Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - The Christian is to be separate in their Affections
Part 3 - The Christian is to be separate in their Appearance
John the Baptist is the Nazarite in the Scriptures who emphasises this particular aspect. Among a number of things peculiar to John the Baptist was those whom he refused to associate himself with. He distanced himself from the dead religion of the Scribes and Pharisees, calling them a generation of vipers. He was the voice of one on his own crying in the wilderness, Matthew 3:3.
He had more effect upon the people of the day than all the Scribes and Pharisees. Separation is not a lessening of influence but rather a strengthening of it. It gives the witness a divine power which is absolutely necessary to accomplish anything for God.
What is in view in obeying this principle is not isolation from a world of perishing sinners. We are in the world but not of the world. This is the opposite of what Rome practices with her monasteries and nunneries where people attempt to shut themselves away from the world around them and only succeed in troubling themselves with even greater temptation. Martin Luther said that he broke the seventh commandment more often in the monastery than he did outside it!
It is not isolation from the world with need but separation from defiling associations is what the Lord would have us to practice. This principle brings us to consider the unequal yoke, 2 Corinthains 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers… Believers are not to yoke themselves together with unbelievers under any circumstances. To do so will give delight to the devil, dishonour the Lord and dampen our zeal and devotion to Christ. We ignore this precept at our peril.
This applies to a number of areas in our lives:
The Word of God has something however to say about closer friendships. The people of God ought to chose as their close companions those who fear God, Psalm 119:63 I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts. Our close companions should not be those who live without the Lord, disown His authority, reject His Son, neglect His book and His Day and who resist His Spirit, Psalm 101:6 Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.
How can we have anything in common with those who know not the Lord? Can two walk together except they be agreed? the Scriptures ask. Even friendships that existed before a person is saved are not the same afterwards because of that lack of things in common. It says more about us if we profess to be Christ’s and still court the friendship of the unsaved, Malachi 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another; Psalm 119:115 Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.
Remember Lot in this regard. Lot left the company of a godly man, namely Abraham, and set his face towards the dwelling places of the ungodly. Little by little he drifted further away and brought ruin upon himself and his family. He lost them all to the world. He failed to take on board the warning of the Lord when he was taken captive and delivered by Abraham. Here was a golden opportunity to break with the men of Sodom but didn't, …the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God, James 4:4; He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed, Proverbs 13:20. Lot was a foolish man. His foolishness started with a failure to observe this fundamental principle for a follower of the Lord.
The Christian is to practice separation in the area of marriage. The Word of God clearly teaches that no believer should become engaged or married to one who is unconverted. Let parents, and every adult in general, be very careful with respect to the advice that they give to young people. Do not trivialise relationships in any way. They are serious matters.
God’s command to His ancient people was: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. Deuteronomy 7:3. The New Testament is equally clear on this matter. Believers are only to marry other believers: 1 Corinthians 7:39 at liberty to be married…only in the Lord; 1 Corinthains 11:11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
The reason for this instruction: For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly, Deuteronomy 7:4.
It will become very difficult to serve the Lord. The unbelieving husband or wife will never understand the thoughts and desires of a child of God. In a marriage where both husband and wife know and love the Lord, the Lord will be first in each of their lives, even before their respective husband or wife. An unsaved husband or wife is never going to understand or tolerate this.
Never think that it can work. Never think that somehow someone can go on and marry an unconverted person and that they will be the means of leading them to the Lord. That will not work. Disobedience to God cannot ever obtain the favour and blessing of God. There are no grounds whatsoever for believing that the contravention of this command of God will ever lead to happiness and the conversion of a soul.
Just because somewhere a person has done this and the other partner was subsequently brought to the Lord is never a reason for excusing the breaking of the Lord’s express command to the people of God. Never do it! Solomon is a classic example of one whose heart was taken away because of his ungodly wives, 1 Kings 11:4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
The Christian is to practice separation in the area of business. Here is another area where the Scriptures would warn us to be careful as to our associations. No believer should enter into a business partnership or arrangement with an unconverted person.
There is an obvious scriptural example. We have the record of the godly Jehoshaphat king of Judah entering into a political and maritime business venture with Ahaziah, the wicked king of Israel, and son of Ahab and Jezebel, 2 Chronicles 20:35-37; 1 Kings 22:48,49.
This joining together was for the intended economic prosperity of both nations. Ships were built to go and bring back gold and other commodities from Ophir. The Lord sent His prophet Eliezer, the son of Dodavah of Mareshah to prophesy against Jehoshaphat, saying: Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works. The ships did not even get out of the harbour, they were broken in Ezion-geber. God was highly displeased with Jehoshaphat and his unequal yoking of himself to Ahaziah.
Thankfully Jehoshaphat learned the lesson and when Ahaziah suggested another similar venture he refused to have anything to do with it, 1 Kings 22:49 Then said Ahaziah the son of Ahab unto Jehoshaphat, Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships. But Jehoshaphat would not.
There is a different emphasises in life for the believer and the unbeliever. The believer will seek to serve the Lord first and foremost. His business will be a means to the end of serving the Lord. For the unbeliever his business may also be a means to an end but it will not be serving the Lord. It will be seeking to please self. It cannot work.
Separation in our associations must be maintained especially in an evil day.