Be Ye Separate
February 25, 2001 / No. 3034
Dear radio friends,
Our Scripture reading today is found in II Corinthians 6 beginning at verse 14. Please read the rest of this chapter and verse 1 of chapter 7.
This passage of God’s Word stands very prominent in the pages of Holy Scriptures. I am sure that you have either heard them or, perhaps, even spoken them yourselves. God says, “You are My people. And you are called to be separate from the world. You are not to compromise as a child of God. You are not to take on the color or the attitude of the world around you. But you are to cleanse yourself and be holy before the Lord.” Do you?
Are you different from the world? Do you live in spiritual separation from the filthiness of a wicked world? Are you different? Do others see that in you?
I want to be very plain. God’s Word says in this passage that if we are one with the world, we are not one with Him. If the world of sin is what we covet and desire, then we cannot have fellowship with Him. God says, “My people live out of a different principle than the world does. I dwell in them. I walk in them. Therefore they desire to be holy, to be separate from a sinful world, to walk as those who are the friends of God. Is that true of you?
Let us begin with the command that God gives, by His grace, a command that He speaks to the very heart of the life of Christ within us. He says, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” He says, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing.” Now, what does that mean? It does not mean world-flight. It does not mean physical separation or segregation from society. The Lord is not teaching here that we ought to make a community apart from and having no contact with the world – build up a stockade, confiscate radios, take away all lap-top computers and all newspapers, store up supplies, and live in total isolation. Attempts that have been made to do that fail because we would carry sin in our hearts into such a commune. And such a commune would become an incubator for self-righteousness.
Yes, there are times when there is a physical aspect to this command of Christ to be separate. For instance, in Proverbs 7, speaking of the sin of fornication and sexual lusts we read, “Do not go near the door of her house.” If your eyes lust sexually, do not go down the aisle in the grocery store where the magazines portraying pornography are to be found. Do not go into the video store. The Word of God says, “Go not astray in her path … for many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell” (vv. 25, 26).
Yes, the Bible also says that there are places and certain evil activities where a child of God must not be found. Again, in Proverbs 4 we read “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away” (vv. 14, 15). That means, do not get in the car with a group of young people who are going drinking. Do not get in the car. Do not stop off at a tavern on the way home from work. Do not do that. Do not enter a dance hall and join the world in ungodly music.
But, as I said, this Scripture does not teach that our separation from the sins of the world is simply a physical world-flight. This is something spiritual.
In the first epistle of Corinthians, chapter 5, when Paul was warning against keeping company with fornicators, he said, “I do not mean to say that you go out of the world.” That is not God’s intent, either – that we go out of the world. Jesus said that we are the light of the world and we must walk as children of light so that others may see our good works and glorify God our Father. So, with the psalmist in Psalm 119, we realize that we are surrounded on every side by the vanity of sin. In Corinth, the church to whom Paul is writing in II Corinthians, the saints lived in a society which simply was surrounded with fornication. We do too. We live in a society surrounded with evil – billboards on the street, TV, papers, merchandise. Now the calling of God’s Word is: Keep yourself from evil. Form no union, no association, no fellowship with such evil. Stand apart from sin and all uncleanness which so spoils the lives of many today.
The type of separation that God is calling for is made abundantly plain when He says, “Be not unequally yoked.” The figure of speech there refers to a bizarre way which men would yoke together animals for work. They would yoke together an ox and a donkey. So we read in the Old Testament that this was forbidden (Deut. 22:10), “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.” That was an unequal yoke. Those animals were not suited for each other. They did not work in union. They did not pull equally. Do not yoke them together. Now the Word of God says, “Don’t take a yoke that does not fit you. Don’t put yourself in the harness with an unbeliever. Don’t begin to pull for what they are pulling for. Don’t join their yoke. Don’t assume their attitudes. Don’t choose their way of life. Don’t imbibe their way of life into your hearts. Don’t take their words upon your lips. Don’t adopt their purposes for living. Don’t take on their mindset. Don’t color your life in their color. Don’t become entangled with them. Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers.”
