Scriptures

2 Corinthians 6

Introduction

Paul And His Preaching Companions Endured Much To Bring The Truth To The World That Some May Be Saved

‘As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.’ 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

This verse indicates that the Corinthians Paul is addressing had received the grace of God, the hope of salvation. Paul’s concern for the Corinthians was that they would receive the grace of God in ‘vain’, without profit.

False teachers were teaching a mix of Judaism and Christianity, law of Christ mingled with the Law of Moses, 2 Corinthians 3. There were, too, some in Corinth who seemed to be bent on exposing Paul and his preaching companions and bringing into disrepute their character.

Paul’s writing, in this second letter, is focused on answering his critics and the false charges made against him, i.e., Paul is inconsistent, 2 Corinthians 1:17; commending himself, 2 Corinthians 3:1 / 2 Corinthians 5:12 and being ‘beside’ themselves, 2 Corinthians 5:13.

Paul had preached the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ to the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 5:18 as an ‘ambassador’ of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:20.

Paul and his companions preached divine revelation alone, 2 Corinthians 2:17. Those Corinthians who would be swayed by another doctrine would only cause the grace of God in their lives to be made ‘vain.’ Paul’s admonition is to not be fooled by false doctrine or the slander of men.

This parenthetical statement is taken from Isaiah 49:8 and indicates God’s ever-ready state to forgive sinners and provide salvation. The Gospel age is the ‘the time of my favour’ and so Paul stated, ‘now is the acceptable time and day of salvation.’ It is God’s desire that all men be saved ‘now’. 2 Peter 3:9.

‘We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything’. 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

Paul, Timothy, Sosthenes, Apollos, and Titus had preached nothing but divine revelation. It was the aim of said preaching to save souls. If Paul or his companions preached this message yet lived just the opposite, they would have given an occasion of ‘stumbling’ and caused the message they preached to be ‘discredited.’ Seeing that these men lived what they preached they prove that no personal agendas are being met.

This verse speaks volumes as to what our responsibilities are today as ministers of reconciliation. We must all practise what we preach lest we cause others to stumble and blame us and the message we preach.

This is the reason many today say, ‘why go to church, they are all a bunch of hypocrites?’ Yes, this person has the same responsibilities as anyone else, but God forbid that I would live in such a way to give credence to that statement.

Paul, therefore ‘commends’ the ministration of reconciliation to the Corinthians rather than himself or any other man. Paul had previously said that they had not preached a message that originated from their own mind, 2 Corinthians 4:5 / 2 Corinthians 4:7.

Here he said that they do commend ‘ourselves’ and then qualified that statement. It was for the sake of divine revelation and men’s souls that Paul and his companions endured much to preach, 2 Corinthians 6:4-10.

1. ‘Great endurance’, ‘hupomone’ means a holding out, patient endurance: the enduring to do. These preachers suffered much they ‘endured’, and held on to the end.

2. ‘Troubles’, ‘thlipsis’ means metaphorically to oppress, afflict, distress.

3. ‘Hardships’, ‘anagke’ means actual force, violence, torture, bodily pain, anguish, distress. When Paul and Barnabas were preaching on the first tour, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium stoned and beat Paul to the point that they thought he was dead due to the message he preached. Acts 14:19.

4. ‘Distresses’, ‘stenochoria’ means a narrowness of space, want of room. The road to preaching salvation to the Jew and Gentile was not a downhill run for Paul and his companions. The Jewish people generally rejected Paul, and the Gentiles treated the gospel as an intriguing concept of worldly wisdom, 1 Corinthians 1:21-24. Paul and his companions found quickly what Jesus meant in John 7:7 and John 17:14. The world hates those who expose their sins.

5. ‘Beatings’, ‘plege’ means a blow, stroke, the person struck. Looking ahead to 2 Corinthians 11:24, Paul spoke of the five times that he received forty save one stroke from the Jews. Other beatings with rods occurred at the hands of Romans, Acts 16:22+23.

6. ‘Imprisonment’, ‘phulake’ means a place for keeping others in, a ward, or prison. Acts 16:24.

7. ‘Riots’, ‘akatastasia’ means an unsettled state; disorder, commotion, tumult, sedition. When Paul was in Ephesus, a great tumult arose being orchestrated by Demetrius the silversmith. Acts 19:28-32.

