“Guilt by Association” & “Secondary Separation”

guilt by approval

Guilty by Association or Secondary Separation

Have you ever been accused of doing something you didn’t do? I have. There is everything frustrating about it. To be innocent and forced to vindicate yourself of false charges can be tiresome at best and is usually a nightmare. Perhaps the most frustrating type of accusation is Guilt by association. This is something we have all either heard of or had to deal with personally, but what is it, exactly?

Guilt by association is a logical fallacy that wrongly concludes that because a trait is shared by a person or things, that therefore, all other things that share that trait also share in the other traits or characteristics of that thing or person. It typically looks something like this:

Rick is a felon; Rick has brown hair; therefore, everyone with brown hair is a felon.
Marcy is a thief; Marcy wears sandals; therefore, all thieves wear sandals.

This is guilt by association. It has no moral bearing or implication but is a fallacy of inductive reasoning. One type of “guilt by association” is racial profiling or stereotyping. Just because there seems to be a theme of conduct among people of a certain race or dress code does not mean that therefore everyone who fits that description is guilty of the same trend. Appearance does not precipitate an agreement. Logical progression in empirical truth claims is one thing; moral implications are quite another.

We must first establish, firmly and decisively, what is meant by “association.” In the general sense and in this context, association is something that is out of one’s control. Association is incidental not forced. In our examples above, Rick’s hair color is out of his control; nor does incidental similarity in hair with anyone else mean that they share any other similarities. Likewise, it is not in Marcy’s control who else wears sandals. Those outward character traits do not arouse dispositions or proclivities within them. Nor would any particular thing a felon does necessarily implicate one as a co-felon who happened to do the same thing (unless the thing itself were felonious, of course). Felons and non-felons both need water to survive. This says nothing of their mental conformity. Again; this shared trait is out of their control.

In an age of deceit and deception within the church, when one is exposed for certain errors, especially of “associating” with another person, the first objection is: “That is Guilt by association” or “That is secondary separation.” But is this valid? It all depends on the nature of the association. We must understand the difference between “association” and approval or cooperation. There is a massive difference between sharing hair color or a barber with someone and approving of their code of conduct. Though Rick’s shared hair color with a felon is out of his control, his approval of felonious activities is in his control. We are now dealing with a moral standard, not a mere logical progression; with a deliberate action not an incidental reality.
If Rick shared no outward commonality with the felon, but helped him in all of his crimes he would rightly be charged with “aiding and abetting.” This is not mere “association” but approval and cooperation with the felon and, therefore, makes him a culpable party. But I am not interested in mere worldly judgment, but what is written in the Bible.

This principle is seen throughout the Bible as a moral standard set by God. To help the enemies of the Lord is to become one as well. One needn’t be the principle offender. In 2 Chronicles 19:2 Jehu tells King Jehoshaphat,
“Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Therefore the wrath of the LORD is upon you.”
Immediately we see condemnation, not for being the principle culprit but for embracing him. The Bible says that Ahab did more evil in the sight of God than all the kings that were before him (1 Kings 16:30). Knowing this, Jehoshaphat still allied with him, and is rebuked for it. This was not mere association but partnership; approval and cooperation. In Romans 1:32 we read of the condemnation of those who not only practice wickedness but also “approve of those” who practice wickedness. Their approval of wickedness is wickedness in itself. 2 John 1:9-11 says that to even greet someone bringing false doctrine, not in accord with what Christ taught, is to “share” or “partake” in their evil deeds. This is NOT “Guilt by Association” This IS guilt by APPROVAL; participation, and cooperation. The objection about association is meritless in a moral argument from a biblical standpoint. The objection is often raised by people who not only misunderstand basic logical principles and the difference between association in a fallacious argument and approval in a moral context but people who are either ignorant of the counsel of Scripture or who disdain it by their willingness to blatantly disregard it. This is so patently obvious, even to worldlings, that we have laws regarding it.

