Twisted Scriptures: 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1
The leaders of the new Unity-Cult have charged that every Scripture that we have used to discuss withdrawing fellowship over doctrinal issues has been abused: In Restoration Review, Leroy Garrett has begun a study of these abused passages which is to last for two years. Having read his article "How Men Use The Bible To Justify Their Divisions" in Thoughts on Unity, I have a preview of what his objective is and some of the passages he will review. It is my plan to review at least some of these articles. So, save his journal and contrast it with what will be said in my replies.
Here is the "abused" passage for January, 1975:
"Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer In common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; lust as God said,
`I will dwell In them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord. And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you; And you shall be sons and daughters to Me, Says the , Lord Almighty: Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
According to the Restoration Review, "It would be difficult to find a passage in all the world's literature that is so grossly abused and misapplied than this one."(1) Here is an example, according to Brother Garrett, of how the passage is being abused:
"One of our congregations in New York ventured into freedom to the extent that they invited some of the Christian Church folk to one of their gatherings. Then they went to one of theirs. Fellowship was becoming a reality between people that had so much in common, and in part of the country where they badly needed each other. But all this came to a screeching halt when word came from a supporting church in Texas, citing 2 Cor. 6:17. The faithful ones were told to `Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing.'
"One of our Texas preachers thought he would join the ministerial alliance in his town for reasons that seemed good to him. His elders approved of this behavior sad he soon found himself the beneficiary in many ways. But some of his fellow preachers read the clot act to him in the form of Rev. 18:4. `Come out . . : That is what the Lord says, so you have no business in, they assured him.
"This passage has been wrapped around the necks of our people all these years, and for what? Attending a Billy Graham revival or sitting in on a Keith Miller seminar. Visiting a Baptist Church or joining in a community Easter celebration . . .
"2 Cor. 6:17 is of the same general context, for It shows the absolute incompatibility of the kingdom of Christ with that of Satan. 'Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers' has reference to those who are unrighteous Instead of righteous, who serve Satan Instead of Jesus, who worship at pagan temples instead of God's altar, and who love darkness rather than light, as the following lines Indicate. We can't make a Methodist or a Baptist the 'unbeliever' with whom we are not to be yoked."(2)
Quotations from Garrett
To understand Garrett's objection to the "abuse" discussed in the above quotations, a person needs to know at least some of his presuppositions. Brother Garrett believes there are Christians in all denominations. Although he has never, to my knowledge, taken the time to explain how a person can become a Christian without obeying the gospel 'plan of salvation, Garrett believes there are MethodistChristians, Baptist-Christians, and Catholic-Christians, as the following quotations demonstrate:
"Only recently I heard a reforming Methodist, laboring within his own context for that one, great, spiritual community of God on earth. Praise God that he is using this man where he Is! He is talking to Methodists, in their language and out of their history, of a better and more spiritual way. It would be folly for me to try to take him from his own people, converting him to the Church of Christ. He should paddle for the old ship Zion where God has dropped him down. And I think it would be equal folly for me to become a Methodist, even if I didn't really become one, and thus cut myself off from my own roots. (Is this. his only reason for not becoming a Methodist?-MW)
"I met with a group of Roman Catholics a few times recently, some of them being business associates of ours, who are really turned on to Jesus. In their own 'sanctuary,' with their priest sitting with us, I laid before them a long view of the scheme of redemptfun in scripture, God's eternal purpose in Christ. These folk want their people to get with it and turn to Jesus, and they are working to that end in various mini-meetings. How foolish It would be for me to try to bring them into `the Church of Christ,' where they would become mere spectators of our own particular set of traditions."(3)
"I also sat in on a mock drill for door-to-door evangelism. The man to be 'converted' described himself as a Baptist, but an immersed believer who had 'enthroned Jesus as Lord in my heart.' I later told some of the fellows that in that case there was no evangelism to do, for the man was already in Christ, that I would express my pleasure in meeting a new brother, and I would wish him well in helping bring his Baptist friends closer to Jesus and to the scriptures."(4)
"It is in little ways that people reveal their love of freedom. A young sister at Wynnewood Hills expressed her hunger for more spiritual experiences. One of these concerned elders advised that she might visit a nearby Baptist church, which has been causing a lot of excitement with its dynamic services. That shepherd just happened to be more concerned for that little lamb's spiritual growth than he was to keep her tied to a Church of Christ mentality. It was that kind of things that started it all at Wynnewood Hills. When you start thinking and questioning, when you put Jesus before the party, when you teach the Bible without Church of Christ glasses, when you really become free as the Lord's man and not some sect's man, you are different In most every way. So that's the long and short of the story from south Oak Cliff: a bunch of our brothers and sisters tasted the liberty that Is in Christ Jesus, and for no party's sake were they willing to be bound again to a yoke of bondage. The very Idea, an elder in the Church of Christ suggesting that one of his flock might visit a Baptist church! But things like that happen when folk are free to be themselves and think in terms of persons rather than party."(5)
Possessing the view that the church is all denominations, obviously Garrett would be incensed (as would any other denominational preacher) to hear a preacher call upon someone to leave a particular denomination to become a part of the Lord's body; he believes that they are already a part of the Lord's body, even if they were sprinkled as an infant or baptized for the wrong reason.
