1. Separation

One fruit of the work of God in saving and calling his people is that of separation. This is a great scriptural truth which, in many respects, has disappeared from mainstream ‘Bible-believing’ churches. Ask many professing Christians today what they understand by the word ‘separation’ in relation to ‘the gospel’, ‘the church’ or to ‘the work of God’, and you will probably receive either, a blank look, or an impatient reply about ‘fundamentalists’, ‘bigots’, ‘way out sects’, or ‘those that like to cause division’. Thus among these – and in their churches – ‘separation’, like many other gospel doctrines, has been more or less abandoned in pursuit of the much desired ‘love’ – for love, they reckon, can never divide – or it has been sacrificed to the god ‘ecumenism’, which is designed to break down barriers, dispel differences, and unify all around the one great truth of ‘God’ – whatever they understand God to be. Of course all this is the antithesis of true gospel separation. Nevertheless God has, still does, and will yet work by separation.

In calling his people by his grace God separates them. And this separation is a severance – a complete severance – from former things, so that ‘all things are become new’, 2 Cor. 5:17. Therefore they are called out of the world: that is, from worldly ways of thinking, reasoning, desiring and living; out of a mentality which pursues self-interest, gain, self-gratification and self-justification, into the way of the cross: the way of self-sacrifice, self-distrust and the mortification of the flesh; out of a life of habitual sinfulness under a law which can only curse, condemn and kill – some ‘rule of life’! – and, at length, out of the outward forms, traditions and laws of men in religion – the purpose of this treatise.

This is all proved by the meaning of the Greek words translated ‘elect’ and ‘church’ in the New Testament. The elect are, literally, the ‘out-chosen’, the church is the ‘out-called’; for to them Christ in time graciously commands, ‘Come unto me’, as they ‘labour and are heavy laden’ under the burden of sin and the rigours of the legal rule. These people are thus in their experience being ‘taught of God’, and ‘drawn of the Father’; being regenerated by the Spirit they are ‘born of God’, are called of, and are thus found coming unto the Son of God seeking a salvation which only he can give; and in this process are granted repentance unto life, and are given the gift of saving faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

This principle of separation was seen and prefigured in the Old Testament in Israel. Here was a nation, one body of people, separated from all other nations because they were God’s people: ‘You only have I known’, Amos 3:2; to these alone pertained ‘the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises…’ Rom. 9:4,5. Having long been in bondage in Egypt they were eventually ‘called out’, and going through the Red Sea were visibly separated unto God in the wilderness. Totally severed from all other nations there was not another ‘child of God’ to be found on the face of the earth but in that wilderness. Thus the church – the actual body of Christ called out in the ways shown above – is the only true people of God on the earth today. Yes, there may be many in churches and chapels, pulpit and pew, who profess to be God’s people, for the name of the Lord is often found upon their lips, but if not called out and separated unto God and his Christ – and that miraculously in their own experience; and if they do not find this world a wilderness, void, ultimately, of satisfaction, sustenance, peace and rest – for these things are only to be found in Christ – then they are not members of this true church.

The whole of their calling, which is effectual in its working, is of God from beginning to end. Oh what depth, completeness and liberty there is to be found when, by the grace and irresistible calling of God, one falls under and obeys that wonderful word of the Saviour, ‘Come unto me… and I will give you rest.’ Indeed they must hear, they must come, and they must enter into rest, for, said Jesus, ‘The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live’, John 5:25. The elect hear Christ’s voice, he knows them, he calls them out and separates them, and they follow him. He gives unto them eternal life, and they never perish. And these called are then kept: kept by the power of God through tribulation; through the attacks – sometimes subtle, sometimes vicious – of the evil one; kept through trials and fears; through the risings up of the flesh, and from the power of temptation, which at times seem sure to overwhelm them; kept and delivered from a sometimes hankering back to the imagined ease and satisfaction of the former times of unregeneracy, when none of these things seemed to have been a trial; yea, they are kept through faith unto salvation; a great, full and final salvation which is ready to be revealed in the last time, John 10:27,28; 1 Peter 1:5.

