Reclaiming God’s Provision of Divorce: God’s Prescribed Means of Dealing with Sin in the Church

Divorce and divorcees are viewed by the church as unholy.  Yet God divorced Israel for her unrepentant godlessness.  God’s divorce action against Israel cannot be unholy because God is most holy.  If God, of whom it is said is Holy, Holy, Holy, divorced his bride because she was so unholy, then should not God’s children follow their heavenly Father’s example?  So why does much of the church prohibit unequally yoked divorce?  The Old Testament could not be more clear in its teaching that separation between the godly and the ungodly is necessary because the ungodly will pull the godly into idolatry, which is also called spiritual adultery.

Pastors routinely use Christian divorce rates as a proof of the declension in the church.  But should they be doing this?  Christian leaders commonly place divorce alongside sins listed by the Apostle Paul as “the deeds of the flesh”, but Paul never listed divorce with any other sin, and God’s word does not call divorce a sin nor does it prohibit divorce.  The word of God properly places divorce as a provision of God’s laws to protect innocent spouses and to prevent further sin.  Therefore the proper category for divorce is alongside church discipline, rebuke, reproof, punishment, and even giving a so-called believer over to Satan with hopes that he will repent and believe.  This entire category could be called “God’s prescribed means of dealing with sin in the Church”.  This category is chiefly concerned with the punishment/restoration of the unrepentant and the protection of the innocent, which are in essence two halves of the same coin.

Godly men and women lament at the scarcity of church discipline, but inexplicably decry every divorce.  These two are similar actions belonging to the same category in scripture.  Both remove the leaven from the body of Christ.  Both have been abused by wicked people.  Both are greatly under utilized by the church.  When a church member is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, then appropriate church discipline will always result in the expulsion of that individual from the body of believers because he is a danger to the body.

Divorce performs the exact same function in Christian marriages and families that church discipline does for the church.  So then, it is no surprise that the very people who hate to follow through with God’s command for church discipline also hate God’s gracious provision of divorce?  Whether they are uncomfortable with confrontation, lack trust in the Lord to bring about a good outcome, fear being called judgmental, lack wisdom and spiritual discernment, have a lax and slothful oversight, favoritism or just not wanting to be drug into the kind of fight that godless people seemingly enjoy, most churches never or rarely do any church discipline and most churchmen repudiate divorce by calling it a sin.

In both cases churchmen remain sitting when they should stand up for battle.  Scripture refers to believers as soldiers and provides them with the full armor of God.  Christian leaders are under Christ’s command to protect and feed the flock.  Instead most Christian leaders take a let go and let God approach to these difficult situations involving unrepentant sinners within their flocks.  This disobedient, slothful approach says that if God wants the brother or sister to be set free from a godless, treacherous spouse, then God can always take the life of the wicked spouse.  And if we just wait upon the Lord, then God will remove or redeem the worthless fellow.

This is decidedly not the approach that the great apostle Paul took.  He said, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14), and “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?”  And “In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened (1 Corinthians 5:4-7).  It is the Christian’s task to clean out the leaven, which means to actively remove unrepentant sinners from their sphere of influence.

Perhaps divorce actions have been miscategorized because they can be and often are messy, but church discipline is frequently messy.  Whenever unrepentant sinners are exposed to the light and held accountable for their sin they will usually fight back with wickedness (Contentiousness, lies, accusations, threats, deceptions, disputes, quarrels, comparisons, attempts to divide the church, self-defense, etc.), which pulls the Christians involved into the mire…a very uncomfortable circumstance for believers.  It matters not whether this unpleasant duty is a church discipline action or a divorce action the goal is the same…remove the leaven.

It is clear why church leaders do not enjoy church discipline.  It is equally unpleasant to go through a divorce with an ungodly spouse, and with the current mindset of most Churches it is made all the more difficult because Christian leaders turn upon and attack the Christian who is seeking to obey God’s call to separate from the godless.  Understandably, Christians hate this difficult work, but as soldiers they must fight the good fight even when the immediate battle is difficult and unpleasant.  It would be great if the Church would get on the same page, but that will never be the case this side of heaven.  Individual churches and individuals must take upon themselves these difficult tasks because scripture prescribes these measures when unbelievers are in the midst of the people of God.

The heart of this article is that the divorce of an unequally yoked spouse is not a sin and should cease being treated as though it was listed in any of Paul’s “Deeds of the flesh” passages.  Divorce is not classified as a sin anywhere in the Bible notwithstanding Malachi 2:16, Matthew 5 and 19, and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 all of which have articles addressing them rather extensively on this blog.  Divorce in general and especially unequally yoked divorce is properly classified in God’s word under “God’s prescribed means of dealing with sin in the Church.”  Divorce belongs to the same classification as church discipline, rebuke, being removed from leadership position, restoration and even giving the unrepentant sinner over to Satan with hope that repentance will ensue.

It is well established that divorce is an allowance in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 21 & 24), and Jesus did not annul or overturn that law as many understand from Matthew 19.  Jesus said:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).

In Matthew 19 Jesus did not say that the Pharisees were guilty of divorce.  Of course he would not say that because Jesus knew that divorce was permitted by God’s law—it is not a sin.  Jesus said the Pharisees were guilty of adultery because they wanted to cover up their adultery with illegal usage of God’s legal divorce provision.

A comparison will help clear the muddied waters.  Suppose the Pharisees exchanged their desire for gentile wives with a desire for unpaid servants.  If they asked Jesus if it was permissible for them to adopt gentile children, but their real motive was to force the children into unpaid labor, then Jesus would have said they were guilty of human enslavement, child abuse and child endangerment.  But Jesus would not have said the Pharisees were guilty of adoption just as he did not say they were guilty of divorce.  And the church would not have treated adoption as a wicked sin through the centuries, yet this is precisely what has been done with God’s provision for divorce.  Man’s abuse of divorce should not diminish at all God’s gracious provision.  God understood that since the fall people’s hearts were wicked and innocent partners would require relief from wicked spouses.

The Pharisees were merely trying to cover up their adultery with God’s legal provision of divorce.  Jesus showed their argument to be nothing more than a rouse.  He understood that they were not asking about divorce as it is allowed in the Law, but they were asking whether or not legal divorces could be obtained without just cause.  So he said anybody who would carry out what the Pharisees had devised would be an adulterer because they would be divorcing a wife who has not broken her marriage covenant conditions in any way.  Jesus understood that if their wives had given them no just cause to divorce them, then their reason for seeking divorce was in their adulterous hearts, which is why he said they would be committing adultery.

Christian leaders beware of the glibness with which you disagree and continue holding your unbiblical view on divorce.  Both God’s law and Jesus tie judging people wrongly to unjust balances and weights in the market place.  God’s law reads, “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.  You shall have just balances, just weights…” (Leviticus 19:35-36 underline mine).  And in his Sermon On the Mount Jesus said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Matthew 7:1-3 underline mine)?  Do you have an answer to the Lord’s question to the Pharisees?  Try to answer it before reading further.

Jesus is using an analogy to teach about judging others.  It is easily understood that if a street vendor is selling food items using a false scale or balance and deceitful weights, then he is cheating innocent consumers.  Jesus is saying that the religious leaders do the same to the people of God by changing God’s standards or laws by which men are to measure themselves.  In context, Jesus was saying that with their false standard of measure the Pharisees’ were twisting God’s Laws in their attacks on Jesus and his apostles for healing on the Sabbath and picking grain from fields as they traveled on the Sabbath, yet at the very same time these religious leaders refussed submition to the very Son of God who was standing right in front of them.

So then, a log in the religious leaders’ eye today is using a man-made standard of measure that restricts God’s allowance for divorce.  Divorce is protected in God’s moral law.  What right do you have prohibiting it for the people of God?  God does not want his people bound together with unbelievers, but you have restricted them from accessing God’s allowance of divorce that would allow them to repent of their unequally yoked marriages.  Millions of new unequally yoked marriages take place because the church has made a propitiation for Christians in such marital relationships.  Young people have no fear of disobeying God by getting unequally yoked because the church long since stopped church discipline for this sin.  In fact, the church has gone so far as to call repentance of these relationships the sin rather than being in an unequally yoked marriage.  Because of this sinfulness a pall of darkness is placed upon all who have divorced wicked spouses even though they followed the provision of God’s law.  God forbid the church continues this lunacy.  The people of God are suffering for it.  The church is filled with unbelieving spouses as a result.  Churches are so full of unbelievers that the believers are being corrupted by the bad company IN THE CHURCH!  Brethren, these things ought not be this way.

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Believing Spouse, Blessed House

Happy Wife, Happy Life, or Believing Spouse, Blessed House.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Traditionally, by deconstructing a prohibition where God provided married believers liberty to divorce unbelieving spouses, the church has badly mistreated many of its own proving the old axiom: “The only army that shoots its wounded is the Christian army.”  In fact, many actually believe that if a divorced believer remarries they prove to be unbelievers and are condemned to eternal damnation.  Divorce is treated as a sin when in fact it is not a sin at all (See article titled: Reclaiming God’s Provision of Divorce).  God provided divorce as a remedy for a godly spouse to escape the lifelong companionship with an evil spouse.

