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Separation from the World Part A

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    This is Part A or my 3 part article on separation which will soon be published to the web, as soon as I get all the editing done and find the other mistakes.

    Will post the remaining sections in the days ahead. Enjoy!
    The Doctrine of Separation

    The practice of separation is heavily neglected among many Evangelicals and Charismatics, while it’s the 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 very much neglect the doctrine of separation. 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 and 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).

    Separation from the World

    Key Verses

    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.

    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 its 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 the 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 its 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 ( 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 into my worldly ways. I did not believe nor did my church teach me anything on separation from the world, and consequently 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.