By way of introduction, Dr. Peter Masters is pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, where Charles Spurgeon was once pastor. Spurgeon dealt with the issue of separation himself in the Downgrade Controversy.

Let me also tell you that I personally don’t fully agree with everything that Masters offers in the entirety of his May 2013 message Secondary Separation – When to Stand Apart, which is excerpted below.

That noted, we live in a time where the evil influence of mainstream evangelicalism’s embrace of the Emerging Church has served to spread a wrong understanding of tolerance deeply into the very heart of the visible church.

Along with this—as well as a rampant charismania—we’ve also been witnessing the romanticizing of Roman Catholic mystics leading to the full-on embrace of corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM).

Right now we have a recipe for spiritual disaster because people are becoming deluded into following their own fickle hearts (cf. Jeremiah 17:9). And, as they do, they attribute to God what are actually their own thoughts.

History shows that this always leads to falling in love with the self (cf. 2 Timothy 3:2) and with it, a phony ecumenicism. If left unchecked the delusions of CSM lead its practitioners all the way to universalism. ((e.g. see ROB BELL OUT OF THE CLOSET FOR UNIVERSALISMBRIAN MCLAREN SPEAKS AS A UNIVERSALIST, and DOUG PAGITT AND CHRISTIAN UNIVERSALISM.))

As such, I think the idea of what kind of separation from such as these the Christian, faithful to God’s Word, should practice is an important issue that needs to be discussed; and quickly:

In recent times the claim has been made that secondary separation is extremism. This writer has been named as going much further than Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), the famous minister of Westminster Chapel, who made a call to evangelicals to leave apostate denominations.

It is claimed that Dr Lloyd-Jones opposed secondary separation, saying, ‘If I am convinced that a man is my brother I am going to bear with him. I am not going to divide from him…We are born again by the same Spirit into the same family…I do not separate from my brother’ (Unity in Truth pp 120-121).

Dr Lloyd-Jones, however, was not speaking about secondary separation in that quotation, but about unity between evangelicals who had left apostate denominations. His dream and hope was that all British evangelicals would separate from error and join together in a new denomination.

Not all were enthusiastic, some saying to him, ‘We are Baptists, and we could not join with paedo-baptists,’ while others said, ‘We are Calvinists and could not join with Arminians.’ Dr Lloyd-Jones was appealing to these and said that he would not separate from his brother and nor should they.

He was not talking about separating from evangelicals who cooperate with non-evangelicals in their denominations, for he advocated such separation. He was appealing for unity among those who had separated. He felt they should set aside their convictions on baptism and the doctrines of grace, and so on, for the sake of unity.

Dr Lloyd-Jones and Billy Graham

To prove the point we remember the way in which Dr Lloyd-Jones refused to work with Billy Graham, and this is a significant example of secondary separation. In 1963 the evangelist asked Dr Lloyd-Jones to chair the first World Congress on Evangelism (eventually held in Berlin in 1966; predecessor to Lausanne). Dr Lloyd-Jones told Billy Graham that if he would stop having liberals and Roman Catholics on his platform and drop the invitation system he would support and chair the Congress.

Billy Graham would not change his views, and Dr Lloyd-Jones declined to endorse or commend or work with him. No doubt the meeting between them was courteously conducted (it lasted three hours) but the outcome was a firm application of secondary separation.

Dr Lloyd-Jones adopted the same attitude to Billy Graham’s London crusades. He took the view, and stated it publicly, that to have visible unity with those who are opposed to essential matters of salvation was sinful. (He also believed the invitation system was a source of mass-delusion and harm to churches.)

Despite Billy Graham’s high standing with most British evangelicals, the enthusiastic support he received from the secular media, the fact that his name was a household word, and despite the significant place in world evangelicalism that he was offering to Dr Lloyd-Jones, the latter stood by his biblical principle, and declined all the overtures. He would not commend or work with Dr Billy Graham. This is true loyalty to God’s Word, and protectiveness of one’s congregation.

For what it’s worth, as far as the present writer is aware he goes no further in his view of secondary separation than Dr Lloyd-Jones (although he does not share the great man’s latter day enthusiasm for a new evangelical denomination).

Spurgeon on Secondary Separation

In a famous sermon, C H Spurgeon expressed the very same position in these words: ‘That I might not stultify my testimony I have cut myself clear of those who err from the faith, and even from those who associate with them’ (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1888, No. 2047). Dr Lloyd-Jones was of the same mind, but both exercised tender discretion.

We sometimes hear it said that there is no text in the Bible that requires secondary separation, but we find this assertion astonishing. For one thing, the many texts that command primary separation are emphatic, insistent, obligatory, and imperative, showing how great a wrong it is to reject them.

They are categorical and absolute. They are compulsory and not merely permissive. Disobedience certainly puts a believer into the category of one who ‘walks disorderly’ and not in line with the instructions of the apostles. For such the word of 2 Thessalonians 3.14 is clear: ‘And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.’

For another thing, the solemn words of Revelation 18.4 express a deep and prophetic principle – ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins…’
In 2 John 11 we learn that the one who even expresses a blessing to a false teacher is a participant in his evil deeds. God assigns guilt to the non-separator, and we must not brush that aside.

In the end, those who mistakenly remain in apostate denominations contribute to (whether they aim to or not) the victory of the Lord’s enemies. We see this in the historic decline of once great evangelical denominations.

In this article we have called it a great wrong to disobey the separation texts. Dr Lloyd-Jones called it a sin. These scriptures certainly require that we stand apart from those who recognise and assist false teachers. (source)

Dr. Peter Masters

Further reading