What Is A Separated Life? - Part I
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's second Corinthian letter, chapter 6. May I remind you that we have been pursuing a series of questions which I have labeled for want of a better term Simple Questions Often Asked .

These questions are not necessarily related one to the other, though they are related to very profound truths. We may be asked the question, for example, “What does it mean to be saved?” We may be asked the question, “How does a person learn to walk in the Holy Spirit?” We will not take the time to review all the questions which we have considered.

The question which will be the basis of our thinking now is one with which we cannot deal in one sitting; you should hear the remaining portion of this message because I do not want you to have only part of the truth. The question we are going to think about is one that is very often asked: “What is a separated Christian?” How many times I have been asked that question! We will at least begin to deal with it at this time.

I have asked you to turn to II Corinthians, chapter 6, because this passage of Scripture is one that is usually used as a basis for a discussion of the question, “What is a separated Christian?” Notice the paragraph which begins with verse 14:

II Corinthians 6:

14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16And 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.
17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

II Corinthians 7:

1Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

A Basis for Separation

We have read the first verse of chapter 7 because it actually belongs to chapter 6; some of the chapter divisions in our English translations of the Bible come at unhappy places. Now if I were going to use just one verse for a text which gives a basis for separation, it would be verse 17:

II Corinthians 6:

17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

I repeat, this passage of Scripture represents the basis for an answer to the question, “What is a separated life? What does it mean to be a separated Christian?” In order to answer this question thoroughly, we will have to have an explanation of terms, and I think that is as far as we will get this time. We must have a consideration of some essentials related to the subject of separation, and we certainly are going to have to be concerned about some errors that are often associated with the discussion of separation.

Explanation of Terms

The reason I say there is a need for an explanation of terms is that the subject of separation may be approached from a human standpoint as well as a scriptural standpoint, and the two approaches do not always coincide. May I suggest that we look at it from the human approach to begin with, recognizing that what we will say from the human standpoint to begin with will not always coincide with scriptural expressions. So without regard at the moment for the accuracy of our expressions, let us explain what is usually meant by a separated life or by a separated Christian. In order to do that, I think it will be necessary for us to look at another Scripture, so turn with me to the first epistle of John and notice in chapter 2 a verse or two of Scripture which will help us to understand what those phrases mean:

I John 2:

15Love 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.
16For 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.

Love Not the World

Notice the statement, “Love not the world.” When we use the word world here, we are not thinking of the grass, the trees and the flowers; we are thinking about the world system—the world system which is dominated by the Devil because he is the head of the world system. The Bible speaks of it as the course of this world dominated by Satan. The Christian is instructed not to love this world system, and the world system is delineated for us in three terms: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Categories of the World System

Everything that is related to the course of this world will fall in one or more of these categories: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. From the human approach, a separated Christian is considered to be one who does not love the world, and his degree of separation from the world is measured by the lists of things from which he abstains. That list may be long in the case of some individuals; it may be short in the case of other individuals. So people have fallen into the habit of using a human expression and saying, “He's a very separated Christian.”

Human Approach of Evaluating Others

If that term is used, it means that he has a long list of things that he doesn't do. Sometimes folk say, “Well, I'll tell you one thing about him; he may be a good man, but he is not very separated,” and that means that he has a very small list of things that he doesn't do, or he may not have any list at all. Of course, if he doesn't have any list at all, then he is a worldly Christian, as you approach it from this human standpoint. He is a Christian, no question about that; but his worldliness is measured by the greater or lesser degree of his participation in the three things which describe this world system. That is the human approach. I think most of you are familiar with it; perhaps you have used those very same expressions.

Scriptural Approach to a Separated Life

I would like for us to consider for a few moments the scriptural approach to the question, “What is a separated Christian; what is a separated life?” So may I say to you that to discuss separation from a scriptural standpoint means that the subject must be dealt with not in relation to individual things, but in relation to areas. There are certain areas of separation about which the Bible speaks, and I would like for us to consider those areas of separation with an explanation of terms, so that we will understand what we are talking abut when we ask the question, “What is a separated Christian?”

