Separation for the Sake of the Gospel


The case that I am trying to make for gospel-driven separation is based on the Apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that the gospel is of “first importance.” The gospel reveals God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ and there is no higher priority than God’s glory (2 Cor 4:6). God’s grace spreading to more and more people “causes the giving of thanks to the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:15), so even the good that comes from the gospel leads back to God’s glory; therefore, preserving, protecting, and proclaiming the glorious gospel is a matter of vital importance to God’s people, particularly those charged with shepherding local assemblies.

At this point in this series, I am simply going to state what I believe is the irreducible minimum of separatist commitments. Each of these is stated so as to explicitly make the connection to the gospel.

  1. For the sake of the purity of the gospel, believers and churches must separate from those who deny essential doctrines of the faith (Jude 3; 2 John 9-11; Rom 16:17).
  2. For the sake of the clarity of the gospel, believers and churches must separate from those who compromise the faith by granting Christian recognition and fellowship to those who have denied essential doctrines of the faith (Rom 16:17; Phil 3:17-19; cf. 2 Thess 3:6-15).
  3. For the sake of the credibility of the gospel, believers and churches must strive to reflect God’s holiness and to live differently than those who have not experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:15-16; Eph 4:17-19).

As the Lord gives opportunity, I will unpack each of these statements and attempt to explain what I understand of their significance to local church life and ministry. Any attempt to synthesize biblical teaching into a summary like this will have its shortcomings. All I am attempting to do is to communicate how I have tried to understand the Scriptures and make application to the contemporary question of ecclesiastical separation. My intent is not to impose my understanding on everybody else, but to express how we have decided to handle these matters. I simply offer it, and the explanations, for your consideration.

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