Separatists are human. They have sins. They are not perfect. While the matters about to be discussed are not problems exclusively for separatists, separatists are especially vulnerable to them by virtue of their unique position.
It is possible to believe the right things, but to hold them and present them in the wrong way. Paul told us this when he spoke of those in Philippi who preached Christ “of envy and strife” and “of contention” (Philippians 1:15, 16). He was saying that he was happy for their message—Christ—but saddened by their spirit. Because separatists are in almost constant conflict in order to maintain their position against the tremendous attacks mounted against them, they can develop a spirit of bitterness and acrimony. They are under the gun most of the time, and this situation can take its toll. It is very important to be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). On occasion, some separatists may be long on truth and short on love.
By Ernest Pickering (1928-2000). Read Part 1.
The teachings of Scripture regarding separation must be implemented in a practical manner, or separation becomes a meaningless theory to which one gives lip service but that has no practical value in everyday life and ministry. Consider some of the areas of Christian work in which this doctrine must be obeyed.
Separatists may have personal friendships that are broader than their official ties. Personal Christian fellowship is grounded primarily in a mutual knowledge of Christ as Savior. Personal interaction with other Christians is not wrong if it is found in contexts where compromise and disobedience are not involved.
by Ernest Pickering (1928–2000)
Considerable discussion is taking place today as to why so many younger men raised in the separatist tradition are failing to take a good position and, in some cases, are backing off from the fray. One of the major reasons, it seems to me, is that they are disgusted with the lack of discernment on the part of some separatists who cannot distinguish between what is truly crucial to fellowship and what is not crucial.
It is one thing to embrace Biblical truth concerning separatism. It is quite another to implement it in day-to-day relationships. While a person may possess good convictions, he or she may not be able to clearly discern the right course of action; and separatists do not always agree among themselves as to the proper response to a given problem. So we separatists need to give attention to how we implement what we believe.1
A few questions are suggested by Scripture that will aid the sincere believer in determining the boundaries of fellowship.
(1) Am I honoring God by my fellowship? “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). When a believer remains in an apostate denomination, that believer is supporting the Lord’s enemies through his or her money and presence. Is that believer honoring the Lord by “staying in”? In all that we do we must earnestly seek to honor God.
Read the series.
The second major point that I present to you is the matter of the attitudes that we must manifest. The first is that of devotion to God and to His Word. You and I can support this doctrine of separation upon a wrong philosophy. That is to say, we can be marked by a wrong attitude. You know after you have committed yourself to something, you do not want to back down because you lose face! There may be people who do not have any more reason to stand for some of the things for which they stand (on either side of this issue) except that they do not want to lose face. They have committed themselves to a certain position and so they will fight until they have no more strength with which to fight, rather than say, “I was wrong.” God spare us from that sort of foolishness. If you and I are not contending for this position because it is God’s truth, and for God’s honor, then let us abandon the thing. If our attitude is not right, then let us correct our attitude, because there are people on the wrong side of this issue who want us to abandon the truth because our attitude is wrong! That is a foolish solution! We must maintain the position which we have outlined, but with it we must maintain, by the grace of God, a right attitude.
Read the series.
There are three major points which the Bible teaches on the subject of separation. First, the position that we must hold. Second, the attitudes that we must maintain. Third, the objectives that we must seek.
The position that we hold is set forth in three subdivisions.
First, separation is an eternal and unchanging principle of God.
Read the series.
This doctrine of separation is a crucial one, and it is a Biblical one. If it is neglected both in its preaching and in its implementation, I know of no way that we can preserve the purity and the power of our churches. As surely as we fail to implement it, we join hands with those that are contrary to the will of God and to His Word. The unity is destroyed, and the purity is destroyed, and without them the power of the Spirit of God is forfeited. He can move in fullness and power only when there is purity and a surrender to His will.
This doctrine of separation is a battlefield today, and it is that because of several reasons. I point out three primary reasons for the conflict and confusion.
First, I am convinced that there are many people who are fighting over Biblical separation from the world on one hand and apostasy on the other, because of the extremism on the part of some people that are connected with it. And when I say that, I am talking about both sides of the controversy. I deny and repudiate the charge that extremism marks and characterizes our separatist movement. I candidly admit that some, and probably all of us, have from time to time gone to excess in areas where we ought not, but I am just as positive that those that oppose the great Biblical doctrine of separation have gone to extremes in major ways. There are extremes in two basic areas.
By Paul Jackson (1903-1969): keynote address delivered at the 1958 GARBC Conference.
The Bible teaches clearly that every believer should be separated from all sin, including unbelief and apostasy. We shall seek to prove this statement with the Word of God, and to show that we must also have proper attitudes and objectives in the practice of Biblical separation.
Unfortunately there are many Baptists and other sincere Christian believers who do not share the convictions presented in this article. However, it is not written in a controversial fashion, but is designed to deal fairly and constructively with a great issue that faces all of us today. You and I who hold this truth live in an atmosphere charged with opposition. Much of this opposition springs out of misinformation or prejudice. We are in such a situation, whether or not we like it, and I trust we are convinced that we occupy a Biblical position. We urge your closest, most thoughtful attention!