The Unequal Yoke

July 27, 2013

The Unequal Yoke

            Obedient Christians sometimes find themselves in an unequal yoke.  An unequal yoke is   a relationship in which you are expected to cooperate with others who have lower standards than you do.  Your conscience is violated if you cooperate with them.  Your relationship with them is strained if you don’t.  The Bible clearly teaches that God wants his people to distinguish themselves from those who aren’t his people.  If you love God, you will want to please him in all that you do.  “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).

Our text for this article will be II Corinthians 6:14-18. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?    And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” The name “Belial” means a wicked or worthless person.  This is the only place where is it used in the New Testament. Some say it has reference to Satan.  An infidel is one who doesn’t recognize the God of the Bible.

Christians often use the word “separation” in speaking of the subject of these verses.  At times there is confusion and a lack of agreement about their interpretation and application.  Nearly always the disagreements result from an attempt to justify more liberty in   lifestyles than the Bible allows. That includes the way you talk, the way you dress, what you drink, etc.  Some seek to escape from the limitations these verses put on them by saying that they just apply to the Christian’s relationship with idols.  Since we don’t have any idols today, therefore they say that they have no application to us.  It’s true that idols are mentioned in verse 16, but that’s not the only negative in the passage.

Sometimes separation means we need to separate ourselves from things we shouldn’t do.  At other times it means we need to separate ourselves from people who don’t have the same standards we do.

The unequal yoke applies to believers.  Separation doesn’t forbid all contact with unbelievers.  It says, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” That speaks of working together in harmony and close cooperation with unbelievers.  There are things that just don’t harmonize.  It’s like planting a garden where chickens run freely.  Jesus spoke of that in Matthew 6:24.  “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

When Christians find themselves entangled in an unequal yoke they are hindered from serving God the way they should.  God is a jealous God.  He wants to have us on his team full time.  II Corinthians 11:2 says, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” If we share our love for God with a love for this world, we aren’t on his team full time.  I John 2:15-16 warns us of the danger of having a love for the world.  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.    For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” For that reason, separation begins when we surrender our will to God’s will.  Jesus said “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.   For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).  If we are   yoked up with unbelievers, we often find ourselves obligated to do things with them and for them that a good Christian shouldn’t do

Young people need to be taught that they are disobeying God if they marry an unbeliever.  If they do, they put themselves in an unequal yoke.  It often ends in divorce.  If you find yourself in that situation, we don’t advise divorce.  Read I Corinthians 7:10-15 to see the advice the Apostle Paul gives to those in that situation.

It’s also unwise for a Christian to be a business partner with an unbeliever. It constitutes an unequal yoke.   Often the two of them won’t have the same ethical standards.  The same would apply to sharing an apartment or joint ownership.

The teaching in our text should also be applied to our church relationship.  It’s not wise for us to attend, or be a member of a church, if it teaches false doctrine.  Often there are minor differences that we have to tolerate.  You need wisdom to know if they are major or minor difference.  This can be a serious problem for those who find themselves in a neighborhood where they can’t find a good church.  Some have to drive as much as 50 miles to attend a good church that has the right doctrine.

If we attend, or are members of, a church or religious group that teaches false doctrine we are consciously or unconsciously giving our approval to it, and promoting it.  After accepting Christ as their Savior, some realize that they are in a church they don’t agree with.  It may be that the church teaches that salvation is by good works or church ordinances; i. e. baptism or the Lord ’s Supper.  They may think they will stay in the church and use their influence to convert all the rest in the church to their way of thinking.  Rarely do people succeed in that.  The Bible says to “come out from among them.”  For your spiritual growth and nourishment you and your family need to be in a church that teaches good Bible doctrine.

There are three key words in our text that help us to know how to interpret and apply the truth they contain.  The first word is fellowshipThis word speaks of two or more people who have things in common.  They are in agreement.   The second word is concord. This Greek word is used in a musical context to speak of harmony.  Good music results when all the instruments are used to play the same musical piece in harmony.  Churches give an uncertain sound if they don’t agree about what the Bible teaches.  The Third word is agreement.  The prophet Amos asked a question that brings out the importance of agreement.  “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)  He didn’t answer his question.  Obviously, all should answer “No.”

One would think that Christians should have enough prudence to know that they shouldn’t enter into, or stay in an unequal yoke.  Unfortunately, not all do.  We should realize that unbelievers are guided by different principles.  They don’t take into consideration or give preference to Biblical principles.  Their feelings and longings are not the same as those of an obedient Christian.  When the good and the bad are mixed together, nearly always the good are hurt more than the bad are helped.  Bad apples aren’t made good by being placed in a basket with good ones.  It goes the other way.

Paul, in our text, promises the blessing of God on those who choose to separate.  There is nothing that exceeds the honor of being a child of God.  God wants, and deserves, to have obedient children.  He wants his people to be different.  I Peter 2:9 says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” We should be sons and daughters that God can be proud of.  Friend, it’s your life.  If you want to live it to the glory of God, and with the least personal conflicts, then you need to stay out of unequal yokes.

How do you feel about this subject?  I would love to hear from you.  Our E-mail address is:





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