1 Corinthians 7:12-16 In Context Strengthens the Case for Unequally Yoked Divorce Found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

Continuing to answer the oft asked question: “Can a Christian divorce an unbeliever?”

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians with words too powerful to be ignored, Paul commands every believer to get out of all unequally yoked relationships.  Note: He does not simply prohibit becoming bound together with unbelievers but he prohibits being bound together with unbelievers.

“Do not be bound 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 and unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.’  Therefore, ‘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.  Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  II Corinthians 6:14-7:1

How any believer can read, study and meditate upon this biblical mandate and still be uncertain about where God stands on His children being bound together with unbelievers in any relationship is incomprehensible.  Nevertheless, most Christians do seem to equivocate in their understanding and obedience to Paul’s command here.  With such strong and convincing language how is this possible?  Certainly for every relationship other than the marriage relationship the only answer can be that sin continues in the believer and they simply fail to fervently obey God’s command to their own shame and great loss.  Repentance is called for on a daily basis.

But for the marriage relationship, Paul’s instructions on the topic of Christians in unequally yoked marriages found in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter seven are universally misunderstood so that they contradict what Paul says here.  This too is a sin, yet it has been obscured by one simple phrase being applied to this text: “Paul’s command against being bound to unbelievers does not apply to existing marriages because of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7 verses 12-16”.

However, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of this passage that it is directly applicable to marriage and only to marriage, so certainly he disagreed with the commonly held view.    Sadly, some have argued that since Paul does not mention marriage in this passage it cannot be applied to unequally yoked marriages.  Such logic would necessarily mean that the passage does not apply to any relationship since no specific type of relationship is mentioned.

So the proper understanding of 2 Corinthians 6:14f in the light of its ubiquitous presence in the Old Testament and considering the universal and descriptive language that Paul chooses must be that God prohibits his children to be bound together with unbelievers notwithstanding the type of relationship or covenant that binds them.  Sooner or later the believer must fearfully obey God’s command and importune the unbeliever for release.  As Christians they must do so in the most loving and kind way, but importune for release they must.

Therefore, since Paul’s ubiquitous, universal command in the Old Testament, which has been carried forward into the New Testament by Paul cannot properly have any normative exceptions, then it is Paul’s teaching in First Corinthians 7:12-16 that must be understood in such a way so as not to contradict the unassailable command in the second letter.

We have a sharp contrast between the biblically ubiquitous command of 2 Corinthians 6:14 and the entirely unique doctrine in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.  We know that Paul’s teaching here is unique because Paul introduces his instructions with the phrase, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…” (1 Corinthians 7:12 Bold mine).  Paul makes it clear that the instructions he is giving here are not from the Lord’s direct teaching during the time when Paul was taken up into the third heavens, nor did he find these instructions anywhere else in the scriptures.  Nevertheless, Paul’s instructions are inspired by the Holy Spirit, which means that they are divine in origin.

To clarify the issue more, the immediately preceding sentence (verses 10, 11) finds Paul prohibiting divorce for two believers bound in Christian marriages when he says, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband…” (I Corinthians 7:10).  So Paul clearly states that the Lord directly and/or through scripture revealed to him the Christian rule that two members of the body of Christ must not divorce (short of pornia), but whether or not an unequally yoked couple should divorce and under what rules they must follow were not divinely spelled out previously.  Paul was equally clear that he was left to piece this issue together for himself using his knowledge of the word, his wisdom and eminent logic to come to his conclusion.

So then, even with the great apostle’s candid, unguarded transparency much of the church has failed to realize that Paul was teaching the Corinthians that the same rule does not apply to both equally yoked and unequally yoked marriages.  Though this distinction is unmistakable in the text it has been almost entirely obscured by two monumental man-made doctrines even as our Lord Jesus foresaw, “Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.  Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:7-8).  The two precepts of men that obscure Paul’s clear teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 are: First, the papist’s declaring marriage a sacrament.  And secondly, the misappropriation of the scriptural use of marriage as an analogy for the relationships between God and Israel and Christ and His church.  Sadly, time does not allow elaboration here, but the following poem elucidates the horrible outcome:

False Doctrines Bloom from the repeated sowing of false seeds.

