G V Wigram – Not a Cloud above – not a Spot within

Not a cloud above – not a spot within.

 

G V Wigram

1

HOW bright, there above, is the mercy of God!
And void of all guilt, and clear of all sin,
Are my conscience and heart, through my Saviour’s blood:
Not a cloud above – not a spot within.
2
Christ died! then I’m clean : not a spot within.
God’s mercy and love! not a cloud above.
‘Tis the Spirit, through faith, thus triumphs o’er sin:
Not a cloud above – not a spot within.

 

George Vicesimus Wigram (1805-1879)

This is in Hymns for the  Little Flock 1962 and 1973 – No 22
Meter 11.10.11.10. Dactylic

 

 

Moral Law – an unscriptural Expression

People speak about a ‘moral law’, but they have only a vague idea of what is meant by the expression. They say, ‘Live by the ten commandments’ or, ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matt 7:12 NIV). They quote scripture, but in so doing put themselves and others under bondage. That is not Christianity. The Christian has been delivered from the law.

There are expressions which are used by Christians, which as well as being unscriptural, convey a meaning which is also contrary to the truth as presented in scripture.   One of these is ‘moral law’.

People speak about a ‘moral law’, but they have only a vague idea of what is meant by the expression.  They say, ‘Live by the ten commandments’ or, ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matt 7:12 NIV).  They quote scripture, but in so doing put themselves and others under bondage. That is not Christianity.  The Christian has been delivered from the law.

Christians under a so-called ‘moral law’ have set aside Paul’s teaching.  They show a semblance of piety, but are effectively seeking to be justified by works.  Even if the works were good ones, they are under a curse. (see Gal 3:10).  A Christian, being of a fallen race, finds himself ruined by the law, deceived by it to his own sorrow.  The law knows no mercy.  He is spiritually dead.

Paul found that experimentally.  Paul saw that the law condemned lust.  So, because he lusted he was self-condemned.   Lust was in his nature.  The law claimed absolute obedience to God, but he found he did not have the power to keep it.  He wanted to do what was right but couldn’t.  In short, he coveted, and thus broke the law.  What was ordained to life, he found to be to death (see Rom 7:10).

 

Christ and the Law

God gave the promise to Abraham.  The law was given later.  If the law could have given life, righteousness could have been by the law.   But the law did not give either the motive or the power to do right.  That is why in Galatians the law is treated as a schoolmaster.  The law condemns sins.  More than that, it condemns sin.

In Romans 7 Paul insisted that one cannot have two husbands at the same time.  A Christian cannot cannot be under obligation to both Christ and the law.  A Christian is ‘dead to the law by the body of Christ(Rom 7:4).   If he (or she) is dead, he is no longer under the law.  ,  ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under the law, but under grace’ (Rom 6:14).

Somebody might say, ‘Yes; but the flesh is still there, so I need the law, not to put away sin, but that it might not have dominion.’  That is false – The Christian is to be consciously dead in Christ.  If a person is dead, he is beyond the reach of law by death.  The Christian has died with Christ and is resurrection: he is in newness of life – in Christ, not Adam.

I am ‘dead to the law by the body of Christ’ (Rom 7:4)The death that the law sentenced me to in my conscience has fallen on another — Christ.  Otherwise I would have been left in everlasting misery.  But in love Christ put Himself in my place.  Now I am justified and have a right to reckon myself dead, because Christ has died and has risen again.  I have  received Him into my heart as life: He is really my life.

Godliness is walking with a risen Christ – that is Christian life.   The measure of that walk is Christ, and nothing else.

The Divine Law

A true believer always holds difference between right and wrong, to be an immovable and fixed moral foundation.  It is revealed by God in His word.

The Lord said ‘Keep my commandments’ (John 15:10) and John wrote ‘This is love, that we keep His commandments (1 John 5:2) .   Some are afraid of the word ‘commandment’, as if it would weaken the ideas of love, grace and new creation.  But keeping the commandments and obeying one we love is the proof of our love.   Christ Himself said, ‘I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment, so I do.’ (John 14:31).   His highest act of love, in dying for us on the cross, was His highest act of obedience.

The Spirit will produce fruits against which there is no law.

