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2 Corinthians 6:11-18 Bible Study Guide – Do Not Be Unequally Yoked

Outline

I. Paul desires open communication with the Corinthians (11-13)
II. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers (14-18)

I. Paul desires open communication with the Corinthians (11-13)

Discussion Questions

  • Can you summarize some of the things Paul has communicated with the Corinthians so far in this letter?
  • Why is open communication important in building relationships?
  • If there is a problem in a relationship is it better to “let time heal” the wound and let it be or attack it head on? Why?
  • Why are many people hesitant to widen their hearts and truly share with others what they feel?
  • What was Paul calling for the Corinthians to do?

Cross-References

Colossians 4:6 – Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Proverbs 12:18 – There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Proverbs 25:11 – A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

Teaching Points

1. We have spoken freely to you… our hearts are wide open – 2 Corinthians is one of the most personal letters Paul wrote. Much of the letter describes Paul’s past experiences with the Corinthians as he shares with them his motives for the actions he has taken. Throughout the letter, we see Paul’s love and care for the Corinthians. Though at times he had to rebuke or correct them, he always did so with their best interests at heart. Nothing about their purposes was kept secret. There was no ulterior plan or hidden motives.

In his communication, Paul followed the strategy that the simple truth is always best. This open and clear communication meant that the Corinthians could fully understand where Paul was coming from. There would be no barriers between them. Neither would there be miscommunication.

Proverbs 13:10 – Through pride and presumption come nothing but strife.

Many an argument break out because of misunderstandings:

  • I thought you meant…
  • I didn’t know that you…
  • You didn’t tell me that…
  • I assumed that…
  • You should have known I wanted you to…

Open and clear communication takes away the guessing game of trying to correctly decipher another person’s vague hinting. Many relationships function largely in that gray area of fuzzy communication. It is like a dance with subtle hints and double meanings. Not only is this mentally exhausting, but it opens the door for serious problems that could be avoided with good communication.

Case Study: Study Joshua 22 for a case study in the dangers of presumption and how open communication can solve conflicts.

Application: Practice clear, truthful, and loving communication with others. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t expect others to read your mind. Be careful about making presumptions.

2. In return widen your hearts to us also – Paul asks that in return for his open, loving communication with them, they also reciprocate. He wants them to care for him as he does for them. And he wants them to communicate in healthy and positive ways.

Generally communication is a circle. The way you communicate with others will also influence how they communicate with you.

Application: If you don’t like how a spouse or other person in your life is communicating with you try evaluating your own communication. Decide to be the initiator of change. You will likely reap what you sow. So if you change first then it will also change how they think of and respond to you.

II. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers (14-18)

Discussion Questions

  • Why does Paul use the illustration of a yoke? What does this imagery convey?
  • What does it mean to be unequally yoked with unbelievers?
  • What are some examples of unequal yoking?
  • What five contrasts does Paul make between believers and unbelievers?
  • What do these contrasts show us about the fundamental problems with yoking with an unbeliever?
  • How does this apply to marriage?
  • Does it apply to dating/courtship?
  • What would you say to someone who says, “I am only dating an unbeliever. I will not marry him?”
  • What Biblical advice could you give to someone who hopes to marry an unbeliever and then convert her to Christianity?
  • What are some of the practical reasons why it is dangerous for believers to marry or date unbelievers?
  • What other areas can unequal yoking apply to besides marriage?
  • How do verses 16b-17 apply to this situation?
  • What is the result in verse 18 when believers follow God’s principles?

Cross-References

Amos 3:3 – Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?

1 Kings 11:4-6 – For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done.

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Proverbs 13:20 – He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Deuteronomy 7:3-5 – Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.

Psalm 106:35 – But they mingled with the nations, and learned their practices

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Teaching Points

1. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers –

A yoke is a tool used to bind two oxen together. It ensures that the oxen work together and go in the same direction while plowing a field. Neither one is then free to go his own way. They work as one team, united, with one goal. And they can’t be separated.

Paul uses this illustration to describe relationships of believers with unbelievers. A believer should not bind himself to an unbeliever. Doing so means he will lose freedom to follow God’s will and instead may be pulled in a wrong direction.

This applies to many areas of life. The most obvious examples are romantic relationships and business partnerships.

Take for a example a Christian businessman. An unbeliever wants to become a partner with him. It is dangerous because if they become partners the unbeliever’s worldview will be different than the Christian’s. The unbeliever may focus on making money at the expense of doing what is right. He may therefore push for unethical practices such as taking bribes, lying to customers, refusing to give refunds, selling faulty products, avoiding paying taxes owed, etc. The Christian then has two choices. He can agree (and sin). Or he can try to push for what is right. If he chooses to do right there will be a lot of conflict in the business. He may not be able to maintain his stand. But even if it does, it will be wearying and cause a lot of problems in the management team.