Seed by seed,

Garden by garden,

Pasture by pasture,

The lie spreads until it is unimpeachable.

UNDERSTANDING THE DISTINCTION HERETOFORE LOST FOR CENTURIES

In First Corinthians chapter 7 verses 10 and 11 Paul declares the divine decree that an equally yoked Christian couple is prohibited from a marital divorce (assuming fidelity/Christ’s pornia clause); if a separation occurs then reconciliation to one another is their only marital option.  Whereas in the case of the unequally yoked married couple no such divine decree exists–Paul makes this clear at the beginning of verse twelve.  Since this instruction is lacking elsewhere in scripture Paul provides it here for the Christian church.  Paul is not only inspired by the Holy Spirit, but he himself is uniquely qualified for such a task.

Here in verses 12 through 16 Paul makes use of a conditional clause to instruct the unequally yoked believer as to the necessary condition to maintaining a marriage to an unrepentant person.  Paul says that the believer unequally yoked in marriage must stay married if, and only if, a specific condition is met.  The great tragedy is that the church, due to the tradition of men, has misunderstood the condition that must be met for the believer to stay in the marriage to an unbeliever.  It is monstrous to even consider that the church has historically forbidden what God permitted when the condition was unmet.

So then, having the letter-perfect understanding of this necessary condition is the key to knowing the heart and mind of God on this issue.  It will also bring both texts from First and Second Corinthians into perfect agreement unlike the heretical method that excludes existing marriages from God’s prohibition against being unequally yoked, which has been the fallback position of the vast majority of theologians on this doctrine.

THE CONDITION FULLY EXPLAINED

Paul’s condition, properly understood, must pacify God’s displeasure with the child who remains bound in marriage to an unbeliever, which without this condition transgresses God’s prohibition in 2 Corinthians 6:14f.  Also this necessary condition must be fully understood by ministers of the word of God before they can faithfully and accurately apply it to the thousands of believers who must navigate these dangerous waters and who desire to land safely in the perfect will of their heavenly Father.

According to Paul, the believer must not divorce their unbelieving spouse as long as the following condition is met:

I Corinthians 7:12-13 “she/he (the unbeliever) consents to live with him/her (the believer)”.

And if this all important condition is not met:

Paul says in verse 15, “Yet 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/you to peace.”

So here is the condition: If the unbeliever consents to live with the believer, then the believer must not divorce the unbeliever.  By and large, people fail to ask the right question in order to actually know the heart and mind of God regarding the full meaning of this condition.

Allow a brief example: John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  Yet the very same Son of God said at the end of His Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…”for “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23).  So then, the reader must ask a question of the biblical text in order to be certain that the meaning God intended is the meaning the reader understands.  Here is the question that would need to be asked of John 3:16: What does “whoever believes in Him” actually mean?  Until this is fully and biblically understood the otherwise simple phrase cannot bear the full force of the meaning intended by God, and a person may go throughout an entire lifetime taking their salvation for granted only to hear Jesus say at the great judgment, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”  What an eternally tragic day that will be for perhaps millions of careless people.

In like manner, a very important question must be asked of the biblical text in which Paul provides a condition that, if met, means that a Christian is prohibited from divorcing their unbelieving spouse.  Here is the question that must be asked and answered fully to be sure God’s meaning is perfectly understood: What does ‘consents to live with’ actually mean?  Since verse 15 says, “if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases”, many have made the mistake of thinking that since the word “leaving” marks the failure to keep the condition set forth, then “not leaving” must be the meaning of the condition.  Paul’s use of the phrase “consents to live with” is pregnant with meaning.   Jumping to the conclusion that “not leaving” is all that Paul had in mind is a catastrophic blunder.   To do so is also entirely unnecessary as Paul lays out in the immediate context just what this condition does actually mean.

