"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing;..." II Cor. 6:17). From the very beginning of time God warned His people to separate themselves from evil. Not only were they to not become engulfed in evil, they were not even to touch it. In the Garden of Eden God warned Adam and Eve of the danger of becoming involved in sin. In reference to the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil that was in the midst of the garden, God said, "...Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die" (Gen. 3:3).
Separate means to be unconnected, not united, or distinct. If we want to follow Jesus, we must fry to do as He did. Jesus was "...holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, . . ." (Heb. 7:26).
Because Satan knows that he can cause confusion in the hearts and minds of man by encouraging God's people to ignore the admonishment to live a separated, sanctified life, he has tried to deny the value of separation. He even goes so far as to say that God does not tell the truth about separation. Satan told Eve, ". . .Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:4-5).
Since that time mankind has been engaged in a baffle to understand the consequences of separation or lack of separation from the world. At various times in their history, the children of Israel ignored God's warning to be separate from the world. They moved into the cities of heathen, became very involved in their businesses and even married into their families.
Many of the children of Israel married into heathen families. Many times those who married heathens began to worship the gods of their spouses. This brought reproach to the children of Israel and caused great distress. At the time of Ezra, those who had done so were commanded to ". . . separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives" (Ez. 10:11). Jeremiah also warned the children of Israel of the dangers of intermingling ". . .in the assembly of the mockers . . ." (Jer. 15:17). If they would return to the Lord "...and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, . . ." (Jer. 15:19), the Lord would deliver them out of the hands of the wicked.
When there was strife between the herdsmen of Lot and Abram, Lot was given the opportunity to choose whether he would go to the right hand or to the left. Lot chose to go to the well watered plains in the direction of Sodom. It was a decision that would cause him to intermingle with those of Sodom who ". . .were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly" (Gen. 13:13). It was a decision that would bring much sorrow into Lot's life. He would ultimately lose everything except his two daughters and the clothes they were wearing at the time they were led away from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Separation from evil is especially important in the house of God. The Lord has instructed us in many places to remove evil from among us. We are to examine our selves first (I Cor. 11:28). In Matthew 18 we are given clear instruction on how to re move evil that might come between us and our brother. After self-examination we should go to our brother ". . .and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: . ., if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that . . .every word may be established. And if he neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: But if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an hea then man and a publican" (Verses 15-17).
The Apostle Paul wrote that "...ye with draw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly,..." (II Thess. 3:6) and "... have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph. 5:11). Other scriptural warnings to separate ourselves from evil include "...avoid them . . ." (Ro. 16:17), ". .not to keep company..., with such an one, no, not to eat" (I Cor. 5:11), ". . .withdraw thy self' (I Tim. 6:5), ". . .from such turn away" (II Tim. 3:5), and "...neither bid him God speed" (II Jn. 10).
In spite of all the warnings to separate ourselves from evil and those who are involved in evil, God's love must continue in our lives toward those who have fallen. We are instructed to "... count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (II Thess. 3:15). The ultimate goal of all of this is that the wayward individual may be brought back to the Lord.
In a world so filled with sin, how do we maintain separation? Jesus, in the parable of the tares sowed by an enemy, told us that there would be times when we could not totally remove ourselves physically from all evil. When the servant asked if they should go and gather up the tares the master said "Let them both grow together until the harvest ...and bind (the tares) in bundles to burn them: . . ." (Mt. 13:28-30).
Although we may not be able to completely and physically separate ourselves from evil, we do not need to allow our selves to be spiritually unprotected. We can learn from Peter's example after Christ's arrest. Peter wanted desperately to do the right thing. He kept himself some what separated from the world as they took Jesus to His trial, but Peter made a very serious mistake. He allowed himself to get too far from Jesus. "And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: . . ." (Mk. 14:54). Peter allowed enough space between himself and Jesus to allow Satan to get between them. He tried but failed to keep his promise of faithfulness.
If we want to be separated from the world, we must stay close to Jesus. We cannot always avoid contact with the world but we can avoid being involved in the sin. The Psalmist recognized the progression of evil into the lives of one who may be careless. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful" (Ps. 1:1). Satan would like us to walk with sinners, stand with them and, finally, sit with them. Jesus did not avoid contact with sinners but he did not allow himself to become a part of their activities. If we stay close to Jesus, He will keep us safe from harm.
The Silver Lining, Published by the Apostolic Christian Church, Written by an editorial committee of elder brothers. September 2003
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