Wednesday, September 20, 2006

J.N. Darby on Persecution

John Nelson Darby, commenting on Acts 14, wrote:

"They gave them to understand that Christ was not come to bring peace on the earth which would meet with the opposition and enmity of the world, but that through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom of God. It was a warning for all times to make men understand that persecution was not a strange thing. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" -not, however, all Christians. If a Christian conforms to the world, he will avoid persecution; but he will lose the joy of the Holy Ghost and communion with God; he will be saved as by fire, and an entrance into the eternal kingdom shall not be abundantly ministered to him. If we walk with God, we shall not be barren in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

I speak thus, because for many the time of open persecution has passed away; but if we are faithful, we shall most surely experience persecution both from the world and from our own families. The world cannot tolerate faithfulness. If the Christian walk with the world, instead of winning the world to Christ, he himself gets a distance from Him, and will lose, I do not say life, but his spiritual privileges, his joy, and the approval of Christ; and his testimony is against Christianity. By his ways he declares that the friendship of the world is not enmity against God. The Christian whne with the world is in no respects at ease; and when in the compnay of spiritual Christians his conscience reproves him because he is walking badly, and that which is the joy to them, he cannot enter into. May all who are disposed to or in danger of being let to mingle with the ways of the world give heed to this exhortation!"

Taken from Meditations on the Acts of the Apostles in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.25, p.374-375

Key words: J.N. Darby, Plymouth Brethren, Perserverance, apostasy, discipleship, carnal Christians, falling away, Lordship Salvation

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

J.N. Darby on Separation and Unity

John Nelson Darby wrote:

"Here I might close my remarks, having developed the great, though simple, principle, flowing from the very nature of God, that separation from evil is His principle of unity. But a difficulty collateral to my main object and subject presents itself. Supposing evil introduces itself into this one body so formed actually on earth, does the principle still hold good? How then can separation from evil maintain unity? And here we can touch on the mystery of iniquity. But this principle, flowing from the very nature of God, that He is holy, cannot be set aside. Separation from evil is the necessary consequence of the presence of the Spirit of God under all circumstances as to conduct and fellowship. But here there is a certain modification of it. The revealed presence of God is always judicial when it exists; because power against evil is connected with the holiness which rejects it. Thus in Israel God's presence was judicial; His goverment was there, which did not allow evil. So, though in another manner, it is in the church. God's presence is judicial there- not in the world, save in testimony, because God is not yet revealed in the world; and hence it plucks up no tares out of that field. But it judges them that are within.

Hence the church is to put out from itself the wicked person, and thus maintains its separation from evil. And unity is maintained in the power of the Holy Ghost and a good conscience. And indeed, that the Spirit may not be grieved and the practical blessing lost, saints are exhorted to look dilligently lest any man fail of the grace of God. Amd how sweet and blessed is this garden of the Lord, when it is thus maintained and blooms in the fragrance of Christ's grace. But, alas! we know worldliness creeps in, and spiritual power declines; the taste for this blessing is enfeebled, because it is not enjoyed in the power of the Spirit; the spiritual fellowship with Christ the heavenly Head decays, and the power which banishes evil out of the church is no longer in living exercise. The body is not sufficently animated by the Holy Ghost to answer the mind of God. But God will never leave Himself without witness. He brings home the evil to the body by some testimony or other- by the word or by judgements, or both in succession- to recall it to its spiritual energy, and lead it to maintain His glory and place. If it refuse to answer to the very nature and character of God, and to the incompatibility of that nature with evil (so that it becomes really a false witness for God), then the first and immutable principle recurs, the evil must be separated from.

Further, the unity which is maintained after such separation, becomes a testimony to the compatability of the Holy Ghost with evil: that is, it is in its nature apostasy; it maintains the name and authority of God in His church, and associates it with evil. It is not the professed open apostasy of avowed infidelity; but it is denying God according to the true power of the Holy Ghost, while using His name. This unity is the great power of evil pointed out in the New Testament, connected with the professing church and the form of piety. From such we are to turn away. This power of evil in the church may be discerned spiritually, and left when there is the consciousness of inability to effect any remedy; or if there be an open public testimony, it is then open condemnation to it. Thus, previous to the Reformation, God gave light to many who maintained a witness to this very evil in the professing church, apart from it; some bore testimony and still remained. When the Reformation came it was openly and publicly given, and the professing body or Romanism became opnely and avowedly apostate, as far as a professing Christian body can, in the Council of Trent. But wherever the body declines the putting away of evil, it becomes in its unity a denier of God's character of holiness, and then separation from the evil is the path of the saint; and the unity he has left is the very greatest evil that can exist where the name of Christ is named. Saints may remain, as they have in Romanism, where there is not power to gather all saints together; but the duty of the saint as to it is plain on the first principles of Christianity, though doubtless his faith may be exercised by it. 'Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.' It is possible that he that departs from evil may make himself a prey; but this, of corse, makes no difference; it is a question of faith. He is in the true power of God's unity.

