J N Darby – Echo of Songs in the Night – To live of Thee – Blest Source of Deepest Joy!

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

TO live of Thee – blest source of deepest joy!
To hear e’en now by faith Thy voice of love-
Thou living spring of bliss without alloy,
Bright inlet to the light of heaven above!

Come, fill my soul! Thy light is ever pure,
And brings from heaven what Thou alone canst give,
Yea, brings Thyself, the revelation sure
Of heaven’s eternal bliss; in Thee we live.

I hail Thee, Lord! Of Thee my song shall speak –
Poor and unworthy strains, yet still of Thee;
Yes, fill my soul! ’tis this my heart doth seek –
To dwell in love, and God my dwelling be.

Thou’st made the Father known; Him have we seen
In Thy blest Person – infinite delight!
Yes, it suffices: though we here but glean
Some foretaste of His love, till all be light.

O, dwell with me; let no distracting thought
Intrude to hide from me that heavenly light.
Be Thou my strength! Let not what Thou hast brought
Be chased by idle nature’s poor delight.

Father, Thou lov’st me. Favour, all divine,
Rests on my soul, a cloudless favour! There
Thy face shines on me, as it still doth shine
On Thy blest Son! His image I shall bear!

But now, e’en now, Thy love can fill my soul –
That love that soars beyond all creature thought –
In spirit bring where endless praises roll,
And fill my longing heart till there I’m brought.

Thee will I hail, O Lord, in whose blest face
God’s glory shines unveiled! Thee will I praise,
Whose love has brought me nigh in righteous grace,
And soon wilt come, eternal songs to raise!

And oh! how deep the peace, when, nature gone,
Thy Spirit fills the soul, strengthened with might,
With love divine; and God as Love is known!
Lord, keep my soul, and guide my steps aright.

Praise be for ever His who giveth songs by night!

John Nelson Darby,

Wriiten 1879
Parts of the above are in Hymns for the Little Flock 1962 and 1973 – Nos 73, 137 and 254
Meter 10.10.10.10

If we Fail

f anyone sin, we have an advocate

John writes in his epistle, ‘If anyone sin, we have an advocate’ (1 John 2:1), not ‘If anyone repents and goes to Him’. Jesus washed the His disciples’ feet, they did not ask Him to do it.

The righteousGods graceness of God has placed us before Him in the light. We should now walk in the light, even though we are weak, are tempted and too often stumble. We should maintain communion with God, glorifying Him. Once we were in darkness; now with the Lord we are in the light.

As High Priest, He bears our judgment in our favour according to God’s light and perfections. As the objects of the Father’s love, we are accepted in Christ, because of the Father’s affection for Jesus, and of Jesus’ rights over the Father’s heart.

The Lord obtained the Holy Spirit for us, for us to enjoy the place where we He has placed us. If we fail our relationships with the Lord and the Holy Spirit are disturbed – but they are unchanged. The Holy Spirit is grieved, but the God’s grace towards us, and our righteousness before Him are unaltered. Can the Father overlook sin, and bless us as if nothing had happened? No, that would be impossible. Our failures and weaknesses bring out the grace that purifies us and establishes us. We get to know ourselves more deeply as we become more divested of self. We become calmer, humbler and with more holiness, knowing God better. His grace is sufficient for us.

That is how the Priesthood of Christ operates.


The above is based on part of a letter written by JND.  Click here for the original French version and the translation by our brother Brian Surtees

 

 

The Authorship of the New Testament

The New Testament history bears the proven stamp of perfect divine arrangement. My object is to draw attention to the question which is often silently dropped — Who is the author of the New Testament history? Whose will, purpose or plan is behind this history of the Lord Jesus? Is it a divine or a human one? If the purpose and moving was of the Holy Spirit, I must look for His carrying that purpose out.

Outline of Bible cover
John Nelson Darby wrote a paper, ‘
Inspiration of the Scriptures’, in which he maintained that the authorship of the Holy Scriptures was God Himself. He was countering the assertion, prevalent in the churches, questioning the authorship of scripture, saying that the Bible was the chance writings of various persons, presenting things in the best way they could. Darby showed the divine plan in the gospels despite the apparent factual inconsistencies and differences in the sequence of the Lord’s miracles and other events.

 

The enemy is set against the Word of God. While most believers acknowledge the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, in much of Christendom the church is seen as having ultimate authority. In intellectual wisdom, theologians see their authority as divinely given.   Human intellect takes superior ground. This leads to rationalism.

God’s divine authority is in the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God presents divine truth from God and calls for submission. Through it, in sovereign mercy, the Christian has a renewed connection with God. Sin and flesh had separated us from God. Now we see God revealed even in that state of separation. For this God must be the author — only God can rightly reveal Himself.   Otherwise the Word cannot bear witness to the love and purpose of God.

Who was the author of the New Testament? How did it come to be written? What was its purpose? Is the existence of the New Testament an accident, in the historical accounts of four men? Or is the New Testament history the a fruit of divine intention and plan, and is the Holy Spirit its author?

In Peter, Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21). The Holy Spirit was the source; the word of the Lord came to them.   The writers had individual styles, but the Lord was pleased to use them. He used their memories in the way and sequence that He pleased, producing a witness to Christ, entirely beyond the thoughts of the writer.

Many short-sighted discussions on inspiration leave aside or deny the motive power of the Spirit of God.

