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From Word and Work March, 1918 WORDS IN SEASON

by R H Boll

 THE CALL TO SEPARATION .

Among the things most needed in these days is God’s teaching concerning Separation. The church has her own high place. She sustains a peculiar and unique relation toward God and toward mankind; and if that position of hers is surrendered or compromised there is no longer any use of the church. Like the salt that has lost its one distinctive quality (its “savor”) so the church that does not keep her high estate is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. God cast her out, and men will tread her under foot in utter contempt. The current is strong. These are days of union, of combine, of consolidation, of co-operation, and of compromise. Old landmarks are removed; old boundary lines effaced. Distinctions between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood, are fading. Barriers between sects are falling— not because of greater love and better knowledge of the truth and will to God’s Will, but by sheer indifference concerning the truths and convictions involved. And as much as true unity would be desirable are we bound to deplore such unprincipled federation. And, inevitably, the boundary between the church and the world is also obliterated. How deep and wide the line which God has set between the church and the world appears from the following parallel.

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THE CHURCH.

“Behold What manner of  love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called children of God.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Ghrist, who according to His great mercy begat us again.” 1 Pet. 1:3. “Made us alive together with Christ.” Eph. 2:5. “God worketh in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Phil. 2:13. “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rom. 5:2. “God’s elect, holy and beloved.” Col. 3:12. “Vessels of mercy, afore prepared unto glory.” Rom. 9:23. “Our God and Father.” 1 Thess. 3:13. “Him that God exalted to be a Prince and a Savior.” Acts 5:30.

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THE WORLD

“Ye are of your father the devil, and his lusts ye will do.” John 8:44. “The Whole world lieth in the Evil one” 1 John 5:19. “Except one be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” John 3:5. “Dead through your trespasses and sins.” Eph. 2:1. “The prince of the powers of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience.” Eph. 2:2. “Without God and without hope in the world.” Eph. 2:12. “Children of wrath.” Eph. 2:3. “Vessels of wrath, fitted unto destruction.” Rom. 9:22. “The god of this world.” 2 Cor. 4:4. “The prince of the world cometh; and he hath nothing in me.” John 14:30.

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This contrast might be continued indefinitely; but this is sufficient to show how opposite the relation toward God which the church and the world respectively hold. We are not to be amazed therefore that God has very emphatically commanded the Christian to keep himself “unspotted from the world,” and to avoid all alliance with it.

“Be not unequally yoked with believers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever and what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore, come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1.)

FORBIDDEN PARTNERSHIP

When He says “Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers,” he does not mean infidels or idol-worshippers exclusively. In the New Testament those are “unbelievers” who have not confessed and obeyed the Savior—surely all such “believers” as are mentioned in John 12:42 or in Jas. 2 :-9 ; and those -who are out of Christ, as distinguished from those who are “in Christ.” With these the child of God must not be yoked. Men are yoked together when they pull together, bound in mutual pact in the carrying out of some work or project. As if to mark his meaning beyond all dispute the inspired apostle goes on with a series of explanatory synonyms: They are to have no “ fellowship,” “communion,” “concord,” “portion with,” “agreement with ” the classes named he says; but, on the other hand, they must “come out from among them” and “he separate.” If that did not include every sort of (partnership and co-operation in partnership, fraternity, brotherhood, and the marriage tie also (with such exceptions as the sort noted in 1 Cor. 7:12-16)— then language would be void of significance. The reasons which God in condescension assigns us for this His sovereign command follow side by side with it.

THE MINGLING OF INCOMPATIBLES

The why of the separation lies in the incompatibility of the two classes. God in old time would not let his people plow an ass and an ox together, the two being animals of fundamentally different natures; and God so hated a mixture of incongruous elements that he would not even let Israel wear a “linsey-woolsey” garment, nor sow their fields with diverse seed, or let their beasts gender with another sort, for “it is confusion.

This foreshadowed His severe disapproval of the Christian’s tying up with the world. For the nature of an ass and ox had far more in common than the “new creature” of God’s creation in Christ with those “by nature children of wrath.” (2 Cor. 5 :1 7 ; Eph. 2 :3 ). Of the one class He speaks as “Righteousness;” the other He calls “Iniquity.” What fellowship can these two have? The one is “Light;” the other “Darkness”— what communion (common ground of intercourse and interest) have these? The one is identified with Christ, the other with Belial— what concord can exist between them? The one constitutes a temple of the living God; the other belongs to the constituency of false gods— what agreement can they have? For the Temple of God was a holy building, distinct from all common edifices, set apart to God’s exclusive use. “The whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy.” (Ezek. 43:12). So is this Temple of God, the House of living stones. (1 Cor. 3 :16, 17; Eph. 2 :21, 22).

MISCONCEPTIONS

Three warnings must attend this message of God. (For God’s truth is always fraught with blessing and danger: “Take heed how ye hear!” ) First: lest Christians would refuse to accept the high position to which God has called them. Second: lest they hold it with Pharisaic pride, as though in themselves they were better than others. Third: lest, like misguided Israel, they think this high calling and position is given them for their own sake alone.

                                                                                      I.

