Separation means literally according to the dictionary “the action or state of moving or being moved apart.” The practice of Biblical separation is heavily neglected among evangelicals and charismatics; while it’s the primary doctrine that separates fundamentalists from the bunch. Fundamentalists are known for their strong separation views, as well as their legalistic doctrines, which have earned them the name “Modern Day Pharisees.” But do fundamentalists practice the doctrine of separation to the extreme or are the fundamentalists obedient to the scriptures? Evangelicals on the other extreme are very apathetic toward the doctrine of separation, and consequently to their shame, are many evangelical churches contaminated with worldliness. I grew up evangelical and almost never, heard separation taught in my church, nor any of the half a dozen that I’ve visited over the years. I’ve asked many evangelicals & charismatics their view of separation on an Christian Internet discussion board. Most of the posters there disagreed with me on the doctrine of Separation because the doctrine is offensive to those with itching ears. Without doing some serious research on the topic, they just dismissed separation as unbiblical and not politically correct. One poster said that separation is a tough subject to interpret and he had to pray about interpreting the various verses that speak on separation. This is a ridiculous assertion with little merit from the scriptures, which are very black and white on its teachings on separation. The Bible commands Christians to practice separation in three areas and they are from the world, false teachers, and disobedient brethren. In this article will I be explaining the three types of separation as commanded in the Bible. All scripture quotations unless otherwise indicated will be from the King James Version (KJV).
II Corinthians 6:17a “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate”
This is perhaps the clearest passage on the doctrine of separation from the world. The context starts in verse 14. The ESV titles this section “The temple of the living God” while the NIV titles this section “Do not be Yoked with Unbelievers.” Regardless the passage speaks of associations with the ungodly and holiness. Holiness cannot be obtained if one is to indulge themselves and to associate heavily with the ungodly. In layman’s terms those that are serious about living for Christ and putting off the old man/nature (Eph 4:22-24) will desire to continue in holiness and this will mean that they will not heavily associate or indulge themselves in worldliness. In verse 14, Paul asks a series of questions “what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” Then in verse 16 Paul asks another question what agreement there is between the temple of God and idols? Paul goes on to explain why separation from the world must be practiced and it is because we are the temple of the living God (16a). The temple of the living God cannot associate with unbelievers in the sense that we are to have strong fellowships with them. Please note that I am not arguing for an extreme separatist “Amish” like lifestyle nor am I arguing for Christians to live as Monks or as ascetics. The Bible does not endorse an extreme separatist lifestyle away from civilization and society. In Matt 28 Jesus gave the Great Commission which is to go out into the world and evangelize. Effective evangelism is not possible if one believes in total separation from the world. Also Jesus himself associated with tax collectors and sinners (Mt 11:19, Lk 7:34).
There are so many Christians these days that do not practice separation from the world because they do not take their Bible seriously. I have been in a number of churches where pastor in their sermons will make worldly associations in an effort to “relate” with the people in their churches. Such churches may feature movie clips and worldly music in sermons and the dress standards are very worldly. The common motto in such environments is “come as you are and be challenged to change.” But how many are changing for the glory of God in these churches? If Jesus were to walk in such a church would he not ask them how they are any different than the world? In response they probably would be speechless. Those churches that claim to be followers of God, yet their churches are filled with worldliness may have their treasures and focus in the wrong areas. However they can be confident that regardless of their worldliness and direct disobedience to the scriptures, God is graceful and slow to anger (Nah 1:3, Psa 145:8, 103:8, 86:15, Neh 9:17, Ex 34:6) and can use such disobedient believers to His glory. Christians are to be the redemptive force in the culture and are to live in the world just not of it (John 17:15-19).
1 John 2:15-17 “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. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
The Greek word used in this passage for “world” is kosmos and this word is used 151 times in NASB NT. Kosmos according to my Greek Lexicon literally means “The earth, the lower world as the abode of man” or “the present world, the present order of things, as opposed ton the kingdom of Christ; and hence, always with the idea of transience, worthlessness, and evil both physical and moral, the seat of cares; temptations, irregular desires.” It is important to understand that the Greek word used in this passage is to be differenced from the other Greek words used to translate the English word world. Regardless of the micro exegesis and etymological details of words used in this passage, the text I believe is quite clear in it’s meaning to anyone with any translation. Christians are not to love the world nor the things that are in the world. In Mt 6:19-20 Jesus said “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (NIV). This verse is a rebuke to the countless Christians that love the world and the things in the world.
