Summary: Why should we be holy? What is holiness? How do we become holy? We try to answer those questions in this sermon.


A. Have you ever gotten all cleaned up and dressed up and then found it hard to stay that way?

1. There was a very funny commercial that aired during a recent Super Bowl.

a. The commercial showed a young man who was in at a job interview with a stain on his shirt.

b. As he tried to talk to the person interviewing him, the stain was talking louder than he was.

2. It is so easy to end up with a stain.

a. It may be coffee on our shirt.

b. It may be grass stains on our knees.

c. It may be spaghetti sauce on our face.

3. What is true of the physical world, is also true of the spiritual world.

4. If stains on our clothes are not a laughing matter, how much more serious are stains on our souls?

B. In today’s text from 2 Corinthians, we find Paul addressing one of the great challenges we face.

1. How do we maintain a level of holiness in a very unholy world?

2. How do we live in the world, yet not be of the world?

3. How do we have a relationship with unbelievers without becoming unequally yoked to them?

C. Paul has some answers for us to those questions.

1. So let’s work our way through the text, and then work on making the proper application to our lives.

I. Understanding the Word

A. When many commentators come to this section in 2 Corinthians, they look at it as a major digression.

1. They conclude that either Paul got distracted from his train of thought and chased a rabbit, or they conclude that this section was added later, perhaps as a section from one of Paul’s lost letters.

2. It’s easy to come to that kind of conclusion when you see that verse 13 of chapter 6 ends with Paul asking them to open wide their hearts, and then verse 2 of chapter 7 picks right up where he left off with: “Make room for us in your hearts.”

3. In between these two verses, you have this long section that seems out of place.

B. There are a few commentators, however, who think differently, and I have to agree with them.

1. Rather than seeing this as a digression, they see this section as a very carefully structured and closely argued conclusion to the second major unit of Paul’s letter.

2. So far from being a digression, these verses play a strategic role in Paul’s ongoing apologetic of his gospel and his ministry.

C. Look again at verses 14-16a: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?

1. This text raises a number of questions.

a. What does it mean to be yoked together with unbelievers?

b. And who are the unbelievers that Paul has in mind?

2. Paul employs an agricultural metaphor that might be a bit hard for us city folk to understand.

a. Back in the day before there were John Deere tractors, farmers used animals to pull their plows.

b. When they employed two animals to pull the plow, they put them in a yoke that tied them together and allowed them to work together.

c. On a practical level, farmers understood the importance of pairing the animals in a way that they worked best together.

d. You would pair animals of similar size, strength and temperament.

3. Interestingly, in addition to the practical considerations, God had given some instructions in the Jewish law about yoking animals.

a. Deuteronomy 22:10 says: Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.

b. We know from the law that the ox was a “clean” animal, and the donkey was not.

c. Furthermore, they have two opposite natures, were very different in size and strength, and therefore, would not even work well together.

D. The principle Paul was communicating here is that there are certain things which are fundamentally incompatible, and are never meant to be brought together.

1. So after Paul stated the command “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers,” he gave a series of five rhetorical questions, each of which presupposes a negative response?

2. Each of them serve to stress in incompatibility of Christian righteousness and worldly wickedness.

3. What kind of fellowship can light have with darkness? None.

4. What harmony is there between Christ and Belial (which is another name for Satan)? None.

5. What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? Not much in a spiritual sense.

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