 

The Sequence of the Historical Accounts

Either the Holy Spirit moved the inspired writers to compose their accounts, or He did not. If not, then the existence of the various written accounts of the life of Jesus are a providential accident, and do not show God’s intentions, plans and purposes. Alternatively, God has given His Church an account of the wonderful facts of incarnation and redemption and all that accompanied these great events in a ruined world.

It is absurd to think that the gospel writers’ work was the uncertain fruit of their own research.   That would not answer to His intentions in showing us the glory of Christ and the truth as it is in Him?

If Christ is presented in various characters, why should the Holy Spirit not present facts in order to display those characters in the way it was calculated to do, employing human agents to do it?   This argument assumes that there is no purpose or plan of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. The moment I believe that there is, I must expect the materials to be selected and arranged according to God’s purpose and plan. Anything else is absurd. The Holy Spirit recalled facts to the evangelists, not in an haphazard way.

Where inspiration is denied, it is easy to think that each evangelist did the best he could, putting the things out of order because he knew no better. If, on the other hand, God desired to glorify His Son Jesus, and in grace give us an adequate account of His life and sufferings, we can easily understand the Spirit of God so ordering various accounts, as to present the various aspects of His path on earth.   They consistently unfold the divine nature with true facts, variously arranged by several independent writers.

The four Gospels present Christ differently. Did this flow from the purpose and intention of God, or was it an accident? If it was from divine purpose, I must look for an ordering of the materials according to that purpose. For example, was the deliverance of the demoniac in Galilee before or after Matthew’s call? Was that relevant?

 

The Presentation of the Historical Accounts

Luke says, Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to compose an account of what is most surely believed among us, as it has been delivered to us by those who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having accurate knowledge of all things from the origin, to write to thee with method, etc. (Luke 1:1-3). The evangelist contrasts the ground on which he wrote with that of others. Others had had known what had been delivered, but he was on more trustworthy ground. He had thorough personal knowledge of everything from the outset. Paul says of Timothy, Thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, etc. (2 Tim. 3:10). It is not said Luke knew them himself, but παρηχολουθνχότι νωθεν πσιν χριβς (having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first – Luke 1:1-3). It would be hard to express personal accurate knowledge more strongly. It has nothing to do with the question of inspiration. The conclusion that Luke derived his materials from other sources is wholly unfounded.

That the selection of facts depended on human agency is still more absurd. It is held that the Holy Spirit helped the writers to recall what Jesus said. What influenced their selection? Could something much more important have been omitted? Such an irreverent thought is absurd. There were many other things (see John 21:25). What was written was sufficient.

The question arises, ‘Who was the author and mover in the history we have of the blessed Lord?’   If it was the Holy Spirit, then was He the source of this history; and had He a purpose in giving it? To suppose that the Holy Spirit left us an imperfect, wrongly arranged, inconsistent account of the Lord Jesus, is in fact the most irreverent and absurd of all theories as to inspiration

The New Testament history bears the proven stamp of perfect divine arrangement. My object is to draw attention to the question which is often silently dropped — Who is the author of the New Testament history? Whose will, purpose or plan is behind this history of the Lord Jesus? Is it a divine or a human one? If the purpose and moving was of the Holy Spirit, I must look for His carrying that purpose out.

 

A summary of a paper by J N Darby entitled, Inspiration of the Scriptures.  Click here for the full article.

 

The Power, Hopes, Calling, Present Position, and Occupation of the Church

We need to understand what the church really is, and to distinguish between the kingdom and the church. In the kingdom we get the display of God’s power and government, whereas in the church it is union and fellowship

The church is Christ’s representative on earth. By one Spirit we have been baptised into one body, whose Head is at the right hand of God in heaven, united to the members, formed into a body down here on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture calls this ‘the church.’

The hope of the church is founded on her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. She is united to her Head there, seated in heaven in Him, waiting to be there physically. The occupation of the church ought to be in constant, incessant reference to her Head. If not, she cannot act for Him. She looks, to her Head, the only source of power, and joins with the Holy Spirit in the cry ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come’ (Rev 22:17).

A summary of a paper by J.N. Darby entitled:

The Church – What is it? Her Power, Hopes, Calling, Present Position, and Occupation.

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

Published in Darby’s Collected Writings –  Volume 12 (Evangelical 1) Page 372.

Click here for the original text

 

Summary

We need to understand what the church really is, and to distinguish between the kingdom and the church.  In the kingdom we get the display of God’s power and government, whereas in the church it is union and fellowship

The church is Christ’s representative on earth.  By one Spirit we have been baptised into one body, whose Head is at the right hand of God in heaven, united to the members, formed into a body down here on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture calls this ‘the church.’

The hope of the church is founded on her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. She is united to her Head there, seated in heaven in Him, waiting to be there physically.  The occupation of the church ought to be in constant, incessant reference to her Head. If not, she cannot act for Him. She looks, to her Head, the only source of power, and joins with the Holy Spirit in the cry ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come’ (Rev 22:17).

The Church and the Kingdom

We need to understand what the church really is, and to distinguish between the kingdom and the church. There are endless theories about the question, ‘What is the church?’ Some say it is ‘visible,’ others ‘invisible’; some, that there will be a church by-and-by, but there is none now; that there is no church on earth (there may be churches), but (when all are assembled in heaven) there will be a church.

The church is Christ’s representative on earth – the epistle of Christ (See 2 Cor 3:3). As the tables of stone represented what God demanded from man, so should the church be the revelation of what God is to man in grace and power.

