We have been singing and listening to music that basically has declared one message, and that message is, “God is mighty, God is our fortress, God is our light, God is our strength; be still, and rest in that.” I can’t think of a better introduction for this sermon, which I confess to you has been brewing in my mind for a year. Now, I’m long-winded if I have a week to plan, so do the math. We’ve been waiting for you for two years, here.
I want to be helpful; at the same time, I want to be faithful to the Word. And I want to honor the Lord in everything I say. I want to help give perspective. That’s one of the objectives that I always have; and in the particular emphasis of this conference on “Unashamed,” we’re going to be targeting some specific things that, if you’re going to be unashamed, you’ve got to face. People who are unashamed are going to be marked by certain virtues, and I want to start with one that I hope will be helpful to you, and that is a word that has been much maligned over the years. If you come out of any kind of a fundamentalist background, you will understand it. But the word is “separation,” “separation.” I know that’s fraught with all kinds of definitions and emotional responses, but I want to take you to the Word of God and show you how the Bible defines separation for those who are unashamed of the gospel.
So let’s start back in the 1960s; let’s start with liberation theology. It’s basically arrived in the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, 1960s; by 1971 there was a bishops’ conference which sort of made liberation theology an institution within the Roman Catholic Church. And liberation theology basically said this: Jesus came to deliver the oppressed from the oppressors. That was liberation theology—that there were, in society, victims of poverty, lack of opportunity, poor education, social injustice, and that Jesus came to empower the powerless and to strip power away from the powerful.
Well, evangelicals rejected liberation theology wholesale. We rejected it because it was just another entry of the social gospel that had completely obliterated the denominations back in the 1920s. Evangelicals rejected it until now. And now it’s back, and it has a new title, and the title is “social justice.” So the mission of the church, then, is to fight social injustice and the oppressors and redistribute the wealth, the power, the opportunity, and the privilege to those who are oppressed.
After 30 years had gone by since the evangelical movement rejected liberation theology, evangelical leaders have been intimidated into accepting it in our day. Something they totally rejected in the last century, they have now embraced it; it’s another form of the social gospel. And it did—and we know that from history—horrendous damage, first time around in the 1920s. Liberation theology obviously did damage to an already disastrous religion: Roman Catholicism. And now it’s back to do damage to the evangelical movement. And what it does is destructive.
Strangely, in spite of the history of its destructiveness, there are evangelicals who think it is essential, and they go so far as to say it’s a gospel issue. They’re defending the entry of a social message and an alliance with the world as part of the gospel. Well, we all see its effect. It has brought down organizations, it has brought down conferences and events, it has torn up denominations, it has ripped up churches, it has emptied churches, it has created chaos in seminaries and Christian universities, and it has put former friends in the category of enemies. This is not the work of the Holy Spirit; I think we can safely say that. It is destructive. Social justice has not been blessed by God. As I said, it is shattering and divisive, fracturing, confusing, chaotic. And I think it’s safe to say in the broad sense that by their fruits you shall—what?—know them.
How did we ever get to the point where this was so easily acceptable? Well, the father of social justice was pragmatism. Once the evangelical church bought pragmatism, they would never be able to protect themselves from social justice because pragmatism basically says, “You do what works.” In other words, what the culture wants, you give them. And once you decide that you’re going to give the culture what it wants, eventually it’ll take you to the bottom of that culture, and then you’ll have a church—a Southern Baptist church, a First Southern Baptist church—say, “We welcome homosexuals, transgender people, and immoral people.” Once you decide you’re going to make an alliance with the world, with the ill-conceived notion that somehow this is going to make the gospel more effective, the culture will take you to the bottom. You got on the train, and you are not in control, where it’s going.
Pragmatism is the slippery slope that led to this. Seeker-friendly compromises; non-offensive, self-help, TED Talk preaching; churches designed for the children of the devil; alliances with lawless, immoral people has made it inevitable that they end up where they do. And the church again, as it has done in the past, traded in the pure gospel for a hybrid, a kind of alliance between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. And this, by the way, is a great plan for the triumph of the devil, and it reflects pretty shocking absence of discernment at a very high level.
