"Beloved Brother, . . . I have thought much since you were with us upon the distinction between the purpose of God concerning us and the application of the work of Christ to us. Of course, in one sense, I had always distinguished between these two things; but I had not been quite clear as to the time of the application to us in detail of the work of Christ. God, of course, always from all eternity, saw us in Christ, and chose us in Him; but the difficulty is as to when we are or were entitled to look upon ourselves as actually identified with the work and person of Christ, with all that is made good to us in His work and person. I suppose the first action of the Spirit is to give us life, and set us apart (or sanctify us) to God, even though we may not have peace, or be really delivered. Then I suppose it is by the Word that the Spirit gives us this life and sets us apart. Is it then produced by faith in Christ (that is, in His person)? I presume so, as of course we cannot (that is, during the present period of God's dealing with man this is the case) have life without being also God's children. The moment Christ is believed on we are children of God (Gal. 3:26); and of course, the Spirit having acted on us, set apart to God; and this setting apart is, I suppose, according to Christ's present place for us on high. Having thus got life (eternal life, John 3:26), we are afterwards sealed with the Spirit (Gal. 4:6); but according to Eph. 1:13 this cannot be until we have believed in the gospel of our salvation, which I suppose would be our believing in Christ as the One who delivered us from the old man (the old Adam standing, not the old creation), from sin within and from the world; and this He does by having died for us (when He put away our sins), and our having died with Him. We first see His death for us when He put away our sins, and then how we are dead with Him, upon which we get full deliverance and settled peace. I suppose you would say a person was not justified until by faith he believes in the work of Christ for justification, even though he might previously have life (see Rom. 5:1); indeed, that the blessings which flow to us from, and are immediately connected with, the death of Christ, such as forgiveness of sins, deliverance, etc., are not actually ours in possession until by faith we apprehend the death of Christ as that which gives them to us in detail. Then again, how do you distinguish fully between Rom. 6:11, and 2 Cor. 4:10? The former is what faith reckons us, and the latter is practically carrying out death and resurrection; but suppose I give way to the flesh or sin (as Scripture calls it), am I out of the former as well as the latter? This is, as I judge, the most difficult point ii connection with the subject to get clear upon; and I should feel much obliged if when you have time you would kindly write me upon it, and also say whether you consider me inexact in anything I have stated above. . . . As to conversion, you would, I suppose, say a person was converted the moment he was quickened; for then he was (though feebly as regards his apprehension of it yet) actually turned to God. I suppose at the same time we are sealed we are also baptized into the body, and the Spirit from the same moment remains in us as the indweller. Repentance is (I judge) distinct from anything I have stated above, and consists in a change of mind (produced by faith) about God and about ourselves, and is consequently a deepening work, and includes, or brings with it, complete judgment upon ourselves and our ways. . . .
"I remain, yours very affectionately,
"4th August, 1872. "T. Roberts. (W.)"
"Dearest Brother, The only thing I have to notice in your letter, save to agree, is when you say we are sealed on our believing in Christ as the One who delivers us from the old man (the old Adam standing), sin within, and from the world, and this He does by having died for us when He put away our sins, and our having died with Him, etc. Now, I judge from Scripture that the sealing comes, or may come, consequent on our believing in Christ's death for the remission of sins, without including our having died with Him for deliverance. This too may be the case. It was mine. But sealing comes on forgiveness; for our being looked at then as clean the Holy Ghost can come and dwell in us. Thus Peter, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.' So when he preached to Cornelius, who was listening with faith, the moment he comes to 'receive the remission of their sins,' as he spake these words the Holy Ghost came upon them. So Rom. 5, the Holy Ghost is found before the discussion of our not being in flesh is commenced. If we go through Rom. 7, before Rom. 3, as was my own case, then pardon and deliverance go together; but in these revival preaching days many receive the remission of their sins before they have any self-knowledge, and have, though in a modified form (not substance), to go through Rom. 7 afterwards. But this is always really law; i.e. what is expected from us. But there is no deliverance without self-knowledge, and the work substantially of Rom. 7. Forgiveness needs no such process. Convinced of guilt, no doubt we must be; but this supposes no knowledge of self; that is, state, not acts, which constitute guilt. There is no forgiveness of a nature, but where it was condemned death came in (the cross) and so I am delivered. As regards Rom. 6:11 and 2 Cor. 4:10, one is faith as to the truth and position, the other realizing it in practice. Col. 3 gives God's judgment - ' Ye are dead.' Rom. 6:11, man's faith as to having died with Christ as to the old man on the cross - I reckon myself dead. 2 Cor. 4:10 realizes it in practice. I always bear about in my body the dying, never let the flesh from under the power of Christ's death and cross, treating it de facto as a crucified thing that has no title to stir though it be really there. Then God passes through circumstances which test how far it is realized. 'If we are faithful to ten' (query, times), is in the form of suffering for Christ, as was Paul's case; if not to make practically good what is wanting, and this is the gracious history of many sorrows. He withdraweth not His eyes from the righteous. The Lord be with you. If all be not clear, you can write to me. . . .
