BE YE SEPARATE
These words---be ye separate---are found in II Corinthians 6:17-18, "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 he shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
It is a reference to Isaiah 52:11, "Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing: go ye out of the midst of her: be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lords. " It was a call to the priests, and Levites in particular, and Israel in general, to withdraw from the idolatrous world in view of predictions of the coming reign of Christ on the earth.
Separation is one of the major themes of the Bible. Carried to extremes by some, and ignored or rejected by others, it remains both as a means of spiritual safety for the believer and a testimony to the world of the sufficiency of Christ. Monasteries and convents, along with colonies that withdraw from the rest of a community, exemplify the extreme segments while those that see the mission of the church to be the 'Christianizing' of the world, portray the rejecters.
There is a separation that the Scripture teaches and supports.
The call of Abraham may be seen as the beginning of it. God called him out of Chaldea to Canaan and abondoned the idolatrous world to judgement. It's written in Romans 1:21-28, that He gave them up to their own wickedness. Abraham while living and working among the idolatrous Canaanites served and worshipped God, taking no part in their debased religions. His descendants, with some exceptions, followed his example. During 430 years in Egypt, they remained a separate people.
When they came out they were stritly enjoined to refrain from intermarriage with the Canaanites lest they be enticed into worshipping their gods. Two things were given them as the means and evidence of their separation. The presence of God in their midst, and His Law given through Moses.
In the beginning of their journey to the land of promise they were told to make Him a tabernacle that he "might dwell among them". This was the Tabernacle, a moveable "tent house' that could be transported as they moved from place to place on their journey to the promised land. In it was the Ark of the Covenant, sheltered by the wings of the two Cherubims. God had promised His presence there, typically dwelling among them.
God assured Moses, over wrought with Israel's sin in worshipping the golden calf, that He would not leave him, saying, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." in Exodus 33:14. Moses answered in verse 15, "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth."
The presence of the Living God in this nation was to separate it from all others. He would dwell in Israel alone, and this set them apart. When God proposed giving Israel a law He told them obedience to it would make tham a special treasure to Him, above all other people.
"Now therefore if ye will obey my voice indeed, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine." Exodus 19:5
In the ten commandments he gave them is the basis of what is called the Mosaic Law (Exodus 20:1-17). What is called the Ordinances, the spiritual regulations, the judgements, the secular rules, and the legal rules, make up the rest of it. It was to be held inviolate from change, addition or subtraction (Deuteronomy 4:2).
In Ephesians 2:14-18, Paul writes this concerning Christ, "...for he is our peace, who hath made both (Jew and Gentile) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain, one new man, so making peace."
Here the Law of Moses is given the character of a wall separating the Jew from the Gentile. Thus, a wall becomes typical of separation; but what kind of wall? Most cities in Bibical times were inclosed in protective walls. At times of invasion by armies of the enemy city or country, the walls became a place of refuge. They did not enclose a nation so that one people could not visit or do business with another. In Israel the city gates were open by day and Gentiles brought in their wares and traded with the Jews. An account in Nehemiah 12:16-19 shows where it is evident that men of Tyre were allowed to trade in Jerusalem, except on the Sabbath day when Jews also were forbidden to trade. The gates were closed at sundown before the Sabbath, and opened again for business the next day.
The wall of partition that separated Israel from those about them was above and beyond the mighty fortifications that protected them from mortal foes. Only the presence of God and the instruction and restraint of His Word could in fact separate them unto Him. When they forgot His Word and disobeyed His commandments, and began to intermarry with the odolaters, adopting their ways, no city walls could deliver them. They had breached the wall of their separation and lost it's protection.
There is a parallel in this Age of Grace we live in to be separate. The Lord Jesus Christ promised His presence in believers in John 14:16-23, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever. Even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
Again Ephesians 2:19-22 speaks of the church as a building for God's habitation. Not that God could be 'contained' so a to be nowhere else, but as His presence was in Israel, so now is He in the church.
This sets it apart from the secular world, for it is evident that the world provides no place for HIm. In the non-Christian religious systems, He also has no part. Even from that part which is called the Christian religion, but denies the deity of Christ and the power of His sacrifice to save sinners, we will not find His Presence generally. The exception would be in any believers found therein where Christ would certainly dwell in them individually via the Holy Ghost.
So this must have to do with His presence that is more than His spirit being everywhere at once, otherwise there is no point in expressing it. In that sense there is no place where He is not. But when we remember that believers are builded together an habitation for God, it is evident that a separate spiritual dwelling place is intended.
In Matthew 18:20 the Lord said that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He is there in the midst. It is logical to see that dwelling as the local assembly. Such an assembly is regarded a representative of the whole cfhurch which is the body of Christ. The local gathering is the place where His presence can be known to exist. That will be a separating influence if the lives of the believers who make up the assembly give evidence of His presence.
