The State of Faith
A Study on Holiness
1 When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
Part of worshiping in truth is to be obedient to God's Word. An important, but often, misunderstand facet of this is the concept of "separation." We have spoken of repentance as turning from sin and of holiness as being set apart or separated to God. This, in turn, implies that one is separated from sin. This separation from sin is frequently viewed as being a separation from sinful people. Yet, in His High Priestly prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus makes it clear the believer is not removed from the "world." The prayer is that the believer be protected in the world.
John 17:15-16 (NKJV)
15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Yet, Paul quotes the Old Testament in 1 Corinthians to make it clear the believer is to be "separated" from "the world."
1 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 (NKJV)
14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. 1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
Are these positions in conflict? No, not if they are understood properly.
In the Greek, the word most used for "separate" or "divide" is chorizo. The word simply means "to divide, separate, depart, to be separated, or to separate oneself." It is used in the Septuagint for separation from evil (Ezra 9:1; Neh 9:2), a departure (Judges 6:18), and a separation of persons or things (Lev 13:46; Judges 4:11). It is used for divorce in secular writings of the time. Paul uses the term to discuss the magnitude of God's love:
Romans 8:35-39 (NKJV)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
and the author of Hebrews uses the term to refer to Christ's sinlessness.
Hebrews 7:26 (NKJV)
26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;
More importantly for our purposes, however, is the concept of separating things that do not belong together, the clean from the unclean or the holy from the common. Such examples may be found in:
Leviticus 10:11 (NKJV)
11 and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.”
Ezekiel 22:26 (NKJV)
26 Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.
1 Kings 8:53 (NKJV)
53 For You separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be Your inheritance, as You spoke by Your servant Moses, when You brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.”
Deuteronomy 7:6 (NKJV)
6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.
Genesis 1:4 (NKJV)
4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
Exodus 19:6 (NKJV)
6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
This is but a sampling of the examples of this type of separation found in the Scriptures. This is the use Paul makes of the concept of separation in the Corinthians passage referred to above. The point of this type of separation is to maintain an identy. Israel was to be separated from their neighbors, both so the filth of the neighbors did not rub off onto the people of Israel and as an example to the pagan nations of the light and blessing the true God would bestow upon His people (Deut 7:1-6). The nation was to be holy because God was holy - the same admonition given to the church:
1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV)
15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."
How then does the church be separated, yet still be a witness in the world?