18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, GIVING THEM AID AND COMFORT within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

To help an enemy of someone is to express approval of what they are doing, as well as cowardice for not doing it yourself. If you saw a man walk by a woman being raped and he gave the rapist a hi-five and continued on his journey, what would you say? This is obvious guilt. There is a prime example of what some, ignorant of reason altogether, would nonsensically refer to as “guilt by association.” Hi-fiving a rapist is not “association” but APPROVAL.
Let’s be clear. The vast majority of the time the objection of “guilt by association” is raised, it is because someone is trying to protect themselves, another or both. They know that if the person they are defending is guilty of this, that they too would be guilty if they refused to repudiate their endorsement of or fellowship with that person. For most, idolatry runs deep and the prospect of foolish irrationality and radical departure from Scripture is more tolerable for them than forsaking their idol.

Let us move now to some of the men of yesteryear to see what they had to say on this theme of “guilt by association” or “secondary separation” (a term invented by men interested in self preservation rather than biblical conformity).
Since most of the individuals who have quivers full of “secondary separation” or “guilt by association” arrows respect and think they are aligned with Charles Spurgeon and the like, let’s call them as witnesses.

Charles Spurgeon

“Complicity with error will take from the best of men the power to enter any successful protest against it … Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin … As soon as I saw, or thought I saw, that error had become firmly established, I did not deliberate, but quitted the body at once. Since then my counsel has been ‘Come out from among them.’ I have felt that no protest could be equal to that of distinct separation from known evil … That I might not stultify my testimony I have cut myself clear of those who err from the faith, and even from those who associate with them.” — C.H.Spurgeon., The Sword and the Trowel.–

“”For Christians to be linked in association with ministries who do not preach the gospel of Christ is to incur moral guilt… to remain in a denominational alignment which condones error is to support schism.” — C.H.S., The Forgotten Spurgeon, pp. 164-165.

“To be very plain, we are unable to call these things Christian Unions; they begin to look like Confederacies in Evil … It is our solemn conviction that where there can be no real spiritual communion there should be no pretense of fellowship. Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin.” — C.H.S., The Sword and the Trowel, November 1887.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on 2 John 1:9-11 says this:

“II. Here is the reason of such direction, forbidding the support and patronage of the deceiver: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. Favour and affection partake of the sin. We may be sharers in the iniquities of others. How judicious and how cautious should the Christian be! There are many ways of sharing the guilt of other people’s transgressions; it may be done by culpable silence, indolence, unconcernedness, private contribution, public countenance and assistance, inward approbation, open apology and defence. The Lord pardon our guilt of other persons’ sins!”

J Vernon McGee said,
“One who supports a false teacher is a partner in his error. Should not you and I be more careful today?”

John Gill, who preceded Spurgeon in the same pulpit said,
“he has fellowship with him, instead of reproving or shunning him, as he ought; he is an abettor of him in his principles, and so far joins in the propagation of them, and helps to spread them, and gives too much reason to think he is one with him in them.”

Arthur Pink Separation

A.W. Pink

A.W. Pink said,
“No excuse whatever is there for failing to understand the terms of this exhortation, and the reason with which it is supported. “Fellowship, communion, concord, part, agreement” are so plain they require no interpreter. All unions, alliances, partnerships, entanglements, with unbelievers are expressly forbidden to the Christian. It is impossible to find within the whole range of Holy Scripture plainer language on any subject than we have here. “Righteousness, unrighteousness; light, darkness; Christ, Belial”—what have they in common? What bond is there between them?”

We see, then, that the notion of “secondary separation” is not only clearly commanded in Scripture, but attested to by well respected men of years gone by. To fail so separate from that which is in error is to partake in the very same error. Hence, there is no such thing as “secondary separation”. If a person is in vital error, such as the Pope, then to embrace him and bid him godspeed in any sense would be to become a partaker in his evil as well. Therefore, it would be incumbent on those who were in previous fellowship with this person to separate from him until or unless he repents of his affirmation and fellowship with an antichrist. Failure to do so  is to approve of what he is doing; namely giving credence to an antichrist. Spurgeon also said, “To pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus.”
He was absolutely correct. I cannot have fellowship with a treasonous person anymore than the person that was the occasion for their treason. They are both equally guilty and myself as well should I refuse to shun their wickedness, or to separate from them.

