The practice of separation
And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain- for He says,
"AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU." Behold, now is THE ACCEPTABLE TIME," behold, now is THE DAY OF SALVATION"- giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited…[2 Corinthians 6:1-3]
In the intial study on this subject, we considered that this issue of separation is a mandate of God, it is a matter of obedience before Him. Just as God has called all of His children out from among this world, its' ruler and its subjects, so is He preparing each of us to re-enter this world with a new focus and a new purpose for existing within it. This is not a purpose we are called to go alone, but like our elder brother Jesus, God the Father intends to help us in this day and season that He deems "acceptable." Our mission, having accepted it (unless we believed in vain) is to work with God in sharing the message and reality of reconciliation. This fancy word means to bring back into harmony- in our case with God.
Of first importance we also discussed how a proper understanding and application of separation would stem from an abiding relationship with God through Jesus. Our failure to practice and cultivate this relationship will lead to us making decisions that stem from our natural mind and what we believe is best in any given situation. It will also lead to practicing separation based upon natural worldly distinctions instead of spiritual ones. Only through an active partnership, we being in subjection to God of course, can we truly know the mind of Christ or what He intends for a particular situation or relationship.
A proper perspective
We talked a little about this in a previous post. There is certainly nothing wrong with looking at things from different perspectives. We do this every time we read the gospels in the Bible. Most of you have noticed that despite Jesus being the Lord of both Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of the 12 apostles Jesus called, each had a different perspective of who they saw Jesus as. Despite them all knowing Him as Messiah, Matthew viewed Him as a king, Mark as a servant, Luke as a physician and John primarily viewed Him as the Son of God. Although they each had "their" individual perspectives, each of them were true as they applied to our Lord Jesus Christ. This of course does not allow for individual interpretations of truth which derive from ourselves, but does allow for what the Spirit reveals to individual believers for the worship of God and edification of the saints.
Purposes of separation
…giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited [2 Corinthians 6:3]
Without question the primary purpose for every Christian is to bring glory to God Himself through their actions. Our Father desires His children to be actively involved in ministering to Him, the household of faith and our unbelieving neighbors. The vehicle He has designed in order to accomplish this is a local ekklesia. It is from this vehicle that all our actions of service must stem. Until we understand this we will not properly be able to distinguish why it is so important to practice what is often called, the doctrine of separation.
Relationships that mandate separation
In an earlier study we labeled these guidelines for separation. Instead of reiterating the specific questions written earlier I'd like to address these types of relationships individually. This should suffice to recognize the imperative to separate at times within the framework of these relationships. We will list them as follows:
1) Separate from this world/myself and its ruler
We discussed this in an earlier article on separation. Having been born again and separated spiritually from our original state of being, kingdom and ruler by God, we are now free to serve via our new life, kingdom and in through the resources God provides.
2) Separation from certain behaviors/choices
When one is born again spiritually, the Spirit of God comes to reside physically within that individual. [2 Corinthians 13:5]. The Spirit of God convicts us of sin in our lives and aids us in formulating various convictions about what we believe. [John 16:8] [1 Thessalonians 1:5] [Romans 14:22]. Sadly, these convictions can be and often are short circuited by what man has done.
|What man has done||What God has said||The Result of men|
|To various degrees, allowed the traditions of men to replace spirit led convictions. Adds the law "do not" to a list of things "they" deem taboo.||
"If you continue in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine"
Have your own convictions before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself.
|Men's traditions becomes or replaces Spirit led convictions. Church leaders and followers levy guilt and shame upon those who do not conform to the institutional standard.|
|Set a standard for "membership" (acceptability) among the people of God in church.||Membership in the family of God is His doing. It is not based upon any moral code or list of behaviors.||Men and their churches exclude many of God's people from fellowship who fail to meet their standards, not God's.|
Mandatory commands of separation
Under the above heading we should list some of what God deems to be mandatory unacceptable behaviors. These are behaviors God considers sinful and are to be rejected outright. There are no exceptions. In this list would be immorality (in its many forms such as fornication, homosexuality or adultery), drunkedness (or any mind altering drug), lies (or any form thereof), idolatry (worship of anything that competes with God, including sports teams) and marrying an unbeliever as a Christian. There are more although this will suffice for now. Note: A new believer is likely to struggle with one or more of these for some time which is expected. That may be understandable although an attitude contrary to these being sin is not.
