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BE YE SEPARATE
“Wherefore, come ye 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 Cor. 6:17–18)
THE CALLED OUT
This call to leave the world occurs in one of the primary passages of the New Testament teaching the Christian doctrine of separation. The complete passage runs from 2 Cor. 6:14 through 7:1. Here we learn that the life in Christ, the life of a Christian, is a new life and it is essentially a separated life. The Christian doctrine of separation is a part of a doctrine of sanctification. Those who are called in Christ to be sons and daughters of God Almighty are called to live a holy life. “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.” (2 Cor. 7:1) Holiness is essentially separation.
In the Old Testament that which was holy was separated from common use. It was set apart and dedicated to God. This is because God is holy and the world is evil; God is righteous and the world is unrighteous. The sentence which I have just read is a quotation from the Old Testament which Paul applies in principle to the Christian life. “Come ye out from among them” was addressed by God to ancient Israel and it was applied by Paul to the Christians of his day. It must then be equally applicable to the Christians of our day. It is a call of God to separation. There is a distinct and holy character to the Christian life which must be apparent and discernible to all men. The sons of God are to be recognized by the life they live. The Christian life is distinctive and separate from the life of the world.
This line of demarcation is almost wiped out today. This has not come at once. In the 19th century the brilliant Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuiper, wrote a pamphlet entitled “The Disappearing Boundary.” In it he pointed out that in the western nations the line of demarcation between the Church and the world was disappearing. Christians were beginning to live and act like the people of the world, and Abraham Kuiper said that this would be fatal for the witness of the Church. He pointed out that Christianity would lose its influence unless it retained its distinctiveness.
This was written 75 years ago and today we see how prophetic was this insight. Writers and theologians are now speaking of our age as the post--Christian era in the western world. It is imperative therefore, that those of us who call ourselves Christians examine the teaching of the Bible about Christian separation.
TO GOD’S PEOPLE
“Come ye out from among them and be ye separate,” saith the Lord. This is addressed to all those who confess Jesus Christ as their Savior. It is categorical and peremtory. It is like the call to Lot to come out of Sodom, and like the call to Israel to come out of Egypt. It was repeated again and again by the prophets as they spoke to Israel. When Joshua, late in life, saw the decline of religion and morality in Israel, because they began to conform to the pagans around them in the land of Canaan, he called the people together and said, “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt.”
A few centuries later when Israel again fell into idolatry, Elijah the fearless prophet of God, called the nation together and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21)
This call to separation addressed to Israel in the Old Testament rings through all the pages of the New Testament. It is central in the message of Jesus to His disciples. “No man can serve two masters.” “If a man would come after Me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” “No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
ONE OR THE OTHER
It was not only Paul who addressed it to the Church. It is found in all the apostles. Here it is in John — “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, for if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Or Peter, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) James is even more forceful. “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.” (James 4:4)
We have lost the force of this call to separation for several reasons. For one thing, it has not always been rightly applied. There are some who have used this as a call to come out of the church. I do not say that it is sinful to leave a denomination if you do not agree with its doctrine or practice, and I recognize that sometimes it may be necessary to leave a church where the Gospel is not truly preached, but my only point is that we cannot use this verse to defend that practice.
But there is a deeper reason why we have lost the force of it. This is because we have played down in our day the evil in the world. We have been victimized by a false doctrine of the nature of man. We have been told blandly that man is inherently good and that the world is not evil, or at least not very bad. When the Bible warns us against love of the world or calls us to forsake the world, it means the world is estranged and separated from God, and this world is evil. The Christian call to separation, therefore, is to separation from the world. “Come out from among them, and be ye separate” means to come out of the world. There is a kingdom of light and a kingdom of darkness, a kingdom of Christ and a kingdom of Satan, and you are either in one or the other. “No man can serve two masters.”
SEPARATED FROM WHAT?
The love of God and the love of the world are mutually exclusive. This is the reason a Christian cannot mix in the world. There is something wholly incompatible here. Listen to this series of contrasts which Paul uses as he writes to the Christians of the first century. “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?” The Christian lives by a different standard of conduct than the non-Christian. The non-Christian lives either by the normal standards of society, or violating these, he lives by his own evil desires. The Christian does neither. He lives every day by the standard of conduct which God has laid down before him.
The standard of society is a fluctuating standard and right now it is going down fast. It probably was never as low as it is now, at least in the Christian era. A society that winks at stealing and lying, if you can get away with it, and a society that has made chastity a subject of ridicule, and where the name of God and of Jesus Christ is used in profanity more than it is in prayer, has fallen about as low as it can. In this kind of world our Christian separation consists in the fact that we live in obedience to the will of God. This is spelled out for us in the Sermon on the Mount, in the ethical sections of the New Testament letters to the churches. Here are the moral and ethical principles by which we set the pattern of our conduct.
This is the call of God to us today if we confess Jesus Christ as our Savior. “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.” Separate yourself from the profanity, the indecency, the promiscuity, and the dishonesty so prevalent in modern society. Christian separation is separation of character and conduct. But it is more. It is not merely negative, it is primarily positive. It is not only separation from the world; it is a separation to God. The Christian makes the law of God and the teaching of Christ the pattern of his conduct, but he does more. He sets his affection on God instead of on the world. He has found a new life and a new affection.
We fail to observe this positive factor in separation because we stop in the middle of a sentence. We quote the first part of it “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing,” and then stop. But we must read it all. Listen to the rest of the sentence, “and I will receive you and will be to you a Father and you shall be to Me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” This is the promise of God. Paul then adds, “Having therefore, these promises beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Separation is not negative, but positive. It is not only separation from the world; it is separation to God. It is not separation to solitude, but to a new and higher society. For this reason, we as Christians must meet together. This is why the writer to the Hebrews wrote to the Christians of his day “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.” We must meet together, for in this new society we are strengthened in our purpose to live a holy and righteous life.
But most of all, we must meet God; meet Him in the fellowship of His people; meet Him in His Word; meet Him at the table of our Lord Jesus Christ in the blessed sacrament of His presence; meet Him in prayer. “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.” Turn your back to the world, but in doing so remember that you are turning your face toward God in Jesus Christ. Here you will find a joy and peace that the world never gave you. Amen.
—From a Sermon by Henry Bast
Justifying faith is a saving grace wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the Gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and His righteousness, therein held forth for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van woensdag 1 mei 1968
The Banner of Truth | 20 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van woensdag 1 mei 1968
The Banner of Truth | 20 Pagina's