Reimar A. C. Schultze
In this statement, the Apostle Paul gives us the first doctrine of the church: the doctrine of separation. In fact, the Bible begins in Genesis 1 with God separating the heavens from the earth, light from darkness and water from land. In Genesis 3, we have God introducing moral separation. All the way from Genesis to the Revelation, there is a line of separation that has been drawn by our Lord between that which is sacred and that which is profane, between that which is holy and that which is unholy. In that sense, it is obvious that one of the ever reoccurring themes of the Bible is morality.
God wants us to be morally on the right side and that means we should be distinctly separate from the world as Paul so clearly states in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. He does not want any overlapping between the two entities: the church and the world. He does not want someone from the world to say when they come to church: “Oh yes, I am familiar with this.” Rather, when the sinner comes to church, God wants him to be convicted and stand in awe of something beautiful, altogether different, fresh and otherworldly. And it is clear to us from the very beginning that separation comes to us from the fountainhead of God’s holiness. God wants us to be holy so that He can dwell in us and walk among us (2 Cor. 6:16). He calls on all of us to: Pursue... holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Holiness is a choice and we must have the desire to be holy.
We do not become holy by passivity. We become holy when we begin to love God passionately with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Anything less than that is just playing a game of pretension. Without committing to loving God entirely, we will never become one with God. But when we do commit to love, then as Richard Wurmbrand once said: “He becomes us and we become Him.” A preposterous statement indeed, but it fits in exactly with what Jesus shared: Abide in Me, and I in you... (John 15:4). There is no room for worldliness in this connection.
God does not want visitors in His presence; He wants residents. He does not want vacationers in His vineyard; He wants full-time employees; He does not want admirers but participants of His glory. Heaven has no room for sluggards nor for reluctant followers. The Revelation lets us know that anyone who thinks they can get to heaven without perfect love is like a man who thinks he can cross the Atlantic Ocean on thin ice. Jesus said to the Ephesian Christians: ...you have left your first love... I...will remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent (Rev. 2:4-5). First love is passionate love; first love is perfect love.
Now then, at the core of the doctrine of separation is love and holiness. As God is in this, He wants you to be in this. What God put before Adam in the garden with the forbidden fruit was not an easy thing. It called for Adam to have perfect love to overcome it. He was challenging Adam from the very beginning, and today, He is still challenging all mankind to give our utmost to His highest. It required first love to say “no” to the forbidden fruit. God challenged Adam in such a way that he could not retain his unbroken fellowship with Him with anything less than perfect love. We need perfect love to keep the devil out of our lives.
But you say that you cannot be perfect in anything. You keep failing in your Christian life, here and there. Yes, we all fail when we measure our performance against God’s performance. But you are not being fair with yourself if you compare the imperfect with the perfect. You are not God. Yet, God is so gracious that He does not mind living in an imperfect human being who does not have any of His three major supernatural qualities: omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. After all, He created us without unlimited power, without being able to be everywhere at the same time and without knowing everything. Of course, when you match a Greyhound dog with a turtle in a 100 meter sprint, the outcome is predictable. But there is one way by which the turtle can win just as the Greyhound, and that is when he puts himself passionately into the race with all he has got. That is the only way by which you can attain perfection, in loving ...God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). God asks nothing more of you. Once you have that, everything else will fall in place for you. Having that, you will be separate and you will be holy. You will say “no” to the forbidden fruits of life.
Unfortunately, much of the church has adopted a mindset that arose in the 1960’s through a popular book “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.” Whether it was intended or not, the title alone quickly became the new gospel for many. It erased all the lines which God had drawn between good and evil. It took the forbidden tree right out of the garden of God altogether. Yet Jesus came and preached everywhere: ...unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3,5). He reinforced the lines. He preached separation. Even in reference to the moral law, He raised the bar in the Sermon on the Mount saying: You have heard that it was said to those of old… But I say to you... (Matt. 5:21-22). He introduced the horrors of hell to all of us. Yet, although the righteous are not of this world, they are called to drag the unrighteous away from the eternal flames bidding them to drink of the refreshing springs that flow from the throne of God.
Now notice the first words the devil ever spoke to man: ...Has God indeed said... (Gen. 3:1). Observe that this question is not a question concerning the existence of God. He leaves that to fools (Ps.14:1); rather it is a question introducing doubt about the credibility and character of God. From day one, that became his pet missile which he hurls at you even to this very day making you question His love for you, His promises, your usefulness in ministry, the Bible, the creation story, the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, the resurrection and an eternal hell. Remember that this question: Has God indeed said? is a faith destroyer.
With this, it can be said that all the trouble in the world and the powerlessness of the church was born out of this one question: Has God indeed said? And do you know that the devil even helps to build and support churches if they will introduce the: Has God indeed said? into their pulpits, Sunday school classes, Bible studies, Bible colleges and seminaries. This question: Has God indeed said? is like people having fun kicking the Bible around like a football without ever scoring. Oh my friend, Judgment Day will be quite a day when God will forever separate the sheep from the goats. God wants us to come out from among them and be separate.
This doctrine of separation also became the foundation of God’s covenant relationship. Here, covenant means first of all separation. And that means it starts with the building of an altar in a man’s heart. Altars are about death. Jesus died to save us, but we have to die to follow Him. God offered Him to us on the cross, His cross, and we have to offer ourselves unto Christ on our cross as perpetual living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto Him. Popular evangelism has removed this altar for crucifying the self-life which man is to build within himself. Hence, there is no following Jesus in their doctrine. Oh, look at the Scriptures from our beloved Apostle Paul telling us about this inner altar: ...I die daily (1 Cor. 15:31) and for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). That means, theologically speaking, that your lifeblood is to mingle with Christ’s lifeblood. That is what Paul meant when he said: I have been crucified with Christ... (Gal. 2:20). Bring your death into His death; bring your cross into His cross; bring your afflictions into His is afflictions. And keep in mind that the anointed have always been and will also always be the afflicted. I am talking to you about separation. I am talking to you about the covenant relationship.
With that, our spotlight now turns to Abraham, our first good example of this. And since then, the Abrahamic covenant has become the model for the separation theology. Abraham had to lay everything on his altar to be in the covenant. Everything! He was called upon to offer up his country, his relatives, himself and his son. That is separation and that is what it will cost you to be in the covenant relationship. And because Abraham obeyed and laid everything on the altar, God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. Yes, did you ever sing the song: “There is a new name written down in glory and it’s mine.” Abraham had that experience and when he got to heaven, he found his new name, Abraham, written on a white stone (Rev. 2:17)!
About 2000 years after Abraham, Jesus also told another man: Follow Me, inviting him to enter into a covenant relationship, using the same requirements for entrance including separation from his father and that he must do it immediately. But the man said: ...Lord, let me first go and bury my father (Luke 9:59). Jesus responded to him saying: ...Let the dead bury their own dead... (Luke 9:60). That is, Jesus told the man: “You are dead.” Spiritually dead. By the man not putting Jesus above his father, Jesus relegated his future to grave digging. Yes, Let the dead bury their own dead. There are millions of people since then who, having fallen short in their love to our Lord, have chosen to bury their fathers rather than following Him, spending the rest of their lives burying the dead. Will you be a burier of the dead or a follower of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
...Come out from among them and be separate... (2 Cor. 6:17); And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them (Eph. 5:11).