Biblical Separation

Over the last five years I have gotten involved in several situations with other believers where the Doctrine of Separation has been an issue. It is important to not only know when to separate from others but how to separate from them (the how part is almost always neglected). Posting the Doctrine of Separation has been on my to-do list from day one of this blog and, since the Manhattan Declaration is causing quite a stir in some circles (see here, here, or here), I thought this would be an apropos time for the post.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of the Doctrine of Separation it is basically a study of when Christians should separate themselves from other people (both believers and unbelievers). These people are often friends, family, and loved ones but can include acquaintances and co-workers.

Of course this version of this doctrine is the work of R.B. Thieme, Jr. and is the most thorough treatment of the doctrine that I know of. Before I get into the doctrine itself I want to emphasize one thing. Nowhere in the Doctrine of Separation is the believer given permission to malign, judge, psychoanalyze, or be petty to the person(s) they are separating from. We are still under an obligation before God to act with grace toward others even if they are not gracious to us.

I also need to provide some background about how some of the terms are defined in the version of the Doctrine of Separation below. I have tried to footnote some of the important terms so those of you who don’t know Colonel Thieme’s terminology can work through this. You will probably notice that he uses the terms “attraction love” (this is a synonym with “personal love” in the footnotes) and “unconditional love” (this is a synonym for “impersonal love” in the footnotes). To make a long story short, “attraction love” was his translation of the Koine Greek word philos (Strong’s 5384) and “unconditional love” was his translation of the Koine Greek work agape (Strong’s 26). There were five Koine Greek words for love with philos and agape having prominent use in the New Testament.

Well, without further ado, here is the Doctrine of Separation.


The Doctrine of Separation

A) Definition and Description

1)      Separation is the believer withdrawing from, avoiding, or cutting himself off from the sphere of influence from intimate, compromising relationships which cause distractions from the high priorities of the Christian way of life. (This is not a “holier than thou” attitude of superiority, Phariseeism or “no-contact” but rather has to do with relationships.)

2)      Separation is the application of bible doctrine. It is a function of the faith-rest[1] technique without necessarily using all of the stages of the technique. Separation is the technique of switching from attraction love to unconditional love[2] when dealing with friends or loved ones in the cosmic system[3].

3)      Separation is the perception of doctrine by which one establishes his priorities in life, and the application of doctrine by which one disassociates himself with any hindrance to [spiritual] momentum from friends and loved ones. Until you’ve established priorities, you cannot make a correct decision about separation.

4)      Separation has two connotations.

i)        Separation unto is the principle of perpetuating [spiritual] momentum. It is the momentum from doctrine plus attraction love for God. This is also the basis for establishing priorities in life. Separation unto involves occupation with Christ[4].

ii)       Separation from should be applied to both believers and unbelievers in the cosmic system who seek to influence the believer in drawing him away from his first priority. Therefore, there must be separation from those loved ones residing in the cosmic system (but it does not have to be physical separation).

B) The Biblical Mandates to Separation

1)      “They [believers and unbelievers in the cosmic system] hold to external forms of godliness, but have renounced the power of that same godliness; you also be turning yourself away from these men.”
2 Tim 3:5

These are believers and unbelievers alike who are living under the control of their old sin nature[5] inside the cosmic system.

2)      “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you separate from every believer who leads an undisciplined life [no momentum], that is not according to the tradition you received from us.
2 Thes 3:6

These are believers who downgrade or reject bible doctrine.

3)      “If anyone does not obey our doctrinal teaching in this epistle, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he may feel ashamed.”
2 Thes 3:14

4)      17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
Romans 16:17-18

Keep away from them is physical separation from believers who make emotion the criterion of their lives, and thus become troublemakers in their local church.

10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
Titus 3:10-11

5)      14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
17″Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
2 Cor 6:14-17

Every time you hook up with something or someone in the cosmic system, you are in partnership with the cosmic system. This is why you are given the order: “Therefore come out from them.”

i)        “Yoked together” is heterozugeo from heteros, “another of a different kind,” plus zugeo, which was the cross bar or yoke used to hitch two animals together. In the ancient world it was commonly used for trying to yoke together an ox and an ass to pull a plow. They have different gates and strengths and they cannot pull together. This is why it is prohibited in Deuteronomy 22: 10 “Do not plow with an ox and an ass yoked together.

ii)       “Fellowship” is metecho which is “share, participation.” What share or participation does righteousness have with unrighteousness?

iii)     “Communion” is koinonia which is “common.” What do you have in common?

iv)     “Concord” is sumphonesis which is “symphony, harmony, accord.”

v)      “Agreement” is sugkatathesis which is “unity of composition.”

vi)     “Separate” is aphorizo which is “to mark off by bounds, thus to separate.”

vii)   There are at least five areas where the believer can become “yoked together” with an unbeliever.
1) Marriage
2) Religion
3) Social life
4) Business partnership
5) Fraternal relationships

6)      9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—
10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
2 Cor 5:9-11

There are certain carnal believers from whom you should separate yourself.

