Monthly Archives: April 2014

1 Corinthians 7: 12-13 Divorce of Unbelieving Spouse

Many who hold the “no divorce for any reason” position take a couple of verses from 1 Corinthians 7 out of context and use them to overturn scores if not hundreds of passages of scripture that would indicate something far different than the conclusion these people prefer.  They are insistent on their argumentation that as long as an unbelieving spouse consents to stay with their believing spouse that the believer is obligated by a command of scripture to stay in that marriage regardless of the fact that their unbelieving spouse repeatedly breaks the conditions of their covenant and regardless of the believing spouses having to break with their conscience in response to the command Paul gives in II Cor. 6:14-18 that we must not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

If these verses in 1 Corinthians 7 did in fact represent a clear universal command for all believers to obey, then our Lord’s exception clause, “except for pornia” that establishes the right for a faithful spouse to divorce an unfaithful spouse would be disallowed whenever the unbeliever wants to remain in the marriage.  Do you see the problem with this?  Not only would an unbeliever be free to commit sexual sins without consequences in this lifetime, but the believing spouse would be forced to engage in sexual relations with their unfaithful spouse exposing them to every venereal disease imaginable.  And that is just the physical danger that the believer would be exposed to in this scenario.  The worst exposure would be the damage done to their spiritual development and the spiritual development of any children from the marriage.  Matthew Henry in his comments on Nehemiah’s last chapter says that in unequally yoked marriages the children receive an undue influence from the unbelieving spouse.  My personal experience in a 27 year marriage to an unbeliever would strongly support his statements. And my children have made big strides in the less than three years since my divorce.

Seeing 1 Corinthians 7: 12-13 in this light has created a man-made doctrine that is inconsistent with Jesus’ exception clause and with much of scripture on the subject of unequally yoked marriages.  As I understand their teachings on the subject R. C. Sproul and John MacCarthur are among many in the body of Christ who disagree with this view as held by those who so much desire to restrict divorce more than scripture itself.  Sadly they want to restrict divorce to those who badly need to be freed from a godless partner and united to a fellow saint. 


Divorce Is Treated Differently

Divorce compared to taking a life (killing)

            The dissolution of a marriage and the taking of a human life are alike in many important ways.  Neither is ideal, and neither would have been necessary or good had it not been for mankind’s fall from God’s grace.  Nevertheless, both are allowances that God has provided in order to lessen or curtail the continual creep of sin and its grasp upon mankind.  Consider the following chart:

                Scenario                                                                                              Killing allowed             Divorce allowed

Self-defense:  when someone is trying to harm or kill another.                                     

Self-defense:  when a person physically beats their spouse or kids.                                                                      

War:  when an aggressive civilization attacks a peaceful civilization.                           

War:  when a saint is tied to an unbeliever who engages in spiritual warfare.                                                       

High crimes: God commanded the death penalty for many crimes.                             

High Crimes: continually, unrepentantly breaking several covenant conditions.                                                    

 

           
One would expect to find people who think and believe that it is never right to take a life.  Logically, killing people is a far more severe punishment than divorcing people (at least in the vast majority of cases), so it would make sense that more people would object to killing people.  By and large, in non-Christian circles killing is more objectionable than divorcing.  However, in most conservative Christian circles the exact opposite is true.  These Christians have little or no problem with the idea of killing people for the reasons noted in the chart, and at the very same time they are very often profoundly against justifiable divorces.  In fact, Americans across the board tend to call our soldiers who have served in wars heroic, and bear in mind that they have presumably killed foreign combatants.  War heroes are by definition killers.  Most also think of the little old lady or the young child who shoots and kills an armed intruder as heroic—especially if he was later discovered to have had a long rap sheet including many violent crimes.  When was the last time a divorcee was hailed as heroic?  Among conservative Christians, appropriate distinctions exist in the collective psyche between murdering an innocent person and the justifiable taking of a life, but no such distinctions exist for divorce.   All divorces are considered unlawful.  All divorcees are treated like unrepentant dogs.  They are all subjected to shame and discredited as having proven to be people of low character who cannot be entrusted with Christian ministry.  The prevalent attitude on divorce and divorcees can be likened to a people who treat their war heroes and their serial killers as if they were the same.  Imagine the outcry if Barack Obama suggested Americans were to take this perspective.  Yet this is the prevalent attitude directed at every divorced person.

           

Whenever the world has a more balanced perspective on a moral issue than does the church it is likely that believers, in relation to that issue, have fallen into the Pharisaical pattern of legalism/judgmentalism.  It was the Pharisees who cleverly sought out ways to discredit God’s prophets and Christ’s disciples.  Unchurched Americans currently recognize the need for some divorces.  They also, by and large, have the wisdom to recognize when someone has been a cad and when someone involved in a marriage/divorce has been a saint.  Yet many in the church cannot discern one from the other because of their animus or prejudice against divorce in general.  The outcome of this in the church is that during a divorce process God’s children turn against their brothers in Christ in order to support the very godless men and women who have made the life of their regenerate spouse a living hell by choosing day after day and year after year to remain unrepentant.  It is like a man who has been slowly poisoned to death for months by his godless wife.  Finally suspecting her actions he calls his church to come to his aid at once.  Two men from his church arrive and hold him down while his wife gives him the final and fatal dose.  That is how it feels when a necessary ending, a justifiable divorce begins and God’s people attack the brother or sister involved.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above Your fellows (Psalm 45:7).

Men of bloodshed hate the blameless, but the upright are concerned for his life…An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, and he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked (Proverbs 29:10 & 27).

           

Seven reasons exist for this regretful reality, but the reader should first be careful to take a few moments in order to fully grasp how odd it is that those who actually take life from somebody are given greater latitude and license by most believers than are those who remove themselves from the bad company of an unrepentant sinner to whom they were married.  This is indeed lamentable.

Reason 1:  God Simply Did Not Speak Fully on Divorce

            First, consider the primary and foundational reason for this strange state of affairs:  The Scriptures are considerably clearer on God’s commands in the case of putting to death certain classes of people than they are in His commands on divorce.  Because God has not spoken extensively on divorce it is left to God’s children to decipher the biblical teaching on the subject.  This inevitably leads to differences of opinion.  Once a considerable segment of Christians determine that divorce is wrong, then they are often prone to dogmatically argue that the Scriptures are God’s revelation of His commands, and it is not man’s place to question what God has commanded (frequently neglecting to mention their interpretive role in difficult cases brought on by a lack of scriptural clarity).  In other words, if God said it (and if they have determined its meaning), then it must be true regardless of the fact that other God fearing Christians differ based upon their own understanding of God’s word.  Often, even when other trustworthy men of God understand God’s revelation on a topic differently these believers rarely seems to temper their dogma and enthusiasm for it—in fact it often ratchets it up a notch.