The scriptures are intended to separate the believer to God, and from the world. The Lord, in His prayer in John 17 speaks of their being saved out of the world and prays that they might be kept from its evil (John 17:13-17). The Word of God would seanctify (set apart) them. Thus the world and the things of the world become inclusive of all that from which the believer is to be set apart from. What is meant by the term 'the world,' may be considered in two aspects:
*****1) The non-religious world
*****2) The religous world
Obviously the believer should have no fellowship with the outwardly evil and obscene. This does not indicate a physical withdrawing or being separate from all community or business contacts necessary to life and livelihood. Otherwise, as Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:9-10, one would have to go out of the world altogether. Nor does it mean to colonize, forming a self contained community that operates without contact with the rest of the world.
The separate believer is to be in the world, but not a part of it. We are to be a messenger of God to lost souls in the world, and in the Lord' work of taking out of it a people for His name (Acts 15:14).
The Epistles tot eh church in various localities give examples of what they were to separate from in their daily lives. In Rome they were to take note of thowse who cauwsed divisions and offenses contrary to what they had been taught (Romans 16:17-18). Showing how they worked in making the divisions, such were to be avoided.
In Corinth they were divided over different ministers who had lavored among them (I Corinthians 1:10-13). Here Paul declares that each had his own manner and place of service, but they were all the servants of God laboring together, within his particular sphere and calling. They were not to be engaging in setting up rival religious orders. One had laid a foundation, another had builded on it. It was folly to become followers of either to the exclusion of the other. There was a gross moralsin in the assembly, stemming from man's pride. I Corinthians 5 instructs the perpetrator of such to be put out of fellowship, that the assembly might be cleansed.
In II Thessalonians 3:11-15, disorderly conduct was rebuked and believers were told to keep no company with those guilty of it. Again in I Timothy 6:1-5, we are told to withdraw from those who dote about questions and strife of words. Timothy is told to shun those who teach false doctrine in II Timothy 2:16-18. Yet again we are told to turn away from those professing godliness while denying the power thereof in II Timothy 3:5.
These examples were individuals in general that the assembly was to separate from their fellowship. And if there be a fellowship of assamblies, there should be an agreement among them if the action would affect the others. II Corinthians 6:13-18 deals with groups holding and practicing unscriptural doctrines and conduct. These religious systems the believer is to come out from among and be separate. "...Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." Hebrews 13:10-14.
It is plain from the scriptural order that believers are to form and support assemblies. The different churches addressed in the Epistles demonstrate it. References to them as 'called out assemblies' or churches, indicate it. Hebrews 10:25 exhorts faithful attendance, but Paul warns of false teachers forming groups after their erroneous teachings (Acts 20:38-31 also). Thus there comes about a need for separation of assemblies to accomodate the different teachings of man. The many different denominations bears witness to the differences of doctrine and practice that has resulted, to God's displeasure.
The Bible raises the question in Amos 3:3, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" The answer is obviously NO! So it comes down to choosingwhich religious body we will associate ourselves with, if we are merely interested in finding one whose teaching and practice we find acceptable. BUT, if we are intent on gathering as we see it instructed in the Bible, then it becomes a matter of searching the Scriptures to find and follow the pattern as indicated in the early church gatherings.
The first gathering (Acts 2:42-47) consisted of redeemed sinners coming together for fellowship and to be taught the Scripture pertaining to Christ and the cross. Receiving Him as their Lord and Saviour had separated them from those of the 'Jew's religion'. They were known by no name, other than that which applied to all believers---the scriptural church order.
An open Bible and divine revelations concerning the new order governed their teaching and work. There was no set of rules other than those found in the scriptures imposed on them. Their love for Christ and joy in their salvation made them ernest evangels of God and the Gospel (Acts 4:33, 8:4). Other gartherings were thus formed and met on the same basis (Acts 9:31).
Paul's salvation and ministry was the means of establishing many meetings on doctrines fundamental to the faith. We may assume that a pattern for scriptural gatherings (or churches) may thus be found. It should be the purpose of such meetings in our time to follow this pattern.
Can any that do seek to follow the pattern have real fellowship with those who do not?
It is recognized that those who feel that the pattern in the Word is unimportant have effective evangelistic programs, and certain fundamental teachings. This should be acknowledged and appreciated. However, we must understand that following a man's doctrine instead of God's Holy Word, will effect and diminish fellowship with Chirst. Our righteous Lord demands obedience to His Word, and there are consequences for ignoring or teaching false doctrine.
Paul rejoiced when Christ was preached, even though it was sometimes done under circumstances of which he did not approve (Philippians 1:15-18). There are, however, teachings and practices that those who seek to follow the Scriptural pattern, and be acceptable to the Lord, should separate from. Scriptural separation in church order is grievous, but being separate is spiritually profitable and pleasing to God.
CHURCH ORDER LESSONS