Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Doctrine of Separation

2 Corinthians 6:17 - "Come out from among them and be separate. And touch not the unclean thing and I will welcome you."

Tuesday night I preached on the doctrine of separation at the South Georgia Bible Conference.  As part of the sermon from 2 Corinthians 6:17, I mentioned 5 questions that believers can ask the Holy Spirit in order to address the issue of separation.  This post is not an attempt to address that doctrine.  I took a whole sermon to do that.  I merely want to list the questions I gave in that sermon with brief commentary.

1.  Does it violate the Bible?

This seems so basic.  But the bottom line is that violation of a clear command of Scripture is never a matter of Christian liberty.  The Holy Spirit does not have to convict you about lying, stealing, promiscuity, immodesty, etc. in order for these actions (and many others) to be sinful things from which a believer ought to separate.  A great deal of things that some Christians seem to think are matters of "conviction" are really matter of old-fashioned "obedience."

For example, going to see a movie that is filled with vulgarities, lewdness, and sexuality is not relegated to a matter of conviction.  The Scripture forbids it.

2.  Does it harm my body?

We could go off the deep end here because most foods can have a harmful effect in excess.  And gluttony indeed is a sin.  But as God gives us some common sense and simple wisdom, we should ask, "Does this practice work primarily for the harm of my body?" (drugs, alcohol, etc.)

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 teaches us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit so we are to glorify God with our physical bodies.

3.  Does it offend my brother?

Christian liberty ends where my weaker brother's offense begins.  It should be noted that the offense referenced in the Scripture belongs to a weaker brother, not an overly-legalistic, mature brother.  In other words, I am to be more concerned about the sentiment of a new Christian than a fellow pastor.  Both are important.  One is just more important than the other on this point.

4.  Does it lead to bondage?

Many practices are addictive and controlling in nature.  Paul said he would be "mastered by nothing." 

5.  Does it result in blessing?

In short, can I give God glory for it?  If not, I should separate from it.  I am commanded to do all things to the glory of God.  If I cannot stand in the presence of the Lord and say, "Lord, I bless and honor you for _________" then I should consider that practice as an unworthy one.