In verses, 16-17 John states that that the world will pass away and is only temporary. The lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life are not from the father but from the world. The first phrase in this trio is the “lust of the Flesh” and flesh means the human realm, which in and of itself is not evil. What makes it evil is when the human realm stands apart from God does it become evil. Mankind can honor God, but when man stands apart from God does he dishonor him. Just as the flesh is the source of cravings, so the lust of the eyes is the source of this lust. Let me illustrate this by asking a question. Imagine that you have a deep interest in electronics. Would you not be tempted if you walked into a electronics store? Or imagine that you have a deep fascination in diving. Would you also not be tempted to spend if you visited a diving store? So often have I spent countless dollars on things that have been destroyed by moth and rust and are completely worthless a year or so later. So often have I bought the latest and greatest techno gadget only to have it lose its value significantly a year or two later. The best way to avoid temptation is just not to go there. If I am tempted with the lust of the flesh and the lust of my eyes in certain environments, then I will avoid that environment. The same can be said about so many other things. Christians that believe the truth of this verse and the many dangers of “the lust of the flesh & eyes” practice separation from the world. There are many solid Bible preaching colleges and Universities that understand how tempting a young female’s body can be to a man, and so set dress standards. Many liberals interpret this as “legalism” when in reality it is only obedience to the scriptures and a way to avoid the sins of the flesh and eyes. I have been in loose evangelical environments that had little if any standards and where women could dress sensually and anyway they desired. I felt more relieved being in Fundamental environments where women had to dress conservatively and not loosely. This I believe the more Biblical of the approach, as it takes 1 John 2:16 and the many dangers of the lust of the eyes into account.
The third phrase in the trio is “the pride of life” and this means self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Either people trust in themselves, their possessions and wealth or they trust in God. Those that desire to live life in their own light and not by the light of God, deserve to be called “worldly.” They must understand that the world is passing away, along with its desires (ESV). There was a day when I had a deep obsession for the things of this world, but as I grow in my sanctification and Holiness (Heb 12:14) do I realize the doctrine of Sufficiency which means that the Word of God is all that I need, because it is powerful and affective (Heb 4:12, Eph 6:17, Jer 23:29), and provides great benefits (Psa 19:7-8, 1 Pet 1:23, 1 Pet 2:2). John ends the verse with the phrase “but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Both the KJV & NIV use the masculine phraseology here, while the ESV does not as it states that “whoever does the will of God abides forever.” The context of the text does not isolate females from doing the will of God and living forever, so by that token I believe that the ESV renders the Greek correctly here. The bottom line is that mature Christians seek to separate from worldliness and to live for God. This does not mean separating from people in the world and living as a monk or Amish, it means simply to separate from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pride of life. Pursuing Holiness and becoming into the likeness of Jesus is what is to be practiced for the Christian. Evangelicals may call this “legalism” but once they are illuminated to the scripture truths here will they see that separation is a part of sanctification. Progressive Sanctification is a lifetime work of both God and man with the goal of being conformed to the likeness of the son.
Ephesians 5:11 (NKJV) “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”
The NKJV contextualizes verses 8-14 as part of the section Walk in the Light while the ESV and NIV do not. In the context Paul is writing to the churches in Ephesus about AD 60-61 during his imprisonment in Rome to strengthen the believers there in their Christian faith. In verse 11 Paul says that light and darkness cannot coexist, because believers cannot take part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness. The exhortation is simply that believers must separate themselves from sin and must have no part of it. Christians must avoid all activities that result in sin or advocate sin. Paul then concludes the verse with a exhortation that very few Christians practice and this is to rebuke and expose the deeds of darkness. In another passage does Jesus say that Christians are the light of the world (Mt 5:14) and the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13). Christians must expose sin for what it is openly and directly. God needs people to take a bold and strong stance against sin and permissiveness in all its forms (Lev 19:17) and do so with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15). Because so many fail to be vocal against sin and worldliness these days it’s no wonder that our churches filled with worldly people. Willow Creek and the church marketing movement is a example of this. There is an excellent article on my website on the topic of Church marketing written by David Doran (Market Driven Ministry) Another excellent work on the many issues with the Willow Creek church model written by G. A., Pritchard Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church and yet another excellent work also on the fallacies of the Church Marketing movement written by John MacArthur is Ashamed of the Gospel when the Church becomes like the World.