Listen to the familiar words of our Lord in John 18: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be delivered over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not [from here].” That is not difficult to understand. I think it’s foundational to all of us; we understand this: There are two kingdoms in the world—right? Kingdom of light and darkness; kingdom of God, kingdom of Satan; and they are separated by a gulf that is really impassible. And yet inevitably, there are people in the church and today—this has become so widespread that I think it’s the most widespread expression of the social gospel perhaps yet in American and Western culture. And I want you to see how Scripture addresses this.
To begin with, turn to Matthew 16, Matthew 16. This is familiar, obviously, and you’ve all preached on this. But I want to go down to verse 13. “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
I think we all understand that that was the high point of Peter’s life, for sure. Of all the dumb things he said—it was nice to have him be given the opportunity to say that. And Jesus recognized it in verse 17 and said, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona”—Simon, son of Jonah—“because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
In fact, this sets Peter in a remarkable category as one who gave the declaration, the truth of which becomes the foundation of the church. He says to Peter in verse 18, “You’re Peter, and upon this rock I’ll build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Again, this is the absolute high point of Peter’s life. He has been honored by our Lord to have received this epic revelation from the Father, a revelation of truth upon which the church will be built, the invincible church; and as a part of that church, he will be able to declare to men the way to heaven and the way to hell. This is monumental. This is high point of his life.
And then you come to verse 21, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside”—he was feeling his prominence—“and began to rebuke Him”—the man is hopeless; goes from the high point to that—“‘God forbid it, Lord!’”—strong language: “No, no, no” —“this shall never happen to You” —“I’m telling You, Lord, You don’t need to suffer; You don’t need to be killed. You can do ministry without suffering. There’s a path of popularity; You don’t need that.” “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’”
“Get behind Me, Satan!”—hypage in the Greek; strong, intense, emotional, fierce rebuke. It’s the same word Jesus used in Matthew 4:10, when He said, “Be gone, Satan!” Same word. He literally takes this apostle—who had received the highest honor that any apostle could ever receive, of being the source of divine revelation in the declaration of the truth of Christ’s identity, and before you can get your next breath, he’s speaking for Satan. This is the most devastating rebuke to a disciple: “You have taken up Satan’s causes. If you think there’s a way to accomplish redemption without suffering and death, you’re offering what the devil offered.” Right?
What did the devil offer Jesus on the mountain? The kingdoms of the world. “You don’t need to suffer”—this is the devil’s agenda. “If you can make alliance with the devil, you can skip all the suffering”—you’re partnering with Satan. “You are a stumbling block”—“You are a skandalon.” He went from being a rock to a stumbling block in a couple of minutes because he moved from the divine agenda to the devil’s plan. “You’re in My way,” Jesus said; “You are in the way. Get away; you’re advocating man’s interests, not God’s.”
Men are always interested in finding the easy way, right? That’s why they compromise. That’s why they find a way to be popular. And to avoid hostility and to avoid opposition and to avoid persecution and to avoid offense, you’re not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. Same term, “setting your mind,” as Colossians 3:2: “Set your mind on things [in heaven].” You’re not thinking in heavenly thoughts.
Again, this is the devil’s way to get Christians to think they can advance the kingdom without suffering, they can advance the kingdom without confrontation, they can advance the kingdom without offenses, they can advance the kingdom without preaching about sin and judgment. Jesus said in John 7, “They hate Me because I told them they were evil.” That’s why they hated Jesus.
“The Light kingdom can advance without suffering,” says Peter. Peter’s sin has been repeated incessantly through all of church history. Christians have been trying to help Jesus build His kingdom by striking a deal with the devil. And every effort to advance the kingdom by means of the world’s schemes is a stumbling block to Christ and His cause.
For just a moment I would draw your attention to a familiar passage in 2 Corinthians 4. I have a lot of passages floating around in my head and in my notes. They’re not so dangerous in my head, but in my notes you’re liable to hear them.
