Sunday, May 07, 2006

J.N. Darby on the Apostleship of Paul

John Nelson Darby wrote:

"The dispensation was born out of due time; it must prove itself by its energy from on high; so it had proved both in preaching Christ and teaching the church. But now Barnabas and Paul were to be sent out on a definite mission, and of course, they had derived authority now. Whence? Everything was still made to depend on the energy and calling of God. 'As certain prophets and teachers were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have called them; and when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.' Did the apostle derive his authority, his apostolic authority, from his ordination? That would be a strange assertion; and he says he had it neither of nor by man. If this had been his first going forth to preach, it would have been almost impossible to have hindered the conclusion that it had its source in this, and the apostolate would merely have been from the church at Antioch.

Thereefore the Lord, to maintain the character of the dispensation, makes the apostle not confer with flesh and blood, but immediately preach on his calling, and afterwards separates him merely to the particular work to which he was called, thus securing its underivative character, and that by the direct action of the Spirit. Its value was the energy of the Spirit of God, because of the glory to be revealed, and the heavenly character of the dispensation which had its place in the glory, not here at all, and so ordered of God; otherwise apostolic authority is derived from laymen (in modern theory, self-ordained men), and the apostle's assertion of his apostolate falsified. But it was not; it was the Holy Ghost's separation of him to Himself for the work to which the Lord had called him, not the conferring a gift, as if his apostolate depended on that mission; for this the apostle denies at large in the Epistle to the Galatians, and passes by this going forth from Antioch entirely in the account of his mission which he gives to them, and it was not the derivation of authority; for this he is equally earnest to deny.

In Paul, then, we have the founding of the service of this dispensation, resting on the fully recognised apostleship, but caused, in the way it is founded, to be entirely of a heavenly character, springing from the Lord known then in the glory, having its working and energy in the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and breaking in upon the derivative character of the apostolate in the Jews by every careful arrangement of God; and the laying on of hands made little of as regards the apostolate, and coming not from supeirior dervative authority, but entirely collaterally, that every link of this sort should be broken; and, we may add, failing as to its earthly position, the moment the energy of the Spirit failed, the moment the unstained godliness which kept out evil, and left the operations of the given Spirit free, failed.Because the witness of the glory among the Gentiles was not to take the place of the glory, any more than the witness of the resurrection among the Jews was to take the place of resurrection-glory. And it was only a witness, and therefore shewn only to the apostles and teachers among the Jews, and Paul for the Gentiles, and having been witnessed to, fails as regards holding any place here, though effectual by the Spirit to them that believe, that abounding in hope through it, they might have an entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, when He shall be manifested as the risen and glorified One, and sorrow and trial pass away. And through the filling up, as it were, was in the ascended glory, of which Paul was the special witness (and therefore he laboured more abundantly than they all, as the full testimony was to be given to the world in him, the continuous Gentile dispensation), yet though he sustained it by the energy of the Spirit during his life, he knew well that it would end then, that is, as thus corporately held together: 'I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.'"

Taken from The Character of Office in the Present Dispensation in Collected Writings vol.1, p.103-105

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