All Roads lead to Rome

 

There is little doubt that things are moving quickly.  At one time Rome persecuted true believers using torture and even the stake.  Many dear saints perished in the Spanish Inquisition – and even now this is celebrated in some parades.  Manuel, a friend of my father, as a young man during the Spanish civil war, was shown a coffin by a priest and told, ‘That is where you are going!’  He fled.  Rome’s heart hasn’t changed.

Its tactics have changed though.  Protestants are being lured back – ‘ there isn’t much difference really’.  Indeed many are pleased that the Catholic church takes a firm line on abortion, gay rights and promotes moral rectitude, despite the fact that many priests have fallen miserably.

A few weeks ago I came across this video on You Tube Ecumenism: Spiritual Whoredom – a bit frightening.  It might have overplayed things, critical of some who have served the Lord.  But whoever they are, none are immune from the charms of the harlot.

Sosthenes

April 2014

The Supper and Roman Catholic Mass

The church of Rome says that the Lord’s supper (or rather the mass, as they call it) is the same sacrifice as that which was accomplished upon the cross. But when the Lord said, ‘This is my body … do this in remembrance of me’ (See (Matt 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24) He was not yet upon the cross. His blood was not yet shed

God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” The blood of Christ is ever before the eye of God.  He never fogets it.   If God does not ever forget the blood of Christ shed once for ever, He does not wish us to forget it.  The Lord Jesus in His boundless grace wishes us to think of Him, to remember Him.  Precious manifestation of love for us, that the Saviour should delight in our remembrance of Him, and that He has left us a touching memorial of Himself and His love.  Jesus wishes us to think of Him, because He loves us!   In the supper we shew forth His death till He comes.

It is important to remark that there is no sacrifice in the present time, and that the Lord is not personally present in the bread and wine.  The church of Rome says that the Lord’s supper (or rather the mass, as they call it) is the same sacrifice as that which was accomplished upon the cross. But when the Lord said, ‘This is my body … do this in remembrance of me’ (See Matt 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24) He was not yet upon the cross. His blood was not yet shed, and when He broke the bread He did not hold Himself in His hands.  There is no such thing now as a crucified Christ: He is seated at God’s right hand, and there is no shedding of blood now. It is a blessed fact that there is a sign, a commemoration of this, but that it should be so really and substantially is impossible – there is no such thing as a dead Christ now.

We shew forth in the supper His death and His blood shed for us: but a glorified Christ cannot be a sacrifice; cannot come down from heaven to die; and if the bread be changed into His body, and there be a soul in it, it must be another soul; this is absurd. They say that the Godhead is everywhere, and that the substance of the body is there; but the soul is individual: this lives, feels, loves, is a single individual soul. According to the Roman Catholic teaching, the soul of the Lord Jesus leaves heaven; but it cannot be the same soul, and if it is another, it is absurd. The Lord says in Luke 22:20, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’: — that is, it represents the blood — for the cup itself is not the new covenant.  Thus the bread presents to us in the most striking way the body of the Lord crucified upon the cross, and the wine His blood shed for us.

From JND Collected Writings Volume 24 (Expository 3) p317-319 on Mark  14

Peter and the Keys

Peter is often portrayed as having the keys to heaven. He had the keys to the kingdom

Peter is often portrayed as having the keys to heaven.

He had the keys to the kingdom.  He used

  1. The first in Acts 2 when 3000 Jews believed on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came.
  2. The second was in Acts 10 when the Gentile Cornelius, his household and friends believed.

The door is now open.
When looking at the building of church,  J N Darby noted, ‘There are no keys for the Church. One does not build with keys. The keys are for the kingdom’  Collected Writings Vol 14 (Ecclesiatical 3), p80

Sosthenes

June 2017

 

Romanism and True Faith

True faith is believing God, because he has said it. Faith in God believes in His word without any other authority than His word itself. If you require the church’s sanction of the word, you do not have faith in God. Anything else is human superstition.