Thus, then, the word of God affords us the true nature, object and power of unity; and, in so doing, it gives us the measure of it, by which we judge of what pretends to it, and the manner of it; and, moreover, the means of maintaining its fundamental principles according to the nature and power of God by the Holy Ghost in the conscience where it may not be realised together in power. It nature flows from God's; for of true unity He must be the centre, and He is holy; and He brings us into it by separating us from evil. Its object is Christ; He is the sole centre of the church's unity, objectively as its Head. Its power is the presence of the Holy Ghost down here, sent as the Spirit of Truth withal from the Father by Jesus. Its measure is walking in the light, as God is in the light; fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus, and we may add, through the testimony of the written word- the apostolic and prophetic word of the New Testament especially. It is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (of the New Testament), Jesus Christ Himself being the corner stone. The means of maintaining it is putting away evil judicially if needed), so as to maintain, through the Spirit, fellowship with the Father and the Son. If evil be not put away, then separation from that which does not becomes a matter of conscience. I return, if alone, into the essential and infallible unity of the body, in its everlasting principles of union with the Head in a holy nature by the Spirit. The path of the saints thus becomes clear. God will secure by eternal power the vindication, not here perhaps, but before His angels, of them who have rightly owned His nature and truth in Christ Jesus.

I believe these fundamental principles are deeply needed in this day, for the saint who seeks to walk truly and thoroughly with God. Latitudinarian unity it may be painful and trying to keep aloof from; it has an amiable form in general, is in measure respectable in the religious world, tries nobody's conscience, and allows of everbody's will. It is the more difficult to be decided about, because it is often connected with a true desire of good, and is associated with amiable nature. And it seems rigid, and narrow, and sectarianism to decline so to walk. But the saint, when he has the light of God, must walk clearly in that. God will vindicate His ways in due time. Love to every saint is a clear duty; walking in their ways is not. And he that gathers not with Christ scatters. There can be but one unity; confederacy, even for good, is not it, even if it have its form. Unity, professed to be connected with the clerical principle, because that is needed to maintain unity, when the Spirit is not in power, and in fact, takes its place, guides, rules, governs in its place, under the plea of priesthood, or ministry, owned as a distinct body, a separate institution: it would not hold together without this."

Taken from Separation from Evil: God's Principle of Unity in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby vol.1, p.362-365

Key words: J.N. Darby, separation, unity, Plymouth Brethren, church discipline, putting away evil, Exclusive Brethren

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

J.N. Darby on 2 Thessalonians 2

John Nelson Darby wrote:

In answering this error, and in guarding them from the wily efforts of seducers, he puts everything in its place here by appealing to precious truths of which he had already spoken. Their gathering together unto Christ in the air was a demonstration of the impossibility of the day of the Lord being already come.

Moreover with regard to this last he presents two considerations: first, the day could not be already come, since Christians were not yet gathered to the Lord, and they were to come with Him; second, the wicked one who has then to be judged had not yet appeared, so that the judgment could not be executed.

The apostle had already instructed the Thessalonians with regard to this wicked one, when at Thessalonica; and in the former epistle he had taught them concerning the rapture of the church. In order that the Lord should come in judgment, iniquity must have reached its height, and open opposition to God have been manifested. But the truth had another and more precious side: the saints were to be in the same position as Christ, to be gathered together unto Him, before He could manifest Himself in glory to those outside. But these truths require a more connected examination.

Their gathering together unto Christ before the manifestation was a truth known to the Thessalonians; it is not revealed here, it is used as an argument. The Lord Jesus was coming, but it was impossible that He should be without His church in the glory. The King would indeed punish His rebellious subjects; but, before doing so, He would bring to Himself those who had been faithful to Him amid the unfaithful, in order to bring them back with Him and publicly to honour them in the midst of the rebels. But the apostle here speaks only of the rapture itself, and he adjures them only by that truth not to allow themselves to be shaken in mind as though the day were come. What an assured truth must this have been to Christians, since the apostle could appeal to it as to a known point, on which the heart could rest! The relationship of the church to Christ, its being necessarily in the same position with Him rendered the idea that the day was already come a mere folly.

