Monthly Archives: May 2014

Are You Crazy? Wont Your Understanding of God’s Command to Divorce Ruin Lives?

Whenever God’s word calls us to repentance we can expect consequences regardless of our obedience or disobedience to God’s commands. Part of true repentance is confession of any wrong doing to those to whom we have wronged, which would include making restitution if it can be made. True repentance and confession would also include accepting any consequences that may be due us for whatever we have done. For example, a murderer cannot come to a saving faith in Christ while continuing to hide a murder for which he has never been caught. We are all commanded to repent and believe. True repentance will very often carry with it consequences that will not be pleasant. However, we can expect even greater consequences if we refuse to repent and believe. The UNREPENTANT are those who are still lost in their trespasses and sins. They are still under the wrath of God. They have yet to be washed by the blood of Christ Jesus. It would be better to be imprisoned for the rest of one’s life for a murder that was actually committed than to spend eternity in hell. Therefore the consequences of obedience might be very painful, but they are not as painful as the consequences of disobedience.

When people realize that my understanding of God’s word on unequally yoked marriages is that God commands His children to “come out from them” they will anticipate the considerable cost and pain brought about by their obedience and many will choose to disobey. I am not arguing that this kind of disobedience proves that someone is not truly in Christ Jesus, but I am saying that obedience to God is always less painful than disobedience.

As soon as I was convinced of God’s teaching on unequally yoked relationships my immediate response was to divorce my wife of over 25 years. We had raised five children together, we had buried one of those five children together, and we had been yoked together for one third of an expected lifespan. So as you can see, I know something about the cost of obeying God in coming out of an unequally yoked marriage. But I also know of the tremendous blessings that God pours upon those who will obey Him no matter how high the cost. My first marriage was long and miserable because light and darkness do not mix. Obedience meant the end of that misery though the pathway was long and hard. Obedience also meant the beginning of a life of fellowship with my new wife who is the equally yoked spouse that I had been praying for my whole life; however, this abundant joy is ever so slightly tempered by the regrettably shameful response to my divorce and remarriage of much of the church. The difference between taking Satan’s path of being stuck in an unequally yoked marriage and taking one of “the ways of the Lord” in being equally yoked is indescribable—a person would have to live it to fully understand. I can think of nothing else I could have done to bring about so much joy and sanctification in my life, yet I am always thrilled for my brothers in Christ who will never have to experience it for themselves because their initial marriage was to a believer. If you did not already know it, one of “the ways of the Lord” is to be equally yoked in your earthly relationships.

Now for the heart of this article: People will argue that to obey God’s commands regarding unequally yoked marriages will tear families apart. I would go one step further and say that many who truly come to Christ will be torn from their families, and it is Jesus who told us to expect as much. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children of farms for My name’s sake, will receive a hundred times as much, and will inherit eternal life” [Many modern translations have left out ‘wife’ perhaps partly because it was too inconvenient for their position on divorce] (Matthew 19:29). Living in a dark world while putting your faith in the One who is the Light of the world may not be easy, but the benefits are out of this world. Every true believer will lose treasured relationships and belongings, but Jesus has assured them that they will receive a hundred fold for what they have left behind and they will inherit eternal life.

Note: The argument about tearing families apart is a poor argument for a couple of reasons. First, family is among the most common of all idols. People are prone to worship their families. Anything that prevents people from coming fully to Christ is an idol. Anything that they embrace so tightly that they cannot leave it in order to embrace Christ is an idol. Secondly and more importantly, although we should always weigh the cost of discipleship we should not use the cost of obedience to determine our willingness to obey any of God’s commands. The determining factor for obedience should never be ‘what is it going to cost me’, but it must always be ‘is this what God has commanded?’ If God has commanded it, then it must be obeyed no matter the cost. It is tremendously tempting in all endeavors to seek that which is most expedient—bringing about the best outcome that we are seeking for ourselves. But we are unreliable when it comes to knowing what is really in our best interest, which is among the reasons why the bible instructs us to be righteous. Righteousness means doing whatever is right for the sake of doing what is right regardless of the cost. When we do that which is right, then we have also acted in our own best interest even when we are too blind to see it that way.

