Why Has God’s Provision of Divorce for the Unequally Yoked Been Buried and Forgotten?

Reminder: The purpose of this blog is to glorify God by teaching the biblical doctrines prohibiting unequally yoked relationships, especially the marriage relationship, and the need to repent of all such relationships including the necessity for a marital dissolution for God’s children who are in unequally yoked marriages.

Our endeavor addresses a monumental problem in the body of Christ. Total success on our part would mean two grand achievements: first we would destroy the judgmental spirit that has been directed at those within the body of Christ who have been through a marital divorce. This spirit has done more damage to the body of Christ than any of our readers could probably even imagine. Secondly, we would bring into the light just how completely lost American believers are regarding the biblical gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is perhaps the greatest reason for the pandemic of unequally yoked marriages in the first place. This article and largely this blog is aimed most ardently at the first.

Let Us Begin

Why has God’s provision of divorce for the unequally yoked been buried and forgotten? We tend to prefer our doctrines in nice neat packages; easier for our simple minds to comprehend. We often gravitate to, “Thou shalt and thou shalt not” in our relationship with God. Keep it simple stupid: if marriage is good, then divorce must be bad. Keep in mind that we often prefer, in our dealings with God, to err on the side of caution and restrict anything that might be sinful—if you cannot proceed by faith, then for you it is sin (restriction becomes more attractive when it is others who need to be restricted). Throw into the mix the likelihood that most godly theologians through the centuries had the good fortune and sense to marry godly women thus having no personal need of God’s provision of divorce and you begin to see how we have missed God’s instructions for divorce for those unequally yoked in marriage.
Man observes a wide spectrum of doctrinal truths in God’s word: from the many doctrines that are easily understood even by the simplest minds among us to the greater truths that are beyond the comprehension of those with herculean intellects. Along this spectrum are doctrines that are just within man’s reach of comprehension. Understanding these truths take a great deal of prayer, study and meditation from those who have built a solid foundation of knowledge, understanding and wisdom having been practiced in the word of God. They also take the rare ability to avoid preconceptions or presuppositions that steer one’s thinking in a direction never intended by God. The need to avoid presuppositions is elementary when it comes to understanding God’s word, yet few if any theologians are able to avoid them altogether.

The Complexity of the Issue Requires Greater Perspicuity Currently Lacking

The complexity of the subject (divorce when unequally yoked) is great for many reasons, which lends to a real threat of misunderstanding God’s full meaning. And, of course, it is our position that God’s communication on this doctrine has in fact been entirely misunderstood so much so that the prevailing view is almost the opposite of what God has commanded.
We will briefly examine some of the reasons the church has misunderstood God’s word on this subject:

Indistinctness of the Object

Divorce has been treated as an adjunct to the subject of marriage. For many Christians the subject has been reduced to an absurdly simple concept: marriage is good and divorce is evil. Little if any attempt to make distinctions in the divorce issue have taken place. By comparison the sixth commandment is “You shall not murder” and Christians have been able and willing to make distinctions between a cold blooded murder of an innocent person from murders for self-defense, a just war and capital punishment cases. In fact, soldiers come home from war as heroes, and people who successfully kill an evil person trying to rape or kill them are lauded as courageous, and we encourage death sentences for those who are cold blooded murderers. However, no such distinctions are made for people who get divorced. We could compare Jesus’ statement “to divorce your spouse and marry another is to commit adultery” with the sixth commandment not to commit murder. Both are pretty straight forward commandments from God, yet with one we are careful to make distinctions because to fail to do so would be wrong. But the other one is not treated the same way and it is wrong—people are injured and the body of Christ is injured and justice and righteousness are not served.
• Divorcing a spouse for the express purpose of having sex with a third party is parallel to murdering an innocent person in cold blood.
• Divorcing a spouse who is not a true believer in Christ is parallel to murdering a combatant in a just war.
• Divorcing a spouse who has been sexually unfaithful is parallel to murdering someone who has murdered innocent victims—capital punishment.
• Divorcing a spouse who is repeatedly physically abusive is parallel to murdering someone in self-defense.

These four distinctions for murder have actual parallels for divorce. When a person is killed they are being separated from the living. When a person is divorced they are being separated from their partner in marriage. Divorce is a far less drastic step than is murder, but it cannot be denied that both separate people from each other. The distinctions already acknowledged for murder should have parallel distinctions acknowledged by the people of God for divorce. Heretofore no such distinctions exist. Actually they do, but they are not nearly so universally accepted by the holy ones of God like the distinctions for murder.