3) Interaction with unbelievers
In addition to the difficulty of forming one's own convictions before God is the manner believers are to interact with unbelievers after conversion. Obviously several things become apparent due to Christ entering into our lives.
~The trajectory of our lives has now become serving God. This is the opposite of those who still place their own interests before anything else, which is of course what all unbelievers do. These value systems are opposite one another and will not coincide. Something has to give, a believers' stand upon God and His standards or the other persons sinful lifestyle. The apostle Paul also adds another reason for our difficulty of "letting go" of our "carousing" with unbelievers: "You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections" [2 Corinthians 6:12] It appears those at Corinth were having a tough time separating themselves from their "old sinful affections" they practiced with those in unbelief. Paul not only preached the gospel to them [2 Corinthians 2:1-5] but opened wide his life as well [2 Corinthians 6:11] and was hoping that openness would be reciprocated by them. (verse 13). Paul was in effect attempting to fill the void of intimacy lost by their renunciation of sin and acceptance of the gospel. See also his heart toward the Thessalonians here: [1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8] A rare but beautiful thing!
Part of the responsibility to aid new believers away from sinful relationships falls upon those having led them to Christ. Once again, what man has done has thwarted this process for an inadequate alternative.
|What man has done||What God has said||The result of men|
|Man brings "friends" to church to be converted by a leader who subsequently has little interest in the new converts. They simply have too many other church responsibilities- responsibilities God never gave them.||Love each other with words, deeds and truth. Lay down one's life for the brethren.||The primary source of support are church functions and meetings- not actually individual believers themselves.|
|Feeds babies with whatever is available at the time and is rarely available to answer questions that arise.||Just like all babies, they need daily spiritual milk and intimate interaction to be healthy. The parents, whether natural or spiritual must "die daily," not occasionally to their own interests to serve the children.||The babies do not mature properly and growth is stunted because of neglect and fruit is rotten due to a lack of interaction with the parents.|
~Unbelievers practice sin. Being around sin should convict us. We should come to have a deeper hatred for sin the longer we walk with God….to the extent of even hating the garment polluted by the flesh. [Jude 23]
~As Christians we have a responsibility to share the love of Jesus with unbelievers. Depending upon how the Spirit leads us this may include our family, former friends, work contacts, recreational contacts, business associates or even a burden for souls in other countries. Only God Himself can lead a person in one or all of these directions. Again, we need the encouragement of other believers and their prayers to motivate us to share Christ with others which God commands. This is not an option for true believers.
Depending upon how mature each believer is, sometimes little or no contact with old friends is best. If one is determined to salvage these friendships, at least meet unbelievers at a neutral site or bring along another brother or sister. Don't jeopardize your well being or compromise your testimony as a Christian by taking unecessary risks. Why would you want to. What would you have in common with them now?
"Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
"I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty.
If Paul's own tender-hearted appeal wasn't enough above, consider this appeal from the Lord Himself- absolutely amazing! The Lord Himself is desiring to welcome us to live as His sons and daughters with this prerequisite: DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN. Now how might we go about helping each other to live like this as brothers and sisters in God's family?
