It may seem too obvious to mention but Paul's letter to the church in Corinth was written for the benefit of the church combined rather than the individual Christian. Obviously there are many benefits for each of us as we read the letters and indeed the whole of scripture but there are far more benefits for the church gathered as we read together and study together. Not only are there more benefits but there is a far greater understanding and blessing from learning the corporate lessons and then putting them into practice as the body of Christ in our own particular location.
Look at the context of what we have read today, it is found in verse 11-13. Paul and the leadership team have spoken freely to you (plural) etc. He reminds them that the affection of the leadership team is extended to THEM but they are withholding their affection from the leaders! Paul then asks for THEM to be fair and to open their hearts.
This might all sound rather trivial to begin with but we are considering a passage that is often quoted with great authority but as we will soon discover is taken somewhat out of context.
Let us discover what it means to be yoked together with unbelievers. We have all been urged to step aside from the world and to be separate from them. We have maybe been reminded that unbelievers should have no relationships with unbelievers, especially relationships of the heart!
- But is that the thrust of this passage?
- Can we in all honesty apply this passage to instruct individual Christians in such things from here in scripture?
Obviously from my tone you can see that I am not in full agreement with such applications.
Why am I saying this?
One logical reason is that it contravenes something that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:9 Paul in that passage is instructing the church to expel the immoral brother who is fellow-shipping with them. He has told them in the previous verses to get rid of the old yeast (a symbol of sin from the time of the Passover!) and to become like a loaf made without yeast. He then reminds them that Christ is OUR (or their) Passover! Finally he urges them to celebrate the feast in sincerity and truth. The context of what he is saying is that of the church in worship. But he continues in verse 9-11 that the church should not be associated or yoked with sexually immoral people but not at all meaning the people of this world! What does that mean? Verse 11 is the answer! Do not associate with people like that who call themselves brothers!!! But more than simply immoral brothers but also greedy believers and idolatrous believers and slanderous, drunken and swindling believers! Paul in this passage is saying that the church should have double standards! He is not saying that we should have no dealings with unbelievers whatever their sin, quite the contrary, we must relate to the world as a church and logically individual Christians.
The exclusive type of Christian has got this quite wrong!
The church and all Christians must go out into the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ as prescribed by the word of God with relevance and compassion for the unconverted.
So back to our passage in2 Corinthians 6: As we see the instructions are to the church, we must also remember that we have to keep the flow of the passage in order for the church to understand.
Paul is in simply highlighting what he instructed in 1 Corinthians:
- The church must not be yoked (or bound to) unbelievers.
This simply means that the church membership should be closed or reserved for true believers alone!! Wickedness and righteousness must not stand side by side. Remember that all of the instructions found in the OT are in order that individual Jews belong to the corporate nation and that they all together attempt to show what a truly righteous nation should look like. That truly righteous nation is fulfilled by the church. Our righteousness is Christ and so we must protect the church from input from those whose god is not the Lord Jesus Christ! There is no harmony between Him and the devil because God in all of His holiness walks with His people who are the church!
I wonder if in our services and our members meetings full realize that very fact. God is walking with us here today.
For our worship WE MUST BE SEPARATE!
How does this apply to us?
As ambassadors for Christ to the world we must have compassion but as the church we MUST keep purity. God is with us therefore says Paul in 7:1 we must make every effort to keep the church pure and uncontaminated in body and spirit. As both individuals and as the whole church we must work at being perfect in holiness out of reverence for our God.
This passage is much more important for the church than is often taught when applied only to individuals. We cannot teach separation from the world for unbelievers from here and I do not believe from elsewhere in the NT! It is not about our individual relationships and so ought not to be used to prevent believers from doing certain things; those things may or may not be covered elsewhere in scripture but not here!!!!
Paul urges the church to keep our services and membership pure for the sake of our God who walks with us just as He did with Adam and Eve before the fall.