Be Ye Not Unequally Yoked
2 Corinthians 6:14
“Be ye not unequally yoked,” etc. Observe here three things.
I. THERE IS AN ESSENTIAL SPIRITUAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THOSE WHO ARE TRULY CONVERTED TO CHRISTIANITY AND THOSE WHO ARE NOT.
The line of demarcation is broad and conspicuous. The difference is the difference:
1. Between “righteousness and unrighteousness.”
2. Between “light and darkness.”
3. Between Christ and Satan. “What concord hath Christ with Belial?”
4. Between faith and infidelity. “What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
5. Between the “temple of God” and the “temple of idols.”
II. NOTWITHSTANDING THE SPIRITUAL DIFFERENCE, THE CONVERTED ARE IN DANGER OF BEING ASSOCIATED WITH THE UNCONVERTED. Hence the command, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” Also the command, “Come out from among them.” Alas! we find such association in almost every department of life — in the matrimonial, the commercial, the political, etc.
III. FROM SUCH AN ASSOCIATION IT IS THE DUTY OF THE CONVERTED TO EXTRICATE THEMSELVES. “Wherefore come out from among them,” etc. Observe two things.
1. The nature of the separation. “Come out from among them.” It must be:
(1) Voluntary. Not to be driven out, but you must break away from all the ties that bind you. Agonize to enter the “strait gate.”
(2) Entire. “Touch not the unclean thing.” Sin is an unclean thing —unclean in its essence, its phases, and its influences.
2. The encouragement to the separation. “I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.” As a Father, what does God do for his children?
(1) He loves them. His love is the fountain of all the love in the universe. All the love that human parents have for their children is but one drop from the boundless ocean.
(2) He educates them. Who teaches like God? He teaches the best lesson, in the best way, for the best end. He educates the whole soul, not for temporal purposes, but for ends spiritual and everlasting.
(3) He guards them, Human parents can only guard the bodies of their children. This Father guards the soul — the conscience from guilt, the heart from impurity, the intellect from error, etc.
(4) He provides for them. The best of human parents can only provide for their children a few supplies for their bodies, and that for a time only. This great Father provides for the soul, and provides forever. “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
by E. Hurndall
Intimate associations ought not to be formed by the people of God with the ungodly. The reference is, no doubt, to <052210>Deuteronomy 22:10.
I. HOW THIS MAY BE DONE.
1. In religious fellowship. The apostle had occasion to warn the Corinthians against fellowship with idolaters. We may he attracted by a religious community in which the truth is not found or in which it is greatly obscured or distorted.
2. In marriage. With believers the religious question should be a prime question. Alas! it is often no question at all. Religious inequality is most frequently esteemed as the dust of the balance, and less than that. Consent is asked of the earthly father, but the heavenly Father is too commonly forgotten altogether. Marriages too often are not made in heaven, and that is why they have so little heaven about them, The ill-assorted union does not lead so much to Paradise as to misery and the divorce court.
3. In friendships. There is often much unequal yoking here. A wise man chooses his friends with care, but a fool takes them haphazard or on mere “liking.” The power of a friendship is great, for good or for evil. Believers should choose friends who will help, not hinder, and friends who wilt be friends forever, and not severed at the grave.
4. In business. Partnership in commerce is a yoke which brings men very close together. They must have very much in common; their lives must run in very much the same channel; their actions must largely agree. Or, if not, their union will be disunion, and the issue, quarrels first, and perhaps bankruptcy or worse next. How often a child of God has lived to rue the day when he entered into partnership with a child of the devil!
II. WHY THIS SHOULD NOT BE DONE.
1. Unreasonable in itself. Consider what believers and unbelievers are.
(1) The one, “righteousnes” (Ver. 14) — lovers of holiness striving for its fuller possesion. The other, “iniquity” — the heart alienated From God, loving sin and walking in it, though possibly exterior gloss may obscure inward defilement.2. Extremely perilous. How many have found this! In marriage, for example. What misery, loss of peace, loss of holiness, loss of everything most prized once, have followed upon an unequal alliance! The life has been utterly ruined and lost. Some marry in order to convert; but we should always convert people before we marry them. The peril applies to all cases of unequal yoking. The evil generally triumphs because the good has robbed itself of power by taking a false step.
(2) The one, “light” (ver. 14) — illumined by the Holy Ghost, shone upon by the “Light of the world” — possessing a knowledge of the truth, children of the day. The other, “darkness” — the true light rejected or ignored, subjects of error, preparing themselves for “the outer darkness.”
(3) The one, in Christ (ver. 15) — members of his body, his disciples, his ransomed people. The other, followers of Belial, the children of the wicked one, serving him daily.