Many reasons exist for God’s provision.  It would be difficult to provide an exhaustive list, but consider the following:

  • The unbelieving spouse has broken the marriage covenant’s condition of suitability (Genesis 2:20). Physical: Suitable means one man and one woman.  Spiritual: Suitable means same spiritual condition.  Whole world: Both unbelievers (Marriage is a creation ordinance, thus it applies to all of mankind).  Old Testament: Both Jews by birth or conversion of young females (Deuteronomy 7:3-4, 13:6-11, 17:2-7, 21:10-14 and 22:9-11).  New Testament: Both born-again in Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 7:39, II Corinthians 6:14-7:1).
  • Believers are under God’s command, “do not be bound together with unbelievers…Come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:14 & 17; Deuteronomy 7:3-4, 22:9-11).
  • Bad company corrupts good morals (Exodus 23:33, 1 Kings 22:52-53, Prov. 13:20b, 1 Cor. 15:33).
  • God’s disfavor will fall upon the house of the wicked and injure the child of God (Numbers 33:55-56; 2 Chron. 19:2: Isaiah 31:2; Jeremiah 2:37; Ezek. 21:3).
  • Light and darkness, righteousness and lawlessness, Christ and ungodliness, the temple of God and idols cannot be together They cannot have partnership, fellowship, harmony, commonality and agreement (II Corinthians 6:14-16).
  • The will of God demands divorce when unequally yoked (See article titled: The will of God dictates divorce for those unequally yoked in marriage).

So what is the proof that divorced believers are treated as second class Christians?  Just listen to the preachers.  Divorce is near the top of virtually every pastors list of proofs that the church is in a declension.  But the reality is that unequally yoked marriages should replace divorce in that list because they are the biblically prescribed cause for the decline of godliness in the church, and repentance through divorce is God’s remedy.  Christians who divorce godless spouses are following the command of God and do so at great personal cost.

These same pastors routinely make statements of condemnation indicating that divorced people have merely taken the easy way out as though they are people with no character.  To say such a thing takes a fundamentally flawed understanding of what people are going through leading up to a divorce.  It is not remotely easy to go through a divorce.  Two people working toward the same dreams and goals for many years have so many entanglements.  They have shared children, property, bank accounts, mortgages, friends, relatives and hopes.  God’s word commands believers, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”, so divorce is not the easy way out it is the obedient way out of an unequally yoked marriage.  Many believers fail to divorce their unbelieving spouse because they fear the heavy cost (Proverbs 15:16-17), but material comfort is a sinful reason to stay bound to an unbeliever.  Proverbs 9:6 “Forsake the simple ones and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.”  Forsake means to renounce something dear to one, to leave entirely, to desert or abandon.

The world likes to say, “Happy wife, happy life”.  The people of God should replace this saying with the much more biblical statement, “Believing spouse, blessed house”.


A Misunderstanding of Jesus’ command to “Judge Not” Is Causing Unequally Yoked Marriages By the Millions

It is often thought that the most memorized verse from the bible is John 3:16.  I suspect that is true for those who truly love Jesus and are in Christ.  But I strongly believe that far more people have memorized Matthew 7:1 and they have done so without any effort whatsoever.  Perhaps most of them only have two words memorized: “Judge not”.  These two words are very likely among Satan’s favorite passages of the bible.  And not only Satan but all who hate Christ and his church favor these two words.  Then, of course, we think of those of whom the great Apostle Paul warns believers not to associate.  These regularly and happily abuse the Lord’s phrase against judging others:

“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Do you not judge those who are within the church?  But those who are outside, God judges.  Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13[underlining mine]).

Few biblical passages are as universally believed and repeated as Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount “judge not least you be judged”.  “Judge not” is thrown back in Christians’ faces and has been a mantra for liberals alongside: Diversity, social justice, political correctness and globalism.  With such associations one should quickly realize that “Judge not” does not in any way, shape or form carry the same meaning that Jesus intended.  So then, what does “Judge not” mean for the millions of Americans quick to use it?

It has two primary meanings with major implications:

First, “judge not” as understood today means that it is taboo to make a judgment about the rightness or wrongness of somebody else’s thoughts, words or actions because nobody is perfect.  People universally recognize and often say that “nobody is perfect”, but nobody seems to have a problem with that anymore.  We need to understand that the perfect holiness of God demands that we be holy too, which is why the perfect righteousness of Christ is necessary to make atonement for our imperfection.  The modern moral compass is off by one hundred and eighty degrees because sin is no longer considered a problem, and liberals go so far as to deny the existence of sin altogether.

If the modern understanding of “judge not” were accurate then the bible would not command us to reprove, rebuke and correct one another.  In the fight against sin the Christian needs all possible assistance including other Christians coming alongside to rebuke and correct in the spirit of love.  The modern understanding says that the only loving response to sin is to accept, confirm and even celebrate the person’s decision to defy the ways of God, and support for the person’s corrupt choices and lifestyles is demanded.  Those who refuse to celebrate sinful choices are called bigots, homophobes, racists, misogynists and xenophobes.  But any unpleasantness is not caused by a concerned brother’s loving confrontation, but rather by the angry, rebellious response of the person in need of rebuke and correction.  It is a total unwillingness to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and obey the commandments of God. It is the response of an unbeliever.

Jesus’ phrase “Judge not least you be judged” has a second, equally disastrous understanding today, which is that even many of the elect cannot discern whether or not a claim to Christian faith is valid or specious.  The overwhelming, predominate mindset is that any claim to Christianity whatsoever is to be honored.  If somebody says they are a Christian, than by golly they must be a very fine Christian indeed notwithstanding a truckload of evidence to the contrary…after all who are we to judge?  This, of course, is completely inconsistent with Old and New Testament teaching.

People who are consumed by pride, unbelief, rebellion and gross immorality are still considered brothers in Christ with nothing more than an empty claim to Christianity.  Jesus showed us how to recognize the difference between genuine disciples and wolves in sheep’s clothing.  He said to the Pharisees “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Few today understand the obvious inference of the ‘log’ and the ‘speck’.  The former is the sin of unbelief.  The religious leaders in Jesus’ day refused to believe in the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world, yet they still wanted men to view them as spiritual titans.  Jesus was telling these “hypocrites” to remove the log of unbelief and become believers in God’s redeeming Son and then they would be part of the family of God and could reprove and rebuke fellow partakers in the kingdom of God, but they continued in their unbelief.

Jesus went on to say in the Sermon on the Mount, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  It is obvious that modern Christians cannot see past the clothing.  Jesus then said, “You will know them by their fruits.  Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.”  Therein we discover the problem.  So many wolves have entered the church that Christians and so-called Christians alike are incapable of recognizing the difference between good and bad fruit.  Most in the church cannot discern the difference between an unrepentant sinner and a saint who is engaged in a battle to mortify the remnants of indwelling sin.

If the church is blind, then how dark is the modern darkness?  How will the members of the church of God know with whom they are to evangelize and with whom they are to fellowship?  How can any Christian hope to obey God’s command, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” if they cannot discern the distinction between a believer and an unbeliever?  Christians are marrying unbelievers at an alarming rate and most of them mistakenly believe their new marriage partner to be a Christian when they are clearly not.  If they were only practiced in the word of God, then they would be able to discern good from evil.

Those who throw around the phrase “Judge not” are demonstrating a clear failure to recognize salvation.  Those who cannot recognize salvation neither can they know the true gospel.  This problem existed in the churches of the first century as well: Jude said of them, “These are the ones who cause divisions, merely natural (worldly minded), devoid of the Spirit.”  Salvation is not merely natural but supernatural.  Salvation cannot happen apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.  Salvation does not mean being part of a church or a denomination.  Salvation is not inherited from one’s parents or from one’s parents religion.  Salvation cannot be earned through works.  Salvation cannot be chosen by the will of man.  Salvation is entirely of God.  God does not save without transforming.

So then, what is Jesus’ meaning when he said “Do not judge one another”?  Jesus was saying that we must not hold one another in contempt.  We must never want someone else to be eternally separated from God.  We must not hate one another.  We must not judge another to be beyond God’s forgiveness.  The liberal says that God loves everybody unconditionally just the way they are, which means they do not need to repent or change at all.  God forbid!  While self-righteous religiosity says most people are so contemptible that God would never forgive them.  Equally appalling!  There is a better way.

Paul told the Roman Christians “…not to judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”  So judging has to do with hindering someone from coming to the Lord.  Paul’s question to the Roman Christians was, “But you, why do you judge your brother?  Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt?  For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”

What do Christians need to change in their thinking?  It is not contempt but wisdom that recognizes the lost condition of another person even when their own self-deception causes them to “Thank God that I am not like other people”.  Each person has a reliable tendency to favor themselves, so is it any wonder that millions of people think that they are living lives pleasing to God when they are not?  If a person has become born-again, then they need to become practiced in the word of God so that they will recognize the clear biblical signs of salvation.  This needs to be done early in the life of young believers, before they make a choice for a life-long marriage partner.  This is the proper order: First get your own house in order and know the word of God, then seek a marriage partner who has fruit consistent with true faith.

Go to the word of God and learn the truth about the gospel and salvation.  Know what salvation looks like—that is the thing.  Do not equivocate; do not think in generalities or vagaries.  When it comes to the gospel start with the Gospel of John and then read the New Testament book of Romans.  Every regenerate Christian must have clear and obvious fruit that is readily recognizable for those who know God’s word.  Every unregenerate person lacks this fruit.  There is no gray line here.  It is obvious to the mature Christian who is and who is not saved.