What does the condition “consents to live with” mean?  First, it must be clear what this condition does not mean.  The great Apostle does not mandate a negative condition but a positive condition, which is to say that the unbeliever cannot meet the condition simply by failing to do something (e.g. fail to leave) but he/she actually has to successfully fulfill a divine requirement (merely staying does not satisfy meeting a positive condition because it cannot be distinguished from the failure to act at all).  Thus the condition does not read: ‘If the unbelieving spouse refuses to leave or refuses divorce, then the believing spouse cannot do so either.’ No, no the unbelieving spouse must not merely be stubborn, unyielding or even spiritually comatose in order to meet this condition, but rather he/she must do something.  How absurd it is to think the unbeliever can meet God’s condition by doing nothing.

So then, what does Paul’s condition mean?  Merriam Webster defines consent as being in concord in opinion or sentiment.  And concord is defined as ‘a state of agreement or harmony.  It is an agreement by stipulation, compact or covenant.’  So in essence, the old marriage covenant of two unrepentant sinners sharing their lives together has been invalidated by one becoming born-again (died and resurrected with Christ), and a new covenant being laid out here by Paul must take its place.

Therefore, the unbelieving spouse may consent to the new covenant, but is by no means required to do so.  Right minded people do not consent to covenants or agreements without first inquiring into the conditions of consent.  The reader will see that Paul provides the conditions that the unbelieving spouse must consent to in the immediate context.  On the other hand, the believing spouse is required by Paul’s command to abide by the decision of the unbelieving spouse.  If the unbelieving spouse consents to Paul’s conditions, then the believing spouse will have neither need nor divine permission to  divorce the unbelieving spouse.  One the other hand, if the unbelieving spouse refuses or fails to consent, then the believing spouse has divine sanction and should divorce the unbelieving spouse in obedience to God’s command against unequally yoked marriage, and as Paul says here, “The brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Is this clear enough?  If the unbelieving spouse will not positively consent to this harmonious, distinctly Christian union, then the believer “is not under bondage in such cases.”  Can a Christian divorce their unbelieving spouse?  Yes, if he/she fails to give his/her consent as Paul says it out.  Note: It is the believing spouse who is not under bondage to the old marriage covenant if consent to God’s conditions are unacceptable to the unbelieving spouse.  In other words, God provides no option for either married partner to stay in the relationship if the unbelieving spouse refuses consent to God’s conditions, which are found in the immediate context and will be shown shortly.  The unbelieving partner can consent to God’s condition(s) or he/she can refuse and become divorced from the believer.  The believing partner can expect a harmonious Christian marriage partner or they must separate themselves from the marriage all together.

The Greek word σᴜνεᴜɗoҡεῑ is translated into English as ‘consents’.  The prefix σᴜν is a marker of accompaniment and association.  The word σᴜνεᴜɗoҡεῑ means to join in approval or agreement with consent to or in harmony with the person to whom one is joining.  What has taken place in an unequally yoked marriage is that God has taken a married couple and removed one of the two people from death to life, from darkness to light and the unbelieving partner must then consent to God’s terms if they are going to continue on with God’s holy child.

