Be Ye Separate
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
It is always an honour and privilege to have the opportunity to preach; but particularly on my birthday. Today is significant for two other reasons; today is also Halloween and Reformation Sunday.
Our reading today illustrates what inevitably happens when the church…when Christians fail to adhere to the sound doctrine of biblical separation.
The historical context particularly deals with the separation of church and state and the separation of believers from the pagan world.
And so today we will go on a bit of a journey [at least in the introduction] and look at some of the history surrounding the two events [Halloween and the Reformation]. We will also briefly look at the heresies connected with these events and the attempt to harmonize two diametrically opposed philosophies or belief systems.
The history behind Halloween is quite broad but derives from a Celtic [Druid] pagan festival called Samhain (pronounced Sow-in). Time doesn’t permit to go fully into the many observances connected to Samhain (sow-in), suffice to say that it was a harvest festival and was celebrated by various practices including the burning of sacrifices. It was also believed that on the night of Samhain (Sow-in), the boundary between the spirit world and the physical world opened, allowing the spirits to enter and wreak havoc upon the earth and particularly the harvest.
The history behind the name change is another interesting point. The re-naming of Samhain to Halloween occurred in the 8th Century as Ireland became increasingly Catholic. In an attempt to merge the pagan with the Christian, All Saints [Hallowed] Day was moved from May to November to coincide with Samhain (Sow-in) which then became “All Hallows’ Eve” or “Halloween”.
Halloween is still a major celebration in Ireland, with many of the customs still being observed in one form or another and which reflect its pagan origins.
The event has steadily become popular in Australia also; though I dare say many have no idea about its dark history. And yet casual observation should tell you that dressing up as skeletons, monsters and witches is contrary to the command of scripture to abstain from every appearance of evil. Those who hate godly wisdom do indeed love death; and it is reflected in the ghoulish costumes.
I struggle to believe that it is harmless fun; at the very least it does nothing to glorify God; especially knowing that the day is held in high reverence by Satanists and Wiccans.
The celebration of Halloween wouldn’t have happened, of course, but for another chapter in “church” history. I refer to the merger of Church and State.
We are well familiar with the Christian persecution in ancient Rome. The first step in the easing of persecution came in 313AD when Emperor Constantine pronounced an edict of toleration. It is supposed to have occurred as a result of winning the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312AD. Prior to the battle he is reported as having a vision of the cross and underneath the words “In this sign, conquer”. As the story goes, Constantine painted the cross on his army’s shields and they consequently won. The Christianization of Rome was further extended in AD380, when Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the State religion of Rome. This was a bitter sweet day in history, since we know that Christianity thrived under persecution.
The net result of this was that Paganism had more of an influence on Christianity, than vice-versa. “The Way” as it was known, which had turned the world upside down was now becoming absorbed by the pagan world. If a little leaven leaves the whole lump, we now had a baker’s dozen.
It’s important to realize that the Roman Empire, whilst it decreased in size, it was never totally conquered but rather transformed into what was known as the Holy Roman Empire. As such it had as much influence throughout the known world at the time and continues to exert its influence today.
Notwithstanding, the Lord always preserves a remnant of faithful believers [there has always been a church of the Philadelphians ] and it would be remiss of me not to mention groups such as the Anabaptists, Waldensians, and the Lollards. Which, incidentally, were heavily persecuted by the Catholic Church.
If we fast forward to the year AD 1517, we see an accumulation of heresies so severe that it barely resembles Christianity.
Apostolic succession [the papacy]
Two ordinances become seven sacraments
Salvation by works [merited grace]
Celibacy of priests
The perpetual virginity of Mary
The assumption of Mary
The immaculate conception of Mary
The process of Canonisation of saints
Purgatory and indulgences
The corruption of God’s word and removing it from the hands of common folk and initiating what was known as the Dark Ages.
As Paul sums it up with this warning in 2 Corinthians:
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
(2 Corinthians 11:3-4)
The end result is another Gospel, another Jesus inspired by another spirit.
Roman Catholicism is guilty on all counts.
As I said earlier, today is also Reformation Sunday and it commemorates the day in 1517, a Catholic Priest by the name of Martin Luther posted a list of 95 theses or “Protests” to the door of the Church in Wittenberg Germany and thus formalized the Protestant Reformation.
