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: Crossing Guards for the Doctrine of Separation

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crossing Guards for the Doctrine of Separation

       We have all kinds of new guidelines being established for the practice of separation.  Things are certainly looking a lot different in practice than they did just a decade ago.  Biblical “fellowship” is now being defined by degrees and on levels often without any criteria of biblical exegesis.  Theology has moved into the helter-skelter world of rationalism and the fluid constructionism of the Post-modern view of truth as a commodity that is constantly evolving to be relevant to the culture in which it seeks to co-exist.  We would expect this praxis within Liberalism.  We might even expect it within Emergent Evangelicalism with its constant quest for cultural relevancy.  We have seen this happen within Evangelicalism as they spend more time asking questions than they do providing answers.  However, we would expect Fundamentalists to be above such nonsense. 
          The guidelines and boundaries for biblical separation are not complex issues.  We establish these guidelines and boundaries for biblical separation by answering one simple question according to the exegesis of Ephesians 4:1-7.  What action, attitude, or false doctrine on my part will cause me to lose the supernatural enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God and break “the unity of the Spirit”? 

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. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-7).

          The emphasis of this text is basic.  The tri-unity of God between the three Persons of the Godhead is perfect.  In the tri-unity of the Godhead, there is unity in essence, doctrine, purpose, and practice.  The only time in eternity that the tri-unity of the Godhead was ever broken was during the three hours of darkness (Luke 23:44-47) when Jesus, the eternal Son of God incarnate, bore the wrath of God for the “sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2).  That was the true agony of the Cross and all Persons of the Godhead suffered during those three hours due to that broken fellowship. 
          Is there a practicum for separation in Ephesians 4:1-7?  I think the answer to that question is obvious since a central purpose of the text is about “unity of the Spirit.”  The only distinction not defined in the text is the breadth of this “unity of the Spirit.”  Herein lays the difficulty in the practicum of separation.  Is the text referring to “unity of the Spirit” within the context of all the ambiguity of Christianity?  Is the text referring to the “unity of the Spirit” within the context of individuals within individual local churches?  Or, is the text referring merely to individual “unity of the Spirit”?  Again, I think the obvious answer is individual “unity of the Spirit.”  If the priority of my life is to pursue perfect unity with the Godhead it must be within their own perfect unity in essence, doctrine, purpose, and practice.  Therefore, my goal as a Christian is to pursue the communicable attributes of God, the mind of God through doctrinal purity, heart of God in loving people in the depth of self-sacrifice defined by Christ at Calvary, and a walk that is completely separate from any degree of worldliness and separate unto perfect righteousness.  That must be my personal answer to the question regarding what is involved in seeking “the unity of the Spirit.” 
Secondly, I must take into consideration any other partnerships I will join myself to in that pursuit of the “unity of the Spirit.”  My primary partnership in ministry is with Jesus Christ (John 15:1-5).  Therefore, my primary responsibility in the practicum of separation is to insure that I do nothing or align myself with anyone that might cause me to break my “unity of the Spirit” with Jesus.  The practicum of this is found in answering the question of Amos 3:3 - “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”  It is a rhetorical question with an obvious answer. – no!  If I join myself to another who teaches “other doctrine” (I Timothy 1:3; heterodidaskaleo - het-er-od-id-as-kal-eh'-o), will that cause me to break fellowship with God and lose the “unity of the Spirit”?  The answer is again obvious-yes!  Decisions regarding these other partnerships must include other individuals and other associations.  When there are a large number involved in this association, such as a local church or group of local churches, there must be consensus.  If the primary consideration is to insure that my fellowship with God is never broken, my obvious consideration of any consensus is that it is narrowly defined, not broadly defined.  In other words, I am not going to align myself with individuals, a local church, group of local churches, or associations of pastors who hold to any theological positions that I believe are unbiblical.  I am not going to risk breaking my fellowship with God over some frivolous fellowship with someone I think is leading people astray.  I am going to make sure I sound a certain trumpet.  Equally, I am going to make sure I do not sound an uncertain trumpet (I Corinthians 14:8).  God and His Word becomes my Crossing Guard when it comes to making these kinds of fellowship decisions.  I refuse to cross until I have God’s permission through a Scriptural mandate. 
          If a spiritual leader understands that anything he does outside of the “unity of the Spirit,” or the filling of the Spirit, is nothing more than a work of the flesh, why would he be willing to compromise that spiritual dynamic for anything.  This is certainly true of sharing a platform at a Bible Conference with someone who obviously is practicing things you consider to be sin.  We might justify such an action if the Conference was in the form of a debate and the individual participants are presented as coming to represent certain defined arguments.  In such a format, there is point and counter-point.  I have found these formats to be counterproductive.  In other words, the sides have already been formed and each side simply Amens the person postulating their position.  Also, simply because one person does better in the debate does not mean that the position he postulates is correct or his arguments valid according to Scripture. 
However, in the justification for platform fellowship with those holding to false doctrine or involved in sinful practices, there certainly appears to be a manifestation of misunderstanding of what is necessary to maintain fellowship with God.  The point is simple.  Can I in anyway enter into fellowship with someone out of fellowship with God because of false doctrine, or sinful practices, and not become out of fellowship with God myself?  Answering this question becomes the crossing guard to my practice of separation.  If I care about my fellowship with God, I will be very careful how I answer that question.  I certainly would lean towards taking a more stringent position rather than a more lenient position.  This is certainly not an area for arguing for liberty when we have so much Scripture defining doctrinal parameters. 
Inventing such terms as Platform Fellowship and Table Fellowship do not help in this discussion when these practices are not really fellowship at all.  I can be the friend of a heretic and have a cup of coffee or meal with him to discuss truth without entering into any kind of ministry partnership with him.  I must be careful that my public appearances with him are not construed as any kind of endorsement of his views.  Therefore, I would favor meeting with such a person in the privacy of my home rather than in public places.  I want to be careful that I never give another Christian a wrong impression.  I must especially be careful about public appearances in preaching/teaching/speaking engagements.  I have made some bad decisions about such things in the past and constantly regret them. 
          Christians do not understand the grief that our broken fellowship with God causes Him.  If we did, perhaps we would give much greater consideration to the flippant way we make ministry decisions and join hands with infidels to God’s truths.  Secondly, in an area in which God constantly rebukes me, we would be more careful to insure we act instead of react when it comes to all decisions in life.  I find myself often taking personal offense against things I think are offensive to God.  I know He is perfectly capable of dealing with those situations Himself.  Instead, I see the potential corruption of people, and the love that God has given me for those people, reacting protectively rather than through loving warnings.  Then, I become a corruptor in a different way than the infidels.  In such reactionary behavior, I too can grieve God. 

