“I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before Me.” The first of the Ten Commandments could not be clearer, yet the Israelites continually sought the gods of the nations, particularly they worshipped the Baals. The worship of any other than the living God is by definition idolatry—having an idol. However, this unfaithfulness to God is also called adultery; theologically it is called spiritual adultery so that it remains distinct from physical adultery.
God uses the imagery of physical adultery to show Israel how wicked they behaved in their relationship with God when they turned to the gods of the nations–they were guilty of spiritual adultery. So then, is it also spiritual adultery when an idol worshiper turns from their idol(s) to serve the living God? Both have stopped serving the god of their youth and joined themselves to a different god, so the sin must be the same, right? No, not at all. Those born into families that worship false gods and later turn to Almighty God are not guilty of spiritual adultery because it is not only the Israelites who must have no other gods before the God of creation, but all of mankind is guilty of spiritual adultery when they fail to worship God. In fact, those who serve any false god are guilty of spiritual adultery regardless of their spiritual past because all worship belongs to Almighty God.
So then, spiritual adultery takes place whenever anyone worships anything or anyone other than the God of creation to whom they belong. And physical adultery is committed whenever a married person becomes sexually involved with someone other than the person to whom they belong. This seems simple to comprehend, but a common assumption is made that whomever a believer marries is the person to whom they belong, but this assumption is not always true.
Because God forbids unequally yoked marriages believers can no more be married to unbelievers without committing adultery than can they worship a false god without committing spiritual adultery. This is true because a genuine child of God no more belongs with an ungodly spouse than they do a false god. Both are prohibited by a commandment of God. Both sins bring light and darkness together, which is impossible. Once light enters the darkness, then the darkness is no more. God’s word equates these two sins in Paul’s instructions to the churches at Corinth (2 Corinthians 6:15, 16).
One major argument against divorce for the unequally yoked believer is that it is too damaging for a family and especially the children to go through a divorce. Yet this was no obstacle for Ezra and Nehemiah as they forced their unequally yoked men to divorce their wives and children. Neither is it an obstacle for our Lord. In fact, Jesus understands that once a person becomes born-again they will be separated from most if not all of their closest family relationships not in Christ (Matthew 10:32-39; Luke 18:29-30 includes wives).
And what does the reader suppose to be the cause of this separation? Light and darkness do not mix. The sword that Christ wields separates believers from those who continue to worship idols and it does so because the idol worshipers harbor resentment toward believers who reject the gods of this world. The godless always resent God, so is it any surprise that they resent the godly. The good work of Christ’s sword is the most efficient when believers obediently recognize and perform this obligation to become untangled from the world and all worldly influences–starting with removing themselves from unequally yoked relationships.
Just as all who worship false gods are spiritual adulterers even when they have never abandoned their first idol, God’s children commit adultery by remaining bound with unbelievers even when the unbeliever is their first spouse. This is true because all saints should remain single or belong in a marriage to a fellow believer in Christ. Believers are commanded to marry only in the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14). Just as new believers come out of the sin of idolatry (spiritual adultery) and cling to Jesus Christ so too must they also come out of the sin of physical adultery with their unbelieving spouse and join themselves to a believing spouse because they must not have any earthly entanglements.
Just as it is a sin to continue serving false gods after being born-again it is a sin for a believer to remain in and unequally yoked marriage. A covenant to a false god/religion and a covenant to a child of unrighteousness are both broken by the death of the believer. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Christ has no harmony with a son of destruction (2 Cor. 6:15) and neither do his disciples.
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14). So then, God’s word clearly states, “You shall have no other gods before Me”, and “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” thus God’s people must divest themselves of any and all false gods and they must divorce themselves of any and all unequally yoked relationships with worshipers of false gods.
