Author Archives: Joe Porter

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

Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce

Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce

The New Testament scriptures contain just two records of Jesus speaking on the subject of divorce.  In the first instance (Matthew 5) divorce is one of six examples Jesus provides to make a much larger point in his Sermon on the Mount.  The much larger point that our Lord was actually teaching is applicable to the entire law of God including the Mosaic provision allowing divorce.  The second instance (Matthew 19) shows the Pharisees testing Jesus by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”  The reader should understand that most of the religious leaders during the first century interpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4 in such a way as to permit them to divorce their wives whenever they desired and to do so upon the flimsiest of excuses.  In most cases these men were casting their wives aside solely because they had found other women whom they preferred.  On both occasions Jesus did not teach a comprehensive doctrine of divorce.  On the first occasion the reader will see that our Lord was demonstrating what the life of a Christian would look like, and on the second occasion Jesus was teaching against the religious leader’s abusive interpretation of God’s permit to divorce.  A surprising number of biblical scholars throughout the centuries seem to have overlooked both of these important truths leading them to a false conclusion on the doctrine of divorce.

The Sermon on the Mount—Portion Found in Matthew 5:17-48  

We shall now examine Jesus’ first mention of divorce in the context of what he is actually teaching in this section of the Sermon on the Mount.  We are entirely indebted to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ great book entitled, “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount” chapter twenty for the understanding that we have obtained.  Divorce is one of six examples that Jesus uses to teach a very significant Christian principle.  Jesus begins this section by making it abundantly clear that the law continues its function into the Christian era.  In regards to the law Jesus says, “I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”  Immediately he adds, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”  He then warns Christians of every era not to annul even the least of the commandments for to do so would cause one to be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  And those who teach God’s laws rightly shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  The sad reality throughout the Christian era is that it has been nearly universally taught that Jesus annuls the Mosaic provision for divorce.  Our forefathers were neither brazen nor foolish enough to use the word “annul”, but the doctrine they espoused on divorce, which they obtained from Jesus’ statement on these two occasions, effectively annuls the Mosaic provision for divorce.

Then in verse 20 Jesus introduces the doctrine of righteousness, which is the topic of this portion of his sermon—the very topic or doctrine for which our Lord provides a most useful principle.  In verse 20 Jesus also mentions those who have been operating outside of this principle, the scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus authoritatively asserts that these will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  As antagonists of truth, they interpreted God’s laws in such a way as to appeal to their own desires.  Jesus, through the use of six examples, provides the divine interpretation of God’s laws over and against that of the scribes and Pharisees.  We cannot hope to understand Jesus’ view on divorce without first grasping the principal for which He chose these six examples of the Law.

In Martyn Lloyd Jones’ Own Words

“The first thing we must consider is the formula which He uses: ‘Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time’.  There is a slight variation in the form here and there, but that, essentially, is the way in which He introduces these six statements.  We must be perfectly clear about this.  You will find that certain translations put it like this: ‘Ye have heard it was said to them of old time”.  On purely linguistic grounds no one can tell whether it was ‘by’ or ‘to’ for, as usual, when you come to matters of linguistics, you find the authorities are divided, and you cannot be sure.  Only a consideration of the context, therefore, can help us to determine exactly what our Lord meant to convey by this.  Is He referring simply to the law of Moses, or is He referring to the teaching of the Pharisees and scribes?  Those who would say it should read ‘to them of old time’ obviously must say that He is referring to the law of Moses given to the fathers; whereas those who would emphasize the ‘by’, as we have it in the Authorized Version, would say that it has reference to what was taught by the scribes and Pharisees.  It seems to me that certain considerations make it almost essential for us to take the second view, and to hold that what our Lord is really doing here is showing the true teaching of the law over against the false representations of it made by the Pharisees and the scribes.  You remember that one of the great characteristics of their teaching was the significance which they attached to tradition.  They were always quoting the fathers.  That is what made the scribe a scribe; he was an authority on the pronouncements which had been made by the fathers.  These had become the tradition.  I suggest, therefore, that the verses must be interpreted in that way.  Indeed, the wording used by our Lord more or less clinches the matter.  He says: ‘Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time.’  He does not say ‘you have read in the Law of Moses’, or ‘It was written and you have read’.”

To compound the matter, “The children of Israel during their captivity in Babylon had ceased to know the Hebrew language.  Their language when they came back, and at this time, was Aramaic.  They were not familiar with Hebrew so they could not read the law of Moses as they had it in their own Hebrew Scriptures.  The result was that they were dependent for any knowledge of the law upon the teaching of the Pharisees and the scribes.  Our Lord, therefore, very rightly said, ‘Ye have heard’, or ‘That is what you have been hearing; that is what has been said to you; that is the preaching that has been given to you as you have gone to your synagogues and listened to the instruction.’  The result was that what these people thought of as the law was in reality not the law itself, but a representation of it given by the scribes and Pharisees…and it was almost impossible at this time to tell which was law and which was interpretation.”

So then, this portion of Jesus’ Sermon teaches a principle that will help Christians live holy and righteous lives, and it cannot be said too frequently that our Lord is unquestionably not providing six new laws for Christians to follow.  Lloyd-Jones makes the case that men love to follow simple, direct codes of conduct.  They ask, ‘what is the bare minimum that I must do in order to be made right with God?’  For this reason institutions like the Roman Catholic Church are so popular.  Catholicism says receive the seven sacraments, through the intermediary of the priest, continue in the seven sacraments and all will be well.  The outcome is that Catholic people know little about the word of God, know next to nothing about doctrine and, most tragically, know nothing whatsoever of God as He has revealed Himself in the word.  They have superstitious notions of God without the benefits of a relationship and without understanding all that He has revealed in His word and through His Spirit.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Let us once and for all get rid of the idea that our Lord came to set up a new law, or to announce a new code of ethics…It (Sermon on the Mount) is not meant to be a detailed code of ethics; it is not a new kind of moral law which was given by Him.”  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus revealed the essence of the new man.  A new race was being created, and the members of that race would be of the essence that Jesus portrayed in the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus’ Single Principle in Matthew 5:17-48

Dear reader, focus upon the principle that our Lord teaches in this text using the same method in which He taught it as He contrasted His divine interpretation with the religious leaders’ letter of the law interpretation.  Consider first the interpretation of God’s law by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

Sadducees’ and Pharisees’ interpretation of the law:

  1. Adjust one’s life to the letter of the law or interpret the letter of the law to fit one’s life.
  2. The law was provided to restrict the actions of men.
  3. The law prohibits men from doing certain things.
  4. The purpose of the law is to keep men in a state of obedience to oppressive rules.
  5. The Law is an end in itself. One to which men must strictly adhere.

Now juxtapose alongside the religious leader’s interpretation the interpretation of the Lord Jesus as presented through His use of the six examples found in Matthew 5:21-48.

Christ’s principle in five segments:

  1. It is the spirit of the law that matters primarily, not the letter only.
  2. Conformity to the law must not be thought of in terms of actions only. Thoughts, motives and desires are equally important.
  3. The purpose of the law is not merely negative, but positive: To lead us to do and love righteousness.
  4. The purpose of the law is to promote the free development of our spiritual character.
  5. The Law is a means to the ultimate end of coming to know God.

The contrast could not be sharper, on the one hand are the legal minds of Israel determining the letter of the law.  Then they declare themselves blameless as to the righteousness which is in the Law.  They then assumed the moral authority to lord it over all those who depend upon them for reading and interpreting the Hebrew text.  On the other hand, Jesus demonstrates how the law of God promotes the free development of spiritual character bringing sinners into relationship with God.  Unfortunately Christians frequently take the path of least resistance by falling into the same ruts as the Israelites.  Since Jesus used six examples to demonstrate his principle many have turned them into additional laws that must be followed to the letter.  In other words, instead of comprehending Jesus’ principle and adhering to it, they have continued a letter of the law approach and added six more laws.

Jesus was saying once Bunyan’s Pilgrim has been loosed from his burden, then he will be free to repent of sin, which is shown to him by the law, and draw near to God.  But most of the church heard Jesus say if Bunyan’s Pilgrim can successfully add the additional burden of six more laws to his pack he may someday earn favor with God.   Lloyd-Jones said, “Let us once and for all get rid of the idea that our Lord came to set up a new law, or to announce a new code of ethics.”  Jesus came to establish a new kingdom.  He was the first of a new race of people.  He promised that members of this race would be of a certain type.  They would have a certain character.  They would behave differently from the rest of the world.  The six examples were nothing more than examples of what a genuine believer would look like.

The Six Examples

Example One: The natural man is content to abstain from murder; Jesus is saying that the new man will strive to be at peace with all men.

Example Two: The natural man tries not to sleep with another man’s wife; Jesus says the new man will not look upon any woman with lust in his mind.

Example Three: The natural man says I will try to be fair in my marital divorce from my wife; Jesus says the new man will love and cherish all people but especially their spouse so that divorce would be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind, yet in following God’s Law the new man would not keep company with a covenant breaker.

Example Four: The natural man says you can trust my word if I have sworn by one greater than myself; Jesus says that those who are of the new creation will speak the truth always and will be known by their integrity.

Example Five: The natural man says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; Jesus says the new man will not seek retribution to those who have persecuted them.  They will not act in a vengeful way.

Example Six: The natural man says I love my neighbor and hate my enemy; Jesus says that the new creation will be known by their love for their enemies and those who persecute them.

Conclusions Drawn from Matthew 5

Jesus could not have been abdicating a Mosaic law (negative or positive) because He opened this portion of the Sermon on the Mount saying He did not come to abolish any of the Law.

Jesus’ words discussing marital divorce cannot, in good conscience, be used to change what the rest of scripture says about marital divorce.  His comments on divorce were nothing more than one of six examples to demonstrate how Christians (the new man) would live differently than the natural man.

Honest scriptural interpretation recognizes that Jesus did not here provide a divorce doctrine nor was one necessary.  Those who use the words of the Lord to deny the legitimate use of God’s divorce provision should be ashamed.  Our Lord’s exact words uphold the Mosaic Law permitting marital divorce.

Matthew 19: Jesus’ Second Occurrence Speaking on Divorce

As mentioned earlier Matthew provided a second record of the Lord Jesus speaking on the doctrine of divorce.  In the third through twelfth verses of Matthew 19 a group of Pharisees attempted to test Jesus on the concession for divorce found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  It is difficult to know what they hoped to achieve in asking this question.  The religious leaders at that time were split on the issue of divorce.  The liberal perspective permitted divorce for literally any reason at all following the school of Hillel.  Hillel’s counterpart was a man by the name of Shammai.  Shammai held that the law allowed divorce only in severe cases especially when adultery was involved.  Perhaps they merely wanted to see which side of the debate Jesus took.

Regardless of their agenda, the Pharisees’ inquisition brought about this occasion of our Lord’s speaking on the subject of divorce, and the context is entirely different from Matthew 5.  In both instances Jesus sets the record straight by providing His interpretation of the biblical statements on divorce over and against the interpretations of those from the Hillel school, which were very popular among the Israelites.  The popular Israeli view was also the current Greco-Roman view, so nearly the entire culture held a divorce for any reason position.

It is likely that the particular group of Pharisees questioning Jesus was of the Hillel school because they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”  So then, Jesus is specifically addressing the “Divorce is permissible for any reason at all” position of the Hillel school.  In His reply in Matthew 19 we find Jesus focused upon a single law whereas His focus in Matthew’s fifth chapter was upon the whole law.  It should not surprise anyone which law our Lord focused upon, but I fear that many will, at least initially, be surprised.  Jesus is focused upon the second of the two great commandments: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

The religious leaders who adopted the liberal Hillel view of divorce were men who used the oppression of weaker groups to their own advantage, and they did so because of the hardness of their hearts.  These were men who oppressed their own wives just as the priests, their predecessors, had done in the days of the prophet Malachi.

“Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.  But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit…Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth.  ‘For I hate divorce’, (Lit. sending away) says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘and him who covers his garment with wrong,’ says the Lord of hosts.  “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously’” [Parenthesis mine] (Malachi 2:14-16).

It was Jesus who said, “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another.”  He also taught that all who loved Him would obey Him.  Then, in Matthew 19, Jesus addresses the unloving, hard heartedness of these religious leaders who claim to obey the law, but in actuality have reduced the law to a mere letter all the while hating rather than loving one another.  God called this behavior treacherous throughout the Old Testament.  Specifically in Malachi and in Matthew God is saying that those who deal treacherously with others do not have the Spirit of God.  Why?  The answer is found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which we have considered in some depth above.  The Christian, new creation or new man, WILL love others.  They are a new race of humanity unlike any who have gone before.  Multitudes of imposters exist but genuine Christians will forever be wholly different from the natural man who continues enslavement to sin and death.  The remnant of sin remains, but the new man will not be hard hearted, he will not be treacherous and he/she would not divorce their spouse except in cases where the spouse is devoid of the Spirit of God, has the unbelieving hardness of heart and is treacherous with others.  Such behaviors elicited God’s permit or provision for divorce.

So then, divorcing a treacherous spouse is a biblically mandated permit/concession/provision for the innocent spouse.  In such cases no guilt should be cast upon the innocent believer seeking divorce from their treacherous spouse.  These must not be treated as second class Christians or deemed unbelieving and unrepentant.  God forbid.  God loves them enough to provide a way of escape, and it is way past time for the church to grasp this biblical concept as well.  Finally, when the treacherous spouse tries to use God’s provision in his/her treachery they must know that they are guilty of adultery.  They are guilty of a failure to love even their own wife or husband.  These need to repent and believe.  May the grace of God be shown in their hearts.


It Is Time For Sacramental Marriage and Divorce as a Mortal Sin to Take Their Place as Dead Relics

In the 15th Century the Roman Catholic Church invented the idea of mortal and venal sins.  Mortal sins imperil one’s soul and venial sins are less serious breaches of God’s law. The Catholic Church believes that if you commit a mortal sin, you forfeit heaven and opt for hell by your own free will and actions.  Three conditions are necessary for mortal sin to exist:

Grave Matter: The act itself is intrinsically evil and immoral. For example, murder, rape, incest, perjury, adultery, and so on.

Full Knowledge: The person must know that what they’re doing or planning to do is evil and immoral.

Deliberate Consent: The person must freely choose to commit the act or plan to do it. Someone forced against her will doesn’t commit a mortal sin.

Confusion within Catholic circles exists as to whether divorce is a mortal sin or a venal sin and many believe that some divorce actions fall under mortal sin and some do not.  Many believe that a divorce is a venal sin but remarriage is a mortal sin.  Of course the entire construct of mortal and venal sins is man-made, and the bible does not refer to divorce as a sin at all.  According to God’s word divorce is a provision of God’s law to protect the innocent spouse from a treacherous partner, and no, Jesus did not abrogate this provision in God’s law.  Catholics and Protestants alike have lost site of this biblical reality.  Regardless of marriage and divorce doctrinal positions most seem to believe that venal sins are involved when a spouse breaks the conditions of the marriage covenant, and a mortal sin is committed when the innocent spouse moves to dissolve the broken marriage covenant via divorce.  This superstitious viewpoint is a remnant from the 2,000 year history of theologians arguing over these issues.  The biblical understanding is diametrically opposed as the breaking of the marriage covenant’s conditions is a sin against God and a crime against one’s spouse and Jesus made it clear that such crimes make allowance for a divorce for the benefit of the innocent spouse.  Divorce does not break the marriage covenant, but it is God’s gracious provision for cases where one spouse has already broken the marriage covenant by breaking one or more of the marriage covenant’s conditions.

The first inclusion of marriage among the seven sacraments of the New Law by the Church’s magisterium occurred at the Council of Verona in 1184.  This man-made doctrine of the sacramental marriage preceded and, in large part, it brought about divorce being labeled a mortal sin.  These two man-made doctrines were never entirely overturned during and after the reformation.  To our shame both of these concepts are deeply embedded in the Christian psyche to this day even though they have been, more or less, formally rejected.


Fallen Man Abused God’s Institution of Marriage…So God Permitted Divorce for the Innocent Spouses.  Fallen Man Abused God’s Provision of Divorce…So the Church Shut the Door on God’s Divorce Provision.  God’s Response to Evil Was Good…The Churches’ Response to Evil Was Myopic.

God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden prior to man’s fall into sin.  From the beginning divorce was unnecessary because treachery and covenant breaking did not exist.  But very quickly man did fall into sin, and treachery and covenant breaking between marriage partners became far too prevalent.  God’s law responded with a permit for the dissolution of such marriages to punish the covenant breakers and to protect the innocent spouses.  Those who failed to respect the institution of marriage also exploited God’s permit to divorce and conspired to make it serve their wicked desires.  When the Church witnessed the treacherous, covenant breaking spouses using God’s permit for divorce to their wicked advantage they failed to look to God’s word for the answer and chose to take decisive action to stop the wretches.

In response to the godless exploiting God’s permit for divorce the church restricted access to divorce so severely that it became unavailable for the innocent spouses—those for whom God’s permit was graciously provided.  In the churches’ effort to restrict access it disciplined and even excommunicated members who so much as pursued dissolution of their marriage.  In addition they strong armed the state into making anti divorce laws making it a crime to get divorced.  The institution of marriage was exalted and referred to as holy matrimony and numbered among the seven sacraments for the Roman Catholic Church.  The idea was that if marriage was holy, then divorce must be unholy.  Ever since the church responded in this way pastors have pointed to divorce rates as one of the chief proofs of the declension in every century.

The church viewed the marriage union as sacrosanct and demonized God’s provision for its dissolution.  In so doing the Church missed the mark on both counts.  The church should have remained on the path that God provided.  It should have taken a position of rebuking covenant breakers and others who wanted to abuse both the institution itself and God’s gracious law ending the marriage union due to the treachery stemming from the hardness of men’s hearts since the fall into sin.

This move against God’s permit for divorce was entirely an initiative of man.  God would not legally grant the dissolution of marriages due to the hardness of men’s hearts only to change his mind later.  In spite of preachers holding the divorce rates out as the number one evidence of a declension in our land Paul never included it in any of his lists of sins (The Bible never calls or refers to divorce as a sin), but Paul did include 23 sins that preachers should be pointing out:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galations 5:19-21).

In fact, when the great apostle was asked whether or not believers should divorce an unbelieving spouse Paul responded first by saying, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…”, which instructs the reader that Paul knew of no passage of scripture upon which he could site in order to prohibit marital divorce from an unbelieving spouse.  The shocking reality is that no verse exists in either the Old Testament or the New Testament that directly calls or refers to divorce as a sin.  Those who think marital divorce is a sin can only call upon three passages in the whole bible to make their claim, but clearly they misconstrue the meaning since God permitted divorce and since Paul could not claim a single biblical passage that forbid divorce for the unequally yoked believer.  Of course the abuse of God’s divorce provision is a sin.  It is the very sin that Jesus was pointing out in Matthew 5 and 19 when he called the religious leaders out and told them they were using God’s provision for divorce to commit the sin of adultery.  Those men as were the men in Malachi 2 were abusing God’s divorce provision to commit adultery.  But Even the Lord does not call or refer to divorce as a sin.  But in the very same passage Jesus says that He would not abrogate one jot or tittle of God’s Law, but rather He came to fulfill the Law.  Yet many have treated divorce as though Jesus did abrogate the Mosaic provision.

Not only are the innocent, believing spouses suffering at the hands of their treacherous, unbelieving partners, but they cannot count on the support of the church while they pursue God’s permit for divorce.  And if they avail themselves of God’s gracious escape they will discover that the church will hold them in contempt and treat them with disdain throughout the process.


The View that Jesus Singled Out Adultery as the Sole Biblical Grounds for Divorce Is Wrong

Unquestionably the most commonly held view on divorce in Christian circles states that our Lord offered adultery as the sole biblical grounds for divorce in what is called the exception clause (Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9).  Our Lord was correcting the “divorce for any reason” doctrinal position of the Pharisees, but He was not providing a complete doctrine on divorce.  The reader may find it interesting that the second most common view on divorce is that two biblical grounds for divorce exist.  First, adultery from Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees, and second, Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian churches in 1 Corinthians 7.

Logically, Matthew 5 & 19 cannot rightfully be used as our Lord having restricted divorce solely for those whose spouse committed adultery if Paul’s teaching on divorce is as clear as it would seem.  The biblical ground for divorce found in 1 Corinthians 7 is traditionally called abandonment, which is unfortunate as biblical expounders have understood Paul’s conclusion well enough, but they misapprehended the cause.  Paul says, “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” (1 Corinthians 7:15).  It seems apparent that Paul’s instructions do not introduce the concept of abandonment, but Paul is, in fact, providing another biblical ground for divorce.  Many bible students refuse to acknowledge Paul’s clear portrayal of another biblical ground for divorce because doing so would logically mean that our Lord did not intend his “correction against permissiveness” recorded in Matthew’s gospel to limit the sole just cause for divorce to adultery, which is what the church has erred in doing with our Lord’s teaching.