 
          
Conservative Christians agree that God is our highest authority, and the Scriptures are God breathed, so then the Scriptures supersede logic.  However, are God and His Word illogical?  By no means!  Or do we, when our interpretation of a doctrine in Scripture is illogical, withdraw our cognitive exertions and throw up our hands saying, “I guess God did not want to be logical on this point!”?  Of course not.  However, this seems to be the stance of Permanence View Christians on this issue. Logically, killing people is more severe than divorcing people.  The Permanence View Christians believe that Divorce is always wrong but do not believe that killing people is always wrong.  Does this mean that God and His word are illogical?  Of course not!  God has not created this problem—it is man’s mess.  It is the illogical view of some of God’s children to say that on the one hand people can be so evil that they must be killed while insisting on the other hand that those same evil people must NOT be divorced.

           

It is acknowledged that the Permanence View crowd would then argue that it is not the actions of evil people that God prohibits and deems worthy of discipline or even death, but the actions of God’s people.  In other words, God holds Christians to His standard, not non-Christians.  But let us look at the reason for God commanding death to evil people in the first place.  God’s children are commanded to take whatever course is necessary to eliminate every hindrance to their walks with Him, including killing when appropriate, as we see in the Israelites’ conquest and settlement of the land of Canaan.  God’s people were commanded to take over the cities of Canaan not by peacefully strolling into each town with convincing arguments and good politics, but by force—being told to “totally destroy” (Judges 1:17, NIV) the Canaanite cities upon which they were advancing.  The Hebrew word used for destroy here means “the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them” (NIV).  “Irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord” connotes an irreversible event meant to completely remove any trace of what existed there before, especially in this case, the remnants of idolatry and paganism from the previous ungodly Canaanite occupants.  This included killing every inhabitant in those cities mainly because they would be the main vehicles of idolatry to God’s people. 

This is not something with which a holy people are to treat lightly, the threat of corruption and sin warrants decisive, harsh, gutsy action on the part of the believer in order to protect themselves from letting anything come between them and the Lord.  Thus, if death and complete destruction is allowed and even commanded for God’s people in order to protect them from being pulled into sin by evil and idolatrous people around them, and death is a more severe consequence than a divorce, we must be allowed to divorce an unbeliever when they are a hindrance to our walk with God.  Indeed if God expects us to do whatever it takes to stay close to Him, including the killing of other human beings, then it would be illogical for God to decree that anything less severe than death off limits.

           

So why have so many godly saints drawn this illogical conclusion?  The answer to that question is the entire purpose of this chapter.  It is being argued that seven reasons are responsible for the unbiblical conclusion that God forbids all marital divorce.  The first reason above is that God has not spoken with the kind of clarity necessary to avoid disagreement on the subject.  It must be said at this juncture that mature believers SHOULD be less affected by the following six reasons, but the whole Christian culture through the centuries has opened all Christians up to the effects of these influences.  They can be and are resisted by those more mature in their walk, but the influence they bring is always substantial.

 
          
The other six reasons are: 2. divorce is a fringe issue, 3. the majority unwittingly fall into a presuppositional approach to the Scriptural teaching on divorce, 4. a misplaced zeal in regards to marriage among the saints, 5. group think, 6. jealousy, and 7. judgmentalism.  Some of these reasons are discussed at great length elsewhere in this work, but some explanation is necessary here.  Note: these final six reasons that influenced this unbiblical conclusion do not each stand separate from one another but are rather interwoven into the fabric of the divorce issue as it has evolved over the centuries.  Said another way, these last six reasons lend support to each other as they influence minds against using divorce as a tool for good—they do not have an influence over the seeker of truth separately but concurrently.  Theologians cannot examine the topic of divorce under the influence of just one of these reasons without being influenced by one or more of the others.  The most spiritually mature are able to lesson some of the influence from these reasons, but it is evident, regrettably so, that it is very difficult to do.

Let Us Consider These Major Influences upon the Seeker of Truth on the Topic of Unequally Yoked Divorce.

Reason 2:  Divorce Is a Fringe Issue

           
Statistics claim that half of all marriages end in a divorce.  That does not sound like a fringe issue, but it clearly is for most of God’s children.  Divorce may touch most people one way or another through the broken marriage of a relative or friend, but for many it never really strikes too close to home.  Single people need not concern themselves with it, married people who chose well need not concern themselves with it, and many more people who although they do not have great marriages nevertheless have good enough marriages so that their conscience is not pricked to work on their marriage enough to be in a position to contemplate whether the tool of divorce should be considered.  Divorce is a fringe issue because it is not for example: God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, man, sin, grace, sovereignty, justification, sanctification, obedience, faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, elders, evangelism, soteriology, eschatology, and so on.  God and His word are so wonderful that men have much to study and meditate upon long before they come to the subject of divorce and remarriage.

           

In addition, it is a very complicated issue to study—those who have never tried might be surprised to see just how difficult it is to study the issue of divorce.  The average mind does not possess the capacity to compile, consider and comprehend together all the facets of the divorce and remarriage doctrines.  An individual would need to be highly motivated to break down all the factors involved and really grasp the concepts discussed in scripture on this subject.  Taken together this means that most will not do their homework on this subject.  The topic is simply too fringe for most believers to invest the time necessary to understand this complicated subject.  This is the foundational culture that paves the way for the third reason that so many conservative Christians wrongly take a stand against their brethren who need God’s provision of divorce.

Reason 3:  A Presuppositional Approach to the Scriptural Teaching on Divorce is Unavoidable

             
By the time God’s people get around to studying the issues involved in divorce and remarriage they have long since been predisposed to be against the whole idea.  Generally speaking Christians are pretty happy and content in their anti-divorce leanings, but all too often they become smug and take a holier-than-thou attitude.  Many Christians do, in fact, exhibit an offensive satisfaction with their own situation especially so as it relates to divorce.  Imagine beginning a study on the subject of divorce and remarriage.  What leaps to mind immediately?  For many it is the short quote: “God hates divorce”.  This quote from the Old Testament book of Malachi is discussed at great length elsewhere in this work, but it is clear what influence this quote would have on a student at the onset of their study.  Two additional scriptural quotes from the nineteenth chapter of Matthew would likely be in ones mind at the onset of a study on divorce: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate”, and “Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

           
These short memorable quotes are only part of the anti divorce and remarriage mindset in Christianity.  Everything about Christianity pushes its followers away from divorce—just as everything in Christianity pushes its followers away from killing people.  God commanded Saul as well as other kings to kill every man, woman and child in the countries that the Israelites were clearing out so that they could possess the Promised Land.  Why?  Why kill everyone instead of just killing the soldiers?  If the Israelites would have failed to kill everyone, then they would have been contaminated by the sinful cultures of the godless people they refused to kill.  In the same way, if Christians fail to separate themselves from Godless spouses, then those spouses will contaminate their children, their relatives and their friends not to mention the contamination to them.  This was the very reason that Ezra commanded the divorce of all the men who took foreign wives.  See the chapter on Ezra in the section on Scriptural support for divorce and remarriage.