7)      10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.
11 If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul;
12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder;
14 throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse”-
15 my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths;
16 for their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood.
17 How useless to spread a net in full view of all the birds!
18 These men lie in wait for their own blood; they waylay only themselves!
19 Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it.
Proverbs 1:10-19

8)      16 When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.
17 I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation.
Jer 15:16-17

9)      10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.
11 Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.
2 John 1:10-11

Separate from believers in apostasy and from apostate organizations.

10)  5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
2 Tim 3:5

Separate from religion [Christianity is not a religion]. This includes separation from apostasy and ecclesiastical organizations.

“Let us face it. If the New Testament is our only infallible rule of faith and practice, and if the New Testament teaches that absolute doctrinal purity is an essential mark of the church, and if it commands us to withdraw whenever doctrinal impurity is found, then the separatist position is justified. A greater priority than the unity of the church demands a fracturing of that unity.”
Dr. Geo E. Ladd in Eternity Magazine, June 1962

C) There are two categories of separation from people.

1)      Mental separation.

i)        In mental separation, there is one-way antagonism from those in the cosmic system toward you. Your volition protects you from becoming antagonistic toward them by your use of unconditional love.

ii)       34″Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to turn ” ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –
36a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
37″Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Mat 10:34-38

In the context of Matthew 10:34-38, certain loved ones or friends become involved in the cosmic system. You have the alternatives to follow them or take up your cross (mental separation) and follow the Lord.

iii)     Their influence is so great on the believer that he is tempted by their love to join them in the cosmic system.

iv)     To avoid this negative influence, the believer can maintain his correct priorities by mental preparation and separation, switching from attraction love to unconditional love.

v)      Mental separation emphasizes the integrity, honor and doctrinal application of the believer.

vi)     Unconditional love is not influenced by those loved ones who are residing in the cosmic system, who are either unsaved, in spiritual decline and/or antagonistic to doctrine.

vii)   Unconditional love emphasizes attraction love for God while setting aside the functions of attraction love for friends or loved ones.

viii)  Unconditional love does not compromise the believer’s spiritual status.

ix)     Mental separation, in contrast to physical separation, is therefore a separation which avoids maligning, judging, hating, criticizing, seeking revenge, hurting those with whom you’ve been intimate in the past.

x)      Mental separation not only emphasizes integrity and honor, but perpetuates the believer’s spiritual growth, and thus avoids destruction of the spiritual life.

2) Physical separation

i)        There are some cases where switching from attraction love to unconditional love will not work. For example, getting false information in the local church. You must leave physically as well as under the principle of unconditional love. For example, when a woman is subjected to physical, mental or psychological abuse by her husband, she should leave. The most basic reason is to avoid the compromise of doctrine resident in the soul.

ii)       Physical separation means to avoid any attraction contact with a person under any circumstances. You regard that person as dead.

iii)     This means severance of all relation of any kind with that person.

iv)     Physical separation is sometimes needed to maintain one’s priorities and to use one’s volition to retain one’s spiritual integrity. When some form of tyranny says, “No you cannot go to church,” then physical separation is demanded.

D)    The Function of Separation

1)      Separation is a function of the believer’s spiritual life. You do not separate if you are not living under the filling/control of the Holy Spirit[6], in carnality yourself and in the cosmic system.

2)      In the cosmic system you may avoid people or hate people, but you are not practicing Biblical separation as taught by the Word of God.

3)      All physical separation must be preceded by mental separation. No one can practice mental separation unless they are filled/controlled by the Holy Spirit. You cannot switch from attraction love to unconditional love while you are out of fellowship, controlled by your old sin nature and in the cosmic system.

4)      True separation is impossible without the filling of the Holy Spirit and the function of the application of doctrine.

E) Separation is necessary because of the cosmic system.

1)      1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Romans 12:1-3

If you fail in the matter of separation, you will think about self in terms of arrogance.

2)      Separation is thinking about yourself in relation to others apart from arrogance.

3)      The first prerequisite for proper separation is a good sense of humor. By switching from attraction love to unconditional love you get away from your illusions about people you have loved.

4)      Separation demands understanding permanent priorities.

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.
17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17

Your permanent priority is your daily function under the filling/control of the Holy Spirit and the application of Bible doctrine while avoiding at all costs any prolonged stay in the cosmic system.

F)     Aggressive Separation

In Galatians 4:29-30, the positive command to “get rid of, throw out” the bondwoman is an aggressive act rather than a passive one. In the former situations, the believer separates himself. In this passage, he is commanded to get rid of the legalistic influence. You are not to “work together” or “keep the unity” for the sake of “loving the brethren.” There can never be any compromise with legalism by grace. They are mutually exclusive. If you’re in a situation where the legalism is entrenched, all you can do is leave, separate yourself. However, when legalism infiltrates your organization, you are to “kick them out.”


[1] Faith-Rest is the life of peace designed for you as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. This life is characterized by a moment-by-moment tranquility, happiness, and stability. But how can you have this perfect rest when you are surrounded by pressure, adversity, and disaster?

God wants you to do only one thing—trust Him! Believe His Word! Mix the promises from the Bible with faith! If you trusted Him for the greatest thing He could ever provide—salvation, then, you can trust Him for the lesser thing—solutions to your problems.

When you use the faith-rest technique, you stand on the solid ground of the Word of God. Bible doctrine becomes a living reality in every experience. No matter what happens to you, no matter how difficult your problems, you have “the peace of God which passes all understanding.”

[2] Love is God’s attitude of esteem and regard toward Himself and His concern, mercy, and benevolence toward His created beings. Love is a transitive verb, meaning that it has a subject (the one loving) and an object (the one being loved). Love, therefore, falls into two main categories. There is impersonal unconditional love that emphasizes the integrity of the subject and personal love, which emphasizes the attractiveness in the object. Personal love does not contain virtue while impersonal love depends on virtue. Believers are commanded to have impersonal unconditional love for one another as well as for the entire human race, JOH 13:34. It was God’s impersonal love for all mankind that motivated Him to send His Son to die for the sins of the whole world, JOH 3:16. Therefore love is a motivator for God as well as the believer, 2CO 5:14.

The phrase the cosmic system involves both cosmic one and cosmic two and entails the overall objective of Satan in using mankind to prove his superiority over God. The cosmic system is the devil’s multifaceted policy for achieving his goal by way of human viewpoint projected through the world system. The cosmic system refers to the Greek work kosmos. Satan is king of the world and its cosmic system.

Cosmic one consists of grieving the Spirit. In Cosmic one the believer becomes involved with sin or preoccupation with self, which is the arrogance complex of sins, hence exiting the predesigned plan of God (PPOG). Once in cosmic one believers only need rebound, 1JO 1:9, to get back in fellowship with God.


Cosmic two consists of quenching the Spirit. This is man’s exit from the predesigned plan of God by way of antagonism toward God and the plan of God. Cosmic two entails more than sin per se in that it moves into evil. Evil is more than sin; it is a system of thought based on disputes, rejection and contradiction to the Word of God. Evil attempts to frustrate the grace policy of God. This “human viewpoint” takes more than mere rebound to re-enter fellowship with God, it requires recovery as well. Recovery is the cleansing of the mind through consistent perception, metabolization and application of the accurate teaching of the Word of God.


Occupation with Christ is the tenth and greatest problem-solving device and one of three problem-solving devices related to virtue-love. Occupation with Christ is the maximum function of perception, metabolization, and application; i.e., learning doctrine on a daily basis so that you advance to spiritual adulthood, becoming conformed to the image of Christ. Occupation with Christ is defined as personal love for God the Son caused by perception, metabolization, and application, which manifests the fact that the mystery doctrine of the Church-age has been and continues to be the #1 priority in your life.


Biblical documentation of the sin nature is found in ROM 5:12.  “Therefore, just as through one man [Adam], sin [the sin nature] entered into the world, and [spiritual] death through [the] sin [nature], so [spiritual] death spread to the entire human race because all sinned [when Adam sinned].” The old sin nature is Adam’s trend after the fall in action. Immediately after Adam sinned, he acquired an old sin nature and became spiritually dead. The sin nature of Adam is passed down through his seed to all his progeny, therefore every OSN originates biologically from the seed of the father, GEN 5:3. Only Jesus Christ was born into this world without an OSN since He did not have a biological father. The OSN exists in the cell structure of the body and each one is unique. It can possess a trend to either lasciviousness or asceticism and it has a strength and a weakness. The OSN will not be eradicated from the body until the moment of physical death, however it has been crucified positionally in every believer, ROM 6:6.


The filling of the Holy Spirit is the status quo of the believer when God the Holy Spirit controls his soul thus making him 100% spiritual, EPH 5:18. To make it from salvation to spiritual maturity requires the filling of the Holy Spirit and the daily intake of Bible doctrine. At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit indwells the body of the believer permanently, JOH 14:16; 1CO 3:16.  Because the body is the headquarters of the old sin nature, the Holy Spirit sets up His headquarters in the body for counteraction. But while the indwelling of the Spirit is permanent the filling of the Spirit is temporary. We lose the filling of the Spirit when we personally sin, whether willfully, unintentionally, knowingly or ignorantly. However, God has provided the problem solving device of rebound so that we can instantly regain the filling of the Holy Spirit, 1JO 1:9. When we name and cite our known sins to God we are instantly filled with the Spirit and 100% spiritual. Since the battlefield for the believer is in the soul it is vital that we use the rebound technique to give the Holy Spirit control of the soul whereby He may influence, control and mentor us.

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