These out-called are therefore described as being ‘sanctified’. This scriptural word means ‘set apart as holy’, for the true worship of God, for his service and glory. To be sanctified – as God sees it – is to be in an absolute state: ‘in Christ’, which is the opposite state to being ‘in sin’, cp. Rom. 6:1-3. So in the epistles the called of God are many times referred to as ‘saints’, ‘holy ones’, sanctified in Christ Jesus. Therefore it is worth noting that none of these epistles are addressed ‘to the sinners at…’ Thus Peter is able, according to sound doctrine, to make clear distinction between ‘the righteous’ and ‘the sinner’, 1 Peter 4:17,18; cp. also Psa. 1:5,6.

Again, holiness, by definition, cannot exist by degrees; if one is thought to be, say, ninety percent holy, then one is actually unholy. A person cannot progressively become ‘more holy’; that is the belief of those who, devoid of faith, live by works; who know nothing of the Christ who is made unto his people sanctification, 1 Cor. 1:30. This is not to say that there aren’t degrees of spiritual maturity: as John’s ‘little children… young men… and fathers’: or Paul’s ‘babes in Christ’ and ‘spiritual’, 1 Cor. 3:1; but none of these are to do with attaining by works, but of growing saving knowledge of Christ. By the operation of God, and by faith, the saints ‘grow up into him’, Eph. 4:11-16, and ‘perfect holiness in the fear of God’, 2 Cor. 7:1. But as to being in a holy state, as far as God is concerned, the carnal babes and the mature fathers are as holy as each other, all being ‘in Christ’.

This is such a liberating truth for all those striving under some sort of legal rule: whether that rule is a false understanding of what it means to be under the gospel, or whether one suddenly finds himself bound by the yoke of the traditions of religious men. How scarce is preaching which asserts what the children of God are in Christ. How little is understood – is even declared – of how God sees his people as they are found ‘complete in him’, Col. 2:10, and how, by the Spirit, that truth is a great comfort and encouragement to them amidst all the trials and temptations of the way.

The preaching I was exposed to in the denomination rarely if ever gave us the truth of the gospel from God’s point of view. ‘The gospel of God’ is a declaration of his great accomplished work for his people, and is made up of an abundance of wonderful objective truth stating what they are in his Son. And being objective, as wrought of God by and in Christ, then none of these things initially involve the ‘feelings’ of the people, because they have been a work of God outside of them – largely being wrought at the cross by the Father and the Son – only later to be applied in them – in their experience – by the Holy Spirit. What a wonderful doctrine is ‘the union of Christ and his church’! But more on these things later.

Furthermore, being in Christ God’s people are necessarily a separate people from all those outside of Christ. The exhortation to such is ‘come out from among them and be ye separate’ – whether the ‘them’ are religious or not; and, again, ‘be ye holy’; that is, ‘be ye what ye are in Christ’; for, really, ‘be ye’ is not so much a case of ‘doing’, but of, well, ‘being’. To be separated by God then is to be in this different state than before; but then being found in that state – in Christ – causes them inevitably to be and to live differently than before. How? Because they are now indwelt of the Spirit of God, who thus works in them ‘both the will and also the deed’ (Tyndale) of his good pleasure, Phil. 2:12,13, bringing forth his fruit – the fruit of the Spirit – in them.

Therefore we can tell the separated ones, for they have been fundamentally and irreversibly changed. Those separated unto God are being taught of him in the way of faith, and in the way of the cross. None of these people ‘try’ to change themselves – taking in hand the task of making themselves ‘better Christians’; for it is the Spirit who now continually separates them unto Christ their life; revealing to them more and more in experience the depths of the incurable corruption of the flesh, and of their constantly growing felt need of Christ and his blood to be their only plea before the Father; as a result they ‘grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, 2 Peter 3:18. This is why we can say that true separation emanates from a work of God within, and not from the outward actions – be they ‘good’ works or even religious forms – of men.

