Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Unequally yoked with unbeleivers


Being unequally yoked with unbelievers (Second Corinthians 6:14), includes the subject of marriage - But does it also mean that as Christians we should not be unequally yoked with people who are not Christians? -How are we to be friendly to sinners and witness and love them - and at the same time not be yoked with them?




You ask a difficult question. That passage of Scripture (Second Corinthians 6:14) has been applied to many, many situations – and taken to unusual extremes in some cases. Let me try to break it down as I understand the verse. 

1. First, let’s get the verse before us. Paul writes, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness (Second Corinthians 6:14). The “bound together” is translated, “unequally yoked” in the KJV.

2. Second, what does the term mean? It refers to coupling two things together that don’t belong, or fit as one. It would be like trying to hitch, or yoke, a donkey and giraffe together to pull a wagon. The two creatures are different, and would not fit into the same yoke or harness. 

Figuratively, the term (heterozugeo) refers to submission to authority, bondage, or bond service to a master. It is an emblem of servitude to some moral bondage.

3. Next, we need to look at the context of the verse. In verse four of the chapter, Paul referred to himself as a, “servant of God.” He was in bondage to Christ. He also told the Corinthians to not be in bondage together with, “unbelievers.” Well, what unbelievers was he talking about? 

In 11:13 Paul identified a group of men he called “false apostles” who were leading the Corinthians astray. They were opposed to Paul. In fact, he described them in very harsh language, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). 

Paul’s fear was that these men would lead believers, “astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). 

The issue, then, is one of correct Christian teaching and living as opposed to false Christian teaching and ungodly living. That is why in 2 Corinthians 6 14-18 Paul contrasts righteousness against lawlessness; light against darkness; Christ against Satan; Christians against non believers; and the temple of God with idol worship. Christians are the temple of the living God. They are in bondage to Christ. 

Paul is saying one cannot be both a bondservant of Christ and a bondservant of the things of this world as organized and directed by Satan and his world system (cf. 1 John 2:15-17). The two systems are mutually exclusive – like oil and water.

To make the issue even more narrow, Paul is specifically condemning idolatry, and Christian believers actively involving themselves in such practices. 

4. The immediate application, then, of Paul’s teaching in this context reads, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1). That is, live a simple life of pure devotion to Christ, and don’t mix Christianity up with other religions or teachings that are contrary to the Bible.

5. Now, I come back to your question, Sheryl. Beyond these two issues, I personally would be very careful in applying the verse to specific situations. Should we apply it to marriages? Business relationships? – or whatever? If this is the case, then should we have all Christians who are married to non-believers get a divorce? I teach at a state community college. Should I then quit my job and starve because I work among unbelievers? I think not. Such would be foolishness.

Paul even addressed this issue in another place where he wrote, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person…For what have I to do with judging outsiders?...But those who are outside, God judges” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

Here, the word “associate” means to mingle or mix with, to have or keep company with. What then, did Paul contradict himself? No. The main issue, as I see it, is to live and work among unbelievers, but as we do so, do it with integrity and faithfulness and devotion to Christ and the values He taught His bondservants – of which I am one. We need not participate in the unholy things of this world, but we can be the, “salt of the earth,” and, “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14).

Christians must live in this world as ambassadors of Christ, but our citizenship is in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:20; Philippians 3:20). We are privileged to carry out the tasks Christ has given us, but we do not need to plunge ourselves into the evil things of this culture while doing so.

You are correct, Sheryl, how can we win others to Christ if we don’t befriend them? And, how can we have a credible witness if we live in sin and deny Christ? We cannot. 

Unequally yoked simply means to not try to live for Christ, and throw ourselves into the sinfulness of this world at the same time. We cannot have two masters.

The next answer (Part 2) addresses the question about marrying unbelievers.

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