“The Principle of Separation” – A Member Comments…

Brethren believe that separation is a principle emphasised right through the Holy Bible and we observe that it has been historically practised by all peoples, nations and religions in some form or other for many millennia. From the first page of the Bible when God divided between light and darkness (Genesis Ch1:4) through to the last page where there is a separation between those that go into the city and those without (Revelation 22:14-15), the principle of separation is emphasised.

Brethren accept the Bible as a revelation from God as to His purposes and that it is a Book of Principles which guide all true believers as to his or her way of life individually and collectively. The Lord Jesus said of his disciples “they are not of the world even as I am not of the world” see John 17 v 14. The world in this sense refers to the system of sin and lawlessness under the domination of Satan – this describes essentially “Separation”. The word “fellowship” means “mutual association on equal and friendly terms”;  and “partnership” – a “joint interest”, “an association of persons having the same interest”.

One of the key facts recorded in the Bible is the Cross of Christ, and the lessons of that, indeed the significance of it, is critical publicly and privately to all humanity. The notice over the cross as recorded in the Gospel according to John was written in Hebrew (the religious language of the time); Latin (the official or government language of the time; and Greek (the language of the intellectual world). That is, the three key strands of society were exposed by the cross. The teaching of scripture in relation to the Cross of Christ is of critical public and private significance to all humanity.

To the Brethren the lessons of the cross are many, including that publicly this “world” as a system showed what it thought of Jesus. The acceptance of this underlies Christianity as practised amongst us: because this “world” publicly rejected Him then we must maintain separation from this world in the practice of our lives every day.

Any history of the centuries since then includes how often lovers of Jesus who have sought to stand true to Him and His rights have been treated. For instance very recently an Armenian migrant from Iran told me that Christians are being murdered every day in Iran.”

The Rules: As individuals we seek wholeheartedly to follow the teachings of Jesus as set out in the Gospels and as taught in the Epistles of the New Testament see;

a)     Matthew 16 v 24-26;

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

b)     Mark 10 v 28-30;

Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

c)     2 Timothy 2 v 19;

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

d)     2 Corinthians 6 v 14 – 18;

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? 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, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

These scriptures are examples of “the rules” that we regulate ourselves by, both as a congregation and individually. In so doing we do not attempt to pass judgement on others for the standard to which they hold themselves to or the degree of separation which they themselves practice.


Jim Joyce


17 thoughts on ““The Principle of Separation” – A Member Comments…”

  1. pundit kris says:

    The principle of separation is not exclusive to the pbcc, we Hindus have practised a form of separation for at least 6,000 years. A great Hindu saint had once written “the boat may float in the ocean and reach the other side ,however, if the ocean should enter the boat then it will sink and all on board will perish”.Likewise we live in this world but the world should not live in us,worldliness separates us from righteousness, without righteousness we cannot become detached, without detachment from materialism we cannot achieve liberation from this world and therefore cannot achieve immortality.

  2. Iain says:

    I have been studying your website because I am leading a Small Group for our Church on Romans 14 and I was wondering what the contents of Paul’s letter to Plymouth Brethren might be. I have accepted that I am saved by the Grace of my Lord and no matter what good deeds I do, if I didn’t feel this way and have this belief I would not be saved. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans at a time when there was a great deal of infighting between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Times are obviously different now, Christianity is the religion which suffers the most persecution in the world today and it saddens me greatly to read, for example, “We make a commitment to eat and drink only with those with whom we would celebrate the Lord’s Supper”. Remember Paul’s words, “For the Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.
    I believe we must be tolerant and supportive of one another, Christ is Lord of all, all of the time. God will be my judge and your judge. I guess I am answering my own question, we must all tolerate each other, those of different religions, those of different colour and race and creed. But, for us to be separate as you claim is hard to accept. – Iain

    1. Spencer Letts says:

      We are not called to tolerate other religions. We are to love them yes but we are not to tolerate. To tolerate is to accept their beliefs and we cannot fall into this. My Great-grandfather was of the Closed Brethren but left due to marrying a lady who was from a more ‘Open’ Brethren church but still very conservative. While the consequent uneasy feelings between the family did exist for awhile it did eventually become less tense. However, we are not to be of the world and I will whole heartedly agree, however, one should still be involved with and inviting of community members regardless of faith, however, they will not worship their god in my house. I serve the one true God and I will not cause judgment to come to my house because I let them worship some false god. There will be no meditation of a Buddhist, nor prayers to Allah in my house or on my land.

