so that His love is manifested towards this soul, a precious member of His body, so that it should be cured, restored. If one thought of souls as members of His own body, one would be interested in what would make them in a good state according to grace, and would count on His grace for this to be accomplished; for He acts directly on the souls of His own, as He does on sinners to call them. It must be remembered, dear brother, that, for knowledge as much for other things, it has to be acquired, when it is true by the Holy Spirit, and that He acts freely in His sphere which he has formed by His power which acts in grace; thus if the objects with which He is occupied do not possess our hearts, these hearts cannot be full of His knowledge in communion.

From this [flows] the importance of the spiritual state of the brethren for the enjoyment of this communion, the food of which will be the revelation of the things of Christ by the Spirit. Without this, they will seek an education which leaves the soul in its own laziness, instead of enjoying it as providing the means of spiritual communion.

It is therefore necessary to think of the state of souls, and if we do not know how to act directly upon them, it is necessary to pray much that hunger and thirst for Jesus take possession of them.

Recently, we have read together the epistle to the Hebrews with much communion of soul and, I hope, to our profit. For myself, I have been particularly taken up with the epistle to the Ephesians, and with the position of the church as a dispensation or special object of the counsels of God, and I hope that I have profited from it – mainly in affirming my faith and the basis of this faith which stretches my knowledge.

But the position of the church has been set in relief before me in this reading.

  • See 151A

I finish, dear brother …

J N Darby – French Letter No. 132 – Local Administration

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

1862

To Mr B

Beloved Brother

I have just received your letter. I bless God with all my heart that He has strengthened you in body and soul. He is always faithful, always God; one can always count upon Him, whatever may be. His love does not change; He always thinks of us – a marvellous thing, but true – and counts the hairs of our head. It is marvellous indeed that the God of glory enters into all the details of our life, and always in view of our blessing. “He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous”[1], and everything contributes good to those who love Him[2].   I ask you to greet Mrs B affectionately. May God also bless your little boy; it is a worry no doubt in this world, but a worry that God, if we confide in Him, can take, and take in fact as an occasion to prove anew His faithfulness and His goodness. May God accord to you both to be faithful and to know to look up to Him.

As to what concerns the history of St, I see it a little differently to what I have been told. Our dear brother F has told me some details of what has taken place. I do not envisage the position of these sisters as an excommunication. The assembly alone could excommunicate; but when they said to some that they do not want to come to the assembly, they were free to state their feelings and those of other people, if they authorised them to say so. I do not say it was a wise thing according to God, but they were free to express their feeling as being their feeling; if it is the flesh which has produced this feeling, it is clear that it was not according to God. But I believe that it is not [within] the competence of a brother or a sister to withdraw from the assembly and to come back at their whim. The assembly must have its word to say about this. It may be that the one who has absented themselves has committed all sorts of sins during their absence. Thus as to those who stand apart, the assembly must say if it can receive them, as also an individual who may want to return. I hope, I would like to say I have good hope that this will happen, that the assembly will be blessed and restored by grace; it will be if it walks in humility and in a spirit of dependence on grace. If grace acts in the heart of these sisters, they will judge what has been the flesh in them. It may be that N having had the habit of directing a lot, there has been a lack of spiritual know-how with him.

Your part, I am sure, is to work according to grace and to communicate to souls what God gives you for them, while nourishing your own soul. Besides, it is what is much more useful for the assembly itself. I doubt that it would be the will of God to deny a souls the Supper because they are in a bad state. The word says that one examines oneself and eats; but if I saw a soul in a state of conscience that sin would have produced and did not know what it was, I could, it seems to me, imagine the case where I could counsel the person to abstain until it was clear. However, as a general rule, one cannot exclude souls provisionally, and it would only be in a particular case that I could even give such counsel. Pastoral care is the remedy which a soul in a bad state must have, and not temporary exclusion. This care is lacking a little sometimes among the brethren, and often expedients are turned to. I think that strangers were people who were not of the locality, principally brethren and in particular the Lord’s workmen (perhaps others too), towards whom the assembly exercised hospitality. Diotrephes would not do it[3]. You can see that the second epistle of John warns the elect lady not to receive those who did not bring sound doctrine as to the Person of Christ; the third encourages Gaius in his hospitality. I think that these are Christians in general (as approving hospitality in general – cf Heb 13: 2) because of what follows. The “who have given testimony” in v 6 applies to v 5 in general – (some read it: the brethren and even those [among them] who come from outside); vv 7 and 8 show that he had the workmen principally in view, for thus they worked together with the truth. Diotrephes did not want to receive them, desiring to have the assembly for himself, and broke the link with the apostle and all the brethren.

