Were Jesus and Paul Separatists? Aphorisms for Thinking about Separation

Read the series so far.

Please, consider reading all of the preceding articles before delving into this one. While I’ve tried to make them each stand alone, they are linked together.

Aphorism 1: The debate between Bible believing Christians about separation is fundamentally about the how to apply the passages in the Bible commanding separation.

Aphorism 2: All applications of the commands of Scripture are based on a particular context outside the Bible. Therefore unless the context is identical to what was intended by the Bible, an application cannot be as normative as Scripture itself.

Aphorism 3: Applications of the commands of separation must take into account Jesus’ and Paul’s application of these same commands as recorded in the Gospels, Acts, and the epistles.

Was Jesus a separatist? Given that Jesus acted according to some of the same commands He requires His church to obey, the answer must be yes.

Let consider some of the examples: “Purge the evil person from among you” (ESV). This phrase is from the LXX and is used six times in Deuteronomy (17:7, 19:19, 21:21, 22:21, 22:24, 24:27).The Apostle Paul uses this phrase and demands obedience to it of the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5:12. The Greek verb behind “purge” is only used here in the New Testament, “suggesting Paul’s intentional and explicit use of the formula from Deuteronomy” (Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 709).

Our Lord Jesus was also required to obey, “Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing” (Isa. 52:11). The Apostle Paul requires this of Christians in 2 Corinthians 6:16. 

Further, in His relationship with other believers Jesus was also required to obey the command, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). This command is picked up and proved as normative for the church by both Paul and James (cf. Gal. 5:14, James 2:8).

Obviously, Jesus’ context is different, but inasmuch as there are similarities in context, Jesus provides us an authoritative model for the application of the commands to separate and God’s intent in giving the commands. At the bare minimum, Jesus provides us with a rich example to think about separation.

Jesus’ context

The two generally well-known theological groupings in Jesus’ day were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It is almost completely anachronistic to call these two parties liberal and conservative. From the point of preserving the status quo religiously and politically, the Sadducees were conservative, but they also had a low view of the existing Bible and in that sense we might call them liberal. The Pharisees were conservative in the sense of having a high view of the Bible, but were liberal in the sense of going against the established norms of worship and practice. The sinful propensity of the Sadducees was to take away from the Bible (Luke 20:27, Acts 23:8) and the sinful propensity of the Pharisees was to add to God’s word (Mark 6:5-9). In our day the general propensity for “liberal” Christians is to follow the Sadducees by taking away from God’s Word by rejecting parts of God’s Word as authoritative. Modern “conservatives” tend to follow the Pharisees by adding to God’s Word.

The Sadducees, who rejected the existence of angels, the resurrection, and spirits, controlled the Temple in Jerusalem. For Jesus to come to the Temple required Him to come under the human authority and to fellowship with people who openly rejected parts of God’s word. The law required Jesus to go to the Temple and He did so. Further, we see Jesus both asking questions and listening to the teachers in the Temple as a 12 year old (Luke 2:46-47). Thus Jesus’ model allows a degree of fellowship and training with theologians and believers who reject portions of the Bible as true.

We should also note the Temple itself was tainted. The architecture did not exactly follow the model shown to Moses (Exod. 25:9; cf. Heb. 8:5) or to David (1 Chron. 28:19), but was instead an approximation of the written description contained in the Old Testament with some additions. Finally, the building had been funded by the syncretistic Herod and was policed and overseen by the pagan Romans.

Our Lord’s most basic means of separating Himself from the error found within the Temple was through His proclaimed doctrine and His actions. “Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me” (Matt. 26:55). Jesus obeyed the commands to separate through His teaching ministry as He united with the Sadducees and Pharisee in worship at the Temple. We also know it was Jesus’ custom to worship at the local synagogue (Luke 4:16) each Sabbath; an educated guess is that this was about as much of a mixed blessing as it is today for those of us who attend an unknown church while traveling.