It also applies to romantic relationships, marrying and dating. Let us look at why believers and unbelievers are incompatible for marriage.

2. Paul contrasts believers and unbelievers – Paul here makes five contrasts here as to why believers should not be bound together with unbelievers.

Righteousness vs lawlessness – He contrasts righteousness and lawlessness. Believers have the righteousness of Christ. Unbelievers are enslaved to sin. The direction, purpose, and vision of their lives are at odds.

Light vs darkness – Jesus has opened the eyes of believers and shown them the light. Unbelievers are in the dark, slaves of sin, and blind to the truth. Jesus also warned us to beware of “blind guides” (Matthew 15:14.) Generally the two sides of a dating relationship will both give advice to the other side on many life issues. It would be unfair to be in this kind of relationship and never listen to the other side, but if you do listen to the other side it is listening to a blind guide.

Christ vs Belial (that is Satan) – No one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). There is no middle. Either we belong to Christ or we belong to Satan. There should be no partnership between the two.

Believer vs unbeliever – From 2 Corinthians 5:17 we know that the believer is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. One cannot mix old and new. The believer still has his old flesh nature as well as the new nature. The unbeliever only has the sin nature, not the new nature. This will be two against one.

If you believe in God, then you know that He is the creator. He made you. He made you for a purpose. You will one day face Him. He is the highest being in the universe. He is the King of Kings. Now He sits on the throne. This belief should guide every aspect of your life, every decision that you make. Unbelievers do not believe or accept that.

The worldviews are completely incompatible.

Temple of God vs idols – As believers, even our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are supposed to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God. Unbelievers are dedicated to fleshly desires: sex, money, security, big house, education, career, position, fame, etc. These cannot mix.

Even after that, he quotes God’s command that we be separate from the world. Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform to the world or its ways. We have to be set apart and dedicated to God. How can we be set apart to God if we are involved in a dating relationship with an unbeliever?

For an in depth look at why believers should not date unbelievers view our complete Bible study on this topic.

3. The dangers of unequal yoking –

Amos 3:3 – Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

Shouldn’t your closest companion be agreed with you on the most important thing in life? If two are not agreed on the most important things, there will be lots of problems later on. How will these problems be reconciled? Most likely they will be solved by the believer giving in, at least a lot of the time.

Marriage is the most intimate and important relationship you can have. Whom you marry will have a dramatic effect on your life. Your spouse will influence you in big and small ways every day. But if you date or marry an unbeliever there will be fundamental disagreements in almost every arena. Here are some examples:

  • How to spend your money – Believers should practice giving offering to God. Not only do they give God some part of what they make, but they also should seek to use it for His glory and His kingdom. The unbeliever is not interested in contributing to missions. Neither is he interested in investing in God’s kingdom. He wants to use it for satisfying his desires or getting more.
  • How to raise your children – Believers want to prepare their children to face God one day. So they desire to teach them the Bible and a Christian worldview. They want to teach their kids about the errors of evolution and train them from a young age to know and follow God. Unbelievers do not agree with these things. And what is more their entire approach to education is different. Their vision for education is preparing them to be successful in this world. They will follow culture around them. So will you give your kids a Christian education or a secular one? Will you send your kids to church or soccer league? Will you spend time to have devotions with your kids or instead have them tutored to raise their grades? Will you discipline your kids or pamper them? These are a few of the thousands of potential areas of disagreement.
  • How to spend your free time – Study the Bible, go to prayer meeting, or go see a movie? Spend Sundays worshiping God or going shopping? There is a fundamental disagreement on what is worth doing.
  • What careers to pursue – One’s worldview affects his choice of career. Some careers may be unethical. Others may “require” doing something unethical to advance yourselves. Other times career and family or God may be at odds. How will you solve these conflicts with your spouse if your priorities are so different?

The list of potential disagreements are endless. One’s worldview affects everything about one’s life, every decision that one makes. If you marry an unbeliever, then you are putting yourself into a dangerous situation that will either stunt your spiritual growth or lead you away from the Lord completely.

Let us quickly apply some logic to this situation.

There are three possible situations when a believer marries an unbeliever.

A. There are few disagreements or conflict about decisions related to worldview. The believer might say, “We don’t really disagree. Our relationship is so good!” If that is the case, it means that the believer is not really understanding and following God’s Word in his daily life. Her belief is not impacting her life. It is an intellectual belief only.

B. There are frequent disagreements related to worldview. Believer wants to pursue one course of action and unbeliever wants to pursue another. Believer gives in. This is harmful for the believer’s faith and for the whole family.

C. There are frequent disagreements related to worldview. Believer sticks to his guns and refuses to give in. And this happens again and again on many different issues. The marriage will be slowly torn apart. It will be unhealthy and tiresome. It is also “not fair” to the unbeliever to never get his way. At a minimum the believer cannot enjoy marriage as God designed. But worse the marriage may drift apart and break up over time.

4. Missionary dating – Some believers say that they want to practice “missionary dating”. This is dating with the purpose to lead others to Christ. In short, this is never a practice condoned or recommended by God. He has already set His principles in this area that we should follow. It rarely, if ever, works. It creates possible wrong motivations for the unbeliever that will call into question any profession of faith that is made. And more often than not, it isn’t really the reason a believer is pursuing the relationship. Rather, it is a justification or an excuse to continue the relationship and fulfill their own desires.

The simple truth is you can’t cause someone to come to Jesus. That is between that individual and the Lord. You may spend years hoping or praying for that person’s conversion so that you can get married and it may never happen. You won’t get those years back.

5. Dating is a type of yoking – The command not to be unequally yoked are rightly applied by the evangelical church as a whole to include marriage. But most also agree it doesn’t only include marriage, but ANY unholy alliances (see 1 Peter 2:9).

This definitely includes dating/courtship relationships. Those involved in these dating relationship are clearly bound together. That is why when the relationship ends it is called “breaking up”. You don’t “break up” something that is not bound. The girlfriend would be very angry if her boyfriend had several girlfriends. Why? Because they are bound together, yoked together. They have committed themselves to each other, even if only for a period of time.

Dating relationships will also bring an emotional bond. The two sides rely on each other for support and call each other when they need help. Why? Because they are emotionally bound. Also, many times this emotional bound will lead to physical intimacy. It doesn’t always lead to that, but the real temptation is possible and enhanced by the fact that one side doesn’t have godly morals. It is already hard for believers to resist temptation and stay pure. It is much harder when one is not a believer.

6. Go out from their midst and be separate from them – God calls believers to a life of holiness. We are to be in the world but not of the world. Do not let culture and the worldly system around you overwhelm you or creep in to your life and heart.

God wants us to be sanctified, which means to be set apart. We are to be set apart from sin, and set apart to God.

Application: Is there an area of your life where you are flirting with the world? Are you placing a higher love and priority on something in the world than God? God is calling you today to place Him as the highest priority in your life. He wants your full heart. Be devoted to Him above all else. Separate yourselves from anything in this world which is distracting you from following God 100%.

7. I will welcome you and be a father to you – Life consists of choices. We can choose this world or we can choose God. If we choose Him, He will welcome us and be a father to us. God desires to have this relationship with us. The question is whether we will seek after Him or something else.

The most important relationship we will ever have is with God. The second most important is your spouse. Keep the right priority. Do not elevate marriage above God. But honor Him in your marriage.

Biblical reasons not to date an unbeliever. A summary of the issues.

1. Biblical mandate. The Bible is clear not to be bound together to unbelievers and dating is definitely a form of being bound together. This one is all that is necessary to avoid it. When there is a clear Biblical command, we should obey. The others below reinforce this point and shed light as to the reasons for it. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

2. Believers should form close relationships with other believers in order to receive encouragement in their own spiritual walks. Dating an unbeliever is missing the best chance to form a close relationship with a companion who can help us spiritually. (The positive side is to build godly relationships, especially this very close one.) (Hebrews 10:23-25, Proverbs 27:17, Proverbs 13:20)

3. Bad company corrupts good morals. Believers are commanded clearly to avoid spending a lot of time with worldly people. It will influence the believer and hurt his relationship to God. (The negative side is to avoid ungodly relationships, especially with someone so close who has such a big influence on us). (1 Corinthians 15:33, Proverbs 13:20)

4. Dating an unbeliever will cause a lot of disagreement on key issues (Amos 3:3). The two cannot have a close, personal relationship without something giving way. Someone will be unsatisfied.

5. Counsel. What does godly, Christian counsel say? It is extremely likely if you get counsel from mature believers you will be counseled not to date an unbeliever. This is a form God uses to protect us and we should listen to it. (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 19:20, Proverbs 12:15)

6. We are commanded to put God first and seek Him first in our lives. We are to do everything for His glory. Dating an unbeliever is an attempt to satisfy our own desires and hope God will agree. We should instead ask what God desires and do it. (Matthew 6:33, Colossians 3:2-3)

7. There are a number of biblical examples (as well as countless outside the Bible) of believers who have decided they could handle it and who were instead led into temptation and sin and fell because of it. The likely consequences are too dangerous and serious to ignore. (Genesis 19:12-14, Judges 16, 1 Kings 11:4-6)

8. It is extremely unlikely an informed believer will be able to date an unbeliever “in faith” with a clear conscience. Therefore it should be avoided. (Romans 14:23, Acts 24:16)

2 Corinthians 7:1-5

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