The problem lies in the fact that a much larger body of people, known by the world as Christians, are in the camp of being ignorant to what the word of God says about salvation.  This majority insist, to their own detriment, that simply desiring salvation is all that is necessary to possess it.  That is all fine and good in the here and now where the biblically misinformed believe whatever makes them feel good, but it will not transport them into the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in the next lifetime.  Of equal importance, when a true believer in Christ Jesus marries one of these “Christians” they will learn sooner or later that they are bound together with an unbeliever, which is awful condition and a sinful state.

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).


Fallacies Prohibiting Believers from God’s Gracious Provision for a Legal Divorce

Fallacy #1:  Adam’s Fall and the Subsequent Reality of Treacherous Spouses Do Not Effect the Permanence of Marriage

Jesus: “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matthew 19:8).  Here we see that our Lord understood the changes that took place after the Fall of Adam.  With the phrase, “From the beginning” our Lord is making a reference to the institution of marriage prior to the Fall.  With the phrase, “Your hardness of heart” Jesus is making a reference to “the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (Genesis 6:5), which of course was subsequent to the Fall.  The “hardness of heart” does not refer to the Pharisees wanting divorce come hell or high water as most assume, but rather to the general unrepentant wickedness of mankind.  Moses did not cave in to the sinful demands of men who sought divorces so that they could find more appealing wives—it was never the purpose of God’s law to make allowances for sin.  The laws of divorce were given to protect innocent spouses from treacherous (covenant breaking), unrepentant spouses, and in the same action were intended to shame the treacherous spouses.  Only the treacherous spouse was intended to feel shame.  Nevertheless, post-fall wickedness in men and women necessitated divorce as a protection for the innocent.  Jesus said that he has not come to bring peace but a sword that would divide the most intimate of even familial relationships, but from the beginning it has not been this way.  As the reader can see, separation was not necessary in the garden of Eden either, but Adam and Eve were separated from God and from the garden once sin entered the human race.  From the time of the fall God has demanded that his children be separate from the world not only in marriage, but certainly in marriage—be in the world but not of the world.  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”

Fallacy #2:  Marital Divorce Is a Sin

The scriptures do not contain a single statement calling marital divorce a sin.  God’s law gave instructions on how to carry out divorce lawfully.  God’s law licensed no sin whatsoever.  If any passage of scripture called divorce a sin, then Paul would have certainly referred to that passage in 1 Corinthians 7, but instead he said, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not leave her.”  The key to this passage is the word “consents”; however, for our current purpose, it is clear that Paul had no scriptural warrant upon which to reference that would make it obvious to Christians that divorce was sinful and prohibited by God.

The bible also uses the word for ‘divorce’ in referring to God’s action against Israel.  Logic 101: God cannot sin.  God divorced Israel.  Divorce cannot be a sin.  Obviously getting a divorce in order to commit adultery appears to show that divorce can be a sin, but Jesus made it clear that usurping a lawful path to commit adultery is still adultery.  Nowhere in Matthew 18 does Jesus call divorce a sin, but improperly using a divorce to commit adultery does not take away the sin of adultery.  The sin of those Pharisees was adultery and that is precisely what Jesus called it.

Fallacy #3: God Hates Divorce (Malachi 2:16)

Truth: Man Hates Divorce

This is the single greatest platitude that is used to turn God’s people against God’s gracious provision of divorce.  Christians generally believe that God hates divorce, and they do so because Malachi 2:16 says as much in many modern translations.  Sam Powell, pastor of First Reformed Church in Yuba City, has done considerable work determining a much more accurate translation taking into account the grammar and pronunciation of the Hebrew words and, according to him, the verse should read as follows:

“Because he hates, send away,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and violence covers his garment.”

The pronouns “he” and “his” do not refer to God, but to the wicked priests to whom Malachi was referring.  The idea in the context of this passage in Malachi is that the wicked priests actually hated their wives (not to mention they hated God as well), and they were treacherous to the very women whom they had joined themselves to in their youth.  Addressing them corporately Malachi uses a singular example when he in essence says, because he hates his wife he is a treacherous spouse and he should, at the very least, give her a writ of divorce and let her go.

It is not God but mankind who hates divorce.  And they do so not out of a strong sense of righteousness or loyalty, but rather because divorce brings the treachery they have committed against their spouse out of the dark and into the light for all to see: “…Men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (even out of context this verse is true here).  Where divorce should shame the unrepentant and free the innocent (as was the case of God divorcing Israel) it is currently viewed to shame everyone involved, and this happens because men hate God’s gracious provision of divorce.

Fallacy #4:  Jesus Reversed Moses’ Permit of Divorce

Moses’ rules on getting a divorce are part of God’s Law.  Jesus acknowledged as much when he said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives” (Matthew 19:8c).  Jesus also said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stoke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:17, 18).”  All of our Lord Jesus’ statements about divorce were regarding the common abuse of divorce being committed by the rich and powerful of that day; how they made use of divorce to commit adultery with young, often foreign (godless), women in order to hide the wickedness of their actions with the legal cloak of divorce.  What they were doing was tantamount to committing first degree murder and then trying to cover it up by claiming self-defense.  Jesus never bought it.

Fallacy #5:  Marital Divorce Never Glorifies God

Ezra & Nehemiah were among the godliest of Old Testament saints and they made a covenant with God to have all the men who had married outside the faith divorce their unbelieving, idolatress wives (Ezra 10:3).  “Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, ‘You have been unfaithful and have married foreign wives adding to the guilt of Israel.  Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives’” (Ezra 10:10, 11).  This single passage is clear on three points: Being unequally yoked is a sin (Paul carried it over for Christians in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).  Secondly, we should confess this sin to God.  Finally, as is the case with all sin we must repent; specifically put away (divorce) our unequally yoked spouse.  Ezra’s actions were designed to get back under the will of God so that they may once again glorify Him.

Fallacy #6:  If Christians Obeyed God They Would Never Sue for Divorce

This fallacy comes from a misunderstanding of Paul’s instructions on divorce in 1 Corinthians 7.  Paul says that if the unbelieving spouse consents to live with the believer, then the believer must not send them away.  By no means is this the same as saying if the unbelieving spouse refuses to divorce, then neither can the believer.  The word “consents” requires positive action on the part of the unbeliever.  Webster’s definition of consent: archaic: to be in concord in opinion or sentiment.  Concord is defined as a state of agreement or harmony.  In the text of 1 Corinthians 7 itself Paul provides the ways in which this agreement is to take shape.  First, for the unbeliever’s consent to be given they will be actively in the process of being sanctified through the believing spouse (Verse 14a+b).  In other words, they will be living in harmony with the life of a believer (Much like Cornelius in The Acts of the Apostles prior to his own conversion).  Secondly, the unbeliever must agree to bring the children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Verse 14c+d).  In a divided home the children will be unclean, but with this consent the children will be holy.  Third, peace—the absence of bickering and fighting—is an integral part of this consent (Verse 15).  Finally, the unbelieving spouse must believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (Verse 16).  They must believe that the only way to forgiveness and reconciliation with God is through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord.  To believe anything else divides the household and the children will not be holy.  Clearly the unbeliever would not themselves yet be saved, but they must give honest, intellectual ascent that Jesus is the only way of salvation.  For centuries it has been obvious that if Paul’s conditional clause was met, then the believer must not divorce their unbelieving spouse, but it is equally true of a conditional clause that if the condition is not met, then the believing spouse should divorce the unbeliever.  So why has this understanding been entirely absent?  What people look for they usually find.  Their presuppositions say that God hates divorce and Jesus calls it adultery, neither of which are correct, so then Paul’s text to the Corinthians must prohibit divorce as well.

Fallacy #7:  Jesus’ Use of “Hardness of Heart” Refers to Man’s Insistence to Use Divorce to Commit Adultery

With the phrase, “Your hardness of heart” Jesus is making a reference to the sinfulness of man, which immediately followed the Fall: “the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (Genesis 6:5).  The “hardness of heart” does not at all refer to the Pharisees wanting divorce come hell or high water as most assume.  When God’s word speaks of the “hardness of men’s hearts” it is a direct reference to stubborn, stiff necked rebellion against God and His ways.  Jesus is saying that Moses gave God’s provision of divorce to protect innocent marriage partners from treacherous unrepentant spouses engaging in unbelief, rebellion, pride and gross immorality.  Moses was no wimp.  He did not cave in to the sinful demands of godless men who sought divorces so that they could find more appealing wives—it was NEVER the purpose of God’s law to make allowances for sin.  Many in the church take the position that Jesus is undoing Moses’ Laws on divorce and going back to what God originally intended in the Garden of Eden.  If churchmen just thought about that position for one minute they would realize the many problems with it, but because it supports a very popular view they fail to give it due diligence.

Fallacy #8:  2 Corinthians 6:14f Does Not Apply To Marriage

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that it applies to marriage and only to marriage, so he for one does not hold to this fallacy.  This argument is ludicrous on the face of it.  Who gets bound together more than husband and wife?  In terms of human beings, who is yoked together more than husband and wife?  Are married couples expected to have partnership?  Fellowship?  Harmony?  Commonality?  Agreement?  Of course they are and therefore this text applies to marriage.

