Friday, 4 September 2015
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
After speaking to the Corinthians about opening wide their hearts, Paul now seems to take on a completely different line of thought which some scholars find out of place, as if something was later taken out or added. But there is no reason to assume this. His last words prior to this verse said, “Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open.”
With that thought in mind, he simply shows them how to be open. He has gone from petition to instruction. The words of instruction are to “not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” The word for “unequally yoked together” is heterozygéō. It is a word only found here and nowhere else in ancient Greek. It was probably made up by Paul for this very verse.
HELPS Word Studies provides the following concerning this word –
heterozygéō – (from /héteros, “another of a different kind” and /zygós, “a yoke, joining two to a single plow”) – properly, different kinds of people joined together but unevenly matched; hence “unequally yoked” (not aptly joined). … heterozygéō (“mis-matched”) is used figuratively of Christians wrongly committed to a partner holding very different values (priorities), i.e. that run contrary to faith (the kingdom of God).
Adding to this, Vincent’s Word Studies shows that the word “unequally” needs to be properly defined – “Unequally gives an ambiguous sense. It is not inequality, but difference in kind, as is shown by the succeeding words.
Paul’s mind was certainly on Old Testament passages which contain this very idea. One from Leviticus and one from Deuteronomy give us a better sense of what he was thinking about –
“You shall not let your livestock breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you.” Leviticus 19:19
“You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” Deuteronomy 22:10
In the first example, it is showing the need to keep from corruption of individual kinds. In the second, it was showing that different kinds have different strengths and are thus designed for different purposes. To join a donkey with an ox would wear out the donkey or frustrate the ox, or both.
Thinking on a human level, we can make logical comparisons to both OT references. And so, in order to direct our thoughts in what he means, he will next ask five questions which will provide insights into the precept. The first three will contain the argument he is making and the last two will support the conclusion.
Before entering into the questions, it should be noted that the word for “fellowship” is also found only here in the NT. It is metoché, and it means “sharing, partnership, fellowship.” It represents “a close relation between partners, i.e. people sharing something held in common; joint-activity.”
Paul is saying that an unequal yoking arises because of different goals and priorities based on one’s world view. A Christian will have one world view and a non-Christian will have another. Therefore, for a Christian to marry, start a business partnership, or otherwise closely associate with a non-Christian in an important way can only be considered an unequal yoking. Later Paul gives the opposite of such yoking in Philippians 4:3 –
“And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”
In support of his argument, Paul next asks the first two of his five questions. He begins with, “For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?” The obvious answer is “none.” Believers are justified by faith and have been imputed the righteousness of Christ. The sin of unbelievers remains and they stand in a state of unrighteousness before God. There can be no true fellowship in such a state.
His next question is, “And what communion has light with darkness?” This is a theme which permeates Scripture – light and darkness. The two are completely incompatible; where there is one, the other cannot exist. As Christians are “light” and the unbelieving world is “darkness,” there can be no true fellowship between the two. A union of the two only causes confusion and breakdown of the intrinsic nature of one or the other.
Life application: When making important life decisions, we must always consider our position in Christ first. If it is difficult for marriages to survive even when both are agreed on their devotion to the Lord, how much more difficult will a marriage be when only one is wholly devoted to Him? The same is true with business partnerships and any other major aspect of our life where we must entrust our lives to an important goal. Let us first and foremost consider ourselves from a Christian perspective and make our alliances based on that.
Lord God, You have asked Your people to not be unequally yoked with non-believers. How often do we fail to heed this advice! And how difficult it is for us when we do! Help us to make right decisions about our lifetime choices which will be based on our allegiance to Jesus first. Help us to be obedient to Your word and to set our eyes, goals, hearts, and affections on Jesus as we live out these lives You have granted us. Amen.