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Bible Studies/Fellowship with unbelievers


john wrote at 2011-04-12 03:42:19
Below is a study on how a Christian should deal with unbelievers that has caused great division and strife in our family, This study says that we are to separate ourselves from them but it does not say what to do if the unbelievers is a member of our immediate family. If we are not to shun them, where does it say that in the bible in the scriptures.

Study 1

Fellowship with Unbelievers? A Study of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

by Craig N. Johnson

Friday, December 24, 2004

This article is a specific application of a right understanding of our fellowship with God.

In previous articles I have talked about biblical fellowship. Fellowship is sharing with other believers. We share in a relationship that God has put us in. We share in a partnership - a team - that God has put us on. We share in spiritual conversation (communion). We share our material wealth and possessions to selflessly meet each others needs. We have all these things because we are believers. As believers we are part of the same family, the same body. We all share in Christ. We all have the same goal, the same responsibilities, and the same resources. The basis for our fellowship with each other is our fellowship with Christ. If we do not have fellowship with God and with Christ then we cannot have true fellowship with others. This is because we are not in a true relationship with each other. We are not on the same team as anyone else (we fight for our own team - "ME"). We have nothing to say to others - we have no true wisdom outside of Christ. We have no true humility to selflessly meet the needs of others. But, if we are 'in Christ' (i.e. saved), then we have all that we need to enjoy sweet fellowship with other believers!

So, we can have fellowship with other believers - other members of the family, but what is the believer’s attitude toward fellowship with unbelievers?

We know we have a relationship with other believers, but what do we have with unbelievers? The implication is that we have no relationship with them. We are not on the same team. This is in fact the case.

And, further, since we have no relationship with them, we should not try to ‘relate’ to them. We should not try to grow a relationship, or experience a relationship with them. We should not pursue friendship or intimacy with them.

Since we have no partnership with them, we should not consider ourselves ‘teammates’ in life. We should not ‘look for what we have in common with them’ but remember what we ‘don’t have in common with them.’

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians to remind them of these very truths. The Corinthians had been seeking this friendship – this on-going fellowship – with unbelievers.

Paul had warned them of the danger of this in 1 Corinthians 15.33. He said,

1 Corinthians 15:33

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Apparently, the people did not listen. Paul had to go into much greater detail to explain to them the perspective that the believer should have about seeking fellowship with unbelievers. Look at 2 Corinthians 6.14-18.

We are looking at the biblical perspective of fellowship between believers and unbelievers. As you read on, you must remember what true, biblical fellowship is. It is not merely 'talking.' It is not eating together one time. Talking is an important part of fellowship. Eating together could also be very helpful. However, true fellowship is based on a true relationship based on Christ and a true partnership having been truly put on the Christ's team. Because we have a relationship and partnership together, we have abilities and responsibilities - fellowship. We share with each other. We have something to share:

Christ empowers us to give encourage and comfort to others with HIS truth.

Christ hears our prayers when we pray for others. We give to others when we pray for them.

We are rich in Christ - we have MUCH to share!

However, fellowship is more than just giving. It is also receiving. God put us in a relationship and partnership with other believers in order that we would receive from them. Other believers have something to share:

Christ empowers them to give encourage and comfort to us with HIS truth.

Christ hears their prayers when they pray for us. They give to us when they pray for us.

They are rich in Christ - they have MUCH to share!

As a Christian, you should be giving to believers and unbelievers (your first responsibility is to believers though - Galations 6.10). You should not be setting yourself up to recieve from unbelievers what they think you need. Unbelievers are not rich in Christ. They do not have wisdom from God. They do not have the same goals and desires. Their prayers are not heard (except of course, their prayer of repentence). They have no true understanding of what your needs are. Their words of comfort are based on selfish, sinful, prideful wisdom.

Look at how the Apostle Paul spells all this out. What is the biblical perspective of fellowship between believers and unbelievers?

The perspective is summed up in 2 principles. Here is the first one.

1. You are "ridiculously wrong" to seek fellowship with unbelievers.

Notice the word ‘ridiculously.’ As Paul goes on to explain, it is absurd to think that a believer and an unbeliever can even coexist. Certainly, to pursue fellowship for true, biblical fellowship’s sake is crazy.

However, it is not only ridiculous, it is just flat out wrong. Paul is giving a command here.

Why is it ridiculously wrong? Paul explains - It is an unequal yoke. Having read these words, the Corinthians would have most likely thought of a particular OT law.

Deuteronomy 22:10

“You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.

To put an ox and a donkey together would be ridiculous and wrong. For a Jew the donkey was 'unclean' and the ox 'clean.' Besides that, the animals have two different natures. They would not work well together. It would be cruel to put them together.

So, why is fellowship with an unbeliever ridiculous and wrong?