Nevertheless, since God’s word unmistakably teaches at least one additional legal ground for divorce, then it is not logically correct to continue teaching adultery as the sole biblical ground for divorce.  Obviously, Jesus was saying that the Pharisees’ “divorce for any reason” doctrine was 180 degrees off.  In Jesus’ use of the Greek word ‘pornia’ he was elucidating that it would take very serious violations of the marriage covenant’s conditions such as adultery to justify dissolving the marriage.  Jesus was arguing that dissolving a marriage takes serious violations by one or both of the marriage partners.  Once covenant conditions have been broken, then dissolution of the marriage is justifiable, but without such treachery a divorce action is illegitimate and the married partners are in danger of committing adultery if they seek a partner outside of the one with whom they are still married.   In such cases, the marriage covenant has not been broken, which is to say it is still a valid and legitimate covenant between the husband and wife.

A divorce action, particularly between two believers, without just cause is not permitted and the marriage partner(s) who remarry will be committing adultery.  However, that very adultery provides biblical grounds for the innocent spouse to divorce.  So much of the church would deny this, but what does the Lord say?  “I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32).  At the very least, Jesus is saying that “unchastity” is biblical grounds for divorce, so when these Pharisees illegitimately “divorced” their wives and joined themselves to another woman, Jesus exact words exclaim that their wives have biblical grounds for divorce and are now free to remarry in the Lord.  How has this obvious logic been overlooked?  Through an oppression that is always with us where those in power use it to their advantage and to the disadvantage of the weak.  Throughout most centuries women have been powerless on the topic of divorce.  If any legal divorce would be had it was almost never going to be by the wife.


The Extreme Positions on Marital Divorce

The extreme positions for marital divorce are excessive liberty on the left and excessive restrictions on the right.  It is common for man to respond to an extreme position by moving too far in the opposite direction landing at the opposite extreme.  The Pharisees were practicing excessive liberty, so the church failing to understand our Lord’s correction swung to the opposite extreme and has held on to that extreme for most of its history with a few notable, and I dare say noble, exceptions.

So then, on the left, excessive liberty allows a failure to keep the conditions of the marriage covenant; a failure to even take them seriously.  When it comes to marriage this person fails to cleave, fails to forsake all others, fails to love and cherish.  They fail to take the marriage covenant seriously; therefore, they fail to keep the conditions of the covenant.  They are a covenant breaker.  They treat marriage like a merry-go-round getting off and on as often as it suits their self-centered heart.  The bible allows the innocent spouse the freedom to divorce such a treacherous spouse and remarry in the Lord.

Then we swing all the way out to the right extreme where excessive restrictions prohibit divorce for those who are married to covenant breakers.  Believers are bound up, by the church, where God’s word provides liberty.  They are coerced into a lifetime of being unequally yoked to a treacherous spouse who has broken the marriage covenant by breaking it’s conditions.  As promised in God’s word, this relationship destroys their peace, corrupts their sanctification and development in the Lord, and prevents a godly marriage in the Lord.   The churches’ divorce doctrine effectively treats marriage like a lifetime prison sentence for the innocent spouse handed down for the sins (crimes) committed by the treacherous spouse.  Ridiculously, in the eyes of many in the church, only the treacherous spouse has the ability to commute the innocent spouse’s sentence by choosing to leave the marriage covenant.

Both extremes destroy the sanctity of God’s institution of marriage, but believers are blinded to this reality because the church decided to value the continuation of the covenant above the godliness of the relationship it serves.  The church leaders require believers to serve the institution of marriage while God instituted marriage to serve man by helping him glorify God.  As the Lord Jesus taught on the institution of the Sabbath, marriage was made for man and not man for the marriage covenant.  God instituted marriage to serve man.  If a particular marriage cannot serve God’s intended purpose because one of the spouses acts treacherously toward the other, then God made an allowance in the Law for divorce.  The church in its extreme position has effectively taken away God’s allowance and as a result changed God’s law.

The rest of this blog lays out the biblical view on divorce.


The Spirit of God’s Law Governing Divorce

God’s law permitting divorce is found in Deuteronomy 21:10-14 and 24:1-4.  Jesus acknowledged God’s permission for divorce when he said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives”.  Jesus was correcting Jewish leaders who had taken an extreme position on divorce by turning God’s permission into permissiveness.  Their custom became divorcing their wives without a valid reason.  Consistent with man’s tendency to swing out to extreme positions, the church over corrected by denying God’s permission for divorce almost entirely.  So then, one extreme treats marriage like a marry-go-round allowing anyone to get on and off at anytime, while the other extreme treats marriage like a life sentence.

For those who are thinking, “Well that is what ‘until death’ means”, consider the difference between a life sentence and a marriage that honors God.  The life sentence is imposed by someone outside of the marriage.  It does not account for abuse, neglect, hatred, godlessness, wickedness, deception, adultery, treachery and so forth.  From the first days of the church until now it is likely that more spouses have been murdered in their marriages under this monstrous view of marriage than have inmates in prisons.  Whereas a marriage that honors God is happily maintained by both spouses; it supplies companionship, love, happiness, peace, belonging, comfort, friendship, fidelity, adoration, mutual desire to serve, edification, humility, meaningful sex and so much more.  So far from murdering one another these spouses cherish and care for one another over and above all others.  Marriage, as instituted by God, was never intended to be anything remotely like a life sentence.

Jesus spoke words to correct the permissiveness of the Pharisees, and then the church overcorrected by restricting divorce entirely.  The church misapprehended Jesus’ words and used them to abolish God’s law permitting divorce in spite of the fact that Jesus said, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished”, which includes God’s permit for divorce.  How has the church done this?  Note Jesus’ complete statement acknowledging God’s permission for divorce:  “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matthew 19:8).

Our Lord’s statement makes three distinct points:

WHY      1. The hardness of men’s hearts was the cause of Moses’ law.

WHAT   2. Moses permitted marital divorce.

WHEN   3. After the fall.  From the beginning it has not been this way.

Note that point 2 is WHAT God did.  Point 1 is WHY He did it.  And point 3 is WHEN He did it.  Note: The church took the reason and timing of God’s action and uses them to nullify the action itself.  As though in a moment of weakness, Moses made an allowance for divorce and Jesus decided to fix the error.  It is taught that Moses only allowed divorce because men’s hearts were so hard that they could not be stopped, so Moses had to provide some guidelines.  In like manner, it is taught that divorce was not part of God’s plan from the beginning, so for Christians Jesus is simply restoring God’s original order by effectively abdicating Moses’ provision for divorce.

Because of The Hardness of Men’s Hearts

It must be said that the hardness of men’s hearts is the cause of every law.  Man’s fall into sin required God’s Law.  Law is absent wherever sin does not exist.  So then, how did the church err in using Christ’s teaching in Matthew chapters 5 and 19 to restrict marital divorce?  Notice the first distinct point in Jesus’ statement: “because of the hardness of men’s hearts”.  The casual reader has misapprehended this phrase to mean that man relentlessly, stubbornly demanded permission to divorce, so Moses gave in to their sinful desires and permitted divorce.  Many contradictions come up immediately with this interpretation.  First, was the law given by God or Moses?  This interpretation assumes that Moses erred, but God and not Moses is the author of the Law and God does not err.  Second, this interpretation assumes that marital divorce is sinful, but would God make a law permitting sin simply to please godless men clamoring for said sin?  Nowhere in all of God’s Word is divorce called a sin.  The Pharisees became licentious in their use of divorce, but even then Jesus said they were guilty of adultery.  Of course, he did not say they would be guilty of divorce because our Lord knows that it is not a sin to divorce when grounds for divorce are present.  Third, the church has taken the Lord’s words and used them to do away with one of the Mosaic laws.  They have in essence declared that Moses erred and Jesus corrected or reestablished God’s original intent.  The facts are that Moses did not err and Jesus had no intention of restricting appropriate cases for divorce.

What about theologians’ view on the phrase, “Because of the hardness of men’s hearts”?  A careful study of Moses action recognizes that he was not permitting divorce so much as he was placing restrictions and guidelines on divorce.  Just as men would later do in Malachi and Jesus’ days the men in Moses’ day were taking advantage of the permission for divorce and using it to justify sinfulness on their part.  The ability to obtain a necessary divorce in the Old Testament was assumed.  In fact, many of the sins that made a divorce permissible also carried the punishment of death, so divorce was unnecessary when the offending spouse was stoned to death.  But if, for whatever reason, the penalty of death was not handed out certainly the spouse was free to divorce and find a more suitable marriage partner.  Therefore, we find Jesus doing exactly what Moses did with when he put in place proper guidelines for marital divorce.  Jesus reinforces Moses’ laws when the church often sees Him as abrogating them.  What we are saying is not controversial since all agree that Jesus would not have abrogated the smallest jot or tittle of God’s Law.

The final concern is less a contradiction but a mistaken notion nonetheless.  The church interpreted the phrase ‘the hardness of men’s hearts’ to mean that man stubbornly insisted upon ‘divorce for any reason’ when in fact Jesus meant nothing more than that man since the time of the fall is evil continually and have desperately wicked hearts, hence the necessity for an escape from a truly treacherous spouse.  Jesus’ statement on the hardness of men’s hearts is directed at the reality that sinful man is capable of weaponizing even God’s gracious allowances and using them to sin all the more.  So God provided Moses, not a prohibition for divorce, but guidelines to establish biblical grounds for divorce.  Those guidelines were intentionally vague because God understood that a simple rule of three (such as adultery, abandonment, physical abuse) could not possibly cover every possible legitimate need for a divorce.  God understood that the hardness of man’s heart makes many people treacherous spouses; spouses who would break the conditions of the marriage covenant.  Both Moses and Jesus needed to correct the permissiveness of the Israelites and the Pharisees while at the same time reinforcing God’s provision of divorce for the protection of the innocent spouse’s of treacherous husbands and wives.  Jesus gave an example of the type of covenant breaking that would permit divorce and the church turned it into a law of one biblical ground for divorce, but a careful study of scripture quickly sees the impossibility of that being the correct interpretation of our Lord’s meaning.

From The Beginning It Has Not Been This Way

We now come to our Lord’s third distinct point in his phrase.  Jesus said, “But from the beginning it has not been this way”.  The church has taken this to mean that God’s intention is for the duration of marriage to be for the entire lifetime of the marriage partners.  I think that we can all agree that God’s intent was for marriage to last as long as the partners lasted, but that is only part of what Jesus was saying.  Jesus’ use of the phrase, “from the beginning” is a clear reference to God’s institution of marriage prior to man’s fall into sin.  Then man’s fall into sin transpired subsequently to “the beginning” bringing the hardness of men’s hearts into every marriage necessitating divorce, which hard hearted men abused necessitating Moses’ guidelines for divorce.  The unmistakable point here is that the fall brought about hard hearts and that men must mitigate their own sins so that they can aspire to God’s original intent in their marriages.  However, Moses and Jesus did not prohibit divorce, but rather pointed to the guidelines of God’s Law on divorce so that the innocent partners of treacherous, adulterous, murderous spouses would have a way of escape.  The church effectively prohibited access to divorce entirely and ignored Moses’ guidelines reinforced by Jesus.  To make matters worse the Church’s catastrophic blunder was all done in the name of Jesus as it was our Lord’s words they misinterpreted in order to nullify God’s allowance for all necessary divorces.  So then, the church has failed where Moses and Jesus did not.

Finally, we arrive at Jesus’ second distinct point that reads: “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives.”  So then, John Milton explained that God instituted marriage because Adam was lonely (“It is not good for the man to be alone” Genesis 2:18), and God provided the perfect solution (woman) to alleviate man’s loneliness.  God’s intentions were that this special friendship would last forever, but then man fell into sin; a fall so great that we have the following recorded in Genesis 6:5-7:

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  The Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land…for I am sorry that I have made them.”

The very next chapter records God fulfilling His promise by sending a worldwide flood.  Therefore, man’s hardness of heart deserved God wiping out the entire human race with the exception of Noah and his 7 family members.

What God said in Genesis 6 and did in Genesis 7 demonstrates the spirit of God’s law permitting marital divorce.  It frequently happens that those who enjoy studying law tend to spend most of their time working on the letter of the law.  Man can manipulate the letter of the law to come up with whatever outcome he desires.  The Pharisees manipulated the letter of God’s law on divorce and arrived at licentiousness and permissiveness because that is what they desired.  The church has taken the very same law and turned the letter of that law all the way to the other extreme so that a permit for divorce is virtually impossible to obtain because that is what they desired.  But what does God desire?  Does anyone care to discover the spirit of God’s law permitting divorce?

Just as God frees himself from the wickedness of man both in his destruction by flood and in the eternal punishment of hell, he provides innocent marriage partners a permit to divorce spouses whose hardness of heart causes them to become treacherous spouses.  From the beginning divorce did not exist, but neither did sin, death and eternal damnation.  What is the heart and spirit of God’s permit to divorce?  To separate light from darkness.  To protect the innocent from the wicked.  The fact that the church has taken that protection away will forever be a sad chapter in the history of God’s church.  It is time to close that chapter and get this right.


Reclaiming God’s Provision of Divorce: God’s Prescribed Means of Dealing with Sin in the Church

Divorce and divorcees are viewed by the church as unholy.  Yet God divorced Israel for her unrepentant godlessness.  God’s divorce action against Israel cannot be unholy because God is most holy.  If God, of whom it is said is Holy, Holy, Holy, divorced his bride because she was so unholy, then should not God’s children follow their heavenly Father’s example?  So why does much of the church prohibit unequally yoked divorce?  The Old Testament could not be more clear in its teaching that separation between the godly and the ungodly is necessary because the ungodly will pull the godly into idolatry, which is also called spiritual adultery.

Pastors routinely use Christian divorce rates as a proof of the declension in the church.  But should they be doing this?  Christian leaders commonly place divorce alongside sins listed by the Apostle Paul as “the deeds of the flesh”, but Paul never listed divorce with any other sin, and God’s word does not call divorce a sin nor does it prohibit divorce.  The word of God properly places divorce as a provision of God’s laws to protect innocent spouses and to prevent further sin.  Therefore the proper category for divorce is alongside church discipline, rebuke, reproof, punishment, and even giving a so-called believer over to Satan with hopes that he will repent and believe.  This entire category could be called “God’s prescribed means of dealing with sin in the Church”.  This category is chiefly concerned with the punishment/restoration of the unrepentant and the protection of the innocent, which are in essence two halves of the same coin.

Godly men and women lament the scarcity of church discipline, but inexplicably decry every divorce.  Yet, both are similar actions belonging to the same category in scripture.  Both remove the leaven from the body of Christ.  Both have been abused by wicked people.  Both are greatly under utilized by the church.  When a church member is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, then appropriate church discipline will always result in the expulsion of that individual from the body of believers because he is a danger to the body.  Divorce performs the exact same function in Christian marriages and families that church discipline does for the church.

So then, it is no surprise that the very people who hate to follow through with God’s command for church discipline also hate God’s gracious provision of divorce?  Whether they are uncomfortable with confrontation, lack trust in the Lord to bring about a good outcome, fear being called judgmental, lack wisdom and spiritual discernment, have a lax and slothful oversight, favoritism or just not wanting to be drug into the kind of fight that godless people seemingly enjoy, most churches never or rarely do any church discipline and most churchmen get away with repudiating divorce by classifying it with sins listed in Scripture when, in fact, divorce is never called a sin anywhere in the word of God.

In both cases churchmen remain sitting when they should stand up for battle.  Scripture refers to believers as soldiers and provides them with the full armor of God.  Christian leaders are under Christ’s command to protect and feed the flock.  Instead most Christian leaders take a let go and let God approach to these difficult situations involving unrepentant sinners within their flocks.  This disobedient, slothful approach says that if God wants the brother or sister to be set free from a godless, treacherous spouse, then God can always take the life of the wicked spouse.  And if we just wait upon the Lord, then God will remove or redeem the worthless fellow.

This is decidedly not the approach that the great apostle Paul took.  He said, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14), and “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?”  And “In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened (1 Corinthians 5:4-7).  It is the Christian’s task to clean out the leaven, which means to actively remove unrepentant sinners from their sphere of influence.

Perhaps divorce actions have been improperly categorized because they can be and often are messy, but church discipline is also frequently messy.  Whenever unrepentant sinners are exposed to the light and held accountable for their sin they will usually fight back with wickedness (Contentiousness, lies, accusations, threats, deceptions, disputes, quarrels, comparisons, attempts to divide the church, self-defense, etc.), which pulls the Christians involved into the mire…a very uncomfortable circumstance for believers.  It matters not whether this unpleasant duty is a church discipline action or a divorce action the goal is the same…remove the leaven.  The outcome of obedience is peace, which is God’s desire for his children.

It is clear why church leaders do not enjoy church discipline.  It is equally unpleasant to go through a divorce with an ungodly spouse, and with the current mindset of most Churches unequally yoked divorce is made all the more difficult because Christian leaders turn upon and attack the Christian who is seeking to obey God’s call to separate from the godless.  Understandably, Christians hate the difficult work of separation, but as soldiers they must fight the good fight even when the immediate battle is difficult and unpleasant.  It would be great if the Church would get on the same page, but that will never be the case this side of heaven.  Individual churches and individuals must take upon themselves these difficult tasks because scripture prescribes these measures when unbelievers are in the midst of the people of God.

The heart of this article is that the divorce of an unequally yoked spouse is not a sin and should cease being treated as though it was listed in any of Paul’s “Deeds of the flesh” passages.  Divorce is not classified as a sin anywhere in the Bible notwithstanding Malachi 2:16, Matthew 5 and 19, and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 all of which have articles addressing them rather extensively on this blog.  Divorce in general and especially unequally yoked divorce is properly classified in God’s word under “God’s prescribed means of dealing with sin in the Church.”  Divorce belongs to the same classification as church discipline, rebuke, being removed from leadership position, restoration and even giving the unrepentant sinner over to Satan with hope that repentance will ensue.

It is well established that divorce is an allowance in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 21 & 24), and Jesus did not annul or overturn that law as many understand from Matthew 19.  Jesus said:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).

In Matthew 19 Jesus did not say that the Pharisees were guilty of divorce.  Of course he would not say that because Jesus knew that divorce was permitted by God’s law—it is not a sin.  Jesus said the Pharisees were guilty of adultery because they wanted to cover up their adultery with illegal usage of God’s legal divorce provision.

A comparison will help clear the muddied waters.  Suppose the Pharisees exchanged their desire for young, gentile wives with a desire for young, unpaid servants.  If they asked Jesus if it was permissible for them to adopt gentile children, but their real motive was to force the children into unpaid labor, then Jesus would have said they were guilty of human enslavement and child abuse and endangerment.  But Jesus would not have said the Pharisees were guilty of adoption.  In the same way, the Lord Jesus did not say they were guilty of divorce.  It is inconceivable to think that the church would have treated adoption as a wicked sin through the centuries, yet this is precisely what the church has done with God’s provision for divorce.  God’s gracious provision of divorce should in no way be diminished because men abuse it.  God understood that since the fall people’s hearts were wicked and innocent partners would require relief from wicked spouses.  For this reason Jesus called these hypocrites adulterers.  If God understood divorce to be sinful, then Jesus would have called these Pharisees divorcers.

The Pharisees were merely trying to cover up their adultery with God’s legal provision of divorce.  Jesus showed their argument to be nothing more than a rouse.  He understood that they were not asking about divorce as it is allowed in the Law, but they were asking whether or not legal divorces could be obtained without just cause.  So he said anybody who would carry out what the Pharisees had devised would be an adulterer because they were divorcing faithful Jewish wives so that they were free to marry young gentile wives.  Jesus understood that if their wives had given them no just cause to divorce them, then their reason for seeking divorce was in their adulterous hearts, which is why he said they would be committing adultery.

Christian leaders beware of the glibness with which you disagree and continue holding your unbiblical view on divorce.  Both God’s law and Jesus tie judging people wrongly to unjust balances and weights in the market place.  God’s law reads, “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.  You shall have just balances, just weights…” (Leviticus 19:35-36 underline mine).  And in his Sermon On the Mount Jesus said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Matthew 7:1-3 underline mine)?  Do you have an answer to the Lord’s question to the Pharisees?  Try to answer it before reading further.