In the second place, the already known fact is asserted, that the apostacy must previously take place, and then the man of sin be revealed. Solemn truth! Everything takes its place. The forms and the name of Christianity have long been maintained; true Christians have been disowned; but now there should be a public renunciation of the faith-an apostacy. True Christians should have their true place in heaven. But, besides this, there should be a person who would fully realise in sin the character of man without God. He is the man of sin. He does his own will-it is but Adam fully developed; and incited by the enemy, he opposes himself to God (it is open enmity against God), and he exalts himself above all that bears the name of God; he assumes the place of God in His temple. So that there is apostacy, that is, the open renunciation of Christianity in general, and an individual who concentrates in his own person (as to the principles of iniquity) the opposition that is made against God.

It will be noticed that the character of the wicked one is religious here, or rather anti-religious. The apostle does not speak of a secular power of the world, whatever its iniquity may be. The man of sin assumes a religious character. He exalts himself against the true God, but he shews himself as God [See Footnote #3] in the temple of God. Observe here that the sphere is on earth. It is not a god for faith. He shews himself as a god for the earth. The profession of Christianity has been abandoned. Sin then characterises an individual, a man, who fills up the measure of the apostacy of human nature, and, as a man, proclaims his independence of God. The principle of sin in man is his own will. He arises, as we have already seen, out of the rejection of Christianity. In this respect also evil is at its height.

This man of sin exalts himself above God, and, sitting as God in the temple of God, he defies the God of Israel. This last feature gives his formal character. He is in conflict with God, as placing himself publicly in this position-shewing himself as God in the temple of God. It is the God of Israel who will take vengeance on him.

Christianity, Judaism, natural religion, all are rejected. Man takes a place there on earth, exalting himself above it all, in opposition to God; and, in particular, arrogating to himself (for man needs a God, needs something to worship) the place and the honours of God, and of the God of Israel. [See Footnote #4] These verses present the wicked one in connection with the state of man, and with the different relationships in which man has stood towards God. In them all he shews himself as apostate, and then he assumes the place of God Himself-the first object of human ambition, as its attainment was the first suggestion of Satan.

In that which follows, we see not the condition itself of apostacy with regard to the different positions in which God had placed man, but simply man unrestrained, and the work of Satan. The man is but the vessel of the enemy's power.

Man in whom is the fullness of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus, and man filled with the energy of Satan, are opposed to each other. Before, it was man forsaking God, wicked, and exalting himself. Here, it is opposition against God on the part of man, unrestrained, and inspired by Satan himself. Consequently we have (not the wicked one, but) the lawless -the unbridled-one. The principle is the same, for sin is lawlessness. (See 1 John 3:4-Greek.) But in this first case man is viewed in his departure from God, and in his guiltiness; in the second, as acknowledging none but himself.

To this condition in which all restraint will be removed, a barrier has yet existed.

The apostle had already told them of the apostacy, and of the manifestation of the man of sin. He now says that the Thessalonians ought to know the hindrance that existed to his progress and his manifestation before the appointed time. He does not say that he had told them, but they ought to know it. Knowing the character of the wicked one, the barrier revealed itself. The main point here is that it was a barrier. The principle of the evil was already at work: a barrier alone prevented its development. Its character when developed, would be unbridled will which exalts and opposes itself.[See Footnote #5] Unbridled self-will being the principle of the evil, that which bridles this will is the barrier. Now it exalts itself above all that bears the name of God, or to which homage is paid: that which hinders it therefore is the power of God acting in government here below as authorized by Him. The grossest abuse of power still bears this last character. Christ could say to Pilate, "Thou couldest have no power against me, except it were given thee from above." Wicked as he might be, his power is owned as coming from God. Thus, although men had rejected and crucified the Son of God, so that their iniquity appeared to be at its height, the hindrance still existed in full. Afterwards God, having sent His Spirit, gathers out the church, and, although the mystery of iniquity began immediately to work mingling the will of men with the worship of God in Spirit, God had always (He still has) the object of His loving care upon the earth. The Holy Ghost was here below; the assembly, be its condition what it might, was still on earth, and God maintained the barrier. And as the porter had opened the door to Jesus in spite of all obstacles, so He sustains everything, however great the energy and progress of evil. The evil is bridled: God is the source of authority on earth. There is one who hinders until he be taken out of the way. Now when the assembly (the assembly, that is, as composed of the true members of Christ) is gone, and consequently the Holy Ghost as the Comforter is no longer dwelling here below, then the apostacy takes place, [See Footnote #6] the time to remove the hindrance is come, the evil is unbridled, and at length (without saying how much time it will take) the evil assumes a definite shape in him who is its head. The beast comes up from the abyss. Satan -not God-gives him his authority; and in the second beast all the energy of Satan is present. The man of sin is there.