To my dear Roman Catholic Brethren

I admire the devotion of many simple souls in the Roman Catholic church. Your sacrificial generosity is evident from buildings which, I am sure you have in good faith dedicated to the glory of God.  You also hold some correct doctrine:  the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, Christ’s atonement for sin – and more.romanism

But I am sorry for you. The teaching of your church leaves you with uncertainties, the prospect of purgatory, and a dependence on God’s word being set aside by unscriptural practices. Indeed, Christ’s true church of which you individually are members, if you have faith in the perfect work of Christ on the cross does not teach – it testifies and worships.

I have produced the following based on a paper by J N Darby entitled Superstition is not Faith; or, The True Character of Romanism. Though written in the 19th Century it is applicable to the 21st.

Forgive my using the word ‘superstition’. Darby uses it. It may have changed its meaning over the years but I am sure you will understand its use over against that of God given ‘faith’.

May you, after prayerful consideration of this, realise that your sins were born by Jesus on the cross. Your standing before Him is secure. No mass is needed, no confession to the priest, no extreme unction and certainly no purgatory is necessary for you to enjoy Christian blessings NOW. And who more tender to speak to directly than your Lord and Saviour, Jesus?

Sosthenes

May 2015

 

What do we mean by ‘Superstition’?

Superstition is the unwarranted religious subjection of the mind of man.

This may be:

  1. Man’s rational thinking
  2. Something of man’s own imagination;
  3. A real, evil and malignant satanic influence
  4. Something or some one good, but the object of worship.

There is no warrant for such worship in scripture. Faith, on the contrary, is the reception and belief of God’s testimony to the soul.

Superstitious reverence includes:

  1. Animals (the Egyptians)
  2. The earth, sun, moon, planets and stars
  3. Mythology (fauns, satyrs etc – the Greeks)
  4. Serpent (evil power) worship (Africa, American Indian)
  5. Saints and angels.

Even John nearly fell for the latter when he fell down to worship at the feet of the angel. Paul speaks of ‘a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels’ (Col 2:18).

Superstitious reverence acknowledges God, even if it does not know Him. Because it gets between the soul and God, God is hidden and usurped. It is often called faith, but really it is the opposite. Faith brings us into God’s presence – we receive God’s authoritative testimony. Faith is the revelation of a loving God, who has revealed Himself in Christ our Saviour. God gave His own Son who, on the cross, purged our sins, thus freeing us from guilty consciences, and giving us peace and reconciliation with God, so we can walk in newness of life. Hence faith is exactly opposite to superstition.

Superstition hides the true God, giving false notions of Him, attaching the authority of His name to moral degradation. Human conscience revolts against this, as it is contrary to what even an unbeliver would consider God to be. Superstition would tend to exalt man above his own religion, producing infidelity and even atheism (if such a thing exists which Darby doubted). The human will is always atheistical, for it is not subject to God’s will, and will seek to reason against the existence of whatever it does not like. But God has given man a conscience, which the will can never get over. As a result people use religion – that which bears God’s name, as an excuse for throwing off God’s authority.

 

What is Faith?

Faith must be founded exclusively on the testimony of God, otherwise it is not God who is believed. I must believe when God Himself has spoken, or I do not believe God at all. John says, ‘He that received his [the Lord’s] testimony hath set to his seal that God is true’ (John 3:33). Had God’s testimony been founded solely on the miracles, it would have been without value, since man is unchanged. ‘Many believed in him when they saw the miracles which he did; but Jesus did not commit himself to them, for he knew what was in man’ (John 2:23).

Having received the testimony of the God of love we know the Saviour, are reconciled, and have peace and communion with Him. We know the Father, through the Son, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and we approach God without fear, however poor and guilty we may be. Such is the Christian’s portion.

God has reconciled us to Himself, and we freely enjoy His perfect and gracious love, even in our weakness. Because we are reconciled, we have a direct relationship with God, so anything that is put in the way militates against the entire, perfect putting away of sin by the blessed Saviour. It is a human invention and a denial of Christianity. There is one Mediator between us sinners and God – Christ. Anything else is infidelity.

 

Why Rome is not based on Faith

Now we will see that the Roman system is not founded on faith. Romanism is in doctrine and practice, really infidel, though of course it would claim otherwise. A sincere person may believe that the liturgical worship of God is right and conform to religious habits. This is not faith. Alternatively, a poor ignorant, but pious, soul might even believe the in system, but be almost overwhelmed by its errors.

