One of the most neglected Bible teachings today is the Doctrine of Separation. It is found in the Bible and it ought to be taught to Christians. Those who are saved should believe and practice Biblical Separation. Since the Bible is our only authority for faith and practice we have endeavored to set forth its teachings as follows:
I. We are to be separated unto the Lord.
The Bible tells us that Christ died for us that He might "purify unto Himself a peculiar people" (Titus 2:14). This peculiar people are to show forth the praises of Him "who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (I Peter 2:9). These called out ones are to be separated "unto the gospel of God" (Roman 1:1). The ultimate end of our separation is that we may have "fellowship ... with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (I John 1:3).
II. We are to separate from sin.
The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ was born into this world that he might "save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). In agreement with this, Paul wrote to Timothy, "the Lord knoweth them that are his, And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (II Timothy 2:19). Paul wrote, "Shall we continue in sin ... God forbid. How shall we ... live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1,2). It is very clear that the saved are to be turning away from sin and growing into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29)
III. We are to be separate from the world system.
When our Lord prayed for us (see John 17) He said that we had been given to Him "out of the world" (vs. 6). Then He said that He was going to leave us "in the world" (vs. 11) and that we were not "of the world" (vs. 14). This clearly tells us that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and that we are pilgrims and strangers here (I Peter 2:11). In accordance with this the Apostle John said that we were not to "love...the world, neither the things that are in the world" (I John 2:15-17). The Apostle Paul said, "set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2). Since we are going to depart in the Rapture ( I Thess. 4:13-18) and the world left behind will enter into the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21), we ought to be ready to leave this world. It is energized by Satan under the temporary permissive will of God and we ought to consciously separate ourselves from it. Our attitude toward it is best described by Paul when he said, "be not conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2). Remember that Lot thought he had gotten the best of the world, but in the end the world got the best of him.
IV. We are to be separate from unbelievers.
The Word of God tells us, "be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" and "come out from from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord" (II Corinthians 6:14-17). This passage is very plain and yet is perhaps the most disobeyed commandment of the Lord to Christians. We can find at least four areas where Christians are forbidden to join up with the lost person:
1. In seeking to further the Gospel testimony.
The New Evangelicals with their celebrated and honored by the world evangelist, Billy Graham, have wrought great havoc in the Church through their cooperative evangelism. Seeking to hold evangelistic crusades by coordinating the efforts of Modernists, Catholics, Cultists, and Evangelicals has worked unbelievable confusion to the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Religious unbelievers are still unbelievers and we are forbidden to join hands with them to do the work of the Lord. The debate concerning this has raged for twenty years but all the while the Word of God has not changed. This passage is so clear that the debate should have been shut off before it was started. However, the New Evangelicals have persisted in their ever enlarging disobedience, and we are now seeing the fruit of their compromise. The devil's business has been to fill the church with tares that look like wheat and he has had marvelous success. (see Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43) We are to do God's work in God's way in order to get God's results. It is never right to do evil that good may come.
2. In the lifelong covenant of marriage.
Marriage in the Bible is still until death parts. When we commit ourselves to marriage we enter into a covenant and two people become one. Despite what we are hearing from the Women's Libbers, a marriage does not consist of two people cohabiting while pursuing their own careers and selfish interests, but there is one goal and one purpose, and for a Christian that ought to be to serve the Lord. An unequal yoke in marriage where a saved person marries a lost person is forbidden by this passage. It is plain and there are no "BUTS" or "IFS". Those whose have refused to obey God have lived to see that He was right all along. The pathway of blessing is still the pathway of obedience.
3. In the pursuit of an education.
Christians should not be voluntarily submitting themselves at the feet of lost teachers where the best that can be gained is a worldly education. The educational process cannot be carried on without the morals (or immorality) of the teacher being imparted to the students. This is an area that has been surrendered by Christians [but because of] the Christian School movement ... more Christians are now sitting at the feet of believers to be educated. Those Christians who have attended the public school P.T.A. meetings have found it to be uncomfortable because it is an unequal yoke. The teaching of evolution in science class, the premarital sex teaching in Sex Education classes, the vulgarity in the required reading of English class, and the dating of the lost in high school should scare the life out of a Christian parent. The passage above is enough for me, What about you?
4. In compromising business arrangements.
The passage above teaches us that we ought not to embark on a private business venture with an unsaved partner. When a saved man has chosen to yoke up with a lost man in business he places himself in a position where God is offended. When the Israelites took the Moabites into their camp, God would not bless them. If a business venture needs a partner, we ought to seek out a saved partner, and together in Christ ask for God's blessing upon the business. The following note from the Scofield Bible is helpful: "The underlying principle is that in a moral universe it is impossible for God to fully bless and use his children who are in a compromise or complicity with evil." (p. 1234).
V. Sometimes we must separate from believers.
The Bible tells us that there are times when we must separate ourselves from other Christians. In the compromising age we are in it has become increasingly difficult to know who to have fellowship with and who to avoid. Therefore we ought to earnestly search the Scriptures for wisdom. There are four specific passage from the Bible that I would call to your attention.
1. II Thessalonians 3:6-14
Those who walked "disorderly" were to be shunned in order that they might be ashamed of their conduct. The word "disorderly" means to "set irregularly". These that Paul mentioned were refusing to work and support themselves. In addition to that they were "busybodies" or meddlesome. These people caused trouble in the church because they were not busy supporting themselves. Their business was to disrupt the body of Christ.
2. I Timothy 6:5
Here Paul tells us to withdraw from one who thinks that earthly gain is the proof of godliness. The man who is covetous and seeks to be rich is not fit companion to the Christian who has been exhorted to "set his affection on things above, not on things on the earth." (Colossians 3:20)
3. I Corinthians 5:11-13
In this passage the believer is told not to be a companion to one who is a brother (i.e. a child of God) and yet continues in the sins mentioned. That person is to be put out of the church fellowship. The sins which should move us to separation are given to us here. A fornicator is a person who commits unlawful sexual immorality, a whoremonger. To be covetous is to be so eager for earthly gain that he is not above defrauding others to get what he wants. To these Jesus said "ye cannot serve God and Mammon" (deified wealth) (Matthew 6:24). An idolater was one who worshipped images. The Lord had said in Exodus 20:4,5 "thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them". In professing Christendom today the Roman Catholic Church is the chief perpetrator of image worship. The Christian should have no fellowship with such. A railer is one who is uncontrollable in his use of abusive language. A drunkard is one who is intoxicated from strong drink. An extortioner is one who seizes or takes by force. The meaning is that he preys on others to obtain that which is not rightfully his. The Word of God tells us that we should not even share a meal with such a person. The testimony of the salvation which Christ has given us is greatly hindered by professing Christians with such evil works. We ought to avoid them so that our witnessing for Christ to the lost can be effective.
4. Romans 16:17
Paul tells us here that we are to avoid those who cause divisions and scandal in the church. Those who pervert the doctrines of God and His Word cause divisions among believers and place a stumbling block in the way of sinners coming to Christ for salvation. Errors in doctrine cause errors in living the Christian life. Errors in doctrine produce errors in preaching and the lost man soon has a distorted view of the Gospel.
To be happy and blessed it is necessary that we follow the teaching of the Word of God pertaining to Separation. Many today are drawing near to the Lord with their lips but their heart is far from Him. Many profess to be born-again but they do not separate from sin. The world is pouring many believers into its mold. Believers have mistakenly thought that they can change the lost by joining them, and few believers want to withdraw themselves from those who are "out of joint" in the body of Christ. The Word of God has not changed and we ought to obey God rather than men.
Used with permission of Paul Freeman, 1270 Kingsbury Road, Washington, IL 61571
Doctrinal & Practical Writings