1 Corinthians 7 should be interpreted in the light of 2 Corinthians 6 for a long list of reasons but time only allows for two: First, Paul’s second letter to the very same group of churches should be expected to clarify any comments he made in the first and not the other way around.  If God’s children would simply take God’s word at face value, then 2 Corinthians 6:14 brings great clarity to any confusion about Paul’s meaning in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.

Secondly, Paul is clearly repeating a universal, divine command in 2 Corinthians 6:14f whereas in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 he is giving his own apostolic advice as to how to proceed when only one of two married people is born-again.  His insights are spot on as we would expect from the great apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  However Paul’s teaching here, properly interpreted, conforms the rest of scripture including all the separation texts and especially all the texts prohibiting being in unequally yoked marriages.  Heretofore a proper interpretation has been lacking, and this passage has for ages been understood so that it contradicts 2 Corinthians 6:14f.  In order to release the tectonic plate sized pressure of this contradiction theologians and elders have made the unbelievable blunder of claiming that 2 Corinthians 6:14 does not apply to married couples.

Fallacy #9:  Divorce Is a Salvation Issue

The fallacy says that if a Christian sues for divorce, then they are showing themselves to not be saved in the first place, and if he remarries he is practicing sin and cannot be saved unless he repents of his new marriage.  This is a most damnable heresy.  Why?  This superstitious belief is responsible for untold numbers of godless marriages being maintained for entire lifetimes when God would have desired so much more for His children.  Psalm 16:3 says, “As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.”  David delighted in the godly and so should every faithful saint—and especially so in our marriages.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  None will be able to boast about their salvation in heaven.  Well let me tell you that a great deal of boasting takes place for those whose marriages have grown long in the tooth.  There are vast numbers of church goers with little to no fruit to show for 50 years of being so-called Christians except for their celebration of 50 years of marriage to the same person.  Of course without fruit those are not actually unequally yoked marriages because neither partner is actually saved, but a true believer should not remain long in a marriage to a child of Satan.  And salvation is by faith in the Son of God.  Salvation is not lost when an obedient saint divorces a treacherous spouse in order to flee being unequally yoked to an unbeliever.  Remarriage to a fellow saint is most glorifying to God.  Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
for brothers to dwell together in unity!”


1 Corinthians 7:14  What is Paul’s Meaning?: “The Unbelieving Husband or Wife Is Sanctified.”

The question, “Can a Christian divorce an unbeliever?” is frequently asked.

“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14).

The aim of this article is to discover Paul’s intended meaning by the use of the word “sanctified” as he uses it here to instruct the Corinthian believers.  It is universally understood that Paul is not using the word “sanctified” in the most common New Testament usage.  The sanctification wrought by the Holy Spirit must of necessity follow justification for these two must never be separated.  In his book titled “Christian Marriage” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “The first principle is that there is nothing which is so utterly unscriptural as to separate justification and sanctification.”  So clearly Paul has a different use in mind as he uses the word “sanctified”.  Additionally, Paul does not refer to the Holy Spirit as the agent of this sanctification at all, but rather the believing spouse is the agent or instrument of this sanctification.

To understand Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” it is paramount that the reader fully understands the meaning of the word itself.  The word sanctify has five significant aspects in its definition:

  1. To be set apart for holiness; a separation from everything unholy.
  2. It also carries the idea of freeing from sin or purifying.
  3. To impart or impute inviolability; this includes the idea of a social sanction.
  4. Imparting or imputing sacredness or a moral sanction such as Moses giving permission for divorce.
  5. Webster says, to sanctify is “To make productive of holiness”, which is to say having the quality of character and the power of ability for producing holiness in abundance.

Two Views:  The Prevailing View vs. Paul’s Intended View (Heretofore largely unknown)

To my knowledge no great divide has ever formed over what Paul meant when he used “sanctified” here.  This actually surprises me however, and I suspect this has been the case due to indifference more than to universal agreement on the usage here.  It is likely that most expounders of this passage focus on verses 12 and 13, which answer the big question: Can or must a believer divorce their unbelieving spouse?  The concern over Paul’s intended meaning of the word “sanctified” actually goes a long way in helping understand his instructions to unequally yoked believers, which is that they must get a divorce from their unbelieving spouse if the unbeliever fails to consent to live with the believer in accord with Paul’s pattern of consent.  Since no controversy over Paul’s use of “sanctified” has ever taken root and the result has been a misapprehension of his meaning, then a controversy must now take place in order to rediscover the truth intended by Paul.  Though controversy is loathsome the forfeiture of truth is too high a price to pay for peace and unity.  We will first endeavor to explain the prevailing understanding, and then we will offer the understanding of the word “sanctified” that Paul indubitably intended to convey.  Fortunately, Paul’s meaning was inserted or included within his very comments as he uses the word “sanctified”.  It has only been missed all these long ages because men desire a different understanding or outcome if you will…a sinful one that allows freedom from God’s prohibition against being bound together with unbelievers.

The Prevailing View: A Sanctified Insurance Policy

The prevailing understanding of Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” barely resembles the meaning of the word.  This understanding meets nothing more than the third aspect of sanctified as defined above, to impute inviolability and social sanction, while the other four more weighty aspects of sanctified are entirely absent.  Combined with the other four aspects this aspect is profitable, but understanding Paul’s use of “sanctified” as nothing more than a social sanction is a mistake of massive proportions because it strongly suggests the idea that being bound together with an unbeliever in marriage is not a sinful condition.  The church has taken a serpentine path in order to arrive at its position on this doctrine, which is responsible for a significant percentage of the likely hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of unequally yoked marriages through the centuries.  If contradicting the command against being unequally yoked was the only problem with this view it would be enough to reject it.

The purveyors of the prevailing understanding of Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” would, most of them, claim to agree with the clear biblical teaching that God forbids both the getting and the being unequally yoked, yet they unwittingly and somewhat audaciously argue that believers can sanctify their being unequally yoked by getting unequally yoked?  And what is it that makes this horrible equation amenable in the minds of these godly leaders?  This illogical comprehension prevails because of the misapprehension of Paul’s statement that “the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband”.

So then, the logic of this prevailing understanding argues that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse, which in turn makes the marriage sanctified in the eyes of God, which conflicts with God’s command against being unequally yoked to unbelievers.  Note these equations:

Believer + Unbeliever = Divinely Forbidden Unequally Yoked Relationship

Believer + Unbeliever + Marriage = Divinely Sanctioned Sanctified Relationship

Such illogical thinking would mean that God’s children can enter into marriages with the godless person of their choosing and all such marriages will mystically engender the sanction and blessing of God notwithstanding the fact that it is He who forbids them.  This false doctrine is a monstrous lie that has done great injury to countless Christians through many centuries.  If the institution of marriage had the capability and the charge to overcome unequally yoked relationships then God would not have given the Israelites so many warnings against taking foreign wives and giving your daughters to foreign men in marriage.  Moses, Ezra and Nehemiah most definitely did not agree with such nonsense.  Paul does not hold this position either.  In his letters to the very same Corinthians he said:

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole…clean out the old leaven…”, “ I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one”, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves”, “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife”, “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals”, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.”  “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?”  ‘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’” (1 Corinthians 5:6, 7, 11, 13, 9:5, 15:33, 16:22, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

Paul’s words inspired by the Holy Spirit manifest that God could not possibly be the author of this despicable view.  God does not bless the marriage union between a believer and an unbeliever—He forbids it!  God set righteousness and lawlessness against each other—Marriage has neither the power nor the authority to overturn such.  Neither does marriage have the means to make light and darkness fellowship together.  Neither can marriage bring Christ and the son of destruction into harmony.  God forbid!  Marriage has not the design to make a believer and an unbeliever share communion.  Marriage does not sanction idols being set up in the temple of God.  May it never be!  It seems unthinkable that the church fathers have allowed this to stand and yet, God forgive them, they have indeed done this very thing.

This prevailing understanding of Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” in 1 Corinthians 7:14 creates many other significant difficulties with only enough space here to mention them:  First, it provides no benefit for the believing spouse, but a rather enormous burden, even a mill stone.  Second, sanctification, unlike justification, is never instantaneous, but rather a process to which one must cooperate.  Therefore, this view fails to recognize the necessity of the unbelieving spouse cooperating in this sanctification.  Third, this understanding makes an allowance for an extremely wicked spouse to reside comfortably under the sanctification protection of the believing spouse.  Any actual sanctification is neither expected nor required.  Additionally, no provision or condition is made to limit the unbelieving spouses’ degradation.  Forth, this view happily calls kosher that which is vile and non-kosher.  Viewing sanctified in this way is essentially superstitious as though a thing were so simply because somebody has said it is so notwithstanding the reality or facts to the contrary.  Fifth, understood this way Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” has little to no precedent in the bible.  Sixth, this view conflicts with God’s command against being bound together with unbelievers.  Seventh, this view endangers the family and the local body of Christ by bringing wicked unrepentant people into the place of worship.  Eighth, this view makes the household divided against itself.  Ninth, this view endangers the children from such unequally yoked unions.  Matthew Henry said the children of these unions will receive an undue influence from the unbelieving parent because both are unregenerate.  Finally, the church can actually discipline these godless spouses for their unrepentance and put them out of the church (although sadly they most often do not), but the spouse has no such liberty or authority to do the same in their marriage under this understanding.