Between the Romanist and the Evangelical Christian is vast system of apostate error. Two questions are at issue:

  1. Are the doctrines that Rome teaches true?
  2. How can any one be sure of the authority of what is taught?

We shall see that the teaching is false and without authority. For example:

 

Roman Catholic Teaching The Truth
An unbloody sacrifice (the Mass) is efficacious for the remission of sins The blood of Jesus Christ his [God’s] Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
Purgatory is needed to complete our cleansing (except for some special cases) We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:10).
The Mass is an offering for the sins of the living and the dead. By one offering Christ has perfected for ever those that are sanctified. (Heb. 10:14.)
The saints and the Virgin Mary are more accessible and tender-hearted than Jesus We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15)

 

 

The Mass

Christ suffered and shed His blood. His perfect offering was so efficacious, that it never needed to be repeated – He did it only ONCE. The Roman Catholic Mass pretends to offer this sacrifice again and again, therefore denying the efficacy of Christ’s offering of Himself on the cross. God’s word declares that there is no more offering for sin (see Heb 10:18). Furthermore, as the Mass is an unbloody sacrifice, which Rome maintains to be efficacious for the remission of sins. However, scripture says that ‘without shedding of blood there is no remission’ (Heb. 9:22). Consequently the Catholic doctrine contradicts scripture.

 

Purgatory

Now another false doctrine, that of of purgatory, teaches that the blood of Jesus does not purge me completely, even though I have accepted the gospel, and have lived a good religious life. I must suffer in some fire in order to be fit for God’s presence. Even if I have confessed to a priest, received absolution, the last rites and extreme unction (which is supposed to wipe away the remains of sin), and have had masses said for the repose of my soul, I still need to go through purgatory and pay the last farthing. As a result I retain a guilty conscience down here, and sadly the church maintains its power over me.

But scripture says ‘He has by HIMSELF purged our sins’ (Heb 1:3). The doctrine of purgatory is infidelity as to the efficacy of Christ’s blood and God’s word. The blood of Christ has cleansed the true Christian from all sin, so that we might have peace in our souls through His Name.

 

Jesus, the Mediator

The scripture declares there is one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. It teaches us that a divine and gracious person, the Son — one with the Father, who is God over all, blessed for evermore — came down so low in grace, that even the poorest and vilest sinner could find free access to Him. Such grace and tenderness, was in Jesus. Now to us He a merciful High Priest, bearing our infirmities, and sympathising with our sorrows, entering into them as none other could, with a heart such as none other had (Darby’s words) (See Heb 2:17).   He was without sin, so we can come boldly to a throne of grace as He intercedes for us.

 

Mary

But how does this tally with the doctrine of Mary? Can I not go to Jesus directly and count upon His tenderness? Is He too high and far off?   Has Mary a tenderer heart as being a woman, must I go to Him either through her or the saints? Did Mary, however blessed, come down from heaven to seek me in my sorrow and in my misery? Or has Christ changed, and become hard-hearted, since He ascended up on high? No; the doctrine of many mediators, including the Virgin Mary, is infidelity as to the grace of Christ. It denies His glory as a compassionate High Priest.  I trust His kindness more than that of all the Marys and all the saints, however blessed they might be. (Darby’s words)

 

The Word of God

These are just a few examples of the way in which Rome, on the authority of what is called the church, undermines the truth, taking away all the value of the precious truth of the gospel. It calls you to believe things that are not in scripture, and, in doing so, makes you disbelieve the truth of God. However, because Rome does not deny the expiation for sin made at the cross – or the Trinity , – or the incarnation, or the divinity of Christ, one would not suspect it of infidelity. But because it has denied the actual value and application of these wonderful truths, it has destroyed the them, and taken away the way of peace to the sinner’s soul.

