Can Two Walk Together Except They Be Agreed?
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

As we consider the question, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”, I suggest that we read together from Amos, chapter 3, verse 1:

Amos 3:

1 Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying,
2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
4 Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?
5 Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him? shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all?
6 Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?
7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

We will stop our reading there, reminding you that Amos, whose name means “burden bearer,” was bearing a tremendous burden for the nation of Israel because the nation of Israel was not living in accordance with the plan of God and their committal to loyalty to God. He was emphasizing to them that something was going to have to be done about the situation. Some probing needed to be done. They needed to get to the bottom of things that they might realize exactly what the problem was. So he asked a series of questions which we have read in your hearing at the moment, and then he asked the question which really gets to the heart of the problem: Can two walk together except they be agreed?

If you were not familiar with the Word of God, you probably would be willing to give an answer to that of a simple negative. “Well, of course not. If people can't agree, how can they walk together?” But a simple, “Nay,” to a question like this would be oversimplification because the Bible has much to say about the situation that is suggested by this question, and the Bible describes that situation with the words, the unequal yoke .

The Unequal Yoke

In order to answer the question, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”, we must give some consideration to the question of the unequal yoke as it is taught in the Word of God. The principle of the unequal yoke is found in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 22. Here is a record of what is known as the Levitical law —that is, certain ceremonial regulations which God gave to the nation of Israel in order that they might be a separated people, in order that they might be the peculiar people that He wanted them to be, separate, distinct and apart from the rest of the nations surrounding them.

So in Deuteronomy, chapter 22, verse 9, we read:

Deuteronomy 22:

9 Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled.
10 Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.
11 Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.
12 Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.

Here are regulations, ceremonial in description, which are not binding upon us today because we are living in an age of grace, but in which the principle of the unequal yoke is established. There should be no mixture of seed in the field, for God has designated some seeds clean and some unclean and were they mixed in the field, there would be defilement. There could not be two different kinds of animals yoked together. That is the reason that He said, “Thou shalt not plow with the ox and the ass together.” He was not making that suggestion because there might not be as good plowing effected as if some other animal was put in the yoke, but because such a yoke was violating the principle that God laid down here in the book of Deuteronomy and amplified elsewhere in the Scripture.

Always when any truth is presented in the Word, there is a principle given and then the lessons on applications are drawn from that principle. The principle then is: “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Thou shalt not mix seed. Thou shalt not mix various materials in a garment.” There is such a thing as the principle of the unequal yoke.

The Spirit of God takes this principle and amplifies upon it. The principle was drawn from material that was related to the nation of Israel, but as the Holy Spirit takes the principle and amplifies it, He applies it to the Church which is the Body of Christ. In II Corinthians, chapter 6, He amplifies the principle through a series of questions.

This is a familiar passage of Scripture to most of us, but it must be considered seriously in the light of our discussion today. We read from verse 14:

II Corinthians 6:

14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

II Corinthians 7:

1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Notice in verse 14 how the Holy Spirit takes the principle of Deuteronomy, chapter 22, and forms it into a distinct command for all members of the Body of Christ: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…”

If you are a believer today—that is, you have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior—then you are faced with the question, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”, and you are faced with the command, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”

This passage of Scripture has been used so much in marital counseling that many folk think that that is the only area which the Holy Spirit has in mind. I would say to you today that you as a believer have no right whatsoever to yoke yourself with an unbeliever in the marriage relationship. Do not waste my time or God's time saying, “I prayed about it and I feel like it is all right.” Don't waste God's time or my time or any conscientious pastor's time who gives you advice and counsel and say, “Well, I feel that I can win her or him to the Lord after the marriage ceremony is over.” That is utter foolishness. There is no way that the believer and the unbeliever can be yoked together with effectiveness.

To emphasize that, you will notice in the text a series of questions are asked: What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion hath light with darkness? What concord hath Christ with Belial? What part hath he that believeth with an infidel? Think carefully about those questions and realize that there is absolutely no uniformity of thought or commitment when a believer and an unbeliever are yoked together.

This should be carefully kept in mind in regard to associations, in regard to business dealings, in regard to business enterprises. No, I am not saying that you should never have anything to do with the unsaved. I am not saying that you should never touch opportunities to spend time with them and witness to them and bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ; but I am saying to you that you must be very careful that you do not enter into any yoke with an unbeliever that would bring you in such close association that you would have to deal with some of the problems that most certainly do arise when believer and unbeliever are yoked together.

