Posted by: chuckbumgardner | February 9, 2008

Menno Simons and “Second-Degree” Separation

The proper application of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 to separation from other believers who are living in disobedience has been a bone of contention among fundamentalists for some time.  The contention arises over whether failure of Believer A to separate from Believer B who is walking in disobedience, itself constitutes adequate grounds for other believers to separate from Believer A. 
Without commenting on the validity of that application, I post here the comments of Menno Simons* in order to show that such an application of the passage did not originate in the twentieth century.  It is possible that Menno Simons in the following comments is not using the 2 Thessalonians 3 passage in precisely the same way as twentieth-century fundamentalists, but I think the similarities are obvious.  Menno Simons is not in the passage below addressing ecclesiastical separation, but individual separation from those who do not separate from the disobedient who are under church discipline (“the ban”).
In a series of “Questions and Answers,” Menno Simons first asks whether separation from the disobedient is a command or (merely) a counsel of God.  He answers that it is indeed a command (looking to 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Tim. 6:5; Tit. 3:9), and even if it were only a counsel, it still ought to be followed.
   Question 2. If any person should not maintain this ban and yet be pious otherwise, should such an one be banned on that account?
   Answer.  Whoever is pious will show his piety in obedience, and not knowingly or willfully despise and disregard the word, commandment, will, counsel, admonition and doctrine of God.  For if any one willfully keeps commercium (intercourse, company) with such whose company is forbidden in Scripture, to be kept, then we must come to the conclusion that he despises the word of God, yea, is in open rebellion and refractoriness (I speak of those who well know and acknowledge, and yet do so).  “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry,” 1 Sam. 15:23.
   Since the Scriptures admonishes [sic] and command, That we shall not associate with such, nor eat with them, nor greet them, nor receive them into our houses, &c.; and yet if some body should say, I will associate with them, I will eat with them, I will greet them in the Lord and receive them into my house — he would plainly prove that he did not fear the commandment and admonition of the Lord, but that he despised it, rejected the Holy Spirit and that he trusted, honored and followed his own opinion rather than the word of God.  Now judge for yourself what kind of a sin it is not to be willing to hear and obey God’s word.  Paul says, “Now we command you brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which ye received of us;” again, “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,” 2 Thess. 3:6, 14.  Inasmuch as the ban was so strictly commanded by the Lord, and practiced by the apostles, Matt. 18:17; therefore we must also use it and obey it, since we are thus taught and enlightened by God, or else we should be shunned by the church of God.  This must be acknowledged.
Menno Simons, “Questions and Answers,” in “A Fundamental and Clear Confession of the Poor and Distressed Christians, etc.” (1552) in The Complete Works of Menno Simon (Elkhart, Ind.: John F. Funk and Brother, 1871), 276.
* He is alternately known as Menno Simon, and other variations exist as well.

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