©Fundamental Evangelistic Association
What Does The Bible Say About Separation?
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and
offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Roman
The Biblical doctrine of separation is based on one of
God's essential attributes— His holiness. He never looks upon sin with
the least degree of tolerance, and this necessarily extends to His will concerning
the conduct of His children. As believers, we are called unto fellowship
with God who "... is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we
say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do
not the truth" (1 Jn. 1:5,6).
Therefore, there is an absolute necessity for separation from whatever is "darkness;" that
is, whatever is in direct opposition to His very nature. The perfect will
of God for the saint is always the same: "... be ye holy in all manner
of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1
The notion that it is not important to God whether or not His children distance
themselves from what His Word declares to be evil is terribly foolish and also very
dangerous. God has given His Word so that we can know what fellowships are permissible, as
well as which ones are not. Separation from error and the errant is for the believer's
spiritual well-being and usefulness in service.
Most who name the Name of Christ agree that the Bible teaches the principle of
separation, but comparatively few seem concerned about the need for its personal
application. This is especially true when our fellowships and associations are examined.
All too often, the things we feel are most loving, expedient or non-divisive determine
what we consider to be God's will in any given situation. But this is a grievous error if
the result of such reasoning is contrary to the plain teaching of the Word of God. We
would do well to carefully consider what the Bible teaches about "separation,"
and then direct our walk accordingly.
The believer's separation from evil and every false way is always God's order. We were
called to be separated unto Christ and declared positionally sanctified "in Him"
the moment we believed and were saved. In our Christian lives we are admonished to walk in
a sanctified, separated manner which is worthy of our "...high calling of God in
Christ Jesus." And when our Lord comes back again and catches away His Bride, we
will be partakers of that great, final separation! Yes, indeed, separation is a precious
Biblical truth-past, present and future.
The Practice of Biblical Separation
Although the doctrine of separation is a dominant theme throughout the Scriptures, the
difficulty comes, as mentioned before, in its application. The prohibition of
participation in, and even identification with, blatant godlessness and unbelief is
readily accepted as a Biblical imperative. Yet, at the same time, many Christians find it
more of a problem to understand why we are also commanded by God to have no fellowship
with anyone or anything disobedient to the Word of God, even if this means we must
separate from errant fellow believers and compromised Christian organizations and
ministries. God's directive for the believer in respect to evil is the same whether the
leaven is found outside (Lk. 12:1) or within (1 Cor. 5:6-8) the Church.
Separation from Worldliness
The first aspect of this doctrine is separation from the "wickedness" that
dominates and saturates the world in which we live. We must "keep [ourselves] from
idols" (see 1 Jn. 5:19-21), i.e., the allurements and snares that the "god
of this world" sets before us on every hand. We are in the world, but we are not
to be a part of it. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the
world ... And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof : but he that doeth the will of
God abideth forever" (study 1 Jn. 2:15-17). The influence of worldliness through
fashion, music, literature, the media in all its forms, philosophies, attitudes, etc.,
destroys the believer's sensitivity to what is truly acceptable to God and what is not.
"Christian" rock, "Christian" psychology, worldly strategies of
evangelism and ministry-these and many more examples could be given of how far many have
strayed from truly Bible-based moorings. Dealing with these issues is not
"Legalism," but rather it is seeking to apply Biblical principles of godliness
to our everyday Christian walk and witness. Separation from the worldliness that feeds the
old nature and sears the conscience is vital.
Separation from False Teachers
The next form of separation that must be taken seriously is the matter of
entering into fellowship with the ministries of individuals and organizations
which have rejected God's infallible and final Revelation. 2 Corinthians
6:14-18 plainly states that the believer must not be "unequally yoked
together [fellowship, association or identification] with unbelievers...," but
is to "... come out from among them, and be ye separate." A fundamentalist must never join with
any man or organization where those represented are not clear in their testimony
of the new birth, or their strict adherence to the truth of the Word of God.
Any common religious or spiritual endeavor (worship, evangelism, prayer, education,
relief, etc.) with those who have rejected Bible truth is in direct conflict
with this Biblical commandment of separation if we participate with them. Such
activities, when undertaken jointly with liberal, apostate individuals or groups
are strictly forbidden.
