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"Come Ye Out ... And Be Ye Separate" (2 Cor. 6:17)

The Lord does not say "Go ye out". The word "come" shows the Lord Himself Is in a separated position and is commanding His disciples to join Him. Such a command is not new, but is the New Covenant counterpart of what the Lord has consistently required of those who would serve Him. Alas, today our world is full of men and women who have come together in such a variety of groups to do service to God that it would seem confusion reigns over the matter of separation and its counterpart, union. It is essential to understand the first principles of separation as set out in such scriptures as 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.

Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers

The yoke images service, denoting the fact that the Lord would have persons serve Him in harness with others. The Lord Jesus showed that the yoke is His, but cannot be taken up until a man or woman has first laid down the burden of sin. After that the disciple, Lf he wishes, may take up the yoke of service (Mat. 11:28-30). This yoke is not intended for, or to be shared with, those who have not had their sins forgiven. Neither is it compulsorily or automatically laid upon believers. It follows that if a believer will not take up the yoke then he cannot be joined in service with others nor can they try to serve with him. Thus we conclude that the unbelievers of 2 Corinthians 6:14 include not only those who do not believe the gospel to the sinner, but also those who do not believe the gospel to the saint: that there is only one divinely appointed place for the service of God, the house of God (Heb. 3:6 - 4:13). The Lord gives us a number of ways to recognize the unequal yoke

What fellowship have righteousness and iniquity?

Iniquity here is lawlessness or the refusal to accept that God has laid down laws or rules of belief and conduct. It is the issue of the earliest separation that we know, for it takes us back to the casting out of the Devil (Ezek. 28:15,16). His venom of lawlessness which has been injected into the human race (1 John 3:4) abounds today and will abound in a lawless system of worship that will yet be set up on the earth (2 Thes. 2:4-8). The believer is to shun lawlessness wherever he meets it for this is a purpose for

which Christ died (Tit. 2:14). Unsaved men have no monopoly of lawlessness and its offspring, unrighteousness. What then is the believer to do when he encounters a fellow-believer on a lawless course or in lawless company? He must separate, for it is the lawlessness and not necessarily the person who defiles. Just such a separation had to take place amongst believers in the church of God in Ephesus (2 Tim. 2:14-21).

What communion hath light with darkness?

This is the second great separation of which we know, for God is light and works in the light (1 John 1:5; Gen. 1:3) unlike sinners (Job 24:1316; John 3:19-21). Men by nature oppose divinely-given spiritual light; that is to say, they oppose guidance from the Lord. The believer has been saved and translated from such darkness (Col. 1:13) and is not to return to it (Eph. 5:1-11; Mat. 6:23). Not only is the individual believer to shun darkness (1 John 1:6-7), but he must also walk in that light which guides men to the house of God (Ps. 43:3; 1 Pet. 2:9). Since spiritual light is just as necessary for service for God as it is for salvation, so there can be no union in divine service between those who are in the light concerning its nature and practice and those who are not. Again it is not the nature of individuals that is the issue but their position in relation to a state, in this case light or darkness.

What concord hath Christ with Belial?

Belial is not a person, but a personified state characterized by worthlessness (Prov. 6:12-15; 16:27) and is well illustrated by the sons of Eli (1 Sam. 2:12-17). Whatever the authority and plausibility of their outside appearance, they were at heart worthless. It contrasts with the Lord Jesus whose worth will be proclaimed throughout all eternity and whose likeness should be seen in all believers. Cain, too, was one who sought to serve God after his own invention, but was a murderer and worthless at heart. The distinction and separation between his descendants, the sons of men, and those of Seth, the sons of God, is the first great separation between men, and so it was the Devil's business to destroy it by illicit union (Gen. 6:1-5). That there can be no concord between saved and unsaved in divine service is readily apparent, but in practical terms, the distinctions can only be made by men on the basis of "by their fruits ye shall know them". What then is a believer to do when he encounters fellow-believers who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof? (2 Tim. 3:5-9). He must separate, for it is clear that it is not a person's nature that is at issue but his worthlessness as regards the service of God.

What portion bath a believer with an unbeliever?

Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to God, but faith must

have something to believe in. The nature of this key characteristic of the unequal yoke is well seen in the major unfolding of the truth of separation as shown in the life of Abraham, the father of all them that believe. Upon his faith in the word that came to him in Ur he had to separate from his unsaved fellows. But the day came when he had to separate from other saved ones who did not believe the message to come into the land where God was. Even when there, he had to separate from that righteous man Lot, who did not share his belief in the pilgrim portion that the Lord looked to them to share, for Lot walked by sight. All believers share a like precious faith (2 Pet. 1:1) from which we see the fundamental barrier between them and the unsaved. But salvation is only the preliminary step to bearing the yoke of service, for it is apparent that a believer cannot serve the Lord with a fellow-believer if they cannot come to agreement as to what scriptural truths are essential for divine service. Again we are forced to the conclusion that the line of separation is to be drawn not between the nature of persons, but between their beliefs.

What agreement bath a temple of God with idols?

The next phase in the progressive development of separation for divine service is seen here. Collective service is to be carried out in a temple or sanctuary of God. No such separation was possible before Moses and the people

of God built a sanctuary for God as recounted in Exodus. It is a basic scriptural principle that the temple of God must be built according to a divine pattern and that nothing of human invention is to be allowed. Hence the contrast between the temple of God and idols. Frequently idols are not in themselves the objects of worship, but are the means by which an attempt is made to offer worship to the Supreme Being. Many of Israel's idols were allegedly for the service of God (e.g. 1 Kin. 12:25-33), but were as much anathema to God as the idols of the heathen, for they challenged the divinely ordered pattern of service associated with the house of God in Jerusalem. The application of these things today is plain. It matters not who devises them, be they believers or unbelievers, forms of "divine service" that are not in accordance with the scriptural pattern are not only displeasing to God, but association with them or their votaries in the service of God is an unequal yoke.

We are a temple of the living God

This statement is obviously related to the preceding one, but it is worth noting the change of language. "We" included Paul, and shows that the temple of which he spoke comprised living souls, not as individuals, but as joined together (1 Cor. 3:9,16-17). That is to say, the New Covenant temple of God is composed of believers builded together in churches of God. In

keeping with its spiritual nature the Holy Spirit changes the words of the Old Testament quotations from "I will walk among" and "I will dwell among" to "I will walk in" and "I will dwell in" (Lev. 26:12; Ex. 29:45; 2 Cor. 6:16). The same fundamental truth applies to both; because there is a house of God then He will be the object of worship of a people whom He would call His own. Thus a separated people existed in a way that was not possible prior to the building of this spiritual house, for its existence separated out saved ones of whatever tongue or tribe or nation who would gather together on the basis of the pattern of divine service laid down in the New Testament. They formed a spiritual house separated to God from all other peoples. Thus we believe that the fundamental principle of divine separation for those who would serve God today is that those together in churches of God, forming the house of God, are a separated people who must never join with those outside of themselves in the service of God.

Wherefore come ye out from among them and be ye separate

Thus the issues raised in the progressive unfolding of the basic features of the unequal yoke demand that obedient disciples separate themselves as to divine service from all those who do not serve God in the house of God. If

they will obey, then God will receive them to Himself in the place of His service, the house of God. Only there will they be able to render the mature service of sons and daughters.

Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit (Cor. 7:1)

The consequences of not separating are severe. Most will be familiar with the importance of separation from defilement of the flesh as exemplified in such scriptures as Galatians 5:16-21 and Ephesians 5:1-5; but what about defilement of spirit? The matters of spiritual defilement can only be spiritually discerned, and cannot be appreciated without an understanding of the Scriptures (1 Cor. 2:9-14). For example, there is nothing intrinsically wrong in gathering sticks, and one day of the week is intrinsically as good as another for doing it. But the Lord made the Sabbath day different, therefore Sabbath stick-gathering meant death for the people of God in the past (Num. 15:32-36). Dees it matter that a believer serves God other than in the house of God? Who is to say that this form of service is right and another is wrong? We believe that the Spirit of God says so by the Word of God and therefore we must today heed the call to separate from all of alternative principle and so be found in the house of God, else we court defilement of spirit.