[By Dr. Jason Gatrich, who has a thoughtful, conservative Christian ministry – see http://www.jcsm.org/biblelessons ]
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. Therefore ‘Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”
There are some believers who have decided to spend time with unbelievers. Perhaps their intentions were to witness to these heathens, but after hours of fellowship, witnessing hardly appears to be the focus. Regardless of the appearances, Paul warns us about being yoked with unbelievers.
The words in this passage that describe the Christian are righteousness (dikaiosune), light (phos), Christ (Christos), believer (pistos) and the temple of the living God (naos theos). The words that describe the non-Christian are unrighteousness/lawlessness (anomia), darkness (skotos), Belial (Belial), unbeliever/infidel (apistos) and idols (eidolon).
Paul is using colorful repetition to make a serious point. There is an enormous difference between the believer and the unbeliever. This paper will clear up some misconceptions about unbelievers and it will reveal how our attitude should be toward them.
First, some people have argued that this verse is referring to marriage. If this verse was referring to marriage, why didn’t Paul mention marriage plainly? Paul mentions guidelines for married people in other passages. One of the key words in verse 14 is fellowship. Paul is asking the Corinthians a question, in order to make them think about who they are spending time with. “For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?”
The word fellowship, in this passage, is “metoche” and it means “participation, intercourse, fellowship.” It is derived from “metecho” which means, “to share or participate, to be a partaker.”
The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines fellowship as “companionship, company, the state of being a fellow associate, a company of equals or friends, association.” Clearly, Paul is not referring to a marriage relationship. God is warning us, through the apostle Paul, that we are not to associate with unbelievers.
Let’s examine the word “communion.” Paul writes, “What communion has light with darkness?” Communion is the Greek word “koinonia” here. Some of the definitions for this word, in the Greek dictionary, are “partnership, fellowship, communion, communication and intercourse.”
“Intimate fellowship, rapport and communication” are three ways the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes communion.
Are you wondering if an unbelieving friend is understanding the spiritual things you are speaking about?
1 Corinthians 2:12-16 “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”
The great apologist Matthew Henry put this passage into good perspective when he said, “No one can know the things of God, but his Holy Spirit, who is one with the Father and the Son, and who makes known Divine mysteries to his church. This is most clear testimony, both to the real Godhead and the distinct person of the Holy Spirit. The apostles were not guided by worldly principles. They had the revelation of these things from the Spirit of God, and the saving impression of them from the same Spirit. These things they declared in plain, simple language, taught by the Holy Spirit, totally different from the affected oratory or enticing words of man’s wisdom. The natural man, the wise man of the world, receives not the things of the Spirit of God. The pride of carnal reasoning is really as much opposed to spirituality, as the basest sensuality. The sanctified mind discerns the real beauties of holiness, but the power of discerning and judging about common and natural things is not lost. But the carnal man is a stranger to the principles, and pleasures, and actings of the Divine life. The spiritual man only, is the person to whom God gives the knowledge of his will. How little have any known of the mind of God by natural power! And the apostles were enabled by his Spirit to make known his mind. In the Holy Scriptures, the mind of Christ, and the mind of God in Christ, are fully made known to us. It is the great privilege of Christians, that they have the mind of Christ revealed to them by his Spirit. They experience his sanctifying power in their hearts, and bring forth good fruits in their lives.”
Ephesians 2:1 reads, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
Remember how you were before you believed in Christ? You were dead in your sins. You didn’t give Jesus the glory and you didn’t worship Him as Lord and Savior. This analogy is given to illustrate how much of a spiritual life an unbeliever has.
A man dead in trespasses and sins has no desire for spiritual pleasures. When we look upon a corpse, it gives an awful feeling. A never-dying spirit is now fled, and has left nothing but the ruins of a man. But if we viewed things aright, we should be far more affected by the thought of a dead soul, a lost, fallen spirit. A state of sin is a state of conformity to this world. Wicked men are slaves to Satan. Satan is the author of that proud, carnal disposition which there is in ungodly men; he rules in the hearts of men.”
Does hanging around with an unbeliever enrich my life?
Matthew 5:13 reads, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”
The believer in Christ is referred to as the “salt of the earth.” In a world full of ungodliness, the Holy Spirit is what sets us apart from the heathen. Jesus is warning about people that become ungodly. What is a good way to become ungodly? Hanging out with ungodly people. Unless an unbeliever is wanting to talk about Jesus, the Bible or church, what can they say that is of spiritual value?
What did David, a man after God’s own heart, think about the unbelievers around him?
Psalm 26:4-7 “I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, Nor will I go in with hypocrites. I have hated the assembly of evildoers, And will not sit with the wicked. I will wash my hands in innocence; So I will go about Your altar, O LORD, That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, And tell of all Your wondrous works.”
Great care to avoid bad company is both evidence of our integrity and a good way to keep us in it.
Solomon was the wisest man in the world. He tried many things to find happiness and has great insight into this subject. Will the company of unbelievers dull our senses?
Proverb 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
Is it ok if people don’t believe? Should we just consider them “one of the guys?”
Proverb 29:27 “An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, And he who is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked.”
Does this verse say, “An unjust man is sort of bad, but all right to spend time with”? Does this verse say, “An unjust man is good to spend time with, as long as you make sure not to sin with them”? Absolutely not. Solomon is telling us how we should feel towards unbelievers. The word abomination is a serious one. In this verse, the Hebrew word for abomination is “tow’ebah.” Do you know where else this word is found? Leviticus 18:22 uses the same word. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.”
Paul reminds us……
1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.”
Do you think the habits of your friends and family rub off on you? I catch myself saying and doing things that I see my peers doing. Hopefully, these are all good things. Honestly, all of the things I’ve acquired from my Christian peers are not godly. There have been sinful habits passed on to me through my Christian friends.
In the same manner, do you think your unbelieving friends are passing on bad habits to you? Emphatically, yes. Monkey see, monkey do! If we value someone enough to spend time with them, we will listen to them and ultimately become like them. Who are we becoming like? Who should we be becoming like?
When a believer decides to spend time with an unbeliever, in their social life, they are also deciding not to spend time with a believer. Who is getting robbed more? Both the disobedient Christian and the neglected Christian are being robbed. They could both be growing towards Christ and speaking about God, worshiping Him. Instead, when a believer disregards Paul’s warning, it is hurting themselves and over time, the body of Christ.
By now, I’m sure you’re wondering what your role should be with unbelievers. Here is a list of some things that God has asked us to do.
1) Pray for them.
2) Don’t condemn them.
3) Love them.
4) Share the gospel with them.
Here is my prayer: “Thank you for loving us, Lord. You are our awesome God! Save the unbelievers, Lord. Give us patience with them. Help us to be a light in the darkness. Help us to obey You closely. Forgive us for our sins, Lord. Thank you for the unbelievers in our lives. Help us to witness to them. Change their hearts and have them accept You, God. Thank you for teaching us, in Your Word, how we should behave. Increase our faith in You. Increase our discernment. Help us to walk closely to You and not let your desires get in the way. Thank you for your mercy and love. Thank you that your laws are always perfect and best! There’s no other God like You! Give us wisdom and peace. Give us joy and strength. Help us do what is right. Help us break away from the unbelievers in our lives, if they don’t want to accept the gospel. Let us take You and Your Word seriously. Thank you for having a reason for every sentence, word and comma in the Bible! In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Remember – the only two directions an unbeliever can bring you are down or away from Christ.