The kingdom is different. In the kingdom we get the display of God’s power and government, whereas in the church it is union and fellowship. We should also distinguish ‘the gospel of the kingdom’ and ‘the kingdom,’ from ‘the gospel’ (in its full scope) and ‘the church.’   Paul preached the kingdom of God – that is very different from Christ’s reign of power on the earth, when Christ will have His bride united to Him in glory. When Paul speaks of his ministry, he distinguishes between the ministry of the gospel of salvation and the ministry of the church.

 

The Kingdom – Past, Present and Future

Up to the time of Samuel, the point of association between the people and God was through the priesthood. But the priests were unfaithful, and then the Lord wrote ‘Ichabod’ upon what had been Israel’s glory. The ark was taken by the Philistines; the priests were slain and the link between God and the people was broken. However God had a plan that Israel should have a king. But Israel set about it the wrong way: they got Saul who did not understand the signs. David did, and was the type of Christ the King.

After King David is introduced, the priesthood ceases to be the habitual link between the people and God. God says, ‘I will raise me up a faithful priest . . . and he shall walk, before mine anointed [not me] for ever’ (1 Sam. 2:35). A royal person is the link between God and the people. When Solomon dedicated the temple (as a Melchisedek priest), the priests could not stand to minister; the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God, the king praised God and blessed the people

Finally the King was presented in humiliation in the Person of Christ. John the Baptist says, ‘Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’. (Matt 3:2 – the King coming in judgment). After John was rejected and cast into prison, Christ, the mightier One, takes up the same testimony: ‘From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matt 4:17). Jesus went about Galilee, teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, healing the sick. The power of God was with Him, and it was seen. Then, the King having been rejected, the apostles went out preaching the kingdom. They knew ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 13:11), and God was with them. At present it is more testimony than power, but there will be a special testimony to the coming of the kingdom before the close of this dispensation.

The kingdom is still to be set up in the Person of Jesus Christ. He must go to a far country to receive a kingdom and return (See Luke 19:11). This is the ‘world to come’ (Heb 2:5, etc.), and the power of Satan will be set aside. Heaven will be in the seat of the kingdom. We will reign with Him there, joint-heirs with Christ, siting on thrones.’

 

Paul’s Ministry as to the Church

There is another aspect to Paul’s ministry which is beyond the reach of dispensations: man is at enmity with God, Jews and Gentiles alike being known only as children of wrath. Paul preached the gospel to every creature under heaven. He was not simply a minister of the gospel; he was a minister of the church to fulfil [complete] the word of God (See Col 1:25).

Paul deduces that there is a body of which Christ is the Head, associated and connected with Him in His headship over all things. How? – ‘By one Spirit are we all baptised into one body,’ (1 Cor. 12:13). God ‘gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all’(Eph 1:23). By one Spirit we have been baptised into one body, and we have the Head and the body united together. Ministries, gifts of healing, etc., are not in heaven, nor are the ‘joints and bands’. It will be in heaven eventually no doubt, but it is now on earth. The Head is at the right hand of God in heaven, united to the members, formed into a body down here on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture calls this ‘the church.’

 

There is something in Matt 16:18 that is often overlooked. The Lord says to Peter, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ He gives the keys to Peter – the keys of the kingdom, not of the church. The church is that body which the Holy Spirit forms into unity, with the Lord Jesus Christ as Head, He sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

 

The Church – its Power and Responsibility

As to power, In Scripture it is not the power of the church, but the power that works in us – the power of God working in the church. The Head supplies what is needed. ‘Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us’ (Eph 3:20). He nourishes His church according to its need. His powerful operations are however limited by the moral condition of the church. But God is true and cannot act in the power of grace contrary to the moral condition of the church or any individual. He may bear with its state in patience, but God will never sanction publicly what He disapproves of.

When we think of the saving of souls, it is rather the sovereign operation of the Spirit of God through the gospel. But the church is a vessel of power, and miracles testify to the power of Christ as the risen Son of man.

We must understand where we are, before we can get the blessing suited to our being part of the body of Christ. Christ never alters His mind. His grace remains the same, as does what He seeks from the church in responsibility, otherwise faith could not progress. But the ways in which He acts vary. In the days of the apostles the church was adorned with all sorts of miracles. It is different now. Christ will never give up His thoughts about the church; but if we are doing what we feel to be right, He will make sad work of what we have done. ‘He that gathereth not with me scattereth.’ (Matt 12:30).

If Christ gathers, He scatters that which is not gathered in the power of unity with Himself – just like a pack of cards. This may surprise and humble us, but it does not discourage us since we look for God to act. The church’s power is in her weakness and her spirit constant, simple, unmingled dependence.

 

The Hope of the Church

When Christ leaves the Father’s throne to take the church unto Himself, it will form a glorious body in heaven. Now, while He is sitting at the right hand of God, the only thing He owns as the church is the body down here.

The hope of the church is founded on her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. She is united to her Head there, seated in heaven in Him, waiting to be there physically. As the bride of Christ on earth, she is a pilgrim here, and desires to have no more to do with the world than Christ has. She will see things set right in the kingdom, but this is not her hope: her hope is her marriage with the well-known heavenly Bridegroom. That is how Paul knew that the church’s place was to be with Christ there. In 1 Thess 4:17, Paul says, ‘Then shall we ever be with the Lord’, our bodies changed. What follows? Nothing! A great many things may be happening now, but the church’s hope is to be with Him and like Him, for she will see Him as He is.