Here it is an outward and secular power that is spoken of, but the religious side of Satan's energy.

With regard to the individual instruments who compose the barrier, they may change every moment, and it was not the object of the Holy Ghost to name them. He who was the one of them that existed when this epistle was written would not be so at the present time; to have named him then would have been of no use to us in the present day. The object was to declare that the evil which should be judged was already working, that there was no remedy for it, that it was only a hindrance on God's part which prevented its full development: a principle of the highest importance with regard to the history of Christianity.

Whatever form it might take, the apostacy of the men who would renounce grace would necessarily be more absolute than any other. It is opposition to the Lord. It has the character of an adversary. The other principle of human iniquity enters into it, but this is the source of the "perdition." It is, the rejection of goodness; it is direct enmity.

" That which hinders" is in general only an instrument, a means, which prevents the manifestation of the man of sin-the wicked one. So long as the assembly is on earth, the pretension to be God in His temple cannot take place or at least would have no influence. Satan has his sphere, and must needs have it, in the mystery of iniquity; but there is no longer a mystery when the place of God in His temple is openly taken. That which hinders is therefore still present. But there is a person active in maintaining this hindrance. Here I think indeed that it is God in the Person of the Holy Ghost, who, during the time called "the things that are," restrains the evil and guards divine authority in the world. As long as that subsists, the unrestrained exaltation of wickedness cannot take place. Consequently I do not doubt but that the rapture of the saints is the occasion of the hindrance being removed and all restraint loosed, although some of the ways of God are developed before the full manifestation of the evil.

This thought does not rest upon great principles only: the passage itself supplies elements which shew the state of things when the power of evil develops itself. 1st, The apostacy has already taken place. This could hardly be said if the testimony of the assembly still subsisted, as it had in time past, or even yet more distinctly as being freed from all false and corrupting elements. 2nd, Authority-as established of God, so far as exercising a restraint on man's will in God's name-has disappeared from the scene, for the wicked one exalts himself against all that is called God and to which homage is paid, and presents himself as God in the temple of God. Compare Psalms 82, where God stands among the gods (the judges) to judge them before He inherits the nations. Before that solemn hour when God will judge the judges of the earth, this wicked one, despising all authority that comes from Him, sets himself up as God: and that on the earth, where the judgment will be manifested. And then, 3rdly, in place of the Holy Ghost and His power manifested on the earth, we find the power of Satan, and with precisely the same tokens that bore witness to the Person of Christ. So that the passage itself, whether as to man or as to the enemy, gives us (in the three points of which we have spoken) the full confirmation of that which we have ventured to set forth.

The assembly, the powers ordained by God upon the earth, the Holy Ghost present here as the Comforter in lieu of Christ, have all (as regards the manifestation of the government and the work of God) given place to the self-willed unbridled man, and to the power of the enemy. In saying this we speak of the sphere of this prophecy, which moreover embraces that of the public testimony of God on earth.

Definitively then we have man here in his own nature-as it has displayed itself by forsaking God- in the full pursuit of his own will in rebellion against God; the willful man, developed as the result of apostacy from the position of grace in which the assembly stood, and in contempt of all the governmental authority of God on the earth. And since that authority had shewn itself directly and properly in Judea, this contempt and the spirit of rebellion in man, who exalts himself above everything, but who cannot be heavenly (heaven, and all pretension to heaven, is given up by man, and lost by Satan), display themselves by man taking the place of God in His temple under the most advanced form of Jewish apostacy and blasphemy. At the same time Satan acts-God having loosed his bridle-with a power (a lying power indeed, but) which gives the same testimony before men as that which the works of Christ did to the Saviour; and also with all the skill that iniquity possesses to deceive. It is in the wicked, the lawless one, that Satan works these things. Our consideration of the development of the latter part of this solemn scene will come (God willing) in the Book of Revelation. We may add, that there we have this wicked one as the false Messiah, and as prophet, in the form of his kingdom-two horns like a lamb. He had been cast down from heaven where he had been anti-priest, and now takes up Christ's titles on earth of king and prophet. In Daniel 11 he is seen as king; here, as the unbridled man, and in particular as the result of the apostacy[See Footnote #7] and the manifestation of Satan's power. In a word, instead of the assembly, the apostacy; instead of the Holy Ghost, Satan; and, instead of the authority of God as a restraint upon evil, the unbridled man setting himself up as God on the earth.

