Occasionally some Reformed
theologians will write of the “antithesis.” In such cases
they are referring to the separation and opposition
between darkness and light, believer and unbeliever, church
This antithesis is the
result of God’s saving grace and is often referred to in
Scripture, though the word itself is not used. The clearest
passage that refers to the antithesis is II Corinthians
6:14–18. There the Word not only describes the antithesis,
but it also tells us what it means in practice. In those
verses the antithesis is described as the contrast between
righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness,
Christ and Belial, faith and unbelief, the temple of God and
the temple of idols. In practice it means that we must “come
out from among them, and be ... separate” (v. 17).
This separation is
spiritual. We are not called to come out of the world
physically (I Cor. 5:10). That is the mistake made by those
who become monks or nuns, or who forbid marriage or the
eating of certain foods. The antithesis does not mean that
we separate ourselves physically from the world around us or
from the things of this world.
It does mean that we have no fellowship with the
works of the wicked (Eph. 5:11–12) and even that we do not make
friends of the wicked or have fellowship with them (II Cor.
6:17; James 4:4). We must be in their company since we must
do our business and live our lives in the world (I Cor.
5:9–11), but even then we must be separate by being holy.
Herein lies one of our
objections to the teaching of common grace. The idea that
there is a common grace of God to the wicked and reprobate
makes a kind of common ground between God’s people and the
world. At least in some respects, therefore, believers can
make common cause with the wicked, can keep fellowship with
them, and can make friends of them. After all, they both
have grace in common, so it is argued.
The Bible makes it very
clear that keeping this separation from the wicked world is
the safety and well-being of the church and of God’s people.
That was true already in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy
33:28 says, “Israel then shall dwell in safety
In the New Testament it remains true. The promise of God—“I
will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye
shall be my sons and daughters”—belongs to those who obey
God’s command “Come out from among them, and be ye separate”
(II Cor. 6:17–18). How much we need to hear that today!
Each of us must be
separate. We must be separate for God’s sake and for the
sake of the church. If we are not separate, God will not be
glorified through us, and the church will become like the
(Ronald Hanko, “Doctrine
According to Godliness: A Primer of Reformed Doctrine,”
[Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2004] pp. 208–209)