THE DIVERSE YOKE
BY: ADOLPH E. KNOCH
TO WALK in a way well pleasing to God in the midst of the present social, business, and political upheavals demands a very close reading of our instructions in His Word. It may seem that some of these overlap or are contradictory, but, if we note accurately precisely what is said, and the scope of the context, the seeming contradictions may dissolve and give place to more definite instructions and clearer directions. It is especially difficult, at times, to know how to conduct ourselves in relation to unbelievers, and to determine just where the line of demarcation lies between us and them. We cannot avoid all contact with them, or we would need to go out of the world altogether. (1 Cor.5:10) Here, in fact, we are forbidden to commingle with brethren guilty of gross sins, but not those in the world who commit the same. How far may we go in contacting them in our social and spiritual life?
Not only in the world, but in some of the closest of social relations we may be compelled to live with unbelievers. The unbelieving husband or wife should not be put away. (1 Cor.7:12-14) Strangely enough, in this case, a believer is not to leave, yet an unbeliever may do so. Nor may a believer forsake his father, his mother, or his brothers and sisters, indeed, any of his relatives on account of their unbelief, though, of course, he cannot have spiritual fellowship with them. Generally speaking, a believer is not excused from the obligations, which the ties of flesh impose upon all mankind. To use an extreme example, a believing father cannot disown his child because it is not a believer at the very moment of birth!
In some spheres the question of faith does not enter. The slave cannot choose his master, nor can the workman always select his employer. The relation existing between them is not one of cooperation, but of subordination. One alone is answerable. A slave or workman is not called upon to decide whether his master’s course is right or wrong and to choose what he thinks most pleasing to God, but he must be subject, even when he is not sure that his work is according to the divine will. Of course he may seek to be free or choose other employment, but the rule holds good, that subjection is not communion, and does not demand separation.
This has a special application to the political sphere. The members of the body of Christ are destined to rule with Him in the empyrean. Then we will demand unhesitating obedience from those under us. But this earth is not the scene of our authority, nor is this evil eon the proper era for our exaltation. How much confusion has arisen because this has not been recognized! Again and again the churches have desired the protection and support of the state. They wish to establish “the kingdom of God” on a material basis, and defend it with the weapons of the flesh. Paul, however, desired above all “the participation of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil.3:10). He never was deceived by the error in which numberless believers are held today. In a world which did not elevate Christ on a throne, but on a tree, there is no room for a church triumphant. “If we are enduring, we shall be reigning together” (1 Tim.2:12) is a word for us, but it applies only to a reign with Christ, and He has not yet taken His power on earth.
At this time God has committed the rule of the earth to men who carry out His ultimate intention, even though they are not doing His revealed will. God has set these in their place, and we must obey them because they are God’s servants for our good. (Rom.13:1-5) We should make it a matter of conscience to be subject. If we do so, we are by no means yoked together with them. In a team two must pull together. The authorities are set over us, and are not in the harness with us. Yet God is above them, so we need not fear, so long as we do well. The evil, which they may do, or which may come to us, is in His hands, and is working out His intention in this evil eon, and cannot change our relations to those whom God has set over us.
But in all those avenues of life where we may choose, we should avoid the diverse yoke. The figure is a very realistic one. In the East one sometimes sees two different kinds of animals hitched before a plow. An ox and an ass were not to be yoked together, according to the law, because they had to pull together. We should not allow ourselves to be hitched up in this way, but sever ourselves from it whenever it lies within our power and does not conflict with our duty as elsewhere defined for us in the Scriptures. Sometimes, as in the case of the unbelieving wife or husband, it must be endured, but whenever possible it should be cured.
In such a matter the smallest point may be important. So let us notice that we are not exhorted not to be diversely yoked, but rather not to become so. (2 Cor.6:14) What we are, or what we have done in the past, cannot always be remedied in a moment, but there should never be an instant’s hesitation in our future course. In all the vital activities of life we should not bind ourselves to unbelievers. That this is quite another matter than the Jewish idea of keeping entirely apart from unbelievers in all social relations is evident from the apostle’s words, “If any of the unbelievers is inviting you [to a meal], and you want to go. (1 Cor.10:27) Not social contact but mutual bonds are figured by the yoke.
Is it not remarkable that the exhortation not to be diversely yoked is not repeated in detailing the various aspects in the form of a command, but of a question? What partnership have righteousness and lawlessness? As if to say, Indeed, they may be partners but what a sorry union it will be! One good apple in a box of decayed fruit will not make a single one sound. But one decayed apple may spoil them all. In this world lawlessness may combine with righteousness and ruin it, but righteousness will hardly make lawlessness just. Contact we must have with the world, but what will come of it if we bind ourselves so that we are involved and answerable for their actions? We will be forced into a walk displeasing to God, and must answer for it.