[Although the rumblings of reformation had already begun]
Luther’s personal protest began through a crisis of conscience which lead him to understanding that salvation was by grace through faith: “the just shall live by faith”
In light of this revelation, Martin Luther developed a distaste for many of the teachings of the Catholic Church [although he was far from perfect in his doctrine]; but in particular the idea of “indulgences” which were a form of penance within the Roman Catholic Church that granted full or partial remission of the punishment of sin. In Martin Luther’s time, these indulgences took the form of monetary payments, so that a rich person could virtually buy his way into heaven or lessen the time in purgatory for himself or a loved one [or so he thought].
Indulgences still exist today but in a more disguised form. Our current pope promised an indulgence to those who followed him on Twitter or Instagram.
It’s interesting [when we look at these two stories:the origins of Halloween and the Protestant Reformation] that both Rome and Ireland have become strongholds for entrenched Catholicism.
I pray that you keep these things in mind as we expound our text today; remembering that this epistle was written to a church which was smack bang in the middle of a society with a plethora of pagan practices and beliefs.
Separated by Association:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
The scripture paints a perfect picture here in describing our first point. It is the idea of 2 oxen being yoked or paired together to perform a COMMON WORK. Ideally they would be of equal strength and height in order to work effectively together. The problem, in the case of inequality, is that the work is bound to suffer.
We are given the conditions of this inequality throughout the four verses of our text today:
The first of these is:
BELIEVER and UNBELIEVER:
One thing we know is that the desire of the believer ought to be for the gospel. His desire ought to be a love for the truth. His desire ought to be to honour God. The unbeliever has no such desire. He walks after the flesh and is given to the deeds of the flesh.
At times these differences may be subtle; particularly if the believer is not mature in his faith and his actions are misdirected [that is to say, not towards the gospel] or if the unbeliever [perhaps] has a certain community mindedness that appears to be based on faith [in name only]. We also know that when the Lord begins a good work in us, he promises to complete it…I’m living proof of that.
The scripture further highlights the differences.
It uses the word “fellowship” which indicates a commonality or likeness of type.
For example: Fellow citizens or fellow workers
Instead of a likeness of type, we have another contrast: This time between RIGHTEOUSNESS and UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.
It speaks of communion [or common union] between LIGHT and DARKNESS; and asks the question, “What communion is there between the two?” The simple answer is none.
We know at the beginning of creation that God divided the light from the darkness to show us that separation.
In fact and as Paul tells us:
“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth😉 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” (Ephesians 5:6-13)
As believers it pays to remember [WITHOUT DWELLING ON IT], where we came from [our previous lives]; and that is: that we were darkness and we were walking in darkness.
But now we are “light in the Lord” and we’re called to be salt and light in this world
LIGHT ALWAYS EXPOSES DARKNESS
Applying these principles to the historical example which I gave in the introduction:
It’s hard to imagine a system of religion that would allow such a mingling of believers and unbelievers, as was the case in Ancient Rome. Ultimately it was Christian in name but not in practice. We know this from from Revelation chapter 2 and Christ’s appraisal of the churches in Asia Minor.
Roman Catholicism as represented by the Church in Thyatira, is characterized by idolatry among other things; and offering sacrifices thereunto. However, the Church as represented by Thyatira wasn’t the start of the rot, it was preceded by 3 other church ages:
Ephesus, who left their first love
Smyrna, who received a perfect report card
But more importantly we read of Pergamos:
“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.” (Revelation 2:14-15)
Not only do we see idolatry…but we also see a destructive doctrine referred to as the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
The word Nicolaitans translates to “conquer the laity” and suggests a ecclesiastical hierarchy which resulted in the spiritual destruction of the lay or common people by the clergy; possibly through over-lording.
The primary application of our text is to the church of Corinth. And throughout this epistle we see Paul exhorting the Corinthians to DIS-ASSOCIATE themselves…to dis-associate themselves from sins and practices that are unbecoming for a believer; after all the desire of the Christian should be to live a blameless life.
Some of the particular examples within the church of Corinth include: food offered to idols; and especially its effect on your conscience and the conscience of others. He also challenges the church in regards to fornication, disorderly conduct in the church and use of Spiritual gifts.
