Exhortation To Separation
By Bill Mosley
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee" (Titus 2:11-15)
This is one of four times in this epistle to Titus that Paul uses the term "exhort." It means to "invite, invoke, entreat" a given request for a desired end. His desire for Titus to earnestly admonish the believers to godliness on the island of Crete is more than nonchalant. There is no doubt Titus' responsibility was to the churches in the various towns on the island of Crete. "Elders" and "bishops" were God ordained offices in the church. The exhortation itself is evidence that the people in these churches needed to be impelled to forsake ungodliness (leave it alone or behind). Impiety must have been prevalent in the area of worldly lusts in that society as it obviously is in our society today. The condition of the society around them is revealed in Titus 1:12: "One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies." Hardly any revelation of the character of the inhabitants of Crete could have been any less complimentary. The stark truth was that the believers were to be on guard lest they fall into the same condemning condition or be enticed to follow their worldly maneuvers.
Why would this warning be necessary and is it needful today? The fallen nature of man is not eradicated even though he is free from eternal condemnation through the new birth. A close daily fellowship with the Lord is the only safe condition in which to abide for protection. For this fellowship to be enhanced in church members there must be an exerted effort on the part of pastors/preachers to preach and teach separation from the world and for the hearers to comply. The doctrine of biblical separation has fallen by the wayside in much of so-called religious activity today. From ministry to music the idea of change permeates the minds of many one time apparently committed souls. The fear of losing the youth of "our church families" to ways of the world is not cured by lowering standards in the church to the level of the world. Yet it is obvious that many church leaders feel that is the only possible alternative. What a shame it is to have so little respect for God's best gift to our families to think the youth we have been given have not the ability to comprehend the preaching of the old Book in the same manner as their forefathers. How sad when pastors/youth leaders will not face the issue of proper Bible guidance in dress and activity. Modesty may be old fashioned by the standard of many but God's assessment of modesty for both sexes remains the same. I wonder if God should send a single message to the pastors of even some Baptist churches today if the description of "slow bellies" might not fit as well now as then? Too spiritually frail to stand and too spiritually foolish to strengthen anyone in the congregation.
From the time Abraham was called from among his kinsman to obediently follow the Lord, both Abraham and his descendants received strict instructions concerning separation. From circumcision to clothing to cultivation God issued definite instruction (Gen. 17:11; Deut. 22:9,11). All of the Lord's directives were for the purpose of identifying His people from the general population of the earth. That by any language is defined as separation whether in Hebrew, Greek, or English. They were to be separate in worship, weddings, working, and wealth. Though the promise from the Lord was to feed them from the good of the land they did not have permission to flounder in the substance of the world.
They were to worship the one and only true God and Him only were they to serve (Exo. 20:1-3). This was emphasized repeatedly as Israel was being prepared for possessing their land as well as afterwards (Deut. 6:4,5; 11:1). Our Lord Jesus Christ used these very words as He endured Satan's attack on His Sonship (Matt. 4:10). Later when one of the Sadducees questioned Jesus concerning the greatest commandment He answered in this manner: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matt. 22:37). This definitely separates the Lord's own from those who will not consider being confined to such devotion. They were to regard the slightest inclination to depart from the worship of the one true God as a desecration of worship. Achan, no doubt a good soldier in Joshua's army, took his eyes off the true goal for only a moment and lost all future accomplishments that might have been (Josh. 7). The people responded to God's cure for their terrible trespass and God's people were once again blessed by His divine victory. This is comparable to Paul's instruction to the church at Corinth when he said, "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:..." (I Cor. 5:7). There was open and known fornication in the church at Corinth and it must be dealt with in a manner prescribed by God's Word. The man must be excluded if the church would have the Lord's blessing. Too often the cry today is, "If that is done someone is going to get their feelings hurt." Or: "That family has been in the church since it started and has contributed much to it's welfare." So has the Lord who is the great Head of the His body, the church. Flesh has a way of accepting the vilest of sin when it takes on the family name. Removal of body parts is never without pain but it is often a must if health is to be regained. The spiritual integrity of the body of Christ is of much greater magnitude than family relationships on earth.
