Monthly Archives: November 2017

How the Church Missed God’s Permission (Mandate) to Divorce When Unequally Yoked In Marriage

Unity for the sake of unity is neither a biblical idea nor a rational ideal.  Churches and marriages are two beautiful examples of unity.  Church unity is seen in Paul’s final chapter to the church at Rome as Paul sends his greeting to twenty-six members of the church by name.  Paul encouraged them to express their unity by greeting one another with a holy kiss (Vs. 16).

Nevertheless, in the very next verse Paul turns to a negative aspect of unity.  “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Romans 16:17).  In the midst of demonstrating the beauty of church unity in his greeting to all the saints in Rome he urges the churches to put out of their assemblies those who reject the teaching of the Lord and the apostles and thereby destroy unity in the truth.

The desire for unity springs up out of an environment of disunity.  Sin not only introduced sickness and death into the world but it also introduced separation.  There will be no cries or movements for unity in heaven.  Unity is a virtue when people unite around that which is good or righteousness.  For instance, all who are in Christ Jesus will be united in heaven, the allies came together against the axis of evil during the Second World War, regenerate believers come together to start biblically centered churches, and vast and disparate populations come together to rescue their neighbors who have been wiped out by natural disasters.

Unity can also be a vice or a sin when people unite for evil or unrighteous purposes often as a response to having grown weary of disagreements and arguing without end.  Examples include ecumenical movements in religion, the axis of evil (Germany, Japan and Italy) during the Second World War, and the unity of the Democratic Party and major media outlets, higher education institutions, and Hollywood.

If unity is to be a virtue in a fallen world, it must exclude wicked people.  Therefore universal unity for righteousness cannot be had as long as unrepentant sinners continue in their rebellion against God.  So then, Paul’s advice to, “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” is a necessary component of righteous unity.

Not surprisingly, churches for over two thousand years have followed Paul’s advice.  They have both put people out of the church and they have split apart and become two churches when those who cause dissension and hindrances contrary to biblical teaching have become a faction within the church.

J.C. Ryle taught as much:

“Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion.  They weaken the cause of Christianity…But before we blame people for them, we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved.  False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism.  If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved.  In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin…The old saying must never be forgotten, ‘He is the schismatic who causes the schism’…Controversy in religion is a hateful thing…But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.”  (J.C. Ryle quote in Evangelicalism Diveded by Iain Murray).

A marital divorce between a believer and an unbeliever is to a family what a schism between faithful Christians and heretical Christians is to a church.  In both instances the blame must be placed where it is deserved.  Unequally yoked unions (marriage or otherwise) should be added to false doctrines and heresy as things that are worse than schism.  As Ryle recommends praise and virtue for those who would separate themselves from heretical teaching I cannot see any reason not to recommend the same for those who would separate themselves from heretical, unbelieving spouses.

It should be easy to see that all Christian unity must be centered on Jesus Christ as he is revealed in Scripture.  Secondly, the word of God is the very source of truth, and all teaching must be measured by the word of God and eminent reason.  Along both of these lines the permanence of marriage view comes into conflict.  This flawed view on marriage thinks marriage and not Jesus to be the source of Christian unity…regarding the unity formed by a marriage.  An unequally yoked marriage cannot find its unifying source in the Lord Jesus because half of the partnership denies Christ’s authority and advocacy.  Secondly, the permanence of marriage view fails to take into account the fall and subsequently all of God’s laws to govern the fallen.  Though it be true that the mandate of the permanence of marriage did indeed precede man’s fall into sin, but after the fall took place the permanence view fails to account for vessels of God’s wrath, unequally yoked marriages, God’s command against unequally yoked marriage, and bad company/communications corrupting good morals.

In other words, vessels of wrath were not in the picture when God declared that marriage would be permanent.  Now that they are in the picture does God still want vessels of mercy to be permanently bound to vessels of wrath?  God’s word clearly teaches and mandates that God most definitely does not want believers bound to unbelievers in any relationship.