Jesus is using an analogy to teach about judging others.  It is easily understood that if a street vendor is selling food items using a false scale or balance and deceitful weights, then he is cheating innocent consumers.  Jesus is saying that the religious leaders do the same to the people of God by changing God’s standards or laws by which men are to measure themselves.  In context, Jesus was saying that with their false standard of measure the Pharisees’ were twisting God’s Laws in their attacks on Jesus and his apostles for healing on the Sabbath and picking grain from fields as they traveled on the Sabbath, yet at the very same time these religious leaders refused submission to the very Son of God who was standing right in front of them.

So then, a log in the religious leaders’ eye today is using a man-made standard of measure that restricts God’s allowance for divorce.  Divorce is protected in God’s moral law.  What right do you have prohibiting it for the people of God?  God does not want his people bound together with unbelievers, but you have restricted them from accessing God’s allowance of divorce that would allow them to repent of their unequally yoked marriages.  Millions of new unequally yoked marriages take place because the church, contrary to the will and Word of God, has made a propitiation for Christians in such marital relationships.

For this reason, young people have no fear of disobeying God by getting unequally yoked because the church long since stopped church discipline for this sin.  In fact, the church has gone so far as to call repentance of these relationships the sin rather than being in an unequally yoked marriage.  Because of this widespread sin in the church a pall of darkness is placed upon all who have divorced wicked spouses even though they are the few who follow God’s provision.  God forbid the church continues this lunacy.  The people of God are suffering for it.  Families are suffering in unspeakable ways.  The church is largely becoming indistinguishable from the world because of this sin.  This sin has played a significant role in the destruction of the institution of marriage which is now taking place.  Churches are so full of unbelievers that the believers are being corrupted by the bad company IN THE CHURCH.  Brethren, these things ought not be this way.  “CLEAN OUT THE OLD LEAVEN.”


Believing Spouse, Blessed House

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Traditionally, the constructing of a prohibition where God provided believers liberty to divorce unbelieving spouses, the church has badly mistreated many of its own proving the old axiom: “The only army that shoots its wounded is the Christian army.”  In fact, many actually believe that if a divorced believer remarries they prove to be unbelievers and are condemned to eternal damnation.  Divorce is treated as a sin when in fact it is not a sin at all (See article titled: Reclaiming God’s Provision of Divorce).  God provided divorce as a remedy for a godly spouse to escape the lifelong companionship with an evil spouse.

Many reasons exist for God’s provision.  The following is not an exhaustive list, but consider:

  • The unbelieving spouse has broken the marriage covenant’s condition of suitability (Genesis 2:20). Physical: Suitable means one man and one woman.  Spiritual: Suitable means same spiritual condition.  For the world at large this simply means that both marriage partners will be unbelievers (Marriage is a creation ordinance, thus it applies to all of mankind). For the Old Testament this means that both marriage partners must be Jews by birth or conversion of young females (Deuteronomy 7:3-4, 13:6-11, 17:2-7, 21:10-14 and 22:9-11).  For the New Testament and the church era this means that both marriage partners must be born-again in Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 7:39, II Corinthians 6:14-7:1).
  • Believers are under God’s command, “do not be bound together with unbelievers…Come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:14 & 17; Deuteronomy 7:3-4, 22:9-11).
  • Bad company corrupts good morals (Exodus 23:33, 1 Kings 22:52-53, Prov. 13:20b, 1 Cor. 15:33).
  • God’s disfavor will fall upon the house of the wicked and injure the child of God (Numbers 33:55-56; 2 Chron. 19:2: Isaiah 31:2; Jeremiah 2:37; Ezek. 21:3).
  • Light and darkness, righteousness and lawlessness, Christ and ungodliness, the temple of God and idols cannot be together.  They cannot have partnership, fellowship, harmony, commonality and agreement (II Corinthians 6:14-16).
  • The will of God demands divorce when unequally yoked (See article titled: The will of God dictates divorce for those unequally yoked in marriage).

So what is the proof that divorced believers are treated as second class Christians?  Just listen to the preachers.  Divorce is near the top of virtually every pastors list of proofs that the church is in a declension.  But the reality is that unequally yoked marriages should replace divorce in that list because they are the biblically prescribed cause for the decline of godliness in the church, and repentance through divorce is God’s remedy.  Christians who divorce godless spouses are following the command of God and do so at great personal cost.

These same pastors routinely make statements of condemnation indicating that divorced people have merely taken the easy way out as though they are people with no character.  To say such a thing takes a fundamentally flawed understanding of what people are going through leading up to a divorce.  It is not remotely easy to go through a divorce.  Two people working toward the same dreams and goals for many years have so many entanglements.  They have shared children, property, bank accounts, mortgages, friends, relatives and hopes.  God’s word commands believers, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”, so then divorce is not the easy way out, it is an unbelievably difficult but obedient way out of an unequally yoked marriage.  Many believers fail to divorce their unbelieving spouse because they fear the heavy cost (Proverbs 15:16-17), but material comfort is a sinful reason to stay bound to an unbeliever.  Proverbs 9:6 “Forsake the simple ones and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.”  Forsake means to renounce something dear to one, to leave entirely, to desert or abandon.

The world likes to say, “Happy wife, happy life”.  The people of God should replace this saying with the much more biblical statement, “Believing spouse, blessed house”.


A Misunderstanding of Jesus’ command to “Judge Not” Is Causing Unequally Yoked Marriages By the Millions

It is often thought that the most memorized verse from the bible is John 3:16.  I suspect that is true for those who truly love Jesus and are in Christ.  But I strongly believe that far more people have memorized Matthew 7:1 and they have done so without any effort whatsoever.  Perhaps most of them only have two words memorized: “Judge not”.  These two words are very likely among Satan’s favorite passages of the bible.  And not only Satan but all who hate Christ and his church favor these two words.  Then, of course, we think of those of whom the great Apostle Paul warns believers not to associate.  These regularly and happily abuse the Lord’s phrase against judging others:

“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Do you not judge those who are within the church?  But those who are outside, God judges.  Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13[underlining mine]).

Few biblical passages are as universally believed and repeated as Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount “judge not least you be judged”.  “Judge not” is thrown back in Christians’ faces and has been a mantra for liberals alongside: Diversity, social justice, political correctness and globalism.  With such associations one should quickly realize that “Judge not” does not in any way, shape or form carry the same meaning that Jesus intended.  So then, what does “Judge not” mean for the millions of Americans quick to use it?

It has two primary meanings each of which carry major implications:

First, “judge not” as understood today means that it is taboo to make a judgment about the rightness or wrongness of somebody else’s thoughts, words or actions.  People universally recognize that “nobody is perfect”; however, the adoption of this aphorism lures people into moral carelessness.  We should have a problem with our lack of perfect holiness.  The perfect holiness of God demands that we be holy too, which is why the perfect righteousness of Christ is necessary to make atonement for our imperfection.  The modern moral compass is off by one hundred and eighty degrees because sin is no longer considered a problem, and liberals go so far as to deny the existence of sin altogether.

If the modern understanding of “judge not” were accurate then the bible would not command us to reprove, rebuke and correct one another.  In the fight against sin the Christian needs all possible assistance including other Christians coming alongside to rebuke and correct in the spirit of love.  The modern understanding says that the only loving response to sin is to accept, confirm and even celebrate the person’s decision to defy the ways of God.  Support for the person’s corrupt choices and lifestyles is demanded.  Those who refuse to celebrate sinful choices are called bigots, homophobes, racists, misogynists and xenophobes.  But know this dear believers, that any unpleasantness is not caused by a concerned brother’s loving confrontation but rather by the angry, rebellious response of the person in need of rebuke and correction.  An unwillingness to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and obey the commandments of God is the response of an unbeliever.

Jesus’ phrase “Judge not least you be judged” has a second, equally disastrous understanding today, which is that even many of the regenerate cannot discern whether or not a claim to Christian faith is valid or specious.  The overwhelmingly predominate mindset is that any claim to Christianity whatsoever is to be honored.  If somebody says they are a Christian, than by golly they must be a very fine Christian indeed notwithstanding a truckload of evidence to the contrary…after all who are we to judge?  This, of course, is completely inconsistent with Old and New Testament teaching.

People who are consumed by pride, unbelief, rebellion and gross immorality are still considered brothers in Christ with nothing more than an empty claim to Christianity.  Jesus showed us how to recognize the difference between genuine disciples and wolves in sheep’s clothing.  He said to the Pharisees “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Few today understand the obvious inference of the ‘log’ and the ‘speck’.  The former is the sin of unbelief.  The religious leaders in Jesus’ day refused to believe in the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world, yet they still wanted men to view them as spiritual titans.  Jesus was telling these “hypocrites” to remove the log of unbelief and become believers in God’s redeeming Son and then they would be part of the family of God and could reprove and rebuke fellow partakers in the kingdom of God, but they continued in their unbelief.

Jesus went on to say in the Sermon on the Mount, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  It is obvious that modern Christians cannot see past the clothing.  Jesus then said, “You will know them by their fruits.  Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.”  Therein we discover the problem.  So many wolves have entered the church that Christians and so-called Christians alike are incapable of recognizing the difference between good and bad fruit.  Most in the church cannot discern the difference between an unrepentant sinner and a saint who is engaged in a battle to mortify the remnants of indwelling sin.

If the church is blind, then how dark is the modern darkness?  How will the members of the church of God know with whom they are to evangelize and with whom they are to fellowship?  How can any Christian hope to obey God’s command, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” if they cannot discern the distinction between a believer and an unbeliever?  Christians are marrying unbelievers at an alarming rate and most of them mistakenly believe their new marriage partner to be a Christian when they are clearly not.  If they were only practiced in the word of God, then they would be able to discern good from evil.

Those who throw around the phrase “Judge not” are demonstrating a clear failure to recognize salvation.  Those who cannot recognize salvation reveal their ignorance of the biblical gospel.  This problem existed in the churches of the first century as well: Jude said of them, “These are the ones who cause divisions, merely natural (worldly minded), devoid of the Spirit.”  Salvation is not merely natural but supernatural.  Salvation cannot happen apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.  Salvation does not mean being part of a church or a denomination.  Salvation is not inherited from one’s parents or from the religion of one’s parents.  Salvation cannot be earned through works.  Salvation cannot be chosen by the will of man.  Salvation is entirely of God.  God does not save without transforming.

So then, what is Jesus’ meaning when he said “Do not judge one another”?  The Lord was saying that we must not hold one another in contempt.  We must never want someone else to be eternally separated from God.  We must not hate one another.  We must not judge another to be beyond God’s forgiveness.  The liberal says that God loves everybody unconditionally just the way they are, which means they do not need to repent or change at all.  God forbid!  On the other end of the spectrum, self-righteous religiosity holds the masses in contempt while uttering false blessings like ‘God bless you’.  Equally appalling!  There is a better way.

Paul told the Roman Christians “…not to judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”  So judging has to do with hindering someone from coming to the Lord.  Paul’s question to the Roman Christians was, “But you, why do you judge your brother?  Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt?  For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”

What do Christians need to change in their thinking?  It is not contempt but wisdom that recognizes the lost condition of a false confessor.  Each person has a reliable tendency to favor themselves, so is it any wonder that millions of people think that they are living lives pleasing to God when they are not?  If a person has become born-again, then they need to become practiced in the word of God so that they will recognize the clear biblical signs of salvation.  This needs to be done early in the life of young believers, before they make a choice for a life-long marriage partner.  This is the proper order: First get your own house in order and know the word of God, then seek a marriage partner who has fruit consistent with true faith.

Go to the word of God and learn the truth about the gospel and salvation.  Know what salvation looks like—that is the thing.  Do not equivocate; do not think in generalities or vagaries.  When it comes to the gospel start with the Gospel of John and then read the New Testament book of Romans.  Every regenerate Christian must have clear and obvious fruit that is readily recognizable to those who know God’s word.  Every unregenerate person lacks this fruit.  There is no gray line here.  It is obvious to the mature Christian who is and who is not saved.

The problem lies in the fact that a vastly larger body of people, known to the world as Christians, are in the camp of being ignorant to what the word of God says about salvation.  This majority insist, to their own detriment, that simply desiring salvation is all that is necessary to possess it.  That is all fine and good in the here and now where the biblically misinformed believe whatever makes them feel good, but it will not transport them into the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in the next lifetime.  Of equal importance, when a true believer in Christ Jesus marries one of these false confessors of the faith they will learn sooner or later that they are bound together with an unbeliever, which is an awful condition and a sinful state.

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).


Fallacies Prohibiting Believers from God’s Gracious Provision for a Legal Divorce

Fallacy #1:  Adam’s Fall and the Subsequent Reality of Treacherous Spouses Do Not Effect the Permanence of Marriage

Jesus: “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matthew 19:8).  Here we see that our Lord understood the changes that took place after the Fall of Adam.  With the phrase, “From the beginning” our Lord is making a reference to the institution of marriage prior to the Fall.  With the phrase, “Your hardness of heart” Jesus is making a reference to “the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (Genesis 6:5), which of course was subsequent to the Fall.  The “hardness of heart” does not refer to the Pharisees wanting divorce come hell or high water as most assume, but rather to the general unrepentant wickedness of mankind.  Moses did not cave in to the sinful demands of men who sought divorces so that they could find more appealing wives—it was never the purpose of God’s law to make allowances for sin.  The Mosaic guidelines for divorce were given to protect innocent spouses from treacherous (covenant breaking), unrepentant spouses, and in the same action were intended to shame the treacherous spouses.  Only the treacherous spouse was intended to feel shame.  Nevertheless, post-fall wickedness in men and women necessitated divorce as a protection for the innocent.  Jesus said that he has not come to bring peace but a sword that would divide the most intimate of even familial relationships, but from the beginning it has not been this way.  As the reader can see, separation was not necessary in the garden of Eden either, but Adam and Eve were separated from God and from the garden once sin entered the human race.  From the time of the fall God has demanded that his children be separate from the world not only in marriage, but certainly in marriage—be in the world but not of the world.  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”

Fallacy #2:  Marital Divorce Is a Sin

The scriptures do not contain a single statement calling marital divorce a sin.  God’s divorce laws are, in essence, guidelines on how to carry out divorce lawfully.  God’s law does not license sin.  If any passage of scripture called divorce a sin, then Paul would have certainly referred to that passage in 1 Corinthians 7, but instead he said, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not leave her.”  The key to this passage is the word “consents”; however, for our current purpose, it is clear that Paul had no scriptural passage to call upon that would make it obvious to Christians that divorce was sinful and prohibited by God.

The bible also uses the word for ‘divorce’ in referring to God’s action against Israel.  Logic 101: God cannot sin.  God divorced Israel.  Divorce cannot be a sin.  Obviously getting a divorce in order to commit adultery appears to show that divorce can be a sin, but Jesus made it clear that usurping a lawful path to commit adultery is still adultery.  Nowhere in Matthew 18 does Jesus call divorce a sin, but improperly using a divorce to commit adultery does not take away the sin of adultery.  The sin of those Pharisees was adultery and that is precisely what Jesus called it.

Fallacy #3: God Hates Divorce (Malachi 2:16)

Truth: Man Hates Divorce

This is the single greatest platitude that is used to predetermine the theologian’s outcome in a study on divorce and remarriage, and to turn God’s people against God’s gracious provision of divorce.  Christians generally believe that God hates divorce, and they do so because Malachi 2:16 says as much in many modern translations.  Sam Powell, pastor of First Reformed Church in Yuba City, has done considerable work determining a much more accurate translation taking into account the grammar and pronunciation of the Hebrew words and, according to him, the verse should read as follows:

“Because he hates, send away,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and violence covers his garment.”

The pronouns “he” and “his” do not refer to God, but to the wicked priests to whom Malachi was referring.  The idea in the context of this passage in Malachi is that the wicked priests actually hated their wives (not to mention they hated God as well), and they were treacherous to the very women whom they had joined themselves to in their youth.  Addressing them corporately Malachi uses a singular example when he in essence says, because he hates his wife he is a treacherous spouse and he should, at the very least, give her a writ of divorce and let her go.

It is not God but mankind who hates divorce.  And they do so not out of a strong sense of righteousness or loyalty, but rather because divorce brings the treachery they have committed against their spouse out of the dark and into the light for all to see: “…Men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (even out of context this verse is true here).  Where divorce should shame the unrepentant and free the innocent (as was the case of God divorcing Israel) it is currently viewed to shame everyone involved, and this happens because men hate God’s gracious provision of divorce.  As it has stood for centuries and currently stands to this very day it is the innocent spouse who is far and away most shamed.  In fact, it is often the final blow their wicked, treacherous spouse lands upon them knowing that the Church will not support them so much as turn their noses up against them.

Fallacy #4:  Jesus Reversed Moses’ Permit of Divorce

Moses’ rules on getting a divorce are part of God’s Law.  Jesus acknowledged as much when he said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives” (Matthew 19:8c).  Jesus also said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stoke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:17, 18).”  All of our Lord Jesus’ statements about divorce were regarding the common abuse of divorce being committed by the rich and powerful of that day; how they made use of divorce to commit adultery with young, often foreign (godless), women in order to hide the wickedness of their adulterous actions with the legal cloak of divorce.  What they were doing was tantamount to committing first degree murder and then trying to cover it up by claiming self-defense.  Jesus never bought it.

Fallacy #5:  Marital Divorce Never Glorifies God

Ezra & Nehemiah were among the godliest of Old Testament saints and they made “a covenant with God” to have all the men who had married outside the faith divorce their unbelieving, idolatress wives (Ezra 10:3).  “Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, ‘You have been unfaithful and have married foreign wives adding to the guilt of Israel.  Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives’” (Ezra 10:10, 11).  This single passage is clear on three points: Being unequally yoked is a sin (Paul carried it over for Christians in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).  Secondly, we should confess this sin to God.  Finally, as is the case with all sin we must repent; specifically put away (divorce) our unequally yoked spouse.  Ezra’s actions were designed to get back under the will of God so that they may once again glorify Him.

Fallacy #6:  If Christians Obeyed God They Would Never Sue for Divorce

This fallacy comes from a misunderstanding of Paul’s instructions on divorce in 1 Corinthians 7.  Paul says that if the unbelieving spouse consents to live with the believer, then the believer must not send them away.  By no means is this the same as saying if the unbelieving spouse refuses to divorce, then neither can the believer.  The word “consents” requires positive action on the part of the unbeliever.  Webster’s definition of consent: archaic: to be in concord in opinion or sentiment.  Concord is defined as a state of agreement or harmony.  In the text of 1 Corinthians 7 itself Paul provides the ways in which this agreement is to take shape.  First, for the unbeliever’s consent to be given they will be actively in the process of being sanctified through the believing spouse (Verse 14a+b).  In other words, they will be living in harmony with the life of a believer (Much like Cornelius in The Acts of the Apostles prior to his own conversion).  Secondly, the unbeliever must agree to bring the children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Verse 14c+d).  In a divided home the children will be unclean, but with this consent the children will be holy.  Third, peace—the absence of bickering and fighting—is an integral part of this consent (Verse 15).  Finally, the unbelieving spouse must believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (Verse 16).  They must believe that the only way to forgiveness and reconciliation with God is through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord.  To believe anything else divides the household and the children will not be holy.  Clearly the unbeliever would not themselves yet be saved, but they must give honest, intellectual ascent that Jesus is the only way of salvation.  For centuries it has been obvious that if Paul’s conditional clause was met, then the believer must not divorce their unbelieving spouse, but it is equally true of a conditional clause that if the condition is not met, then the believing spouse should and must divorce the unbeliever.  So why has this understanding been entirely absent?  People generally find what they are looking for.  Their presuppositions say that God hates divorce and Jesus calls it adultery, neither of which are correct, so then Paul’s text to the Corinthians must prohibit divorce as well.  They seek the fallacy that divorce is sin, so they find the fallacy.

Fallacy #7:  Jesus’ Use of “Hardness of Heart” Refers to Man’s Insistence to Use Divorce to Commit Adultery

With the phrase, “Your hardness of heart” Jesus is making a reference to the sinfulness of man, which immediately followed the Fall: “the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (Genesis 6:5).  The “hardness of heart” does not at all refer to the Pharisees wanting divorce come hell or high water.  When God’s word speaks of the “hardness of men’s hearts” it is a direct reference to stubborn, stiff necked rebellion against God and His ways.  Jesus is saying that Moses gave God’s provision of divorce to protect innocent marriage partners from treacherous, unrepentant, hard-hearted spouses engaging in unbelief, rebellion, pride and gross immorality.  Moses was no wimp.  He did not cave in to the sinful demands of godless men who sought divorces so that they could find more appealing wives—it was NEVER the purpose of God’s law to make allowances for sin.  Many in the church take the position that Jesus is undoing Moses’ Laws on divorce and going back to what God originally intended in the Garden of Eden.  If churchmen just thought about that position for one minute they would realize the many problems with it, but because it supports a very popular view they fail to give it due diligence.

