A Separate Message
2 Corinthians 6:11-18
Separation. What is it? What does it mean? How do I become separated? Separated from what? Unto what? And why?
These are some heavy questions to ponder, and this passage does not answer all these questions directly, but I believe we'll find some principles that we can apply that will help each of us answer these questions for ourselves.
Survey: Answer the above questions, with some specific things God has led you to separate from in the past. A practical discussion here will benefit everyone. [examples range from the obvious such as alcohol or tobacco to the 'secret' things like porn or bitterness -- other examples to bring up for discussion: TV, movies, worldly music, cursing, gambling, sex outside of marriage, flirting, gluttony, laziness, dancing, envy, fighting, selfishness, materialism, 'workaholism,' pride of life, disobedience, addictions to anything like technology or worldly pleasures, Satanism and the occult [Ouija boards, séances, consulting of spirits, horoscopes, astrology, Goth, and TV programs which try to normalize such]
Obviously, some of these are forbidden in Scripture and some are areas of personal liberty/conviction, but we can apply Bible principles to anything and in good conscience make peace with God.
Sin that used to slink down the dark alley now struts down main street. Christians are less separated from the world than ever. In part because we are looking at the world instead of looking at God.
ill.--we look at the world and keep a certain distance from it, when we should look to God and keep a certain proximity to Him. As the world worsens, we find ourselves right where the world was a few years ago...and so we are worldly!
Paul just seems to cry out here. Oh, how ye yearned for those converts of his in Corinth. They are little baby Christians, babes in Christ, carnal Christians, but his heart went out to them. It seems his heart almost breaks in this chapter and the next one.
O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.
Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.
Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged [2Cor. 6:11-13].
Paul is opening up his great heart of love, and he stirs up the hearts of those who love him. The interesting thing is that he apparently also stirred up the hearts of those who hated God and His Word and who tried to hurt those who loved Him and loved the Scripture. We find that was true in the early history of the church, and it is true today. If you stand for God, you will find that it will really cost you something.
We come now to an important passage of Scripture. It is a section which has been often abused and misinterpreted. Some folk try to make it hard as nails, unyielding and unloving. Yet what Paul is saying here is coming from the tender heart of a man whose heart was almost breaking because of his great concern for the Corinthian believers.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? [2Cor. 6:14].
Paul here makes an appeal to the Corinthian believers to make a clean break with the old crowd of idolatry. They are to make a break from the sins of the flesh. They are to be separated from the worldliness that is in the world. Today we use the term "separated believers." There are many Christians who consider themselves to be "separated believers" who are actually as worldly as can be.
Back in the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law God gave a law to His people who were largely engaged in agriculture. He said that they were not to yoke together an ox and an ass. That would be yoking together unequal animals.
One was a clean animal and the other was an unclean animal. Here God is speaking to believers, and He says that the believer should not be yoked together with an unbeliever. How are people yoked together? Well, they are yoked together in any form of real union such as a business enterprise, a partnership, a marriage, a long-term enterprise.
Certainly marriage is the yoking together of two people. An unbeliever and a believer should not marry. A clean animal and an unclean animal should not be yoked together to plow. A child of God and a child of the Devil cannot be yoked together and pull together in their life goals.
Another example of such a relationship is identification with an institution. If a man is a professor in a seminary and he is conservative and holds the great truths of the Bible, but the seminary has gone liberal, such a man should get out of that seminary, because he is drawing a salary there and he is identified with their work and their organization. He is associated with it in a very tangible, real way. He is unequally yoked with unbelievers.
Suppose, however, that an evangelist comes to town and holds services for one or two weeks. Although he uses certain methods that you would not condone, he is preaching Christ and God is blessing his ministry, are you to join with him?
I have worked with people in the ministry with whom I differed on some matters, but we agreed in Christ and salvation and that's good enough. I would never have joined with them in any sort of permanent commitment because of their methods, but I gave him my support for the time he was there. We were by no means yoked together. But when it comes to our missionaries we want to be on the same page...they are our ambassadors, taking our message around the world.
Notice how Paul did it. Paul would first go to the synagogue when he entered into a new city. Can you imagine a place where there would be more opposition to Jesus Christ than in the synagogue? Yet that is where Paul began. I am not condemning him for it because God led him to do it that way. Now if Paul had joined himself to one of those synagogues and had become the rabbi in one of them and had stayed there, then that could have been considered a yoke.