This has become a rather significant problem as the rest of man’s affairs are dealt with by God’s laws that were given to govern a fallen mankind, but many treat marriage differently and refuse to allow it to be governed by God’s law.  Because of this, the institution of marriage has been, for all practical purposes, exalted above the laws of God.  It is as though marriage alone continues as God had originally intended prior to the fall even though wicked people would now be in those marriages and marriage would clearly need to be subject to God’s moral laws.

So then, rather than achieving perfect harmony in marriages this view has created disharmony in perhaps millions of Christian marriages and churches.  All of this disharmony is a direct result of the permanence view being held above the laws of God—it has been treated as unassailable even to God’s moral laws.  If marriages were properly understood so as to be subject to God’s laws, then unequally yoked marriages would be dissolved as soon as the believer became convicted of the sinful union.  And church leaders would be calling upon their members to repent of unequally yoked marriages rather than urging them to seek unity between light and dark, righteousness and lawlessness, Christ and ungodliness, and the temple of God and idols.  It is heartbreaking to think that for centuries the permanence view of marriage has been coercing saints bound together with unbelievers to “help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord”.

Believers who realize that they are in unequally yoked marriages soon discover that keeping one’s vow is pitted against God’s command prohibiting unequally yoked relationships.  And being loyal and obedient to one’s spouse is pitted against the command to come out from the midst of the world and be separate.  And staying married to an unrepentant vessel of wrath prepared for God’s destruction is pitted against God’s command against helping the wicked and loving those who hate the Lord (2 Chronicles 19:2).

Hopefully the reader sees the elephant in the room (preceding paragraph)?  This is one ginormous elephant!  Follow closely: What (in context) preceded the fall of Adam and Eve into sin?  Answer: Marriage.  And what was God’s intention for marriage before the fall?  Answer: Marriages were permanent pairings (two halves of the one whole).  And finally: What (in context) did not exist before the fall?  (Clue: look at the previous paragraph).  Answer: Vessels of wrath, unequally yoked relationships and God’s moral command to separate from the wicked.  That is correct!  None of these things existed at the time when God intended marriage to be permanent.  Needless to say, God’s original intention of permanence in marriage is still a reality in equally yoked marriages between two believers in Christ.

So then, should saints, with their heads buried in the sand, continue in God’s original intention for marriage acting like no wolves in sheep’s clothing are prowling about?  Or must we follow God’s moral law that was given to govern this fallen world…the very Law that blazes vessels of God’s wrath in a light as bright as the sun, and strictly prohibits marriage to them?

It would seem that the permanence of marriage defenders want to carry on as though the fall never happened.  If only, they must be thinking, we could follow God’s pre-fall plan.  Then we would have no need for church divisions and marital divorces.  That would be nice because divisions and divorces are so very ugly and messy.  Oh, and we would not need repentance either, or faith, or Christ’s atoning sacrifice, hope, unity, truth, honor, forgiveness, the indwelling Spirit, hospitals, graves, tears, locks, keys, weapons…the list of things for which we would have no need is endless.  Yes, well if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, then we all could have a great big party.  But we have to live in a world that has fallen.  A world that is governed by God’s moral law.  A world in dire need of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.  A world with necessary divisions and divorces to separate the vessels of mercy from the vessels of wrath.

The church through the centuries has permitted local bodies of Christ (churches) to divide years after the people involved have covenanted together to form a place of worship, and they have done so because of Paul’s command to “turn away from them.”  In other words, whenever dissenters rise up within the church to take an unbiblical view/direction the church is allowed to put them out and covenant only with the obedient children of God.  Marriages must not be treated differently for the members of a marriage require the very same protections so obviously needful for members of a church.  Both churches and marriages should be safe havens for God’s saints…places that edify and build up…that support the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification.

Dealing with vessels of God’s wrath is not pretty (nor is surgically removing a tumor), but it is necessary because of dissension within the body of Christ.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  This has not merely been an allowance from the Lord but it is a mandate.  Yet many in the church have blindly and mistakenly worked very hard to restrict believers caught up in unequally yoked marriages from faithfully obeying God’s laws designed to protect believers from the contagion of unrepentant sinners.