Fallacy #8:  2 Corinthians 6:14f Does Not Apply To Marriage

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that it applies to marriage and only to marriage, so he for one does not hold to this fallacy.  This argument is ludicrous on the face of it.  Who gets bound together more than husband and wife?  In terms of human beings, who is yoked together more than husband and wife?  Are married couples expected to have partnership?  Fellowship?  Harmony?  Commonality?  Agreement?  Of course they are and therefore this text applies to marriage.

1 Corinthians 7 should be interpreted in the light of 2 Corinthians 6 for a long list of reasons but time only allows for two: First, Paul’s second letter to the very same group of churches should be expected to clarify any comments he made in the first and not the other way around.  If God’s children would simply take God’s word at face value, then 2 Corinthians 6:14 brings great clarity to any confusion about Paul’s meaning in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.

Secondly, Paul is clearly repeating a universal, divine command in 2 Corinthians 6:14f whereas in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 he is giving his own apostolic advice as to how to proceed when only one of two married people is born-again.  His insights are spot on as we would expect from the great apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  However Paul’s teaching here, properly interpreted, conforms the rest of scripture including all the separation texts and especially all the texts prohibiting being in unequally yoked marriages.  Heretofore a proper interpretation has been lacking, and this passage has for ages been understood so that it contradicts 2 Corinthians 6:14f.  In order to release the tectonic plate sized pressure of this contradiction theologians and elders have made the unbelievable blunder of claiming that 2 Corinthians 6:14 does not apply to married couples.

Fallacy #9:  Divorce Is a Salvation Issue

The fallacy says that if a Christian sues for divorce, then they are showing themselves to not be saved in the first place, and if he remarries he is practicing sin and cannot be saved unless he repents of his new marriage.  This is a most damnable heresy.  Why?  This superstitious belief is responsible for untold numbers of godless marriages being maintained for entire lifetimes when God would have desired so much more for His children.  Psalm 16:3 says, “As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.”  David delighted in the godly and so should every faithful saint—and especially so in our marriages.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  None will be able to boast about their salvation in heaven.  Well let me tell you that a great deal of boasting takes place for those whose marriages have grown long in the tooth.  There are vast numbers of church goers with little to no fruit to show for 50 years of being so-called Christians except for their celebration of 50 years of marriage to the same person.  Of course without fruit those are not actually unequally yoked marriages because neither partner is actually saved, but a true believer should not remain long in a marriage to a child of Satan.  And salvation is by faith in the Son of God.  Salvation is not lost when an obedient saint divorces a treacherous spouse in order to flee being unequally yoked to an unbeliever.  Remarriage to a fellow saint is most glorifying to God.  Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
for brothers to dwell together in unity!”


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

The question, “Can a Christian divorce an unbeliever?” is frequently asked.

“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” (1 Corinthians 7:14).

The aim of this article is to discover Paul’s intended meaning as he used the word “sanctified” to instruct the Corinthian believers.  It is universally understood that Paul is not using the word “sanctified” in the most common New Testament usage.  The sanctification wrought by the Holy Spirit must of necessity follow justification for these two must never be separated.  In his book titled “Christian Marriage” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “The first principle is that there is nothing which is so utterly unscriptural as to separate justification and sanctification.”  So clearly Paul has a different use in mind as he uses the word “sanctified”.  Additionally, Paul does not refer to the Holy Spirit as the agent of sanctification but rather the believing spouse is the agent or instrument of sanctification.

To understand Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” it is paramount that we first understand the meaning of the word itself.  The word sanctify has five significant aspects in its definition.  First, sanctification is to set apart for holiness; a separation from everything unholy.  Second, it carries the idea of freeing from sin or purifying.  Third, being sanctified imparts or imputes inviolability including the idea of a social sanction.  Forth, to impart or impute sacredness or a moral sanction such as Moses permission for divorce.  Finally, to be sanctified means to make productive of holiness, which is to say having the quality of character and the power of ability for producing holiness in abundance.

The Prevailing View vs. Paul’s Intended View 

To our knowledge no great divide has ever formed over what Paul meant when he used “sanctified” here.  This actually surprises us however, and we suspect this has been the case due to indifference more than to universal agreement on the usage here.  It is likely that most expounders of this passage focus on verses 12 and 13, which answer the big question: Can or must a believer divorce their unbelieving spouse?  All should agree that understanding Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” is critical when he says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband”.  Since no controversy over Paul’s use of “sanctified” has ever taken root and the result has been a misapprehension of his meaning, then a controversy must now take place in order to rediscover Paul’s Christian rule or law.  Though controversy is loathsome the forfeiture of truth is too high a price to pay for peace and unity.  We will first endeavor to explain the prevailing understanding, and then we will offer the understanding of the word “sanctified” that Paul indubitably intended to convey.  Fortunately, in the immediate context Paul’s meaning is crystal clear.  Nevertheless, theologians have misunderstood Paul’s meaning because they were not looking for it, and they were not looking for it because they were content with the common understanding that was built upon four significant factors.  First, there are two jolting biblical statements of which one’s initial and difficult to shack impressions are monumental.  With no time to discuss them here they are “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16) and “whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).  A deeper look into both passages quickly reveals that neither can rightly be used to prohibit biblically sanctioned divorces and remarriages, yet they have been for centuries.  Even understanding the full meaning, both , and particularly Jesus’ words, are jolting.  Second, presuppositions built upon these jolting statements.  Third, divorce doctrines get built with these presuppositions used as the standard of truth.  All related scriptural passages had to conform to these presuppositions and the subsequent divorce doctrine (Hopefully the reader caught that this is backward.)  Forth, man-made laws were added, which codified the false doctrines.  Two significant examples: Roman Catholicism made marriage a sacrament, and nations made laws prohibiting divorce following the lead of the Church.

The Prevailing View: A “Christian Card” Included in Nuptials Packet

The prevailing understanding of Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” is comprised of the third and fourth aspects of sanctified as defined above.  The third imputes inviolability and social sanction, while the fourth imparts or imputes sacredness or a moral sanction.  According to those who hold this view it is enough to have inviolability, and moral sanction.  The nature of both of these aspects of “sanctification” is such that they must be imparted or imputed, which leads to the question, “by what or whose power and authority are these aspects of sanctification being imparted or imputed?  In other words, if the only sanctification the unbelieving spouse has is imparted or imputed carrying with it a moral sanction and inviolability then he/she cannot be expected much less required to be set apart for holiness, they are not actually purified, and they absolutely will not have the quality of character and the power of ability for producing holiness in abundance.  What or who has the authority to provide the unbelieving spouse a “Christian Card” so that they can be accepted in all Christian circles without fear of being assailed (called out for their unrepentance and ungodly behavior among the people of God)?  Paul states that the sanctification comes from the believing spouse: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband…” (1 Corinthians 7:14).  At least the spouse is the agency through which the sanctification comes, but a believer cannot disobey the command against being bound together with an unbeliever and suddenly gain the power to sanctify their unbelieving spouse through their own sin.  No, what the prevailing view believes is that marriage is the power that sanctifies the unbelieving spouse through the believing spouse.

The church has taken a serpentine path in order to arrive at its position on this doctrine, which is responsible for a significant percentage of the likely hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of unequally yoked marriages through the centuries.  If contradicting the command against being unequally yoked was the only problem with this view it would be enough to reject it.  The purveyors of the prevailing understanding of Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” would, most of them, claim to agree with the clear biblical teaching that God forbids both the getting and the being unequally yoked, yet they argue that believers can sanctify their being unequally yoked by getting married.  And what is it that makes this amenable in the minds of these godly leaders?  This illogical comprehension prevails because of a wrong understanding of Paul’s use of the word “sanctified”.

Consider the logic of this prevailing understanding that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse, which in turn makes the marriage sanctified in the eyes of God.  This creates a contradiction in God’s Word.  Consider two equations:

Believer + Unbeliever = Divinely Forbidden Unequally Yoked Relationship

Believer + Unbeliever + Marriage = Divinely Sanctioned Sanctified Relationship

Where would the institution of marriage have gained such power?  Of course the answer would be from God who instituted marriage.  If God had given marriage the power to sanctify unequally yoked marriages, then why was God so adamantly uncompromising in both testaments about believers not being bound together with unbelievers especially in marriage?  Such illogical thinking would mean that God’s children can enter into marriages with the godless person of their choosing and all such marriages will mystically engender the sanction and blessing of God notwithstanding the fact that it is He who forbids them.  This false doctrine is a monstrous lie that has done great injury to countless Christians through many centuries.  If the institution of marriage had the capability and the charge to overcome unequally yoked relationships then God would not have given the Israelites so many warnings against taking foreign wives and giving your daughters to foreign men in marriage.  Scripture ubiquitously warns that unequally yoked marriage leads to idolatry, which is why God has always remained steadfast in prohibiting all such unions.

This was not at all Paul’s meaning of “sanctified”.  In his letters to the very same Corinthians he said:  “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole…clean out the old leaven…”, “ I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one”, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves”, “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife”, “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals”, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.”  “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 an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?”  ‘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’” (1 Corinthians 5:6, 7, 11, 13, 9:5, 15:33, 16:22, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

Paul’s words inspired by the Holy Spirit manifest that God could not possibly be the author of this despicable view.  God does not sanctify or bless the marriage union between a believer and an unbeliever—He forbids it!  God set righteousness and lawlessness against each other—Marriage has neither the power nor the authority to overturn such.  Neither does marriage have the means to make light and darkness fellowship together.  Neither can marriage bring Christ and the son of destruction into harmony.  God forbid!  Marriage has neither the design nor the charge to make a believer and an unbeliever share communion.  Marriage does not sanction idols being set up in the temple of God.  May it never be!  It seems unthinkable that the church fathers have allowed this to stand and yet, God forgive them, they have indeed done this very thing.

This prevailing understanding of Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” in 1 Corinthians 7:14 creates many other significant difficulties with only enough space here to mention them:  First, it provides no benefit for the believing spouse, but a rather enormous burden, even a mill stone.  Second, sanctification, unlike justification, is never instantaneous, but rather a process to which one must cooperate.  Therefore, this view fails to recognize the necessity of the unbelieving spouse cooperating in this sanctification.  Third, this understanding makes an allowance for an extremely wicked spouse to reside comfortably under the “sanctification protection” of the believing spouse.  Any actual sanctification is neither expected nor required.  Additionally, no provision or condition is made to limit the unbelieving spouses’ degradation.  Forth, this view happily calls kosher that which is vile and non-kosher.  Viewing sanctified in this way is essentially superstitious as though a thing were so simply because somebody has said it is so notwithstanding the reality or facts to the contrary.  Fifth, understood this way Paul’s use of the word “sanctified” has little to no precedent in the bible.  Sixth, this view conflicts with God’s command against being bound together with unbelievers.  Seventh, this view endangers the family and the local body of Christ by bringing wicked unrepentant people into the place of worship.  Eighth, this view makes the household divided against itself.  Ninth, this view endangers the children from such unequally yoked unions.  Matthew Henry said the children of these unions will receive an undue influence from the unbelieving parent because both are unregenerate.  Finally, the church can actually discipline these godless spouses for their unrepentance and put them out of the church (although sadly they most often do not), but the spouse has no such liberty or authority to do the same in their marriage under this understanding.

Paul’s Intended View: An All-Encompassing Influence

Certainly a good number of the great students of the word of God, over the centuries, have discovered the truth that we see in this text, but it is continually denied and lost by the vast majority of the church due to her disobedience and the sins of the flesh.  Those who happily obey this great truth here quickly lose all hope and expectation that the masses of believers will follow suit—they cannot imagine a scenario where the vast Christian church will rise up to so high a level of obedience when a rather high cost is required from the believers who most need to obey.

We suspect that the great error of the church fathers heretofore has been that the two overarching doctrines under which this discussion has taken place has been Marriage and Divorce without consideration for two even greater and more general doctrines that instruct this subject.  Therefore, our goal will be to manifest Paul’s intended meaning of the word “sanctified” as used in 1 Corinthians 7:14 bearing in mind every doctrine that provides direct guidance.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a great man of God, taught the necessity of arriving at solutions to problems by taking an indirect approach. He said that people always want to take a direct approach to problem solving, which inevitably results in poor outcomes. The direct approach starts with the problem itself and works for a solution using the immediate circumstances or criteria involved in the problem.  He insisted that that is an altogether wrong approach.

On the other hand, the indirect approach requires one to back away from the immediate concern or problem and to begin with the overarching biblical doctrines that apply to the problem at hand.  Start with those great doctrines and work back to the problem or question at hand, and the doctrines will guide you to the proper understanding and the best solution.  With Lloyd-Jones’ logical methodology it became obvious that the prevailing understanding of Paul’s use of the word “sanctify” was arrived upon using a direct approach.  Using what Dr. Jones calls the indirect approach has helped me discover their error and correct it.

Therefore, we will not start with pondering Paul’s meaning of the use of the word “sanctified”, but we will start with the four biblical doctrines or truths that provided Paul with light and guidance as he developed this new doctrine (The reader will recall that Paul said he did not receive these instructions from the Lord—presumably by scriptural or special revelation).  Only in the light of all applicable biblical doctrines (Four directly apply) can we understand the meaning of Paul’s new doctrine, which he no doubt developed using the very same four biblical doctrines as his guides.

Paul’s First Guiding Doctrine: SEPARATION

Separation is chronologically first (Genesis 1:4) and it is by far the preeminent of the four doctrines.  The other three doctrines that provide guidance in discovering Paul’s meaning are themselves subject to this doctrine.  From the time of Adam’s fall God’s children have been instructed to remain separate from the world, and their repeated failure to obey this simple command has been their constant downfall.  The failure of the church fathers to faithfully interpret New Testament passages such as Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 7 in such a way so as to bring them into compliance with this command to be separate from the world has created untold harm to the body of Christ.  The continual falling away of churches is a direct result of the failure to heed this great doctrine.

Paul’s Second Guiding Doctrine: DO NOT BE UNEQUALLY YOKED TO UNBELIEVERS

This is a subordinate doctrine to the doctrine of separation.  It specifies that separation from the world does, in fact, include close relationships between saints and wordlings.  Jesus taught through His own actions that being in the world is different from being of the world.  Jesus was frequently in the company of publicans and sinners, but He did not do so in order to enjoy the world with them but rather He kept company with them in order to share with them the good news of the gospel—he was being their physician not their partner or their buddy.  Saints must follow Christ’s example by constantly calling godless souls to repentance and faith in Christ—we too ought to be physicians of the soul.  Christians must be surrounded by and familiar with the unsaved.  They must be loving, good, patient and kind at the very least.  However, Christians have no liberty whatsoever to become bound together with any unsaved person in any kind of relationship least of all marriage.

In our Lord’s warnings to the seven churches in Revelation Jesus praised the church at Ephesus because they could not “tolerate evil men”, and they tested the teachings of so-called Christians and rejected those who were false teachers.  But sadly Jesus had to rebuke the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira for tolerating those within their body of believers who held false doctrines, and He rebuked the churches at Sardis and Laodicea because most of them were no longer believers—both churches were dying because they tolerated unbelievers in their midst.

Paul’s Third Guiding Doctrine: MARRIAGE

Marriage is God’s institution; therefore, God’s word governs marriage.  Marriage is subordinate to God’s greater commands of separation and the command against being bound together with unbelievers.  Ministers of the gospel should not participate in forbidden marriages.  If Christians insist on marrying an unbeliever, then they should commit their sin without the blessing and assistance of the church.  Couples already unequally yoked in the church should receive special attention from the church elders through loving instruction including a thorough explanation of the gospel and of the doctrines dealing with being unequally yoked.  Unsaved adherents should not be allowed full membership, access to teaching positions, or any leadership roles; however, they are to be loved and constantly attended to until they believe or reject the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  “Teach the truth in love.”  Churches should work toward helping unequally yoked believers repent of their unequally yoked marriages and get back under the complete will of God [Read: The Will of God Dictates Divorce for Those Unequally Yoked In Marriage].

Paul’s Fourth Guiding Doctrine: DIVORCE

Contrary to what we are led to believe marital divorce is not prohibited anywhere in scripture.  If divorce was prohibited anywhere in God’s word, then Paul’s instructions in First Corinthians 7 would have simply referred the believers at Corinth to the biblical prohibition chapter and verse and moved on.  But that is not what we find Paul doing.  Instead Paul wrote a new doctrine to govern divorce for the unequally yoked Christian (The New Testament equivalent to Deuteronomy 24).

So what does God’s word have to say about divorce?  The guidelines for the use of divorce are provided in Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 24).  The guidelines for divorce for unequally yoked Israelites are provided in Deuteronomy 21:10-14.  God divorced Israel because she continued to be unbelieving—God would not remain unequally yoked to Israel.  Ezra and Nehemiah commanded divorce for all who married unbelievers (Ezra 9-10).  And properly taught God does not hate divorce but rather the abusive use of divorce in Malachi chapter 2, which is also what our Lord Jesus teaches against in Matthew 19.  Marriage is a bi-lateral covenant.  Whenever the conditions of a covenant are broken the covenant is broken and the innocent party is no longer bound by the covenant.  Divorce used properly is nothing more than an acknowledgement that one’s marriage covenant has been broken by their spouse and the innocent party is declaring their separation from that covenant breaker.  The typical teaching on forgiveness and restoration is simply unbiblical.  Forgiveness is a duty of every believer, but being restored to a covenant breaker is not normative in God’s word.  God’s wisdom and word dictates separation from covenant breakers.  FYI: Most sins do not rise to the level of breaking a covenant.  Two Christians must and will live together continually forgiving one another and coming together in the love of God thousands of times during a lifetime together, but breaking the marriage covenant is committing treachery against one’s spouse…against the very marriage itself.

The mistake is usually made by subordinating the doctrine of divorce to the doctrine of marriage since one necessarily follows the other, but both doctrines belong on the same plain.  Marriage unites one man to one woman and divorce separates couples already married.  The biblical doctrines of marriage and divorce are governed by and subordinate to the prohibition of being bound together with unbelievers, which is itself subordinate to the doctrine of separation.  Understanding these doctrinal relationships should demonstrate how foolish it has been to interpret Paul’s instructions on the doctrines of marriage and divorce in 1 Corinthians 7 independently from the governing light of the two greater doctrines of separation and prohibited relationships to unbelievers.

So Then, How Can The Unjustified Spouse Become Sanctified?

In the light of these four governing doctrines Paul’s meaning of the word “sanctified” becomes clear.  The unbelieving spouse must necessarily be set apart from the unbelieving world for holiness.  Anything short of this would put the believing spouse at risk of being corrupted.  As Paul warned the Corinthians, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  However, this sanctification is not brought about by the Holy Spirit as the believer’s sanctification but by the believing spouse.  In order for the unbelieving spouse to be sanctified, as Paul says here, they must be like Cornelius and other God fearers.  While Cornelius was not born-again and did not yet have the Holy Spirit the scriptures tells us that he was “A devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually” (Acts 10:2).

Cornelius was sanctified in the way that Paul is saying an unbelieving spouse must be sanctified.  The unequally yoked marriage will have the quality of character and the power of ability (Fifth aspect of definition of ‘sanctify’) for producing holiness in abundance when, and only when, the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse in the same way that Cornelius was sanctified by joining the worship of God in the temple.  In other words, they will believe the word of God and submit to the body of Christ even though the Holy Spirit has yet to quicken them into the body of saints.  Unfortunately, this will appear as a very strange doctrine for those who wrongly believe that a man can will his way into the body of Christ.  No man can will or work his way into the body of Christ (Romans 9:16, Ephesians 2:8-9).  Unless God performs a quickening work in us we cannot be children of God.  We are entirely dependent upon God’s Holy Spirit to breathe life into our spiritually dead bodies.  But in rare instances unbelievers can align themselves with the people of God and as did Cornelius fear God and cry out to him until he brings them into the fold.

Being sanctified as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:14 is not merely a social sanction that somehow allows light to fellowship with darkness.  God forbid!  It means that the unbelieving spouse fears God and submits to the ways of the Lord in all ways so that the married couple can live in peace and harmony, and so that the children will be holy.

