Yoked Together

in Christian Ministry

I'm going to try to sort out the confusion some more. Paul wrote, (I Cor. 7:1a,12-17) "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath a husband that believeth not, and he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all churches."

(II Cor. 6:1, 14-18) "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. ... Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said,

211 I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
212 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord,
and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 213 and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
I point out that Paul's first statement was in response to some unspecified questions (presumably about—among other things—marriage), but his second statement has a definite context: "as workers together with him, ... Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers," that is working together, being yoked together, in Christian ministry, which is summarized in (II Cor. 6:3-10) and contrasted in vs. 14-16.

According to the introduction in my Criswell Study Bible:

The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS


Some Christians needed to know whether or not they should attend meetings of their trade guild, meetings held in the idol temples and involving meat sacrificed to idols (8:10); others were concerned about meat sold in the market, for that had probably been offered to an idol (10:25).

The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS


Paul speaks at length about his ministry.
It seems to me that the second epistle quote about being a separate people unto God is part of an exhortation to get on board what Paul is trying to accomplish with his ministry, while the one from First Corinthians is about how far one may or may not compromise with the larger society in the lines of occupation.

Let's take my case as a concrete example. I get most of my income working at a small-farm canning operation. We put up gourmet spiced green beans in jars. That sounds like a pretty uncompromised occupation until we discover that a major consumer of those beans is the bars which put them out as snacks. Very popular!

Should I stop working in a bean cannery because a good part of those beans go to support a culture of alcohol consumption? If I look at 1st Corinthians, I would consider that the beans aren't harming anyone directly. If anything, the food in the stomach will mitigate the effects of alcohol. If I quit that job, the next job I get is hardly going to involve less compromise. I would say that if Eugene or Lane County were about to become a dry city or county and the only thing stopping them is Earl's witness working at a bean cannery, then, sure, I'd quit. Otherwise, I feel justified to keep my job, according to 1 Corinthians.

What about 2nd Corinthians, about being a separate people? That would apply to, say, my church's summer celebration. Should we serve alcohol in order to attract more neighbors who like to drink? I don't think so. This has to do with our identity as a group, as a separate people unto God. We wouldn't want to compromise our identity as God's people by taking up worldly practices.

We read from II Cor. 6, and I follow along in my Bible: (II Cor. 6:14a) "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ..." If your Bible version is a modernized, it has eliminating the thee's and thou's for the most part. The King James thee, thou, you, ye allow one to differentiate between singular and plural, object and subject while the modernized you can be used in any of those ways, so we have to use context to determine which is meant. Second Corinthians 6:14 is used by Christians outside of its context more than any other verse I know. They use some kind of internal judgment rather than scripture to determine its meaning. If a brother or sister even thinks about marrying an unbeliever, they'll get on his case like a chicken on a June bug.

When you read "you" (or an understood "you") in 2 Cor. 6, you are thinking singular along with everybody else because that is what they are used to. I am reading my KJV which displays it in the plural, what we do as a separate people unto God, not as individuals in the workplace. Since "you" can be either singular or plural, it sounds to me like you are reading what my KJV says (plural), but your mind is filling in singular, so you are reading a different verse than I am.

In the 1600s when the KJV was written—based, in fact, on earlier versions—you was used informally for both singular and plural when addressing one's betters.

                     King John
                            by William Shakespeare

                Act Four, Scene II
KING JOHN             Here we sit, once again crown'd,
                      And look'd upon, I hope, with cheerful eyes.
PEMBROKE              This once again, but that your
                      Highness pleas'd,
                      Was once superfluous: you were crown'd before,

Just as the first person plural "we" was used as a "royal we" for a king to refer to himself, so was the second person plural "you" used to refer to him: "Was once superfluous: you were crown'd before," and eventually it was applied to both single and plural in informal speech—except for the nonclassist Quakers who retained thee and thou. The smart translators of the KJV used an earlier form of English—from Tyndale and Wycliffe—which retained thee and thou for second person singlular, you and ye for second person plural.

