by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 8:58pm

Recently a friend wrote me asking about the meaning of 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1. This was my reply:

The background for this text is God’s permanent standard and rule that his people should always remain distinct from the world, which is “the domain of darkness,” Col. 1:13. God applied this principle to Israel under the Old Covenant by separating them geographically from the world; this is why he gave them the “promised land,” the land of Canaan. He commanded them to be separate from the pagans lest the latter seduce them into idolatry. In this New Covenant age, because we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to keep us strong in the face of temptation, God has commanded us to “go into all the world” (Matt. 28:18ff.). I.e., we are no longer supposed to maintain geographical separation. Our separation is spiritual; we remain separate from the world by our holy living. (I.e., instead of “holiness via separation,” we have “separation via holiness.”) The 2 Cor. text teaches us that we must maintain this separation–i.e., we must make no spiritual unions with unbelievers. This does not forbid association with unbelievers. Indeed, we must mingle with them for the purpose of evangelism. But there is a difference between redemptive friendship and brotherly fellowship. The latter we can have only with believers. The 2 Cor. text explains why this is so: we have nothing in common with unbelievers. A main application of this is that there should be no marriage between believers and unbelievers (see 1 Cor. 7:39, “only in the Lord”). Your question is, “Who is a believer?” My answer is this: anyone who has put his or her trust in Jesus for salvation, who has repented of his or her sin, who has confessed faith in Jesus, and who has been immersed into Christ in order to receive his saving grace — this person is a believer, and is a part of the body of Christ as a whole, even if not a member of a proper local church. Obviously, anyone who adheres to a non-Christian religion cannot be a believer. But what about those within Christendom who are not members of a church of Christ, as in the Restoration Movement? If they have done the things mentioned above, they belong to Christ, they are saved, they are believers — even if they are still members of a Catholic church, Presbyterian church, Methodist church, etc. We can have brotherly fellowship with them. However, in order to be fully obedient to God’s word, they SHOULD be members of a proper local church, a Restoration Movement church. Perhaps they can stay within their original church (Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.) in order to help them come to a Biblical understanding of the church and salvation, but they should also have some association with a proper local church and its eldership. This is not a matter of their eternal salvation, but is a matter of being pleasing to God (i.e., sanctification). Your brother, Jack Cottrell

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