           
In a related fashion, to kill is to cause the death of another.  Divorce, like death, is a separation brought upon man by sin.  Both can be necessary and even good when man’s present state is considered.  Of course separation is not ideal but neither is the world in which man lives.  If Christians are not separated from one another by death, then they will never reach the greatest state for a man—to be with the Lord and clothed with a new heavenly body.  “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (Psalm 116:15). The same is true for divorce.  If Christians are not separated from their unequally yoked spouses, then they would never reach one of the greatest states on earth, which is to have constant fellowship with a spouse—iron sharpening iron on a daily basis with the one person with whom we spend most of our time.  Note:  It is important that the reader understand that God must move each believer in their own conscience toward such a hard road.  Divorce will be unbelievably hard and painful for most, but when it is entered into for the right reasons believers should at least have the support of their local church family.  Presently they are often pushed out of their local church family when God has moved them toward separating from a godless spouse.

Reason 4:  Misplaced Zeal for Marriage Over God Honoring Relationships

           
Many Christians feel that because they do not need a divorce that nobody should be able to get a divorce.  Christians who have good, godly spouses still struggle with and in their marriages.  So the mindset is, “if I can struggle through the rough spots of my marriage, then so can those who are opting for divorce—they are taking the easy way out.”  Really?  Are you under the impression that a divorce is easy?  Does a major broken relationship sound easy?  Would you like to lose everything you have been building for years? Does it sound easy to have to start all over again?  Do you think going through a first year of marriage again is easy?  Are you under the impression that loving and raising step-children is easy?  Does having another mother-in-law sound even remotely easy? Take a moment to thank God right now for your believing spouse, then stop thinking that your unequally yoked brothers and sisters have the same problems that you have in your marriage.

           
People can be very cruel about things they do not understand.  One of the reasons that we are not suppose to judge one another is because we cannot see the things hidden in the darkness and we do not know the motives of men’s hearts.  True believers are led by the Holy Spirit and are commanded to follow their own conscience.  Each believer alone knows the manifold details of their own life that are hidden to all other’s eyes except God’s.  Since no one knows the things hidden in the darkness in another person’s life, no one should be the judge of another.

           
An equally yoked marriage is not the same as an unequally yoked marriage.  God never intended his children to be in unequally yoked marriages.  Some people become believers after their marriage and find themselves in an unequally yoked marriage–Paul’s intended audience for 1 Corinthians 7:12-14.  More frequently, marriage often takes place between two young people, and young people are naturally inexperienced.  Inexperienced people often make stupid mistakes and take sinful paths through life.  Young believers in Christ are not immune to poor decision making.
 
Young believers in Christ, all too frequently, get married to somebody who fails to exhibit clear signs of being a growing Christian.  The person claims to be a Christian.  They were raised in a “Christian home”.  So they must be a Christian.  Right?  Once a young Christian has “fallen in love” it is next to impossible to talk sense into them—because they are stupid.  Some young Christians marry someone they are not even in love with because they had sexual relations with that person and they believe the two have already become one, and the only way to make right the sin(s) they have committed is to marry the person.  STUPID!  It may be an honorable thing they are trying to do but it is out of ignorance.  God does not want His children to be in unequally yoked relationships.

           

How exactly do many Christians have a misplaced zeal?  It is misplaced when their zeal is for the institution of marriage rather than for the God honoring relationships.  When some Pharisees questioned Jesus as to why His disciples were picking the heads of grain on the Sabbath, “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath came into being for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27).  The same could be said for marriage.  Marriage came into being for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of marriage.  Marriage serves men primarily by making their relationships more honoring to God and secondly, more fulfilling for mankind.  When a marriage cannot achieve those two objectives, then that marriage should be dissolved, so that the two partners can find a relationship that is capable of achieving those objectives.  The marriage is not an end in itself.  It is a means to an end.  Once the institution (the means) ceases to move a couple toward the objective (the end) and it actually pushes them away from the objective, then the institution for that couple has become so broken that it needs to be dissolved.  It needs be pointed out that the institution of marriage has not failed in such cases.  The people involved have failed to use the institution as it was intended to be used.  But when their failure cannot be rectified, then divorce should and must be allowed, even encouraged, as in Ezra’s day.

           

Many Christians think that because Christianity is the champion of marriage that divorce cannot be good or appropriate.  When I was a young boy I remember my parents having a discussion.  My mother thought that if she died my father could best honor their wonderful marriage by not remarrying because a second marriage would necessarily diminish the grandness of the first marriage.  My dad countered by saying that if their marriage was so great, then his getting remarried would be a testament to the greatness of his first marriage.  What my mother failed to realize was that people do not exist to serve the institution of marriage and make it great, but rather marriage exists to serve mankind and to make life more fulfilling.  Had my mother died young and my father refused to remarry in order to honor my mother and their marriage, then my father would have lived the remainder of his years without the relationship that God intended for man even before sin entered into the world.

           

Marriage is about great, God-honoring relationships between men and women.   When two Spirit-filled Christians marry they, by definition, are two people who experientially repent from sin on a daily basis.  This means that they should never have to get a divorce.  Whenever sin enters into the relationship if both are saved, then both have the capacity to repent effectively removing the sin from the relationship so that it can remain great and God honoring.  When a Christian finds that they are married to a non-Christian (even when the non-Christian claims to be a Christian) the marriage cannot be nearly as great or as God-honoring.  That being said, some unequally yoked marriages are better than others, but the reality is the same.  One of the partners does not live for the glory of God, and this will always have a negative effect upon the relationship.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; 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.  II Corinthians 7:14-17

           

Part of the misplaced zeal for the institution of marriage is seen in the sound advice regularly given to young Christians, which is “Do not even date an unbeliever so that you will not ‘fall in love’ and find yourself in an unequally yoked marriage.”  Sound advice, but it has already been established that young people are very often stupid.  Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers do not say, “Do not get bound together with unbelievers”; he said, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”.  For the misplaced zeal crowd, every stupid young Christian who foolishly married an unbeliever is all too easily thrown under the bus of worshipping the institution of marriage.

           

In a discussion with a man who held the permanence view of marriage and divorce he said, “Marriage is the second most important thing in the bible after the glory of Christ.”  His meaning was not just intended as his personal viewpoint; he actually believed that of all the biblical doctrines marriage between a man and a woman was the second most significant.  Sadly no elaboration was offered at the time, but this demonstrates the kind of zeal that exists for the institution that was intended to serve mankind.  The author presumes this man was actually referring to the analogy of marriage as it relates to Christ as the groom and the Church as the bride.  Certainly some argument can be made that the restoration of God’s fallen creation ranks very high in biblical doctrines, but it seems quite a leap to say that the institution of marriage apart from its analogous usage sits in this lofty place.

