God Commands Separation


Bill Burkett

Charles Hadden Spurgeon said, “Justification without sanctification is no salvation at all.” But it is equally as true that sanctification without separation is not salvation at all.

The precious blood of Jesus has washed me from the sins of the world I have committed. It is a false gospel that pretends that a Christian can be saved and be worldly at the same time. Fraternizing with believers who teach a corrupted gospel will only produce corruption in our churches. There are Americans now coming to the Ukraine and Russia who condemn Christians in America who hold the traditional Biblical teaching on separation. These people call their fellow Americans “legalists,” saying we are “in bondage to tradition,” and that “Christ has come to set us free from all of these bondages.” But these same Americans come over here to East Europe and refer to you brethren as “precious brothers in the Lord” when your standards are the same as those they condemn in the USA! What does this tell us about some of these Americans and foreigners? It tells us they have a hidden intention to change you and make you just like themselves. They will carry out this plan by bringing our young people under the influence of their teaching through their educational programs.

But brethren, and I speak especially to our young people here in the churches of East Europe; The idea of “freedom from all of the bondages taught by the church” are not traditions taught by men – they are the traditions taught by the apostles. Separation is not a doctrine of man, it is a doctrine of the Bible! Holiness is not denomination, a fellowship, or a religious organization. Holiness is a doctrine of the Bible!

Most of the moral teachings and behavioral teachings of the elders is derived from a Biblical understanding of godliness and the importance of virtue and self control. It is true that the flesh nature which “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,” will resent these controls put on the flesh. If we live and walk in the flesh then these moral teachings of the Bible will be rejected and replaced with a gospel according to the flesh. The flesh nature has its own interpretation of the Scripture and will very cleverly twist and contort certain Scriptures to support a gospel of the flesh. But the genuine apostolic gospel is a gospel that demands the death of the flesh nature by obedience to the moral commandments of the Scripture.

Now, that obedience to what is Biblically and spiritually true is impossible to achieve in those who have gone back into the world and returned to the control of the appetites. When we are born again, those appetites come under the control of the Spirit – but when we reject the Word of God and the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the nature of man returns to his appetites (lusts) but still claims to be following Jesus as his Lord. But the Scripture is clear about such an arrangement.

But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? (Galatians 4:9)

In simple language it is hypocrisy.

But now let us return to our original thought on the importance of separation and see what the Bible teaches about this subject. After reading the Word of God and making a word study into the literal meaning of the inspired Word, then we each must ask ourselves if we are living by what the Word of teaches.

SEPARATION – The doctrine of salvation is constituted of two major doctrines as we have mentioned above in the words of Charles Spurgeon;

First, JUSTIFICATION; The legal release of the repenting sinner from all sins committed in the past. This is the legal aspect of the cross and what Christ accomplished in our behalf through atonement on the cross. (See Roman 3:25-26)

Second, SANCTIFICATION; which speaks of the continuing work of salvation in the effecting of moral perfection in the heart of the believer. Just as the first work of salvation

(JUSTIFICATION) was a combined work of the Word and the Spirit, so is the work of SANCTIFICATION. Sanctification is made up of two Bible doctrines and has three operations;

The Two Doctrines Within Sanctification:
The doctrine of sanctification is divided by two vital doctrines; (a) Devotion and consecration to God and, (b) separation from the world. One of these Biblical teachings left out of the gospel message renders the gospel deficient and ineffective. If separation, for example, is not taught with devotion and worship of God, intentionally put aside and relegated to silence then you are guilty of adding or taking from the Word of God. That is extremely serious in the sight of God.

The Three Operations Of Sanctification;
1. CEREMONIAL SANCTIFICATION – I am sanctified ceremonially at the time of my conversion. That is, I am set aside by a decree of God as belonging to Him, which implies I have been set apart from my previous loyalties. This is the Greek verb Hagiadzo.

2. POSSESSING SANCTIFICATION – Then there is the stronger Greek word Hagiasmos which is a noun and describes the nature of the believer as being a nature that pursues moral excellence. It is an indwelling desire to be holy even as God is holy. This desire to be holy is placed in the heart by God. It is given when a believer in Christ sees his need of this motivating power and that he is powerless to achieve godliness unless God does the work and plants His holiness in the heart and mind.