Why have they done this?  They have acted in this way because in their mind marriage has been exalted above the commandments of God.  Luther, Calvin and the Puritans declared that marriage was a civil matter, but far too many believers continue to follow the Roman Catholic bastardization of marriage by treating it like a sacrament.  Holy matrimony is a man-made monstrosity (no offense intended to those who like me are blessed with an equally yoked marriage).  God is holy.  God’s word is holy.  But everything else in this world must be subject to the laws of God because of the sinfulness of man.

God instituted one man and one woman for life, but he did so when the fall had not yet taken place.  From the time of the fall until the present day the institution of marriage has been subject to all of the laws of God that govern the affairs of fallen men.  God’s law not only forbids unequally yoked marriages, but also homosexual, polygamous, and incestuous and marriages.  The church should have treated unequally yoked marriages the very same way it treats the other three forbidden marital unions.  Having failed to do so, the church now finds itself upon a precipice; it will soon fall one way or the other.  In allowing one of the four forbidden marital unions the church has no one to blame but itself as it begins its decent down this slippery slope.

For some time now millions of so called Christians have been embracing homosexual lifestyles and marriages.  Why?  Homosexuality and soon polygamy are going to be considered mainstream in the churches because of the untold numbers of believers who are unequally yoked in their marriages.  Their wicked spouses demand that they “love” (by love they mean to advocate for and to celebrate) the homosexuals who for no fault of their own prefer homosexual relations.  The Supreme Court of the United States of America has acted like a legislative body and written a law legalizing homosexual marriages just as they legalized the murder of unborn babies in 1973.

Wake up O sleeping church before it is too late.  Is it not obvious that our children are being lost to a modern Sodom and Gomorrah?  Now is not the time to look back as did Lot’s wife to her eternal ruin (She was looking back to the world that she loved).  Repentance begins with obeying the commandments of God and separating light from darkness.  Repent of your unequally yoked marriages.  Separate yourselves from your defiled churches.  Repent of your failure to protest the false doctrines that have crept into the church.  Repent of your love for this world and its ways.

Paul, speaking the very words of God told the Corinthians to, “Come out from their midst and be separate says the Lord.  And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.  And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

The corporate sin of the church on this issue is massive.  It is such a complicated issue that churchmen have thrown up their hands and surrendered.  They have sat down when they should have stood up.  They have left the people of God to figure out for themselves what the churchmen could not comprehend for themselves.  And to add insult to injury, the one law regarding this matter that they enforce is a manmade law that entraps God’s children in divinely prohibited marriages for the entirety of their earthly lives.  It has been a travesty of major proportions.  It is time for churchmen to learn the biblical truth and stand up once again.

This failure is due largely because of the insistence to follow God’s original intent for marriage when marriage is and must be subject to all of God’s moral laws that govern sinful people.

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1 Corinthians 7:14 What is Paul’s Meaning?: “The Unbelieving Husband or Wife Is Sanctified.”

1 Corinthians 7:14 states, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”

The aim of this article is to discover Paul’s intended meaning by the use of the word “sanctified” as he uses it here to instruct the Corinthian believers.  It is abundantly clear that Paul is not saying that unbelieving spouses of believers have bypassed the need for justification and gone straight to the process of sanctification.  To do so would be contrary to the Holy Spirit’s method or application of saving grace.  Secondly, in this passage itself the Holy Spirit is not said to be the agent of this sanctification but rather the believing spouse is the one whom Paul credits (not meritoriously but positionally) for this benefit to the unbelieving spouse.

With this “sanctification” of which Paul speaks it becomes apparent that God has made an allowance for believers in unequally yoked relationships without which they would be in a state of sin due to being unequally yoked as in the days of Ezra, and thereby they would be susceptible to discipline by the church.