Romans 12:2 (NIV) “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
In the passage Paul warn’s us about copying the behaviors and customs of the ungodly world. Believers must offer their entire self to God, and then will change happen. God’s chosen people are called to a different lifestyle than that of the world, because we are to live as citizens of the future world. In order to do this we must transform our mindset and thinking and the only way this can happen is by the Holy Spirit and the scriptures. In 1 Pet 2:2 does the text state that the word of God is necessary for growth. Anyone who has had a child or has taken care of animals knows very much that they require milk to survive and to grow. In the same way the Christian needs to feast on the word of God in order to grow and only then will he be transformed by the renewing of his mind. I once was in the Christian and Missionary Alliance and it was frequently taught there that one could be transformed by going to camp for a week, hearing scriptures, praising God and building friendships. However what was often undermined in that culture was the practice of separation from the world. How can a Christian be fruitful and holy if he does not believe in separating from the world? So often during those days did I leave camp on fire for God and on fire for reading the Bible then a month or so after camp did I go back to my worldly ways. I did not believe nor did my church teach me little about what the Bible taught on separation from the world. It’s no wonder that I had little if any conviction on the kinds of movies, music, clothes or worldly associations that I had. I went to the same movies as the world, listened to the same music (often with a Christian label and known as CCM), wore the same worldly t-shirts, and had the same worldly associations, and so I was no different than the world. The main difference between me and them was that I went to church, but I was a weak believer. So often in the evangelical and charismatic movements do I see worldliness integrated into their churches and ministries. They have little conviction on separation and so many of the people in these churches cannot influence the world. Yes God can still use these disobedient believers, but God prefers to use those serious about the gospel and serious about the doctrine of separation.
Separation from False Teachers
False Teacher: A false teacher is one whom deceives people into following another gospel message or whom teaches false doctrine. I wrote an article on false teachers as I described them as (Spiritual Terrorists) that I suggest you read. Also a well-written book on the subject is John Macarthur’s The Truth War that I also suggest you read. Both sources provide a more in-depth Biblical definition than what can be provided in this article on false teachers. False teachers are deceptive and are easily able to land themselves in teaching/preaching positions. They may have charismatic personalities, excellent rhetoric, affluence, and possess other qualities, which get them into roles where they are allowed to teach. False teachers do not only teach different gospel messages, as they can also teach false doctrines. For example, many King James Version Only (KJVO) fundamentalist pastors/evangelists are false teachers. Please note that I am not making reference to those that prefer the KJV, I am simply making a reference to those that believe that ONLY THE KJV is to be read from and only the KJV has the scripture contained to lead someone to salvation. Such types will claim that one cannot learn of salvation by reading from the New International Version (NIV) or one of the other modern translations. Although these KJVO hold to the essential fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, they teach that only one translation is to be used and can be read from. All too often do they fail to understand that not everyone can read on a 12th grade level, and to many; the modern translations are far easier to understand.
Galatians 1:8-9 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
In the passage, Paul strongly denounces the Judaizer’s twisting of the good news of Jesus Christ. To emphasize the fact that the good news of Jesus cannot be changed Paul starts off with a hypothetical case and says that if an angel (heavenly messenger) were to come and give another gospel message that he was to be condemned. Paul wrote this many years before the founding of the Mormon cult and tragically the deceiver Joseph Smith did not read this passage. In 1823 an Angel “Moroni” appeared to Smith and reveled to him the location of some golden plates that contained another gospel message. Paul does not leave the exclusion of condemnation to an angel, but to him or anyone else. Paul states “but though we” and this means that God’s curse would fall on Paul if he were to teach a gospel message contrary to the one revealed. The gospel is plain and those that teach a different one are condemned. The Bible does not need any more revelation and is complete. Many charismatics all too often believe in continuing revelation as continuing revelation is a not endorsed by the scriptures as mentioned in Rev 22:18-19. The scriptures are complete and do not need any additions or deletions. Those that add and delete from them will be judged most severely. In verse, 9 Paul seems to repeat himself but in doing so makes the point clear that the gospel cannot be changed or altered. The gospel has been revealed and there is no way to salvation apart from Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6). Strong cursing’s and condemnation fall on those that teach another gospel message. The Mormon leaders will be judged, as well as anyone else that ads or changes the gospel message.