You are complete opposites (v.14). How are you (as a Christian) an opposite from an unbeliever?

(1) You are on different teams. Paul uses a word meaning ‘partnership’ to let them know they are on two different teams. How can you work together? You have a big “R” on your jersey. You play for righteousness. The unbeliever wears a “U.” He plays for unrighteousness. You oppose each other. He wants righteousness to lose. You want unrighteousness to lose.

For people from 2 different teams to work at a friendship, they have to set aside the fact that they are on 2 different teams. Paul is saying that we need to remember that we are on different teams.

It makes sense to fellowship with your teammates. It should be natural.

Do you find it easier to make friends with unbelievers or believers? Do you appreciate them both the same? Should we ask what team you are really on?

(2) You live in different realms. Paul refers to light and darkness. These are often use to point to holiness and unholiness in daily living. Paul says in Colossians 1.13 that...

Colossians 1:13

[God] rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son

After we are brought into the kingdom of light, we walk in the light. We do not walk in the darkness.

1 John 1:5-7

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

A true Christian is characterized by walking in the light, and the believer never steps outside of the darkness. Ephesians 2.1 says that unbelievers live their whole lives in the sphere of sin. He never steps outside the ‘circle of sin.’

It is ridiculous to for light to share with darkness. Only contamination will occur – and, that is exactly what happens. Believers that insist on maintaining and cultivating friendships with unbelievers have ‘corrupted morals’ as Paul predicted in 1 Corinthians 15.33. They are believers that hide their lights under a bushel.

The unbeliever lives in a different sphere. If you are receiving from them, it is contaminated.

Pursuing fellowship with an unbeliever is ridiculously wrong because you are opposites. Here is another reason.

You could never complement each other (v.15). Paul uses the word ‘harmony’ in verse 15. The Greek work looks like ‘symphony.’ This helps us to understand what Paul is trying to tell us. In a symphony many instruments play together. They each play in order to complement another. No one joins the group if they think they can sound better alone. On the contrary, they join the symphony so that they can produce something better.

Paul says this kind of thinking when it comes to believers fellowshipping with unbelievers is ridiculous. You don’t want to help the unbeliever’s song to sound better. He needs to quit playing his song and learn another one. You don’t want to get help from an unbeliever to play your song. He has nothing to give you.

(1) You have different leaders. You are led by Christ and by His Spirit. He is led by Satan. The unbeliever lives according to the Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2.1-3). These two leaders are conducting two different orchestras. What leader/conductor are you following?

(2) You have different lives.Your lives are radically different. You have life-giving power from God. Your spiritual life is generated by Christ. We saw this in our study of John 15. There Jesus explained that only those that are genuinely attached to the true vine will experience life and growth and fruit-bearing.

While you have life-giving power from God, he is disconnected from the branch. The unbeliever has no true life. He has no power. He is in slavery to sin. He has no spiritual life. He is eternally dead.

How can a dead branch complement a living branch? He just makes it look ugly.

Pursuing fellowship with an unbeliever is ridiculously wrong because you are complete opposites. In addition to that…

You each have prior commitments (v.16).

The apostle Paul wants us to remember these prior commitments. You see, it is possible to forget that you are committed to something, and that the unbeliever is committed to anything. In fact, many might even think an unbeliever isn't committed to anything, but he is.

You are committed to God, which is a commitment to hate idols. This is the commitment to follow Christ which is a reception of the gospel.

He is committed to idols, which is a commitment to hate God. Paul reminds us that an unbeliever is committed to idols. He is loyal to the gods of pleasure, money, etc. He is always loyal to himself.

So, we have seen the first principle regarding the perpective a believer should have about fellowship with unbelievers. It is ridiculously wrong to pursue fellowship with them. Here is the second principle.

2. You are to pursue a separation from unbelievers and unto God.

We are to remain separate from unbelievers. We are to focus on those relationships, and make sure that we remain separate.

We are at the same time to be separated unto God. When we do this, the promise is that He will welcome us. When we avoid fellowship with unbelievers and seek closer fellowship with God, He will give it to us!


So, what does this mean? You may be thinking, what is fellowship and what is not? Here are some practical applications of Paul's words:

Do not 'partner together' with others in ministry when doctrine is played down. There are many parachurch ministries that don't require those involved in the ministry to be clear on the gospel. Because they don't require this, you will find people of many denominations that come together for the ministry. Having many denominations together is not necessarily wrong for having a 'partnership in the gospel' (fellowship), but it is when people come from certain denominations that deny the true gospel. For example, if the person believes it is okay to worship and pray (a form of worship) to someone else other than God, like Mary, that is a gospel issue! If the person agrees that you can earn God's favor by taking Mass, that is a gospel issue! Catholocism teaches both of these things. Catholocism denies the true gospel. If a person claims that 'he has never heard these things at his Catholic Church,' it is necessary to require that the person leave the church having received correct information about what his priest and church profess to believe.

