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.
There are Two Human Races
Two distinct human races exist: The fallen race of Adam who are under bondage to sin and death is the first. This race came from the side of Adam when God removed one of Adam’s ribs to use it to create Eve. In like manner, the second human race came from the side of Jesus when his side was opened up by the soldier’s sword. This second human race is separated from the first human race the way a palm-full of water is separated from the ocean. God scooped Israel up out of the waters (often used in Psalms to describe the nations). In order to belong to the second human race one must be born-again. This is not something man can do. God alone gives the new birth. This second race of humanity is called the invisible church because men cannot tell who is and who is not born-again merely by looking at them or by their testimony.
To be born-again means to be regenerated by God and drawn into His kingdom of light. From what condition are men regenerated? Since the creation of Adam and Eve, every single human being with the lone exception of Jesus has been conceived in sin and born into Adams fallen human race. All come into this world under the domain of darkness, enslaved to sin and death.
The Invisible Church
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 scooped them from the waters (Adam’s race) and created in them a new life…a new man. The Spirit of God comes into them and 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 Visible Church
The visible church is so inclusive that it takes in everyone who has any relationship to the Christian church whatsoever. Born to Christian parents–you’re in, a non practicing Catholic–you’re in, I converted for my spouse but don’t practice–you’re in, I deny the faith daily with my godless deeds and never give a thought for God, but when asked I tell people I’m a Methodist–you’re in. The vast majority of those who are frequently referred to as Christians, believers, spiritual or religious are not actually born-again even though they are part of the visible church. This reality explains why many marriages appear, to the undiscerning mind, to be be unequally yoked, and they may very well be mismatched but they are still equally yoked. As a result, many people think that they have observed unequally yoked marriages, but the reality is that neither person in those marriages is actually born-again. Most marriages consist of two people neither of whom are born-again. A sliver of marriages consist of two people who are actually born-again. Both types of marriages are equally yoked couples because both partners to those marriages are in the same spiritual condition. When people are religious or even VERY religious they assume they must be born-again, but being religious (even the Christian religion) has nothing to do with being born-again. So then, an unequally yoked marriage exists when only one partner is actually born-again. Then and only then have the two spiritual races been joined together in a forbidden partnership.
The number of people who mistakenly believe themselves to be born-again is quite large due to so much false teaching. Being born-again is so rare, even in Christian circles, that very few people can actually relate to or even begin to understand what an unequally yoked marriage looks like. In other words, they cannot see the big picture because they have not been granted the necessary regeneration or quickening by the Holy Spirit who softens the heart and enlightens the mind.
Even many who are themselves born-again fail to discern between genuine and spurious confessions, and as a result fail to recognize unequally yoked marriages because they credit many who are not born-again as though they were. Sadly, for this same reason many who are born-again become unequally yoked to “visible church” Christians who are not born-again. Then, all false professors who intermarry with atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. give the appearance that Christians can live in unequally yoked marriages without much difficulty, which is not the case at all according to scripture since the “Christian” in the marriage is not actually born-again. Therefore, the marriage partners are equally yoked even as they practice entirely different religions.
This is clearly a case where men have used their experiences instead of scripture to influence scripture’s enlightenment on this doctrine. As if that were not bad enough, the vast majority of marriages thought to be unequally yoked were not because they were between two unregenerate people; so these experiences that have helped shape people’s perspective on the scriptural passages dealing with divorce when unequally yoked are themselves counterfeit examples of unequally yoked marriages. So then, even though scripture and not experience should have shaped their view on the biblical doctrine for divorce for the unequally yoked, even the experiences that have shaped their view were more times than not spurious examples of unequally yoked marriages. Thus leaning on experience instead of scripture alone has been a fatal flaw for both reasons.
Vast numbers of religious people marry partners who are not religious, and it is from this large pool that people think they have seen or are in unequally yoked marriages. These marriages are much more common (10,000 to 1) 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 unequally yoked marriages that the couples just need 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 share a partnership any more than can righteousness partner with lawlessness. They cannot have fellowship any more than light could fellowship with darkness. Their marriage will be as harmonious as our Lord Jesus Christ partnered with the son of destruction. 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 Adam, but time allows for just one more:
“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 extinguished. If unrepentant sinners entered heaven, then heaven would be quenched. When genuine believers are yoked to unbelievers the believer is corrupted. “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 unbiblical 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?