In 2 Corinthians 4, just the perspective here is so sweeping. Verse 7, “We have this treasure”—treasure of the gospel, the glory of the gospel which is the glory of God in the face of Christ—we have it “in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal [life]. So death works in us, but life in you.”
Pragmatism wants to eliminate all of that. Pragmatism wants to find a way around any kind of pain or difficulty. And I think good intentions may be behind it, coupled with ignorance. Promoting effort to advance the kingdom, to advance the gospel by political lobbying, by any form of pragmatism—shallow gospel, entertainment, emotional manipulation, acceptance of sin and sinners—is to cross over into the devil’s work; it’s to cross over into the devil’s work.
John makes this statement in 1 John 2, that “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is . . . of the world” —is not of God, and it’s all “passing away.” So what contribution can it possibly make to the eternal kingdom? James says, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Choose your side. And I think you know what side you’re on, and you need to stay there. When we talk about separation, that’s essentially what I’m talking about.
Evangelicalism has become like Peter, offering a better way than bold, faithful, compassionate, loving proclamation of the full gospel—that offends the sinner, terrifies the sinner, terrorizes the sinner—for popularity, acceptance, and money. The apostles, by the way, turned the world upside-down; they did that with no help from it. The evil kingdom of darkness hates all that God loves and loves all that God hates. God and truth and Christ don’t make alliances with Satan and lies and antichrist.
Well, that’s my introduction; now I want you to go to the text: 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 6. I’m going to read this to you, starting in verse 14. Second Corinthians 6:14, “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; 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’ll be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord.
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
I don’t know if you’ve thought of this passage in the context that we’re addressing at this moment, but that’s how you should think about it: righteousness, light, Christ, believers, and God. On the other hand, you have in this passage lawless, darkness, Belial, unbelievers, and idols. Those are defining terms of the two kingdoms. There is no possibility of those two kingdoms working together in a partnership—no possibility for fellowship, no possibility for common agreement. And compromise only invites the devil in, not God. You have the old and the new, the earthly and the heavenly, the deadly and the life-giving, the material and the spiritual, the deceptive and the truthful.
So the command is obvious: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.” It doesn’t mean divorce, because in 1 Corinthians 7:13 and 14 it says if you’re married to an unbeliever who wants to stay, then stay married. So it’s not that. It doesn’t mean isolation; we know that the apostle Paul didn’t do that. In fact, he instructed the Corinthians, “I’m not telling you to break fellowship with people who are immoral, I’m telling you to break fellowship with people who confess Christ who are immoral.” And Jesus said, “Look, I don’t want to take you out of the world” —John 17. “I don’t want them out of the world; I want them in the world, but I want them kept from the Evil One.” That is the issue. You can’t just jump over into Satan’s kingdom and think you’re going to add anything to the kingdom of God.
“Do not be bound together with unbelievers.” That really is a prohibition based on Deuteronomy 22:10, which says, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” Only somebody who grew up in the city would try that. You can’t plow with a donkey and an ox on the same yoke; that is exactly the vivid picture that you’re intended to see when you think of making any kind of alliance with the kingdom of darkness.
Back in Jeremiah chapter 2, as Jeremiah speaks for God—we can pick it up in verse 4, Jeremiah 2:4: “Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord, ‘What injustice did your fathers find in Me, that they went far from Me”—“Why did you leave Me?”—“and walked after emptiness and became empty? They didn’t say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, who led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, and a land of drought and of deep darkness, through a land that no one crossed, where no man dwelt?’ I brought you into the fruitful land to eat its fruit and its good things. But you came and defiled My land, and My inheritance you made an abomination.’”
Down in verse 9, He says, “I’ll yet contend with you . . . and with your . . . sons I will contend.” And then in verse 11, He says, “Has a nation changed gods?”—“Did you give Me up for another deity?”—“My people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.” I mean, the ultimate insanity for any of us in ministry would be to change gods.