Another circumstance, already mentioned, demands particular attention. I have said that he presents himself as the Messiah (that is to say, in His two characters as king and prophet, which are His earthly characters). In heaven Satan has then nothing more to do; he has been cast out from thence, so that there is no imitation of the Lord's high-priesthood. In that respect Satan had, in his own person, acted another part. He was previously in heaven the accuser of the brethren. But, at the time of which we are speaking, the assembly is on high, and the accuser of the brethren is cast out never to return there. In a man inspired by him he makes himself prophet and king. And in this character he does the same things (in falsehood) as those by which God had sanctioned the mission of Christ before men. (Compare Acts 2:22) In a Greek the words are identical. [See Footnote #8] I would also recall here another solemn fact in order to complete this picture. In the history of Elijah we find that the proof of the divinity of Baal, or that of Jehovah, is made to rest upon the fact of their respective servants bringing down fire from heaven. Now in Revelation 3 we learn that the second beast brings down fire from heaven in the sight of men. So that we find here the marvelous works that sanctioned the Lord's mission, and there that which proved Jehovah to be the true and only God. And Satan performs both in order to deceive men.

This may give us an idea of the state in which they will be; and it indicates also that these things will take place in relation with the Jews, under the double aspect of their connection with Jehovah and their rejection of Christ and reception of Antichrist.

Thus, thank God, the truth is abundantly confirmed, that these things do not relate to the assembly, but to those who, having had opportunity to profit by the truth, have rejected it, and loved iniquity. Neither does it relate to the heathen, but only to those among whom the truth has been set forth.[See Footnote #9] They refused it and God sends a lie, and an efficacious lie, that they may believe it. He does this in judgment: He did the same thing with the nations (Romans 1:24, 26, 28); He did it also with the Jews (Is. 6:9, 10); He does it here with nominal Christians. But it does relate to the Jews as a nation that rejected the truth-the testimony of the Holy Ghost (Acts 7)-but still more to Christians (in name); in short to all those who will have had the truth presented to them.

With nominal Christians this has necessarily the character of apostacy, or at least it is connected with this apostacy, and is consequent upon it; as verse 3 teaches us, the apostacy takes place, and then the man of sin is revealed.~

In connection with his character of the man of sin he presents himself without restraint in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.[See Footnote #10] In relation to the lying power of Satan and his efficient work, he presents himself in the character of Christ-he is the Antichrist, assuming consequently a Jewish character. It is not only the pride of man exalting itself against God, but the power of Satan in man deceiving men and the Jews in particular, by a false Christ; so that it it were possible, the very elect would be deceived. We may remark that all these characters are precisely the opposite of Christ-falsehood instead of truth, iniquity instead of righteousness, perdition instead of salvation.

It is to a power like this, of lies and destruction that man-having forsaken Christianity and exalted himself in pride against God-will be given up. The apostacy (that is to say, the renunciation of Christianity) will be the occasion of this evil; Judea and the Jews, the scene in which it ripens and develops itself in a positive way.

The Antichrist will deny the Father and the Son (that is, Christianity); he will deny that Jesus is the Christ (that is, Jewish unbelief). With the burden upon him of sin against Christianity, grace, and the presence of the Holy Ghost, he will ally himself with Jewish unbelief, in order that there may be not only the full expression of human pride, but also for a time the Satanic influence of a false Christ, who will strengthen the throne of Satan among the Gentiles occupied by the first beast to whom the authority of the dragon has been given. He will also set up his own subordinate throne over the Jews, as being the Messiah, whom their unbelief is expecting; while at the same time he will bring in idolatry, the unclean spirit long gone out who then returns to his house which is devoid of God.

And now, with regard to his destruction (whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the spirit of His mouth and destroy with the manifestation of His presence, or of His coming), the first of these means characterises the judgment; it is the word of truth applied in judgment according to the power of God. In the Revelation, it says that the sword proceeds out of His mouth. Here He is not spoken of in the character of a man of war, as in Revelation 19. The spirit of His mouth is that inward and divine power which kindles and executes the judgment. It is not an instrument, it is the divine source of power which executes its purpose by a word. (compare Isa.33:33) But there is another aspect of this judgment. The Lord, the man Jesus, will return. His return has two parts-the return into the air to take His assembly to Himself, and the public manifestation in glory of His return.