We should also note the requirements that Jesus places on the godly members of the church of Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29. There is a false prophetess functioning in the church “teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (v. 20). Yet, there is no command to separate from her or her followers as church members. In fact Jesus says to the faithful, “I do not lay on you any other burden” (v. 24).

Paul’s context

And then we come to Paul. Paul worships at the Temple controlled by and administered by people who explicitly reject the deity of Christ and who reject portions of the Old Testament (Acts 21). He held a Bible study in a philosopher’s hall (Acts 19:9). Paul continued in fellowship with a church where people were getting drunk during the Lord’s Table celebration (1 Cor. 11:20), people were denying the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12), a party spirit divided the church (1 Cor. 1:12), church members were going to the local pagan temple and having sex with prostitutes (1 Cor. 6:16), and the spiritual gifts were operating without control. Paul, while forbidding these gross sins only demands church discipline for the man cohabitating with his stepmother. There is no mention of discipline for the whoremongering, drunkenness, or party spirit, but there is a request for funds for the church in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1-4).

Yet at the same time, we read,

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Cor. 5:11-13)

There is a tension between Paul’s practice and his commands. Paul commands “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one,” and yet he fellowships with and accepts and collects funds from the church of Corinth. And we see the same in Jesus’ ministry; He also was required to “Purge the evil person from among you,” and yet He worships at the Temple, attended dinners with Pharisees, and so forth. How do we reconcile the commands with Paul’s and Jesus’ practice?

I will attempt draw the practice and the commands together in a two-step process. My first step will be to highlight how Jesus and Paul separate by proclamation and establish a timeline and benchmarks for repentance. This require us to continue the discussion of aphorism three next week.

The second step will be to argue for aphorism four (that none of the commands of Scripture contradict the other commands when rightly understood, and to be correctly applied and interpreted, all of the commands of Scripture must work together) in the fifth installment.

Shane Walker Bio


Shane Walker became the pastor of Andover Baptist Church, Linthicum, MD in June of 2007. Raised in Iowa, Shane graduated from the University of Iowa in 1996. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Kimberly, have four children: Hannah, Malee, James, and John.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate the series and found this installment interesting in several ways. I've never seen anyone attempt to argue that Jesus' and Paul's relationship with the temple and its occupants are instructive for understanding separation. More on that in a bit.

As I understand you, there are two basic arguments in this installment: 

  • Jesus' and Paul's temple interactions demonstrate obedience to the OT separation commands
  • Jesus' and Paul's interactions with churches demonstrate obedience to separation commands

On the first argument, a few problems--or at least complications--come to mind. First, the Jews' relationship to the Temple and worship there was, in important ways, different from believers' relationship to a local church. Second, the OT commands themselves in their original context generally involved a spatial and marital separation. That is, they separated from unbelieving nations (or were supposed to) by not permitting them to remain in the territory God had commanded them to occupy and by not intermarrying with them. There was also, of course, a separation of nonconformity we see all over the Pentateuch. God's people were not to adopt the idolaters' practices.

The church is a very different sort of body because it's neither geopolitical (at present) nor ethnic (it's expressly trans-ethnic). Further, because it is Christ's body, connection and disconnection to it is spiritual. People become part of it by believing (Acts 2, 4, etc.), not by being born in the right geographical location to the right parents. Individuals are separated from by having their relationship with a local church severed by the action of the congregation.

In covenantal terms, we just have a whole of lot of differences involved here involving new cov. vs. old cov.

Paul's and Jesus' relationship to churches

The second argument has some problems as well. Though Paul does have a continuing relationship with Corinth as a church, his relationship with them can be seen--I'd argue should be seen--as separation in process. He commands them to remove the one involved in open perversion because this goal was very quickly and simply achievable. With the other problems in Corinth, there were evidently large numbers of offenders, so his command to all of them is correct their conduct. His fellowship with them is clearly quite limited. There is language in 2 Cor. if not in 1 Cor. indicating that his ability to come and be with them in fellowshiping kind of way is contingent on their cleaning up their act. Otherwise, he says he'll be coming in a corrective role only (e.g., 2 Cor. 13:10).

