New Testament Clean & Unclean Laws Defined
What is New Testament Separatism?
“The secret of power is separation from all that is unclean.” – Duncan Campbell
"The problem is that people bear the Christian name but act like worldlings and love the amusements and follies of the world. It is time for a division in the House of the Lord in which those for Christ go into one camp and those against Christ go into the other camp. We have been mixed together too long." – C.H. Spurgeon
“14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 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. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” - 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
The call to holiness is a conditional command bound with promises. The call is a break of yoke! Why? The power of the gospel establishes this purpose of God through regeneration: a supernatural severing from unbelievers. The break of yoke is a break of fellowship, communion, concord, and agreement and this can be understood when a man understands the work of salvation as a transformation and separation from the world. A “divine nature” segregates fellowship, voids commonality, and establishes spiritual enmity with all unbelievers and this world (2 Peter 1:4). Reception of this gospel is a reception of “come out from among them,” and so we become children of Abraham who did obey his gospel, “get thee out” (Gen. 12:1, Heb. 11:8). If you receive this gospel, a gospel of holiness, you are received of God as your new spiritual Father, being born again his son or daughter. This is the unavoidable purpose of God in the gospel, past, present, and forever. Such an imputation of holiness by the indwelling and regenerating Holy Ghost begets holy living in deed as the manifest qualities of Abraham’s seed.
The former description of 2 Corinthians 6 is a look at the passage so as to understand it in the light of The Gospel call itself, howbeit, the call of 2 Corinthians 6 is a present-tense call to saved people, a call they can fulfill or deny, corporately speaking. This call is given to true believers who have already experienced the world-separating regeneration accomplished by the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ (a spiritual world-separation to become an object of man-to-God consecration through Christ), thus the spiritual yoke to unbelievers is already broken: Because the saints have already become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21), they have no spiritual fellowship with the unrighteousness of carnal men; because the saints have already become the light of the world, they have no communion with unbelievers who are still yet in darkness; because the saints abide in Christ, keep His word (1 John 2:4), and obey His law (John 13:34, Gal. 6:4, Rom. 8:4), they have no concord with the lawless children of Belial; because the saints have been saved from their former broad-way lifestyles through faith in Christ, a lifestyle which is commonplace among all infidels, they have no religious part with the unbelieving infidels. In all these examples the point of argument is apparent: there is no spiritual agreement between believers and unbelievers! This enmity, or disagreement, is as contradictory as the Temple of God and idols were according to the Old Testament (according to 2 Corinthians 6:16) – this is a contradiction of incomparable sharpness between God Almighty’s Divine-holiness and the objects of His jealous fury! My reader, this is a staggering parallel! To make sense of this Paul quoted and applied an Old Testament passage of scripture in a New Testament reality, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (2 Cor. 6:16). Paul was hereby proving that Christians have become the Temple of God as a fulfillment of what was said of old… but this also means that unbelievers in Christian assemblies are like idols in the Temple of God! All of the aforementioned biblical parallels (from OT to NT) exist because of the past-tense experience of salvation undergone by every individual in Christ, but only let the saint take heed to walk-out the nature of their salvation from thenceforth and forever! I plead this warning because it is possible to backslide and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4)! To be constituted an “unbeliever” the scripture speaks in reference to a once-born man or a twice-born backslider, for both are snared in a damnable degree of unrighteousness, darkness, lawlessness, and infidel-rebellion through unbelief. The past-tense experience of salvation must be walked in presently and progressively by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. [For more information, see "A Justified, Regenerated, & Righteous Man TURNED Into an Unjustified, Wicked, Sinner Again – temporarily"]
Reckoning this (the universal experience of every individual Christian), Paul delivered to the saints a corporate call of separateness and holiness in word and deed. This call to corporate separateness was not universally experienced; it was collectively obeyed by each individual who responded to the call. The call was not inherent in the nature of every Christian; it was an overflow of obedience in words and deeds that are consistent with the nature of every Christian. Seeing that, by nature, every individual has been separated from the aforementioned abominations – that each individual might be in God, and He in them – they are called to be assembled before God collectively in the very same fashion. In the redemptive rules whereby saints dwell in the presence of God individually, they are called to assemble corporately. The saints are called to collectively walk-out corporately what is in their natures individually. If we don’t assemble before God corporately according to the rules whereby we are in the presence of God individually, the assembly is rendered unacceptable to God. This conditional acceptance of the corporate assembly is clearly stated in the words, “I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). In verse 17, yet again, a parallel is made to an Old Testament shadow: The Clean and Unclean Laws. Following in this vein, the charge continues to its finish in verse 1 of Chapter 7. For your review, it was written,
