by Michael Bunker
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses 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.” Romans 16:17-18
January 15, 2003 – I am pleased to continue with this important sermon series on the Doctrines of the Bible. Our purpose is to show that the Doctrines of the Bible are a complete system, a systematic worldview, and they are critically important to our Christian walk on this planet. In these apostate days, the overwhelming view that Doctrine is unimportant and “doctrine divides” has overtaken the professing church. Our willingness to embrace good doctrine, and our desire to honor God by our obedience to scripture, will be made manifest through the study of Scripture. There is no doctrine more challenging, and more clearly taught in the Holy Bible, than the Doctrine of Separation. This will be a hard sermon for some people to hear, because I know of very few people who practice this commandment of Jesus according to the way it is required of us in scripture. Please pay very close attention, because the doctrine we will discuss today is so very important, it could very well be one of the critical means made available to you to help you determine who is, and who is not, to be trusted in these perilous times. The enemies of God, in their relentless attack against Biblical Christianity, have attacked the words SEPARATIST and SEPARATION so effectively, that for a Christian to be called a “separatist” today would seem to be equivalent to calling them a “cultist”, or a “racist”. But be not deceived. If there is one particular attribute of God that is mentioned more often in Holy Writ then any other attribute – it is His Holiness. The very word HOLY means separate, or “apartness”. When we examine the words that God uses to describe Himself, His “apartness”, Holiness, Sacredness, or separation is His most common attribute. God is Holy. God is Separate. God IS Separation – it is his character, and one of His most critical attributes. The Scripture says, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Is. 6:3) So we see that God’s very GLORY is manifest in his “apartness” from everything that is not of Him.
And His commandment exists eternally for all to see:
“Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1Pe 1:16)
Now that is the direct commandment of God. Let us not ignore or cast off the commandments of Jesus, because Jesus Himself said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10)
The apostles, throughout the New Testament agree, but we rely heavily on John because of his wonderful grasp on God’s sovereignty and Grace:
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:3-4)
“And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (1 John 3:24)
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev 14:12)
Now before we get into the details on this critical doctrine of Separation, I need to make some important points:
The word HOLY, or “set apart” can be understood in several different ways, based on the context in which it is used:
1. We have previously shown where HOLINESS is a commandment of God – whereby He commands His people to separate themselves unto Him. This will be the element of Separation that we will discuss in detail in this sermon. We are commanded to be HOLY, separated unto God in our conversation, our communion, our prayer, and our behaviour. This is the physical act of separation from ungodliness, from heresy, error, worldliness and the tools of Satan. This HOLINESS is the “command of God”.
2. “Holiness” is also a POSITIONAL statement, declaring unto the believer what GOD has done on the believers behalf:
“Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2Ti 1:9)
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1Pe 2:5)
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pe 2:9)
So “Holiness” is also positional, in that God Himself has set us aside for a particular purpose, known unto Him alone. HE has set us apart, called us Holy Brethren, “partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb 3:1). This is the DECREE of God, that we ARE Holy.
Now, as we mentioned in the Doctrine of Responsibility study, we are called Christians for two purposes:
1. Because we are “anointed ones” (which is what the word Christian signifies), anointed and filled with that Holy anointing oil – the Holy Spirit: “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1John 2:27)
2. Because we are DISCIPLES of Christ, setting ourselves apart for His sake, putting our hand to the plow, running a race, endeavoring at all cost to honor and serve the One to whom we owe everything, and the Lord whose name we take upon ourselves.
So by definition, and by action – we are to be DIFFERENT from all those of any category who walk the face of this planet. So let’s examine this separation, and what it should look like, but make no mistake – no matter how clear we make the commandment of Separation appear to men, no matter how decisive the Holy Scriptures are on the matter, almost ALL who hear these words will never apply what they learn to their own lives. Applying the Doctrine of Separation is the most difficult and painful manifestation of Christianity. If it were easy, then the road would be wide, and many there would be who would find it. But the road is indeed narrow, and few there be that find it. Do not think that I am asking you to do something in your own strength. Every doctrine that we teach in this series is founded on the Doctrines of Grace. It is God that must strengthen and enable obedience. But obedience is commanded nonetheless. Here is where the Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of man meet. God has separated us unto Himself AND has commanded us to separate ourselves unto Him. It is evident that no paradox exists, as the former shall be made manifest by the latter. We WILL separate ourselves unto Him, IF He has separated us unto Himself.