For a deeper look at Paul’s teaching on sanctification in 1 Corinthians 7 see the article titled: 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 In Context Strengthens the Case for Unequally Yoked Divorce Found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1  That the church has failed to see the details Paul provided will blow your mind.


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 effectively obscured by one simple phrase being applied to this text.  This phrase is among the most damnable phrases ever to be formed by the tongues of otherwise godly preachers who would never knowingly speak against the Word of God.  But out of an ignorance of the truth they open their mouths and proclaim the following, “We know that Paul’s command in II Corinthians 6:14, against being bound to unbelievers, does not apply to existing marriages because of what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 7 verses 12-16”.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones begs to differ as he taught that 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 is directly applicable to marriage and only to marriage, so certainly he strongly disagreed with the commonly held view.  But he is just one preacher.  Why is Lloyd-Jones assumed to be correct while the multitudes are considered wrong?  The interpretation of the multitudes creates a contradiction in God’s Word, and Lloyd-Jones understood this and was willing to take a stand against the throngs so that he would not be guilty of this critical error.  The contradiction does severe damage to both texts.  I remember the exact occasion, it was in an adult Sunday School session, when I quoted Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “Bad company corrupts good morals.”  My assistant pastor literally said the words, “but it doesn’t have to” as he was defending his unbiblical argument.  My dear friend forgot the four words preceding this biblical truth, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.'”  Whether it is the truthful statement that “bad company corrupts good morals” or the command, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” we must not contradict the Word of God by saying, “but it doesn’t have to” or “not true for every believer”.  Sadly, with such illogical reasoning, 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.  Lloyd-Jones understood this passage to apply directly to marriages because it is marriage above every other relationship that binds two people together to become one complete person.

So the proper understanding of 2 Corinthians 6:14f, in the light the ubiquitous presence of such commands in the Old Testament, is this overarching rule or command that God prohibits his children from being bound together with unbelievers. One cannot simply exclude marriages but should, as Lloyd-Jones has done, argue all the more so in marriages.  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 God’s ubiquitous command in the Old Testament, which has been carried forward into the New Testament by Paul, cannot properly have any normative exceptions 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.

Now the time has come to take note of 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 understand that Paul’s teaching here is unique because he introduces these 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, introducing a new doctrine, are inspired by the Holy Spirit, which means that they are divine in origin.

To clarify the issue further, the immediately preceding sentence (v. 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…” (v. 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 Christian should divorce their unbelieving spouse and under what rules they must follow were not divinely spelled out prior to Paul’s passage here to the Corinthians.  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, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…”

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, as I see it, by two monumental man-made doctrines even as our Lord Jesus argued against, “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: Roman Catholicism 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 by 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.

See article titled: What Is an Unequally Yoked Marriage?

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, even commanded, 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 then, here is Paul’s 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.

So then, 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 virtually 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 ended by one becoming born-again (died and resurrected with Christ), and a new covenant being laid out here by Paul must take its place.  Death ends the marriage covenant, and the believer died in Christ.  It is no longer he/she who lives but Christ who lives in them.  If the unequally yoked marriage is to continue, then it must do so under a new marriage covenant set out here by Paul.

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.  On 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 lays it out so incontrovertibly in this text.  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 fail to consent 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 believing spouse must follow and obey God’s word here and actively pursue divorce if the unbelieving spouse fails to consent because the unbeliever is unlikely to obey God by leaving when their own failure to consent takes place.  They, in essence, become a squatter that does not belong–expecting them to vacate their position is foolish.  In obedience to God’s command here the believing spouse must evict (divorce) the unbelieving spouse for failure to consent to live with…

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 by approving and agreeing with the new life of their believing spouse bringing harmony and peace into the marriage.

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

Now, as stated earlier, the immediate context (Verses 14-16) shows 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 misdiagnose the spiritual condition of the unbelieving spouse thinking them to be in Christ.  But that simply is not the case because they lack “a faith of the same kind as ours”.  Their will is favorable to the Christian religion and they desire the blessings of heaven yet they lack saving faith and the changes that accompany it.  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, which makes them Christian moralists, but they will not cry out for God’s grace of forgiveness and the  righteousness of Christ for they love their sin more.

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.  Often the unbelieving spouse is in a dead religion such as Catholicism or is an atheist and their desire is to raise their children in their own belief system or with no guidance whatsoever.  Paul is teaching believers that such behavior does not meet the condition “consents to live with”.  Thus, divorce and remarriage in the Lord or remaining single are the only obedient options for the believing spouse.

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.

So then, once 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.


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.


Unequally Yoked Believers In Christ Have Died and Are Free To Divorce and Remarry In the Lord.

Colossians 3:3 “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Colossians 3:5 “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”

No rational person disagrees with the concept that the death of a marriage partner ends the marriage covenant.  In this passage, Paul is teaching the Colossian believers that Christians have died in Christ, and if God has not chosen to save their partner as well, then He has separated the marriage partners since He commands His children not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).

However, believers have failed to understand that the death of which Paul speaks separates unequally yoked marriage partners.  Why?  This has happened because of the sloppy interpretation of Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 7, “If the unbelieving spouse wants to stay let him stay.”  The interpretation is sloppy because the vast majority of interpreters come to the text with a predetermined view that divorce in and of itself is sinful, which is simply wrong.

The interpretation that fits the rest of scripture is that Paul’s instructions in this passage was to allow for a temporary injunction from a divorce until sufficient time has been allowed to soften or harden the heart of the unbelieving spouse.  After sufficient time, if the unbelieving spouse hardens to the gospel and continues worshiping the created order, then divorce is the expected and commanded path for the child of God–following God’s example as He divorce Israel for the same reason

So then, in Colossians 3:5 Paul uses the synecdoche “the members of your earthly body” to convey the idea that it is your physical body that has died to sin and the world.  Since a literal physical death cannot be Paul’s meaning, even though the death of which he is speaking clearly refers to our physical bodies in all their parts, then Paul must be speaking of a functional death.  It is likely that the reader is ignorant regarding a functional death?

There is a phrase that people utter to one another that says, “You’re dead to me.”  It means you are out of my life just as you would be had you physically died.  So then, Paul is saying that this world and its ways…immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed is dead to the believer.  But notice how Paul phrases this idea:  He does not say that the world is dead, but that our bodies are dead to the world.

Indeed, the world (unrepentant sinners) is not yet physically dead.  In fact, it is the enemy of every repentant person…always enticing and tempting, which is why Paul says that Christians must consider their bodies as dead to the world.  Therefore, the believer’s physical body, which includes the mind, must practically, functionally die to this world and its ways, which means that believers must separate from unrepentant sinners and the cultures that they create.  At a bare minimum this biblical instruction certainly means that believers must refuse to be bound together with the unrepentant.

Believers must, if faithful, treat the unrepentant with love as Christ commanded.  They evangelize and show every kindness to their neighbors, their co-workers, their relatives, yea all acquaintances, but they do not allow those who hate God a foothold of influence in their lives.  The unrepentant are spiritually dead and separated from God, so the children of God must maintain a safe distance by essentially being willing to think in terms of  “You are dead to me”.

In Psalm 139 David said, “Do I not hate those who hate Thee, oh Lord?…I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become my enemies.”  The reason so many Christians are worldly (lacking spiritual power and fruitfulness) is due to a failure to hate those who hate God.  In addition, this failure to physically separate from all worldlings is precisely what causes Christians to enter into so many unequally yoked relationships.  This is precisely Paul’s message when he says to “consider the members of your earthly body as dead to” this world.

Jesus commanded believers to love their enemies, but he never denied that those at enmity with God are the enemies of believers.  The heavenly Father is enduring vessels of wrath until a day when he will demonstrate his wrath and make his power known (Romans 9:22), and believers should avoid any and all alliances with these unregenerate people.  “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord” (2 Chronicles 19:2)?

Paul says here, “For you have died…therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead…”  Being regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit has made Christians dead to this world, but they must work out this death to the world (functional death) just as they work out their salvation.  The more bound to a particular sin or sinner the longer it may take to complete the process of functionally dying to them.  But die they must.

This functional death that Paul is teaching necessarily ends unequally yoked marriages just as physical death ends all marriages because being bound to an unbeliever is a sin (2 Cor. 6:14-7:2), (also see blog article titled “The Will of God Dictates Divorce For the Unequally Yoked In Marriage”).

Finally, the unbelieving spouse is part of the world to which believers have died and to which they are to consider themselves dead.  The unbelieving spouse is traveling along the ways of the world, while God’s child must travel, and exults in traveling in the ways of the Lord.  These two can no more travel together than can light and darkness dwell together, or can righteousness form a partnership with lawlessness, or can Christ be in harmony with destruction, or can agreement exist between the temple of God and idols  (2 Corinthians 6:14-16).

Colossians 3:3 “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Colossians 3:5 “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”


Paul’s Commentary on Matthew 19:8

Galatians 3:19-26, 4:30 and 5:1: The Apostle Paul’s Commentary on Jesus’ Divorce Argument Regarding the Legalism of the Jewish Religious Leaders in Matthew 19:8:

19Why the Law then?  It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is one. 21Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?  May it never be!  For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…4:30But what does the Scripture say?  ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman’…5:1It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” [underline mine].

How we understand Paul’s commentary:

Paul teaches a clear chronological progression:

  1. The innocence of Adam and Eve
  2. The fall of Adam
  3. The promise of salvation
  4. The Law of God (Given to Moses on the mountain)
  5. The fullness of time when faith would come to God’s elect children through Christ Jesus.

Those who fail to understand this progression will frequently misconstrue many passages of scripture as is frequently done in Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees here in Matthew 19.  In the beginning, prior to the fall, man had no need for the law.  The Law came after the fall and it is in God’s Law where we find Moses’ (actually God’s) concession for divorce.  Jesus alludes to “The innocence of Adam and Eve” in his statement, “…but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matthew 19:8).  However, then came man’s fall into sin, which brought about the “hardness of men’s hearts”; another statement of our Lord’s from the same verse.  This ‘hardness of heart’ problem made the law necessary until the fullness of time when faith came.

Jesus’ meaning in Matthew 19 cannot be accurately received by those who fail to put his statements in the context of this clear biblical progression.  When the Pharisees reminded Jesus of Moses’ instructions to give wives a certificate of divorce and send them away,  Jesus replied, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but…”  Here Jesus referenced the period of time after the fall when the people of God were living under the Law.  Jesus’ descriptive “hardness of heart” referred to the general obstinance of the Jewish people as being under the curse of the fall (as was the whole world at that time).  Obstinate people do much harm to one another, which necessitated the mercy of divorce as a last resort for a person whose wicked spouse broke the conditions of their marriage covenant.

Many carelessly interpret our Lord’s use of “hardness of heart” to mean that the Jews stubbornly insisted upon the right of divorce until Moses succumbed to their demands, and Jesus was taking the occasion of the Pharisees’ question to set the record straight and correct Moses’ ancient error.  Such awful interpretations could not be further from the truth.  Jesus was referring to the different periods of this progression to show the pharisees God’s original intent for marriage and then to show the Law’s concession for divorce as a merciful release from a wicked spouse.  In so doing, Jesus was clear that the divorce concession was not allowed by God so that men could commit adultery every time their lustful eyes fell upon another woman.  Verse 9, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Pinched between Jesus’ statements: “Because of your hardness of heart” and verse 9 which I just quoted at the end of the last paragraph, Jesus made reference to the time of innocence in the garden, “From the beginning it has not been this way” meaning that in a perfect world God’s intention for marriage was that it would have been a lasting, loving relationship.  All relationships would be described this way in a sinless world, but because of the Fall we shall not experience such a world until heaven.  Because of sin some people are so wicked that the only recourse is escaping them; thus God’s concession for divorce when those from whom escape is necessary are marriage partners.  The greatest need for this divine grace is unequally yoked marriages where a spiritually vibrant child of God is maritally bound to the rotting corpse of an unrepentant son or daughter of Satan.

Those who attempt to interpret our Lord’s comments to the Pharisees here without the light provided by the chronological progression have brought untold harm to millions of people over the centuries–forcing them to remain in marriages with covenant breakers, to remain in unequally yoked marriages against the will and word of God.

So how would our Lord’s words be understood when the progression is not overlooked?  Jesus is saying that God’s original creation of man was perfect and did not include the fall into sin; therefore, the allowance for divorce does not come from God’s pre-fall perfect world creation, but God made an allowance or concession for it after the fall had taken place.  Divorce was not the only divine allowance after the fall: punishment, including capital punishment, is another good example.

So then, in the perfect, sinless world in which God created man…”in the beginning” neither divorce nor capital punishment would be necessary, but after the fall into sin (a step further in the progression) mankind’s hearts had become hardened (fail to love God and their fellow man), and the whole Law including Moses’ permits for divorce and capital punishment became necessary.

Christians acknowledge the progression from innocence to the fall when it comes to capital punishment, but they fail to recognize it when it comes to divorce.  This failure has caused the Church, even dead churches, to restrict divorce and not capital punishment because their doctrine of divorce failed to move on from the Garden of Eden.  In the recent centuries the liberal church has taken the unbiblical view that mankind is ultimately good resulting in their turning against God’s law demanding capital punishment, but strangely in favor of divorce upon demand.

Failure to apply man’s decent from the Garden of Eden to the fall into sin will naturally hold a doctrine that treats the believer who engages upon a path to divorce as if it is them and not Adam who has fallen from God’s grace.  From such a perspective it would seem appropriate to apply Jesus’ “hard heartedness” statement to anyone who would seek a divorce from an unfaithful spouse rather than applying it to the treacherous spouse.  Clearly all should agree that the unrepentant, treacherous spouse is the covenant breaking spouse, and the innocent spouse enduring such corruption needs the relief God offers in His concession for divorce.  Sadly this has not been the case.

Thanks be to God, the progression continues on to those who live by faith and not by works under the law; mainly New Testament saints but including the Old Testament saints such as Abraham.  These have always been under the gracious instruction to remain separate from the world in order to avoid slipping into idolatry.  No child of God is to be unequally yoked to the children of Satan in marriage or in any other relationship.

In conclusion, how are we to understand Jesus’ words, “What God has joined together let no man draw apart”?  First, no man-made body such as a civil court or a presbytery has the right to change or wrongly interpret what God has said on the topic of divorce.  Men must not prohibit where God has made concession, and men must not permit where God prohibits.  Even Jesus said that he would not change the Law of God, nor would he give his church the right to do so.  Secondly, both logically and biblically speaking, if God saves one spouse and leaves the other in a hard-hearted state, then it is not man but God who has separated the marriage partnership.  This should be clearly understood by the fact that being unequally yoked is against the will of God (Literally scores of OT texts & many NT texts but especially 2 Cor. 6:14f).  Therefore, it is safe to deduce that if God wanted a married couple to remain together beyond the temporary injunction (hoping for the redemption of the second spouse) in 1 Corinthians 7 , then God would redeem both spouses.

Finally, two saints married to one another should rarely, if ever, have need of divorce because they have progressed from being hard hearted to being of the faith in Christ Jesus.  Having said this, it is important to note that many people (the majority sadly) call upon the name of Christ in vain, which is to say that they are Christian in name only.  True believers will often find themselves unequally yoked to a marriage partner who swears allegiance to Christ while bearing neither the fruit of repentance nor the fruit of a genuine love of God.  Such believers are simply unequally yoked, but many in the church will not recognize this reality and therefore cause such believers seeking relief through divorce great distress.  To these believers I say to follow the word of God as it guides your conscience.  People pleasing is a fools game.  As Richard Baxter said, “If God’s approbation and favor quiet you not, nothing rationally can quiet you.”

 


The Mystical Union of Marriage: How Mysticism and Not God’s Word Has Shaped the Church’s Prohibition Against Divorce

Puritan John Milton, author of the universally praised work “Paradise Lost”, and one of the world’s greatest minds authored a book titled, “The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce”. His introduction simply reads: “Restored to the good of both sexes, from the bondage of cannon law, and other mistakes, to the true meaning of Scripture in the Law and gospel compared.  Wherein also are set down the bad consequences of abolishing or condemning of sin, that which the Law of God allows, and Christ abolished not.”

A major tenet of Milton’s argument allowing marital divorce was that God’s original intent or purpose for marriage was to cure man’s loneliness. Milton states very clearly that if physical infidelity is a legitimate ground for divorce, then a man and a woman who cannot have happy conversation with one another should be an even stronger ground for divorce because the mental and conversational relationship is greater cure of loneliness than is the mere physical relationship.  And of course an unequally yoked union should be the strongest of all grounds for marital dissolution.  It is not so much man’s body as it is his mind and spirit that set him above the rest of the animal kingdom, so they are the more important aspects to be considered.

For reasons too complicated for this article, Christians have taken a mystical approach on the doctrine of divorce. The word mystical (not in use until after Milton’s lifetime) is defined as something being given or having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence. Mysticism is the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience such as intuition or insight, which is in diametric opposition to the traditional Christian belief that holy writ is the primary source of knowledge of God, spiritual truth, and ultimate reality.

The expected outcome of this sinful approach to the biblical teaching on marriage and divorce has been the creation and continual use of unbiblical and harsh platitudes which have been used to prohibit needful divorces for which God made gracious allowance. These awful platitudes have been based upon a precious few passages of scripture, which themselves have been misinterpreted through the mystic lens in order to gain acceptance for an otherwise entirely unbiblical view of marriage and its dissolution (In the following paragraphs a couple of these passages of scripture and the corresponding platitude will be shown).

A critical component of the mystification of marriage saw the Romanists lift marriage to “holy matrimony” by making it one of the seven sacraments that afford priests the power to grant the grace of God to sinners. Yet the truth of God would clearly teach men that marriage is no more holy than cows, crap, smokes or moly…all of which have also been paired with holiness.  Only God is holy!  And by extension His word is holy.  The Holy Spirit is holy because he is God.  But marriage is definitively not holy and never has it been so.  Marriage is one of God’s institutions to lesson sins’ power over man, but viewing marriage as holy is unscriptural, and the only reason anybody views the institution of marriage as holy is because of the mystical view of marriage taken by the church throughout its long history.  A sinful stubbornness (rebellion) exists within the church to maintain this false teaching.  By the grace of God, it is the aim of this author to do any part in bringing the true body of Christ to repentance on this corporate sin.

Platitudes, which are used in place of serious bible study, were mentioned in the previous paragraph. The first platitude is “God hates divorce”.  This platitude is so powerful that little else is needed to steer any student of God’s word toward the anti divorce bias.  When a single doctrine of God’s word is studied in order to obtain God’s perspective on that particular doctrine imagine if the first biblical statement on the subject was that God hates it?  Any persons’ entire study on the subject would be bathed in the thought that a perfect and holy God hates this thing, which is precisely how believers begin any biblical study on God’s teaching regarding marital divorce and remarriage.

Malachi chapter 2 seen through the mystics lens comes away with the single thought that God hates divorce. This is not at all the impression that an honest study of Malachi arrives upon, but nevertheless churchmen happily use this platitude to continue the lie with which they are so comfortable until it affects them personally.  Once faced with the reality of a failed marriage, and only then, they are forced to truly study the God honest truth on the subject of divorce at which time they realize the horribly unbiblical position the church has held these many long centuries. [See article “Does God Actually Hate Divorce?” to read an honest commentary on God’s Malachi 2 passage]

Regrettably, the next realization they will discover after doing an honest and thorough biblical study of the doctrine of divorce is that the church now considers their biblical discoveries on the subject as nothing more than twisting the scriptures in order to justify their own sin. Christians who feel no need for God’s gracious gift of release from a disastrous marriage will look upon those with ruined marriages and exclaim, “I am glad that I am not like that worthless fellow”.  And they will be dismissive of those who have need of God’s gracious gift of marital dissolution as though they are incapable of objectively seeing what God’s word has to say regarding divorce and remarriage.

The second, third and forth platitudes all come from the same text (Matthew 19:6-9) and they are even direct quotes of that text not just poor translations as is the case in Malachi 2. Having been routinely taken out of context these quotes have been useful platitudes prohibiting what Jesus did not intend to prohibit.  They are as follows: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate”, “…From the beginning it has not been this way”, and finally, “…Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery”.

Most Christians do not care enough about the subject of marital divorce to take the extensive time required to understand all that God’s word has to say about what would have been a relatively simple doctrine had it not been for the mystical abuse the doctrine has been subject to for centuries, which has greatly darkened the clarity with which God’s word speaks upon it.

Dear reader: begin the process of demystifying the doctrines of marriage, divorce and remarriage in your mind so that the church will one day repent of the corporate sin of missing the mark on divorce. Reading as many of the articles herein will go a long way in doing this for the reader.  Contacting the author would be nice as well.  Christ’s continued blessings.