Do not attempt to worship with others that deny important doctrines of the faith – the gospel. Worship conferences are becoming more popular these days. Who are you worshipping with? Are they believers? Do any profess to believe something contrary to the gospel? Do those leading in worship allow people that profess a false gospel to worship with them?

Do not seek a friendship for friendship’s sake with an unbeliever. The Bible does not forbid friendship with an unbeliever for the sake of evangelism. "Friendship evangelism" is not necessarily wrong. What is wrong, is friendship for friendship's sake. Friendship evangelism is a relationship of you giving and the other person receiving. Who is giving the advice? Who is receiving the advice? Who is cheering up who? Believer's relationships with other believers should always be for the goal of giving the gospel to the unbeliever. That does not necessarily mean that every conversation will be about the gospel, but that is always the goal. If the gospel is not your focus, what is your focus? What else would you want to give them? What else would you want to get from them? Consider every ‘fun’ time with an unbeliever to be an opportunity to share the gospel. Don’t have a 'give-take' relationship with an unbeliever. Have only a 'give' relationship.

Do not seek comfort and encouragement from an unbeliever.

Do not look for joy and satisfaction from an unbeliever.

Do not date someone unless he/she is obviously a Christian. Do not marry someone unless he/she is obviously a Christian.

If a person rejects the gospel over and over again, ask yourself why you would get together with them 'by choice' again.

Evaluate your relationships with unbelievers. If you are choosing to hang around them without the main goal of sharing the gospel with them, then you have some other goal. What is the goal? If you are trying to give them something else, what is it? Why would you give that to them instead of the gospel? Are you merely trying to help them live a comfortable life on earth without caring about their eternal state? How could you be that unloving? Don't make it look like life is okay without God. Don't make it look like eternity is not important. Set apart Christ as Lord in your heart (1 Peter 3.15).

Perhaps, you are thinking that you hang out with the person 'just for fun.' Again, why would you not be trying to share the gospel? Where is your heart for God? There is another issue with having a relationship 'just for fun.' It is natural in any relationship to share ideas, desires, goals, opinions, values, etc. Certainly, in your time of 'having fun' you are exchanging words that communicate ideas, desires,... Are you 'receiving' or 'giving?' If you are only 'giving,' then certainly you would begin with the gospel. Why would you give wisdom about politics without giving the gospel? Why try to help people be moral without the gospel? It is impossible.

Chances are pretty good that you are 'receiving' more than you think if you are not intentionally giving them the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15:33: Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Proverbs 28.23: He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 14.7: Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips.

Proverbs 27.6: The kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend.

One final question for you if you really enjoy 'having fun' with an unbeliever (or unbelievers): What do you find so attractive? What do you find in the unbeliever that you need so much? What does he find that you can't find in an believer?

1 John 2.15-17: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not fromt he Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

It is ridiculously wrong to pursue fellowship (give-take relationships) with unbelievers. You are instead to pursue a separation from them and a separation unto God

Additional scriptures :

9 I wrote unto you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators; 10 not at all meaning with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world: 11 but as it is, I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no, not to eat. 12 For what have I to do with judging them that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Put away the wicked man from among yourselves.

1 Cor 5:9-13 (ASV)

26 If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26 (ASV)

18 If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. John 15:18-19 (ASV)

1 But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; 5 holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power therefore. From these also turn away. 6 For of these are they that creep into houses, and take captive silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, 7 ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Tim 3:1-7 (ASV)

5 I hate the assembly of evil-doers, And will not sit with the wicked.

Psalms 26:4-5 (ASV)

9 but shun foolish questionings, and genealogies, and strifes, and fightings about law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10 A factious man after a first and second admonition refuse; 11 knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned.

Titus 3:9-11 (ASV)

51 Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 52 for there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 53 They shall be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against her mother; mother in law against her daughter in law, and daughter in law against her mother in law.

Luke 12:51-53 (ASV)

33 Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals.

1 Cor 15:33 (ASV)

15 To the pure all things are pure: but to them that are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but by their works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Titus 1:15-16 (ASV)

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: 4 in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them.

2 Cor 4:3-4 (ASV)

6 And he said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7 He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.

Rev 21:6-8 (ASV)

25 Jesus said in answer, I have said it and you have no belief: the works which I do in my Father's name, these give witness about me. 26 But you have no belief because you are not of my sheep. 27 My sheep give ear to my voice, and I have knowledge of them, and they come after me: 28 And I give them eternal life; they will never come to destruction, and no one will ever take them out of my hand. 29 That which my Father has given to me has more value than all; and no one is able to take anything out of the Father's hand.

