February 10, 2016 by Jon Law
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you
2 Corinthians 6:17
I love following instructions. The most satisfying instructions to follow are for Ikea furniture. They are simple and straightforward, making them very easy to follow. When I make a mistake and get momentarily mad towards the little paper booklet with the pictures of what my furniture should look like, I soon realise that it is my misunderstanding: I missed step 6 again! The shelf was wonky because of my (mis)interpretation, not the instructions themselves.
Throughout history, Christians have believed in the Clarity of Scripture, a truth even more emphasised after the Protestant Reformation. This teaches that the Bible is clear about the major doctrines of our faith and we don’t need to rely on people who are ‘more holy’ or ‘more intelligent’ to tell us everything. Anyone who has basic reading skills can see the plain message of the Bible.
So what do we make of verses like this? What does it mean to be separate from the world when we are surely meant to obey the Great Commission? And doesn’t God’s declaration of ‘then I will welcome you’ fly in the face of all that we are meant to believe about salvation being by grace and not works?
Well, let’s go over it again and see what we’ve missed. Perhaps Scripture can interpret Scripture for us.
Here, Paul is referencing Isaiah 52:11. In those verses, the prophet discusses two periods in Israel’s life, slavery in Egypt (Is 52:4) and, more timely to Isaiah’s ministry, the exile: ‘my people are taken away for nothing?’ (Is 52:5). God’s people are not experiencing the fullness of their salvation.
So, verses 7-10 talk about the good news: exile is over, the Lord is returning to Zion, and Jerusalem has been redeemed. All the nations can see God’s faithfulness to His people.
Now, Israel have a choice. They can return to their promised land, or remain in exile. God says, ‘come out.’ Come into the freedom I have opened up for you.
God says the same thing to us. Through Jesus, he has offered us a redemption from the ways of the world around us. Now He calls us out of our spiritual exile and into communion with Him. To leave exile is to give your life to Jesus and follow Him. Those are the ones whom God welcomes: those who, through Christ, leave their spiritual exile.
We ‘separate’ from the world by living out our faith in Christ. We are ‘welcomed by God’ from the moment our souls are redeemed from slavery. How rich is the word of God!
Where do you need to repent of ways in which you have refused to ‘separate’ from the ways of the world?
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