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What is the significance of the term "unequally" in "unequally yoked with unbelievers"?

The phrase in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is often explained as "do not be yoked with unbelievers". Yet, there's a difference between "do not be unequally yoked" vs. "do not be yoked". The key term here being "unequally", implying that a yoke is ok under some circumstances. 

2 Corinthians 6:14

ESV - 14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Clarify Share Report Asked April 12 2013 Stringio Colin Wong Supporter

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Chuck jr 2 Chuck Smith Jr Supporter Soul-shaper
"Unequally yoked" translates one Greek word--a rare word, in fact, that occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX), a cognate of this word is used in regard to yoking (or breeding) two different kinds of animals (Lev. 19:19; cf. Deut. 22:10). It could be translated, yoked to "another of a different kind."

Making divisions between things and keeping them apart is at the heart of the so-called purity code in Leviticus. It is also crucial to Israel's understanding of holiness (Lev. 20:26).

Paul clarifies what he means by "a different kind" (unequal) when he refers to "unbelievers" and goes on to elaborate on the incongruities of "righteousness with lawlessness," "light with darkness," "Christ with Belial," and "the temple of God with idols." In each case, there are two separate categories that are not to be mixed or confused. For the believer, "unequal" includes lawlessness, etc.

Paul also elaborates on what it means to be "yoked," using words like "fellowship," "communion," "accord," "part", and "agreement"--although getting at the meaning of these words in this context requires a little work on our part.

So it seems that Paul assumes that the believer is a different kind of person from the unbeliever. That difference is to be guarded, which means avoiding entanglements that would compromise the believer's uniqueness. But let's remember, our status before God is not something we accomplished, but the effect of his grace.

Although we might be able to draw some broad lines that constitute an "unequal yoke" for all Christians, it seems that many cases will come down to an individual's faith and convictions (Ro. 14:2-6). While eating with sinners seemed like an unequal joining of the righteous with the unrighteous (a Jewish conviction from which even Peter had difficulty extricating himself, Gal. 2:11-14), Jesus was comfortable dining with sinners. There will no doubt be many instances which vary from one believer to another regarding how much one can be in the world without being of it. For example, many Christians think of marriage to an unbeliever as an "unequal yoke," yet it is precisely a yoke Paul told believers not to break (1 Cor. 7:12-13).

My opinion: While we need to live closely to our own convictions regarding the application of this passage, we would do well to allow other Christians to form their own convictions according to their calling and the direction of God's Spirit.

April 16 2013 1 response Vote Up Share Report


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Flier pic Al Huba Dr. Al Huba
The passage on unequally yoked could not more precisely apply to marriage. As a marriage counselor of 30 plus years it is hard to even imagine the multitude of problems that being unequally yoked, ie believer and unbeliever brings to a marriage. 2 cor 7 in no way endorses unequally yoked marriages but helps the believer avoid a relationship that will adversely affect their moral foundation. " Evil companionship corrupts good morals." If we are a holy set apart people we should act as the word says to. Why is it that the Jews were not permitted to marry outside of their clans? Because they were set apart to shine God's light; as we are.

June 02 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Open uri20111024 6716 1m24cbb Ben Ting
In the overall context, Paul is admonishing the Corinthian church not to be "like the world" anymore. But rather be separated from the "system/beliefs/values... of the world", much like how the Israelites were given an entirely different set of "beliefs/values/law..." which differed very much from the Egyptians'.

Real life examples: 
- The world: it's ok to take bribes; Christians: no bribes.
- The world: abortion is human rights; Christians: abortion is murder.
- The world: all religions are good & equal; Christians: Jesus is the only truth.

So, Christians are not just a new creation (2Cor5:17), but their entire beliefs/living will be new also according to the revealed instructions of the Bible. And the best part, God has promised that He will eternally be our Father, our God for us. (The implication to broad to elaborate here)

Summary: So Christians are not to take on those world values which we know are against the revealed word of God in the Bible. (There are good virtues the world practices also, but that's another topic).

In conclusion: 2Cor7:1
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

April 13 2013 2 responses Vote Up Share Report


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