"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, (above from God Himself) let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Make room for us in your hearts; we wronged no one, we corrupted no one, we took advantage of no one." [2 Corinthians 6:7:1, 2]
Now, in light of what both God and his apostle have said above, how has man all but guaranteed that this perfection of holiness will never occur as God has instructed?
|What man has done||What God has said||The result of men|
|Today's religious leaders have convinced the sheep that daily interaction and fellowship is no longer necessary.||The command is to encourage one another day after day so none are hardened by the deceit of sin.||Neglect of the saints leads to apathy, wordliness and hidden sin.|
|Replaced devotion to Christ and one another "daily" with church functions and services.||Take care, brethren, that there not be any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.||Little if any intimacy among the saints. Leaders attempt to practice New testament church without abandoning church traditions.|
|Made "Christianity" popular and thus appealing to the massess.||A personal cross daily. Christians share dying and living together- in this order.||Professing believers saving themselves from "any cross" or difficulty. They say they live…and yet are dead.|
The truth be told, men's institutions cannot possibly brings God's commandments to fruition. How can your average church that promotes "Everyone Welcome" keep sin out from among it's members? How can intimacy be cultivated among hundreds if not thousands of people? Who knows who is and isn't a real believer according to God's standard? How can all the members not only know each other but faithfully encourage one another, exhort one another, rebuke and correct one another and love one another by dying to their own interests? Does today's form of leadership that takes from the saints and separates themselves from them as different actually exemplify Paul's example above? Maybe we should consider just why Jesus used the illustration of "where two or three gather together in His name." Now that sounds a little more realistic does it not if we're really attempting to obey the commands above?
4) Separate from sinning Christians
Although it is rarely practiced among believers these days, there are times when Christians are called by God to separate themselves from others who are also believers. We are not talking about just any sin or every time a believer sins. All humans sin and this includes Christians albeit less frequently. Although these Christians do occasionally sin against God, they do not practice sin- they do not habitually and deliberately continue to sin. Those who regularly practice sinning and justify doing so are not God's children. [1 John 3:7-10]
There are several reasons why it is necessary to separate from professing Christians who continue in sin. Let's look over a few specific examples below.
[1 Corinthians 5:11-13] "But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler- not even to eat with such a one. For what do I have to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the ekklesia? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES."
Read the above again closely. Pay close attention to what is said herein;
- The sinning person claims to be a Christian
- The individual's sin has become known to the general assembly. This is unlikely do to more sin such as gossip and very likely as a result of smaller local ekklesias.
- God commands his children to judge the sinning believer by taking action against him or her.
- The judgment called for is for the local ekklesia (themselves) to remove this person from among them.
- An additional judgment is to not associate with this person (exemplified by "not even eat with such a one."
Now pay attention to what is said thereafter in verse 9:
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God"
Now what do you suppose was the result of this judgment on the sinner and the assembly as a whole?
[2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15] "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us" (6)
"If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother"
What are the key points here?
- This man is known to actually be a brother in the Lord.
- The sin committed here warranting separation is living an unruly or disorderly life. Huh?
- Paul equates this sin with a tradition that was taught to them to practice.
- This man therefore was neglecting to do what God had commanded through Paul the apostle.
Then a general warning to all the brothers and sisters in the local ekklesia at Thessalonica:
- A command to obey God's instructions through Pauls letter to them.
- The command to obey the instruction was universally shared- everyone was to obey it.
- Do not associate with anyone in the local ekklesia who failed to obey.
- The purpose of the lack of fellowship was to admonish and shame the brother or sister.
Now what do you suppose was the result of this judgment on the sinner and the assembly as a whole?
5) Separate from false teachers or false teachings
"Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them" [Romans 16:17]
"O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge" – which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you" [1 Timothy 6:20, 21]
"Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house , and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds." [2 John 9-11]
"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" [Galatians 1:8, 9]
The verses above should make one thing very apparent: There is only one gospel and it is very important to keep clear what that gospel entails and what is does not. Furthermore, we are not to associate with those who have obviously strayed from what the actual gospel is nor cultivate close ties or associations with those people. To do so is to become complicit with their falsehoods, damage our own testimony and give positive credence to questionable or outright errors. The sad reality is this: Rarely if ever does one who apparently once walked the narrow road and then strayed into false doctrine ever return to right thinking and right living. Rather, evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" [2 Timothy 3:13] "You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of….." [2 Timothy 3:14-17] There is something about continuing (actively sharing and appropriating God's truth that keeps one's feet in the way).
