If one were to believe the talking points of most conservative talk show pundits and the language of many who call themselves gospel preachers, the conclusion could be made that the country which we are blessed to dwell in is a “Christian Nation”. In fact; if a poll were made of the citizens of this great nation, most would probably be of the same opinion. This is all well and good if the definition of a “Christian Nation” is simply given to contrast ours, to other countries which are comprised of those who are unashamedly Muslims, Hindu’s, or Buddhists, etc.
The natural man loves religion and nothing is more common than those who claim the religion of “Christianity”, who nonetheless despise the true gospel and the precepts which CHRIST HIMSELF espoused. We are not surprised nor alarmed at this since this is simply the way of the flesh which delights in a religion which they believe can be chosen by free will and embraced in various levels and degrees while going about their lives as they please. The tares and the wheat must grow together until the time of the harvest when the LORD HIMSELF will manifest the wheat, which is of HIS planting, and separate it from the tares. (see Mat. 13:25-30)
The English word “separated” appears thirty-three times in the KJV Bible. Twenty nine times in the Old Testament (from the Hebrew) and four times in the New Testament (from the Greek). The meaning of the word is quite consistent in both the Old and the New. The literal meaning of those words which are translated “separated” is “to set off by a boundary, to exclude, appoint, or to divide, to distinquish, or make a difference”.
When Paul speaks of being “separated unto the gospel of GOD”, he is pointing out that the LORD excluded him from that tradition and people which he had formerly been associated with. He is speaking of the fact that the gospel and the CHRIST who called him out of darkness and into the light, has made him to be divided from all other religious pursuits. He described this “separation” in detail to the Philippians, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Php 3:3-10)
The LORD speaks of this “separation” when HE said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.” (Mat 10:34-36) So there can be no such thing as a “Christian Nation”, because the LORD does not “call” nations unto HIMSELF, but rather those whom HE loves out of every kindred tribe and tongue. The followers of CHRIST can not be aligned with, or have fellowship with, any who walk in darkness, regardless of their affiliation or familial ties, nor can they have any king but HIM who is the KING of Kings and the LORD of Lords. There is but one “brotherhood”, and that is founded upon CHRIST alone and not shared external religious preferences however they may be defined. The “brethren” are those who worship CHRIST in SPIRIT and TRUTH in contrast to those who are so in name only.
Paul was not “separated”, simply because he desired to be peculiar, nor was he seeking the LORD at the time, but rather he was separated by the “call” of JESUS CHRIST, which he could have in no wise refused or chosen not to follow. The LORD said that HE calls HIS own sheep by name, and they follow HIM. (see John 10:3-5) Paul was powerless before this call, by HIM who “separated (him) unto the gospel”, even as he recounts unto the Galatians, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace.” (Gal 1:15) His “separation” took place according to the will and purpose of GOD and was accomplished by HIS mighty power, who knows them that are HIS, and gives eternal life to all who are given to HIM.
Every one of those whom the LORD is pleased to call, is “separated” by the same POWER that laid Paul on the ground and struck him blind on the Damascus road. This “separation” occurs according to the good pleasure of GOD and not the free will of men. For the LORD of GLORY has power over the wills of men, just as surely as HE rules the winds and the seas. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” (Psa 110:3) As surely as HE calls; so too are those who are separated unto the gospel, made willing to follow HIM and will cleave to no other.
This “separation” did not take place on the spur of the moment, nor did GOD decide to bring this calling to Paul on the basis of any decision which Paul made. Rather, as he told the Galatians, he was “separated from his mother’s womb”, even from the very beginning. He was created to be a follower of CHRIST in whom he was chosen before the foundation of the world.
Paul’s “separation” (as well as that of all of the LORD’s people) was “unto the Gospel”. There is but one message which is at the heart of all which the people of GOD rejoice in and believe. Paul described this “gospel” as “JESUS CHRIST and HIM crucified”. HE is the HOPE of HIS people, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1Cor 1:30-31) The confidence of those who are “the called according to HIS purpose”, is not in their ability to believe, nor in any form of effort on their part, but rather it rests solely on that which JESUS CHRIST has performed for them. “By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Heb 9:12) Except a man be found “separated unto the gospel”, he is merely a Christian in name only, without the SUBSTANCE.
Just as surely as “they are not all Israel which are of Israel”, so too it must be declared that not all who call themselves the followers of CHRIST are indeed so. There are many who shall have done many wonderful works in HIS name, such as feeding the poor, helping the fatherless and widows, even casting out evil spirits, prophesying, and performing miracles, who shall be cast out in the day when HE comes to judge the living and the dead. Those whose confidence is built upon their fine resumes and faithfulness, shall surely be surprised to find that they were never known by the LORD; (see Mat.7:21-23) even though highly esteemed among men.
This is that which the LORD brought to the Pharisees (who were the poster children of self-righteousness and religious zeal) saying unto them, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15) Isaiah upbraided the house of Israel for their religiosity and their satisfaction with their own keeping of the law, both morally and ceremonially saying, “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” (Isa 66:3-4) So what is it that the LORD does delight in? “To this man will I look (i.e.; take notice of), even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Isa 66:2) Have you thus been separated unto the gospel? “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)