Having said all of that it is still profitable to reply more directly to the concern that families will be torn apart when we obey God by leaving unequally yoked spouses. The argument is foolish for a couple of reasons:
First, as I said above Jesus told His followers to expect such sacrifices. Secondly, the temporal costs of disobedience are far worse. Consider at least five reasons for this:

To begin with, under the current teaching that divorce is not allowed for those unequally yoked, the divorce rate for believers perfectly mirrors that of unbelievers. The frequently held belief that God forbids divorce has not prevented these marriages from ending in divorce. In fact, it seems obvious that such a position would and has raised the divorce rate considerably among believers as they are not appropriately discouraged from entering forbidden marriages. Two categories of marriages in the church are responsible for the vast majority of all
“Christian” divorces. The first is the marriages where both parties are not actually “in Christ” even though they claim allegiance to Christ in some way. The second are unequally yoked marriages where only one of the two are actually “in Christ”. The number of Christian divorces would have been a mere fraction of the percentage of worldly divorces if we properly understood God’s commands to not be unequally yoked. Put another way, the church is all too often indistinguishable from the world because it has failed to fully obey God in keeping His children separate from the godless deceivers who are following the example of their father the devil.

Secondly, a very significant amount of damage is done to believing spouses through their union to an unbeliever. This is in large part why unequally yoked relationships are forbidden. In addition, the children are greatly damaged by the unbelieving spouse as well. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Bad company corrupts good morals”. In my own unequally yoked marriage my wife taught all of our children how to undermine their father. Perhaps the worst influence she had upon them was that she taught them how to be effective liars. She showed them how to use deception to avoid obeying their dad. They grew up being taught how to be disobedient and up until the current date I cannot be sure that any of my four living children are actually in Christ. But I thank God that none of them have rejected Him as yet either. When children are disobedient because of their unbelieving, rebellious hearts and a parent has modeled disbelief and rebellion, then it is very difficult for them to suddenly obey God’s call to repent and believe. A sovereign God has no problem saving them, but they have many more obstacles to overcome in their sanctification than does the children from equally yoked believing parents. However, a very good question is: Will God save the children from unequally yoked marriages? God uses secondary causes to bring about His will and having two believing parents is a common reality for many who are in Christ Jesus. Therefore this temporal cost may have an eternal one as well for the children of an unequally yoked marriage.

Third, under the current understanding young people have little incentive to avoid unequally yoked marriages. The warnings that should be in place to protect them from a horrible self-destructive choice are nowhere to be seen. They are usually told that ‘trouble may come of it’, but how can we expect that puny warning to stop young people who are so often foolishly, feverishly ‘in LOVE’? The message to young people is that you may want to give this marriage a second thought, but if not then God, the body of Christ and all of your loving family and friends will support you all the way. REALLY? God is going to support them as they willfully disobey His command? That is not a teaching found anywhere in God’s word. So what should the message be? Dear young person, if you move forward with this forbidden marriage, then God’s blessings cannot be expected, the church’s ordination, approval and participation will not be with you and your parents and loving family and friends will be looking forward to the day that you dissolve this evil union through repentance at which time all will stand with you in Christian solidarity as in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. In other words, all true believers must cease standing by encouraging a fellow believer as they publicly enter into a sinful relationship. The headstrong young person must either be shown that they themselves are not in Christ; hence it would not then be an unequally yoking and/or that they are choosing a forbidden marriage over obedience to God. After all Christians are slaves to righteousness, so we must insist upon righteous marital unions. If they enter into a forbidden marriage, then let them do it alone. A party can always be thrown later when the unbelieving spouse comes to a saving knowledge of Christ if they are fortunate enough for that outcome, but the far more common outcome will be brokenness and despair. All of which can be avoided if we only taught young people the truth.

It is of utmost importance that this be understood: if the message is consistent, which it has not been, then young believers will not even play with fire in the first place. In other words, they will not even expose themselves to unbelievers in dating or close friendships so that they do not ‘fall in love’ with an unbeliever. This has worked for centuries for everyone who is taught the truth about staying pure.

Forth, today most Christian churches are filled in large part with unbelievers. I am unsure whether or not a false gospel was the cause or effect. I am more sure that untold numbers have been brought threw the doors by their believing spouses. You might think this is actually a blessing, but you would be wrong. Sure we want unbelievers to hear the gospel, but Christ instructed us to take the gospel to the world. The gathering of the saints is supposed to be just that—the gathering of the holy ones of God! A book could be written on this subject, but let it suffice to say that the church is as contaminated and thus ruined with the unsaved spouses as would be heaven if God were to let one unrepentant sinner in heaven for every transformed saint. I recently attended dozens of churches in my city to examine the landscape of Christianity. I discovered the very reality that I most feared: most of our churches today are populated entirely with unregenerate people. Not only was the gospel not present in these churches but neither was anything distinctly Christian. Putting up with unequally yoked marriages has caused our churches to first become unequally populated and then decimated entirely.