I'm taking some time to explain this partly because it is not commonly understood—witness the objections to the KJV on account of all those thee's and thou's—and partly because a well-known radio preacher has been floundering along with "you all." He's seen where the number is important in places, where it's critical to know whether "you" is referring to one person or to more than one person. Where it refers to more than one, he has taken to saying "you all" which he has borrowed from a Southern dialect, explaining to us that a designated plural you is not found in the English Bible. Not only has he missed it in the King James Version, but he doesn't understand the Southern dialect either. In the South "y'all" can refer to one person, so if they want to make sure a group is included, they'll say, "y'all y'all."

Say, a friend stops by unannounced with her new family and you want to welcome them all. "It's so good to see y'all!" could be construed as an insult as you're not including them all, so you would say, "It's good for y'all y'all to come!" In the KJV dialect it would be, "It's so good to see you!" or, "It's good that ye came!" to include everybody, or, "It's so good to see thee" or, "It's good that thou hast come!" to mean just your one friend. Forgive me for this digression; it's such a bother to hear spouted so much such mediocre English.

One day I was doing contract sales for the local newspaper from a booth set up at the street of the local college campus. There were other booths lining the street. The booth to the right of me was one promoting homosexuality.

By and by, they noticed that while we were each assigned a measured space marked by chalk, there was some physical obstacle on the other side of the homo booth constraining them to less than a full space. Furthermore, the booth on the other side of me hadn't used all of their space. The homos asked me if I would mind moving my booth over a foot or two and letting them have the space on my other side so they had a full slot.

I'm not a hard guy to get along with. It was a reasonable request. Unfortunately, since I was responsible for my space between the chalk marks, I told them, no, I couldn't do that.

Well, they took it in stride and started setting up. They affixed to their booth posters advocating homosexuality. One of the posters, I noticed, protruded over the line into my space. I drew their attention to this and told them I was under contract with the newspaper to abide by community standards so as not to leave a bad impression. I told them their promotion of homosexuality, if I allowed it to protrude onto my space, would reflect badly to the community on my paper. He grudgingly readjusted his sign complaining that more people than not were accepting of homosexuality. I don't know if that were true, but as far as I was concerned, as long as there was one little old lady living on the hill agin it, I had to respect her community standard.

I think the verse to apply there is (Eph. 5:11-13) "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light." Not only wasn't I buddy-buddy with them in realigning my space, but they got reproved to boot.

Another day I was working from the same booth at the college campus when it was "foreign language day," all these high school students having come to practice speaking a foreign tongue. At lunch time a couple high school girls came up to my booth, and with visible embarrassment asked me something. With the street lined with all these food booths selling real healthy foods, they wanted to know where to find a McDonalds. I gave them directions. There was one located near campus at that time. Chacun à son goût. That's what I always say.

I think that goes along with 1st Corinthians 8. Junk food is the big bugaboo these days like meat offered to idols in Bible times. But I felt it could be blessed by God as well as healthier stuff, and as long as I wasn't under some kind of scrutiny by someone raising a big stink about it, I could go ahead and give directions. I wasn't going to give directions to the homosexual meeting, though, but this was different.

Another day when I was working at the table selling paper subscriptions, a big gust of wind came up and I had to hold down my papers to keep them from blowing away. I saw a tree blow over on campus a little farther down the street. By and by, an ambulance came, then drove away.

That tree falling made the papers. I talked to a professor who had been helping me address my cards in Russian that I exchange with ham radio operators in Russia. He'd been a big help to me. He told me he was walking down the street when the tree blew down right next to him. He felt the wind as the branches hit the sidewalk but it just missed him.

Then I went to church. I had been going to the Chinese Church at the time. The tree had fallen down on a sister from our church. They took her to the hospital but it wasn't serious. It was a sister who had rejected my invitation to go out with me.