Another major "abuse" of this passage, according to the editor of Restoration Review, is to apply this passage to our brethren. Here are his comments:
"One wonders how sincere brethren ever came to apply such scripture as this to mean that we can have nothing to do with another brother in Christ because he has a piano in his church (or because he doesn't!), or because he has a missionary society (or because he doesn't, or because he is premBlennfal or.whatever. Brethren, consider what you are doing! To take a verse that calls God's children out of pagan, Idolatrous, blasphemous Rome and apply it to a brother who loves Jesus like you do and honors him as the Lord is unthinkable. To do such as that comes nearer to the spirit of pagan Rome than does a sincerely mistaken view of baptism or an irregular celebration of the Lord's supper . . .
"That is a call to all God's children. It is a summons out of the carnal world, away from a secularistic philosophy, and all the corrupting influences of Satanic power. But It Is not a call to believers to separate themselves from other believers. It is not a call for conservatives to.walk out on the liberals or for the Inorganic brethren to leave the organic. Or for the `faithful' to come out from the 'unfaithful' in the church. There are no such Instructions in the Bible. To use this passage in such a way is not only to abuse it, but It Is to make It teach the very opposite of what the scriptures consistently insist upon, which is that unity Is to be preserved with all diligence In spite of differences."(6)
Although Garrett does not believe these passages should be applied by conservative brethren against the liberals and although he will not quote this passage with reference to contemporary incidents, he cites approvingly an example of some "free brethren in Christ" coming out from among the legalistic brethren in Dallas. Sixty-eight families apparently walked out of the Wynnewood Hills Church of Christ in Dallas "to become a free people in a new congregation." (Did they come out from among them to be separate?) Garrett wrote,
"An exodus can be a glorious thing to folk who have been held down and fenced up by partyfsm, and there Is no Indication that our partylam is any better than the next church's . . . . In a statement to the other Dallas churches, the new Southwest group explained that this `creed' was the principal reason for the exodus. But this was not resorted to until every effort was made to dissuade the remaining elders from their creedal demands."(7)
Notice how charitable Garrett is to the unity cult brethren who "came out from among them to be separate"! Wonder how our brother would have written had the sixty-eight families who left been protesting church support of orphan homes, the sponsoring church arrangement, or the organ? Every comment that Garrett has made regarding the abuse of 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 must be tempered by the fact that he quoted approvingly this incident of some brethren "coming out from among" others in order to be separate.
Having read Garrett's criticisms of current usage of the passage, let us now turn to an exegesis of the passage. As in any exegesis, we must begin with a look at the general context of 2 Corinthians. A background in 1 Corinthians is essential for understanding 2 Cor. 6:11-7:1; I shall make several references to 1 Cor. 8:10 in the following exegesis. Actually, some in Corinth had become alienated from Paul, perhaps because of his first letter. Therefore, he begins this section of Scripture with an appeal for the Corinthians to open their hearts to him even as he had opened his heart to them. Paul said, "Dear friends in Corinth! We have spoken frankly to you, we have opened wide our hearts. We have not closed our hearts to you; it is you who have closed your hearts to us. I speak now as though you were my children: show us the same feeling that we have for you. Open wide your hearts" (2 Cor. 6:11-13, TEV). There was a problem in Corinth which needed to be corrected and the free exchange of ideas was needed to correct it.
