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(Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)

Randy-WhiteSeparation and ecumenism are polar opposites on the spectrum of Bible doctrine. We have learned that ecumenism entails the uniting of professing Christians—regardless of doctrinal differences—into a single group to accomplish spiritual objectives. Such a group would obviously be in peril of being influenced by false teaching or unbiblical practice.

Separatists, on the other hand, teach that ecclesiastical endeavors should be undertaken by like-minded believers who agree in doctrine and practice. It is this basic central principle that compels them to refrain from participating in ecumenical events such as community-wide Thanksgiving services.

Along the same lines, we have seen from 2 Timothy 2:15-21 that taking a generic approach to ministry in the hopes that our message will have wider appeal actually has the opposite effect. A doctrinally vague and vacuous message ultimately falls into the category of “profane and vain babblings” (v. 16)—and will be recognized as such even by the unbelieving world.

In the previous article we saw that the error espoused by Hymenaeus and Philetus related to teaching that the future resurrection of individual believers in Christ (which will be accomplished at the rapture and at His second coming) “is past already” (v. 18).

That leads us to this question: Does it truly matter what we believe about a doctrine like the resurrection? Are we able to serve the Lord effectively alongside those who do not agree with our doctrinal distinctions on such matters?

Even if we were to regard such differences to be minor, however, consider the deeper significance of the doctrine espoused by Hymenaeus and Philetus. If their teaching about the resurrection is true, then, in fact, we must already be living in the kingdom of God. The kingdom must have already been established.

And if that is true, there are many additional implications which flow from that position. In fact, I believe that almost every theological error in the church today stems from the teaching that the kingdom has already been established to some degree or another—even though some variation of this view is promoted almost universally throughout the Christian world.

We will be able to know with certainty when the kingdom has arrived, however, as it will involve the resurrection of dead saints (cf. Rev. 20:6). Until then, we need not be confused by any idea that we are in the kingdom—or even that it is “already, not yet” (i.e., the doctrine of the inaugurated kingdom).

Where do we turn for hope and encouragement in days of such theological confusion as these? Paul provides the answer with these words: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure” (v. 19).

Regardless of the ecumenical activity going on around us—or how ostracized we may feel when we choose not to participate—we need not worry about it. “The Lord knoweth them that are his” (v. 19).

When we teach the doctrine of separation, we will find that the world will love people like Hymenaeus and Philetus—but it will hate us.

What Separation Is Not
In summary, we note that the doctrine of separation does not mean that we as Christians cannot have close friends who belong to other denominations or hold to different faiths.

It also does not forbid us from participating in community events, nor does it prevent us from working together with people of other faiths on political, social or moral issues.

What Separation Is
Separation does mean that programs of a purely religious nature should be separated among the churches.

If we are coming together to worship God or to engage in evangelism, we must be separate from those who do not agree with us on matters of faith and practice—in terms of core convictions regarding the Scriptures. Failing to do so, we will inevitably foster confusion in areas even as basic as the message of salvation.

How Should We Apply This Teaching?
What we need to do, most of all, coming out of this series, is to get to know our doctrine better and enhance our own beliefs—rather than mixing them all together with those of other faith systems.

“Let’s just love God and love people and everything will be good” is a popular form of “profane and vain babblings” (v. 16) that will “overthrow the faith of some” (v. 18) and “increase unto more ungodliness” (v. 16).

We need to rethink the doctrine of separation.

When we are coming together to worship God and serve Him according to the truths of His Word, we ought to participate family-by-family—rather than by communities or as an entire nation—in such a way that we can agree on basic matters of the faith.

As we do so in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will help people in the congregation—and even in the community—to understand more about the source and the importance of our beliefs.

If you have not yet done so, I invite you to watch the sermon upon which this series has been based in its entirety. It is available below.

Copyright © 2015 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.

Scripture taken from the King James Version.