Christians should boldly stand against false teachers and those that teach different gospel messages. I regularly do soul winning in my area and have bumped into Catholics, JW’s, Mormons and others that believe or teach different gospels. I have been as bold and direct with them as possible at times and in doing so made some of them angry. In the “all things love” society that we live in, such dogmatic views for the truth are not popular, even among professing Christians. But remember that Paul himself was not nice, and he was sternly direct about the condemnation and judgment of the false teachers. A Oneness Pentecostal pastor that I used to know I often would regularly expose his false teachings as contrary to the gospel. This often made him angry, but he knew he was teaching another gospel message but was deceived. Likewise should Christians oppose false teachers and false doctrine as Paul did. The need is even greater today than in Paul’s day as false teachers are roaming the earth with different gospel messages. The battle cry for the Truth War is at hand and Christians should stand up and join the battle. If people cared for the souls of others like Paul did then they would. But the tragic reality is that most Christians do not care much for the souls that are daily going to hell. I once heard that 97% of Christians do not regular evangelize and this is because they have a fear of people, a fear of failure, and the last reason why most Christians do not evangelize is because they are more concerned about their flesh (Evangelist Tom Farrow, BJU Chapel, 12/8/08). It should not be this way and Christians should be more serious about bringing lost souls to Christ and engaging in the Truth War. But instead most Christians are filled with apathy. I wish that the church was filled with Paul’s for then would our world be radically transformed for the gospel.
Romans 16:17-18 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them, which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
In this passage, Paul gives a warning to the Roman Christians about the false teachers before they actually appear in the community. It is very possible that prior to writing this letter Paul had already heard of the false teachers and he wanted to warn the Roman Christians to be ready for they are coming. There is no way to identify the exact group that Paul had in mind. However based on the characteristics mentioned; three groups have been suggested. Protognostics (Dodd; Bruce 1985), Judaizers (Godet 1969; Lenski 1945; Stuhlmacher 1994; Schreiner 1998), or the strong and weak parties (Barrett 1957; M. Black 1973). Paul urges the Romans to watch out as the false teachers tend to cause divisions or “dissension” in the community. Secondly, the false teachers put obstacles or “stumbling blocks” before the believers. The only proper way to respond to false teachers is to stay away from them and avoid them at all costs. The purity of the church must be guarded zealously and allowing the false teachers in the church would compromise the purity of the fellowship. In the same way must churches guard their fellowships from false teachers. I once spoke with a American Baptist pastor who said that for Christmas singing he and his church join the Mormons in reaching the city. I said to him that the doctrine of Separation prohibited such a position, and he refused to listen. Perhaps I came on him too harsh, but perhaps it was necessary as this disobedient brother needed a strong rebuke for leading others into thinking that associating with the Mormons is okay. Under no circumstance should a follower of Christ associate or have company with false teachers. It certainly is not acceptable according to the Bible that God gave.
Acts 20:28-31 (NIV) “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”
The passage starts off with the exhortation which is addressed to the Ephesian elders. Paul commands them to watch themselves and also the flocks which have been given to them by the Holy Spirit. The exhortation is for the pastor “elder” or “shepherd” of God’s church. Paul next warns the Ephesian elders of the great deception that will be coming to the church after his departure. He describes the deceivers as “savage wolves” (NIV, NASB, NKJV), “fierce wolves” (ESV) and “grievous wolves” (KJV). Personally I prefer the NIV, NKJV and NASB’s rendering of the Greek word barus into savage which I believe better illustrates the seriousness and appetites of the false teachers. The false teachers are deceivers and are very hungry for a meal. There are many savage wolves roaming around in pulpits deceiving God’s children today. These wolves are able to land their positions of authority, because of their affluence, charisma and the like. In verse 30 Paul states that the false teachers will come from within the church. The false teachers are very deceptive, and so weak-minded Christians that do not read their Bibles are deceived by the lies of these savage wolves. Next in verse 31 Paul gives the ultimate exhortation for the Ephesian elders to be on their guard. Paul never stopped warning them night and day with tears. This example is to be followed by those serious about the truth. Tragically there are few even concerned about warning others of false teachers, because everyone is so blinded by “postmodernism”, “tolerance” and “multi-culturism” that they lack the discernment necessary to be effective apologists or are afraid of offending others. The duty to discern and to expose false teachers is primarily for the pastor, but it must not be limited to the pastor, because it’s the duty of all Christians to call out and oppose false teachers. The fields are ripe and many false teachers would not be in their positions of authority if Christians today got serious about engaging in the Truth War.
Matt 7:15-20 (ESV) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
Here Jesus is speaking to the crowd in his famous Sermon the Mount. In the culture context of Jesus’ day would people disguise themselves in sheepskins in the hope of being taken for stray dogs and other types of animals (Jos. War 3.192). But Jesus uses hyperbole (exaggeration for effect) as wolves do not wear clothes, and changing one’s hide was a metaphor for the impossible (Je 13:23; Jub. 37:20). The false prophets seek a meal on the sheep and the best way for them to get that meal is to dress as sheep refer to (Mt 10:16). There are many denominations that at one time were sound Bible preaching separatists. American Baptists, Assemblies of God, & the Conservative Baptist Association are a few of many denominations that have been deceived by savage wolves. These denominations went on the path to liberalism by making small steps and consequently went down the slippery slope. I know of one CBA church in my area and although they believe in the Fundamentals of the Christian faith, they have opened the door to liberalism by allowing women to teach adult Sunday school, by changing their worship style from traditional to contemporary, and by creating a contemporary cafe like atmosphere on Friday nights for the 20 something crowd. These leaders at this church claim that doing these things is the best way to reach the modern generation. But such a position is really the polite way for these leaders to say that they deny the doctrine of Sufficiency. For if they believed in the doctrine of Sufficiency they would believe that the word of God alone can change hearts, enlighten the eyes, and make wise the simple (Psa 19:7-8). Therefore there is no need for attractive programs or anykind of Market Driven approach to reaching the lost for the Bible alone is good enough.
In verses 16-20 Jesus explains to us how we can discern false teachers. Fruit is what can be used to measure the false teachers and is a metaphor for both character and conduct. The way the false teachers act is the way to detect them. In the Old Testament there were tests for the true prophet. The law as mentioned in Dt 13:1-5 required that a false prophet be put to death if he promoted rebellion against God. Tree’s can bear good or bad fruit and that fruit will be revealed no matter what the person claims of himself. Those that claim Christ yet glorify themselves or glorify self-fulfillment in their teachings can be false teachers. Joel Osteen a very charismatic and outstanding speaker, tends to be one that glorifies himself and self-fulfillment in his messages. I once was a follower of Joel Osteen, and while I do admit that he is quite deceptive, the truth is that his sermons have little if any gospel as Osteen never speaks on sin that I am aware of, and says only what people want to hear. Although it is possible that Joel Osteen himself may be saved, he has deceived countless millions. Many that hear his message and die the next day will be cast into a crisis without ever realizing their need for a savior. Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Creflo Dollar, & Robert Schuller are also a few of many false teachers that are deceiving many. Christians must discern their teachers by their fruits and in doing so can tell whom is true and whom is false for many false prophets have gone out into the world (2 Jn 7).
Purposes in separating from false teachers
The Christian separates for the following reasons.
1. To maintain the doctrinal integrity of the church (I Timothy 2:6).
2. To protect the sheep or flock from error, which hinders spiritual growth (Acts 20:28; II Peter 2:1-2).
Additional scriptures related to separating from False Teachers
II Corinthians 11:13-15
II John 9-11
II Peter 2:1-3
I Timothy 1:3-7
I Timothy 6:3-5
Separation from Disobedient Brethren
Disobedient brother: Is a professing Christian who deliberately refuses to modify some aspect of his
conduct or behavior and to conform to the teachings of Scripture.
Discipline in the church: This is a action taken by a body of believers (or church) to correct the disobedience
of one of its members. Those that love the brethren desire to see this person do right and go the right way
(I Corinthians 13:6). Proper church discipline results in the building up of the church, not in its destruction
(II Corinthians 13:10).