The Problem of Defilement

There are problems. The first problem was mentioned to us in Deuteronomy, chapter 22, verse 9, when you read that if you sowed the good seed with the bad seed, there would be defilement. The Spirit of God there was speaking of ceremonial defilement on the part of the nation of Israel, but we need not dismiss the question and say that is all that He had in mind. We need to keep in mind the amplification that was given in II Corinthians, chapter 6. You remember what we read there in verse 17:

II Corinthians 6:

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing…

When you are yoked together with an unbeliever you are exposed to defilement of various kinds. Then look at chapter 7, verse 1:

II Corinthians 7:

1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

What are we saying? We are saying that when you enter into an unequal yoke, there is no way for you to keep from being defiled. Oftentimes folk have said, “Maybe some good can come from it,” but I believe if statistics were kept, it would be discovered that the unbeliever pulls down the believer much more often than the believer pulls up the unbeliever. In matters of clubs and organizations and business arrangements, you must be very careful that you are not entering a yoke which will make it necessary for you to face the problem of defilement. The principle of the Word of God is still true: “Evil communications corrupt good manners.”

It is impossible to be constantly associated with those who do not have the same principles you have and who do not have the same goals that you have and not become defiled. God holds out upon us to everybody who is involved in an unequal yoke, and that promise is: Let us cleanse ourselves and return to the Lord because He said, “After cleansing and touching not the unclean thing, I will receive you.”

It is true that some unequal yokes cannot be broken as simply as I may make it seem to appear. As a matter of fact, some unequal yokes must be left to the tender mercy and the grace of God, for your deliberate breaking of the yoke might free you from guilt, but it would bring untold trouble on other people. Two wrongs have never made a right, and it is never good to do wrong that right may come. There are people involved in a marriage relationship—believer with unbeliever. I am not speaking now of those marriage relationships which were not an unequal yoke to begin with. Sometimes in the marriage relationship, two unbelievers marry and there is nothing wrong with that, for marriage is an institution for the human race, not only for the Church. One of those individuals may come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, and immediately an unequal yoke has been formed—a believer with an unbeliever. But you are instructed in the Word of God to remain with that unbeliever, recognizing that your witness and testimony can bring that unbeliever to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

In business situations, there may be times when you find yourself yoked with an unbeliever because you did not think before you went into the situation. It is your obligation before God to free yourself from that unequal yoke as soon as you can without detriment to other believers.

Someone may say, “Let's be more personal. Let's be more definite. I am married to an unbeliever. I knew that I should not have done it when I did it. I am a believer and I am married to an unbeliever. I now feel better because you say, ‘Break the yoke'.” No, I didn't say that at all. If you went into a marriage relationship, a believer with an unbeliever, and the partner is still an unbeliever, it is your responsibility to deal with the problems of the unequal yoke, and you have to deal with the problem of defilement in your home in relation to your children, and maybe deal with it all your life long.

Of course, if we could say this to young people in a manner in which they would receive it and know it for truth, they could save themselves a great deal of grief. But hear me today: If you enter into any kind of yoke that is unequal, you are going to have to deal with the problems which result from it. One of those problems is defilement—defilement spiritually, defilement physically, defilement in every sense of the word; but God, in His grace and in His mercy, can provide that which is needed to deal with the problem.

The Problem of Divided Affections

There is another problem that I would like for you to think about. I have referred to it as the problem of divided affections , when there is an unequal yoke involved. It comes to mind from Matthew, chapter 6, verse 24, where the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking of the importance of singleness of mind, the importance of having the right goals. He said:

Matthew 6:

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Perhaps as you look at that verse, you might wonder why we did not use the term divided allegiance . It would have been an appropriate term. If you enter into an unequal yoke, you are faced with the problem of divided allegiance because no man can serve two masters. He will hate the one and love the other.

If you are in an unequal yoke in a business, your allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ. If your business partner is not a believer, his allegiance is not to the Lord Jesus Christ. You are going to have to deal with that. Make the application in all of the various realms to which we have already made reference today. I have chosen to use the term divided affections , because of the last statement of verse 24 which perhaps deals more definitely with the needs in our lives, when he said, “…You cannot serve God and mammon. You will love one and you will hate the other.”

