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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Unequal Yoke

05/05_2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Unequal Yokes Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190505_2cor6_14-16.mp3

Paul addresses the Corinthians personally, inviting them to open up to him. He has been open with them, he has not withheld any good, his heart is wide open to them, but their affections have narrowed toward him. He addresses the issue head on in verse 14. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Then he gives five shocking illustrations of incompatibility to wake them up to the seriousness of the issue.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

In order to understand this passage rightly, we need to ask what he means by being unequally yoked, and who are the unbelievers he is warning against being unequally yoked together with.

Differently Yoked

What does it mean to be yoked? This is a farming metaphor. A yoke is a device that connects two animals together for the purpose of pulling a load or doing work. Deuteronomy 22:10 says:

Deuteronomy 22:10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.

An ox and a donkey are going to pull differently. They are different sizes, they have different abilities, different strength. We might ask, who would think this is a good idea? And any inexperienced farmer who tried it would quickly see that this is not going to be effective; they are not going to pull evenly, at the same rate, or in the same direction. One will tire before the other; they are simply not going to get much done. If mismatching animals in a yoke for labor is so evidently a bad idea, we might ask ‘why was this law even written?’

In 1 Corinthians 9:9, Paul quoted a verse just a few chapters later, Deuteronomy 25:4. It is interesting to see how he understood it.

1 Corinthians 9:9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

…14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul looks at the Old Testament text and says this is ultimately not about animals. God is setting a pattern, and it is for us, for our benefit. He takes a rule about agriculture and applies it to the preaching of the gospel.

It seems that is what he is doing here in 2 Corinthians 6:14. The rule about mismatching animals was to teach a principle about people and gospel ministry. The verses around Deuteronomy 22:10 prohibit planting with two different kinds of seed, and wearing clothing made of two different kinds of fabric. The point is that there are things that are not meant to go together.

Leviticus 19:19 forbids crossbreeding of animals that are of a different kind, and the Greek translation uses this word ‘unequally yoked’ to describe animals that are of different kinds; animals that would be unequally yoked. And this verse in Leviticus follows immediately after the one verse from Leviticus that you know; ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Five Rhetorical Questions

Paul pleads with the Corinthians to open their affections to him, and he commands that they cut off all inappropriate affections that were constricting their relationship. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. And he gives 5 rhetorical questions to drive his point home.

2 Corinthians 6:14 ,,,For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

15 What accord has Christ with Belial?

Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

Righteousness doesn’t partake or participate in lawlessness. According to 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Christ to be sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. The Corinthians, despite outward appearances, have been counted righteous in Christ. For one who has been clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ to take part in lawlessness is utterly incongruous.

Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Light and darkness don’t mix. When God created light, he separated the light from the darkness. Darkness is the absence of light. When light enters, it drives out darkness. Light and darkness don’t have communion, fellowship, intercourse; they don’t have anything in common. If anyone is in Christ, new creation! (2Cor.5:17)

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said:

John 8:12 …“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

And Jesus commissioned Paul to:

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God…

We were called, according to Peter “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pet.2:9).

What accord has Christ with Belial?

Belial or Beliar was a word that had roots in the word ‘worthlessness’ or nothingness; it came to be used to refer to Satan. What accord, literally what symphony? Will they make music together? Do they harmonize together with one voice?

Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

Believers and unbelievers, the two categories that divide humanity; those who depend only and completely on Jesus or those who are trusting in anything else; those who are being saved and those who are perishing (1Cor.1:18,21); those whose minds have been blinded by Satan and those to whom it has been given to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2Cor. 4:3-6).

What portion, what share, what common inheritance does the one who is being saved have with the one who is perishing? We have been given an inheritance incorruptible, we are made co-heirs with Christ through faith, we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

We see an illustration of the incompatibility of the temple of God with idols when the Philistines captured the ark of God and put it in their pagan temple next to their idol.

1 Samuel 5:4 But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him.

When the evil king Manasseh built altars in the house of the Lord and set up idols in the very courts of the living God, we are told:

2 Kings 21:9 …Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel.

In Ezekiel 8, the Lord gives Ezekiel a vision of idolatry and false worship in the temple, and the Lord says

Ezekiel 8:6 And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? …

God’s wrath was poured out, and the glory of the Lord departed from the temple. The Lord will not share his temple with idols. There can be no agreement, no pact or relationship based on mutual consent.

In response to Jesus’ rejection by Israel, he said

Matthew 23:38 See, your house is left to you desolate.

