ON SEPARATION AND REVELATION
Penned in 2000 at 87 years of age
Following my recent vision of the world being as a tennis ball in comparison to the mighty invisible Kingdom of God, I am led to give consideration to the world as it is related to separation and then to follow on to the matter of revelation.
The main Scripture that activates me is 1 Cor 2:12 We have not received the spirit of the world (separation) but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us (revelation). Here the relationship between separation and revelation is clearly spelled out.
In the matter of separation, the main Scripture would be 2 Cor 6:17 Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. This verse emphasises the two elements of separation that are important – separation from worldliness and separation unto God.
The history of separation has had three unfortunate by-products. Firstly the monasteries of the early centuries; then enclaves of more recent times; and lastly, separationist teaching of evangelicalism. This last expression has very often devolved into a negative approach in small matters, the observance of which has given the participants a false sense of security.
Having said these things, we must not lose sight of the fact that separation is a vital doctrine and each generation must work out for itself which things affect the Spirit of God...and so avoid them. Paul understood this and assured us of the engagement of God Himself in such deliberations. He wrote Eph 1:7-8 ...in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
In the same epistle, Paul wrote with strength Eph 5:11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
James is very clear in his opinion of the matter of separation in his declaration of James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Likewise Jude 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
We should also note 1 John 2:15-16 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.
From these instructions penned of old, we can see that there are tangible, visible points of separation that are designed to enhance the spiritual life of the believer while, simultaneously keeping the believer engaged in the coal-face of humanity.
As we approach the matter of revelation resulting from separation, we are confronted with the fact that Christianity is a revelation religion. It is not a matter of outward action, ordinances and ceremonies even though these may have a meaningful foundation.
The very name of Jehovah means, “The self-existent God who reveals Himself and binds Himself with a covenant.”
Deut 29:29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
The last book of the Bible, in its opening verse - Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place...
1 Peter 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. This verse shows that, although Old Testament prophets prophesied things that they did not understand, these things would be revealed to those of the New Covenant generation. In the Galatians, Paul is most anxious to show the authenticity of his message.
Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. He continues to declare in Gal 1:15, 16 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man. With these words, he emphasises that this separation would commence a process in his life. He declares that, when he realised that he was in a revelatory state, “I did not consult with any man.” Here he is maintaining the idea that his message was not of man, neither by man.
Paul's first decision after his miraculous conversion on the Damascus road was to remain with the disciples at Damascus, undoubtedly to recover from his three days without sight and without food. Then he simply says, “I went into Arabia”. This was not for a period of three years as is often supposed but for an undisclosed time in which, as is rightly supposed, he received his special revelation from the Lord of the Church and also its purpose.
This must have set a pattern in his life. 2 Cor 12:1 ...I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. indicating that it was not unusual for him to receive such.
Gal 1:18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. After three years in Damascus, no doubt sharing his newfound experience, he went up to Jerusalem. Here he spent fifteen days with Peter and James. After a space of fourteen years he is again in Jerusalem where he has to contend with the leaders there, particularly Peter.
Gal 2:2 I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. He went by revelation and preached that Jews have no precedent over Gentiles but rather, in the body of the New Covenant, the Church is neither Jew nor Gentile but all are one in Christ. Paul often had to contend with Judaisers in his later travels but it was the revelation received in Arabia that stood him in good stead.
It would seem that there is a 'timing' element regarding revelation. Note these verses.
• Gal 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law...
• Rom 5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
• 1 Tim 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time.
Regarding the initial outpouring of the Spirit, we read Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Timing is clearly seen in these Scriptures when, in His wisdom, God saw fit to release and make known His revelation.
When we apply this truth to the present church age and accept that there can be revelation in our day, we need some guidelines. Some highlights stand out which have generally come to be accepted as truth revealed in the timing of God in the last days.
• justification by faith with Martin Luther
• sanctification by John Wesley
• social responsibility by William Booth
• modern missionary movement by Hudson Taylor
• and others.
Then came the Pentecostal revelation without an outstanding personality but with the phenomenon taking place in various parts of the world, namely England, America and Norway. It has been manifested throughout the twentieth century with various expressions of church order, both local and national, being seen.
Where “revelation” has resulted in the rise of a cult, the standard of the Word is Jude 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. and Heb 9:26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
We would take the position that all revelation as taught by Jesus and the apostles is the authentic basis for all renewals as suggested by the experience of Luther, Wesley, Hudson Taylor, etc. 2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
So how do we chart a course between the revelation received by these men and the “revelation” that has produced cults such as Mormonism, etc?
Here our guide is the Word itself. Rev 22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from
him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. Most errors in doctrine have come from adding to or taking away from the original truth and result with the consequent judgment as seen in this passage.
When believers set their hearts on a life of appropriate and Biblical separation instead of a manufactured separation, the Spirit of God visits, in His time, adding revelatory understanding, bringing the Word to life.