Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership can righteousness have with wickedness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?
I. HOW THIS MAY BE DONE.
1. In religious fellowship. The apostle had occasion to warn the Corinthians against fellowship with idolaters. We may he attracted by a religious community in which the truth is not found or in which it is greatly obscured or distorted.
2. In marriage. With believers the religious question should be a prime question. Alas! it is often no question at all. Religious inequality is most frequently esteemed as the dust of the balance, and less than that. Consent is asked of the earthly father, but the heavenly Father is too commonly forgotten altogether. Marriages too often are not made in heaven, and that is why they have so little heaven about them, The ill-assorted union does not lead so much to Paradise as to misery and the divorce court.
3. In friendships. There is often much unequal yoking here. A wise man chooses his friends with care, but a fool takes them haphazard or on mere "liking." The power of a friendship is great, for good or for evil. Believers should choose friends who will help, not hinder, and friends who wilt be friends forever, and not severed at the grave.
4. In business. Partnership in commerce is a yoke which brings men very close together. They must have very much in common; their lives must run in very much the same channel; their actions must largely agree. Or, if not, their union will be disunion, and the issue, quarrels first, and perhaps bankruptcy or worse next. How often a child of God has lived to rue the day when he entered into partnership with a child of the devil!
II. WHY THIS SHOULD NOT BE DONE.
1. Unreasonable in itself. Consider what believers and unbelievers are.
(1) The one, "righteousnes" (Ver. 14) - lovers of holiness striving for its fuller possesion. The other, "iniquity" - the heart alienated From God, loving sin and walking in it, though possibly exterior gloss may obscure inward defilement.
(2) The one, "light" (ver. 14) - illumined by the Holy Ghost, shone upon by the "Light of the world" - possessing a knowledge of the truth, children of the day. The other, "darkness" - the true light rejected or ignored, subjects of error, preparing themselves for "the outer darkness."
(3) The one, in Christ (ver. 15) - members of his body, his disciples, his ransomed people. The other, followers of Belial, the children of the wicked one, serving him daily.
(4) The one, the temple of God (ver. 16), consecrated to God, God dwelling in them. The other, the temple of idols - of the idols of sin, made into gods. God in the one, the devil in the other. How can such opposites as these be united? Why should righteousness seek alliance with iniquity? Can light and darkness walk together? Can Christ and Belial be on terms of concord? How can temples of God and temples of vilest idols be brought to agreement?
2. Extremely perilous. How many have found this! In marriage, for example. What misery, loss of peace, loss of holiness, loss of everything most prized once, have followed upon an unequal alliance! The life has been utterly ruined and lost. Some marry in order to convert; but we should always convert people before we marry them. The peril applies to all cases of unequal yoking. The evil generally triumphs because the good has robbed itself of power by taking a false step.
3. Expressly forbidden by God. The Divine Word is emphatic: "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing" (ver. 17). This is a Divine command which we dare not set aside. This is Divine wisdom; our wisdom may not accord with it, but if so, our wisdom is assuredly folly. This is Divine love, purposing to save us from misery and loss.
4. A most gracious promise for the obedient. The resolve not to be unequally yoked may sometimes seem to entail large sacrifice. If we lose something, this is what we gain. God says:
(1) "I will receive you" (ver. 17). We shall be with God. We shall have God. Though we may lose the creature, we shall gain the Creator. God will be gracious to us if others are ungracious. If the stream fail, we may resort to the Fountain. Here is the warrant for doing so.
(2) "And will be to you a Father" (ver. 18). We may lose the earthly father, who may have singular views respecting our "prospects;" we shall have a Father above. If we are obedient, God wilt reveal himself in the tenderest and most loving guise. If God be our Father it must be well with us whatever betide.
(3) "And ye shall be to me sons and daughters" (ver. 18). Note, "daughters" are specially mentioned. These have frequently to endure much when "unequal yoking" is resisted. We shall be "children of God." Then we shall be "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." Sweet, indeed, are the fruits of obedience. We may lose much; let us never imperil this. - H.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.Leviticus 19:19). God has established a good physical order in the world, and it is not to be confounded and disfigured by the mixing of the species. It is that law, or perhaps another form of it, which forbids the yoking together of an ox and an ass (Deuteronomy 22:10), that is applied in an ethical sense in this passage. There is a wholesome moral order in the world also, and it is not to be confused by the association of its different kinds. The common application of this text to the marriage of Christians with non-Christians is legitimate but too narrow. The text prohibits every kind of union in which the separate character and interest of the Christian lose anything of their distinctiveness and integrity. This is brought out more strongly in the free quotation from Isaiah 52:11 in ver. 17. These words were originally addressed to the priests, who, on the redemption of Israel from Babylon, were to carry the sacred temple vessels back to Jerusalem. But we must remember that though they are Old Testament words they are quoted by a New Testament writer, who inevitably puts his own meaning into them. "The unclean thing" which no Christian is to touch covers, and doubtless was intended to cover, all that it suggests to the simple Christian mind now. We are to have no compromising connection with anything in the world which is alien to God. Let us be as loving and conciliatory as we please, but as long as the world is what it is the Christian life can only maintain itself in it in an attitude of unbroken protest. There always will be things and people to whom the Christian has to say No! But the moral demand is put in a more positive form in 2 Corinthians 7:1.