Finally, the body of Christ’s testimony to the lost world would be far greater if they made purity within their own walls a priority. The churches testimony to the world is eviscerated by the large numbers of false professors whose behavior is identical to the ungodly while vainly taking upon themselves the Lord’s name. Believers who disobey God by joining themselves to unbelievers, in marriage and other relationships, are the primary cause. If on the other hand, the Christian message to the world was that Christians will not intermarry with non-Christians, then the purity in the body of Christ would stand out like a light shining from the top of a hill. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14a), but the greater part of the church has hidden the light under a basket weaved out of unequally yoked relationships. All of the unbelievers masquerading as God’s children make true believers indistinguishable to the world, and the glory of God’s holy name is drug through the mire in the process. God forgive us?

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What Is an Unequally Yoked Marriage?

Awful marriages are far too common because people are so very rarely uncommonly good and it takes good people to form a good marriage, but an awful marriage is not the same thing as an unequally yoked marriage.  Many marriages are very mismatched because one spouse clearly works very hard for the advancement of the couple while the other seemingly makes no effort whatsoever, but a mismatched marriage is not the same thing as an unequally yoked marriage.  Occasionally over time marriage partners grow apart and feel as though they have nothing in common, but growing apart is not the same thing as an unequally yoked marriage.  In fact, hundreds of factors could probably cause difficult or bad marriage relationships without an unequally yoked marriage.  So what exactly is an unequally yoked marriage?

Using God’s word as the standard, an unequally yoked marriage exists when a married couple consists of one born-again person and one person who is not born-again.  Notice that an unequally yoked marriage is not defined as a Christian married to a non-Christian, or a believer married to an unbeliever, or a religious person married to a secular minded person, or even a person who believes in God married to an atheist.  Plenty of these kinds of marriages exist and work very well for the individuals involved because they are not unequally yoked relationships or marriages.

To be born-again means to be regenerated by God and drawn into His kingdom of light.  Since the creation of Adam and Eve, every single human being with the lone exception of Jesus has been born in sin.  All come into this world under the domain of darkness enslaved to sin and death.  When, by God’s grace, a person is born-again they are no longer slaves to sin and death, but they have joined the ranks of the adopted children of God.  God has bought them with the blood of His own Son.  In so doing God has created in them a new life.  They are indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit who makes them children of light, and their every desire is for God and His kingdom.  They become individual body parts of the “new man”, the church, the body of Christ, and they are growing up corporately “to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NASB).  No greater transformation can take place in man than to be born-again.

The vast majority of those who are frequently referred to as Christians, believers, or religious people are not actually born-again, which is why so many marriages that are thought to be unequally yoked are not.  As a result, many people think that they have observed very strong unequally yoked marriages, but the reality is that neither person in those marriages are actually born-again.  A marriage is equally yoked when both partners are not born-again or when both partners are born-again, but a marriage is unequally yoked when only one partner is born-again.

Where clarity should prevail, divorce for those unequally yoked is hardly understood for most readers as a very high percentage of those who call upon the name Jesus fall short of being born-again.  In other words, they cannot see the big picture because they have not been granted the necessary regeneration or quickening of the Holy Spirit who enlightens the heart and mind. However, it is not just the unregenerate who have a hard time seeing this big picture as the result of such a large percentage of believers being unregenerate gives the appearance that Christians can live in unequally yoked marriages without much difficulty, which is not the case at all according to scripture. This is clearly a case where men have used experience to influence their understanding of scripture. Sadly, the vast majority of the marriages thought to be unequally yoked are not, so the experiences that have helped shape our perspective on the scriptural passages dealing with divorce when unequally yoked are themselves counterfeit examples of unequally yoked marriages thus our experiences that have helped us shape our biblical perspective for those truly unequally yoked are themselves unreliable.

We see so many religious people in marriages with partners who are not religious thus thinking themselves to be in unequally yoked marriages.  These marriages are much more common than actual unequally yoked marriages, and they throw into confusion all understanding on the subject.  These marriages are effectually counterfeit unequally yoked marriages, which is why they cause so much confusion in understanding this issue.  It can be said of these counterfeit marriages that the couple just needs to ride out the bumps in a marriage like any other married couple.  But the same cannot be said for a couple who is truly unequally yoked.

