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“Be Ye Not Unequally Yoked”:- Command or Just Opinion?

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“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)

“Be ye not...” tells us that this is not just Paul’s opinion, or mine, but is a biblical command. It is to be heeded. Like any other command from God it is given for a purpose, not as a whim. At times that purpose is known only to God. This does not matter, for it is our duty to obey anyway. However, in this case, we are given the reason, and it is this reason that is the precedent to refer to in all instances of foolishly trying to couple holiness and sin.

I know from many years’ experience and observation, that those who have a ‘vested interest’ will just ignore what this command says, will ignore this short article, and will invent excuses as to why it does not apply in their case. All this will do is double their guilt! A command from God is a command, not mere advice or an option; and it provides no room for error or personal choice. It is there for a good reason. Let us examine what the verse above is telling us.

The Context

The verse follows a general hope – not to give offence in life (verse 3) so that God is not blamed for anything (called here ‘the ministry’). Everything we do should reflect the holiness of God (verse 4, on). With this in mind Paul writes to the Corinthians, who tended to copy the unbelievers around them.

‘unequally (or, ‘differently’) yoked together’ is to have fellowship with someone who is not equal in spiritual status. ‘Fellowship’ ranges from personal romances to corporate affiliations, so it covers a huge variety of circumstances. In the verse, Paul is forbidding Christians having social intimacy and relationships with unbelievers and idolaters. It is glaringly obvious that this means to steer-clear of unbelievers in any situation. This is given scant regard by most Christians.

This is why God has always warned Christians not to begin a relationship with unbelievers, and especially not to marry them. Instantly, I sense a “but”! “But, what if that unbeliever will be saved because of me?” I cannot count the number of times I have heard this ‘old chestnut’! It is just an excuse to begin a relationship based on emotion and not godliness. It does not alter the command in any way!

Another excuse is “But, I fell in love”, or “it just happened”. Friends, we never just ‘fall’ in love and it does not ‘just happen’... falling in love may be heady and fast, but it is still in the province of deliberate choice. Falling in love with ANYONE, even someone acceptable to God, is a process, involving all our senses, which we ALLOW to coordinate until they meet our emotional desires. It CAN be controlled and rejected; or, if we prefer sinning, we will allow our feelings to take precedence. What this means is that we wilfully ignore truth and the command of God, instead preferring sin... for this is what it is to reject the command in this text.

A Sad Progression of Sins

I have seen it too many times. A girl or boy ‘fancies’ someone and allows their emotions to take flight. They do not check things out with God – and what He says is contained in the verse above! So their emotions, not truth, take hold, and before long the relationship is cemented with ‘love’... a love that defies God’s command, so is not ‘love’ meant for Christians in God’s eyes. This invariably ends in misery or disaster, no matter how loving the relationship first appears to be.

If this unequally yoked relationship continues to marriage, then disaster is almost guaranteed. This is because once the sexual attraction dies down, the hard truth hits, and the unbelieving spouse begins to dislike the saved person’s beliefs and actions. The saved person then tries to amend his or her beliefs to placate the spouse, but fails, and soon both are miserable. Or, the saved person’s faith suffers and may even dwindle to nothing.

A Quick ‘Salvation’

Another similar case is when a saved person tells his or her girl/boy friend that they cannot marry unless the other is saved. Lo and behold, soon the unsaved person asks what must be done to be saved!! They then adopt the outward appearance of being saved and so the marriage takes place, built on a pretence of salvation. But, the cracks start to show fairly soon after marriage as the ‘newly-saved’ partner begins to show loathing for the Christian position. I have witnessed this too many times, and it ends in divorce.

This occurs because the saved person does not examine the relationship BEFORE it even begins. Instead, he or she soaks up the sexual-emotional atmosphere that floats on a cloud of desire. Truth and God’s command is put out of mind. The result is always deterioration and, usually, divorce. Better to have an early desire and attraction and then to discover the relationship is flawed, than to let it carry on. Leave it straight away. Don’t let it flourish. (I can hear all the ‘but’s’ from my study chair!).

Some think that because their partner becomes saved after they have been in a relationship for a long while, and after they themselves were also unsaved at the beginning, that this is ‘proof’ that one can be unequally yoked. Not so. It is a very different situation. At first both partners in a long-term relationship are unsaved. Then, one is saved. The saved one tends to witness to the other partner because of a desire to see them saved. (If this happens the saved person should NOT say “But, I can’t marry unless you are saved, too”. That would be to put words in their mouth).

I am sure that if that other person shows no sign of spiritual awakening, then the saved one will eventually leave, or the other unsaved partner will do so anyway. They will naturally drift apart. At any rate one cannot go on to marry, if the second one remains unsaved. This reality dawns on one whose heart is truly drawn to Christ. If it does not, then I would seriously question whether the first partner was truly saved!

So, one who claims to be saved, and THEN goes on to form a serious relationship with an unsaved person, is asking for trouble on all levels. I can assure them that their relationship will not last. Even if it does, it will always be based on misery or lack of godliness.

Is all this sounding too harsh? It should not sound that way; it shows that the one inserting a ‘but’ does so out of ignorance. God says that those who are not His are wicked and bound for hell. Do we forget this, no matter how pretty or lovely a girl is, or how handsome and manly a male is?

To put it very bluntly, it is like putting cancer cells into an otherwise healthy body! The saved person will always be dragged sideways and down by the unsaved one, because his/her desires are not godly, but worldly. In this way the saved one will display more and more signs of becoming worldly, in order to accommodate the unsaved person’s sinful view and activity. It is the old adage – the single bad apple will rot the whole barrelful... but one good apple never stops the others from rotting!

