I once witnessed an incident where a preacher happened to run into a Christian girl who had left the Holiness movement, “You look just like the world!” he exclaimed, “You’ve lost all your separation… You better quit that missions work you’ve been doing; sinners can’t take you seriously when you look just like them.” I looked the girl up and down; she was clothed from her collar bone to her ankles, a purity ring was on one finger, nail polish on her toes, and a dab of foundation and mascara on her face. I had to wonder, “Does the New Testament teach that these few things make her ‘just like the world?’” And if not, “What is biblical separation from the world?” To find answers, I examined the Holiness case for separation being outward appearance, studied the relevant passages themselves, and compared the two. Here is what I found…
Considering the Holiness Movement’s Concept of Separation
First, let’s start by examining sources which explain the Holiness Movement’s doctrine of separation from the world. In the Holiness Messenger (Volume 64, No. 1, Jan-Feb, 2019), there is a two-page article entitled “Separation and Transformation” by Rev. Dwain Galiher. The first page dives into the scriptural basis for separation, and the second page focuses on the practical application of separation.
Conformed [Romans 12:1-2] means to be shaped, molded, formed or fashioned. The Greek word used here is used in only one other place, 1 Peter 1:14, ‘As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in ignorance.’ Let’s try to get an understanding of this command, ‘be not conformed to this world.’ 1) We are Living in a Sinful World. Satan is the ‘god of this world’ and the ‘prince of this world’. John warns us that we are not to love this world, the world system, its values, morals, philosophies, ideologies, or its way of doing things. It is Godless! 1 John 2:16, ‘For all that is in the world, the lust of flesh, and the lust of eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but of the world.’ ‘…If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’ 1 John 2:15. Clearly the Bible teaches that a person cannot love the world and love God at the same time given that this world is evil, sinful, lustful, and anti-God. Yes, we are living in a sinful world. 2) We are serving a Holy God. We were saved by, and called to serve, a Holy God. Salvation is God’s plan to deliver us from sin and from Satan’s power in order to make us his holy children. However, we are still living in this sinful world, thus the command: Do not allow this sinful, evil world to shape and mold your life into its likeness. Do not allow your life to be fashioned by this world. It’s a matter of refusing to be like this world, resisting the pressure of this world. Separation! 2 Cor. 6:17-18 ‘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.’
Scripture is clear that we serve a holy God, live in a sinful world, and must not “be conformed to this world”, so on these points separation is being taught spot-on. The article goes on to teach the practical application of separation from the world, and in doing so it takes an interesting turn in topic.
Immodesty Rules the Day! Low necklines, high hemlines, splits, bare midriffs, bare shoulders, nakedness. This is not a women’s issue only, it’s for men too. When it comes to Bible principles of dress we read in 1 Tim 2:9 that we are to adorn our selves in modest apparel: clothing which covers the body and is not revealing. Modesty is not Traditional – It is Biblical! God requires that Christians dress modestly. God is also concerned about the breaking down of the distinction between men and women. Women have been wearing pants of every kind for a long time and now men are beginning to wear women’s clothing. Deut. 22:5 ‘The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.’ I know that this is an Old Testament verse, but every serious Bible student knows that if a principle from the Old is restated in the New, it still applies. So in 1 Cor. 6:9 God says that the ‘effeminate’ man will not inherit the kingdom of God. The principle of distinction is not only an Old Testament one, but a New Testament one as well…In the past several years we have also seen an explosion of the tattoo and piercing fad; however, the Bible says in Lev. 19:28, ‘Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead nor print any marks upon you, I am the Lord.’ Lev. 21:5, ‘They shall not…make any cuttings in their flesh.’ Time and space do not permit an exhaustive discussion of this matter but there must be a Separation from the World’s Fashions.
For clarification, after referencing Romans 12:1-2, 1 Peter 1:14, 1 John 2:15-16 and 2 Corinthians 6:17-18, the author applies these passages of separation in the following manner:
1) Christians will not wear low necklines, high hemlines, splits, midriff shirts or show their shoulders
2) Christian women will not wear women’s pants
3) Christians will not have tattoos
4) Christians will not have piercings
5) Christians will not wear/have things the world sees as fashionable
Questions of Context
The questions I would like to raise are as follows, “Are the above 5 statements the separation from the world that Romans 12:1-2, 1 Peter 1:14, 1 John 2:15-16 and 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 (and other passages on separation) are teaching? Are these biblical applications of Christian separation which are taught in the text? Or, have they been read into the text?”