8. ‘Hard work’, ‘kopos’ means a striking, beating, toil, trouble, suffering, weariness, fatigue.

9. ‘Sleepless nights’, ‘agrupnia’ means sleeplessness, waking, watching.

10. ‘Hunger’, ‘nesteia’ means not eating, causing hunger, starving.

11. ‘Purity’, ‘hagnotes’ means purity, chastity. What Paul preached was from the sincerity and purity of divine revelation and never any of his own ideas. 2 Corinthians 2:17.

12. ‘Understanding’, ‘gnosis’ means a knowing, knowledge. This knowledge was of divine origin. 2 Corinthians 3:9.

13. ‘Patience’, ‘makrothumia’ means forbearance. Though Paul and his companions often faced terrible circumstances, they did not lash out at their accusers, but rather bore the afflictions with patience in hope that some may be saved. They used Christ as their example in this area. 1 Peter 2:23.

14. ‘Kindness’, ‘chrestotes’ means of persons, goodness, honesty, the goodness of heart, Sandwiched between ‘purity, understanding, patience’, and ‘in the Holy Spirit’ we find ‘kindness’, ‘honesty’. The word ‘chrestotes’ is found 7 other times in the New Testament always directly associated with truth.

15. ‘In the Holy Spirit’ means as one was ‘in the Holy Spirit,’ he or she was in Christ and the Father. Ephesians 5:18-20 / Colossians 3:16. God dwells in the Christian, 1 John 4:12-16. Jesus dwells in the Christian, Ephesians 3:17 / Colossians 1:27. The Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian, Romans 8:9-11 / 2 Timothy 1:13-14. God dwells in the Christian through faith, Galatians 3:2 / Ephesians 3:17.

16. ‘Sincere love’ means Paul commended himself to the Corinthians ‘in love unfeigned.’ The word ‘unfeigned’, ‘anupokritos’ means without disguise. Paul’s true feelings for the Corinthians were that they may be saved.

17. ‘Truthful speech’ because by no other way may men be saved. Acts 4:12.

18. ‘In the power of God’ means the power of God is found in the Gospel message. This was God’s power and not Paul’s nor any other man’s, Romans 1:16.

19. ‘Weapons of righteousness on the right hand and on the left’ means as one armed to the teeth for battle, so the Christian is armed with the word of God, Ephesians 6:10-18. Paul later said, ‘for though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds’. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4. The devil’s doctrines are to be destroyed by divine revelation, 1 Timothy 4:1 /2 Corinthians 11:3-4.

20. ‘By glory and dishonour’ means whether Paul was accepted or denounced, he preached the same divine message from God.

21. ‘By evil or good report’ means as some gave Paul honour and glory in some places, they dishonoured him in others. Likewise, as some gave a good report of Paul, others slandered him calling him a troublemaker, Acts 18:26.

22. ‘Genuine but regarded as imposters’ means Paul was often charged with preaching his own ideas and seeking to gain a following for himself. By charging him with deception, some sought to discredit Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:1 / 2 Corinthians 5:12.

23. ‘Unknown, and yet well-known’ means whether, in places well known or not very well known, Paul preached the truth. He was well known by God.

24. ‘As dying, and we live on’. When Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city of Lystra, many thought he was dead; however, he survived, Acts 14:19ff.

25. ‘Beaten, and not killed’. The word ‘beaten’, ‘paideuo’ means to teach one a thing, to correct, discipline. The Lord had brought Paul through many trials in life that he might learn to give God the glory. At Paul’s conversion, Ananias was hesitant to baptize Saul knowing the terrible deeds he had done. God said to Ananias regarding Paul, ‘I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake’, Acts 9:16. Though the Lord often chastened Paul, He did not allow Paul to be killed until due time.

26. ‘As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’. Though Paul was a man of sorrow for the things he suffered while preaching the gospel, he had much cause for rejoicing. On one occasion, Paul prayed to God that a thorn in his flesh would be removed. The Lord would not remove the thorn and Paul responded, ‘most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me’, 2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul’s joy was that of the apostle John and others. They found joy when they heard of other brethren walking in truth, 2 John 4 / 3 John 4.