As Matthew Henry the commentator says, “We should not yoke ourselves in friendship and acquaintance with wicked men and unbelievers. Though we cannot wholly avoid seeing, and hearing, and being with such, yet we should never choose them for our bosom-friends.”

Nor should we lend credence to their false religions. I know of one young woman who recently married a Buddhist. Yet, she claims to be a Christian. I can predict immediately that God will not allow this relationship to flourish, nor will He bless it. It will be the disaster it began as! Buddhism is an occult false religion. There is no way that the ‘Christian’ girl will escape the onslaught of Satan, who will use her spiritual infidelity against her. She also has children. I further predict that her marriage will affect them badly in future years; they will follow their mother’s bad example, and will suffer spiritual evils as a result.

Even when a chosen partner does not show any obvious signs of evil, the mere fact that they are unsaved is sufficient to doom the relationship. The command is so clear! Do not form a deep relationship with ‘unbelievers’. How much more plain can it be? Righteousness has no link to unrighteousness whatever! No matter how humanly sweet the other, unsaved, person is, he or she is considered unrighteous by God, and has no place in His commendation or love. “... what communion hath light with darkness?” There is none at all, no matter how hard we try to ignore the fact or hide it with ‘love’.

I would suggest that such ‘love’ does not really exist when a Christian continually rejects and ignores God’s command not to be unequally yoked. This is because a Christian cannot truly ‘love’ a person whose very existence rejects God; the ‘love’ is really a self-satisfaction and an act of selfish desire... not ‘love’. The unsaved person is in ‘darkness’, a word that intimates an existence of satanic sin.

This stark fact can be seen in the continuing verse, 15, where it is likened to Christ joining with Belial (Satan), who is ‘worthless and wicked’. It is an impossible relationship. And the believer cannot join with the infidel (one who does not trust in God). In other words, the relationship superficially thought to be ‘loving’ is not acceptable to God and puts a believer in grave spiritual danger. More than that, it offends God, because He has already stated His requirements.

Verse 16 adds that we are the temple of the living God. For this reason the saved person must “come out from among them” (those who are unsaved), verse 17. We must “not touch the unclean thing”... not even that lingering kiss, or that warm embrace. As the unsaved always protest: “How can something so lovely be bad?” It can be VERY bad when it is unacceptable to God! The verse, in total, warns us that to be acceptable to God, we MUST separate from those who are unsaved. We can say ‘hello’ every day to unbelievers, because we live amongst them – but to deliberately ignore God’s command to form a deeper relationship is to walk on a path of self-destruction.

This sin can allude to older Christians (who can also be affected if they ignore God’s command), but it is mainly a curse on younger Christians, many of whom are afraid of being ‘left single’ if they do not take matters into their own hands.

In the modern world, clubs with secular music, drink and drugs, are thought to be the ONLY way to meet singles. No, it is the ONLY way to meet singles who are unsaved! No Christian should enter such places: if they never enter they will not form attachments to the opposite sex who visit them, no matter how cute/lovely/beautiful/ chirpy/intelligent/warm (add any description you wish) they are.

There are OTHER places to meet wholesome people. This is obvious to those of us who were young before clubs, or even pubs, became social gathering places! Indeed, even if they did exist in my own time, I could not have afforded to go into them! (Consider that when my future wife and I went out, we walked everywhere – often five miles either way - and shared a bag of chips/fries because neither of us earned much. No alcohol, no expensive gifts, no entry to clubs (which did not exist for younger people anyway), and certainly no entry to pubs. We met in a work environment, and both of us belonged to local churches. There are other places to meet, too, even today).

A Problem?

I hear moans of inability to meet with fellow believers. There ARE many ways to meet with them. Do not even think of meeting in sinful places. Forget satanic-style music and dance. Reject drink and drugs. When a single Christian asks God to show him or her a suitable future mate, He will do so – but only if the one asking is godly and faithful. And, if he or she does not become ‘desperate’.

Well, there you have it. A straightforward interpretation of the text, which warns very plainly that a Christian MUST NOT form a deep relationship with an unbeliever. It could be that the unsaved one suddenly shows an interest in salvation once they intend to marry. But, the Christian can never be sure that this stated desire is genuine, or just uttered to silence a query about spiritual things.

The matter of being unequally yoked applies to ANY situation is which a believer joins with an unbeliever for ANY reason, whether in the workplace, in social circles, or in the churches. I constantly warn folks not to be close to unbelievers, who might appear to be ‘friends’. This is because, time and again, I have seen those ‘friends’ suddenly become devil’s incarnate if the ‘right button’ is pressed. Indeed, I have bitter personal experiences of this sudden attack by ‘friends’.

Of course, such warnings are rarely heeded, which shows the aim is personalised ‘faith’ rather than obedience to God, a preference for one’s emotions and desires than for spiritual truth and growth. Excuses are made, just as with the marriage trap, and the unbelieving people we decide to want instead of God’s approval (no matter how lovely they appear to be at first) can have a profound, detrimental effect on Christian lives. I see it all the time, and have watched many Christians slowly slide into a spiritual nightmare.

My concern in all this is God’s word and the state of a Christian’s eternal soul. Those who are not so concerned by this will fall to lies and deception. Their unconcern is proof that their Christian lives are already in jeopardy. Be warned.

© June 2015

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom