We have seen that we must separate from unbelievers who claim to be Christians and from Christians whose disobedience contradicts their faith. This week we will consider separation due to disagreement and separation from sin and the world.
Sometimes Christians disagree with one another over people or what to do. It is not a matter of unbelief or disobedience, but their disagreement practically limits their fellowship and cooperation to a degree. For example, Barnabas and Paul disagreed over giving John Mark a second chance and went their separate ways (Acts 15:36–41). Paul urged Apollos to visit the Corinthians at once, but Apollos chose to go at another time (1 Corinthians 16:12).
Churches may disagree over the use of funds, resources, or initiatives to take. Distinctive beliefs and practices may hamper their ability to coordinate their efforts to plant a church. Whatever the disagreement is, there may be a separation or distance that takes place as a result.
Holiness and Separation from Sin and the World
Shifting our focus from the local church to ourselves as individuals, we must be “set apart as individual believers from worldly practices that would dishonor Christ.” The two passages cited in our confession that support this statement are as follows:
Ephesians 5:11 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Hebrews 12:1–2 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
“Unfruitful works of darkness” are the opposite of practicing the truth (cf. 1 John 1:6–7). We are to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,” whatever that sin may be. Whether a practice is obviously sinful by its prohibition in Scripture or is something made sinful by how it promotes a love for the world (cf. 1 John 2:15–17), believers should “take no part” in it and “lay aside” any such practice they might be doing. In fact, if it is clearly sinful, such a practice should be exposed. We cannot dishonor Christ, and we must warn others not to do so as well.
Conclusion: Unbelief, disobedience, and disagreement are cause for a local church to separate from other churches or Christian organizations. The overarching goal for our church is to reflect the holiness of God in who we are and what we do. As individuals, we separate from worldliness and sin. Again, our goal is to be holy like our Father above. May God help us towards this end.