Biblical Separation2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1Theme: Purity.This week’s lessons teach us the cost of holiness.
LessonThese matters of the unity of the church should be wrestled through carefully. A congregation must ask the question, “When must a congregation that wants to remain faithful to Scripture separate from a denomination, which, in its judgment, is not being faithful to Scripture?”
This question does not concern what individuals are to do. Today people drift around from church to church, never settling down. I think that is a great mistake. Since we do not have a situation in which we can say, “This denomination is the one, true church,” I advise people to seek out the most Bible-based, effective church they can find and plunge in. Be a part of its ministry, regardless of what denomination it may be.
However, the decision of which church to join is a different matter. This passage prompts us to ask the question, “When must we separate?” Though we may desire to stay and bear a witness even in a less than desirable situation, when is it no longer possible to remain and at the same time be faithful to God? The answer some have come up with is that it occurs at two points.
The first point is when the denomination of which you are a part has so fallen away from Christian truth that it takes a position that is contrary to the essentials of the Gospel and can no longer truly be called a Christian denomination. That would put a denomination in the category of 2 Corinthians 6 because it would then be a case of a church controlled by unbelievers, even though true believers may still linger on in such a situation.
Secondly, separation is necessary when a denomination requires individuals or congregations to do something, which, in their judgment, they find to be contrary to the Word of God.
You have to be careful in both of those situations. One problem in this matter of separation is that people justify their own willfulness using terms like “apostasy” and say, “We had to leave because it was not a true church anymore.” You have to be very careful when you level that charge. Christians do err; however, error itself is not apostasy. Apostasy exists when a church takes a stand that is contrary to the Scripture, especially when it is contrary to that which Scripture says is essential to salvation. This would involve such matters as a denial of the Incarnation, the vicarious Atonement, the Resurrection, or such things. The difficulty is that very few churches do that. Usually they retain the language, but the meaning of the words begins to change until eventually they have become something completely different from what Scripture teaches.
You must be very careful when you say a denomination is apostate or is requiring its people to do something contrary to the Word of God. Who is to say that your particular interpretation of Scripture, especially if it is a minor point, is right, and the view of the denomination of which you are a part is wrong? That is something you have to search through carefully before God.
To summarize this first principle regarding separation where it involves people, there is to be separation between Christians and unbelievers, not between Christians and other Christians. The only possible exception is other Christians’ putting us in a situation where we must obey God rather than man.
The second principle is that separation is to be unto God before it involves separation from either people or things. This is in the text as well, because what Paul is talking about here is our being temples of the living God. In verse 16 God says, “I will live with them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Before we think of separating, whether it is separation from other people whom we judge to be non-Christians or a separation from things that we judge to be antithetical to our Christian profession, there must be a separation unto God.
If we forget that God calls us to be separated unto him, we become narrow, critical, self-righteous, and judgmental where other people are concerned. That is why Scripture states that separation is to be a setting apart unto God.
According to Dr. Boice, what are the two criteria for discerning when it is time to leave a particular church?
What makes a church apostate?
What is the second principle of biblical separation?
ReflectionWhat motivates you to separate from certain people or practices, i.e., what is it you are hoping to accomplish by separating? Is it self-improvement or pleasing God?