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The truth of Separation

Meaning & importance

By Nelson Thomas Mumbai

Summary: - Separation is the hall mark of a born again Christian. God can not use a person who is not separated unto Him and His purposes. Knowing and practicing this truth has far reaching consequences.

           In Kerala South India, brethren believers are called the ‘separated people’. More than a centaury ago when our forefathers came out of the ecclesiastical system to worship the Lord according to the New Testament pattern, not only they separated themselves from the traditional churches, but also they adopted a distinct life style- even in their dress and business. They stopped growing ‘pan’ (beatle) plants saying if we don’t want to use it we should not grow it for others as well. Many of them had to face much hardship from their dear ones, even to the extent of leaving their home, just because they chose to stand for the word of God. That much zeal they had in practicing separation in their spiritual life. So the people around them called them ‘separated ones’.

        But sad to notice that today, it seems the reverse is taking place. Many of the present generation, does not know the importance of separation and the Biblical basis of it. Knowingly or unknowingly many follow the trend. Some even began to separate themselves from the NT truths and pattern our forefathers dearly held!

         Not only in India, we see, all over the world there is a deliberation to forsake the distinctive teachings and practices that separate born again Christians from the nominal ones. They consider such a step towards change and progress. So, it is high time we consider our identity, our standard and stay true to the word of God.

         Let us consider this aspect of Christian life in detail. What is separation and is it necessary for a Christian to live a separated life in this world? Can a Christian blindly adopt the fashions of the world? The word of God gives clear guidance on these matters. Let us think about it step by step.

I. The meaning

           What do we mean by separation? Does it mean that a Christian believer should not have any contact with an unbeliever? There are some who think such a way! According to them, we should not live in a housing society where unbelievers also live. They maintain that we should not work in a place where unbelievers are there. They even prohibit their members from having food from a restaurant, saying they are unbelievers! Such an idea is actually going to the other extreme. If that is the case, we will have to go to some monastery, or live on some mountains, away from the general public! Cp. 1Corinthians.5:10
Not isolation
           That is not what we mean by separation. In other word, as often said, ‘separation is not isolation.’ We are not supposed to isolate ourselves from the people. We have to live among them as salt and light. Martthew.5:13—16. This truth is clearly mentioned in John.17 where the Lord refers a lot on our separation. “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world.” “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, that you should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” John.17:11, 15, 16. The kind of separation the Lord Jesus Christ expects from us is this, that we live in the world, among the people, yet living in such a way that we are not of this world. We are not following the pattern and the practices of those unbelievers around us.

Not imitating
        It was in this way Christ lived in this world. About Him even Jews of His time made an accusation that He associates with sinners and publicans. Yes, He loved them and ate with them. Luke.7:36; Mak.6:31; Matt.11:16-19. His effort was not to copy their life style but to win them. He loved them and sought to save them. Yet about Christ the word of God says He was separate from sinners. Hebrews. 7:26.

         Convincing example is from the Old Testament. Daniel and friends did not oppose at the name changing by the Babylonian king, but took a stand when they were challenged to compromise their faith and food. Daniel. 1:6-8.

            That is the kind of separation a Christian has to practice in this world. We must be willing to identify with others where ever we can, without compromising our identity, values and principles. 1Corinthians.5:10. Yet, we must take a definite stand when it affects our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Keep the balance
           There is nothing wrong with enjoying the God-given facilities of this world for His glory and our enjoyment. 1 Timothy. 6:17. Yet there are limits, certain balance to keep. Therefore we must be clear about the meaning of separation. It is not isolation but keeping oneself away from the evil and unscriptural conduct of this world, so that we can stay true to the Lord and His word.

II. The importance of separation

1. Christ emphasized it. John.17:6, 11a, 14, 16, 18.

              As we have already referred, in the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ the Lord gives much importance to the separation of a Christian. Directly or indirectly He refers to it around 19 times in Jn.17. ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Jn.17:16; “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” Jn.17:18. This must be part of His intercessory prayer even today. It is His concern that believers maintain separation in this world.

2. Christ exemplified it. Hebrews. 7:25

           “For such a high priest became us, [who is] holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” He lived among sinners yet maintained separation. He did not copy the style, fashion or life of this world. He never compromised with sin and nor was He ever contaminated with evil. Of course He could never have been!

3. God commanded it. Gensis.12:1—Rev.18:1.

              Thorough out the Bible we see the divine call to ‘come out'. God called Abraham and commanded “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.” Gen. 12:1. Later ob we see the Lord time after time reminds the people of Israel to maintain separation.

“And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.”

           “ Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.” Exodus.23:32
“They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.” Exodus.23:33

           “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean [thing]; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD.” Isaiah.52:11

    Such numerous scripture portions are there where we see God orders His people to ‘come out', ‘separate'. Cp. Numbers.16:21; Deuteronomy. 7:1-7; Isaiah.48:20; Jeremiah.51:6, 45; 2Corinthians.6:14-17; Ephesians. 5:11; Revelation.18:1.etc.

              Some Bible students see the separating work of God even from the book of Genesis. He separated land from water, light from darkness. Genesis.1:4, 6. That is an illustration of the way God works. He wants His people to stay separated for Himself.