Being led in this way the sanctified ones will necessarily be separated from the things and ways of the world. They will lose their appetite for those things which before so consumed them. Friends, acquaintances and family will not understand why the child of God no longer finds the old interests and amusements fulfilling and will, in the end, just wander off or perhaps even despise their former friend and loved one who has now ‘turned religious’, cp. 1 Peter 4:1-5. But, again, it is not so much that the regenerate person has separated himself from his former ways in some self-righteous ‘holier than thou’ way; nor has he taken on some new legalistic regime of ‘being different’ to his neighbours, so that he naturally stands out from among them, Luke 18:11,12 – which is what denominational affiliation tends to generate – but that it has just happened to him as God has separated him from within, so that he cannot help but turn his back upon his former way of life.

As this work of separation is fundamental to the assurance of salvation, then it is imperative that we see it being wrought in us; for if there is no evidence of such a work then it matters not what we say we believe – even if it is ‘the truth’ – what we confess or profess, what church or party we belong to, how much we give ourselves to ‘the cause of Christ’, etc.: all is presumption. This is why Matthew 7:21-23, when brought home to the heart by the Spirit, proves to be so devastating.

But this work of God in separating his people has not commenced by their experiencing it, as touched on above; for God’s work of separation has been active from eternity itself, long before any were born into this world, or even the world was made. For here we are speaking of ‘the eternal purpose of God in Christ Jesus’, Eph. 3:8-12. This is clearly seen in the testimony of the word of God in relation to his work. The doctrine of election and predestination has at its core the work of separation. From all eternity in the mind, purpose and will of God, yet-to-be created mankind was separated into two groups: the elect and the non-elect; the chosen and the reprobate. The first are those saved by the blood of Christ alone; who, by God-given faith, obey the truth of the gospel, and do the will of the Father; who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honour and immortality; who walk in those good works which God has before ordained that they should walk in them; and who deny themselves and take up the cross of self-sacrifice daily and follow Christ whithersoever he leadeth. The second are the lost; the contentious – those who always argue against truth received by revelation, and are often heard to say things like, ‘Oh, I don’t know about that!’[1]; those who evidence no real love for the truth, obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘find’[2] their lives, love the world, and consistently obey unrighteousness.

We see then on the day of judgment, on the right hand and on the left, the sheep and the goats, Matt. 25:31-46; the just and the wicked, Matt. 13:47-50; the godly and the unjust, 2 Peter 2:9; those who have done good and those that have done evil, John 5:26-29, all appearing before the Judge of all the earth[3]. But it is revealed that those on the right hand had manifested such gracious characteristics ultimately because their names had been written in the Lamb’s book of life from all eternity, Rev. 20:11-15, God having thus worked in them faith, salvation and good works, while in the others he had not. They on the right hand had been chosen before as vessels of mercy, while the others had been fitted, as vessels of wrath, for destruction. The first had always been known of God in Christ, ‘and I know them’, while the others had not, ‘I never knew you.’ And the cause of it all was the separation which God had made before the world was, before any were born, ere any had done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand.

Oh, blessed, secure, trustworthy doctrine! This is the plain testimony of scripture, and we shake our heads and close our ears to these truths at our peril. Those who do oppose such doctrine always do so when they forget one word: ‘That no flesh should glory in his presence.’ Man in an outward religious profession loves to work, and will always, Cain-like, seek to bring an offering to the LORD which emanates from his own rebellious imagination, and not from that which accords with the revealed will of God. Left to himself he will always, in one way or another, seek some glory and merit in the sight of God; but will always be rejected, even with a ‘Lord, Lord!’ upon his lips.

This is why a belief in ‘free will’ is so fundamentally erroneous, and repugnant to all those who truly love and experienced the doctrine of the grace of God. Those happy to exercise their supposed free wills are totally ignorant of the way of salvation, for they are ignorant of their own natures. To think that your independent will has any part to play in your coming to Christ is to be blind to the first principles of the gospel, and to the basic meaning of what it means to be a sinner. For the very nature of man, and the innate desires of man – the two things which control and drive the will – are themselves totally at enmity with God. Not in a thousand years would the will break away from these two masters and ‘go it alone’ to seek after God.

