Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Conservative Evangelicalism’s Distortion of the Doctrine of Separation

Monday, December 6, 2010

Conservative Evangelicalism’s Distortion of the Doctrine of Separation

We cannot understand the doctrine of Separation apart from understanding the doctrine of Fellowship. The reason our understanding of the doctrine of Fellowship is essential to understanding the doctrine of Separation is because “fellowship” with God is conditioned upon being right with Him and obedient to His will as revealed by the Word of God. The condition for “fellowship” with God is simply stated in I John 1:1-7:

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:1-7).

The word “fellowship” is used 4 different times in these few verses of Scripture and in each instance is translated from the Greek word koinonia (koy-nohn-ee'-ah). The word literally means partnership. It refers to joint cooperative participation to achieve a common goal or purpose. Secondly, there is a condition that must be met before this partnership can be formed; the believer must “walk in the light” and cannot “walk in darkness.” “Light” is a metaphorical synonym for theological Truth or obedience to God’s will; i.e. righteousness. “Darkness” is a metaphorical synonym for theological error that leads an individual into disobedience to God’s revealed will; i.e. unrighteousness.

Therefore, those individuals or local churches that are living in “fellowship” with God cannot join themselves in partnership with other individuals or local churches that are walking “in darkness.” To do so would be an act of disobedience that would break or breach “fellowship” with God. In this context, there is the presumption of knowledge of God’s Word and God’s will revealed by His Word. To object to the doctrine of separation on the ground that it creates disunity is complete ignorance of the fact that false doctrine leads to false practices, which reveals there is no real unity in the first place.

Separation from worldliness and unto God is a Biblical mandate for both the local church and the individual believer. We find this mandate recorded to some degree on almost every page of Holy Writ. Separation from worldliness and unto sanctified service to God is the universal call to all believers “born again” of the Spirit of God. Therefore, it should not be difficult to define God’s intended parameters regarding His purpose in separation and the degree to which all believers are to be separated from worldliness, heresy, and apostasy.

Normal separation is the unwillingness to identify with or cooperate with individuals or other local churches that hold to false doctrine(s) or who involve themselves in worldly practices. This includes the willingness to separate in both identity and/or cooperation with individuals or local churches that might appear to hold to correct doctrine, but refuse to separate from those who do not agree with them doctrinally. Some refer to this as Second Degree Separation. I reject that term. This is just separation on one level in that orthodoxy must always result in orthopraxy. If orthodoxy (right doctrine) does not result in orthopraxy (right practice) then this reveals heterodoxy (doctrines at variance with the official or orthodox position). No individual or local church that is in “fellowship” with God can join in identity or cooperation with another individual or local church that is out of “fellowship” with God.

In recent years we have had men rise up out of professed Bible believing Christianity (commonly referred to as Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism) to propose that Scriptural separation is not intended to maintain local church purity (Ecclesiastical purity) relating to doctrinal purity and practice, but merely intended to maintain purity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore they propose that local churches should not separate over other lesser important doctrines such as issues of Church polity, Pneumatology, or Eschatology (to mention a few areas they propose as lesser important areas of Truth). I believe this is little more than another level of an attempt to keep Bible believing Christianity culturally relevant in a national and world culture where true Bible believing Christianity is being rapidly relegated into cultural obscurity.

17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans 16:17-20).

Uniquely, Romans 16:17-20 is within Paul’s salutary to the local churches at Rome. It is his final statement defining a true Opus Dei (the universal call to holiness). Romans 16:17 gives the faithful believer two responsibilities regarding individuals that “cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine.”

1. “Mark them”

2. “Avoid them”

The word “mark” is translated from the Greek word skopeo (skop-eh'-o), which literally means to take aim at. It is the word from which we get our word scope (as in rifle scope). We might understand it to mean to put a bullseye on their foreheads and keep your eye on them; keep them in the crosshairs of your scope.

The word “avoid” is from the Greek word ekklino (ek-klee'-no), which means to deviate out of your way. The implication is to go out of your way to shun such a person. The idea is to go to an extreme to avoid even an appearance of association with someone holding to false doctrine and/or by such association condoning any such false doctrines contrary to what Paul had just finished defining in his epistle to the Romans. Obviously, this is a very broad definition of separation and completely contrary to the Gospel Only separation proposal of the new division within Bible believing Christianity being created by Conservative Evangelicalism.

