The portion of the United States that I am originally from, and that state in particular along with a neighboring state with the same “first name,” is known often for producing people who are verbally rude and aggressive. There is more than an ounce of truth to this impression.
Yet, at the same time, I have come to appreciate some elements of the candor and open communication of the “New” places. There is little ambiguity as to where you stand with someone, and little room for misunderstanding and wrong impressions. When an appropriate addition of Christian love that seeks the well-being of another person accompanies the forthright speech, great good can come from it.
The Apostle Paul was a person of blunt conversation, that is for sure. He did not stutter about what he was saying to this or that person, group or church community. He confronted Peter to his face, and he had a sharp disagreement with Barnabas that ended with them parting ways in ministry. And many portions of his letters come right out with bold rebukes and exhortations. But at the same time, his genuine love and high desire to see the recipients prosper in God’s grace was undeniable.
None of the churches had quite the same punches to the nose and pokes in the eye from Paul as did the Corinthians. None of them deserved it more. But none of them had as many bold proclamations of his genuine affection for them. That Paul didn’t just give up on them was evidentiary point #1 of his deep love for the church in Corinth.
And Paul begins today’s passage with a statement of his affection for them and desire to see their mutual relationship deepen…
2 Corinthians 6:11 – We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.
Sometimes you have to say some difficult things to your children, but it is the right thing to do. And what should the Corinthians do in response? …
14 – Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” [Lev. 26:12; Jer. 32:38; Ezek. 37:27]
17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” [Isaiah 52:11; Ezek. 20:34,41]
18 And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” [2 Samuel 7:14; 7:8]
This passage beginning with verse 14 is most often used to speak to the issue of mixed marriages of a believer with an unbeliever. Though that may be a fair application, Paul is in this context most likely speaking about his desire to see the Corinthians “divorce” their relationship with false teachers who had come into the community – these dangerous folks being from the idolatrous world of that place, or more likely those who were not genuinely connected to the true gospel message.
In any event, they were not believers; they were impostors and a grave danger to the health of the church. This could not continue, and there simply had to be a total break from them.
Five questions list five incongruous elements. The word “Belial” was a Greek transliteration of a Hebrew term that spoke of a “worthless person” … often used to refer to Satan.
Three Old Testament quotes are given by Paul. These looked back to times where God exhorted his chosen people to eschew idolatry and the dirty ways of false religions and to commit fully to God as their Lord and Father. The Corinthians needed to do the same.
Though we cannot isolate ourselves from the dark world around us, we do need to clearly understand what is light and what is darkness. We need to choose to maximize our relationships with one another, with the consequence being a greater light that shines into the grave darkness. It is necessary to clearly understand truth so as to not compromise it by admixtures with the errors of the natural world.
To use a modern word from social justice warriors in the pop culture of our day, we need to be “woke” about light and darkness. This means to not just mentally understand the difference, but to also take action upon it by the purity of our lives. So are you “woke?”