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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Peril of Being Unequally Yoked
Text:2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race
 
Preached:2018
Added:2020-03-31
Updated:2020-03-31
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
“The Peril of Being Unequally Yoked”
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
 
One of my favorite places to watch people is on a bench at the four-way stop sign in Shipshewana, Indiana.  For those who haven’t visited there, Shipshewana is a small town in northeastern Indiana. It portrays a cross section of cultures with many Amish, a flock of tourists, along with a variety of shops, restaurants, beautiful Amish made furniture stores and a large flea market.
            
My favorite bench is right across from the Blue Gate Theatre; there is a steady stream of people going in and out of the restaurant and the gift shop associated with the theater. And then, across the street, quite often there is an elderly white-haired man, very tall with a stooped back, who stands by large homemade signs telling people to repent for the end is near. He also gives out tracts and talks to people who are willing to listen to what he has to say.
 
But in addition to watching the variety of people, I like to watch the variety of transportation. Many of the Amish are riding their bicycles. Even when the wind is gusty they peddle straight into wind and make good time, reminding me of how weak and out of shape I am. When I am on a bicycle the smallest hill, or even a gentle breeze, seems to slow me way down!
               
In contrast to the bikes, there are a variety of trucks and tractor trailers. I like to hear those diesel engines move those massive trucks forward from the four way stop sign by the bench where I sit. And it's interesting to see where they come from. People from across the nation seem to end up in Shipshewana. There is a steady stream of cars and pickup trucks from other states, especially in the summertime when the flea market is going on.
 
And then, in addition to all the other modes of transportation, there are those buggies, usually drawn by just one horse, and you hear the clickety-clack of their hooves down the street. I find the people who are driving the buggies to be fascinating, and I wonder what goes through the minds of the young children who sometimes are peering out of the windows at tourists like me.
 
I'm sure many of you have seen those buggies and have also been intrigued by the mystique that they carry and by the power of the horses that pull them so quickly, all the while making that clickety-clack sound of hooves on the pavement.
 
But can you imagine going to Shipshewana and as you look at all the modes of transportation and all the variety of people, you see one of those buggies being pulled by a horse and a big old ox at the same time? It would make an unusual sight to say the least! And there wouldn’t be the fast clickety-clack of hooves because the ox would slow the horse down. To harness up a horse and a big old ox wouldn’t make any sense at all! An ox is much stronger than a horse, but not nearly as fast. Yoking them together hinders both, as they cannot pull together in unison.
 
Now this passage of Scripture before us is using the analogy of a donkey and ox yoked together. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use the analogy to warn us not to be yoked with unbelievers. The analogy is drawn from Deuteronomy 22:10, “Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.”  Not only are they incompatible in pulling together, but the ox was a clean animal and the donkey unclean, as specified by Old Testament law.
 
The prohibition applies not only to marriage, but to all relationships. Yet the command not to be yoked with an unbeliever is especially appropriate for those who desire to be married. Just as an ox and a donkey cannot pull together effectively, so too, an unbelieving husband or wife cannot pull together with their believing spouse.
 
Five Rhetorical Questions
  
Verse 14 to 16 ask five rhetorical questions, and those questions make it clear why we are not to be yoked with unbelievers. The first question is: “What do righteousness and wickedness have in common?”  The answer is obvious. They have nothing in common. Because of that, if you enter the bond of marriage with someone who rejects the righteousness of Jesus Christ, you can be sure that marriage won't work.
 
The second rhetorical question asks, “What fellowship can light have with darkness?” If one person lives by the light of the word of God and the other person rejects that word and lives in the darkness of their sin, there is no way that those two are going to be able to work together. And that principle applies in a marriage, a business, and any other venture where people need to work together for the good of the common cause.
 
The third question is even more pointed than the first two. In verse 15 he asks, “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?”  Belial is one of the many names for Satan. No one has worked harder against the Lord and His kingdom than the evil one. There is no harmony between the evil one and Christ. Trying to have two people – one who is devoted to Christ and the other who is in bondage to the devil – work together, will bring the same result as having a donkey and an ox pulling a cart. It simply does not work.
 
The fourth question is also pointed. The apostle is not beating around the bush when he asks in verse 15, “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” An unbeliever and a believer are inevitably going to be in conflict because they have opposing worldviews. The unbeliever sees the world and all that is in it through the eyes of humanism. Humanity becomes the measure of all things for him or her.
                                      
By contrast, the believer sees the world through the lens of Scripture. We who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ have a Christian worldview. Our view on virtually all things differs from that of those who are not in Christ: How you manage money, how you spend leisure time, how you relate to your neighbors – all those aspects of day-to-day life, and so many more – depend on whether you are a believer or unbeliever.
    
As Philip Hughes points out in his commentary, “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 those of the world to come; the believer seeks the glory of God, the unbeliever the glory of men.”
 