Of course the new Conservative Evangelicalism wants us to believe that they are the ongoing representation of true Bible believing Christianity and that their position on Gospel Only separatism is the Biblical norm with all other forms of separation being extreme. This is just not true and his completely contrary to both the Biblical and historical pattern of centuries of Church history. The question that needs to be answered regarding this is simply, does Gospel Only separatism meet the criteria for the Biblical mandate regarding what Paul commands in Romans 16:17-20? This question can easily be answered by simply defining “the doctrine” that Paul refers to in Romans 16:17. Is he referring to the doctrine of salvation only; i.e. the Gospel Only? Or, is Paul using the word “doctrine” to be all inclusive of everything he had just written to them about?

Surely we could not take this to mean that Paul is saying that almost everything he had just taught in his epistle to the Romans is really inconsequential to God as long as we get the Gospel right. In fact, we should go far beyond this reductionist mentality to understand that the whole of the epistle to the Romans defines the Gospel as the good news regarding redemption and all peripheral truths relating to the salvation of a soul. This includes the doctrine of grace that extends salvation beyond the salvation of the soul into the salvation of a sinner’s life through practical sanctification and even the salvation of a sinner’s body through glorification.

We must understand Paul’s instruction to “mark them” and his command to “avoid them” as referring to anything that departs from “the faith” he had just laid out in careful divisions and meticulous detail including the vocational election of national Israel, the details of the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Palestinian Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the place of Church Age believers in the unfolding “already, not yet” beginning of the New Covenant. Paul gives details of Pneumatology in Romans chapters 6 and 12 regarding the supernatural baptism with the Holy Spirit (6:1-18) and the supernatural enabling of the Holy Spirit in the lives of consecrated believers (12:1-8). Paul gives details of the Church Age priesthood of all believers in Romans chapter 11 and warns them of the consequences of unfaithfulness by disobedience to what they were saved to do; Ambassadors of Reconciliation.

Secondly, two practical outcome failures are addressed in the statement “cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine.”

1. “Divisions . . . contrary to the doctrine”

2. “Offences . . . contrary to the doctrine”

Those to be marked and avoided are those involved in these two corrupt outcomes. The words “the doctrine” is synonymous with the words “the faith” used elsewhere in Paul’s epistles. In fact Paul uses the phrase “the faith” to refer to the complete inscripturalized doctrines of the Word of God over and over again in his epistles. I believe Paul uses the phrase “the faith” on 20 different occasions and Peter and Jude each use it once. The phrase “the faith” is what Paul refers to in Acts 20:27 as he addressed the “elders” of the local churches of Ephesus, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”

The word “divisions” in Romans 16:17 is from the Greek word dichostasia (dee-khos-tas-ee'-ah), which means disunion. Paul is referring to doctrinal dissension resulting in division or sedition. Therefore, the primary meaning of “divisions” is the breaking of what was previously joined together. “Divisions” is doctrinal disunity as contrasted with doctrinal unity. Paul addresses this in Ephesians 4:1-16.

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. . ..11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-6 & 11-13).

Once the division is created and an individual is disjoined from the unity of the “one faith,” this creates a faction or new sect within Christianity. Therefore, this division in doctrine leads to heresy. The word heresy in the New Testament is from the Greek word hairesis (hah'-ee-res-is), which basically means to choose a party or sect. The negative aspect of the word heresy refers to the removing of an individual from the main stream of Bible believing Christianity to form another division that wants to represent itself as the main stream or the norm.

Conservative Evangelicalism is seeking to remove individuals from the main stream of Bible believing Christianity to form another division that wants to represent itself as the main stream or the norm. Uniquely, they do this by using the argument that Fundamentalism is becoming too fractured and that we must unite under the umbrella of a common denominator; i.e., the Gospel. Their acceptable Gospel is as broad a stream as the reductionism of Only Believism to the extremes of Lordship Salvation and Calvinism’s Soteriology of Monergism and/or Limited Atonement. They have chosen to declare themselves neutral on these wide diversities of Soteriological positions within Evangelicalism. Neutral means they will not even discuss them in public forums lest they fractionalize their constituency. This nonsense does nothing more than create a manufactured, plastic kind of unity that completely lacks in genuine spiritual unity. It is certainly not “unity of the Spirit” and unity in “the faith.”

