Sunday, March 10, 2013

Do not be unequally yoked together.

Another problem in the early Church for Paul to deal with, 2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV- Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? When Paul writes this he had his Old Testament scripture in mind. (Deut. 22:10) "You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together" (NASB).

For a proper cultivation of crop, it is necessary the sowing is done in straight furrows. Ox and ass are animals with different height, strength, walking speed and even mood. If some one plow the field with these two animals, the yoke put on them will not in full horizontal position, but somewhat lowered on one side. Ox may also walk faster than an ass. With the result, the furrows will not be straight, but zigzagged With the yoke being not in a good position, the plow cannot be straight upward to press it properly to till the ground. With such awkward furrows, it will be difficult to sow seeds in straight line with equidistance.

This will also make subsequent operations like weeding and lastly harvesting etc. In short, one can not successfully grow crop by plowing with an ox and an ass. To put it in other words, cultivation of crops by plowing with unequally yoked animals will not bring success.

Paul wrote this letter from Ephesus around 55 A.D. to the church at Corinth. This was near the end of Paul's three-year ministry in Ephesus during his third missionary journey. He notes that he plans to visit the Corinthians soon although as we see in 2 Corinthians, a letter written later in the same year, Paul did not make that planned visit.

Corinth was one of the chief commercial cities of the Roman Empire. Corinth was a large, bustling, wealthy city. It had two ports and was a most important trade city. Corinth was one of the largest cities of the ancient world, and a center for trade and commerce. It had a strategic position between the Corinthian gulf and the Saronic gulf, and had two harbours. Ships from Asia came to Cenchrea, on the Saronic gulf. Ships from Europe came to Lechaeum, on the Corinthian gulf. Because of its location, goods and people from around the world flowed in and out of its ports.

It was at the center of Corinth the apostle Paul established a flourishing church between the years 50-51 A.D., when he spent 18 months there on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-17). Corinth was a center for art, and religion. It contained a number of pagan temples including large ones to Apollo and Aphrodite. The city had a reputation for evil habit and, immorality, and debauchery. Its population has been estimated as in the region of a quarter of a million people.

This letter, composed three or four years later, was written in response to reports in a letter Paul received concerning problems in the church. Paul was always working hard, through many sleepless nights, caring for God’s bride.

After his departure, he maintained correspondence and care of the church (see I Corinthians. 5:9; 2 Corinthians. 12:14). During his three year ministry in Ephesus, on his third missionary journey (Acts 19), he had received unsettling information about some among the believers in Corinth. The letter reveals some of the typical problems of the Greek culture in Paul's days, including the great sexual immoralities of the city of Corinth. The Greeks were known for their idolatry, divisive.

The city of Corinth was filled with worldly minded people who flocked there to participate in gambling, and temple prostitution, and business adventures. The city had a bad reputation for its sensuality sexual immorality and temple prostitution. Its name even served to coin an expression that became famous for corrupt practices: "Corinthianize" meaning to engage in immorality. It was also a center for all kinds of idol worship.

The highest deity of Corinth was Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of licentious loves, and around 1,000 prostitutes served in the temple dedicated to her worship. Not only was prostitution a recognized institution, but through the influence of the fertility cults of Asia Minor, Syria, and Phoenicia it became a part of the religious rites at certain temples.

This presented a problem for the Christians in Corinth. It’s pagan temple and its 1,000 temple prostitutes greatly influenced the city's culture and morals. Paul wrote two letters to the church in Corinth and both dealt with divisions in the church, as well as immorality and the abuse of Christian freedom.

Some within the Corinth church were visiting the temple and perhaps even engaging in the sexual activities (temple prostitutes, etc.) associated with their "worship" This problem was most likely the reason for Paul's emergency second visit to Corinth and the follow-up "Letter" 2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

The "unbelievers" that Paul describes in this passage were unconverted Gentiles who were involved in temple prostitution and idol worshipers of the cults of Corinth. To remedy the situation ,Paul wrote a letter to the church. With this in mind let us look at the situation Paul has in view as he described earlier in 1 Corinthians 6:15-10. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

The Lord’s people are the temple of the Holy Spirit and are required to maintain separated from members of a harlot, other people living around them who were part of temple prostitutes, and their "idol worship." 2 Corinthians 6:14 is therefore intended to bring about that separation.