Here was the problem: the Christians in Corinth had not made a decided break with paganism-religious paganism as well as social paganism. (The expressions in 2 Cor. 6 cannot be limited to ethical problems; the problem involved a false religion as well as immorality.) Here are some comments on the problem at Corinth:
"In similar fashion Christian believers who participate in ritual feasts in honor of idols are In peril of being drawn into a mystic bond of unity with those who believe In them and who thus honor them. Just as the bread and wine are sacred emblems of the unity of faith and spirit among Christian believers, so meat sanctified to Idols and eaten in a ritual feast in some pagan temple Is emblematic of a mystical bond between those who partake of it and the idol to whom it was sanctified; or rather, In Paul's view, the demonic forces or powers of which the Idol Itself Is a symbol (vss. 19-21). The essence of both feasts is a mystic bond of fellowship: on the one hand, that fellowship spells loyalty, devotion, and dedication to Jesus Christ; on the other hand, it spells obedience and devotion to the ideas and doctrines and practices involved in idol worship . . . . The consequences are similar with regard to,pagan feasts. In these feasts, celebrated In pagan temples, homage Is paid to the demonic powers associated with the idol. The idols themselves signify nothing that need disturb the Christian believer; but the supernatural agencies which Ifs behind them and which they represent are for Paul and for his contemporaries a very different matter: To eat food dedicated to them is to pay homage and to offer allegiance to agencies that are antagonistic to God and to the purposes of God . . . . But he goes further than that, and at first the apparent contradiction deepens. He states definitely that meat sold in the market place may be eaten with a good conscience (vss. 25-26). How can this be reconciled with what has preceded it? The point is really simple. Paul is drawing a distinction between a ritual feast held in a pagan temple in honor of some pagan deity, in the course of which a libation was offered-a few drops of wine poured out from the cup-in honor of that deity, and a private meal where meat was served that had once been sanctified to the idol )n some form or another. It was the ritual feasts which had the definitely religious significance that Paul had in mind. Probably with their elaborate ritual and ceremony they still held a certain fascination for one-time pagans who had become converts to Christianity. Old associations were as apt then as now to be pleasant to the recollection. Moreover, some members of the church in Corinth may well have held official positions in civic life and have been expected to attend such feasts and ceremonies. All of this held perilous temptations for such people. Paul therefore writes warningly against participation. There must be no compromise of the Christian conscience with potential evils."(8)
Although these comments were drawn from the section on 1 Corinthians, notice that the same problem received Paul's attention in 2 Cor..6:14-7:1. Compare these passages:
"For if someone sees you who have knowledge dining in an Idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?" (1 Cor. 8:101. "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing In the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers In the altar? What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No; but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?" (1 Cor. 10:14-22).
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? (2 Cor. 6:16).
Obviously, the problem in Corinth was that Christians were unwilling to make a thorough break with false religion. The problem discussed in 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 is the same as that discussed in 1 Cor. 8:10; 10:14-22. Most commentaries relate the passages to the one problem, as do the following:
"In the first epistle to the Corinthians the apostle had reasoned with the church, giving it Instruction as to the marriage ties between pagans and believers, and as to the social and other fellowships which tempted the Corinthians to take part in Idol feasts. In ail this his language had been careful and guarded, and be had recognized to the full every principle of Christian liberty involved fn these questions. He now .lays aside the argumentative reserve which charac. terized his first letter and tells them plainly that by thus going to the extreme limits of their liberty they are liable to make the grace of God in vain to them. : . . Then, by a series of short, ten questions he shows the utter folly, the Inconsistency and Incongruity of every form of alliance which entangles the children of God with the children of the devil: The world has not so improved, and Satan has not so repented, as to to any way nullify, or even weaken, the weight and applicability of this apostolic warning."(9)
"Probably the alienation from St. Paul had its root to some tampering with unbelievers. Such might at any rate have been the case among the Gentile members of the Church, some of whom were even willing to go to sacrificial feasts In heathen temples."(10)
"It is certainly most natural to make this passage refer to such participations in Idolatrous customs as are censured in i Cor. viii.10."(11)
The problem in Corinth was that some were unwilling to make a break with.false religion. The quotations from the pen of Leroy Garrett indicate that some among us today are still unwilling to make a break with false religion; the warning of the apostle Paul is as applicable to them as it was to those at Corinth.