Ah, but some will say, “where do we stop? Should I separate up to 7 degrees?” What a foolish question! Will you put a limit on holiness? Should it be necessary to separate from EVERYONE who approves of a false teacher or a wicked man, would you neglect to do it? Do you put a higher price on the fellowship of men rather than the Lord you claim to serve? If your mother were raped, and your best friend told you he had befriended the rapist and planned to maintain a cordial relationship with him, what would you say? What common bond of friendship do you have with a man who pays no mind to the fact that your mother was raped by his new friend? Would you maintain friendship with a man who wholeheartedly embraced your mother’s rapist? If you answer in the affirmative, I should like to speak with your mother and tell her so. How much more ought we to be willing to separate from those who embrace enemies of Christ? This is not a game. The moral magnitude of this is weightier than rape. You are dealing with treasonous behavior toward the King of kings and Lord of lords. Do you not even fear God? What do you think God will say knowing that He sent His ONLY begotten Son to die in your stead, and you willingly embraced enemies of His? What will you tell Him of those whom you opted not to rebuke? Will you say, “Well, I didn’t do it, I just didn’t mind encouraging and fellowshipping with those who did.” This is patently absurd. In fact, that this article is even necessary is a testament to the state of utter destitution we find ourselves in today. Idolatrous cowards seek to form alliances with those who are enemies of Christ at the blatant disregard of the whole counsel of Scripture. Countless objections of “guilt by association” have been levied to assuage or otherwise nullify the culpability of those like “Pope John MacArthur II” and his cohorts.

Platt and Chan

David Platt & Francis Chan

Never mind the fact that David Platt is in open PARTNERSHIP (not “association”) with


Francis Chan & Mike Bickle

Francis Chan, who embraces and partners in ministry with false teacher Mike Bickle. Apparently, Todd Friel, Phil Johnson and Johnny Mac get a pass per some capricious and idolatrous standard that is conspicuously absent from even the reams of Calvinistic literature and conviction. Spurgeon would have laughed most of these dunces right out of the Metropolitan Tabernacle; hypocritical fools. John Piper actively PARTNERS with DEVILS at the Passion Conference, and is a PARTAKER with them, and yet he and John MacArthur PARTNER together; he and Al Mohler PARTNTER together.


MacArthur, Platt, Chandler, Piper, Mohler, etc.

As was thoroughly refuted already, this is not “association” but APPROVAL and cooperation; partnership. Extension of the right hand of fellowship. Yes, to join hands at a conference is to approve of everyone there unless expressly stated. Without rebuke, you have given tacit approval. 2 John 1:11 says that to even “greet” someone who brings false doctrine, that is to wish him success or bid him any encouragement, is to PARTAKE in his evil; to SHARE in it. The inductive fallacy of “guilt by association” has absolutely ZERO bearing on a moral argument such as this. It is a straw-man argument to use it as an objection in these cases as the relationship is clearly not that of “association” but of open PARTNERSHIP and approval.
Spurgeon condemns this; Gill condemns this, Pink condemns this, McGee condemns this; Henry condemns this; Lloyd-Jones condemns this, Dr. Peter Jones saying,

“To prove the point we remember the way in which Dr Lloyd-Jones refused to work with Billy Graham, and this is a significant example of secondary separation. In 1963 the evangelist asked Dr Lloyd-Jones to chair the first World Congress on Evangelism (eventually held in Berlin in 1966; predecessor to Lausanne). Dr Lloyd-Jones told Billy Graham that if he would stop having liberals and Roman Catholics on his platform and drop the invitation system he would support and chair the Congress.”