First off, what is the scriptural connection between separation and outward appearance? Please do not assume that I do not appreciate decent dress, this is not the question. The question is, “Was the Bible referring to clothing when it referenced separation?”. 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 is actually a quotation from Isaiah 52:11-12, which reads,
11 Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. 12 For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward -Isaiah 52:11-12
This verse occurs in the context of the Jews coming out of pagan Babylon and seems to be referring to not touching the things which would make them ritualistically unclean, since they were bearing the holy vessels from the temple. The principle carries over that we as New Testament Christians are also commanded to walk carefully in holiness, but the connection to clothing does not appear to be in either passage.
The author continues by specifically naming off what immodest looks like. He quotes 2 Timothy 2:9, “modest apparel” but then specifically refers to a shoulder or part of the leg as immodesty, which is something 2 Timothy does not clarify. Scripture stays vague on how to define and apply modesty; it teaches a general principle with one single word, “modest,” and leaves the specifics to be discerned by individual Christians, as they strive for sexual purity. So, what is Rev. Galiher’s biblical basis for teaching hemlines and sleeves as a part of the biblical principle of separation? Where in any of the cited passages is there a key-in which leads us to believe clothes are our distinction? Where’s the link?
He then transitions from modest clothing to gender distinct clothing. It is true that the New Testament teaches against being transgender or bisexual, and attempting to appear as the opposite sex would be directly associated with these sins, but where does scripture teach against wearing unisex clothing or women wearing women’s pants? Considering the fact that when God Himself designed clothing for a man and a woman He made them both tunics (and not two distinct types of clothing) it seems odd to think the Bible later teaches that the clothing types must be entirely different. Furthermore, if completely different types of clothing for men and women is the biblical teaching of what separation looks like, where is that concept in any of the passages on separation?
The closest link the author can find is teaching against being “effeminate”, but a deeper look into the meaning of this word quickly reveals that this passage has nothing to do with clothing. Check out this research compiled by Never Thirsty:
The Greek word for “effeminate” is malakos. The noun refers to “the passive male partner in homosexual intercourse—”homosexual.” The literal sense of the word was “fine, clothing delicate to the touch.” Vincent writes “Luxurious and dainty.” The word is used in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25 to refer to a man dressed in soft clothing. Baltz and Schneider translate malakos as “examples of passive homosexuality.” Finally, Danker and Bauer explain that the word in 1 Corinthians 6:9 refers, “to being passive in a same-sex relationship., effeminate . . . of men and boys who are sodomized by other males . . .” The Greek for homosexual in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is arsenokoites. The noun refers to “one who takes the active male role in homosexual intercourse.” …Loua and Nida summarize these two Greek words with this statement, “It is possible that arsenokoites in certain contexts refers to the active male partner in homosexual intercourse in contrast with malakos, the passive male partner.” The majority of the Bible translators agree that this is the meaning of the Greek text. The NET Bible captures the correct sense of the Greek text,
A bit of research will reveal that Greeks viewed it possible to participate in homosexual acts without being gay, depending on the man’s act/role. Paul refused to let the cultural understanding taint his meaning, so he covered all bases. That said, this clear strong teaching against any/all homosexual acts is certainly not a clear and strong teaching on clothing.
Moving on, I would like to point out that the author acknowledges the fact that an argument solely from the Old Testament law is not stable. He says, “I know that this is an Old Testament verse, but every serious Bible student knows that if a principle from the Old is restated in the New, it still applies.” However, in the same paragraph, he goes on to make an argument against tattoos and piercing, and he only quotes a scripture in Leviticus.
28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord. -Leviticus 19:28
If he had a New Testament scripture against tattoos and piercing, why didn’t he use it? And if there is no New Testament scripture against tattoos and piercing, why did he bring them up? Let’s check out the context of Leviticus 19:28. The verse directly before it reads,
27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. -Leviticus 19:27
If verse 28 teaches that separation from the world entails no tattoos, then why shouldn’t we teach verse 27 as biblical separation? It’s the same passage. If this passage is about biblical separation, then, to be consistent, Christian men must not shave/trim their facial hair, or even cut the hair on the edges of their heads.
Back to the article,
This World is trying to shape and mold your life yet this is nothing new. The world in Paul’s day tried to shape and mold the lives of Christians and when they refused, they were persecuted and executed. In 2019 we are still at odds with this world when it comes to morality, modesty, materialism, and the real meaning of life. Separation!…YES – there must be a visible, physical, practical separation from the world.