Understanding the problem, now let us notice what Paul said about it. Do not be bound together with unbelievers. The word translated "be bound together" is heterozugea: It comes from heterozugos "yoked with a different yoke; used in Lev. xix. 19 of the union of beasts of different kinds, e.g, an ox and an ass, to come under an unequal or different yoke . . . to be unequally yoked . . . to have fellowship with one who is not equal: 2 Cor. vi. 14, where the apostle is forbidding Christians to have intercourse with idolaters."(12) The Old Testament Scriptures forbade plowing with an ox and an ass in the same yoke (Dent. 22:10) because it was an unequal yoke. Similarly, Paul commanded that Christians should not be yoked with those who practice false religion.
Having stated his thesis, Paul proved it by five rhetorical questions. For whit partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? Notice the parallels in these questions:
partnership righteousness lawlessness?
fellowship light darkness?
harmony Christ Belial?
in common believer unbeliever?
agreement temple of God idols?
The five Greek words for joint participation are methoche, koinonia, sumphonesis,(13) meris, and sugkatathesis.(14) All of these words emphasize the ideas of "sharing; communion, fellowship, association, concord, agreement, consent." By asking a rhetorical question which expected the answer "none," Paul emphasized the absolute incompatibility of the two systems-heathenism and Christianity. However, the terms used in antithesis (righteousness-lawlessness; light-darkness, etc.) show that righteousness and wickedness are never compatible, whether the wickedness is practiced by an immersed believer or an unimrnersed unbeliever.
The idea that Paul intended to limit the application of this verse solely to non-Christians is unfounded. Christians can be guilty of lawlessness (anomia). Actually anomia is used to describe some in the kingdom of God (Mt. 13:41), ignorant worshippers (Mt. 7:23), and sin of any sort (1 Jno. 3:4). Righteousness (dikaiosune) is incompatible with lawlessness (anomia) whether the lawlessness is practiced by some who call themselves Christians or by unbelievers. Similarly, children of light can decide to walk in darkness (Eph. 5:8-11; 1 Jn. 1:6); baptized believers can decide to become followers of Belial (Acts 5:3); a believer can become an unbeliever; brethren can turn aside to false religion (Acts 15:20; 1 Cor. 12:2; 1 Jn. 5:21; Rev. 2:14, 20). Garrett's assertion that this verse has no application to brethren is true only if brethren are never guilty of lawlessness, walking in darkness, etc. When brethren become guilty of these sins, we must separate ourselves from them as Paul commanded in 1 Cor. 5.
If Garrett believes that this passage can never have application to brethren, he must believe that brethren cannot be guilty of the sins listed here. Does he believe in the perseverance of the saints? Does he employ one standard of conduct toward unbelievers guilty of these sins and a different one for Christians guilty of them? Obviously, Christians sometimes are guilty of these sins. Paul said that Christianity is incompatible with them and that we should, therefore, separate ourselves from them. The reason Garrett does not believe that this passage has any bearing on the use of instrumental music, supporting missionary societies and benevolent societies, the sponsoring church, and premillennialism is because he does not believe that they are sinful!
