Separation from Worldliness
According to John 15:19, the believer is IN the world, but ought not to be OF the world, because the Lord has chosen us OUT of the world. Separation does not mean we must move into a compound or hide from everyone who is unsaved! The Lord has set us free from our old masters (the world, the flesh, and the devil) and has given us the power to live a life of righteousness that honors and pleases Him. So why should we desire to remain attached to the world system from which we have been delivered? John commands us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…” (1 John 2:15). The “world” is the ungodly world system in which we live. As citizens of heaven, we must not become attached to the things of the world nor gain affinity for the world’s ideas, philosophies, and programs that oppose God’s Word. John goes on to give three reasons for our separation from the world in 1 John 2:15-17.
Because of it’s Opposition to the Father
“…If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Love for the world is incompatible with love for God. The world system is at war with God and with His followers (see John 15:18-20). “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) The Bible makes it clear that we cannot love the world system and simultaneously live for God. Scripture gives us many principles to discern what is worldly so that we can please God with our lives.
Because of it’s Offers
Verse 16 effectively describes the nature of the world’s offers: “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.” Peter clearly commands us to separate from the ways of the world which characterized our lives prior to salvation, “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:” (1 Peter 1:14).
Because of it’s Outcome
“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” The world is only temporary. The pleasures of sin are only for a season (see Hebrews 11:24-25). Our lives should reflect this spiritual priority of striving for eternal rewards.
Separation from False Teachers
Usually this area is the easiest for believers to be obedient. We automatically know not to invite the local Jehovah’s Witness leaders to speak for our revival meetings! Sometimes the right action is not so obvious. Consider the following key New Testament passages about false teaching.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
All believers are commanded: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” Instead of coming into close partnerships with the lost, we are to “come out from among them” and be separate. Any religious or spiritual endeavor (worship, evangelism, prayer, etc.) with those who have rejected Biblical truth or who preach a false gospel is a direct violation of this Biblical commandment of separation. In 1 Corinthians 7:1, Paul tells us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh (carnal, physical sins) and also from all filthiness of the spirit (spiritual infidelity by uniting with unbelievers).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” We must not only separate from unbelief, but we must also sound a warning to others who might subtly be drawn into the apostasy so prevalent today.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Notice that Bible doctrine is the dividing line. Those who do not teach true doctrine are to be “marked,” or noted, and “avoided.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5
Paul describes the actions and attitudes of evil men and false teachers and warns Timothy that even though they possess “a form of godliness,” they actually deny the power of God and the gospel message. The believer’s response to these proud, conceited apostates should be to “turn away” from them.
All who preach a false gospel are under the curse of God, and believers are commanded to refrain from any fellowship with them. The very fact that they have perverted the true gospel means that believers are to “let them be accursed.” We are to separate from false teachers and their false teachings.
From the Apostle John
The entire first epistle of John informs believers that one of the primary ways they can abide in Christ is to watch out for false teachers and “try the spirits” to see whether or not they are truly of God (1 John 2:18-20; 4:1-5). In his second epistle, he commands us to separate from false teachers (2 John 7-11). Those who accommodated the false teachers were described as being “partakers” of their evil deeds. In the book of Revelation, John records Jesus Christ Himself commending several churches for separating from false teachers and rebuking several other churches for failing to separate from dangerous false doctrines (Revelation 2:1-3:22).
Separation from Brethren
We are living in an ecumenical age where all religions and branches of Christendom are coming together in religious unity. When Bible believers refuse to have any part with the World Council of Churches, or fellowship with non-Baptist religious groups, or even work together with other Baptists, they are often called “narrow-minded,” “unloving,” “extremists,” etc. Yet the Bible clearly states that we are to separate even from fellow brethren when they fail to heed and obey the Word of God.
Some brethren embrace those who teach false doctrine. Others possess an affinity for the world and seek to employ ideas and philosophies of the world in their lives and ministries. Some actually embrace and teach false doctrine. Others repudiate certain Biblical doctrines such as separation from error and false teachers. In each case, the fellow believer is compromising the truth and failing to heed the Word of God. To separate does not mean to act in an unkind or unloving manner toward the offending brethren or to refuse to speak to them or have anything to do with them. Rather, it means we must not associate ourselves with their ministries or their ministry endeavors. We must make sure that others know we are not identified with the doctrine they teach or with the philosophy of ministry to which they subscribe.
Paul commanded the Thessalonian believers to “withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). How were these brethren walking disorderly? They were not obeying the tradition, that is, the words and inspired writings of the apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Paul writes, “And if any man obey not our word by his epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15). Those fellow believers who do not obey the Scriptures are to be marked and avoided (see Romans 16:17).
1. Maintenance of church purity. 1 Corinthians 5 presents a case-study. Paul charged them “not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or coveteous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (1 Corinthians 5:11). Whether this individual is a sinning believer or an unsaved pretender, the command is the same – “purge out therefore the old leaven” (1 Corinthians 5:7), that is, separate from him. When such church discipline is not enforced, unconfessed and unforsaken sin in the fellowship will harm and corrupt others (1 Corinthians 5:5-7). God has ordained separation in order to stem the leavening, spreading influence of sin.
2. Restoration of a disobedient brother. Unless the errant believer is rebuked according to God’s Word, he might continue his sin indefinitely. Separation should make the disobedient brother “ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:14). He is not an enemy, nor should he be treated as such (2 Thessalonians 3:15. One purpose for our separation from him is to bring him to a place of repentance and restoration (see Galatians 6:1).
3. Reception of a full reward. Believers should obey God’s Word and separate from disobedient brethren in order to receive a “full reward” at the appearing of Jesus Christ (2 John 8; see also 2 Timothy 2:5). It is possible for a disobedient Christian to lose reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ due to his compromised fellowships while on earth (1 Corinthians 3:13-15; Revelation 3:11). Anytime a believer is identified with any religious activity that it is not true to God’s Word, he will meet with God’s disapproval.
4. Consistency in the midst of theological confusion. As the promoter of confusion about God’s Word, Satan is busy sowing falsehood in churches today. A separated believer can maintain a strong, consistent testimony in the midst of the confusion of our day. “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).