‘Poor, yet making many rich, having nothing, and yet possessing everything’ means by the world’s standards, Paul and his preaching companions had nothing. Paul said, ‘To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, brutally treated, and without a roof over our heads. We do hard work, toiling with our own hands. When we are verbally abused, we respond with a blessing, when persecuted, we endure, when people lie about us, we answer in a friendly manner. We are the world’s dirt and scum, even now.’ 1 Corinthians 4:11-13

Though they were poor by monetary standards, they were rich in relationship to the treasures of the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 4:7.

Paul’s Love For The Corinthians And Further Admonition

‘We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.’ 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

Firmly established to this point is the idea that Paul and his preaching companions preached nothing but divine revelation. Paul’s earnest desire was that the Corinthians would grasp these truths as he taught them that they may be rich and filled with joy. Paul’s love for the souls of the Corinthians is seen in the idea that ‘our hearts are wide open’ toward you the Corinthians.

Apparently, Paul was making it clear to the Corinthians that his message had not caused them any painful conditions. Their pain and agony rested in their ‘own affections.’

Possibly many of the Corinthians had moved away from where their consciences had been trained and allowed themselves to be given to old lustful appetites. The pain of their conscience was no fault of Paul’s, but their own evil doings.

Notice the directness of Paul’s appeal in this verse, verse 11 and notice, also, the strength of his feelings.

‘We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians’. He very seldom appealed by name to those to whom he wrote his letters, and when he did, it was always under the stress of great emotion. We see this when he wrote ‘foolish Galatians.’ Galatians 3:1

And again, when he thanked the church in Philippi for its financial support, Philippians 4:15. Their support was unique! It was solitary! ‘No other church,’ and such personal references give us an insight into the heart of the apostle.

I suspect that we are generally inclined to think about him as all minds, he is a thinker, a logician, a debater, who sees nothing and feels nothing except the importance of the message he carries. We overlook the fact that he was a man who felt very deeply and was not immune to insults, slander and misrepresentation.

He felt, and could be hurt by brethren who deliberately tried to harm him by spreading false accounts of what he taught and what he was doing. On the other extreme, he was deeply moved and thankful when people like the Philippians, without being asked, sent financial help to him.

We have another example of the emotion with which he wrong and spoke in verse 11 ‘Our heart is wide open’.

And there is an echo of this emotion in 2 Corinthians 6:2 of the next chapter, 2 Corinthians 7, ‘Open your hearts.’ In 2 Corinthians 6:11, he is saying, ‘Our heart is enlarged’.

This may not be the sort of expression to which we are accustomed, even though we do sometimes hear the expression, big-hearted, but it appears in various places in the scriptures.

Solomon uses it in 1 Kings 4:29 and Isaiah says something similar in Isaiah 60:5, when he predicts that the time would come when God would ‘enlarge the hearts’ of his people to make room for the admission of the Gentiles.

This is a prophetic reference to what Paul himself wrote about when he said that the time had come for the breaking down of the old ‘wall’ separating Jew and Gentile, thus making possible a ‘new man’ in Christ.

In fact, we see something of this ‘enlarging of the heart’, when we see the Gentile Christians sending financial help to the famine-stricken believers in Judea. Acts 15. This action resulted in the enlarging of the hearts of both sides in the age-old conflict between Jew and Gentile.

Of course, it would have been wonderful if the Corinthians had responded well to Paul’s own expression of concern about them. But the reality is that they had not done so. 2 Corinthians 6:12-13.

‘But you are restricted’, Paul writes. Putting it in another way, he says, ‘I have made room for you in my heart, but you have not made room for me in yours’! What follows may be described as an appeal for ‘fair play’.

His language suggests that children have a simple, innocent sense of fairness. They do not stand on their dignity or adopt a proud attitude. ‘Be children’, he is saying, and he uses the expression, ‘antimisthia’, which means ‘an exact equivalent’.

The commentator Knox says that Paul is using ‘schoolroom language’, and is talking to the Corinthians as ‘spiritual children’, which, indeed, they were, or appeared to be, because of their spiritual immaturity.

Paul was simply asking that the Corinthians, as his children in the faith, would return the open heart of love toward him that he has shown to them by preaching the Gospel.

‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

Although Paul opens his heart to the Corinthians, that does not prevent him from issuing a stern warning whenever necessary!

‘Do not been unequally yoked.’ We recognize that, living in a pagan city such as Corinth was at this time, it was difficult, especially for the Greek members of the congregation, to maintain separation, and segregation, from the culture and customs in which they had been brought up.

Jewish believers would not have quite the same problem, and that is why, in 2 Corinthians 6:11, Paul addresses his instructions to the local believers, ‘Corinthians!’ But the Jewish members of the Corinthian church are not excluded from the command he issues in this verse, because he quotes several Old Testament scriptures with which they would certainly be familiar.

They would be aware of the fact that Mosaic Law said in Deuteronomy 22:10 ‘Do not plough with an ox and a donkey yoked together.’

Bear in mind that in his earlier letter, Paul had already written about the necessity of separation from the old life, stressing the need to avoid the idolatrous culture of their home city.

In 1 Corinthians 10:21 he wrote, ‘You cannot sit at the table of the Lord and the table of devils’, and he is now concerned because it appears that some of the Greek Christians had not taken his instructions seriously and were continuing to associate with pagans friends and relatives.

Now, it is not difficult to understand why that would be the case, because of the central role the Temple occupied in the life of Corinth. For example, when a friend or a family member celebrated a birthday, it was customary to mark the occasion by offering a sacrifice to the Temple.

The carcase of the animal that had been sacrificed would be divided into three parts. One part would be offered on the altar to the god of the Temple. A second part was kept by the priests for their own use. The third part was returned to the celebrant, who used it to hold a feast with family and friends, in a court of the Temple.

Paul’s advice warned that such fellowship was both wrong and dangerous, because it not only amounted to a compromise with idolatry, something that is sinful, but it also presented the risk of being drawn back into a world that the Christian had already rejected and abandoned.

If we may use a modern example of this kind of situation. If a man who had been an alcoholic is unwise enough to frequent places where people are drinking, he puts himself in a situation that he should strictly avoid, he exposes himself unnecessarily to temptation, and he imposes an unnecessary strain on himself, creating the risk of being drawn back into his old ways.

To the Corinthians, having rejected idolatry and everything associated with it, Paul says that, regardless of what their Corinthian acquaintances may think, feel or say, they should keep away from the pagan temples, because any kind of association, for whatever reason, would result in contamination, and God says, ‘Come out from among them. Do not touch the unclean thing and I will receive you’.

The verse implies that failure to obey this law will result in rejection by God. Obedience to the rule is the condition on which God’s acceptance depends. But, as we have already said, Paul’s earlier advice had not been taken seriously.

Or, at least, the Corinthian Christians had found it difficult to follow. Today, of, course, we readily recognise the danger of compromise, which Paul highlights, and the wisdom of the instruction he gives, but, ‘be not unequally yoked!’ Two questions arise.

1. What is the present-day significance of the Old Testament law concerning the ox and the ass for us today?

Because there is no doubt that to modern Christians it sounds very odd! What principle does it represent?

2. How does it concern present-day believers?

Well, consider, first, that we are talking about two very different animals, animals which are different in two quite distinctive respects.

1. They are different physically.

The Ox is the larger, stronger animal, and this means, that if they were to be yoked together, the greater burden would fall on the shoulders of the Ox. Consequently, any farmer, being fully aware of this fact and recognizing the logic and wisdom of Paul’s words, would never make the mistake of putting the two animals together. They are unmatched! Fundamentally, they do not belong together! The ox was used for ploughing. The ass was used for carrying.

2. And more importantly, as any Jew would know.

There is a religious difference between them. In the Law of Moses, the ox is designated a clean animal, whilst the ass is unclean, and, when we take this into consideration the significance of Paul’s instructions becomes clear.

No Jew would ever consider putting the two animals together for any purpose, and any Christian Jew would recognize immediately what Paul was saying. The two species. Ox and Ass, simply do not belong together! Neither do the Christian and the Pagan.

3. Paul makes a further reference to Old Testament Law when he refers to Leviticus 19:19, ‘You shalt not let your livestock breed with another kind’.

In other words, the inter-breeding of species was forbidden by God.