Christ calls people to Himself. The very notion of repentance is that of turning from whatever is opposed to God; namely sin, and to Christ instead. Failure to do this is to prove to love something other than Christ. As one could in no way partner with or befriend someone who supported the rapist of his own mother, so we cannot support those who support sin in any way, lest we, as Spurgeon said, commit treason against Christ Himself. We cannot aid or comfort enemies of the U.S. without incurring a guilty sentence upon ourselves, much less can we harbor enemies of Christ without incurring the guilt of treason and becoming a partaker in the same evil as they. The word “partaker” must be soberly understood. This makes you just like them. As when AIDS is transferred to someone, they become a partaker in the disease. They are now just as infected as the person who gave it to them, and just as capable of passing it on and infecting others.
Heed the warnings! You will be judged for what you refused to say as well; what Henry called “silent culpability.”
To refuse to separate from someone who refuses to separate from someone is to approve of their disobedience and become disobedient as well. If they are partaking in someone else’s sin by refusing to separate, then you partake in their partaking for refusing to separate from them. The chain must be broken.

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Joshua Chavez

A slave of Christ. My name is Joshua Chavez.

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26 Responses

  1. Lara says:

    Excellent. Those you are confronting on this issue can’t seem to see the difference between ministers of the Gospel of Christ at conferences where biblical truth is supposed to be expounded, and a casual acquaintance with people you do not agree with spiritually. These men are supposed to represent the Lord Jesus Christ and they cannot see the error in not separating? They are all yoked together by the ‘conference circuit’ and obviously do not want to rock the boat. It’s disgusting and hypocritical.

  2. When the pictured men, professing “leaders” at that, either cannot see or refuse to acknowledge what would be taught in Christianity 101, we are in a serious state. Praise God many of God’s children are seeing these men for who they really are- those who refuse to fully obey God due to what that will personally cost them, AND the religious empires they have and our building in their own names.

    The remnant God is about to unleash upon this world and false christiandon may be small, but they will go, and speak in power, for they loved not their lives unto death.

  3. Larry Oneil Scott says:

    Joshua, what is your last name? Are you on Facebook? I really appreciate your YouTube videos about John MacArthur, John Piper, Rick Warren, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, etc.I just discovered you yesterday and have listened and watched over 3 hours of your videos.I have also shared your videos with over 20 of my Facebook friends. One of my friends has been saying these same things about John MacArthur for over 20 years. He would like to speak to you on the phone. He currently lives in China.If you would give me your phone number, I would pass it on to him.Thanks Joshua for exposing the hypocrisy of some of these guys.Could you do a video on R.C.Sproul? God bless!

    • Coral Hahn says:

      I am very sad to hear about John Piper these people who were greatly entrusted need prayer. He is not willing that any should perish. Better to make it in just barely than eternity without Him. Although it is a desired blessing to hear “well done by good and faithful servant”

  4. Michael Moody says:

    As a greek orthodox presbyter, looking on the outside of evangelicalism, I shake my head. It seems many believe what their own heart devises, so is it any wonder? I put my hand to the plow and don’t partner with those who depart from apostolic traditions. αδιαλείπτως προσευχεσθε.
    2 Corinthians 6:17–18 (NTPT): διὸ ἐξέλθατε ἐκ μέσου αὐτῶν καὶ ἀφορίσθητε, λέγει Κύριος, καὶ ἀκαθάρτου μὴ ἅπτεσθε, κἀγὼ εἰσδέξομαι ὑμᾶς,
    18 καὶ ἔσομαι ὑμῖν εἰς πατέρα, καὶ ὑμεῖς ἔσεσθέ μοι εἰς υἱοὺς καὶ θυγατέρας, λέγει Κύριος παντοκράτωρ
    That is true separation. Inwardly renouncing anything that defiles and clinging only to Him. May His peace which passes understanding be with you.

    • Richard Puckett says:

      While the verses you quoted are right on point about the issues being raised here, I must quote one also.
      Mark 7:8 (ESV): You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.
      Take your stand on the word of God alone, as it has been revealed to us in his Holy Bible; don’t partner with those who depart from this standard – which will never pass away.

  5. Ralph Jansen says:

    A lot of mess to deal with in the article. I will look into it when I have more time again.

  6. nancy says:

    Are you greek orthodox ? ? what is your association ? who do you recommend, and or support ?

    • Servus Christi says:

      Not Greek Orthodox and I would caution you against them. Here are a few names I would recommend. Jacob Prasch, Zac Poonen, Leonard Ravenhill, Phillip Doddridge.
      I hope that helps you.