Matt 18:15-17 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”
This is the most famous of passages on church discipline and separation from the disobedient. But tragically church discipline is heavily neglected in the contemporary church. Church Discipline is effective when practiced from a Biblical worldview and according to the passage there are 4 steps to Church Discipline. The first step is to go and tell the brother his fault. (v.15) (that is if he is unable to practice self-discipline) The second step is the group appeal if he refuses to listen to you directly. The third step is to tell it to the church (v.17) and at this stage will the brother be under Church Discipline. And finally the last step is to separate from him (treat him as a heathen and tax collector).
Church discipline has many purposes and some of these are as follows (http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=532)
(1) To bring glory to God and enhance the testimony of the flock.
(2) To restore, heal, and build up sinning believers (Matt. 18:15; 2 Thes. 3:14-15; Heb. 12:10-13; Gal. 6:1-2; Jam. 5:20).
(3) To produce a healthy faith, one sound in doctrine (Tit. 1:13; 1 Tim. 1:19-20).
(4) To win a soul to Christ, if the sinning person is only a professing Christian (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
(5) To silence false teachers and their influence in the church (Tit. 1:10-11).
(6) To set an example for the rest of the body and promote godly fear (1 Tim. 5:20).
(7) To protect the church against the destructive consequences that occur when churches fail to carry out church discipline. A church that fails to exercise discipline experiences losses.
Restoration/reconciliation is the primary purpose to church discipline in an effort to get the disobedient to repent. Church discipline must be done Biblically and most importantly done in love. Those under church discipline must understand that they are disciplined because they are loved, just as God loves his own children and disciplines them. However on dealing with those who dislike church discipline it is very wise in today’s day and age to keep legal documents, have witnesses in discipline meetings to avoid lawsuits. While there are some churches that practice church discipline, churches should also do all that is necessary to protect themselves. Also evidence warranting church discipline must be sound and accurate. Wild accusations, and assertions without evidence can be damaging to a church. In 2005 I head of a fundamentalist booting a man from his church because he was a Democrat. This discipline situation ended up making the news, and that pastor had a situation on his hands that he never wanted. Churches that separate from the disobedient on such trivial matters are asking for trouble.
2 Thes 3:6, 14-15 “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.”
And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Paul in these passages is warning believers to withdrawal themselves from anyone that behaves disorderly and does not follow after the apostolic traditions. Paul does not leave the reader to wonder what the traditions are as he clearly declares the traditions to be his own teaching whether by word or by epistle (II Thessalonians 2:15). He states that if any brother’s practice or teaching does not agree with the teaching of Scripture, then are believers to withdraw from him. But if any believer were to fail to realize the importance of this discipline, the apostle repeats the command in the same chapter in verse 14 “note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” If Paul were to allow him to continue in his error without trying to get him to repent would be wrong and unkind. Other Christian brethren are not to treat him as an enemy but to admonish him as a brother v.15. The problem with following these teachings these days is that many churches do not practice church discipline. Discipline is essential and necessary. The Lord himself disciplines his children (Heb 12:6) and so has commanded the church to do the same (Matt 18:15-17). If any man does not respond to church discipline then it is necessary to separate from him. However I do not believe that the exhortation extents beyond the local church over trivial matters. Fundamentalists very much practice and endorse 2nd and 3rd degree separation as they believe in distancing themselves from all evangelicals and charismatics because they are disobedient. Once a fundamentalist “Sara Nevius” and her pastor practiced personal separation from me. Although I wanted reconciliation, I realized I could not persuade someone that wanted nothing to do with me. While Sara made her own decision, I personally do not believe in separating from all disobedient evangelicals and charismatics on secondary issues, because who is to say that fundamentalists are not disobedient, or that fundamentalists have it all together and are more righteous than everyone? I know of fundamentalists that in a heartbeat will separate from a church because their music is “contemporary”, yet do these same fundamentalists fail to see the racism, sexism, and other sinful attitudes in their churches. It seems like to these fundamentalists it’s a super sin to worship God in a contemporary form, yet its okay to be hateful, racist, sexist, and the like. This is called pure hypocrisy! Jesus was not a traditionalist or a legalist as He did the following according to the article (Jesus & Christian Fundamentalism).