If anything stands out in this paragraph it should be the second sentence. “The world in Paul’s day tried to shape and mold the lives of Christians and when they refused, they were persecuted and executed”. It is very true that early Christians were separate from the world and that because they would not conform they were persecuted and executed. But how were they different from the world? What made the Jews and pagans so outraged with the apostles? What were they persecuted and killed for? It wasn’t for their clothes! They were never pressured because their women dressed in an uncultural manner, they were never persecuted because their hems were to the floor, they were never killed because they laid aside their jewelry. Persecution and separation had nothing to do with the early Christians outward appearance. Let’s look at Acts to see what the persecution was caused by,
14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) 15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. 16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. 17 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison…the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree… -Acts 5:14-18, 28-30
The early Christians were being persecuted, because they would not stop sharing Jesus! They kept on teaching and preaching in His name, proclaiming the gospel with boldness, healing the sick, and casting out demons; they were full to overflowing with the power and love of Christ and multitudes were being saved because of it. This is how the early Christians were totally different from their culture, and this is why they were hated and killed. If we want to compare our pressure to conform in America 2019 to the persecution of the 1st century, let’s make sure we’re being hated for the same, biblical separation for which they were hated.
So what is the biblical teaching on separation? The only way is to know is to study the relevant passages.
Examining the Biblical Passages on Separation
First, there are three general categories of Christian separation. There is Christ’s separation of Christian’s, the world’s separation from Christians, and the separation by Christians. The Christian’s practical role in separation is the main focus of this article, but we will begin by taking a look at a key passage from the other means of separation.
22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. -Luke 6:22-23
This type of separation, or rather rejection, is stated as for the sake of Christ. There are multiple ways this could be interpreted, but the parallel to the prophets’ rejection is a great clarification. From Elijah to Isaiah, the prophets were rejected by their cultures due to preaching against sin and proclaiming a message of only one God. This is the same rejection that Christ received and that he also warns his followers to expect in John.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another. 18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. 23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. -John 15:17-25
So, why does the world/culture have a tendency to hate, persecute, reject and separate from Christians? (1) Christians are not of/like, or belonging to the world, (2) Christians are chosen by and belonging to Christ, (3) For Jesus’ name sake (5) They do not know God (6) The preaching of Christians uncovers their sin (7) Without a cause.
Matthew 25 is another key passage dealing with separation. This one demonstrates the perspective of God and how He will separate the world from the Church upon His return.
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me….41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not…46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. -Matthew 25:31-36, 41-43, 45
This passage clearly lists and contrasts the behavior of the Christian from the behavior of the non-Christian. These listed differences are so significant that they are able to be used as evidence of an authentic relationship with God; Christ Himself is using them to separate out His sheep. Thus, they result in different eternal states. Let’s consider these contrasted behaviors carefully:
(1) Feeding the hungry/thirsty vs. not doing so
(2) Taking in strangers vs. not doing so
(3) Clothing the naked vs. not doing so
(4)Visiting the sick vs. not doing so
(5)Visiting prisoners vs. not doing so
God used the above 5 behaviors to separate out true Christians from unbelievers. Thus, they are reliable indicators of biblical separation.
Let us now examine the scriptures which the Holiness Messenger used in regards to separation. These scriptures primarily fall into the third category, which includes scriptures on Christians separating themselves.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. -Romans 12:1-2
If a Christian has presented himself to God in holiness, if he does not conform to the world, if his mind is renewed leading to transformation, then he will be able to prove the good/acceptable/perfect will of God. What will this separated lifestyle look like? The context of the rest of Romans 12 provides an amazing portrait of this set-apart life.
1) Humility (vs 3, 16)
2) Soberness (vs 3)
3) Operating with unity and diversity within the Church (vs 4-5)
4) Use in spiritual gifts: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhorting, giving, authority, mercy (vs 6-8)
5) Genuine love (vs 9)
6) Hatred of Evil, Clinging to goodness (vs 9)
7) Kind affection (vs 10)
8) Brotherly love (vs 10)
9) Preferring each other with honor (vs 10)
10) Hard working in business, not lazy (vs 11)
11) Serving the Lord with a fervent spirit (vs 11)
12) Rejoicing with those who rejoice and rejoicing in hope (vs 12, 15)
13) Patience in tribulation (vs 12)
14) Continually praying (vs 12)
15) Giving towards the needs of Christians (vs 13)
16) Hospitality (vs 13)
17) Blessing persecutors (vs 14)
18) Compassion (vs 15)
19) Unity among believers (vs 16)
20) Forgiveness, no revenge (vs 17, 19-20)
21) Honesty (vs 17)
22) Living in peace with everyone (vs 18)
23) Feeding/giving to the needs of enemies (vs 20)
24) Overcoming evil with good (vs 21)
Anyone familiar with human nature will realize that the lifestyle described above is radically different from the world, and this is the context of the command to be transformed rather than conformed to culture. Clearly, the two are linked.