Paul’s Intended View: An All-Encompassing Influence

Certainly a good number of the great students of the word of God, over the centuries, have discovered the truth that we see in this text, but it is continually denied and lost by the vast majority of the church due to her disobedience and the sins of the flesh.  Those who happily obey this great truth here lose all hope and expectation that the masses of believers will follow suit—they cannot imagine a scenario where the vast Christian church well rise up to so high a level of obedience when a rather high cost is required from the believers who most need to obey.

We suspect that the great error of the church fathers heretofore has been that the two overarching doctrines under which this discussion has taken place has been Marriage and Divorce without consideration for two even greater and more general doctrines that instruct this subject.  Therefore, our goal will be to manifest Paul’s intended meaning of the word “sanctified” as used in 1 Corinthians 7:14 bearing in mind every doctrine that provides direct guidance.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a great man of God, taught the necessity of arriving at solutions to problems by taking an indirect approach. He said that people always want to take a direct approach to solving problems, which inevitably results in poor outcomes. The direct approach starts with the problem itself and works for a solution using the immediate circumstances or criteria involved in the problem.  He insisted that that is an altogether wrong approach.

On the other hand, the indirect approach requires one to back away from the immediate concern or problem and to begin with the overarching biblical doctrines that apply to the problem at hand.  Start with those great doctrines and work back to the problem or question at hand, and the doctrines will guide you to the proper understanding and the best solution.  With Lloyd-Jones’ logical methodology it became obvious that the prevailing understanding of Paul’s use of the word “sanctify” was arrived upon using a direct approach.  Using the indirect approach has helped me discover their error and correct it.

Therefore, we will not start with pondering Paul’s meaning of the use of the word “sanctified”, but we will start with the four biblical doctrines or truths that provided Paul with light and guidance as he developed this new doctrine (The reader will recall that Paul said he did not receive these instructions from the Lord—presumably by scriptural or special revelation).  Only in the light of all applicable biblical doctrines can we understand the meaning of Paul’s new doctrine, which he no doubt developed using the very same biblical doctrines as his guides.

Paul’s First Guiding Doctrine: SEPARATION

Separation is chronologically first (Genesis 1:4) and it is by far the preeminent of the four doctrines.  The other three doctrines that provide guidance in discovering Paul’s meaning are themselves subject to this doctrine.  From the time of Adam’s fall God’s children have been instructed to remain separate from the world, and their repeated failure to obey this simple command has been their constant downfall.  The failure of the church fathers to faithfully interpret New Testament passages such as Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 7 in such a way so as to bring them into compliance with this command to be separate from the world has created untold harm to the body of Christ.  The continual falling away of churches is a direct result of the failure to heed this great doctrine.

Paul’s Second Guiding Doctrine: DO NOT BE UNEQUALLY YOKED TO UNBELIEVERS

This is a sub-doctrine under the doctrine of separation.  It specifies that separation from the world does, in fact, include close relationships between saints and wordlings.  Jesus taught through His own actions that being in the world is different from being of the world.  Jesus was frequently in the company of publicans and sinners, but He did not do so in order to enjoy the world with them but rather He kept company with them in order to share with them the good news of the gospel—he was being their physician not their partner.  Saints must follow Christ’s example by constantly calling godless souls to repentance and faith in Christ—we too ought to be physicians of the soul.  However, Christians have no liberty whatsoever to become bound together with any unsaved person in any kind of relationship least of all marriage.

In our Lord’s warnings to the seven churches in Revelation Jesus praised the church at Ephesus because they could not “tolerate evil men”, and they tested the teachings of so-called Christians and rejected those who were false teachers.  But sadly Jesus had to rebuke the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira for tolerating those within their body of believers who held false doctrines, and He rebuked the churches at Sardis and Laodicea because most of them were no longer believers—both churches were dying because they tolerated unbelievers in their midst.

Paul’s Third Guiding Doctrine: MARRIAGE

Marriage is God’s institution; therefore, God’s word governs marriage.  Marriage is subordinate to God’s greater commands of separation and the command against being bound together with unbelievers.  Ministers of the gospel should not participate in forbidden marriages.  If Christians insist on marrying an unbeliever, then they should commit their sin without the blessing and assistance of the church.  Couples already unequally yoked in the church should receive special attention from the church elders through loving instruction including a thorough explanation of the gospel and of the doctrines dealing with being unequally yoked.  Unsaved adherents should not be allowed full membership, access to teaching positions, or any leadership roles; however, they are to be loved and constantly attended to until they believe or reject the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  “Teach the truth in love.”  Churches should work toward helping unequally yoked believers repent of their unequally yoked marriages and get back under the complete will of God [Read: The Will of God Dictates Divorce for Those Unequally Yoked In Marriage].

Paul’s Fourth Guiding Doctrine: DIVORCE

Contrary to what we are led to believe marital divorce is not prohibited anywhere in scripture.  If divorce was prohibited anywhere in God’s word, then Paul’s instructions in First Corinthians 7 would have simply referred believers to the biblical prohibition and moved on.  But that is not what we find Paul doing.  Instead Paul wrote a new doctrine to govern divorce for the unequally yoked Christian (The New Testament equivalent to Deuteronomy 24).

So what does God’s word have to say about divorce?  The guidelines for the use of divorce are provided in Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 24).  The guidelines for divorce for unequally yoked Israelites are provided in Deuteronomy 21:10-14.  God divorced Israel because she continued to be unbelieving—God would not remain unequally yoked to Israel.  Ezra and Nehemiah commanded divorce for all who married unbelievers (Ezra 9-10).  And properly taught God does not hate divorce but rather the abusive use of divorce in Malachi chapter 2, which is also what our Lord Jesus teaches against in Matthew 19.  Marriage is a covenant.  Whenever the conditions of a covenant are broken the covenant is broken and the innocent party is no longer bound by the covenant.  Divorce used properly is nothing more than an acknowledgement that one’s marriage covenant has been broken by their spouse and the innocent party is declaring their separation from that covenant breaker.  The typical teaching on forgiveness and restoration is simply unbiblical.  Forgiveness is a duty of every believer, but being restored to a covenant breaker is not normative in God’s word.  God’s wisdom and word dictates separation from covenant breakers.

The mistake is usually made to subordinate the doctrine of divorce to the doctrine of marriage since one necessarily follows the other, but both doctrines belong on the same plain.  Marriage unites one man to one woman and divorce separates couples already married.  The biblical doctrines of marriage and divorce are governed by and subordinate to the prohibition of being bound together with unbelievers, which is itself subordinate to the doctrine of separation.  Understanding these doctrinal relationships should demonstrate how foolish it has been to interpret Paul’s instructions on the doctrines of marriage and divorce in 1 Corinthians 7 independently from the governing light of the two greater doctrines of separation and prohibited relationships to unbelievers.

So Then, How Can The Unjustified Spouse Become Sanctified?

In the light of these four governing doctrines Paul’s meaning of the word “sanctified” becomes clear.  The unbelieving spouse must necessarily be set apart from the unbelieving world for holiness.  Anything short of this would put the believing spouse at risk of being corrupted.  As Paul warned the Corinthians, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  However, this sanctification is not brought about by the Holy Spirit as the believer’s sanctification but by the believing spouse.  In order for the unbelieving spouse to be sanctified, as Paul says here, they must be like Cornelius and other God fearers.  While Cornelius was not born-again and did not yet have the Holy Spirit the scriptures tells us that he was “A devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually” (Acts 10:2).

Cornelius was sanctified in the way that Paul is saying an unbelieving spouse must be sanctified.  The unequally yoked marriage will have the quality of character and the power of ability for producing holiness in abundance when, and only when, the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse in the same way that Cornelius was sanctified by joining the worship of God in the temple.  In other words, they will believe the word of God and submit to the body of Christ even though the Holy Spirit has yet to quicken them into the body of saints.  Unfortunately, this will appear as a very strange doctrine for those who wrongly believe that a man can will his way into the body of Christ.  No man can will or work his way into the body of Christ (Romans 9:16, Ephesians 2:8-9).  Unless God performs a quickening work in us we cannot be children of God.  We are entirely dependent upon God’s Holy Spirit to breathe life into our spiritually dead bodies.  But in rare instances unbelievers can align themselves with the people of God and as did Cornelius fear God and cry out to him until he brings them into the fold.

Being sanctified as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:14 is not merely a social sanction that somehow allows light to fellowship with darkness.  God forbid!  It means that the unbelieving spouse fears God and submits to the ways of the Lord in all ways so that the married couple can live in peace and harmony, and so that the children will be holy.

For a deeper look at Paul’s teaching on sanctification in 1 Corinthians 7 see the article titled: 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 In Context Strengthens the Case for Unequally Yoked Divorce Found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1


1 Corinthians 7:12-16 In Context Strengthens the Case for Unequally Yoked Divorce Found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

Continuing to answer the oft asked question: “Can a Christian divorce an unbeliever?”

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians with words too powerful to be ignored, Paul commands every believer to get out of all unequally yoked relationships.  Note: He does not simply prohibit becoming bound together with unbelievers but he prohibits being bound together with unbelievers.

