The Mandate and Basis of Biblical Separation
"How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" [John 5:44]
The verse above marks out a very important contrast within the framework of our new lives as Christians. That contrast has to do with glory, both the origin of it and the final direction of it as well. Jesus makes it obvious that as those who claim Him we cannot continue to receive glory from man, nor are we to glory in man. All that we now are, now possess and now live must be centered in the Person of Jesus Christ. Notice the statement above is a question, "How can you believe?" Jesus could have just as easily said, "You cannot believe provided you continue to give glory to man."
Biblical separation speaks of the things, times, places and people God has called His true sons and daughters to separate themselves from. As His children we have been literally transferred from the kingdom of darkness into His kingdom of light and therefore are required by God to exhibit what He has done through the everyday choices we all make. One of these choices is to separate ourselves from various adverse influences that fail to give God His rightful glory.
The idea of separation can be traced all the way back to Eden itself where God Himself said to the serpent after tempting Eve to disobey Him;
"I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman (spiritual Israel), and between your seed (the devils children) and her seed (Christ); He (Jesus) shall bruise you on the head, and you (Satan) shall bruise him (Jesus) on the heel." [Genesis 3:15]
The verse above is both literal and figurative. The verse lays out the inevitable consequence of Satan's deception of the first human beings and the war that would now rage throughout mankind's stay upon this earth. The primary combatants are of course God (in the Person of Jesus Christ) and Satan, as well as those who encompass both of these spiritual families. Although there is much more here, for our purpose in this study let's look at what God promised to satan as a result of his deception of Eve- "I will put enmity…"
Most people today, if they actually believe in a literal God and devil are convinced they are adversaries. They usually treat the devil as some funny joker who tempts people to do evil and selfish things. If this isn't bad enough, they treat God with equal disdain and irreverance, fearing little if at all the consequences of sin or His soon coming judgment. What might be the proof of the latter? Is it not the enmity God has put between God's own children and the devils children.
Their are various "fruits" that God's true children exemplify and these are little appreciated by those in Satan's service. Note that although one must only be born physically to enter into Satan's spiritual family, God's children must be born spiritually (born again) in order to enter into or "see" God's kingdom. The primary fruit of a true child of God is obedience unto Him. God makes commands that His children must obey, one of which is to "preach the gospel" to any and all people upon the earth. This gospel is indeed "good news," but a proper explanation of the gospel does not exclude telling others they are sinful people and are therefore at enmity with God. There is a very real hatred between these two parties. You can be a live witness to this fact regularly by just telling sinners they are bound toward a very literal hell if they refuse to repent of their sins. The response you receive is "proof" of the enmity God has placed between believers and those yet to believe.
As we have noted, both God and Satan are rulers of two separate and distinct kingdoms. Each kingdom not only has a ruler, each has children and each has a purpose for which it exists. Here are a few of the characteristics of each kingdom:
GOD'S KINGDOM Satan's Kingdom
Must be born into it Must simply be born human
Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water (natural birth) and the Spirit (spiritual birth) he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" [John 3:5, 6]
Is lived by the Spirit (is alive) Is lived in the flesh (is dead)
Is peaceful Is hostile (has enmity)
Deny's self Lives for self
Giving Greedy for gain
Rejoice always Complain
Speaks truth Rejects truth
Loves regardless Loves conditionally
Please God Please men
Powerfull Power of deception
The Purpose of Two Kingdoms
What is the ultimate purpose of these two distinct and separate kingdoms? Is the end goal merely the salvation of men or does God have a greater end in sight?
Because of the fallen nature of sinful mankind, we are easily convinced that God's ultimate aim is about us. We would convince ourselves that God is somehow needy, lives to make us happy or that He can't live without us. We have learned to place an undue and unwarranted value upon ourselves as if we were or are the center of His attention or universe. How deceived we've become. Contrary to this false and selfish evaluation of ourselves is the truth:
"I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images." [Isaiah 42:8]
"Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made' [Isaiah 43:7]
"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" [1 Corinthians 10:31]
When Jesus walked this earth He said, "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him" [John 7:16-18]
"And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him" [John 8:29]
The whole of God's grand design in humanity is to bring glory unto Himself. In God's mercy He has chosen to include us in this particular calling through grace. It is imperative we never lose sight of this or allow anything or anyone else to cloud our perspective of this great truth. God in His wisdom has not only created His adversary the devil, He has allowed him to rebel against Him even to the point of tempting God's own creation of humans to sin against His commands. This has led God to place enmity between Himself and Satan as well as His children and those belonging to Satan.
The Great Divide
Throughout the history of God's people, this separation between His people and His adversaries has always existed. When God called Jacob, whose name He changed to Israel to represent a chosen nation He was soon to form, for what purpose was it formed? Was it not formed to bless all the nations and peoples of the earth? Was this not the same promise given to his grandfather Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), his father Isaac (Genesis 26:1-5) and now himself (Genesis 28:10-14). Just what was this blessing God intended to pass along to all the nations of the earth, the blessing Satan himself would attempt to circumvent as he did in the garden of Eden?