The Greek word for “conformed” (συσχηματίζω, suschématizó) is also used in 1 Peter 1:14, just as the Holiness Messenger states, so let us also examine this passage.
14 As obedient children, not fashioning [conforming] yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; -1 Peter 1:14-15
What are the lusts from the former days of ignorance? The word “lust” here is ἐπιθυμίαις (epithymiais) and it refers to exactly what it sounds like, sexual passion/coveteousness. The command to refuse conforming to these wordly, old ways is not surprising at all. Holiness and sexual purity are linked dozens of times throughout the Bible; both are drastically different-separated-from cultural norms. The word “conversation” (ἀναστροφῇ, anastrophē) has a more modern definition of conduct. A command towards holiness in all manner of conduct makes perfect sense in light of this passage commanding Christians to be different, unconformed to the world, in the way they handle their sexuality.
The next passage with the Holiness Messenger’s article references is 1 John 2:15-16. It is absolutely correct that this passage teaches us to not “love the world” or the things in the world. However, what is John referring to by “things of the world”? Does he mean the culture’s stores, fashions, fads, and trends? Should Christians abstain from shopping at Cato’s, Joseph A Banks, and Walmart since these stores “of the world”? Should Christians take caution that their homes are never decorated with the latest Hobby Lobby fads? Should we religiously forgo fidget spinners, patterned socks, Crocs, and anything else that comes as a trend? And should we stay away from maxi skirts and popular suit styles since these are culturally fashionable? Maybe first century robes and camel hair would be a more separated, Christ-like option with this train of thought. With so many possibilities of interpretation, how can we discern the “things of the world”? It’s super simple. John continues the passage by clarifying exactly what he means. Read closely.
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. -1 John 2:15-16
What are the “things of the world”?
1) Lust of the flesh
2) Lust of the eyes
3) Pride of life
These are the things we must not love or take part in as sanctified believers. “Lust” comes from the same root word that “lust” in 1 Peter came from. “Flesh” is referring to the physical body and/or the carnal nature. “Eye” could be the literal eye, or the mind’s eye. “Pride” is referring to an unhealthy self confidence, similar to bragging, and is interchangeable with the word “vaunting”. “Life” can either be taken as literally that, or as the Greek definition mentions “by implication the means of livelihood”.
One more time, what are Christians commanded not to love? The sensual lust/covetousness which our physical/fallen nature gravitates towards, the sensual lust/covetousness which eyes and minds’ eyes stray towards, the bragging attitude of pride in ourselves and/or our careers.
It is true that there are existing things which could stir up these wrong attitudes. Christians must apply common sense and personal conviction to decide what they should avoid. A few examples would be sexual fantasy (mind’s eye), pornography, raunchy bars, or even home magazines, job promotions, and expensive cars if these latter things will cause vaunting or covetousness for the particular individual.
The last passage we will look at is 2 Corinthians 6:17-18.
16 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. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.-2 Corinthians 6:16-18
This passage is referencing back to Isaiah 52:11, in which those who were responsible for carrying the holy vessels were charged to come out of Egypt slowly with caution, so as not to defile themselves in accordance with Old Testament ritual.
11 Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. -Isaiah 52:11
Throughout 2 Corinthians 6-7, Paul makes the case that rather than dwelling in a building, the Spirit of God now dwells in individual believers, and rather than it being necessary to keep literal vessels pure, there now must be utmost caution for Christians not to defile their bodies. What does this purity look like? The context gives us several clues.
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? -2 Corinthians 6:14-15
7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. -2 Corinthians 7:1
Many would interpret 6:14-15 (the passage directly before) as referring to a caution against marriage with unbelievers, while 7:1 (the passage directly afterwards) speaks of ridding ourselves of “filthiness” in the spirit and the physical body. The Greek word for “filthiness”, μολυσμός/molusmos, has a direct translation of “immorality”. This concept is made increasingly clear in the echoing passage of 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7.
3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. -1 Thessalonians 4:3-7
“Holiness”, “uncleanness”, “vessel”, do these words sound familiar? Yes. Paul is re-giving his message from 2 Corinthians 6-7. He is again paralleling the purity of our physical bodies to the meticulous, ritual cleanliness of temple vessels in the OT. Yet, this context is quite clear, he is teaching against the defilement of sexual immorality.