We have a heavenly calling, but that does not in itself convey the thought of the church. We must not confuse what we are as members of the church with the church itself. Many things are true of the members that do not apply to the church as a distinct body. As individuals, we are called, and look to be caught up into heaven; we have a heavenly portion as the brethren of Christ, even if we do not know that we are the body and bride of Christ. We are builded together for the habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph 2:22): that is the calling of the church down here.

As to our present position and occupation, one thing is very different from the early church. When the Spirit of God was working in the beginning of the gospel, the testimony had great power, producing a substantial result – a visible, identifiable gathering. There is nothing like this. The sheep have been scattered; the camp has gone wrong. As a result there are all sorts of opinions. Even unity involves separation from evil (See Darby’s Separation from Evil, God’s Principle of Unity). I must look to Christ as the Centre of truth. If my soul is not prepared to look to Him, and gather with Him, I shall be cast into the uncertain condition of the differing opinions of every saint I meet. If Christ is our common object, there will be a coalescing power. I find the church of God in a unity which attaches itself to Christ alone, as the sole centre.

The occupation of the church ought to be in constant, incessant reference to her Head. If not, she cannot act for Him. She must get beyond the crowd of Satan’s power, to the Head, the only source of power. Then she can join in the cry ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come’ (Rev 22:17). So should the church has its own light, the light of the outside being shut .out

 

Conclusion

We should get near enough to Christ to enjoy Him, and to know Him truly, and to gather up all that is like Him. If not separated by affection from the world, we shall be separated by discipline in the world. He will vex our souls to get us separate, ‘Because thou servedst not Jehovah thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart . . . therefore thou shalt serve thine enemies which Jehovah thy God shall send against thee’ (Deut 28:47 – Darby).

Darby on Romans 4 – Christ’s resurrection as sealing His work

Law requires power in man to fulfill it. A dead person has no power; resurrection is by God’s power, and Abraham believed that. If God spoke, the thing was certain. That is why his faith was imputed to him for righteousness. When man justifies God not himself, God justifies him. Abraham believed that God was able to perform what He had said; we believe that He raised Christ from the dead – delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.

RomeThere is more in Israel’s history than the law.  Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. (See Rom. 4:3). He was reckoned righteous because of his faith.   Also, David said, ‘Blessed is the man whose iniquity is forgiven, whose sin is covered; blessed the man to whom the Lord imputeth no sin.’ (Psalm 32:2). No sin was imputed to him. He was held to be wholly clear of it before God; it was forgiven and covered. The responsibility of man was fully met, and he knew it.

Faith was counted for righteousness to Abraham. Circumcision was only a seal of the righteousness he had already before he was circumcised.   Therefore he became the father of all who believe (including uncircumcised, believing Gentiles), and more than that, the father of those truly separated to God – circumcised in spirit, not in letter.

The promise to Abraham that he would be the heir of the world was a matter of law, but of the righteousness of faith. Promise is not law: promise and faith go together. If promise had been on the basis of law, faith would have been void – man could not have had an inheritance because of transgression. But the inheritance is of faith, not law, that it might be by grace. Faith just believes in grace.

When Abraham received the promise, as far as having offspring was concerned, he was as good as dead. But he believed what God had said as to his seed. So we have another important principle: grace and promise on the part of God, and faith, and the redemption that is in Christ, on the part of man.   God’s power comes in; God raises the dead, and makes them to be as He calls them. This applies to Abraham’s seed, to the Gentiles’ blessing, and to Christ’s physical resurrection.

Law requires power in man to fulfill it.  The law being given to the sinner, wrath was the consequence of its imposition.  A dead person has no power; resurrection is by God’s power, and Abraham believed that. If God spoke, the thing was certain.  That is why his faith was imputed to him for righteousness. When man justifies God not himself, God justifies him. Abraham believed that God was able to perform what He had said; we believe that He raised Christ from the dead – delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. God glorifies Himself in grace by granting  divine righteousness to man, when he had no human righteousness before God.

As to ourselves, righteousness is imputed to us, as we believe on the God who raised up Christ from the dead. We do not merely own Christ’s work, but God’s acceptance of that work, and His power to quicken the dead. As John said, ‘God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.’ (Matt 3:9).   God demonstrated His power in raising up Christ from death, the state into which our sins had brought Him through grace. Of course, God could not leave Him in death, for He was satisfied as to the matter of sins, and righteously raised Him from the dead – in public testimony.

 A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans 

Darby on Romans 1:18 to 3:20 – All have sinned – the Heathen, the Moraliser and the Jew

Judgment falls on all men:

On the heathen – Rom 1:18-32
On the moraliser – Rom 2:1-16
On the Jew – Rom 2:17-3:20

Rome

There are two great themes of the glad tidings:

  • The revelation of the Person of the Lord Jesus, the Deliverer, the Son of God claims the obedience of faith
  • The righteousness of God on the principle of faith forms the ground on which man could have a part in blessing through grace and God’s purpose.

