When Abram departed Haran he allowed Lot to accompany him to Canaan, an act of disobedience to the Word of the Lord.
1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
When eventually through strifethe commanded separation did come, Abram’s eyes at last looked upon the land he had been promised of the Lord (Gen 13:14-18), while Lot, who, except for Abram’s disobedience would still have been in Haran, made Sodom his choice for a home (Gen 13:8-12), a home which was to be destroyed by fire. And, when that fire did fall on Sodom, Lot and his daughters escaped, but his wife was turned into a pillar of salt for her looking back. After these things Lot disobeyed the Lord’s command to escape to the mountain and turned aside to Zoar. When he at last did go to the mountain, he incestuously fathered two sons by his two daughters, sons who were just as fleshy as their names indicate (Gen 19:30-38). If only Abram had obeyed God’s commandment of separation, his obedience would have brought him quickly to the promise and would have mercifully spared Lot and his family trials that they were not at all equipped to deal with.
God gave command to Gideon to separate all but three hundred of his army and send them away (Judges 7:1-7). Unlike Abram, Gideon obeyed the Lord. He first dismissed twenty two thousand who were “fearful and afraid.” Then ninety seven hundred more who knew nothing of the ministry of the hand were separated and sent home. With the commanded separations complete, God then delivered all Israel from the hand of Midian. Oh, that the New Testament Church would learn from these two examples (and many more) the biblical principle of separation to the benefit of us all.
Christianity is all-inclusive in its invitation to humanity, but is very exclusive in its choice of who it receives: For many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 22:14); Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5). Problems arise, however, when the Church foregoes this most basic truth, and, for the sake of reputation, warm, fuzzy religious feelings and full pews opens its ranks to those unqualified for inclusion.
The Church is the mother of us all (Gal 4:26), and God is our Father. May He help the Church to remember that only one Son of God was ever to be born of a virgin.
47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
Although the above scripture makes specific reference to the end of that particular age, and, by extension the end of any given age (this present one included), the principle of separation that it contains is endorsed for present tense use by many other scripture teachings and events.
As a fisherman on the coast of North Carolina, I spent many hours on the deck of a trawler culling shrimp from the collection of sea creatures caught in its nets. The shrimp were separated and stored in the hold of the boat and the by-catch, the unusable part of the catch, went back to the sea. This same principle of separation is found in Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares in Matt 13:24-30. The tares are bound in bundles and burned, but the wheat is gathered into the barn.
Also in this chapter of parables Jesus continues by comparing the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. Smallest of seeds grows to greatest of herbs, so much so that birds lodge in its branches. Following this is the parable of the leaven: Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened (Matt 13:33).
Most often we treat the birds and the leaven as the wonders of increase in the Kingdom. However, we would do well to remember that birds are scriptural types of devils (Rev 18:2; Matt 13:4; 19) and that leaven is typical of impure doctrine (Matt 16:6-12), antichrist government (Mark 8:15), and hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). Birds and leaven should be treated as the tares of the preceding parable: shooed from the branches and purged from the bread:
1 Cor 5:6-11
6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
We Christians are constantly assigning present tense truth to the past or future. And no real wonder, for we believe that big is better, and some Bible truth, if interpreted as present truth, would severely reduce our numbers. Therefore, ignoring the exclusive nature of the Kingdom, we reject nothing and receive everything. We keep every fish we catch, every bird that alights, every plant that resembles wheat, and any bit of leaven that can puff up the bread. Build a bigger Church! It may be full of unclean finless fish, tares masquerading as wheat, bad birds and lethal leaven, but it is BIG! It’s the American way. But is it Jesus’ way?
According to the scriptures separation is meant to be a present tense operation of the Church as well as past and future. But how can we do that when the scripture clearly declares, “Whosoever will may come?”
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Our responsibility is to sow the seed of the gospel, and that on the good ground within the field (The sower, unlike we modern farmers of the Gospel, did not intentionally scatter his seed outside the field. It coincidentally fell there). The sovereignty of God and the choices of each individual determined where he would receive the seed (see the explanation of this parable in Matt 13:19-23) and, therefore, whether he would survive. But far too often BIG IS BETTER wastes our precious time and energy intentionally sowing in unproductive ground. When the seed springs up we waste more time and energy in a vain attempt to save the wayside seed from the birds, in saturating sun scorched stones with Miracle Grow, and in spraying tons of Roundup on stubborn thorn bushes dominating unproductive ground. And, all this is at the expense of a field ill attended, and, therefore, a harvest at best indefinitely delayed.
