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[Home]>[The Man-Made Church]>[9. Separate]


This is the 9. Chapter of "The Man-Made Church."


9. Separate


by Frank L. Preuss


Separate from Non-Christians?

What does the Bible say we must do when we bring the Good News to people and they do not accept it?

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet (Matthew 10:14).

This command of Jesus we also find in Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5 and Luke 10:10-11: we have to shake off the dust and leave them.

In Acts 13:50-51 we find a record of this practice. In the Pisidian town of Antioch this happened: But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.

In Mark 6:11 and Luke 9:5 it says that we have to leave that town, shake its dust off our feet and that this will be a warning to them. So we have to leave people who make a clear decision against the Gospel and our example is the people in the Pisidian Antioch: They persecuted the apostles and expelled them and the apostles shook the dust from their feet and left the place. There was a definite case of rejection, of not accepting the Good News: The people persecuted the apostles and expelled them. So we cannot apply this when people don't turn to God the first time we speak to them. It can't be used to give up bringing the Gospel just because people don't seem to respond to it.

Now what about people with whom we are in contact, live together, work together, do business with, travel with, are part of our family or our relatives?

The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

This means that we have no close relations with them, we do not marry them, we do not take them as business partners. We remain independent of them. They are not our friends and we have no fellowship with them.

James 4:4-5 says: Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

So there can't be friendship between us and worldly people and we can't marry them: She is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:39).

Evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Corinthians 15:33).

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha (1 Corinthians 16:22).

Again, these scriptures cannot be used to avoid showing love to people around us and we also can't use them as an excuse not to live the life of a person who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We are to separate from unbelievers but we still are Jesus' ambassadors.

We have seen that we have to separate from worldly people but now we want to find out if there are also believers from whom we have to stay away.


Separate from Christians?

Are there such believers whom we have to withdraw from?

In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus tells us that we have to treat a brother who trespasses against us as we would one who is a heathen, that we have to treat him as if he were a publican.

Jesus talks of Christians - Christians we have to stay away from.

In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 it is also clearly stated that the Bible speaks of Christians and a list of sins is given as well: I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 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. 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.

A similar list is found in Ephesians 5:3-7 and also here the Bible speaks of people "among us", of Christians, and in Ephesians 5:7 follows a command: Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-9 the Bible deals with religious people, people having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away (2 Timothy 3:5). This is a reference to the last days (2 Timothy 3:1) and in 2 John 7-11 we hear of the antichrist and then also here the command not to associate (2 John 10-11): If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

The purpose of all these scriptures is to keep the body of Christ clean: Carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place (2 Chronicles 29:5).

We have to keep God's community clean and that means, we also might have to expel Christians from it. The above mentioned scriptures are quite clear and command us to act when necessary. And these scriptures do not exclude anybody, they include our leaders as well as parents, children and even spouses. When one of the scriptures applies, we have to separate.

We see this very seldom practised in man-made churches, because the priority there is not to build Jesus' body, but to have "church" members. Even if somebody does not pay his membership fees - which is often the only thing these religious clubs demand from their members and pursue - he is not expelled because he still is a number on their roll and members count. It looks good to have many members; to be the biggest club in town.

We who are living in the real church, we have to keep this community which belongs to God, clean. God's community must be clean so that it is victorious, that it is an overcoming body, that it does not lose the battle. Carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place (2 Chronicles 29:5) and thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you (Joshua 7:13).

So we have to remove defilement. As Jesus talks to the seven churches he mentions defilement of his churches several times: I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars (Revelation 2:2). Here Jesus commends the church in Ephesus; but when he is commending or when he is reproving, Jesus' concern is the purity of his church. Because what counts is that the battle is won. And we know, because of one member living in sin, Achan (Joshua 7), the battle against a small enemy, Ai, was lost. The church was routed.

That is why Jesus is more concerned with purging of his church, than with expansion, because he knows that a defiled church will not expand.

To the church in Pergamum he says: But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam (Revelation 2:14) and to the church in Thyatira: Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel (Revelation 2:20). We simply cannot tolerate people inside God's church who do not belong to the body of Christ.