(J. Denney, B. D.)I. THERE IS AN ESSENTIAL SPIRITUAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THOSE WHO ARE CONVERTED AND THOSE WHO ARE NOT. The line of demarcation is broad and conspicuous. It is between —
1. "Righteousness and unrighteousness."
2. "Light and darkness."
3. Christ and Satan.
4. Faith and infidelity.
5. The "temple of God" and the "temple of idols."
II. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS DIFFERENCE THE CONVERTED ARE IN DANGER OF BEING ASSOCIATED WITH THE UNCONVERTED. Alas, we find such association in almost every department of life.
III. FROM SUCH AN ASSOCIATION IT IS THE DUTY OF THE CONVERTED TO EXTRICATE THEMSELVES.
1. The nature of the separation. "Come out from among them." It must be —(1) Voluntary. Not to be driven out, but you must break away from all ties that bind you.(2) Entire. "Touch not the unclean thing." Sin is an unclean thing, unclean in its essence, its phases and its influences.
2. The encouragement to the separation. "I will receive you," etc. As a Father, what does God do for His children?(1) He loves them.(2) He educates them. He educates the whole soul, not for temporal purposes, but for ends spiritual and everlasting.(3) He guards them.(4) He provides for them. "He is able to do exceedingly abundantly," etc.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)I. THERE SEEM TO BE TWO CAPITAL REASONS WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD NOT BY CHOICE ASSOCIATE WITH THOSE OF A WORLDLY OR IDOLATROUS SPIRIT.
1. There is really no congeniality between the two spirits. As there is the want of a common taste, so there is the want of common topics. For a man to delight in the conversation of an irreligious party, bears on it the evidence of his own irreligion. And, if it be the symptom of having passed from death unto life that we love the brethren and their society, then may the love of another society, at utter antipodes, administer the suspicion of a still unregenerated heart, of a still unsubdued worldliness.
2. So to consort with the ungodly not only proves the existence of a kindred leaven in our spirit, but tends to ferment it — not only argues the ungodliness which yet is in the constitution, but tends to strengthen it the more. And who can doubt of the blight and the barrenness that are brought upon the spirit by its converse with the world?
II. BOTH THESE CONSIDERATIONS ARE DIRECTLY APPLICABLE TOUCHSTONES BY WHICH TO TRY, we will not say the lawfulness, but at least THE EXPEDIENCY, of —
1. The theatre and all public entertainments. Think of the degree of congeniality which there is between the temperament of sacredness and the temperament of any of these assemblages. The matter next to be determined is, will the dance, the music, the merriment, the representation, and the whole tumult of that vanity attune the consent of the spirit to the feelings and exercises of sacredness? If there be risk of being exposed to the language of profaneness or impurity, this were reason enough why a Christian should maintain himself at the most determined distance from them both. There may be a difficulty in replying to the interrogation — What is the crime of music? yet would you feel yourself entitled to rebuke the scholar whose love for music dissipated his mind away from all the preparations indispensable to his professional excellence.
2. And, as it is with this world's amusements, so may it be with this world's companies. There may be none of the excesses of intemperance, of the execrations of profanity, of the sneers of infidelity. All may have been pure and dignified and intellectual, affectionate and kind. And then the question is put — where is the mighty and mysterious harm of all this? The answer is that, with all the attractive qualities which each member of the company referred to may personally realise, it is quite a possible thing that there be not one trait of godliness on the character of any one of them. They may all be living without God in the world, and by a tacit but faithful compact during the whole process of this conviviality, all thought and talk of the ever-present Deity may for the season be abandoned. And thus is it a very possible thing that, in simply prosecuting your round of invitations among this world's amiable friends and hospitable families, you may be cradling the soul into utter insensibility against the portentous realities of another world — a spiritual lethargy may grow and gather every year till it settles down into the irrevocable sleep of death.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?I. ITS GROUNDS.
1. Immorality. "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?" Let a man amass enormous wealth, and he will find at his board the noblest in the land. It matters not that he became rich in some questionable way — no one asks about that. Again, talent breaks down the rigid line of demarcation. The accomplished man or woman who, though notoriously profligate, is tolerated — nay, courted — even in the Christian drawing-room. Now I do not say that the breaking down of conventional barriers is undesirable. If goodness did it — if a man, low in birth, were admired for his virtues — it would be well for this land of ours! But where wealth and talent, irrespective of goodness, alone possess the key to unlock our English exclusiveness, there plainly the apostolic injunction holds, because the reason of it holds: "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?"
