Believers are indeed individual sojourners in this world, but not independent of the church, as we are always "members one of another" (Rom.12:5; I Cor.12). We are "one body" in Christ, and there is no such thing as the "church (or assembly) of your choice", as many say. There is no choice given. We ought to be as one, as we will in heaven. I want to speak here of the expression of God's testimony and how I regard it. I pray much that God will lead and not leave me to my own thoughts:
1. After I was saved by the grace of God in 1953, I began reading His Word and seeking earnestly to know what I should do (Acts 9:6). I am thankful for faithful saints who helped me. In time God showed me that the church is "one body" in the world, and not after the sectarian spirit found in christendom. I left organized religious systems, wandered among independent gatherings, and was then led to what I believe is the proper expression of God's testimony in the world. Let me just say: this requires prayerful crying to the Lord. My personal walk must be always with thought of the universal church, for the path of God is both a collective testimony and an individual way in it.
2. The Christian revival of the early 1800's was indeed a real work of God to re-establish church truth and His testimony in the world, which had been lost after the apostolic period. It was neither taught nor in practice any-where. Serious seekers ought to search out this matter and the history, and be prayerfully persuaded in their own mind. My pathway hinges on this post for scriptural gathering today.
3. This renewal was essentially given to J. N. Darby, J. G. Bellett, G. V. Wigram, and later included Wm. Kelly, C. H. Mackintosh, and perhaps one or two others thereafter. Writers in later years brought out good thoughts from the Word, but most of the foundational ministry was set forth by a few brothers as stated, and paraphrased by others since. I believe the evidence shows John Nelson Darby was given an unction of the Spirit to teach the essential truth and reestablish the testimony, and while as all men he was not perfect and perhaps uttered some things not substantiated, it was not critical. Even the apostles had failures, but not in their doctrine and ministry. I am quite confident of the JND ministry, and have no patience with those who like to "cast stones" at such faithful men of God.
4. The work became a target of Satan, who raised up cults to imitate this testimony; and he also stirred up the flesh of some brethren "to draw away disciples after them" (see Acts 20:28-31). We must guard against these voices along the way. We ought to honor God and not just follow a path of convenience and be indifferent, and perpetuate the divisions. Surely we should not say: "It doesn't matter as long as we are sincere and preach the gospel". Obedience does matter. We must not gather with those meeting on other ground, though we love every child of God. May we seek to resist the enemy and glorify the Lord.
5. All the major divisions which occurred in this so-called "brethren movement" are after the ideas of men. We ought to know the errors. I do not give much thought to the subsequent divisions because they are splinters from the major division groups. If a foundation is wrong all else is irrelevant. I must hold to the main line. One can know.
6. I seldom read ministry coming out of division groups for I do not have confidence in it, though many of these brothers today may be quite sound in much of what they say....yet are tainted and on the ground of division in God's testimony. There is so much good ministry from the earlier years that I do not feel I am missing anything by not listening to every voice. Those among us who are endeavoring to continue the main line are more creditable in their ministry. I find the best source of sound ministry is: Bible Truth Publishers, P.O. Box 649, Addison, IL 60101 - tel. (630) 543-1441; www.bibletruthpublishers.com.
7. Divisions within this worldwide movement occur at times, and mostly because some Christians among us press their own ideas and preferences, and support sectarianism (though not admitting to it). They do not recognize where God sets His "candlestick" - testimony, and do not see that the Lord is "in the midst" of His assemblies (Matt.18:20). They disallow God's government, rebel against the elders, reject the expression of the "one body" of Christ (Rom.12; I Cor.12; Eph.4:3-6; Phil.2:2), and are ready to leave if not pleased. Of course there will thus be divisions. I hope to withstand it and honor the Lord's work. We look too much at brethren, rather than to the Lord. I believe we are bound to maintain God's testimony, and not the sects man has formed. One ought to know the difference.
8. I realize that some believers are not zealous for the gospel work, some are not zealous for church truth, and some are not zealous for worship and devotion. One cannot follow others or judge others. Jesus is altogether the Way, the Truth, the Life. These things are all a matter of individual exercise (our priesthood), and the real testimony of God cannot be faulted for our individual failures. If we find some among the gathered saints who are less than what we think is fitting, we might try to be a help, not leave them and give up God's testimony.