  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law’ (Gal 5:22-23.
  • Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love’ (Eph 5:1-2 Darby).
  • Put on therefore, as [the] elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any should have a complaint against any; even as the Christ has forgiven you, so also do ye. And to all these add love, which is the bond of perfectness’ (Col 3:12-14 Darby).
  • A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)

 

This is a summary of part of letter written by John Nelson Darby.  It is published in Collected Writings Volume 10 (Doctrinal 3) page 1.

This summary covers the first wrong term ‘moral law’.   A subsequent article, will, God willing, cover the second term ‘Christ’s righteousness’.

Sosthenes

December 2016

The Woman at the Well

What is this gift, and the Giver?

The gift – a well of living water – the Holy Spirit
The Giver – Christ.
It is not a pool, which, even if full now, can dry up. It is a fountain which can never dry up. The believer has it in himself, and he has for ever. But first the believer must first get to know the Giver.

A short summary of a preaching by J. N. Darby entitled  ‘The Woman of Samaria’ – Collected Writings volume 12 (Evangelical 1) p. 1..  Click on link for original.

This was the first of series of thirteen preachings. Unlike his wrigins, the preachings are much easier to follow – so – if you have time, read the original.

John 4:1-26

John 4Three chapters in John’s gospel speak of the effects and operations of the Spirit of God.

  • John 3: New birth – the power and efficacy of the Holy Spirit in giving life
  • John 4: The Well – a well of water springing up into everlasting life
  • John 7: Rivers of living water – the internal effect of the indwelling Spirit

The Lord Jesus Christ is the giver of the Holy Spirit to them that believe.   As sinners, we have no relationship with God – that relationship had been lost forever.  However, because of Christ’s sacrifice and intercession, it has been restored for the believer.  All our blessings are through Him.   He died for our sins, and rose again.  He was made ‘sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Cor 5:21).  The knowledge of God’s righteousness is by the Spirit.  Knowing it we can share in God’s happiness, having fellowship with the Father and unhindered communion with God.  This is the gift of God: there is no other way

The Pharisees were jealous because Jesus was making more disciples than John. In order to follow peace with all men, Jesus left Judea for Galilee, passing through Samaria on the way.  It had been a long journey and He was weary, so He sat down by a well to recover His strength.  It was not just that journey, He had left His home of glory and of blessedness, and come down to this weary, sinful world.   There everything around would make Him weary – sin, hatred, ingratitude, ill-will, open opposition, and toil.  However, He was never weary of love.

So what do we find?  The Lord of glory, the Son of the Eternal God, sitting alone with a wicked sinner by a well, asking her for a drink of cold water – the humblest request possible.  He was to settle the great question of eternity with her, showing her what she was herself, and telling her who He was.   In love the Lord is still humbly asking people for a drink – that is, to be reconciled – ‘We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God’ (2 Cor 5:20).

Among the Jews it was considered obnoxious to have anything to do with the Samaritans, let alone to be beholden to them for a favour.  Despite what the woman asked, the Lord did not enter into argument about the prejudices of the Jews, but focused instead on her salvation.  So He says, ‘If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water’ (v. 10).  Her carnal mind could not take that in, it just did not mean anything to her, and it does not mean anything to people now: divine things appear stupid and valueless.  Nor did she know the Giver.  She said, ‘Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?’ (v. 11).

So what is this gift, and the Giver?

  • The gift – a well of living water – the Holy Spirit
  • The Giver – Christ.

It is not a pool, which, even if full now, can dry up.  It is a fountain which can never dry up.   The believer has it in himself, and he has for ever.  But first the believer must first get to know the Giver.

The woman was occupied with her worldly duties and pursuits, and could not rise to anything higher.  Satan uses these mundane things (even a waterpot) to keep souls from Christ.   Dear reader, is there any waterpot which is keeping you from knowing Christ, and seeing His great salvation?  It may be harmless, innocent or even praiseworthy – your family, your job or your pastimes.

Now, all of a sudden, the woman realised that there was something in what the Lord had been saying.  She said, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw’ (v.15).  Though she was still thinking naturally, and may even been sceptical, the Lord persevered with her in love.  The Lord is always patient: He never gets weary when it comes to souls.   He says ‘Go, call thy husband’, and follows this up with ‘Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband’ (v. 16-18).  In effect, He showed her that she did not realise the wretched, ruinous state she was in.   Her conscience vibrated.   In the presence of One who was acquainted with the hidden recesses of her heart, she was stripped of her self-disguise.  She had never really believed that she was a sinner.  Now she knew that she was, like the man who came into the assembly in 1 Cor 14:24, ‘He is convinced of all, he is judged of all; and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.’

