The concept of biblical separation must be emphasized today because of conditions in Christendom and the widespread violation of scriptural teaching on this doctrine. While it has always been necessary for God's people to keep themselves separate from evil, many ignore the principle of separation entirely. Others go to the opposite extreme and separate unnecessarily over minor points of interpretation and custom.
Distinction must be made between personal separation and ecclesiastical separation. Both have positive as well as negative aspects. The Christian who practices personal separation demonstrates in his conduct and attitude a strict obedience to God and His Word. On the negative side, he refuses to look and act like the world; he has no desire for the world; he avoids individuals who are evil in conduct, false in teaching, and unspiritual in life-style. Ecclesiastical separation involves, positively, identification with groups faithful to the truth of God's Word. Negatively, it is the refusal to be identified with any teacher, church, denomination, or other religious organization that does not hold to and contend for those fundamentals of the Faith concerning the Bible, Christ, and salvation.
Separation is not optional but absolutely necessary when circumstances demand it. Christians must observe this separation in obedience to the Word of God. The Bible contains many Old Testament examples as well as New Testament warnings and commands concerning separation which the Christian cannot ignore without being disobedient to God and His revealed Word.
Separation will be discussed under three divisions: separation from the world, separation from false teachers, and separation from disobedient brethren. It is important to keep in mind that these categories often overlap and cannot always be strictly compartmentalized. False teaching occurs both in the church and in the world. Sinful practices of the unsaved sometimes enter the church.
In separation, as in other aspects of Christian living, the Christian must act according to the principle of love. But love requires a choice; for example, every man chooses to love either God or the world system. It is clear that the Christian who loves the truth has made his choice against error; therefore, he must reject false teachers. The believer who really loves the purity of the church will not sacrifice that purity for the sake of ecumenism. A true love for the brethren does not encourage sin through the tolerance of evil practices.
Although what follows is an attempt to be clear and specific, it is impossible to lay down hard and fast rules to prescribe the proper course of action for every situation which may arise in the life and ministry of the Christian. No mature Christian can escape the responsibility of making decisions. When some specific situation arises, the individual must act in accordance with principles, making certain that his decisions or actions are in harmony with Scripture and do not violate clear biblical teachings.