9. Concerning church truth, if one found a happy assembly of Christians that meets in worldwide fellowship in accord with the Scripture and God's revival, should one not recognize it as true to God? Let us consider the following:
a) GATHERING TOGETHER: There are many papers available on the truth of gathering, which are available from
the sources listed here. It is important to understand that God does not approve of independency, and the local
assemblies after the New Testament scriptural order are simply an expression in a geographical place of the universal testimony in the world. There is "one body in Christ" and there ought to be a "unity of the Spirit" among the saints
everywhere as it will be in heaven (see Rom. 12; I Cor.12; Eph.4; Phil.2:2; etc.). This surely does not mean a merger
of all the sects and religious ideas of men. We must stand apart from that.
The gathering is to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone (Matt.18:20), not to personalities, sectarian systems, emotional experiences, programs, rituals, etc., which usurp the Lord. Coming into the fellowship is a two-
way thing. The individual must receive the fellowship, as well as the fellowship receiving the individual, so all need to understand the other and get acquainted. One must at least be clear about essential truth and willing to bow to God's government, whether they understand all church truth or not. The holiness of the Lord's table and the gathering requires that we "lay hands suddenly on no man" (I Tim.5:22). There are many lovely saints in the world, but lovely saints is not the ground and truth of gathering. The holiness of God and His honor is paramount. It is good that an assembly is endeavoring to be scriptural in form, but is it going on independently? Are these things stated here about gathering sound?
b) RECEIVING ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD: We want to take "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), and be
"rightly dividing the Word of truth" (II Tim.2:15), not holding traditions, entertainment, creeds and pledges, religious
ideas and unscriptural things which are for the flesh. All things ought to "be done decently and in order" (I Cor.14: 40).
Do readers agree with this, or have other scriptural thoughts?
c) EXPRESSING THE ONE BODY OF CHRIST: No company of believers can rightly say they are the "one
body of Christ", but we should endeavor to express the oneness of the body of Christ in the world (I Cor.12:25), by
fellowship with all scriptural gatherings who are going on in a Godly way; not independency, nor mergers and unions, organizational membership, etc., which divides the saints in the world and compromises the truth. Does one object to Christians endeavoring to express the "one body" of Christ worldwide? Should not all believers be together?
d) ACKNOWLEDGING THE PRIESTHOOD: To exercise the priesthood of believers (I Pet.2:5,9), it must be
seen as an important truth of the Word to be held; not titles, offices, hierarchy, dominion over the saints with
selected ministers to lead, preach, and manage, etc. (that is "nicolaitanism" Rev.2:6), which denies liberty. The gifts
of pastors, teachers, and evangelists (in the plural) are gifts within the gathering, not titles and positions. Does one
have other thoughts about this?
e) TRUSTING THE LORD AND HIS WORD. It is the only way and authority for the Christian faith, not religious
ideas of men. Submission, obedience, and communion are necessary. Should one add other things?
f) WORSHIPPING AS PLEASES GOD: One ought to understand individual and collective worship, and esteem
the Lord's supper at His table as He gave us, rather than entertainment, sermons, activities, etc. Worship is devotion
and according to the Word, not some zeal for activity. Do readers have further thoughts on collective and personal
g) APPRECIATING THE ASSEMBLY: We ought to appreciate the assembly as given and maintain God's
government, rather than the ideas of men; and desire to have "all things be done decently and in order", as God says.
Do we esteem the simplicity of God's way, and value the order and local government ordained by God, or do we need
man's ways in the church? How does one justify man's innovations?
h) YIELDING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT: The leading of the Holy Spirit as in the early church (II Cor.3:17), is
a precious thing, not ceremonies, schedules, and arrangements quenching the Spirit (I Thess.5:19), which dishonors
God. Prayerful exercise should be understood and practiced, rather than the energies and religious ideas of men.
What does one think about the Spirit's leading?
10. I realize my global view of the church is not popular, but I believe it is right, and true to the scriptures and God's revival in 1827. Many people want their own ideas about the church and God's pathway, so I leave them to their preferences.
I have been happily gathered in fellowship over 35 years now, and feel constrained by the Spirit to continue thus, help the brethren, and pray God will lead me as He pleases. I would be happy to provide further information and direct others to a scriptural fellowship if interested. - RLD , 2001 AD