So what is so bad about a truly unequally yoked marriage?

In Paul’s words the unequally yoked married couple cannot have a partnership any more than can righteousness and lawlessness.  They cannot have fellowship any more than could light with darkness.  Their marriage will be as harmonious as our Lord Jesus Christ with ungodliness.  They cannot have agreement any more than could the temple of God with idols.  Unequally yoked married couples will not enjoy any commonality in their relationship to one another (from 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 NASB).  The Psalmist said of those who are not born-again, “Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?  And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?  I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies” (Psalm 139:21-22 NASB).  Again the Psalmist says, “Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us, for we are greatly filled with contempt.  Our soul is greatly filled with the scoffing of those who are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud” (Psalm 123:3-4 NASB).  And again, “They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and learned their practices, and served their idols, which became a snare to them” (Psalm 106:34-36 NASB).  Literally hundreds of biblical texts describe the enmity between God’s children and sons of Satan, but one more Psalm will have to do for the space here, “I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.  I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the practice of apostasy of those who fall away…A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil.  Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; no one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.  My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, and they may dwell with me; he who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me.  He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me.  Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, so as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity” (Psalm 101:2-8 NASB).

God’s children can no more be yoked to Satan’s than light could be yoked to darkness.  Just as men cannot see the face of God and unrepentant sinners cannot enjoy heaven neither can unrepentant sinners be yoked to God’s holy saints upon the earth.  If men were to look upon the face of God they would be destroyed.  When light enters a dark room the darkness is destroyed.  If unrepentant sinners entered heaven, then heaven would be destroyed.  When believers are yoked to unbelievers the believer is destroyed.  “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  God repeatedly commanded Israel to kill every man, woman and child when they entered into the Promised Land so that they would not intermingle with them and commit the sin of idolatry.  God’s command in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is not to BE bound to or unequally yoked with unbelievers.  Many in our day behave as though His command is “Do not BECOME unequally yoked to unbelievers”, but if you do, then you will have to live with your sin for repentance is out of the question.  This foolish advice has done more damage to believers and the church than we know.

We must never forget what our Lord Jesus taught us regarding the unrepentant: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20 NASB).  It is obviously foolish to insist that God’s children stay bound to spouses who hate Jesus and who love evil so much that they hide it in a web of deception that is destructive to their godly spouse and children.  Ezra and Nehemiah were godly men who insisted that their people divorce their godless spouses.  God does not change.  It is a man-made doctrine that insists God’s children remain united to the sons of Satan.  Those who are merely religious will do as they please and it really wont matter as they are instructed to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow they die.  But God’s children must not be bound together with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).  What part of this biblical command is hard to understand?


Jesus on Divorce in Matthew 19

By way of reminder, this blog is not so much about divorce as it is about divorce for the believer who is unequally yoked with an unbeliever.

When discussing the topic of divorce certainly the words of our Lord Jesus should be of great interest to everybody.  One text in particular is used by those who hold to the Permanence View (no divorce for any reason).  In Matthew 19:3-9 Jesus is asked (tested) by the Pharisees whether or not it is lawful for a man “to send away (divorce) his wife for any reason at all”.  In short, Jesus’ answer was that marriage takes one man and one woman and the two become “one flesh…What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  Then they wanted to know why Moses allowed for a certificate of divorce, and Jesus said it was because of man’s hardness of heart, “but from the beginning it has not been this way.”

With such stark words it is not difficult to see why those who believe that divorce is always a sin hold such a view.  But Jesus is not finished speaking, (Vs. 9) “And I say to you, ‘whoever sends away his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery, and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery'”.  Now we can see how important it is that people making the decision to get married take it very seriously as the marital relationship is indeed intended to be until the death of one of the two parties.  Nevertheless, our Lord provides two very significant exceptions to this overarching rule.  The second exception is pretty obvious to most people although (and this is unfortunate) many who hold to the permanence view even reject the immorality exception.