Again, our misinformed American Christian conscience screams, “You’ve just got to save everybody!!” Jesus didn’t. With His very words He allowed the process of natural selection to work a separation that spared Him having more than one quite necessary tare in the person of Judas Iscariot. Oh, that the Church could be as wise:
64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
John 6:53-65 recounts some of Jesus’ “hard” sayings which brought about this separation. Verse 66 records the result:
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
With our “save everybody” and “bigger than yours” philosophies, and under our “real-love-saves-those-outside-the-field evangelistic methods, the Church has nearly become as wheat in a tare field and a basket of more bad fish than good, and this to the detriment of both the Church and the world. The Church lies in a state of reduced effectiveness by reason of its pollution and the world has very little hope in something that appears no different from itself. The Church needs purifying. The Church needs purging. The Church needs culling. The Church needs a separation from its Lots, its fearful and untrained soldiers, its bad fish, its birds, its leaven and its tares. The world needs a separated Church.
This separation is accomplished by leaving Lot where he belongs, by sending the fearful and untrained to their place, by culling our fish when we catch them, by chasing the birds from our Mustard Tree, by purging all the leaven from our bread, and by tending the field rather than wasting our time and energy chasing birds from the wayside, futilely fertilizing stone laden places, and weeding thorns from unproductive ground (thereby reducing the number of tares sown by the enemy and the amount of wheat eaten by the birds). However, as her tradition is, the Church relegates all this either to the ancient past or to the distant future. But, can she? True, Lot lived in the past. Yes, the fish are to be culled in the end of the world. And, the tares are to be separated and burned in the judgment. But the removal of the leaven from the bread is not so easily tossed to procrastination by assigning it to another time (1Cor 5:6-11 above).
Now even if we do remove the present leaven, what must we do to assure that the woman will not keep putting more in? We might just confine our recruitment methods to those that are more biblical. Many of our present methods presume that extreme duress is a sure soul saver. Or, if someone is facing financial ruin, just lost a loved one to death, or is himself fatally ill, we might just save him. Catch him when he is hurting and give him Jesus. Sure, he’ll confess anything that might bring some relief from our religious pressure or his present suffering, but most often with crisis commitments there is no real conversion. As soon as the crisis is past, so is the convert. Or worse still, he remains in the house of God with only the power of his human will to enable him to live the Christian experience. Mission impossible! At best he will live a life of continual failure and condemnation. The Christian life is only possible through the power of the indwelling Holy Ghost, which is given exclusively to born again believers (Jn 14:16-17).
To “save” those not chosen is unkind enough to the souls of our poor victims, but we are also thwarting the purpose of the Kingdom by carrying kin that should not journey with us, keeping fish that are inedible, aiding the devil in planting more tares in the field, and adding more leaven to the lump. It would be most kind, and wise on our part, to be more selective in our evangelism, thus avoiding painful separation later.
Trawl nets have evolved over the years to incorporate devices which reduce the amount of by-catch. Not only do the devices kindly release unprofitable creatures from the net, but, in doing so, they also reduce the labor and time involved in separating what is caught. Such an exclusive device was actually sewn into the net of Kingdom evangelism from the beginning.
The first mention of an event or situation in the Bible most often sets precedents for understanding similar events or situations that follow. For instance, the first mention of the word “worship” is at Mount Moriah when Abraham offered his son Isaac a sacrifice to God. As worship is studied throughout the scriptures, it is better understood when studied under the light of this first appearance. So it is with evangelism. When in Acts chapter two the day of Pentecost had fully come and those in the upper room had received the promised power, Peter preached the Kingdom of God to the multitude gathered at Jerusalem. This was the first evangelistic message, the first casting of the kingdom net, the first sowing of the gospel seed, the first bread of heaven to be served by an apostle. The result of his effort was three thousand souls responding.
Peter sowed the seed of the gospel. Although he did not intentionally waste seed on the wayside, on stony ground, and among the thorns, some inevitably fell there (it seems our modern evangelistic methods lead us to sow more to these areas, to those who are hindered in their receiving, to those weakened by their circumstances, than to those who in the good ground can produce fruit). However, there is no indication that he was sitting up day and night shooing birds, wasting his Miracle Grow on the rocks, or borrowing money to buy a Roundup factory. But, he did dedicate his time and resources to the field and its harvest. Some of that three thousand were later found unfit and separated (Acts 5:1-10), but perhaps not nearly the percentage needing to be separated from the Church of today. A study of this first evangelistic mission will reveal why.