(4) The one, the temple of God (ver. 16), consecrated to God, God dwelling in them. The other, the temple of idols — of the idols of sin, made into gods. God in the one, the devil in the other. How can such opposites as these be united? Why should righteousness seek alliance with iniquity? Can light and darkness walk together? Can Christ and Belial be on terms of concord? How can temples of God and temples of vilest idols be brought to agreement?
3. Expressly forbidden by God. The Divine Word is emphatic: “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing” (ver. 17). This is a Divine command which we dare not set aside. This is Divine wisdom; our wisdom may not accord with it, but if so, our wisdom is assuredly folly. This is Divine love, purposing to save us from misery and loss.
4. A most gracious promise for the obedient. The resolve not to be unequally
yoked may sometimes seem to entail large sacrifice. If we lose something,
this is what we gain. God says:
(1) “I will receive you” (ver. 17). We shall be with God. We shall have God. Though we may lose the creature, we shall gain the Creator. God will be gracious to us if others are ungracious. If the stream fail, we may resort to the Fountain. Here is the warrant for doing so.
(2) “And will be to you a Father” (ver. 18). We may lose the earthly father, who may have singular views respecting our “prospects;” we shall have a Father above. If we are obedient, God wilt reveal himself in the tenderest and most loving guise. If God be our Father it must be well with us whatever betide.
(3) “And ye shall be to me sons and daughters” (ver. 18). Note, “daughters” are specially mentioned. These have frequently to endure much when “unequal yoking” is resisted. We shall be “children of God.” Then we shall be “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” Sweet, indeed, are the fruits of obedience. We may lose much; let us never imperil this. E. Hurndall
By D. Fraser
St. Paul wished to see the Corinthian brethren enlarged, enlivened,
and encouraged. But this was not to be by the easy and uuprincipled method
of ignoring all distinctions and binding together incongruous materials
and moral opposites. The exhortation, “Be ye enlarged,” must be taken with
this, “Be ye separate;” and charity must go hand in hand with purity. The
contrasts expressed in this passage were very apparent in ancient Corinth,
where the Christians, as saints, were openly separated from the heathen
worship and heathen vices around them. A similar state of things may be
seen now at mission stations in populous heathen cities.
The Christians turn away from the temples, disown the priests and soothsayers, disregard the festivals, and have nothing any more to do with idols, They may still maintain family and social intercourse with the heathen, because conversion, as St. Paul explains, does not break family ties, or change the station in which one is when “called,” or drive Christ’s followers “out of the world.” But they may not be unequally yoked with non-Christians or profane persons in Church fellowship. The distinction cannot be made so palpable where all society has accepted the Christian name as when and where the Church is in sharp contrast with a powerful heathenism. Yet in principle the distinction insisted on by St. Paul must be maintained, else the strength of the Church as a spiritual institution is sapped, and a compromising spirit enters which destroys the glory of Christ.
To carry out the principle in actual Church discipline is confessedly difficult; but the Church has a right to expect that her overseers will prevent the admission of scandalous persons; and individual professors of the Christian faith should not claim Church fellowship without examining themselves as to the side on which they stand with reference to the five points of contrast indicated in this text.
1. Between righteousness and iniquity. This takes us at once into the region of conscience and moral conduct. The Christian should be a righteous man. He may not lie, or cheat, or overreach, or take unfair advantage of another, because to do so would not be right or righteous. The rogue and the worker of iniquity are as heathen men, and not fit for Christian fellowship.
2. Between light and darkness. This points to the mental and moral environment as affecting thought, feeling, and action. It is a mode of expression common with St. Paul, as may be seen in other Epistles. The Christian is a child of the light and of the day. Darkness, on the contrary, is the covering of the heathen world; and its works are unfruitful and shameful.
3. Between Christ and Belial. Abstractions are left, and the leaders of two conflicting hosts are set in opposition. A Christian is “of Christ,” as the Lord whom he obeys and the pattern which he follows. On the other side is a man of Belial, or the follower of a worthless and profligate spirit. So this contrast has reference to disposition, and excludes every false and wicked person from Christian fellowship.
4. Between the believer and the unbeliever. This takes us to the question of religious persuasion and conviction. A Christian is a believer on the Son of God. In this lies the secret of his life, strength, holiness, and patience. A man without faith is no more fit for fellowship in the Church than a heathen. To him the trials and triumphs of the life of faith are alike unknown.
