Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 8, 1960
NUMBER 31, PAGE 2,14a

A Separate People

John Iverson, Port Arthur, Texas

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:17, "Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you." God has always required that His people be a separate people. Among the first accounts in the Bible concerning God's call to separation is the call of Abraham. The Lord said to Abram, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee." (Gen. 12:1) Imagine all that Abram had to give up — his home, loved ones, friends and customs. Yet he stood ready to turn his back upon all these at the call of God. At the time of his call he was living in a wicked land. Thus, had he not left Ur of Chaldees, no doubt, the religion of the Lord would have been overpowered by paganism and idolatry.

The separate nation of Israel was not formed until the Jews were called out of Egypt. After crossing the Red Sea and just before the ten commandments were given the Jews were told by the Lord, "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people." (Exodus 19:4-5) Thus, the Jews were formed into a separate nation at Mt. Sinai.

But this separation and holiness was not maintained by the nation of Israel. They rebelled against God's will; they cried for a king in order to be like the nations about them. During the days of the monarchy, three kings, Saul, David and Solomon reigned over the kingdom. But in the days of Rehoboam, son of Solomon, the kingdom became divided, with ten tribes known as the northern kingdom and two tribes, known as the southern kingdom. Because of rebellion and idolatry both kingdoms were soon punished.

If God's people today expect to claim the blessings of the Lord, they must be a separate people. The very meaning of the word, "church," suggests a separation from the world. The term "ekklesia" from which we get the word, church, means "the called out." Those who constitute the New Testament church are those who have been called out of the world into the service of God! In keeping with this line of thought, Peter said, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who 'lath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9) In Titus 2:14, Paul wrote that Christ "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Here it is said that God's people are a peculiar people, zealous of good works — not odd or strange, but separate, set apart and holy. But in what ways are God's people to be separate?

First, they are to be separate in doctrine. Paul said, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables." To Titus, Paul said, "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine," and in 2 John 9, the writer said, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." These passages teach us the importance of contending for the doctrine of Christ. There can be no compromise with error.

The captivity of literal Israel was caused by a departure from God's holy word. So it is with spiritual Israel, the church. The doctrines of men, in many cases, have been substituted for the apostolic practices. The plea for a return to the apostolic order is the earnest plea of loyal churches of Christ, everywhere.

Secondly, God's people are to be separate in worship. In Deut. 11:16, the Lord warned the Israelites: "Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them." Jesus said of the Pharisees, in Matt. 15:9, "But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Like Israel of old and the Pharisees of Christ's day, there is the same tendency now toward modern idolatry — to pattern after denominationalism. The worship services of the churches of Christ are characterized by simplicity; there is no place for show. There are no human methods of raising money, such as pie suppers, rummage sales, or bingo parties, but Christians are taught to give as "God has prospered" them and as each one "purposes in his heart." We praise God in worship in the singing of gospel hymns without the aid of mechanical instruments of music. In Eph. 5:19, we have the instruction, "Speaking one to another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing, and making melody in your hearts unto the Lord." In Heb. 13:15, the inspired writer declared, "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name." Hence, instead of our using organs, or some other mechanical device, from a study of these verses it can be seen that in the song services the melody we make and the praise we offer is to come from the heart and is to be rendered by our lips. The early church had congregational singing. Paid singers and robed choirs were unknown in the worship of the New Testament church.

In the days of the apostles preachers did not spend their precious moments giving book reviews or in discussing the philosophies and theories of men. Rather, they were content to preach the pure and simple gospel of Christ.

Faithful Christians observe the Lord's Supper every Sunday. In Acts 20:7, is recorded this language, "Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them."

Too, God's people are to be separate in life. Paul exhorts in Rom. 12:2, "And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." According to Paul's teaching in Titus 2:11-12 it is expected of God's children that they "live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." James declares, "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is the enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James 4:4) Though Christians are living IN the world, they cannot fashion themselves according TO the world.

Jesus said in Matt. 5:14 that his disciples are to be the light of the world. But if there is no difference between the life of a child of God and one who is not, then how can the Christian be the light of the world? Again, Jesus said to his disciples, "Ye are the salt of the earth." Salt does its work because it is different from that which it contacts. Hence, a Christian who is just like the world can do nothing to save the world.

That we may be pleasing in God's sight here and be received of him in the hereafter, let us become and remain a separate people.