But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.
2 Peter 3:18
Separation from Unrepentant Unbelievers
As believers in Christ, we are commanded to love thy neighbor as thyself. We are even to love our enemies. We are to preach the gospel to every creature.
Knowing this, many Christians believe we should never separate ourselves from those who reject the good news of Jesus Christ. They say we should continue to fellowship with family and friends, even if they are unrepentant unbelievers.
They point out the Christ ate and drank with the hated publicans (tax-collectors) and harlots (whores). Are they correct? Let’s see what the Bible teaches on this subject of separation from unrepentant unbelievers.
PUBLICANS AND HARLOTS
Who were the tax-collectors and whores that Christ ate and drank with?
They were those who had repented of their sins, been baptized by John the Baptist, and were now following Christ.
Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. Matthew 21:31-32
Matthew (also called Levi, the son of Alphaeus), was a despised tax-collector. Yet he repented of sin, left all and followed Christ. So, did many of his sinful friends.
And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.
And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.
And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Mark 2:14-17
It is certain that Matthew was baptized by John the Baptist before Christ told Matthew to follow Him (compare Luke 7:29-30 with Acts 1:21-22).
And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. Luke 7:29-30
Therefore, based on the above Scriptures, we conclude that when Christ ate and drank with publicans and harlots, he was fellowshipping with new converts, not with unrepentant unbelievers.
SHAKE OFF THE DUST OF YOUR FEET
Christ commanded his disciples to “shake off the dust” of their feet when a house (even if their own family members) or city rejected the gospel.
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Matthew 10:14
He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me. Luke 10:16
A good example of this can be found when Asa, king of Judah, put away his own mother (grandmother) from being queen. Why did he do so? Because she had made an idol. She was an unrepentant unbeliever.
And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron. 1 Kings 15:13
Even godly Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, came under severe chastisement for helping his son’s father in law, namely Ahab, king of Israel. Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, were deep into witchcraft and Baal worship.
And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD. 2 Chronicles 19:2
NEW TESTAMENT WARNINGS
Some may object that Asa and Jehoshaphat lived in Old Testament times. They reason that the New Testament teaches love and grace toward unbelievers, especially toward family and close friends.
While the New Testament does teach love and grace toward repentant sinners, it also teaches separation from unrepentant sinners.
You may have to work with them on your job, but you don’t need to fellowship with them if the knowingly reject the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James 4:4
The New Testament clearly forbids marriage, business partnerships and evangelistic efforts when yoked together with unrepentant unbelievers.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
You can still love them, pray for their salvation, be polite to them, and preach the gospel to them. But you should not spend your free time fellowshipping with them after they have heard and continually rejected the gospel.
Separation from unrepentant unbelievers is Scriptural. Why be a friend of the world and an enemy of God while claiming to be a Christian?
George Theiss is a combat veteran of Vietnam who now follows the Lamb of God. He and his wife, Christy, have been married 42 years (in 2019). They have 8 grown children. You can contact George at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2002 through 2019 by George Theiss