There was some discussion as to the Lord’s being a prophet, and the arguments as to where one should worship.  The Lord bore with this.  But she was in the process of leaving her waterpot and coming to know the Saviour.  She even appeared to be looking forward to His (the Messiah’s) coming.  The Spirit lead her to say, ‘I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things’. Jesus’ reply, ‘I that speak unto thee am he’ (v. 25-26).

The woman had wanted water and had come with her waterpot.  Now she had a well of water and had left her waterpot.   Christ had revealed Himself to her soul; the Messiah’s glory was now her aim and end.  She knew Him, not from hearsay but personally, and immediately she preached Him to others.  ‘Come, see a man that told me all that ever I did: is not this the Christ’ (v. 29).  A total revolution had taken place.

It is a process in which we are taken out of a former position, as strangers, even enemies, and are introduced to a new position, where we are brought near to God.  We no longer have a worldly but a heavenly portion – Christ’s portion.  The Spirit shows us that our new life is the life of Christ.  In fact, we are in the same position as Christ Himself!

The world’s wealth, power and distinction now has little value to us.  We find no wealth but in Christ; we find no power but by Christ; we have no distinction but from Christ.  Our joy is full.  We have a fresh spring, drawing from the Lord of glory, giving us fellowship with millions of others who have had the same experience with the Lord, and who have received the Holy Spirit.

Dear reader, how is it with your soul?  Have you asked for the living water?  Is there this well within you?  Do you have it yourself, or you relying on others? – that will not do.  Now, if you have it, what practical influence has it had?  Are you separated from the world, and separated to God?  Do you think about your high calling? – heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ!  (See Rom 8:17)  Are you imitating Him?  He was ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners’ (Heb 7:26).   Are you?

Do you have this spring, this well of water?  If not, you do not yet know the gift of God.  if you have not got it in you, you’ve got nothing.  Don’t deceive yourself, nothing else will do.  When temptation, trial, or affliction comes, your pool will be dried up without any resource – a useless pool without a spring,

 

Summary by Sosthenes

November 2016

The Difference between Rules and Conscience

There is often confusion between obedience to rule and conscience: in fact one is the opposite of the other.

When we have rules there is an obligation to obey, without any consideration of right and wrong. On the other hand, conscience gives us a instinctive sense of right and wrong, following some inscrutable law

There is often confusion between obedience to rule and conscience:  in fact one is the opposite of the other.

When we have rules there is an obligation to obey, without any consideration of right and wrong.  On the other hand, conscience gives us a instinctive sense of right and wrong, following some inscrutable law

Man acquired the judgment of right and wrong following the fall. He became, as God put it, ‘as one of us knowing good and evil’ (Gen 3:22).  Prior from that he was not as God.   He was not holy for he could not abhor sin.  Sin was not in him, so he was unable to judge it.  He was under a law ‘do not eat’ which he had only to obey.

But grace has bought us out of the law, but put us under the authority of Christ as Lord.  Our obedience to Him is therefore not a matter of conscience.  But conscience does come in as we distinguish between what is right and wrong: looking to Christ as a model

In summary there are three things:

  1. Our responsibility to obey God – that is law.
  2. Our sense of good and evil – that is conscience,
  3. Our self-judgment, or repulsion of heart, when an evil act is contemplated – that is holiness.

Based on J. N. Darby: ‘Conscience’ – Notes and Comments Vol. 1, p 104

Sosthenes

August 2016

The Irrationalism of Infidelity – Why Do Men Die?

Death brings fear, and extends its power and gloom over man in spite of his folly and indifference in denying the Saviour. Despite his conscience, man can hide death from his heart, till he meets God.

If God created man in His own image, why does he die?

Everyone knows that man is mortal.  The unbeliever would argue that it is constituted to be so for humans and for animals, and must always have been.  But could not God have sustained it?   All things subsist by Him.

One thing is certain:  some dire and ruinous confusion has come in; the world is full of misery and violence.  This must be due to either a hard-hearted, unintelligible deity, or to a desolated, ruined and sinful world.

Death brings fear, and extends its power and gloom over man in spite of his folly and indifference in denying the Saviour.   Despite his conscience, man can hide death from his heart, till he meets God.

Man was created in the image of God.  Scripture tells us that by sin … death passed upon all men (Rom 5:12).  Man has become like the animals that perish (See Psalm 49:12).   Death could not have come upon animals; dead animals are in ancient fossil remains.  But man was special.

Based on J N Darby  – The Irrationalism of Infidelity – THE ENTRANCE OF DEATH.  For original click here.

Simplified J N Darby – on Independent Churches, Independent Local Assemblies, Personal Judgment and Conscience – On Ecclesiastical Independency

Darby observed the tendency of Christians to confuse their private, independent judgment with their conscience. My individual judgment may be as a result of my own will, and I will act independently, whereas conscience relates to God’s rights, the Word and the Lord’s authority. If I am disobedient, I am acting independently, in self-will, and am despising God’s authority.

There is only one Church of God – the body of Christ. An action in one gathering is binding on all, even if I personally have reservations about it. Scripture does not support independent churches, whether in a place or universally. Although many Christians might prefer to belong to independent assemblies, these are unscriptural, the work of Satan and positively evil, flying in the face of known truth.

 A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

On Ecclesiastical Independency

J N Darby

Darby observed the tendency of Christians to confuse their private, independent judgment with their conscience.  My individual judgment may be as a result of my own will, and I will act independently, whereas conscience relates to God’s rights, the Word and the Lord’s authority.  If I am disobedient, I am acting independently, in self-will, and am despising God’s authority.

There is only one Church of God – the body of Christ.  An action in one gathering is binding on all, even if I personally have reservations about it.  Scripture does not support independent churches, whether in a place or universally.  Although many Christians might prefer to belong to independent assemblies, these are unscriptural, the work of Satan and positively evil, flying in the face of known truth.

If there is blasphemy in a local assembly or association with it, then I have to act.  That is not independence, but I am acting in the light of the whole:  “Because we, being many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17 JND).  We profess to be one body whenever we break bread; scripture knows nothing else.

To view the complete paper –  On Ecclesiastical Independency

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 14 Ecclesiastical 3 – p301) containing this article click here

Personal Judgment and Conscience

It is a fatal mistake to confuse your private, personal and independent judgment, with conscience.  To do so leads to chaos, confusion and disintegration.  That is the trouble with Protestantism.

A father has authority.  He is not infallible.  But I have to respect his authority, and submit to it, even if I disagree with my father.  If I disobeyed my father whenever it conflicted with personal judgment, I would be despising his authority.  In fact I am putting my self-will above obedience.   Indeed, in many situations – government, employment and so on, obedience is obligatory although there is no infallibility.  Otherwise there would be no order in the world at all.  There is blessing in doing what we know in obedience.

But if Christ’s authority is a stake, a denial of the Word, or the confession of His name, then that is a matter of conscience.  I am bound to love Christ more than father or mother.

However, obeying God rather than man is not to give liberty to the human will.  Scripture does not tolerate that.  We are sanctified to the obedience of Christ.  And this principle – our doing God’s will in simple obedience, without analysing every matter that comes up – is a path of peace.  Many who consider themselves wise do not regard that, but it is the path of God’s wisdom.

Assembly Judgment and Personal Judgment

The same principle applies in the Church.  Say a Christian assembly has put somebody out for evil.  The assembly feels that he is humbled and repentant and restores him.  I think he is not.  It would be a despisal of the assembly for me to refuse to break bread with that person because of my private judgment.  The same applies if the converse is true.  If I think he is humbled and the assembly is not, then I have to continue humbly in prayer and look to the Lord to set things right.

I might disagree with something that arises in my Christian gathering.  Who am I to impose my individual way of thinking on my brethren?    If I set up my judgment as superior to that of the Assembly of God which has been entrusted to care for the Lord’s interests, I am neglecting God’s word and He will not honour me in that.   Moreover, if I leave an assembly because it does not agree with me in everything, I cannot belong to any assembly of God anywhere the world.  I am denying the presence and help of the Holy Spirit, and the faithfulness of Christ to His people.

Darby said: There is such a thing as lowliness as to self, which does not set up its own opinion against others, though one may have no doubt of being right.