  3. joka north says:

    I am a past member of Exclusive Brethren for over 35 years and the Brethren have certainly changed their views on dealing with young people and family relationships over this time. …
    Separation from this worlds evil and Satan’s traps is paramount to a Christian living life in these “last days”.
    Praise the Lord for his blessings and mercy to us all and I look forward to being back in fellowship as per the Lords timing.

  4. gypsylass1 says:

    The emphasis on the comments above around the principle of separatism notably only relates to the wider community not to how this practice impacts on family members where an alternative path is chosen. What would happen in this scenario?

    1. Liu says:

      Emphasis on ‘chosen’ – it is their choice. When you choose your actions, you also choose the consequences (Stephen R. Covey).

  5. I am intrigued and confused by all the comment on separation.
    I am urged, in the Christian church, to go out and work in the community- to help my fellow man – to care for my neighbours – to love my neighbours as myself – to give- to share- to donate to help those less fortunate than myself.
    How can this be achieved by separation ?

    1. Calvin says:

      Hello Christine, You may find page 11 of the Living Our Beliefs download helpful. “The Doctrine of Separation” As you can see from the blog articles, separation does not stand in the way of helping others.

    2. JLJ says:

      When I reached the age of 18 in 1945 I began the pathway of separation because I wished to be consistent with the observance of the Lord’s supper every Sunday.
      Over the years since then right up to 2013 it has never been difficult to maintain separation and still be kind and/or sympathetic to everyone I have had to deal with: customers, employees, suppliers etc. The secret lies in dependence on the Holy Spirit and loyalty to the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Friend. Sometimes it has meant being clear and even blunt in defining the practice but I have never experienced real hostility in a personal sense but rather respect.


  6. Sonia says:

    i agree with Kate and October. i am also a member of thePBCC and in my opinion,seperation is what keeps our families together and our young people with us. it is a vital principal. The scripture says ” The world is passing ” seperation protects us from the passing world and all its snares.

  7. Pete says:

    I also am a member of the community and am thankful. I am glad you quote Matthew. There are some out there who have lost their way sadly and don’t accept the principle of separation being God’s principle of unity. They use some scripture but forget that the New Testament is from Mattew to Revalation incl.

  8. Will Booth says:

    It is interesting to read this comment, but I am not sure you will post this response. There is no indication that Jesus ever separated himself off in this way from ‘non-believers’, in fact he ate with tax collectors and ‘sinners’. The pharisees would not have done this at the time yet his actions countered their beliefs.

    It seems like you have gone back to the teaching of the pharisees who believed that they would somehow be infected by sharing a meal or a social occasion with a ‘non-religious’ person. Jesus clearly teaches that it is the heart that makes a man unclean, not his company or outward appearance. Christians are called to be ‘the light’ not to hide the light, saved by grace and sealed by the holy spirit.

    The reason that the gospel is so widely known is because God chosen to use men and women to share their faith in difficult places. Paul became ‘all things to all men’ so he could share the gospel. This witness is not just about ‘preaching’ at people, but showing a different way of life, in colleges, in work and with neighbours. By separating yourselves off you do not prevent yourself sinning and you also limit any impact you may have in showing how the gospel has changed your lives.


    1. Jim Joyce says:

      In relation to your first comment, after the cross, death and burial of Jesus, the scriptures deal with his resurrection, His time with the apostles and then his ascension. During this period He only spent time with the apostles and those who were with Him – See Acts Chapter 10 v 40, note Peter specifically says (speaking as to the presence of Jesus after the resurrection) “Him God raised up the third day and showed him openly; not to all the people but unto witnesses chosen before of God even to us who did eat with him after he rose from the dead”
      Before his death Jesus presented the truth and expressed it as recorded in the 4 Gospels. AFTER his resurrection only the disciples were present with him. “Then Jesus ascended into the clouds out of their sight” (Acts Chap 1 v. 9)
      Christianity began from this point as is set out through the Acts of the Apostles especially see Acts chapter 11 verse 26 “and the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch”

