Bible Boot Camp: Lesson 8: Separation

Bible Boot Camp: Lesson 8: Separation

Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor 6:17)

Separation is the teaching that Christians ought to be distinct and different from the sinful, corrupt world around them. The doctrine of separation is based on the holiness of God. Throughout the Bible, we find the command to be holy because God is holy (Lev 11:44 19:2, 20:7; 1 Pet 1:16). The primary meaning of the word “holy” is “unique, different, or separate.” God is both totally separate from sin and totally unique. Believers ought to imitate this character of God by separating themselves from sinful influences and striving to live a life of holiness.

Three Areas of Personal Separation:

  1. Physical Separation

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

  1. The Holy Spirit indwells the body of the believer, thus making it the temple of God. As such, the believer should seek to live in a way that would not dishonor God. There are many activities that would defile one’s body and dishonor God. What are some examples? Sexual immorality and those activities associated with it, pornography. What about dancing? Some forms might be OK–square, ballroom, folk. But modern dancing to rock music is not appropriate for a Christian, imho. Tattoos.

  2. Believers ought to stay away from any substances which would defile their bodies. What would be some examples? Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, some foods, etc.

Physical separation is staying away from those activities or substances that would be dishonoring to God. We must remove ourselves from certain environments in order to prevent ourselves from sinning or being associated with sinful practices.

We live in a very sinful culture. Christians ought to be truly counter-cultural. They ought to be offering an alternative lifestyle to what most others are pursuing. They must stand against the evils of society and refuse to be forced into the mold that modern culture is promoting. That’s what separation is all about.

Unfortunately, many voices within the church tell us that we need to be like the world in order to reach the world. We supposedly must format Christianity in a way that is the least offensive to unbelievers. Many churches are going the “seeker sensitive” route in order to be more appealing to lost people. However, the doctrine of separation teaches us that we cannot lower our standards or engage in worldly behavior just to make ourselves, our message, or our church more appealing to the lost.

  1. Relational Separation

2 Cor 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has 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 among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”

  1. Explain what a yoke (not yolk) is. The wooden farming implement used to hook together animals in order to pull a plow or cart.

  2. The Israelites were forbidden from plowing with an ox and a donkey yoked together because the animals were of unequal strength (Deut 22:10). Paul uses the idea of a yoke to teach that believers should not be joined with unbelievers in certain activities. What reasons does Paul give for separation from unbelievers? Union with unbelievers constitutes an unequal yoke; believers have nothing in common with unbelievers spiritually; an unequal yoke may cause a believer to be involved with “unclean” things; such a yoke may prevent one from enjoying a proper relationship with God.

  3. The clear teaching of the Bible is that believers should not marry (or date) unbelievers. Such a union would be an unequal yoke.

Deuteronomy 7:3-4 Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.

Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?

1 Corinthians 7:39 A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

Saved people and unsaved people disagree on a very basic and significant level. Thus, a marriage between a lost person and a saved one creates all sorts of difficulties and problems. Name a few. How to raise the kids, how to handle church activities, how much money to give, what is morally acceptable behavior, etc.

Applying the doctrine of separation should also prevent a mature Christian from dating and/or marrying an immature Christian. If spiritual goals are not shared equally by both partners, it’s probably not a good idea for the two to date or marry. So it’s not enough that both individuals profess to be saved. Both should also be in agreement regarding theology and practice. Common scenario: spiritually mature/godly girl “gets swept off her feet” by immature guy. Girl tends to ignore this guy’s weaknesses because he pays attention to her. What happens when they get married? Friction develops because their spiritual goals are different. E.g., girls with “senioritis” at college–great pressure to get married.

  1. Separation should prevent a believer from forming close, personal bonds with those who would be a bad influence upon them. Rather than going along with evil people, believers should rebuke them.

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.

Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

Ephesians 5:11-12 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

There are times during which a believer has no choice but to be in the company of wicked people. And it’s acceptable for Christians to have non-Christian friends. However, believers must not follow such people in their evil ways or allow them to negatively influence them. Believers must strive to be a good influence in such situations.

  1. Separation is not isolation. It does not require the believer to enter a monastery or insulate himself against all contact with unsaved people. Christians are to be “in” the world but not “of” the world. God commands us to reach the lost, so we have to be out in the community interacting with those who need the gospel. However, we must prevent ourselves from being negatively influenced by unsaved people.

  1. Doctrinal Separation

  1. Paul’s primary concern in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 is that believers separate themselves from false teachers and false doctrine. Genuine Christians should not allow cultists or others with faulty theology to influence them.

  2. There are occasions when believers must break fellowship with other believers. Causes for separation from professing believers:

1. Doctrinal departure

2 Timothy 2:16-18 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth.

There is room for some doctrinal differences among orthodox believers, but not on the major tenets of the faith. Teaching wrong doctrine is especially dangerous, and those who do so must be put out of the church (i.e., excommunicated).