“Be appalled”—verse 12—“‘O heavens, at this, and shudder, be very desolate,’ declares the Lord. ‘For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, [and hewn] for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.’” Why would you do that? This kind of language is telling us that you can’t link Satan to God in any kind of spiritual enterprise. If you go in the direction of Satan, you’ve left God.
Turning the church into some kind of racist, feminist, homosexual welcoming club in the name of the gospel is to exchange God for an empty cistern. The kingdom of light joining with bitterness, and vengeful, graceless philosophies of the world—this is to abandon God. Partnering with the world, unacceptable. To join in any other common cause with the world, on the world’s level—like, you might want to help people with some charity or some philanthropy—is fine. But to assume that any alliance with the world is a part of the gospel is to pollute the gospel.
Now this passage—I want to break it down for you. Paul supports this initial command in three ways: looks at the past, the present, and the future. Let’s look at the past—back to verse 14: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Again, “bound together” draws down from Deuteronomy 22:10; and that led me to think about the Old Testament and similar prohibitions that were in the Old Testament. So let’s look at some of them.
Go back with me to Exodus 23, Exodus 23. And these things are really obvious on their face, so we don’t need to spend a lot of time with them. But this is the Lord warning His people: verse 31, Exodus 23:31, “I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” God was so concerned about this that He literally used them as a weapon to destroy idolators.
In Deuteronomy 7, you find them, of course, ready to enter the Promised Land, and in the beginning of that chapter, “The Lord your God, when He brings you into the land where you’re entering to possess it, clears away many nations”—and he lists those nations—“greater and stronger than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall surely destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them, show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He’ll quickly destroy you. But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” Talk about separation; that’s stunning. Separation so critical that He actually told Israel to be His executioner because the potential danger was cataclysmic.
In Isaiah chapter 30, “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ declares the Lord, “who execute a plan, but not Mine, [who] make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin; who proceed down to Egypt without consulting Me, to take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation. For their princes are at Zoan and their ambassadors arrive at Hanes. Everyone will be ashamed because of a people who cannot profit them, who are not for help or profit, but for shame and for reproach.” I honestly thought of that as I watched evangelicals trying to support BLM movement. There was rioting in the street, burning and looting. How can there be some alliance at that point—or any alliance?
In chapter 31, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are . . . strong; they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord! Yet He’s also wise and will bring disaster.” It’s always going to be disaster when you make an alliance with the kingdom of darkness.
So Israel was separated. They were separated in so many ways: diet, clothing, calendar—even to the degree of executing the threatening enemy. So the past, you could say, the past supports this command: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.” Just saying that and knowing it came from the Pentateuch reminds us of the past and the warnings God gave His people.
Moving to the present—stay in verse 14, and let’s continue to read: “For what partnership,”—now we’re in the present—“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?” Five comparisons, all in the present tense, to support his command.
This is talking to us in the present, the life of the church; and we can look at verse 14 and see where he begins: “What partnership have righteousness and lawlessness?” “What metochē”—it’s used only here. It’s a related word used of Peter’s partners in his fishing business, so it’s some kind of an alliance. A related word is also used of a believer’s union with Christ; I think it’s in Hebrews 3.
So, “What partnership, what alliance can lawlessness”—which is a characteristic of unbelievers, as we well know—“what partnership can lawlessness have with righteousness?” I mean, the question is patently obvious. It can have none. It can have none. And I think about that in the light of 1 John chapter 3 and verse 4 and following: “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or known Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who doesn’t practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who doesn’t love his brother.”
Wow. If you don’t practice the righteousness laid out by God in His Word and show love for others, if you’re a hater, and you’re vicious, and you’re vengeful, and you’re destructive, and you’re lawless—you’re a child of the devil. Children of the devil and the children of God can’t make a partnership. That has to do with behavior.
The next comparison has to do with character: “Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” We’re talking about nature now: “What koinōnia?” Light is a metaphor for truth; darkness is a metaphor for lies. We could also say that light is a metaphor for virtue; dark is a metaphor for sin. The children of light and the children of darkness together, cooperating for anything that is intended to advance the kingdom of God, is impossible because they are not only different in their behavior, but they are different in their essential character.
