By RANDY WHITE, D.Min.
Founder and CEO
(Read Part 1)
We are considering the all-but-forgotten doctrine of separation in this series of articles. It is based on a sermon that you can watch in its entirety at the bottom of this page.
It is important to emphasize at the beginning that there is no doubt about the fact that people from all kinds of denominational backgrounds and theological perspectives can go to heaven “by grace…through faith” in Christ.
Moreover, people who come from a different church affiliation than you or I may even be outstanding servants of the Lord in many areas.
However, that does not settle the question of whether or not ecumenical alliances are valuable for the church today—or whether we should merge our church ministries together with those who do not agree with us in doctrine or practice.
In light of the Bible’s prophecy of a one-world, end-time religion, we have reason to be very concerned about this issue.
We find guidance to help us sort through these questions in 2 Timothy 2:15-21.
Verse 15 speaks of “rightly dividing the word.” This verse sets the tone for the context and, while it does not relate directly to the issues of ecumenism and separation, it does provide a transition into that topic. Just as we are to make divisions within Scripture, so in a similar way believers must also make proper distinctions with regard to fellowship and cooperation as we seek to apply “the word of truth” to our ministries.
The need to separate and make distinctions—rather than uniting disobediently on the basis of false teaching—is a theme that we see all through the Bible, as in God’s command to Noah in Genesis 9:2. This directive, of course, was disobeyed by those who were determined to build the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9).
Turning back to 2 Timothy 2:16, we begin to see the imperatives that apply directly to our lives during this church age with regard to the issues of ecumenism and separation.
The meaning behind the word “shun” is that of, “Do not stand inside the circle.” There is a circle of influence that we must stay away from, and Paul is going to define it carefully for us (cf. 1 Tim. 6:20).
So what specifically are we to “shun”? The word “profane” refers to that which is “common” or “worthless.” “Vain babblings” are everyday forms of communication that lack any ability to edify us with Scriptural truth. This could even include some forms of preaching! Many churches today emphasize topics that relate solely to life in this world, and even base their teachings on worldly principles rather than Bible exposition. This is one type of activity in which we must not participate.
From the context, Paul appears to be referring specifically to the activities of “Hymenaeus and Philetus” (v. 17). Paul is warning us about the sins that they were engaged in when he pens the statement at the end of verse 19: “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
The imperatives in this passage—namely “shun,” “depart” and “purge”—are not ecumenical words. Rather, they are separatist words.
From whom or what are we to separate? We will consider that question further in the next post.
(Read Part 3)
Copyright © 2015 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
Scripture taken from the King James Version.