Go back to the first passage of Scripture to which I called your attention, II Corinthians, chapter 6, as I say to you that the Bible recognizes the need of separation from sinners and from sinful things. Notice again verse 14:

II Corinthians 6:

14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers:…

That means sinners. It says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” and then follows a list of reasons which we are not going to take the time to review. Those reasons emphasize that it is not sensible for Christians to be yoked together with unbelievers, and because that is true, then the command in verse 17 is given:

II Corinthians 6:

17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

Notice the phrase, “the unclean thing.” That is the reason we say that the Bible recognizes the need for a separation from sinners and sinful things. There may be a question bothering you. It is, “What am I supposed to do?” How can you possibly live in the world and not have contact with sinners? How can you possibly live in the world and not have contact with sinful things? How could you ever win anyone to Christ if you did not have contact with sinners? That is a good question. I would like for you to turn to I Corinthians, chapter 5, to emphasize that when God said, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate,” He was not suggesting that you have no contact with the unsaved:

I Corinthians 5:

9I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

This sounds as if Paul had written a letter before this one, but he had not. In the original text it is: “I am writing to you in this epistle not to keep company with fornicators.”

Sinners and Sinning Christians

Fornicators are sinners. Fornication is sin, so he said, “Don't keep company with fornicators.” But the Apostle Paul recognized something that ultraseparatists don't recognize, and it is that it is possible for a Christian to be a fornicator. It is possible for a Christian to commit fornication. Now it is one thing for a sinner to commit fornication, but it is quite another thing for a Christian to commit fornication, so Paul said, “I wrote to you not to keep company with fornicators.” Notice verse 10:

I Corinthians 5:

10Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

That is pretty simple, isn't it? He said, “When I write to you not to keep company with fornicators, I am not talking about unsaved people because if I were, you would have to get out of the world.” There is no way in the world you could live on this earth and not have contact with unsaved people who are fornicators. But look at verse 11:

I Corinthians 5:

11But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

What is he saying? Go back to I Corinthians, chapter 6. He is saying, “I want you to separate yourself from sinners. I don't want you to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, but I do not mean by that that you should enter a monastery and never have any contact with unsaved people. I do not mean by that that you should never in any way whatsoever have any contact with those who do not know the Lord.”

Guarding Our Testimony

Then follows another question? “If that is not what he meant, what did he mean? If he says, ‘Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,' if he says, ‘Come out from among them, and be ye separate,' exactly what is he talking about? That is what we want to know.” Let me suggest to you that when the Apostle said, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” according to the grammatical construction, the verse could read, “Stop being unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” You see, it is possible that when you come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are already involved with unbelievers, but the very nature of your new life in Christ will demand that some changes be made. The Apostle said, “Stop it Don't go on in that fashion any longer.”

What does he mean, “Don't be unequally yoked?” Let me suggest to you that the phrase, “Be ye not unequally yoked,” is the translation of one Greek word, and it is used only here in Scripture. It is the Greek word heterosugeo , and it refers to an individual's placing himself under obligation to an unbeliever, an obligation which might be described as intimate and inconsistent with his testimony and unsuitable for a Christian. That is helping a little, isn't it? You see, there is quite a difference between inviting an unsaved man into your home for dinner with the idea of witnessing to him about Christ and making yourself obligated to that same individual in a way that would be inconsistent with your testimony for Christ. There is a vast difference between being kind of a sinner even to the point of helping him with his work or doing something for him because the love of God is in your heart, maybe spending hours with that sinner and entering into some obligatory agreement with him that would cause you to have to touch the unclean thing that would be unsuitable to your relationship with Christ.

The Marriage Relationship

Many preachers use this passage of Scripture as related to the marriage relationship, and it would be good to use it that way because one of the words which describes such a relationship as I am speaking about is the word intimate . Some of you have the Amplified version of the Bible, and if you do, you will recognize that it particularly emphasizes this passage of Scripture as “entering into an alliance inconsistent with your faith.”