Mammon is money, and what the Spirit of God is saying here is that many of us, many times not realizing it, have saddled ourselves with an unequal yoke. We have a love for God and we have love for money, and that unequal yoke provides a problem of divided affections which is aptly described in I Timothy, chapter 6. As you turn there, let me remind you that there is nothing wrong with money. It is a necessity. There is nothing wrong with having all that God, in His grace and wisdom, permits you to have, even if you have more than you can spend. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem lies with our attitude toward it, and Paul expresses it so very definitely in verse 6, when he says:

I Timothy 6:

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

When you are involved in an unequal yoke, you may have to decide whether you are going to forsake your love for God for the pursuit of money. You may have to decide if money is going to be the primary thing in your life because you may be yoked with an individual who is bound up in love for mammon. That is a problem and here it is very plainly stated in the Word of God that the individual who wills to be rich—that is, he is simply not making money because of the business acumen he may have or the opportunity that may be his, but he is determined to be rich—will be pierced through with many sorrows and there will be much heartache.

Listen carefully to me. If you are in a yoke with an individual like that, the sorrows that pierce him through are going to affect you as well. If you are in an unequal yoke, you must deal with the problems of divided affections.

The Problem of Discipline

There is one other problem that I would suggest that we consider and I have described it by the word discipline . It comes to my mind from what is recorded in I Corinthians, chapter 10. This chapter is dealing with the problem of idolatry and the idolatrous practices to which the Corinthian church was exposed. Some of the Corinthian believers were trying to worship at the temple of idols and worship with the Body of Christ as well. Paul had to deal with it since in the early church the center of worship was the communion table. He presents it in verse 14:

I Corinthians 10:

14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?
20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
21 Ye cannot [notice] drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.
22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

After the apostle has emphasized the difference between the worship in an idol temple and the worship around the Lord's table, He drove home the truth of the unequal yoke by saying, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.” There is no way that you can be worshiping at an idol temple and with the Body of Christ. They are two different things. They are unequally yoked, and then he drives home the matter of another problem—the problem of discipline if we are yoked unequally, expressed in the words of verse 22:

I Corinthians 10:

22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

A better translation: “Are we trying to arouse the wrath of God? Have we forgotten how completely we are in His hands?”

Every one of us who is considering this question today, giving thought to the unequal yoke, need to ask ourselves what we are doing when we go into unequal yokes with such little concern? What are we doing? Are we trying to arouse the wrath of God? Have we forgotten we are completely in His hands?

I believe this: If folk would remember that God must discipline disobedience to His revealed will, folk would not be entering the unequal yoke so thoughtlessly. Are we so foolish that we think we are stronger than God is? Are we deliberately trying to provoke His wrath?

Solution to Defilement is Cleansing

I would like to call to your attention that in each one of the passages of Scripture we considered, there was advice given concerning these problems. In relation to the problem of defilement, the solution was cleansing. Remember II Corinthians, chapter 7, verse 1:

II Corinthians 7:

1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

If we find ourselves in that unequal yoke and are defiled thereby, let us cleanse ourselves. You know that the provision for cleansing for the believer is in I John, chapter 1, verse 9:

I John 1:

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Don't worry too much about why you got into the unequal yoke. Nothing can be done about that, but cleanse yourself from the defilement that is involved in it and be constantly on your guard that there will not be additional defilement.

Solution for Divided Affections is Evaluation

For divided affections, the solution is evaluation , for in Matthew, chapter 6, verses 25-26, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “When you are thinking about the importance of material things, give some thought to which is more important.” Are you and the eternal values related to you more important than material things? Of course they are, and perhaps if you are in a unequal yoke and it is necessary for you to make a decision as to where your affections lie, you need to keep in mind that it is the obligation of every believer to set his affection on things which are above and not on things which are on the earth.

Certainly if you are yoked together with an unbeliever, there may be a parting of the ways. The yoke may be lifted, not because you do anything about it, but simply because you remain true to the standards which God has set for the believer.

Solution for Discipline is Forsaking

Then, of course, in the matter of discipline—and discipline there most certainly will be—the solution is forsaking . Pointedly, the Holy Spirit said, through the Apostle Paul, to these people at Corinth: “Wherefore, Beloved, flee from idolatry. Don't stand around and toy with it. Don't stand around and try to make up your mind about it. Get away from it as quickly as you can.”

Conclusion

God has taught us in the Word that when things are brought to our attention which are wrong, we have the opportunity of judging them, and if we judge them, then the matter is closed; but if we do not judge them, then God judges them, and when God judges them, we are chastened of the Lord that we might not be condemned with the world.

This question, “Can two walk together lest they be agreed?”, is not such a simple question after all, is it? It can't be dismissed with simply, “You ought not to do that.” There needs to be a careful consideration of the principle that God laid down in His Word and the problems that arise when that p*rinciple is violated.


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