Peter had finished his discourse and now waited for a response:
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
The hearers were pricked in their hearts by Peter’s message. They were convicted by the Gospel. This first step to salvation is so often completely deleted from the process or substituted with passive assent, a quick walk down the isle, or a handshake. Real conversion is always preceded by a strong conviction of personal sin and the need of redemption. Under such circumstances men will not need to be overtaken to be instructed, but will cry to the believer, “What shall we do?”
Under true conviction it is not at all hard to repent. And real repentance is more than just an expression of worldly sorrow (spawned of a conscience of consequence) for getting caught, but it is a godly sorrow (birthed of a sincere longing for a good conscience toward God 1Pe 3:21; Acts 23:1), for being guilty at all, and is accompanied by a turning away from the old ways and not looking back (2Cor 7:9-10). Without real repentance, water baptism produces a wet sinner, who in no wise will receive the Holy Ghost. And, apart from receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Christian life is impossible to live. The one trying to do so will either fall away or live a life of certain condemnation and defeat, bringing pain upon himself and ill repute upon the Church. This ought not to be so.
One saved after this Bible pattern procures for himself not only the promise of the Holy Ghost’s indwelling, but also every covenant promise of God made to all that the Lord our God shall call in every generation (Not those that we should call, but the Lord. The Great Commission is to preach the Gospel: Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8, not to save the world. We preach; God calls; Jesus saves).
With many other words did Peter continue to exhort the believers to save themselves. There is more to the Gospel message than just “born again.” As we learn and practice the principles of the Word, we participate in the full salvation process. We, in effect, save ourselves through the power of the Holy Ghost and the Word of God. Too many believers never hear and/or practice the other words which would begin their walk to maturity.
Thanks be to God for those that get this far! They continue steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine. They stay in fellowship, not neglecting to assemble with other believers (Heb 10:24-27). They break bread with the brethren, not only in partaking of the Lord’s Supper, but also from house to house, and are continually in prayer.
The one saved and growing in Christ according to the above pattern will be placed in a vessel reserved for the good fish, gathered with the wheat into his Lord’s barn, and prepared as unleavened bread to feed the hungry. He will experience a separation from much of his kin and many of his friends, but also from his sin, sickness, poverty, and death. But, because of his obedience, he will never be separated from his Lord. The power of his intimate, undiluted, effectual fervent intercession for those yet without the camp, as well as those within, will avail much (James 5:13-20).
If the Church were populated by this kind of persons, all born again believers growing in Christ, we would not have to evangelize the world in the traditional sense. We would just preach the Gospel. The world would break down the door to the Church crying, “What must we do?”
There are many other scriptural references supporting this principle of separation. For further study here are two: The parable of the wedding garment (Matt 22:1-14) and Jesus teaching that we must become as children to enter the Kingdom (Matt 18:3).
And now we may do well to read this whole booklet again, for these same principles of separation and the consequences of disobeying them also apply to the local Church membership of born again believers. In America we exercise our right to attend the Church of our choice, but biblically we are to go to the Church of God’s choice. The solitary believer is set in a family. God does the setting (Ps 68:6). Bone must be fitted to his bone (Eze 37). The wounded man in Jesus’ story of the Jericho road was taken to the inn (local Church) of the Samaritan’s choice, not his own choice (Luke 10:30-35). This whole story describes the one who is saved, set in a local church by Jesus the Samaritan and all his needs met by a caring Pastoral ministry till the Samaritan Himself returns.
Lot was Abram’s kin, but he belonged in Haran, just as many a believing but misplaced soul in many a local Church belongs somewhere else. This misplaced soul, although a brother or sister in the Lord, is in the wrong local family. Just as there was with Lot and Abram, there will be strife and contention. The soul will be miserable. The leadership of the Church will receive the consequences. This soul will eventually separate, and much too often it will be to a spiritual Sodom (if not to a Sodom of this world) rather than back to his Haran. Much better for Pastor Abram to have left Church member Lot where he was, even if it meant hurting him with a, “You don’t belong with me.”
The body of Jesus Christ is composed of solitary, unique, individually born again believers set together in local Church families. Each local Church is unique in its ministry emphasis and its expression of the nature of Christ, and it is vital to the mission of the Church universal. It is essential that any local Church be as pure in Christ as is biblically possible in order to adequately fulfill its part of that mission. She must purge herself of impurity. She must separate herself from every hindrance and unto every command of God. The world is waiting for a Church demonstrating God’s order and power that it can ask, “What must we do?”