2 Corinthians 6:3-7:1, Ezekiel 37:26-28, Philippians 2:12-13
I’m terrible with cars. I always have been; there’s no two ways about it. I not only cannot fix my car in any meaningful way, I cannot even remember what has been done by my mechanic. Thankfully, there is a receipt box included in every car. You may call it a “glove box,” but I never wear gloves, and therefore, I’ve never placed a glove in that box. The only thing I can do with any confidence is change a tire and put gas in the car. And I use the word “confidence” loosely. Needless to say, I’ve never received a call from my mechanic that did not result in the significant depletion of my bank account.
But I do know when my wheels are out of alignment. Inevitably, one day you get to a certain speed—usually on the interstate—and the front-end of your car starts to shake. (That’ll cost you about $60 with a Groupon, by the way.) The problem is that the wheels aren’t in sync; they are, in effect, not going the same way perfectly. This not only messes with the quality of travel down the road, but it eventually ruins your tires.
In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul is concerned about whom the believers in Corinth are aligning themselves with. He tells them, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (v. 14).
You see, Paul had planted the church in Corinth, but some teachers who opposed his teaching had infiltrated the church. Though no one is absolutely sure what they were teaching, we do know they opposed Paul, and so we can assume they opposed his teaching of salvation by grace through alone. They may have been like the Judaizers, who taught that Gentiles had to follow the Old Testament laws (including circumcision) in order to follow Jesus. Needless to say, Paul was concerned about their false teaching.
Think about what a yoke does. It gets placed over the neck of two animals, so they will go in the same direction. Imagine the problem if you place a yoke over a cow and a donkey, or an ox and a horse. It wouldn’t work. You need two oxen. Or you need two donkeys, so they will go in the same direction. They need to be aligned.
Often, this passage is quoted in reference to marriage. That’s surely implicit, but what is even more explicit is the need to understand that Christians need to align themselves with others who believe in the gospel of grace through faith alone when working towards kingdom purposes. The temptation will be for individual believers and churches to look at the world’s way of getting things done, and then try to hitch themselves to those ways. But this temptation must be resisted, no matter how enticing the power and the glory promised are. Paul makes it clear: the world’s ways are not kingdom ways. They have nothing to do with one another, and the payoff will be costly.
Written by Matthew B. Redmond