“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 and unbeliever?  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.’  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.”  II Corinthians 6:14-7:1

How any believer can read, study and meditate upon this biblical mandate and still be uncertain about where God stands on His children being bound together with unbelievers in any relationship is incomprehensible.  Nevertheless, most Christians do seem to equivocate in their understanding and obedience to Paul’s command here.  With such strong and convincing language how is this possible?  Certainly for every relationship other than the marriage relationship the only answer can be that sin continues in the believer and they simply fail to fervently obey God’s command to their own shame and great loss.  Repentance is called for on a daily basis.

But for the marriage relationship, Paul’s instructions on the topic of Christians in unequally yoked marriages found in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter seven are universally misunderstood so that they contradict what Paul says here.  This too is a sin, yet it has been obscured by one simple phrase being applied to this text: “Paul’s command against being bound to unbelievers does not apply to existing marriages because of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7 verses 12-16”.

However, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of this passage that it is directly applicable to marriage and only to marriage, so certainly he disagreed with the commonly held view.    Sadly, some have argued that since Paul does not mention marriage in this passage it cannot be applied to unequally yoked marriages.  Such logic would necessarily mean that the passage does not apply to any relationship since no specific type of relationship is mentioned.

So the proper understanding of 2 Corinthians 6:14f in the light of its ubiquitous presence in the Old Testament and considering the universal and descriptive language that Paul chooses must be that God prohibits his children to be bound together with unbelievers notwithstanding the type of relationship or covenant that binds them.  Sooner or later the believer must fearfully obey God’s command and importune the unbeliever for release.  As Christians they must do so in the most loving and kind way, but importune for release they must.

Therefore, since Paul’s ubiquitous, universal command in the Old Testament, which has been carried forward into the New Testament by Paul cannot properly have any normative exceptions, then it is Paul’s teaching in First Corinthians 7:12-16 that must be understood in such a way so as not to contradict the unassailable command in the second letter.

We have a sharp contrast between the biblically ubiquitous command of 2 Corinthians 6:14 and the entirely unique doctrine in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.  We know that Paul’s teaching here is unique because Paul introduces his instructions with the phrase, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…” (1 Corinthians 7:12 Bold mine).  Paul makes it clear that the instructions he is giving here are not from the Lord’s direct teaching during the time when Paul was taken up into the third heavens, nor did he find these instructions anywhere else in the scriptures.  Nevertheless, Paul’s instructions are inspired by the Holy Spirit, which means that they are divine in origin.

To clarify the issue more, the immediately preceding sentence (verses 10, 11) finds Paul prohibiting divorce for two believers bound in Christian marriages when he says, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband…” (I Corinthians 7:10).  So Paul clearly states that the Lord directly and/or through scripture revealed to him the Christian rule that two members of the body of Christ must not divorce (short of pornia), but whether or not an unequally yoked couple should divorce and under what rules they must follow were not divinely spelled out previously.  Paul was equally clear that he was left to piece this issue together for himself using his knowledge of the word, his wisdom and eminent logic to come to his conclusion.

So then, even with the great apostle’s candid, unguarded transparency much of the church has failed to realize that Paul was teaching the Corinthians that the same rule does not apply to both equally yoked and unequally yoked marriages.  Though this distinction is unmistakable in the text it has been almost entirely obscured by two monumental man-made doctrines even as our Lord Jesus foresaw, “Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.  Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:7-8).  The two precepts of men that obscure Paul’s clear teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 are: First, the papist’s declaring marriage a sacrament.  And secondly, the misappropriation of the scriptural use of marriage as an analogy for the relationships between God and Israel and Christ and His church.  Sadly, time does not allow elaboration here, but the following poem elucidates the horrible outcome:

False Doctrines Bloom from the repeated sowing of false seeds.

Seed by seed,

Garden by garden,

Pasture by pasture,

The lie spreads until it is unimpeachable.

UNDERSTANDING THE DISTINCTION HERETOFORE LOST FOR CENTURIES

In First Corinthians chapter 7 verses 10 and 11 Paul declares by divine decree that an equally yoked Christian couple is prohibited from a marital divorce (assuming fidelity/Christ’s pornia clause); if a separation occurs then reconciliation to one another is their only marital option.  Whereas in the case of the unequally yoked married couple no such divine decree exists–Paul makes this clear at the beginning of verse twelve.  Since this instruction is lacking elsewhere in scripture Paul provides it here for the Christian church.  Paul is not only inspired by the Holy Spirit, but he himself is uniquely qualified for such a task.

See article titled: What Is an Unequally Yoked Marriage?

Here in verses 12 through 16 Paul makes use of a conditional clause to instruct the unequally yoked believer as to the necessary condition to maintaining a marriage to an unrepentant person.  Paul says that the believer unequally yoked in marriage must stay married if, and only if, a specific condition is met.  The great tragedy is that the church, due to the tradition of men, has misunderstood the condition that must be met for the believer to stay in the marriage to an unbeliever.  It is monstrous to even consider that the church has historically forbidden what God permitted when the condition was unmet.

So then, having the letter-perfect understanding of this necessary condition is the key to knowing the heart and mind of God on this issue.  It will also bring both texts from First and Second Corinthians into perfect agreement unlike the heretical method that excludes existing marriages from God’s prohibition against being unequally yoked, which has been the fallback position of the vast majority of theologians on this doctrine.

THE CONDITION FULLY EXPLAINED

Paul’s condition, properly understood, must pacify God’s displeasure with the child who remains bound in marriage to an unbeliever, which without this condition transgresses God’s prohibition in 2 Corinthians 6:14f.  Also this necessary condition must be fully understood by ministers of the word of God before they can faithfully and accurately apply it to the thousands of believers who must navigate these dangerous waters and who desire to land safely in the perfect will of their heavenly Father.

According to Paul, the believer must not divorce their unbelieving spouse as long as the following condition is met:

I Corinthians 7:12-13 “she/he (the unbeliever) consents to live with him/her (the believer)”.

And if this all important condition is not met:

Paul says in verse 15, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us/you to peace.”

So here is the condition: If the unbeliever consents to live with the believer, then the believer must not divorce the unbeliever.  By and large, people fail to ask the right question in order to actually know the heart and mind of God regarding the full meaning of this condition.

Allow a brief example: John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  Yet the very same Son of God said at the end of His Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…”for “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23).  So then, the reader must ask a question of the biblical text in order to be certain that the meaning God intended is the meaning the reader understands.  Here is the question that would need to be asked of John 3:16: What does “whoever believes in Him” actually mean?  Until this is fully and biblically understood the otherwise simple phrase cannot bear the full force of the meaning intended by God, and a person may go throughout an entire lifetime taking their salvation for granted only to hear Jesus say at the great judgment, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”  What an eternally tragic day that will be for perhaps millions of careless people.

In like manner, a very important question must be asked of the biblical text in which Paul provides a condition that, if met, means that a Christian is prohibited from divorcing their unbelieving spouse.  Here is the question that must be asked and answered fully to be sure God’s meaning is perfectly understood: What does ‘consents to live with’ actually mean?  Since verse 15 says, “if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases”, many have made the mistake of thinking that since the word “leaving” marks the failure to keep the condition set forth, then “not leaving” must be the meaning of the condition.  Paul’s use of the phrase “consents to live with” is pregnant with meaning.   Jumping to the conclusion that “not leaving” is all that Paul had in mind is a catastrophic blunder.   To do so is also entirely unnecessary as Paul lays out in the immediate context just what this condition does actually mean.

What does the condition “consents to live with” mean?  First, it must be clear what this condition does not mean.  The great Apostle does not mandate a negative condition but a positive condition, which is to say that the unbeliever cannot meet the condition simply by failing to do something (e.g. fail to leave) but he/she actually has to successfully fulfill a divine requirement (merely staying does not satisfy meeting a positive condition because it cannot be distinguished from the failure to act at all).  Thus the condition does not read: ‘If the unbelieving spouse refuses to leave or refuses divorce, then the believing spouse cannot do so either.’ No, no the unbelieving spouse must not merely be stubborn, unyielding or even virtually comatose in order to meet this condition, but rather he/she must do something.  How absurd it is to think the unbeliever can meet God’s condition by doing nothing.

So then, what does Paul’s condition mean?  Merriam Webster defines consent as being in concord in opinion or sentiment.  And concord is defined as ‘a state of agreement or harmony.  It is an agreement by stipulation, compact or covenant.’  So in essence, the old marriage covenant of two unrepentant sinners sharing their lives together has been invalidated by one becoming born-again (died and resurrected with Christ), and a new covenant being laid out here by Paul must take its place.