We Shall Begin With the Second Exception–Porneia

Jesus made it pretty clear that porneia (Gk) or immorality was a justified cause for divorce and thus an exception to the overarching rule on the permanence of marriage.  The reason for such an exception is that the very act of sexually joining oneself to a third party fractures the marital bond.  The marriage relationship has been so tragically altered that the marriage has actually been ruined/destroyed/broken by the immoral act(s).  The two individuals that had become one flesh have had their union fractured or destroyed by the introduction of a third person.

The marriage covenant is built upon a promise to one another to remain faithful and uphold the conditions of the marriage covenant  until death ends the marriage.  When immorality is committed at least one (forsaking all others) of the two (to love and cherish one another) most significant conditions has been broken .  Jesus is telling us that in this event the marriage covenant has been broken, and the innocent party is no longer bound by the marital covenant.

The Bottom Line: Treachery

Here is the bottom line when it comes to God sanctioned marital divorce.  When a marital spouse commits treachery thus being a traitor to their own spouse the innocent party to the marriage is not only allowed but obligated to divorce their treacherous spouse.

How does a married person commit the kind of treachery that demands a marital divorce?

  1. By demonstrating oneself to be outside of the family of faith (unequally yoked)
  2. By having sexual relations outside the marital relationship (adultery)
  3. By habitually denying the privileges of the marital bed
  4. By abandonment
  5. By endangerment (attempted murder and real physical harm at minimum)

Now For the First and Greatest Exception That Interrupts the Blessing of a Life-Long Marriage

Now we can consider the first exception which interrupts the blessing of lifelong marital bliss. It is in my opinion a far superior, but a less obvious (to our utter shame) exception to God’s intentions that marriage was intended to be a life-long covenant of love between a husband and his wife.   It is also seen in Jesus’ teaching in the 19th chapter of Matthew.

This exception is so ubiquitous in scripture that it is even the first command in the scriptures found in Genesis 1:4 “God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”  In this instance, God’s command is an implied command for man to follow after God’s example and keep separate light from darkness, but it is often repeated as a direct command.  Leviticus 20:26 says, “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.”

This sin of marrying unbelievers is also called “the matter of Peor” in Numbers 31:16 referring back to Numbers 25 where we read about the Israelites joining themselves with the daughters of Moab, which caused the Israelites to bow down to their gods and they joined themselves to Baal-peor making God fiercely angry with them.  Phinehas in his anger and jealousy for the Lord’s holiness took a spear and drove it through and Israelite and his Midianite woman (wife), and God was pleased with Phinehas.  Then God said, “Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you in the affair of Peor…”

God frequently commands His children to refrain from marrying foreigners.  By foreigners God does not mean people from other lands, but rather He is referring to people who worship anything other than God.  God’s people are not to be bound together with unbelievers in marriage (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Today being unequally yoked to unbelievers is almost viewed as an inconsequential condition.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The greatest treachery a spouse could commit is being unrepentant and unfaithful to God.  God does not want His children to be bound together or unequally yoked to unbelievers because bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).  In fact, such relationships to unbelievers always leads to idolatry, which is spiritual adultery.

It was upon this foundation from the Old Testament that marriage was a family of faith institution that Jesus teaches about marriage and divorce. When Jesus says that marriage makes the two become one flesh it is assumed that God’s children would not enter into marriage by breaking God’s command to marry only within the family of faith.  So then, whenever a believer comes to the realization that they are joined in marriage to an unbeliever, then at that time they are to separate the light from the darkness, which means in the context of marriage they must get a divorce.

Not only are these many Old Testament passages the context in which Jesus is teaching, not only is this the assumption that God’s word always has when teaching on marriage and divorce, but Jesus teaches the principle of this exception in Matthew 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Most modern translations of God’s word have removed the word “wife” from this text demonstrating the bias of the interpreters.

I discovered the inclusion of “wife” in this text when I was reading Jonathan Edwards’ lectures compiled into the book titled Charity and Its Fruits, which you should all read as it is among the very best books ever written. Edwards quotes this verse in lecture XII, and the translation he used still contained the word “wife”. You will also find a note in the column of the NASB Side-Column Reference Edition Copyright 1996 by The Lockman Foundation referring to wife being in at least one early manuscript.

In conclusion, verse 29 indicates that to leave a family member in order to follow and serve Christ Jesus would be worthy of praise and not condemnation…that such would inherit eternal life–not on the basis of works, but because they clearly demonstrate a love for Christ. The spousal relationship was included in the ancient text, so we understand that God means it when He says, Do not intermarry with foreigners (OT) and Do not be unequally yoked to unbelievers (NT).