Evangelist for Public Campus Ministries, Michigan Conference,
Speaker for American Christian Ministries
Perhaps the most flamboyant preacher in the United States in the 1970s was Rev. Frederick “Ike” Eikerenkoetter; he was widely known for preaching prosperity via a change in attitudes. A famous quote attributed to him is “The best thing you can do for the poor is not to be one of them!” This statement is profoundly biblical and undergirds God’s call to Abraham: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing’” (Genesis 12:1-3, RSV, emphasis supplied).1 In order for him to be a blessing to the world, Abraham had to be separate from the world.
This requirement of separation from the world in order to save applies also to the spiritual descendants of Abraham, Seventh-day Adventists (SDA). In order for SDA youth (and adults) to be a blessing to the world, they must be as different from the world as light is from darkness.
The purpose of this brief article is to address the issue of “separate to save” because the best thing genuine SDA youth can do for the world is not to be of the world!
Principles of Divine Expression
Many of the founding fathers of the United States of America believed in deism. Among them were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Paine, and George Washington. Prior to his conversion, William Miller, a “founding father” of the SDA church, was a deist. The essence of deism is the belief that God created the universe, and then left it to run itself. He separates Himself from His creation.
The biblical view is absolutely different. The Bible presents God as a mysterious Being who can be known to a degree that saves (John 17:3). To this end, He has made Himself very predictable. This predictability, while not absolute, is the essential basis for faith in Him and is enshrined in His “principles of divine expression.” In other words, God can be expected to “behave” or interact with created beings in certain ways, and He may refer to them as fixed principles—“fixed” because they are fully reliable. One such principle is this:
God takes care of what He makes. He who creates (Hebrews1:2) is the one who sustains (Hebrews1:3). This is precisely expressed in Colossians 1:16, 17. He who creates (verse 16) is the One in whom all things consist or are held together (verse 17). In the same vein, though with an eye to judgment, Peter wrote, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water . . . but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store” (2 Peter 3:5-7, emphasis supplied). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said of the birds, “Your heavenly father feedeth them” (Matthew 6:26).2
Another principle: God teaches spiritual lessons through the physical. Isaiah wrote, “As the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth” (Isaiah 61:11). Of this text Ellen White wrote, “As in the natural, so in the spiritual sowing . . . the power that alone can produce life is from God.”3 James said, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). His physical symbol comes directly from Genesis 2:7.
Perhaps with little or no expectation of his word ever being taken seriously, Solomon advised, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard [physical]; consider her ways [mental], and be wise [spiritual]” (Proverbs 6:6). The wisdom that comes from this observation of nature must be the kind that comes from above (James 3:17).
The verse that perhaps most securely establishes this principle of the physical explaining the spiritual is Romans 1:20: “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (emphasis supplied). For this crucial principle of the physical explaining the spiritual, Ellen White wrote, “As in the natural, so in the spiritual world.”4 Christ’s use of parables was based on this principle.—
In the Beginning
The principle that the physical world contains spiritual lessons can be traced all the way back to the first day of creation, and is most pertinent to this article. Genesis 1:3, 4 states, “God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness” (emphasis supplied). The ear of the imaginative reader can hear God say on that first day, “What communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). The first day of God’s physical creation teaches the spiritual lesson that light and darkness must not—indeed, cannot—dwell together! Any commingling or cohabitation makes both of them darkness! God repeated His dividing activity on the second and third days of creation.
Spiritual Application of the Principle
Perhaps no other passage more clearly expresses this discriminating attitude of God than 2 Corinthians 6:14-17. It is worth quoting in full:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers [separation]: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness [opposites]? and what communion hath light with darkness [opposites]? or what concord hath Christ with Belial [opposites]? And what part hath he that believeth with an infidel [opposites]? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols [opposites]? 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 [the world], and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing [the world and all things worldly]; and I will receive you.
To each of the five rhetorical questions in verses 14-16 the resounding answer is NONE! God requires a separation between His people and the world because fellowship between light and darkness is impossible. Why is this separation so vital?
Twin Towers of Purpose
Let all SDA youth study the reasons why God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees (Babylon) and the Israelites out of Egypt (spiritually where Christ was crucified, Revelation 11:8). God desired to make Abraham and his descendants His personal covenant people and to prepare them to be a light to the rest of the world. Both purposes were inseparably connected, and God could do neither while the Israelites were in Egyptian bondage. They had to be separated from the Egyptians (the world) as verily as God separated the light from the darkness in order that the light might do its appointed task. To prepare them to be what God wanted them to be (His covenant people), and to do what He wanted them to do (shine as a light to the Gentiles), they had to be separated from the darkness of Egypt. God loved the Egyptians and all other heathen nations and desired to shine the light of His love on them through the ministry of the separated Israelites. These things were “written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
SDA youth should beware of the criminal act of hindering the work of God for the world by becoming part of the world, which is so overwhelmingly represented on secular campuses! By being like their unsaved associates, they deny the unsaved an opportunity to observe a righteous life. This denial may lead to eternal ruin. This is criminal and will be severely punished in the final judgment. An Egyptianized Israelite is useless to God!—
Separation from the world is not only required for proper training of God’s people, but it is also required for the right and privilege to be called the people of God. Speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, God said, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself” (Exodus 19:4, emphasis supplied). Leviticus 20:26 uses the word “sever”: “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine” (emphasis supplied). The Hebrew word for “severed” means “to put a difference between” or “to distinguish.” No man can claim to be God’s if he is not severed from the world. The call of the Israelites was not only practical; it was highly personal and intimate.