So real church growth is sometimes not trying to win more people to Christ, but making the church smaller, expelling out of the church that which is not clean. Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit (Matthew 12:33). And how do we make a tree good? The tree is the body of Christ, the church. I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me (in Christ, in the body of Christ, in the church of God) that beareth not fruit he taketh away (John 15:1-2).


What is the Procedure?

Now in Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus tells us how to proceed. The first step is to go to the brother who trespasses against me and to tell him his fault, just between the two of us. If he does not listen we take one or two others along. And as a third step we tell it unto the church. Now if he refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be expelled.

Jesus also says something about the attitude we are to have while we are still talking to the man: to gain a brother (Matthew 18:15). The attitude we have to have as we try to restore a brother is an attitude of love and also of self-control, of watching ourselves: Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Galatians 6:1).

If he is not willing to be restored he is to be expelled. That means he does not belong to the church of God any more, he is not a child of God any more. We, the church, have bound this man, and whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven (Matthew 18:18).

But this must not be the end of this case. There might come a time when we can loose this man and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18).

In the meantime we deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:5). We hand him over to Satan. He is out of God's protection. He will come to a standstill. May be he gets physical problems and while there is no way out he might come to his senses: to himself (Luke 15:17) and say, "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee" (Luke 15:18). According to 1 John 1:9 the Father will forgive him and we have to forgive him. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him (2 Corinthians 2:6-8).

The moment has come when the church looses this man on earth and he will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18): he becomes a member of the family of God again.

We can explain this scripture also this way: the moment the person confessed his sin, acknowledges the wrong he had done, God forgave him and therefore heaven had loosed him and we on earth have to follow what already has been done in heaven and restore fellowship with him. Or as one translator says: Whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in heaven.

The same principle applies when we separate, or forbid him to be part of the church. Because of his sin he has separated himself from God; he is not part of the family of God any more. Or in other words in heaven the separation has already taken place and we just have to do the same thing on earth: forbid him. "Whatever you forbid upon earth will be what is forbidden in heaven."

The Christians are led by the Holy Spirit and they do on earth what is already done in heaven, they are so led by the Spirit that they will be following the heavenly pattern.

But in the meantime we have to separate, with such an one we do not even eat (1 Corinthians 5:11), we should have been filled with mourning and have taken away from among us the man who did this deed (1 Corinthians 5:2). Put away that wicked person from among yourselves (1 Corinthians 5:13).

Now all these proceedings seem to be so cold and straightforward. Are we not supposed to walk in love and in forgiveness? Yes, we are. All the time we apply these scriptural measures we have to love this person and we have to be forgiving. But real love does something. Love is not sympathizing and overlooking a problem and seeing a brother going away from God. Love is doing something about it, getting the person back into fellowship with God and doing it the best way we can, the way God tells us to do.


Special Case

In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 we find the warning against idleness and how to deal with Christians who are idle - who don't want to work: Keep away from every brother who is idle (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Paul speaks here of such who refuse to work, who want to eat other peoples food and not pay for it, who want to live from others. This includes our leaders as well, such as elders, even apostles, because Paul makes special reference to himself - he himself worked and earned money to take care of himself. If there is an idle Christian, note that man and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).



In Romans 16:17-18 we are instructed to mark those who cause divisions. We have to do two things: We have to watch out for them and we have to keep away from them: avoid them. The reason is also given: Such people serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly. By good words and smooth speeches they deceive the minds of simple people. The Bible says that those who cause divisions are not serving our Lord Christ.

So whom do they serve? They serve their own appetites: their own bellies. They have their own wellbeing at their interest. They serve their own appetites and they are divisive; they draw away disciples after them. This was an important subject to Paul and he stresses it very much, as he speaks for the last time to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:29-31): For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

This sounds as if it was really something very important to Paul. Paul knew that divisive leaders would come; he knew that they would create denominations and for three years he warned the leaders night and day and this warning we still have today.