Jesus' relationship to Thyatira: This argument has problem's as well. Jesus gives the church no command to deal with the false prophetess among because He says He is going to deal with her Himself--quite decisively! (Rev. 2:22-23).

Ted Bigelow's picture

Shane,

Thanks for the series of articles. I appreciate your deliberateness and carefulness with the sacred text and applying it to such important but humanly delicate matters. You care deeply about serving Christ as seen in your question, “What is God’s intention in giving us the commands to separate?”

But I think your article would have been easier to apply if you had made a clearer distinction between the separation from individuals and the separation of churches. When you say “us,” who are you referring to? Separations from sinning individuals, or sinning churches? Both are described in Scripture and they aren’t always the same thing.

It seems this distinction might be conflated in your article, for example, you wrote in this installment,

“Our Lord Jesus was also required to obey, “Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing” (Isa. 52:11). The Apostle Paul requires this of Christians in 2 Corinthians 6:16.”

You claim Isa. 52:11 is a command given to an individual (the Lord Jesus) but it is given instead to a group of Israelites, for the commands “depart” and “go out” are all plural in number. This is easily confirmed in the remainder of the verse you didn’t include: “Go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, You who carry the vessels of the LORD.”

Then in 2 Cor. 6:16 I think you missed a further opportunity to differentiate, for there the commands of both 2 Cor. 6:14 and 2 Cor. 6:17 are again, plural, and given to all the believers in the church as a group – not just as individuals.

Teaching whole churches when and how to separate is much more complicated than it is with individuals and requires an ecclesiology that has room for the doctrine of schism (1 Cor. 1:10, 11:19, 12:25). I’m not sure, after reading your articles, if your ecclesiology does.

It may have hindered you in writing the following:

“Paul continued in fellowship with a church where people were getting drunk… denying the resurrection  church members were going to the local pagan temple and having sex with prostitutes, etc.” “There is no mention of discipline for the whoremongering, drunkenness, or party spirit, but there is a request for funds for the church in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1-4).”

Yet Paul wasn’t in Corinth so how could he fellowship with them, or be in church with them? Further, Paul himself rules out such “fellowship” in 2 Cor. 6:15. Even more, he had explicitly taught the Corinthians in a prior letter NOT to have fellowship with such persons (1 Cor. 5:9-11) and then a few months later he  writes 2 Corinthians and says he will discipline such people (2 Cor. 12:20-13:2) if the believers in Corinth don’t separate from the unbelievers in the church (2 Cor. 6:14-18).

I think your understanding of separation (at least ecclesiastically) has more exegetical spade work to be done

I suggest it starts with a biblical ecclesiology that handles Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthians a bit more explicitly. In attempting to derive support for your first aphorism you use the word "church" in conflicting ways:

Allow me to share an explicit command of Scripture, repeated five times in the New Testament which is patently ignored at least in literal obedience by almost all churches in the United States: “Greet one another with the kiss of love”… I hope you obey this command of Scripture by greeting all Christians in a culturally appropriate way. But my guess is that your church does not practice a literal kiss of love but replaces it with a handshake, shoulder squeeze, or hug. We look through the culturally decided symbolism of a kiss and replace it with our culture’s symbolic synonym of a warm greeting…. Obedience to the command is then based on our cultural context. The trans-contextual aspect is that we must greet all Christians in a friendly way.

So here you speak of a church that meets together and is able to greet one another. That’s a good use of the word “church.”

But then you follow it up with a bad use of “church,”

“Most of the time we overlook the complexity of the Western church’s interpretation and application of “Greet one another with the kiss of love.” Rendering these words devoid of any meaning: “The modern Western church, in general, does not obey the words of “Greet one another with the kiss of love,” but it does obey the intent of the command.”

Here you use “church” as referring to a group that never can greet one another, and to aggravate matters, you say this church, which never meets, obeys the apostolic command to greet on another.

This looseness in ecclesiology hamstrings our ability to teach ecclesial separation in a biblically meaningful way. And if we can’t use “church” both biblically and consistently, then how will we give proper counsel to individual Christians on how to separate from either professing but immoral Christians?

I would like to suggest a more elementary aphorism:

“The debates among Christians about separation will never be settled because we have rejected the lost the doctrine of the local body of Christ in favor of schism.”

 

Again, Shane, thanks.

(Typo: “If you disagree will Paul about the gospel,”)

 

 

 

 

 

Aphorism 1: The debate among Bible believing Christians about separation is fundamentally about the how to apply the passages in the Bible commanding separation.

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Ted has circled back to it again:

“The debates among Christians about separation will never be settled because we have rejected the lost the doctrine of the local body of Christ in favor of schism.

Ted, would you please just message Jim and ask for an article for yours to be posted as a filing?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

swalker's picture

Aaron-thank you for you comments:

I hope to deal with the issue of the Temple and the synagogues in the next article. 

"The church is a very different sort of body because it's neither geopolitical (at present)." The universal church is not a geopolitical unit. But the local church is a political unit in a specific geographic place. It's political in the sense of being both an observable collection of people acting together, with identified and established leaders, and specific methods for solving conflict and in relationship with other politic entities--politicians, judges, police officers, and so forth. Just like any other legal political, or illegal, entity, each country has laws governing churches. If my church were to separate from the Southern Presbyterians, as a collection of churches cooperating together in the geopolitical area of the South, they would be functioning politically against a geopolitical unit. I am not arguing that denominations are national Israel, but I think it's important to note that congregations and denominations are political units and in that sense are not different than Israel. Also, the Jews at the synagogue level in at least Diaspora practice separation much as we do. And John informs us that individual Jews who trusted in Christ were removed from the synagogue in John 9:22 in Israel. So, there are some strong continuities between the environment that Jesus is operating in and what we have. 

I agree that Paul and Jesus are practicing separation in process. But Paul remains in fellowship with them by collecting money from them and sending representatives. 

swalker's picture

Ted, thank you for you kind comments. 

I am not sure I understand your arguments. Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself was given to a group of people (Israel) and it needs to be obeyed both individually and collectively. My local church loves their neighbor by supporting the homeless shelter, but to do this it requires that individuals love their neighbor by giving to the benevolence fund. Both the corporate unit, Andover Baptist, and the individuals within that unit can sin by not loving their neighbor and both can obey God. 

Unless, I am misunderstanding the Bible, it uses the word church as universal in the Acts 20:28 and for local congregations elsewhere, so I am not quite sure how "Western church," is bad. All people who are Christians (the church) are supposed to greet each other at local churches. A local congregation that disobeyed this command would be sinning, a group of churches that disobeyed this command would be sinning, and an individual within a local church. 

Have you posted an article on this that I've missed?

 

 

Ted Bigelow's picture

You wrote,

I am not sure I understand your arguments. Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself was given to a group of people (Israel) and it needs to be obeyed both individually and collectively. My local church loves their neighbor by supporting the homeless shelter, but to do this it requires that individuals love their neighbor by giving to the benevolence fund. Both the corporate unit, Andover Baptist, and the individuals within that unit can sin by not loving their neighbor and both can obey God. 

Just as there are ecclesial practices in Scripture that are not to be performed by individuals but by churches (think baptism, Lord's Supper, for starters), so too the directives and examples in Scripture concerning separation are distinct for both churches and individuals.

Quick example, and I'm happy to chat more about it - during the third stage of church discipline the members of the church separate from the immoral member (1 Cor. 5:9-11, 2 Thess. 3:14, cf. Mat. 18:15-17). That separation is from all relevant social activities and ecclesial activities such as communion. At this same time, however, the immoral member is not separated from the church as an institution, but is from the members. He/she is still regarded as in the covenant community. 