5. Between the temple of God and idols. The Church is the living temple
of the living God, the holy temple of the holy God. The individual Christians
are stones in that temple, and must be in harmony with its sacred character
and use. What agreement has it with idols? If the Jew would have thought
it a horrible profanation to set up a graven image in the temple at Jerusalem,
much more should Christian minds abhor the setting up of idols of selfishness,
covetousness, or sensuality in that better temple which is now the habitation
of God in the Spirit. So much of incompatibilities and contrasts. Then
the apostle, who did not address himself to the heathen, bidding them stand
off, but wrote to the Christians, urging them to avoid entanglement with
the heathen, gave them a charge from the Lord, and enforced it by a gracious
(1) The charge. “Wherefore come out from among them.” The Christians were not to leave Corinth, but to hold their positions and preserve their callings in that city, while scrupulously avoiding the contamination of idolatry and vice. So should we continue in the world, yet not be conformed to it or love it; should do our part in our eneration, yet separate ourselves from all that is unjust or unholy. “Touch not the unclean,” under which category comes, not mere licentiousness, but all that is unhallowed, and so out of harmony with the purity of God.
(2) The promise. “I will receive you,” etc. (vers. 17, 18). Such was the promise made to King David in regard to his posterity (<100714>2 Samuel 7:14); and it is extended to all the household of faith. From the sure belief of this promise we may derive strength and resolution to keep the rule of separation. Are we to be openly acknowledged as the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty? What, then, have we to do with iniquity, with darkness, with Belial, with unbelief, with idols?
The best-known Christians are not always the best. They may have some striking quality or rare endowment, or may have reached by favour some conspicuous post. But the best are those men and women who most fully and consistently obey the holy calling. How sweet is fellowship with such Christians, and how stimulating! It is good to be yoked together with them under Christ’s yoke which is easy, and his burden which is light. It is good to be builded together with them in the temple of the living God. It is good to be joined as brothers and sisters in the same family, and call the Lord Almighty our Father. The friendship of the world, the alliance of the sons of Belial, the communion of the unclean, — what are these to the dignity of the people of God and the family affection of his children? — D. Fraser
by R.. Tuck
The Bible would not be a complete book, adequately representing all phases of human life and experience and associations, if it contained no instance of close, personal, sacrificing friendship. But we have the very beautiful illustrative case of David and Jonathan. Christianity would not meet us at every point of our need if it had not something to say about the choices the changes, and the claims of friendship.
I. ON THE CHOICES OF FRIENDSHIP. Our friendships are not always gained
by choice; they are sometimes determined by outward circumstances; sometimes
by felt affinities; and sometimes they are started by some impressive or
generous deed. But friendship ought always to be put to the decision of
our will, seeing that it bears so directly on our character and on our
life. It sounds chilling to the freshness and warmth of our love to say
that we must decide who is to be our friend, and put into careful consideration
the qualities and habits and probable influence upon us of the person towards
whom we are drawn. Yet, surely, as we would not trust our property to a
man whom we did not know, or our child to an education that we had not
carefully selected for him, so we would not give our hearts to one whom
we were not sure that we might fully trust. Moreover, as Christians, we
guard against the approach of evil in every form, and nothing will more
directly affect our Christian spirit than the influence of an unworthy
friend. He may be a scoffer. He may be one whose sneer at all we love and
seek may hurt and wound us far more than the scoffer’s open speech. He
may be an indulgent pleasure-seeker, whose disposition will be sure to
nourish the worldliness and self-loving of our spirit. And, on the other
hand, few things will help us more than a wellchosen Christian friendship.
Many a doubt is scattered by the contact of a friend’s faith, and many
a sliding step is steadied by the influence of a friend’s firmness. Two
things lie at the basis of a worthy and lasting
friendship, viz. a certain felt sympathy and a certain recognized equality.
II. ON THE CHANGES OF FRIENDSHIP. Sometimes friendships are broken through changeableness of disposition. Others are broken by the wrong doing or unfaithfulness of one of the friends. And at other times friendships are broken by the rude, rough hand of death.
III. ON THE CLAIMS OF FRIENDSHIP. All associations of men together bring claims and responsibilities. If we have the privilege of a loving friendship, it claims from us two things.
1. Unfailing confidence in our friend. And this involves openness one with the other. Close natures, that can keep secrets, seldom know the full joy of friendship.
2. Mutual self-sacrifice, readiness to spend our best for our friend, and to put forth our best efforts in his behalf. Foote well says, “Be thankful if God has given you a sympathizing friend, one who can share with you your deepest griefs, who is one with you in all your interests for time and for eternity, whose heart answers to your heart. This is one of God’s best gifts; be thankful for it and use it right, for he may deprive you of it, and leave you grieving, — Would I had prized it more! It is a most sweet and blessed fellowship; use it — use it for the high ends of mutual, spiritual good, and the Divine glory.” — R.Tuck
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