“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” —John 17:17
Put these two things together, dedication to God and separation unto him, and you are nearing the meaning of the prayer. But, mark you, it is not all separation that is meant; for, as I told you in the reading there are some who “separate themselves,” and yet are sensual, not having the Spirit. Separation for separation’s sake savours rather of Babel than of Jerusalem. It is one thing to separate from the world, and another thing to be separate from the church. Where we believe that there is living faith in Jesus, and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, we are not called to division, but to unity. For actual and manifest sin we must separate ourselves from offender; —but we err if we carry on this separation where it is not authorized by the word of God. The Corinthians and Galatians were far from being perfect in life, and they had made many mistakes in doctrine, yea, even upon vital points; but inasmuch as they were truly in Christ, Paul did not command any to come out of those churches, and to be separate therefrom; but he exhorted them to prove each man his own work, and he laboured to bring them all back to the one and only gospel, and to a clearer knowledge of it. We are to be faithful to truth; but we are not to be of a contentious spirit, separating ourselves from those who are living members of the one and indivisible body of Christ. To promote the unity of the church, by creating new divisions, is not wise. Cultivate at once the love of the truth and the love of the brethren. The body of Christ will not be perfected by being rent. Truth should be the companion of love. If we heartily love even those who are in some measure in error, but who possess the life of God in their souls, we shall be the more likely to set them right. Separation from the world is a solemn duty, indeed it is the hard point, the crux and burden of our religion. It is not easy to be filled with love to men and yet for God’s sake, and even for their own sake, to be separated from them. The Lord teach us this.
—Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Delivered Sunday Morning, March 8, 1886 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 32 Sermon No. 1890, “Our Lord’s Prayer for His People’s Sanctification”