Yet after the 4th step the situation reverses, and he/she is regarded as an outsider to the institutional church but not to the individuals in the church who may (and likely should) resume some social activities with the person as they ought with any non-Christian (1 Cor. 5:12-13).

Thus separation is different for the institutional church as distinct from the members of that church. As well, there may be times when individuals separate themselves from a church wrongly and so need to be brought back as wandering sheep (Mat. 18:12-14).

Going back to a church, 2 Cor. 6:14-18 teaches ecclesial separation from a group of sinful church members not only for the believing individuals but for the institutional church as well. That is a more complex issue that requires a robust ecclesiology of schism and an understanding of the local body of Christ as taught in 1 Cor. 12:12-27. 

 

You wrote,

Unless, I am misunderstanding the Bible, it uses the word church as universal in the Acts 20:28 and for local congregations elsewhere, so I am not quite sure how "Western church," is bad. All people who are Christians (the church) are supposed to greet each other at local churches. A local congregation that disobeyed this command would be sinning, a group of churches that disobeyed this command would be sinning, and an individual within a local church. 

The universal church includes all who shall ever be in Christ (Mat. 16:18, Eph. 1:22-23, 5:23-24), and never a subset of it (i.e., all the regenerate, plus unregenerate in membership?, on earth). Acts 20:28 refers only to the one church in Ephesus overseen by a single body of elders, whom Paul is calling to duty over but one specific assembly (Acts 20:17, cf. Rev. 2:1). To make the "church" in Acts 20:28 be universal requires understanding Paul as calling the Ephesian elders to shepherd all Christians - those in heaven, those on earth, and those yet unborn but who will come to faith later, even after they die.

There actually is no such thing as the Western church. The word ecclesia meant assembly: "An ecclesia was regarded as just an assembly of people" (John Hammett, Biblical foundations for Baptist Churches, 26).* Phrases such as "Western church" are a mental construct that confuse a biblical defined ecclesiology and thereby tie up the doctrine of separation in confusion.

Just to see this for yourself, ask yourself, which of the following quotes of 2 Cor. 11:28 represents Pauline ecclesiology:

1) "Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for the church."

2) "Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches."

It is difficult, but crucial to limit ourselves to the two definitions for ecclesia (church) given by our Lord Jesus and faithfully followed by all the NT writers: universal (as defined above) and local. 

Blessings, Shane - Ted

*John Hammett leaves his own definition of ecclesia and proposes a 3rd meaning of ecclesia on page 29, citing 1 Cor. 15:9, Gal. 1:13, and Phil. 3:6, calling these a "general" use of ecclesia. While I respect John greatly I also respectfully disagree with him on this point and his (very brief) interpretation of those texts. In my article I just linked to I provide an exegetical response to this proposed 3rd use of ecclesia.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Shane, thanks for your response. I have a different idea in mind by 'political'--but I think it's probably not terribly important to try to defend a particular definition for the term. Maybe a better angle... My point was that applying the separatism of OT Israel (and relationship to Temple) to our NT situation has some obstacles to overcome, because the relationships involved are different and, as a result, the act of separation was different.

The Israelites were organized to function as a nation occupying, owning, and maintaining land. Much of their separation was expressed by physically separating from surrounding nations. Because they were a nation, not just a spiritual people, you were physically born into it. So you could not really be spiritually removed from it. The church is not "political" in this sense, having no ethnic identity, no natural-birth component, no national territorial function.  So the fact that faithful Israelites continued to worship in the Temple along w/unbelievers and rebels who "worshipped" there, doesn't really say much about how we handle relationships within and between churches in this era.

(Or maybe a better way to state that last sentence: it's not clear what it says about relationships within and between churches in this era)

"Church"

Edited to add: I don't think definitions of "Church" have a great deal of bearing on main ideas of the article. There are clearly both individual and local church separation responsibilities in the NT. And by implication, what individuals and local churches do, the church as a whole is doing as well.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Aaron, you wrote,

And by implication, what individuals and local churches do, the church as a whole is doing as well.