In Rom 1:18, Paul turns to what makes this righteousness of God necessary to us: God reveals a positive righteousness on His part. ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.’ This is a most important principle. It is not governmental wrath, such as Israel suffered when taken captive to Babylon – God was still hidden behind the veil. Instead it is God Himself fully revealing Himself according to His own nature, abhorrent of evil, exercising wrath against it. God’s nature is incompatible with evil and ungodliness. Wrath was revealed from heaven; Gentile, Jew, men in every condition, come under the judgment

Judgment falls on all men:

 

The Heathen

The heathen Gentile is condemned for disregarding God’s testimony in creation (see v.19-20) and because of his not retaining God in his knowledge (v.21).   He dishonoured God by imaginatively turning the glory of the incorruptible God into images of men, birds, beasts, and reptiles. So God gave them up too: they degraded themselves in vileness as they had degraded God in idolatry. Yet they were aware of the judgment of God.

 

The Moraliser

God’s testimony in creation rendered moralisers such as Socrates inexcusable. They did the things they judged and thus incurred God’s judgment. Doing evil and judging others was not the way of escaping God’s judgment. They despised God’s mercy which would have led them to repentance, thus heaping up wrath on themselves for the day of judgment. This is not dispensational government on those near or those far off, but God revealing His judgment of evil because of who He is.

Here the light of Christianity is thrown on the grounds of judgment. When Christ is revealed, evil is dealt with. The Jews may have a special advantage, if they have sinned under law, they will be judged by law. God is God, and evil is evil, whether in a Jew or a Gentile, for there is no respect of persons with God.

As well as law and natural conscience, obedience to the truth becomes the moral test of man. Hence, in Rom 2:7-8, we have what Christianity has brought to light (glory, honour, immortality and eternal life) ; and in v. 9-10, we see tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that does evil, but glory, honour, and peace on every soul of man that does good – first to the Jew, then to the Greek.

God deals with realities: a godly Gentile was more to His delight than an ungodly Jew, despite the privileges of the latter. The doer of the law would be justified, not he who had and broke it. Conscience shows what is right and wrong, so where there was no law, conscience becomes the law to a man who not under the law of Moses, man having got the knowledge of good and evil by the fall.

Even without law, conscience knows it is wrong to murder or steal. But there is a difference: law imposes a rule by authority – God’s authority; conscience, on the other hand, takes notice of right and wrong in itself, as God does. ‘Man is become as one of us, knowing good and evil’ (Gen 3:22). Hence the secrets of men’s hearts are judged: men come out such as they really are, however much they try to hide things. As a result they that had sinned without law would perish without it.

 

The Jew

From Rom 2:17-3:8, the apostle deals with the Jew. The truth is the same truth, but it the converse of what Paul had said of the Gentile. A Jew who boasted in the law and broke it was as bad as the heathen who had none: the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles through him. He was a Jew who only was so inwardly; whose heart was circumcised in spirit, not in letter; whose praise was not of men, but of God. (see v.29)

We come now to a very important principle in the ways of God: where there was no renewal of heart one was not agreeable to God, despite what the Jew pretended., As the Jew had the scriptures, ‘the oracles of God’ (Ch. 3:2), his privileges added to his responsibility. The apostle recognises the Jews’ privileges, but their unbelief would make the faith – the faithfulness of God – of no effect. God would be true if every man were a liar: He would fulfill His word. He was the more glorified through man’s unfaithfulness, He would judge the evil, otherwise He would not be able to judge the world at all. It is a general principle that man’s unrighteousness proves God’s righteousness in judgment. The Jews’ falseness made God’s faithfulness to His promises more glorious, so that he had not to find fault or reason; but simply says, ‘whose damnation is just (Ch. 3:8).’

 

All have sinned

Though the Jews had advantages, they were no better than the Gentiles.   Both were under sin. The Jew boasted that the scriptures were for him, and for him alone. So the apostle says that we know that what the law says, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’ (See Ps 53:1). The Gentiles were sunk in corruption and idolatry; the Jews were the privileged race, having the oracles of God, but they disbelieved. The Jew was condemned by his own plea, as the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son.

When tried, None without exception was righteous; none had any spiritual intelligence; none sought after God, none did good. There may be amiable characters (there are even amiable animals), but there was not a single heart seeking or fearing God. Every mouth was stopped, and all the world was guilty before God: the Gentiles were lawless and reprobate, working uncleanliness with greediness, the Jews were condemned out of their own mouths by the law in which they boasted. Sin was everywhere.

In this we have the proof of that state which gave occasion to the wrath of God revealed from heaven.

 

 A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans , with additional material from the Synopsis.

 

Darby on Romans – The First few Verses of Romans

The glad tidings have a double character:

The accomplishment of promise
The Person of the Son of God designated in power through resurrection.
That divine power, which raised Him from the dead, and proved Him to be Son of God, was manifested throughout His life in the holiness which never allowed sin to enter for an instant. He was quickened by the Spirit (lit. in Spirit), but His holiness, separation to God, was by the Spirit also. Resurrection was the public demonstration that He was the Son of God in power, having secured the victory over the full wages of sin. The opened eye would have seen the same power in the absolute and perfect holiness all through His sinless life.

Rome Paul’s Commission to preach the Glad Tidings

Paul had never been to Rome, so he is writing from the point of view of his universal mission to the Gentiles. He reasons out the gospel: the state of man, the place the law held, and the Jews’ position. :

The Lord had called him and given him a personal mission to the Gentiles. He was an apostle by God’s calling, separated to the gospel out from the whole human race.  He was directly connected with Christ in glory   He was a witness of the glorified Lord Jesus, unconnected with the Messiah down here or Jesus after the flesh in His earthly (Jewish) associations.  Paul witnessed to a Christ who had suffered death and accomplished redemption, and who was now the glorified Man, the Beginning and Head of creation.

