July 22, 2017

The Pursuit of Purity in Christ

Jim Oesterwind

If we keep the biblical teaching of separation in the classroom, few within Fundamentalism would question its importance.  As it relates to the fundamentals, all would be in agreement.  However, what many fail to understand is that separation must be applied to practice.  Applying separation in practice to people, churches, colleges, etc. takes biblical discernment.  Especially when separating from a disobedient brother or sister in Christ.

Disobedient Christians are believers who practice willful disobedience; however, they also tend to be self-deceived or purposefully deceptive.  We should truly sharpen one another.  A Christian should not have fellowship with anyone called a brother who enjoys and persists in the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5.11).  A church should have the authority to discipline members who refuse to forsake some form of false teaching or unscriptural practice (Matthew 18.15-17; 1 Corinthians 5.1-13).

Restoration is always the aim of biblical separation in local churches.  But leaven must be purged from the church.  Whatever happened to church discipline and the purification of the church?  Should we seek to cleanse our local assemblies from sin?  It is important to separate from willfully disobedient believers in order to preserve our testimony as a people of God (1 Peter 2.12), prevent the disobedient from influencing others to do wrong (Galatians 5.9), exemplify obedience and encourage others toward that direction (1 Timothy 5.20), and to bring about repentance in the disobedient (2 Timothy 2.25).

We should be firm but loving.  Separation is not the answer to every disagreement we have, but there comes a time when it is necessary.  I think most conservative Christians would readily absorb these words and take them to heart.

But what do you when it comes to the controversial areas of practicing separation? Still further, what do you do when the Bible offers no explicit instruction regarding what we should do in a particular area of life?  I’ve been taught that you look for principles in order to apply them to that specific area.  After all, a Christian that has to have a handbook rule in order to make decisions about how to live is not much of a Christian.  He is a legalist of sorts.  He must have it explicitly written down as a rule in order to make decisions regarding particulars.  Is that not truly legalism?

Issues like should we drink alcohol, what music should we listen to, and what movies should we watch behave like this.  There are no explicit instructions, but there are principles mature believers are able to use from the Word of God.  We must leave the milk for the meat.  Obedience to basic teaching of right and wrong along with obeying that which is explicitly stated are good things, but the Bible is sufficient to answer questions regarding alcohol, music, and movies too.

Hopefully we would not conclude that the Bible is silent in these areas because we are afraid to admit that we are living lives contrary to its teaching.  That’s where deception comes into play.  Hopefully we realize that all of us are inconsistent to one degree or another in the progress of our sanctification.  But that inconsistency should not deter us from pressing on or being challenged to make changes for the glory of Christ.

As believers we are saved from a world system at enmity with God.  It is energized by the prince and power of the air.  We need to figure out what this means.  We must be distinct and holy or we have no firm footing from which we lift the next generation up to greater heights.


Jim Oesterwind is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, CA. He blogs at Sun and Shield.


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