JN Darby Simplified – Am I Gathering to the Lord as a Member of the Body of Christ, or as a Member of a Sect?

In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, and those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation. The latter is based on held opinions.

 

J N Darby

J N Darby – Sect or One Body

In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, from those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation.  The latter is based on held opinions.

J N Darby – Sect or One Body

The Greek word for ‘sect’ is αἵρεσις/hairesis/Strong 139.  Strong says that the word signifies a strong, distinctive opinion and was used in the New Testament to differentiate parties (sects) in Judaism.  The term stresses the personal aspect of choice – Sadducees and Pharisees were such by choice  (See Acts 23:8).  In Acts 24:14, Christianity was described by some as a Jewish sect.  Of course, Paul did not own this.

Darby defines the word as signifying adherence to a doctrine or system of philosophy or religion.  It is used as describe Christians departing from the truth – ‘There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies’ (2 Peter 2:1). ‘There must also be sects among you, that the approved may become manifest among you’ (1 Cor 11:19 DBY).  The Catholics assumed what they held to be ‘universal’, and censured all other believers by branding them as ‘sects’.

 

The Unity of the Body

The unity of the Church of Christ is seen in the Lord’s prayer in John 17 – ‘that they all may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (v 21).  When the Holy Spirit came (see Acts 21 Cor. 12:13),  Christians became one in thought, word, and deed.  And in this there was testimony to the unity.  Satan spoilt that.  In the scriptures the Holy Spirit compares the church on the earth to the human body, Christ being the Head (see Col 1:18).  So if ‘one member suffer, all the members suffer with it’. (1 Cor 12:13).  We members of Christ’s body.

Divisive Sects

When Christians unite outside this of unity, around a particular opinion, their unity is not founded on the principle of the unity of the body.    They form an ecclesiastical corporation, and recognise each other as members of that corporation.  This constitutes a sect.  The communion service becomes an expression of the union of a church’s members.  When a corporation of Christians assumes a right to admit members to it, it forms a unity opposed to the unity of the body of Christ.  Being a member of a such a church is not according to scripture.

Of course, many pious Christians find themselves ignorantly in sectarian positions: they have never truly apprehended the unity of the body.  They believe they are in that position through the will of God.  But, in fact they are in a sect, a denial of the unity of the body of Christ (see 1 Cor 10:17).

 

Calling on the Lord’s Name

Darby said that his desire was to recognise all Christians as members of the body of Christ, and from an enlarged heart, ‘receive them, from an enlarged heart, even to the Supper, supposing that they are walking in holiness and truth, calling upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart’ (see 2 Tim 2:19-22).  He would join with other brethren to take the Lord’s supper as members of nothing else but of the body of Christ, not as members of a church or sect.  Unfortunately though, he could not gather with all the children of God, because not all were walking according to the principle of this unity of the body of Christ.  They were sectarian.

Although the practical difficulties may appear great by reason of the state of the Church of God, the principle is very simple.  However, Christ is sufficient for all.  If we are content to be little in the eyes of men, things will not be so difficult.  We can cite Matt 18:20 – ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’.  This is a precious encouragement in these sad times of dispersion.  We are told ‘Youthful lusts flee, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart’ ( 2 Tim 2:22 DBY).  This directs us in the path of the Lord’s will, despite the confusion around us.

 

Based on J N Darby’s paper ‘What is a Sect’Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362.

Summary by Sosthanes

May 2017

 

 

 

When and how should I leave a Company?

Wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst.
If anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, he would … deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence.
If the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not? Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil?

I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity.

If any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension.

 

A Letter by J N Darby on Separation

I am not so afraid of leaving an assembly, or setting up another table, as some other brethren

Wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst.

If any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension.

