This is a topic that seems to not be well understood by the average Christian today. However, to be an effective disciple and walk the control of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis it is extremely important to understand biblical separation.
AN UNPOPULAR DECISION
We learn from the New Testament that the Disciple of Christ has to sometimes take an unpopular stand by separating from sinning believers, false religious teachers and worldliness. When being obedient in this area disciples are often criticized, made to feel guilty and unloving. Often carnal Christians as well as the lost of the world reject the stance that must be taken in obedience to the Word of God and will themselves separate from the obedient believer. (Luke 6:22)
HELPING OTHERS THROUGH SEPARATION
Galatians 6:1 requires the spiritual believer to attempt to help those who are taken in sin. But if there is no repentance [I John 1:9] and having fulfilled Galatians 6:1 and Matthew 18:15-17 then separation is called for by the Bible. Caution: this is not to be done quickly or without loving care having been extended with the balance of Scripture in view.. The “facts” of the situation must be first clearly established in order to not falsely accuse a brother or sister in Christ. The investigation of facts must be accomplished without spreading gossip, etc. and wrongly hurting the testimony of the believer who may be found not to have acted in an unbiblical manner. (Proverbs 6:16-19) Again, this will be an unpopular position and Satan will work against it with all the power he can bring against the stand and the obedient disciple(s) who are following the Bible. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
THE FATHER’ S WILL
Inasmuch as separation must not be attempted without an understanding of the Father’s will, the engaged disciple(s) must begin with prayer, the Word of God and a review of one’s own life. (Matthew 6:10; I John 1:9; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:1-2; I John 1:9; 5:14-15)
Further the disciple must also recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to accomplish the Father’s wail and it is He who lives within us, continuing to complete the Father’s will through the power of the Holy Spirit. (John 6:35-40;Ephesians 5:18; Philippians 2:12-14; Matthew28:18-20; Acts 1:8; John 13:34-35)
Separation falls into the area of obedience to God’s Word with reference practical sanctification. In this area the disciple is challenged by God to carry out His will as clearly established in His Word. This would fall into the category of “doing good works”even if it might not seem like it because of the stress that is often involved with others. This also involves righteousness or living in a correct biblical way rather than sinning. (Romans 6:15-22; I Peter 1:13-16; Matthew 5:16)
THIS DISCIPLE’S LIFE MUST BE CLEAN
We know that all sin from time to time and that God is extremely patient with us by allowing the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to give us the opportunity to confess our sin. (I John 1:9) Upon true repentance and confession of sin we then feel periods of conscious sinlessness in our daily lives.
KEY: We initiate and express holiness of life by separating ourselves from that which is morally unlike God. How it is done is also clear from God’s Word. We set ourselves [a decision is required on our part] apart unto Him and His will through prayer, fasting and study of the Word of God. When carried out in this manner it allows God to manifest Himself through our lives for His use. (II Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1); Philippians 2:12-13)
PERSONAL SEPARATON REQUIRED
So, again we are looking at our responsibility to separate from:
- Sinning disciples who are in rebellion to God’s Word. This includes not carrying out God’s commands, attempting to operate in our own strength in violation of Ephesians 5:18 and without the armor of God, etc.
- False religious teachers who are not teaching the whole counsel of God by adding to or taking away from the Word of God.
- True disciples violating I John 2:15-17.
- The unsaved person who professes to know Christ but lives in continuing sin after making a profession. The reality of a new life in Christ is exposed as false by the actions of their life in Christ is exposed as false by the actions of their life. (II Corinthians 5:17) This is where Galatians 6:1 again enters into the situation and love of the disciple’s love for the lost is demonstrated. (John 3:16)
PERSONAL SIN MUST BE DEALT WITH
The disciple of Christ is called upon by God to Separate themselves from Personal sin. (Colossians 3:8; I Timothy 5:22; 6:11)
How this is to be accomplished is given to us by the Word of God.
A. By cleansing ourselves from sin’s defilement. (2 Corinthians 7:1;cp. Revelation 2;5; I John 1:9)
B. By refusing to submit to sin’s demands. (Romans 6:11-13; Colossians 3:5; I Peter 1:13-16)
C. By avoiding sinful practices. (Ephesians 5:11; Colossians 3:5-6; I Thessalonians 4:3-7; 5:22; 2 Timothy 2:22; I Peter 2:11-12)
The old nature will often cause us to:
A. Want to mis-direct this truth by tempting the disciple to look at and judge others and their sin. However, to accomplish what God wants the disciple must look into the mirror of God’s Word [James 1:22-25], asking the Holy Spirit to reveal their violations of God’s Word.
B. Rationalize sin by convincing the disciple that their sin is not so terrible, it’s others sin that needs to be taken care of, not their own.
C. That God understands their weaknesses and will not judge them.
D. Think that they have all kinds of time and do not have to deal with their sin the Holy Spirit convicts them. However, “today” is God’s expectation. The life of the disciple could be cut short [I Corinthians 11:30] because they have forced God to judge their sin in lieu of judging their own sin.
The disciple should be reminded that life is like a vapor and could disappear at any moment [James 4:14]. No believer wants to appear before Christ with unconfessed sin in their lives.
God is very concerned with personal sin in the life of a believer and so should the true disciple of Christ have the same concern. Read Colossians 3 to get God’s mind about personal sin.
Rev. Tom Shelton