6) Separate from institutions/ecumenism
Without a doubt there are many varying religious institutions these days which seek to promote all kinds of supposedly good things and good works. While some are actively attempting to use "their" organizations to preach the gospel, others are utilized to garner support for various humanitarian causes or even to support political candidates or political parties. In order to discover whether God supports the creation of these institutions or their causes, several questions may need to be asked first.
Is their any scriptural support for a formal religious organization in Scripture?
Is there any justification for creating an entity and calling it "Christian" regardless of its cause or mission?
Is there any justification for an attempt to divert resources from what God has commanded to what man has done and is doing?
Although we have touched upon some of these answers elsewhere, let's overview the above. First, no formal religious institutions ever existed in the New Testament era. The institution of the "Church" itself didn't come into existence for some two hundred years after the last of the original 12 apostles died and even so originated partially from the mistranslation of the Grrek word ekklesia into church. It is plain through Scripture that at least initially, God intended for local ekklesias to be the vehicle through which all ministry, service and worship would be conducted. Try as many do these days, there isn't any solid evidence that this has changed in the mind and heart of God. It is man himself who has tired of doing things the way God has commanded him and subsequently taken matters into his own hands.
Regardless of how many people claim what they create with natural materials (brick, clay, mortar) is "Christian" doesn't make it so. Since when does a physical entity become "Christian." That doesn't even make sense people. Only actual individual people can become Christians and regardless of whether these Christians start a business, a hospital, a college, a music band or any other thing doesn't make that thing "Christian." Stop lying to yourself and everyone else!
The simple fact that these institutions need money to survive and extol their own supposed virtuous aims guarantees that they will have to generate financial support. No institution can survive without money and therefore the begging, pleading and guilt trips abound. Were not just talking about a few organizations here- we're talking about hundreds of colleges, thousands of religious organizations and hundreds of thousands of what man calls "churches" all needing money to survive! Pull the financial plug and a collapse is inevitable!
Now ask yourself this additional question. Are any of these so-called "Christian" entities even necessary? What saith the Scriptures? Were they ever necessary? Or is this all what some particular man or men think is necessary? Regardless of your answer one thing is sure, the resources God expects Christians to utilize in serving His family and our neighbors are being diverted into these enties. In other words, what God has commanded us to support through a local ekklesia is often transferred to what He doesn't support or is at least highly questionable and absent in Scripture.
When one single misguided Christian takes a wrong path, not only are they misled and deceived, so are those they encourage to walk with them. Before long and depending upon the skill of those marketing and selling the entities "works," and its leader(s) or founders, a wave of support is often generated. Not only does this guarantee the entitles survival, it promotes the entities name, its founder and its various programs and outreaches. Not content with merely reaching out to one's neighbors with the simple gospel of reconciliation, these founders and "their" self-made institutions become literally competition against the very thing God has commanded. Don't believe me? Simply look where the professing Christian world, it's people, their resources (both financially and materially) are being invested in. Is it primarily fellow believers in their specific locale or is it in something, someone and somewhere else instead?
Physical institutions and their leaders directly compete against what God is building spiritually by convincing people that their aims are both noble and necessary. These people are easily convinced provided they sacrifice their individual convictions for the greater good of all. Little do they realize that what God deems is right and true must also be sacrificed in the process.
The appearance of "good"
One of my favorite statements in life is this: The good is often the enemy of the best. I'm relatively sure you have heard this a few times yourself. Here's another you may have heard: "When is good- good enough? Would it matter specifically what we are or are not talking about?
Whether I mow your lawn, paint your house or sell you firewood- there is an acceptable standard for all of those things. The standard may vary somewhat due to location or minor factors; nonetheless the standard can be discovered with relative ease. My standard may be a little higher or lower than yours, but we're both equally accountable to the person who hired us to perform the particular task. Until that person is satisfied I haven't really accomplished anything according to their particular standard. The standard is what matters, not whether I think or believe that my efforts are acceptable or "good enough."