The fifth rhetorical question points out that we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are temples of the Holy Spirit, but those who do not believe in the Lord idolize the things of this fallen world. The fifth question, in verse 16, is: “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?” This question, along with the others, is also rooted in our relationship to the Lord. The command not to be yoked with unbelievers is rooted in the truth that we are God's temple, indwelt by his Holy Spirit. We are His people, separated from the world to Him as His children.
 
That is part of what it means to be holy – to be separated from the sinful principles of the world and separated to the Lord as we live by the principles of His Word. This analogy, which teaches us to separate ourselves from the principles of the fallen world and to separate ourselves to God, springs from God's covenant with us: In the Garden of Eden, the Lord walked in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve. When they sinned and rebelled against Him, the Lord promised to redeem them. And the Lord continued to dwell with His people. In the Old Testament era He dwelled with His people symbolically in the Most Holy Place in the Temple.
 
In the New Testament era, we see that God still dwells with us in the temple, not a temple built by human hands, but rather He makes our bodies His temple as He dwells within us by His Holy Spirit. And in the life to come, the covenant promises of God will be completely fulfilled. Revelation 21:3 describes how God will again dwell with His people in perfection, in paradise, as all the blessings of being reconciled to Him, through faith in Jesus Christ, are perfected throughout all eternity.
 
All of us who are parents should especially be able to relate to what the apostle is writing about. As parents, when we raise our children in a Christian family we stress that we are different from those of the world. We guard our children from the harmful influences of the world even as we teach them how to stand firm against the temptations that the world, the devil and their own sinful nature bring into each person's life. And if our children become enamored with the world we reemphasize again that we belong to the Lord, not to the world.
 
That is part of what verse 17 and 18 is getting at.  It has been noted, “This is the crowning privilege that God gives to his faithful: though their lives are short and appear almost insignificant, they may still contribute to the future well-being of the people of God by their godly and prayerful parenting and grand parenting.” (ESVSB)
 
In the World but not of the World
 
But while we are to separate ourselves from the principles of the world, we are to be active in the world. We are to be active in the world as light and salt, being “all things to all people” as the apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
 
As an example, consider the contrast between the Amish in their buggies and the elderly man with his hand-painted signs to repent for the end is near. The Amish people strive to separate themselves from everything in the world. In some ways they are similar to Simeon Stylites, a monk in the fifth century who lived on a small platform known as a style, for 37 years. He did so to avoid the contamination of the world, as did many other ascetic monks who tried to separate themselves from the evil of the world.
 
They failed to realize that evil comes from within us, from our fallen nature, and that our adversary, the devil, will tempt us whether we are living on top of a tall pole or standing on the ground. The ascetic monks who tried to escape living in the world, failed to see that all of us are in the world, but that doesn’t mean we live by the principles of the world. By contrast, the elderly gentleman who has his signs by the four-way stop sign, calling on people to repent for the end is near, is willing to interact with the world even as he refuses to live by the principles of this fallen world.
 
In His prayer, known as the high-priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask that You take them (His people) out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one… As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (Vs. 15, 18).  It is impossible to have the influence of salt, which is a preserving element, and light, which is a witness to the world, if we try to separate ourselves completely from the rest of society.
 
Years ago, I knew a missionary who worked in South Korea.  He was plagued with very poor vision and wore thick – what we used to call “coke-bottle” – glasses. His poor vision was probably a great blessing to him in his ministry. The reason why is because his calling as a missionary was to work with Korean prostitutes, with women who flaunted their sexuality while in bondage to the sex trade. By God's grace, he was used to bring many of them to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. 
 
Their lives were transformed by the power of the gospel as the Holy Spirit blessed the message the missionary spoke to them. But their lives would have never been transformed if that missionary had never met those women where they were – which was usually in the worst type of bars imaginable.
 
There were people in his denomination who were opposed to his work. Some of the people questioned whether they should support a missionary who spent time in bars in South Korea witnessing to these women. Yet he was not involved in the principles of the world. He was not caught up in the same practices of these people to whom he was witnessing. He was in the world but not of the world, and in that sense, he fit the description that the apostle Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 9:22 where he describes how he became all things to all people so that by all possible means he might win some to Christ.
 
But young people, don’t think you can marry an unbeliever and then change them. Only God can change the human heart. And so often when a Christian marries an unbeliever, thinking that the unbeliever will change, they face a life of bitter disappointment. Many times, the believer is drawn into the sinfulness of the unbeliever, rather than the unbeliever coming into the righteousness of the one who professes to believe in Jesus Christ.
 
That is also why this warning is given in such an imperative and unique way. There is great peril in being yoked with an unbeliever. Just as an ox and a donkey cannot effectively pull the plow together, neither can an unbeliever and a believer be blessed in marriage.
 