I recall that, when I was a boy, the news broke that a Tigron had been produced! This animal was a cross between a Tiger and a Lion. But if the geneticists thought that they had produced a new kind of animal, they quickly learned that their Tigron was sterile, as all hybrids are and all their efforts came to a dead end because of an association between a Lion and a Tiger is unnatural. And Nature rebels! Nature does not cooperate! The Lion and the Tiger do not belong together. Neither does the Ox and the Ass. And neither do believers and unbelievers.

In 2 Corinthians 6:15, Paul then takes his argument a step further. He has been writing about moral situations that cannot possibly be made to harmonize, and he now points out that there are Spiritual forces that are in conflict. Look again at what he wrote, and notice that these, unbelievers, are those who sit at the table of Demons, who serve ‘Belial rather than Christ.’

Belial means ‘worthless’, and the people whom he calls, ‘sons of Belial’, are the people to whom Jesus once said, ‘You have the Devil as your father, and you do his works’. John 8:44. Incidentally, this is the only place in the New Testament where this expression occurs.

Here, Paul has in mind those who are the ‘Temple of God’, in contrast with those who frequent the ‘Temples of idols’, and he gives examples of circumstances and conditions that are opposed to each other.

He speaks about ‘righteousness’, ‘dikiosune’, and ‘unrighteousness’ using the word ‘anomia’, which strictly means lawlessness. The difference between the two conditions is stark!

‘Righteousness’ has to do with right-thinking, right-speaking, right-doing. It concerns ‘right-ness’ in all its aspects, obeying rules, laws, and regulations. Pre-eminently, ‘righteousness’ means being right with God, and is kept right by such a relationship, whilst ‘anomia’ means the very opposite.

Again, he writes about, light, and darkness. He reminds the Corinthians that once they once were darkness, but they are now ‘light’ in the Lord, and it goes without saying that light, and darkness cannot possibly co-exist.

Some of the Corinthians’ affections were obviously founded on what unbelievers were doing around them. Rather than being guided by the principles and ways of the unbelieving Paul admonishes them to break such yokes, i.e., don’t do the same sinful things that the world is doing and expect to maintain favour with God.

Paul set forth a premise, command, in which five illustrations were used to establish his point. The premise is, ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.’

The phrase ‘unequally yoked’ is one word in Greek, ‘heterozugeo’ and is found nowhere else in the Bible. The Greek word is defined as to be yoked in an unequal partnership with another.

The word ‘yoke’, ‘zugos’ as used in Matthew 11:29-30 / Acts 15:10 / Galatians 5:1 represents a doctrine. The yoke is something that connects or joins together. The two things that are yoked together generally work together for a common goal.

For example, two ox yoked together ploughing work at the same objective. The Old Testament has some interesting areas where God did not approve of two different things being yoked together that a common goal is achieved.

1. Cattle were not to be mixed in inbreeding. Leviticus 19:19.

2. Two different seeds were not to be sown in the same field. Deuteronomy 22:9.

3. The ox was not to be yoked to the mule. Deuteronomy 22:10.

4. Two different fabrics were not to be sewn together. Leviticus 19:19 / Deuteronomy 22:11.

5. Israel was not to mix or marry the idolatrous Canaanites. Leviticus 20:22-23 / Deuteronomy 7:3, but rather destroy them, Deuteronomy 7:2 / Deuteronomy 7:16.

Interestingly, the Law of Moses did not forbid marriage to other foreigners apart from the Canaanites. One such example of this is the fact that Boaz, grandfather to David who is in the lineage of Christ, married a Moabite by the name of Ruth and was commended for his choice, Ruth 2:10-11. The stipulations put on Moab were that they were not to be allowed in the congregation of the Lord. Deuteronomy 23:4.

To illustrate the point that two doctrines, directions, or ways of life cannot coexist to achieve the one goal of heaven Paul uses five illustrations. As water does not mix with oil neither does a corrupt style of life exist in peace with the way of righteousness. ‘What do righteousness and wickedness have in common?’ Righteousness and iniquity cannot coexist.

Paul had asked a rhetorical question that he may prove a point. The answer is obvious to all. Right, lawful, just, and true conduct can in no way be ‘unequally yoked’ together. Righteousness and unrighteousness cannot work together under the same yoke and achieve a goal together because they have different goals.