The will of man is happily in bondage and servitude to the nature and desires of man that it serves these sinful dictators with relish, always ready to fall under and obey their impulses, which are only to sin, rebel against and disobey anything and everything which emanates from the Light – even if, outwardly, it carries a feigned religious smile, and occupies itself in what it likes to think of as ‘good works’. But once present ‘truth’ to this naturally sinful, lustful, and wilful being – especially as it pertains to the absolute sovereignty of God in all things – and the underlying enmity will soon rise up and wipe the shallow smile from off the lips, and will bring forth that rage toward God and his truth; revealing to any one with the Spirit of God that here is the very enemy of God. Yes, at one time in the past they may have ‘given their hearts to Jesus’, or ‘committed themselves to Christ’; and they may now be active members of their local church, but hatred towards God and his truth is in their hearts. Therefore the child of God, born of the Spirit, believing in and trusting wholly the true Jesus, must flee from the churches, chapels and fellowship of such people, for there is no semblance of unity between them; how can there be, for they have a fundamentally different understanding of the nature, desires and will of man, not only from the testimony of scripture, but in their own experience.

But as to the will of man in its relation to salvation and the eternal purpose of God: well, from all eternity the will of man was nowhere to be found; it is only the will of God that has been exercised in the eternal purpose. But wasn’t the will and purpose of God activated when the Almighty, using his foresight, looked ahead into time and saw those who would believe? No. Never. This idea that God saw who would believe in Christ, and then elected them and wrote their names in the book of life, is a belief that, while apparently paying due reverence to God’s omniscience, actually overturns his sovereignty and makes men the authors of their own salvation, placing sovereignty firmly in the hands of the dust of the earth. But that’s blasphemy, the doctrine of the father of lies and rebellion himself; who, among other profane things, said, ‘I will be like the most High’, Isa. 14:12-15.

Therefore ‘free will’ is just another manifestation of the ancient lie, ‘Ye should be as God’, Gen. 3:4,5 (Tyndale). This is where your free will leads you: casting God off his throne for you to sit there as God, your destiny supposedly in your own hands. But man’s will will never usurp the will of God; the clay is always passive in the hands of the sovereign potter, Rom. 9. Writing to the people of God James teaches that God ‘of his own will begat us’, James 1:18. You cannot get much clearer than that. Our will? But ‘it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy’, Rom. 9:16 – and neither of those references are taken out of context to make them mean what I want them to mean.

If men were left to their own wills then all would be lost, for men love darkness, and God is light. Men are born in sin and love their natural realm of rebellion: but God is holy. Men love unrighteousness, iniquity, vanity and lies: but God is righteous, true and good. As already seen, in reality man’s will is not free at all – certainly not free to choose the right way – being bound to the nature and lust of man. Our wills are free to live in sin; free to exercise pride, rebellion and self-justification; free to scream to the heavens, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us’; and free to cast ourselves headlong into hell – all of which is called being ‘free from righteousness’, Rom. 6:20. But any one who has experienced the miraculous interior work of regeneration, calling, and separation from all these natural realms and delights to God-ward, will never admit to the work having emanated from them. They will all confess to having been wrought upon by Someone outside of themselves, causing them – Ezek. 36:25-33 – to turn from their wicked ways to seek after God, his salvation and holiness. Oh, our God is the Creator, the Beginner, the Author, the First, indeed, the great Cause of everything in the realm of salvation, and any one who holds to free will and it’s fruit, works, knows nothing of it whatsoever.

One verse proves this point: 1 Corinthians 12:3: ‘No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.’ The indwelling of the Holy Ghost will cause a man to declare that Jesus is the Lord. But the Holy Ghost, being God himself, indwells whom he will – that is, sovereignly; therefore the declaration of the individual is more than just a verbalisation of the Lordship of Jesus, as ‘many’ easily manage, Matt. 7:21-23. No, this saying that Jesus is the Lord is the result of a profound work of God within, which has separated the individual unto Christ to such a degree that, whatever the cost, he must declare that Jesus is indeed the Lord.