In one word, the Scriptures are warning us of the danger of compromise with the world. We see that on every side today, in every sphere of life, compromise – the church compromising with the world. The idea that if the church is to win more of the world, then the church must look like the world and convince the world that Christianity is really just like them. Then the world can fit a little easier into the church. Christ, then, is said to be where they are at, rather than telling men that where they are at is in a place of destruction and they must come to Christ. No, the idea is that Christianity must be made like the world.
That happens also in our own lives. We can want to dull the sharp points so that we can fit in and feel a little easier with the world on the Sabbath day, with dress, or with entertainment. God says, “Don’t put your neck in the yoke of an unbelieving world. Don’t take on their point of view. Don’t use their language. Don’t seek their goals. Don’t desire to be like them.” Yes, you must come into contact with them. They must see you. God intends the church to be seen on the earth. And He intends you, as a Christian, to be seen on this earth. He wants you to be seen in your work, in your family, in your vacation, in your neighborhood. But He wants you to be seen as united to Him and not filling the mold of the world. Do not compromise with the world.
There is an absolute difference, a conflict, between the unbelieving world and the church of Jesus Christ. There is a difference that God hath made. It is the difference of the life of regeneration, that newborn life of Christ which the child of God has.
So, let us use a few examples.
Let us think of a Christian nurse. Your patient is involved in a life of sin. Perhaps he comes from a broken home and/or drugs. Your eyes, as a Christian nurse, are opened up to the world. What are you to do? Quit? No! But you are to be a nurse, now, as one who has the hope and the Word of God in your heart. So, as your patient is being wheeled to the operating room, you do not offer these words with the world, “Well, there’s a silver lining in every cloud.” Or, “Boy, isn’t life hard, a bummer?” No. You stand out of Jesus Christ and you use the words, maybe you use the very words of Daniel’s three friends: “The God whom I serve is able to deliver from a burning, fiery furnace.”
Let us use the example of a Christian businessman. We will say that you are an accountant. Your client says to you, “Well, what the government doesn’t know is not going to hurt them. After all, that’s the way business is done today. You know. So, be a good Joe and just fit in here.” No, you do not take on the world’s mold. You say, “Behind all accounting is the eternal God of truth. We must do what is right before Him.”
Or, perhaps you are talking to your neighbor, a neighbor who does not go to church or confess the name of Jesus Christ. You are talking to him over the fence and he is saying to you, “Oh, yeah, when me and my wife get this we are going to have our dreams and all of these earthly things.” Then you have an opportunity to testify to him of the true riches that are in Jesus Christ.
Now, you must understand with me that the yoke of this world does not just lie on the ground. Young people, conformity to the world is not something that is neutral, on the ground, and just waiting there. No, the yoke of the world is something that will be pressed upon you. It will constantly be brought to you, and the world will try to press it on you. They will try to get you to join with them, to assume their viewpoint for living, to be like them. If you will be like them, they will greet you with open arms and will think you are a great person. A thousand times in a day this yoke will attempt to put itself upon you and God says, “My child, I have yoked you to Jesus Christ. I have united you to Him. I have placed you in this world to live out of the life of regeneration, the life of Christ. Now, do not compromise that standard, or you will be guilty of treason against Jesus Christ.”
Because of the life of Christ within the Christian, the Christian is different and is living out of a different principle. This goes back to the source of the Christian’s life. The source of the Christian’s life is not this world. It is from above. As we read in I Peter 1:3, we are begotten from above unto a living hope. Now the apostle Paul is going to work this out. He is going to present a series of rhetorical questions by which he will show the absolute contrast between the Christian and the world, the utter impossibility of the Christian ever being joined to the world.
First of all, he sets forth the absolute contrast, the obvious contradictions. He says, “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” That is a clear contrast. Those two do not blend. Even though the world, the flesh, and the devil try to blend them, they cannot be blended. Righteousness is what God says is right from His holy Word. And unrighteousness is what God says is sin, the transgression of His Word. You cannot blend those two.