Abraham’s Seed in the Twenty-first Century
Like their spiritual father Abraham, SDA youths must leave the world in heart and body. It is not enough to say, “I am an SDA.” Assuming that this claim comes from the heart, it must be externally supported by an active lifestyle of avoidance of places, things, and people (except for evangelism) that endanger their spiritual growth and imperil their status as children of God.——
Hours before He went to Gethsemane, Christ said to His disciples, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). Moments later, He said to the Father, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word” (John 17:6). No man can serve two masters, said Christ. That is impossible! So, too, is it impossible to be a child of God while connecting oneself to the world.
A sense of belonging and identity is placed in all humans’ and animals’ hearts,5 and many SDA youths enrolled in secular schools seek their identity in the party crowd, the drug crowd, the sex crowd, the endless recreation crowd, in the Babylonian church group crowd, or, yes, even in the crime crowd. They have no earthly clue that Ellen White wrote, “Seventh-day Adventists have been chosen by God as a peculiar people, separate from the world. By the great cleaver of truth He has cut them out from the quarry of the world and brought them into connection with Himself. He has made them His representatives and has called them to be ambassadors for Him in the last work of salvation. The greatest wealth of truth ever entrusted to mortals, the most solemn and fearful warnings ever sent by God to man, have been committed to them to be given to the world.”6
God chose the Seventh-day Adventist Church above all other people on earth to represent Him to the world and to proclaim His special end-time truths. This is the glorious legacy and heritage of the SDA youth—of which many are so woefully and dangerously ignorant! This call to “separate to save” extends all the way back to the call of Abraham, to the call of the Israelites out of Egypt, to the call of the Jews out of Medo-Persia, to the call of the disciples, and finally to the call of this church in the nineteenth century. The SDA youth who does not understand this may be a dutiful Sabbath-keeper, but he or she is not truly an SDA.
Wielding the Cleaver
Without hiccup or hesitation, Ellen White added, “God has called His church in this day, as He called ancient Israel, to stand as a light in the earth. By the mighty cleaver of truth, the messages of the first, second, and third angels, He has separated them from the churches and from the world to bring them into a sacred nearness to Himself.”7 If God has called His church in this day as He called ancient Israel, then the Seventh-day Adventist Church stands in precisely the same relation to God today as ancient Israel stood in its day.
God separated the SDA church by swinging the great and mighty cleaver of truth, which is the messages of the first, second, and third angels. To a great degree, it is the dreadful and self-inflicted ignorance of this cleaver of truth that lies at the foundation of so much apostasy in the church at large and among the youth in particular. Truly “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). This destruction is largely suicidal, for it may be said of many, “For this they willingly are ignorant” (2 Peter 3:5).
Learning to Use the Cleaver
To be lifesavers on secular campuses, SDA youths must know the truth for these last days: present truth. Worldly academic degrees are fine as far as they go, but they cannot be as important as the knowledge that saves and that may be gained without costly tuition. To gain the world at the loss of one’s soul is surely the highest expression of folly in an “educated” SDA young person. This writer is not saying that SDA youth should never, ever attend non-SDA schools. Some firmly grounded SDA youths should attend these secular schools—but for the primary purpose of the salvation of their unsaved campus mates. To accomplish the goal, they must know what they believe, not merely as theory but as practice. This theory/practice calls for separation from the world.
Let decisions now be made with each youth to “acquaint now thyself with him” (Job 22:21). Nothing will more surely guarantee this saving acquaintance than a deep knowledge of the cleaver of truth: the three angels’ messages, otherwise known as “the greatest wealth of truth ever entrusted to mortals.”8 Educated firewood in the furnace of hell would surely be laughable if the very thought were not so tragic.
In education, family life, administration, liturgy, health practices, social life, finances, recreation, romantic matters, doctrine, the church must be different form the world. It must give compelling evidence that it has indeed been called out of the world and has heeded that call 100 percent.
Let all who faithfully claim the name Seventh-day Adventist separate themselves from the world in order to be a blessing to that world. Unless they do this, they are a curse to the world.
1 Unless otherwise stated, all texts are from the King James Version. Author’s emphasis is in italics.
2 This principle applies with equal certainty at the spiritual level. Since salvation is a work of creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) accomplished by the same creative word that said, “Let there be light” (2 Corinthians 4:6), it follows that God will take care of the person He creates spiritually. None need to fear giving his or her life to Christ. He will take care of all who surrender. He is bound by His fixed principle of caring for that which He creates.
3 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1900), 63.
4 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911), 284.
5 Ellen White wrote, “Animals have a kind of dignity and self-respect, akin to that possessed by human beings. If abused, under the influence of blind passion, their spirits will be crushed, and they will become nervous, irritable, and ungovernable” (Signs of the Times, November 25, 1880, par. 21).
6 Ellen G. White, Last Day Events (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1992) 45, emphasis supplied.
7 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5 (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1882), 455, emphasis supplied.
8 Last Day Events, 45.