Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? —2 Corinthians 6:14
For over thirty-five years I have never tired of hearing Lonnie Carlson testify about the childhood object lesson his father frequently gave to him and his siblings. His father would say, “Christianity and the world do not mix. Trying to combine the two is like mixing oil and water. They will separate.” He would demonstrate this fact by putting oil and water into a jar, and shaking it vigorously. Always, in a short time, the two liquids would separate. As a child, Lonnie thought he could shake that jar hard enough so the oil and water would combine to form a new liquid. He tells that often after his father left, he would take the jar and shake it until he knew the oil was well mixed into the water. Then he would set it down, but sure enough, in a short time the two liquids would again separate.
Paul saw believers and unbelievers in stark contrast to each other, so he stressed in our focus verse that Christians must not be bound to unbelievers. He challenged the believers at Corinth to a radical ethical separation from their pagan environment, telling them, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Even though a coalition with an unbeliever may seem ideal at the outset, it can be detrimental because the goals of believers and unbelievers are fundamentally different.
God’s desire for His people is found in some of the descriptive words that Paul used, such as fellowship, communion, concord, and agreement. Each of these words speaks of having something in common. When we try to walk with the Lord and associate closely with the world at the same time, we damage that spiritual fellowship. However, as we avoid situations that would force us to divide our loyalties, we will find that the blessing of refusing to “mix” with the world is a close relationship with God. What a benefit that is as we journey through life!
Chapter 6 is a continuation of the characterization of Paul’s ministry, resuming the thought of 2 Corinthians 5:20 that he was an ambassador for Christ. His sufferings proved the validity of his apostleship. Those who sought to discredit him could boast of letters of commendation, but not of similar trials for the sake of the Gospel.
Paul’s sufferings are presented in three groups of trials. The first set includes afflictions (experiences of physical, mental, or spiritual pressure which might have been avoided), necessities (hardships which could not have been avoided), and distresses (dire straits from which escape was impossible). The second set presents sufferings that were inflicted by men: stripes, imprisonments, and tumults. The third set presents situations Paul imposed upon himself for the furtherance of his mission: labours (pushing himself to the point of weariness), watchings (shortening his periods of rest for the sake of his ministry), and fastings (not eating when his work was urgent).
The Apostle had affectionate concern for the Corinthians. He counseled them not to be yoked with unbelievers, and instructed them that God would be their Father if they would avoid evil companions and evil practices. The phrase unequally yoked alludes to Deuteronomy 22:10, which forbade the yoking of an ox and a donkey for the purpose of plowing a field. Two beasts of a different species cannot associate comfortably together, and never pull well together. The message is clear: God’s people are to be a separate people, pure and holy. They must invest their lives in relationships and alliances that bring glory to God and offer the potential of furthering His Kingdom.
Holiness requires that believers live according to God’s standard, not the standard of the world. Holiness recognizes the serious nature of alliances and will avoid entering into such with unbelievers.
Christians are the temples of the living God — dedicated to and employed for the service of God, Who has promised:
The manifestation of love among believers is dependent upon their separation from sin and from alliances with unbelievers. To achieve Christian unity and to love one another, they must be separate from that which contaminates.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The apology of the Apostle
B. The calling of Paul
6. The program of the ministry
c. The characteristics (6:1-10)
(1) Nine tests (6:1-5)
(2) Nine facets (6:6-7)
(3) Nine paradoxes (6:8-10)
C. The conclusion
1. An appeal for separation (6:11 — 7:1)
The very nature of a Christian demands that he separate himself from that which is unholy. Our faith and Christian testimonies are strengthened and protected when we refuse to enter into relationships which could cause us to compromise.