“What communion hath light with darkness?” You cannot mix those two either, for then you will not have light or you will not have darkness. Light in Scripture is holiness. It is the understanding of God. We are to walk as children of light even as He is in the light. Darkness in the Bible refers to the blindness or arrogance of sin, when we walk in the vanity of our mind and the darkness that is within us. There is no concord between those. There is no communion between light and darkness.
“What concord hath Christ with Belial?” Belial is that which is worthless and wicked and perverse. Christ is He who is good and pure and holy.
“What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” says the apostle. An infidel is a pagan unbeliever. And Paul says, “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” There is no agreement between the temple of God and an idol. One, the temple of God, is dedicated to the true God. The other, the temple of the idol, is dedicated to lies, to vanity, to falsehood. One is a blessed place; the other is a cursed place. There is an absolute contrast here. On the one hand, there is righteousness, light, Christ, believer, temple of God. On the other hand is unrighteousness, darkness, Belial, infidel, temple of idol. There is the absolute impossibility of joining these two together. They do not have anything in common. They do not seek similar goals. They cannot live in the same house. What fellowship do they have? What purposes do they have in common? What concord, what voice of harmony, what participation or agreement? Does God hold out His hand in token of agreement with the idol? Does God shake hands with an idol? Can God bless one who has set his heart against Him? There is an absolute difference.
The reason why a Christian cannot take on the yoke of an unbeliever is that the Christian is living out of a different source of life. They are absolutely opposite – the life of Christ and the life of this world. God has made us in Christ to be risen in Christ with the life that seeks God. This life is not because of anything we have in ourselves. Christianity is not something that we did for ourselves. Cults do things to people. Philosophies do things. But Christianity is not something of ourselves, its origin is not of ourselves. Its origin is of God. God, by grace, has placed within the child of God a life different from the life that lives in the unbelieving world. Because of that life, we cannot, we may not, we will not put our neck in the yoke of an unbeliever. We will not live for the same purposes. We will not consent to their sinful ways. We will not live our life by their standards. That is why true Christian living is something only God can give you. You can learn the do’s and the don’ts. Perhaps if an elder would follow you around day by day and make sure you have an exhaustive list of everything your are supposed to do, then maybe you can live the Christian life. Some think that that is possible. But it is not. It is not possible. The list will never be long enough. No. It is Christ in you. You must live out of Christ.
Then, by His grace, you want to obey His law. You seek Him. You love Him as your Lord. You experience His fellowship. You rejoice and your heart sings in tune with Him. And you say to the world, “Your goals, your approval, your attitude, your thoughts? I count all these things but loss, rubbish, and dung. Give me Jesus.”
There is no compromise between Christ and this world.
Come out from among them and be separate. Stand separate from the world. That is the calling of God to us. Do not put your neck in the yoke of the world. But stand separate.
Let this be an encouragement to us. We need encouragement. Not simply because of the reproach of the world. We need encouragement because of our own weakness. So easily, so readily, the yoke of the world becomes appealing to us. Sometimes in our folly the yoke of the world can be fastened around our neck and we cannot get it off. Then misery comes, lots of misery, for a child of God. It is as if the devil is like the old-fashioned team master, the team driver of horses. The horses are now hitched. He has them harnessed. He drives them. When the devil puts his harness on you, he drives you, he beats you, he exhausts you, and he kills you in sin. His yoke of sin is the bondage of hell. It will drag men down to ruin and emptiness and the flames of the fire of hell.
Do not put your neck into the yoke of the world. But, having these promises of God that God will dwell in you and be with you and receive you as a father, come out of the world and separate yourself from all sin and be different from the world and live out of Christ. In this way, you and I will enjoy what this world and ten thousand more like it cannot give. We will enjoy the name of “son” and “daughter” of the Lord almighty.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray that Thou wilt write it now upon our hearts and that by grace we may come out from this world and live as those who are alive in Christ. Amen.