  7. Patricia says:

    Why do you use Latin for your nom de plume (“Servus Christi”) if you are not Catholic, Joshua?

  8. Laura says:

    The remnant seems to be shrinking every day, much to my consternation.

    • Coral Hahn says:

      Laura, be encouraged that even though they seem to be shrinking that God states in the scripture that there is a great multitude that comes through the great tribulation. Although approx 5 billion of the current over 7 billion world population will perish in the seals and the trumpets, the remaining near two billion people remaining, the 144,000 if it is of that remaining population unless I am mistaken, will be 40-41 percent of the population…I feel I am miscalculating, but if not, the math I did shows a more evening out of the battle lines. Be encouraged dear heart of His.

  9. Barbara says:

    Yes, Servus Christi, and why the Chi Rho symbol for your ministry? I am seeing this more and more, so I researched it a bit and found it to be much, much (mostly) used by the Catholics . Although I am thankful in one way to see it, so I can be warned to stay away. The very people you expose can sound so right, and even they themselves expose the false system at times, but they are false. I hope this isn’t you, too. I don’t know for sure, but this symbol? It is actually creepy looking to me. I know that doesn’t count for false, but…

    • Joshua Chavez says:

      The Chi Rho is a monogram for Christ (Christos). “X” and “P” are the first two letters of Christ in Greek. This symbol predates Catholicism by a few hundred years and was used by early Christians who were being martyred. Catholics also use bibles and proclaim the virgin birth, that doesn’t mean we ignore those things because they use them. The Chi Rho is simply the initials of Jesus. Nothing more.

  10. Barbara says:

    Joshua, Thanks for responding to me. I am so thankful for what you do expose and how you back it up with proof. I respect you for that and really have not disagreed with u up till now, but in these days of exceeding deceit, and in light of all the ways many of us have been deceived (including me), it is worth questioning. Like I said, I don’t know for sure about this symbol, but might be better not to use it. I would say it is questionable – I wouldn’t say it is akin to the Bible or the virgin Mary…those are from the Bible – this is from man (although your point is understood). And if my research is correct it originated from Contantine as a military symbol he used in light of a “vision” he had about, or from, Christ – and I believe, (at least at this point for what I can find) that this may be when christians started accepting the false church system, or at least was catapulted us forward in mixing with RC. Is that your finding?
    Again, thank you for what you have exposed. It has helped me much.

    • Joshua Chavez says:

      The Chi Rho predates Constantine by at least a couple of hundred years if not more. He did not invent it. It was in wide use by the persecuted church before Constantine ever existed. He simply made it somewhat popular. It is a monogram for Christ; the first two letters of “Christos” in Greek. Nothing more. They are the initials of Jesus that happen to look like a cross when placed on top of each other. Reading into this any further would only be speculative and unhelpful. I don’t look for things that aren’t there. If it were some universal symbol today that was directly linked with the occult such as a pentagram or something, I would refrain from using it so as not to send strongly mixed messages. Most people know or immediately acknowledge that this is simply the initial of Christ in Greek and originated as such. Nothing nefarious about it.

  11. Barbara says:

    Last comment. I do not agree with your recommending Jacob Prasch. I have met and spoke with him personally. Christians, do your research.

    • Joshua Chavez says:

      Being vague helps nobody and is a sign of untruthfulness generally. So, what are you implying? What happened in your talk with him that makes you say you wouldn’t recommend him? Please be specific and use the bible to substantiate your claim. Thanks.

  12. Barbara says:

    Joshua, I thought about the vagueness after I posted and totally regretted it. Forgive me everybody. (including Jacob) Please. So sorry. I sinned.
    Long story short- Jacob believes you can lose your salvation. Which I did end up researching, because of all the false doctrine that is out there, just to make sure I wasn’t possibly wrong or mislead, but I wasn’t. ( Christian’s do your own study on it, its good to get assured in it)
    I really wish I would not have posted anything. Not interested in going back and forth. Big regret. Just do research Christian’s. There is other stuff u may disagree with.
    What a mess we are in. I am totally concerned with anybody who is being newly born again at this point in time in America. Right straight in the center of a babylonian atmosphere in churches. May God help our newest family members with exceeding discernment.
    2 Peter 2 all around us.

  13. Chris says:

    This is a really good article and it was very helpful. I used to attend an FIEC church where books, videos and articles by John Piper, Mark Driscoll, CJ Mahaney and others in the Gospel Coalition were promoted. I also had a dispute with some member church leaders in the South East Gospel Partnership which tolerated Stephen Sizer (who was been credibly charged by some people with antisemitism). What astonishes me is most church leaders are wilfully blind to this. They ignore the evidence you put right in front of them and they reply with pathetic statements like “I cannot comment on that”. After that, they continue on their way and they don’t remove the books or break the associations. Although it hurts, you assured me that I was right to feel uncomfortable with these “friends” and did the right thing by staying away from them.

  14. Lincoln Smith says:

    Good article for what is covered and normalized by the deception of man cannot not escape the eye of God. Jospeh knew such test and purification, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

  15. Rudi says:

    Dearly Beloved Joshua,

    I have read and listened to some of your information and can see your seal for the Lord and the purity of His Church. I praise God for this ! Also though your video on the False Church System is heading in the right direction, praise the Lord , your emphasis on the place of meeting in it self is not necessarily an issue, see
    Acts 19:9

    But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

    this may well have been a larger Building or room , also remember the gifts given to the Church do include , Teachers , see:

    Eph. 4 :10-12
    0 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

    Now regarding 2 John 10 & 11
    10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds !

    I fear you have not looked at this carefully enough. By this I mean prayerful enough .I shall not seek to tell you what I see here only to point to Math. 13:25-30 also Math: 5:19 !
    One thing I implore you to not do, that is to rush to justify your present understanding without earnestly seeking God !

    One final question I have ?
    As it seems to me you are not of the Calvinist doctrine . So if this is correct, than you should know that Calvinism is Heresy , so how could YOU then in the past, recommend to others to listen to Paul Washer an Heretic and now that He has some indirect connections ,except for the 2 Rappers ,this only now has become Heresy !?

    Prayerfully with Jesus love

    Rudi Kunz

    • Joshua Chavez says:

      I never emphasized the place of meeting. In fact I specifically stated that it was not commanded but noted the several examples of this. Acts 19:9 is not an example of a gathering of the saints for the breaking of bread. I never said there were no teachers in the church. Don’t hear what wasn’t said.
      If you are suggesting that 2 John 11 is to be ignored on the basis of your faulty interpretation of Matthew 5 & 13 your are sorely mistaken to the extent that it is absurd. You fail to understand the nature of the tares and the wheat. Judas, for example was a tare. The tares look identical to the wheat and it is difficult to tell them apart. None of Jesus’ disciples knew that Judas was a devil and they all questioned themselves. This is not at all akin to what I’m doing. Anyone I’m mentioning has been documented as supporting false teaching either overtly or tacitly and therefore has displayed the leaven of the pharisees which is hypocrisy which Jesus warned of. Paul later commanded that we judge the church and keep it pure. Read 1 Corinthians 5:11-13.
      As for Calvinism. No, I’m not a Calvinist. Neither was Wesley a Calvinist and yet he preached at George Whitefield’s funeral. Whitefield was a Calvinist if you didn’t know. That not being enough, Wesley once quipped that Whitefield would be so close to the throne in heaven that he would be unable to see him. Now, Spurgeon was a Calvinist and remarked that Wesley (the Prince of Arminians) was a man of whom the world was not worthy. Leonard Ravenhill was not a Calvinist, but yet admired and quoted Spurgeon. There are extreme forms of both that become heretical, but wisdom was found in these men who strongly disagreed and yet still counted each other as brothers in the Lord. You would do well to find that balance. Your whole series of objections seems to be rooted in emotionalism or a sever misunderstanding which I hope is the case. Please reevaluate your baseless objections, Rudi. Thanks.

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