The Separated Life
May 20th, 1956 @ 7:30 PM
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
THE SEPARATED LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
5-20-56 7:30 p.m.
Now in your Bible let us turn to the sixth chapter of the second Corinthian letter, and we will read it together. The last two sermons—the one this morning was on the second verse [2 Corinthians 6:2], the one previous on the first verse [2 Corinthians 6:1]—and the sermon tonight is from the fourteenth through the eighteenth verses [2 Corinthians 6:14-18]. We will read the chapter together; 2 Corinthians, the sixth chapter. All right, together:
We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
(For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation).
Giving no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings;
By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,
By the word of God [truth], by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
By honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;
As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.
Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.
Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged.
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 God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
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.
[2 Corinthians 6:1-18]
The title of the sermon is The Separated Life: Be Ye Not Unequally Yoked Together. And what follows there is Paul’s description of the eternal, everlasting conflict between Satan and the Savior.
When I was in Rome looking at so much of early and medieval Christian art, I have one distinct impression of it. Seeing oh how many, many pictures, and it is this, my distinct impression of those many, many pictures is this, they are scenes of great conflict, of war, of battles. I remember being in one place where the entire gallery was nothing but filled with tremendous pictures of the emperor Constantine as he warred in the name of Christ against the world of paganism and heathenism. It was of him, you remember, that it was written that he saw a sign in the sky, In hoc signo vinces—”In this sign conquer.” And it was the sign of the cross.
Then there will be other pictures, and they will depict Charles Martel and the terrible invasion of the Saracens; pictures of the Ottoman Turks as they overwhelmed the entire eastern part of the Roman Empire. Then there will be endless pictures of the days of the Crusaders as they tried to win back to Christendom the holy sepulcher and the holy places in Palestine. I repeat, my impression of that great innumerable vista of art that you see in Italy, and especially in Rome, will be so largely one of battle, of war, and of conflict.
That’s what Paul is picturing here in this passage [2 Corinthians 6:1-18]. There’s a war. There’s a battle, and there are never issues that result in peace, not as long as Satan is unchained. There’s a war between law and lawlessness, between righteousness and unrighteousness, between light and darkness, between Christ and Belial, between the believer and the infidel, between God and idols. And it endlessly has been in a contest through the centuries. And it is so today. And it will be so tomorrow and until Satan is chained in the bottomless pit [Revelation 20:1-3].
There is no such thing as a man serving both God and the devil, both the Savior and Satan. There’s no such thing as a man going down the broad road to hell and at the same time walking in the narrow road that leads to heaven [Matthew 7:13-14]. God has in this world a clarion call, and it has never varied; it has been always the same. The call of God is to the standard of Christ. It is to a coming out. It is a separation from the world. We are in the world, but not of it. We are fighting and warring against it, and the world is warring and fighting against us. You are mistaken any time that you think that the great forces in this world are conducive to the great issues in Christ that we seek to espouse by faith in Him.
The world is ruled over by the prince of the power of the air [Ephesians 2:2, John 12:31]. He offered those kingdoms unto [Christ] [Matthew 4:8-9]. They are his, or he had no right to offer them, and it would therefore be no temptation to the Savior to receive them. We are in a conflict! We are in a battle! And the call is to come out from the world and to oppose it [2 Corinthians 6:14-18].
In the days of the Passover, the Lord said to Moses, You take the blood of the Passover lamb [Exodus 12:3-6] and sprinkle it on the lintels and on the doorposts, outside, in the front of the house, where everybody can see and know, this is a house set apart and set aside for God [Exodus 12:7]. These people belong to Jehovah; publicly, openly, set apart! They were called out of the land of Egypt [Exodus 3:9-10; Numbers 20:16].
In the days of the golden calf [Exodus 32:2-8, 19-25], the Bible says that Moses stood up in the midst of the camp, and he cried, saying, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come and stand by me” [Exodus 32:26].
The very words that Christ uses for His church means “to be called out” [Matthew 16:18]. The church is an ekklēsia, a called-out group from the world [2 Corinthians 6:17]. And in this great passage in Simon Peter’s first letter where he describes a Christian, he says, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people”—a separated people, a different people—”that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light: you who in time past were not a people, but now are the people of God . . . who have obtained mercy in the Lord” [1 Peter 2:9-10].
