This has been a rallying cry from many corners of Christianity for many years. The idea is that our witness to the world would be stronger if we all laid aside our differences and united together under the name of “Jesus.”
This may sound good on the surface, but as fundamental baptist, our authority is the Word of God, and all of our actions and positions must fall in line with the principles of God’s Word.
The more I study God’s Word, the more I see the doctrine of “separation” all throughout the Bible. The following are some of my thoughts on this issue.
- God wants His people/children to be in unity. (John 17:11,21,22, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are…. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me….And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one”)
These passages are often used to justify the ecumenical position of unity at the expense of obedience and doctrine. It is clear from these passages that God does, indeed, want his people to be unified even as He and the Lord Jesus are unified. But please notice, neither God nor Jesus set aside any doctrine or area of obedience to be united one with the other. Both are in complete doctrinal agreement. In fact, the basis of their unity is the truth of the Word of God.
Our unity must be within the parameters of the doctrines of God’s Word, not merely in a generic “name” of Christianity.
- We are clearly commanded to separate from the world’s values, philosophies, and principles. (James 1:27, Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world., John 17:16, They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world., 1John 2:15, 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.”)
The world’s values and principles are diametrically opposed to the values and principles of the Word of God and God’s people.
- We are clearly commanded, in certain cases, to separate, not just from unbelievers, but also from disobedient “brethren.” Abraham separated from his worldly and disobedient nephew, Lot in Gen. 13. The Corinthians were instructed to separate from a carnal brother that was fornicator and from various others who were living in flagrant sin. (1 Cor. 5)
- There are extremes on both sides of this issue. Just as there is obviously unscriptural “unity,” there is also unscriptural separation. In Galatians, Paul confronted Peter concerning separation from the believing Gentiles when the Jewish believers were present. Peter was wrong and the motives and principles behind his separation were carnal and unscriptural. We must be sure that our separation has solid scriptural basis and is not based upon religious pride, self-righteousness, or insecurities.
- In the O.T., the ultimate form of separation was what we would call, the “death penalty.” There are some sins that are so harmful in their consequences toward society that total separation is required in the form of death. Of course, this is the exclusive role of the government. (Romans 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”)
- In every case, our motives and disposition in separation is just as important at the act of separation itself. Our motive is two-fold: obedience to the Lord and restoration/salvation of the one we are separating from. Our disposition is to be that of humility and meekness. (Galatians 6:1, “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.”)
I have often said that “separation” is one of the most neglected teachings in our church, nevertheless, it is taught clearly all throughout the Bible.