I am not a separatist by heritage or tradition. Growing up in the Southern Baptist Convention, I knew nothing about separation, either ecclesiastical separation or separation from the world. And as a student at Tennessee Temple in the 1970s, I was not taught much about ecclesiastical separation. It was not something that was emphasized.
I learned a testing mindset from the man who led me to Christ in 1973. He bought me a King James Bible and a Strong’s Concordance and taught me to study the Bible and to test everything by it according to Acts 17:11 and 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
I learned separation from the world as a young Christian coming out of a hippie lifestyle. As I studied God’s Word and sat under sound preaching and as I walked with Christ and pursued His will, the Lord dealt with me about putting away the former lusts and not loving the world. I put off things pertaining to the “old man” such as filthy language, stealing, wasting time, unwholesome movies, rock & roll, and my long hair.
I learned the first steps of ecclesiastical separation in the first church I joined in Bartow, Florida. It was loosely affiliated with the General Association of Regular Baptists and I was helped by some of their literature on separation, particularly the pamphlet “A Limited Message or a Limited Fellowship.” The author, David Nettleton, had been a youth minister in an evangelical context and had learned that he had to make a choice either to limit his message for the sake of a broader ministry, or he had to limit his fellowship for the sake of standing for the whole counsel of God. He showed that it is impossible to care about all of the counsel of God and also have an ecumenical mindset. These two principles are diametrically opposed to one another, and a choice must be made.
I further learned ecclesiastical separation from early experiences as a missionary in South Asia. For the first couple of years I affiliated loosely with evangelicals, and even charismatics to some extent, and I learned that without separation you cannot maintain a solid biblical ministry.
If you have a “broad tent” philosophy and work with men who are not likeminded, one of two things will happen. Either you will compromise your own spiritual and doctrinal convictions for the sake of getting along, or you will cause trouble. The latter is what happened in my case. Because I had strong Bible convictions and I was not inclined to ignore error, I tended to get into conflict with the other men over biblical issues. I created a conflict when I learned that one of the pastors of the national Christian fellowship was a polygamist with three wives and that the rest of the pastors were willing to support this disobedience. I created a conflict when I learned that the head of that fellowship sold semi-pornographic material in his bookstore and justified it with the argument that you couldn’t make any money from Christian literature. I created a conflict when I learned that the Bible Society had published a Today’s English Version equivalent New Testament in the national language.
The only way that I could have gotten along and avoided these conflicts would have been to keep my mouth shut, which would have been a compromise of my Bible-taught spiritual convictions. When you do that, you are on a path of ever-increasing compromise and the loss of spiritual conviction and power.
I broke fellowship with the evangelical crowd and have never sought to rebuild that bridge. In fact, the more I have learned about modern evangelicalism, the farther I have distanced myself from it.
Therefore, I am not a separatist by heritage or tradition. I am a separatist because I see separation taught in God’s Word and I have learned that it is an important part of the Christian life ministry.
SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD AND EVIL
Romans 12:2 - “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Romans 12:9 - “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.”
1 Corinthians 5:11 - “But 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.”
1 Corinthians 10:21-22 - “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?”
1 Corinthians 15:33-34 - “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 - “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And 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. 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 ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
2 Corinthians 7:1 - “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Galatians 6:14 - “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
Ephesians 5:3-8 - “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”
Ephesians 5:11 - “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
1 Thessalonians 5:22 - “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
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.”
James 4:4 - “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
1 Peter 2:11 - “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”
1 Peter 4:1-4 - “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.”
1 John 2:15-17 - “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. 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. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
Revelation 2:20-23 - “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.”
SEPARATION FROM ERROR
Matthew 7:15-23 - “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Matthew 24:4-5 - “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”
Acts 20:28-30 - “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
Romans 16:17-18 - “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
2 Corinthians 11:1-4 - “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
2 Corinthians 11:12-15 - “But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
Colossians 2:6 - “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
1 Timothy 4:7 - “But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.”
1 Timothy 6:3-5 - “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
2 Timothy 2:16-21 - “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:5 - “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
Titus 1:9-12 - “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”
Titus 3:9-11 - “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”
1 John 4:1 - “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
2 John 1:8-11 - “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
Jude 1:3 - “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
Revelation 2:2 - “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.”
Revelation 2:14-16 - “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
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