Paul was sent forth into active service by the Holy Spirit from Antioch. ‘Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’ (Acts 13:2)   He received his commission directly from the Lord, and was separated to the glad tidings of God by the Holy Spirit.

The glad tidings have a double character:

  1. The accomplishment of promise
  2. The Person of the Son of God designated in power through resurrection.

The divine power, which raised Him from the dead, proving Him to be Son of God, was manifested throughout His life of holiness.  He was quickened by the Spirit (lit. in Spirit), but His holiness, never allowed sin to enter for an instant. Resurrection was the public demonstration that He was the Son of God in power, having secured the victory over the full wages of sin.   The opened eye would have seen the same power in the absolute and perfect holiness all through His sinless life.

God, in His goodness, approached man in grace. God came to him. This is the true gospel of God.  He came in power and grace, into the place where sin and death reigned.  He is the Son; He has power to deliver, but above all He is the Son of God. Grace made Him a man, but resurrection proved Him to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness. There is One revealed to us in perfect grace, but who in grace has a perfect claim over our souls.

He is from God. In the Person of the Son, God accomplished His promise, and secured victory over death.  His righteousness is revealed, meeting the need of man. This is the general aspect: man’s responsibility and man’s need will follow. But we must first have the gospel as it is for God and before God, though all in grace to us.   God has Himself brought in grace and glory.

As Romans is foundational, the testimony that Christ is Son of God is resurrection, not glory. His ascension is assumed as is the church’s, but already in resurrection God had put His seal on Christ’s Person and His work, redemption having been accomplished, sin atoned for, death overcome and Satan’s stronghold brought to nothing. The whole case between man and God had been met and established  on a new ground.

In Romans some things are not gone into:

  1. The glories which result according to the counsels of God
  2. Our resurrection with Christ
  3. Union with Him (which follows our resurrection with Christ)

Individual justification, not union is the subject of Romans. The assembly is not even presented.  Christ is viewed as risen alone.  Romans does cover our death with Him, because this was necessary to close the old evil, and bring us into a state where we are capable of living with God as fully delivered.

Paul’s mission concerned obedience to the faith (not the law) and the subjection of men’s souls to the truth of the revelation of God’s Son, the risen Man, the Lord Jesus. This can only be in grace, for grace could not come without truth, for what would grace be about, and how else should God be revealed? But God is light, and God is love – we know these in grace and truth.

What marvellous grace it is to see the whole power of evil broken, destroyed, by Him, who was willing to enter into the gloomy chamber of death. In submitting to death, He took upon Himself all the weakness of mortal man,  completely and absolutely delivering him.

There was no difference between Jew and Greek.  To the Gentile it was the revelation of God in grace; to the Jew it was the fulfilment of the gospel that had been announced beforehand by the prophets.  It was now a time to secure people for His Name.

Now we have Paul’s own feelings for those in Rome.  The believers already in Rome were the called of Jesus Christ, beloved of God, and saints by His calling.  The love of Christ made those he had not even seen the objects of his heart, and precious to him.  He expresses his desire to see them. He is apostle by right, but in heart he is their servant; and with the most true and ardent brotherly love, desires to impart t some spiritual gift, but in unfeigned grace he would be comforted in their mutual faith.  He was a ‘debtor to Greeks and barbarians’ (v.14) and he was ready to preach the glad tidings to them. It was ‘to the Jew first, and also to the Greek’ (v. 15). It was salvation to a sinful Jew, who had to come in in mercy, by faith, just like a Gentile.

He was not ashamed of the glad tidings; they were ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (v. 15) – simple words, but how much they contain!  It is not man acting for God, but God acting for man, in man’s favour, to deliver him from the state he was in – to save him.  How marvellous is the grace that sees the whole power of evil broken, destroyed, by Him, who was willing to enter into the gloomy chamber, taking upon Himself all man’s weakness in death,  completely and absolutely delivering him whose penalty He had borne!

Thus, in the gospel, God intervened, accomplishing a salvation which was entirely His own work.   Man came to have part in it by faith without adding anything whatsoever to it.  God be praised that it is so!  Whether for righteousness or for power,  it is a perfect divine work.  The righteousness of God is revealed on the principle of faith to faith. Nothing had to be done by man; nothing was required from man. It is on the principle of faith that it might be by grace. The object is love, God’s intrinsic nature. God’s righteousness was revealed on the principle of faith, not works. The just were to live by faith.

 A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, with additional material from JND’s Synopsis – Romans.

Darby on Romans – Introduction to Romans

We need to understand two aspects of man’s state of sin

Man as living in evil ways, alive to sin and lust. According to Romans, death must come in to free him from the evil – redemption by grace.
Man as dead towards God. Ephesians treats man as dead in sins and gives us new creation.

RomeBackground in Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians

It may facilitate our apprehension of the epistle to the Romans, if we briefly survey Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians.

We need to understand two aspects of man’s state of sin

  1. Man as living in evil ways, alive to sin and lust. According to Romans, death must come in to free him from the evil – redemption by grace.
  2. Man as dead towards God. Ephesians treats man as dead in sins and gives us new creation.

Galatians

Galatians brings out the following points: –

  1. Promise, in contrast with law, which brought a curse and no justification of man
  2. Redemption from that curse, by Christ’s being made a curse for us
  3. The promised Seed, come of the woman (once the source of sin), to redeem those under the law.

