It Is Lawful to Leave a Broken Covenant.

People want simple answers to their questions.  Yes or no, does God’s law allow for marital divorce?  Yes or no, is it lawful to exit a broken covenant?  The problem with simplicity is that it can be limiting or overly restrictive.  Simple answers are insufficient for complicated problems.  And very often biblical doctrines and the application of those doctrines are just too complex to reduce them to simple answers.  Sadly, the people who want nothing more than simple answers can rely upon sloppy theologians who make a living providing simple answers.  Frequently, the outcome of simple answers for the body of Christ is division.  For example, those whose simple answer is that marital divorce is always a sin create a division with those who think divorce is permissible and with those who truly understand the purpose for the components of a covenant.

When one spouse breaks one or more conditions (a component of a covenant) 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 covenant’s condition of fidelity to his wife. He is guilty of infidelity by preferring lurid images of strange women to his wife.  In so doing he has broken his marital covenant with 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 with a broken marriage covenant and a husband who is perpetually committing infidelity. 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.

Where to begin, those who hold to this unbiblical and illogical 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 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 of receiving the benefits (another component of a covenant) for which they enter the covenant in the first place.

The purpose of a covenant is to convey one or more benefits upon one or both parties to the covenant. A bilateral covenant (such as the marriage covenant) conveys blessings on each party—otherwise the parties would have no interest in the covenant. A covenant obligates it’s participants.  People do not unnecessarily obligate themselves.  However, people will obligate themselves if there is a desired benefit for doing so.  Keeping the covenant’s conditions allows both parties continued access to the benefit(s) promised.  So when it becomes manifest that either partner to the covenant is breaking one or more conditions of the covenant, then they have effectively broken the covenant itself and are guilty of withholding the promised benefit(s); therefore, the injured covenant partner is no longer bound by the covenant (as it has been broken) 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 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” (a term with broad meaning but surely encompassing adultery).  In addition, God forgiving covenant breakers 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 on the behalf of His beloved children, but the covenant between God and His children is perfect as God is perfect and its conditions and blessings are all intact.

Not only does God give his children the righteousness of Christ, which maintains their good standing in their covenant with God, but God also places His Holy Spirit within them to cause them to walk according to His statutes and he empowers each of them 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 an eternity 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 anti-divorce crowd insists upon for the innocent spouse.  Many Old Testament passages depict God decrying Israel’s (God’s bride) unfaithfulness.  Through captivities and exiles God disciplines his bride trying to get her to be faithful but his efforts were to no avail.  Ultimately God divorces Israel for her unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 3:8, Isaiah 50:1)).  But God does take a bride who remains faithful because she wears the white garments washed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  The righteousness of Christ keeps her faithful.

God would not remain in a broken covenant with wicked Israel or with the more wicked Judah because God knows that light and darkness cannot come together just as there can be no partnership between righteousness and lawlessness.  As Christ has no harmony with ungodliness or destruction and the temple of God cannot be in agreement with idols, neither can a believer share a life in common with an unbeliever.  Most in the church have made the tremendous error of causing man to serve the marriage covenant rather than allowing the marriage covenant to serve man.

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, and because God did so to Israel.

The damage done to the believer who is frightened by “Christian” superstition into remaining in an unequally yoked marriage with the threat of God’s eternal wrath is awful indeed.  Remaining in a broken marriage covenant forces the innocent spouse into an unrighteous arrangement.  Their wicked spouse has broken the conditions of the covenant effectively negating the benefits promised to the innocent spouse while the innocent spouse is expected to keep providing the benefits to the wicked spouse without an end in sight.  These wicked spouses are even more evil than the person who claims to have purchased a new house, who has taken possession of the house, who has placed their name on the deed, who has promised to pay for the house, but who has failed to pay a dime and has no intention of ever paying for the house that they are effectively trying to steal from the original home owner.  In fact, if this person then gutted the house of all it’s woodwork, marble and granite, heater and air conditioner, the chandeliers and lamps, the windows, the appliances, and even striped the electrical wiring, the pluming and the landscaping plants before they were finally evicted, then this illustration of the wicked spouse in an unequally yoked marriage would be more precise.

An additional evil is that the children from 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 personal benefit. The obedient child of God is turned upon and torn to pieces by the very people (other Christians) who should be most supportive as in the days of Ezra.  Perhaps the reader has heard the saying that “Only Christians kill their wounded”?

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 will be 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.  Anti-divorce Christians 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.

So then, is it lawful to leave a broken covenant?  The answer found in God’s word and by eminent reason is an emphatic yes.  It is a fools errand to remain in a broken covenant.  Having said that, the answer found in most Christian circles is no–you made your bed and now you are going to have to sleep in it.  Let the reader decide whether or not they prefer the approbation of God or the praise of men.  But as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord…all of us.


