What kind of separation do you practice as a Christian? Do you avoid secular music and movies? Maybe you boycott corporations with liberal agendas. Perhaps you send your kids to a Christian school. The dangers posed by worldly influences seem to be lurking everywhere these days, and God’s people are wise to guard against corruption and compromise.
Scripture places a clear expectation on all believers to be separate from the world: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what fellowship have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). There’s an obvious answer to Paul’s rhetorical question—light has no fellowship with darkness.
But that’s easier said than done. Applying Paul’s teaching on separation is a lot more complicated than affirming it. John MacArthur highlights the vexing dilemma:
How far does this go? What about dating? What about marriage? What about a partnership? What about being on a team? What about working together with someone? What about recreating together with them? What about a mutual fund? What about a common business? What about a partnership? What about a limited partnership? What about . . . ? Where do we draw the line here? What are we talking about? Are we supposed to go out of the world? Well that’s kind of hard because the Great Commission says go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
That seeming paradox has been the catalyst for two kinds of disastrous—and often repeated—errors throughout church history. The desire for separation has driven many into cloistered isolation, severed from their mission field. At the other end of the spectrum, attempts at evangelism through assimilation routinely result in the culture contaminating the church.
So how do we heed the apostle Paul’s command to practice separation from the world? John’s sermon “Separating from Unbelievers, Part 1,” shows us how to honor the exhortation in a balanced and biblical way. And John considers this to be our greatest challenge as Christians.
The world is certainly dangerous, but it is not our enemy—it is our mission field. We need to evangelize the world without being infected by it. And John’s message equips us for that great labor.
Click here to listen to “Separating from Unbelievers, Part 1.”
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