2. Irreligion. "What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" There is much danger, however, in applying this law. It is perilous work when men begin to decide who are believers and who are not, if they decide by party badges. Nevertheless, there is an irreligion which "he who runs may read." For the atheist is not merely he who professes unbelief, but, strictly speaking, every one who lives without God in the world. And the heretic is not merely he who has mistaken some Christian doctrine, but rather he who causes divisions among the brethren. And the idolater is not merely he who worships images, but he who gives his heart to something which is less than God. Now there are innumerable doubtful cases where charity is bound to hope the best; but there is also an abundance of plain cases: for where a man's god is money, or position in society, or rank, there the rule holds, "Come ye apart."
II. THE MODE OF THIS SEPARATION. It is not to be attained by the affectation of outward separateness. Beneath the Quaker's sober, unworldly garb, there may be the canker of the love of gain; and beneath the guise of peace there may be the combative spirit, which is worse than war. Nor can you get rid of worldliness by placing a ban on particular places of entertainment and particular societies. The world is a spirit rather than a form; and just as it is true that wherever two or three are met together in His name, God is in the midst of them, so, if your heart be at one with His Spirit, you may, in the midst of worldly amusements — yet not without great danger, for you will have multiplied temptations — keep yourself unspotted from the world.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?I. ITS NATURE. An infidel is one who does not believe, and who avowedly rejects the testimony of Divine revelation.
1. Infidelity has existed in all ages. It was displayed when our first parents listened to the tempter in paradise. It appeared in the unhallowed building of Babel. It rancoured in the heart of the Jew who rejected and crucified the Messiah. It directed the judgment of the Greek who pronounced the gospel foolishness, and laughed at the resurrection from the dead.
2. In more modern times, how numerous and varied have been its different systems! We may, however, arrange them in two classes.(1) The Deists who believe in the Divine existence and a future state of being, but who refuse the authority of the Bible.(2) The atheists, who deny the Divine existence; who proclaim that the world was formed by chance, or that it is eternal; who assign to man nothing but a refined material organisation, and who pronounce that death is the end of all being.
II. ITS SOURCES. The great source is the depravity.of the human heart. No doubt some have embraced infidel opinions after inquiry into the evidences of the Christian revelation; but have they carried an unbiassed judgment to such inquiries? I hold that the evidences of the Christian religion are so full, so plain, and so powerful, that they cannot be weighed with a proper judgment without at once receiving the homage of the heart. There are two dispositions, however, in the heart of man, to which infidelity may be more particularly assigned.
1. Pride. This is the principle which prominently prevailed in the first act of infidelity. And so it was when the lawgiver was denied and the Redeemer was rejected. "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts." If you will examine the doctrines and principles of Christianity, you will see much that is humiliating.
2. Sensuality. The whole system of the gospel is intended to put down the sensuality of depraved human nature. On the other hand, infidelity never yet promulgated one principle which could present a barrier against the gratification of lust. If it spoke of moral principle, of what force could that moral principle be when it suggested no motive for promoting it, no sanction for its exercise? Did not the Epicureans recognise that the chief good was pleasure? Did not Herbert teach that the indulgence of lust and anger were as innocent as the gratification of hunger and thirst? Did not Bolingbroke teach that lust was lawful if it could be indulged with safety? Did not Hume teach that adultery was only a crime when it was known? Did not Voltaire admit that the sensual appetites were to have a full and unrestrained gratification? When you consider the sentiments of its chief advocates, do you not perceive that it opens wide the flood-gates of licentiousness that it may rush upon the world?
III. ITS RESULTS.
1. On the life that now is.(1) As they affect individuals. The true dignity of man is destroyed by the dogmas which infidelity embraces. And where is comfort to be found in connection with infidelity? The infidel has gone away from his Father's house, and what can he expect but to be fed on the husks which the swine do eat? He is gone away from the haven of peace, and what can he expect but to be tossed by the storm? He may join in the festive dance, but it is the emblem of raving madness; when he sinks in sickness, he is oppressed with the weight of sorrow; and when he falls in death, he is precipitated to the regions of despair.(2) As they affect communities. Infidel opinions are hostile to that which constitutes a nation's prosperity and grandeur. The withering effects of infidelity have been exemplified in France. Her efforts for freedom might have been brilliant and successful; she might have led the way of the empires of the earth in the march of true emancipation; but her impious dethronement of God and her nameless abominations have taught the lesson that if infidelity dwell in the bosom of the empire, it can only be as the most malignant destroyer.
2. On the life that is to come. While men continue in the avowed rejection of Christianity, it is impossible for them to be saved.
What communion hath light with darkness?
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
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