The point is established, i.e., a believer and an unbeliever cannot work together to achieve a common goal. A believer cannot participate in sin and expect to achieve the goal of heaven. Jesus said, ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other’. Matthew 6:24.

Righteousness and iniquity cannot coexist in the same yoke.

‘What fellowship can light have with darkness?’ Light and darkness cannot coexist. The word ‘fellowship’, ‘koinonia’ means a person united with another or others in some action, enterprise, or business; partner. Again, Paul posed a rhetorical question to establish his point that two opposing sides cannot be yoked together to achieve a common goal.

‘What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?’ The word harmony’, ‘symphonises’ means agreeing in sound, in unison. Again, the point of Paul’s rhetorical question was to establish that two opposing sides cannot be yoked together to achieve a common goal, to do so would be termed ‘unequally yoked’.

Christ and Belial, Satan or everything that opposes truth, cannot have harmony and agreement with each other that a common goal is achieved. Likewise, a believer and an unbeliever cannot be yoked together to achieve a common goal.

‘What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?’ Paul’s point is again established. How can one who walks in light ‘share’ in the dark deeds and thoughts of the unbeliever and remain in fellowship with God?

‘What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?’ The word ‘agreement’, ‘sugkatathesis’ means to set down together with; to assent, alliance. An alliance cannot be formed between a temple of God and idols.

Paul explained what the New Testament idea of a temple of God is in 2 Corinthians 6:16b as he quoted from Leviticus 26:12 / Exodus 29:45 / Ezekiel 37:27 / Jeremiah 31:1 i.e., ‘for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk-in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’

The believer and unbeliever of 2 Corinthians 6:14 are clearly defined here. The believer is a temple of God because God dwells within.

‘Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:17-18

Paul quoted from Isaiah 52:11 and Hosea 1:10 to further establish the point that a believer cannot be yoked to an unbeliever, unequally yoked. God makes His abode with the sanctified, those set apart from the world of sin, 1 John 1:5-7, such are said to be His children, 1 John 3:1-3.

We are not to physically come away from those of the world but spiritually. We do not agree, associate, nor share in their erroneous thinking and practices. Those who would bring the doctrine of ‘unity in diversity’ are to be exposed and never comforted in their error.

Though the Christian lives in the world they are not of the world. We do not dress, walk, or talk like the world. To do so would be an ‘unequal yoke.’

So far we have no problem! We understand and appreciate what Paul teaches as it refers to the Corinthian Church. But, ‘Be not unequally yoked together with an unbeliever.’

What must we take from this command today! Well, it certainly causes problems from time to time! And why is that?

It is because the instruction has been taken to mean something that it really does not mean, with a result there have been occasions when a very strong stand has been taken against a member of the Church who has decided to marry a member of a ‘Denomination’.

To correctly understand these words we need, first of all, to determine what the word ‘unbeliever’ means in this context. Bear in mind that, when Paul wrote this letter there were no ‘denominations’, therefore he was not referring to them!

The New Testament world knew only those who believed in the One True God, and those who did not and the ‘unbelievers’ were those who worshipped false gods, the Pagans, those who worshipped and served idols. Should we, may we, classify the members of present-day denominations as ‘unbelievers’?

As opposed as I am to the errors of present-day ‘Christendom’, I do not believe that would be justified to judge such people so harshly, because I do not believe that the Lord Jesus would condone such a judgment.

They are in error, and, consequently, in danger no matter how since they are, but they are not ‘unbelievers’ in the scriptural sense of the word.

Whilst I do not doubt that an Atheist, without God, may properly be described as an unbeliever, although I am personally saddened whenever I hear that a member of the Lord’s Body has married a member of a Denomination, I do not think that this verse applies in such a case, and it would be uncharitable of me to describe a devout member of one of these so-called ‘Christian denominations’ an unbeliever.

Those of us who have any degree of authority or influence in the church bear the responsibility to take positive action whenever we learn that such a marriage is being considered. Sadly and all too often, we take action after the event. ‘Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’ comes to mind!

By all means, let us teach our children to marry ‘in the Lord’, but if we wish to express God’s disapproval of marriage to a non-Christian, we need to look elsewhere in the Scriptures.

Go To 2 Corinthians 7

 

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