Well, what does it actually mean to say that Jesus is the Lord? It means to believe and own that he is Sovereign, Lord over all. That all things: salvation, circumstances, and our very lives and eternal destinies, are in his hands to administer and dispense with according to his will, and not ours. To say that Jesus is the Lord is to own him as the only Saviour of sinners; is to look to his blood and sacrifice alone as our only hope of salvation, and not, no, never to works. The Lordship of Christ is absolute, and to say as such is to submit unquestionably to him – no ‘contention’ here. It is to justify him in all his words and actions, to obey all his commandments, and to yield to his will willingly in all the providences that he brings into our lives – no murmuring here; bringing us even to confess that ‘though he slay me, yet will I trust in him’, Job 13:15, ‘nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt’, Matt. 26:39, and, ‘but none of these things move me’, Acts 20:24. Yes, this is a real life confession and not just a ‘letter’ declaration. Now where are such professors today? There can be none who hold the lie of free will in their right hands.

These are all separating truths; truths which God the Holy Spirit reveals to his own and applies in them in their experience; and they can never resist them, must fall under them, embrace them and, at length, be set at wonderful liberty by them!

To see that God has worked by separation, not only from all eternity, but from the very dawn of time, we can look back to the beginning of creation: to the very first day: ‘And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good. And God divided the light from the darkness, and the light he called Day, and the darkness he called Night.’ Here was the first revelation of God’s work in separating light from darkness – and that, even before man was created and fell! These are diametrically opposed realms which the whole of scripture goes on to reveal in numerous ways both morally and spiritually, e.g. John 1:4,5; 8:12, etc. Presently the nation of Israel, in Abraham, was chosen and separated unto the LORD because of his love toward them and for his covenant made with them; which love and covenant arose solely within the eternal mind, purpose and will of God because he would, cp. Deut. 7:6-8.

The Incarnation too, God manifest in the flesh, the coming into this world of the eternal Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth – separating doctrine in itself; the teaching and work of Jesus was nothing if not separating, as a reading through of the gospels will show. For whom did Christ die upon the cross? ‘The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.’ Who, savingly, hear his voice? ‘My sheep hear my voice.’ Likewise only these sheep follow him aright: ‘And they follow me.’ Who are they which believe on him with a faith that truly saves? Only the sheep; as to the rest, said Jesus, ‘But ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep, even as I said unto you[4].’ These are not the words of the modern, easy-to-believe-in ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’: ‘In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him’, Luke 10:21,22. There are many professed Bible-believing Christians who, far from rejoicing with Jesus in these things, vigorously oppose them; nevertheless the Saviour’s separating doctrine continued and multiplied.

Was it not Christ’s teaching of the separation that God made in Israel of old regarding Elijah’s being sent in time of famine to none save a widow woman of Sarepta for sustenance; and of no leper being cleansed in Elisha’s day save Naaman the Syrian, which caused the first anger from the outwardly religious – but inwardly unseparated – Nazarenes towards him, resulting, they had wished, in his death? Luke 4:16-30. It was, and it still is. William Tyndale, a man separated unto God and to the truth of his gospel, and one evidently full of the Spirit of Christ, wrote in his Obedience of man’s ‘natural venom and birth-poison, which moveth the very hearts of us to rebel against the ordinances and will of God.’ And that is true, naturally, of us all, be we religious, apparently spiritual or out-and-out pagan.

But there is one final separation yet to be manifested, to the horror of the ‘many’ in religion – not to say of the world in general – and to the eternal delight of the relative ‘few’. For this world is not going on for ever; there is a ‘last day’ to come, an actual end of this world; when Christ shall appear in the clouds of heaven – that is, he will come with his saints, cp. Heb. 12:1; when the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised; when there shall be a resurrection of the just, and of the unjust; when Christ himself, the Judge of all the earth, shall separate all mankind into just two groups, whom he calls the sheep and the goats; that is, again, his obedient, believing people, and those who despise his words, his truth, and his actual Lordship and sovereignty – all of which has been outwrought and manifested in their lives. To the one he will say, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father…’, and to the others, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed…’, see texts already alluded to. And this separation will be for ever; for ever and ever; unto the ages of the ages; to all eternity. And it is about to be manifested; just look at, read, and discern the signs of the times in which we live, and see that this day is ‘at hand.’ There just aren’t ‘generations to come’.

