What is a Darbyite?

James exhorted long ago,
“So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty”
(James 2:12). The lives of believers will be judged by the Lord and
this includes their words. Be careful, dear Christian, of your words
and how you speak of other Christians.

Today some seem to love to accuse others of being Darbyites. This has become a pejorative term, a way to slander another.

what is a Darbyite? John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) was a well-educated
man who became a prominent Bible teacher in England. He traveled
widely, spoke often and wrote voluminously. He knew Greek and Hebrew
and translated the Scriptures into English, German and French. He also
wrote some beautiful hymns. He had a massive intellect and a very real
love for the Lord.

Darby was one of several prominent brethren
in England and Ireland who was interested in a revival of New Testament
simplicity for the churches. Sadly a division erupted and Darby became
a founding father of an exclusive branch of the assemblies. Through his
labors these spread to Europe and North America.

What were
some of this interesting and controversial man’s ideas? First of all,
he believed the church was in ruins and could not be recovered to
function as it did in New Testament days. Only Apostles could appoint
elders. Therefore, no church today should have elders. The men in such
groups function as a body, with perhaps one man dominating the work.
Those who believe churches should have elders are not Darbyites.
Muller, Chapman and Groves were among early brethren who opposed Darby
in this.

Darby also believed in a confederation of assemblies.
Only those who were part of that association could break bread (the
Lord’s Supper) in their churches. Those who welcome all true believers
at the Lord’s table are not following the tradition of Darby.

Darby also systematized and propagated a strongly dispensational view
of Scripture. Along with this he was an avid student of prophecy and
taught a pre-tribulation rapture of the Church. This teaching was
encapsulated and popularized in the Scofield Bible. Again many of the
early brethren disagreed with Darby on his views.

John Nelson
Darby has been with the Lord for over 100 years. By now we can be sure
that all of his theology is perfectly orthodox, as ours will be one day!

of various persuasions hold all, some or few of his views. Very few of
the men called Darbyites today would accept all of his ideas. Darby was
a Christian who loved the Lord, a godly man. Why villify his name today
even though one may disagree with some of his theology?

let us guard against slandering believers. It is better to spell out
specific doctrinal differences than to cast guilt by association. One’s
tongue can destroy a brother’s reputation. “Beloved, let us love one
another” (I John 4:7).