Reason 5:  Group Think

           

The part of the Christian church that takes the bible seriously and holds it up as the ultimate standard of truth and as the highest earthly authority for believers (the true body of Christ) is, regrettably, largely guilty of groupthink when it comes to the issue of divorce and remarriage.

Wikipedia on groupthink:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. It is the mode of thinking that happens when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, structural faults, and situational context play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process.

The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking. As a social science model, groupthink has an enormous reach and influences literature in the fields of communications, political science, social psychology, management, organizational theory, and information technology.

The majority of the initial research on groupthink was performed by Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale University. His original definition of the term was, “A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive ingroup, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.”

Irving Janis’ main principle of groupthink states:

The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making ingroup, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions against outgroups.

           

By these definitions no group could be more susceptible to groupthink than the body of Christ.  The Permanence View of marriage leaves no room for realistic appraisal of alternative views.  God’s holy word does not need alternative viewpoints, but the understanding of His word does indeed often need open mindedness to be certain that God’s message has not been distorted or missed altogether.  The danger of groupthink is very real.  Independent critical thinking should still be an ideal for believers; however, it seems that groupthink has put the church in a corporately sinful position of killing their wounded.  When it comes to divorce the Permanence View leads the way on irrational thinking and dehumanizing actions against the divorced.  At a time when a believer is most in need of the church’s support they are attacked and treated like an outsider.  One of the authors of this book has lost both a teenager to cancer and a marriage to an unbelieving spouse of over 25 years to divorce and be assured that they are comparable in terms of the pain that each event causes in one’s life.  By and large, the church circles around the parent of a dying child, but they are the ones shooting the arrows at the brother or sister going through a divorce.  This is not consistent with the spirit of Christian love and it must be addressed within the body of Christ.

           

On the subject of divorce and remarriage the body of Christ has experienced group pressures towards consensus that have lead to concurrence-seeking tendencies.  The sinful reality is that conservative Christians have taken a more restrictive position on divorce and remarriage than has God’s Holy Scriptures.  Often it has been said that it is better to err on the side of caution.  The permanence view has done that and it has been very destructive in the lives of thousands if not millions of people.  To err is to stray from the truth or to make a mistake.  On this significant issue it is better not to err at all.

Reason 6:  Jealousy

            Webster’s definition of what it means to be jealous is so significant that it must be provided for the reader:

1

a: intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness

b: disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness

2

: hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage

3

: vigilant in guarding a possession <new colonies were jealous of their new independence

 

           

Simply unpacking these definitions is all that is necessary to show jealousy’s role in pushing Christians toward a stronger stance against divorce and remarriage than what is warranted in God’s word.

1a:  intolerant of rivalry

            Christians fear that the merry-go-round marriages of the Hollywood celebrities and the allowance of homosexual marriage have and will continue to cause injury to the institution of marriage itself.  The fact is that these behaviors speak to the moral character of the people acting them out.  The institution of marriage serves to highlight the depths of a societies decline in such instances, but marriage itself is not under attack.  Christians have confused a states license to wed with God’s institution of marriage.  They are not the same.  One unites a man and a woman into holy matrimony with God as their witness—no piece of paper is necessary for God’s union of a man and a woman.  The other allows Americans over 1,000 potential benefits from the Federal, state and local governments.  Americans have gotten into the habit of doing them both (usually together), but scripture does not command them both.  The body of Christ should not discourage the separation of church and state because it always ends up poorly for God’s people when the state gets involved in the church.

1a: 

Intolerant of Unfaithfulness

           

Everyone who goes through a divorce is labeled unfaithful even though many divorced individuals have been the picture of faithfulness in the midst of very difficult circumstances.  Nevertheless, those who have never been in unequally yoked marriages consider all divorcees as unfaithful in some way, shape or form and they are intolerant of them to one degree or another.  Divorced Christians feel very much like an oppressed group within conservative Christian circles because of the intolerant attitudes of the larger, more powerful group.

2:  hostile toward one believed to enjoy an advantage

           

Most people experience enough bumps, bruises and dips in their marriage that they see a divorce and remarriage as an advantage that they do not have.  The mindset here seems to be, would not all of us like to have another opportunity at finding the perfect mate?  It is hoped that many of God’s children are thinking, “No, I am completely smitten with and thankful for the lover God has given me.”  Nevertheless, many do see a second try as an advantage and an unfair one at that.  The attitude of many seems to be, “I’m going to stick out my marriage until death do us part, and I will not be anything but hostile to you for failing to follow the prescribed course.”

3: vigilant in guarding a possession

           

Long marriages are celebrated and that is appropriate except that it seems a bit odd the way in which we laud those who have made it to their fortieth or fiftieth anniversary.  It is as if we are saying, “Goodness gracious, how marvelous you must be to have stayed in an institution that is akin to a concentration camp for all those years for the sake of prudence—hurrah for you.”  The reality should be that any person fortunate enough to be blessed for fifty years with the union of a person with whom they love and cherish more than anyone else should be extremely thankful to God for the blessing.  They need not be lauded as if they have done something hard when the reality is that it was fifty years of pure joy.

           

This is kind of the point.  It is the person who finally comes to the end of a long struggle with an unequally yoked partner that should be lauded for giving it everything they had for several years.  Men and women who themselves have been transformed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit and who have been enduring unequally yoked marriages for years and have been praying for God to bring change, and fighting against the godless influence of their unsaved spouse, and working at returning good for evil on a daily basis—these are the godly characteristics of brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who have come to the conclusion, after years of struggle, that God is answering their prayers and providing them a way out…a way out that is different from their hopes and dreams of God regenerating the heart of their unsaved spouse.  Those fortunate enough to have gotten marriage right the first time around should not be the ones taking shots at these beaten down children of God, rather they should be doing everything in their power to help them make the transition as Ezra did for these same types of people in his day.  Oh what a blessing for all of God’s saints to see a beloved brother united to a beloved sister after years of difficult struggles with vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.  Is the pain of these unholy unions not enough?  Should these beloved ones of God be suffering at the hands of their own spiritual siblings?  Must they face the ungodly judgment of their fellow heirs with Christ Jesus—the very judgment that has been forbidden by God in the Scriptures?  Jealousy is indeed among the reasons that the conservative church is pushed in the direction of being more restrictive than even God’s Holy Scriptures when it comes to divorce and remarriage.

Reason 7:  Judgmentalism

           

Two biblical commands, one against judging others and the other commanding the rebuke of fellow believers, come together in something of a paradox.  It is the view of the Permanence View believers that any and all divorces are sins; therefore, they believe that they are obeying God by rebuking those getting a divorce.  Scriptural qualifications for rebuking are: You must first be in Christ Jesus yourself, you must be mature in your knowledge of the scriptures and finally you must genuinely love those you are rebuking.  The PVC errors on the second qualification.  They hold one of several biblically demonstrable views (it should be discredited as being more restrictive than scripture), and they in legalistic fashion hold everybody else accountable to their debatable viewpoint.