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

I write rather because of the importance of the point than for any immediate occasion of circumstances: I mean leaving an assembly, or setting up, as it is called, another table. I am not so afraid of it as some other brethren, but I must explain my reasons. If such or such a meeting were the church here, leaving it would be severing oneself from the assembly of God. But though wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst, and the blessing and responsibility, of the church are, in a certain sense also, if any Christians now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them as being a false pretension, and denying the very testimony to the state of ruin which God has called us to render. It would have ceased to be the table of the people and testimony of God, at least intelligently. It might be evil pretension or ignorance; it might call for patience, if it was in ignorance, or for remedy, if that was possible: but such a pretension I believe false, and I could not abide in what is false. I think it of the last importance that this pretension of any body should be kept down: I could not own it a moment, because it is not the truth.

If anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, he would … deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence.

But then, on the other hand, united testimony to the truth is the greatest possible blessing from on high. And I think that if anyone, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, but he would necessarily deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence. It resolves itself, like all else, into a question of flesh and Spirit. If the Spirit of God is in and sanctions the body, he who leaves in the flesh deprives himself of the blessing, and sins. If, on the contrary, the Spirit of God does not sanction the body, he who leaves it will get into the power and liberty of the Spirit by following Him. That is the real way to look at it. There may be evil, and yet the Spirit of God sanction the body (not, of course, its then state), or at least act with the body in putting it away.

 If the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not?  Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil?

I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity.

But if the Spirit of God, by any faithful person, moves in this, and if the evil is not put away, but persisted in, is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not? Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil? That is precisely the delusion of Satan in popery, and the worst form of evil under the sun. If the matter, instead of being brought to the conscience of the body, is maintained by the authority of a few, and the body of believers despised, it is the additional concomitant evil of the clergy, which is the element also of popery. Now, I believe myself, the elements of this have been distinctly brought out at [Plymouth?]; and I cannot stay in evil to preserve unity. I do not want unity in evil but separation from it. God’s unity is always founded on separation, since sin came into the world. “Get thee out” is the first word of God’s call: it is to Himself. If one gets out alone it may require more faith, but that is all; one will be with Him, and that, dear brother, is what I care most about, though overjoyed to be with my brethren on that ground. I do not say that some more spiritual person might not have done more or better than I: God must judge of that. I am sure I am a poor creature; but at all cost I must walk with God for myself. . . .

 Some get hold of a particular evil which galls their flesh, and they leave. Do you think that the plea of unity will heal? Never. All are in the wrong.

I should not break bread till the last extremity: and if I did, it would be in the fullest, openest testimony, that I did not own the others then to be the table of the Lord at all.

Suppose clericalism so strong that the conscience of the body does not act at all, even when appealed to; is a simple saint who has perhaps no influence to set anything right, because of this very evil, therefore to stay with it? What resource has he? I suppose another case. Evil goes on, fleshly pretension, a low state of things on all sides. Some get hold of a particular evil which galls their flesh, and they leave. Do you think that the plea of unity will heal? Never. All are in the wrong. Now this often happens. Now the Lord in these cases is always over all. He chastens what was not of Him by such a separation, and shews the flesh in detail even where, in the main, His name was sought. If the seceders act in the flesh, they will not find blessing. God governs in these things, and will own righteousness where it is, if only in certain points. They would not prosper if it were so; but they might remain a shame and sorrow to those they left. If it be merely pride of flesh, it will soon come to nothing. “There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest.” If occasion has been given in any way, the Lord, because He loves, will not let go till the evil be purged out. If I do not act with Him, He will (and I should thank Him for it) put me down in the matter too. He loves the church, and has all power in heaven and earth, and never lets slip the reins.

I should not break bread till the last extremity: and if I did, it would be in the fullest, openest testimony, that I did not own the others then to be the table of the Lord at all. I should think worse of them than of sectarian bodies, because having more pretension to light. “Now ye say we see.” But I should not (God forbid!) cease to pray continually, and so much the more earnestly, for them, that they might prosper through the fulness of the grace that is in Christ for them . . . .

 

Lightly edited by Sosthenes

 

For original please see: STEM Publishing: J. N. Darby: A Letter on Separation

Published in JND’s Collected Writings vol. 1 (Ecclesiastical 1) p. 350.