As to the word ‘Gentiles’ – your Diodati[4] links these words: “are gone out” with “from among the Gentiles”. He translates thus: “They are gone out from among the Gentiles for His Name, without receiving anything”.

This translation is not received by the majority; however there are some very acceptable names that accept it. I think that John, like Peter, was still much attached to the Jewish cradle of Christianity. Thus, in 1 John 2: 2 he says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours alone, but also for the whole world”. Paul himself often speaks [thus], as in Galatians 3 and Ephesians 3, where “we” refers to the Jews, “you” to the Gentiles” and “we” afresh of Christians. I think it is more often a matter of Gentile believers than of unbelievers, but it could well be that these men had not wanted to receive anything from their parents. The apostles considered the Jews (even unbelievers) as brethren, not in the Christian sense but nationally; Paul spoke thus in his discourses. The Gentiles were only Gentiles; it could well be that Diotrephes did not want to receive workmen from among them. The workmen had to be received, and it was a title accorded to Christians of the Jewish race who had not wanted to receive anything from the Gentiles, or their parents, unbelievers or otherwise.

Farewell, beloved brother, may our good and faithful Father, full of love, be with you, encourage you and sustain you near to Him. In the enjoyment of the love of Jesus, one is always well, always encouraged.

Greet the brethren affectionately everywhere you go – may those in St cultivate peace, being tranquil and seeking above all to grow in the grace of Jesus.

Your very affectionate brother

 

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.

[1] Job 36: 7

[2] See Rom 8: 38

[3] This is a discussion about 3 John – the strangers are those referred to in v 5, and Diotrephes is in v 9

[4] Giovanni Diodati or Deodati (6 June 1576-3 October 1649) was a Swiss-born Calvinist theologian and translator. He was the first translator of the Bible into Italian from Hebrew and Greek sources. He also undertook a translation of the Bible into which appeared with notes in 1644 – Wikipedia

J N Darby – French Letter No. 110 – Sad News of a Wayward Brother

December 1873

To Mr P

Very dear Brother,

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

… He was, and I have said this to him, entirely under the influence of this guilty inclination, fallen in heart, if not in body. And when one is thus, in a state of folly and bondage: one deceives oneself, one knows it, and one deceives oneself still. And nothing astonishes me about what has created this state. Look at the beginning of the book of Proverbs; see the epistle to the Corinthians, and how the apostle goes over this point. I do not say that our brother’s soul will not be restored, but I do not know if he has recognised all his prevarication, and how he seeks to avoid the accusations, while doing evil; but once in a fault, with the reputation of Christian and minister, one is guilty of all. This is not hypocrisy, it is the deceitfulness of the flesh. It is a state of soul in those who judge and I do not believe can be the fruit of the Spirit of the Lord. To judge the act, the evil, the loss of truthfulness, everything natural is in the state where this poor friend was, is all very well. But to judge evil as severely as it deserves, is something else than to say that the one who does evil is hypocritical. I fear that he is not bottomed as he must. But there is little spiritual power to restore among the brethren. For there has been among them a very strong reaction following the great confidence they had in him. They feel wounded in their affection, their confidence betrayed. In this I sympathise with them, but their spiritual judgment will have had to rise above the inward wounds of heart. I understand them; but personal regret, however just it may be, does not suit a judge, and in this case they are in the position of judges. However, it is time that the same things are severely smitten … What heartbreak, what a humiliation, what a disgrace it is to the Lord! I am surprised at His goodness, I may say, in not judging, because if God does not keep us, we are all capable of doing this too; but it gives us to think much of the danger in which the Lord’s workmen are, and particularly when, by having superior light, they are put forward. My consolation is that the Lord manifests His government here: it is a sorrowful way to learn but the thing that one learns is very precious.

Pinkerton[2] has found much encouragement; he is now in Syria; he has imported with him a press to print tracts in Arabic; a local person is able to work with him. I have blessed God indeed. In Haifa also, he has found opened doors, this will also tend to enlarge the brethren’s horizon, although it is in a certain sense still within the kingdom.

Everywhere here where Christ is fully announced one finds a numerous and attentive audience, souls everywhere are famished. The Nationalists[3] have been compelled to begin a kind of mission in the churches, which has equally attracted a lot of the world. The floods of evil rise, but evidently God works; the Lord is waited for more. There must be much to encourage in the work here, for one can only suffer here; but He who does all will do His work …

 

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.

