Come Out from Among Them

So far, I’ve made two points that should be beyond dispute. Satan rules over the unregenerate, and he is working to destroy us. So what does that mean? Should we head for the hills? How do we interact with the world?

One thing we can’t do is take it as it comes. We cannot view the Satanically created world system as good or neutral. We cannot simply accept it. We must test everything and cling to that which is good.

We can only embrace elements of the culture insofar as they reflect the image of God. You’ve heard the saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day. We must not get used to depending on that clock to tell time, but we must not assume that it’s automatically wrong – or the two times a day that it’s right, we’ll be wrong. RC Sproul Jr explains that just because the pagans walk on their feet doesn’t mean we have to walk on our hands.

What do we do with this world that is ruled by darkness? The Bible gives us two answers that seem contradictory at first glance, until we realize that they are in fact the same.

2 Corinthians 6:17-18 gives us one answer

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

I’ve looked at a variety of commentaries, and the consensus seems to be that the Bible calls to be separate in terms of relationships and lifestyles.

For instance, John Gill says these verses are “an exhortation to believers in general, to forsake the company and conversation of the men of the world” and “The people of God are a separate people in election, redemption, and the effectual calling, and ought to be so in their conduct and conversation; they ought to separate themselves from all superstition and will worship in religious matters, and from the evil customs and manners of the world, though they are sure to become a prey, and to expose themselves to the contempt and rage of it”, and this is “intended in general, to forbid all communion and fellowship with unclean persons and things, not to touch them, to come nigh them, or have anything to do with them”.

Also see the commentaries by John Darby and Matthew Henry on this passage.

Charles Spurgeon said

If you are of the world, no doubt the world will love its own; but you cannot save the world. If you are dark, and belong to the kingdom of darkness, you cannot remove the darkness. If you march with the armies of the wicked one, you cannot defeat them. I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church. Nowadays, we hear Nonconformists pleading that they may do this, and they may do that,—things which their Puritan forefathers would rather have died at the stake than have tolerated. They plead that they may live like worldlings, and my sad answer to them, when they crave for this liberty, is, “Do it if you dare. It may not do you much hurt, for you are so bad already. Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are. If you have a hungering after such dog’s meat, go, dogs, and eat the garbage! Worldly amusements are fit food for mere pretenders and hypocrites. If you were God’s children, you would loathe the very thought of the world’s evil joys, and your question would not be, ‘How far may we be like the world?’ but your one cry would be, ‘How far can we get away from the world? How much can we come out from it?’ Your temptation would be rather to become sternly severe, and ultra-Puritanical in your separation from sin, in such a time as this, than to ask, ‘How can I make myself like other men, and act as they do?”‘

Come, ye children of God, you must stand with your Lord outside the camp. Jesus calls you to-day, and says, “Follow Me.” Was Jesus found at the theatre? Did He frequent the sports of the race-course? Was Jesus seen, think you, in any of the amusements of the Herodian court? Not He. He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” In one sense, no one mixed with sinners so completely as He did when, like a physician, He went among them healing His patients; but, in another sense, there was a gulf fixed between the men of the world and the Saviour, which He never essayed to cross, and which they could not cross to defile Him.

And if that were all the Bible had to say, then it would be simple enough. We’d just move to communes and close the gates. We could go hide, keep ourselves pure, then we die or Jesus comes back.

That’s clearly not a Biblical position. The world is our enemy, but it’s also our mission field. As Spurgeon said, “We are not called to leave our daily business, or to quit our families. That might be rather running away from the fishery than working at it in God’s name but we are called most distinctly to come out from among the ungodly, and to be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing.”

So we have these two principles. We are supposed to come out and be separate, limiting our relationships with the ungodly, living very different lives; but we are also supposed to be making disciples of all nations.

But before we discover how to make disciples of all nations, we ought to talk about what that means. What are we doing here? Are we simply killing time and trying to win converts? Waiting to die?

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3 Responses to Come Out from Among Them

  1. DErifter says:

    Interesting post.
    There is a strange tension in this, because as you mentioned, the world is also our mission field. I sometimes find a sense of “permission” to go farther than I’m comfortable with in that regard, in Paul’s all-out quest to “save some” (1 Cor 9). It seems safer to sit inside the church walls and yell at the sinners to repent and behave, than to be a friend (not necessarily mentor) to prostitutes and addicts and loudmouthed punks. It would be safer for a warrior to stay at home than to go into battle too, but then he’s not fulfilling his purpose.

    It occurs to me that while the warrior is on the battlefield he’s fighting those around him. On OUR battlefield, we befriend those around us because our battle is not with them, it’s FOR them. “We battle not against flesh and blood…”

    Thanks for getting me thinking. Blessings to you!

  2. Robert says:

    I don’t think there is a tension between separation and evangelism rightly understood. God does not give us conflicting commands.

    There’s no reason to understand separation as sitting “inside the church walls and yell[ing] at sinners to repent”. I don’t think anything I wrote / quoted suggests that as an appropriate model, so I wonder where you got it from?

    God is a God of paradoxes. You gain your life by losing it. The first shall be last. Christ defeated sin by laying down His life. And in this case, we win the world through separation. It is by virtue of our separation that our light is visible – on a lampstand, and not under a basket – so that people can see us and then God.

  3. DErifter says:

    Well I don’t disagree with you. The key, as you noted, is “rightly understood”. That’s why I mentioned the sense of “permission” I get from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Right now sitting here at my computer I have a bit of clarity, but sometimes my notions about separation become blurred when I get to feeling like I need to gain credibility with a particular person or group. I guess what I’m trying to say is clearer in my mind than it is in my words.

    Have you heard the story about this farmer (I hope I remember enough of it to make my point…) who sees wild birds out in the freezing cold of winter, and he tries to help them by leading them into his barn where they’d be warm. But when he goes to open the barn door, the birds get frightened and hop farther from the barn. Eventually he says to himself, “If only I could become one of them, then they’d follow me and they wouldn’t be scared, and I could lead them to the safety of the barn. And the moral of the story is that that’s what Jesus did in becoming one of us.

    Okay, that’s the basic principle I’m after here. Except the tension I spoke of comes in being enough like the unbelieving person/group I’m trying to reach so that they’ll listen, but without dishonoring my Father in the process. The tension is COMPLETELY in my own understanding of the situation at that time. Can I do this or be here without dishonoring God? And the permission I get and the clarity I gain from 1 Corinthians (at least the way I read it) is yes I can do that and be there if my goal is true and I don’t get so focused on gaining their trust that I lose sight of why I’m there.

    There are lots of people who welcome the reading of scripture and the discussion of biblical principles, mostly believers. But I don’t find a lot of UNbelievers who are that eager to waste their time talking about God. If I started spouting scripture where I work, I’d be nicknamed “The Preacher” in no time and seen as a religious wacko. I’d be separate but with no audience. If I blend in, I’m a commando behind enemy lines. They’re not laughing at me, they listen. I have an audience. No, they don’t all listen, but some do. Like Paul said, “…so that by all means I might save SOME”.

    By all means. There’s my permission: Whatever it takes. I HAVE come out from among them, but now I’m going back in. So Robert I’ve been agreeing with you the whole time. The tension is in my mind. Maybe I could take something for it….. :)

    By the way, the title of your blog is what drew me in. Very clever.

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