Certainly, throughout this message we will be reminded of the importance of our relationship with the Lord [good or bad] and its effect with those around us.
Separated through Membership:
“And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
Once again we have this separation, this division, this inequality between Christ and Satan…Believer and Unbeliever.
It’s obvious of course that Christ and Satan are at polar opposites of the spectrum.
Concord is an interesting word:
It speaks of harmony.
It speaks of agreement
It speaks of unity
The obvious answer to the question “what concord hath Christ with Belial” is “NONE”
And this is because:
Satan is the way that seems right but whose end is the ways of death.
Jesus is the strait gate and the narrow way that leads to life.
Satan is the father of lies.
Jesus said “I am the truth”
Satan was a murderer from the beginning
Jesus said “I am the life”
Satan is the accuser of the brethren
Jesus is our advocate in heaven
Through faith in Christ we have been given the power to become sons of God.
Those without faith are described as “sons of Belial”
The opposite of concord is discord and confusion and we know that Satan is the author of confusion…
In the second half of this verse, it’s implied here that there is no part or parity between believer and non-believer.
THEREFORE the opposite must be true for believer and believer. Therefore we ought to ask ourselves:
If the believer has NO part with an unbeliever, what part or parity is there amongst believers? [I hope you know the answer]
WE ARE ALL PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
And so when looking at this portion of our text today, it pays to remind ourselves WHO we belong to; realizing that our lives are NOT our own and that we were bought with a price [that price being the blood of Christ]
As with membership of any organisation, there’s a certain expectation that comes with being members of Christ’s body; we’re not talking KPI’s [Key Performance Indicators] but there certainly should be evidence of our membership in terms of attitude and inner transformation.
In the previous point we saw that the believer is considered “light in the Lord” and this is consistent with the fact that we have become citizens of God’s kingdom.
“…delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:” (Colossians 1:13)
As believers our lives are governed by the Lord and his commandments. And this is
because we agree that they are good.
On the other hand there are those who prefer darkness because their deeds are evil.
Paul sums up this contrast of attitude like this:
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:5-9)
But for the unbeliever [particularly] in relation to the gospel:
“…the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
(2 Corinthians 4:4)
When it comes to choosing sides and separating ourselves from sin and those that would influence us in sinful ways, our text asks us: “what part has a believer with an unbeliever”
The passage in Ephesians passage exhorts us not to be partakers with the unfruitful works of darkness: “Be not ye therefore partakers with them”.
To be a partaker [among other things] means to join with someone in a particular activity [whether as a one-off or long-term relationship: business or otherwise].
Along with the words part and partaker, we have words like partner and partnership which further our need for caution when it comes to forming a joint venture of some kind.
And this is where discernment is needed to decide where it might lead and the implications further down the track. Whether there will be an expectation to do something that contradicts your beliefs and whether you will be tempted to compromise your faith.
Automatically we should realize that the unbeliever’s life is guided by a diametrically opposite worldview and value system. Remember the unequal yoking; the believer and the unbeliever are working in opposite directions.
And even if the unbeliever’s values are seemingly altruistic:
The believer’s focus is on the eternal; his treasure is in heaven
The unbeliever’s focus is on the temporal; his treasure is on earth.
The unbeliever is motivated by self-esteem
The believer’s motive is to glorify God.
Pastor has previously mentioned the example of the food bank which began as a means to further the gospel but when taken over by the council, the gospel focus was removed completely. This has been the case of many charitable organisations; the gospel of Christ being transformed into a social justice [false] gospel.
As the body of Christ, believers, ultimately we need to be prepared to be partakers of Christ and his sufferings. But giving in to sin and taking the path of least resistance isn’t going to make us happy long term. At least we should hope not…
Life isn’t without temptation and Satan can certainly offer us an easy life. Look at Christ’s temptation in the wilderness.
Satan tempted Christ in regards to provision
Satan tempted Christ in regards to God’s protection over his life
Satan offered Christ power and dominion
So when the scripture asks: what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
Again the answer is NONE
Separated through Abidance:
“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
I’ve used the word “abidance” to describe what the scripture is saying here. In the second half of this verse, we read: “…I will dwell in them, and walk with them…” The word abide means to constantly dwell
In John’s gospel chapter 15 verses 4-10, we see the word abide used in this way:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
Not only does he dwell in us but we dwell in him. And as we make this conscious effort to abide in his presence we experience God’s love and peace; thus living a fruitful life.