What partnership, what fellowship, what harmonization, what common inheritance, what agreement can there be? He answers his own rhetorical questions with the profound affirmation “for we are the temple of the living God,” a topic I want to take more time to look at next week. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

Avoiding False Application; Gospel Engagement and Gospel Separation;

So who are the unbelievers we are not to be yoked with? This passage is forceful, but how do we apply it? Maybe more importantly, how do we avoid mis-applying it? In my experience, this was the go-to verse for arguing against marrying or even dating unbelievers. While I believe that is wise and biblical counsel, I don’t think that is the primary point of these verses. If that were the main point, when we get to the next verse which reads ‘Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord’ we might wrongly conclude that any believer who is in a marriage with an unbeliever should immediately leave; a conclusion that is both wrong and unbiblical. Others have used this verse to say that we should never enter into a business partnership with an unbeliever. Some use it to say we should only shop at Christian owned businesses, that we should only have Christian friends, that we should create a Christian ghetto.

2 Corinthians comes after 1 Corinthians, and Paul would be right to assume that the Corinthians would hear what he is saying here in the context of what he has already said. Let me distill for you quickly some of what he said in 1 Corinthians about what our interaction with unbelievers should look like.

In 1 Corinthians 6 he said that we should not bring our grievances with a brother before unbelievers to have them settle our disputes. It would be better to suffer wrong.

In 1 Corinthians 7 he said that a believer who is married to an unbeliever should not seek divorce. Peter adds that the believer should demonstrate humility, purity and respect, so that ‘they may be won without a word by [your] conduct’ (1Pet.3:1-2). In 1 Corinthians 7:39 Paul says that those who are not currently married are free to marry ‘only in the Lord.’

In 1 Corinthians 10 he is clear that we are not to desire evil (10:6). Do not be idolaters (10:7). We must not indulge in sexual immorality (10:8, cf. 6:18). Do not grumble (10:10). Flee from idolatry (10:14). Do not enter in to fellowship with demons (10:20-21).

But in regard to what is sold in the market, he says do eat whatever is sold there with thanksgiving (10:25). He says do go to dinner with unbelievers (10:27). Give no offense to Jews or Greeks or to the Church; seek the advantage of others that they may be saved (10:32-33).

In 1 Corinthians 14, in regard to the worship of the church, he says do welcome unbelievers into the the gathered worship of the church with the hope that they would be convicted, would turn and enter in to true worship (14:22-25).

In 1 Corinthians 5, he corrected misunderstandings of something he had written previously, and this would also serve to clarify what he now writes.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

We are to interact with sexually immoral people, greedy people, swindlers, and idolaters. We are to eat with them, to love and serve them, to make friends with them. We are to seek their good, ultimately their greatest good in salvation.

The ones we are not to associate with are those who claim to be believers, but who persistently and unrepentantly embrace a lifestyle that contradicts the gospel. The greatest danger to the church does not come from outside the church but from within. Here Paul clearly calls those ‘unbelievers’ who although they may belong to the church, they don’t embrace a life shaped by the gospel.

He has spent the bulk of chapters 1-6 painting a picture of what genuine gospel ministry looks and smells like; that gospel ministry must conform to the gospel; that those who preach the cross must embrace a lifestyle of selfless sacrificial service and even suffering for the good of others. He mentioned those who peddle God’s word (2:17), those who practice disgraceful underhanded ways, who practice cunning and tamper with God’s word (4:2); those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart (5:12), those who have received God’s grace in a vain or worthless manner (6:1). In chapter 11, he expresses his concern that they are being deceived and led astray by those who proclaim another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel (3-4). He calls them ‘super-apostles’ (5), ‘false apostles, deceitful workmen, servants of Satan’ (2Cor.11:13-15).

Here by implication he calls them lawlessness, darkness, Belial, unbelievers, idols.

Do not be unequally yoked in service together with unbelievers; cut off your partnership with false teachers; withdraw from those spiritually toxic relationships.

Open wide your affections to us. He said in 6:1 that ‘we are working together with God.’ We are not ‘sufficient in ourselves to claim to anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers’ (3:5-6). ‘We have this ministry by the mercy of God’ (4:1). ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us’ (4:7). ‘All this is from God who… gave us the ministry of reconciliation’ and entrusted to us ‘the message of reconciliation’ (5:18-19).

Jesus said

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This is utterly amazing! That the God of the universe would stoop down to become human, to die in our place, and now to invite us to be yoked together with him, ministering alongside him in selfless sacrificial service!

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

May 6, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment