J N Darby Simplified – The Body of Christ (the Assembly here) and the House of God (Christian Profession)

A clear view of the way the church is presented:

The body according to the purpose and work of God, its members quickened with Christ, raised up and sitting in heavenly places in Him.
The body manifested on the earth by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (not water), outwardly expressed by union in partaking of the Lord’s supper.
The spiritual house in the thought and purpose of God, built on the foundation of apostles and prophets of the New Testament, growing up a holy temple to the Lord.

 

The Body of Christ (the Assembly here) and the House of God (Christian Profession)

Based on a Paper by J N Darby – ‘The House of God; the Body of Christ; and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.

JND Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p15 –74

 

J N Darby

Throughout Christendom, in both Roman Catholic and Protestant circles, there is confusion as to the difference between the house of God and the body of Christ.  The error that is rampant throughout Christendom, is that these two things are regarded as essentially the same, and that membership of a church gives a person all the privileges and blessings of Christianity.

We have to distinguish between:

 

  • The Body of Christ This comprises living members on earth, born of God, quickened of the Spirit, with all their sins forgiven. They have been perfected by one offering and are heirs of the inheritance of glory.
  • The House of God, a more general concept, encompassing the whole Christian environment or profession. Many are brought into it by birth.

 

If the house and the body were the same thing, all persons attending a church, adults or infants, believers and unbelievers, would be regarded as saved and members of the body of Christ.   There would be no value in the death of Christ or the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Assembly or Body of Christ

In the New Testament we have the word ἐκκλησία/ekklésia/Strong 1577  This is translated as ‘church’ in the King James Bible, and in most other modern English translations.  In our minds when people use the word ‘church’ they would think of a physical building, or a particular denomination.  Calling a physical church building a ‘house of God’ adds to the confusion.

It is for this reason that J N Darby preferred to use the word ‘assembly’- (see Matt 16:18 Darby Version).  This is a more literal rendering of the Greek word (ἐκ-κλησία/ek-klésia = out-called = a-sembled).  Where two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in their midst – that is the true church.   Darby noted that the rendering was better in other languages, the word in German, Gemeinde, the word normally used for ‘community’.  The French église, and Welsh eglwys come directly from the Greek.

He also noted the words used in the Old Testament.

  • Qe-hal or kahal (Strong 6951)– congregation or assemblage – Strong uses convocation (See 2 Chron 30:25)
  • Mo-w-ed or moed (Strong 4150) – the appointed place of meeting where they met God (See Ex 33:7)
  • Ha-ed-ah or hedah (Strong 5712) – congregation or assembly – a company formed together by appointment (See Ex 12:3)

Israel was the assembly of God, but having rejected the Messiah, it is set aside, we might say, by the death of Christ.  Israel failed in its witness of the unity of the Godhead, by the adoption of idolatry.  So when the Lord Jesus came, Israel as a nation failed to recognise God’s visitation, and rejected Him.

From the time of the prophets onwards, God has always had a remnant of Israel who were devoted to Him.  Prophecy looked forward to a remnant which would be preserved and brought back in the last days.

In Psalm 22 we have the Lord’s death as seen by the remnant (the seed that would serve Him v. 30).  The Lord was to be been forsaken, and then heard of God – answereed from the horns of the buffaloes (or unicorns) (v. 21). The response is ‘I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation [kahal] will I praise thee (v. 22).  This corresponds to Lord declaring to Mary Magdalen, ‘Go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and [to] my God and your God’. (John 20:17).  What delight God has is in the value of His sacrifice when sin is put away.

In Matthew 16:19, Peter is given the keys the keys of the kingdom of heaven: he is not given the keys for the church (assembly).  The church has no keys.   Neither Matthew nor Peter give us teaching as to the assembly.  We have the house – Peter, in his epistle says, ‘Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:5).

For teaching as to the assembly we have to come to Paul: ‘The Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God (Col 2:19).  Whereas Peter sees things here, Paul sees the centre in heaven, where the Head is now.

When the Holy Spirit came, we have many Jews converted – 3000 in one day.  Soon after in Acts, we have the introduction of the Samaritans, and then the Gentiles.   Christians were persecuted, culminating in their rejection of Stephen’s testimony to Christ in heaven, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:56). Paul is converted having witnessed Stephen’s martyrdom and testimony, and in what the Lord said to him from heaven, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest’ (Acts 9:5).   Thus Paul received the light of the living body united to the Head in heaven, and us seated in the heavenly places in Christ (see Ephesians 1:20).  Paul also showed that the body comprised living members, all fitted together perfectly – no dead members, and not a mutilated body.  That is the body of Christ here.

 

The Church in a Scene of Responsibility Here

Israel had failed in responsibility: now we see the Church in responsibility now.  It is important to see that the house has been is established, because in the house there can be failure even to apostasy.   On the other hand, the assembly cannot fail, because Christ is ‘head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all’ (Ephesians 1:22-23).  As Head over all things to the assembly Christ, the glorious Man, is Prophet, Priest and King.  Whereas man had failed, you have Christ such perfection that He will be ‘glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe’ (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

In Ephesians 1:1 to 2:10, we have the assembly according to the purpose and counsel of God, There is no dependence on man.  Paul’s prayer was ‘That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 1:17-20).

From Ephesians 2:11 we have the actual condition down here.  It is being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ being the cornerstone, and what is being built is  the dwelling place of God through the Spirit. In Ephesiuans Paul refers much to the mystery, and it can be seen in the church livingly here.  Augustine spoke of an invisible church, and this is still referred to, but this is not invisible.  There is the outward manifestation of the church its unity, recognition of the work of the Spirit of God on earth.  We see it in the gifts (apostles, prophets, teachers) which have been given in the whole (not the local) assembly.  They are placed in the assembly, on earth, among ‘them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints  (1 Corinthians 1:2).

The Assembly as God’s Habitation

The second aspect of the assembly in Ephesus is a dispensational one.   Christ builds an assembly secured from Satan’s power.  We have the assembly according to the councils of God God workmanship in an ordered condition – not as what it has become was in the hands of man.  We have in Ephesians ch 1-2, facts rather than opinions – Jews and Gentiles made nigh by the blood of Christ, the middle wall of partition broken down, and all reconciled into one body by the cross, and formed together growing to a holy temple in the Lord.  This is a work going on in grace on earth – God’s habitation by the Spirit.   It does not say that God animates and unites believers, but He has a place where He dwells. Unity will result.

In chapter 4 we are told walk in love, worthy of the calling, and to use diligence to keep the unity.   We are given the unity from God’s point of view ‘There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all’  (Ch 4:4-6).   This is not the view according to man’s responsibility that we get in 1 Corinthians 3:12.  There you get what is being built on the good foundation  – good things – gold, silver, precious stones, and worthless things – wood, hay, stubble.  All man’s bad building will be lost.  In 2 Timothy 2, we get the great house – with vessels to honour and dishonour also those professing Christians with the form of godliness but denying its power. The true believer to is to purge himself (or turn away), from these and follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  (see 2 Tim 2:21-22 and 3:5).

After the rapture the apostate church will remain, led by the man of sin.

 

Summary

In summary, these scriptures referred to give us a clear view of the way the church is presented:

  1. The body according to the purpose and work of God, its members quickened with Christ, raised up and sitting in heavenly places in Him.
  2. The body manifested on the earth by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (not water), outwardly expressed by union in partaking of the Lord’s supper.
  3. The spiritual house in the thought and purpose of God, built on the foundation of apostles and prophets of the New Testament, growing up a holy temple to the Lord.
  4. The building of this house in fact by the labours of man. Paul might have been the wise master-builder; but there were others not building with good materials.
  5. The great house with vessels to dishonour to purify themselves and turn away.
  6. Finally, after the rapture, the actual apostasy ending in judgment.

 

What Church Leaders have Taught

In the subsequent thirty pages of the paper, J N Darby looks at the writings of the various church fathers starting just after the apostolic period (Barnabas, Clement etc) up till the eighteenth century – Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox.  If you wish to read this in detail, it is in the original article, starting at page 39.

 

Here is a Summary of happenings in the Great House:

In short, almost nobody saw the assembly in its heavenly character according to the purpose of God.  This was because most walked by sight.  Water baptism became the method of entry, this being held by most.  And the house of God was taken to be he physical building.  Many considered being a member of the church as being the same as salvation.  They acquiesced in evil, quoting the parable of the wheat and the tares – God would have it all right in the end.  Priests became mediators.  That was supposed to be Christianity!

 

Sosthenes

January 2018

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – The Post-captivity Prophets

Haggai is occupied with the house, and declares that its latter glory will be greater than its first. Zechariah is particularly occupied with Jerusalem. He shows the Lord dealing with all nations, having Jerusalem as a centre. Malachi – Here we have the testimony of the restored Jews’ total failure.

 

Outline of Bible coverIn these books, Haggai and Zechariah, the Jews are never called God’s people, except in prospect of the future.

 

Haggai

Haggai is occupied with the house, and declares that its latter glory will be greater than its first. God says that shakes all nations, and encourages them to build, declaring that His Spirit went with them’ as it was when Israel left Egypt. God will overthrow the throne of all kingdoms, and establish Christ under the name of Zerubbabel, as the elect Man, as the signet on His right hand.