"Kind love to the brethren,
"Ever affectionately yours, dear brother,
"September 4th, 1872. J. N. Darby."
"Beloved Brother, There is one point upon which I wish to hear further from you; viz., in reference to the sealing. I quite admit that in Acts 2 and 10 the sealing comes upon the knowledge of forgiveness of sins. But my difficulty arose from Eph. 1, where the sealing follows the reference by the apostle to the gospel of their salvation. Now if he there makes the sealing consequent upon the reception of the gospel of their salvation, it is clear that it is upon the reception of more than the knowledge of forgiveness of sins, as salvation would, I suppose, include in result our complete deliverance. But I quite admit this Scripture says, In whom also having believed, ye were sealed,' etc. The 'whom' would refer to Christ; but the gospel of your salvation being referred to seemed to convey more with it than merely faith in His person or in Himself. Now in Gal. 4 the gift of the Spirit to us seems to be in virtue of our sonship, into which position we were brought by faith in Christ personally. I shall be glad to hear again upon the above when you can write.
"Of course what we term the flesh in us is still in us. Now how would you distinguish this from sin in us, which is also in us? Could it be said that this flesh and sin were one and the same thing? If not, how would you distinguish between them? In Romans 8:3 we read of sin in the flesh, and likeness of flesh of sin. To what flesh is reference made in these two instances? Another question on Romans 6:11. Can I be said to be only dead to sin while I am actually so reckoning myself? or am I dead to sin at times when I may forget so to reckon myself? . . . " T. Roberts. (W.)
"Dear Brother, I do not attach especial importance to the immediate moment of the sealing - merely if Scripture ascertain it, it is always gain to know it, and I think it does this. I do not think the passages (already presented to me by others) offer any difficulty. Clearly it is because we are sons that the Spirit is given us to cry, Abba, Father, and we are sons by faith of Jesus Christ. But I do not think this passage says anything as to the moment at which, as its occasion, we receive it, but merely states the fact. Nor does Eph. 1. There it is on believing in the most general way in the direct statement, and when we come to the gospel of your salvation it rather confirms it; for what was brought to them was not the subsequent glories in which they were edified, but the fact of salvation; as previously in the same chapter, redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins; as the redemption of the purchased possession comes afterwards, the presenting Christ's person as the great object of faith is all important. It is just what is wanting in modern gospel preaching.
"Flesh is used in the New Testament for our sinful nature as it works habitually through its lusts. So flesh, sin in the flesh, and sinful flesh are substantially the same, though it may be in different aspects and applications: the mind of the flesh is also used; (i.e.) its bent and purpose or object. Sin has a much wider sense. "Who taketh away the sin of the world," for instance; "to put away sin." But if we look at it in the sense of a nature and principle, it is the same as flesh. It is sin that dwells in me. I know that in me - that is, in my flesh - dwells no good thing. Christ was made sin; here evidently it is not sin in us. Sinfuless is the state of the flesh and fleshly mind. Being dead to sin is the calling and standing of every Christian. We are baptized to Christ's death. In Col. 3 it is said, 'Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.' In Romans 6 faith or the exhortation of the apostle takes this up - 'reckon yourselves dead;' - but this is founded on knowing that our old man was crucified with him. It is in Christ we have died. 2 Cor. 4:10 is the proper realization of it; verse 11, God's dealings to test and make it good. Only Paul could say, 'For Jesus' sake.' . . .
"Kindest love to the Brethren,
"Affectionately yours in the Lord.
"J. N. Darby.
"30th November, 1872."
God's purpose in blessing has been towards us from all eternity. He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world; but our apprehension and the application through faith to us of the person of Christ and of His work on the cross have been gradual and in detail. Thus:
1. We are born again, receive eternal life, and become sons of God by faith in the person of Christ (John's gospel, first epistle, and Galatians). We are at the same time converted, quickened, and sanctified, by the action of the word upon us by the Spirit.
2. Our sins are remitted, and we cleansed and justified, and we sealed with the Holy Spirit, when we have faith in the death of Christ, and His blood-shedding upon the cross. (Rom.; 1 John 1; Eph.; Acts 10)
3. We have to reckon ourselves dead to sin on the ground of Christ having died for us to meet the judgment, and of our having died with Him. (Rom. 6)
4. We get deliverance from ourselves (after experimentally passing through Rom. 7) by realizing our inability to help ourselves, and by faith in the death of Christ for us and in His resurrection, on the ground of which we shall get ultimate deliverance at the resurrection of the body, and on the ground of which we get present deliverance, looking at sin in us as judged in the death of Christ, and walking by faith in the liberty in which we are placed in Christ. (Rom. 7 - 8:11.)
5. There are other points not noticed in the above epitome, such as our position in the house of God, and in the body of Christ, also, repentance. T. Roberts. (W.)