The diverse yoke is elaborated for us in a series of comparisons, which will help us to understand what it involves in various relations. The words, which indicate these different aspects, are worthy of study. They are partnership, communion, agreement, part, and concurrence. These are essential in any yoke, if two are to pull together. The unbeliever is going away from God, and should we be yoked with one, we will be drawn away from the path that pleases Him. The paths of those who are yoked together must be parallel. They cannot diverge. Yet divergence is called for at almost every point. Lawlessness and darkness and Beliar and the unbeliever, and idols are incompatible with righteousness and light and Christ and the believer and the temple of God. They cannot go on together.
The word partnership (2 Cor.6:14), is literally WITH-HAVING. It seems to involve mutual possession and service. Peter had James and John for partners when he was in the fishing business on lake Galilee. This seems to be the practical, active, every-day, business aspect. The saint should be righteous in all his dealings. This we cannot expect of others. I once was witness to some fishing on the lake of Galilee, which was literally lawless, and involved a peculiar partnership in which no believer, I feel sure, would enter. Walking along the shore I noticed a nearly naked man out on a rock. As I approached he threw something into the water, which caused quite an explosion, and stunned a large number of fish, which floated on the surface. He then jumped into the water, swam about and gathered the fishes into a sack. On shore another man, his partner, took them from him, and disappeared in the hills. In this way they carried on their illicit method of fishing. Who of us would care to go into partnership with them?
Light has nothing in common with darkness. They are mutually exclusive. So are the saint and the sinner, so far as having a knowledge of God, on which all acceptable conduct must be based. The word communion comes from the Greek COMMON, belonging to all equally. Believers have much in common, in the light. Unbelievers have much in common, in darkness. It is necessary to leave the light to have common ground with darkness.
Christ cannot be in agreement with Beliar. All that is of Christ is of vast benefit. “Beliar” means without benefit. The saint should find all that he needs in the Anointed, hence cannot live in harmony with Beliar, who satisfies no one. The life of the sinner is a feeding on wind (Ecc.1:14). The saint finds solid sustenance in Christ. There can be no harmony, no symphony (TO-GATHER-SOUNDING) between these two. One will have it so, and the other the contrary. Naught but discord should be expected from a union of the two.
A believer has no part with an unbeliever. Peter told Simon of Samaria that he had neither part nor lot in this matter, as his heart was not straight in front of God (Acts 8:21). We have a part of the allotment of the saints (Col.1:12). The unbeliever has no part in this. The only part, which the believer can have with the unbeliever, is in a sphere to which he does not belong, and which is off the path of faith, apart from which it is impossible to please God.
In worship the contrasts are emphasized by the figure of the temple. God indwells each saint as once He tabernacled in the midst of Israel. What sacrilege would it have been to bring an idol into the sanctuary! How abominable will be the image of the wild beast, which is to be set up in the temple of the future! Can we imagine a combination of the temple of Jehovah and an idol shrine? Could we set up the image of Artemis in the courts on Mount Moriah? Yet so it is when a believer is associated with an unbeliever in drawing near to God. In His service there should be no association of God’s people with those who know Him not, and whose hearts cannot provide the incense for His presence.
Perhaps the most enlightenment and help will come to us if we seek to realize the marvelous fact that God desires to be to us now what He will be to all in the consummation. He would be our All. He wishes to make His home in us and walk in us and be our God, so that we are His people. If this grips our hearts we will be very sensitive to that which is diverse and seek to avoid any yoke which conflicts with His presence.
On the negative side there may need to be severance from much of that which binds us to unbelievers. Unless compelled to do so by fleshly ties or the laws of the land, we should not associate ourselves with the organizations of this world. Because God is homing in us, He says, “Come out of their midst and be severed” “and touch not the unclean, and I will admit you, and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me” (2 Cor. 6:17, 18). This is said by the Almighty, or All-Sufficient, for such a severance may involve suffering and loss, when we will feel the need of One Who is able to care for us.
The reward for severance is great. It brings us into active enjoyment of God as Father, and His acknowledgment of us as His sons or daughters. We are all children of God, quite apart from obedience of any kind. Sonship, however, involves far more. “As many as are being led by God’s spirit, these are sons of God” (Rom.8:14). There must be more than relationship. There must be likeness and representation. Those led by God’s spirit are like Him and will walk in His ways, and win His approbation. To them God becomes a Father in the full sense of the word. His eye is upon them at all times and His provision is sufficient for them. What earthly wealth can compare with being a son of the All- Sufficient? He is the Reward of all who sever themselves unto Him.
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DIVERSE YOKE, THE [Adolph E. Knoch] 1