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Separation:- 1 |2 | 3 |4 |

III. The area & extent of separation

By Nelson Thomas Mumbai

Summary: - There are specific instructions about the area where we ought to maintain separation and to the level we should keep. We need to consider the Biblical principles as well as the direct commandments. In any thing the basic thing is to see if it is acceptable to the Lord and His word.


What are the areas where a Christian needs to maintain separation? What are the things that we need to keep away from our life?

Six Principles
As a general rule we can state six things. We must away from:-
1. Whatever that is contrary to God and His purposes. James.4:4
2. Whatever that will affect our faith / trust in the Lord. 1Corinthians.10:23
3. Whatever that will hinder us in glorifying God. 1Cori.10:31; Colo.3:7
         (Can we do it for God's glory—e.g. wearing some modern dress?)
4. Whatever that will harm us-physically, mentally and spiritually. 1Cori.6:19, 20.
         --- To destroy / weaken our testimony.
         --- To lead us to sin or lower our morality. (E.g. watching a movie might cause an impure desire.)
5 . Whatever that can trouble a fellow believer. 1Cor.8:13
          “If food makes my brother stumble, I will eat no meat while the world stands, lest I make my brother stumble.”
          Even if our action is legitimate and we have every freedom to do so, yet if such an act hurts a fellow believer or an assembly, we ought to be away from such a thing.
6. Whatever that the Lord hates. Rev.2:6
          “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolatians, which I also hate.”
Specific Statements
          However, there are some statements in the New Testament which specifically tell us, from where one has to be away.
i. Unbelievers & evil thing. 2 Corinthians.6:17
          “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” Cp. Ephesians.5:11:-“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” Cp. Psalms.1:1; Isiah.52:11; Jeremiah.51:6 Notice the exhortation to captives Jews. Paul quotes from this back ground. Leave the land that is under God's curse, where idolatry is rampant.
ii. Wicked brother. 1Corinthians.5:11
          “….not to keep company with any one who is called a brother and is a fornicator, or ……….not even to eat with such a person.”
iv. Disorderly brother . 2Thessalonians. 3:6
         “ Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us .”
v. False teachers . 2John. 9-11
         “….If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him in to your house nor greet him…share in his evil deeds.”
vi. Fashions of the unbelievers . 1 Peter.1:14
          “ as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance .” Not to live like how we lived before we came to the Lord. When we were ignorant of the word of God we lived in the lust of this world, now no more such life.
vii. Life style of the gentiles . Ephesians.4:17
          “…. No longer walk as the rest of the gentiles walk….” Not to walk like those who live in darkness.
viii. The world and it's its evil system. Romans.12:2.
         It speaks of the prevailing evil system of the world. This is something that we need to study in detail. Find it in the next page.

         There could be many more such references where it is explicitly stated about the sphere where a believer ought to maintain separation. The Old Testament stories of the saints gives us ample ethics as to what all the things we should keep as obedient children of God. Abraham had to leave family, native place, land etc. Moses had to forsake the throne of Egypt . Separation was their mark and strength.

          ‘Is it written?' is not the question. The most important principle is ‘is it acceptable' to the Lord Jesus Christ?' 'Is the Lord pleased in this step?' Instead of trying to find out loopholes in the scriptures to justify our actions we should sincerely examine, if God is happy in our life. If we carefully read the word of God we can easily find out His will for us, given as plain commandments, principles or as illustrated through saint's life.

          The New Testament teaches us that we have to obey the words of Christ apart from the direct commandments. 1John.2: 3, 5. As we abide in Him, stay close to the Lord we shall understand the mind of Christ and His perfect will on each and every circumstance. Thus we shall be able to take a stand accordingly.

IV. The Extent of Separation.

Summary: - The word of God very clearly guides us in connection with the level of
separation we ought to maintain. With out going to any extreme we need to follow
these instructions to be true and loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ.

         How far the separation should be? Often our problem is that we know only to go to the extremes! Some one has rightly remarked, ‘Extremes are always in the gutter’. Do not go to the far end. In everything keep a balance.

