When one of God’s regenerate children decides to divorce their spouse because they are a child of Satan, God’s beloved child can expect to be assaulted by those in the church as well as those in the world. The assault from the church will come in the form of accusations that he/she is a covenant breaker. They will be accused of creating a schism in their marriage/family and in so doing they are causing injury to their spouse, their children, their extended family members, their church, their friends, their coworkers, their neighbors and their very culture. To create a schism is to break the bond of fellowship that existed previously. We will come back to this case in a few moments, but consider a parallel charge leveled against the reformers in the 16th century.
The Roman Catholic church referred to the reformers as persons guilty of schism and heresy because they preached a different doctrine, they stopped obeying Romanism’s laws, they held separate prayer and worship meetings, and they were practicing baptism and the Lord’s Supper differently. The charges were not received lightly as being a heretic would infer that one is not in Christ Jesus. God’s word proclaims that dissension is reason enough to not inherit eternal life. Those who, by making dissention in the church, break its communion and are labeled heretics and schismatics. John Calvin agrees that communion is held together by two bonds, agreement in sound doctrine and brotherly love. Calvin understood Augustine to see a clear distinction: heretics corrupt the sincerity of the faith with false dogmas, and schismatics, even sometimes agreeing in dogma, break the bond of fellowship.
The fellowship or conjunction of love in the body of Christ is entirely dependent upon the unity of our faith. Ephesians 4:5 says, “there is…one God, one faith, and one baptism.” In other words, the unity that the body of Christ enjoys must be under the headship of Christ. Truth matters. Truth and love cannot be separated one from another. Calvin says, “…apart from the Lord’s Word there is not an agreement of believers but a faction of wicked men.” Hence the one guilty of breaking the conjunction of love is the one who does not cling to the truth of God’s word. The Roman Catholics elevated papal decrees to an equal status with the word of God (or above it). The Roman Catholics sold indulgences. They venerated Mary the mother of Jesus. They created purgatory. They sold saving grace that they claimed was a stockpile from Mary, Jesus and special saints who had so much merit that not all was necessary for them to get to heaven. They collected and raised funds with relics from the past such as the head of Saint John. It was the Roman Catholics who ceased believing and obeying the word of God, so men of God had no choice but to reform the church, and when that failed they had to leave it behind and form a genuine fellowship of believers who were willing to believe and obey God’s word.
A marriage and a family are not so different from a church. Marriages and families are expected to form a conjunction of love in Christ. When one of the married partners refuses to believe and obey God’s word, then the godly spouse is obligated to reform them or leave them behind so that the believing spouse may enter into a partnership with another obedience servant of Christ. If they are faithful and they are forced to divorce their disobedient spouse, they can expect to be accused of creating a schism just as the reformers before them. But to have created a schism in a marriage is to assume that the marriage actually had a bond of fellowship in Christ. When that is not the case, then it is imperative that the believing spouse sets out to reform their unfaithful spouse and be prepared to divorce them if they will not be obedient to God as He commands, “Do not be unequally yoked 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” (2 Cor. 6:14)?
Even today in evangelical churches when a split takes place because one faction is no longer obeying God’s word those who faithfully recognize such a breach and act upon it are labeled as heretics and schismatics for breaking apart the church. Very often those who refuse to accept anything short of a genuine body of believers are looked upon as the trouble-makers. One need look no further than the homosexual movement within the liberal protestant churches to see who is being hailed as nasty and divisive.
Unfortunately all divorces are treated the same by most of the church, and the divorced are looked upon as covenant breakers. This means that the believer in an unequally yoked marriage can expect those in the church to attack them when they should stand behind them and support them. At lease these brethren will be able to relate to the reformers and what they experienced at the hands of the Roman Catholic church.