The standard of God- the perfection of Jesus
Every once in a while its helpful is it not to return to the beginning of something? To discover just how something came into being in the first place? That is exactly how I have come to the conclusions I have upon this website. I refused to silence that little voice that kept telling me something was wrong, I refused to allow the "good" of the status quo to dictate for me what God's standard for my life was going to be. I had to discover His standard, and I nor we need look any farther than the cross of Jesus Christ. Therein was the standard of God set- for, and against all of humanity.
I was handed a CD recently with the title, The world's biggest lie. It was created as an evangelism tool aimed at people who for one reason or another thought that they could merit some favor with God. They seemed to think things like, "I'm a relatively decent person," or "I'm not all that bad" or "My good will outweigh the bad." We've all heard these answers if we have ever taken the time to ask anybody why God would let them into heaven. What is the problem here, What is the world's biggest lie? Is is not that man thinks he can somehow make himself acceptable before God- that his good works are good enough?
All true Christians have learned that only one standard is acceptable before God and that standard is the standard God Himself has set. That standard is perfection. In order for Jesus to have become the lamb of God taking away the sins of the world, it was necessary for Him to have walked in perfect obedience to God's own holy law. It was only His perfect life of righteousness credited to our account that could make any of us "good enough." There is not, nor will there ever be any such thing as our efforts being "good" before God.
As Christians, having now been justified by faith, has anything changed? Are we now in a position that makes our efforts good enough or is what we do still fall short of God's standard?
God's standard doesn't change
If God's standard doesn't change, that means only Jesus can meet that standard- today, tommorrow and forever. Where is Jesus today. Ascended yes, but also in our midst. Have you ever wondered why God gives the commands in Romans 12:1, 2 and ends with prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect. Because that's His standard, nothing less will do. And how is this standard made manifest today? Is it by individual men who think more highly of themselves than they ought (by creating their own self-made ministries and appointing themselves leaders) and forgetting that they are merely one member with gifts that interact with other members of the one body? Is this sound judgment as God requires? Is this simply allowing Jesus to manifest Himself among His body members as He so desires?
If the local ekklesia is truly God's means for establishing the saints and equipping believers for service, then obviously any other entity (especially a physical one stands in opposition to God's means. Furthermore, any attempt to leverage the weight of an organization, it's founders and members is an earthly attempt to force others into a man's or men's specific agendas. When these entities and members form coalitions that makes them all the more dangerous. In opposition to what God has made clear, these organizations, founders and constituents all cheer together, "The more the merrier." In due time God Himself will implode their tower upon them as history has made clear. Their condemnation is just.
A singular institution or coalition of institutions are all devised for one singular purpose: for men to exalt in his own solutions as he willingly or unwittingly rejects the counsel and commandments of God. Men only try to create their own dreams and destiny when they actually believe that they can. Any progress is superficial and will only amount to fuel to be cast upon the flames of judgment!
7) Disobedience in separation
Although their are places, people and institutions from which we must separate, other professing saints are separating from others along lines that God has never sanctioned. Most of these lines are natural verses spiritual, superficial rather than foundational.
- Individual Christians joining specific religious institutions. If I join a particular church or institution, am I not joining all the others that also exist and therefore sanctioning these religious divisions that man has made? Am I not promoting something other than the one body of Christ?
- Naming a religious institution. Once again, I am participating in actively dividing the one body. I am acting as if my organization of Christians is different than yours? Is that really true before God or are all believers actually united in Jesus Christ's resurrection?
- So-called Christian leaders setting themselves apart from other believers. Whether that is assuming a religious title, a spiritual position, receiving a salary or standing up front before the people doesn't matter. All of these are sinfully disobedient to the manner God has called us as Christians to interact with one another.
- Tying a religious institution or church with the secular government. If God doesn't sanction these institutions as His means of ministry and service, how might He feel about our yoking with the secular government?
- Continuing to use religious labels men have devised to both characterize ourselves and stereotype other believers. This only adds fuel to the fires of an already sectarian spirit.