Now that doesn’t mean that we are to leave this world. No, we are to stay in it and to be separate and apart from it. The monastic life is not the life of the Bible. The pulling away, the building of a high wall around us, the taking of our own lives that we might leave it, that is not the life of the Christian.
In the first Corinthian letter and the fifth chapter, Paul writes in the latter part of the fifth chapter, a correction of an impression that this Corinthian church had received from one of his letters. We’ve lost the letter, but he wrote them a letter, and in that letter he said, “You are not to company with sinners” [1 Corinthians 5:9-11]. And so they wrote back to Paul and said, “Paul, how are we going to live? Every time I go down the street, I brush against them. Every time I eat in a cafe, there they are. Every time we go visit, there we see them: idol worshipers, idol temples everywhere, mystery religions”—I spoke of this morning—”everywhere. How are we going to live in this world,” they said to the apostle Paul, “and not associate with sinners?”
Then Paul writes, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with sinners; all of these covetous, extortioners, idolaters, for thence must you needs go out of the world. You would have to go clear out of this life. But I have written unto that you are not to be brothers with them. You are not to share in their evil deeds. You are to be in this world. You are to be a part of this world, but you are not to share in the life of this world. You are to come out. You are to be separate. You are to be different. You are to be distinct” [1 Corinthians 5:9-13].
Over here in the great prayer of the Lord Jesus in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of John, He says the same thing. The Lord says, “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world”—do not build a high wall around them; they are not to be monastic, take them out of the world, no—”but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil in the world. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them” [John 17:15-16]. Now whenever you hear that word “sanctify,” why, you all think that means “to be holy”—above sin, perfect. Well, maybe, if you want to define it that way; but it doesn’t mean that in the Bible. For example, Jesus—let me read the whole passage: “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth. As Thou has sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself” [John 17:17-19].
Now, if sanctification means the progressive riddance of sin until time you are perfect, isn’t that a strange thing that Jesus said, “I sanctify Myself? I am getting better all the time. For their sakes, I am improving and finally will arrive at perfection?” It does not mean that at all. The word in the Bible means “to set apart.” This thing is sanctified. It is set apart. It belongs to God [Leviticus 27:30, 32]. It is a—like a tithe. It is sanctified. It belongs to God. It is set aside for the Lord. So Jesus prays: “I do not pray,” He says, “that You take them out of the world,” not behind walls or clear out of this planet, “but I do pray that they may be kept from the world. Sanctify them. Set them apart through Thy truth. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, I set Myself apart” [John 17:15-19].
Do we have Christian young people in the church? “Then it is to be manifest,” says God, “that you are Christian.” There are a whole lot of things going on at this time of the year in our high schools. I tell you truly a devout and humble and godly Christian just doesn’t share in some of those things. You just don’t. You just don’t. But you all do, and you are living a compromised life! You are in the world and of the world, and God says you are not to be of the world [John 17:14-15]. You’re in it, but you’re different. You are set apart. You are standing aside [2 Corinthians 6:17].
Now may I apply that several ways and come back to that thought? Paul says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? what communion hath light with darkness? What concord hath Christ with Belial? what part, he that believeth with an infidel? the agreement…of God with idols?” [2 Corinthians 6:14-16].
May I apply it first to marriage? “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” [2 Corinthians 6:14]. It is a direct, flagrant violation of the will and the call of God for a Christian to marry an unbeliever. Now there again I think of S. P. Brooks, president of Baylor when I was there. He said he had never yet had anybody to take his advice about getting married. After they set their heads, and after they have got themselves in—well, you can just talk, and plead, and pray, and beg, and explain, and it does no good at all. Does no good at all! You just have to wait for about three years. Then they all come back, and you never heard such stories of woe and sorrow and disaster—such things. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” [2 Corinthians 6:14]; my, how this Bible will ring the changes on that!
In the sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis, it says that “The sons of God saw the daughters of men” [Genesis 6:2]. They picked out their wives in the bar, in the joint, off the dance floor, out there in the world; the sons of God, the sons of Seth, saw the daughters of men, the daughters of Cain, and they took them wives of all that they chose [Genesis 6:2]. And the Lord God said, “And I have had enough. I have had enough: “My Spirit shall not [always] strive with men” [Genesis 6:3]. And He destroyed the world from all mankind, from off the face of the earth [Genesis 7:21-24].
