Yokefellows (2 Cor 6:14-18)

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.” (2 Corinthians 6:14–16, KJV)

There are certain things that people will join without even thinking that can have adverse effects. One time, my wife made the mistake of using bleach and ammonia to clean something in our house. The result was not good. The combination of these two chemicals will produce chloramine vapors that are toxic and can cause respiratory damage. Fortunately, her exposure was not as severe as it could have been. Some have been known to experience permanent lung damage and even death from such a mistake. You will find warnings on bleach containers not to mix it with other chemicals.

Similarly, Paul warned the Corinthians that certain things are not to be joined. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” Here Paul used a common imagery of the times. It is one of a yoke used on two beasts of burden to pull a load. No farmer would put a donkey with an ox in the same yoke. In fact, this thought was presented in the Old Testament. “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together” (Deuteronomy 22:10, KJV). When we look at the context of the passage in Deuteronomy, we see the universal principle that Paul is presenting in this section of the letter. Unequal things are not to be cojoined. In Deuteronomy the Israelites were told not to plant two types of seed in the vineyard (Deut 22:9) and not to wear garments made of a mixture of wool and linen (Deut 22:11).

After presenting the principle that believers are not to be yoked with unbelievers, Paul goes onto present five rhetorical questions to clarify his point. He indicated that righteousness and unrighteousness cannot be united, that light and darkness do not occupy the same space, that Christ and Satan are not in one accord, that unbelievers do not share in the blessing of believers, and that there is no place for idols in the temple of God.

He then presented passages from the Old Testament to show that believers have a unique and privileged place with God. For this reason, the idea of being yoked with unbelievers is to be avoided. The phrase “Do not be” is a passive voice command. Believers are not to allow themselves to be yoked with unbelievers.

While we commonly used this verse in referring to couples joined in marriage, the verse has much broader application. Consider the church to which Paul wrote. It seems that false teachers were attempting to preach heretical theology. The church was not to mix the false with the truth. This is something that we see happening in churches today. In business, I have seen believers and unbelievers establish businesses together. The problem is that their philosophies of business can conflict, especially in the area of ethical business practices. In the area of relationships, people might engage others intimately outside the boundaries of biblical marriage. There are many other ways of becoming unequally yoked as well.

The point is this. As believers, we cannot allow ourselves to become unequally bound with unbelievers. The results will be detrimental, if not downright disastrous, to our Christian walk.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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