“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. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” – 2 Cor. 6:17-7:1
To be unclean is to be, in context: an unbeliever, an unrighteous man, a man in whom is darkness, a son of Belial, and an infidel, all of which is comparable to an idol. To be clean is, in context: a believer, a righteous man, a man in whom is light, a man who is a law-keeper of Christ, all of which is comparable to the Temple of God. Following the argument of the apostle Paul, he is adding an additional title for believers and unbelievers: the clean and unclean. Therefore the typological command of God, “touch not the unclean thing”, is fulfilled in obedience to the command, “Come out from among them and be ye separate” (2 Cor. 6:17). These commandments are conditions of corporate acceptance (“I will receive you”-2 Cor.6:17)… but what does this mean? Weighing in jeopardy upon the conditions of holiness, separateness, and cleanliness is the most glorious bond between man-and-God: a Father-to-son relationship! Look closely, my reader. The inspired text said, “I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” These are promises, my reader. The inspired text affirmed these statements as promises by exhorting the brethren in the following verse, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved” (in 2 Corinthians 7:1). There are two conditionally fulfilled promises emphasized by Paul (a man-to-God Divine reception/acceptance and a Father-to-son familial bond), and having just emphasized them to the Corinthians as conditions to be gained or lost by every believer, the call for the perfection of holiness comes with Divine-force! Emphasizing this point, Paul said, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, LET US cleanse OURSELVES from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the FEAR of GOD” (2 Cor. 7:1).
Apparently, Old Testament Unclean Laws were shadows which pointed toward NT realities! Paul did, right here, make the case and point of the Clean and Unclean Laws which exist in New Testament reality (according to inspired scripture). The interpretation is clear! No great explanation needs to be given about it! Because unregenerated men or twice-born backsliders are unbelievers who work unrighteousness, dwell in darkness, and like all sons of Belial and infidels, they offend the presence of God which dwells especially and immediately in New Testament assemblies; therefore they are infuriating the LORD exactly like when God Almighty was infuriated with idols when and if they were brought into His special and immediate presence that existed in the Temple of God in the Old Testament! Do you see how the Divine Argumentation of 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 flows together, dear reader?
If the historical richness of these terms (darkness, Belial, and idols) did not make the command to “come out from among them” logically potent enough, God added one more descriptive term for unbelievers which would be more easily recollected by the common person to be of relevance in the Old Covenant. It is a word used more consistently and repeatedly all throughout the Old Testament – namely that unregenerate persons or backslidden saints are an “unclean thing” in the sight of God! In a New Testament context, assemblies and congregations of saints existed to worship, pray, preach, listen, study, partake of communion, eat and drink in charity feasts, etc., but all in all what the apostle Paul was seeking to make us understand is the fact that: these activities are not unholy, worldly, carnal, or natural. They are, on the contrary, a yoking of the most holy commission, a fellowship with the most holy things, in communion with the most holy elements, a concord with a most holy Christ, the part and lot which belongs exclusively to the Family of God!
“I will receive you” -- If we desire the congregational assembly of The Church to be receivable by God, then we must come out from among them and be separate.
“and will be a Father unto you…” -- If we desire the congregational assembly of The Church to be enraptured in the manifestation of God’s saving grace (John 14:21) wherein every influence of righteousness that exists in all the stature of the living Christ (Eph. 4:13, John 17:20-26) is operating in and among the believers (Matt. 18:18-20) through the Father-to-son relationship between God-and-man existing without frustration or interruption, then we must “touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:17).
Congregational and assembly segregation from the world does not mean damnation to the world. Rather, it means salvation to the Church! In spite of 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, someone might ask, “If the unsaved cannot be invited to Church, how then will they get saved?” But the question from the inspired text that is pointed to all believers does say, on the contrary, “How will The Church continue to be saved if we assemble and congregate with unclean things?” How will The Church continue to be nourished by God’s Divine-acceptance (“I will receive you”) and Fatherly compassions (“And be a Father unto you”) if, according to scripture, we defy the conditions of perfected holiness whereby we might obtain these glorious promises? God is not mocked, my reader. It does not mean we abandon the billions of helpless souls that are without light and God, no! If we assembled in the perfection of holiness (2 Cor. 7:1) we will be empowered by God in the perfection of His power (2 Cor. 12:9) for an effectual witness of the Gospel that would win thousands to the Lord in truth (Acts 4:4)! There is a good reason that God has not gone out with our New Testament armies of so-called ministry (Ps. 60:10, Deut. 23:14), my reader. A child can pick up the Bible for a first-time read and quickly realize the apparent and unmistakable truth that most old-folks refuse to admit! Let’s face it, my reader… “The Church” of today is not The Church of the Book! “Where is the LORD” (Jer. 2:8), my reader? Do you think we might have offended Him somehow?