Divorce and divorcees are treated alike in much of the church regardless of the reason for divorce. Biblical grounds for divorce are not agreed upon and do not protect those who are innocent victims of divorce. Unequally yoked vs. equally yoked, broken conditions of the marriage covenant vs. conditions kept, physical abuse, vs. no abuse, infidelity vs. fidelity and other issues are rarely looked at individually and no solid guidelines exist. All divorces are treated alike and all divorcees are basically thrown under the bus and become second class citizens of the church.

The Imperfection of the Systematic Theology

Theology is the study of God through His revealed word. The study of God through His word is the greatest intellectual pursuit any man could aspire to endeavor upon.
Even though theological constructs are supposed to be built upon God’s word the fallibility of man creates a real problem. No argument need be made for the imperfection of fallen man, even those chosen of God who have undergone divine regeneration still have great imperfections in the faculties of mind (reason, emotion, will).

The enemies of Christ’s church are the world, the flesh and Satan:

The world of unbelievers is constantly mudding the waters with half lies being offered as God’s truth. Most theologies recorded are actually from false professors who are already being tormented in the fires of eternal damnation. Sifting through all the worldly doctrines in order to see biblical truth will always be a monumental task. One of the great aims of the world is to encourage Christians to cease being theological—it is to the world’s advantage to keep believers ignorant in the true knowledge of God’s word.

As for the flesh, godly theologians are prone to succumb to imperfections such as group-think, presuppositions, bias, overly restrictive/permissive, overthinking, quick conclusions, stubbornness, etc. (the list of man’s imperfections is long indeed). It is not only our bodies that are affected by the flesh, but our minds are most infected by our fallen nature. It is a great aim of the sanctification process to renew the minds of God’s regenerate children through God’s Holy Spirit and the word of God.

Finally, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light working hard to cause believers to misunderstand God’s holy word. Unfortunately, believers could be in line with God’s word in all but one point and Satan can use that one false doctrine to do untold damage to the glory of God’s name and the successful advancement of Christ’s church. Jesus understood our need to be out from under Satan’s deceptions as He taught us to pray for deliverance from the evil one. Deception is Satan’s primary mode of operation, and he is subtle, elegant, attractive, intelligent and very capable of misleading the church. Among his greatest weapons is to turn the church upon itself. As the church attacks its members it fails being holy, righteous and good, and the advancement of the gospel is impeded. Like a roaring lion Satan devours us as we attack and destroy one another.

In order for any systematic theology on marriage, divorce and remarriage for those in unequally yoked marriages to be perfect we must take a step back and examine once again what God has actually said in His word. If we do not acknowledge that for centuries the church has missed the mark due to bias, jealousy, pride and cruelty or ruthlessness, then we will continue to fail being righteous in our dealings with our brothers and sisters in the Lord who are currently unequally yoked to members of Satan’s family.

The Likelihood of an Inadequateness of the Vehicle of Ideas

We know that God’s word is in no way inadequate, but how men interpret His word can and often is very inadequate. Consider the following example: typically when a biblical doctrine is being examined in the scriptures theologians will start with biblical texts that expressly mention the doctrine by name. This cannot always be done as some doctrines are never mentioned by name as is the case with the Trinitarian understanding of God. But theologians do not stop at that step; they also consider biblical passages that merely discuss the topic or issues directly related to the topic without mentioning it by name. Certainly theologians can be selective if they so choose failing to bring into their consideration scriptures that do not mention the doctrine by name and do not support the understanding they may hold or be favoring. Even when the preferred understanding has been influenced or brought about by other scriptural passages, it is of utmost importance that all of scripture is to be taken into consideration to come to a complete and accurate understanding of God’s intended meaning.

Finally theologians consider biblical passages that speak of generally related doctrines that most likely will shed light on the doctrine in question. As an example: repentance seemingly is an entirely distinct doctrine from faith, yet any true theologian knows that faith and repentance cannot exist independently of one another, thus they must affect one another and probably drastically so. To study one without full consideration of the other and of how the two interact with one another would wind up in a poor (less than comprehensive) doctrinal view. And very often these theologians unwittingly construct man-made doctrines in this way. Such as the doctrinal view held by some stating that repentance is not remotely necessary for salvation to be secured as salvation is by faith alone. Yet we know that Jesus preached ‘repent and believe’.

