From time to time I get email from someone who's read my blog. A surprising percentage seems to come from people who've read Miles Stanford's books. Perhaps that shouldn't surprise: Stanford liked to quote J. N. Darby, and I'd imagine searches for J. N. Darby online would eventually include this blog.
I was once a much bigger fan of Stanford's than I am now: I think someone could do a lot worse than reading Stanford's books, but someone could do a lot better too. So without picking too much on Stanford, there are some resources that I think are very worthwhile for the believer.
When it comes to the Christian life, Scripture presents both positive and negative truth. Very little "ministry" addresses both the negative and positive aspects of the truth: on the negative side, I am crucified with Christ. I am thus free from sin (in the sense that I am no longer under its power, Romans 6:7). I am no longer under its dominion (Romans 6:14). There is a human responsibility: I must reckon on the truth of my death with Him (Romans 6:10–11). Note that I don't become dead to sin by reckoning: I am dead to sin, the reckoning is merely bringing my thoughts into line with God's.
The positive truth is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It's necessary because the believer who has been freed from sin (by his death with Christ) is not empowered to live the Christian life by that same death. My having died with Christ doesn't give me power to walk godly in this world. Dying doesn't imply life. The positive truth is that I have been indwellt by the Spirit of God. I am free from sin because I have been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6–11), but I am only able to walk the Christian life because I have the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2).
Romans doesn't stop in chapter 6. The believer who has learned that he has died with Christ still needs to learn the truth of Romans 7 & 8. Even a man who has died with Christ has the flesh in him. There is still the "law of sin in my members" (Romans 7:21–23). There is only one answer to the "law of sin" in our members, the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1–2).
What Scripture teaches is a two-part solution to the problem. First, the believer has died with Christ. This is absolutely necessary to accept. It is not that the believer must die with Christ, but that the believer has died with Him. The Scripture does not even hint that we must die with Christ: it teaches very clearly that we have died with Him. Our responsibility is not to die, but to reckon on the truth that we have died.
But there is a second part: the man who has died with Christ still needs to active and constant intervention of the Spirit of God. Galatians 2:20 connects both these truths in a single verse, Romans spends three chapters explaining them in detail.
If you're wanting some books that cover more or less the same material in a little more depth (and accuracy), I'll recommend a few titles here:
- From New Birth to New Creation by R. A. Huebner. This is probably the most complete book on the subject I've ever read. It's not perfect by any means, but it's really an excellent book. I've written a little about it before.
- The Gospel of Our Salvation by H. F. Witherby. This isn't nearly so meaty as Huebner's book, but it's still very good. I wrote about this one too. I ended up giving away my copy before I finished it. Yes, it's that good.
- The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. People start to tune you out when you bring this one up, but it really is an amazing book. It's not without fault, but it's an absolutely excellent book. If you haven't read this one, you need to read it right away.
- Finally, there are a few papers by J. N. Darby that must be mentioned in this category. I've listed them last, because they're Darby – they're not the easiest reading: