by Tom Stewart
January 29, 2000
There is such a thing as Christian separation. Just read Paul's
epistle to the Romans. "Paul, a servant
of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God" (Romans 1:1). Unfortunately for many, the very idea of Christian separation
evokes the image of a Pharisee with a "holier
than thou" (Isaiah 65:5) attitude; but, whenever a stand
is taken for the LORD, something must be stood "for", while something must
be stood "against". "He that
is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad" (Matthew 12:30). As much as we desire to live peaceably "with all men" (Hebrews 12:14), we
will inevitably find ourselves standing apart from the world-- and, from the professedly
religious. "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" (2Thessalonians 3:6).
The difficulty with the lack of practicing Christian separation, is that Professed Christianity has not been grounded with a Scriptural concept of being set apart unto God from the world. "But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is Godly for Himself" (Psalm 4:3). Our election by God has separated us from the sinfulness of the world. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the LORD, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you" (2Corinthians 6:17). Even as the LORD Jesus is "separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26)-- hating the sin, but loving the sinner-- we ought to conduct ourselves as those who "love not the world" (1John 2:15). "15 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. 16 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" (2:15-16).
As Pilgrims in this world, we ought to walk in the understanding that we are "not of the world" (John 17:14), though we still live in it. "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1Peter 2:11). The world and the worldly are only becoming increasingly worse. "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2Timothy 3:13). While the Saints do all possible to pull the Lost "out of the fire" (Jude 23), the Christian must be careful to "keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). The only means by which the Christian can maintain his separation unto the LORD from the world is by his abiding in the Word of God. "Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you... Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth" (John 15:3; 17:17).
In Christian separation, the problem arises with the necessity to separate, even from other Professed Christians, when they prove to walk disorderly, i.e., in open and known sin. "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" (2Thessalonians 3:14). But, it is with the intention of loving restoration of the backslider, that we are to separate from them, i.e., "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). If we would only let the Spirit of God remind us that our "ministry of reconciliation" (2Corinthians 5:18) includes our dealing with the backslidden, then we would be more willing to employ Christian separation from them. "1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. 2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you... 5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the Day of the LORD Jesus" (1Corinthians 5:1-2, 5). The result of the Corinthian Christians' separation from this erring brother was his repentance-- and their necessity and opportunity to restore fellowship with him. "So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow" (2Corinthians 2:7).
If we would remember that our fellowship and companionship is with those who walk in loving obedience to the LORD Jesus, Christian separation would be entirely "un-burdensome". "I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts" (Psalm 119:63). The Spirit of God must guide our fellowship and direct our separation. "Thou shalt guide me with Thy Counsel, and afterward receive me to glory" (Psalm 73:24). Far better that we would separate from sinful and disobedient man than to lose the fellowship of God. "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him... By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 11:5).
May we, like Enoch, please God by our faithful walk with Him, and like Paul, by our separation "unto the Gospel of God" (Romans 1:1).
How to Deal With Backsliders ---New Window
by Tom Stewart
God has a plan of action that you may follow with Promise to restore the backslider.
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