There are times when Christians must break off all connection with other Christians. This reality is so disturbing to even consider, that it is little wonder that many ignore what the Bible says and prefer to substitute their own ideas of church unity.
As our Claiming Christ family Bible study unveiled, it is rare to find commentaries that recognize the real context and meaning of an otherwise popular scriptural reference on relationship limitations. As one example, the following verse is often referenced out of context, and is reprinted here along with this author’s commentary, in hopes of conveying an important truth of what God expects by those who claim to be followers of Jesus.
In a culture that prefers to embrace the sociological ideal of unity by toleration, this biblical mandate is most often dismissed as offensive, inflammatory, and un-loving. At a “Christian” meeting recently, I even heard from a minister who taught, that in order to sustain “a safe place” in our churches, it is important that we refrain from quoting Scripture to others because it is just “Christian-eze” and can be viewed as offensive.
Nevertheless, in spite of such humanistic interpretations, the following is both biblical and Christian.
[Reprinted from p.105-107]
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. (2 Cor 6:14)
Most often, this verse is applied to the admonition that engaged couples should be both faithful Christians, and it certainly applies there as well, but that is not the specific context. Other times the verse is suggested as limiting the extent of business or similar commitments between a believer and someone not walking in Christ; it also applies there, but again that is not the context.
Paul has not shifted gears in his address to the Corinthian church members. His appeal, culminating in the preceding verses that the church was withholding its affection from Paul and what he was preaching, continues uninterrupted in 7:2.
As a result, this command is given as part of Paul’s view with regard to why they were reluctant to support Paul (see also 10:7; 11:3-6; 12:21; 13:3). By the Spirit of God, Paul is once again telling Christians that they are not to continue walking shoulder-to-shoulder with other church members who demonstrate a pattern contrary to the Word of God in either their lifestyles or their professed beliefs.
In spite of any other claims, such apparent believers are actually unbelievers, and Scripture commands that we separate from fellowship and support or risk infection.
This seeming unity in the Corinthian church, which first surfaced back in 1 Cor 5 and was soundly condemned by Paul, appears to be continuing in another form by genuine believers being led astray by subtle twists in the views of other members such that Paul and his profession of the gospel were being put in question.
It doesn’t sound nice to break off friendships with people we love, but when their persistence in sin or their ideology shifts focus away from the core truths of Scripture, God demands that those who want to remain in him separate themselves from such relationships.
Although church leadership may apply this within a congregation, the wording puts the responsibility upon each individual within the realm of their personal relationships, irrespective as to whether or not the elders are obedient themselves over the church as a whole.
This kind of severing is not expected between believer and [self-acknowledged] unbeliever, for as Scripture notes, that would require us to leave this world. It is not a new idea, nor is it a suggestion; God expects it, and he repeats it several times in his Word (see also 2 Thes 3:6, 14; 2 Jn 10; 1 Cor 5:11; Pro 24:1; 2 Chr 19:2; Rom 16:17; Mt 18:17; 2 Tim 3:5; Tit 3:10).
Applying such a drastic measure is no more difficult than Abraham obeying God’s command to sacrifice his own son. God knows what he is doing; the test is whether or not we will trust him.
How do you demonstrate that you trust God’s prescription for appropriate Church unity ahead of that feel-good substitute?