J N Darby – Lettre No. 95

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

Dublin, 1861
A M. P.
Bien-aimé frère,
…J’en viens à vos questions :
1° Je crois qu’il est très fâcheux qu’un frère fasse part de ses pensées, en public, sur des questions ou des choses où il ne connaît pas la pensée de l’assemblée. Au reste, en général, à moins que cela ne soit nécessaire pour avertir, les questions ne devraient pas être amenées devant le public.
2° Ensuite, la question de réception est souvent mal posée. Nous ne sommes pas un corps volontairement associé, mais dans la mesure où nous pouvons l’être, un rassemblement des membres du corps de Christ, un rassemblement des siens, opéré par le Saint-Esprit. Nous ne recevons pas des personnes au milieu de nous pour prendre la cène avec nous ; Christ a dû les recevoir, nous les reconnaissons, étant responsables de garder la sainteté de la table du Seigneur et la vérité de Dieu. Les reconnaître, c’est une affaire de confiance, et qui dépend du témoignage que nous avons de leur vie. Il ne s’agit plus de délibération pour les recevoir, une fois que leur christianisme est constaté, sans en excepter la sainteté et la vérité; car l’Esprit qui conduit les enfants de Dieu est l’Esprit de vérité et l’Esprit Saint. Ils ont droit, dans ce cas, à la table. Reste encore la discipline. En des cas douteux, il est très à désirer que la conscience de toute l’assemblée soit au clair et ainsi au large; mais si l’homme est chrétien, connu comme tel, ou assez connu de quelque personne grave, pour que le témoignage de celle-ci soit une garantie du christianisme de celui qui désire prendre la cène, à mon avis il ne faut pas autre chose. Seulement, il est bon de le nommer devant l’assemblée, et en tout cas de le mentionner à quelques membres graves de la réunion, si l’on n’a pas de temps pour en parler davantage. C’est donc une affaire de témoignage suffisant, car il s’agit de maintenir un esprit de confiance entre tous. Si celui qui présente une âme nouvelle est un chrétien jeune ou léger, il vaudrait mieux que son témoignage fût appuyé par quelques chrétiens qui eussent plus de discernement. On devrait se réjouir de voir arriver de nouvelles âmes, mais on devrait veiller en même temps à ce que la vérité et la sainteté fussent sauvegardées.
3° Il me semble que, si quelqu’un qui ne rompt pas le pain parle dans l’assemblée où l’on rompt le pain, c’est un très grave désordre. Un homme qui se sépare à tort de l’assemblée de Dieu, n’est pas dans le cas de l’instruire quand elle est réunie. Cela n’empêche pas, personnellement en dehors de la réunion. Je reconnais ainsi son don comme membre du corps, mais lui renie cette position si, quand le corps est réuni, dans la mesure où cela peut se réaliser, il ne veut pas y prendre place.
Je ne trouve aucune difficulté en 1 Tim.1 v.13. Premièrement, ce passage n’affaiblit pas une foule de déclarations, voire même de préceptes, relatifs à l’exercice des dons, qui font de cet exercice un devoir pour celui qui possède le don. Ensuite, Timothée n’était nullement un ministre local, ce qu’on appelle un ministre établi ; il accompagnait l’apôtre, ou le remplaçait en des services exigeant quelqu’un qui fût pénétré de l’esprit de l’apôtre, et pleinement informé de ses voies. La prophétie, paraît-il, avait désigné Timothée (1 Tim.1 v.18) ; Paul lui avait imposé les mains (2 Tim.1 v.6) ; ensuite, le corps des anciens lui avait imposé les siennes, pour le recommander à la grâce de Dieu ; l’apôtre lui rappelle, comme motif, toutes ces choses, la prophétie par laquelle Dieu l’avait désigné, et la sanction des anciens qui, en