Where did that come to pass? Where did that blood taint come from? It came from the intermarriage of the sons of God with the daughters of men. I will tell you truly, just factually speaking, you are going to have a whale of a church here if the boys in this church go outside of it, and marry their wives. And the same thing turned around. You will have some kind of a church here, if the girls in this church marry boys that are outside. God’s Word says you are not to be yoked together with unbelievers [2 Corinthians 6:14]. You are to marry in the Lord.
Here in the last chapter of the Book of Nehemiah and I haven’t time to read it. It is the last chapter in the Book of Nehemiah, and the last half of the chapter, you read it yourselves. Nehemiah is speaking to the children of God, and he says to them, he says, “Why is it that you have taken wives from Ashdod, wives of the children of Ammon, wives of the children of Moab? [Nehemiah 13:23-25]. Did not Solomon”—and he uses Solomon—”did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did heathen wives cause to sin” [Nehemiah 13:26]. Even Solomon, in all his glory, in all of his wisdom, in all of the belovedness whereby God loved him, even Solomon was turned aside and ultimately ruined by heathen and pagan wives [1 Kings 11:1-13]. Brother, that would ruin anybody! Think of how many he had, beside what kind they were [1 Kings 11:3].
Paul said in the seventh chapter of the first Corinthian letter—and if I had time, I would read these things; but you read them. He concludes—listen to his conclusion, the conclusion of the seventh chapter of the first Corinthian letter—he concludes, “You may marry,” the whole chapter is on marriage, “you may marry, but,” he concludes, “but only in the Lord…but only in the Lord” [1 Corinthians 7:39].
You are not to marry an unbeliever. Don’t go out there to find them. Don’t go out there and make your association in that group and fall in love there. You’re not to do it. “Well, but, preacher, what if I didn’t get married at all? Maybe if I just limit myself to this group here, why, maybe I wouldn’t be married at all.” Well, in the first place, that is a denial of the great choices and will of God for our lives. If we pray, if we wait on God, if we seek God’s will, God will give us the most important of all of the shared experiences in your life. He will give you somebody, just for you. The trouble is, we rush in. The trouble is, we don’t wait. The trouble is, we take things in our own hands, and we don’t wait upon the great call and will of God our Father. Then we think, “If this isn’t it, if I don’t marry, if this isn’t done,” why, then, some of them, “I may not have another chance”; some of them, “I am tired. I have no patience to wait upon the will of God.” Then the rest of your life, all the days of your life, live in sorrow, and in regret, and in misery, and in unhappiness.
Marriage has the possibility of the most glorious of all of the experiences and relationships in life. It is of God. But marriage at the same time, for every one of those precious possibilities, there is an equal horror and terror. Most of the problems and the troubles that any pastor, that I as one, will listen to will be the terrible heartaches and unbelievable sufferings and sorrows that enter into a life that did not wait upon God and did not take God into that most sacred of all covenants and contracts.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” [2 Corinthians 6:14]. You are to marry in the Lord [1 Corinthians 7:39]. Your house is to be built upon Christ, and it is Christ alone that will be able to hold the thing in the day of the storm, when the floods beat, and the rains descend, and the winds blow [Matthew 7:24-25]. You have got to have a foundation. You have got to have a rock, and that Rock is Christ, the Son of God [1 Corinthians 10:4].
All right, may I apply this word to our social life and lot in this earth?
Be ye not unequally yoked together. . . what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness . . .
what communion hath light with darkness?
What concord hath Christ with Belial . . . what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
What agreement hath . . . God . . . with idols?
[2 Corinthians 6:14-16]
So many, many, many, many of our Christian people, of our church members, live compromised lives. They are Christians, they’ve been saved, on a confession of that faith, they have been baptized. They are members of the church, but they live out in the world. Were you not told they were Christians, you’d never know they were Christians. They’re like Lot. And he is the best example and illustration of a compromised Christian living out in the world that I know of in the Bible. How do you know Lot was a Christian? You would never know it. You could read the story of his life, and you would never know that he was a child of God were it not that Simon Peter says so in his epistle. Simon Peter says, “God delivered just Lot, vexed with the lascivious life of the wicked: For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” [2 Peter 2:7-8]. Were it not for that passage, you wouldn’t know that Lot was a Christian. You wouldn’t know it.