About Joe Porter

By the abundant lovingkindness and grace of God I have been in Christ for nearly 40 years. I live to love and serve God in whatever capacity He has in mind. And can do no other but to follow my conscience as scripture and reason guide me threw the shadow lands. I raised 5 children one of whom now sees clearly as he walks on streets of gold. God has blessed me after all these years with a godly, prudent wife. I cannot imagine a greater gift on the earth. I have a Masters of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. I own a business in Nebraska, but I live to serve God. I have preached in three different churches for a period of 10 years. I love preaching God's word. Because of my divorce I am not currently serving in any official capacity, but I know that the Lord has a ministry for me. My goal is to write a book on the topic of divorce when unequally yoked, and this blog is a step in that direction. No brother or sister in Christ should divorce their spouse solely upon the advice they find here or anywhere else for that matter. Immerse yourself in God's word, and go before the Lord--wait upon Him and He will make it clear when the time comes that you are called to repent of your unequally yoked marriage. Christ's continued blessings, Joe View all posts by Joe Porter

11 responses to “It Is Lawful to Leave a Broken Covenant.

  • Anika Nam

    cool site. Cheers for posting.

  • Emmily

    Hi there,
    I have read a lot of articles regarding the exception clause allowing a spouse to divorce a partner who perpetually breaks the covenant. But few address the issue of the covenant breaker divorcing their spouse to be with someone else, thus abandoning the marriage.

    I was a faithful wife to him, although we had our difficulties. Unfortunately he responded to challenges by drinking heavily and losing interest in church life. I am not saying I was perfect but I loved my husband and was invested in saving our marriage. But when a difficult season came upon us, he started to spend more time in his work community, had an affair with someone from his office. He married her, and she left him after five years. He then had a string of girlfriends, and remarried yet again. I understand that he had no grounds to divorce me, so his remarriage cannot come under the exception clause. But where does that leave me?

    Thanks for any insight,


    • Joe Porter

      I am very saddened for all the pain this has caused you. Nobody is perfect, so you do not need to claim that you have not been perfect. Nevertheless, your husband forfeited the right to be your husband the first time he committed adultery. You should have divorced him, but the fact that he divorced you changed nothing. You are free to marry in the Lord assuming that you are truly born-again. Your husband clearly was not and is not born-again, which meant that he is not a Christian. Well over 90% of people who call themselves Christians are doing nothing more than breaking the third of the Ten Commandments, namely taking the Lord thy God’s name in vain. They vainly call themselves Christians while failing to love and serve Christ and His church. With percentages like this you are likely unsaved yourself, which would mean that you should first seek a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. But if you are already one of the “majestic ones” who have truly been saved and who have become part of the body of Christ, then you should seek a believing spouse if being single is not your gift. Most churches today are completely worthless.
      Begin immediately listening to Martyn Lloyd-Jones sermons at If you have no interest in listening to him, then you are not in Christ.
      The Churches’ views on divorce are almost entirely wrong from a biblical standpoint. Read Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians chapter 7) and then read my two most recent articles on the same biblical passage.
      Christ’s continued blessings!

      • Chris Lee (@cklee_)

        Joe I would caution saying someone must listen to such and such pastor or sermon. The Word of God is the lamp to our feet, a light to our path. Blessings.

      • Joe Porter

        Chris Lee,

        Although I could not agree more with your statement that God’s word is our source for light and truth, I must acknowledge before you that God’s word has commanded us to go and preach the gospel and the truth. Preaching the word of God is one of the ways that God’s Spirit works in the lives of people. Sadly we have so few good preachers and so many peddlers of the gospel. Perhaps you should sit under the ministry of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones for a few weeks before you dismiss the value of truly godly preaching.
        Christ’s continued blessings!

  • Andrew

    12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you[b] to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

    • Joe Porter

      I appreciate your offering this biblical text in response to reading “It is lawful to leave a broken covenant”, yet you have not made a comment. Therefore, I am assuming that you think this text conflicts with something I have said in this article. Please prayerfully read the two newest articles dealing with this very biblical text that you have kindly offered. I will look forward to further correspondence with you.
      Christ’s continued blessings.

  • Joe Porter

    We must follow the Lord as His Holy Spirit guides us through our lives. Anyone considering divorce when unequally yoked must seek God’s will for them, but I think that scripture calls us out of such marriages and most of the church over the centuries has had a different view. This is why it is so important to petition the Lord and follow His lead. People will judge and make such divorces costly, but we must follow the Lord and His word. We serve the Lord and cannot be men pleasers. Be sure to read the other articles on my blog to get as informed as possible. Many more articles are coming soon. Christ’s continued blessings. Joe

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  • Joe Porter

    Paul told the Corinthians that unequally yoked relationships have no commonality, harmony, fellowship and agreement. So it is even worse than very difficult for all involved. We learn to cope, but we could never hope to flourish and grow very well in such awful relationships. Thanks for your comment!

  • Rachel

    I really like what you said here and I agree with it. I have experience in being the child of unequally yoked parents. It is very difficult.

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