This pursuit of holiness is the supreme desire of those who are born again. If you do not have this desire then return to the alters of prayer and seek God and His cleansing of your nature until this desire is born in you of the Holy Spirit. Holiness of life on God’s terms and according to God’s Word is impossible to possess until God plants that desire in the heart.

The church is cursed with “believers” who believe in Jesus, witness and even preach but have no love for moral perfection and moral excellence. (which means nothing – many atheists believe Jesus lived and the Devil believes in Jesus! James 2:19.)

I was preaching in a church in Czechoslovakia when afterward a young man very kindly informed me that if we put too much importance on holiness and living a pure life that it will make it difficult to win people to Christ.

BUT, are we winning people to Jesus on our terms or God’s terms. What good does it do to “make” believers out of people when they are not going to live above the world and be overcomers and separated from the world? They play the music of the world, they wear the fashions of the world, they go to the public beaches with the world, they wear cosmetics and conform to the world – they are following the world in what it dictates …because they have a desire to be like the world. This is the point! Just as you have a desire to conform to the World, you can also have a desire to be holy. When you receive the desire to be holy, you lose desire to be like the world. These two can not abide in the same vessel. (James 3:11)

These who preach the flesh gospel that wants to appease the sinner and lower the requirements for entering heaven as prescribed in the Word of God should study the ministry and message of Noah. God has not changed from that day until this. False teachers interpret God as being completely oblivious to our moral state and our conformity to the world value system – but God has not changed between the prophets and the apostles and He has not changed from the apostles until this day we live in.

To evangelize without teaching holiness of life and separation from the world is to spread a false and unbiblical gospel.

3. PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION – The part the Word of God plays in the moral transformation of the believer is what feeds the desire to be holy and gives us absolute and unchanging values to live and die by if we are to please God. Romans 12:2 tells us that transformation comes through the mind, i.e., “the renewing of the mind.”

The Spirit Of Holiness – So it seems that surrendering to the will to the holy nature is a matter of THE HEART having its affections set on God. In the crisis of total surrender experience where the desire to be holy and to have the mind of Christ in all matters of Life, the nature of holiness saturates the heart and mind. But then we must “go on to perfection” and live out the truth of holiness.

The Word Of Holiness
When Jesus prayed His priestly prayer for His disciples and for the posterity of the church, He said, They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. John 17:16-17.

Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Hebrews 10:22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

The doctrine of sanctification can never be changed, trifled with or denied as being precisely what the church has taught from the beginning. Worldly preachers would like to change the Word of God and they try – but in the end it will triumph over them all. Sanctification is an absolute experience provided for every believer in Christ!

Sanctification is woven into the very fabric and design of God’s plan for man. It cannot be denied, changed or improved on by modern culprits because it is the very heart and efficacy of the cross. Those who would modernize he original gospel do so at the risk of not being pardoned when they reach the judgment. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Word of God and to violate it, or trifle with it is to play with the destiny of your soul. You may feel that you are above being questioned here on earth and that you are secure with your powerful position to do as you please – BUT GOD…

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 1 Peter 1:15-16.

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 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. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.(Also read Jeremiah 11:3,4; Ephesians 5:27; James 1:27; I Corinthians 15:33)


The common Greek verb for “come” (ERCHOMAI– 2064) is used in the very broad sense and used most frequently. However, this word “come” found here in Paul’s command to come out from the world is a very strong verb, EXERCHOMAI-1831, carrying the meaning, get out, go, escape from. Separation is to the salvation of the saint what repentance is to the salvation of the sinner.

What repentance is to the atonement, so is separation to sanctification. Without repentance there is no atoning for the soul, there is no availing of the blood. And so, without separation, sanctification loses it power to purify.

Separation is absolutely essential to sanctification, and sanctification in turn is the continuing evidence of a valid salvation experience.

