Ecclesiology 47, Matthew 3:16
Father, we’re grateful for this morning and grateful for a new year. I pray for Your hand of blessing today as we look into Your Word and I pray You’ll be with us at the communion service and the fellowship lunch that follows. I just pray that Your Spirit would guide all things and that You would use us today in spite of ourselves. And we ask these things in Jesus name, Amen.
If you can locate Mark 1 and verse 10. Happy New Year to everybody. How long do you think it’ll take before you stop writing 2018 on your checks? It usually takes me about two to three months to catch up with the learning curve. As you know, Ron has a handout for you back there but we’re continuing our study on the doctrine of the church, Ecclesiology.
Just a couple of comments on baptism. You might recall we were talking about ordinances in the church. What is baptism? You’ll recall it’s an outward symbol of an inward reality and that’s different than the other views out there on baptism, baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, all of that stuff I don’t think is biblically supported. But baptism, water baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality. And really the only other issue I could talk about related to baptism is should we sprinkle or should we immerse? What do you guys think? The interesting thing is do our words in the Greek New Testament for sprinkling and pouring, you’ll find sprinkling used in 1 Peter 1:2, and pouring used in 2 Timothy 4:6. And none of those words are ever used related to water baptism.
[1 Peter 1:2, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 2 Timothy 4:6, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”’]
So if you want to really understand water baptism and what it signifies, we think that sprinkling and pouring water on people is really not the way to go. Really the way to go is what we would call full immersion in the water. And that’s why I had you open up to Mark 1:10; look at how Jesus Himself was baptized. It’s kind of interesting, a lot of people think the Bible is neutral when it comes to methods but actually when you study the Bible it’s pretty clear about methods. When you look at verse 10 it says, “Immediately coming up out of the water,” so to come out of the water means that he had to have been in the water. “…coming up out of the water He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him.” And you can cross reference that with Matthew 3:16. [Matthew 3:16, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,”]
So we believe in full immersion because that’s the way Jesus was baptized. Furthermore, the few baptisms that we have recorded in the Book of Acts that are described all seem to be talking about full immersion. You might want to flip over to Acts 8:38-39, this is the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch and his subsequent baptism. You notice what it says, “And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him  When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.” So to me that looks like full immersion because it talks about him coming “up out of the water.” Nothing here about pouring or sprinkling.
And when we actually understand what baptism represents full immersion seems to better describe the reality that we possess. So we have already been spiritually baptized into Christ, Romans 6:3, haven’t we. [Romans 6:3, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”] That’s already happened; baptism there in Romans 6 is our identification with Christ. So we have been identified with Christ. Now when we have been identified with Christ does that mean Christ gets about 97% of me? What do you think, thumbs up or thumbs down to that? Thumbs down… He gets everything. I mean I am now completely His, I have been completely identified or baptized into the transaction of Christ and so full immersion in water, baptism an outward symbol of an inward reality, full immersion in water would describe the totality of the fact that all of me belongs to Jesus. So that’s why we would immerse people fully in water to symbolize that New Testament truth.
So why immerse? Christ’s baptism, the Ethiopian eunuch’s baptism, that symbolizes our complete and total unity into Christ. And I was talking to my wife about this not long ago and she said yeah, and coming out of water symbolizes a new creation. I said what do you mean? Well it’s in Genesis, it’s in 2 Peter 3, and I said wow, that’s really good, do you mind if I use that in my Bible studies. She said no problem.
But when you go back to early Genesis what you see is creation is coming up out of water. For example, take a look if you could at Genesis 1:6, “Then God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters,” everything seems to be starting with water, “and let it separate the waters from the waters.’” So that’s the beginning of what we call the sky or the expanse which is a separation of the waters below the earth, which is the ocean, versus (this is very interesting here) the waters above the earth. If you look at verse 7 it says, “God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so.”
So in original creation there’s water and then there’s a separation between the waters below (that’s the ocean) and the waters above. And you say well, I understand the waters below, the ocean, what are those waters above? Well, I’m a believer in what’s called the canopy theory, that there was a sphere of water that at one time surrounded the earth and that’s what I think filtered the sun’s harmful rays and this sort of explains why people in the pre-flood world were living into their 900’s. I mean, Adam lived, even after falling into sin he lived 930 years. Methuselah, the oldest man that we have recorded in Scripture, his life went 969 years. And then God brought the flood and how did He bring the flood. I don’t know if I’d start a new denomination over this or anything but my perspective is God simply released the canopy that was above the earth.