J N Darby – Nearness to Christ and Its Effect (Humility)

We need to watch ourselves, lest, after having been preserved from the corruption of the age by the very precious truths revealed to us in our weakness, we should be taken in the net of presumption, or thrown into insubordination. These are things which God can never recognise or tolerate, since we are called to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

This article by John Nelson Darby was published in JND’s Collected Writings Miscellaneous 5.

This is a more recent collection of papers by JND, and is available from Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, IL 
Lightly edited by Sosthenes
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.’ (Psalm 126:5); ‘
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.(Matthew 18:20)

 

Man’s pretensions and energy manifest themselves strongly,  But to learn to be still in a clay of grace, and know that God is God, is completely above the education of the flesh.

The spirit of the age affects many Christians, who labour to restore old things for the service of God.  They should be broken before Him with the sense of their downfall.

To confess openly that which we are in the presence of that which God is, is always the way to peace and blessing.  Even when only two or three are together before God, there will be no disappointments nor deluded hopes.  God’s word for the remnant is, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”  (1 Peter 3:15)  He is the only centre of gathering.

The Holy Spirit does not gather saints around mere views, however true they may be.  It is not q question of what the church on the earth is, or has been,  or may yet be;  He always gathers saints around that blessed Person, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matt. 18:20.

We need to be watchful against boasting, as people do in these days.  We need to be still, in the presence of God.  There is much independence and self-will almost everywhere.

If anyone speaks of separation from evil, without being humiliated, let him take care lest his position becomes simply sectarian, and produces doctrinal heresy. Sectarianism is the most natural weed of the human heart.  (Sectarianism is getting an interest in a little circle round ourselves.)   Nearness to Christ would keep us from that.

Now I know, at the present time, of no service which is worthy of Him, if it is not done in humiliation.  This is not the time to speak of a place for ourselves.  If the church of God, so dear to Christ, is dishonoured in this world; if it is scattered, ignorant, afflicted, the person who has the mind of Christ will always take the lowest place.  True service of love will seek to give according to the need, and because of the need, he will never think of slighting the objects of the Master’s love because of their necessity.

Men taught of God, for His service, go forth from a place of strength, where they have learned their own weakness and their own nothingness.  They find that Jesus is everything in the presence of God, and Jesus is everything for them in all things, and everywhere.  Such men, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, are real helps for the children of God, and they will not contend for a place, or a distinction, or for authority, among the scattered flock.   A man in communion with God about the church will show his willingness to be nothing in himself, and he rejoice in his heart to spend and to be spent.   He is faithful in the path of separation, in sorrow, and in the conflicts he is obliged to pass through.

When persons think of the church, they would rather think of the church in power.  We can learn from the conduct of Zerubbabel, recounted in the book of Ezra.  Also, despite the position Solomon had occupied, as heir,  in days of his prosperity and glory, he did not speak of either his birth or his rights.

If we speak of our testimony upon the earth, it will soon be evident that totally in weakness.   Like the seed by the wayside, the testimony will likewise ends in shame.

Neither the anger,  prudence, or pretensions of man can do anything, in the state of confusion in which the church is now.  I freely own that I have no hope in the efforts which many make to assure themselves an ecclesiastical position.  When the house is ruined in its foundations by an earthquake, it matters little how one tries to make it an agreeable dwelling place.  We had better remain where we first discovered of the ruin of things by man’s action – with our faces in the dust.  S uch is the place which belongs to us by right,  After all, it is the place of blessing.

I have read of a time when several were gathered together in such sorrow of heart, that for a long time they could not utter a single word; but the floor of the meeting room was wet with their tears. If the Lord would grant us such meetings again, it would be our wisdom to frequent these houses of tears. “They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy.” Psa. 126:5.

This is not just true for the earthly remnant;  it is also written for us.  I would willingly take a long journey to join these afflicted ones; but I would not go a step to to receive power from men, however excellent,  to overturn the present and reconstruct the future.

J.N.D.

Lightly edited by Sosthenes – May 2014

I am indebted to our brother Jeff in Illinois for bringing this article to my attention.  S.