I grew up in the country and have always had an affinity with the woods. Feel right at home in one. I'm a friend of the trees and the trees are a friend of me. My middle name is Sylvester which comes from the Latin for forest: sylva. I couldn't see a tree ever falling on a girl who's going out with me. It didn't fall on the professor who helped me. But it fell on the sister. That was weird.

That could be just superstition, though. I do know that God sanctifies an unbelieving spouse of a Christian, and there are plenty of examples of God blessing some heathen for the sake of some man of God associated with him. If I partner up with some nonchristian on a project, chances are he'll be blessed of God for my sake. I don't know why that is. I don't even know if I could prove it. But I accept it's happening.

Brother Jed has a ministry of preaching on college campuses, and in making his rounds he gets to the local one here where he'll preach at the free speech area. He really lays it out to the students.

Brother Jed Bible preacher
Brother Jed preaches.

As for the local Christians, he has some words for us too. He tells us that very few Christians crossing his path at the University are fully serving the Lord. There are a lot of nominal Christians around, though. He says that if a committed Christian comes by when he is preaching, he should stand ready to answer the questions of people hearing him preach.

So one day I came by and Brother Jed was preaching, so I hung back there at the rear of the crowd. By and by, a fellow standing there quipped that Brother Jed was wrong preaching against homosexuality because we are no longer under the law. I explained to him the exception from the apostles' letter in Acts that we still have to obey the law against fornication which would include homosexual practice. He told me that he was oriented to be homosexual. I told him that if he is oriented that way, he'd probably want to act on it, but in order to be a Christian he'd have to stop as that would be sin. He said that I was the first Christian he's talked with on it whom he felt a genuine communication with. His friend standing there asked him if maybe he wanted to become a Christian. He said no and walked off.

Probably the most pertinent verse describing my action is (II Cor. 6:13b) ".. be ye also enlarged." Brother Jed has a tremendous ministry just as did the apostle Paul who described his in verses 1-10. Then in verses 11-13, he wanted the Corinthians to reciprocate—".. be ye also enlarged." That's what Brother Jed wanted. He had a powerful ministry, but what few committed Christians came upon his preaching, he wanted them to do their part too—".. be ye also enlarged."

Now, there are a number of campus ministries at the university, and some of them are housed in a ministry center. When I used to go over there, it was a liberal minister who was in charge of it. He'd preach that homosexuality is OK because Jesus never forbad it in the New Testament. I had arguments with him.

He opened up the ministry center for a homosexual activist group to use their facilities and meet in a room in the basement. I argued with him further when I could see through the window that they were showing stag movies at their meeting. Eventually, I just stopped going over there.

I think we could make a valid point that however much that man and his ministry is committed to serving the Lord, his usefulness in helping brother Jed preach the Gospel is lessened because his ministry is unequally yoked with unbelievers. But that is the very verse that follows the one (13b) about ".. be ye also enlarged." (II Cor. 6:14a) "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ..." It fits right into the narrative, and the application I use is in context.

Let's start with a case we agree on, a married man gets saved but his wife isn't. Let's suppose now that he goes to a church that preaches a "social gospel." They are activists of shady politics, stirring up trouble. They bomb abortion clinics and spike trees. They'll fix an election to further their cause. In other words the congregation is yoked together with unbelievers and has not become a separate people unto God. The man also has a non-Christian wife. Would divorcing her improve his situation?

What's it like from her perspective?

I wondered if he was happy in Alaska. He was working on a fishing boat —rigorous enough work to test the right-arm, right-leg weakness that was the legacy of his Vietnam tour. For almost twenty years he'd yoked himself to his denial. Maybe I'd done the same.

After four years of complicated interaction with him—I couldn't call it romance, really—I supposed he'd remain my silent partner for a long time. He was still the one I talked to in my head, the one I showed things to and justified things to. It was, on the whole, unpleasant to support so harsh an inner companion. But maybe that's why I did it.