But another point: everything in the above discussion has been based on the premise that the true believer accepts the authority of the inspired word of God. But Rome does not agree. It tells me that I cannot know the Bible, or the word of God, without the authority of the church. If God has written a book, and addressed it to men in general or to those called Christians, He has put them under the responsibility of receiving and submitting the authority of His word. If the teachings of Rome were right, no ordinary Christian could know that it is the word of God, and receive it as such. He must either deny it to be God’s revealed word, or assert that it is not binding on those to whom it is addressed. Otherwise God would have failed in His word: What blasphemous infidelity!

What kind of church it can be that makes itself more competent, and its authority more obligatory, than that God Himself?  If I need the church’s authority in order to believe the word, I do not believe God at all. I am not to judge God’s word: it judge me. The Lord said, ‘The words that I have spoken unto you, the same shall judge you in that day’ (John 12:48). Whether it is the church, the pope, or a general church council, it is something besides the word, without which God’s own word is not binding on the conscience. This is high treason against God and His truth.

 

Accepting God’s Testimony

If Paul wrote an inspired epistle to a certain church, say to Corinth, the Christians there were bound to receive it as God’s word. The church has to receive the apostle’s letter, not pronounce on it. If God gives a testimony of Himself, the church is bound to believe it. If not, it is despises the testimony of God. Woe to it if it refuses the testimony; woe to me if I do too.

Even in creation, God has given a testimony. Man is guilty if he does not see God in it. There may be many things that he cannot explain; but the testimony is sufficient to condemn those who do not believe in God the Creator.

So when the blessed Lord appeared, many infidel hearts refused to accept who He was. But He said, ‘If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins’ (John 8:24). John said that by not believing we make God a liar, and are therefore guilty of infidelity (See 1 John 1:10). So in the word God has given a testimony, and man is bound to believe it. Difficulties may be raised by infidel minds; but God’s testimony is adequate to bind men and women to believe it, and for it to govern the conscience.

True faith is believing God, because he has said it. Faith in God believes in His word without any other authority than His word itself. If you require the church’s sanction of the word, you do not have faith in God. Anything else is human superstition.

Romanism is infidelity as to the most precious and fundamental truths of Christianity: it is infidelity as to the authority of God’s own word.

 

Based on Superstition is not Faith; or, The True Character of Romanism. By John Nelson Darby (1800-82).

 

A summary by Sosthenes.

 

The original is published in Collected Writings of John Nelson Darby Volume 17 (Doctrinal 4). Kingston Bible Trust, Lancing, England. Downloadable from Stem Publishing.

For some further reading I recommend J N Darby’s Familiar Conversations on Romanism:

 

Familiar Conversations on Romanism

J. N. Darby.

Conversation  1 Faith is in God and His Word, not in the Church
Conversation  2 The Forgiveness of Sins: Purgatory 1
Conversation  3 The Forgiveness of Sins: Purgatory 2
Conversation  4 The Word of God and the Church 1
Conversation  5 The Word of God and the Church 2
Conversation  6 The Word of God and the Church 3
Conversation  7 Infallibility
Conversation  8 Infallibility
Conversation  9 Holiness
Conversation 10 Apostolicity and Succession 1
Conversation 11 Apostolicity and Succession 2
Conversation 12 Apostolicity and Succession 3
Conversation 13 Apostolicity and Succession 4
Conversation 14 The Mass
Conversation 15 Transubstantiation 1
Conversation 16 Transubstantiation 2

Darby’s Stand

Apostolic Catholicism/Pentecostalism – Edward Irving
Oxford Movement – Edward Bouverie Pusey
Sceptical Modernism – Francis William Newman
Roman Catholicism – Cardinal John Henry Newman
Heresy as to the Person of Christ – Benjamin Wills Newton
Arminianism /Perfectionism – John Wesley
Free Church Calvinism – Merle d’Aubigné
Free Chruch of Scotland Rationalism – Robertson Smith
Various ideas as to the future – annihilation, non-eternity, punishment/purgatory

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

John Nelson Darby made a courageous stand against sectarian Christendom. This did not earn him many friends, especially amongst the religious hierarchy.