This portion of the Word also reveals how God views the rejection of Bible truth-it is
wickedness, and it is His will for His own to separate from all such evil. The believer's
fellowship and communion with his heavenly Father is disrupted whenever separation from
wickedness is ignored, whether that disobedience stems from filthiness of the flesh (obviously
carnal, worldly sins) or filthiness of the spirit (spiritual infidelity by
accommodating those who reject Bible truth). God says in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 that He
will "be a Father" unto those who separate from apostasy-unbelief is the
sin being dealt with here, and that necessarily includes any professed
"Christian" who denies Bible truth. The text then goes on to reinforce the
necessity of separating from error: "Having therefore these promises, dearly
beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and the spirit,
perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).
Our responsibility, however, does not stop there. Ephesians 5:11 commands us to
"... have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove
them." We must not only separate from all groups riddled with unbelief, such
as the National and World Councils of Churches, but we must also vehemently sound a
warning to all believers who might be drawn subtly into complicity with the ecumenical
apostasy which also includes Roman Catholicism. The same is true of the delusion and
proliferation of error in the Charismatic Movement. These false religious leaders may
present an amiable and pious exterior, but our duty is still to expose and oppose their
unbiblical practices which deceive the unwary. See 1 Timothy 6:3-5 and 2 Timothy 3:5.
Separation from Disobedient Brethren
A heretic who denies Bible truth is to be rejected, not embraced. Titus 3:10. A Bible
believer must not find himself in common cause with such individuals, whether it is by
ecclesiastical affiliation, or by any form of joint ministry or worship. The clear call is
for everyone who names the name of Christ to separate himself from every dishonorable
vessel, that is, those who have turned away from the truth of the infallible Word. Only
then will the believer be a vessel "meet [worthy] for the Master's use,
prepared unto every good work." Only when a believer has "departed from
iniquity" and has separated from those "who concerning the truth have
erred" can he truly have fellowship "with them that call on the Lord out
of a pure heart." A believer cannot be in fellowship with the apostasy and with
the Lord at the same time. The following text, 2 Timothy 2:15-22, speaks of the iniquity
of accommodating those who have erred "concerning the truth" instead of
separating from them. If we fail to do so, the leaven of false doctrine will spread
through compromised fellowships and finally the faith of some will be overthrown, will be
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be
ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings:
for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of
whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus: Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that
the resurrection is past already [this is but one example of how unsound doctrine
nullifies godly fellowship]; and overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the
foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his,
And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity [error
is iniquity!]. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver,
but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man
therefore purge himself from these [those who have erred concerning the truth], he
shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto
every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith,
charity, peace, with them [fellowship with those who love and obey the truth]
that call on the Lord out of a pure heart that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."
Withdrawal from counterfeit, apostate Christianity, however, is not the only
application of this doctrine. Separation from disobedient brethren is also a
Biblical imperative! It is precisely at this point that many believers turn
away from the plain teaching of God's Word and substitute their own faulty
reasoning. Today, there is an abundance of disobedient brethren who are so
designated by the Word of God because of their refusal to separate from false
teachers and apostate affiliations as previously mentioned. For them, the
desire for visible unity, respectability, popularity or success; or, the
avoidance of appearing to be schismatic or "too negative" takes
precedence over simple obedience to the Bible. They may even seek to justify
their disobedience on the basis of love or opportunities to witness. But
it is still disobedience, and God says we are not to walk in fellowship with
disobedient brethren. We are to separate from them (see 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14,15): "Now
we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw
yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the
tradition which he received of us. And if any man obey not our word by this
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." There
is no such thing as so-called "first and second degree separation," just
Bible separation, plain and simple.
There are, for example, many brethren in the National Association of Evangelicals who
say and do many commendable things. But no matter how much "good" may appear to
be accomplished, the fact does not change that by their very association with this
middle-of-the-road organization they are repudiating Biblical separation. Refusing to obey
the call to be separate is sin-whether it involves failure to separate from a false
teacher or a disobedient brother. Compromised "evangelical" organizations like
the NAE, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Campus Crusade For Christ, the Promise
Keepers, etc., may present an impressive outward display of numbers and far-reaching
influence, but if they do not hold to sound doctrine and warn of false teachers and
unbiblical practices, then God's Word is slighted. It cannot be pleasing to God when there
is not, first of all, an agreement on—and then practice of—the Truth. "Can two
walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3); of course not, especially when
God's Truth is the standard to be agreed upon! All who support and thereby join in the
fellowship with compromising ministries are partakers with that error. Loss of reward
awaits all who thus identify themselves with those who do not hold to the "doctrine
of Christ"—all of it, from Genesis through Revelation. 2 John 7-11.