Make no mistake about it, my reader, I am not building a doctrine of Clean and Unclean Laws in New Testament reality from one passage of scripture. Biblical terminology for “the clean”, which is acceptable to God, and biblical terminology for “the unclean”, which is abominable to God, is used in reference to Christian realities all throughout the New Testament, but people are so biblically illiterate they have never realized the meaning of what they are reading. Ignorance is not bliss! God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6). A man cannot be responsive to God in a relationship-paradigm which he does not know exists, my reader, so “Christians” live their lives completely irrelevant of the Clean and Unclean Laws in the New Testament. The truth is, “Christianity” today is a religion swaddled in country and culture more than Christ! People are comfortable with it that way. People don’t care enough to comprehend. 21st century “Christians” are so Americanized that they read their Bibles and can’t identify. So what about you, my reader? Are you a “disciple” of the Lord? Do you care enough about the biblical Christ that you desire to – studiously – learn of Him “precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, [and] line upon line” (Isa. 28:13)? All professing “disciples” of the Lord need to take a sober look at the cost of discipleship and reconsider if they have met the terms laid forth in scripture (“Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple”-Lk.14:27). At the first step toward the biblical Christ one must engage an execution device, The Cross! So what about you, my reader? Do you think the brutal and merciless end of self is good news? To all those who are able to answer, “Yea”, and in truth say, “Amen”, let us go forward.
The biblical relevance of The Clean & Unclean Laws is historically rich and theologically vast, therefore it must be addressed as systematically and simply as possible, that my readers may see the clear parallels from the Old Testament to the New Testament. A clear understanding makes for clear eyes and clear convictions. Upon embarking on this vast study we can be expectant of the following conclusions because of a foremost conviction. By foremost conviction, I mean: if the Clean and Unclean Laws (which were physical shadows in the Old Testament) are applied as spiritual realities in the New Testament, they would shed light and meaning on the completed work of salvation that Christ has accomplished. In other words, the teachings would not be inconsistent with those doctrines which save us (“by grace are ye saved through faith”- Eph. 2:8). Because the aforementioned conviction is of utmost importance in scripture, the following conclusions are to be expected: Firstly, the uncleanness of the sinner is that by nature and deed he does sin. Secondarily, the sinfulness of the sinner is an abhorrence to God as much as He abhorred unclean things in the Old Testament. Thirdly, the only way to be saved from this deplorable condition is through salvation by regeneration via faith alone through Christ alone by grace alone. The uncleanness of an unregenerate sinner is taken away by regeneration, my reader! But the degeneration of the regenerated via backsliding is also uncleanness, my reader (“How art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me?”-Jer.2:21). I say again, if the scriptures are consistent throughout the New Testament on this doctrine of cleanness, then salvation by regeneration is the means by which a sinner is made clean; nevertheless, New Testament cleanness would be identified in the same terms whereby a sinner was cleansed in the Old Testament. Thus the NT would teach that regeneration is a cleansing, purifying, purging, hallowing, sanctifying, washing, and sprinkling. Likewise sin must be unclean, filthy, pollution, impurity, corruption, blemishes, spots, and defiling. As you will soon see, my reader, these terms are specifically and descriptively used all through the New Testament, Book-to-Book. The use of the aforementioned terms is so numerous and consistent so that the Clean and Unclean Laws in New Testament reality would become an unquestionable fact of the man-to-God relationship in Christ. It is undeniably clear that the New Testament authors related to God on this wise. If what I affirm to my reader is correct – that these terms are consistently used throughout the New Testament with the aforementioned applications – then we can see that this doctrine has an enormous backing rather than just a few verses in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.
A sinner by nature is unclean
A sinner in sinning is a cause of uncleanness through OT descriptive terms of filthiness, pollution, impurity, corruption, blemishes, spots, and defilement.
A sinner through salvation in Christ is made clean, pure, without filthiness, pollution, corruption, blemish, spot, and defilement by OT descriptive terms of cleansing, purifying, purging, hallowing, sanctifying, washing, sprinkling, and a sacrifice to absolve iniquity.