In the first verse of our chapter we have read of His return and our gathering together unto Him. Here, verse 8, is the manifestation of His presence publicly in creation. At the time of this public manifestation of His coming He destroys the whole work and power of the wicked one. It is the Man formerly obedient and humbling Himself on the earth, exalted of God, and become Lord of all, who destroys the lawless man that has exalted himself above everything and made himself as God, instead of being, obedient to God.

This evil- on the side of Satan's influence-was already working in the apostle's time; only it was bridled and kept back, until that which restrained it should no longer be on the scene. Then should the wicked one be revealed. To sum up, the taking away of the assembly, and the apostacy, were first necessary; and then this man should present himself as an unbelieving Jew, [See Footnote #11] and the power of Satan would be displayed in him.

Now this Satanic influence was for those who had rejected the truth. Of the Thessalonians -to whom he had given these explanations respecting the day which they fancied was come-the apostle thought very differently. God had chosen these "brethren beloved of the Lord " from the beginning for salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, to which He had called them by Paul's gospel (and that of His companions), and to the obtaining of the glory of the Lord Jesus. How different was this from the visitations of the day of the Lord, and the circumstances of which the apostle had spoken! They were numbered among those who should be the companions in that day of the Lord Jesus Himself.

Footnotes for 2 Thessalonians 2
3: "As God" is to be left out before "sitteth," in chapter 2:4.
4: In 1 John 2 we find the double character of the Antichrist as regards Christianity and Judaism. He denies the Father and the Son, rejects Christianity; he denies that Jesus is the Christ, which is Jewish unbelief. His power is the working of Satan, as we find here. As man he sets up to be God. So that his impiousness is manifested in every way. As the question is more upon the earth, it is the God of the earth, the man withal from heaven, who judges him.

5: Note this point. All was ready and complete in the apostle's time, only restrained. So Christ was ready to judge. Only the patience of God waits, in the accepted time.

6: The principle of this may be widely at work individually, as in 1 John 2, it had begun, but the open public manifestation was to come. Jude gives the creeping in to produce corruption John, the going out which characterises the Antichrist.

7: We may remark that the apostacy develops itself under the three forms in which man has been in relationship with God; Nature-it is the man of sin unrestrained, who exalts himself; Judaism-he sits as God in the temple of God; Christianity-it is to this that the term apostacy is directly applied in the passage before us.

8: Only the word for "miracle" or "power" is plural in Acts 2.

9: I only allude here to the connection between the renunciation of Christianity and the development of apostate Judaism, which are linked together in the rejection of the true Christ, and the denial of the Father and the Son-features given in 1 John as characteristic of the Antichrist. But I am persuaded that the more we examine the word, the more we shall see (perhaps with surprise) that this fact is confirmed. Moreover the turning back to Judaism, and the tendency to idolatry by the introduction of other mediators and patrons, and the losing sight of our union with the Head, and thus of the perfection and deliverance from the law which are ours in Christ, have, at all times, characterised the mystery of iniquity and the principle of apostacy. The apostle had incessantly to combat this. That of which we spoke above is but its full manifestation.

10: This is the culminating point in his character as an apostate who has renounced grace. The ninth and following verses develop his positive and deceitful activity by which he seeks to win men. This explains the mixture (which, moreover, generally resists) of atheism in will, and superstition

11: I do not say that his first appearance will be the apostacy of Judaism; I do not think it will be. He will present himself to them as being the Christ, but according to the hopes and passions of the Jews. But afterwards it will be an apostacy even from Judaism, as had partially been the case in the days of the Maccabees-a fact which the Spirit uses in Daniel 11, as a figure precursive of the time of Antichrist. He is from his first appearance an unbeliever and the enemy of God, an apostate as to the assembly, and denying that Jesus is the Christ. We are taught positively by John, that the rejection of Christianity and Jewish unbelief are united in the Antichrist. It appears that apostacy with regard to Christianity and Jewish unbelief are connected and go together; and afterwards Jewish apostacy and open rebellion against God, which, causing the cry of the remnant, brings in the Lord, and all is ended. Now the apostle (chap. 2: 3, 4) presents the complete picture of man's iniquity, developed when apostacy from the grace of the gospel had taken place (he exalts himself even to the making himself God), without touching the Jewish side or the manifested power of Satan. These verses shew us the man of sin is the result of the apostacy which will break out in the midst of Christendom. Verse 9 begins to teach us in addition, that the coming of this wicked one is also in immediate connection with a mighty display of the energy of Satan, who deceives by means of marvelous works and a strong delusion to which God gives men up, and of which we have spoken in the text. It is man and Satan here, with enough to shew its connection with Judaism in the last days (even as the mystery of iniquity was linked with Judaism in the days of the apostles, although it is not the occasion of giving the details of the Jewish development of the evil. We must look for these details elsewhere, where they are in their place, as in Daniel. The Apocalypse and 1 John furnish us with the means of connecting them: we do but allude here to this connection.