Paul Lays Out God’s Conditions of Consent For the Unbelieving Spouse

Now, as stated earlier, the immediate context (Verses 14-16) show how Paul lays out God’s conditions to which the unbelieving spouse must give consent in order to maintain the marriage relationship to a child of God.  God’s first condition to which the unbeliever must consent is to become set apart from the world and toward conformity to the believing spouse even as the believing spouse has been set apart from the world and toward the holiness of God.  Verse 14 says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband…”

A Sanctification Similar to Cornelius In Acts 10: Fearing God While Yet Unsaved

Sanctification is, by nature, a cooperative behavior or activity.  The unbelieving spouse does not receive a superstitious blessing of sorts for merely squatting in the home of a child of God or for merely having their name on a marriage licence.  In order to remain married to the believer the unbeliever must actively cooperate with their believing spouse in this sanctification.  It is very much like the God-fearers: Gentiles who attended the synagogue and followed the teachings of Judaism but who were not full-fledged Jews because they were not circumcised.  So then, a failure on the part of the unbelieving spouse to consent here does not equate to leaving and divorcing, which would actually be the outcome of a failure to consent.  Failure to “consent to live with” here means that the unbelieving spouse refuses cooperation with the believing spouse to become a God fearing couple–he or she refuses to live like the God-fearers lived.

By conforming to the holiness that the Holy Spirit is bringing into the believers life the unbeliever is admitting that God’s ways are greater than man’s ways and will to the best of their ability not impede but rather reflect the changes brought about by the Holy Spirit in the believing spouse.  The vast majority of Evangelicals who very regrettably hold an Arminian view of the gospel (though repudiated twice as heresy by the church fathers) will falsely view this unbelieving spouse as a believer.  But that simply is not the case because they lack saving faith.  Their will is favorable to the Christian religion, yet they lack saving faith.  So then, consent here means that the unbelieving spouse will work at conforming to the godliness their believing spouse is exhibiting rather than being bad company that corrupts the good morals of their believing spouse.  They desire the grace of God necessary to follow the ways of the Lord, but they do not personally cry out for God’s grace of forgiveness because they still love sin more than God.

God’s second condition to which the unbeliever must consent is to help bring up the children in the fear and admonition of the Lord “for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy” (Vs. 14).  So then “consents to live with” means that the unbelieving spouse will not interfere or steer the children in any direction other than being raised in the fear of the Lord.  The unbelievers words and deeds must be consistent with Christian virtues, again following the pattern set out by God fearing Gentiles.  Perfection cannot be obtained by the believer or the unbeliever, but both must be working toward the goal of seeing the children all submit themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and the glory of God in their salvation.

In fact, once an unequally yoked marriage exists the only way for the children to be holy is for the unbelieving spouse to meet all the conditions of consenting to stay.  If the unbelieving spouse leaves (a bad outcome to be sure), then sadly the children may be raised in both homes or they could be raised only in the home of the unbelieving spouse.  If the unbelieving spouse refuses to consent but also is allowed to stay in the marriage (an even worse outcome), then according to Matthew Henry the unbelieving spouse will have an undue influence upon the children as both have unrepentant hearts.  In addition, the children will live in a house divided.  Either way the children will be unclean.  So then, the only “sanctification” in the life of an unbeliever that can make their children “holy” is if they consent to conform to the sanctification they see in their believing spouse.

God’s third condition laid out in the immediate context is that the unbelieving spouse is consenting to a peaceful and harmonious Christian marriage.  Paul says in verse 15, “Yet 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.”  Clearly if the unbelieving spouse cannot consent to living in peace with the believing spouse, then the believing spouse is to live in peace after divorcing the unbelieving spouse.  Either way peace in the life of the believer is God’s expectation.

Paul traditionally opens his letters with a greeting of Grace and Peace.  He certainly did so in both of his letters to the Corinthian believers.  Paul does so because grace is the source of the Christians’ faith, and peace is the end or purpose of the Christians’ faith.  Peace is so much more than the interval between two wars or between fights.  Peace is the union after a separation or reconciliation after a conquest or quarrel.  Peace is the wall coming down because a separation is no longer necessary—the two have become one.  Once peace becomes a priority the need for the grace of God becomes evident.  When the unbelieving spouse consents to strive to be one with the believing spouse he/she will feel their overwhelming need to cry out to God for grace.  Man cannot have peace with others and he will not even be at peace within himself if he has not first been reconciled to and at peace with God, which necessitates the need for God’s grace.  The unbeliever must consent to a peaceful and harmonious Christian marriage.