The law had been the school-master until Christ came. Now, as sons by faith, having the Spirit, we are consciously heirs – not servants but sons.   The flesh, our evil nature, may lust against the Spirit, but, we are not under law. There can be no law against the fruit of the Spirit – elementary, though most important teaching.

 

Ephesians

Ephesians begins with the counsels of God:

  1. Our place before God, morally like Himself
  2. Christ’s position, as gone to His Father and our Father, His God and our God
  3. God’s purposes as to the Christ Himself, head over all as Man
  4. The inheritance and the earnest of the Spirit given to us
  5. The present exaltation of Christ
  6. The working of the same power in us, so we are raised with Him
  7. The church His body associated with Him
  8. Christ as Head over all things, to the church.

Eph. 2 gives Christ’s work. God’s power comes in and raises us up into His place of glory and blessing. We are sons and heirs.   The church, Christ’s body is united to Him, something hidden from all ages and generations, impossible to exist or be revealed till the middle wall of partition had been broken down.

The gifts of the Spirit from the Man on high builds up the saints, forms the body in union with Christ, and evangelises the world. From Eph. 4:17 onward we have practical conduct.  Having been brought to God in Christ, we are to display God’s own character, Christ being the perfect pattern in man. Having put off the old man and put on the new, we love one another as Christ loves His church. Finally we are God’s warriors in Canaan – that is, in heavenly places – and have need of God’s whole armour against spiritual wickedness, walking in dependence on God.

 

Colossians

In Colossians saints are not sitting in heavenly places, but with a hope laid up for them in heaven. Their are affections are to be set on things above, where Christ sits. They are buried with Him by baptism unto death (as Rom. 6). The believer is looked at as previously alive in his sins, but now quickened with Christ (Col. 2:13). Colossians does not reach on to the full level of Ephesian doctrine, but we do not get these thoughts in Romans at all.

The fullness of the Godhead is in Christ in Colossians; in Ephesians it is the body that is His fullness. The glory of an exalted Christ is before the Christian’s eyes – the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

This should enable us to study the epistle to the Romans more intelligently. Romans does not develop the counsels of God, but lays the ground for their accomplishment. All have sinned, Jew and Gentile, and have the same fleshly nature. There is no difference: God’s righteousness is applicable to both. Sins are put away, and we have deliverance from the old man. Romans treats the responsibility of man, explains God’s righteousness, and unfolds His grace unfolded as the source and principle of God’s dealings with us.

The epistle to the Romans furnishes the eternal principles of God’s relationship with man – the way in which, by means of Christ’s death and resurrection, the believer is established in blessing.   It reconciles of these things with the promises made to the Jews, by Him whose gifts and calling are without repentance.

 

Romans comprises several parts:

 

 A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans 

 

The Counsels of God and the Responsibility of Man

Rome

Introductory remarks to the Exposition to Romans

We should consider the difference between the counsels of God and the responsibility of man. The counsels of God have their accomplishment in the second Man, who is from heaven.   However, every intelligent creature has responsibility, and a believer more so than a mere child of Adam.

Purpose was before responsibility. It is a wondrous and blessed truth that God’s purpose and delight was in man – especially the Son of His love. Before the world existed, man was in God’s thoughts. Wisdom was there, and man occupied Wisdom’s (i.e. God’s) though and delight.

Human responsibility awaited the creation of a responsible creature (angels are different). This is seen in 2 Tim. 1:9, “Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works [that is responsibility], but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality [incorruptibility] to light by the gospel, whereunto I am appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles.”

Hence when the Word became flesh, the angels acclaimed, ‘Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good pleasure [not merely goodwill] in men’ (Luke 2:14). God used the same word when He said, ‘in thee I am well pleased’ (Luke 3:22) God’s purpose was thus in the second Man, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, the Son of God’s love, and in those in whom His delight was associated with Him.

The purpose of God was not accomplished in the first man. That came with the second Man, who dealt with the whole question of man’s responsibility.

Let us look at the history of man:

First man was innocent. He failed, tested by the simple claim of obedience without an evil lust.   But he distrusted God, and listened to Satan. Man lost God; lust and transgression came in; man became afraid of God, and was driven out by Him. When Adam failed, no promise was made to him. No promise could be made to sinful flesh – only judgment. But the woman was told that her seed would crush the serpent’s head. That was Christ.

What prevailed afterwards was utter lawlessness: then the flood and judgment came upon the earth. God established restraint and authority in Noah, but he failed and got drunk.   Though individuals such as Abel and Enoch had been dealt with in grace, no new system of grace had set up. After the flood, man rose up in rebellion to make himself a name, but God confounded his language, nations were formed, and Satan introduced idolatry (a vague consciousness of God, deified ancestors, astrology and reincarnation). God was set aside; men put demons in His place, and clothed deified lusts with His name.

Then God called Abraham out from the world and revealed Himself, making him head of a family, both naturally and spiritually.   Grace was revealed: a free unconditional promise being given to Abraham. Abraham became the father of the faithful, this being confirmed by a figure representing the death and resurrection of Christ (Gen. 22). The promise and the seed were fully united in God’s revelations.

After this came another very important aspect of God’s dealings with the fleshly seed of Abraham – the giving of the law. It raised the question of righteousness, and required it from man.   The law provided a perfect rule for Adam’s children: blessing and life dependent on obedience. We know the result: the golden calf was made even before the tables of the law could be brought into the camp.