Church Divorce Rates Mirror the World: What to Think

Divorce rates in the United States rose steadily throughout the 20th century but did so sharply from the latter half of the 1960’s until about 1980 when they began to steadily drop. It may sound like good news that divorce rates began to drop during the 1980’s, but in all actuality marriages began to drop rather dramatically at the same time. Therefore broken marital bonds were no longer recorded for those who merely joined together without God’s institution of marriage. The reality is that broken marital relationships within and without the institution of marriage are as high as ever.

Preachers love to use divorce as a barometer of the ruination of a person, family or culture. These same preachers note that the divorce rates in the church today exactly mirror the divorce rates in the world. They draw the false conclusion that God’s people are doing something grossly wrong when they look identical to the world, which is true when it is, in fact, the case. But it is not the case here for two reasons:

First, the vast majority of those in the church today are not actually in Christ or put differently, they may call themselves Christians and they may attend a church, but they are in no way part of Christ’s church, which is to say that the vast majority of American churches are filled with Christians in name only—superstitious people who happen to worship a false christ rather than any of the vast number of false gods offered up by the world. These people populating today’s churches get divorced at the same rate as the world because they are the world—they mirror the world perfectly because they are the world.

The church finds itself in this condition because it forfeited the biblical gospel and replaced it with the latest iteration of the gospel’s old nemesis semi-Pelagianism/Arminianism (easy believism) gospel born out of the entitlement movement following WWII. False gospels lead to false conversions, which lead to worldly people populating churches, which leads to the church failing to separate from the world. This is where American churches are at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries.

Sadly, for centuries, the church’s response to the godless infiltrating its numbers has been to make a monumental effort to shame these counterfeit Christians into sanctification. A major tool they have used to accomplish this mistaken path was to restrict divorce where God gave liberty and license. Both the churches’ path and the tool of taking a permanence view of every marriage have been abysmal failures. Where the church should have salted the world with the pure gospel yet remained apart from the world, it chose instead to embrace the world and comingle or unequally yoke itself to the world hence losing its flavor.

Secondly, far from a high divorce rate condemning the church as worldly…God’s people actually need to have a divorce rate that far exceeds that of the world and they need to do so corporately and quickly. After the initial spike in divorces for those who are truly in Christ Jesus the divorce rate among the elect children of God would then drop down to a level far below that of the world. How can such advice be biblical…how can it be needed in the church of God?  It is needed because those who are actually born-again and therefore in Christ Jesus in American churches are, in large numbers, unequally yoked to counterfeit Christians who are merely masquerading as believers in the churches (they are actually the majority in the churches today).

The great apostle Paul warned that these imposters would “proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). They will also take “pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thes. 2:12), they are those “…holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).

The apostle Peter said that they will “secretly introduce destructive heresies”…”Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in greed they will exploit you with false words”. They are “those who indulge the flesh in corrupt desires and despise authority…they are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions as they carouse with you (the saints)…having a heart trained in greed…forsaking the right way, they have gone astray…speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barley escape from the ones who live in error…for it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them (all verses from 2 Peter 2).

As in the days of Ezra, God’s people need to corporately repent of their unequally yoked marriages to the sons and daughters of the world. In response to an epidemic of unequally yoked marriages Ezra commanded the following: “So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away (divorce) all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of the Lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law” (Ezra 10:3).

Christianity has followed along and repeated many cycles throughout each successive generation, and a particularly horrible cycle is one that has the church failing to separate from the world. As God has repeatedly warned his children, God’s people quickly commit spiritual adultery whenever they mix with the nations (the world) and soon fall away from God altogether as they lose their identity as God’s children and become children of wrath at which time a new church is raised up out of the world and the cycle starts anew. Jesus described these believers as salt that has lost its taste. He says of them, “It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (Matthew 5:13).

Matthew Henry’s translation of Mark 9:50 reads, “Have salt in yourselves, else you cannot diffuse it among others.” The salt is a true biblical theology and gospel, and it is to be thrown onto the unsavory meat of this world by God’s faithful saints. But once those saints join themselves to the world they cease being salt and light to the world and they become the worst of the world. Again Henry said, “A wicked man is the worst of creatures; a wicked Christian is the worst of men; and a wicked minister is the worst of Christians.” Wicked Christians and wicked ministers are the outcome of the church failing to separate from the world—failing to be salt to an unsavory world by joining with the world.

Paul said,
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 an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
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 (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).

Jesus Said,
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household (Matthew 10:34-36). [What has a believer in common with an unbeliever?] Parenthesis from Paul above.

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). Bold text mine.

Written on the 4th of July 2017.  The church needs to gain its independence from the world and be salt once again.

Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord.


Here God Once Dwelt

The Puritan John Howe when preaching on the fall would recall seeing large palaces or castles that have fallen to ruins and there would be a sign hanging above the entrance saying something like “Centuries ago, such and such a king once dwelt here.” Then Howe would go on to say, “Now, as a result of man’s fall into sin, it is written over man, ‘Here, God once dwelt.’”

When man fell in the Garden of Eden he lost his original righteousness and thus his correspondence to God. God’s immediate response was to condemn man and put him out of Eden. No longer having correspondence with God man could no longer be together with God. The scriptures inform that it was the woman who first fell and then the man. Had Eve fallen alone, is there any reason whatsoever to believe that Adam would have been condemned along with her and both of them put out of the garden? Both logically and theologically, had Adam continued in his original righteousness, then he would have continued having correspondence to God and therefore would not have been condemned and put out of Eden.

Well then, one could speculate that perhaps Eve would have been allowed to stay in the garden with Adam even though she alone had fallen; after all she had become Adam’s wife. The Lord Jesus said, “What God has joined together let no man separate”. In our Lord’s statement we find the obvious doctrine, implicit, yet undeniable, that only God can separate what He has joined together and that is precisely what God would have done in this scenario. Eve would have been put out of the garden because she alone would have come under condemnation and she alone would have no longer had correspondence to God and, in fact, she would not have had correspondence to Adam either.

In this scenario they would have become unequally yoked in marriage, and God would have divorced them by putting Eve out of the garden alone. But some will argue that this is merely speculation. Since it never happened it cannot be known what God would have done. Speculation means: The act of theorizing. To speculate means: To form conjectures regarding anything without experiment (experience). To conjecture is to guess or to presume knowledge that is simply unknown.

Is it conjecture that man’s sin caused a separation between man and God? Few biblical doctrines are more sure than sin separates man from God. Is it conjecture that a just God would not punish an innocent man? The situation may be hypothetical but as to how God would have responded is sure. Adam would have continued in fellowship with God in the garden and Eve would have been stricken dead or put out of the garden, and since God put the both of them out of the garden for committing this offense together there is no reason, other than stubbornness of mind, to think that God would have done anything else with Eve had she alone fallen into sin.

But God in His everlasting lovingkindness sent His only begotten Son into the world so that whosoever believes in Him shall come out from under God’s condemnation and once again have correspondence to God. The righteousness of Christ Jesus is the possession of all those truly born-again. So then, they, once again, have correspondence to God in their spirit. They are granted eternal life and will forever dwell with God.

However, they no longer correspond to those children of Satan who refuse repentance. If God’s remedy for a failure to correspond to a righteous being is to put the unrighteous, condemned soul out, then that is precisely what must be done here. Notwithstanding Paul’s temporary injunction to the Corinthians that if the unbelieving spouse “consents to live with” then let them stay. The great apostle laid out four conditions of this consent, which if not followed meant that the unbeliver did not give their consent.  So, Paul provided a short “grace period” with this temporary injunction so that the grace of God in salvation might come to the unsaved spouse as well. Some time is necessary to see whether or not the unbelieving spouse softens or hardens to the gospel of grace.

Then after an appropriate amount of time divorce is inevitable as Paul subsequently commanded the Corinthian believers “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”. And the great apostle gave this command because the two no longer have correspondence to one another. Then Paul quotes the scriptures saying, “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 Cor. 6:14-18). Saints who are presently bound in marriages with unbelievers should be agreed that marital separation from such unions is inevitable, and seek to know the mind of God concerning the steps which they should take.

Adam and Eve stayed married to one another because they continued in their correspondence one to another throughout their entire lives (they fell and remained fallen together), but when a marriage consists of one born-again person in whom there is no condemnation and one child of Satan who is already condemned by God a divorce is the biblically mandated remedy. It is God that has separated them when He brought only one of them out from under His just condemnation. The one condemned should be called to repentance, and if they refuse they should be put out of the marriage as they no longer have correspondence with their righteous spouse or with God who dwells within the believing spouse.

Marriages between saints and unrepentent sinners have it written over them, “Here, God has never dwelt.”


Why are God and the Scriptures In Favor of Marital Divorce, While Most of the Body of Christ is Against It?

God has made allowances for marital divorce, and the greater portion of the church throughout its history has restricted divorce to the saints where God’s word has offered liberty. Since this is out of character for godly men it must be asked: Why has this happened?  Interpretive errors of this sort take place when biblical interpreters begin to think about the process of applying the truth of God’s word to God’s people before they first receive the pure message of the truth from God’s word.  Stated differently, occasions arise when the leadership of the body of Christ is more untrusting of their flocks than they are trusting of the Great Sheppard. Whatever the cause, the interpretation of scripture is susceptible to such negative influences, which cause human errors. Additionally, as each generation passes without correction it becomes more difficult to go against the tide of church history. Two examples in the following paragraphs should be considered.

One of the great debates over scriptural interpretation is found in Romans’ seventh chapter. Some argue that this passage describes a believer continuing to struggle with sin, while others say the person of whom Paul speaks could not possibly be a believer because he is still enslaved to sin. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in teaching on Romans chapters 6-8 clearly and deliberately points out that the great apostle Paul is teaching that it is the spirit of a man that is justified and saved while the body remains in sin. Understanding this dichotomy makes it obvious that the person being described in chapter 7 is a believer whose holy and redeemed spirit is warring with his “body of death”. The interpretive problem is no longer necessary if all the saints simply understood the dichotomy between the spirit and the body for those who have been justified. God revealed this truth so that the saints could more effectively win the war against the flesh, so it is to every believer’s great benefit that they properly comprehend the condition in which all the saints find themselves.

Nevertheless, virtually none in the church have seen and expressed what Lloyd-Jones so clearly saw. Why? It is likely because they feared this biblical teaching would push people in the direction of Gnosticism. The core of Gnosticism was that the material world is bad, that the God described in the Old Testament is not the God and Father of Jesus Christ, and that salvation is obtained not by atonement but by means of “secret knowledge”. It seems likely that the healthy fear of heresy pushed the saints away from Lloyd-Jones’ proper interpretation of scripture. The fear that believers would see the body as bad no matter what and that only their spirit had been redeemed would push them into an admixture of Gnosticism and antinomianism. This would cause them to think of themselves as spiritually holy while allowing for all kinds of debauchery in the flesh.

However, it is not the prerogative of the saints to fail in teaching the whole word of God because of a fear that some will abuse certain truths. Such a fear demonstrates a lack of faith in God. Scripture demonstrates that the Holy Spirit does not allow the saints to transgress for long—it is His work to draw them back into obedience. Only the tares amongst the wheat would take such opportunisms to sin freely and they would do it regardless. Paul’s intended meaning in Romans 6-8 (overlooked by so many of the saints) is plainly stated in Romans 8:10, “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones stood nearly alone by proclaiming this very edifying biblical doctrine while most seemingly shun its teaching because of a fear of Gnosticism—what an awful shame.

This is not the only instance of a shunning of the true meaning of biblical passages by the church at large. A similar misapprehension of scripture is commonplace when it comes to the biblical doctrine of divorce for those unequally yoked in marriage. The word of God indubitably makes provision for divorce for the unequally yoked believer, yet the church has hobbled together, from a few misinterpreted passages, a prohibition against such divorces. Why? What would motivate otherwise godly saints to misapprehend clear passages of scripture in this way? It seems apparent that churchmen have feared wide scale abuse of God’s loving provisions of liberty for His beloved in such marriages. They feared that making allowance for those who truly warranted a divorce would open up the floodgates for those who would avail themselves of the same liberty without warrant. So then, these fears created a presupposition, which in turn prevented churchmen from apprehending God’s original intent on the doctrine of divorce for those unequally yoked in marriage. That is it. That is the thing that has been done.

For this reason the saints have, through the ages, misapprehended certain teachings clearly found in the pages of holy writ. Unquestionably it is an egregious error made by these saints to question God and His word. God gave us these truths because they are in the best interest of the saints. God knows best. We will be much more safe and filled with joy standing with Him even when it means we stand alone in the church as Martyn Lloyd-Jones often did.

FOR A REAL BLESSING: Go to mljtrust.org and click on “Sermons” and put 8104 into the box provided.

Listen for yourself to Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the spirit and the body. Prepare to be blessed by a great man of God who is now rejoicing with the Lord in heaven.


The Common View on Divorce for the Unequally Yoked Creates a Clear Contradiction in God’s Word

On the first page of God’s holy word He provides the very first commandment, which is to follow our heavenly Father’s example by separating light from darkness, then God says that He gave us a greater light (the sun) to rule by day and lesser lights (the moon and the stars) to rule by night. Similarly God has provided greater light to rule the saints and many more lesser lights to govern the disobedient.  Just as the sun’s light is greatly superior to that of the moon and the stars, so also must the fundamental general teaching of Scripture supersede and provide clarity to His myriads of lesser commands and instructions.  Though the myriads of lesser lights exist for specific guidance they must never cross the boundaries set forth by Scripture’s fundamental general teaching–brightest lights.

What are these fundamental general teachings of Scripture? Just as mankind lives in the light of the sun day after day and year after year without giving the sun much thought, in the same way God’s children live in the light of fundamental general teachings without giving them much thought—these are understood as God’s light by and in and through which we live.

These fundamental general teachings include: the knowledge of who God is in all of His attributes and to have no other gods besides Him, to know who mankind is after the fall, to glorify God in everything we do, to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, to separate light from darkness (be holy as I am holy), to love others as you love yourself, and to believe in God’s only begotten Son as the savior of the world, to be heralds of the gospel of Christ Jesus, to name a few.

Then, God provided the myriads of commandments not to rule a holy people, but unholy peoples…those who want to kill, steal, rape, covet, curse, lust, sloth, pervert, adulterate, fornicate, and the like. So then, it is critical that Christians interpret God’s myriads of commands consistent with those fundamental general teachings of Scripture.

A perfect example is when the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath because He healed people on the Sabbath.  Technically, one could argue that they had a point.  According to God’s laws the Sabbath was to be a day of rest and Jesus was working miracles on the Sabbath.  Yet we know that it was Jesus who was in the right and not the Pharisees because Jesus was glorifying His Father in heaven (one of the great lights) by healing the sick and preaching repentance and belief in Him (another of the great lights).

The Pharisees were in the habit of improperly interpreting God’s commands.  However, when properly interpreted and/or applied none of God’s laws will ever cross the boundary lines established by God’s fundamental general teachings of light.

Whenever the interpretation of any biblical passage contradicts one or more of the fundamental general teachings, then we know that the interpretation is wrong. This is precisely what happens when Christians prohibit divorce for the unequally yoked in marriage.  They arrive at their conclusion by interpreting Paul’s words in First Corinthians 7 as a universal prohibition against divorce for believers who realize they are unequally yoked to a child of Satan.  This conclusion and therefore interpretation contradicts the fundamental general teachings of separating light from darkness and to glorify God in whatsoever you do.

God’s word properly interpreted will never contradict itself.  So then, since the fundamental general teachings to separate light from darkness and to glorify God in whatsoever you do are not in any way ambiguous, then it becomes manifestly obvious that any prohibition against marital divorce for the condition of being unequally yoked is unbiblical and therefore man-made.

But What of 1 Corinthians 7

In First Corinthians 7 Paul is actually providing a temporary injunction to allow enough time for the believer to determine whether or not their unbelieving spouse will soften or harden to the same gospel that brought them to Christ. So that he would not be misunderstood, Paul even clarifies, in his second letter to the same Corinthian churches, his original intentions in his first letter.  In this second letter Paul carries forward into the New Testament a significant and succinct defense of God’s fundamental general teaching of Scripture, which is ubiquitous in the Old Testament, to separate light and darkness especially in our human relationships (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:2) of which marriage is the greatest.

The blog author is aware that people will point to a word (any number of possibilities) or a phrase in the First Corinthian 7 passage to prove their point that Paul intends it as a universal command, but they need to realize that the interpretation they insist upon causes a conflict with Scripture’s fundamental general teaching of separating light from darkness.  They must come to an interpretation that does not contradict greater and more straightforward biblical truths; and particularly those that make up the fundamental general teachings of Scripture.

“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 an 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” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17a).


2 Corinthians 6:14 Unequally Yoked: Does This Apply to Marriage?

2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”  Among the most common questions asked regarding this text is, “Does it apply to marriage?”  A fundamental rule in the proper understanding of scripture is almost always broken when it comes to this question regarding Paul’s universal, straightforward command to the saints at Corinth.  Why?  Because it is falsely interpreted through the lens of an ancient, popular, and destructive presupposition that divorce is always biblically prohibited, which twists the passage’s clear meaning so that it will not be applied to marriages.  Sadly, this leaves believers unable to repent of their sinful marital unions in obedience to the ubiquitous command throughout God’s word to separate from the world of the ungodly.

Does This Passage Apply to Marriage?  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”      2 Corinthians 6:14-7:2

To properly understand this text regarding its application to marriage one merely needs to be disciplined, as always, in avoiding interference from presuppositions.  Virtually every saint from the day Paul penned these words until the present time would agree that this text clearly applies to marriages except for the fact that this obvious interpretation strongly conflicts with the view held by so many that divorce is not permitted as a remedy for believers bound in marriage to unbelievers.  Tragically the church has traditionally favored a strict prohibition against marital divorce over the necessity for the saints to separate themselves from the sons of disobedience.  Precious few verses (“God hates divorce”, “What God has joined together let no man separate”) have been used as platitudes and clichés that have effectively operated like a sledge hammer forcing theologians into a man-made doctrine restricting divorce where God’s grace and mercy commands/allows it.  Most of the biblical texts used to improperly form these awful presuppositions are addressed within the articles of this blog.

How Could This Passage Not Apply to Marriage?

Can marriage be defined as a relationship between one man and one woman?  Does marriage bind or yoke two people together in order to share the burdens of life?  Of course it does.  Paul uses the following five words to make his point: Partnership, fellowship, harmony, commonality and agreement.  He masterfully instructs the saints in the knowledge that these qualities cannot be in any relationship between a believer and an unbeliever.  He does not teach that these will be hard to come by, but rather they cannot exist within unequally yoked relationships.  What kind of marriage has no partnership, fellowship, harmony, commonality and agreement?  Binding a man and a women together in an unequally yoked marriage incapable of having these qualities is like strapping the dead carcass of a women to the back of a living man and calling it a marriage.  The simile of a living person being tied to a dead person is grotesque and vivid, but spiritual life being bound to spiritual death is infinitely more grotesque as much as the spirit is infinitely greater than the body.

Then Paul argues:

As righteousness cannot be in partnership with lawlessness neither can a believer be bound to an unbeliever.

As light cannot have fellowship with darkness neither can a believer be bound to an unbeliever.

As Christ cannot have harmony with Belial (the son of destruction or worthlessness) neither can a believer be bound to an unbeliever.

These are not difficult to manage, rather they are impossible!  They cannot be together.  This is Paul’s point.  All of these pairings are impossible including that of a believer and an unbeliever.

Paul asks, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  Then he reminds believers that “we are the temple of the living God”.  Should a believer bring idols into the temple of God by being married to an unbeliever who by default worships idols?  May it never be!  Paul then quotes the scriptures, “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.”

The most wicked words to have ever passed through the lips of many godly men have been the words, “We know that this passage does not apply to marriage.”  Tragically these men universally apply this passage to believers considering marriage to an unbeliever, but once the brother or sister has embarked upon the sin of being unequally yoked in marriage they change course and say it no longer applies.

Dear reader, the sole purpose of biblicalviewondivorce.com blog has been to correct the awful misinterpretation of this text and the man-made prohibition against divorce for the unequally yoked in marriage.  All of the articles within will answer most of the questions you may have regarding the topic at hand.  Start with the articles listed at the top of the home page.  Feel free to contact the author as I am most willing to answer fully all questions to the best of my ability.

THE BIG QUESTION: Is It a Sin to Be In an Unequally Yoked Marriage?