1. He associated with tax collectors and sinners-Mt 9:10-12
2. He was relevant with the culture (various)
3. He broke unbiblical Sabbath traditions of his day -Mt 12:9-13, Mt 12:1-2
4. He associated with Samaritans (Woman at the well)-John 4
5. He allowed his disciples to eat with unwashed hands-Mk 7:5
6. He nor his disciples practiced fasting-Mt 9:14
7. He declared all foods clean-Mk 7:14-19
8. He liberated Women-Lk 8:1-3
9. He advocated freedom from powerless religion-Mk 1:22
10. He gave others Grace-Jn 8:3-11
Purposes in separating from disobedient brethren
1. To preserve the testimony of God’s holy people in the eyes of the world (I Peter 2:12).
2. To prevent a disobedient brother or sister from influencing others to sin or to do wrong (I Cor 5:6-7; Gal 5:9).
3. To set an example which (hopefully) will encourage others to be obedient (I Timothy 5:20).
4. To bring about repentance in the one who has been disobedient (II Timothy 2:25; Hebrews 10:24; Rev 3:19).
Separating from the disobedient is Biblical, but it must not be over trivial secondary issues (hair length, clothing, bible translations, music, dress) and the like
Since the writing of this article I have dialogued with a number of evangelicals on a Internet discussion board whom have given me a number of different interpretations on the doctrine of separation. I enjoyed what one individual said about Jesus and the example he set by not separating himself from those that held a different worldview nor did Jesus separate himself from disobedient believers and the ungodly because He seeks to redeem them (Rev 3:20). On this example I simply cannot endorse full 2nd and 3rd degree separation as what is practiced by fundamentalists. I believe that the Bible is quite clear on separating from the world, and false teachers. But separating from entire denominations over trivial matters like convictions on dress, movies, music, bible translations and the like is not right. There are many evangelicals and charismatics that I personally separate from because of their false teachings, but simply separating from an entire denomination (Southern Baptists) is not be what the Bible teaches. Each church should be viewed on a case-by-case basis. There are Southern Baptists churches that I would attend, and ones I would stay away from. Do not misunderstand me as I am not arguing against separating from liberal denominations that are not sound such as the American Baptists and the Assemblies of God. I would not associate or attend any churches in these denominations. Rolland McCune in his book Promise Unfulfilled ads; A wide spectrum of new evangelical thought exists concerning the various facets of apostasy, cooperation, and separation. Taken together, the salient features of this spectrum form a rationale for the anti-separation stance that characterized the new evangelical movement from the beginning (McCune, 129).
While I do believe that many evangelicals are disobedient in this area, I do not believe that the fundamentalists are perfect either. Fundamentalists that are hyper judgmental and condescending are like the Pharisee mentioned in Lk 18 whom had no humility and praised God that he was not like others, because he saw himself as righteous and better than others. In this same way are there many fundamentalists that are self-righteous and look at others and base their righteousness in comparison to others. I believe that evangelicals and fundamentalists are right and wrong in different areas and will all be perfected when Christ comes (1 Cor 15:51-52). At that time will we no longer argue over trivial matters, for we will be one accord. In the meantime it’s important to practice the doctrine of separation from the world and false teachers. So many do not separate from the world, for they love the world more so than Christ. Separation is a part of Sanctification and the process of sanctification is a lifetime process (Eph 4:22-24), but it should be a process that all Christians should be engaged in. Those that are not engaged in it shall not see the Lord (Heb 12:14). Some Christians grow slowly, and remain spiritual infants for a long time. They do not grow because they do not read their Bibles, and do not rely on the Holy Spirit. The Word of God can help one grow (1 Pet 2:2). So therefore go out and follow the Biblical mandates as outlined in this article on separation.
IVP NT Commentary Series
Bible Knowledge Commentary
Life Application Bible Notes
Life Application NT Commentary
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
Complete Word Study Dictionary on NT Words
Bob Jones University. 1980. Biblical Separation. Greenville: BJU Seminary.
McCune, Rolland. 2004. Promise Unfulfilled. Greenville: Ambassador Publications.
http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=532; accessed Jan 1, 2009
© Church Education Resource Ministries
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in anyway other than to correct minor spelling and grammar errors. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. And exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by Church Education Resource Ministries.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Wolf © Church Education Resource Ministries. Website www.cerm.info. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.