4. Purpose & meaning of redemption.

  A study of the doctrine of salvation will tell us that separation is an essential part of the truth of redemption / salvation. Let us consider two scripture portions that refer to various two different aspects of salvation, from where we can easily conclude that separation is an integral part of the gospel.

           a. Redemption: - “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians.1:7 Redemption' is an important aspect of the work of Salvation God has accomplished through His son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The meaning of redemption is to purchase a slave from the slave market, bring him out and free him. So that he should never be a slave.
Prior to our salvation, that exactly was our state: slaves to sin and Satan. The Lord Jesus Christ though His sacrifice on the cross paid the ransom prize for our rescue. Not only He has bought us, brought us out and set us free. Don't we see separation very clearly underlined in this aspect of salvation? He wants that we may never go back to the old slavery but maintain separation.

           b. Sanctification: - “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrews..10:10. Not only He redeemed us, the Bible says that He has sanctified us. That also has a meaning of separation. ‘Set us apart'—separated for God's purposes. The purpose of saving us out of darkness is that we may be a people for Himself. Cf. 1 Peter. 2:9. Hebrews.10:10; Galatians.1:4

              An illustration is seen in the healing of a blind at Bethsaida.. Mark.8:23, 26(22-26). The Lord Jesus Christ took him out of the village and healed him, then instructed him, ‘not to go back'. Why? Possible reason is that He had already condemned Bethsaida for her hard heartedness.

              Notice what Peter preached on the day of Pentecost and the result of it. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added [unto them] about three thousand souls”. Acts. 2:40, 41. 3000 people came out; they left a group and joined them the apostles. Here we can notice that once they accepted the Lordship of Christ, saved and transformed, they did separate from the former path and associations.

              All these show that separation is one of the main themes of the gospel truth. And it is one of the major results of salvation.

5. Basis for divine fellowship.

              Separation is costly indeed. We will lose many things. We will be branded as ‘fundamentalists' or even ‘extremists'! But our commitment for the truth and the Lord will be rewarded promptly. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you.” . 2Corinthians.6:17. “And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”. 2Corinthians.6:18

              It is not that we become the children of God as a result of separation, because these words are applicable only to the born again children of God. What the Lord says is this that when we maintain separation, we will enjoy the love and affection of our heavenly Father in a very special way. He will be happy to own us as we take a stand for Him. Leaving or separating something for the sake of divine fellowship will be rewarded abundantly.

              It is illustrated in Abraham's life. Only after leaving Lot the Lord made a covenant with him. Genesis.13:14. See, Lot chose the best place, but Abraham did not, but the Lord gave all the place of north, south, east and west to him. As soon as Abraham rejected the spoils from the King of Sodom, the Lord came to him very specially to reinforce His care and affection for him. “That I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.” Genesis.14:23. “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I [am] thy shield, [and] thy exceeding great reward.” Genesis.15:1. People may call us ‘fools' or ‘narrow minded' for the stand we take for God, but God will honour us for the separated position we take. Even He will begin to use us for His purposes. 2Timothy.2:21

6. Godly men lived a separated life.

              Not only Abraham, all the saints in the past lived a separated life. In fact separation was their strength. One of the reasons why God highly used Moses is his commitment to separation. “ By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Hebrews. 11:24-26. Consider the things he forsook to stay true to the Lord's purposes.
              The strength of Samson was separation and when it was lost by the deception of Delilah, he became powerless and the rest is a sad story. Judges. 16:17—20.

7. Compromise brought God's wrath. Numbers.25:1-3, 9.

              Whenever the Lord's people failed to maintain separation we see the wrath of the Lord is being kindled against them. Cf. Numbers.24:24. Balaam could not curse the people of Israel as the king of Moab Balak commanded. He knew the secret of God's blessings upon them. Num.23:9c:- “lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.”

              But Balaam gave a very secret counsel to Balak. Numbers.31:16. He realized that the only way they can defeat Israel is by defiling them, destroying their separation. Daughters of Moab were sent to the camp of Israel to influence their men and they were successful in deceiving the people of Israel. Israelites played, ate, married with the gentiles. Separation was lost. God's wrath came against them and 24000 were slain.

              We see such punishments falling upon Israel often, due to failure to keep separation. In Canaan many of the Israelites failed in separation. “Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them. And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley.” Judges.1:33, 34. Observe:-they failed to drive them out-later they drove the children of Dan out to mountains! Still it happens, people of God fail to maintain separation, then chased by the unbelievers. God will use unbelievers to chastise us!

              So God repeatedly warns the people of Israel. “And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be [as thorns] in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be [as thorns] in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” Judges.2:2, 3

              We saw about mighty Samson. As soon as Delilah removed his hair-the sign of separation- lost his strength and perished with the philistines. Judges.16:17ff.

Satanic Attack
              Even today, through various ways Satan is trying his best to destroy the separation of God's people. He has learnt that no open fight is successful. We will not kill any body, will not rob anybody. We are aware of such evil. But we often forget, just neglect the part of separation. Devil takes the advantage of it. As the Moabites women were used to seduce Israel, Devil uses various means. Paul warns: “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 1Corinthians.15:33

              Compromise is taking place in various areas. Satan's agents are infiltrated among the saints. Number of unconverted, professing Christians are growing. Line of separation is assaulted. Yes, LOC under attack!!

           Consequently, strength is gone, God is not in a position to own us publicly and bless us. He is not using us for His glory. On the contrary God's chastising hands are falling upon us. Compromise is costly and dangerous.

Conclusion: -

    • Do you have a separated –distinct –life?
    • Do you give importance to this truth?
    • Are you concerned about the opinion of people or God?
    • Will the Lord stand with you?


Next: The area of separation

Prepared by Nelson Thomas as part of his teaching ministry. You are free to use it for your personal study. You can also reproduce this article in any medium, provided it is unedited, and retain the original author / copyright information and
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