Nepaug Bible Church - - Pastor's Prayer Meeting Lesson Notes -

Part VI: Understanding The LIMITS Of Separation And Fellowship In Ministry
(Mark 2:13-20)
  1. Introduction
    1. While serving the Lord, we are called of God to withdraw fellowship of ministry with those who overtly deny the Incarnation of Jesus Christ (2 John 9-11) and from those who teach another gospel , Gal. 1:8-9.
    2. In fact, Scripture commands us to hold aloof from even fellow brethren in Christ who walk contrary to the teachings of the Word of God, cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:14.
    3. On the other hand, we see Jesus Himself eating with publicans and sinners in Mark 2:15-16. How can Jesus do that if we are to separate from apostates and disobedient brethren in Christ?
    4. Mark 2:13-20, when understood properly, shows us a total conformity with Paul's commands as follows:
  2. Understanding The LIMITS Of Separation And Fellowship In Ministry, Mark 2:13-20.
    1. When Jesus ate with the "sinners" and publicans, the people He ate with were not Biblically off limits:
      1. The term "sinner" did not relate to those under Biblical excommunication, but were a class of people who were untaught in the man-made regulations of the Pharisees to the extent that the Pharisees considered them too unhallowed to be around, Bib. Know. Com., N.T., p. 113.
      2. Additionally, the publicans, though vile sinners who took financial advantage of their Hebrew countrymen as tax gatherers for Gentile rulers, were nevertheless interested in what Jesus had to say as unbelievers needing salvation! This would be akin to a missionary penetrating the jungles of Zaire to reach a stone age tribe of violent cannibals. It was Biblical to be there under these conditions!
      3. Additionally, Matthew, the recently saved publican, had invited Jesus to dine with him along with his former publican associates as a witnessing opportunity--not as comrades in financial crime, Mk. 2:14f.
      4. Accordingly, as this opportunity arose to minister to very spiritually diseased people who were at least open to hearing His word, Jesus ate with them to evangelize them, Mark 2:17.
      5. Summary: since the people with whom Jesus ate were not under excommunication bans as Scripture laid them out, but were ordinary, lost people interested in what Jesus had to say regarding salvation, it was as fitting for Him to eat with them as it would be for a missionary in Zaire to eat in a lost, stone age man's hut and share the gospel with him and his friend s!
    2. On the other hand, Scripture emphatically clarifies where we are to draw lines of separation as follows:
      1. If an unbeliever REJECTS our gospel to the point where he tries to promote a FALSE gospel in opposition to us, or tries to DENY our claim to Christ's incarnation or deity, then we must withdraw contact with that unbeliever, 2 Jn. 9-11; Gal. 1:8-9. However, if an unbeliever is OPEN to our gospel, or is not antagonistic to the incarnation or the gospel in his ignorance, we are to mingle with him with the purpose of evangelizing, Mk. 2:14-17.
      2. If a believer openly RESISTS the teachings of Scripture in no uncertain terms, then we are to withdraw close fellowship with him due to that RESISTANCE so he will be ashamed and repent, 2 Thess. 3:14. However, if it is ignorance or confusion that keeps believers from obeying the Lord, we are to seek to communicate the truth to them rather than withdraw, as w ithdrawing would only confuse and fail to disciple in making them feel guilty unto repenting, cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-3.
Lesson: Jesus did not violate Paul's orders regarding separation from apostates or disobedient brethren. Jesus mingled with people who were sinners, but who realized they were in need and were open to His word. To have separated from them would n ot have communicated the truth, but confused the issue in violation of the discipling process. Paul commanded separation from sinners who were intent on making TROUBLE against such efforts of discipleship, and withdrawing from them is needed for self defen sive purposes and for convicting purposes in the discipling process.

Application: Whether to separate or not to separate from an unbeliever or a believer should be determined by how that move will be understood. If one is ignorant, he needs to be mingled with so he can have a chance to come to the truth. However, i f he is rebellious, he needs to be avoided!