Here’s Mike Riccardi’s latest installment of a series he’s writing on those “whom the faithful Christian minister may legitimately partner with in ministry,” a series we highly recommend. In this installment he urges Bible believers not to unite in ministry with the world, “even that part of the world that goes to church and calls themselves worshipers of Jesus.” He describes who these people are and explains why we shouldn’t even pray with them, and that includes those who identify as Roman Catholics. In Riccardi’s view it’s unthinkable to join hands and pray with apostates. It’s also unbiblical, as you will see in his piece over at The Cripplegate. He writes:
In our series on 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1, I’ve been considering what implications that text has for us as we consider whom the faithful Christian minister may legitimately partner with in ministry (parts one, two, three, and four). Last time, we considered that the church is the temple of the living God in this age, and that all false religion is idolatrous. To partner in ministry with those who are enemies of the Gospel is to bring idols into the temple of God, and to court His judgment.
The consequence of that reality for our lives—the responsibility it creates for us as God’s temple—is stated in 2 Corinthians 6:17–7:1: “Therefore, ‘come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean.’ And I will welcome you. ‘And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Do Not Touch What Is Unclean
First, there are the divine prescriptions. Because we are the temple of the living God, because God’s promise to dwell in and walk among His people, and to be their God, is fulfilled in us—Therefore, ‘come out from their midst and be separate’ . . . ‘And do not touch what is unclean.’” If we are God’s temple, we must keep that temple pure. We must refuse to pollute it by any alliance or fellowship with the idolatry of false religion. We must be separate.
These calls for separation are quotations from the Greek translation of Isaiah 52:11. In that chapter, Isaiah is prophesying of Israel’s return from the Babylonian exile (which they hadn’t entered yet!). Starting in verse 8, the prophet says,
“Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, They shout joyfully together; For they will see with their own eyes When Yahweh restores Zion. Break forth, shout joyfully together, You waste places of Jerusalem; For Yahweh has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. Yahweh has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations, That all the ends of the earth may see The salvation of our God.”
God is going to deliver His people out of exile. And when He does, He gives instructions to the priests and Levites in the next verse: “Depart, depart, go out from there, Touch nothing unclean; Go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, You who carry the vessels of Yahweh” (Isa 52:11). The priests and Levites were the keepers of the vessels of worship in the Temple of God. And God is commanding them to go completely out of Babylon, and to touch nothing unclean—that is, to bring none of the idolatrous vessels that pertained to idol worship in Babylon. The people of God were chastened by the exile, but now that they were free they had to separate themselves entirely from that pagan nation and conduct themselves in the purity of true worship of Yahweh.
Paul quotes this verse and applies it to the Corinthians. In effect he says, “Dear brothers and sisters, has God not delivered you out from the captivity of sin and the idolatry of paganism through the redeeming blood of Christ? He has saved you out of that spiritual exile, and restored you to a right relationship with Himself! And in light of that deliverance, just as He said to the priests of the Old Covenant He says to you—a royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9)—‘Come out from them and be separate, and touch nothing unclean!’ As a kingdom of priests (Rev 1:6), don’t pollute the temple of God by attempting to mix the pure worship of Christ with the trappings of pseudo-Christian idolatry of the Judaizing false apostles. Make a complete and total separation from everything that you were called out from in the world! And that includes false doctrine concerning Christ! Because of their false doctrine, the Judaizers are still in the Babylonian captivity of the soul from which you have been delivered! Therefore, there can be no spiritual partnership between you!”
This rich imagery of pure temple worship versus the idolatry of false religion only further underscores the main lesson of this text. The church has no business partnering in ministry with the world; even that part of the world that goes to church and calls themselves worshipers of Jesus. Whenever true Christians join in common spiritual cause with unbelievers, we are like exiles, delivered out of the Babylonian captivity, set apart to the pure worship of Yahweh, who then set up Babylonian idols in the middle of Yahweh’s temple. It’s just unthinkable!