Let us take this exhortation as a call to examine ourselves, to make certain that we are in the faith. “For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb 7:26), and it is this same High Priest who has commanded: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2Co 6:17).
SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD
Now, Christian, I ask you – what exactly have you come out from among? Can you tell me? Are you truly SEPARATE? Do you touch the unclean thing? If you want to know what the Apostle was writing about in this section of 2 Corinthians, let us go to it and read. The preceding verses say:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Co 6:14-16)
So, the Bible COMMANDS that we separate from unbelievers. This does not mean that we do not minister and evangelize the heathen. Jesus did that, and we are to do that too, but we minister among them as those who are SEPARATE from them, as those who are with them, but not OF them. I will not spend valuable time preaching separation from those who clearly are NOT professing believers. My time is better spent in engaging the areas where professing believers dishonor Christ by joining themselves unto uncleanness.
The Bible commands separation from unbelievers. So here is a question:
ARE THERE UNBELIEVERS IN YOUR CHURCH? Or better yet, are there unbelievers who are MEMBERS of your church? I would unequivocally state that the MAJORITY of those who are “members” of institutional, corporate churches are unbelievers. That is just a fact. I offer the “fruit” of the institutional church as evidence for my charge.
If you are a “member” of a bricks and mortar church, where it is clear that UNBELIEVERS are brought in as members, and where the Church has engaged in an UNHOLY and UNGODLY relationship with the governments of men – then you need to hear what the scripture says to you. To be a member of such a church is to commit spiritual adultery, and it is to commit whoredom against Christ and against His true Body. Alliances with the world, with the world’s systems, and with unbelievers are banned in scripture. We are commanded to come out from amongst such ungodliness. Let us read of this principle in the book of Haggai:
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.” (Hag 2:11-14)
A clean thing can not make the unclean clean. Your presence in Sodom, does not sanctify Sodom. But the unclean thing CAN make everything that touches it unclean. Be sure, if you come to the conclusion that you are a righteous man in the midst of Sodom, and God does not PULL YOU OUT OF THERE, then you are very likely deceived about your own condition – and you will be most likely destroyed with the rest of the city. “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1 Cor 5:6)
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” (Pro 13:20)
The Bible commands that we come out from among them and that we be separate.
Now, let us examine the exhortation to separate from certain professing BELIEVERS
Most of those who call themselves “Christians” will concede that we are to be separate from what they call “the world”, although in actual practice they live in concord and agreement with the world on almost every level. So “Christian” separation is, in fact, rarely practiced and it is the most neglected of the commandments of Jesus. When it comes to separating from others who claim to be “Christians”, you’ll not find but a bare small percentage who are willing to obey the scripture at all.First, let us look at the scripture, then we will see how the Doctrine is to be applied by the obedient Christian. Specifically, I would like you to NOTE CAREFULLY what is the single consistent rule we are to use to know from WHO we are to separate:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Rom 16:17)
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” (1Ti 6:3-5)
Now, it should be stated clearly hear that ARMINIANISM is heresy, and it is the primary false doctrine that is being taught across the world today. Arminianism was declared to be heresy by the Protestant Council of Dordt in 1618. Armininians DO NOT hold to the Doctrine of Jesus and the Apostles. They teach a completely DIFFERENT doctrine.
Since the true believer is founded on the Word of God, and his authority is derived from God’s revealed Word in scripture – the believer is commanded to separate from false teachers AND from false doctrines. A Church, an organization, a system, or a man who does not keep to THE DOCTRINE preached by Christ and the apostles is a false teacher (1 Tim 1:7, 2 Tim 4:3, 2 Peter 2:1). The believer is also to separate himself from a group, organization, system or teacher WHO REFUSES TO PRACTICE THIS DOCTRINE by allowing slanderers, liars, blasphemers, heretics or the ungodly to continue in the fellowship unrebuked. If your church, your teacher, or whatever fellowship you affiliate with, does not allow for justice to be done, or does not allow for and teach the importance of true Biblical separation – then by default that teacher has denied the authority and sufficiency of Holy Scripture, and the true believer must separate himself from such error.
