Series: 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians 6:14-16 ESV
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
The Christian way of life begins with our connection or union with the Lord Jesus Christ. In him there is a new creation (5:17), and we have new birth, new life, a new position before God, a new identity, and a new destiny. The apostle Paul has been explaining these truths to the believers in Corinth, especially the fact that they have these things through Christ and his new covenant. Paul wants his spiritual children to live in conformity with their new identity in Christ. But they were not, and this contributed to their constricted affections toward him. So he must review what he has already told them in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 8:1-13; 10:14-22.
The Corinthians, and we also, must know and appreciate and live out what we are in Christ. This means that believers in Jesus Christ must live according to the new covenant reality that we are God’s temple. We have an identity that is radically different from the people of this world (unbelievers). This was one area of failure for the Corinthians. They did not live like they were God’s temple. During the next few messages in this series, we will be listening to what the Spirit says about our identity as God’s Temple.
I. A prohibition to obey (6:14a)
A. The meaning of the imperative verb “yoked together”. When an imperative verb has a negative joined to it, we refer to it as a prohibition. It is a command not to do something. There are a number of these for new covenant believers (Rm 12:16, 19; Gal 5:1, 13; Eph 4:29-30; 5:18; Col 3:9, 21; 1 Th 5:19-20; etc.) There are some actions that the Lord doesn’t want us to do. We must take these prohibitions very seriously. It is sin to violate them.
Comment: People in our day object to anyone telling them “don’t do this action”. The Christian must move against this cultural drive to be autonomous from any authority. We must agree with the truth that our Lord is right when he tells us to avoid certain actions, attitudes, ideas, and forms of communication.
1. “Yoked together” can be translated as “unequally yoked together” or “mismatched”. It is mating two things in a yoke that should not be. It is used only here in the NTS, but we see its opposite in Ph 4:3 (also used only once).
2. The background of this idea is found in the OTS (Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9-11). At this point we could go into a long digression about how some commands from the law covenant find a greater reality in the new covenant (cf. 1 Cor 9:7-12). It is enough to say that the basis of their transformation is in the righteous character of God (continuity), who is unchanging, while he changes the commands for his people, in conformity with the covenant currently in force (discontinuity).
3. The point is that close associations with unbelievers produce mismatches that are harmful. The Corinthians thought they could ignore this principle. The Spirit of God says that Christ’s people must not be mismatched.
B. An explanation of “mismatched with unbelievers”.
1. This does not mean the avoidance of any kind of association with unbelievers, as the apostle previously explained (1 Cor 5:9-11). Believers must live among unbelievers and must act as Christ’s ambassadors into the unbelieving world. So the prohibition involves selective rather than complete separation from unbelievers.
2. Marriage of a believer to an unbeliever is not in view here. That is discussed in 1 Cor 7. To introduce that subject creates needless complexities. Nor is Paul talking about all social interactions with unbelievers, because 1 Cor 10:27 assumes that believers will be in those situations. We need to find out what Paul means from the immediate context.
3. As becomes clear in the fifth rhetorical question that follows this prohibition, the action prohibited is linked with literal idolatry.
Comment: This is becoming a lively issue in our cultural setting again, which is an important reason to have a proper understanding of this text. People in our culture are again worshiping idols or false gods or demons. One of the trendy ways this happens is through what we could call “design your own religion”. People pick different parts of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, paganism, or humanistic philosophy and combine them in their own special spiritual cocktail. They have created their own idol while claiming to be “a very spiritual person”.
II. Five rhetorical questions to make clear the necessity of obedience (6:14b-16a)
Paul uses these questions in a very direct, dramatic way. He wants his readers’ attention. In the original language, all lack a verb and all expect the answer “none whatever!” The linking word “for” is there so that we see these are illustrative of the basic incompatibility between Christian and non-Christian values. Some Christians seem to be oblivious about this basic incompatibility, which means we need to listen to these words anew!
A. The mismatch of righteousness and wickedness – the ethical question
1. “Righteousness” is used here in an ethical rather than a forensic sense (cf. Rm 6:19). It speaks of upright conduct that agrees with the character and laws of God. “Wickedness” is lawlessness. It produces a life lived against God and his laws.
2. It ought to be obvious that these polar opposites have nothing in common. Christ loves righteousness and hates lawlessness (Heb 1:9). Christ redeemed us from lawlessness (Ti 2:14). Yet people have a way of finding some way to make their lawlessness look upright; for example, by saying “everybody’s doing this, so what’s your problem?” The problem is that it is against the holy and righteous God and what he tells you and me to do.
B. The mismatch of light and darkness – the realm question
1. Light and darkness are common metaphors for the contrast between two spiritual realms (Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; Lk 16:8; Jn 1:4-9; 12:36; Rm 13:12; Eph 5:11-14; 1 Th 5:5; 1 Pt 2:9).
2. The idea is that it is impossible for one realm to share or participate in the one. If you’re in one, you can’t in the nature of the case be in the other.
C. The mismatch of Christ and Belial – the central question
1. Christ is the holy Son of God; Belial, which means worthlessness or destruction, is Satan. Clearly, Christ has no agreement with his chief enemy. He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn 3:8).
2. This is the core issue that the Corinthians were acting clueless about, though Paul had already written to them about this (1 Cor 10:14-22). Our entire approach to life and teaching must be Christ-structured. We ought to ask, “Do my ideas, attitudes, words, and actions agree with the reality that is found in the Lord Jesus Christ? Is my way of life showing that I am in his kingdom, or does it seem like I’m still in bondage to the evil one (Col 1:13; 2 Tm 2:26).
D. The mismatch of believer and unbeliever – the disciple question
1. This question contrasts those who follow Christ and those who do not. If there is no agreement between Christ and Satan, then their followers can have nothing in common. While we can connect with unbelievers on matters like food, clothing, shelter, jobs, and some forms of entertainment, both sides should feel an amount of uneasiness, because one trusts in Jesus and the other does not.
2. The issue usually comes out when the subject of conversation turns to the gospel, worship, living for the glory of God, and eternal destiny. There is no common ground between believers and unbelievers on these matters. We cannot pretend like there is and still be faithful to Christ. “The unbeliever’s life is centered on self, the believer’s on Christ; the treasure of the one is here on earth, of the other in heaven; the values of the one are those of this world, of the other the world to come; the believer seeks the glory of God, the unbeliever the glory of men” (Hughes).
E. The mismatch of God’s temple and idols – the identity question
1. Here is where Paul wants to make his point. Corinth, like many ancient Greek and Roman cities, was filled with idols. God’s temple is where God reveals his glory and where no idol can be allowed.
2. Part of the apostolic message was to speak against worthless idols (Rm 1:22-25; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Th 1:9; Ac 14:15; 1 Jn 5:21; Rev 21:8). Paul wants them to see that by living in conformity with their identity as the temple of God, they must keep this same witness. They must not reach some sort of agreement with idols by participating in idol feasts or by giving apparent agreement to idols by eating food which an unbeliever tells them has been offered to idols.
Apply: So then, every believer must live out their identity—as part of God’s temple. Every church as a whole must consider if we together are living like God’s temple. And each person should seriously ask himself or herself, which side am I living in most agreement with? Do I live like I’m part of God’s temple, or do I live like a worshiper of idols?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.newtownsquarebaptist.org/” color=”red” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/button]