Theologians build systematic theologies so that people can understand the relationship between all the biblical doctrines. If a topic such as divorce is not thoroughly studied perhaps because it does not rise to the level of topics such as holiness, the attributes of God and soteriology, then jumping to a theological conclusion based upon a few biblical texts such as “God hates divorce”, “what God has joined together let no man separate”, and “whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery”, then we can expect to arrive at a man-made doctrine thus missing all that God’s word has to say about the doctrines concerning marital divorce and remarriage.

Consider our own doctrinal topic of divorce for those who are unequally yoked. What is divorce? Is it not a broken covenant, a broken relationship, a dissolution of a pairing or a yoking? So why do most theologians disregard 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 as a text speaking to divorce for those in unequally yoked marriages? It is commonly said, “We know that this passage does not apply to the marriage relationship”. We would ask them to take a closer look at the passage. How in God’s creation could it not apply to the marriage relationship?

Had these theologians not already settled upon a false conclusion, they would never utter such a stupid statement. So why do so many otherwise good, godly theologians draw such a foolish conclusion on this text? Because to understand this passage in the light of the marriage relationship would completely upset the apple cart of their view on divorce. Many biblical passages, including this one, would so drastically change the equation on the biblical view of divorce and remarriage (for the unequally yoked) that those who have settled upon a doctrinal view prohibiting marital divorce cannot take into consideration such biblical texts that would repudiate their own doctrinal position. They have taken the route of simplicity on a doctrine that they consider marginal (at least as it applies to them personally). The problem is that they settled upon a doctrinal view on divorce too early in their examination of the scriptures failing to recognize distinctions one divorce from another (Madison’s indistinctness of the object) among other things. They are guilty of setting their doctrine on divorce upon a few passages that speak directly about divorce without a comprehensive consideration of everything that God’s word has to say applicable to marital divorce.

As we might expect, the outcome has been catastrophic for so great a number of God’s children. We can never exchange God’s teachings with our own and hope for a positive outcome. In our zeal to save and honor the institution of marriage we have done more damage to it than we will ever know.

No More Evidence Necessary Lord…We Have Drawn Our Own Conclusion

Theologians have even ignored biblical passages that expressly discuss divorce for those unequally yoked in marriage in order to hold to their restrictive view. Many of them hold a view that states in essence that divorce is always a sinful choice. How do they square this view with the biblical passages that inform us that God divorced Israel and Judah? And even more unbelievable, how do they square this view with the biblical passages, particularly those at the end of Nehemiah and Ezra as well as Matthew 19:29-30 (early manuscripts included wife), commanding God’s children to divorce their unbelieving wives and children with whom they have become unequally yoked? Since we know that God does not command His children to sin it would make sense that they repent of their man-made doctrine restricting divorce to the unequally yoked and get it in line with God’s teaching on the matter, but they have not taken this course.

The vehicle of ideas regarding the biblical teaching on divorce for those unequally yoked appears to be very inadequate. Typically we look to systematic theologies to help us understand difficult doctrines, but in this case the same doctrinal mistakes have been passed along through the centuries of theological works. The damage to those unequally yoked and their children has been catastrophic. The damage to the church is perhaps short of catastrophic but profound. The damage is most catastrophic for those in unequally yoked marriages because they are the ones actually yoked to an unsaved spouse. The children of unequally yoked marriages are also greatly injured by this forbidden union. The church is profoundly damaged because so many of Satan’s children walk through her doors alongside spouses who truly belong within her walls. Their very presence in the church is like inviting wolves into the fold of Christ’s sheep. They fight for prominence in the church, they promote self-righteousness over the righteousness of God, they love the praise of men, and they oppose biblical teaching by assaulting true men of God in the pulpit or otherwise.

We read of them in the epistle of Jude:

“For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out of this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness…these indulged in gross immorality…defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties…these men revile the things which they do not understand…Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam…hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves, clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever…grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.”

The church will find much relief to this awful state of affairs by helping all of God’s children to enter into marriages with believers. For this to happen more must be done to prevent unequally yoked marriages and we must discover God’s biblical truth that repentance for an unequally yoked marriage requires a divorce. All of God’s people must support and not attack those who have put themselves in unequally yoked marriages as they repent of the sin of being unequally yoked by getting divorced.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).

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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

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