Verse 15 is a jarring statement: “What harmony has Christ with Belial?” That’s an ancient name for Satan. That means basically “worthless,” “wicked.” It is unthinkable that Satan would be sought by those who belong to Christ—as allies for any purpose.
“What harmony,” sumphōnēsis, symphony. The Lord wants us to understand. And he just keeps laying down these five statements, one after the other; and we could say after one we got it, but he keeps hammering at it because he wants us to understand that because our behavior is different, that’s because our nature is different; we have no possible alliance.
And thirdly, with Christ and Belial, the source of our power is different. We have power from heaven; they have power from hell. And then he adds at the end of verse 15, “What has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” Now you’re talking about the means by which we came to salvation: faith. We live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; our trust is in Him, our hope is in Him, our confidence is in Him. Nonbelievers don’t have that confidence; they have nothing to do with Christ, no relationship to Him at all.
So we have different behavior because we have a different nature, because we have a different power. We live by a different spiritual means: We live by faith; they live by sight. And finally, he says, just summing it up, our identity is different, verse 16: “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God.”
What are we doing with idols? I think I may know what the apostle Paul had in mind. If you turn back to Ezekiel chapter 8—at least there’s a possibility that he was thinking about this in Ezekiel chapter 8. I know you’re familiar with it. Starting in verse 4, he has a vision: “And the glory of the God of Israel was there” in this vision—he mentions the visions he’s having in verse 3—“like the appearance which I saw in the plain.
“And He said to me [in the vision], ‘Son of man, raise your eyes now toward the north.’ So I raised my eyes toward the north, and behold, to the north of the altar gate was this idol of jealousy at the entrance.’” This is open idolatry. In this vision of the Temple, there is open idolatry, not hidden at all, right in the entrance, in the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the idol of jealousy—which provokes to jealousy—was located. “And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the appearance which I saw in the plain.
“He said to me, ‘Son of man, raise your eyes now toward the north.’ So I raised my eyes toward the north, and behold, to the north of the altar gate was this idol of jealousy at the entrance.” Any idol, any idol is an act of blasphemy against God, who has a right to be jealous.
Verse 6, “He said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing here, so that I would be far from My sanctuary? But you’ll see still greater abominations.’
“Then He brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, a hole in the wall”—now you go from a very public display of idolatry to a secret cult, a secret cult, through a secret hole. “‘Son of man, now dig through the wall.’ I dug through the wall, and behold, an entrance. He said to me, ‘Go in and see the wicked abominations that they’re committing.’ I entered and looked, and behold, every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things, with all the idols of the house of Israel, carved on the wall all around. Standing in front of them were seventy elders”—those were not the Sanhedrin, by the way; this is before that—“of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan”—and perhaps that’s the Shaphan who actually took the Word of God to Josiah—“standing among them, each man with his censer in his hand and the fragrance of the cloud of incense rising. He said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are committing in the dark, each man in the room of his carved images? For they say, “The Lord doesn’t see us; the Lord has forsaken the land.”’ And [then] He said to me, ‘You’ll see still greater abominations.’
“Then He brought me to the entrance of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz”—Tammuz would be the Greek god Adonis; they’re worshiping, you might say, a sexual being—“‘Do you see this . . . ? Even greater abominations . . . .’”
Verse 16, “Twenty-five men”—what are they doing? They’re “prostrating themselves . . . toward the sun”—they’re worshiping the sun. “He said to me, ‘Do you see [all] this, son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they have committed here, that they have filled the land with violence and provoked Me repeatedly? . . . They’re putting the twig to their nose. Therefore, I indeed will deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them’”—which speaks to the issue. The separation is obvious, but it falls to the prophet, then, to proclaim warning to the kingdom of darkness.
