What Does Unequally Yoked Mean in the Bible?

What Does Unequally Yoked Mean in the Bible? October 6, 2014

What does the term “unequally yoked” mean?  What does this have to do with believers in the church?

Ancient Yokes

Yokes were used to fasten two animals together, often Oxen, to pull carts, wagons, plows, or used to even pull tree stumps out.  Not surprisingly, the word yoke is associated with “servitude” but it could also mean indentured or enslaved too because God told Jeremiah that “any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the Lord” (Jer 27:11).   If animals were not matched correctly the work would not be efficiently done and the results would be almost futile.  In other words, it was unwise to yoke an ox and a horse or a young ox with one that is very old because they would not walk together at the same time and one would pull more of the load than the other.  If the two didn’t walk together then they would laboriously work and it would be unproductive and exceedingly tedious.    This is reflected in many of the Scriptures in the Bible but with different meaning like in Amos 3:3 where it says “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?”

What Does Light and Darkness Have in Common?

Paul wrote to the Ephesian church about intermingling with those who are openly sinning by telling them “do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.  But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light” (Eph 5:7-14a).  What Paul is saying is that we ought not to walk with the children of darkness because we are not in the light of Christ and so we should be walking as children of light.  We used to walk in darkness but not anymore because “it is shameful even to speak of the things that [unbelievers] do in secret.”  Christ commands the church to “Come out of her…lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev 18:4). In effect, we are unequally yoked with the world and when we walk with them, whatever we do will be unproductive and surely they can drag us into sin.  Paul understood that “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor 15:33) “or may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared” (Prov 22:25) and “do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked; for whatever a man sows, that shall he reap” (Gal 6:7).

Don’t Be Unequally Yoked

Believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are therefore the new temple of God because God no longer dwells in the temple but in those who have repented and trusted in Him.  The city of Corinth was one of the most evil cities of the ancient world where there was no sin that had not been committed and Paul wanted the believers to stop associating with this city’s wicked sinners which is why he wrote “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever” (2 Cor 6:14-15).  This is because “the temple of God” should not be associated “with idols” as “we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16a).   Since God will make His “dwelling among them and walk among them” we are to “go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing” (2 Cor 6:16b-17).

Putting it all Together

Now, if we look at the broad context of all of these verses we can see why believers should not be joined together, particularly in marriage, with unbelievers.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t have non-Christian friends but there is a limit or a line that we cannot cross and Paul mentions some of these things in a general way when he says “that we ought not to walk with the children of darkness…For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” Remember that two cannot “walk together unless they be agreed” and we cannot agree with many of the things that the world gets entangled with.  This means that we should “throw off everything that hinders [us] and the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb 12:1b).  Now if we shouldn’t be unequally yoked or bound together and walking together in agreement with those who are openly sinful, and that is a direct reference to the unsaved, then how much more should Christians not marry anyone who is not yet saved.  If you take a believer and yoke them or bind them to an unbeliever, the two will want to do things differently, will want to go in different directions, and won’t be able to walk together in agreement and thus, whatever comes of this team that is yoked together will most certainly be unproductive and unfruitful.  Both parties will be in misery and in could end with the result of divorce, something that is in nobody’s best interest, particularly if there are children involved.


If you are seeking a mate for life, then don’t even consider someone who isn’t saved.  The goals and purposes of the two are not at all the same.  If you are considering dating someone who is not saved, stop and understand that you are playing with fire because the relationship could lead to marriage and a marriage where both parties have different ideas about their purpose in life.  And if you have friends that are not saved, I am not suggesting that you cut off those relationships but make sure you draw the line in the sand and don’t be willing to walk across it because sin can so easily entangle us.  Besides, “we ought not to walk with the children of darkness because we are not in the light of Christ and so we should be walking as children of light” which is why Paul commanded believers, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness” (2 Cor 6:14)?

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon


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