Some of the things he contended with were:

From W G Turner, ‘John Nelson Darby’ published by Chapter Two

  • Apostolic Catholicism/Pentecostalism – Edward Irving
  • Oxford Movement – Edward Bouverie Pusey
  • Sceptical Modernism – Francis William Newman
  • Roman Catholicism – Cardinal John Henry Newman
  • Heresy as to the Person of Christ – Benjamin Wills Newton
  • Arminianism /Perfectionism – John Wesley
  • Free Church Calvinism – Merle d’Aubigné
  • Free Chruch of Scotland Rationalism – Robertson Smith
  • Various ideas as to the future – annihilation, non-eternity, punishment/purgatory

To this I would add:

  • Ecclesiastical Independency
  • Clericalism
  • Mysticism – Madame de Krudener etc.
  • National churches
  • Post millennialism etc.

We can be thankful to God for the stand that men like Darby, Wigram, Bellat, Mackintosh etc made.

Adoss Newsletter – No 14 – November 2014

I have been working on some of Darby’s papers on Romans. The summaries currently being produced are based on his paper Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans. I have now reached Romans 8 (hopefully in experience as well as doctrine). When completed, I want to add some extra notes from a simpler paper Outline of the Epistle to the Romans. Then further items from the Synopsis and other sources can be added.

 

Zech 4:10
By Σωσθένης Ὁἀδελφὸς – Sosthenes the Brother

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord

I sometimes ask myself ‘Why I am I doing this?’ I have no need to – there is no personal profit, and I am receiving less correspondence (more about that later). But the scripture says, ‘Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him’ (2 Cor 3:17) . So we can do the work, and leave the results to Him. After all, each of us is but a humble foot-soldier in the Lord’s army. As Darby wrote:

Lord! let us wait for Thee alone:
Our life be only this –
To serve Thee here on earth, unknown;
Then share Thy heavenly bliss 
Little Flock No 411

Romans

I have been working on some of Darby’s papers on Romans. The summaries currently being produced are based on his paper Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans. I have now reached Romans 8 (hopefully in experience as well as doctrine). When completed, I want to add some extra notes from a simpler paper Outline of the Epistle to the Romans. Then further items from the Synopsis and other sources can be added.

Your Contributions, Please…

That brings me to my next point. Why should everything come from me? Add your own summaries using the ‘reply’ facility.

If you wish to post a whole article, please email it to me. It should not be a verbatim reproduction of another article already on the Web. So that is why I am keen to have correspondence.

Of course you may well put your own point of view. If I believe it to be contrary to scripture, I will tell you. If seriously erroneous, then I will have to reject it.

 

Darby’s Stand

John Nelson Darby made a courageous stand against sectarian Christendom. This did not earn him many friends, especially amongst the religious hierarchy.

Some of the things he contended with were:

From W G Turner, ‘John Nelson Darby’ published by Chapter Two

  • Apostolic Catholicism/Pentecostalism – Edward Irving
  • Oxford Movement – Edward Bouverie Pusey
  • Sceptical Modernism – Francis William Newman
  • Roman Catholicism – Cardinal John Henry Newman
  • Heresy as to the Person of Christ – Benjamin Wills Newton
  • Arminianism /Perfectionism – John Wesley
  • Free Church Calvinism – Merle d’Aubigné
  • Free Chruch of Scotland Rationalism – Robertson Smith
  • Various ideas as to the future – annihilation, non-eternity, punishment/purgatory

To this I would add:

  • Ecclesiastical Independency
  • Clericalism
  • Mysticism – Madame de Krudener etc.
  • National churches
  • Post millennialism etc.

We can be thankful to God for the stand that men like Darby, Wigram, Bellat, Mackintosh etc made.

 

No Hope

A brother recently sent me a link to a preaching which started with the words.

‘Human beings can live for forty days without food, four days without water, and four minutes without air. But we cannot live for four seconds without hope’.

This made me think. Millions of people live their whole lives without hope. You can see it in their faces. Thank God that ‘We were were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus we who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ’ (See Eph 2:12-13).

We have been made nigh. Let us keep near our Lord and Saviour!

 

God’s blessings, your brother,

Sosthenes Hoadelphos

 

We cry to God for the state of the Church

Up till now the Roman Catholic church, despite its idolatry, human organisation and wrong teaching, stood for some things that were right – upholding marriage, condemning homosexual activity etc. Protestantism had already bowed to the times. Now even Catholicism is following suit

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

Simplified Darby – Church Unity and Sectarianism

In this paper Darby’s objective was, with God’s blessing, to show Christians how the Church can be united according to the Word of God, and how it should operate consistently. It would therefore be strengthened in its hopes and show the world clearly the power of God’s grace, leading believers to rely more on the Holy Spirit and less on human plans and co-operative schemes.

Darby looks at the way in which the public Christian Church has degenerated with worldliness, human organisation, tolerance of evil and sectarian fragmentation, running counter to the Lord’s words That they all may be one.

A summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s

The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ

J N Darby

In this paper Darby’s objective was, with God’s blessing, to show Christians how the Church can be united according to the Word of God, and how it should operate consistently.  It would therefore be strengthened in its hopes and show the world clearly the power of God’s grace, leading believers to rely more on the Holy Spirit and less on human plans and co-operative schemes.

Darby looks at the way in which the public Christian Church has degenerated with worldliness, human organisation, tolerance of evil and sectarian fragmentation, running counter to the Lord’s words That they all may be one.

Church unity cannot be achieved by human compromise and confederacy.  It can only be in looking to the Lord Himself, giving Him His place, by the Holy Spirit, going forth to him without the camp and being not of the world.

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me  – John 17:21

To view the complete paper – Considerations on the Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ 

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 1 Ecclesiastical 1 – p20) containing this article click here

The Truth of the Gospel

All genuine Protestant churches profess the great truths of the gospel.   Receiving the gospel by faith leads to our having pure desires in love and a life for Him who died for us and rose again, a life of hope in His glory.

The Sectarian Situation of the Public Church

However, believers’ standards of unity and gathering are generally very mixed, falling far below God’s.  If unity were based on human standards, God would be acquiescing in the moral inconsistency of degenerate man, sinking below the glory of Christ, without even a testimony to His being dishonoured.

Unity in the Early Church

In the early church there was unity. “The Lord added daily such as should be saved“, was when none said anything was his own (Acts 2:43-47), and their conversation was in heaven (Phil 3:20); for they could not be divided in the common hope of that.  It knit their hearts together.

But soon division began about the goods of the church; for where there could be division, there could be selfish interests.

The Church in the Dark Ages

In the hundreds of years leading up to the Revelation, there had been judgments which dishonoured to God.  Meanwhile the church was sinking, and utterly sank in apostasy.   Indeed, apostasy and moral corruption overwhelmed the professing church.

Witnesses sighed and cried for the abominations that were done in the church.  Even without much spiritual understanding and teaching, but the redemption by the Lord Jesus, they testified against the state of the degenerated church.

The Reformation

We are therefore thankful for the Reformation.   However, this did not institute a pure form of church, but re-established “Justification by faith” in which believers might find life. Sadly, it was mixed with human activities and much of the old system remained.  Whilst those involved were excellent saints, the character of the Church remained short of that which was acceptable to God.

Non Conformist Movements and Sects

As religious and world leaders were more secularly minded and alienated from God, many recognising the authority of the Word of God, separated seeking to follow it more closely.   Hence arose all the branches of nonconformity and dissent.

So long as people pride themselves on being Church of England, Presbyterian, Baptist, Independent, or anything else, they are antichristian. How then are we to be united? –  it must be the work of the Spirit of God.  Believers should consider , “Is Christ divided? (1 Cor 1:13) whereas there is among you envying and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Cor 3:3)  Darby wrote: “There is no professed unity among you at all.”

What do we see?   Both the Established and non-conformist churches are using unbelievers to gain secular advantages and honours of that world – the very world out of which the Lord came to redeem us.  Are they behaving  like His peculiar people? What can I to do with these things? Nothing.

Because of the diversity of sects, the true Church of God has no avowed communion at all.  This is an anomaly.   Individuals of the children of God are to be found in all the different denominations, professing the same pure faith; but where is their bond of union?  Indeed, the bond of communion is not the unity of the people of God, but in fact on their differences.