The Bible commands that we not only separate ourselves from such error, but that we make such error known:
“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Eph 5:6-11)
To separate ourselves from professing believers is not easy, but it is COMMANDED of us:
“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.” (2Th 3:6)
In this one verse, we see the word COMMAND used in relation to our withdrawing ourselves from a BROTHER. Now specifically in reference to the DOCTRINE which the apostles commanded that we keep and teach, we are also commanded that:
“A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Tit 3:10-11)
And remember that Romans 16, as we read it earlier, commands that we MARK THOSE who teach another Doctrine, and avoid them. Listen to this:
“I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you 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 a one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” ( 1Co 5:9-13)
God commands that we put out from among ourselves the fornicator who calls himself a brother. Now clearly this is true of the one who commits physical acts of sexual fornication, but the fact that Paul specifically applies this to the professing church, means that it has a SPIRITUAL application as well. Read very closely, because Paul continues this same avenue of teaching in the next chapter:
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor 6:15-20)
We can see that we are MEMBERS of Christ, and that to join ourselves to that which is not CHRIST is to make of ourselves a harlot. If you are joined to a church, or a ministry, or a teacher who allows spiritual harlotry, and who refuses to abide by this Doctrine, then you have joined yourselves unto a harlot, and the two of you shall be one flesh. Therefore you must FLEE fornication.
If you commit spiritual fornication, you sin against your own body, and, as the scripture says, ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price. Do not err beloved brethren, this is not a light topic. Heed the warning. The scripture is speaking of the professing CHRISTIAN, and not the heathen.
Now it is important that you pay very close attention to what I am going to say to you. It is evident that we are to separate ourselves from the ungodly world, from ungodly people, and from all ungodliness. It is also evident that we are to separate ourselves from professing Christians who are joined to ungodly institutions, and from so-called “Christians” who do not hold to the Biblical doctrines of the Holy Bible. Let’s look at how this was practiced in the early church.
In the days of Jesus, it was a common practice to receive travelers, strangers and others into your home. It was SO common a practice, that unwritten rules were developed that helped people discern who they were to receive. For the people of Israel at the time of Christ, it was common for the visitor to be questioned ON THE DOORSTEP, of his doctrine and his beliefs. This is why many of Christ’s disciples were not received into the houses of the Jews. Remember what Jesus said unto the disciples:
“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” (Mat 10:14)
It was common for the disciples to be rejected and not received in the houses of those to whom they would preach. That is why the disciples preached the coming of the Messiah out of the Old Testament scriptures, and proved His coming by what the scriptures said. So Jesus commanded the disciples that if they were not received, they should shake the dust of their feet as a condemnation of those who would not receive them.
The principle remains the same. Jesus was perfectly okay with the fact that his disciples would be questioned before they entered into any house – and He had prepared them fully with the Gospel so that in the homes of the ELECT, they would certainly be received.
We are to do the same, on BOTH sides of the equation. If you hold to the Biblical Doctrines of Grace, and are anointed by God as one of His disciples, then you are to be ready to answer for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15), but we are also to TEST those who would enter OUR homes, or who would fellowship with us, or who would teach us anything. The scripture is plain on this:
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed: For he that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2Jo 1:9-11)
The Bible says DON’T EVEN RECEIVE HIM INTO YOUR HOUSE. And the point at issue is to be DOCTRINE!
