October 18, 2017

Axioms of Separation – Chapter 2 (Part 2)

The late Dr. John Ashbrook, long–time pastor of Bible Community Church in Mentor, Ohio, wrote a little book called Axioms of Separation. The current publisher has kindly given us permission to serialize the book here on Proclaim & Defend.

Previously on P&D:

Axioms of Separation
John Ashbrook

Chapter II

SEPARATION FROM DISOBEDIENT BRETHREN

Continued from Part 1

When you turn to the Bible, new evangelicalism seems easily defeated. However, it has overwhelmingly won the hearts of the “Christian” public. The colleges which were fundamental in the 1940’s are largely new evangelical today. The publishers which once published fundamental books are largely new evangelical. The seminaries which were fundamental are turning out men to infiltrate denominations, or to establish a new breed of non-separatist Bible churches. The music publishers who once helped us sing the glad songs of the gospel are busy setting gospel words to the world’s sound. I am tempted to fill in the names; but that is not the purpose of this booklet. New evangelicalism, with its appeal to man’s intellect, its invitation to the non-controversial road, its easy adjustment to the world’s lifestyle and its use of the rich and famous, has captured the masses of professing Christians.

Enough for definition. Let me get back to the axiom that Scripture teaches us to separate from disobedient brethren. In 1962 I was speaker at a meeting of independent churches in Michigan. After one of my messages, the President of a Bible School accosted me with the statement: “It is not right to separate from other believers; for, after all, we will all be together in heaven … We believe in separation, but we do not believe in second-degree separation,” That viewpoint is popular. It just happens to be Scripturally wrong. Let’s look at some Scripture on the subject:

Matthew 18:15-17. “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou has gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

This procedure is given for dealing with a disobedient brother, it does not specify what his disobedience might be. However, if he will not repent, the ultimate action is to withdraw Christian fellowship from him — to treat him as an heathen man or publican who is excluded from such fellowship.

I Corinthians 5:11. “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.”

Again, the man in question is a brother. If he continues in sin there is to be a separation from him.

I Timothy 6:3-5, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words; where of cometh envy, strife, railings and evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

Again, it is a brother in question. In fact, the brother is a teacher. The question is one of doctrine. Paul’s command is, “from such withdraw thyself.” That is separation.

II Thessalonians 3:6. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”

What do you do with a brother who will not obey the Scripture? The command is the same as in the previous passage, “withdraw yourselves.”

Romans 16:17. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them.”

What is the command about disobedient brethren? “Avoid them.” That is separation.

It seems very clear to me from all of these passages of Scripture that Scripture teaches us to separate from disobedient brethren. In the case of the new evangelical, the disobedience is the refusal to obey God’s commands to separate from ·apostasy. God says, “come out.” New evangelicalism says, “No, we will remain in; we will infiltrate it; we will associate with it; we will dialogue with it.” I submit to you that if it is not proper for fundamental believers to separate from new evangelical believers, then God has left the fundamental church with no procedure for defense against new evangelicalism.

VAN IMPE EXEGESIS

A few years ago Jack Van Impe wrote a book (entitled) Heart Disease in Christ’s Body. The book masquerades as a plea for Christian love. Actually, it is an attack on the fundamentalists who tried to help him take a separatist stand, It is not my intent to answer that book. However, in the course of his book he analyzes almost the same list of texts as I have given above. He seeks to show that none of them teach what I have pointed out that they do teach. He does that by limiting each text to the exact context in which it is found and denying that it might apply to anything else. In effect, he denies that there are any Biblical principles involved — only individual situations. It is enough to say that this is strange exegesis. If followed to its logical conclusion, this would mean that Bible preachers could deal only with specific problems which happened in the early church and would have no guidance on anything else.

WE WILL ALL BE TOGETHER IN HEAVEN

What about that argument, “We should not separate from other believers, for we will all be together in heaven”? It is certainly true that all believers will be together in heaven. There will be one great difference then. When we see the Lord as He is, we will see sin as God sees it, and there will be repentance where we have been in error. When that has taken place there will be no trouble being together in heaven. But if that same repentance takes place on earth right now, we will have no trouble fellowshipping on earth. The person who bears the onus of dividing the body of Christ is not the fundamentalist who insists on obeying Scripture, but the new evangelical who insists on fellowshipping out of bounds.

To be continued…

Next in this series: Axioms – Chapter 2 (Part 3)


Dr. John Ashbrook served the Lord for many years as pastor of Bible Community Church of Mentor, OH. His ministry made a strong contribution to Biblical fundamentalism.


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