And so when you get into post flood genealogy suddenly what you learn is people are not living in their 900’s anymore. They’re living to be 175, and the life span of man gradually gets curtailed. Why is that? Because the canopy which separated the earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays basically was released. And that’s what brought the flood to the earth. And I get a chuckle out of people when they say you don’t believe in a global flood do you? And they say there’s not enough water in the clouds to bring a global flood. So they’re kind of assuming that God used the rain that we see today as His mechanism. And once you start thinking that way you can’t understand early Genesis correctly because that’s what you call a uniformitarian point of view. In other words, you’re analyzing what’s normal today and pretending like that pattern has always been.
The fact of the matter is God changes the rules quite frequently in the Bible. And so my response to people who don’t believe in a global flood because there wasn’t enough moisture in the clouds, who says God used the clouds to bring the flood? I mean, He didn’t use the clouds to bring hurricane Harvey on us, right? But who’s to say that He’s always used the clouds; He could have very easily released this veil of water which was existing above. I didn’t mean to get off on all that but it’s interesting that sky, a new creation, is brought into existence from water.
And then when you go to Genesis 1:9 you see the same pattern. It says, “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so.” So where did the earth come from or “the dry land”? It came out of the water. So you see this pattern of God that He brings forth new creations out of water.
And it’s interesting, the Apostle Peter talks about this, you might want to take a look at 2 Peter 3:5, “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 2 Peter 3:5] and people say well why did Peter talk about the flood so much. Ever ask yourself that question? I mean, of all the references we have to the flood in the Bible outside of Genesis, Peter talks about the flood more than anybody else. Why is that? Well, just remember Peter’s vocation, he was a fisherman, so he liked water. And so God used the personality and the temperament and the background of the people that recorded our Scripture for us.
Why is it that Matthew brings up monetary denominations and sums of money like “talents” which was an actual monetary denomination? Why does Matthew bring that up more than any other gospel writer. He’s a tax collector. See how easy this is? In fact, there’s a story of Peter and Jesus going fishing and Peter is to catch a fish and he is to look into the fish’s mouth and see a coin in there and he’s to use that to pay his temple taxes. And I was just on the Sea of Galilee and they have a little restaurant there on the Sea of Galilee where you can eat fish from the Sea of Galilee, and they call it “Peter’s fish,” I think it’s what they call that. I looked very intently into the mouth of that fish they served me and I didn’t find a coin though.
But why is it that only Matthew records that story? You don’t find it in Mark, you don’t find it in John, you don’t find it in Luke, you only find it in Matthew. Well it makes sense because Matthew was a tax collector. Why is it that Luke records the prenatal activities of Jesus and John the Baptist more than any other gospel writer? Because Luke is a doctor or a physician, at the end of Colossians 4 you’ll see a reference to Luke the physician. [Colossians 4:14, “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas..”] In fact, Luke also wrote the Book of Acts and he talks about Judas’ suicide and he basically says he hung himself off of a tree via a rope (at least another gospel writer tells us that) and we assume the rope broke because Luke tells us that his body fell down the cliff and as his body was falling down it was brushing up against the sharp rocks and it was splitting his body open and Luke says, I think this is Acts 1, his intestines spilled out. [Acts 1:18, “Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.”]
Now I read that and I say that’s more information than I want to know; I mean, I don’t need to know about intestines. Well, if we understand that Luke is a physician we’d understand why he would talk about things like that. So it’s kind of interesting how the Lord put together our Bible. He carried along the writers of Scripture and He didn’t override who they were; He respected their histories and gifts and temperaments and that’s how the Scripture was recorded to us. It’s what we call dual authorship. Man is writing it but God is not using man as some kind of robot, He’s guiding the prophets that are recording Scripture. Anyway how did I get off onto all that?
I was just trying to explain, I think, how Peter, or why Peter talks about the flood more than anybody else and if you look at verse 5 in 2 Peter 3:5 it says, “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed” what? “out of water and by water.” So there’s another reference to a new creation coming out of water.