—Lia Natera, Face Value214
Her husband was yoked to his denial, like a Christian to those who deny the Lord. And she was interacting with that denial in her interaction with him. It was a "harsh inner companion." If the man would believe the Lord and be yoked with other believers, then the wife would have by proxy the Lord for an inner companion which might lead to her salvation.

I believe I'm pretty much in agreement with current Christian thinking so far. Where some disagree is the case of a Christian consorting with non-Christians, dating them, having one for a boyfriend or girlfriend, getting engaged, and then married. A great opportunity to share Christ, I say. ... Unequally yoked, say the others.

The scenario is given us in Genesis 34, Shechem falling for Dinah, daughter of Jacob. He wanted a mixed marriage. The sons of Jacob proposed the solution, (vs. 14-16)

We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us: but in this we will consent unto you: if ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters unto us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.
Here is the instant conversion, "the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife." Also (vs. 21), "These men are peaceable with us," and, (I Cor. 7:15) "God hath called us to peace." It sounds good to me and to the unsaved. But two sons of Jacob believed, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers," and acted accordingly. (Gen. 34:30) "And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to stink among the inhabitants of the land." I agree with Jacob. It stinks as a Christian witness, to force a girl to break up with her boyfriend when she becomes a Christian before he does. The world understands love, that Christians are supposed to have it, and they're supposed to reciprocate in relating to Christians, especially in marriage. We Christians know it hurts to break up with someone. That is why some are unwilling to play the field, they don't want to get hurt. Well, "That which is hateful to you do not do to your friend."

God's perspective is shown in Psalm 108 (vs. 7-9):

God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver; Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast my shoe; over Philistia will I triumph.
God is over Shechem, the unsaved in love with the saved. He has a variety of children, the eunuch lawgiver, the married minister the strength of his head, the Christian couple, and Dinah. Moab the washpot is sanctified for mundane foot-washing, other pots being sanctified for holier purposes, (Zech. 14:21a) "Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts." We need to understand the diverse members of the body (I Cor. 12) before applying (II Cor. 6) to (Cor. 7).


Dating Questions | God's Answers to
questions of Greek scholarship, context, sanctification, dating, God's authority, & authority of the church
Answer 2,
an attempt to sort out the confusion.
KJV | Context | Mixed Marriage
Comparing the KJV with modern English versions; looking at mixed marriage and being unequally yoked in their own contexts; proper handling of the word of God; vulnerability of widows addressed.
Parable of the Laborers
Episcopalians and diversity. Parable of the laborers.
"Unequally Yoked" Metaphor
"Unequally yoked" metaphor discussed. New translations muddy the waters regarding a widow marrying "only in the Lord."
Holy Seed
Evil report and good report. King James Bible. "Unequally yoked" examined. Holy seed means sanctified marriage. Marrying "Only in the Lord." Christian liberty. Corinthian epistles.
Only in the Lord
"Only in the Lord" for a widow's remarriage; application to the times; sanctification of marriage; accuracy of Bible translations.
Breaking up Blues
Breaking up is the pits.
Missionary Dating
Missionary dating; circular arguments; "expert" disagreeing opinions; Priscilla & Aquila; parallels in Paul's writing; spread of primitive Christianity; parable of the laborers.
Pauline Triads
Questions from Corinthian cultural framework; the expert's opinions; triads in Paul; courtship.
Expert Opinion
Eureka! An actual "expert;" the Corinthians' perspective; modern framework; Paul's thought.
Triad Note
Note on the triad.


guestbook logo
View My Guestbook
Sign My Guestbook


Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403

Contact: feedbackatbibles.n7nz.org

Copyright © 1997, 2007 Earl S. Gosnell III Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this study--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.

I have used material from many sources for teaching, comment and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The sources are included in notes. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.

Any particular questions or requests for permissions may be addressed to me, the author.

Valid HTML 4.01!

Web page problems?
Contact: webfootsteratbibles.n7nz.org

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional    Valid CSS!

Yoked Together in Christian Ministry