Pursuing Purification of Body and Spirit
 
And then, another application, (one that is especially applicable to us as we prepare to take the Lord's supper next week), is that since God has promised to dwell in us by His Spirit and to be our Father we are, as His children to – in the words of chapter 7:1 –  “purify (ourselves) from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
          
Did you notice he mentions the need to purify both body and spirit? The reason he mentions both is that what we do with our body affects our spirit – our minds, our emotions, our thoughts. When we sin with our bodies, it affects our spirits.
 
There is nothing more depressing to a Christian than to realize that he or she has fallen into the impurity of the world. And even though the impurity is freely and completely forgiven by faith in Christ, so often in the recess of our mind and heart – in our spirit – there is still that guilt that comes back to plague us.
 
And the same is true with our spirit affecting our body. When a thought begins to form, even vaguely, in our mind, if it is an impure thought, we need to squelch that thought. The reason why we need to purify our mind even when the first vague evil thought enters in, is that if we don't purify our mind, it will affect what we do with our body. 
 
You have perhaps heard the well-known adage which carries so much truth: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”  Our mind influences our body, just as our body influences our mind; both need to be guarded from the contamination of sin.
 
As James 1:14-15 point out: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
 
Did you notice also that as Scripture tells us to purify both body and spirit it uses the word “everything”? Verse 1 tells us that we are to purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit. In other words, every aspect of our life is to be purified from the contamination that this world is so filled with.
 
The word “everything” may encompass different things for you than for me. Some Christians are more likely to be contaminated by sexual sin, others by greed or covetousness, pride, or an assortment of others sins which work so strongly in the human heart. And it is not enough to purify ourselves from some of these contaminations, but again, we must, by the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying and enabling power, guard ourselves against everything that contaminates body and spirit.
 
In conjunction with the command to purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit we are also told in verse 1 to perfect holiness out of reverence for God. We don't reach perfect holiness in this life. But we are still to pursue that perfect holiness out of reverence for God. In the words of Philippians 3:12: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. The pursuit of holiness out of reverence for God is a lifelong pursuit for the true believer.
 
At times it becomes very frustrating, because as sinners saved by grace, we become more conscious of the impurity within us. The painful realization hits home that the perfection of holiness that we desire is not to be attained in this life. And while that can be frustrating, on the one hand, as it reminds us of our sins and failures, on the other hand it is a blessing that God withholds perfection – perfect sanctification – from us until we enter glory.
 
How is that a blessing? It causes us to lean more fully upon Christ alone for our salvation. It brings us to our knees in humble repentance which is a great blessing as we look beyond our sin to see our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is so compassionate and loving to us that He gave of Himself on the cross of Calvary that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
 
And that realization, which comes through repentance and saving faith – which equals our conversion – gives us the reverence for God that Chapter 7:1 speaks of when it tells us: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
 
To have reverence for God means to have deep gratitude for what He has done, and to acknowledge that He is not only the God of all grace, but also the God of all glory whom we respect and love as our heavenly Father since we are reconciled to Him through faith in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
 
When we truly reverence God we will strive to perfect holiness in the relationships that we cultivate with others – not being yoked with unbelievers, yet being a witness to them. As we grow to reverence our God with ever deeper gratitude, we will also strive to purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit. And in our reverence for God, we will pursue holiness even as we have the knowledge that our perfection will come, not in this life, but in the eternity yet to be revealed.
 
(In this week of preparation, as well as) every day of your life and mine, may we guard ourselves against being yoked with unbelievers and from being immersed in their principles, even as we reach out to them with the gospel.
 
And may each one of us strive to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit perfecting holiness out of reverence” for our gracious God who has redeemed us through the gift of faith in his dear Son, Jesus Christ! Amen.
 
 
                                                 - bulletin outline -
 
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness
have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14
 
                                 “The Peril of Being Unequally Yoked”
                                               2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
 
I.  Scripture warns us not to be yoked with unbelievers (14):
     1) The analogy is from Deuteronomy 22:10 which warns that an ox
          and donkey cannot pull together effectively because they are
          unequally yoked
 
 
     2) The prohibition applies not only to marriage, but to all relation- 
          ships, for the reasons stated in the 5 rhetorical questions (14-16)
 
 
     3) The prohibition is rooted in our relationship to the Lord, that we are
          His temple and His people (16), separated from the world to Him
          (17) as His children (18)
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) While we are to separate ourselves from the principles of the world,
          we are to be active in the world as light and salt (Matthew 5:13-16),
          being “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
 
 
     2) Since God has promised to dwell in us by His Spirit (16) and to be
          our Father (18) we are, as His children, to:
          (a) Purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and
                spirit (7:1c)
 
 
          (b) Perfect – pursue – holiness out of reverence for God (7:1d)
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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