         As we have seen elsewhere, there are some who take the truth of separation to the extremes and create lot of trouble for many Christians. They have very strange ideas. According to them, ‘we can not live with a family member if he / she are not believers. Not to live in housing societies where mixed people live. How can we share the balcony with an unbeliever; our money will be mixed with the unbelievers. Not to eat in a hotel where we are forced to eat with unbelievers! Not to work in a company that is run by an unbeliever.'

         Recently one young brother from India visited Germany for higher studies and visited some ‘church' there. Now he does not go to the assembly saying in India there is no believer at all! He does not even pray with his godly parents who raised him in the ways of God. Such farthest thoughts on separation are unscriptural and often it is the result of ignorance, arrogance or blind loyalty to some tradition.

        This is going too far from the scriptural norms. Separation is not isolation. It is not living away from the public in a monastery like a monk or hermit.

         We have noticed it already that our Lord moved around sinners. The Lord Jesus was accused by the Pharisees for his proximity to the sinners and publicans. He ate with them and loved them. Luke.7:36; Mark.6:31; Matthew.16-19. His effort was not to copy their life style but to win them.

        Daniel and friends did not oppose at the name changing but took a stand when they were challenged to compromise their faith and food. Daniel. 1:6-8. We must be willing to identify with others where ever we can, without compromising our identity, values and principles. 1Corinthains.5:10.

        Paul says God has given us the riches to enjoy. 1 Timothy.6:17. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the God-given facilities of this world for His glory and our enjoyment.

        Thus there is some limit, certain balance to keep. Therefore we must be clear about the extent of our separation. Three things are clearly mentioned.

i. No fellowship. 1Corinthians.5:11.
        In connection with the immoral brother, Paul's exhortation is to abstain from having any form of fellowship. An association will give bad name to Christian testimony and the Church. A disciplined brother also must be kept away for some time according to the decision of the oversight. ‘No food together’, Paul exhorts. This injunction itself reveals the gravity of the situation: no social function, any other friendship or enjoyment together.
Such an action is necessary to keep the sanctity of the assembly. Disorderly brothers and division creators also should be given no companionship. Paul says to withdraw from them. 2Thessalonians.3:6; Romans.16:17, 18.

ii. No reception. 2John.vs 9-11.
        “If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor receive him into your house not greet him: for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” V.10

        Notice the difference. In the earlier step it was no fellowship, no communion. In other words, if that affected brother makes an effort to meet a believer to discuss something or if it is necessary for a brother to meet him to give some counseling there is so no harm in it as long as the purpose is to convict him of his failure etc. But in this context if a false teacher comes to discuss with us, John says receive him not.

        Receiving such ones will not only encourage them in their activities, but also we may be influenced by their wrong teaching. As a result we will be held responsible for facilitating a wrong among the people of God. John says it very firmly, not to greet Him even. Some times an apparent harmless discussion with a cult leader has lead to the fall of certain spiritually young believers. So, to avoid such complications it is well advisable and scriptural too that, not to receive false teachers. Cp. 1Timothy.1:4; 4:7; 6:5; Romans.16:17, 18.

         Both the above levels of separation demand that we judge people with whom we come in to association. It is true that the Lord said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew.7:1. “Judge nothing before the time until the Lord comes”. 1Corinthians.4:5. But in 5:12 Paul asks “do you not judge those who are inside?” A careful look at these verses reveals that we should not judge the motive of the people. That is the prerogative of the Lord but we ought to judge the conduct and principles of those with whom we associate. Paul did it and exposed the false ones. 2 Corinthians. 11: 13 —15; Apostle John also exhorts us not to believe every spirit but test. 1John.4:1.

iii. No partnership.
2 Corinthians.6:14:- “Do not be unequally yoked together.” No doubt Paul refers to Deutoronomy.22:10:-“Do not plough with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” (Cp.9-11; Leveticus.19:19). It is very easy to understand the result of trying to put an ox and ass together under one yoke. They are not equals. Their step and pull are different. Donkey will stay behind. It won't work well.

        Accordingly, a born again child of God coming together with an unbeliever under one yoke—any kind of partnership—sharing the same yoke—is contradictory. They are different in value, conviction, principle. How can they work together? Unbeliever trusts in self, believer trusts in God. Believer's effort is to please God and invest in eternity; unbelievers' effort is to enjoy life and invest in the world. Both are totally worlds apart. A partnership is very hard. There is no common ground to begin with.