Taken from Synopsis of the Books of the Bible vol.5

Saturday, September 09, 2006

J.N. Darby on Responsibility for the State of the Church

John Nelson Darby wrote:

"But we have no need to insist on this scriptural notion of the unity of the whole system from its beginning to its end. The question is very simple and of the greatest solemnity. Is the church responsible for the state in which it is found, or can it say, like Jeremiah 31:29: 'The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge'? An infidel, speaking of himself, may say: If I have inherited the bad condition of Adam, it is no fault of mine: I suffer from it, but I am not responsible for it. God, in the government of the worl and of His people, does not judge thus; He treats man as responsible, and He acts towards His people, as considering them to be responsible for the state in which they are found. They have been themselves in the evil; they are partakers in it. His grace may deliver one individual or another from the eternal consequences of sin, but those consequences are none the less certain for the human race. Grace may deliver children of God from the order of things which is going to be judged, so that they be gathered into the barn at the time of harvest (Matt 13:30); but they are taken away from the coming judgment, because the church is responsible.

The church is in a state of ruin; it has ceased to bear testimony to the glory of Christ, as it ought to have done, and as it did indeed at the beginning. When I come to the discovery of this sad and overwhelming truth, I feel my responsibility; and I think it is enougth to put the qustion thus, in order to reach the conscience of those whose ear is open to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and who have at heart the glory of Christ. To abide faithful, under the conviction, is the means of being able to enjoy a safe shelter in Him who keeps His own for glory, whatever be withal the circumstances in which they may be found. Nevertheless, this will not prevent God from manifesting that He has looked upon this dispensation as being responsible, when He will put an end to it by judgment. And if God has given a testimony as to this (and He has done so), does not the responsibility already lie on us? Here it is that Romans 11 finds an important application.

Are we responsible, and are we to be judged as such, if after having been warned we are walking in that which the Lord is going to judge? The solution of this question must of necessity act upon those who entertain the hope of re-establishing the church; for they deny at the very same time both its unity and its responsibility, in order to satisfy those few small bodies they have formed. Hence these two questions are very closely connected, and I attach importance to the question of the formation of churches, because it is linked with that of our common responsibility.

My desire is that we may indeed remember that we are responsible for the state in which we are found, and not for the acts of the Christians before us, although these acts may have helped in bringing on that state of things. The church as a body has been placed on earth to glorify the Son of God. Alas! it must be owned with confusion of face, that the church does not glorify Him now. The word of God shews us that there is a solidarity or rather an accumulation of responsibility, and that we inherit the sin of those who have gone before us in a corse of departure from God, when it is a question of His government with respect to a dispensation. 'Thy first father hath sinned,' says Isaiah (Isa. 43:27). 'Yeah, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch,' says Stephen (Acts 7:43), alluding to the sin of Israel in the wilderness, 'and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.' The Jews undergo to this day the consequences of the sin which they committed in the wilderness, of all those which they have sice added thereto, and the measure of which they have filled up by putting to death the Lord Jesus."

Taken from Remarks on the State of the Church in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, volume 1, p.237-238

Key words: J.N. Darby, church, ecclesiology, Plymouth Brethren, Exclusive, Exclusivism, Ruin of the Church, apostasy, dispensation, Dispensationalism

Saturday, September 02, 2006

J.N. Darby on the Character of Ministry

John Nelson Darby wrote:

"What a source of ministry is now opened to us! The love of God in Christ towards poor sinners, but this love, fulfilled in the glory which was consequent upon the death of the Son of man, who had descended into the lowest depths of man's misey, had there glorified God, and was now Himself glorified as man. In what a position is ministry thus placed! It is, indeed, the ministry of the Spirit and of righteousness; for if the love of God be the source and the subject of it, the righteousness of God accomplished in the glorifying of the Son of Man who had glorified Him upon earth, and who had more than re-established all that glory of God (which was falsified, and in appearance, belied by the victory of Satan, and the ruin introduced into God's creation), this righteousness becomes also its foundation. And because of this glorification of Christ in power, there was also healings and miracles attached to this ministry- at least, it is one reason for them, for miracles were likewise a confirmation of the most important part of it, namely, the life-giving word.