Today we have a situation that appears as if all Christians are in denominations, giving the impression that not one of the flock has been spared.

What is the solution? One thing we have to do: We are not to allow this to continue. We must not allow that savage wolves draw away disciples after them anymore. We must put a stop to it. The answer is separation. We can have nothing to do with such wolves. The command of the Bible is very strict: A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself (Titus 3:10-11).

We therefore have to rebuff a divider. And the procedure commanded by the Bible is different from that adopted in Matthew 18:15-17: Only two approaches and they are harsh: warnings. Already after the second warning, if he does not change and keeps on being a divisive person, a complete separation has to be implemented.

Why such short procedure? The existence of the church is at stake. The longer we wait the more flock is being killed.

By smooth talk and fair speeches they deceive the minds of simple people (Romans 16:18). And they are quite convinced they do a good thing. In their carnality and complete lack of understanding of the real church, the church described in the New Testament, they come into our meetings with on idea: To talk to new converts and to invite them to their denomination; they must go to a church building and be led by a "pastor".

So we cannot just sit there and watch it. We have to keep our eyes open, to watch out for those who cause division (Romans 16:17) and then we have to warn them. And if they don't stop, we have to warn them again - a second time. And if they don't stop after that, then we must have nothing to do with them. So we warn them only twice, that is all; after that complete separation.

If we do not follow this procedure we might become guilty ourselves. Other Christians might see us having fellowship with divisive people and think that they can also still have fellowship with them. Or other Christians might think: if he still has fellowship with that divisive person he might also be a divisive person - a savage wolf - I better be careful of him.

Divisive people are normally religious people and Jesus spends quite some time talking about them. It is to notice that Jesus never went after them; he only dealt with them when they came to him. And he showed them who they are and what is in their heart.

The Bible calls them Pharisees, Sadducees, false prophets, hypocrites etc. Jesus tells us to beware of them and to leave them. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch (Matthew 15:14).

So the procedure we have to follow in dealing with a divisive person is given to us in Titus 3:10-11. The first thing we have to do is to warn that person. This is a command. We cannot say; "Oh, if I don't warn this person then I can go on having fellowship with him, because only if I have warned him twice I have to break up with him. I can avoid this separation by simply not warning him".

We have not got this choice; it is our duty to warn divisive people.

And speaking out a warning is not just saying that the person we speak to is doing something wrong, it is saying that punitive action will follow if that person does not amend his way.

The purpose of the warnings is to bring the prodigal son back into fellowship with God but the more urgent reason is to avoid him pulling more sheep away from the fold.

And we have to keep watch over our number, even over our own elders, even of them men shall arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30). There are always people who want to build their own kingdom and not Jesus'.

So let us start to be on our guard: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues (Matthew 10:16-17).



We have dealt here with an important subject of the study of the assembly and of the assembly life. We have basically just listed aspects and have discussed them only shortly. We therefore suggest that you study this subject in detail. A first step could be to go through this message a second time and look up every scripture and read it and consider it in its context. Also look for examples in the whole Bible - also in the Old Testament, examples from your own experience and examples from reports you have heard.

To stimulate you: In Matthew 18:15 and also in Matthew 18:21 we find the verb "sins". It appears here in the grammatical form of "present tense" - and not "past tense". Jesus' teaching as well as Peter's question refer to cases that are taking place in the present and not to cases that took place in the past. Cases are dealt with where a brother sins - is sinning - and continues to commit this sin.

We want to use an example to illustrate this: An elder who has committed a serious transgression - in the past - and who does not continue to commit this sin, cannot be bound according to Matthew 18:15-18. And his brothers, whom he sinned against, have to only forgive him once, not 77 times (Matthew 18:22). After they have forgiven him once they walk in faith and simply stand by this decision of forgiveness they once made and resist the devil every time he comes and tries to stir up feelings against this elder.

We can see from this that a detailed knowledge of the Lord's commands is required if we want to apply them correctly. A thorough study of these teachings will therefore be good for you and make you a greater blessing to the body of Christ.


This is the end of "Separate"

Next chapter: [10]


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