Scripture and the Church

Come Out From Among Them: A Position Paper on Biblical Separation

By The Board of Reformation Bible Church, Darlington, Maryland
The history of God's people is the account of small groups and lonely individuals contending for the faith.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Series header Editor's Note: This article is the first of a series presenting a position paper on the Biblical doctrine of separation published by Reformation Bible Church, Darlington, Maryland USA. We are grateful to Dr. John McKnight, RBC's senior pastor and a member of the TTW Advisory Board, for permission to reproduce it. We pray that the Lord's people will be edified and challenged to obey our Lord in this vital matter. - Dr. Paul Elliott

"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and to exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3)

Examples of Biblical Separation: Old Testament

The history of God's people is the account of small groups and lonely individuals contending for the faith. Abel, the second-born human, died at the hands of his brother, who despised him because God accepted him. When "every imagination of the thoughts of [man's] heart was only evil continually . . . Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:5 & 8) and stood alone preaching righteousness to a rebellious race. Obeying God's call, Abram left his kindred and came out from his country - and God made a separated, holy people of him.

Elijah stood for truth against hundreds of Baal's government-sponsored prophets. Isaiah cried to his fellow countrymen, "Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity," while standing virtually alone, his only comfort being: "Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah" (Isaiah 1:4 & 9). God instructed Jeremiah to declare the Israelites' infidelity, warning that "they shall fight against thee." But God encouraged him with the words: "Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee" (Jeremiah 1:19 & 8). Similar features can be found in the lives and ministries of many Old Testament prophets.

Examples of Biblical Separation: New Testament

Life was no easier for God's servants in the New Testament. John the Baptist preached outside the prevailing religious establishment and condemned it. He was spurned by the religious power brokers, hated by the queen, and eventually murdered by the king. Jesus Christ shared John's view and was crucified. The disciples labored outside the bounds of "acceptable" religion and denounced its doings. They were martyred.

The Apostle Paul likewise broke all ties with his former religious body that he might know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings. The religious establishment hounded him, imprisoned him, vowed to kill him and, if tradition is correct, succeeded. Paul instructed Christians to separate from anyone who opposed the doctrines of God's Word.

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. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (II Corinthians 6:14-18).

The great apostle told the Galatian Christians, "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" (Galatians 1:8). To the church at Ephesus he wrote: "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Ephesians 5:11). Paul instructed Timothy to remain at Ephesus, "that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (I Timothy 1:3).

Timothy was exhorted to "give attendance" and to "take heed" to doctrine (4:13 & 16), and to "shun profane and vain babblings" such as those of "Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred" (II Timothy 2:16-18). As for the disobedient who had a powerless form of godliness, Paul exhorted Timothy, "From such turn away" (3:5).

Titus was taught the same by Paul. Concerning deceivers, he wrote: "Whose mouths must be stopped . . . wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith" (Titus 1:11 & 13). "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (1:16). Titus was to "exhort, and rebuke with all authority" (2:15). He was admonished: "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself" (3:10-11).

Obedience to the command to be separate is not popular. Our Saviour spoke of the oppression his disciples were going to bear, telling them that they were blessed when persecuted for righteousness sake, being assured of great rewards in heaven and of identity with a godly line of prophets (Matthew 5:11-12). Paul warned the Philippians: "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Philippians 1:29). And Timothy was advised: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12).


Next: Biblical Separation During the Roman Empire


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