Romans 16:17 commands us to "mark them [point them out] which
cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid
them." Sound doctrine is the issue, not personalities or petty grievances,
and the clear command is to have no fellowship with those who have departed from "the
doctrine which ye have learned " The fundamentalist (who, by definition, is one
who practices Biblical separation) is not the one who causes divisions between believers.
Divisions are caused by the brother who does not practice sound doctrine (the
doctrine of separation is no exception) and the believer is required to separate from him.
The fundamentalist is not trying to be unloving, schismatic or exclusive. He simply
seeks to be obedient to the Lord and His Word above all else.
The Purpose of Biblical Separation
There are at least four reasons why separation from disobedient brethren is required by
God. First, this type of discipline is necessary in the local church fellowship in order
to maintain church purity. 1 Corinthians, Chapter 5 presents a case in point. That church
was charged "not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a
fornicator, or covetous...with such an one no not to eat," this having reference
to the Lord's table (cf. 1 Cor. 11:27-34). Whether this individual was a sinning believer
or an unsaved pretender, the command is the same- to separate from him. Unless such church
discipline was enforced, unconfessed and unforsaken sin in the Christian fellowship would
harmfully influence and corrupt others (1 Cor. 5:5-7). God has ordained separation to stem
the leavening, spreading influence of sin which always comes to pass within compromising
Second, separation from a disobedient brother is for his spiritual well-being. Unless
the standard of God's Word is raised before the erring brother, he may continue in his sin
without a needful rebuke. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 commands, "withdraw yourselves from
every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of
us." The context reveals that laziness is not the only basis for determining
disobedience. Any believer who is unfaithful to "the tradition" [ALL the
Scripture that was given to the Church] was also considered to be disobedient (cf. 2
Thess. 2:15). Disobedience to the Word of God is the determining factor. Separation will
have the effect of making that brother or sister "ashamed" (2 Thess.
3:14). That one is not an enemy, nor should he be treated as such. He is an erring brother
(v. 15), and the desired result of separation is his repentance and restitution to full
fellowship with the brethren. This should be the attitude of every fundamentalist—to
lovingly raise a Biblical standard by way of separation so that the erring saint
will realize his disobedience, repent and return to right fellowship.
The third reason for practicing Biblical separation is the desire for a "full
reward" (2 Jn. 8) at the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer is "not
crowned [rewarded] except he strive lawfully [according to the parameters of
the Word]" (2 Tim. 2:5). It will be possible for a disobedient Christian to
lose reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ because of compromised fellowship, either
directly or by identification (2 Jn. 10,11 cf. 1 Cor. 3:13-15; Rev. 3:11).
Make no mistake about it, when a believer is identified with any religious activity
which is not true to God's Word, he will receive the disapproval of God the Father. Our
God is a jealous God. He wants our undivided loyalty! He is not pleased when His children
are identified, even in the slightest, with compromise or error. Such double-mindedness
prevents our fellowship with Him (1 Cor. 10:16-22). Therefore, the support of a mass
evangelistic campaign to reach lost souls may seem most noble. But, if disobedient, new
evangelical brethren are in the endeavor, the supposed results can never justify the
compromised fellowship. God will never suspend the requirement for separation in order to
accomplish any worthwhile cause-even evangelism. That simply is not the way God works. He
always leads according to His Word, the Bible.
Finally, separation from disobedient brethren is necessary in order to maintain a
strong, consistent testimony in the midst of theological turmoil and confusion.
Compromised fellowship clouds the issues, dulls the spiritual discernment and silences
Scriptural reproof. "Be not deceived, evil communications [wrong fellowships] corrupt
good manners [right conduct]" (1 Cor. 15:33). Only a separated Bible believer is
able, in obedience to God's clear command, to sound a faithful warning concerning the
deception that Satan is sowing in the Church today (Acts 20:28-31). Always remember that
our God is HOLY, and He calls us to be holy. In order to be obedient to His command, we
must endeavor, by the grace of God, to be separated wholly unto Him, regardless of the
cost or the scorn of man.