December 11, 2017

Axioms of Separation: Chapter 1 (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 I


Continued from Part 1

AXIOM #3: SCRIPTURE TEACHES US THAT WE MUST PURGE UNBELIEF IF WE CAN. In the church at Corinth they had a flagrant case of immorality. The majority of the church was moral, but they had done nothing about the situation corrupting their fellowship. Immorality or unbelief tolerated usually builds a following. God did not command the believers at Corinth to leave the church in order to separate from the man. Rather, He commanded the believers to purge the church of the unrepentant man. I Corinthians 5:1, 2 describes the situation and 5:6, 7 instructs the church what to do:

“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you … Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”

Church discipline is God’s provision for keeping a church pure morally. It is also God’s provision for keeping it pure doctrinally. The reason we have apostate denominations today is that it was rarely practiced. Unbelief flooded into the seminaries, flowed into the pulpits and trickled into the pews while churches and denominations failed to stem the tide by purging unbelief. The failure to practice Scriptural discipline will always lead to the necessity for separation.


Whenever I preach on a Bible character I read the essay of Dr. Alexander Whyte in his Bible Characters. As Pastor of Free St. George’s Church in Edinburgh, he was a leading figure in the Free Church of Scotland. About 1870 and thereafter higher criticism came in the church school through Professor W. Robertson Smith and later through Dr. George Adam Smith. Discipline for heresy was proposed, but Dr. Whyte took an attitude of, “boys will be boys and think of new things.” He used his influence to block the purging of his church. When my father attended New College, Edinburgh, about 1919, there was nothing left but the devastation of higher critical unbelief. One wonders what might have happened had Dr. Whyte insisted, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump.”

One day in 1920 a young pastor sat in the study of his parsonage at the First Baptist Church of Butler, Pa. His wife, the mother of two young daughters, was a room away dying of tuberculosis. Answering a knock at the door, the young pastor met seven men and a woman from the Pittsburgh Baptist Association. The young pastor had written a pamphlet exposing the modernism of the New World Movement, with which the Northern Baptist Convention had become involved. He believed that, if the people could be alerted, his whole denomination could be saved. His eight visitors were there to take him to task for his reproof. That young pastor was Robert T. Ketcham, the outstanding separatist leader in the early days of the GARB. He did not start out to be separatist. He started out to purge apostasy. When he saw that that could not be done he became a separatist.


We have a Scriptural obligation to purge unbelief. However, this is no longer an option in 95% of the churches where the problems exists. No person in a National Council of Churches church can possibly clean it up. The schools are apostate. The denominational hierarchy is apostate. The connections are apostate. Fortunately, the sincere believer who seeks to purge the apostasy will usually be purged by the apostasy and will end up a separatist. Scripture teaches us to purge unbelief if we can.

AXIOM #4: SCRIPTURE TEACH ES THAT BELIEVER AND UNBELIEVER CANNOT BE YOKED TOGETHER IN SPIRITUAL ENDEAVOR. The classic passage on this subject is II Corinthians 6:14-18. It is classic because it is conclusive. It reads:

“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 Cod with idols? for ye are the temple of the living Cod; as Cod hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their Cod, and they shall be my people.”

The yoke was the instrument which joined two animals together in an endeavor. We are in the world with unbelievers. You may be yoked with an unbeliever to produce a report at work. You may be yoked with an unbeliever in some community matter. You may be yoked with an unbeliever to build a fence between your two properties. However, the place where you are not to be yoked with an unbeliever is in spiritual endeavor. Look back over the passage and you will see that it talks about righteousness, light, faith and the temple of God. These are all spiritual, or religious, things. God commands us not to be involved with unbelievers in spiritual endeavors. In verse 14 He says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers …” In verse 17 He says, “Therefore come out from among them, and be ye separate …” Biblical separation is God’s preventive medicine to protect us from the contagion of apostasy. I like the way Dr. Paul Jackson said it years ago: “Separation, as I have so often explained, is to the whole ministry of the Word of God and the service of Jesus Christ what sanitation and sterilization are to surgery.”

“I AM THE ONLY TESTIMONY IN THIS CHURCH” This booklet will, no doubt, reach some sincere believer who maintains the only light of testimony in an apostate church. Human reason says to you, “I must stay, for if I leave, there will be no witness left in this church.” Notice that your human reason is the opposite of God’s clear command. God says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” The blessing in your situation is not to stand like a noble martyr on your reason. It is to obey and come out.

I spent my boyhood summers on my grandfather’s farm. In the hills where he lived, everyone still farmed with horses. Every farmer was proud to have a matched team. We had a team of two gray mares. Others had two blacks, sorrels or roans. Farmers looked for the same size and the same color. Simply put, God says that the Christian, in spiritual endeavor, should always be matched with those who share his righteousness, light and faith.


One summer night in 1940, my grandfather and I were doing evening milking as my father, who had come to visit, engaged in conversation. My grandfather, a United Presbyterian elder, stormed, “William, have you taken leave of your senses? What are you doing leaving the United Presbyterian Church? Who will pay your salary? Who will give you a pension? You have four children — the oldest just ready for college. Who will educate them?” My father replied by quoting II Corinthians 6:17, 18:

“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.”

I can add to that testimony. All four of us children made it through college and just about everyone earned an advanced degree. Every bill was paid. Dad went home to be with the Lord in 1977 and Mother in 1987. That which the Lord had given them paid every bill. God keeps His promises. And the promise I am talking about right here is attached to, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” and “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.” Scripture teaches that believer and unbeliever cannot be yoked in spiritual endeavor.

Next in this series: Axioms – Chapter 2 (Part 1)

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.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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