God’s final condition provided in the immediate context is that the unbelieving spouse will consent to the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.  “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife” (Vs. 16)?  Consent here refers to something short of salvation.  This final aspect of the condition does not mean that the unbelieving spouse must be saved, but it does mean that they must not reject the gospel as the only way to come out from under the wrath of God.  They fail in their “consent to live with” if they become an enemy of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When the unbelieving spouse consents to live with the believing spouse in all of these ways, then the believing spouse is free from the guilt of being bound together with an unbeliever as God prohibits with such strong language in II Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  We certainly have hope that the unbeliever who consents to these four conditions will soon see their sin for what it is and cry out to God for forgiveness at which time they would join their spouse as a recipient of the grace of God–two saints joined together in marriage is indeed a beautiful relationship.

The believing spouse has the responsibility to be patient and assist their unbelieving partner as they are called to consent to the demands Paul lays out.  They must place their trust in the plans that God has made for them and for their spouse.  And if at any time the unbelieving partner refuses and rebuffs God’s prescribed plan of consent to live with the believing spouse, then the believer needs to recognize their failure to consent to live with them for what it is and they must begin asking the Lord for the wisdom and timing to pursue an honorable divorce so that they will not be guilty of being bound together with an unbeliever.  It is for this very circumstance that Paul said, “the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases” (Vs. 15).  So then, the answer to the question, “Can a Christian divorce an unbeliever” is a very solid yes.

A final clarification is necessary here.  The careful reader may note that Paul does not use a language suggesting that these four clauses are conditions of the unbelievers consent to stay, and we would agree.  Paul is providing the four clauses to show Christians what the effects or outcome of the unbeliever’s consent will look like for the believer.  The only way to arrive at the outcomes Paul describes in verses 14-16 is for the unbelieving spouse to consent as we have demonstrated in this article.  These holy effects as seen in the marriage and the family define and explain the conditions of consent without which such outcomes would not be realized.

Heavenly Father, I ask that you will open the eyes of those who cannot see and revive your church in our day.

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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

7 responses to “1 Corinthians 7:12-16 In Context Strengthens the Case for Unequally Yoked Divorce Found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

  • Sister in Christ

    Thank you for your reply Joe. I am eager to be truthful and hear God clearly in our discussion. First, to answer your questions. 1. I believe a person is saved through repentance of sin(which includes turning from sin through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit) and the commitment to believe in Christ’s atoning death on the cross. As a note my husband has told me recently he has not felt the need to ask for God’s forgiveness because God knows what his sins are. 2. I can not tell you how long I have been saved. I was raised Catholic but never made a verbal confession of faith, that I can remember, until after I left the Catholic Church at around the age of 27. As a teen and young adult I sought God more deeply yet it waivered as drinking was starting to become a problem. When I drank in my marriage it was 2-3 days a week, always at home, after the kids went to bed. I do not fit your “classic” description of the alcoholic as I didn’t drink daily or always to drunkenness however I used it as an escape and had tremendous trouble stopping. To this day my family and friends, especially my husband do not feel I had a problem but if you know anything about addiction, the addict knows when there is a problem. Depression has been a struggle from the time I was a very young girl. Medication allowed me to function quite well as an adult however it was always still there to a degree. Diagnosis was dysthymic depression. My kids have told me they rarely remember me drinking. In my depression I was an unmotivated mom to a degree but very involved in activities and church with them. I think they would tell you I was sad and short tempered frequently. Neither my husband or I believed in physical punishment except for the occasional spanking. In my late 20’s I began to earnestly seek God. At the age of 34 I began attending a Protestant Church where My relationship and knowledge of God started to deepen. Being encouraged to read His word, and know it, was new to me. That is when my walk and intimacy with God began to flourish. My husband attended occasionally. Of our three children only one appears to be saved. He loves God with his whole being and has since he could talk. I joke he came out saying Jesus, not crying. One is a lover of Science and the other won’t believe in a God that allows so much pain. I made consistent effort to give my children the limited knowledge I had of God. I am counting on God’s promise to restore the years the locusts have eaten, should my unsaved children be willing.