ayant eu connaissance, l’ont ainsi recommandé à Dieu. Ainsi Paul lui-même avait été désigné par la prophétie, et ceux qui étaient les prophètes à Antioche lui avaient imposé les mains, afin de le recommander à la grâce de Dieu pour l’œuvre à laquelle il avait été appelé : telle est l’expression de la parole. Mais Timothée n’a jamais été un ministre établi sur un troupeau. Je crois pour ma part qu’il peut y avoir (et il y en a) des personnes consacrées à l’œuvre et qui exercent leur ministère régulièrement s’appliquant constamment à l’œuvre. Si quelqu’un était désigné par la prophétie pour cette tâche, je ne ferais aucune objection à l’imposition des mains des anciens, s’il y en a. Il est probable, si l’Esprit agissait de la sorte, que les anciens ne tarderaient pas à se retrouver. Je ne ferais même aucune difficulté à ce que, dans la pratique, les frères anciens le fissent – abstraction faite du clergé et de l’établissement des ministres qui est l’œuvre de l’ennemi. Je ne vois rien qui empêcherait de recommander un ouvrier à la grâce de Dieu, en lui imposant les mains en vue d’une œuvre particulière à laquelle il serait appelé. Cela pourrait se répéter chaque fois qu’il devrait entreprendre une œuvre nouvelle ; mais on en a fait une consécration pour arrêter la libre action du Saint-Esprit. Dès lors, c’est une abomination et de la rébellion contre Dieu.
Je ne suis nullement d’accord avec le Messager au sujet de 2 Cor.5 v.3, mais c’est une affaire d’interprétation, de sorte que cela ne me trouble pas. D’après ce que vous dites, l’auteur n’a pas compris le passage ; voilà tout. La force du passage est pour moi très claire. Le mot xxxx (mot en grec dans le texte) met en relief une condition, et le mot xxx y ajoute de la force : nous jouirons de ce dont nous avons parlé – pourvu que, bien entendu, nous supposions que, dans ce cas même où nous sommes revêtus [du corps], nous ne soyons pas trouvés nus [à l’égard du Christ], car dans ce dernier cas, ce serait tout autre chose que la gloire.
Dans ce pays, l’œuvre du Seigneur se poursuit d’une manière remarquable. A Dublin, le nombre des frères a beaucoup augmenté ; il y a un certain nombre d’aimables jeunes hommes, vivants et heureux, quelques-uns louent des chambres pour prêcher dans les mauvais quartiers de la ville (il y a 300’000 habitants), et il y a des conversions continuelles. Avant-hier soir, cinq auditeurs, sur une vingtaine, ont reçu la paix. Je tiens des réunions, souvent deux fois par jour ; une quantité de personnes, des messieurs et des dames aussi, sont profondément attentives ; des gens nobles et riches se convertissent à la campagne, et quittent souvent le nationalisme. Il y a un mouvement remarquable de l’Esprit de Dieu. Cela se fait en dehors des frères; mais partout les principes sur lesquels les frères ont insisté se reproduisent, et pour les grandes réunions où les âmes se convertissent, tout a été organisé sous sa forme actuelle par des frères, au moins par des personnes imbues de leurs principes, un peu trop relâchées pour être admises parmi nous, mais qui suivent en quelque mesure les mêmes principes tout en allant partout. Les livres des frères aussi sont lus. On s’aperçoit bien qu’il y a moins de ce qui est sûr et solide ; mais l’énergie de la vérité pénètre néanmoins et se fait jour.
Que Dieu nous garde près de lui, cher frère, heureux que Christ soit prêché partout, et fermes dans les principes et dans la marche que Christ enseigne, la parole de la patience. Il faut savoir être petit, et il en vaut la peine ; mais lui est toujours grand.
Saluez D. et tous les frères.
Votre tout affectionné.