This is a commandment; “Be ye separate saith the Lord.” (v.17) It is an ultimatum that profoundly effects my relationship with the heavenly Father. Without separation, without a love for this function of the Christian experience, I destroy my relationship with the heavenly Father and lose my rights as a new born child. (verse 18)

Conviction begins the process of salvation, but separation is my continuing consecration that validates that moral process and secures my relationship with the Father. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” I John 2:15

The Bible teaches separation FROM.
Christians live in such a manner as not to bring reproach upon their Saviour and Lord, and that separation from all religious apostasy, and worldly and sinful practices is commanded of God. Romans 12:1,2; 14:13; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:11; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; I John 2:15-17; 2 John 9-11; I Corinthians 5:9-13.

The Bible teaches separation UNTO.
Believers should be separated unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Leviticus 19:2; John 15:1-5; Galatians 5:16; I Thessalonians 1:11, 12; Hebrews 12:1-2.

Paul uses five words warning us against fraternization in five different areas of life in the real world; five different relationships that are forbidden those who seek the holy life. Paul calls these forbidden areas of relationship with the world the “unequal yoke” (togetherness without harmony). (v.14) Those five relationships are; 1) Fellowship. METOCHE (3352); to participate or be a participator with the unrighteous and/or with unrighteousness, 2) Communion. KOINONIA (2842); this speaks of having social relationship or partnership, having something in common socially with the darkness, 3) (v.15) Concord. SUMPHONESIS (4857); “what agreement is there between Christ and Belial.” It literally means to be in accordance with. A saint should have nothing more in common with the world than Christ has with the gods of the heathen! 4) Part. MERIS (3310); meaning a share of, or sharing with. Paul is stating here, we should not enter into a relationship that amounts to sharing with the infidels (unregenerate, unfaithful). 5) (v.16) Agreement. SUGKATA- THESIS (4783); To be joined to or in company with. See a big worldly throng milling around at a beach party, or a rock festival. How can one whose life is holy and in the image of God be milling with that crowd, talking their language, enjoying that atmosphere? 2 Corinthians 6:16. The holiness Christian has nothing in common with the gods of this world. “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

If we want this relationship with God, we must sever our relationships with, 1) all unrighteousness in the world, 2) with all the works of darkness, 3) with all the gods and religions apart from Christ, and 4) from all spiritual apostasy and idolatry (covetousness). Colossians 3:5.

Paul did not want to describe separation in the singular term, he wanted it to be thorough and well understood. He wanted the church to understand its ramifications and seriousness. He clearly, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, forbid five different kinds of relationships which takes in the whole scope of forbidden fraternization.

J. B. Phillips, a Greek scholar, puts it very well, “Don’t link up with unbelievers and try to work with them. What common interests can there be between goodness and evil? How can light and darkness share life together? How can there be harmony between Christ and the devil? What business can a believer have with an unbeliever? What common ground can idols hold with the temple of God?”

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 (Matthew 19:21; Joshua 3:3,5; 2 Timothy 2:21; Jeremiah 24:7; John 5:6; 13:27; Matthew 8:2,3; 9:22; Acts 15:19; Mark 9:23; 11:24; Acts 26:18; Exodus 32:29) “Full salvation has two hemispheres: 1) Complete cleansing, 2) Perfecting holiness.”

Perfecting, EPITELEO (2005). To bring through to the end, complete, indicating a process. “FEAR OF GOD”

See God, Fear of; Isaiah 33:6. THOMPSON, PEPPER, Daily Holiness Textbook
One thing that delights God so much is to see the will of the believer strive in cooperation with the Holy Spirit in achieving moral perfection. Psalm 25:12-14; Malachi 3:16,17; Matthew 5:41; Philippians 3:9-16.

I must develop my own mind and display resolution regarding right and wrong. When we do, God credits me for taking that righteous initiative. This willful initiative on our part in responding to His grace is one of God’s greatest pleasures: to see us, by choice, becoming more like Him. The inspiration to be righteous and in right standing with God is born of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me, but the execution of it must be accompanied by concrete acts of resolute effort on the part of the believer.

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