John 10:25-29 (BBE)

Study 2



Objectors to God's word which commands a believer not to have fellowship with unbelievers ask, 'How can a Christian properly witness to an unbelieving world if they don't fellowship with them in order to 'earn a hearing' or 'win their confidence.' But this implies spending a considerable amount of time with them, and not contradicting their worldly ways by word and even conforming and agreeing with those ways so as not to offend them. In this way, the believer compromises his own walk with Jesus Christ, subjecting himself to continual temptation. No such 'sacrifice' was condoned by God for the sake of the gospel, rather, efforts such as these contaminated the witness of the individual and focused the message from the Word of God to the questionable behavior of the compromising believer.

God's Word indicates, instead, for the believer to avoid temptation and pray so as not to fall into it, (Mt 26:41). There is constant temptation when one is associating oneself with worldly people. Furthermore, how can a Christian claim to have fellowship with God and unbelievers at the same time?


A) [Compare 2 John 7-11]:

(v. 7) "Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.

(v. 8) Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.

(v. 9) Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God;

[i.e., does not have fellowship with Him. Although they are saved and eternally secure, (Eph 1:13-14), they do not have God with respect to having fellowship with Him]

whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

(v. 10) If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.

(v. 11) Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work."

B) [Eph 5:3-4]:

And consider that Ephesians chapter 5 teaches that a believer should not behave like the world:

(v. 3) "But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints;

(v. 4) And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks."

Can a believer avoid being around such improper behavior when among unbelievers? How can a believer have fellowship amongst those who do such things and not succumb or at least be associated with such unacceptable behaviors?

C) [Eph 5:11]:

Furthermore, Ephesians chapter 5 goes on to command the believer to have nothing to do with worldly ways - which clearly means, 'Don't associate with others that do these things':

"And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.."

And how long will it take for unbelievers and carnal Christians to shun the fellowship of a believer who does not agree with their lifestyle and by his example shows it. If a believer does not spew out of his mouth the same ungodly wisdom that unbelievers do, he will be singled out very quickly and ostracized. Even by taking a stand that Christ is the only way to heaven, or that homosexuality and abortion are wrong, or that getting drunk is not appropriate behavior for a believer, or that coarse, suggestive or obscene language is unacceptable - all of these stands that the ambassador of Jesus Christ must make will be enough to get him 'kicked out' of fellowship with unbelievers.

Anyone who has experienced being an active witness for Jesus Christ will tell you that the window of opportunity to present the gospel and other truths from God's Word is usually very brief. One does not need to win the favor of an unbeliever. It's the Holy Spirit's job to get that unbeliever's attention not ours. One just needs to provide an immediate answer from God's Word for whatever subject is being brought up.

D) [Compare Pr 22:24-25]:

(v. 24) "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered,

(v. 25) or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared."

So those who act like the world, even fellow believers, we are not to make friends with.

E) [Compare 1 Cor 15:33]:

"Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.' "

E) [2 Cor 6:14-17]:

Finally, compare 2 Cor 6:14-17 which commands the believer outright not to have fellowship with unbelievers:

(v. 14) "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

(v. 15) Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

(v. 16) Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? 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'.

(v. 17) Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the LORD.

And do not touch what is unclean;

And I will welcome you.

(v. 18) And I will be a Father to you.

and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,

'Says the LORD Almighty.' "

The NIV and the KJV translate "do not be bound together" as "Do not be equally yoked" which is more accurate a picture of what it means to be in fellowship with another:

Fellowship is pictured thus as 2 plow animals yoked together in close proximity, dependent upon one another and with one direction and purpose. This is not possible for the faithful believer if he is yoked with an unbeliever, carnal or immature believer.

F) [Compare Jas 4:4]:

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."


A) [1 Cor 5:9-13]:

(v. 9) "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people -

(v. 10) not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

[Notice that Paul does not have unbelievers in view but believers who are immoral whom a fellow believer must not associate with. For a believer must still be in this world to witness for Christ. On the other hand, believers who are immoral are such that one must not associate with them for believers are held to a much higher standard than unbelievers]:

(v. 11) But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater of a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such man do not even eat.

(v. 12) What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

(v. 13) God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked man from among you.' "

[Ref. Dt 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21, 24; 24:7]

So a believer must also not be yoked with an believer who is carnal.

B) [2 Thes 3:6-]:

(v. 6) "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

Notice that believers are to avoid fellowship with fellow believers who are idle from living according to godly teaching, i.e., they are carnal.  

Phil wrote at 2013-12-09 06:01:32
Lisa, if I may interject here, I think Paul can help us with this. If a husband or wife doesn't believe we are encouraged to stay with them, in the hope of being a Godly and positive influence on them. The same will absolutely apply to children.

1st Corinthians 7th chapter:

10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

Forgive my intrusion please, and I hope this helps.

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