Remember God's Promise
In the garden of Eden God promises enmity between the serpents seed (those who represent evil men who follow him) and her seed (those who will eventually represent and serve God Himself). The seed of the woman would eventually become the Seed, Jesus Christ Himself who would take the form of a man. Just as it was necessary for God to separate the light from the darkness (in the world itself), so did He denote two separate types of individuals as those "who are light" and "those who walk in darkness." Although God Himself instituted the enmity out of necessity to separate the light from the darkness, He also instituted a plan in which He would judge Satan and restore the harmony between Himself and mankind which the devil had corrupted.
The Blessing of Abraham
The blessing of Abraham is two fold. First, the physical blessing as a result of his faith and obedience:
God's blessing to Abram as a 99 year old man was as follows;
"I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly."
"As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations."
"I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you."
"I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you" [Genesis 17:1-7]
…and the second part of God blessing which is also a result of his faith and obedience, a forthcoming spiritual blessing;
The the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said,
"By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is one the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." [Genesis 22:15-18]
Even Jacob's prophetic blessing years later to his son Judah echoes this: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." [Genesis 49:10] It is this blessing, the forthcoming Messiah that the Jews awaited and ultimately rejected (John 1:11) that would become a light to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:47) (Romans 15:8-12)
And who were these descendants through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed?
The Israel of God
The nation of Israel was formed as a distinct and separate group of people who were called out to display the righteousness of the God Who had called them. They were called out from among humanities vast multitudes to obey God and as a result be blessed in all their endeavors before Him. It was for His glory that God chose, named and blessed this nation of people who were to carry His name as a testimony before all other nations and peoples. Sadly, despite God granting them many privileges such as the adoption as sons, the glory and the covenants, the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh. [Romans 9:4, 5] they utterly failed in consistently carrying out God's will before mankind. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. (the word which promised that Abraham's descendants would bless the nations) For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendents, but "THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCEDANTS WILL BE NAMED." That is, it is not the children of the flesh (those physical descendents) who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants." [Romans 9:1-8]
In Galatians 6:14-16 Paul the apostle relays to us some characteristics of one who is proven to be among the descendants of promise through faith in Jesus Christ:
1. They boast, not in any fleshly lineage or heritage but only in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
2. This cross has separated them from this worlds system and mode of operation.
3. Adherance to the Law for justification or sanctification is not possible nor desired.
4. What matters is whether one has been born again spiritually- become a new creation in Christ.
Peace and mercy is upon those who exemplify the above for they are the true Israel of God. Paul again reiterates this to the ekklesia at Galatia in chapter 4, verse 28 & 29:
"And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also."
We see clearly in the verse above the "enmity" God promised would exist between His people (those born of the Spirit) and Satan's who are born only of the flesh (naturally). So it is now also. Each group has a specific goal or aim for living and these two contrast as well. The chart above shows some of the differences between those born of the Spirit and those born of the flesh. The primary difference is that only those who have been born of the Spirit can and do glorify God. Their aim is identical with the Lord God Himself who said, "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." [Matthew 12:50] and "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." [John 6:38] Having been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus, God's people have become His possession- to will and work for His own good pleasure. [Philippians 2:12, 13]
WHO is Lord?
Despite God being the creator of all men, He is not the Father of all men. He is only the Father of those who allow themselves to be ruled by Him. Jesus makes clear in Matthew 7:21 who His real children are:
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." This is the primary issue is it not- who will and will not do God's will?
God has set apart His people
Even as the nation of Israel in past days, so now has God set apart His people as distinct and different. This doesn't mean that they are "better" in any sense, but that they now have the responsibility to carry out those responsibilities that national Israel failed to accomplish. This excludes much of what has been superceded in Christ (see the book of Hebrews) but includes being a continual testimony to the grace and purposes of God in Jesus Christ. It is now the individual members of the Ekklesia of God (the spiritual body of Christ) who are called to be ambassadors for Jesus' sake.
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" [2 Corinthians 5:20]
"For we do not preach ourselves (for we seek not our own glory) but Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake" [2 Corinthians 4:5]
The key words above are "on behalf of Christ" and "for Jesus' sake." This is the primary reason for the existence of everyone who lives as a Christian. Where this fails to be exhibited in one claiming to know God, there is good reason to question the validity of that persons faith in God.
Set apart from what?
We have seen that God's children have been set apart to exhibit His righteousness and bring Him glory as a result. This separation was brought about by God who placed enmity between the people of the Spirit and those of the flesh. In addition to this, God has also through His chosen instrument, Jesus the Messiah, further separated us spiritually from who we were in the flesh by recreating us in Himself and transferring us into His spiritual kingdom.
"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" [Colossians 1:13, 14]
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" [2 Corinthians 5:17]
It is important to recognize that the above verses are finished facts- things God alone could accomplish. But just as in every aspect of our salvation, there is God's finished work which must be followed by our faith and obedience in those facts. For example, although all Christians are justified by faith in Christ and must reckon that fact to be true experientially, so must they learn to walk daily by faith as well. "Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord (by faith), so walk in Him….." [Colossians 2:6]
Through Christ's cross, God has separated us from several things which are contrary to our new lives as Christians. Just as God had warned the physical children of Israel of the dangers around them to be avoided, so must we be careful to avoid those things that hinder both our own spiritual health and more importantly our testimony of Christ before others. Having an awareness of each of these pitfalls aids us in living in accordance with God's desire and will.