           

In addition to the qualifications for rebuking the scriptures provide four precautions as rebuke is faithfully carried out.  Those precautions are: Show all impartiality, have the scriptures alone be the standard of measurement, when in doubt give the benefit of the doubt and finally rebuke sins of omission as well as sins of commission.  The PVC fails to be impartial because they are so biased toward their own viewpoint.  It is always tempting to rebuke those who cross us or disagree with our views.  It is tempting to use rebuke as a weapon to get our way.  Rebuke must be used to edify a brother and never to tear him down.  The PVC completely tears down anyone who has gotten a divorce.  They completely destroy the reputation of anyone who dares to divorce, and they continue the attacks upon their reputation for decades after the divorce action.  Virtually every other act that the PVC deems sinful can be completely expunged from a person’s record over time, but not so for the divorcee.

           

Over thirty years ago a close friend who has spent his life as a missionary on the African continent said, “You can murder an innocent person and go to prison and upon the completion of your prison sentence you can become an elder (pastor) in the church with a crowd pleasing testimony, but if you ever get a divorce you will never be allowed to serve and you will be relegated to a second class Christian until the day you die.”  If God’s clear statements in scripture supported this disarranged representation, then so be it.  But the qualification passages in Titus and Timothy’s letters are neither clearly nor universally seen as disqualifying anyone who has been divorced.  The position of the permanence view crowd is in violation of the second precaution for rebuke—the soul standard must be the scriptures.  If the scriptures are not crystal clear, then do not add to them by coming up with your best guess as to what was intended.  No personal interpretation should supplant the scriptures as the standard for everybody else. For this reason and many others judging one another is one of the worst and easiest sins into which we often fall prey.


Repent of Your Unequally Yoked Marriage

Richard Owen Roberts wrote, “The ruinous nature of every sin necessitates repentance”. Unequally yoked marriages are supreme examples of the truthfulness of this statement.
Being unequally yoked with an unbeliever is not merely an awful cancer that has befallen a believer, rather it is a sin that has been committed and is being retained every day that God’s beloved chooses to remain in the relationship. Not until he ends (repents of) the relationship will the ruinous nature of that sin stop the havoc and destruction that it is causing in his and others’ lives.

Is Being Unequally Yoked a Sin?

To answer this question we will consider the will of God.  God actually has three distinct wills: God’s sovereign decretive will—all that God has decreed since before the foundation of the world. God’s preceptive will—all that God has commanded His children to do and not to do. Finally, God’s will of disposition—that which pleases God.

Insight into these three distinct wills is seen in 1 Timothy 2:4 where Paul explained to Timothy that it is God’s desire for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” It is God’s will of disposition that desires all men to be saved—God takes no pleasure in sending men to their eternal torment. Yet God’s sovereign decretive will has determined that the road to destruction will be much broader than the road to salvation. And God has decreed this outcome because men are pleased to practice lawlessness rather than to submit to God’s preceptive will, which he has revealed to us in His word.

Dr. R. C. Sproul speaking on the will of God, “God’s sovereign ‘permission’ of human sin is not His moral approval.” Apply this to the discussion of unequally yoked marriages. God has commanded through His preceptive will against all unequally yoked relationships including and especially marriages. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that God is very displeased when His children yoke themselves to unbelievers.

Therefore every regenerate man or woman of God who is married to an unbeliever can be assured that they are outside of God’s preceptive will for He has prohibited unequally yoked marriages scores or even hundreds of times in His word. They are also outside of God’s will of disposition—God is not pleased as bad company always corrupts good morals. It is true that they are in God’s sovereign decretive will (as is every single living being), which is to say that God has allowed them to sin in this godless marriage, but God’s sovereign ‘permission’ of human sin is not His moral approval.

Therefore, it is safe to say that being unequally yoked is a sin and as such it is necessary that God’s children repent of it.  Repentance will not be without great difficulty, but so many good things will come from repentance of this sin including perhaps an unintended benefit.  What stronger message could be sent to those in the church yet to marry than that they too will be called to repent of an unequally yoked marriage if they disobediently enter into one?

Currently the message to young believers is confusing at best. In essence, the church is saying, “you’d better not marry that unbeliever, don’t you dare do it, it’s terribly unwise, God forbids it, you’ll be miserable” and young person after young person follows their foolish course and marries them anyway. And what is the Christian response? “You did exactly what God forbade, what your pastor and parents warned you against doing…so congratulations! We’re so happy for the two of you. Where are you going on your honeymoon?” With such a treatment of this significant issue we cannot expect young people to take the “warnings” seriously, and as things currently stand they are not.

What other sin can be willingly entered into while the whole church stands by praising and congratulating the sinner?  The message that the church is sending is befuddling, bewildering and unsettling.  Little wonder that so many marriages are founded upon the sin of being unequally yoked.

Scripture says, “Do not be unequally yoked 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” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16a)?  This passage is not ambiguous as I read it, but pastors like to say that it does not apply to marriage.  By what authority do they make this claim?  Simply because Paul does not specifically refer to marriages?  Neither does he specifically refer to any other relationship, so by that standard the passage would be rendered meaningless.  Is it not understood that a marriage is a relationship?  Since, in this text, Paul is speaking of relationships between believers and unbelievers one only needs to determine if a relationship is involved to apply this text.  The reason people immediately dismiss this passage as it concerns marriage is because the alternative forces them to acknowledge the fact that God not only allows certain divorces but rather He commands certain divorces as in the more than 100 cases in Ezra’s final chapter.

The Second Corinthians’ passage clearly shows the New Testament’s agreement with the ubiquitous Old Testament passages prohibiting unequally yoked marriages, and it is in the imperative tense signifying a universal command to all believers not to be in unequally yoked relationships.  God being under no obligation, even explains His reasons: Believers who enter into relationships with unbelievers can expect no partnership, no fellowship, no harmony, no commonality and no agreement in such relationships.

Clearly this universal command against unequally yoked relationships should apply first and foremost to the marriage relationship.  Who in their right mind willing enters their most important relationship, a life-long relationship with no chance of partnership, fellowship, harmony, commonality or agreement?  Tragically the church has made ambiguous what should have been abundantly clear, so that millions of believers have entered these prohibited relationships and remained in these ruinous marriages until they died.

Sadly those who forbid divorce to the unequally yoked apply this passage to those considering an unequally yoked marriage, but after the marriage has been embarked upon the passage, in their mind, mysteriously no longer applies to their unequally yoked marriage relationship. Therefore, the church has been treating equally yoked and unequally yoked marriages the same, which is very foolish. Ezra and Nehemiah did not share this view as they commanded those who were in unequally yoked marriages to divorce their godless spouses and children. Albeit at great cost, but divorce them they did and it was all in order to come back under compliance to God’s commands and will (see “The Will of God Dictates Divorce for those Unequally Yoked in Marriage).