In Ephesians 4:13, God speaks of “the faith” as a “unity.” “The faith” is the all-encompassing teaching of the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) from cover to cover; every “jot and tittle” (Matthew 5:18). The believer keeps “the faith” (II Timothy 4:7) when he maintains the Bible’s unity in teaching and practice. The “unity” of “the faith” is threefold:

1. Unity in doctrine (Eph. Chapters 1-3)

2. Unity in purpose (Eph. Chapter 4)

3. Unity in practice (Eph. Chapters 5-6)

The Greek word hairesis (hah'-ee-res-is) is often translated by the word sect rather than by the word heresy. There was “the sect {hairesis} of the Sadducees” (Acts 5:17). There was “the sect {hairesis} of the Pharisees” (Acts 15:5). On two occasions, true Christianity was called heresy by the Jews (Acts 24:5 and 14). Paul refers to the divisions within the church at Corinth as heresy (I Cor. 11:17-19). Paul referred to “heresies” as one of the manifestations of the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21. Peter referred to the divisive teaching of the “false teachers” as “damnable heresies” in II Peter 2:1 that ultimately denies the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The point is that even though individuals who come under the pretense of unity, but with some new divisive theological position thereby creating a new faction and sect within Christianity, this is the very essence of what defines the word heresy. Therefore, although Paul’s use of the word “divisions” in Romans 16:17 is not the Greek word hairesis, the outcome of these “divisions” is heresy (new sects).

The secondly practical outcome failure addressed in the statement of Romans 16:17 is that they “cause . . . offences contrary to the doctrine.” The word “offenses” is translated from the Greek word skandalon (skan'-dal-on) from which we get our English word scandal. It is derived from a word meaning trip stick. The context of use gives us the meaning to refer to the outcome of false doctrine that would cause people to be tripped up or to stumble in their Christian walk. This certainly would apply to the false teaching of Conservative Evangelicalism that cooperation amongst various sects of Christianity should only be determined by some ambiguous definition of the Gospel.

Can we find commands in Scripture for separation over issues other than “the gospel”? Of course we can. This is the very nature of God’s commandments regarding local church discipline. God commands separating from disobedient brothers, Christians who refuse to resolve offenses (Matthew 18:15-20), believers refusing to repent of moral turpitude (I Corinthians 5:1-8), and even from Christians who refuse to work to earn a living (II Thessalonians 3:6-15). Paul also spoke in rebuke and reproof regarding the issues of false teaching on the rapture of the Church and the Tribulation that would follow (II Thessalonians 2:1-12). He certainly spoke against selfishness in II Timothy 3:1-9 as a contradiction against the sacrificial love that should be practiced by genuine believers.

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away {avoid}. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate {rejected and cast away as a worthless counterfeit} concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was” (II Timothy 3:1-9).

The command to “turn away” from these types of individuals does not refer to ceasing all evangelistic efforts on their behalf. Nor should we cease to be loving and kind towards them. Nor should we cease to pray for them. It means that we cannot live in a working ministry relationship with these kinds of people and we must separate from them in that context. Our ministry is not, and cannot be, with such people, but rather to such people.

The classic text on separation is found in II Corinthians 6:11-18. However, these verses are often separated from their context by ignoring what is said in II Corinthians 6:1-10).

1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) 3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: 4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; 6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (II Corinthians 6:1-10).

Of course, II Corinthians 6:1 is extending the teaching from II Corinthians 5:12-21 in expressing the moral obligations of all Church Age believers in their responsibilities as Ambassadors of Reconciliation concluding in verse 21 “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him {Christ}.” We must see that the context of II Corinthians chapter 6 is established in II Corinthians 6:1 by the words “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” The “grace of God” is the supernatural enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit who supernaturally generates the “fellowship” with God through the filling. This “fellowship” is expressed in II Corinthians 6:1 by the words “workers together with him.”

The production of God-kind righteousness through the life of a sinner, albeit a saved sinner, requires a supernatural work of grace through the Divine enabling of the indwelling Spirit. This Divine enabling cannot take place apart from the filling of the Spirit of God, which brings the yielded believer into “fellowship” with God. Failure in any area of separation breaches that “fellowship,” which then blocks the release of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-25) from overflowing (“rivers of living water,” John 7:38) from the believer’s life. This is what Paul is referring to by the words “beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” This is also expressed in I Corinthians 3:9-10 and the warning that follows in verses 11-16.

