Unequally yoked

unequallly yoked2 Corinthians 6:14-182 Corinthians 6:14-18
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New King James Version (NKJV)

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you[a] 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.” 17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” 18 “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”


Lots of people read these verses and assume a lot about the dos and donts its talking about are relating to marriage.


Question:  What makes an unequally yoked together marriage?

Wow question: What’s an equally yoked together marriage/relationship/courtship?


Crazy as it may sound. This verse DOES NOT talk about “marriage” at all. Shock horror


Don’t panic if you’ve already been telling people it is about marriage. The phrase “unequally yoked together” in the original Greek or Hebrew wasn’t talking about marriage at all. However! The principle can and does apply to marriage and much more about your life.


The word “yoke” means a coupling/tie together/lock together/join two together at the neck with a lock.


It’s when two oxen are coupled or yoked together by a pulling beam to do work such as plowing a field or pulling a wagon.



  • Together
  • In unity – locked together
  • Equal meaning both pulling their weight fairly and equally for the full duration
  • Until the work is done or the travelling is finished


See how those principles can apply to virtually any relationship or any thing or activity of your life where you’re in a relationship/joining/agreement/contract/covenant with another person or organization?


Now back to Corinthians – the Corinthian congregation which was deep into paganism.


The verses talk about not being “unequally” yoked with those that practiced paganism or any works of darkness.


avoid: “unbelievers, unrighteousness, darkness, Belial, infidels, and idols


That’s what Paul said. How many of us get into dating, relationships, friendships, partnerships, marriages with people who do believe or who don’t believe like we do? The idolatry of money, success and keeping up with the Joneses or neighbours next door, at church and in the pew next to us every week. The Belial and paganism of sex and sexuality and beauty and objectifying women and even men. The unrighteousness of how we run our businesses, the darkness of our business deals. The unrighteousness of how we are at work or school. The compromises of our infidelity in our friendships where we compromise the body and glory of Christ for the sake of popularity or peer pressure or belonging to cliques, crews and other human non-heavenly groups. Who’s in who’s out. Yet Biblically we’re all supposed to be one? In Christ? Politics, high school cliques, varsity crews and societies. Clubs etc. Its all a mess.


Nothing is mentioned about marriage, but it does apply to marriage.


Now in these verses, about the principle that is, Paul is very specific: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with UNBELIEVERS.”


Ok so Question: Is everybody at church spiritually converted? NO. Could a spiritually-minded Corinthian marry a carnal-minded Corinthian? Good question.


Are not all “believers” spiritual-minded and all “unbelievers” carnally-minded? NO. Rewind a little to other teachings Paul wrote.



1Co 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.


1Co 3:3 For ye are yet carnal…”


Remember that the word “ye” means “ALL of you.”


Ok so we’re not gonna assume that there were no spiritually mature people churching at Corinth. But generally the whole church was carnal. Straight up.


So if anyone in that church wanted to hook-up (date/court/see each other… keep it clean saints J Keep it clean). Or if anyone wanted to get married even within their faith, most of them would have had to marry someone carnally-minded.


Paul did not say they couldn’t marry someone if they were “carnal.” He didn’t even say that they could not marry someone if they were an “unbeliever.” He was speaking about being “UNEQUALLY yoked with unbelievers.”


It is the “UNEQUALLY” yoked … now that’s the key. That’s most important.


From what we read, it’s really apparent or obvious that we’re dealing with a Corinthian Church that was a congregation mostly of “carnal BELIEVERS.”


You can be a believer and yet be carnal.


The congregation of the entire planet of Christians – roughly two billion membership around the world ARE BELIEVERS. That is they believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah and Christ, and that there is salvation in Him. That is what makes them believers.


Now after that, their belief, they fall into all kinds of categories and doctrinal differences, and denominations. BUT nevertheless/however, they are believers regardless of how many of them could be classified as “yet carnal.”


Conclusion: even though this set of verses doesn’t say anything about marriage – the principle is the same. Here’s the warning. Don’t become unequally yoked with anyone, whether they are a believer or not – but ESPECIALLY Not with Unbelievers.



The greek for “unbelievers” is apistos. What’s it mean?


Well it means “without [Christian] faith, a heathen, incredible, faithless, infidel, unbeliever.” In verse 15 it’s the same word…”infidel” in verse 15, although infidel ususally means something much stronger than lacking faith. Normally it means rebel. Or one who rebels against. In this case – Christ. In Islam its used in reference to non-Muslims. Rebellion, actively, openly even violently, against Allah. But in this case we mean Jesus, rebelling openly, actively against Jesus the Son of the living God and even recruiting others into that rebellion.