If this is correct, we must conclude that one who seeks the interests of any particular denomination is an enemy to the work of the Spirit of God.   Those who believe in “the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:16) ought therefore to keep separate from such activities, otherwise they are drawing back the church to a state occasioned by ignorance and non-subjection to the word.  A most subtle and mental disease prevails amongst groups of Christians, especially those of higher orders.  This can be illustrated by what the disciples said,  “he followeth not us,” (Mark 9:38). Let us not hinder the manifestation of the church by this spirit.  This line of thinking infests groups of Christians, especially those of higher orders.

Could there be a Union of Protestant Churches?

If Protestants formed a formal union, it would be impossible that such a body could be at all recognised as the church of God.  It would be a counterpart to the Roman Church, but without the power of the word and the unity of spiritual life.

No meeting, which is not framed to embrace all the children of God in the full basis of the kingdom of the Son, can find the fullness of blessing, because it does not contemplate it – because its faith does not embrace it.

Protestants have often professed to the Roman Catholics that their unity in doctrinal faith.  Why then is there not an actual unity?  If they see error in each other, ought they not to be humbled for each other?  If there was diversity of mind, instead of disputing on the footing of ignorance, why not wait in prayer, that God might reveal this also unto them?  Yet I well know that, till the spirit of the world be purged from amongst them, unity cannot be, nor can believers find safe rest.

Unity is the glory of the Christian Church; but unity to secure and promote our own interests is not the unity of the church.  It is confederacy, and a denial of the nature and hope of the church and not the Lord’s work.

Non-sectarian Christian movements

The people of God have found a sort of remedy for this disunion in the Bible Society, and other missionary ventures, giving a sort of vague unity in the common acknowledgment of the word, or of of desire and action.  In many instances the genuine cravings of a mind actuated by the Spirit of God has been behind it, and doubtless partially afforded testimony to what the Church was.

How God sees the Disunity in the Christian Church

Sensing our immense distance from genuinely exhibiting the purpose of God in His church, we ought to be thankful that He still deals with us. It should lead us also to seek Christ’s current mind, so that our path may be according to His present will, rather than our own.

It was God’s purpose in Christ to gather into one all things in heaven and on earth; reconciled unto Himself in Him; and that the church, by the energy of the Spirit should be the witness of this on earth. Believers would know therefore that all who are born of the Spirit have substantial unity of mind, so as to know and love each other, as brothers and sisters.  What is more, they were so to be all one, as that the world would know that Jesus was sent of God.  But this is not all.  Sadly this has not been fulfilled in practice, and in this we must all confess our sad failure.

Are believers happy with the current state of the Church?  Clearly not.  Do we not believe that it has, as a body, utterly departed from Christ?  Has it been  restored so that He would be glorified in it at His appearing?   Is there not a practical spirit of worldliness at variance with the death and coming again of the Lord Jesus as Saviour.

Darby said “I shall seek to establish healthful principles: for it is manifest to me, that it must flow from the growing influence of the Spirit of God and His unseen teaching; but we may observe what are positive hindrances, and in what that union consisted.

The Self-complacent Christian Church

Christians are little aware how the spirit of the world prevails in their minds and how they seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.  While the spirit of the world prevails spiritual union cannot subsist.  Believers think, because they have been delivered from secular dominion, that they are free from the practical spirit which gave rise to it; and because God has wrought much deliverance, therefore they are to be content.  In this state of self-complacency, the springs of grace and spiritual communion dry up.

We have learned to trust in too much in the outward ‘Temple of the Lord’, adorned with goodly stones and gifts, and have ceased to look to the Lord of the temple.  We have almost ceased to walk by faith.  The unclean spirit of idolatry may have been purged out; but the great question still remains, whether there is the effectual presence of the Spirit of the Lord.

The original State of the Christian Church cannot be restored

Those who parted the Saviour’s garments among them could not rend that inner vest – which was inseparably one in its nature.  That has fallen into the hands of those who do not care for Him, the Lord will never clothe Himself with it again.

