Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

Holiness by Isolation

While reading Unger’s Bible Handbook, concerning the rise and history of the Catholic church, I came across this short quote on page 904.

Rise of Monasticism. It began in Egypt with Paul of Thebes and Anthony about A.D. 250, and spread throughout the empire. Their aim was holiness by isolation from the world. In Europe monks lived in monasteries and in the Middle Ages developed education, learning, literature and farming.

This philosophy of obtaining holiness by isolating yourself from the world is an understandable, if misguided reaction to such exhortations as James’ “…keep oneself unspotted from the world” (cf. James 1:27), and John’s “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (cf. 1 John 2:15).

In reality, God does not intend for us to obtain holiness by isolation, but rather through self-control and dedication to living by the principles He has established in His word. This is clearly seen by our Lord’s prayer in John 17. In verse 15, Jesus prayed, I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.” Later, in verse 18, the prayer continues, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” As we emulate the early disciples, we must not separate ourselves physically from the world around us, but rather separate ourselves by our demeanor and life. As Paul wrote, we are to, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” (Philippians 2:14-16).

Paul instructed the Corinthians regarding the need for purity in 1 Corinthians 5:9. He wrote, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.” In clarifying his command, he wrote in verse 10, “Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” Instead, (verse 11), he wrote that the Corinthians should not keep company with anyone “named a brother” who was guilty of such sin.

The lesson is clear. God wants us to live among the lost, that we might save them through the preaching of the gospel, and the good example of our personal lives. This does not mean that we can be like them, dally with sin, or that we can excuse sin in the church. Rather, it establishes emphatically that we must actively serve God, and seek always to do His will. This is accomplished not by separating from the world, but by living lives untouched by its ungodly ways.