Aaron, could you biblically explain "the church as a whole?"

We have individuals and churches praying to Mary and the saints here. We also have individuals and churches on 40 day diet plans, doing yoga, and in some cases, doing sexually immoral things. Some churches are doing a 40 day worship routine where they gather at a different church each night for music. Is that then true of "the church as a whole?"

In Corinth they weren't waiting for everybody to show up before taking the Lord's Supper. Was that true of "the church as a whole?"

Jay's picture

Can I please implore the powers that be to keep Ted from hijacking yet another thread to in order to discuss his heretical and doctrinally novel ideas of church polity?

This is simply embarrassing.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jessefoster's picture

Jay wrote:

Can I please implore the powers that be to keep Ted from hijacking yet another thread to in order to discuss his heretical and doctrinally novel ideas of church polity?

This is simply embarrassing.

 

For what it's worth, I thought Ted's questions are pretty valid. What's embarrassing is blasting someone without a logical rebuttal but rather with emotional, useless rhetoric. 

Jessefoster's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

Phrases such as "Western church" are a mental construct that confuse a biblical defined ecclesiology and thereby tie up the doctrine of separation in confusion.

 

How can we begin discussing separation when schism already exists everywhere?  To take an analogy:

Solomon said to divide the baby when the two women were fighting over it.  The one whose baby it wasn't was ok—the baby wasn't hers. Let's take that to Christ and the church: There are many ok with dividing the church, making denominations etc. because, well—it's not theirs.  Would Christ divide his church, or would the Holy Spirit divide the church?  No, but men do, because the church as whole is not theirs, though they will often claim to own a part of it, i.e., "this is my church" "My church does such and such" "Their church does that but our church does this".  

What we have here is a discussion about having a foot talking about separating from a toe.  Newsflash: the whole leg is already disconnected from the body.  

Ted Bigelow's picture

For what it's worth, I thought Ted's questions are pretty valid.  What's embarrassing is blasting someone without a logical rebuttal but rather with emotional, useless rhetoric. 

Thanks Jesse. Didn't expect to see that on SI!

You wrote,

How can we begin discussing separation when schism already exists everywhere?.... Newsflash: the whole leg is already disconnected from the body.

Ummm, yeah... Exactly.

My first comment to Shane was along those lines. Or as I tend to put it, the body in every locale is schismed, as per 1 Cor. 1:13, 11:19, 12:25.

After reading Shane's three posts, it appeared to me that perhaps Shane conflated the individual with the church, even perhaps unintentionally misinterpreting some Scripture to do it, and possibly made his aphorisms on separation without a doctrine of schism.

 

Shane, brother, if you're still reading, as a Presbyterian, do you have such a doctrine?

swalker's picture

Speaking of name calling, I am not a Presbyterian. Baptist. Really. All the way under the water. Baptist in the church name. Congregationalism, the whole nine yards. 

Ted- I understand your arguments but I don't think it works. This is not a check mate in 12 moves, and I will not explain it to you, but it is Memorial Day. Let me to do two things. First, I've got to finish up Aphorism 4, before Aaron notices I haven't sent it to him (Aaron you do have Aphorism 3.2). Second, I'll try to respond to your concerns and definitions later this week. God bless all. I am off to play basket ball with my Baptist wife. 

 

Ted Bigelow's picture

swalker wrote:

Speaking of name calling, I am not a Presbyterian. Baptist. Really. All the way under the water. Baptist in the church name. Congregationalism, the whole nine yards. 

Ted- I understand your arguments but I don't think it works. This is not a check mate in 12 moves, and I will not explain it to you, but it is Memorial Day. Let me to do two things. First, I've got to finish up Aphorism 4, before Aaron notices I haven't sent it to him (Aaron you do have Aphorism 3.2). Second, I'll try to respond to your concerns and definitions later this week. God bless all. I am off to play basket ball with my Baptist wife. 

My apologies, Shane. No offense intended, just my misunderstanding.

Now go show her how to dunk.