If I should dare to judge, I would not go far wrong perhaps to say that already my Christian reader may have said in his heart, Alas, this high place is not for such as I am. I fail so far of the true Christian life that it would be hypocrisy for me to assume ‘the title of “Righteousness,” and to consider the world as “Iniquity;” or to claim to be of the “Light,” while others are “Darkness;” and I hardly dare to assert that I am identified with Christ— I am so poor a representative of Him; or that 1 am a temple of God— for I sometimes doubt that the Holy Spirit dwells yet in me.” Such thoughts may come to Christians. They seem to spring of humility; but it is not true humility to decline God’s placing of us. God has assigned us to this position. We may have filled the place very unworthily, but we are in it, and God asks us to rise to its responsibilities. Instead of its being presumption to accept the place to which God has called us, it is presumption to refuse it and to deny the high title He has bestowed upon us. The man who, after being made a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) refuses to consider himself as such, but persists in claiming his former place and living on the old plane, is not thereby honoring God. To do that is unbelief and insult. The Christian who (regardless of past failure) refuses to look on his body as a temple of God in which the Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 6:19, 20) is not thereby conferring an honor upon the Lord who appointed him to this station and gave him his holy Spirit. And so throughout. There is no way out in this direction, my brother, and no excuse or remedy, but that you must simply say “Amen” to all God says concerning you, and accept the rank and standing to which He has appointed you.

II.

But our high calling in Christ Jesus carries no ground for pride and self-satisfaction. We are not intrinsically better than other men—any more than the Israelites behind the blood-stained doors were worthier people than the doomed Egyptians. “We ourselves also once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” So, it was certainly not because of our superior worth and goodness that God called us. It was His free, undeserved grace. “When the kindness of God our Savior, and His love toward man appeared, not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” ( Tit. 3 :3 -5 ). Does He now give us the name “Righteousness” ? It is not because we were not sinners as all other men; but “Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5 :2 1 ). The place was bought for us by the blood of the Cross. For “we were washed, we were justified, we were sanctified.” Does He call us “Light?” “Ye were once darkness,” he says, “but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of the light.” (Eph. 5 :8 ). Are we now identified with Christ? “Ye were at that time separate from Christ, having no hope and without God in the world;” and were “by nature children of wrath even as the rest.” (Eph. 2:3, 12). Surely, we cannot exalt ourselves, we have no ground to boast. The Christian who should look down with contempt upon the vilest sinner surely has forgotten that he was freely purged from his old sins, and he has misunderstood the ground of his own salvation. No— God’s people must hold their high position in perfect lowliness of mind.

III.

The third snare would be the thought that perhaps God had shown favoritism in our case and loved and chosen us to salvation for our own benefit. It is a subtle noose of Satan. The Jew stepped fairly into it. Did not God love Abraham and pick him out of all the world to bless him especially? Yea. But God then as now and always loved all the world. He loved Abraham specially, because through this man He could love all mankind. He blessed him and said, now “be thou a blessing;” and, “in thee shall all the families of the earth be blest.” By and by Israel came to think that God had lit the candle for its own sake, and put it under the bushel. One of their rabbis estimated that if all the Gentiles were put in one end of the scale, and the most pitiful Jew in the other, the Jew would weigh the heavier. Jonah had no love or interest in Nineveh. The Jew held himself in proud distinction above the Gentile “dogs.” Then was Israel cast out and trodden under foot. God had indeed chosen Israel; but it was that they should be His witnesses and that salvation should go forth from the Jews. (John 4 :2 1 ). So, with the church. Each one of us can see how God gave us a special opportunity and chose us above others before we knew or, chose Him, and put us in a high estate. What shall we conclude? Only this that with us rests the responsibility to spread the grace of God so freely shed on us, abroad to all around us, near and far. For He loves us specially indeed, but He loved the lost multitudes through us.

IF WE WANT TO H ELP THE WORLD.

Now in order that the church should fulfill her high function, she must maintain her separation. It is not a separation like that of a hermit or a monk God wants, but as of God’s children in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom they are to shine as lights in the world. (Phil. 2 :14, 15). They are not of the world, though they are in it, and though their work is for the world. But as the priests of the Old Covenant could do absolutely nothing for the people without their pure and holy garments; or if they had defiled themselves by contact with the dead or the unclean, so neither can the priests of the New Covenant if they do not keep themselves unspotted from the world—from all alliance, partnership, fellowsip, joint participations. The world which nailed the Savior to the cross must not be friends with us. (Jas. 4 :4 ). If it hated Him it will hate us. Only if we are of it, will it love its own. It did not recognize our Lord; we cannot have recognition from it, unless, like the disobedient angels of old, we keep not our own principality, but fall from our high estate. (Jude 6). We may not go into partnership with Tobiah and Sanballat to build the temple of God. (Ezra 4: l- 3 ) . We must not be inveigled into fellowship with the world in good-works schemes. If we really want to help the world we must walk with God, which precludes all affinity with the world. Wherefore, “Come ye out from among them and be ye separate saith the Lord.”

 

R H Boll (1875-1956) was editor of “Word and Work,” 1916-1956




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10