Now…don’t go avoiding unbelievers. But don’t become unequally “yoked” to them either. Check this out….


1Co 10:27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.


Any one of us can relate to that. Example?

Probably most of us have some relative in our family that is not a believer, but we visit them, eat with them, hang out with them regularly.


So then – What happens if you are presently married to an unbeliever?  Paul tackled and dealt with that too. “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband” (1 Corinthians 7:12-141 Corinthians 7:12-14
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If you’re already married, its pretty clear that Paul says not to divorce someone if they are not a believer because you may be an agent used by God to bring that person to saving faith.


In the book Counsels for the church, the chapter entitled Marry not an unbeliever – we have some real straight talk. The author speaks of how alarming it is that people ignore God’s warning about the consequences to our relationships and souls about marrying unbelievers. It’s very difficult when you marry someone who doesn’t believe what you believe in. Then throw in kids into the mix and it’s even more confusing, confounding and frustrating sometimes.


The importance of the warning is for the happiness and well-being of both of you in this world and the next. Seems like when it comes to love reason, judgment, and the fear of God are ignored. A madness or an insanity comes upon us and we fall into “blind impulse, stubborn determination are allowed to control.Men and women who are otherwise sensible and conscientious close their ears to counsel; they are deaf to the appeals and entreaties”


In the Old Testament God was very clear with ancient Israel about the idolatrous nations around them: “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them” …  “For they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods” and finally  “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.”


So Paul in Corinthians is simply repeating what God already said, just using different words.


Consequences. More from this author “Marriage between believers and unbelievers is forbidden by God. But too often the unconverted heart follows its own desires, and marriages unsanctioned by God are formed. Because of this many men and women are without hope and without God in the world. Their noble aspirations are dead; by a chain of circumstances they are held in Satan’s net. Those who are ruled by passion and impulse will have a bitter harvest to reap in this life, and their course may result in the loss of their souls.”


Serious stuff huh… paraphrase: You’re risking the literal death of your spiritual growth, dreams and maybe even your soul as your heart drags you down into godlessness. Harsh but for the most part true. Sometimes interfaith marriages or marriages with an unbeliever work out. If they convert. Otherwise, ask anyone in it. It’s a big struggle. Especially if both people DON’T compromise their principles. Like you become less serious a Christian and the other person becomes a bit more open to spirituality. But if each one is staunch…the marriage just becomes daily war. Neither situation is ideal. Even if your both serious Christians but you believe different things?…Again that’s just going to be a life of warfare on spiritual issues. Little agreement. Lots of debates and fights and your children and loved ones caught in the middle and divided. The first marriage becomes spiritually stunted or stagnant or handicap. The second marriage becomes bitter, joyless and all about either fighting or silent stonewalling and avoiding spiritual things so as not to fight.



Dating, courting or engaged?


What should you do?


Again the author gives it real. Just be firm and frank


“I am a conscientious Christian… I believe the seventh day of the week to be the Sabbath of the Bible. Our faith and principles are such that they lead in opposite directions. We cannot be happy together, for if I follow on to gain a more perfect knowledge of the will of God, I shall become more and more unlike the world and assimilated to the likeness of Christ.


If you continue to see no loveliness in Christ, no attractions in the truth, you will love the world, which I cannot love, while I shall love the things of God, which you cannot love.


Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Without spiritual discernment you will be unable to see the claims of God upon me, or to realize my obligations to the Master whom I serve; therefore you will feel that I neglect you for religious duties.


You will not be happy; you will be jealous on account of the affections which I give to God, and I shall be alone in my religious belief.


When your views shall change, when your heart shall respond to the claims of God, and you shall learn to love my Saviour, then our relationship may be renewed.”



What stands out for me is how…if you’re serious about God…you’re going to become more like Jesus and less attractive to your partner and have less time for your partner. Why…because they’ll be going in the opposite direction. Becoming less and less like Christ with time, probably out of bitterness and resentment for you and your passions and ministry.


You’re thinking – but I’ve proposed already or we’ve planned already or we’ve invested so much time and money and effort and family into this.


Here’s the real.


Break up. Walk away. Before its too late.


Its so much better to go back to God and say sorry and escape pain and hurt that would have come than to try keep a promise that dishonours God and puts you, them and potentially your kids souls at risk.