We are the temple of the living God. That carries into the New Testament, doesn’t it? Both collectively we’re the temple of God, and individually we are the temple of God. And the word “temple” there in Corinthians is naos, and it referred to the Holy of Holies in the Septuagint. So our identity is as the temple of God, and the temple of God is not to be, basically, making alliances with idols, with the darkness. It is like in Samuel’s writing, chapters 4 to 6, where they took the Ark of the Covenant and put it in with Dagon the god; and God was irate about that, and you know the horrors that happened because God was angry. All of that just to give you a handle on the text. But our identity is as the temple of God, and the temple of God is no place for any kind of invasion of idols and unclean things.
You have to remember that we are the temple of God. The church is the temple of God, individually and collectively. And this is to remind us that that is our identity. There’s a lot of people throwing identity all over the place. I’m not defined by any other identity than in this text—the temple of the living God. And oh, by the way, for you who wondered, I’m not white. I’m brown like everybody else.
So you don’t want to be bound together with unbelievers—lawless people, bound with the darkness, bound with Satan, bound with idolaters—in common cause because if you do, it’s going to be destructive. There’s no compatibility. You can’t—to borrow Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:21—you can’t dine at the table of demons and then drink from the cup of the Lord.
So the past gives us evidence in support of this, as we saw in the Old Testament; the present, those five statements. Then look at the future in verse 16: “I will” appears here four times. “I will dwell in them and walk among them; I will be their God, they shall be”—or “will be”—“‘My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; I will welcome you. I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.” You know what he’s saying here? You don’t need to make an alliance with Satan to fix the future for God. Did you get that? You don’t need to do that.
This is not a call to salvation; we were just told that we’re the temple of God; we’ve just been told that we are believers. This is not a call to salvation, this is God saying, “You don’t need to make alliances with Satan to cause any future developments in My kingdom.” By the way, these are all promises because that’s what [chapter 7] verse 1 says: “Having these promises, beloved”—another reason we know he’s talking to believers. “I’m in charge of the future; it’s settled, and here’s how it ends: I dwell with My people; I walk among My people. I will be their God; they will be My people. I will welcome you. I will be a father to you; you will be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty. “The end is already set, fixed. You don’t need to use alliances with the enemy to advance the kingdom; the kingdom is advancing. I am advancing it, and I will bring you to its fulfillment.”
You have in verses 16, 17, 18 a mosaic of Old Testament promises to the people of God related to the promised kingdom. Jeremiah 24:6 and 7, “For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up . . . plant them. . . . I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”
Do you understand that the salvation of Israel in the future is guaranteed by that statement and the power of God? And do you understand that all that the Fathers gives to the Son, the Son will receive, and will lose none of them, John 6? Do you understand that this is all in God’s hands? And we don’t need machinations from the government or machinations from marketing experts to extend the kingdom, and we certainly don’t need to compromise the gospel to embrace human philosophy that in itself is totally destructive, to advance the name of Christ.
Jeremiah 31:33, “‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ [says] the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them, on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.’” Same thing in Ezekiel 36.
So you have here the promise of the kingdom, the millennial reign of Christ, which Matthew 19 calls “the regeneration,” which Acts 3 calls the “times of refreshing,” and “the time of restitution,” the day of Christ. But the Lord is saying the end is set. The promises of the King coming, all fixed. Psalm 2, right? God’s going to set His King on the hill. This is what Isaiah pointed to. This is what Daniel pointed to. This is what Zechariah pointed to.
Isaiah 11, I have to look at that for a moment because it’s such a wonderful promise: “A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will delight in the fear of the Lord, He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear”—nothing superficial—“but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth”—you don’t need to worry about that. “He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. And righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist.”
Isaiah gives a lot of other wonderful aspects of the kingdom we don’t have time to look over. But we know that when the King comes, every knee will bow to Him. All nations will see His glory. Perfect justice and fairness will reign. Righteousness and truth will dominate. Peace everywhere. Economic blessing, long life. No wars; safety. Joy, followed by a new heaven and a new earth. That’s what Paul is telling us by reaching back to these passages. But for a moment, let’s consider them.