You see, Paul is talking about being yoked together in a permanent arrangement like marriage or a business partnership. A house divided can’t stand.
As a church, we won't join in w/ some churches in our area for meetings because of their doctrine. It seems we don't even partner much w/ those we do agree with doctrinally, and I'm sure that must be wrong! But this won't keep me from having fellowship with men who do things a little differently as long as they are preaching the same gospel that I preach and they believe the Bible is the Word of God. Paul is talking about yoking ourselves with unbelievers, as he makes clear in the next verse.
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? [2Cor. 6:15].
Well, I certainly don't have any part with them. I am not joining with them permanently in anything, and I trust you are not. Let's not confuse this with our relationship with other believers who do things in a different way from what we do them.
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people [2Cor. 6:16].
Now Paul specifically mentions idolatry. The temple of God has no agreement with idols. Where is the temple of God? Today the temple of God is the human body of each and every believer. We are the temples of the Holy Spirit. The one in whom God dwells cannot be in agreement with idols.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty [2Cor. 6:17-18].
Paul is appealing to the Christian for separation and for cleansing. He is not to be in agreement with idolatry. He is to be separate from worldliness and from the spirit of worldliness which can creep even into the churches and into the lives of believers. The believer should not even touch the unclean thing.
Back in the Book of Joshua we learned how Joshua and the Israelites took the fortified city of Jericho by faith. However, Achan took the "accursed thing." Israel had touched what God had declared to be unclean. Then they went up to the little city of Ai with great confidence because they were sure of an easy victory, but Joshua and Israel were overcome and defeated at Ai. God asks for a separation from worldliness and from the unclean thing.
There are many Christians who consider themselves separated. They wouldn't think of doing this or of doing that. Yet they gossip and have the meanest tongues, never realizing that that very thing is worldly and unclean. Or they go in for the latest in fads or for gluttony and yet consider themselves to be separate from worldliness. I don't mean to sit in judgment -- and we ought not to sit in judgment on each other -- yet I feel I must point out these things because we need to be very, very careful. It is easy to talk about the things of God, to claim the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, to say we love Him, to consider ourselves separated unto Him, and still not in reality be separate from the world and separated unto Him.
ill.--J. Vernon McGee, "When I made my decision to enter the ministry, the vice-president of the bank where I worked called me into his office. He was a godless man -- he could swear as I've never heard anyone swear. I think it rather moved him when I announced that I was giving up my job to study for the ministry. He called me over to his desk and said, "Vernon, I want to tell you a story." This is what he told me: During World War I he was working in another bank and with him worked a man as godless and worldly as could be. However, this man was the soloist in a church. One day the man who was now the vice-president went to church, and there he heard his co-worker sing a solo, "Jesus Satisfies." A dear lady said to him afterwards, "Wasn't that a marvelous solo? It sounds like it came out of heaven!" Since he knew this man at work, he knew that Jesus did not satisfy him. One day this same woman came into the bank to do some business, and the teller who had been the soloist was attempting to get a balance sheet balanced, but it was off, and he began to rip out curses. The lady was really shocked at this and asked my friend, "Who is that man?" He answered, "That is the voice you heard the other Sunday and thought it came right out of heaven." The vice-president of the bank was a skeptic because he had seen a professing Christian singing, "Jesus Satisfies," when he knew Jesus did not satisfy that man. He knew that man was immoral, a drinker, and a man of vile language. He knew a Christian should not be like that, and it made him a cynical individual. He reached over and touched me on the knee and said to me, "Vernon, don't be a preacher unless you mean it." I have never forgotten that."
God says, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate,... and touch not the unclean thing." Don't be a Christian unless you mean it. Don't say that Jesus satisfies you if He is not really satisfying you. This is what Paul is talking about.
Then there is this glorious promise: "And I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." You will be the kind of son or daughter who brings honor to the Father.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God is always your Father. Don't forget that. What God is saying here is that He would like to act like a Father to you. He would like to treat you as a son. If you are going off into worldliness, if you don't mean what you say, if you are hypocritical in your life, then you can be sure of one thing: God the Father will take you to His woodshed. My friend, God does not want to be everlastingly taking you to the woodshed. That is why He asks you to come out from among them, to be separate, not to touch the unclean thing. Then God can have an intimate relationship with you as a Father with a son.
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