        Paul's questions are poignant. “What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? What communion has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial (A term used for Satan Detornomy.13:13)? What part he who believes with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” 2Corinthians.6:14b-16a. The answer is obvious. No way possible; absolutely incompatible.  It is applicable in any area of life, particularly:-

a. Marriage.
It is an important and serious area of unequal yoke. Untold agony and anguish are the result of such a union. One wants to serve Christ and the other want to serve Devil! Most terrible consequences are sure to follow. The victim will always be the believers.

         Israelites paid heavy price for violating this principle. Not once, many times. The reason for the fall of many of the Jewish kings was foreign wives. Numbers.25:1 Ezra. 6:21 ; 10:11 . Nevertheless Paul admonishes the believing husbands and wives not to think of separating their spouses even if they are unbelievers considering the possibility of winning them for the Lord gradually. 1Corinthians.7:12-14. Obviously their marriage took place before their conversion.

         Do not think that only marriage with an unbeliever is prohibited so we can marry a Christian even if he / she does not hold my doctrinal position. It may look like broadness, liberal thought, but experience has shown that alliance between two Christians when their doctrinal position is altogether different, lead to much hardship as the days go by.

b. Business.
 Working for a wage and doing business as partners are different. While working, in most of the case, we are not responsible for the policy and function of the company. Of course if it hurts our conscience we should leave. Nevertheless often our role as an employee is limited. But as a business partner, we will be compelled to say yes to all the worldly, unscriptural business tricks to succeed. He is for the world and you are for the world to come. He wants to grow rich: you want to grow in grace. How to go together?

c . Ministry.
        Can we work together in ministry; after all it is for the Lord? There are some who consider that if it for the Lord's work we can accept help from any body. When the enemies of Judah offered to help Zerubbabel and the elders in rebuilding the temple, what was their reply? “ You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord.” They replied categorically. Ezra.4:2, 3.

        Yet many fail to understand the consequences of such a yoke. We do not condemn others but how can we work together when there is no agreement between us. One say salvation by faith, the other might say salvation is through rituals; one is for faith baptism, the other for infant baptism; one says trust God for needs, the others says take contribution from any body for God' s work. When there are such contradiction in doctrine and conduct, it is better and the word of God right says even, not to yoke together, no association what so ever.

d. Social work.
         Can a believer be in a committee of a social organization which is controlled by unbelievers and with secular principles? It's an unequal yoke. Again, people with different value will fail in their efforts. As mentioned above we do not condemn others for what they do, the only thing is as born again Christians trying to be loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ, we find it extremely difficult to continue with those who do not know Him, esteem Him.

        Definitely, we ought to go out in Christ's name to exalt Him, and share His love by serving people in need. In the divine point of view the best social work is linked to the gospel. Titus. 3:4-6. Unbelievers do not know it, nor will they appreciate such an effort. Then how can we join together with them, even it is for a public work? That is the reason why many believers find it strange to be a member of a political party too.

        All such association, partnership, coming together will be an ‘unequal yoke'. It will be a snare and a hindrance. A higher level of discipleship is not possible. We may feel some temporary benefit in associating with an unbeliever but in the course of time we will come to understand the evil result of it. Before crushing our neck under such burdensome yoke cast off the unequal yoke and be loyal to the Lord.

        Certainly, that should not be done harshly or arrogantly but calmly, humbly and prayerfully. We are not against' anybody. We don't mean other's business is bad, their ministry is not good or their social work is lie, we do not associate only because we can not join together, Christ has separated us for Himself. (We will consider more on this aspect while discussing the ground of separation in our next topic.)

        True separation is not easy. Most people will misunderstand us and criticize us, but as true, loyal Christians it is our bounden duty to bear the name of Christ and go to Him out side the city, even to face shame, affliction and rejection. Definitely God will honour such committed men and women of God. That’s His promise. 2Corinthains 6: 14ff.

        Compromise is easy, commitment is hard. But God honours the committed. Compromising Christian is a hindrance for the cause of Christ.

  • Do you find it difficult to live a separated life in this world?
    • What are the areas in your life that need a re-think?
      • Are you faithful to the Lord and His word in this aspect of separation?
        • Are you committed to maintain separation at any cost?


        Next: Separation from the world .

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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