      The second point you make is your deduction, however in fact, historically at the beginning of the movement, about 1828 what had the greatest impact was the recognition that “Christ is head of the Church as the ascended Man” that is everything in Christianity comes from Christ where he now is at the right hand of God. See Acts 5 v 31; Acts 7 v 55; Ephesians 1 v 20; Colossians 3 v 1.
      This was the very initial fact which coloured the thinking of those who originally acted in separating from the public system as is abundantly set out in early writings.
      Regarding your third comment, this is your opinion which is not supported by facts.
      The very first action in time was when 5 exercised persons – already believers – decided to obey the Lords Commandment “This do for a remembrance of Thee” This was in Dublin in 1828.
      The “movement” began then. Obedience to the words of the Lord Jesus and ever since the history of the Plymouth Brethren has stemmed from that fact, ie. “Obedience to the Lord’s own request” – Luke 22 v 19-20 and the 1st Corinthians 11 v 23 – 26 (Paul was directly instructed by the Lord) and;
      The other determining principle was not only Christ is Lord, but also that He is Head of the Assembly (Church).
      Plymouth brethren believe that there will be many more in Heaven eternally than in hell because the “Lord Jesus is Head of the body, the Church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence (Colossians 1 v 17 – 18)
      One last comment: whenever there is a gathering if Plymouth Brethren in a locality there is not only the preaching of the Gospel inside the church, but there are also gospel preaching’s in public locations near where people congregate or pass by – this practice has been maintained worldwide regularly since 1947/48, but it was also a feature in the earlier periods as far as records show.

      Jim Joyce

    2. Derek says:

      You made the comment that by “seperating yourself off you do not prevent yourself from sinning”, however the apostle Paul teaches me in Romans 7 to recognise that sin “dwells in me”, that is, it is what I find myself to be inwardly. I find then that the principle of sin is within but it is for me to consistently turn away from it or rather to seperate from it, rather than simply following it and falling into sin. The point that I am trying to make is that seperation is the prevention of sin and it is worked out in my own soul. If you read through Romans 7 you may be able to understand this point. Just a few thoughts. Hope this helps.


  9. Kate says:

    I am a 19 year old member of this community who is extremely thankful to be part of this wonderful circle apart from the world. The world is not lasting but what’s for God will shine out in eternity. ‘And the world is passing, and its lust, but he that does the will of God abides for eternity’ (1 John Chap. 2 v 17). I believe ‘separation’ is vital in keeping us young people pure and untainted from the ever worsening sin system of this world. I could not be more grateful that I am amongst the brethren.

    1. October says:

      I am a young member of the PBCC, and too am very thankful to be preserved from deteriorating conditions in the world. Romans 8: 35 is a great reassurance ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

    2. Lou says:

      Fully Agree!
      I also am a young member of the community – I was sitting next to a policeman on a plane flight recently, and he mentioned about 85% of their call-outs were to household ‘domestics’. It is a shame to see what violence people are happy to watch, and then act in a similar way to children and those around them. This is possibly not the appropriate place to write this, but after the awful shooting of school children in Sandy Hook School in USA, i noticed a news report that said media companies had “temporarily delayed the release of an ‘ultra-violent’ movie” – Judge for yourself if violent entertainment has any effect on people.
      My point is, The young people of the church are greatly thankful to be preserved from the corruption & filth that is so rampant in the world today. Sure, we come under reproach from time to time – with other kids bullying us & rejecting us, because we hold different beliefs – i can remember many times being at the park, and other children wouldn’t play with us, or wouldn’t talk to us because we didn’t watch TV or have playstations. At school people were angry or upset because we couldn’t eat with them or stay at their house.
      But that is all part of being a true believer – The Apostle Paul writes of The Lord Jesus in 1 Peter ch 2 v7: “To you therefore who believe is the preciousness; but to the disobedient (or disbelieving), the stone which the builders cast away as worthless, this is become head of the corner (or chief corner stone),”. This is also linked to the Old Testament scripture: Isaiah ch 28 v 16: ” A precious corner-stone, a sure foundation”. We are not deviated from our path by the reproach and rejection, because our foundation is in Jesus, not in ourselves (2 cor. 1 v9) or in riches (Mark 10 v24) or in the world. The Lord Jesus came to this world, but was not part of it – We are in this world, but are not part of it. The world could not fit Jesus into it’s system (in the Inn when he was born, or in His title when He was crucified), and as we are wholly for Christ, the world has no place for us either.
      Nahum 1 v7:”Jehovah is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”
      All believers in Jesus have the choice whether they become immersed in this world, or whether they touch it as lightly as possible. Any link I have with this world is holding me back from being with Christ in Heaven.
      Thank God for this provision! May it be maintained in its fullness till the rapture!

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