40 How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! 41 Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:40-41).

30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).

          It certainly is difficult to maintain a balance in practice between Ephesians 4:30 and the following two verses.  This is the struggle in dealing with theological diversities.  Trying to maintain a sweet and godly spirit when discussing Bible truths with people with which you completely disagree is very difficult.  Sometimes you want to just grab them and shake them into submission.  Of course, such actions would just drive the dissenting parties farther apart.  More importantly, such actions would grieve the Holy Spirit and cause Him to break fellowship with you.  In other words, such actions would cause the one practicing them to lose the filling of the Spirit.  In such cases, a believer’s carnality corrupts the potential for God to work supernaturally through that situation. 
          Then there are those that give priority to what Ephesians 4:31-32 says without giving the priority of the text to verse thirty.  Although both aspects must be balanced, there is a higher priority established in verse thirty.  This priority removes every excuse for compromising God’s truths or for giving a precedent for maintaining fellowship with an infidel (unbeliever or unfaithful believer) above our fellowship with God.  Herein there must be the most careful examination of our associations with those holding to false doctrines.  We must carefully consider a number of things in both our association and identification with someone we believe holds to false doctrines. 

1. How will my association or identification with someone holding to false doctrine be construed by those who look to me for leadership?
2. Will my association or identification with someone holding to false doctrine give an immature believer a false impression regarding the quest for doctrinal purity? 
3. Will my association or identification with someone holding to false doctrine give an immature believer incentive to accept the writings or statements of the person I associate with even though I completely disagree with that associate?
4. How might my association or identification with someone holding to false doctrine harm an immature believer?
5. What would I have to do to insure that my leadership influence, on whatever extent my influence might exist, might not harm another man’s ministry or lead another person astray by my association with someone holding to false doctrines or involved in worldly practices? 

          I believe those in pastoral leadership, and those holding influential positions in Christianity, ought to be answering questions rather than raising more questions.  God has appointed me His Crossing Guard only for the local church over which He has appointed me Bishop.  However, I am going to be very careful with whom I associate lest they begin to give God’s sheep permission to walk where God has forbidden. 

3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (I John 2:3-6).

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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.

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