I want you to look at those two men, Lot and Abraham. They got so affluent, they prospered so greatly, that the land couldn’t hold their flocks, and their herdsmen began to war. And so Abraham said to Lot, “Lot, let us not have bitter feelings between your household and mine, your men and mine. Lot, the whole land is before you. You take what part you want, and what part you leave, I will take. And you have the first choice.” So Lot stood on the top of one of those great mountains, and he looked down over the length and the breadth of the land, and he saw down there before him the beautiful, fertile, well-watered plain of the Jordan [Genesis 13:5-11]. That was in the day before God destroyed it. It was green and verdant, and it had beautiful cities that were thriving in industry and in commerce, in wealth.
One of them was named Sodom, and the other was named Gomorrah. And Lot looked out over that well-watered plain, and those great cities, and he said to Abraham, “Abraham, I will choose the great cities and the beautiful well-watered plain.” So Abraham took the mountains and lived and walked with God on the mountain peaks of Judea. And Lot went down into the valley and down to the plain and pitched his tent toward Sodom [Genesis 11:11-12].
As the days passed, it became a thing of good business and wise choice for him to leave the country and move into the city. So Lot moved into the city of Sodom. I don’t know quite what it means for a man to sit at the gate of the city [Genesis 19:1]. One, it could mean that he was in the market business, and he bought and sold there; another, that he was the mayor of the city; another, that he was the judge of the court. All of those things were at the gate of the city. In any event, Lot was a key citizen of the city of Sodom. He sat in the gate. He was either the chief justice, or he was the mayor of the city, or he was the biggest mercantile trader in Sodom. In any event, he identified himself with Sodom.
The Bible says Abraham built him an altar up in the mountains [Genesis 13:18]. The Bible doesn’t say Lot built him an altar down there in Sodom. He lived the life of a Sodomite. His daughters intermarried with the Sodomites. When they entered all of their social activities, Lot was there, entering them with them. Whatever they did, Lot did—”When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” He became himself a Sodomite, and he was a Christian. And he was unhappy and miserable, and he vexed his righteous soul from day to day with those unlawful compromises [2 Peter 2:7-8].
I want you to know, I want you to see Lot and Abraham when God came down to visit them, where they were sitting. When the Lord God came down to visit Lot—I’ve just said he was sitting in the gate of the city [Genesis 19:1]—when the Lord God came down to visit Abraham, where was he sitting? Do you remember? He was sitting in the door of his tent [Genesis 18:1]. He said that he was a stranger and a pilgrim in the earth, seeking a city which had foundations, whose builder and whose maker is God [Hebrews 11:13, 10].
The Lord called Abraham out, saying, “Get thee away from your idolatrous family. Get thee out of thy country and from thy people and go to a land that afterwards I shall show thee and afterwards thou shall receive for an inheritance” [Genesis 12:1, 7]. And he went out by faith, walking with God, dwelling in tents with Isaac and with Jacob [Hebrews 11:9]. That’s the Lord God. And the psalmist said, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the tents of the Lord”—in the tents of righteous, with the people of God—”than to dwell in all of the palaces of the wicked” [Psalm 84:10].
Lot and Abraham—Lot, the compromised Christian, living in Sodom [Genesis 11:11-12, 19:1]—you can do that. It’s free to each one of you. Whatever the world does, there you are. Whatever they invite you to, there you go. Whatever they share, there you are, sharing it with them. You can do that; but when you do, when you do, there’s something on the inside of you that dies away. You’re not strong in it. You’re not exalted in it. You’re not lifted up in it. You’re not rising mightily in it. You are in Sodom. You are like Lot. You are compromised in the world. You are yoked with unbelievers. You are in the house of idols. You are in the way of the world. You are following after Belial. You are turning aside from the great calling in Christ Jesus our Lord [Philippians 3:14].