Finally God came into this sinful world in grace, beseeching men to be reconciled to Him. The promised son of David, son of Abraham came, and when He came, not only was there sin and lawlessness everywhere, but mercy had been rejected. The promise, and the promised One, had been despised. The tree was bad; and brought no true fruit to God. It bore only leaves, and it was judged for ever. God’s one beloved Son, was cast out and slain; God’s wedding-feast invitation was despised. God had come in grace, but Man had cast Him out in hatred. Sin was complete; man was lost.

Wicked hands had slain Christ, but it was according to the pre-determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. The truth was, He had appeared at the appointed time to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.   The Lord met the consequences of man’s responsibility, bearing his sins in His own body on the tree. Propitiation was perfect; redemption was accomplished; and God was perfectly glorified in all that He is – love. In the cross of Christ (the second Man, the last Adam, the Lord from heaven), the foundation was laid in righteousness for the accomplishment of divine counsels in glorifying the redeemed,. Sins had been put away, and Christ being at the right hand of God, the righteousness of God was now on solid ground.

Thus we have these two great subjects before us: the responsibility of man and the counsels of God.

 

 A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans 

The Present Hope of the Church

J N Darby (1800-82), a leading interpreter of biblical prophecy, laid the basis of dispensational and premillennial and pre-trib teaching in his lectures on the Present Hope of the Church.

To download a DRAFT version of this series in .pdf, Apple or Kindle format please click here.

JN Darby’s Lecture 1 on The Hope of the Church of God

The Present Hope of the Church – Summary by Sosthenes

new-jerusalem-2s

J N Darby gave a series of eleven significant lectures in Geneva in 1840 on the Hope of the Church (L’attente actuelle de l’église). These established his reputation as a leading interpreter of biblical prophecy, and the basis of dispensational and premillennial and pre-trib teaching. His doctrine is still being propagated (in various forms) at such places as Dallas Theological Seminary and by authors and preachers such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye.

JND said as to them “In going through the more general features of prophecy, we shall examine these three great subjects: the church; the nations; and the Jew”.  God made Himself known as Jehovah to the Jews.  The prophets showed God’s character as Jehovah.  Jesus is presented as the Messiah, the centre of God’s promises and blessings to the Jewish nation.  To the Church, God presents Himself as ‘Father’ and Jesus as the ‘Son of God’.  We are His brethren – children of God and members of His family.  He, the Firstborn, is the expression of all the glory of the Father.

In the dispensation of the fulness of times, when God will gather together all things in Christ, that name under which He has been celebrated by Melchisedec (a type of the royal Priest), God will be known as “the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.” (Gen 14:19)

“…We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”      2 Peter 1.

Summary of Lectures

  1. The Present Hope of the Church
  2. The Church and its Glory
  3. The Second Coming of Christ
  4. The First Resurrection – or The Resurrection of the Just
  5. The Judgment of Evil
  6. Ecclesiastical Apostasy and Civil Apostasy
  7. The Judgment of the Nations
  8. God’s Promises to Israel
  9. What God in His Goodness will yet do for Israel – and what it Means for Us
  10. The Remnant of Israel
  11. The Importance of Prophecy

The Christian’s Assurance as to Prophecy

Every Christian should not only be sure of his salvation in Christ, but also know its results.  He should not only know he is in the Father’s house with all its privileges but be happy there too.  In prophecy, God treats us as His friends, and reveals the things He is occupied with.  As our hearts are associated with Him, they realise His love and confidence and are coloured by the expectation of what is to come.  With this holy knowledge we are strangers and pilgrims here.

We need to distinguish between that which applies to the Jews, relating to the earth, and that which applies to the Church.  Being free of human objects, cares and distractions we can be dependent on the One who knows the end from the beginning.

Whilst prophecy proves the divine source of the Bible, that is not its main purpose.  Prophecy belongs to the Church now and the Jewish remnant in a future day, as a light or torch before things take place.  God tells us the truth; Satan does not.  Do we doubt God?  Surely we do not need witnesses to persuade us that God is telling the truth.

Satan has deceived many by introducing the thought that partially fulfilled prophecies, were in fact complete.   Most, if not all prophecy is to be fulfilled after the end of this dispensation.  Then it will be too late to be convinced as to the truth.  Those left behind will experience terrible judgment.  But as I read God’s word, I am restful.  I am enlightened as I cleave to Him instead of my own understanding.  As things unfold I see the purposes of the Most High, opening up His character – His faithfulness, justice, long-suffering.  But He will certainly judge proud iniquity and execute vengeance on these who corrupt the earth, in order for His government to be established in peace and blessing.

The judgment of God will come upon the nations; the church is informed of this; and, thanks to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, understands it, believes it, and escapes the things which are coming.

 

The Sceptic as to Prophecy

The sceptic views prophecy as merely speculative, vague and uninfluential, the imaginations and vainglory of proud hearts.  The sceptic’s own thoughts are the most speculative.  How Satan deceives!  But prophecy reveals God’s thoughts as to things to come. And the Christian rejoices that “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14).  And God will show how.

Communion with God as to Prophecy

Through communion, which is eternal, God comforts and sanctifies us to prevent our hopes being vague.  Thank God “we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  And this voice which came from heaven we heard when we were with him in the holy mount.

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:16-21)