No doubt many do not apply Paul’s clear command in 2 Corinthians 6 to the marriage relationship because they are biased because of Paul’s statements in his first letter to the Corinthians where in chapter seven he says that if an unbelieving spouse consents to live with the believing spouse that the believing spouse must not leave or send away the unbelieving spouse.  Many reasons exist why this passage in first Corinthians should be subject to the clear command in second Corinthians 6 but I will only submit a few for this present article.

First, Paul’s comments here were “in view of the present distress” (vs. 26) and not intended as universal commands, but advice for the concerns being experienced by the Corinthians.  Concerns that have been shared by every generation of believers.  Throughout the Christian era when a married person becomes born-again they are to allow their unbelieving spouse time for the same gospel to soften or harden their heart for Christ.  During that period of time if their unbelieving spouse wants to stay then they must let them stay.  But if they leave, then the believer is not bound in such cases.  If their unbelieving spouse wants to stay but hardens to the gospel, then God has not drawn their unbelieving spouse to Himself, and it is God who has separated the marriage partners using the sword of Christ.  The believer must then divorce their unbelieving spouse.

Secondly, Paul only gives these comments after saying, “I say, not the Lord…”, which is also part of the inspired word of God, and must be understood as a major consideration contextually and practically.

Third, these comments as wrongly understood by seemingly a majority would be in direct conflict with I Cor. 5:esp.13 and I Cor. 15:33.

Fourth, Paul’s overall direction in this text is that the new believers should all stay in the condition in which they were in when they came to Christ “in view of the present distress.”  One of his examples is found in verses 20-22 where Paul uses not the spouse role, but the role of a slave to instruct them to stay in the position in which you came to Christ.  Nevertheless, in verse 21 he says, “Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.”  Paul is demonstrating flexibility in his advise as prudence will demand.  He is arguing for these new believers to sit tight and not make any big moves during the present distress, but then he demonstrates great latitude to his readers: “if you are able also to become free, rather do that.”  Paul is not using the language of command, but of wise advice for specific situations. Both slaves (physically and financially stuck in an evil, human institution) and unequally yoked spouses (physically and contractually stuck in an evil, *human institution) are asked to remain in the same state in which they came to Christ, but Paul takes a moment to note the possibility of prudent decisions to be made as the believers move on from the “present distress”, as they mature in their faith and as providential opportunities dictate a more God honoring course.

*Note: Of course marriage is a divine institution, but polygamy, unequally yoked marriages and homosexual marriages are not included in the divine institution; therefore, unequally yoked marriage is a human institution.

Finally, it is the later letter that would clarify or further explain the former and not the other way around.  In the first letter Paul is offering his considerable advice to the concerns of the Corinthian believers, but it is in the second letter where Paul commands his readers: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.”  And one only needs to understand marriage to be a relationship to understand that it applies to marriages. In fact, most would agree that marriage is the relationship most commonly understood as yoking two people together.

See two additional articles on 1 Corinthians 7 titled “Unraveling the Linchpin” part 1 and part 2

Also, the Reader will want to read 3 other top articles:
-The Will of God Dictates Divorce for those Unequally Yoked in Marriage.
-Has the Church Inadvertently Institutionalized Unequally Yoked Marriages?
-Divorce the Sons of Disobedience or Sink into Damnable Idolatry.


What is a Covenant? (authorship unknown)

Many of the biblical covenants contained identifiable components comparable to ancient secular agreements. Bradshaw lists the following (1998):
1. Title or preamble, which identified the parties and their relationship to each other.
2. Historical prologue, which explained why the suzerain demanded allegiance from the vassal.
3. Stipulations and law. All secular covenants were conditional, and were nullified through failure to observe the specified conditions (Busenitz 1999, p.180).
4. Deposit in the temple (the heart of society) and periodic public reading.
5. List of witnesses. God Himself was the principle witness in Biblical covenants (Estes 2003).
6. Oaths, ceremonies, and symbols. Every covenant had its accompanying sign. The covenant with Noah had the rainbow, Abraham was given circumcision, and the Mosaic covenant was observed by the Sabbath day (Deffinbaugh 2006a).
7. Sanctions. If the treaty were to be broken the suzerain could declare that act as the agent of the deities and attack the vassal kingdom. Biblical covenants contained blessings and curses which functioned as incentives.

Covenants Between God and Man

When God entered into a relationship with man, He held absolute unilateral sovereignty. He initiated, defined and confirmed each covenant, not on the basis of human merit but solely according to His own grace and mercy. People were “recipients, not contributors” (Van Groningen 1996). There was no “bargaining, bartering, or contracting” with God (Robertson 1980) and yet in all, man retained his power to choose to keep or reject, to obey or transgress. In short, God was wholly responsible for covenantal security. Man’s part was merely to accept and obey (Busenitz 1999, p.179).

The Nature of God’s Covenants

“God’s covenants contain two especially important components: terms and duration. Although humans may reach covenants or other agreements through their own devices, God’s covenants with people are usually unilateral. He alone determines the terms and conditions; humans choose whether to accept them.
“For example, after God clearly defined aspects of the covenant He was making with the nation of Israel, including the blessings for honoring it and the consequences for ignoring it (Leviticus 26;Deuteronomy 28-30), both parties – God and the people of Israel -accepted it. Through this process God and Israel entered into a covenant relationship, a binding commitment to honor and fulfill their respective roles.
“A second important concept for us to understand about God’s covenant with Israel is its continuing relevance to our day. In reaffirming the covenant with the generation of Israelites who were poised to enter the Promised Land, Moses explained that they were doing this “that (God) may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today” (Deuteronomy 29:13-15). The covenant clearly applied to Israel’s descendants as well.”[1]

Given, on the one hand, the unilateral nature of divine covenant and its gracious and promissory nature, while on the other, the presence of stipulations the question of the conditionality or otherwise of individual covenants is a difficult one, and there is diversity of opinion. John Murray understands the answer to be in the relational aspect of the covenant which when present “implies mutuality” so that the conditions “are simply the reciprocal responses of faith, love and obedience, apart from which the enjoyment of the covenant blessing and of the covenant relation are inconceivable. In a word, keeping the covenant presupposes the covenant relation as established rather than the condition upon which its establishment is contingent” (Murray, 19).

The Six Parts to A Covenant

A basic understanding of what a covenant is will help as we study the covenants of the Bible and how they relate to us. There are several covenants mentioned in the Bible and most of them have six basic parts in common, they are the parties, promises, conditions, duration, sign and dedication.
Let us look at how each of these parts of the covenant fit together.

The Parties
A covenant is an agreement or treaty between two people or groups of people.

The Promises
Each party declares his promises to the other party.

The Conditions
Each party is responsible to fulfill his promises. If one fails to keep his promise (breaks the covenant), the other is no longer bound to the covenant.