“Well, preacher, what is it you want us to do?” It isn’t what I say, it’s just what God says. Listen to the Word of the Lord, “‘Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I,” says God, and I will see you through, “I will receive you” [2 Corinthians 6:17]. I will be your strength and stay, your shield and buckler. I will do it, says the Lord God. “I will be a Father unto you. I will care for you. I will give you the desires of your heart, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty [2 Corinthians 6:18]. Try Me and see. See if I will not do something better for you. See if I will not give you a greater gift and a finer one. Come out! Come out! Come out from among them and be ye separate” [2 Corinthians 6:17] saith the Lord. “Stand up for Jesus. Be counted for Him, and see if I will not give you riches and blessings and answered prayers that you never dreamed of in your heart, not big enough to receive it. I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and My daughters” [2 Corinthians 6:18].
The Christian life is a life of separation. It’s a life of self-denial, I know, but there are rewards in that narrow way that are eternal and that never fade. There are gifts God has for you, if you will open your hands and receive them, if you’ll open your heart and take them. “O ye Corinthians,” Paul said, “our hearts are open to you” [2 Corinthians 6:11]. “O Corinthians, that your hearts would be open unto us [2 Corinthians 6:13]. That’s the call of God; “O ye people, My heart,” says God, “is open to you. In a time accepted have I heard you, in the day of salvation have I nurtured you” [2 Corinthians 6:2]. All of those rich gifts of heaven are yours, everything that only God could afford. Talk about a millionaire father, you’ve got a multi-, multi-billionaire Father who will give you the world and all that is in it, and heaven to come, if you will just take them; if you will just open your hand; if you will just give Him your heart in faith and in trust [Ephesians 2:8-9]; coming out from the world, walking with the Lord God our Savior [2 Corinthians 6:16-17].
While we sing this appeal tonight, is there somebody here, somebody you, stepping out of the world and the call of the world? “Preacher, tonight, I’ll take Christ, and I’ll enroll in His army. I’ll put on His uniform. I’ll fight by His side. I’ll war with the people of God. Here I am, and here I come. I’ll be a Christian in the faith, and in the strength, and in the gift, and in the power of Jesus. Not in me, but in Him, I will take Him, preacher, and here I come.” Somebody you, a family you, “Preacher, I’ve already been saved. I’ve given my heart in trust to Christ. I’ll put my life by the side of the great host of people in this church, and here I come, and here I am.” Is there somebody you that would like to regive your life to Jesus tonight? Would you? Would you? A lot of things woo us away, pull us away. “But pastor, by God’s grace, and in His strength, and by His help, I’m going to be true to Jesus, separate and apart” [2 Corinthians 6:17-18]. While we sing the song, as the Lord God shall make the appeal, shall press, as God shall open the door, shall lead in the way, while we sing this song, you come, you come; while we stand and while we sing.
a picture of the conflict between the Savior and Satan
distinct impression of early and medieval Christian art in Rome
As long as Satan is unchained, the conflict remains(Revelation
serve both God and the devil(Matthew 7:13-14)
God’s call always one of separation(Exodus 12:7,
World is ruled over by prince of the power of the air – we are in conflict (Ephesians 2:2, John 12:31, Matthew 4:8-9)
church is an ekklesia, a “called-out group”(1
out of the world, but separate from it
Paul’s misunderstood letter (1 Corinthians
Jesus’ prayer (John 17:15-19)
flagrant violation of the will and call of God for a Christian to marry an
unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14)
sons of God marrying the daughters of men – leading up to the flood(Genesis 6:1-3, 5, 7:21-24)
speaking to children of God about Solomon’s heathen wives (Nehemiah 13:23-26, 1 Kings 11:1-13)
says marry only in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:39)
The possibilities in a Christian marriage(Matthew
For every precious possibility, there is an equal horror and terror
III. Social life and lot
Christian compromised in the world
Lot(2 Peter 2:7-8)
The choice of Lot to pitch his tent toward Sodom(Genesis
11:5-12, 13:5-18, 19:1)
The visit of the Lord – where the two men, Lot and Abraham, were sitting(Genesis 12:1, 7, 18:1, Hebrews 11:9-10, 13, Psalm
IV. The appeal – come out from among them (2 Corinthians 6:17)
will see you through (2 Corinthians 6:18)
is a life of self-denial, but there are rewards that are eternal and that never
fade (2 Corinthians 6:2, 11)