Separation from Evil and Holiness to the Lord: Part 2, the Christian's Directions

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Now, at the present time, God is forming out of Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14-18) a bride for present association, in testimony to and for a rejected Christ, and to be hereafter manifested in glory with Him. Though the language of Israel has been "We have no king but Caesar," and their prayer "His blood be on us and on our children," His dying prayer has gone up, too, to the Father, and has been answered: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Consequently there is a redeemed people to walk in separation from evil today. For in nowise are God's principles changed. The language first applied to Israel, is applied by the apostle Peter to Christian men and women now: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." (1 Peter 2:9) And again, "As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation." " I pray not," says the Lord, in John 17, " that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." And as to our practical sanctification, we know that we are to be "conformed to the image of His Son." (Rom. 8:29); we know that this practical conformity is going on now (2 Cor. 3:18); and we know that, though we are not fully like Him, yet still that we shall be so in that day. "When He shall appear, we shall be LIKE HIM; for we shall see Him as He is," and the one effect of this is that "He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." (1 John 3:2,3) With these exhortations of Peter and John agree the words of the apostle Paul: "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 Cor. 7:1) He had also just said, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing;" and his parting exhortations to Timothy are of similar import, in view of the perilous times of the last days. (See 1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:20-26; 3:1-17) The consequence of not at once acting on the principle of separation is that souls are defiled by association; the conscience loses its tenderness, no longer shrinking from evil; the Holy Ghost is grieved, and separation is presently considered to be either needless or impossible.
It is important that Scripture only should guide us. Let it be consulted if the reader admits the principle of separation from evil to be divine, and of paramount, i.e. of first importance, in order to be instructed in the way God would have it practically effected. To this I propose now to turn, assuming the above is admitted. Separation from evil, then, begins with self-judgment. Self-judgment is the condemnation by the new nature, of the ways and manners of the old, and separation from them. The Christian's body, the body of each believer, is the temple of the Holy Ghost. This Paul insists on in writing to the Corinthians. (1 Cor. 6:19) How this can be Scripture fully explains elsewhere; but he is using it Isere in order to insist that they shall not do what they will with that which is not their own. " He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit," and this Spirit is the Spirit of holiness. (Rom. 1:4) It condemns everything in me that it finds inconsistent with itself. The right way of its manifestation is in a walk such as Christ walked when down here; a reproduction of Christ in the world. (1 John 2:6) The means the Spirit uses to correct me when I fail in this is always the Word. In Hebrews it is the provision on earth for the saint going through this wilderness, and is "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (4:12) It pierces down to and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart-goes down to what is hidden, yet working within, and exposes these hidden things (whence spring my actions) to me. Nor is this all, the Word is the sword of the Spirit against the enemy, who would use these lusts of my own heart, this inherent sin which he finds there, to draw me away from the path of obedience.
Thus I find the Spirit using the Word for two purposes-the one to expose to me that inward working which is not of Him, in order to lead me to judge it and separate from it; and, on the other hand, to defeat the enemy, who seeks to ensnare me by presenting something to these lusts which he finds there. (James 1:14) And what the Lord uses, as a man, to defeat the enemy is the word of God. There was and could be nothing in Him to respond to what Satan presented, for He was "without sin " (Heb. 4:15); but still He met the tempter as a dependent man (Matt. 4; Luke 4), not as Son of God, but gaining the victory as man by never leaving the path of obedience. So the apostle would have the Corinthians remember to "judge themselves" (1 Cor. 11); for their failure in self-judgment led to all the open and manifest sin which had become a common report and a scandal to the name of Christ. (1 Cor. 5:1) The Word, then, is the instrument, a piercing sword in the hands of the Spirit, to enable us to judge all evil in ourselves, and to walk in obedience. "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." (1 Sam. 15:22) Nor is the believer's responsibility over, when he is thus seeking to fashion himself and his ways by the light of the Word, though surely to do so is the first and all-important matter, and it is in this sense of its importance that the apostle Paul says: " Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord " (Heb. 12)-a daily word to us as to separation from evil. But there is a further responsibility devolving upon those who would be true disciples of their rejected Lord. In John 13, because He loves them all, and is occupied in the activity of His love to the end, He insists that each is to care for his brother: If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another's feet; for I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." Wherever I see a spot on another believer, my responsibility at once is to remove it, to separate him from it, and not one is exempt from this responsibility. The means is still the Word; and what is the spot? It is sin; and in seeking to separate my brother from it, I am benefiting him, myself, and all the members of the body, and I am occupied in the same work as Christ Himself is doing. (Eph. 5:26)
Here, too, we may fitly say, that "if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it." (1 Cor. 12:26) As to individual trespasses, brother against brother, Matt. 18:15-18, directs us. (See also Rom. 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:6,14) In open sin, unrepented of by one "called a brother," 1 Cor. 5 directs the assembly how to act, itself now, instead of Israel, the dwelling-place of God (1 Tim. 3:15), however men may have marred its original simplicity and beauty. Outside the assembly, God deals in judgment still with the offender. "The Lord shall judge His people." He is in the hands of God for judgment, that the chaff may be blown away from the wheat, and " that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus;" for "our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:29) If we fail in self-judgment, God Himself may come in. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." (1 Cor. 11) He comes in either by the assembly, or He Himself chastens. The assembly, through lack of spirituality, is not always cognizant when saints are not walking in self-judgment, and when she is, cannot act in putting away save for acts of sin. Such cases clearly belong to the individual care of John 13. But God is cognizant of it, and oftentimes chastens individuals by sickness and even death, when the assembly is ignorant why He does so. Thus He acted in Corinth, while another case He allowed to go on there to manifest itself in open acts of sin such as are named in 1 Cor. 5, which the assembly must judge, the word of God being to the assembly (as it is to the individual) the authority to judge and separate from evil. If the leaven is put out, it is well; but it becomes a cause of humiliation then, and after that (on the part of the assembly) that God should have seen it necessary to let it go on to this. (See 2 Cor. 7:9-11) But if an assembly will not put away leaven, and thus does not own the necessity of keeping clean the temple of God, the dwelling-place of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 3:16), the place where Jesus delights to come and manifest Himself (Matt. 18:20; John 20:19,26), it thereby ignores His presence, and has given up any claim to it, and the responsibility of the individual believer is to separate himself from such a company. For as Scripture teaches me in many places to avoid an individual ostensibly "within " who is going on with evil (see Rom. 16:17-19; Phil. 3:17-19; 2 Thess. 3:6,14,15; 1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:21; 3: 5; 3 John 9-12 &c), so I learn too that Paul avoided an assembly, that of Corinth, for a time, where evil was not judged, for Paul would not tolerate it, and more, if present, he would not spare any who did. " And I call God for a record upon my soul," he says, "that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth." (2 Cor. 1:23) This necessity is clear, if 2 Tim. 2:15-26 be studied in connection with Peter's language, that "judgment must begin at the house of God." (1 Peter 4:17)
Is it not easy to see, in all these directions for our guidance in the word of God, that the one desire of God is to have communion with us, and that the first necessity to this is our separation from evil? Like a golden thread, running through all His ways with us, we trace it in redemption (Titus 2:14); again in the necessity of self-judgment (1 Cor. 9:27; 11:31); in the injunction to us that we are to care for each other (John 13); in the assembly's direction to put out leaven (1 Cor. 5); and in the individual faithfulness, which must act if an assembly is unfaithful (2 Tim. 2:21); in all, the same principle is before us again and again.
H. C. A.