So I think water baptism symbolizes who we are in Christ Jesus because what are we in Christ Jesus? We are a new creation and you see that in 2 Corinthians 5:17. [2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”]
So why do we immerse in water rather than sprinkle or pour? Because the Greek words for sprinkle or pour are never used in baptism contexts. Beyond that the pattern that we have in Scripture, whether it’s Christ’s baptism, the Ethiopian eunuch’s baptism, or new creation coming into existence seems to be always coming out of water which would argue for full immersion. And beyond that full immersion best symbolizes our union with Christ because when I am baptized into Christ, Christ doesn’t get my forehead only as you sprinkle somebody; He gets all of me and full immersion best symbolizes that.
So anyway, that sort of completes our whole discussion of ordinances. Ordinances are basically rituals that God expects practiced in His church and the two that we really emphasize are the Lord’s Table (which we’re celebrating this morning) and water baptism.
And that takes us to Roman numeral XII on your outline, which means we’re almost finished with our study of Ecclesiology but don’t celebrate yet, because as you know I have the ability to take something small and turn it into something big. Right?
This last one is interesting, it hardly gets mentioned in treatments on ecclesiology or the doctrine of the church and yet it’s very, very important, and it has to do with the purity of the church. I mean, here is the church, God’s blood-bought people, His community, living in the devil’s world. So if we represent God in the devil’s world how do we keep ourselves pure or unstained from the world?
Now obviously we’re all pure positionally, we’re 100% pure “in Christ,” we’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We’re not using purity that way, here we’re talking about our practical purity. How in the world can the church keep itself practically pure in a fallen world? And to help us with the Lord has given us two tools for this: the first is ecclesiastical separation, which we’ll talk about. And the second tool is church discipline. And if these tools are not utilized and recognized and employed when needed what will happen to the church is she will just take on the pattern of the unsaved world around her. And as I’ll show you when she does that she loses her witness to the world.
So let’s talk first about ecclesiastical separation. Probably my first major lesson in ecclesiastical separation comes from my rearing in a denominational church and we were a little conservative church, Episcopalian, and suddenly we found ourselves in an institution that was drifting into worldliness. And what was happening is the Bishop in Los Angeles was ordaining homosexuals and things like that to the ministry. And it’s something that our parish didn’t believe in. And the problem is we were under a bishop rules system and this actually went to court. My father was very involved in this whole skirmish because at the time he was a member of the vestry which is sort of like… we would call it similar to the elder board today in Bible church vernacular.
And the lawsuit really had to do with the title of the property because our little grout wanted to break away and the big group, the hierarchy that we were part of, the bishop system, said NO, the property belongs to us, so now it’s a fight over who owns the title to the property. And they were sort of, the best I can explain it, trying to send us a message; they were reacting harshly against us because they didn’t want all these other little churches under their domain to break off as well. See that? So that’s an example of what do you do when you’re in that situation?
What do you do when you’re yoked to an institution that no longer honors biblical truth? I think what the Bible tells us to do is what’s called ecclesiastical separation. Ecclesiastical separation is the doctrine of, almost never spoken of today because the big push today is unity at all costs. And yet what you see in the pages of God’s Word is there’s a tool that He has given where you are to formally break away from people or groups or hierarchies that are no longer honoring biblical truth. You’re not to sit and remain in those circumstances; you’re to break away.
And sort of the logic of a lot of people is well if we break away then the salt and light will leave and all of that kind of stuff. And let me just ask you a question—if I’m standing on a chair right over here and you’re standing on the ground and holding my hand, do you think it’s easier for me to pull you up on that chair or for you to pull me off? Even though I’m a large man, even if I put my full strength into it the chances are you could probably yank me off that chair before I can pull you onto the chair. Why is that? Because the law of gravity is on your side. Right?
So that’s sort of how it works with this ecclesiastical separation; what they’ll try to do is they’re try to remain in the movement and remain in groups and remain in bodies that they know are going the wrong direction under the guise of we’re going to be salt and light to them. And generally what happens is they end up influencing you more than you end up influencing them. And so there is a biblical case for ecclesiastical separation.
Or another example; what do you do if you’re in a denomination and the seminary that feeds potential preachers for your pulpit no longer holds to biblical truth? They no longer believe in inerrancy, they’re doing all these funny things with the Bible. What do you do then? I mean, do you stay? I would say no because if you stay what you’re going to have are liberal preachers, unbiblical preachers. At some point you have to break away because what’s going to happen at the end of the day is they’re going to end up influencing you more than you’re going to be influencing them. And so that sort of weaves into this whole discussion of ecclesiastical separation.