The Duration
The length of time that the covenant is binding upon each party.

The Sign
Often there is a visual object used as the sign of the covenant. When the parties of the covenant look upon the sign, they are reminded of the covenant. This may be an object (such as a ring in a marriage covenant) or the covenant contract itself.

The Dedication
A dedication is performed, often in the form of a ceremony. This often involves the shedding of blood.


It Is Lawful to Leave a Broken Covenant.

When one spouse perpetually breaks the conditions of the marriage covenant their marriage partner is no longer bound by the covenant because it has been broken. For example, when a married man is addicted to pornography and he refuses to get professional help so that he can escape the addiction, he is breaking the condition of fidelity to his wife. When he prefers images of strange women doing all sorts of lurid sexual actions to men and other women alike so that he can fulfill his own sexual desires and fantasies he is being unfaithful to his wife.

Now those who define “until death do us part” as a divine command to never divorce for any reason would say this situation is unfortunate for this woman, but she still must remain faithful even though her husband is perpetually committing infidelity. Even though he is perpetually committing crimes against her and sins against the Lord she must remain faithful as our heavenly Father is faithful. They claim that she would be committing a crime against her husband and a sin against our Lord if she were to break the marriage covenant by divorcing her unfaithful husband. They claim that her vows are broken by her divorcing her husband—vows made in the presence of witnesses and before God.

First of all, those who hold such a foolish position should bring forward as evidence the vow that says I shall remain faithful to this covenant regardless of my spouse perpetually breaking the conditions of the covenant. The very purpose of the conditions is to assure that both parties are protected from this kind of deception. The conditions of covenants exist so that both parties will be assured to receive the benefits for which they enter the covenant in the first place. The purpose of a covenant is to convey one or more blessings upon one or both parties to the covenant. A bilateral covenant (such as the marriage covenant) conveys blessings on each party—otherwise they would not have any interest in entering into the covenant. A covenant is an obligation. Why would anybody unnecessarily obligate themselves? Again, nobody in their right mind would bind themselves for nothing—they obligate themselves because there is a desired reward for doing so. So when either partner to the covenant demonstrates that they are breaking the conditions that were requirements to the covenant, then they have broken the covenant and the injured covenant partner is no longer bound by the covenant freeing them to enter into another new covenant with someone who intends to and is able to keep the covenant conditions.

Some will argue that as believers in Christ Jesus we should follow God’s example and forgive our spouses even when they perpetually break the conditions of the marriage covenant? This of course restricts divorce more severely than Christ Himself who gave us the exception clause: “except in the case of pornia” (sexual infidelity). In addition, this is a false argument because it is not what God does. God sends unrepentant sinners (covenant breakers) to eternal damnation—“away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thes. 1:9). God only enters into relationship with covenant keepers. Of course it is God who keeps the covenant for (on the behalf of) His beloved children, but the covenant between God and His children has every single condition met without fail.

Not only does God give us the righteousness of Christ so that we are positionaly in good standing with all of the conditions of our covenant with God, but God also places His Holy Spirit within us to cause us to walk according to His statutes and He empowers each of us to observe His ordinances (Ezekiel 36:27). So the reality is that each of God’s chosen children are keepers of all of the conditions of the covenant that God has welcomed them into for His glory and for their salvation. As a result both parties of the beloved’s covenant with God will receive the blessings for which they entered the covenant.

God is and will be fully glorified and shown to be worthy of all praise and His chosen vessels of mercy will receive salvation and eternal life in heaven with God. God guarantees both ends of the covenant. Neither party must languish in and serve a broken covenant providing blessings to their spurious partner while being defiled and derided by that same person, which is precisely what the people who claim all divorce to be sin are insisting upon.

Now if men had the power to keep both ends of the marriage covenant, then it could be argued that a godly person should do so in keeping with the Father’s example, but men do not have the power to repent for another person or to keep another person from sin. Neither can we pay for the sins of another person.

Those who claim that divorce is always a sin would argue that Christians must follow the law of love and endure their unfaithful partner with long-suffering because their reward in heaven will be great. Their reward in heaven will be great because Jesus has won it for them. Having long-suffering for the brethren is not at issue in a marriage to an unbelieving spouse. Believers suffer the imperfections of one another because it is the loving thing to do and because each one remains imperfect as long as they are in the flesh, but believers are commanded to separate themselves from the unrepentant because bad company corrupts good morals, because a believer and an unbeliever have nothing in common, because Ezra’s godly example demands as much, etc.

The damage done to the believer who is strongly encouraged (frightened with the threat of God’s eternal wrath) to remain in an unequally yoked marital relationship is awful indeed. They are providing benefits in exchange for nothing, which is very much like making a house payment faithfully each month even though the house has never been made available to live in and enjoy. In addition any children in an unequally yoked marriage will receive an undue influence from the unbelieving spouse because the children come into the world slaves to unrighteousness, which causes them to feel a greater kinship with their unbelieving parent. The believing spouse will be discouraged in their own sanctification efforts, and the children will be encouraged to sin without consequence, seeing that their unbelieving parent is more often than not rewarded for taking tremendous advantage of the believing spouse.

Another sad reality of the position that says the dissolution of an unequally yoked marriage is always a crime against man and a sin against God is that it appears to turn the unbelieving, perpetually offending marriage partner into the innocent victim while at the same time slanders the name and reputation of the believing spouse who has kept the conditions of the marriage covenant often for years or decades without benefit. The obedient child of God is turned upon and torn to pieces by the very people who should be most supportive as in the days of Ezra.

By seeking a divorce the obedient child of God is following God’s command not to be in any unequally yoked relationship (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Ezra 10: 3, 11; Judges 3:6-8; Deut. 21:10-14; Psalm 89:38-45) yet he is portrayed by many in the church as the offender against God and man, while the true offender snickers as they are lofted as the poor victim. The godless spouse often goes beyond snickering to libeling their believing partner in order to bring undeserved discredit to them. Those who hold this position in the church happily join forces with the godless partner in order to shame and pressure the believer into repenting of their decision to divorce their unrepentant, unbelieving spouse. Of course doing so would require them to break with scripture, reason and their own conscience, which does not seem to bother those who hold this shameful man-made doctrine of no divorce ever.