Zechariah

Zechariah is particularly occupied with Jerusalem. He shows the Lord dealing with all nations, having Jerusalem as a centre, using one nation to cast out another, till His purposes are accomplished. Then, when the glory has come, He establishes Himself at Jerusalem. In the person of Joshua, the high priest, He justifies her against the adversary; He declares that He will come, and He puts all wisdom, the omniscience of His government, in Jerusalem. He prophesies as to the perfection of the administrative order in the kingdom and priesthood, and the judgment of all corrupt pretension to it, which is shown to be Babylonish. He builds the temple of the land by means of the Branch, judging the hostile power of the world, using all this to encourage them at that time in building the temple. Thus far is one prophecy (chaps. 1-6).

In the next prophecy he takes occasion, by those who inquire whether they should fast for the ruin of Jerusalem, to promise her restoration (now, for the present, on the ground of responsibility). He declares that He will protect His house against all surrounding enemies. He brings in Christ in humiliation, and carries on to the time of glory. He foresees Chris’s executing judgment by Judah upon Greece (Javan), gathering all the scattered ones. In chapters 11-14 we have the details of Christ’s rejection, and the foolish and idolatrous shepherd, when He judges all the nations as meddling with Jerusalem. He defends Jerusalem, bringing them to repentance, and opens the fountain for their cleansing. In contrast to the false spirit of prophecy, we get Christ’s humiliation and the sparing of a remnant, when the body of the people are cut off from Judea at the end. We have the final deliverance and the sanctifying of Jerusalem by the presence of the Lord, making her the centre of all worship upon earth.

In chapter 13:5 we see Christ as the servant of man, the rejected one of the Jews, and the smitten of Jehovah. “For man possessed me from my youth.” It then appears that it was among His friends that He was wounded in His hands. The great secret of all comes out, that He was Jehovah’s fellow, and smitten of Him. (Note, where Christ is owned as God, He calls the saints His fellows; and where, as here, He is in deepest humiliation, God calls Him His fellow.)

Malachi

Here we have the testimony of the restored Jews’ total failure. This was in spite of God’s electing love, which He still maintained. Then the Lord comes, sending a messenger before His face. He comes in thoroughly sifting and purifying judgment, owning the remnant who spake one to another in the fear of the Lord, in the midst of the wickedness. He lifts them up, and sets them over the power of the wicked, the Sun of Righteousness rising upon them for healing. But at the same time He calls them back to the law of Moses, with the promise of sending them Elijah the prophet to turn their hearts.

Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes, July 2014  

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

J N Darby – Love Divine – Father, Thy sovereign Love has sought Captives to Sin, gone far from Thee

FATHER, Thy sovereign love has sought
Captives to sin, gone far from Thee

Hymn by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)

L.M. 

FATHER, Thy sovereign love has sought
Captives to sin, gone far from Thee;
The work that Thine own Son hath wrought
Has brought us back in peace and free.

And now, as sons before Thy face,
With joyful steps the path we tread,
Which leads us on to that blest place
Prepared for us by Christ, our Head.

Thou gav’st us, in eternal love,
To Him to bring us home to Thee,
Suited to Thine own thoughts above,
As sons, like Him, with Him to be

In Thine own house. There Love divine
Fills the bright courts with cloudless joy;
But ’tis the love that made us Thine
Fills all that house without alloy.

Oh, boundless grace! What fills with joy
Unmingled all that enter there,
God’s nature, Love without alloy,
Our hearts are given e’en now to share.

God’s righteousness with glory bright,
Which with its radiance fills that sphere –
E’en Christ, of God the power and light –
Our title is that light to share.

O Mind divine! so must it be,
That glory all belongs to God.
O Love divine! that did decree
We should be part, through Jesus’ blood.

Oh, keep us, Love divine, near Thee,
That we our nothingness may know;
And ever to Thy glory be –
Walking in faith while here below.

J N Darby 1880

Edited version in Little Flock Hymn Book  (1962, 1973) – No 87, 88

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

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

J N Darby on Household Baptism
John Nelson Darby

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

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

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

Montpelier, 1851

To Mr L.F..

The State of the Church

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

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

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

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

Baptism as a Privilege

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baptism and Little Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

Churches and the Church

J N Darby

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

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

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

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

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

What is the Church?

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

The Church as the Body of Christ

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

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

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

The Church as the House (or Habitation) of God

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

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

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

What are Churches or Assemblies?

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

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

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

The State of Churches Now

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

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

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

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

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

The Scriptural View of Churches

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

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

How should a Christian view the State of Christian Churches?

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

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

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

J.N. Darby (1800-1882)

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

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

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