Scripture uses the marriage between a man and a woman to demonstrate man’s relationship with God. Israel and Judah are depicted as being the bride of God. The church is depicted as the bride of Christ. The gospel commands all men to come to Christ; being apart from Christ is to be guilty of spiritual adultery. Those born under false gods are commanded to divorce themselves of those gods (repent of their idolatry) and embrace Christ Jesus. In exactly the same way those married to the children of Satan are commanded to divorce their spiritually adulterous spouses (repent of being unequally yoked) and remarry only in the Lord or remain single.
THE CHURCHES ONE SIZE FITS ALL APPROACH TO MARRIATAL DIVORCE
Whether it is with the god of ones youth or the bride of ones youth it is too simple to say that staying with them until death is necessary in order to be free of adultery. Adultery is joining to a third person when already joined to another. This manifests three situations whereby believers are guilty of adultery. The first order of adultery: The first of the Ten Commandments commands all humans to have no other gods besides the Creator, which is God’s claim upon mankind. Therefore, anyone worshiping idols or false gods is guilty of spiritual adultery. Secondly, when an equally yoked man and woman unite in marriage they belong to one another as husband and wife, which causes either one to be guilty of adultery if they join to a third person. Finally, when a believer is joined in marriage to an unbeliever whether intentionally or unintentionally they are committing adultery because God’s word clearly instructs that he belongs to/with a fellow believer; he literally belongs to another (a coheir of Christ Jesus) even when her identity is yet unknown to him.
We know from First Corinthians chapter seven that God has established an allowance for new believers that will help them transition from the condition of being unequally yoked to becoming equally yoked to a believer. Their new life in Christ will either be shared with their current spouse who God will soon quicken and save as He did them, or they will be required to untangle from and to divorce their hard-hearted spouse and petition God for a believing spouse. The sword of Christ will be working the separation naturally through the resentment of the unbelieving spouse. The believer must simply look for the softening or hardening of their unsaved spouse’s heart to determine whether to remain in the marriage or to dissolve it.
God’s desire for His children is that they love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and that they dwell together in unity (love one another as they love themselves). Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” In the 101st Psalm David is speaking not on God’s behalf but on his own when he says, “No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure. My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that 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 (Psalm 101: 5-7).
Believers are commanded to dwell in unity with those who are faithfully walking in God’s blameless way. David clearly states that the unbeliever shall not “dwell within my house” nor shall he “maintain his position before me.” Oh man and woman of God, do you share the heart of David who himself was a man after God’s heart? Do you allow a child of Satan to dwell within your house? Do you have a spiritual adulterer maintaining their position as your spouse? King David clearly says he would not allow such. Jesus agreed with David when He said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29).
The Lord’s meaning is made clearer in Matthew 10:34-39 where Jesus informed His followers that He brings not peace but a sword, and with the sword He would divide and separate His children away from those who remain lost in disobedience. Even the most intimate family relationships will be divided as we follow God’s way while our family members continue in the way of unrighteousness.
So then, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed. It is obvious that scripture commands God’s children to separate themselves from all unbelievers and dwell in unity with their fellow heirs in Christ Jesus. Both biblically and logically this doctrine would include divorcing unbelieving spouses. A failure to do so makes believers guilty of committing adultery for they belong to and must delight in the majestic ones upon the earth (Psalm 16:3). Yet the church has taught for centuries that to divorce an unequally yoked spouse is adultery. The word of God must correct the traditions of men. The word of God must determine our doctrinal views. The word of God must correct man-made doctrines even when those doctrines are held by otherwise godly men. We must not allow man-made doctrines, even those that have become centuries old traditions, the power to interpret the word of God. The time has come to correct this misunderstanding of God’s holy word and separate ourselves from the sons of disobedience. This is a if not the primary reason why the church in the 21st century is weak and horribly splintered.
I dedicate this article to my beloved wife Hilary who is a fellow heir of Christ Jesus and truly a Proverbs 31 lady. We were joined in holy matrimony on this very date four years ago. Thank you Lord God for the beautiful gift you provided for me in answer to years of earnest prayer.