Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
"I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Therefore, go out from their midst, and be seperate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,
and I will be father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 6:14 - 7:1)
The doctrine of seperation does not have a very illustrious past. It has been abused by fundamentalists and ignored by neo-Evangelicals. In this pertinent times in the last days, it is imperative that we recover a proper biblical perspective of seperation, and implement it. Between the seperatism of persent-day Fundamentalism and the ecumenism of Neo-evangelicalism, the cause of Christ and the Gospel has suffered tremendously. If we are to glorify God in our dealings with others (both believers and unbelievers), we must come to know and embrace the biblical doctrine of seperation.
So, what is the doctrine of seperation? The doctrine of seperation is basically the doctrine that tells us how we are to behave when relating to unbelievers and compromising believers, and seperate from them if the need arises. For this doctrine, let us first look at the principle text of 2 Cor. 6:14 - 7:1.
The first thing that we are to establish from this text is that the entire doctrine of seperation is based on a desire of holiness in the fear of God (7:1). It is because God is holy that the doctrine of seperation should be taken seriously and implemented. Closely linked to this is of course the fear of God. Only a person who fears God will obey Him when He commands us to "Be holy, as I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). Consequently, non-implementation of this doctrine shows a lack of the fear of God in the lives of the individuals and churches who do not so implement this doctrine.
Now, this passage definitely does apply to holy living. In 6: 14b-15a, we are told that light and darkness should not mix, nor Christ and Belial (or Satan). Throughout the passage, everything which is mentioned is definitely consistent with the notion of holy living, and we ARE to live lives holy and seperate from the world for God. However, is that all there is to this passage, as neo-Evangelicals would have us believe?
In 6:14a and 15b, we are told that we believers are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. An obvious application would be in marriage. However, it goes beyond that to the area of ministry also. The words 'partnership' and 'yoked' suggest coorperation in working towards a common goal. And the terms 'temple of God' and 'idols' in verse 16 shows even further that we believers are NOT to be involved with unbelievers in any form of Christian ministry. This is further seen also in 2 Jn. 10-11 whereby we are not to allow non-Christians into our homes to teach or instruct us. Primary seperation from heretics and blasphemers is therefore demanded of all Christians, and is the first part of the doctrine of seperation. For far too many post-evangelicals, this doctrine has even been neglected, and that's why people have no problem with working with i.e. anti-Trinitarian heretics such as the Saballian 'Bishop' T.D. Jakes.
The epitome of the outworking of primary or first-degree seperation is in the example of national Israel during the OT times. Throughout the OT, Israel was to be seperate from the other nations in her national identity, her ethinicity, her religion (e.g. Deut. 7:1-5, Ez. 9), and her customs and practices (whole book of Lev.). Of course, such seperateness was necessary for the preservation of the purity of the faith until the first advent of Christ and the establishment of the Church, and the preservation of the bloodline of Jesus to be within that of the covenantal family. With regards to the issue of seperation, however, there are lessons that could be learned from Israel's example. We as the Church, spiritual Israel, are similarly a people who are set apart by God for Him (1 Peter 2:9-10). Similar to OT Israel, we are to seperate from unbelievers in order to preserve our distinct identity from the world. Between us and unbelievers, our beliefs are different, there should be no intermarriage between us and them (unless the person is converted after marriage — 1 Cor. 7:10-16), and our practices and customs are different from the world. Similar to Israel, we are to seperate from heretics and blasphemers also, as how the prophets seperated from the false prophets (i.e. of Baal).
First-degree seperation also involved seperation from those who are disobedient towards God in situations such as belivers in a serious state of sin, or even in embrace of serious doctrinal error.
At least some neo-evangelicals do practice seperation from unrepentant sinners, following the example of the Corinthian church in 1 Cor. 5:1-13 to purge the evil within her by excercising church discipline against the unrepentant immoral sinner. However, for the more serious crime of serious doctrinal error, churches tend to be more 'forgiving'. This, however, should not be the case, as doctrinal error is actually more serious than moral error, since doctrinal errors, especially serious ones, damn the soul and whoever believes it (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Thess 2:11-12; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 18-22; 1 Jn. 2:4). Of course, moral corruption could be evidence of an unregenerate heart and thus the sinner is damned, but the act itself is not damning per se. Furthermore, compared with moral corruption, spiritual corruption is less easily identifiable (our conscience warns us against immorality — Rom. 2:15), and therefore we should be sterner against those who are in serious doctrinal error, especially if they are in a position of leadership within the body of Christ.
The doctrine of first-degree seperation having thus been established, we shall now look at the more controversial one — the doctrine of second-degree seperation.
[to be continued]