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Grace Baptist Church of Citrus Springs - Information Database
Biblical Separation
Index to Articles
When Will the Rapture Take Place?
The Second Coming (Return) of Christ
How do we know the Bible is true?
Why I Prefer the Byzantine Text
Which Translation Do We Use?
The Holy Spirit and Speaking in Tongues
What Is the Church?
The Marks of a New Testament Church
What's Involved in Church Membership?
Biblical Separation
In Defense of Premillennialism
Is Iraq in the Bible?

BIBLICAL SEPARATION

by Rev. Richard W. Brosseau

The Principle of Biblical Separation

    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 Practice of Biblical Separation

   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.

    Ecclesiastical separation 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 brethren (6).

    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 3:10).

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).

The Purpose of Ecclesiastical Separation

    Separation not an "end" - Separation from apostates, separation from those who fellowship with apostates, and separation from disorderly brethren should never be an end in itself. The Lord Jesus commissioned His disciples to "make disciples," and as we go about that mission, see that those disciples are scripturally baptized and taught to observe all that the Lord has commanded (Mt. 28:19,20). If we fail to fulfill our mission, we will have to answer to the Lord. We need to be about the business of sharing the gospel with a lost and dying world.

   Separation an "environment" - A wise Bible teacher once compared the relationship between ecclesiastical separation and soul winning to that between sterilization and surgery in the operating room. No matter how well the room is sterilized, the patient may die if surgery is not performed. And no matter how skillful the surgery, the patient may still die from infection if the environment is contaminated and the surgical instruments and operating room have not been properly sterilized.

    We must do all we can to make sure that our local churches are both soul-winning churches and separated churches. Only then will we see those whom we disciple go on to be all that the Lord would have them to be.

(c) Copyrighted 1999 by Rev. Richard W. Brosseau

Last updated November 12, 2004

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