The Christian’s Call

Should believers to correct the churches? Darby says, “I am beseeching them to correct themselves, by living up, in some measure, to the hope of their calling. I beseech them to show their faith in the death of the Lord Jesus, and their boast in the glorious assurance which they have obtained by it, by conformity to it – to show their faith in His coming, and practically to look for it by a life suitable to desires fixed upon it”. Let believers testify against the secularity and blindness of the church; but let them be consistent in their own conduct. “Let your moderation be known to all men.” (Phil 4:5)

The Practical Way for the Christian Believer

We as believers can see in ourselves things that are practically inconsistent with the power of Lord’s return.  We are conforming to the world, showing that the cross does not have its proper glory in our eyes.   However,  we can be thankful that we have a way marked out for us in the word.

Our duty as believers is to be witnesses of what we believe.  God says “Ye are my witnesses” (Isa 43:12) in His challenge to the false gods; and as Christ is the faithful and true Witness, such ought the church to be. Of what then is the church to be a witness? – against the idolatrous glory of the world. How? by its members being in practical conformity to His death, with a true belief in the cross,  crucified to the world, and the world to them.

If we are not living in the power of the Lord’s kingdom, we certainly shall not be consistent in seeking its ends.

Two or three are gathered together in His name

Where two or three are gathered together in His name, (Matt 18:20), there is blessing; because they are met in the fullness of the power of the unchangeable interests of that everlasting kingdom in which it has pleased God, the glorious Jehovah, to glorify Himself.  He has been pleased to make His name and saving grace known in the Person of the Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the name of Christ, even two or thrr enter (in whatever measure of faith) into the full counsels of God.  They are “God’s fellow-workmen.” (1 Cor 3:9).  Therefore whatever they ask is done, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13).  As we seek the Lord’s glory of the Lord we will find personal blessing.

In the Lord and His Death on the Cross we find Christian Unity

In the Lord alone we find unity.  He declares, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will drawn all men unto me: this he said signifying what death he should die.”  It is then Christ who will draw to Himself by being lifted up from the earth (John 12:32).  So we find His death is the centre of communion till His coming again. In this rests the whole power of the truth and nothing short of this can produce unity.  Otherwise He that gathereth not with him, scattereth Matt 12:30).

The Lord’s Supper is the Symbol of Christian Unity

The outward symbol and instrument of unity is the partaking of the Lord’s supper – for we being many are “One bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” 1 Cor 10:17 And “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (1 Cor 11:26).  Therefore the essential and substantial unity, to be seen in glory at His coming, is conformity to His death, because that is how the glory was brought about. The Lord’s death is the sole foundation on which a soul is built for eternal glory.

Unity of the Spirit

There are two things in seeking unity, which we have to consider.

  • Are our objects in our work exclusively the Lord’s objects?
  • Is our conduct the witness of our objects?

Have we faith in these things? How shall we show it? By acting on these directions of our Lord:  If any man serve me let him follow me, and where I am, there shall also my servant be.  (John 12:26)

Unity of the Christian Church, is the unity of the Spirit, and can only be in the things of the Spirit.  It therefore can only exist between persons who seek to be led by the Spirit of God

So there can only be Christian unity if the Spirit of God brings God’s people together.  And it can only be achieved as they follow the Author and Completer of faith, looking for His return.

Let us go forth to Him

The children of God can but follow one thing – the glory of the Lord’s name, according to the way marked in the word.  They have nothing else left, but as He, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, “suffered without the gate, to go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” (Heb 13:!3)

But what are the people of the Lord to do? Let them wait upon the Lord, according to the teaching of His Spirit, and in conformity to the image of God’s Son, by the life of the Spirit.  Let them go in the footsteps of the flock, as the good Shepherd feeds His flock.  And if this way seem dark, remember the word of Isaiah: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” (Isa 50:10)

A Plea for the Church

The Lord Himself says, “That they all may be one; as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:21-23)

May we as believers consider this word, and see if the Church shining in the glory of the Lord, and fulfilling that purpose for which bit was called.  Do we look for or desire this? or are we content to sit down and say, that His promise cannot be fulfilled?

If we cannot say, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee,”  (Isa 60:1) we should say, “Awake, awake, put on thy strength, arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, as in the generations of old” (Isa 51:9)

“Surely the eye hath not seen nor ear heard what He prepareth for him that waiteth for Him”.  (1 Cor 2:9)

J.N. Darby (1800-1882) – Dublin 1828.

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