“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?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-15
The following is an excerpt from an article written by Steve Camp (original source):
The Apostle Paul above gives us one of the key principles in all of the NT concerning our role in the society in which we live: “do not be unequally yoked with nonbelievers.” It is echoing the imperative of the Apostle John when he says, “be in the world and not of the world.” Rightly understanding its truth has a profound impact in how we live, engage culture, and most importantly with whom we partner with in ministry.
… let me begin by stating what this passage is not teaching with the hopes of producing clarity on this important subject.
1. It is not a call to isolationism. This is not Paul’s call for all Christians to create an alternative society whereby we only by gas from Christian gas companies; pay taxes to Christian governments; drive cars made by Ichthus Motors; or purchase groceries from Galilean Grocers. Christians working for nonbelievers in an employee/employer relationship is not prohibited by Scripture. Doing business and trade with nonbelievers is not prohibited by Scripture. Being involved in community projects and events with nonbelievers is not prohibited by Scripture. But what is prohibited, is any kind of partnership in a spiritual enterprise or ministry involving making Christ known, preaching of the Word, evangelism, worship, the furtherance of the local church, etc. I will unfold that in just a minute.
2. It is not a call to divorce your unsaved spouse. This passage isn’t specifically addressing the marriage issue (though it would apply) for the Apostle Paul has already given the command in 1 Corinthians 7:39 to “marry only in the Lord.” Considering marriage is the most intimate and binding of all human relationships, it would go without saying that it should be reserved for only believers to marry other believers. BUT, if you are married to a nonbeliever, the Apostle is not giving you an automatic out here. You are not to divorce your unbelieving spouse, but remain in that union praying for their regeneration.
3. And, it is not a call to avoid contact with nor having fellowship with nonbelievers. Paul again tells us for that to happen we would have to go “out of this world” (1 Cor. 5:9-10). How are we to love our neighbor if we don’t have contact with them? How can we serve them and do good works to them if we are not involved with their lives?
So those are three things that the Apostle is not meaning by the command: “do not be unequally yoked with nonbelievers.”
Paul … draws this analogy, however, not from the usage of the Greek term but from a concept back in Deuteronomy 22:10. When God was laying out prescriptions for the conduct of His people, He gave them a lot of prescriptions that on the surface are not particularly spiritual, they had to do with the uniqueness of Israel’s life. But some of them were very practical and wise and one of the things that He instructed them, recorded in Deuteronomy 22:10 is that they were not to plow with an ox and an ass yoked together. And the reasons for that are obvious. Those two animals have two different natures. They don’t have the same gait, they don’t have the same disposition, they don’t have the same strength. They don’t have the same kind of instincts, completely different natures. You can’t yoke them up and expect to plow a straight furrow.
To then “yoke” with a nonbeliever in a spiritual enterprise or ministry of any kind would be counterproductive wouldn’t it? Christians are new creations; walk in a newness of life; have different goals and purposes in living as born again followers of Jesus Christ. We live to please Him in all things and not ourselves. We see this world as not our home, but the land of our sojourning. Our lives have been separated from this world and unto Christ to now do His will, according to His Word, by His Spirit, in living out His gospel. It is undeniable – we are a new people. Therefore, Paul is giving a basic tenant for Christian living in whatever we do for the Lord; it cannot be in partnership with nonbelievers.