Once again we’re asked a question, “WHAT AGREEMENT”
These questions are designed to make us THINK and to CHALLENGE us.
Immediately we should realize two people cannot walk together except they agree…
Again; what agreement or what common ground does idol have with the temple of God.
The answer is none. To place an idol in the temple of God is an abomination and to present something to God which is considered unclean, profane or tainted is unthinkable.
“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 1:6-8)
In another sense we are also reminded the WE ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD
Because God dwells in us and God walks with us.
In the gospel of John we see Jesus cleansing the temple of the money changers. This demonstrates how easy it is for true worship and sacrifice unto God to be corrupted.
Jesus rebukes them saying that the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer but they had turned it into a den of thieves.
Quite simply when it comes to living a separated life:
We’re being particularly challenged during this time in regards to the idols we might have hidden in our hearts.
We cannot worship God and mammon; we either hate the one and love the other. Worship is a choice we need to make daily as is the prayer that God will purify and cleanse our hearts.
Separation from the World and Communion with God:
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
The call to come out from among those things which are antithetical to God, speaks of our relationship with the world.
We see this numerous times in the Old Testament and the command is to abstain from practising the things that the heathen did and not to indulge in idolatrous behaviour.
“When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:29-31)
“Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.” (Jeremiah 10:2)
“Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.” (Ezra 9:12)
The obvious principle is to:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
(1 John 2:15-17)
The second part of this verse continues thus..
“and I will receive you,”
“…And will be a Father unto you…”
and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
These are promises and they speak of relationship …
If the first half of this verse speak of our relationship with the world the second part of this verse speaks of our our relationship with the Lord. The second is conditional upon the first. Our relationship with the Lord is dependant upon our relationship with the world. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.
Our relationship with the Lord should be the most valued thing in our lives. After all, wasn’t it a dissatisfaction with our old lives that caused us to fall out of love with the word and drew us to Christ in the first place.
James doesn’t mince words when he says:
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO LEAVE YOUR FIRST LOVE
There’s a saying that goes: “those who forget history are destined to repeat it.
As it was in Corinth and Ancient Rome we live in a pagan world surrounded by infidels. The question is: Do we learn from history or do we succumb to the errors committed by our predecessors; blending faith with the culture of the day.
We’re living at a time in which the bible speaks clearly; a time of apostasy and a falling away from the faith once delivered to the saints.
We’re living in a time when churches promote themselves as “seeker friendly”
We’re living in a time where feelings and experiences take precedence over objective truth.
We’re living in a time where faith is being mingled with things like Christian yoga and other occult practices.
The modern believer has learnt to “compartmentalize” his life. He adopts certain behaviours and beliefs for Sunday and Wednesday night bible study but the remainder of the week belongs to him; it is anything but separated unto God. Unfortunately; even if the believer was truly seeking to know God more perfectly: compromise always leads to confusion.
The sad thing is that most modern churches do not teach their members to lives separated unto God and you have to say that much of the blame rests squarely on the pastors.
It doesn’t help when you’re not reading your bible.
The happiest day of my Christian life was when I began to realize this state of apostasy within the church. Admittedly it was painful at first but as I look back now: short term pain has led to long term gain.
As I separated myself from biblical apostasy, I have only witnessed that falling away increase. And we know that it will continue to increase more and more as we get closer to the end and the revealing of the antichrist. The bible foretells of the end times church of the Laodiceans being completely absorbed by the world.
It’s sad because there’s a principal taught in the bible and shouldn’t be ignored….just because it is found in the Old Testament:
“Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.” (Ezekiel 22:26)
God is holy and he has commanded us to live holy lives. When we allow sin to infiltrate our lives, God is profaned [made common-place] and is thus blasphemed.
The fulfilment of this command begins with our attitude to God:
Do we seek to love him wholeheartedly?
The fulfilment of this command begins with our attitude to his word:
Do we give it the place in our lives and the reverence to which it is due?
Only then will we heed the exhortation: BE YE SEPARATE