Therefore, the unbelieving spouse may consent to the new covenant, but is by no means required to do so.  Right minded people do not consent to covenants or agreements without first inquiring into the conditions of consent.  The reader will see that Paul provides the conditions that the unbelieving spouse must consent to in the immediate context.  On the other hand, the believing spouse is required by Paul’s command to abide by the decision of the unbelieving spouse.  If the unbelieving spouse consents to Paul’s conditions, then the believing spouse will have neither need nor divine permission to  divorce the unbelieving spouse.  One the other hand, if the unbelieving spouse refuses or fails to consent, then the believing spouse has divine sanction and should divorce the unbelieving spouse in obedience to God’s command against unequally yoked marriage, and as Paul says here, “The brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Is this clear enough?  If the unbelieving spouse will not positively consent to this harmonious, distinctly Christian union, then the believer “is not under bondage in such cases.”  Can a Christian divorce their unbelieving spouse?  Yes, if he/she fails to give his/her consent as Paul lays it out so incontrovertibly in this text.  Note: It is the believing spouse who is not under bondage to the old marriage covenant if consent to God’s conditions are unacceptable to the unbelieving spouse.  In other words, God provides no option for either married partner to stay in the relationship if the unbelieving spouse refuses consent to God’s conditions, which are found in the immediate context and will be shown shortly.  The unbelieving partner can consent to God’s condition(s) or he/she can fail to consent and become divorced from the believer.  The believing partner can expect a harmonious Christian marriage partner or they must separate themselves from the marriage all together.  The believing spouse must follow and obey God’s word here and actively pursue divorce if the unbelieving spouse fails to consent because the unbeliever cannot be expected to obey God by leaving when their own failure to consent takes place.  They, in essence, become a squatter that does not belong–expecting them to vacate their position is foolish.  In obedience to God’s command here the believing spouse must evict (divorce) the unbelieving spouse for failure to consent to live with…

The Greek word σᴜνεᴜɗoҡεῑ is translated into English as ‘consents’.  The prefix σᴜν is a marker of accompaniment and association.  The word σᴜνεᴜɗoҡεῑ means to join in approval or agreement with consent to or in harmony with the person to whom one is joining.  What has taken place in an unequally yoked marriage is that God has taken a married couple and removed one of the two people from death to life, from darkness to light and the unbelieving partner must then consent to God’s terms if they are going to continue on with God’s holy child.

Paul Lays Out God’s Conditions of Consent For the Unbelieving Spouse

Now, as stated earlier, the immediate context (Verses 14-16) show how Paul lays out God’s conditions to which the unbelieving spouse must give consent in order to maintain the marriage relationship to a child of God.  God’s first condition to which the unbeliever must consent is to become set apart from the world and toward conformity to the believing spouse even as the believing spouse has been set apart from the world and toward the holiness of God.  Verse 14 says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband…”

A Sanctification Similar to Cornelius In Acts 10: Fearing God While Yet Unsaved

Sanctification is, by nature, a cooperative behavior or activity.  The unbelieving spouse does not receive a superstitious blessing of sorts for merely squatting in the home of a child of God or for merely having their name on a marriage licence.  In order to remain married to the believer the unbeliever must actively cooperate with their believing spouse in this sanctification.  It is very much like the God-fearers: Gentiles who attended the synagogue and followed the teachings of Judaism but who were not full-fledged Jews because they were not circumcised.  So then, a failure on the part of the unbelieving spouse to consent here does not equate to leaving and divorcing, which would actually be the outcome of a failure to consent.  Failure to “consent to live with” here means that the unbelieving spouse refuses cooperation with the believing spouse to become a God fearing couple–he or she refuses to live like the God-fearers lived.

By conforming to the holiness that the Holy Spirit is bringing into the believers life the unbeliever is admitting that God’s ways are greater than man’s ways and will to the best of their ability not impede but rather reflect the changes brought about by the Holy Spirit in the believing spouse.  The vast majority of Evangelicals who very regrettably hold an Arminian view of the gospel (though repudiated twice as heresy by the church fathers) will falsely view this unbelieving spouse as a believer.  But that simply is not the case because they lack saving faith.  Their will is favorable to the Christian religion, yet they lack saving faith.  So then, consent here means that the unbelieving spouse will work at conforming to the godliness their believing spouse is exhibiting rather than being bad company that corrupts the good morals of their believing spouse.  They desire the grace of God necessary to follow the ways of the Lord, but they do not personally cry out for God’s grace of forgiveness because they still love sin more than God.

God’s second condition to which the unbeliever must consent is to help bring up the children in the fear and admonition of the Lord “for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy” (Vs. 14).  So then “consents to live with” means that the unbelieving spouse will not interfere or steer the children in any direction other than being raised in the fear of the Lord.  The unbelievers words and deeds must be consistent with Christian virtues, again following the pattern set out by God fearing Gentiles.  Perfection cannot be obtained by the believer or the unbeliever, but both must be working toward the goal of seeing the children all submit themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and the glory of God in their salvation.

In fact, once an unequally yoked marriage exists the only way for the children to be holy is for the unbelieving spouse to meet all the conditions of consenting to stay.  If the unbelieving spouse leaves (a bad outcome to be sure), then sadly the children may be raised in both homes or they could be raised only in the home of the unbelieving spouse.  If the unbelieving spouse refuses to consent but also is allowed to stay in the marriage (an even worse outcome), then according to Matthew Henry the unbelieving spouse will have an undue influence upon the children as both have unrepentant hearts.  In addition, the children will live in a house divided.  Either way the children will be unclean.  So then, the only “sanctification” in the life of an unbeliever that can make their children “holy” is if they consent to conform to the sanctification they see in their believing spouse.

God’s third condition laid out in the immediate context is that the unbelieving spouse is consenting to a peaceful and harmonious Christian marriage.  Paul says in verse 15, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.”  Clearly if the unbelieving spouse cannot consent to living in peace with the believing spouse, then the believing spouse is to live in peace after divorcing the unbelieving spouse.  Either way peace in the life of the believer is God’s expectation.

Paul traditionally opens his letters with a greeting of Grace and Peace.  He certainly did so in both of his letters to the Corinthian believers.  Paul does so because grace is the source of the Christians’ faith, and peace is the end or purpose of the Christians’ faith.  Peace is so much more than the interval between two wars or between fights.  Peace is the union after a separation or reconciliation after a conquest or quarrel.  Peace is the wall coming down because a separation is no longer necessary—the two have become one.  Once peace becomes a priority the need for the grace of God becomes evident.  When the unbelieving spouse consents to strive to be one with the believing spouse he/she will feel their overwhelming need to cry out to God for grace.  Man cannot have peace with others and he will not even be at peace within himself if he has not first been reconciled to and at peace with God, which necessitates the need for God’s grace.  The unbeliever must consent to a peaceful and harmonious Christian marriage.

God’s final condition provided in the immediate context is that the unbelieving spouse will consent to the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.  “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife” (Vs. 16)?  Consent here refers to something short of salvation.  This final aspect of the condition does not mean that the unbelieving spouse must be saved, but it does mean that they must not reject the gospel as the only way to come out from under the wrath of God.  They fail in their “consent to live with” if they become an enemy of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When the unbelieving spouse consents to live with the believing spouse in all of these ways, then the believing spouse is free from the guilt of being bound together with an unbeliever as God prohibits with such strong language in II Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  We certainly have hope that the unbeliever who consents to these four conditions will soon see their sin for what it is and cry out to God for forgiveness at which time they would join their spouse as a recipient of the grace of God–two saints joined together in marriage is indeed a beautiful relationship.

The believing spouse has the responsibility to be patient and assist their unbelieving partner as they are called to consent to the demands Paul lays out.  They must place their trust in the plans that God has made for them and for their spouse.  And if at any time the unbelieving partner refuses and rebuffs God’s prescribed plan of consent to live with the believing spouse, then the believer needs to recognize their failure to consent to live with them for what it is and they must begin asking the Lord for the wisdom and timing to pursue an honorable divorce so that they will not be guilty of being bound together with an unbeliever.  It is for this very circumstance that Paul said, “the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases” (Vs. 15).  So then, the answer to the question, “Can a Christian divorce an unbeliever” is a very solid yes.

A final clarification is necessary here.  The careful reader may note that Paul does not use a language suggesting that these four clauses are conditions of the unbelievers consent to stay, and we would agree.  Paul is providing the four clauses to show Christians what the effects or outcome of the unbeliever’s consent will look like for the believer.  The only way to arrive at the outcomes Paul describes in verses 14-16 is for the unbelieving spouse to consent as we have demonstrated in this article.  These holy effects as seen in the marriage and the family define and explain the conditions of consent without which such outcomes would not be realized.

Heavenly Father, I ask that you will open the eyes of those who cannot see and revive your church in our day.


How the Church Missed God’s Permission (Mandate) to Divorce When Unequally Yoked In Marriage

Unity for the sake of unity is neither a biblical idea nor a rational ideal.  Churches and marriages are two beautiful examples of unity.  Church unity is seen in Paul’s final chapter to the church at Rome as Paul sends his greeting to twenty-six members of the church by name.  Paul encouraged them to express their unity by greeting one another with a holy kiss (Vs. 16).

Nevertheless, in the very next verse Paul turns to a negative aspect of unity.  “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Romans 16:17).  In the midst of demonstrating the beauty of church unity in his greeting to all the saints in Rome he urges the churches to put out of their assemblies those who reject the teaching of the Lord and the apostles and thereby destroy unity in the truth.

The desire for unity springs up out of an environment of disunity.  Sin not only introduced sickness and death into the world but it also introduced separation.  There will be no cries or movements for unity in heaven.  Unity is a virtue when people unite around that which is good or righteousness.  For instance, all who are in Christ Jesus will be united in heaven, the allies came together against the axis of evil during the Second World War, regenerate believers come together to start biblically centered churches, and vast and disparate populations come together to rescue their neighbors who have been wiped out by natural disasters.

Unity can also be a vice or a sin when people unite for evil or unrighteous purposes often as a response to having grown weary of disagreements and arguing without end.  Examples include ecumenical movements in religion, the axis of evil (Germany, Japan and Italy) during the Second World War, and the unity of the Democratic Party and major media outlets, higher education institutions, and Hollywood.