Take a look if you could at John 17:20-23 for a minute. One of the most misquoted verses in the whole Bible is John 17:20-23. And everybody that’s promoting unity at all costs, we might call this ecumenism… what is ecumenism? It’s the urge to merge; the urge to merge with groups that don’t share your same theological belief system. That’s ecumenism. They try to find the lowest common denominator for things you can agree on and you focus on that and you forget all the differences and you all come together as one. And you quote that great theologian Rodney King, can’t we all just get along? And so everybody that’s ecumenical, and that’s the loudest voice today, the separatists have a very small voice because no one ever talks about it in church. But the ecumenists have a very loud voice, and the ecumenists are always going to be quoting John 17:20-23.
In fact the Roman Catholic Church looks at us, they call us the separated brethren, that’s what they call us. And their big push is Rome sweet home, come home to Rome, forget the Protestant Reformation, act like that never happened. In fact if you go online and you listen to some videos by Kenneth Copeland, who I don’t recommend at all because he is a prosperity preacher, I’ve notice that he is now moving heavily in the direction of ecumenism and the Protestant Reformation was a mistake and Rome sweet home and all these kind of things. And the separatism just doesn’t get a hearing because the big push today is the urge to merge.
So the Roman Catholic Church and everybody else that wants ecumenism is starting to quote… well, they’re not starting to quote, they’ve been quoting it for a long time, John 17:20-23. In fact, the very liberal World Council of Churches, which started way back sometime at the beginning of the 1900’s, I don’t remember the exact day of their birth but they’ve been quoting this Scripture as long as I have any record of what they’ve been doing. Forget conservatism, forget the Bible, it’s all get back together because Jesus wants us all to be one, John 17:20-23. So what do these verses actually say. Jesus, watch this, Jesus is not instructing the church, that’s the misunderstanding, He’s praying to the Father AND the prayer request has already been answered. Those are the two things the ecumenist will never tell you when they quote this verse.
And if that weren’t enough, number three, they chop off verse 17 and pretend like it’s not there. So… you might know this verse, Jesus is praying to the Father, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;” that would be us,  “that they may all be” what? “one;” see, we’re all supposed to be one big happy family regardless of theological differences we’re told. “but for those also who believe in Me through their word;” that would be us,  “that they may all be one even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.  The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;  I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that” look at this, if we don’t do this what’s going to happen, “so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
So the ecumenist, whether it’s the World Council of Churches or the Roman Catholic Church will come along and quote this verse and put you on a guilt trip because you’re not part of their movement. Well the reason you’re not part of their movement is because your Bible says things different than what they teach. But they will make you feel bad about yourself that you’re not part of their movement; in fact, you’re disobeying the words of Christ AND if that weren’t enough, you’re holding up world evangelization because the only way this world is going to figure out that Jesus is the Son of God is if we’re all what? All one! So that is the ecumenist’s misuse of this verse.
And I already mentioned three problems with that interpretation. Let me give you those three problems. Number one, how come they never quote verse 17? Doesn’t verse 17 come before verse 20? You guys with me on that. What did Jesus say in John 17:17? “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.” Anybody that uses verses 20-23 to teach a unity that negates truth… and that’s what ecumenism is, quit with all this Bible stuff, quit with all these doctrines you believe in coming from the Bible, just focus on the common denominators that we all have together and let’s all come together. Anybody that promotes that is promoting a false unity, number one, because the unity that Jesus is speaking of here is a unity based on truth. He says that in verse 17, which they never quote, ? “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.”
Jesus never said unity at the expense of truth. He talks about the importance of truth first and then he said let the unity be built on truth. So that’s problem number one with their misuse of this verse.
Problems number two and three I found in this wonderful quote from Lewis Sperry Chafer and look at what he says all the way back in 1947-1948 about the ecumenists abuse of John 17:20-23. John 17, as you might know, is Christ’s high priestly prayer. It’s His prayer to the Father just before the ordeal of the cross and His resurrection after that.
Lewis Sperry Chafer says concerning the ecumenists abuse of this verse, and these are very strong words, ““Thoughtless and absurd” he says, it’s not very politically correct to say something like that, “Thoughtless and absurd is the modern notion that Christ was praying that denominations which exist in this remote time,” 2000 years after the prayer, “and in a country then unknown” a completely different continent, “might become organically united in one, and therefore it is the duty of all sects to unite and thus help to answer this prayer.” So we’ve got to help poor Jesus get this prayer answered; we’ve got to, as they were saying in the movement Promise Keepers not too long ago, I went to some of these things in the early 90’s, the big thing was let the walls come down, saying that over and over again. Let the walls come down, and finally I started to figure it out, what walls were they talking about? They’re talking about doctrinal walls. They’re talking about theological walls. Well why are those walls there? Because we find those walls in the Scripture. I mean, if those walls weren’t in the Scripture we would still be Roman Catholic, right? What are they all saying at Promise Keepers? Let the walls come down, because poor Jesus, we’ve got to all come together as one to help poor Jesus get His prayer request answered and if we don’t do this we’re holding up world evangelization.
Chafer says, “Thoughtless and absurd is the modern notion that Christ was praying that denominations which exist in this remote time and in a country then unknown might become organically united in one, and therefore it is the duty of all sects to unite and thus help to answer this prayer. As indicated before, this unity is sought at the hand of the Father, indicating that it is a divine undertaking.” See what’s happening here? Jesus is praying for something that only the Father can answer. You never hear this interpretation, what you hear is this is something we’ve got to do in the 20th and 21st century. “…divine undertaking. It is that,” describing undertaking, “and it results in a unity as organic and vital as that between the Father and the Son.” So we have to bring the theological walls down so we can be as united as Jesus is with the Father in His relationship to the triune godhead, so that the world can see our love, so that world evangelization won’t be hindered. Chafer is criticizing the ecumenists misuse of this passage. He says, This prayer” watch this very carefully, “This prayer began to be answered on the Day of Pentecost” see that, “when believers were by the Spirit baptized into one Body, and is constantly answered whenever a soul is saved and thus joined as a member to the Body of Christ by the same baptism of the Spirit.” [vol. 5, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 158.]
Did you catch that? This is a prayer that’s already been answered. When was it answered? It’s the formation that something only God could do and it’s got to be something only God can do because Jesus is praying to who? The Father! He’s not giving commands to the church. He’s praying to the Father and the prayer request got answered already, 2,000 years ago. Well when was it answered? Through the universal church, the body of Christ, Christ formed one body and everybody for the last 2,000 years that has trusted in Christ has been baptized into the body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:13.” [1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”]
So number one, the prayer request has already been answered. Number two, it’s not even a command to the church because Jesus was praying to the Father. And number three, if that all weren’t enough, Jesus never talked about unity at all costs because verse 17 comes before verse 20 and in verse 17 He is talking about truth, unity on the basis of truth. [John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.  I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;  that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”]
So it’s likely you’ve been listening to sermons and teachings for your whole Christian life and you probably never had that interpretation. In fact, can I just see a show of hands? How many people have never heard the correct interpretation I just gave. That’s what I suspected, 75%-80% of the hands go up.
So don’t feel like if you’re involved in a movement that’s ecclesiastically separating from another group that you’re somehow outside the will of God and you’re somehow holding up world evangelization. That is a manipulation of the Scripture from the World Council of Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, Promise Keepers, and all of these other groups that are promoting unity at all costs.
So ecclesiastical separation is a biblical tool that God gave to the church that He expects used. So let’s look at three things: why separate, number two, what’s the biblical basis for separation, can you show me some Scriptures that teach separation, and then number three, once you decide you’re separating what exactly are you separating from?
So number one, why separate? Why separate from worldliness? Why separate from Christian groups that are becoming worldly. It’s not because you hate them, and that’s the misunderstanding; people think it’s a sign of hate and it has nothing to do with that. If you don’t separate you have to look at it from the perspective of an unsaved person, looking at a worldly church. What messages does that communicate to them? Well, it communicates to them a false sense of security because they’re going to say to themselves well, that church is worldly, and they claim to be in the light, so what’s the big deal about me being worldly. And you’re basically saying to people that worldliness is okay because actions speak louder than what? Than words; that’s why you separate, you separate because of the poor message it sends to the unsaved.
What attracted people to Christ, when you think about it, was not that He was just like everybody else. I mean what drew people to Jesus Christ like a magnet was the fact that He was different, He was unique. That’s what made Him such a draw. And we’ve got into this mindset today that in order to draw people you’ve got to become just as worldly as the culture that we’re supposedly trying to reach. And nothing could be further from the truth. We need to be different from the world; I’m not talking about being out of fashion and all that kind of stuff, and acting like the Amish. What I’m talking about is a moral quality and character that’s distinct from the world. If you emulate a moral quality and character that’s distinct from the world you’re not going to have any problem with evangelization and opportunities because people will be drawn to you and they’re going to want to know what makes you different and that creates an opportunity to share the gospel.
But if you’re exactly like everybody else in the work place in terms of behavior, lifestyle, vocabulary, things that we say and do, I mean why should an unsaved person be attracted to you; you’re just like the world I’m already in they may say to themselves. So this is the problem with not separating; it gives the world a false sense of security.
And then number three once a church becomes exactly like the culture that they’re trying to reach they lose their voice to that culture. So what happens is a loss of distinctiveness and power. And this is the problem with not separating from worldly groups; there’s a potential loss of distinctiveness and power. And probably one of the best illustrations that you have of this in the whole Bible is Lot. I have a sermon title, Are You a Lot Like Lot, because who is Lot. Well, you know what folks, Lot was a believer. You say well how do you know that? It’s in 2 Peter 2:7-8. He’s called a righteous man, not once, not twice but three times. [2 Peter 2:7-8, “and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men,  (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds).”]
He’s called a righteous man not once, not twice, but three times. And what did this righteous man do? Well, he was righteous in His position to God but when you look at the story of Lot his lifestyle certainly didn’t emulate that positon. So Lot is an example of what we would call today a backslidden Christian, a carnal Christian, a worldly Christian. And the moment Lot slid back into that condition, and it was a process, the saying is that the way to immorality is always paid through gradual compromises. Once Lot gradually slid back into that position he didn’t lose his salvation; what he lost was his distinctiveness and his power and his ability to reach those that he thought he could reach by becoming as worldly as they are. And this why ecclesiastical separation becomes a big deal.
So you might remember the story of Lot over in Genesis 13:12, and here’s the beginning of the problem, right here, Genesis 13:12, “Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and pitched” or “moved his tent towards Sodom.” He wasn’t even in Sodom and Gomorrah yet, he just sort of pitched his tent towards Sodom and Gomorrah. And Lot was a man who walked by sight. Abram, by contrast, later to be called Abraham, was a man that walked by faith. That’s why here, I think it’s in Genesis 13, Abraham says to Lot, okay, you pick what area you’re going to go to and I’ll pick what you don’t want. Why? Because Lot could see what was plush and vital and vibrant and what appealed to his senses. Abraham just simply trusted the Lord.
So the first problem with Lot is what’s going in his mind. See that? He’s not even necessarily 100% immoral yet, he’s just thinking about immorality. And so there’s where the problem starts; it starts with the arena of the mind. As the saying goes, you can’t stop a bird from flying over your head but you can certainly prevent them from building a nest in your hair. Right. We all have bad thoughts, the issue is what do we do with those thoughts? Are we ruminating on them? Are we of onto websites we shouldn’t be off into. Are we off on texting, flirtatious conversations back and forth that we shouldn’t be into, are we at the work place going out to lunch with people we shouldn’t be going out with, etc. And you just sort of thinking about immorality. And you know, private thoughts, because of the way God has wired us, will become eventually, if left unfettered, public sins. And see this is what’s going on in the mind of Lot, he’s a believer and he’s sort of pitching his tent towards Sodom and letting his mind wander down directions it shouldn’t.
The next glance we get of Lot is not only is he living in Sodom but Genesis 19:1 says he was sitting at the city gates of Sodom. Wow! The gates in Old Testament times was everything; it’s where business went down and major decisions were made. The Book of Ruth talks about things like this. And all of a sudden Lot is no longer pitching his tent towards Sodom but he’s living in Sodom and he’s actually risen to… I don’t know what we would call it, the city council level, in Sodom and Gomorrah.
And then when you go down to Genesis 19:8 now he’s offering his virgin daughters, can you believe this, to a Sodomite crowd. [Genesis 19:8, “Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.”] I mean, who in their right mind would do something like that. Well, a compromised Christian would do stuff like that. The fact of the matter is an out of fellowship Christian can out sin an unbeliever almost any day of the week. You say well why do you think that? Because Paul says to carnal Christians in 1 Corinthians, “are you not acting like mere men,” [1 Corinthians 3:3-4, “for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?”] And then he says in 1 Corinthians 5, you all are committing sins that they don’t even do in the world. [1 Corinthians 5:1, “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.”]
And he doesn’t second guess whether these people are saved. So this is what is happening to Lot, he’s drifting into this condition. The whole story of Lot ends with him in a drunken state in an incestuous relationship with his two daughters. Genesis 19:30-38. [Genesis 19:30-38, “Lot went up from Zoar, and stayed in the mountains, and his two daughters with him; for he was afraid to stay in Zoar; and he stayed in a cave, he and his two daughters.  Then the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of the earth.  “Come, let us make our father drink wine, and let us lie with him that we may preserve our family through our father.”  So they made their father drink wine that night, and the firstborn went in and lay with her father; and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.  On the following day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve our family through our father.”  So they made their father drink wine that night also, and the younger arose and lay with him; and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.  Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father.  The firstborn bore a son, and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day.  As for the younger, she also bore a son, and called his name Ben-ammi; he is the father of the sons of Ammon to this day.”]
Now we have a lot of people that teach you’ve got to persevere in good works to be saved. I don’t know what they do with the story of Lot. They end up rewriting it is what they do because when people say you have to persevere in good works to prove you’re a Christian I say what do you do with Lot. And they say well, Lot wasn’t that bad, it was his daughters that got drunk. So involuntarily we’re told he got drunk and he had an incestuous relationship with his two daughters. I find that very hard to believe. I don’t think the man started in that condition; the problem is he never corrected his thought life going all the way back to Genesis 13:12. [Genesis 13:12, “Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and pitched” or “moved his tent towards Sodom.” ]
And what I want to show you is what happened to this man’s witness to Sodom and Gomorrah because you remember the story, the angel came and said I’m going to destroy this place. In fact, verse 22 the angel says “Hurry, escape there,” notice this, he doesn’t say for I will not do anything, “I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” That’s more evidence that Lot was a believer. God could not bring judgment on the wicked city of Sodom and Gomorrah as long as Lot was there. And this is sort of a prefigurement, if you will, for the pre-trib rapture of the church, if you think about it. God is not going to bring destruction to this earth as long as His bride is there. And God said that to Lot despite the fact that Lot was living in a carnal sinful condition. So even in this condition he’s still perfectly righteous before God and he’s still exempted from coming judgment.
And people say well if that’s true, then why don’t I just go ahead and be carnal? Because you lose your distinctiveness and power to be used by God once you become carnal. How do I know that? Look at verses 14, suddenly Lot figures out what’s happening, he gets very spiritual all of a sudden, he’s got no lifestyle to back up his verbal testimony so he gets very spiritual and he tells everybody (his family was there), we’ve got to get out of this place because God is going to destroy it. And look at verse 14, “Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law who were married to his daughters,” now wouldn’t his sons-in-laws know him best? They know the man’s lifestyle. And he starts to preach a sermon to them, and he said, “Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city.” A very accurate sermon, a very accurate presentation of truth. But look at the reaction, “But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be” what? “jesting.” Now to my knowledge I think that’s the only place in the Bible that uses the word “jesting.”
So here is this carnal believer that all of a sudden gets serious about the things of God and he starts to declare the things of God but those that knew him the best, his sons-in-law attached zero credibility to what he said, because he had no lifestyle to back up his words. Do you follow?
So this is what happens to worldly churches. They don’t lose their salvation. What happens is you lost your authority to speak truth to a generation that desperately needs it. And this is why ecclesiastical separation becomes necessary. If you’re in some kind of denomination that is ordaining homosexuals… and by the way, to get to a point where you’re ordaining homosexuals to the ministry think about all of the things that have already been jettisoned a long time ago before you got to that place. I mean, the inerrancy of the Scripture—gone! Sufficiency of the Scripture—gone! Consistent literal interpretation of the Scripture—gone!
And so when a group is ordaining homosexuals or they’re moving into this transgender stuff you have to understand that they arrived at that place because they made a bunch of bad decisions a long time ago. And if you are yoked to some group, denominationally or by way of a seminary or whatever else that’s making decisions like that, what you have to understand is you should have broken away from those people a long time ago. Because using the example of the chair again, you think you’re going to be some kind of salt and light to them but they’re going to pull you down faster than you can pull them up. And so this is why ecclesiastical separation is necessary.
Now, is there a biblical basis for ecclesiastical separation? I mean, is ecclesiastical separation actually taught in the Bible. And I’ve got multiple Scriptures here. [2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 1 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Romans 16:17, Ephesians 5:11, Titus 3:9-11, 2 John 9-11] So this is New Testament church age material telling us when necessary to ecclesiastical separate.
Notice 2 Thessalonians 3:6, notice what Paul says here, “Now we command you, brethren,” that’s a command from the apostle… WOW! “We command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away” see that, “from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.” And if you go down to verse 14 it says, “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him so that you will be put to shame. I mean, very clearly there, and this is talking about people that wouldn’t work and the problem with that is if a man will not work neither shall he eat. [2 Thessalonians 3:10] And they had been told, they had been warned, no doubt they had been evangelized, they had been loved, but you have a stubborn resistant heart and so what do you do with such people? You separate from them, you don’t associate with them any more—ecclesiastical separation.
Notice 1 Corinthians 5:11, this is the incest case where a man has his father’s wife, and all the church leaders are kind of sitting around saying gosh, what do we do about this. And Paul says I’ll tell you what to do, you should have kicked this guy out of the church a long time ago, that’s what you should have done. 1 Corinthians 5:11 says, “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler– not even to eat with such a one.”
What does Solomon say in the Book of Proverbs? If you hang out with angry people you’re going to end up being angry person. So there is a place to severe the relationship. And when you talk like this people interpret it as a lack of love or hatred. It’s nothing of the kind, it’s preserving the church in its practical purity so it does not lose its effectiveness.
Now you know these verses, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, people usually apply this to marriage and of course it can apply to marriage but I don’t think Paul is specifically addressing marriage here, I think what he’s addressing is false teachers are in your midst that you should have removed from the church, that you should have separated yourselves from a long time ago.
[2 Corinthians 6:14-18, “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!  Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.  Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.”]
It’s really dealing with any intimate relationship you get into with somebody that does not share your biblically based value system. So obviously it would include marriage. If you’re thinking of forming a business partnership with somebody you might want to think about this verse because what’s going to happen is you’re going to be yoked to someone unequally. A yoke, as you know, is a giant harness that went over two animals and if they were unequally yoked together then the stronger one would influence the weaker one, and they would kind of move in a crooked direction. And so this is the problem of not practicing ecclesiastical separation and you yoke yourself to people who don’t share your belief system and what happens is they influence you more than you influence them.
But notice verses 14-18, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.  Therefore” look at this, “COME OUT” isn’t that an ecclesiastical separation? “Therefore COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.  “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.” You want the blessing of God on your life? You want the hand of God on your life. Do you want the hand of God on Sugar Land Bible Church? Then you have to cut things out that would draw us away from a practical walk of righteousness.
You know, you talk to young people today and they say you know I’m dating this unbeliever or almost as bad, I’m dating somebody, he or she is a very immature believer. And I say well why are you dating this person, don’t you know that dating is going to lead to marriage? Well, we have so much in common. Oh really, I mean what exactly do you have in common? You’re a sheep, he’s a goat; you’re going to heaven and they’re going to hell, you’re a child of God, they’re a child of the Satan, you’re on the narrow road leading to life, they’re on the broad road leading to destruction. I mean, what commonality are you talking about exactly? Well, we have the same horoscope. Oh we like the same movies. Or this one, oh, so and so is so cute. Do you not realize that in a few years the cuteness is going to disappear and the only thing you’re left with is unbeliever. I mean, if you marry a cute unbeliever what you’re going to be left with is the cuteness will be gone pretty quick and you’re just left with unbeliever. So the reality is you have nothing to do with that person other than sharing with them the gospel. You don’t yoke yourself into some kind of a relationship with them. And so that’s what’s meant by unequally yoked.
Can I jam in one more verse. Romans 16:17, and we’ll stop with this. “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned,” so people come in with false ideas, false doctrines, Paul says watch them, and then he says if necessary, “and turn away from them.” See that—ecclesiastical separation.
We have a tendency to think that all… because we’ve been brainwashed with a misinterpretation of the high priestly prayer. We think that all disunity is wrong. Have you read 1 Corinthians 11:19 lately? What does that say? Paul says, “For there must also be factions among you,” factions are a good thing, division can be for a good thing as long as it’s not something petty, as long as it’s an issue of truth. “For there must also be factions among you so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” So here it’s saying dissension for the right reason can be a good thing. And the ecumenist, I guarantee you, will never quote, NEVER, 1 Corinthians 11:19.
We’ll stop there and we’ll pick up this list next time. Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for today, grateful for Your word and what it says about something that is sort of out of vogue, out of style in modern day evangelicalism. Your Word speaks directly to the issue of ecclesiastical separation. And we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory as we learn and walk out this Bible doctrine. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen.