The idea that the
people of God were to be separate has its very beginning with Abraham. When God first called Abraham, He told him to "get
thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred. and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee" (Gen. 12:1).
Abraham had to separate himself from much that had been near and dear to him, in his former life, if he were to follow God
and receive His blessing. Later, God gave Abraham and his descendants the rite of circumcision to mark them off from the heathen
amongst whom they dwelt (Gen. 17:9-14).
In the law of Moses, God told the Jews, "And ye shall
be holy unto me; for I, the Lord, am holy, and have separated you from other people, that ye should be mine" (Lev. 20:26).
God is holy because He is separate from sin. This is why the sinner is separated from God. The prophet Isaiah told the Jews,
"But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, that he will not
hear" (Is. 59:2). This is also why God the Father had to separate Himself, even momentarily, from Jesus, when He bore our
sins on the cross of Calvary, and why Jesus said, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Mt. 27:46).
The idea of separation may also be found in the Greek
word translated "church." Ekklesia, means a "called out" assembly. It is derived from ek meaning "out" and kaleo
"to call". The church is an assembly of those called out from the world and called unto the Lord.
The Aspects of Biblical
Separation - Now, Biblical separation has two aspects to it, separation from
and separation unto.
Separation unto - The people
of God should be first of all separated unto God. God told the Jews, "I. . . have separated you from other people,
that ye should be mine" (Lev. 20:26). The root idea of the words translated "holy", both in the O.T. and in the N.T., and
"saint" and "sanctification" in the N.T. is that of "separation". A saint is one who is sanctified, holy, separated unto
God. A believer is "holy" from Day One of his salvation, because he has been separated unto God.
Separation from -But God also
commanded His people to be holy, because He is holy (Lev. 20:26; I Pet. 1:16). Now God is not separated unto anything,
but He is separate from sin. This command, then, must mean that the believer is to seek to be separate from sin, because
God is separate from sin.
The people of God are to practice the principles of separation
in two major areas, personal separation and ecclesiastical separation.
Personal separation from sin is the practice of holy living in accord with the command of 1 Peter 1:15, 16:
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner
of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
The practice of personal separation is perhaps
best described by the familiar passage found in many a Baptist Church Covenant which describes the walk of the believer separated
unto God and separated from sin:
We also purpose to maintain family and private devotions; to
our train children according to the Word of God; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly
in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our conduct; to avoid all gossip,
backbiting, and unrighteous anger; to abstain from all forms of activity which dishonour our Lord Jesus Christ, cause stumbling
to a fellow believer or hinder the winning of soul to Christ; to be zealous in our efforts to advance the cause of Christ,
our Saviour; and to give Him pre-eminence in all things.
means that within both the context of the local church and of professing Christendom, believers are to be separate from unbelievers
and apostates, i.e. those who profess to be Christians but who have "fallen away" from the Biblical faith, once for all delivered
to the saints (Jude 3).
Consider God's instructions to the Israelites as they were about
to enter the land of Canaan. He told them to utterly destroy the inhabitants of the land and make no marriage with them, saying,
"For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other
gods. . . for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto
himself. . ." (Deut. 7:1-6).
Now, through the Apostle Paul, God gave virtually the same command
to the church at Corinth (2 Cor. 6:14-18). While the primary application here may be an unequal yoke in the marriage relationship
between a believer and an unbeliever, the general application goes much wider to include business partnerships with unbelievers,
and certainly any kind of church union or fellowship with unbelievers or apostates, unbelievers being those who do not profess
to be Christians, and apostates being those who profess to be Christians but have departed from the fundamentals of the Christian
faith.Separation from apostates
- The word "apostate" is derived from the Greek word meaning "to fall away from." An apostate is one who professes
to be a Christian without possessing personal, saving faith in the Christ of the Bible. An apostate denies the fundamental
truths of the Christian faith.