After examining the biblical passages on separation from the world, it is very clear that this is a critical concept. Christians are to be radically set-apart from the world, living and looking like Christ. We will be separate because we will be hated for Christ’s name sake (Luke 6:22). We will be separate because we belong to Christ and not the world (John 15:19). We will be separate because we proclaim the gospel which convicts of sin (John 15:22-24). We will be separate because we will feed the hungry, take in strangers, clothe the naked, visit the sick and visit the prisoners (Matthew 25:31-36). We will be separate because we will live out the humble, compassionate, generous, hospitable, simple, honest lifestyle laid out in Romans 12. We will be separate because we will refuse to go back to our former, ignorant and lustful lifestyles, and instead, we will conduct ourselves in a holy manner (1 Peter 1:14-15). We will be separate because we will turn away from the things of the world: the lust of the eyes, lust of the sinful nature, and boasting of life (1 John 2:15-16). We will be separate because we will keep our bodies pure and holy, clean from all sexual immorality (2 Corinthians 6:16-18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). And lastly, Jesus states, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35). We will be separate from the world by our love; our overflowing, unifying, selfless, unconditional, Christ-like love (Ephesians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 1 Timothy 2:15, Titus 2:4).
My question, then, is why did the Holiness Messenger skip from these passages to teaching separation as wearing sleeves, laying aside wedding rings, the necessity of long skirts and pants, abstaining from tattoos and piercings, and the sinfulness of women wearing women’s pants? Where is the missing link? Is this the separation that scripture teaches? Are these applications read into the text or read out of the text? I’ll let you decide.
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You asked the question, “Was the Bible referring to clothing when it referenced separation?”. As far as I can tell, Paul was not referring to any particular issue, but rather giving a general principle (separation from the world), which could be applied to many issues (i.e. clothing, finances, relationships, entertainment, politics, etc.) So I think Bro. Galiher is doing no injustice to the text by applying it to clothing here, especially since suggestive clothing is one of the most glaring sins of our society. As to why the Holiness Messenger “skipped” passages to deal with clothing, the end of the article in question did address the need for dedication in other areas of the Christian life, such as worship, fellowship, and outreach to the less fortunate.
Although I have seen these passages used to refer to the separation from the world by appearance, often I have seen them used to refer to separation of where we go. It was used to prove we could not go to the fair, amusement park, bowling alley, skating rink, movie theater etc. we were allowed to go to school, church and shopping but no where that sinful people might be having fun. When I was about 27, I went to a skating rink on “Christian “ skate night – only church groups there and Christian music playing as we skated. I fell and broke my wrist and was told that it was my punishment for going to a place I know that Jesus would not have wanted me at. While I believe we should be about our Father’s business, I don’t see anything wrong with clean wholesome entertainment and to be total honest, I was there as a sponsor for a church teen group leader. If I can’t go to a fair because sinful people are there, maybe I shouldn’t go to the grocery store either? Walmart? Coffee shop? My job? If I separate myself from places where there are sinners, how will I ever witness to them?
Hi! Thanks for pointing out that the author of the Holiness Messenger’s article did mention some other areas in which we ought to apply the principle of separation from the world. I went back and ran a few word counts, this is what I found: the area of personal devotions was given 6 words, prayer and worship were given 10 words, evangelism and outreach were given 14 words, Church unity and fellowship were given 18 words, inward change was given 21 words, and clothing/outward appearance were given 378 words, along with being the first topic addressed. That’s 5 1/2 times more speaking on clothing than all of these other topics combined! Unfortunately, this ratio is normative for Holiness sermons, and it is completely backwards from the way in which scripture emphasizes. We have majored on the minors for so long that we’ve inverted their importance.
The Holiness Messenger’s article was not a study of what the biblical authors intended by the phrase “separation from the world,” instead it seems to be an assumption of what they meant and a declaration of how we ought to apply that assumption. Please understand that I have nothing against the minister personally; I respect him, his church, and the work he does for Christ greatly. This just happens to be a fitting example of an all too common practice. This type of quoting a passage and then immediately giving very specific applications (that are not even mentioned in the text) is not healthy exegesis or exposition of a passage. It circumvents discipleship. It neglects to show believers how to discern meanings from scripture, instead, it just stamps meanings onto scripture.
For more on this topic, check out our articles, “Replacing Rules with Discipleship,” “Where Do ‘We’ Draw the Lines,” and “Beware of Compromising Holiness.”