"For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, `I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord. And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty." Paul listed several blessings which are ours, if we separate ourselves from wickedness, as motivating forces to encourage the separation from wickedness. We are "the temple of the living God;" therefore, one should not defile the temple where God dwells with uncleanness. God will dwell in us and walk among us-i.e. He will associate with us and be our companion. We sustain a Father-Son or Father-Daughter relationship to Him. Having these promises, we should not touch what is unclean. Brethren can and do touch what is unclean, or else Paul would not have warned against touching it. He wants us to separate ourselves from the unclean things and those who engage in them, whether they have been baptized or not. After all, our fellowship with one another is contingent upon us walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:6,7). In conclusion, Paul said, "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the Lord." "Righteousness must therefore be forever separate from unrighteousness in doctrine as well as in practice."(15)
From these comments, we see that Paul called for a separation of light from darkness whenever and wherever the two were mixed. All of the comments I have heard about the wickedness in the church at Corinth being an acceptable mixture of light and darkness. ignore the fact that Paul wrote to them commanding them to get rid of the wickedness which was in them or else, when he came, he would not spare anyone (2 Cor. 13:2). Paul did not close his eyes to the problem in Corinth; he did not believe that God was pleased with them as a church filled with such wickedness. The very purpose of the letters to the Corinthians was to correct these problems so that they could be pleasing to God. Paul's manner of handling the problem at Corinth is the antithesis of the manner the Unity-Cult is suggesting for handling the problems of instrumental music, the sponsoring church concept, missionary and benevolent societies, and premillennialism. Paul said to correct the problem or else withdraw from the brethren practicing them. The Unity-Cult suggests that we have fellowship with one another without trying to correct the sinful practices. Actually, they are suggesting the very practice employed by the Corinthian church, which practice Paul sought to correct. The Unity-Cult wants a "unity iii diversity" like they had at Corinth. Paul told the Corinthians to separate themselves from wickedness.
2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 is a call for the separation of true religion from false religion. It is applicable to any false religion whether it be paganism, denominationalism, or false religion inside the church. The passage is not simply a call for moral purity. Like 1 Cor. 15:33 which called for a separation from "some among you" (15:12) who held that the resurrection was already past because of the influence they would have on other believers, 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 calls for a similar separation from false religion, whether it be among or outside the believers!
Actually, the issues which need to be discussed are: (1) Is denominationalism false religion? (2) Is the organ a perversion of worship? (3) Is the sponsoring church a. perversion of the organization of the New Testament church? and (4) Is premillennialism false doctrine? If it can be established that they are, 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 is applicable to these issues, the assertions of Leroy Garrett notwithstanding. If not, of course, it is not applicable. There is no way that we can have unity without discussing the issues which originally divided us. The idea that our divisions occurred because of ungodly attitudes is unfounded.
"The separations which have always taken place under the preaching of the Gospel have been produced, not from a factious spirit on the part of God's people, not because they, despised their fellow-men, not because they fancied they were better than others, but simply because they were anxious to avoid what is wrong."(16)
Garrett might want to cry "foul" whenever someone applies 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 to the organ, institutional, or sponsoring church controversies but if these are lawless practices, as I believe they are, the referee will only award him a technical! The issue is whether or not these practices are sinful; Garrett says they are not and many of us disagree with him. If they are sinful, then 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 is applicable to the, situation.
1. Leroy Garrett, "The Word Abused . . . 'Come Out From Among Them and Be Separate,' " Restoration Review, XVII, No. 1 (January, 1975), p. 2.
2. Ibid., pp. 2-3, 4.
3. Leroy Garrett, "Shall We 'Hang In' or Leave?," Restoration Review, XVI, No. 9 (November, 1974), p. 367.
4. Leroy Garrett, "Meeting With Church , of Christ Editors," Restoration Review, XVI, No. 9 (November, 1974), p. 375.
5. Leroy Garrett, "A Massive Walkout in, Dallas,", Restoration Review, XVI, No. 10 (December, 1974), p. 387.
6. Garrett, op. cit., Restoration Review, XVII, No. 1 (January, 1975), pp. 4,5.
7. Garrett, op. cit., Restoration Review, XVI, No. 10 (December, 1974), pp. 385-386.
8. John Short, The Interpreter's Bible, George Arthur Buttrick; ed. (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1953), Vol. X, pp. 114115, 115-116, 116-117.
9. J. W. McGarvey, The Standard Bible Commentary (Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Foundation, no date), p. 203.
10. F. W. Farrar, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. XIX, p. 147.
11. Christian Friedrich Kling, Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), Vol. X, p. 118.
12. Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1967), p. 254.
13. Sumphonesis is from sumphoneo which relates to the harmonious sounds of musical instruments. The English word symphony is derived from this Greek word.
14. Sugkatathesis is from the verb sugkatatithemi which means "to deposit one's vote together with another; Mid. prop. to deposit one's vote in the urn with another. . . , hence to consent to, agree with, vote for" (Thayer).
15. Kling, Ibid., p. 122.
16. Ibid., p. 121.
Truth Magazine XIX: 31, pp. 488-492