Therefore, in the light of all this, how needful it is for the children of God to come under the sound of a separating ministry; indeed, they are the people of God because of a separating ministry. What trumpets need sounding! Ezek. 33:1-20. In a day when ‘easy-believism’ is rife, where apathy, carelessness and actual, but unperceived, unbelief rule; and further, where denominationalism is long entrenched, in the few that remain; where the ‘reformed faith’ – with so much emphasis on legalism, the antithesis of faith – has in many places replaced ‘the faith of God’s elect’ – which is ‘the faith of Jesus Christ’, Isa. 42:1; and where light, broad, user-friendly evangelicalism seems to hold sway in a majority of the remaining ‘places of worship’, how needful it is again to have a separating ministry; one which calls God’s people out of the false, the killing letter, and the deceitful religious profession of the many, from the traditions of men, back to how it was at the beginning: back to the ‘singleness that is in Christ.’

But we live in a day when truly separating ministry, and servants of the living God separated and taught of him, are virtually[5] nowhere to be found. Well, where are the Jeremiahs among the professed people of God, who in their ministry are rooting out, pulling down, destroying and throwing down false doctrine, worldliness, pride, self-righteousness, ease, and a love of religion in the flesh – in a word, rebellion to God and his word? Jer. 1:10. There are many who bypass these things and seek only ‘to build and to plant’, but they are false, and Jesus warned of false prophets ‘which come to you’ in the churches and chapels, Matt. 7:15.

Where are the Elijahs and Isaiahs of old who preached only because God had separated them totally unto himself, and given them all the words that they were to speak, who then spoke those words as though it was the LORD alone before whom they stood devoid, for the moment of speaking, of the fear of men? 1 Kings 17:1, Isaiah 6. Seemingly gone are the men that have evidently been called from heaven by Christ, to be with him, to learn of him by revelation and experience the truth of the gospel, 2 Tim. 2:6, 3:14, to receive direct commandment of him to go and preach this gospel to his people. Indeed, how many that presume to preach today have first spent years in ‘Arabia’ and ‘Damascus’ before any further contact with ‘Jerusalem’, before being sent forth to preach, as Paul? Gal. 1:15-18 – not that ‘Jerusalem’ then sent him! cp. Acts 26:15-18, 13:1-4. Numerous times therefore in his epistles Paul was able boldly and justifiably to introduce himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ ‘by the will of God’, or ‘by the commandment of God our Saviour.’ Such authority! And such authority evidently lacking in the men in our pulpits today, of whatever denominational hue.

But Christ, if he is willing, is still able to raise up men to preach his truth; to call, if not apostles, but preachers, employing the same principles as found in Mark 3:13,14: for Jesus having ascended up on high ‘called unto him whom he would… that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach’ – in that order. And even in these very last days this is what the out-called long for, and what the outcasts pray for.

 



[1] No, they don’t know anything but what they have absorbed of the traditions of men; but once shine the light of God’s word upon those traditions, and they cower away in unbelief and horror, proving themselves to be aliens to the Father’s and the Son’s work of revelation, Matt. 11:25-27, Gal. 1:15,16.[2] Matthew 10:39. To ‘find’ here means to gain ones life; that is, constantly to do what we want; never doing anything which really costs self – although in the eyes of others it seems to be costing us – or causes us to lose out. In these you will soon discover that the left hand is always kept well informed as to what the right hand is doing.

[3] We must understand that judgment on that day will not be according to election but works, Matt. 16:27; deeds, Rom. 2:4-11; and fruit, Jer. 17:10.

[4] Again we must emphasise their rebellion: they would not believe: see chapter 4, iv, below.

[5] I use this word because of my before stated desire to refrain from using absolutes; but perhaps there just aren’t such ministers preaching today.

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