So many destructive teachings are nothing more than corruptions of actual truth. One of those is the Doctrine of Separation, and I believe it’s doing more harm than good.
A while back I visited a church where a missionary was speaking. I really enjoyed hearing what he had to say, but was disappointed with his prayer card. Listed on the back, along with his statement of beliefs, was the “doctrine of separation.”
Practiced within the more independent and fundamental branches of Christianity, the Doctrine of Separation is mainly derived from 2 Corinthians 6:17:
” Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you…”
The idea is that if one group does not agree with another in all areas, then association is considered sinful, or at least liberal.
Ironically, during his sermon the missionary spoke of how good it was to be able to talk to a Charismatic believer in Mongolia. He spoke of how good it was, in a land where few missionaries frequented, to find anyone to talk to that was a Christian. But when it came to working together… that was a different story.
Years ago, in 1992, I was given the opportunity to travel to Romania for a month. Long story short, in order to do some first-time evangelical work in a small village, two other young men and myself were blessed to find a young interpreter who wanted to help us.
Actually, the teenage interpreter was helping a Pentecostal church group which was rebuilding grain silos during the day. When he was free in the evening, he helped us go out and distribute Bibles, tracts, and even witness and preach. He even helped us make friends with the Pentecostal group.
Ultimately, this unexpected encounter led to unplanned cooperation, and the Church of God group paid the interpreter so he could work with us Baptists to get out the Gospel! Because of this, around 80 souls came to accept Christ as their Saviour in one week!
Back in the USA
When I got back to the U.S., thoughts crossed my mind about how Baptist missionaries could develop ways to work together with other Christian missionaries in third-world countries, especially where the work was great. Pooling local resources and manpower for mutual benefit seemed something totally logical to me… but not to BIMI, the mission agency with which I had traveled.
Unlike Southern Baptist missionaries, Independent Baptist missionaries have to raise their own funds to reach the field. To me it seemed that being able to work with other Christians to accomplish like goals was a no-brainer, but not according to the Doctrine of Separation to which BIMI held true, as do most Independent Baptists with which I have been acquainted.
The belief that Christians cannot work together, worship together, or evangelize together to reach a common desired goal is crazy. There are areas that make Baptists (of which I am) different from other denominations, and rightfully so. These differences, however, are more often than not of little eternal significance.
Baptists believe in baptism by submersion, for example, while Presbyterians normally do not. Is that worth saying that when it comes to winning the lost for Christ that we must remain separate in all things? Even if a friend of mine is a Calvinist (which I am not), does that mean that it’s wrong to walk down a street with him as we both preach salvation through Jesus alone? I like what article XIV of the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message has to say on the subject:
“Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.”
When it comes to the legalists and the Pharisaical crowd that promotes separation to the extent of mutual exclusion, finger pointing and self-glorification (i.e., “I am right with God and you are not, because you don’t believe the same as me.”), maybe isolation isn’t that bad.
More people than not, I truly believe, think that working together for the greater good of the Kingdom is biblical. Only a small minority of so-called “fundamentalists” within the Christian faith feel otherwise. However, the problem is not so much that we believe that working together is good as long as there is no compromise, it’s getting us to actually DO it. Let the “separatists” stay separate if they wish, but let the rest of us unite, where possible, and do the work of the Body of Christ.
Say what you will about the “herd mentality,” but it is the loners that the lions and wolves look for first. There truly is strength in unity.
A Mini-Commentary, Pt 5 (Ephesians 4:4)
I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend (here in America), because I sure did! Beside having a wonderful service Sunday morning, my family and I came together in Atlanta, GA, to attend a major-league baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins…and the Braves WON!…Twice in the same game!
Today, let us look at verse 4 in Ephesians 4. Keep in mind that the Body of Christ (the Church) may be one, but it contains individual parts, each part of an overall design, and each part performing a prescribed function. We will go deeper into that aspect a little later.
4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.
[There is] one body,
Here the Apostle Paul, speaking of the Church as the unified Body of Christ, begins the first point in “Seven Particulars”, the culmination of the last making up three different triads. The first triad is that of “one body…one Spirit…one hope of your calling.” See also 1 Corinthians 12:13.
The second triad is formed from “one Lord…one faith…one baptism.” The third triad is found in verse six where, when describing God the Father, the seventh “particular,” he declares that He is “above all…through all…in you all.”
Paul continues to use the analogy of the body to describe the importance of healthy unity. Unity in the body, especially peaceful unity (v.3) is critical for effectiveness. Although a human body be unified, all individual members working together for the common life of the body, if one member be sickly or “angry,” the rest of the body, however healthy, will ultimately be affected and the work of the body will be hindered. There are a great many truths associated with the Church being the Body of Christ on the earth, and here is no exception. But what Paul does in the next few verses is take both a wide-angle view and one that is microscopic: he speaks of the common unity we have as the Body, but he also stresses the importance of the individual member (v.7).
and one Spirit,
What is a body without life? What is a body without a spirit that animates it? Similarly, what is the Body of Christ without the life-giving, resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit? Not only are believers part of one body, but they are also empowered by the indwelling Pneuma (the Holy Spirit; the breath of God). “For by one Spirit (Pneumati) are we all baptized into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
It must be understood that without the presence of the Spirit, the Church would not be the living Body, Jesus Christ being the Head. Therefore, as the Body is united, and as it works, individual members will have different responsibilities, such as feet help the body to stand while the fingers grip the hilt and the arm swings the sword. Yet, all will receive their strength from the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that flows through one part of the Body is the same that flows through another whose Head is Jesus Christ. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9 KJV). See also 1 Corinthians 12:13.
even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
The unified, universal Church is one Body, has only one life-giving and empowering Spirit and only one hope: “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13 KJV). Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ have a calling – a “vocation” – for which they have been called. Therefore, in everything we do, at home or at work or school, each believer has been issued a vocation in the Kingdom, and that is to point people to the only Hope of the World.
It must be noted, however, that a careful reading of this part of verse four shows that “even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” is a phrase which helps modify the previous “There is one body, and one Spirit.” Notice how that Paul says that there is one body and one Spirit, “even as…” Therefore, a comparison is being made between the two phrases, which could even lend to the argument that there is not really a triad in this section, only a couplet modified by a couplet.
So, what is really being said? How do we make the comparison between the two? The body needs a spirit to animate it, to make it alive; the “vocation” has only one “hope.”
 H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 147.
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