Perhaps you have heard of the Ecumenical movement? The word "ecumenical"
comes from the Greek word oikoumene meaning "the inhabited earth". Its ultimate goal is the organic union of all churches
and religious bodies on the face of the earth. Its global organization is the World Council of Churches, which includes most
liberal Protestant denominations, the Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches, and which ultimately hopes to include the Roman
Catholic Church, as well. On the national level it is represented by the National Council of Churches, which is affiliated
with the World Council of Churches. These groups include theologians who are rank liberals and others who deny such fundamentals
of the Christian faith as the inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth and deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement,
bodily resurrection, and visible return to earth.
For this reason a Bible believing local church should have no
organic ties or formal fellowship with the Ecumenical movement or with those organizations which do. It would be wrong, for
example, for a sound, Bible believing local church to have a part in supporting a city-wide evangelistic crusade, involving
all the churches in the city, some of which deny the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Separation
from those who fellowship with apostates - The term "secondary separation" is
sometimes used to describe separation from those believers and churches which fellowship with unbelievers and apostates. The
words of John in his second epistle make clear the principle of guilt by association.
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.
He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not
this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of
his evil deeds (2 John 9-11).
In John's context, the man who "transgresseth, and abideth not
in the doctrine of Christ" (9) is not a professed unbeliever. Rather, John is dealing with those who profess to be Christians,
although, their doctrine of Christ, that is, who they understand Him to be, in reality makes them unbelievers. John says that
if a professed Christian does not have the proper doctrine of Christ, the Christian is not to "receive him" into his
house, "neither bid him Godspeed" (10). John's point is that believers are not to have fellowship with a professing Christian
who holds an unscriptural view of the person and work of Jesus Christ. He then concludes that the believer who has fellowship
with that professing Christian who does not have a Biblical doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ is also a partaker
of the apostate's evil deeds.
The Word Council of Churches is filled with many denominations
which do not hold to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and which especially permit those who deny the deity of Christ
to remain within their memberships. The same is true for the National Council of Churches. By application, then, although
a particular local church or denominational group may still hold to the Biblical fundamentals of the Christian faith, if it
is part of the National or World Council of Churches, it is bidding "Godspeed" to those who do not hold to the Bible doctrine
of the person and work of Jesus Christ. John says that local church or denominational group, even though it may hold
to the fundamentals of the faith itself, it "IS A PARTAKER" of the evil deeds of the apostates with whom they fellowship.
This principle has been applied by many governments during wartime
to try some of its citizens for giving aid and comfort to the enemy. This principle is also found in criminal law today when
people are tried as being accomplices to a crime, or when someone is guilty of aiding and abetting a fugitive. Therefore,
a Bible believing Christian should have no organic fellowship or cooperation with any group which has membership in the National
or World Council of Churches, or which permits apostates to remain within its membership. If a believer is presently a member
of such a church or denomination, the Biblical admonition of 2 Cor. 6:17 is clear, "'Come out from among them, and be ye separate,'
saith the Lord, 'and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."Separation
from some brothers and sisters in Christ - Ecclesiastical separation also involves
withdrawing ourselves from disorderly brethren, yes, even our brothers or sisters in Christ, when either their teaching or
their testimony is faulty. The Apostle Paul brings out this principle in 2 Thessalonians 3:6:
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw
yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
In the context of 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, Paul is dealing with
the problem of a group of Christians in the church at Thessalonica who were so convinced that the return of the Lord would
take place immediately, that they had given up their jobs to simply wait for Him to return. As a result, they were becoming
a financial burden to the rest of the church. In this regard, Paul had already taught, "If any (man) would not work, neither
should he eat" (2 Thess. 3:10).
These were the disorderly brethren that Paul was talking about
in verse. Their problem was first of all doctrinal. But there is a principle in Scripture that what we believe effects our
Christian walk. Hence faulty doctrine produced a faulty walk. In this case, the "disorderly walk involved both doctrine and
day to day living. We might say that, in spite of their great zeal for spiritual things, their faulty doctrine resulted in
a poor testimony before the world. Paul told the remainder of the Thessalonian Christians to withdraw from these disorderly
Other Scriptures also teach that believers should have no fellowship
with and separate from those who teach unsound doctrine and/or who are walking in sin.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary
to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Rom 16:17).
A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject (Titus
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether
with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out
of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or
covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat (1 Cor. 5:9-11).