What We Believe About...
The Biblical doctrine of separation is based on one of God’s essential attributes – His holiness. By His very nature, God is completely set apart from all sin, evil and wickedness. As a result, He never looks upon any sin with the slightest degree of tolerance, and He desires for His children to likewise set themselves apart from all that is sinful and from even tolerating any form of evil or wickedness. As believers, we are called to fellowship with God who “is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that we separate from whatever is “darkness,” that is, whatever is in direct opposition to His very nature and His will for our lives. I Peter 1:15-16 clearly states the perfect will of God for every believer. “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation (lifestyle); because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”
The belief that God is indifferent to whether or not we distance ourselves from that which His Word declares to be contrary to His will is terribly foolish and extremely dangerous. God has given us His Word so that we can know what we are to embrace and from what we are to separate. Separation from error and from those who are walking in error or those who espouse error is essential for our spiritual well-being and usefulness in service for our Lord (II Timothy 2:19-21).
Separation from worldliness
As Christians, we have been delivered from our enslavement to sin and death. The Lord has set us free from our old masters (the world, the flesh and the devil) and has given us the power to live a life of righteousness that honors and pleases Him. So why should we desire to remain attached to the world system from which we have been delivered? The apostle John commands us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15). The “world” to which John refers is the ungodly world system in which we live. As believers, we must not become attached to the things of the world nor gain an affinity for the world’s ideas, philosophies and programs that oppose or contradict the Word of God. The Bible gives two specific reasons why we are to “love not the world.”
Love for the world is incompatible with love for God (I John 2:15).
The world system is at enmity against God and, therefore, at enmity against those who are obedient followers of Christ (John 15:18-20). Notice James 4:4. Those who are friends of the world are described as enemies of God. To be an enemy of God is a serious matter! The Bible makes it clear that we cannot love the world system and simultaneously strive to effectively attain spiritual goals.
The world in which we live is only temporary (I John 2:17).
Our present lives should reflect our spiritual priorities. If we believe the world is only temporary, then we will strive for eternal reward. On the other hand, if we live for today and attach ourselves to the world now, then we are not laying up spiritual treasure in heaven. Clamoring for material wealth and greedily striving to obtain earthly possessions is not only futile but it actually harms our relationship with our Saviour.
Separation from false teachers and false doctrine
The entire epistle of Jude is an impassioned command to all believers to beware of false teachers who espouse false doctrine and to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Such “contending” involves exposing false teachers and false doctrine and separating from them. We can know how to distinguish truth from error by knowing the Word of God and keeping ourselves in the love of God (Jude 17-21).
Separation from disobedient brethren in Christ
The command to separate
Often, the most difficult type of separation to practice is separation from another brother or sister Christ. Yet the Bible clearly states that we are to separate even from fellow brethren when they fail to heed and obey the Word of God. Some brethren embrace those who teach false doctrine. Others posses an affinity for the world and seek to employ the ideas and philosophies of the world in their lives and ministries. Some brethren actually embrace and teach false doctrine. Others repudiate certain Biblical doctrines such as separation from error and false teachers. In each case, the fellow believer is compromising the truth and failing to heed and obey the Word of God. To separate does not mean to act in an unkind or unloving manner toward the offending brethren or to refuse to speak to them of have anything to do with them. Rather, it means we must not associate ourselves with their ministries or their ministerial endeavors. We must make sure that others know we are not identified with the doctrine they teach or with the philosophy of ministry to which they subscribe.
Maintenance of church purity
Separation is necessary in the local church fellowship in order to maintain church purity. I Corinthians 5 presents a case in point, for Paul charged the church at Corinth “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” Whether this individual was a sinning believer or an unsaved pretender, the command is the same. When such church discipline is not enforced, unconfessed and unforsaken sin in the Christian fellowship will harm and corrupt others (I Corinthians 5:5-7). God has ordained separation in order to stem the leavening, spreading influence of sin, which always comes to pass within compromising fellowships.
Restoration of the disobedient brother
Unless the errant believer is rebuked according to God’s Word, he might continue in his sin indefinitely. Separation should make the disobedient brother “ashamed” (II Thessalonians 3:14). He is not an enemy, nor should he be treated as such (II Thessalonians 3:15). One purpose for our separation from him is to bring him to a place of repentance and restoration. Paul tells us, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness” (Galatians 6:1).
Reception of a full reward
Believers should obey God’s Word and separate from disobedient brethren in order to receive a “full reward” at the appearing of Jesus Christ (II John 8). We are “not crowned (rewarded), except (we) strive lawfully (that is, according to the dictates of God’s Word)” (II Timothy 2:5). It is possible for a disobedient Christian to lose reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ due to his compromised fellowships while on earth ( I Corinthians 3:13-15; Revelation 3:11). Anytime a believer is identified with any religious activity that is not true to God’s Word, he will meet with God’s disapproval.
Consistency in the midst of theological confusion
Separation from disobedient brethren is necessary in order to maintain a strong, consistent testimony in the midst of theological turmoil and confusion that exists today. Compromised fellowship clouds the issues, dulls spiritual discernment and silences Scriptural reproof. Paul writes, “Be not deceived: evil communications (wrong fellowships) corrupt good manners (proper conduct)” (I Corinthians 15:33). Only a separated believer is able, in obedience to God’s clear command, to sound a faithful, unhypocritical warning concerning the deception that Satan is sowing in the church today (Acts 20:28-31).
We must remember that our God is holy, and He calls us to be holy. In order to be obedient to His command, we must endeavor, by the grace of God, to be separated wholly unto Him, regardless of the cost or the scorn of man.
1. According to the following verses, what attributes of God make sin absolutely intolerable
WHAT WE BELIEVE
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