“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2Co 11:4)
Now these words “bear with him” do not mean only to “endure”, or “to put up with”, but it means “to withstand, to be firm against”, or to “forebear”. Certainly the apostle is not preaching that we should put up with them, when in all of his epistles he exhorts us to “mark them” and “avoid them”. Paul himself tells us clearly only a few verses later that such are “…false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2Co 11:13). And just to be sure, Paul tells us in the book of Galatians:
“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.” (Gal 1:8-9)
This statement, that these who preach another gospel are to be “accursed” comes from the Greek word “anathema” which according to Thayer’s Greek Dictionary means “a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction.” This same word appears in 1 Corinthians chapter 16, verse 22: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema…” And what else can be said of one who reviles God’s Word, than that he hates Christ? Look really closely:
1. Jesus clearly stated that IF we love Him, we will keep His commandments. (John 14:15)
2. The apostles stated that the commandments of Jesus involved separation unto Him, “For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor” (1Th 4:2-4)
3. We know that we know Jesus and love Him, by our willingness to obey Him. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:3-4)
4. We are commanded to be Holy, separated unto Him. (1 Peter 1:16)
5. We know that God abides IN US, by our willingness to do what He asks us to do: “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (1 John 3:24)
Now particularly, God’s elect, those who have this witness in them, are called SAINTS by God. The word SAINT means “a most holy thing” and indicates that which is SET APART by God for His purposes. The assembly of the SAINTS is called the ECCLESIA or “called out ones”, the ones set apart and separated unto God out of every generation. So in every way, we are identified as children of God particularly by our SEPARATE nature. We are individuals SEPARATED unto God, and we are a body SEPARATED unto God. This indeed is reflective of God’s own character:
1. He Himself is “Separate”, and His separateness is a pleasant sound unto His ears, for the four six-winged beasts of Revelation, “…rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” (Rev. 4:8 Literally we can say that these beasts never rest from saying, “Separate, Separate, Separate, Lord God Almighty!”
2. His name is “Separate”: “Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.” (Psa 99:3)
3. His dwelling place is “Separate”: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isa 57:15)
God declares that holiness (not some pompous religious legalism born out of an attempt to either exalt oneself, or earning God’s acceptance, but humble obedience and separation) is a requirement for entrance into the Kingdom: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). This “holiness” will be manifest in two ways:
1. God will separate us unto Himself. We will be born-again of the Spirit, and fruit will surely be produced as it is ordained and created by God. By Grace we will be separated unto God, for the purpose of making known unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly realms (Eph. 3:10), God’s glory and manifold wisdom.
2. We will separate ourselves from that which clearly dishonors God. As Arthur Pink said, “Be ye not unequally yoked together.’ This applies, first, to our religious or ecclesiastical connections. How many Christians are members of so-called “churches,” where much is going on which they know is at direct variance with the Word of God – either the teaching from the Pulpit, the worldly attractions used to draw the ungodly, and the worldly methods employed to finance it, or the constant receiving into its membership of those who give no evidence of having been born again. Believers in Christ who remain in such “churches” are dishonouring their Lord. Better stay at home and read God’s Word, than fellowship with that which His Word condemns.”
The scripture is clear. But how to apply it? Although it is a hard thing, it is simple when it is examined in the light of scripture.
Believers should separate from any church, organization or individual that;
a) includes unbelievers,
b) allows ungodly behavior,
c) pushes the world’s philosophies,
d) propagates false teaching,
e) shows a disdain for the authority of scripture,
f) sanctions or aligns itself with groups, governments or individuals that God condemns,
g) refuses to support justice and judgment as commanded in the scripture.
Believers should never ally themselves with the world, or “in degrees” with that which is allied with the world. Professing Christians who are apostates, worldlings, and/or those who deny Christian judgment should be avoided and publicly marked.
Be sure that there is a rebellion going on against God and against His throne. Just because a man is worldly wise, and because he teaches well – does not mean that we are to heed him. We will know those who are our brethren because they will have a HIGH regard for the authority of scripture. We will discuss the Doctrine of Authority in another sermon in a couple of weeks. If a man walks in the counsel of the ungodly, and joins himself to that which God disallows – we can know that that man has little regard for the Authority of Scripture, and his error will be shown in time. The first Psalm says:
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Psalm 1:1-6)
The scripture says that we are to test those who we walk with, to see if we be agreed with them. We cannot know a man is a Christian by his profession of Christianity. e cannot know that a man is a Christian by his outward religious demeanor (remember the Pharisees were whitewash sepulchers, and they washed the outside of their cup). We cannot know that a man is a Christian by his worshipful stance (remember that a demon worshiped Jesus and called Him the “Son of God most high” (Luke 8:28 We can only know a man is a Christian by his doctrine, and by the fruit he bears to God thereby.
I am your servant in Christ Jesus