2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness?…

St. Paul wished to see the Corinthian brethren enlarged, enlivened, and encouraged. But this was not to be by the easy and uuprincipled method of ignoring all distinctions and binding together incongruous materials and moral opposites. The exhortation, "Be ye enlarged," must be taken with this, "Be ye separate;" and charity must go hand in hand with purity. The contrasts expressed in this passage were very apparent in ancient Corinth, where the Christians, as saints, were openly separated from the heathen worship and heathen vices around them. A similar state of things may be seen now at mission stations in populous heathen cities. The Christians turn away from the temples, disown the priests and soothsayers, disregard the festivals, and have nothing any more to do with idols, They may still maintain family and social intercourse with the heathen, because conversion, as St. Paul explains, does not break family ties, or change the station in which one is when "called," or drive Christ's followers "out of the world." But they may not be unequally yoked with non-Christians or profane persons in Church fellowship. The distinction cannot be made so palpable where all society has accepted the Christian name as when and where the Church is in sharp contrast with a powerful heathenism. Yet in principle the distinction insisted on by St. Paul must be maintained, else the strength of the Church as a spiritual institution is sapped, and a compromising spirit enters which destroys the glory of Christ. To carry out the principle in actual Church discipline is confessedly difficult; but the Church has a right to expect that her overseers will prevent the admission of scandalous persons; and individual professors of the Christian faith should not claim Church fellowship without examining themselves as to the side on which they stand with reference to the five points of contrast indicated in this text.

1. Between righteousness and iniquity. This takes us at once into the region of conscience and moral conduct. The Christian should be a righteous man. He may not lie, or cheat, or overreach, or take unfair advantage of another, because to do so would not be right or righteous. The rogue and the worker of iniquity are as heathen men, and not fit for Christian fellowship.

2. Between light and darkness. This points to the mental and moral environment as affecting thought, feeling, and action. It is a mode of expression common with St. Paul, as may be seen in other Epistles. The Christian is a child of the light and of the day. Darkness, on the contrary, is the covering of the heathen world; and its works are unfruitful and shameful.

3. Between Christ and Belial. Abstractions are left, and the leaders of two conflicting hosts are set in opposition. A Christian is "of Christ," as the Lord whom he obeys and the pattern which he follows. On the other side is a man of Belial, or the follower of a worthless and profligate spirit. So this contrast has reference to disposition, and excludes every false and wicked person from Christian fellowship.

4. Between the believer and the unbeliever. This takes us to the question of religious persuasion and conviction. A Christian is a believer on the Son of God. In this lies the secret of his life, strength, holiness, and patience. A man without faith is no more fit for fellowship in the Church than a heathen. To him the trials and triumphs of the life of faith are alike unknown.

5. Between the temple of God and idols. The Church is the living temple of the living God, the holy temple of the holy God. The individual Christians are stones in that temple, and must be in harmony with its sacred character and use. What agreement has it with idols? If the Jew would have thought it a horrible profanation to set up a graven image in the temple at Jerusalem, much more should Christian minds abhor the setting up of idols of selfishness, covetousness, or sensuality in that better temple which is now the habitation of God in the Spirit. So much of incompatibilities and contrasts. Then the apostle, who did not address himself to the heathen, bidding them stand off, but wrote to the Christians, urging them to avoid entanglement with the heathen, gave them a charge from the Lord, and enforced it by a gracious promise.

(1) The charge. "Wherefore come out from among them." The Christians were not to leave Corinth, but to hold their positions and preserve their callings in that city, while scrupulously avoiding the contamination of idolatry and vice. So should we continue in the world, yet not be conformed to it or love it; should do our part in our generation, yet separate ourselves from all that is unjust or unholy. "Touch not the unclean," under which category comes, not mere licentiousness, but all that is unhallowed, and so out of harmony with the purity of God.

(2) The promise. "I will receive you," etc. (vers. 17, 18). Such was the promise made to King David in regard to his posterity (2 Samuel 7:14); and it is extended to all the household of faith. From the sure belief of this promise we may derive strength and resolution to keep the rule of separation. Are we to be openly acknowledged as the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty? What, then, have we to do with iniquity, with darkness, with Belial, with unbelief, with idols? The best-known Christians are not always the best. They may have some striking quality or rare endowment, or may have reached by favour some conspicuous post. But the best are those men and women who most fully and consistently obey the holy calling. How sweet is fellowship with such Christians, and how stimulating! It is good to be yoked together with them under Christ's yoke which is easy, and his burden which is light. It is good to be builded together with them in the temple of the living God. It is good to be joined as brothers and sisters in the same family, and call the Lord Almighty our Father. The friendship of the world, the alliance of the sons of Belial, the communion of the unclean, - what are these to the dignity of the people of God and the family affection of his children? - F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

WEB: Don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Religious Separation
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