Answer to Correspondence—
(1). What is the difference between separation from evil and division?
(2). Are “vessels to dishonour” mere professors only? (2 Tim. 2:20).
(3). Can 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, be applied to the same persons and purposes as 2 Timothy 2:19-21?
No. 1.—How comforting and encouraging it is to have the Word of God to turn to, especially in days such as the present, when the carnal mind of man has written confusion upon everything that professes the name of Christ upon earth. May both reader and writer have their confidence so increased in its infinite perfection and ability to meet the whole need of the believer in his earthly path, that nothing shall be able to divert him from even one of its simplest statements.
As to the first question, separation from evil is always necessary. “That Thou shouldest keep them from the evil” is the desire of the heart of Christ, expressed regarding His own in the ear of the Holy Father (John 17:15). But this evil is supposed to be in the world, not in the Christian community. The latter is composed of those who were, when in the flesh, nothing but evil, but who have been “washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
But all the evil that is rampant in the world is ever ready to spring up in the Christian assembly (for the flesh is in us, if we are not in it), and it will spring up if we are not watchful.
But if it springs up in the Christian assembly it must be purged out (1 Cor. 5:7), or if this is impossible I must purge myself out (2 Tim. 2:21). This is likely to cause division where no division should be (1 Cor. 1:10), but for this the Lord will not hold me responsible, as it is He Himself who has enjoined this principle of separation from evil upon me. In this case the sin of division must lie at the door of the one who brings in the evil.
No. 2.—“Vessels to dishonour” are evidently men like Hymenus and Philetus, who taught doctrines which were destructive of the Christian faith. Upon their vital relations with God we are not called to pronounce, “The Lord knoweth them that are His,” I leave them, at His command; and in leaving them I leave them to Him to deal with. I must not look upon such as true Christians, though the Lord may see something of Himself in them that is hidden from me.
No. 3.—2 Corinthians 6:14-18 refers to the unconverted world. The iniquity spoken of in 2 Timothy 2:19-21 refers to that which may be found inside the profession of Christianity. From both we are to maintain a rigid separation.
The instructions given to us in the Scriptures for our walk are much more simple than we are ready to think. With the ungodly we cannot, dare not, walk; nor should we have the least desire to walk with such. But let us be careful that we do not separate from the godly. Psalm 4:3 tells me that “The Lord has set apart him that is godly for Himself,” and that is the comfort of the man of God in his distress. God cannot be against the godly. Now if I reject the ungodly I am doing the thing He tells me to do, and the world at least must admit that I refuse to walk with bad people. But if I reject the godly I am at variance with Him who has set such “apart for Himself,” and all that the world can see in me is a man who will have no one but those who agree with himself. I am at variance with God, and no testimony in the world.