In addition, this allowance is serving another process that God uses to draw the elect to Himself.  When God’s Holy Spirit quickens a new believer very often all of their associates in life are unregenerate.  By quickening one person the Holy Spirit has opened up an avenue by which the gospel can be spread to all who are associated with this new believer.  In this passage Paul is demonstrating the two potential outcomes of this divine process as it intersects with unequally yoked marriages, which holy writ has universally and ubiquitously forbidden.

The Old Testament provides a parallel scenario where this sanctification was extended to Israel prior to God divorcing her because of her idolatry.  Israel was depicted as God’s bride with God wooing her with His love and provisions.  But Israel was entirely worldly and continually worshiped false gods.  God would have been guilty of sin against himself by being unequally yoked had it not been for the fact that Israel was under this same sanctified protection of which Paul is speaking about in the passage under scrutiny.  Once God divorced Israel her sanctification was gone as well.

Here in first Corinthians, Paul’s focus is not God and Israel but rather new believers with unrepentant spouses.  In fact, everyone associated with a new believer who hardens to the gospel and expresses a desire to end the association with God’s new saint are free to do so, and the saint bears no guilt for the broken relationship(s).  But all who step away from God’s saints are relinquishing their sanctification by association to a new believer in Christ Jesus.  In this text, Paul makes it clear that the marriage relationship is included.  “If the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).  Since the sanctification enjoyed by the unbeliever comes from their attachment to the new believer, it is clear that detachment from the saint severs them from this benefit.

SANCTIFIED FOR THE GOSPEL

The wrench that is often thrown into this entire process is that a huge percentage of believers are not meek but weak in their presentation of the gospel.  And stating it in this way is being generous because many fail to open their mouths at all.  Due to this failure the unbelievers do not even know the gospel well enough to harden to it and reject both Christ and the saint who serves Him, which leaves the saint in a perpetual state of being unequally yoked.  The consequence to the saint is a lifetime of being unequally yoked to a child of Satan.

So then, Christian sanctification means to be set apart for holiness.  But, based upon Paul’s usage of the word “sanctification”, it is necessary to ask: For what purpose has the unbelieving marriage partner been set apart?  First, understand that they have not been set apart in order to be unrepentant members of the body of Christ.  Nor have they been set apart to make a certain percentage of the body of Christ unequally yoked.  So why are these unbelieving spouses and children (close friends too) sanctified by their association to God’s newly regenerate soul?  In order that they be aggressively exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As the children are supposed to be raised in the admonition of the Lord, so too must the unsaved spouse be actively exposed to the ways and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If the children grow to maturity and harden to the gospel, then the sword of Christ will, in God’s timing, separate them from their believing parent (Matthew 10:34-36).  Adult children do not need to be yoked to their parents in order to maintain some relationship.  The timing is different for the spouse.  Since the unbelieving spouse is already an adult the process should always move much quicker.  They will generally soften or harden to the gospel in a very short period of time if they are being actively evangelized by their believing partner.

The problem with the vast majority of Christians is that they value their unequally yoked marriage more than they value obeying God’s command to not be unequally yoked.  This causes them to tip-toe around their unbelieving spouse catering to their desire to be left alone, and the believer fails to actively promote the gospel.  They fall prey to the psycho babble argument that instructs unequally yoked believers to just love on your unbelieving spouse and see how positively they will respond.  Imagine if God followed such foolish advice in His dealings with Adam and Eve?  These believers fail to obey God’s command to evangelize the lost at the great cost of missing out on a life of great joy with a believing spouse…either the one that will be converted by the gospel witness or the believing spouse that God will provide once the believer faithfully gets out of their unequally yoked marriage.  This is not quitting on their marriage…it is obeying God’s command, and it is enjoying Christ’s promise to receive a hundred fold in this lifetime (Luke 18:29, 30).

This sanctification provides the immediate family members temporary, restrictive access into the body of Christ, but they only have, in essence, a visitor’s pass.  Because of this sanctification the church is to love them and teach them the word of God and explain fully the gospel of salvation hoping to win them over into the body of Christ.  But these set apart family members do not yet possess forgiveness of sin, the Holy Spirit, peace with God, eternal life, fellowship with the body of Christ or any of the hundreds of blessings bestowed upon the elect of God.

