Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here is this week’s question: “Dear Dave and Tom, I am not what you would call a hyper-fundamentalist, but I do believe in practicing the fundamentals of the Bible. However, I struggle with the teaching on separation as it relates to fellowship among believers. It seems the biblical criteria involves moral and doctrinal issues, but I am unsure at what point I should make the decision to separate. What do you recommend?”
Dave: Well, it depends what you mean by “separation.” It depends, to a large extent, what you mean by “heresy.” Because the scripture says, “Have no fellowship with a heretic.” Well, the scripture says, “A man who is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; he is corrupted.” And, you have, for example, immorality—the man in Corinth who had his father’s wife, and Paul said, “Put him out. Don’t even eat with such a one.” A person who is involved in gross immorality should be separated from the fellowship of believers so that the world knows—well, for a couple of reasons—so he doesn’t contaminate the rest of you, so you know that there is such a thing as sin, which is not to be tolerated. And furthermore, so the world knows that the church does not tolerate it; this is not Christianity.
But if these people remain in full fellowship in the church, then you are giving the wrong impression to the world, and furthermore, sin should be judged. Paul writes to Timothy, “Them that sin, rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”
On the other hand, he writes to the Galatians: “A man which is overtaken in a fault, restore, in the spirit of meekness, knowing that you could be tempted as well.” So, we don’t throw a person out forever. If they are real Christians and they repent, then we restore them. So, that man in Corinth, in fact, guilty of this horrible immorality, he was restored, and Paul said, “Forgive him, restore him, love him.”
So, separation is definitely—you know, sometimes it’s talking about separation from the world. Second Corinthians 6:14: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God,” and so forth. “Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” So here we have separation from unbelievers, but then again Paul says, “I wrote to you to keep separate from the world, but not that you should leave the world.” I mean, if you are going to have absolutely nothing to do with these people, you can’t even exist in this world. So, I think it would mean, like a partnership, a business partnership.
Tom: Certainly, in marriage.
Dave: Certainly marriage, and a close fellowship, an association, with someone who is not a believer, well, how could you carry on with this? Their desires, their likes and dislikes, their ambitions, their passion, is different from yours.
Tom: Or should be.
Dave: Well, yes. How can Christians continue in close association with unbelievers when they really have nothing in common? The problem is the Christians have apparently lost their passion for the Lord, and they are just happy to abandon that and just act like the world does—have the same interests as the world. Tom, truthfully I guess, if you went home with many Christians from their Sunday morning service, you would find they watch the same TV programs, they have the same ambitions—and looked into their heart—what are they planning for? The same plans, the same hopes, the same dreams as the world about them, and that’s not right. Something is definitely wrong there.
Tom: So Dave, to encourage this listener, the person who wrote, and maybe others out there, it’s walking with the Lord, it’s understanding His Word. The Holy Spirit will…there will be situations that come up in which discernment is needed—when to do this, when not to do that—but it has to come out of faith, trusting the Lord, knowing what He wants and what He desires, and in situations that seem to be right on the line, God will give you a way to address it and to deal with it that pleases Him.
Dave: If you become a Christian and you are true to the Lord, your friends will drop you, the old friends. You will be witnessing to them, you have different interests, but Tom, if we have time, it reminds me of the story—I don’t think we have ever told—the young man who was in college, and he had a summer job up in the mountains in a logging camp, and his friends prayed for him, and, “You know, you’re going to be the only Christian up there. Wow, we’re just really going to be praying for you, that you will be able to have a good testimony.” And when he got back at the end of the summer they asked him, “Well, how did it go?”
“Oh,” he said, “They never guessed it!”
I’m afraid some of us are like that. We think we are supposed to be Secret Service Christians, I guess—just between us and the Lord. No, we should have a testimony to the world, and the world will abandon us as well, but on the other hand, we don’t want to just offend them needlessly. We want to be able to witness to them and win them. And Jesus was the friend of sinners. He was willing to eat with them, but he never compromised in the process.