The Duty and Necessity of Separation from False Churches
THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK WITH A LOUD VOICE
2 Cor. 6:14-18 shows us that Christians are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. And Deut. 22:10 tells us what unequally yoked means: “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.” An ox and an ass are unequal, and if they are yoked together they will not plow properly. They will work in different ways. They will not work in unison, their plowing will be erratic and in the end, useless.
Gospel truths are hidden in the law of Moses. An ox was a clean animal under the law, and an ass was unclean. This verse taught the godly among the Israelites that they were not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. It would be the clean with the unclean. In worship, fellowship and Christian service, believers and unbelievers are not to be yoked together.
We have seen the divine duty and the necessity of separation in 2 Cor. 6:14-18. But it is taught in many other parts of God’s Word as well:
The divine duty and necessity of separation is seen in Rev. 18:4,5: “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.”
Christians (note: “my people”) are commanded to separate from Babylon. “Babylon” here is not the literal Babylon which existed in Old Testament times, for that was destroyed centuries before. In this verse the mystical Babylon of the New Testament period is meant – which is none other than the Papal system, the Roman Catholic religion. As Christians we are to come out of her. We are to forsake her entirely!
But only some Christians were once Romanists, so to whom does this verse refer?
It refers to all Christians! For there are many trappings of Romanism to be found in the lives of true Christians, and we must forsake such things. And furthermore, if we have spiritual fellowship either with Roman Catholics or with any of those who are part of her abominable daughters (see below), we are sinning against the Lord and breaking this commandment.
The divine duty and necessity of separation is seen in Heb. 13:12,13: “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.”
Jesus was rejected by the professing people of God of His day, the Jews (especially their leaders). They put Him to death “outside the gate” of the city of Jerusalem. That city represented the professing people of God (and there is a great difference between what people profess to be, and what they really are); and just as Jesus suffered at the hands of the professing people of God of His day, so His disciples will suffer at the hands of those who are the professing people of God today. If we love and follow Him, we must go to Him where He is – which is outside the camp. He is outside the professing camp of Israel. He is outside the places which falsely claim to be His churches. He is not there! He is the great Head of the Church, but He is not the Head of the numerous institutions falsely claiming to be part of the true Church.
The Lord’s people must not expect those in the false churches to love them. They hate Christ, and they will hate His people – even while they claim to follow Christ! Believers must separate from them by going to where Christ is: on the outside.
The divine duty and necessity of separation is seen in Rom. 16:17: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
Those who profess to know God and to follow Christ, but who hold to heresies and confuse weak Christians, causing divisions and offences by their false doctrines – all such, believers are commanded to avoid. This means separation! Have nothing to do with them, spiritually.
The divine duty and necessity of separation is seen in 2 Tim. 3:1-5: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
What a catalogue of evil! And yet v.5 tells us they “have a form of godliness”. They profess to be Christians, and to worship the true God. They are liars, for their works reveal them to be false professors. We are to turn away from such, and to be separate! We are not to have anything to do with them in matters of worship, fellowship, etc.
Yes indeed, the Scriptures speak with a loud voice. Believers are to separate from, to come out from among, to avoid, to turn away from, those who falsely claim to be Christians. And this means we must separate from individual false “Christians” – people who are Christians in name only – as well as from false “churches”.
No child of God has any business remaining in a false church! It is never the Lord’s will for him to stay there. He is to come out from among them, and be separate. This is the divine commandment. It does not matter if leaving such a place will mean you are entirely alone, with nowhere to go. This is your duty, and it is the only path of obedience to the Lord.
There is a great difference between separation and isolation. We must not isolate ourselves from genuine believers, but we must separate from false ones. And if our separation from false churches necessitates that we are in a position of isolation (because there are no true churches nearby), so be it – our isolation does not alter the fact that it is still the Lord’s will that we separate from what is false. “Better stay at home and read God’s Word, than fellowship with that which His Word condemns” (Arthur W. Pink).