Jesus said this to His disciples for good reason: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me" (John 15:4). When the believer's eyes shift from the Savior to self it will soon cause a spiritual disorder akin to that of Israel in Exodus 14:12: "Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness." The sad truth is that far too often believers use the same logic when it seems the world has a better remedy for their spiritual ills than the Lord. Hence, entertainment replaces evangelism, earthly fun replace eternal joy, and telling stories replaces teaching scriptures. When assistants to the pastor are hired for the sole purpose of occupying the youth of the church in other than God honoring activities the future of that church is "no need for a scriptural pastor." They simply will need another entertainer. There is no biblical evidence the Lord's church has the responsibility to keep the youth involved in extracurricular activity until they decide whether or not to accept the biblical preaching of separation. However, the church does have the responsibility to teach parents to bring up their children in the biblical way and when they are old (of age) they will not depart.
In the first six verses of Titus chapter two Paul urges every age group to be sober. Although sober does not mean somber it does indicate there is a seriousness about service to our Lord. It means to be sound in mind, i.e. self-controlled; discreet, sober, temperate. Adherence to the word and not acceptance by the world is the standard by which the Lord appraises service. "Give us a king," was Israel's cry in (I Samuel 8:6). What a grief this was to the heart of God as well as to the prophet, Samuel. In the Lord's parable of the nobleman in Luke chapter nineteen we hear the cry of Israel: "We will not have this man to rule over us," (Luke 19:14). These two fleshly declarations have only taken on modern day terminology. The cry of liberal leaders today is, "We are in the 90's and times have changed." "Legalism!" is shouted to all courageous souls that take a stand against mixed swimming at youth camps. It is a rare sight today to see so-called Christian youth camps (even those sponsored by Baptists) that have separate hours for swimming for male and female. Almost as rare if not equally as rare also to see at said youth camp where their pastors/youth directors/sponsors have not disgraced the word and work of Christ by joining the participants in like swim attire.
What a sad appraisal is made upon this group to whom Titus was writing. To say that Paul was a legalist in writing such instructions to Titus is to ignore the doctrine of divine inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16). To imply what the churches of Crete needed could not apply to churches today in the same condition is either hypocritical or ignorance. The Lord's church has no more business in the things of the world that draw attention to or inspire the flesh than did Israel in longing to return to Egypt. Israel was experiencing some difficulty in their travels since their deliverance. This is sure to happen when a person is delivered from sin to salvation. The Lord's church was not given a cushion but a commission. A great injustice is committed by any who declare the Christian life to be easy. It certainly is a better way but it is not an easy road. For it to be suggested to young people that Christianity is a bundle of fun and jokes conveys a false witness and ruins lives as well. There is not one recorded incident or inclination in the Bible where entertainment is the means of keeping the flock happy or enticing others to serve the Lord. Never is "fun" engaged in to lift the troubled heart but the joy in the Lord is the believers strength in the midst of trials (Neh. 8:10).
Hear our Lord's Words concerning discipleship:"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it" (Luke 9:23,24).This certainly does not appear to be a life of hilarity. But it is indeed a life of joy in the Lord. Jesus on numerous occasions made His followers aware of the cost of discipleship. He exhorted them that counting the cost and preparation for the battle was of great essence in discipleship (Luke 14:28-33). Of course no disciple of Christ can foresee the future and all the trials that lay ahead. Believers must keep their eyes on the wonderful Savior and not the worldly system or we will have failed before we start.
The instructions Paul gave Titus to follow when he arrived to minister on the island of Crete are as relevant today as then. People are as prone and maybe more vulnerable today to feel as Israel did in (Exo. 14:12). Taking the land of service to Christ is not without discipline. Listen to the wise man's inspired comment in (Prov. 15:21) "Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly." Wisdom is still justified of all her children when it comes to wisely serving our Lord in biblical separation. (Luke 7:35).
BACK TO: Plains Baptist Challenger - July 1998
E. L. Bynum, Pastor
1911 34th Street
Lubbock, Texas 79411