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Bible Insights

What Does It Mean to be Yoked With Unbelievers?

The Apostle Paul presents a series of contrasting situations for us to avoid

Paul writes to the church in Corinth. He warns them not to yoke themselves, that is, to pair themselves, with people who don’t believe. The image of a yoke applies to two animals paired together to pull a load. He tells them: ” be yoked with unbelievers.”

They need to be of equal strength, and they certainly need to move in the same direction if their efforts are to be effective.

This verse is often applied to marriage, for a person who follows Jesus to not marry someone who does not believe. While this may be a sound application, I don’t see it as absolute—nor does Paul (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).

I’ve seen this command to not be yoked with unbelievers misapplied by asserting, for example, that a Baptist can’t marry a Lutheran or a person of one race can’t marry someone of another race.

A secondary application relates to business, for a Christian businessperson to avoid forming partnerships with non-Christians. Again, there is wisdom in this as well, yet it is not unconditional either.

Look at some of the contrasts that follow the allusion of a mismatched yoke:

  • Right living versus wrong living
  • Light versus darkness
  • Jesus versus those opposed to him
  • A believer versus an unbeliever
  • God versus idols

Instead of applying this passage to marriage or business, let’s focus on the final contrast of God versus idols. What if the primary intent of Paul’s writing to not be yoked with unbelievers is a warning to not yoke the God of the Bible with other religions?

Do not pair God with other religions. Click To Tweet

Yoked with Unbelievers

This mixing of diverse spiritual practices is a popular trend these days. People take what they like about Christianity, stir in some Eastern religions or add a bit of Judaism or Islam, and season with some ideas of their own.

The result is a manmade religion, an idol of their own making. It’s being yoked with unbelievers. God is not pleased.

The Bible warns us not to place God and idols under the same yoke. Don’t mix God with anything else.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 4-6, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Art of Binding and Loosing

In the post about the easy yoke, we learned that a yoke was essentially a Rabbi’s teaching, of what was prohibited and what was allowed. Jesus had his own yoke and he said it was easy.

The process of ascertaining what things where to be prohibited, was the act of binding. To “bind” something, was to prohibit it; that is, to hold to it tightly. To “bind” implies obligation.

The process of determining what things were to be allowed, was the act of loosing. To “loose” something was to allow it; that is, to let to go. To “loose” implies freedom.

Since Jesus’ yoke was light, there must have been only a few things that he wanted to “bind” and many things that he wanted to “loose.”

However, Jesus doesn’t stop there. He also told his disciples that “whatever you bind (prohibit) on earth will be bound (prohibited) in heaven and whatever you loose (allow) on earth will be loosed (allowed) in heaven.”

In doing so, he implicitly gave them—and us—the opportunity to interpret scripture just like he and the Rabbis were doing—with the promise of agreement in heaven.

We need to be extremely careful about the things we bind and loose. Click To Tweet

As such, we need to be extremely careful about the things we bind and loose; there are eternal consequences.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Yoke That’s Easy

Jesus said that his yoke was easy; that his burden was light.

What exactly does that mean?

From a simple perspective, we understand a yoke to be a means to harness a draft animal in order to pull a load. Therefore, an easy yoke, one with a light burden, would be something that was not hard to do. This means that the things Jesus expects from his followers are not difficult or burdensome.

However, we can gain a deeper understanding of his words when we consider it from a historical perspective. Back in Jesus’ day, the learned Rabbi’s would study the scriptures.

They did not see them as a definitive, fixed set of rules, but rather as an open-ended document that needed to be explored and interpreted. A Rabbi’s interpretation of what the scriptures said, of what should be allowed and what should be prohibited was called his yoke.

When Jesus made his proclamation about his yoke, his hearers would connect it with the Rabbi’s practice (recall that Jesus was often called Rabbi by his followers and admirers).

So when Jesus said that his yoke was easy and his burden light, he was letting it be known that he allowed many more things than he prohibited.

He didn’t want his followers weighed down with a long list of don’ts, of heavy burdensome requirements, but instead he wanted them to be free to focus on him—and not a bunch of rules.

Some people read the Bible as a rigid law book of hard laws and unyielding rules. Instead, they should be interpreting it like the Rabbis, making an easy yoke as Jesus advocated.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.