“O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged. 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, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:11-18).
All down through the ages since God has been working redemptively in delivering men from sin, from its guilt and its power, Satan has been seeking in every possible way to thwart that work, and although Calvary has demonstrated the fact that he is already a defeated adversary, yet he still persists in trying to injure by all means in his power everything that is of God. You will find as you read both Testaments, that in every instance when God begins a new testimony Satan seeks to destroy it by persecution. He stirs up the hearts of those who hate God and hate His Word to work injury upon those who love Him and love the Scriptures. This was particularly true in the beginning of the history of the Church of God. Persecution broke out first in Jerusalem, and then spread through the world, finally centering itself in Rome, and for two hundred awful years the devil did everything possible to destroy the Church of God by stirring up the hatred of men and women throughout the entire Roman empire, so that literally hundreds of thousands of Christian men, women, and children were martyred for Christ’s sake. But down through the ages it has been demonstrated, as Augustine said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Satan always finds that persecution is utterly unable to destroy the testimony of God.
And then the enemy of souls works in another way. He persecutes, he destroys, he puts God’s people to death, gives them to realize the bitter enmity of the world, and when that will not keep folk from coming to Christ, nor keep the Church from witnessing for Christ, he turns the tables, and seeks to become in some sense the patron of Christianity. He endeavors to render the testimony of the Church innocuous by amalgamation with the world. It is in this way that Israel fell. As long as Israel remained a separated people they had a testimony for God in the world, but when they followed after the idolatry of the nations, when they made marriages with the heathen, they lost their testimony, and so God set them to one side. They were of no further use as a witness in the world. It has been the same with the Church throughout the centuries. As long as the Church walked in holy separation from the world it has been a power for God, sinners have been convicted, and anxious ones have been saved. Whole nations have been stirred by a separated, devoted, godly people, but just as soon as the Church has listened to the suggestions of the enemy, coming now in the guise of a friend, and has given her fair hand to the world, has amalgamated with the world, at once her testimony has been annulled, she has ceased to be of any real account for God in this scene. In the Word of God we find the importance of separation from evil stressed. If we would really count for the Lord we need to remember this, for the professing Church all about us has become contaminated to a great extent by the spirit of the world. How often we find ourselves going after the ways of the world, and very often we dress and behave just like the world, and indulge in the same things that the world indulges in, and so lose our power with souls.
The story is told of a young woman, brought up in a very careful Christian home, who when she went away to college was persuaded by some nominal Christians that if she would have any influence with her fellow-students she would have to let down the bars a little bit. So at last she was persuaded to learn to dance, and she later went to the college prom. There on the floor she was dancing with a young man, and as she danced she said to herself, “I am doing this in order to let people see that I am not narrow, to let folk see that I can meet them on their own ground, and I must remember to bear witness for Christ here.” And so as the dance went on she tried to say a little word, but her partner did not know what it was all about. As he led her back to a seat she said, “What I am anxious to know is, Are you a Christian?”
He looked at her and said, “Good gracious, no. You are not; are you?”
“Oh, yes,” she said; “I am.”
“Well, what on earth are you doing here, then?”
She realized at once that even the world has a high standard for a Christian. The world expects a Christian to walk in separation from it. It will do what it can to get the Christian to lower his standard, but always despises him when he does lower it.
I was having meetings in a church in San Jose, California, some years ago. One night the leader announced that a certain young lady would sing a solo. She was very beautiful, and had a carefully-trained, well-modulated voice, and sang very nicely. The title of the song was, “Jesus Satisfies.” I was quite moved by it myself, and hoped others were. At the close of the meeting I asked any anxious ones to meet me at the front or to remain in their seats. I noticed a young woman sitting by herself, and so I went down to speak with her. I said, “Are you anxious about your soul?”
She looked at me and said, “Well, yes, and no. I was anxious; I came to this meeting with the thought that I would like to become a Christian, but if ever I become a Christian I want to be a different one from Miss So-and-So,” and she gave the name of the young lady who had sung the solo.
“Oh,” I said; “you are acquainted with the young lady?”
“But you don’t like her particularly?”
“Oh,” she said, “she is my best friend.”
“But what do you mean, then?”
“Well,” she said, “it is just this. I believe a Christian ought to live a different life from a worldling. I am a worldling, and I do not profess to be anything else. I have been trying to find satisfaction in the world; I confess I have never found it, but my friend, Miss So-and-So, got up and sang, ‘Jesus Satisfies,’ and that is a lie; He doesn’t satisfy her. She professes to be a Christian, and she often tells me I ought to be a Christian, but when I go to the theater I always find her there, when I go to the ball I find her there, when I go to a card-party she is there, when I go into anything of the world, she is always there. What difference is there between her and myself? The only difference I can see is that she professes to have something which I do not profess to possess, but it does not do anything for her. Her life is just like mine.”
What could I as the preacher say? I talked to the young woman, and tried to show her that no matter how Christians fail Christ abides and He never fails, but she got up and went out unsaved.