We’re human. We want to love and be loved. But human love cant replace Christ. Its not strong enough, pure enough, sacrificial enough, exciting enough or wise enough.


Other Stuff of Life Apart from marriage


So one more time, yoke is tool like in the pictures that’s used to harness/tie/join together/control animals as they pull a heavy load or a plow simultaneously.


Notice I said heavy load. Heavy.


They can be used to pull out tree trunks, boulders, logs, plow fields, or pull a loaded cart with something heavy or people in it.


The Bible uses the yoke as a symbol of having two that have the same capacity or strength and how they can work together. Haven’t you heard even happy couples say marriage is tough and it takes hard work? Anyway enough about marriage lolJ.


Does Paul mean just marriage? No, much more than that. How about the issues we face in life in our friendships or with those we are dating or considering marriage with? How about business deals or starting a company with people? Ministry? Church? Paul is talking about all of this.


Life is hard. Joy is rare. Happiness is fleeting. Things are tough. These streets!!!! The yoke in the Bible is talking about anything where you’re required to work or move forward together with someone else closely.


  • The thing you’re working at is heavy – its not easy and the chances of failure are there if not high. How many of us wish we had better friendships?
  • You cant do this thing on your own. No one is an island, in ministry or in business!
  • You’re in agreement – moving in the same direction. How many of us have friends that think our dreams are stupid or silly? How many of us have business partners that don’t believe the same things we do when it comes to how to do business?


What if you were driving out in the country side. You see a farmer in his field. Imagine you see a farmer getting ready to plow his or her field.  Guy pulls out the yoke like in the pictures.


Hooks one side up to a full on powerful beautiful long-horned Nguni bull or Ox. Then hooks up the other side to a cat!


Which side is going to work the hardest?

Can the cat pull like the bull?! Can they even walk in a straight line together or carry the same load?

If you say yes you need to see a shrink. Trust me on that one! Lol.


Whats actually gonna happen is while ploughing starts the bull is gonna be trying to stomp the meowing screeching cat. The bull is gonna be dragging the cat along and wont be able to plough in a straight line if it’ll be ploughing at all. One will be pulling left. The other right. Total chaos. They cant work together because they are unequally yoked together.


Very little chance of any success. The work wont get done or it’ll become incredibly difficult.


How about if the farmer hooked up a bull and a donkey. Ok both equally strong. But they aren’t the same height length and don’t think the same. Cracking a whip will make the bull start ploughing and the donkey might jump up.



You can have two Christians, working together, on the same project or issue. But one of them shouldn’t be there. You can have two well meaning Christians courting, but they have different dreams goals and priorities. They’ll be pulling in different directions! Ok I said we’d leave that well enough alone.


You can have two accountants, two lawyers, two computer programmers, two friends. One accountant believes in Tithe or paying taxes in the country of their head quarters. The other wants to invest in CSI projects and save money in countries like the Cayman Islands. See…none is wrong. Just different. Two lawyers start a law firm – one lawyer believes in billing clients the other believes in pro-bono, free work: the best service for people who cant pay. One computer programmer believes gambling is wrong the other believes gambling is ok because its your choice. One friend believes trust and secrecy are the key to friendship, the other believes gossip as long as its not about them is ok.


See … equally yoked isn’t just about marriage or being Christian.


For some that are unequally yoked, this means divorce.  How tragic and how unnecessary; it could have been prevented. For some it will mean businesses will fail. Ministries will fail. Friendships will fail splitting people into different sides groups and cliques. Again tragic. Could have been prevented.


For each of these failures, people forget that the fall out and the hurt pain and harm is more than just the two, it affects everyone around you. Children, employees, fellow ministry or church members.

properly yoked


Relationships we get into are supposed to bring out the best in us and bring out the best about God. They should glorify Him and grow us. And in this sinful world living like a faithful serious Christian is HARD. The Bible uses the yoke as a symbol that no one is an island. We all need someone. So in order to succeed at anything then you should make sure your relationships are positive for the most part. That they build you and that you build the other person. That they support you when you’re down and need help. And that you are their support when they need help.


You cant always be the one needed. And you cant always be the needy one.

In this life, we have to pull together. Same direction. Same objectives. Same motives. Same loving desire for each other’s well being.

Conclusion: Choose very carefully what relationships you get into. Any relationship. Personal or professional. God is trying to not just do everything in His power to seek and save you, He also wants to bless you.

Your relationship choices could be getting in His way.





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