Churches must also practice doctrinal separation. It is unwise and unbiblical for churches to cooperate with other churches that vary on important doctrinal or philosophical issues. What might some of these issues be? Baptism, the spiritual gifts (tongues, miracles), associations (e.g., WCC, ECT), universalism, worship practices, etc. It’s common for churches and organizations to depart from orthodoxy.

What are some issues that churches may disagree about, but might still cooperate? Bible version, dress standards, music preferences (to some degree)

It’s usually better to withdraw from a corrupt organization than to attempt to reform it. That’s why today many churches are independent rather than members of a larger denomination or association. Denominations tend to slide into doctrinal/philosophical compromise.

Doctrinal deviation is one reason why commitment to a confession of faith is a good practice. Many Baptist churches endorse the New Hampshire or London confessions. These confessions express clearly what doctrinal beliefs the church holds. Those departing from that position are clearly in opposition to what the church believes.

2. Divisive spirit

Romans 16:17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

Titus 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

What does “divisive” mean? Causing divisions and disunity within the church

Believers should stay away from those who cause friction and/or disunity within the church. What kind of behaviors might cause disunity? Gossip, insults, criticism, lies, false teaching.

3. Disorderly conduct

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.

Disorderly conduct covers a multitude of sinful behaviors. Individuals and churches have to determine whether or not a believer’s behavior is so disorderly that he or she must be put out of the fellowship. What might some disorderly behaviors be? Drinking/drunkenness, various forms of immorality, being quarrelsome, financial misdeeds, idleness, violence, etc.

The goal of church discipline is to bring the offending person to repentance. Church discipline is for the benefit of both the person and the church. If the person refuses to repent, church members should treat him as an unsaved person and avoid him. This is why church membership is so important—if one is not a member, the church has no right to impose discipline upon him.

Applying the Doctrine of Separation

At times it may be difficult to tell when you should separate yourself from an activity, a person or a group. Asking yourself the following questions may be of help:

  • Is it forbidden in the Bible? John 17:17

  • Is it of the world or will it make me worldly if I do it? John 15:19; 1 John 2:15-17

  • It is good for me physically, emotionally and/or spiritually? Romans 12:9b; I Corinthians 10:23

  • Can I do it knowing that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? I Corinthians 6:19

  • Will it glorify the Lord, or will it possibly bring shame to His Name? I Corinthians 6:20; 10: 31

  • Can I honestly ask God’s blessing on it and be certain I’ll not regret doing it? Proverbs 10: 22

  • Is it apt to damage my testimony for the Lord? Philippians 2:15; Genesis 19:14

  • Is it possible that it is a stumbling block to weak believers? Romans 14:7, 2 1; I Corinthians 8:12, 14

  • Will it look bad? Does it have the appearance of evil? 1 Thessalonians 5:22

  • Would I be ashamed to be found doing this when Christ returns? I John 2:28; Mark 13:28

  • Will it make me a slave to anything or anyone but Christ? I Corinthians 6:12

  • Will it eliminate me from any type of Christian service? I Corinthians 9:27

  • Do I have any doubts that it might be wrong, or does it violate my conscience? Romans 14:23

  • Is it a valuable use of my time, or does it waste time? Ephesians 5:16

  • Could Satan use this as a way to gain a “foothold” in my life? 2 Corinthians 2: 11; Ephesians 4:27

  • What do my spiritual leaders (parents, pastors) and/or other godly people think about it? What advice would they give me? Hebrews 13:17

Conclusion: Separation is the teaching that Christians ought to be distinct and different from the sinful, corrupt world around them. God commands believers to shine like lights in the midst of a dark and depraved culture. We are to separate ourselves from those activities and substances which would defile our bodies, the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are to separate ourselves from those people who would influence us in a negative way, even if those people are professing believers. And we are to separate ourselves from false doctrine and those who teach it. We must also remember that separation is not isolation. We are in the world, but not of the world. Separation does not prevent us from reaching out to those who need to be saved.


  1. Explain the analogy of the yoke and how it applies to separation.

  2. Does separation mean that you can’t have unsaved friends? No, simply that you don’t allow them to influence you toward evil. This may mean that you can’t do what they do–certain parties or other activities where you know they’ll be encouraging you to sin. There may be times when you have to end a friendship.

  3. What’s the difference between separation and isolation? Isolation is preventing all contact with evil people, a “fortress mentality.” Separation is preventing evil from influencing you.

  4. What are the biblical grounds for breaking fellowship with professing believers? Doctrinal deviation, divisive spirit, disorderly conduct

  5. How do you know when to separate from something or someone? Apply the principles in this lesson.

  6. What’s wrong with this argument: “In order to reach people, you have to be like them.” It’s simply not true. Sick people don’t need another sick person to help them. People often are more responsive to someone who is different from, not the same as, they are.

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