Legal Marriage Vs. God’s Institution of Marriage

Marital union in the United States is not necessarily the same as marital union from a biblical point of view; one is merely legal in nature and the other is both spiritual and legal. When a man and a women desire to marry one another they will go to the state in which they reside and apply for a marriage license. In order to receive this license they must meet certain criteria. Examples would include: neither can be currently legally married to someone else, both must have identification proving their identity, they must be one male and one female (no longer a criteria for many states) and they must pay a licensing fee and then wait a short period of time while these facts are verified. Marriage in this fashion represents the legal aspects of a marital union. Being legally married in the United States endows one with over 1,000 benefits not afforded to the unwed. For example, they may file joint returns on their income tax forms, they may hold property together and it automatically passes to the survivor in the event of death, they have access to one another’s health records, they may receive social security benefits from their spouses income, and on and on.
Marriage predates civil governments. The first covenant in the history of man is the Covenant of Creation (God’s Covenant of Redemption is the first covenant, which predates creation including humanity). Marriage is part of the Creation Covenant. God instituted marriage when He said that Adam needed a suitable mate, so He created woman from the rib of Adam indicating that a women is suppose to come alongside of a man and be his helpmate—ideally for life. A spiritual marriage is also legal under God’s law, which is not recognized by all men even though all men will be held accountable to God. Therefore, it is possible to marry spiritually without being civilly married in one of the fifty states–after all people have been getting married for thousands of years without a license from the state of California.
Consider a couple of biblical examples: In Genesis chapter 29 Laban tricked Jacob into becoming married to Leah when it was actually Rachel that he intended to marry. Laban’s deception could not have worked if they would have had civil ceremonies prior to the spiritual union that takes place when a man and women become one through sexual union. A week later we learn from verse 30 that Rachel also became Jacob’s wife, and all that was necessary to make their seven years of love a marriage was for them to join in sexual intercourse—“So Jacob went in to Rachel also…”
A generation earlier Isaac married Rebekah by having sexual relations with her the same day that he met her. Genesis 24:67 says, “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” These spiritual marriages were not preceded by civil ceremonies nor did these patriarchs obtain a marriage license of any kind.

Let it be very clearly stated that these examples are not biblical evidence advocating sexual relations early in a relationship.  Rebekah was brought to Isaac for the express purpose of becoming his wife.  He had already agreed to the process and she had agreed to the process that God was using to bring them together as husband and wife.  They did not have physical relations on their first date; they came together in order to become husband and wife.  Their commitment to marriage preceded their sexual union, which consummated the marital covenant.  Sexual relations outside of marriage is fornication or adultery and must not be committed by the children of God.

To 501(c)(3) or not to 501(c)(3) That Is the Question.
Today in the United States of America many would likely argue that believers in Christ Jesus cannot be “Spiritually Married” without being legally married by the laws of one of the fifty states. The reality is that a marriage in the eyes of God does not require a license from man. If a man and a woman unite themselves one to another first by commitment and then by sexual relations they are in fact married in the eyes of God. They should be welcomed into the family of God for worship, fellowship and for sharing in the work of the church.
Just as individuals may obtain marriage licenses from states, in the same way, churches in America get what is called a 501(c)(3) that allows them to be tax-exempt religious organizations (sadly most church leaders seem to be ignorant of the fact that churches are automatically exempt and do not need to file an application with the government). The purpose of getting a 501(c)(3) is not so that a body of believers can be a church. A group of believers who form a church without a 501(c)(3) are considered just as much a church (some argue a more pure church) as ones that do, but the only difference is that the 501(c)(3) designation allows churches to own property and to receive contributions without paying taxes to the state and federal governments (again, this is necessary for charities, para-church organizations and nonprofits, but most churches wrongly think that it is required of them as well) . The benefits of being tax exempt are tremendous as are the benefits to being legally married.  It is almost unheard of to marry in the United States without first getting a marriage license because of the over 1,000 state and federal benefits enticing the utilization of state licenses.  In fact, those benefits are so coveted that homosexuals are waging very successful battles to win the right to be legally married in the United States (though the prize they most cherish is total cultural acceptance of homosexuality [including morally] as a normative lifestyle).
Note: the very same churches and individual believers that will not recognize a spiritual marriage between a man and a woman if their marriage has not also been made official with a state sanctioned license will reject a marriage between two homosexuals in spite of the fact that they have obtained the very same state license. This alone should demonstrate the obvious fact that spiritual marriage in the eyes of God and state sanctioned marriages are, in fact, two separate entities—one instituted by God and the other observed by the nations. The fact that they are currently almost always obtained together must not cause believers to lose sight of the fact that they may also be obtained separately.  We must be careful whenever we comingle that which is holy with that which is secular and often profane.

Christians should feel free to enter into God’s institution of marriage without a state license, and homosexuals are gleefully helping themselves to state sanctioned marriages without the blessing of the body of Christ. This relationship is identical to the one facing upstart churches. As homosexual marriages are now often legal many churches have 501c nonprofit designations yet in no way represent the body of Christ.  And genuine local bodies of Christ must ask themselves the following question, “To 501(c)(3) or not to 501(c)(3), that is the question”. Just as a genuine body of believers does not need a 501(c)(3) to form a legitimate church neither does a godly man and woman need a marriage license to form a legitimate marriage partnership.

As individual states continue a rapid declension into morally corrupt entities, Christians may one day no longer go to them for licenses to marry. It is not God’s institution of marriage that is being profaned by the inclusion of homosexual marriages into their marital statutes, but it is the moral goodness of the state that is being profaned. When the day comes that the states begin to drop all marital benefits or more likely extend them to everyone (effectively ending the demand for legal marriage) because they need the tax dollars, or when marital statutes are so profane that Christians can no longer enter into them, the very Christians who claim legal marriage is necessary will at that time make our argument and they will do so using God’s word as their source of truth (as we do now). Legal marriages in the United States have been so expedient for believers and unbelievers alike that believers never bothered to consider the possibility that the secular governments would become unrighteous in their dealings with God’s ancient institution. Sadly, they have failed to see this because they have failed to see the need. It appears that is changing.

The Supreme Court took the gay marriage issue out of the hands of the states by legalizing it in all 50 states on June 26, 2015.

Post Script:

Do not misunderstand our meaning in this article.  The state, like marriage, was instituted by God.  Members of the body of Christ must submit themselves to the authority of the state unless its laws encourage or demand breaking God’s law.  One of the critical functions of the state is to protect, uphold and support the institution of marriage.  This includes making laws governing marriage and its dissolution.  We believe that although the state makes laws governing marriage it is nonetheless
God who instituted it; therefore, a man and a woman may enter into the marriage covenant in accordance with God’s laws with or without the cooperation of the state.  Once married they must submit themselves to the laws of the state regarding marriage and its dissolution, but they are bound first by God’s laws regarding marriage and its dissolution.  Thus they must first have biblical grounds for divorce before they get divorced.  Merely getting a divorce under the laws of the state does not free the believer from God’s laws governing marriage and divorce.  The result of a legal divorce without biblical grounds would be a legally divorced person who is still married to their spouse in the eyes of God, which is why Jesus said those who get a divorce will be guilty of adultery.  On the other hand, a believer can be caught up in a legal marriage while spiritually divorced from their spouse.  Clearly in the later case the believer will be treated by the state as though they were still married, and they will need to abide by the state’s laws regarding marriage.  Therefore, believers who become spiritually divorced should pursue legal divorce as soon as it is made available for them to do so.