How Christian young people today need to be reminded that this is true! It is never wise to enter into an alliance in the marriage relationship which is inconsistent with your faith. Certainly it would be out of reason for a believer to marry an unbeliever, and I personally would never knowingly marry a believer to an unbeliever. It is wise to remember that it is not good to enter into an alliance where there is a difference in the faith, even though the individuals concerned may be believers, unless there is an agreement that the faith difference will be worked out. This is a principle which God has laid down, and we all need to recognize that God's principles are not rules that we can accept or reject. We all need to recognize that God's principles are not things that we can take or leave. He has put them here, and He says that a well rounded life will be based upon those principles.

Now notice verse 17:

II Corinthians 6:

17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

Come Out and Be Ye Separate

Notice the command, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.” That we are not talking about simple contracts becomes more evident when you recognize that the word among is the translation of the Greek word mesou , which means “to be right in the middle of.” You see, it is one thing to have an occasional contact, it is one thing to have a friendly relationship, but it is another thing to be right in the middle of what is going on. Some Christians are so careless about their separation that they are right in the middle of everything that is unsuitable and inconsistent with their relationship with Christ.

The text says, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate,” and that is the word that attracts our attention, the word separate . What does it mean, anyway? To many people the word separate or separation means that you just withdraw completely from everybody and everything and have nothing to do with anyone who does not agree with you or anyone who is not living according to your standards or anyone who is not a born-again believer.

People emphasize that separation in various ways. We sit in criticism on no one; we are simply using some illustrations to indicate the separation. Some womenfolk wear their sleeves down to their wrists. The point I am trying to leave with you is that many people try to regulate separation on the basis of things, not on the basis of Scripture, that they have no testimony before those whom they are trying to reach.

Let me say this one thing: Don't ever laugh at people like that. Don't ever make fun of them. Don't speak critically of them. Perhaps if we had as deep a desire as they do to be pleasing the Lord, we would not find it so easy to laugh at people, even though they may be misdirected, who are making an effort to do what they think is well pleasing to the Lord. You know what the Scripture says you ought to do about people like that? It says you ought to receive them, but not to doubtful disputations (Romans 4:1); you ought to receive them with love and understanding and respect. So don't get so facetious in what you say about folk who want to be separated.

Setting Limits

What does this word separate mean? Let me suggest to you that it is the translation of the Greek word aforisthate , and this word very literally means “to set a boundary,” to set up certain limitations beyond which you will not go— that is separation. You don't go about singing little jingles, “I don't smoke, and I don't chew, and I don't go with those who do. Look how good I am.” You simply, on the basis of the Word of God, set some limitations beyond which you yourself will not go, and when you are invited to go beyond those limitations,it is not necessary for you to turn up your nose and say, “I don't do things like that.” All you need to do is to decline.

If you are pressed for a reason, you can give it; but you yourself are to separate yourself from the sinner and from unclean things by setting the limitations beyond which you will not go. Those limitations are very plainly given in the Word of God.

A separated life—what does it mean? It means not to be separated on the basis of things, but to consider certain areas in which separation is demanded in the Scripture. Examine the areas, then set the limitations as far as you yourself are concerned, and take your stand and stand, even if you are the only person in the whole world who does.

Avoid a Martyr's Attitude

I want to suggest to you that if you have not lived long enough to find out, you will find out, that there will be times when you have to stand alone. Don't make yourself a martyr; that just makes you unattractive. Don't even go around saying, “I am the only one who has to do this sort of thing.” Don't even mention it. You set the limitations, and by God's grace that is where you stand. If folk don't want to stand with you, don't condemn them. That is between them and the Lord. If they set their boundaries farther back than you set yours, let them; it is none of your business. Your responsibility is to set your boundaries in accordance with the Scripture.

Don't you criticize someone else if he has set his boundaries too close. I am a bit concerned about the spirit of levity that is abroad in our day when an individual has his boundaries a little bit narrow. People laugh at him. Even Christians make fun of him and accuse him of a lot of things that aren't true. Set your boundaries, and by God's grace, stand.


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