If unity is to be a virtue in a fallen world, it must exclude wicked people.  Therefore universal unity for righteousness cannot be had as long as unrepentant sinners continue in their rebellion against God.  So then, Paul’s advice to, “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” is a necessary component of righteous unity.

Not surprisingly, churches for over two thousand years have followed Paul’s advice.  They have both put people out of the church and they have split apart and become two churches when those who cause dissension and hindrances contrary to biblical teaching have become a faction within the church.

J.C. Ryle taught as much:

“Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion.  They weaken the cause of Christianity…But before we blame people for them, we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved.  False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism.  If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved.  In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin…The old saying must never be forgotten, ‘He is the schismatic who causes the schism’…Controversy in religion is a hateful thing…But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.”  (J.C. Ryle quote in Evangelicalism Diveded by Iain Murray).

A marital divorce between a believer and an unbeliever is to a family what a schism between faithful Christians and heretical Christians is to a church.  In both instances the blame must be placed where it is deserved.  Unequally yoked unions (marriage or otherwise) should be added to false doctrines and heresy as things that are worse than schism.  As Ryle recommends praise and virtue for those who would separate themselves from heretical teaching I cannot see any reason not to recommend the same for those who would separate themselves from heretical, unbelieving spouses.

It should be easy to see that all Christian unity must be centered on Jesus Christ as he is revealed in Scripture.  Secondly, the word of God is the very source of truth, and all teaching must be measured by the word of God and eminent reason.  Along both of these lines the permanence of marriage view comes into conflict.  This flawed view on marriage thinks marriage and not Jesus to be the source of Christian unity…regarding the unity formed by a marriage.  An unequally yoked marriage cannot find its unifying source in the Lord Jesus because half of the partnership denies Christ’s authority and advocacy.  Secondly, the permanence of marriage view fails to take into account the fall and subsequently all of God’s laws to govern the fallen.  Though it be true that the mandate of the permanence of marriage did indeed precede man’s fall into sin, but after the fall took place the permanence view fails to account for vessels of God’s wrath, unequally yoked marriages, God’s command against unequally yoked marriage, and bad company/communications corrupting good morals.

In other words, vessels of wrath were not in the picture when God declared that marriage would be permanent.  Now that they are in the picture does God still want vessels of mercy to be permanently bound to vessels of wrath?  God’s word clearly teaches and mandates that God most definitely does not want believers bound to unbelievers in any relationship.

This has become a rather significant problem as the rest of man’s affairs are dealt with by God’s laws that were given to govern a fallen mankind, but many treat marriage differently and refuse to allow it to be governed by God’s law.  Because of this, the institution of marriage has been, for all practical purposes, exalted above the laws of God.  It is as though marriage alone continues as God had originally intended prior to the fall even though wicked people would now be in those marriages and marriage would clearly need to be subject to God’s moral laws.

So then, rather than achieving perfect harmony in marriages this view has created disharmony in perhaps millions of Christian marriages and churches.  All of this disharmony is a direct result of the permanence view being held above the laws of God—it has been treated as unassailable even to God’s moral laws.  If marriages were properly understood so as to be subject to God’s laws, then unequally yoked marriages would be dissolved as soon as the believer became convicted of the sinful union.  And church leaders would be calling upon their members to repent of unequally yoked marriages rather than urging them to seek unity between light and dark, righteousness and lawlessness, Christ and ungodliness, and the temple of God and idols.  It is heartbreaking to think that for centuries the permanence view of marriage has been coercing saints bound together with unbelievers to “help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord”.

Believers who realize that they are in unequally yoked marriages soon discover that keeping one’s vow is pitted against God’s command prohibiting unequally yoked relationships.  And being loyal and obedient to one’s spouse is pitted against the command to come out from the midst of the world and be separate.  And staying married to an unrepentant vessel of wrath prepared for God’s destruction is pitted against God’s command against helping the wicked and loving those who hate the Lord (2 Chronicles 19:2).

Hopefully the reader sees the elephant in the room (preceding paragraph)?  This is one ginormous elephant!  Follow closely: What (in context) preceded the fall of Adam and Eve into sin?  Answer: Marriage.  And what was God’s intention for marriage before the fall?  Answer: Marriages were permanent pairings (two halves of the one whole).  And finally: What (in context) did not exist before the fall?  (Clue: look at the previous paragraph).  Answer: Vessels of wrath, unequally yoked relationships and God’s moral command to separate from the wicked.  That is correct!  None of these things existed at the time when God intended marriage to be permanent.  Needless to say, God’s original intention of permanence in marriage is still a reality in equally yoked marriages between two believers in Christ.

So then, should saints, with their heads buried in the sand, continue in God’s original intention for marriage acting like no wolves in sheep’s clothing are prowling about?  Or must we follow God’s moral law that was given to govern this fallen world…the very Law that blazes vessels of God’s wrath in a light as bright as the sun, and strictly prohibits marriage to them?

It would seem that the permanence of marriage defenders want to carry on as though the fall never happened.  If only, they must be thinking, we could follow God’s pre-fall plan.  Then we would have no need for church divisions and marital divorces.  That would be nice because divisions and divorces are so very ugly and messy.  Oh, and we would not need repentance either, or faith, or Christ’s atoning sacrifice, hope, unity, truth, honor, forgiveness, the indwelling Spirit, hospitals, graves, tears, locks, keys, weapons…the list of things for which we would have no need is endless.  Yes, well if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, then we all could have a great big party.  But we have to live in a world that has fallen.  A world that is governed by God’s moral law.  A world in dire need of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.  A world with necessary divisions and divorces to separate the vessels of mercy from the vessels of wrath.

The church through the centuries has permitted local bodies of Christ (churches) to divide years after the people involved have covenanted together to form a place of worship, and they have done so because of Paul’s command to “turn away from them.”  In other words, whenever dissenters rise up within the church to take an unbiblical view/direction the church is allowed to put them out and covenant only with the obedient children of God.  Marriages must not be treated differently for the members of a marriage require the very same protections so obviously needful for members of a church.  Both churches and marriages should be safe havens for God’s saints…places that edify and build up…that support the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification.

Dealing with vessels of God’s wrath is not pretty (nor is surgically removing a tumor), but it is necessary because of dissension within the body of Christ.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  This has not merely been an allowance from the Lord but it is a mandate.  Yet many in the church have blindly and mistakenly worked very hard to restrict believers caught up in unequally yoked marriages from faithfully obeying God’s laws designed to protect believers from the contagion of unrepentant sinners.

Why have they done this?  They have acted in this way because in their mind marriage has been exalted above the commandments of God.  Luther, Calvin and the Puritans declared that marriage was a civil matter, but far too many believers continue to follow the Roman Catholic bastardization of marriage by treating it like a sacrament.  Holy matrimony is a man-made monstrosity (no offense intended to those who like me are blessed with an equally yoked marriage).  God is holy.  God’s word is holy.  But everything else in this world must be subject to the laws of God because of the sinfulness of man.

God instituted one man and one woman for life, but he did so when the fall had not yet taken place.  From the time of the fall until the present day the institution of marriage has been subject to all of the laws of God that govern the affairs of fallen men.  God’s law not only forbids unequally yoked marriages, but also homosexual, polygamous, and incestuous and marriages.  The church should have treated unequally yoked marriages the very same way it treats the other three forbidden marital unions.  Having failed to do so, the church now finds itself upon a precipice; it will soon fall one way or the other.  In allowing one of the four forbidden marital unions the church has no one to blame but itself as it begins its decent down this slippery slope.

For some time now millions of so called Christians have been embracing homosexual lifestyles and marriages.  Why?  Homosexuality and soon polygamy are going to be considered mainstream in the churches because of the untold numbers of believers who are unequally yoked in their marriages.  Their wicked spouses demand that they “love” (by love they mean to advocate for and to celebrate) the homosexuals who for no fault of their own prefer homosexual relations.  The Supreme Court of the United States of America has acted like a legislative body and written a law legalizing homosexual marriages just as they legalized the murder of unborn babies in 1973.

Wake up O sleeping church before it is too late.  Is it not obvious that our children are being lost to a modern Sodom and Gomorrah?  Now is not the time to look back as did Lot’s wife to her eternal ruin (She was looking back to the world that she loved).  Repentance begins with obeying the commandments of God and separating light from darkness.  Repent of your unequally yoked marriages.  Separate yourselves from your defiled churches.  Repent of your failure to protest the false doctrines that have crept into the church.  Repent of your love for this world and its ways.

Paul, speaking the very words of God told the Corinthians to, “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” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

The corporate sin of the church on this issue is massive.  It is such a complicated issue that churchmen have thrown up their hands and surrendered.  They have sat down when they should have stood up.  They have left the people of God to figure out for themselves what the churchmen could not comprehend for themselves.  And to add insult to injury, the one law regarding this matter that they enforce is a manmade law that entraps God’s children in divinely prohibited marriages for the entirety of their earthly lives.  It has been a travesty of major proportions.  It is time for churchmen to learn the biblical truth and stand up once again.

This failure is due largely because of the insistence to follow God’s original intent for marriage when marriage is and must be subject to all of God’s moral laws that govern sinful people.