Interacting with others on this concern regarding divorce for the unequally yoked in marriage I have discovered that a great deal of confusion exists on determining whether or not it is a sin to be in an unequally yoked marriage.  The answer is an overwhelming YES.  My proof is offered in the article titled, The Will of God Dictates Divorce for Those Unequally Yoked In Marriage and you will find it at the top of the home page.

A Final Warning: Do Not Use This Blog to Acquire a Divorce of Convenience

Due diligence in reading most of this entire blog and doing your own biblical research will be necessary for you to properly come to a biblical conclusion on your unequally yoked marriage.  All who simply use this article to justify a divorce they desperately desire will more than likely be adding more sin to their already sinful state of affairs.  More often than not they will end up in another unequally yoked marriage in a few short months or years.  True repentance carries a great cost.

It is not wrong to desperately desire a divorce from a godless spouse if we are walking in obedience to the word and the Holy Spirit.  When done carefully and prayerfully a believer can transition from the awful state of being unequally yoked to the wonderful state of being bound together with one of the majestic ones in who they will delight, but they must first repent of all the attitudes and actions that have put them were they are today.  In addition, true repentance includes making full restitution for those we have hurt intentionally or not, which of course includes the unregenerate spouse and children.

This Article Asks the Questions.  The Rest of the Articles Provide the Answers.

Prayerfully read 2 Corinthians 6:14 through 7:2, then diligently begin reading the articles of this blog.  One by one the articles will help you understand the biblical position on this most important question: Does God want His children unequally yoked in marriage and does He allow divorce as the path for repentance?  Christ’s continued blessings.


How the body of Christ Misunderstood God’s Teaching on Divorce

The church has traditionally held a prohibitive position on marital divorce for those in the body of Christ who found themselves to be chronically bound in marriage to an unbeliever, yet I believe that position to be the very opposite of the instructions given in God’s holy word. Obviously the burden of proof falls upon the lone dissenter and not upon the larger body.  So then, if the church has traditionally and continually taken the opposite view from that found in the scriptures then the reasons for missing the mark should be retraceable.

Here is a list of those very reasons that have biased the people of God away from His clearly revealed will on the subject of marital divorce for believers bound together with unbelievers:

  1. The church has consistently failed at being in the world but not of the world. It rarely fulfills God’s desire for believers to separate themselves from unbelievers.
  2. The church focused in at least two wrong directions. It focused upon marriage without regard to the greater doctrine of separation from the world. FYI: The church thus far is not repeating this mistake in its approach to homosexual marriage. Secondly, when unequally yoked marriages began to fail the church focused on the symptoms (Adultery, desertion, and physical abuse, deception, corruption, etc.) rather than upon the condition (unequally yoked marriage).
  3. Family is near the top of the list of idols, and many so-called Christians worship at the family alter sadly prioritizing/worshipping family instead of God. When family is worshipped marital divorce damages the image of one’s idol.
  4. Departing biblical and logical reasoning, churchman transubstantiated divorce from its appropriate place as an amoral action to an almost unforgivable sin. If divorce in and of itself was a sin, then Ezra would not have entered into a covenant with God to oversee the divorces of over a hundred unequally yoked marriages, and God would not have divorced Israel. Like divorce, marriage is an amoral action. Transforming marital divorce into a sin is equivalent to calling marriage a virtue. But getting into an unequally yoked marriage, a homosexual marriage, a polygamous marriage or an open marriage are all regarded as sinful behaviors against God. Marriage to a “suitable” (Gen. 2:20) partner is a virtue, just as divorcing unsuitable partners is a virtue.
  5. The church was behind, at least complicit with, the shotgun wedding concept. The desire to force men to atone for their wicked behavior supplanted God’s command for equally yoked marriages. Two wrongs do not make a right. Forcing a scoundrel to get married does not inhibit his evil desires and actions; it does however avail him a ready victim for further wickedness.
  6. The church built a man-made doctrine on divorce based upon a few passages of scripture, often out of context, to the exclusion of much greater passages and related doctrines.
  7. The church failed to make a distinction for divorce between those who are equally yoked and those who are unequally yoked (see article on a comparison to killing).
  8. Most of the church failed to understand the actual condition of those unequally yoked, so they made them feel guilty for their sin and deserving of the life-long, “consequences”. Consequences that were actually forbidden by God but wrongfully insisted upon by churchmen.
  9. Fairness or the pettiness of man: “The rest of us don’t get a do-over, so neither should you”.
  10. Churchmen have fallen into group think and have come under the pressure of each generations’ thinking the same way.

All of the causes listed above have been explained in detail previously in blog articles except for the second cause, which is why it will be the focus of this article.

The argument of this second reason why the church missed the mark is that the church focused in at least two wrong directions:

FIRST, MARRIAGE BALKANIZED FROM DOCTRINE OF SEPARATION

First, the church balkanized marriage from the greater doctrine of separation from the world, and secondly, the church set out to treat the symptoms that inevitably arise in unequally yoked marriages rather than upon the condition of a believer who is bound together with an unbeliever in marriage.

Marriage and subsequently divorce have traditionally been balkanized from the biblically ubiquitous doctrine of separation, which has lead to a very high volume of Christians binding themselves to children of Satan in marriage, and it has also lead to an unbiblical doctrine of divorce for those who have done so. We must face the truth; the church has not agreed throughout the centuries as to what actually constitutes a marriage or put another way, who exactly is married and who is not.  Today it has almost become an antiquarian idea for a young couple to get married without having slept together in the marriage bed for months or even years first.  Churchmen are looking the other way as they call them neither married nor fornicators.  On the other hand, young couples with traditional values could meet, fall in love and marry all within the span of a month until one of them decides they made a big mistake.  They could separate from their new spouse and get a divorce, and the church would mark them as a divorced person for the rest of their life.  While the cohabitating couples can live together for twenty years all the while engaging in sexual relations and even having children together, but when their relationship falls apart and they separate the church fails to mark them as divorced even though God and the state does not fail to do so.

So we must ask ourselves, are people married because their parents arranged a marriage against their wishes, because they simply claim to be married, because they have a marriage license, because they had a church ceremony, because they have voluntary sexual relations, because they live together regularly having sexual relations, because they have entered into a covenant, or because God has joined them as husband and wife? When does God view them as a married couple?

To understand marriage apart from God’s doctrine of separation from the world is very much like trying to understand marriage apart from God’s doctrine on homosexuality. Today homosexuals claim to be married, they can get a marriage license in all 50 states, they can have “church” ceremonies, they can live together, they can make a covenant with one another, but God certainly does not join them in marriage for He says “to the wicked”, “What right have you…to take My covenant in your mouth” (Psalm 50:16)?  So if God prohibits both homosexual marriages and unequally yoked marriages, then why does the church acknowledge one as a legitimate marriage and not the other?

Certainly if a person in a homosexual marriage wanted to repent of their homosexual behavior the church would be quick to celebrate their legal divorce, and that repentant soul would not be marked with a “D” for divorce. They would rather be lauded as being obediently repentant.  But if an unequally yoked believer wanted to repent of their godless marriage they are forbidden to do so by the church and can expect no support whatsoever from the church before, during or after they choose to obey God who clearly commanded, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).  And this even after the biblical example of Ezra and Nehemiah’s last chapters depicting over a hundred examples of divorces for the unequally yoked.

From the perspective of God’s word, if two males are not “suitable” or do not “correspond to” [Genesis 2:20] one another for the purposes of marriage then neither do a saint and a reprobate “correspond to” one another. In fact, their worlds are further apart than are those of two males who are both unrepentant.  Neither pairing can expect God’s blessing upon a marriage union; neither pairing has a right to take God’s covenant in their mouth.  Therefore both pairings must not fear a divine prohibition or hindrance when they repent by divorcing their unsuitable partners.

So then, the doctrine of marriage must cease being balkanized from the greater doctrine of separation.  Christian marriages must be as scripture insists: “Only in the Lord”.  Being in an unequally yoked marriage is prohibited to all of God’s children both in the Old and New Testaments.

SECONDLY, TREATING SYMPTOMS SUPPLANTED CURING THE CONDITION

Now we should like to consider how the church set out to treat the symptoms that inevitably arise in unequally yoked marriages rather than upon the condition of a believer who is bound together with an unbeliever in marriage.

Consider the analogy of a sick person seeking a physician’s care. When a person seeks medical attention the physician immediately begins probing the patient for the symptoms that have caused them to seek medical attention.  The reason all prudent physicians collect symptoms is that they want to properly diagnose the actual condition of the patient.  Imprudent physicians, on the other hand, treat the symptoms one by one in order to make the patient feel more comfortable in their poor condition, which often leads to a declining condition and ultimately a fatal condition.

The prudent physician seeks to accurately diagnose the condition as early as possible in an attempt to separate the patient from their diseased and declining condition. Once an accurate diagnosis is determined the physician can work to replace the patient’s diseased condition with a healthy condition.  Having a successful diagnosis and cure the symptoms miraculously disappear.

The doctrine of divorce for the unequally yoked believer becomes plain when these logical concepts are applied. Has the church traditionally acted like the prudent physician or the imprudent physician?  Clearly the church has acted imprudently in treating the symptoms one by one as they arise in these marriages while forbidding a removal of the diseased and declining condition in which the regenerate marriage partner finds himself/herself.  The regenerate partner, being bound together with an unbeliever, is in a diseased and declining condition.  The church should have diagnosed this condition and prescribed a complete separation from the unbelieving spouse as was done in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.  This restorative action would remove the believing spouse from their diseased and declining condition and restore to them a healthy condition.  The symptoms of adultery, abandonment, physical abuse, lying, cheating, corrupting, slandering, impairing spiritual growth and so many more would miraculously disappear as the diseased and declining condition has been dealt with once and for all.

To be clear, how exactly has the church focused upon the symptoms at the expense of the unequally yoked believer whose condition is diseased and declining? To begin with the church has tried to determine which, if any, of the symptoms rise to the level of making an allowance for divorce.  In their desire to be consistent most churchmen historically have decided that no allowance for divorce is biblical; as stated earlier they balkanized the doctrine of separation from the doctrine of marriage in order to draw this conclusion.  Secondly, the church has engaged extensively in counseling unequally yoked couples and trying to get them to “get along” better.  This has so horribly missed the mark, and it should have been obvious to all who read the scriptures that such a path could never work.

Paul told the Corinthians as much when he wrote the following:

2 Corinthians 6:14-16, “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 Belieal, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?”

The church has been trying to reconcile couples who God says have no chance at partnership, fellowship, harmony, commonality, and agreement. Not to mention that God has forbidden believers to enter into these marriages, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”  And anecdotes of keeping these marriages peacefully together do not pass the muster as it cannot be shown how much more sanctified the believer would have been had they never married or quickly divorced the unbelieving spouse and gotten remarried to a fellow believer as scripture prescribes.

As it currently stands, the church has effectively deemed as outcasts all of its unequally yoked members who have gone through a marital divorce when what it should have been doing was casting out the wicked condition of being unequally yoked from its churches. They failed to mark as wicked the condition of being unequally yoked, and they succeeded at demonizing brothers and sisters who have not only been cleansed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who have also taken the difficult step of repenting of their unequally yoked marriage.  Had the church focused upon the condition of being bound together with unbelievers rather than focusing upon the symptoms of these marriages it would have far more effectively prevented a significant percentage of these marriages from taking place at all.  Had the church effectively shamed the practice of marrying outside the kingdom of God rather than celebrating such marriages after the stubborn members of the church entered into them, the unequally yoked pandemic within the body of Christ would have never taken place.  The church would have been so much the better for having followed God’s path, and untold numbers of God’s children could have avoided entire lifetimes of the evil influence of godless spouses.

The church is finding out how this proper approach would have worked as it applies it to the homosexual marriage issue. When a church follows God’s precepts, whole families will leave the church in order to support their homosexual family member.  While they think they are demonstrating love for a family member bent on sin they merely succeed at cementing their loved one in their sinful condition against God.  In so doing, these family members should feel the pain of separation from the body of Christ when they stand up for an unrepentant family member over the bible and the church.  They should sense a tug toward the world and away from God for choosing an unrepentant family member over obedience to the word of God.  Jesus said he came not to bring peace but to divide families.  Why?  Because some would prove to be children of God and others would remain children of Satan.  This will inevitably drive a wedge between even the closest of family members.  Every regenerate soul has felt this separation take place.  Therefore, the absence of this separation clearly indicates that regeneration has not taken place for the family members uniting over an issue of sin.

The church can still get this right. The church must get this right.  God says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”


Divorce the Sons of Disobedience or Sink Into Damnable Idolatry

“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.


Does God Actually Hate Divorce?

A straight commandment against divorce does not exist in the holy word of God. Even a clear condemnation of divorce would be useful for the fight to prohibit any divorce actions, but that too is not found in God’s word. In the entire Old Testament not a word against divorce is spoken until the final book. In the short book of Malachi many point to the words so poorly translated in modern versions of the Greek text, “’For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel’” as all the proof they need that every divorce is an act of sin. Even those who clearly know better use this passage and give hearty approval to others to use this passage to say something it clearly does not say. Why would men of God act so wickedly about a passage of God’s word? It is done because those who passionately obstruct every path to divorce have very weak biblical grounds for their position, so they must distort biblical passages to justify it. Though it is true that God’s word clearly condemns those who use divorce to deal treacherously with their spouse it is a man-made doctrine that restricts divorce entirely.

What does the short book of Malachi actually say regarding marriage and divorce? As always the beginning point is to understand the book’s purpose or “big point”. Malachi is directed, almost entirely, at the priests who have clearly fallen into a state of unbelief—they no longer fear God. Malachi 1:6 quotes God as saying, “O priests who despise My name.” Think about that statement for a moment.  The very men who were granted the task of speaking to God on Judah’s behalf hated the very name of God.  This is unthinkable…it is horrible.

Then Malachi lists several sinful behaviors that the priests routinely engaged in that demonstrated their hatred of God or even their disbelief altogether. Parenthetically, God compares the priests of Malachi’s day with Levi of whom God says, “…he revered Me and stood in awe of My name…but as for you, you have turned aside from the way…you have corrupted the covenant of Levi” (2:5-8). God, through Malachi, continues pointing out some of the many ways in which the priests have become entirely godless.

Then using the synecdoche “Judah”, to continue referring to the priests, Malachi adds a transgression of great importance for our discussion to the list of transgressions against God’s law.  These wicked priests were “entering into forbidden marriages with godless woman”.   “Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Isreal and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord which He loves and has married the daughter of a foreign god” (2:11). In this passage and ubiquitously throughout scripture unequally yoked marriages are viewed as acts of treachery against our covenant to be God’s people.

The next transgression listed against the priests of Malachi’s day is that they “have dealt treacherously” with their godly wives whom they married when they were young—and presumably at least trying to live faithfully in their covenant with God. How were they dealing treacherously with their Judean wives?  From the previous verses we saw that they were taking for themselves additional, godless wives who no doubt appealed more to their lust. Secondly, as if that were not bad enough, they began “putting out” their Judean wives.  The text does not actually use the word for divorce, so we do not know if these Judean wives were being given a certificate of divorce or not (most believe they were not). Either way as the acts of dissolution of the marriage covenant were a result of treacherous behavior on the part of the priests these acts angered the Lord God because they were wicked treatment of the women—failure to love your fellow man. Thus we have the infamous quote of God saying, “I hate divorce” (2:16).

The better English translation comes from the American Standard Version because the New American Standard Bible broke its own rules and interpreted the text instead of merely translating it. The infamous verse actually says, “For I hate putting away, says Jehovah, the God of Israel, and him that covers his garment with violence, says Jehovah of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that you deal not treacherously” (2:16 ASV).

It is the acts of treachery that God hates so very much as should men of God in every age. With respect to marriage, there were two treacherous acts these godless priests were committing against God. The first was entering into unequally yoked marriages with women who were not part of the family of God or said differently “the daughter of a foreign god”. The second was to deal treacherously with their Judean wives of whom the passage says, “…you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (2:14).  The priest’s wives were faithful in their companionship, which is to say that they had not put out their husbands, they remained faithful in their marriage covenant, which is to say that they remained pure by not sexually joining themselves to anyone other than their husbands nor were they making themselves unavailable to their husbands in the marriage bed.

In the 21st century the faithful wives of these treacherous priests would be treated with the same disdain as their godless husbands because they would have the same “D” for divorce hanging over them for the remainder of their lives. Although they were living up to their end of their marital covenant they still experienced a divorce because their spouse ended up being a traitor to God and a covenant breaker to them.  But those who prohibit divorce in every instance label the innocent victims of treacherous spouses as equally treacherous themselves because they have a d-i-v-o-r-c-e on their record.

I have no delusions, I realize that the permanence view people would decry my argument as slanderous to their actual position, but they are wrong to defend themselves. The outcome of their position paints every divorced person equally guilty and shameful, regardless of their guilt or innocence.  They believe that every man who has suffered a divorce cannot serve as a pastor regardless of his guilt or innocence in the matter.  This current state of affairs should and must be set right.


Has the Church Inadvertently Institutionalized Unequally Yoked Marriages?

Marriage has been in the news for many years now as those passionately fighting for the advancement of the homosexual agenda have sought the inclusion of homosexuals in the various states’ marriage laws. On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States of America in a 5-4 decision forced all 50 states to recognize homosexual marriages as equal with traditional marriages. In a loving, Christian response John Piper discussed some differences in the approach to this issue between those outside the body of Christ and those of us who are a part of the body of Christ.
He said, “Christians know what is coming, not only because we see it in the Bible, but because we have tasted the sorrowful fruit of our own sins. We do not escape the truth that we reap what we sow. Our marriages, our children, our churches, our institutions – they are all troubled because of our sins. The difference is: We weep over our sins. We don’t celebrate them. We don’t institutionalize them. We turn to Jesus for forgiveness and help. We cry to Jesus, ‘who delivers us from the wrath to come’” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Piper’s line really got me thinking: “We weep over our sins. We don’t celebrate them. We don’t institutionalize them. We turn to Jesus for forgiveness and help.” Generally speaking this line is very much true of all those who have been regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit. However, I suspect some sins have escaped our notice and slipped into the church. Piper himself and the majority of the faithful seemingly make an exception for unequally yoked marriages. When a regenerate Christian marries an unregenerate person of the opposite sex most in the church celebrate their union at the wedding and institutionalize their godless union by validating it under God’s institution of marriage even though God has made it abundantly clear that He forbids unequally yoked unions the greatest of which are marriages. Oddly enough, many pastors will refuse to perform wedding ceremonies for unequally yoked couples, but then turn around and participate in the celebration and institutionalization of those marriages after a more liberal “man of God” or an officer of the state has performed the wedding ceremony.

How in good conscience can this be when God’s word clearly says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness with lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God…” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16b).

Clearly an exception has been made by most in the church for those who are breaking God’s law against being unequally yoked, but they refuse to make a similar exception for those breaking God’s law against gay marriage. Both scripture and reason dictate that we treat these two cases the same. Both homosexuality and unequally yoked relationships are forbidden by God’s word. It is entirely inappropriate to celebrate or institutionalize either marriage. The consistent and righteous position for the regenerate person is to continue standing firm against gay marriage for Christians and to repent of the position that celebrates and institutionalizes unequally yoked marraiges. If marriage is God’s institution, and if God joins a man and a woman in marriage, then He has not joined in marriage a regenerate person to an unregenerate person and he does not join in marriage a gay couple. If either is to be joined, then they are joined by man without God’s blessing.

Why do true Christians not weep over the multitudes who continue to participate in unequally yoked relationships? Why do they not call the guilty to repentance? Why do they not call those who have fallen into this sin to turn to Jesus for forgiveness and help? Some will say that they do call those caught up in this sin to turn to Jesus for forgiveness and help, but for this one sin they leave repentance out of the equation. Jesus called all men everywhere to “repent and believe”. The rich young ruler believed Jesus had the power to save him, but he was unwilling to repent of his love of money so he took his sins with him as he walked away from Jesus. Every sinner must lay his sins at the foot of the cross. We cannot have both Christ and our sin. Repentance is the first word of the gospel. A faith without repentance is a faith in something other than Christ Jesus. With Ezra and Nehemiah as our guides we must repent of our unequally yoked marriage and lay them at the foot of the cross and walk away from them. To remain in these marriages is to remain unrepentant—to remain in sin.