But they were also a testimony to the victory of the Son of man over Satan, and to His right of blessing over creation, notwithstanding all the evil which is there discovered. A time was to come when all this evil would be removed; but that period was not yet arrived. Nevertheless, He, who was to accomplish it, was exalted, and was manifesting, in the midst of the evil, this power in man. Thus, the prince of this world, he who was the mover of the evil found therein, was shewn to be judged; and this is why miracles were also called the powers or miracles of the world to come (Heb. 6:5); because then all this evil will be subjugated and arrested by the presence of the Son of man; and the miracles were a sample of this blessed result, a sample wrought by the Holy Spirit come down from on high. In this respect, it is indeed but a poor exhibition of the glory of the Son of man that we present before the world. May we, at least, have the wisdom to acknowledge and confess it.

But these things were, it is true, only accessory. The principal thing was the testimony borne to the love of God, to the victory of the second Adam, and to the work which He had accomplished as man- a testimony borne by the word, by that word which had created, which sustains, which quickens unto eternal life, which nourishes the renewed soul, and which reveals all the glory of God- the word, of which Jesus is the living fulness.

Considered as ministry of the word, the ministry which manifested the presence of the Holy Spirit, manifested at the same time the sovereignty of God, the miraculous power of Him who was sent, and the extent and activity of grace.

This ministry was carried on, whether among the Jews, or, as in the case of Cornelius, among the Gentiles, by the gift of tongues: Galileans, Romans, speak all kinds of languages. Man becomes only an instrument in the hand of God- of the Holy Ghost sent down from on high. He it is who guides, rules, and acts: but He does this in order to convey the testimony of the glory of the Son of man to all men; and in order, while speaking to them of the wonderful works of God in the languages in which they were born, to draw their hearts by a grace which had come even unto them, toward the power there manifested; and, at the same time, to assert the rights of the last Adam in grace over all men. This, while commencing with the Jews, evidently addressed itself to the entire economy of the Gentiles. The judgment of God had seperated the nations by confounding their languages, so that they were reckoned by languages, families and nations (Gen.10 and 11); and in thus seperating them, He had established the bounds of the people, according to the number of the children of Israel, Deut.32:8. The time for putting an end to all this had not yet arrived; but the grace is brought in, and takes the rule, in this state of things, among the Jews, who were, after all, the most wicked of all the nations. A testimony appears, which uses the very fruit of sin to shew that grace was reaching men just where the Holy Ghost enables Jews to speak all languages, by which men and the hearts of men were divided in consequence of the judgment of God against the pride of the renewed earth.

The subject of this ministry, although the circumstances which accompanied its exercise might manifest to an instructed eye the sovereignty of God, the rights of the Son of man over the nations, as well as His grace towards the Jews who had rejected Him- the subject of this ministry was, at the commencement, solely the glory of the man Jesus raised from the dead- a glory, which was to be the centre and rallying-point of souls saved by the operation of grace, and formed into the body, the church- a church which thenceforward was to be instructed and governed by this same Spirit.

Jerusalem, which had been for so long a time the beloved city, not having submitted itself to this testimony to the glory of Christ, lost the glory of being any longer the centre and fruitful source of evangelical administration. Her citizens had sent a message after the King who had gone to receive His kingdom, saying they would not have Him to reign over them. And, upon the death of Stephen, the whole church is dispersed, "except the apostles." Thereupon, God, who ever finds in evil the opportunity of displaying some grace more glorious than that which had been defaced, raises up, independently of the work at Jerusalem, an apostle born out of due time, who was neither "of man nor by man"; and reveals at the same time, this unspeakably precious truth, of which this apostle, thus called, becomes the great witness, that the church is one with Christ glorified in heaven- that she is His body, which He nourisheth and cherisheth as His own flesh. Thus disappeared that which Peter had announced to the Jews, namely that Christ would return to them in grace, as to a people subsisting before Him. And thenceforward, we have to do with the hopes which are identified with Christ in the heavens, with the marriage supper of the Lamb, with the union of the Bride and Bridegroom in heaven. The return of Christ here below entirely in judgment- although for the deliverance of the remnant. This is a point of progress in the ministry and administration of the church, of which the results are very perceptible to us.

Consequent upon the full revelation of the union of Christ and the church, we find, in the writings of the apostle Paul, a much greater development of those gifts of the Holy Spirit- in connection with the position of him who, as a member of 'the body of Christ', might posess this or that gift. The same principles, however, are found practically set forth in the writings of Peter."

Taken from On Ministry, in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby Vol.1

Key words: J.N. Darby, church, ecclesiology, Plymouth Brethren, dispensational, dispensation, Holy Spirit