9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. 16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (I Corinthians 3:9-17).

This is the whole context that we must bring to the admonition regarding separation in II Corinthians 6:11-18. The Corinthians Christians were saved out of extreme paganism. They were becoming syncretistic (the melding or blending of Christian practices with pagan) and inclusivistic (tolerant) regarding the pagan practices of their culture. This is exactly what is going on in the Emergent Church culture today along with the incorporation of CCM (syncopated music rhythms) in worship music. This is cultural syncretism and a toleration of Neo-paganism.

11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. 12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. 13 Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged. 14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship {metoche; participation} hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion {koinonia; partnership} hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord {sumphonesis; harmonious agreement} hath Christ with Belial? or what part {meris; shared portion} hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement {sugkatathesis; a shared sentiment or opinion regarding values} hath the temple of God with idols? for ye {the local church at Corinth} are the temple of the living God; as God hath said {signifying a fulfillment of prophecy}, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore {because Christians are the living Temple of the Living God} come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean {something or someone defiled by paganism or sin} 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” (II Corinthians 6:11-18).

There is a silly and blasphemous notion being propagated amongst Evangelical Christianity today. That notion is that “fellowship” with God is on the basis of his positional sanctification in Jesus Christ, rather than his practical sanctification in separation from worldliness, false doctrine, and unto sanctified service as “living” sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1-2). Paul elaborates on this in Ephesians 5:3-13.

3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 13 But all things {unscriptural} that are reproved {addressed by Scriptural correction} are made manifest {exposed} by the light {Scripture Truth}: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” (Ephesians 5:3-13).

Anonymous comments will not be allowed.Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at:http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.He has served the Lord for over 40 years.


Honduras Missions said...

Excellent post. Our “Fellowship” is to be in truth and around truth. Truth and spirit are the LORD's way. Modern fellowship tosses Truth in place of amiable unity in humanitarian works. Truth of the Gospel is not important just so long as we all just get along and do nice things…. yikes that is poison on the lollipops handed out on the playground…

Dr. Al Cremard said...

Thank you my dear brother! I fear an avalanche of compromise is on the horizon and many will be swept away by unscriptural fellowship with those you have described. I am embarrassed that “intellectualism” seems to have captured some of our College, University and Seminary Presidents leading to false positions of fellowship. Truly, we need to get back to the Word of God.

Jerry Bouey said...

Thank you, Brother Lance, for the practical breakdown of word definitions in 2 Corinthians 6. It will help me to be better equipped to explain that passage to others.

Lou Martuneac said...

Brother Ketchum:

Thank you for this important discussion of with biblical answers to the disturbing trends you have identified here. Among other important comments you wrote,

“In recent years we have had men rise up out of professed Bible believing Christianity (commonly referred to as Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism) to propose that Scriptural separation is not intended to maintain local church purity (Ecclesiastical purity) relating to doctrinal purity and practice, but merely intended to maintain purity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore they propose that local churches should not separate over other lesser important doctrines such as issues of Church polity, Pneumatology, or Eschatology (to mention a few areas they propose as lesser important areas of Truth). I believe this is little more than another level of an attempt to keep Bible believing Christianity culturally relevant in a national and world culture where true Bible believing Christianity is being rapidly relegated into cultural obscurity.”

We’ve been hearing this so-called “pure-Gospel” mantra for nearly two years now. I think Dr. Ernest Pickering had it right when he wrote the classic Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church. Men who came after Dr. Ernest Pickering and R. V. Clearwaters are attempting a paradigm shift toward this narrowing of what biblical separatism is for and what our history as Fundamentalists has been.

In an Oct. 2010 chapel the college president said, “Historic Fundamentalism is about the Gospel…” IMO it is a reductionist, i.e., a revisionist history of separatist Fundamentalism to suggest that Fundamentalism has been about, been a battle for the gospel. From its earliest days fundamentalism has always been a battle for holiness, for purity, for the inspiration of and absolute inerrancy of the Bible.

I am grateful you have addressed this important topic. May God use this to help men awaken to the danger being introduced to the NT church by certain men among us.