This world system
"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" [Galatians 6:14]
"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." [1 John 2:15-17]
Although all of mankind is born into and a part of this sinful world and its manner of thinking and acting, Jesus has through his cross transferred us out of it and into His kingdom. This was necessary for all that is in this world is contrary to the will of God, for its lusts do not come from God but rather from this world. Based upon the fact of having died with Christ to the attractions of this world, we are now called upon to reckon (appropriate that fact as true) and follow faith in this fact with appropriate choices that coincide with this fact. In other words, I am called to "not love this world" based upon what Christ has done through His cross for me.
Prayer: Father I choose this day to be crucified to this world. I praise you for the cross which has and does cut me off from this world's fleshly lusts from which I've been freed. I choose not to serve this world nor the attutudes, thinking, wisdom, customs, religion, mannerisms, dress, trends, sport venues or any other thing that opposes you or your will. Open my eyes and reveal to me any double-mindedness or compromise I made have made in the past or an excuse I may be using in justifying myself before You.
In Acts 26:16-18 we find Jesus' commission of the Saul who would become Paul the apostle;
"Get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me"
"And you were dead in your tespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience" [Ephesians 2:1, 2]
Satan is the ruler of the world system above. Because Satan's kingdom and God's are entirely opposed one to another, it was necessary for God to transfer us out of that kingdom and into His own. (Colossians 1:13, 14). In Satan's kingdom we were dead spiritually and yet when transferred by God we were made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-10) having been saved by grace through faith which was the manner in which we became sanctified or separate unto Him. Faith in Jesus' finished work on our behalf is the instrument God uses in saving mankind, delivering them from sin and bringing them into a place of separation for Jesus' sake. This is the message Jesus gave to Saul who was soon to be an apostle sent unto the Gentiles. Until an individual is spiritually born again and justified through faith before God, that individual is still a part of satan's kingdom regardless of what they claim or how they choose to live.
Prayer: Father, I thank you this day that I am no longer bound to the dominion of satan, nor am I a part of his kingdom to which I was once enslaved. Open my eyes to the reality of your finished work on my behalf and may I learn to trust you more in overcoming the ways in which satan has and may still deceive me.
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." [Galatians 2:20]
"For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." [2 Corinthians 5:14, 15]
And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it" [Luke 9:23, 24]
In the verse above in 2 Corinthians 5:17 it states that as Christians we are in Christ, which is our spiritual position before God. This position is contrary to our former position which was in Adam. They are two positions which are representative of two actual men, Adam the head of the human family and Jesus who is Head of God's spiritual family. "The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we (Christians) will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" [1 Corinthians 15:47-50]
2 Corinthians 5:17 goes on to state that those in Christ (in a position of relationship with Jesus Christ) are a new creature (or creation) – not that we will become new but that we are new- now. Furthermore the verse states that the old things have passed away (past tense) and that new things have come. (also a past tense reference) The two obvious questions that present themselves here are:
1. What old things have passed away? All that my relationship in Christ and through His cross has separated me from-primarily everything I once relied upon in my relationship with Adam (my own resources, strength, wisdom, self-esteem etc).
2. What new things have come? All that I possess in spiritual union with Christ; namely spiritual blessings such as the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, the adoption as sons, the inward deposit of the Holy Spirit and an imperishable inheritance just to name a few. (See Ephesians 1:3-6)
Romans 8:5-9 states;
"For those who are according to the flesh (who we used to be before we were re-created in Christ) set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile (is enmity) toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God"
"However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him" (God).
It is important to notice that before any of us came to believe upon Jesus, it was impossible for us to please God. Pleasing God can only stem from actions originating in and coming from the Spirit. That is only possible for one who has been born again spiritually through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Appropriation of Truth
In every aspect of our salvation, God has worked something inwardly that we are called to put into practice outwardly. Whether that truth aplies to reconciliation, redemption or sanctification, each and every Christian has a responsibility to act in a manner that is consistent with God's truth. This includes the mandate to be separate and the basis of that separation which is God's act through the cross of separating us from satan, ourselves and this world system. In the next few posts we will endeavor to discover some very specific ways in which God calls us to be separate as they relate to these three enemies we all face as believers. For example, we will likely consider questions as these:
1. Should a Christian have friends who are unbelievers?
2. What does it mean to live separate from this world?
3. Does God sanction or support different religious organizations and churches working together?
4. Can a Christian smoke, drink or attend movies and still please God?
5. What are some ways in which Christians separate themselves which God deems sinful before Him?
What has been called The Doctrine of Separation is very important as it relates to our lives as Christians. This subject matter, in some cases more than any other is a guage as to just how serious we are in obeying what God actually requires in His Word. Every Christian is both called and required to be separate. This may not always unfold in a systematic manner for each and every believer, nonetheless, we do well to both discover and take heed to what God deems to be a very serious matter before Him- that of separation.