    I will address your suggestion that my husband meets Paul’s four commands for staying in the marriage. I suspect I exaggerated when I suggested my husband spoke kindly to me all the time. He almost always did to his children. He and I argued frequently(I didn’t think so until our oldest son made a comment one day that we were always fighting). My husband was raised with a father that greatly disrespected and verbally abused his wife and although I was pretty good at standing up for myself for many years I allowed my husband to disrespect and shout me down when we did argue. My husband did not stop me from taking the kids to church. He has always greatly resisted the gospel. He has always refused to read scripture with me or his kids, he won’t open the Bible when in church service, and for our entire marriage when I’ve put Christian sermons on tv or the internet he has either told me to turn them off or complained about them, even once, when the kids were home, yelling downstairs for me to shut that “crap” off. He refuses to attend bible studies or form relationships with any men in our church or past churches. His friends and “our” friends have always been non-believers(good people). We have no active friendships as a couple with other church couples or families. On one occasion when our pastor asked him if he could say Jesus was his savior, he said yes Jesus is my savior. He has verbally told me he goes to church and that’s enough for him. He has told me he doesn’t feel the need to read the Bible.

    I need to wrap it up here, this is mentally exhausting! I hope I have given you more to work with Joe and I look forward to your reply.

    • Joe Porter

      Dear Sister,
      I have read your answers 3-4 times and am also too exhausted to answer well at this hour, but I will try to compose an answer on Thursday. I will say that both of your comments have convinced me that it would be highly unusual if your husband was saved. God’s children love God’s word. Clearly your husband does not. It also sounds like you have a pretty good grasp of the gospel. Repentance does come first…”Repent and believe”. I suspect that you are a recipient of God’s grace and are part of the body of Christ. If both of these are true, then as you know I believe you need to immediately begin praying to ask God to show you the timing of your seeking a divorce. I would caution you to try your best not to find the next husband prior to getting a divorce. These things are not always in our hands, but it will make the whole process go smoother and you will need all the help in the area that you can get. People will turn on you either way if you decide to obey God’s command to no be unequally yoked, but you finding a new husband before your current marriage is cleanly broken will make people certain that you were the unrepentant sinner rather than your husband. The tide is against what I have discovered and teach. I have yet to find many Godly people who will interact with me on this topic. To be fair I have not looked for any yet, but I expect to find closed minds and to have doors slammed in my face–perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised. Marriage is a sacred alter to many, which I think is a crying shame. Marriage is very good because it is from God, but it must not become a source of idolatry. Obviously if and when you remarry you will want to be completely sure that your next husband is truly born-again. Fellowship in marriage is a beautiful gift of God and must be desired above almost all else. As God leads you to ending unequally yoked relationships you must keep in mind that all unequally yoked relationships must end. No close friends, no yoking of any kind with people who are not born-again. Yet we are kind and a friend to sinners otherwise we could not share the good news with them. Also, no unequally yoking yourself to any sinful ways at all. Remove all worldly influences from you. It is difficult to be in the world but not of the world, but that is the mandate that God has given us. By the way, nearly all the TV evangelists are worldly–blind guides leading the blind (most pastors today are as well). I do not know if TV evangelists are who you were referring to, but they are not men of God. Get on the internet and be taught by R.C. Sproul from Ligonier Ministries, and begin listening to Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermons found at MLJTrust.org; both men are now in heaven, but they are a great teacher and a great preacher of the word of God. These two great men of God will guarantee that you are on a good path moving away from the world and closer to God. Well, in my desire to say something to you I have allowed myself to ramble even as I am quite sleepy, so I will say good-night and right again very soon in greater detail.
      Christ’s continued blessings, Joe

      • Sister in Christ

        I’d like to ask your opinion on my belief that God had me stay in the marriage as He knew I was not strong enough to stand on my own and grow in Him, yet. In my work this is something I have seen other women also struggle with. And please know, I recognize that if we divorce I will need considerable time to grieve and process such a painful experience. In addition I know full well God may choose to leave me single as I walk out His purpose for me.

        Blessings

      • Joe Porter

        Dear Sister,
        As you said before a second reason for staying was that you believed God’s word bid you to stay as you understood 1 Cor. 7 “If the unbelieving spouse consents to live with”. Nearly everyone understands this text in this way. Therefore, many of God’s people have remained in unequally yoked marriages thinking that they were doing God’s will. You might read again my article on the 3 wills of God and you will have my answer.

        As for your grieving the loss of a marriage and the separation from a life partner, it will not be as difficult as you might think if it is God’s will. The rejection you will feel from many people and perhaps from the church, any financial hardships, disappointments with lawyers and court matters, and any second guessing you might do will be more painful I imagine. If you cannot fellowship with your husband, then their should already be a significant amount of loneliness in both of you that can only be addressed after you obey God in removing yourself from an unequally yoked relationship. Your husband in time will be better off to because he will be free to pursue the life he most desires. If you make it clear that you are divorcing him in obedience to God’s command not to be unequally yoked, then maybe he will take a serious look at his lack of a genuine relationship with God. Perhaps this could be rock bottom for him so that he cries out to God for forgiveness. When we make right choices about what we should or should not do in any given circumstance we will have no reason for regrets. Acting in a prudent fashion is the only way a believer should live their life. Discovering the will of God and then pursuing obedience to His will as quickly as we can act properly will bring the most joy to the heart and mind of any believer. The key, of course, is discovering the actual will of God and not going down wrong paths, which is why I encouraged you to begin listening to the two men of God I mentioned in my previous comment. I hope you have already listened to one or more of their lessons and/or sermons. I would love to hear a word or two about your experience listening to these men of God teach our Lord’s word. I suspect all of God’s children would flee unequally yoked relationships much sooner and they would do so with the support of their churches if the church was teaching rightly the Lord’s will on this subject. But since the church has made man serve marriage instead of marriage serving man God’s people have been afraid to flee forbidden relationships. Marriage has been idolized and untold numbers of believers are being significantly injured in the process. I know this was the case for me. But God is gracious and though we be injured we shall not perish. All of God’s children will one day be glorified. I would just like to see this doctrine corrected so that future believers can surround themselves with believers and grow quicker than believers do in our current day. Today’s Christians are so polluted by the world that the church is so very weak and sick. Many are praying for the dawning of a new day were the Holy Spirit will break out upon this land anew and the true church will rise up once again. I am still hoping to respond further to your previous post. Perhaps on the weekend.
        Christ’s Blessings,
        Joe

  • Sister in Christ

    Hello Joe, You have garnered my attention and I have read all your articles. I’d welcome your input on my situation. I’ve been married for 28 years to a good and I mean good man. But there is no fruit or evidence of a belief in Christ despite him claiming Jesus is his savior. He has never opened a bible in 28 years, refuses to participate in church or bible studies, or ministry but he does attend church, I’m almost sure only out of fear I will leave him. We raised three children who saw only a mother who was seeking to grow, heal and know a God truthfully. Here’s my issue, it’s clear I didn’t leave early on for two reasons. One I was weak, dysfunctional in my own ways and afraid to be on my own. Two, I held out hope that God would allow things to change and I wanted to obey what Paul appeared to be saying to wives in my situation, that is to stay. For 28 years he worked his tail off for me and his kids, he was at every baseball, track, soccer and softball game and practice. He didn’t drink, do drugs or gamble. He spoke kindly and lovingly to his children and most of the time to me also. He was however completely emotionally absent from our marriage and his parenting. As far as I can tell he has been faithful. He doesn’t have an enemy that I know of. He is adored by all. I have believed that God knew I was too weak to leave that I had much growing in relationship with Him to do. I struggled with addiction and depression. I’ve done the hard work of changing and growth. God is the center of my life and he has transformed me. I now have a life that’s thriving through the power of the Holy Spirit. But I can’t help but believe all the years God had me stay as a form of protection. Had I left I likely would have repeated the same behavior and our kids would have suffered even more with likely poverty, stress and anger. By staying I had a good man who loved his family and wife until I was strong enough to make the commitment to the work necessary to change my life. Can I ask your thoughts on this? We are still married but it is a struggle of tremendous loneliness for me, that I have surrendered over and over to God, asking him to remove the overwhelming desire to have a Christian husband and help me to love my husband sacrificially. Thank you for your time.

    • Joe Porter

      Sister,
      Rest assured I will respond. Hopefully within 24 hours. I want to reflect upon your words and pray over them before responding.
      Christ’s continued blessings!

    • Joe Porter

      Dear Sister,
      I am deeply sorry to hear of the pain that you have felt for so many years. I understand how this type of pain coexists with an otherwise happy life—raising children, attending worship services, reading God’s word and other books that teach a proper understanding of the same, interacting with family and friends, waging the battles of life alongside your husband, etc. As a person trained in counseling I do not need to communicate to you the importance of seeing the whole picture before jumping to conclusions. As I read your comment I fully realize my need of more information before providing any worthy input on your situation. If you could provide answers to my following questions it would help a great deal. Know that our conversations may help many others who are experiencing many of the same difficult decisions that I have faced and that you are still facing. Know also that I am not here to hold your hand as though you are a sickly, pathetic saint. My responsibility is to speak the truth in love, but unfortunately many so-called Christians do not like the truth and they immediately withdraw from those who seek it and who advance the truth. Be bold, be a truth seeker with me and growth will be obtained by all involved.
      My Questions:
      1. How does a person become saved? I do not mean to ask what Jesus did, but how does Jesus’ work on the cross get applied in one life and not in another?
      2. For how many years have you been born-again? Secondly, how did your rebirth come to pass?
      3. Do any of your three children show positive signs (not merely hopeful, but actually bearing genuine fruit) of being born-again?
      4. To what addiction were you saved from? How did the addiction affect your marriage and family?
      5. How long have you suffered from depression and how well was it managed by medication and physical and mental effort on your part? Secondly, how did the depression affect your marriage and family?

      Jesus said, “A bad tree does not produce good fruit…the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil” Luke 6:43 & 45.
      God’s word always describes unrepentant sinners as wicked and evil. Yes, on a horizontal level they may seem very fine people, but nevertheless, they are wicked as long as they are slaves to sin and death (Romans 5-6).

      You say that your husband is not born-again and as a result you are unequally yoked, yet you yourself describe him as “a good man”, who “spoke kindly and lovingly”. As I read your full description of your husband I began seeing a pattern, so I counted and discovered no fewer than 8 of the 9 fruit of the Spirit (Love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) only lacking joy. Clearly unbelievers can have something that resembles each of these, but what you have said actually contradicts what the Lord said. Your words here claim that good fruit has indeed grown off the bad tree of your unbelieving husband. So you either do not understand the doctrine of Total Depravity or you are being politically correct in your description of your husband, or your husband is born-again. If not born-again, then at least he may have actually met the four conditions Paul lays out for the unbelieving spouse in 1 Cor. 7:14-16 (Sanctified, peaceful marriage, raising the kids in the fear of the Lord and does not resist the gospel).

      6. So then, could you expound upon this topic in the light of my statements—make clear that which appears foggy?
      I look forward to your response.

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