Jay's picture

Jessefoster wrote:

For what it's worth, I thought Ted's questions are pretty valid. What's embarrassing is blasting someone without a logical rebuttal but rather with emotional, useless rhetoric. 

Hi Jesse -

Ted, I, and a bunch of other people on SharperIron just had this discussion a few weeks ago: http://sharperiron.org/filings/042514/29688

Which is why I said what I did.  If you'd like, you can read that thread.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

"Church as a whole" ... Again, I'm not seeing the relevance, but I'll clarify I suppose. All believers constitute the church, therefore, whatever believers do the church, in that sense, does. Yes, the church is doing a lot of things it shouldn't--and a lot of things it should.

My point was that when it comes to obedience to the NT in the matter of separation, there is application within local churches as they deal with disobedient brothers (and disobedient professing brothers). In addition there is obedience for believers individually in their relationships with other believers. Of course, it's pretty hard (OK, impossible) for "the church as a whole" to consciously act as a whole. How would we all get together to do that?  Nonetheless, as individuals in churches strive to obey the Scriptures, they are participating in what all genuine believers do (however imperfectly). It is, in this sense, the responsibility of the church as a whole that is being carried out. 

So, again, as important as it is to understand what "church" means, I can't see how it's relevant to this topic. The fact that division exists doesn't seem relevant either. There was division in the NT era as well (1 Cor. is quite clear on that. See also the early chapters of Galatians, Acts 15, and so on). The apostles did not seem to think that made individual and local church efforts to practice separation null and void.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hi Aaron - the church is relevant to the doctrine of separation, which is what these series of articles by Shane is about.

Shane's 1st aphorism is "the debate between Bible believing Christians about separation is fundamentally about the how to apply the passages in the Bible commanding separation."

Yet, all of those commands in Scripture are given in the context of church. Never is a one given to an individual Christian without being directly involved in church. So, relevance comes the instant we define our key terms like separation, schism, and church by God's words.

I was hoping you would biblically explain what "church as a whole" meant. Instead you gave an explanation that perhaps appears to defy the comforting truth of glorification. You wrote,

All believers constitute the church, therefore, whatever believers do the church, in that sense, does. Yes, the church is doing a lot of things it shouldn't--and a lot of things it should.

The church you are speaking of (all believers) is the universal church (Mat. 16:18, Eph. 1:22-23), of which the vast majority at the present time are almost certainly in heaven. I'd be upset to learn they're doing a lot of things they shouldn't as I'm hoping to go there when I die or am raptured. I hope to be released from this body of death and enjoy my dear and holy Savior's presence, and wish to disobey no more, forever.

Perhaps you are speculating on a "universal church on earth" idea?

But again, without the Lord of the Church teaching us that there is such a church as that in His word, we are left to formulate ecclesiology apart from Scripture. Roman Catholicism has their own meaning for what the "whole church on earth" is, but they define it apart from Scripture because it requires specially gifted bishops who have an alleged Christ-blessed oversight through apostolic succession. Your church, according to their a highly speculative ecclesiology, is in schism. If you disagree, yet believe there is such a thing as a "whole church on earth,"  can you explain why your church isn't in schism from it?

You wrote,

So, again, as important as it is to understand what "church" means, I can't see how it's relevant to this topic. The fact that division exists doesn't seem relevant either. There was division in the NT era as well (1 Cor. is quite clear on that. See also the early chapters of Galatians, Acts 15, and so on). The apostles did not seem to think that made individual and local church efforts to practice separation null and void.

I am unaware of divisions in 1 Corinthians. It was trending that way, but Paul stopped it (1 Cor. 1:10-13, Rom. 16:23 (Romans was written several months after 2 Corinthians, from Corinth)). I'm unaware of divided churches in Galatia, or Acts 15 either. I'm familiar that people disagreed with each other. But Christian churches dividing from Christian churches? Please, Aaron, when you get a chance, show me.

Thanks.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Do you see a distinction between personal and ecclesiastical separation? 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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