Although there are many more ways in which Christians disobey God through inappropriate acts of separation, there is one simple solution. Drop all the earthly distinctions altogether and start living out the truths of Christ's heavenly kingdom. When one lives in and out from their heavenly position and citizenship, these distinctions become unecessary and irrelevant.
Jesus and separation
Jesus' humanity paints a beautiful picture of exatly how we are called to interact within the various relationships we encounter in life. We find Him often interacting and teaching His disciples, spending a fair amount of time preaching and healing the sick and broken and even confronting the religious status quo of His time. Notice several things about the interactions of Jesus with those in these verses.
[Matthew 4:23] and [Matthew 9:35, 36] Here we find Jesus proclaiming the gosel in the synagoguues (to religious people), proclaiming the gospel and healing all kinds of diseases as a testimony to who He was and where He came from. It was for this purpose He was sent by His Father into this world. [Luke 4:43]
[Matthew 9:10-13] Here we have some of the religious people of the day questioning Jesus and His interaction with tax collectors and people known to be living in sin. Jesus made it clear to them that those who were sick (were aware that they were sinful and in need) did need someone to help them (a physician) although those who were healthy (or thought they were like these religious folk) did not. These Pharisees saw themselves as descendants of Abraham (they were physical descendants) but that gained them no favor with Him. To truly know God one has to recognize their need and turn to God in repentance, the last thing these Pharisees thought they needed to do.
[Matthew 15:14] Jesus sees the hearts of these religious people and calls them blind leaders of the blind.
In every instance where Jesus interacts with people, His aim is to preach the gospel, confront sin in people and call them to repentance. His does this by living an exemplary life both before God and before men. Anything falling short of this would be failing in the purpose wherein He was called by His Father. The culmination of this life was of course His sacrificial death on behalf of these very same sinners.
As Christians, we shall never have difficulty making decisions in relation to who, what or where we shoul separate provided we also share the aims of Jesus above. Needless to say, this is where most men fail. Instead of keeping these priorities intact, our interactions with people have far to many selfish aims and natural divisions. That is why we hesitate to separate despite the command of God to do so- we are far too busy pleasing others or attempting to "save" ourselves from living in obedience to what Jesus exemplified above as some of the requirements of a true disciple. There is a reason Jesus both confronted the sin in sinners as well as those claiming to know Him:
"But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man" [John 2:24, 25]
A mutual trust in relationship [1 Thessalonians 2:1-12]
"For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. [vs. 1, 2] Trust is cultivated through the fires of life. Those who remain faithful to the gospel despite opposition are proven faithful.
For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; [vs. 3] The reason and motive of a man's exhortation is important to God as is the source of that truth- God.
but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. [vs. 4] Knowing that God is their ultimate judge, they speak to men as unto God. Having been approved, this was their primary responsibility.
For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed- God is witness-  The truth was spoken plainly, with no artificial fleshly additives. They trusted in the gospel message itself and not what they might add to it- including selfish gain.
nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.  Authority was never used to draw attention to themselves or lord it over others.
But we proved to be gentle among men, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children'  An appropriate example of family members interacting one with another.
Yes, God knows what is in man. Still, God also knows what He can make of a man. It's our opportunity as well as our responsibility to allow the latter to happen as we live in separation unto Him. We share a mutual trust of relationship, a sharing of separation for the life that is Christ. It is a ministry without personal offense which often overshadows the offense of the cross. Only the latter is desirable as it cannot be discredited.
If a man would ever amount to all that God has prepared for him, he must be intent upon living a separated life. That life is not dictated by a leaders' rule, men's traditions or an organizations standards. It is revealed moment by moment and day by day by none other than God Himself as we look to Him in faith and through His Word.
Contrary to the modern day belief, it is not assimilation to the local culture that draws the sinner to Jesus, but on the contrary, the separated life is what honors God and propels Him to act on behalf of those that obey Him. God still says to the few willing to listen;
"COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me," says the Lord Almighty.