Today, it seems that everyone, whether saved or unsaved, wants to be accepted for what they are doing in their lives. Tolerance is the new big thing to do and if you aren’t then you are the intolerant one. Fortunately, God gives us some instructions of what we are and are not to tolerate. I call this the Dividing Line.
2 Corinthians 6:17-18 teaches that God expected both the children of Israel and the New Testament believers to be separated from sin. The question is how far does separation go? Today people divide over, what I believe, are many insignificant issues. The question of separation was settled in the first century church. In the book of Acts there were Jewish believers who confronted Gentile believers about their need to be obedient to the Law of Moses. The debate got so intense that the Bible says that these Jewish believers were accusing their Gentile brothers of not being saved. In Acts 15:1-5 you will notice these were actually Pharisees that believed, yet they were demanding that the Gentiles prove their faith by keeping the Law of Moses.
The tension got so bad that Paul and Barnabas went to the rest of the Apostles in Jerusalem and sought counsel. At the conclusion of the debate James, the pastor of the first church in Jerusalem, stood up and made the following declaration in Acts 15:19-20. I believe that from this passage of scripture we can see four basic areas where God calls us to divide from brothers who may call themselves believers. These lines of division are:
- Pollution of Idols
- Things Strangled (offensive things)
Pollution of Idols
Abstaining from the pollution of idols is the fact that these Christians were not to honor false gods because the Bible teaches that there is only one true God, Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12, John 8:58, Philippians 2:9-11, Revelation 8:1
Jesus Christ is the One true and living God. He is Jehovah in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament. If someone calls himself a believer and worships any other god but Jesus Christ, then he is a false believer. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus Christ is God; therefore, we should not fellowship with them and the Mormons believe in a multiplicity of gods. Liberal theology and liberal churches deny the virgin birth, the blood atonement, and the deity of Jesus Christ making them non-believers. The Bible teaches us very clearly and the Apostles believed that if someone claimed to be a Christian but worshipped false gods they were to be separated from.
The second area for believers to separate over is fornication. Today, only 26% of American children live with their original father and mother still at home. Our nation is filled with fornication. Fornication is any type of sexual sin. Pornography, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, bestiality, polygamy, adultery, and divorce are all different forms of fornication. God makes it clear that when a brother is involved in fornication we should separate from him. Fornication destroys your soul, your mind, your emotions, and your health. You won’t think right, you won’t feel right, and you won’t have will power to say no to sin. The Bible says it brings a dishonor that will not go away. 1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Corinthians 5:11, Proverbs 6:27-33
The third area of division is over what is offensive to other believers.
In Leviticus 7:26-27, God told the Israelites to not eat meat that had blood still in it. The person involved in eating meat that was strangled, would have been participating in something that was particularly offensive to Jewish believers. James makes a point in Acts 15:21, that everyone would have been aware of this truth. I believe this passage goes hand in hand with 1 Corinthians 8:1-11, and 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, which teaches us that we ought not to do anything that is offensive toward anyone. If I know that a particular action, whether it is eating, drinking, wrong type of music, or immodest apparel, is a particular offense to other believers and will hurt my testimony for Christ then I ought to abstain from it. Believers who are purposely doing things that offend other believers are to be separated from.
In Genesis 9:4-6, God teaches us that we need to have a healthy respect for life and that if one man sheds another man’s blood, his blood should be shed by man. I believe when God tells us to abstain from blood He is talking about having respect for life. Therefore, as a believer, I should flee any thoughts of revenge, murder and suicide which are a part of the culture of death that we live in today. For that reason, we should be careful what we view. Video games, television, movies, magazines, and books are filled with graphic bloodshed, murder, and the glamorization of death. God wants His people to respect all life. We need to absolutely abstain from the culture of death.
These are the restrictions the Apostles placed on the other believers. I think if they are good enough for the Apostles, they are good enough for us. There needs to be a division or separation from sin and there will be believers I cannot fellowship with. Let’s stick with what the Apostles said and not make up our own dividing line.