Paul provides one clear proof that this sanctification is temporary when he says, “If the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace” (Vs. 15).  Unarguably once the unbelieving spouse has left the marriage they are no longer sanctified through their believing spouse.  The same would be true for children who reach adulthood and leave the fellowship of the saints.

This sanctification is temporary not because it does not continue on into eternity, but because it is not intended or designed to be permanent even in this lifetime.  As the sword of Christ separates father from son and mother from daughter and brother from brother and sister from sister so also does it separate husbands and wives (Matthew 10:34-36).  As one family member grows closer to God while the other becomes more hardened to the gospel the believer realizes a need to separate themselves from their unrepentant family member.

GOD’S PURPOSE FOR SEPARATION IN THE FIRST PLACE

God has always required his children be separated from the world.  He has done so because unequally yoked relationships corrupt believers into idolatry.  Unrepentant partners indubitably demand that their gods be served.  Failure to comply is met with efforts to force compliance.  Once a believer is yoked to an unbeliever their lives, like threads, become interwoven into one fabric.  Dividing this fabric afterward is possible only at a great cost.  In these relationships the unbeliever holds hostage the things their believing spouse cherishes in order to get the believer to bow down to their gods.  At some point both partners come to realize that failure to worship the unbeliever’s gods on the part of the believer will result in the unbelieving spouse tormenting the believing spouse until they comply.  Among the unbelieving spouse’s tactics are aggression or passive aggression, noncooperation, emotional and/or sexual withdrawal, lying, social humiliation, liable, ruined reputation, financial harm, threat of a nasty divorce, the ruining of a family, adultery, using children as pawns, threat of restricting access to children, etc.

As a result the believer is required to kowtow to the demands and desires of the unrepentant spouse.  The believer will be forced to break with their conscience on sins such as making compromises unthinkable between two believers, spending or saving money in ways inconsistent with godly stewardship, rebelling against godly council or advise, missing worship and bible study opportunities, not having godly friendships with believing couples, failing to biblically discipline children, acting in a lazy fashion instead of a diligent fashion, etc.  The longer the unequally yoked marriage lasts the more bound or interwoven the couple becomes, so the unbelieving spouses’ demands inevitably become more demanding over time until they fully get their way, which requires complete conformity to their god rather than to Jesus Christ.  Once a believer enters into an unequally yoked relationship they really only have two choices: They can either serve the unbeliever’s god or they can repent of (get out of completely) their unequally yoked relationship and pay the increasingly growing consequences of having become interwoven with a vessel of God’s wrath.  Note: Today a third option is very often chosen by default.  In the 17th and 18th centuries during the infancy of the United States a British law was frequently enacted particularly in the south.  It was called a bed and board divorce.  It meant that the couple lived entirely separate lives while remaining bound to one another until death.  Many believers fail to repent of their unequally yoked marriages and they either succumb to their godless spouse in most things or they embark on this third option, which is to stubbornly hang on to a forbidden relationship even as the sword of Christ severs them from their godless spouse.  These are the loveless marriages that are so common in the Christian world because the church has failed to recognize God’s instructions for believers who find themselves unequally yoked to unbelievers.  

Luke 18:29-30 says, “And He (Jesus) said to them, ‘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.'”

To the unsaved spouses of God’s children I say to surrender your life to Jesus Christ while you are still under this sanctification because a hardening of your heart will come very soon and you will surely die in your sins and reap the eternal fires of hell.  Today is the day of salvation.

To my brothers and sisters in Christ I say to actively share the gospel with your unrepentant family members and friends with the hope that God will save some of them because the day is quickly approaching when God will make it clear that you are to separate from them and turn them over to Satan.  Bad company corrupts good morals.  Do not hang on to unequally yoked relationships longer than God covers your unrepentant loved ones with this sanctification.