One Assembly’s Act Binds Another

Scripture does not support the idea of independent Christian assemblies.  All Christians are members of the Body of Christ.  When the assembly in Corinth was called to act as to the incestuous man in 1 Corinthians 5, that assembly was responsible for maintaining things pure for the Lord, and action was taken by the whole assembly in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.   The wicked person could not have been received in Ephesus  or nearby Cenchrea.  If assemblies acted as independent churches and received independently of one another, then they would be rejecting the unity of the body.  There could then be no practical unity.

Christian unity is maintained by the headship of Christ, not by His lordship.  Christ is Lord to individuals, but Head to the whole body, – head over all things to the church.  (Ephesians 1:22).  Therefore unity is not by lordship.  Obedient, godly individuals will help to maintain it; but unity is the unity of the Spirit, in the whole body, not in multiple bodies.

As to Church unity, scripture does not speak about churches or a bond linking individual churches. Unity does not consist of union of churches.  The idea of Independent churches: one body of Christians being independent of every other but united by voluntary association, is unscriptural.  It is a simple denial of the unity of the body.

What is an Assembly Judgment?

If a judgment is made by one or a few dominant Christians in an assembly, not by the whole assembly, then the Lord’s place in the midst of an assembly is set aside. Individuals are acting in the flesh.  It cannot be called an assembly judgment.

The saying “Obedience to first Christ, then the Church” is totally unscriptural.  That is separating the two: if Christ is not in the church, then it is not the Church of Christ.  It would justify my putting private judgment above that of the assembly.

What about Serious Church Matters?

If a Christian assembly supports or associates with what is blasphemous, then that is a totally different matter.  I cannot be associated with that.  I cannot use lowliness as to self to justify my remaining in that assembly; I would be setting aside the idea of the Church of God.  I am free to act: we are a flock, not an enclosure.

What the Church must Judge

The judicial authority of the Church of God is in obedience to the word.  Paul says “Do ye not judge them that are within? Them that are without God judgeth. Wherefore put out from among yourselves that wicked person.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)  Where a person has been judged unfit for Christian fellowship,  Christians everywhere are bound to respect it.   Even if something had been done in the flesh, it is met by recognising the supreme authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the presence of the Spirit of God amongst the saints.

It is wrong for one Christian church or assembly to assume the competency to judge another.  Otherwise that would justify independent churches.  This is unscriptural and denial of the whole structure of the Church of God.  Many Christians understandably prefer to be members of independent churches; it is more comfortable, and they can choose an assembly that suits them, but that is wrong.  The Church is not a voluntary association; It is not formed of independent churches, each acting for itself.  When Antioch admitted Gentiles, there was no suggestion that Jerusalem would not.  There is one body and every Christian has the duty to maintain its unity.  Self-will might wish otherwise, but grace certainly does not.

What if there are Difficulties in the Assembly?

We do not have an apostolic centre now, as there was in Jerusalem in Acts 15.  But we do have the the Holy Spirit, acting in healing grace and helpful gift, and the faithfulness of a gracious Lord who has promised never to leave us or forsake us.  The Holy Ghost acts in the body, maintaining its unity.

But what if the flesh acts in the Christian assembly?  It may do.  But what denies the unity of the Church, and splits it up into independent churches, is unscriptural, and nothing but the flesh.  It is the dissolution of the Church of God.  The remedy is in humble, subject minds, helped by God’s Spirit in maintaining the unity of the body and the Lord’s faithful love and care.  If I cite the question of infallibility to justify my judgment over against divinely-ordained authority met by lowly grace, I am on independent lines, rejecting the whole authority of scripture in its teaching on the subject of the Church.  I am setting up a system of man instead of God.

Is “Two or three Gathered Together” the Assembly of God?

If two or three are gathered together, it is an assembly, and if scripturally assembled in the Lord’s Name, an assembly of God.  If it is the only Christian assembly in a place, it is the assembly of God in that place.  But if souls set up an assembly, and assume the exclusive title of the assembly of God, they may lose sight of the ruin of the church.  Any assembly set up by man’s will, independent of the unity of the body cannot morally claim to be the assembly of God in God’s sight.  The whole independent system is unscriptural, the work of Satan and positively evil, flying in the face of known truth.   Ignorance is one thing; opposition to the truth is something else.

It is alleged that because the Church is in ruins the unity of the body can no longer be maintained.  So if we maintain that but gather to break bread, we are in disorder and defying God’s word “Because we, being many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17 JND).  We profess to be one body whenever we break bread; scripture knows nothing else.

J.N. Darby (1800-1882)

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

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

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