First of all, just a footnote. I’ve been hearing some discussion about the fact that we as evangelicals have an urban mandate to—I don’t know what—to redeem cities. You know what the urban mandate is? To proclaim judgment; that is the urban mandate. And if you want to know why I say that, go to Matthew chapter 11; and that’s what Jesus did. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!” “It’ll be better for Sodom and Gomorrah than it’s going to be for you.” The urban mandate is to go into your city and proclaim judgment. Look, I don’t know how you’re viewing the issues going on in the Ukraine, but the divine perspective is this: That is divine judgment, that is divine judgment—What else? What else?—on sinful people who deserve that judgment.
God told His people in the past, “Come out from among them and be separate.” In verse 16, God is saying, “I’m going to be your God,” and it’s messianic; it’s kingdom kind of language. “Come out from among them and be separate; I have settled the issue of your future. Don’t touch what is unclean.” That’s from Isaiah 52—you can read it yourself; we’re kind of running out of time. It’s a call here, really a call to separation based on the reality of the coming kingdom, the reality of the coming kingdom. And when we do this, we will be received with full acceptance and full honor.
You don’t need to make alliances, verse 17. “Just be separate. You don’t need to touch what is unclean. I will welcome you. I’ll be a father to you; you’ll all be sons and daughters to Me.” That is a fulfillment, really, of the expanding of the Davidic Covenant that promised a son of David, and in that son of David a whole humanity; and that was the thrust of 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17.
Well, I think I’ve said enough to kind of give you the picture here. Wish I had a little more time, but let’s draw it to a conclusion. Chapter 7, verse 1, not a good place to separate: “Therefore, having these promises”—and the word “promises” is important because that’s exactly what we have been talking about. These are promises, promises from God in the Old Testament—from Jeremiah, from Ezekiel, from Isaiah, even from 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17; you could even add Isaiah 43 in on that eighteenth verse. Based upon all these kingdom promises—eschatological: “Having these promises.”
Look, people say, “How important is eschatology?” It’s really important because it’s the end of the story. But more than that, I’m glad to know who wins in the end; and His kingdom will come, and it will be a kingdom of righteousness and justice and peace and holiness. So since that’s already decided and promised, “Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Anticipating that God is on schedule to bring the kingdom of Christ, and realizing that no alliance with Satan has any part in that, you want to make sure that you cleanse yourself from all—literally, “filthiness,” molusmos, any filthy alliance, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” In other words, your worship goes all, directly, to God.
So our calling is clear. “Holy” means separate, doesn’t it? Isn’t holiness separation? Our calling is clear: Call people out of the darkness to the light, from damnation to salvation. Tell them what Mark 1:15 says: “Repent and believe in the gospel.” And don’t make any alliances with the kingdom of darkness.
Well Lord, thank You for giving us this time together this morning. I thank You so much for the consistency and clarity of Your Word; it’s unmistakable. The wayfaring man, though he be a fool, need not err. Lord, I pray for these men, that they would be unashamed; and that that unashamed willingness to preach and speak the truth, to be the voice of Christ in the world, even though they are resisted, resented, treated with hostility, persecution, rejection, may they realize that that is the requirement that You’ve laid before us: to proclaim the truth and make no alliance with the world.
It’s so clear to us. We’ve sung about it. You’re the mighty fortress, You’re the God of power, You’re the God of salvation, and You will bring Your salvation to its fullness in the kingdom of Christ. It’s coming. He is coming to establish that kingdom. We can’t possibly think that we need the help of the world as we serve You.
We thank You that there’s a sense in which, as Jesus said in Luke 17, “The kingdom is in your midst.” The King is here; He’s in our midst right now. He is alive. We are in His kingdom now, the invisible spiritual kingdom; and we long for the day when that invisible, spiritual kingdom will become the glorious visible kingdom of Christ and the manifestation of the sons of God will be clear. Keep us faithful to that end. Fill our hearts with hope, we pray in the name of Christ. Amen.
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