Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
– 2 Corinthians 6:14–18
One of the great challenges we face as Christians is learning to be in the world but not of it. God is not calling us to separate ourselves off into a Christian ghetto. If the LORD had simply wanted to completely separate us from the world, He would have taken us to heaven already. We are called to be salt and light for the sake of the world – as we work to disciple the nations by teaching them to obey everything that Jesus taught. This passage is not about the church being in the world. It is about the world being in the Church. Contrary to many trends in North American Christianity, the Bible repeatedly calls for separation from the world at this point.
One of the odd quirks about how this passage has been treated throughout history has been in how it relates to marriage. Some have imagined that being “unequally yoked” is referring specifically to Christians not marrying unbelievers. Others, including many fine scholars, recognizing that the call to separation has a wider application than this – almost seem to ignore that it does also apply to marriage. Normally, the truth that Christians should only marry “in the LORD” is simply taken for granted in Scripture. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:39 Paul writes:
A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.
Paul adds the phrase, “only in the Lord,” that is – only to a fellow believer – almost as an afterthought. This is such an obvious application of the broader principles about marriage and the relationship between believers and unbelievers – that it could scarcely require a formal argument. And yet, because we live in a day where people seem to make a study of trying to find “loopholes” in the Word of God, rather than striving to obey it, we need to remind ourselves of just how much is at stake. In our Old Covenant reading from Malachi chapter 2 we see that the LORD brings judgment on Judah because of their intermarriage with pagans.
And what is the very first thing that Malachi says that God is seeking from our marriages? Answer: “Godly offspring.” Hopefully we can all see that marrying a non-Christian is not a step towards this goal.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 37
Q. 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.