The Christian’s power comes from a separated life, and a separated life results from being filled with the Holy Spirit of God. As you walk in obedience to the Word of Cod the Spirit of God fills you, and thus you go out to live in the world to the glory of the Lord Jesus. One of the troubles of the Corinthians was this, there were many Christians there, but they were trying to give their friends the idea that Christianity was a very liberal thing, and so were amalgamating with the world. And the apostle says, “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you. We do not want to find fault with you, we do not want you to think that we are narrow and bound, and do not sympathize with you. We love you, our hearts go out to you; we put these things before you because we love you.” Christians, and specially at times some of our dear young Christians, imagine that when those of us who are interested in their souls speak to them seriously and earnestly about the folly of worldliness, and try to guide them in the path of devotion to Christ, that it is because we have grown older, that we do not sympathize with youth and do not understand their problems. Let me say, “You are not straitened in us.” Our hearts are really concerned about you, “but you are straitened in your own bowels,” you are narrowing your own life by worldliness. You do not realize this, you think you are enjoying life because you are letting down the bars, but you are not. You are not getting out of Christ what you might, and you are not getting out of your Christian life what you might, if you were more devoted to the One whom you call Lord. Your life is narrow and straitened because of inconsistency. This was true of the Corinthians, and this is true of many today.
Paul tells them, “I want you to be enlarged, to get the best out of life, to enjoy to the fullest what Christ has for you,” and in order that this may be, he gives them a most earnest exhortation: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” What does he mean by that? The reference is, of course, to the passage in Deuteronomy 22:10. God said to His people, who were an agricultural people, “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.” The ox was a clean beast. It could be offered in sacrifice and its flesh used for food. The ass was an unclean beast. It could not be offered to the Lord and its flesh could not be eaten. And God said, You are not to take these two and yoke them together, even for service, for they do not belong together. And so He says to the Christians, You cannot expect to glorify Me if linked up with an ungodly man or woman, even for service. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” The passage applies to Church relationship, to things in society where you have to be in fellowship with unsaved people, to being in business with unsaved folk. Many a Christian has found out to his sorrow that he made his mistake by going into business with an unsaved man, because an unsaved man is actuated by different principles from those which actuate a saved man. And, of course, it applies to the marriage relationship. What a serious thing it is for a Christian young woman to think of giving her hand in marriage to an unconverted man, in the hope, of course, that some day she will be able to win him for Christ, or what a foolish thing for a Christian man to take an unsaved girl for a life-companion. If they won’t come to Christ through your earnest pleading before they are married, you are never likely to win them after the honeymoon is over. They will settle back into their own way, and the chances are that instead of you drawing them your way in the days to come, they will begin to draw you their way. You have heard of the boys who found two linnets in the field. They brought them home and put them in cages hung on either side of their canary. The mother asked the reason for this, and they said, “Well, you see, we got these young, and we have hung them by the side of the canary so that they will be accustomed to listening to the canary sing, and so instead of learning to chirp like a linnet they will learn to sing like the canary.” The mother did not say anything, but shook her head, and later on when they came in, they exclaimed, “Why, Mother, listen! Our canary is chirping like a linnet!” That is the way it works. That canary did not get its song back again until they had covered it up for some days, and then when they put it out in the bright sunshine and took the covering off, the little thing began to sing once more. If you are going to count for God you must avoid the unequal yoke. If not, you are going contrary to the Word of God and you cannot expect blessing.
“For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” How can you expect to get on if you have chosen the path of righteousness, and the other, the path of unrighteousness? “What communion hath light with darkness?” Either the darkness must flee before the light, or the light will soon be dimmed by the darkness. You cannot have both at one time. “And what concord hath Christ with Belial?” If you have taken Christ as your Saviour, He is your Lord and your Master, and how can you expect to glorify Him if you link up with one who is a follower of Satan? “Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” By “infidel” it does not mean necessarily an atheist, but it means an unbeliever. You profess to believe in the Lord Jesus, you believe that through His death upon the cross your soul is saved. Well, then, what fellowship can you have with one who refuses to trust your Saviour? Oh, be careful, Christian. You say, “Well, I want to win them for Christ.” You will win them best by obedience to the Word of God, not by disobedience. Walk with God yourself in holy separation to Christ, and you can expect your testimony to count with others.
“What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” The two are in opposition, the one to the other. “For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” This is the divine ideal, this is what the Church of God really is, and any company of believers in any given locality is the temple of the living God in that place. How careful we should be then of anything that would mar the temple, of anything that would hinder the display of God among His own people. Do you know that each Christian meeting with any group of believers is either a help or a hindrance to the entire testimony that goes forth from that place? If you are living for God, walking in holy separation to Christ, you are helping the testimony; if walking waywardly, in wilfulness, in worldliness, then you are just helping to that extent to obscure the light that ought to shine forth from the temple of the living God.
The apostle closes that solemn section with this earnest exhortation, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you.” What does this mean? It means exactly what it says; it does not need any explaining. “Come out from among them” means come out from among them. “Touch not the unclean thing.” What does that mean? It means, Touch not the unclean thing. If I tried to explain it, I would only confound and confuse it. Christians are called to walk in separation from the world and to refrain from anything that would contaminate their consciences and hinder their fellowship with God. If you take this position, He says, “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Is God not my Father if I am a Christian, even though I am not wholly separated from the world? God is the Father of all believers, but He is a Father unto us only as we walk in obedience to His Word. I am the father of my child, but if he is wilful and disobedient I cannot be a father unto him in the sense I would like to be, and so God cannot do what His loving heart yearns to do when we are not walking in obedience to His Word.
Let us yield glad, happy obedience to Him, and thus know the blessedness of these words, “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”