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Be Separate

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord.  ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.  And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (2Cor. 6:14-18 NASB)

The passage above makes the salient point that there should be a clear separation between believers in Christ and unbelievers.  This separation must be just as striking as the distinctions between righteousness and lawlessness, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, belief and unbelief, and the temple of God and idols.  If believers thus separate themselves from unbelievers, then God gives His assurance that He will welcome them as His own children.  By implication, this also means that God will reject believers as His children if they fail to separate themselves from unbelievers.

What exactly is enjoined upon believers by this passage?  Notice that there are three imperative statements made to believers: (1) do not be bound together (lit. unequally yoked) with unbelievers; (2) come out from their (i.e. unbelievers’) midst and be separate; and (3) do not touch what is unclean.  All three of these statements are figurative to some degree.  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” does not address the idea of a believer being literally yoked together with an unbeliever, but rather it concerns a believer having spiritual relationship with an unbeliever.  “Come out from their midst and be separate” must not mean a physical withdrawal from the world, for that notion is addressed in 1Corinthians 5:9-10.  Instead, it must mean that a spiritual separation must exist between believers and unbelievers.  In other words, the relationships between believers and unbelievers must be limited due to their vast spiritual differences.  Likewise, “do not touch what is unclean” has the spiritual meaning of keeping oneself free from the uncleanness of the sin practiced by unbelievers.

We might summarize this passage by saying that believers are not to be of this world.  When we say “not of this world,” we mean that the manner in which believers live must be governed by the God of heaven and not by the influences of the world.  To illustrate, let us consider the influences experienced by the Corinthian Christians who originally received this message.  They lived in a place where idolatrous worship was interwoven into a pagan culture.  Chief among the corrupting influences of this culture was the temple of Aphrodite, which was the center of ritual prostitution for the honor of the mythological goddess of fertility.  The force of this culture was all around the Corinthian Christians, but God demanded for them to separate themselves and not conform to these influences.  They were to be strikingly different from others because they were children of the God of heaven.

The application of this passage is the same for us today as it was for the Corinthians.  Of course, our culture is different from that of the ancient Corinthians, but the modern culture is still largely shaped by unbelief, just as theirs was.  This is evident in modern philosophies that are devoid of God (humanism, modernism, evolution, etc.), education systems that spread such godless philosophies, social structures that have lost touch with God (marriages, families, personal relationships, etc.), religions that reject the true God and/or the Bible, and the corrupt conduct of those who have no regard for God and His word.  This is our modern culture of unbelief, and believers in God and Christ must be distinct from it.

Therefore, believers in Christ must examine themselves to determine whether they are truly separate from unbelievers.  If they are, then this separation will manifest itself through chaste conduct, wholesome speech, modest appearance, and selfless, godly attitude.  It is a mistake for believers to think they can behave, speak, look, and think like unbelievers and still be accepted by God as His children.  He has spoken clearly: “Come out from their midst and be separate…And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.  And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me.”  These are God’s terms of adoption, so let every believer who would be His child examine himself to see whether he is has become separate from the world according to God’s holy will.

Stacey E. Durham




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