J N Darby – French Letter No. 95 – Extract – Christian Assembly Order

It seems to me that, if somebody who does not break the bread speaks in the assembly where the bread is broken, it is a very serious disorder. A man who separates himself wrongfully from the assembly of God is not in the position to instruct it as to its being reunited. That does not hindering his doing so outside of the meeting. I recognise what he has as a member of the body, but this position is disavowed to him if, when the body is reunited, as far as it can be reunited, he does not want to take his place in it.

Dublin 1861

To Mr P
Beloved brother

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

It seems to me that, if somebody who does not break the bread speaks in the assembly where the bread is broken, it is a very serious disorder. A man who separates himself wrongfully from the assembly of God is not in the position to instruct it as to its being reunited. That does not hindering his doing so outside of the meeting. I recognise what he has as a member of the body, but this position is disavowed to him if, when the body is reunited, as far as it can be reunited, he does not want to take his place in it.

I find no difficulty in 1 Tim 1:13. Firstly this passage does not weaken a load of statements, and even of principles relative to the exercise of gift, more it makes the exercise of the gift a duty to the one who has it. Then, in no way was Timothy a local minister, what you would call an established minister: he accompanied the apostle and succeeded him in the necessary services being someone who was imbued with the spirit of the apostle and fully informed as to his ways. Prophecy, it would appear, had predesignated Timothy (See 1 Tim 1:18) . Paul had placed his hands on him (2 Tim 1:6) , afterwards the body of the elders had put their own hands on him, to commend him to God. The apostle reminds him, with reason, both of these things: prophecy by which God had designated him, and the sanction of the elders, who knowing him, commended him to God. Paul himself was predesignated according to prophecy, and those who were at Antioch laid their hands on him, to commend him to the grace of God for the work for which he had been called: that is the expression in the word . But Timothy was never an established minister over a flock. I believer for my part that there can be (and there are) persons consecrated to the work and who exercise their ministry constantly applying themselves to the work. If someone were designated by prophecy for this task, I would have no objection to the laying on of hands by the elders, if there are any. It is probable that if the Spirit acted in this way that the elders would soon be found. I do not have any difficulty about that which in practice the older brothers do – disregarded by the clergy who establish ministers, which is the work of the enemy. I see nothing which hinders the commending of a labourer to the grace of God in laying on of hands with a view to the particular work to which he has been called. This could be repeated each time he had to undertake a new work; but if one has made a consecration to impede the free action of the Holy Spirit, then it is an abomination and a rebellion against God.

I do not agree at all with the Messager about 2 Cor 5:3, but that is a matter of interpretation, so that does not trouble me. According to what you say, the author did not understand the passage; that’s all. The force of the passage is very clear to me. The word xxxx(Greek word in text) puts a condition into relief, and the word xxx adds strength to it – we enjoy what we have spoken about, provided that, of course we suppose that in the state itself in which we are reclothed (the body) we are not found naked (as regards Christ), for otherwise that would be something other than glory.

In this country the work of the Lord pursues a remarkable course. In Dublin the number of brethren has increased a lot, there are a number of nice young men, lively and happy, some of them renting rooms in the bad parts of the city (There are 300,000 inhabitants) and there are continual conversions. The evening before last, five listeners out of about twenty received peace. I often have two meetings a day: quite a number of people – ladies and gentlemen -are very attentive. In the country some of the nobility and well-to-do have been converted and often have left the Church of Ireland. It is a remarkable movement of the Spirit of God. This is outside of the brethren, but everywhere the principles that the brethren have upheld are being reproduced, and in large gatherings where souls are being converted, things are being organised in the actual way the brethren do it, at least by persons who are embued with their principles – maybe a bit loose to be admitted amongst us, but they follow in some way the same principles whilst going anywhere. They read the brethren’s books. One perceives at lest that there is that which is sure and solid, but the energy of the truth is nonetheless penetrating and it is as light as day.

May God keep us close to Himself dear brother, happy that Christ is preached everywhere, and firm in the principles and walk in the way that Christ teaches. We must know what it is to be small – it is worth it – but He is always great.

Greet D and all the brethren

Yours most affectionately

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.

J N Darby – French Letter No. 95 – Extract – Receiving into Christian Fellowship

The question of reception is often badly stated. We are not a body by voluntary association, but in the measure that we can be, we come together as members of the body of Christ, a gathering of His own, the work of the Holy Spirit. We do not receive persons amongst us to take the supper with us; Christ must have received them:

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

Dublin 1861

To Mr P
Beloved brother

Then, the question of reception is often badly stated. We are not a body by voluntary association, but in the measure that we can be, we come together as members of the body of Christ, a gathering of His own, the work of the Holy Spirit. We do not receive persons amongst us to take the supper with us; Christ must have received them: we recognise them, being responsible to guard the holiness of the Lord’s table and the truth of God. To recognise them, it is a matter of confidence, and it depends on the witness that we have of their lives. It is not a matter of deliberation as to whether to receive them or not, once their Christianity has been established, not excluding holiness and truth, for the Spirit who leads the children of God is the Spirit of Truth and the Holy Spirit. They have a right, in this case, to the table. Discipline still remains.

In dubious cases, it is good to desire that the conscience of the whole assembly be clear about it; but if the person is a Christian, and is known as such, or known well enough that by the testimony of a serious person who can guarantee the Christianity of the person who wishes to take the supper, in my opinion nothing else is needed. Only it is good to name the person before the assembly, and in any case to mention it to several responsible members of the meeting if there is not a better opportunity of speaking about it. It is a matter of sufficient testimony, since it is a matter of maintaining a spirit of confidence amongst all. If the one who introduces a soul is a young or shallow Christian, it would be better that his testimony was supported by a few Christians with more discernment. We should rejoice to see new souls coming, but at the same time we need to see that the truth and holiness is safeguarded.

Continued …

 

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.