The reason Piper and all true Christians cannot celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision is because to do so and to accept the institutionalization of homosexuality would encourage rather than discourage our fellow man to incur the wrath of God. It pleases us that so many modern Christians seem to understand this even while the majority does not, but unfortunately this same understanding has been lacking for those who have entered unequally yoked marriages with the sons and daughters of Belial. Because the church encourages rather than discourages its own members in unequally yoked marriages it has, for many generations, experienced an epidemic of godless unions, which have destroyed individual lives, families, and churches. I am calling upon the church to recognize its error and reverse this catastrophic position.

Consider the story of Jehoshaphat, who was among the godliest of Judah’s kings. After giving his son in marriage to Athaliah (the evil daughter of wicked king Ahab and queen Jezebel) and trying to join Judah with Israel in war God sent a prophet to Jehoshaphat to ask the king this very poignant question, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord” (2 Chron. 19:2)? Jehoshaphat got the message and maintained his separation for many years, but he reached out to join up with the godless king Ahab one last time in part because his son remained married to the evil princess Athaliah, and the wrath of God came down upon him and all of Jerusalem in a terrifying way. And to make God’s point even clearer His wrath came upon Jehoshaphat and Judah through the very girl to whom he gave his son in marriage. Athaliah murdered his son as well as Jehoshaphat’s entire family, after having the godly king dethroned and murdered she took his thrown for herself. For six long years, as the queen of Judah, Athaliah systematically destroyed nearly every memory of the Lord God that Jehoshaphat tirelessly built throughout his days on the throne. In Athaliah’s pilfering of the temple and the king’s treasury the last two mites that she stole from godly Jehoshaphat were his reputation and his legacy as almost nobody ever mentions the name of Jehoshaphat when they list the truly great men of God in the bible.


Part 1: Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s Theses on Divorce and Spousal Abuse

Note: Both R.C. Sproul and the author of this blog disagree with Dr. Bahnsen’s final point; it is the prerogative of the innocent spouse to divorce or not to divorce the adulterous spouse.  Of course, forgiveness must be liberal, but the church has no right restricting the innocent partner from the exception clause that Jesus provided them as a liberty. 

The point of contention is: C. 5. A regenerate believer who has an adulterous, but repentant, spouse will forgive the spouse and seek a restored relationship, imitating God’s gracious reaction to the sinner.

A. At the beginning of human history, prior to man’s sinful condition, there was no just ground for divorce.

1. “He said to them, With reference to your hard-heartedness Moses authorized you to divorce your wives, but it has not been so from the beginning” (Matthew 19:8).

2. “From the beginning” (Matt. 19:8) alludes to man’s situation when God “made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4) – when God instituted marriage with the words of Genesis 2:24 (Matt. 19:5).

3. “Hard-heartedness” (Matt. 19:8) is a Biblical figure of speech for man’s fallen or unregenerate nature which does not believe or obey God (see LXX for Deut. 10:16; Prov. 17:20; Jer. 4:4; Ezek. 3:7; and in the NT, Mark 16:14). Regeneration is described as God taking away the “stony heart” and replacing it with a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).

B. Ideally there should be no divorce; it is contrary to what God desires most.

1. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6).

2. “For I hate divorce, says Jehovah, the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16).

3. These words state the ideal, for God Himself makes provision for putting marriage asunder (Matt. 19:8-9; cf. Deut. 24:1) and practices divorce Himself (Jer. 3:8).

4. Similarly, death and killing are contrary to the divine ideal (and would not have come into the picture “from the beginning”), but due to man’s sinful condition God gives orders regarding them (e.g., Gen. 9:6; Deut. 21:23).

C. Between two regenerate believers, there should be no divorce whatsoever, even for the cause of fornication.

1. For believers redeemed from sin, the original creation ordinance (A) and God’s highest desire for marriage (B) will be their guide. Sinful behavior and attitudes between husband and wife will be dealt with apart from recourse to divorce – according to redemptive principles (analogous to the relation between Christ and the church, Eph. 5:22-33).

2. “But unto the married I give charge (not I, but the Lord) that the wife not depart from her husband…, and that the husband leave not his wife” (I Corinthians 7:10, 12).

3. Fornication is not the unforgiveable sin (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11; Mark 3:28; 1 John 1:7).

4. A regenerate believer who falls into the sin of adultery will offer genuine repentance for it (Ps. 51; Jas. 4:8-10; I John 1:9; Matt. 5:23-24) and do the works appropriate for turning from it (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20). Refusal to repent in this way must be taken as a sign that the person is not truly a believer (I Cor. 6:9-10; Prov. 28:13; Luke 13:3, 5) – eventuating in excommunication, if need be.

5. A regenerate believer who has an adulterous, but repentant, spouse will forgive the spouse and seek a restored relationship, imitating God’s gracious reaction to the sinner (Matt. 6:12-15; 18:15, 21-35; Eph. 4:32). Forgiveness necessitates reconciliation and precludes divorce, for God does not forgive the sinner and then say “Depart from Me into everlasting darkness”! (Matt. 25:21, 30, 34, 41; Ps. 85:2-3; 103:12; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Col. 1:21-22; cf. 2 Cor. 2:7-9) Refusal to forgive in this way must be taken as a sign that the person is not truly a believer (Matt. 6:15; 18:34-35; I John 3:14-16) – eventuating in excommunication, if need be.
Author: Greg Bahnsen


Part 2: Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s Theses on Divorce and Spousal Abuse

Continue from Part 1

D. Where a marriage involves an unbeliever, the only just ground for divorce is “fornication.”

1. The situation now envisioned is that at least one partner to the marriage is an unbeliever, one who refuses to live by the principles stated in the above points (whether professing to be a follower of Christ or not).

2. “Is it permitted [lawful] for a man to divorce his wife according to every reason [upon any ground]?… But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife not upon [the ground of] fornication and marries another commits adultery” (Matthew 19:3, 9). Christ here censures any divorce which is not “for fornication,” thus leaving one and only one just ground for divorce – viz., “fornication.”

3. This is clear from Matthew 5:32, “Everyone divorcing his wife apart from a matter of fornication….” The Greek term means “except for” (e.g., Acts 26:29) or “outside” (e.g., 2 Cor. 11:28). Jesus spoke quite categorically: any reason outside the category of “fornication” is a sinful basis for divorce. Fornication is the only “exception” to this censure against divorce.

4. Jesus was also speaking categorically in the sense that His principle was meant to be applied universally – to all men. He stated that “everyone” (pas, Matt. 5:32) or “whoever” (hos an, Matt. 19:9) divorces apart from the ground of fornication was doing wrong – whether believer or unbeliever, Jew or Gentile. Note that Christ’s teaching was based upon factors which apply to all men in general: (1) the creation ordinance, and (2) the condition of man’s sinful heart. God does not have a double standard for marriage: the only proper ground upon which a believer or unbeliever may divorce his/her spouse is “fornication.”

5. Although Paul deals with a particular case in I Corinthians 7:12-17 which was not directly addressed during Christ’s earthly ministry (“To the rest I say, not the Lord,” v. 12), it would be fallacious to assume that the general moral principle which he applied to that case was contrary to the teaching of the Lord – namely, that only fornication is grounds for divorce. In saying that, Jesus did not give any hint of restricting His moral principle, as though He were speaking only for the case of believers. (In fact, what He addressed was the problem of hard-heartedness – those who are unregenerate.) Rather, He explicitly directed His principle to “everyone” and “whoever” pursues divorce.

E. The scope of “fornication” in Biblical usage is broader than adultery and even broader than illicit sexual intercourse.

1. In Matthew 19:9 Christ clearly uses two distinct Greek terms for fornication and adultery; they are not identical. If “fornication” is not the reason for the divorce, He says, “adultery” will be the consequence. [Cf. the distinct use of the two terms in I Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19; Heb. 13:4] (Note that the Hebrew terms for “fornication” and “adultery” are also distinct.)

2. In Scripture (LXX & NT) “fornication” can refer specifically to sexual sin of all sorts – whether pre-marital unchastity (Ezek. 23:11-19; John 8:41), sex outside of marriage by a widow (Gen. 38:24), returning to a divorced spouse after an intervening union (Jer. 3:2), adultery (Jer. 13:27; Hos. 2:2), prostitution (Deut. 23:18; Micah 1:7; 1 Cor. 6:16-18), incest (1 Cor. 5:1), homosexuality (Jude 7), marrying foreign wives (Heb. 12:16; cf. Gen. 26:34-35), or inter-religious sexual union (1 Cor. 10:8; cf. Num. 25:1-9).

3. It should be noted that “sexual sin” (=fornication) need not involve genital intercourse. Imagine a wife who engages in romantic kissing, undressing, caressing, fondling, mutual masturbation, or oral sex with someone not her husband. It would be ridiculous to defend her against the charge of “fornication” by appealing to the absence of genital intercourse. The Song of Songs presents the kind of activities mentioned here as appropriate to the state of marriage.

4. In Scripture “fornication” can also be used more generally for moral rebellion and unfaithfulness, when there is no figurative suggestion of intercourse (as with idols) – for instance: arrogance (Isa. 47:10), disbelieving God (Num. 14:11, 33), or departure from God’s standards of righteousness (Isa. 1:21; 57:3; 2 Kings 9:22). “Fornication” appears to be part of a synecdoche for all sins in Ezek. 43:9 and Hos. 6:10. In Paul’s epistles “fornication” is sometimes run together with uncleanness, covetousness and idolatry as a way of covering all forms of immoral conduct (e.g., Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3-7) – which explains why many translations render the Greek word generally as “impurity” or “immorality.” “Fornication” covers all of the defilements and abominations represented by ungodly Rome (Rev. 17:4; 19:2) as well as the teaching and idolatrous associations of heresy in the church (Rev. 2:21). Accordingly, the whole of sanctification can be typified as abstaining from “fornication” (1 Thess. 4:3; cf. Heb. 12:14, 16). [Cf. Westminster Larger Catechism #99]

5. In addition to the specific and general uses of “fornication” for moral rebellion, we can observe the figurative use of the term (against the background of sexual looseness) for religious unfaithfulness (Jer. 2:20; Hos. 4:11-12) – apostasy (Ezek. 6:9; 23:35; Ps. 73:27), idolatry (Isa. 57:9; 1 Chron. 5:25; Ezek. 16:15, 25) and foreign allegiance (Ezek. 23:11-19).

6. Thus “fornication” need not connote sinful sexual intercourse. This is most clearly demonstrated by the fact that desertion of a marriage (apart from any issue of adultery) counts as fornication in Biblical teaching: “But if the unbelieving [spouse] separates him/herself, let him/her be separated; in such cases the brother or the sister do not remain bound” (1 Cor. 7:15). Yet on the authority of Christ we may recognize only one just ground for divorce, namely “fornication” (D). Therefore, unless Paul be pitted against Christ, the Pauline permission of divorce for desertion must imply that desertion is a form of fornication in God’s evaluation, regardless of any accompanying issue of illicit sexual intercourse.

7. In Judges 19:2 the desertion of the Levite’s concubine from him is described with the distinct Hebrew term for “fornication” zahnah, confirming the above observation. (The use of zahnah in the text does not suggest that the concubine literally became a harlot for a while and then went home to her father – a very unlikely course of events. The Levite, then, would not have been permitted to pursue her tenderly to remain his wife [Judges 19:3; cf. Lev. 21:7; Deut. 22:20-21].)

8. Therefore, in order to understand properly the teaching of Scripture on the grounds for divorce, we will of necessity need to engage in more than lexical studies. What will be needed is a broader, theological understanding of the nature of marriage and the rationale which lies behind whatever grounds for divorce are set forth. We need to approach the question in such a way that we can account for (a) the narrowness of grounds for divorce, (b) the harmony of Paul and Jesus in giving grounds for divorce, (c) the full Biblical evidence on the subject of divorce, and (d) the reason why certain offenses are legitimate grounds for divorce, while others are not. A simple appeal to the word “fornication” cannot accomplish these ends.

F. The only forms of “fornication” which provide just grounds for divorce are those which violate the essential commitments of the marriage covenant.

1. “Fornication” can cover a wide scope of sins, but Jesus intended to restrict and narrow the just grounds for divorce when He rejected the notion that one may put away his wife for just any reason (Matt. 19:3, 9). In contrast to less rigorous schools of the rabbis, Jesus did not espouse divorce as a remedy for just any sin whatever. Accordingly, we would expect that Jesus was referring to “fornication” in some restricted, but non-arbitrary, sense – that is, is some way which follows a principle (rationale) for narrow delineation.

2. However this sense cannot be so restricted that it pertains only to illicit sexual intercourse (cf. E.3,6).

3. Therefore, we must pursue Biblical reasoning to determine just what forms of “fornication” constitute proper grounds for divorce. [Those who want to adhere strictly and literally to the Westminster Confession’s statement that “nothing but adultery” and irremedial desertion are sufficient cause for divorce (XXIV.6) will be under a similar necessity, for the Westminster Standards go on to define “adultery” so broadly as to include things which are not reasonably taken as grounds for divorce, such as intemperance, immodest apparel, idleness and drunkenness (Larger Catechism #138, 139). Scripture too uses “adultery” in a broad fashion (e.g., Jas. 4:4).]

4. Marriage is a covenant: e.g., “Jehovah has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have broken faith, though she is your companion and the wife of your covenant” (Mal. 2:14; cf. also Prov. 2:17). Marriage is a legal contract with moral stipulations and obligations to which the Lord is witness (e.g., Gen. 31:50).

5. In the case of the legal obligations of other covenant relations, one party is not released from the obligations of the covenanted commitment unless the second party has violated the mutual contract by acting contrary to its terms. For instance, when Zedekiah broke his covenant of loyalty, Nebuchadnezzar was no longer bound by that covenant to protect Zedekiah as king in Jerusalem (Ezek. 17:12-21; cf. 2 Chr. 36:13; 2 Kings 24:20-25:7; Jer. 39:4-8). Likewise in the case of God’s own covenant with Israel as a nation: “For thus says the Lord Jehovah: I will also deal with you as you have done, who has despised the oath in breaking the covenant” (Ezek. 16:59). “They did not continue in My covenant, so I disregarded them” (Heb. 8:9). When the Jews confessed their transgressions, their only plea was accordingly: “Do not abhor us…break not Your covenant with us” (Jer. 14:21). Cf. Ex. 19:5; Lev. 26:15ff.; Deut. 31:20, 29; Jer. 11:10-11; 22:5-9; Hos. 6:7; 7:13; 8:1, 4; Rom. 11:20-22.

6. Likewise, in the case of the marriage covenant, the only thing which provides a just ground for one party to be released from the covenant (i.e., to pursue divorce) would be the violation of that covenant’s essential obligations by the other party – the breaking of the covenant. Accordingly, such things as (1) constant bickering over money, (2) refusal to repent for rude behavior, telling lies, taking God’s name in vain, dishonesty, etc., or (3) breaking a promise (even if stated along with one’s wedding vows) not to move out of state do not illustrate grounds for divorce because none of them violates what is essential to the covenant of marriage.

7. Because marriage was ordained by God (Gen. 2:24), it is God’s revealed will – not man’s wisdom or desire – which defines the nature and essential obligations of the marriage covenant: “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6).
Author: Greg Bahnsen


Part 3: Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s Theses on Divorce and Spousal Abuse

Continue from Part 2
G. The obligations of the marriage covenant include at least [1] “leaving father and mother,” [2] “cleaving” to one’s spouse, and [3] becoming “one flesh.”

1. These three aspects of the marriage covenant are explicitly mentioned when God originally ordained the institution: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

2. These three aspects of the marriage covenant are not distinctive to one dispensation of God’s dealing with men, but are repeated throughout Scripture: for instance, at Matthew 19:5 and Ephesians 5:31.
3. It may be that there are other integral aspects of the marriage covenant in addition to these three mentioned. To legitimately assert them would require Scriptural warrant of some sort (e.g., Biblical teaching on the essential meaning of marriage, or on accepted grounds for divorce, etc.).

H. In light of the vow to be “one flesh,” we can understand that sexual infidelity breaks the marriage covenant and is, as such, grounds for divorce.

1. The expression “to be one flesh” denotes sexual intercourse, thus being applied even to relations with a harlot: “Don’t you realize that he who is joined to a harlot is one body? for ‘the two,’ He said, ‘shall become one flesh'” (1 Cor. 6:16). Note how “marriage” is treated in parallel to “the bed” in Hebrews 13:4.

2. One of the divine purposes for marriage is to provide the proper outlet for the sex drive, thereby avoiding fornication: “Because of fornications, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband…. It is better to marry than to burn (with passion)” (1 Cor. 7:2, 9). Outside of the marriage bed is fornication and adultery (Heb. 13:4).

3. Refusal of sexual relations is contrary to one of the very purposes for marriage, then, and illegally subjects the marriage partner to fornication – having a marriage, not in substance, but only in name.

4. Engaging in sexual relations is a “debt” which must be “paid (rendered)” to one’s spouse (1 Cor. 7:3; cf. the use of the same two words in Rom. 13:7, “render to all their dues”). It is a contractual obligation of marriage.

5. Willful refusal of sexual relations with one’s marriage partner is thus explicitly called “defrauding” (or stealing his/her rights) in 1 Corinthians 7:5. (The word is used of defrauding workers of the pay which is due to them in James 5:4; cf. Mark 10:19; 1 Cor. 6:8, referring to matters settled by court [vv. 1, 6].) It is a breaking of the contractual obligations of marriage. Paul’s use of this kind of language is noteworthy for understanding the covenantal nature of the marriage bond as well as how it is dissolved.

6. This is confirmed by the law at Exodus 21:10-11, which stipulates that a wife who has been deprived of “her conjugal right” becomes free of the marriage commitment, being released from her husband. (It would make little sense to say that “she shall go out from him” pertains only to her slavery, leaving her bound to the marriage, when it is her conjugal rights [which have nothing to do with the institution of slavery] that are not being observed.)

7. Since the marriage vow is (among other things) a public commitment to be sexually faithful to one’s spouse, sexual relations apart from with one’s spouse is a violation of the marriage covenant. Thus, as is commonly recognized, Scripture teaches that when a wife commits adultery, she may be put away and given a bill of divorcement (Jer. 3:8; cf. Deut. 24:1, noting that the Hebrew term “indecency” refers to illicit cohabitation, e.g., Ezek. 16:36; 23:29; throughout Lev. 18; 20:10ff.). Adultery “defiles” the marriage bed (Heb. 13:4).
Author Greg Bahnsen


Part 4: Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s Theses on Divorce and Spousal Abuse

I. In light of the vow to “leave father and mother,” we can understand that desertion of one’s spouse breaks the marriage covenant and is, as such, grounds for divorce.

1. By leaving one’s father and mother to become married, one puts behind one social grouping and forms a new social unit – a new family nucleus. (This may be done, by the way, whether or not one separates from the vacinity or house of his parents. Spatial location is not the point here.)

2. “Leaving father and mother” is thus for the purpose of creating a new bond, now with one’s spouse (cf. the following words in Gen. 2:24, “and cleave to his wife”). The “leaving” is just the other side of the coin of the commitment to live with one’s marriage partner.

3. Abandoning one’s spouse and returning to one’s parents is thus denominated “fornication” in Judges 19:2. Deserting the spouse is a violation of that marriage commitment implied by one’s “leaving father and mother” – whether the deserting partner literally returns to the parents’ home or not.

4. Confirmation of this is found in 1 Corinthians 7:12, 13, where Paul describes the state of marriage in terms of “consenting to dwell with” each other – that is, living together.

5. When an unbelieving spouse refuses to live with his/her marriage partner, the covenant between them is broken. In such a case, when the unbeliever “separates him/herself” (by divorce, cf. v. 10), Paul declares that the believing party is “not bound” any longer (I Cor. 7:15).

6. The fact that the believer is not bound to the marriage commitment any longer – unlike the case of an improper divorce (v. 10), where Paul holds that the deserting party is indeed morally bound to remain unmarried and pursue reconciliation with the divorced spouse (v. 11) – shows that we find here legitimate grounds for the dissolution of the marriage covenant, not merely “consent” to the evil desire of an unbeliever. The wickedness of others does not release Christians from their own moral obligations! Paul’s words show that this particular form of evil violates a contractual obligation, and (only) in that way releases the Christian from former obligations.

J. In light of the vow to “cling (cleave) to” each other, we can understand why attempting to destroy the life of one’s spouse breaks the marriage covenant and is, as such, grounds for divorce.

1. The verb “to cling (cleave)” in Genesis 2:24 (Matt. 19:5; Eph. 5:31) stands between and complements the ideas of [1] leaving father and mother (to cleave to one’s spouse) and [2] becoming one flesh (cf. the verb’s use in I Cor. 6:16-17). Nevertheless it adds something to both notions. It denotes more than living together and going to bed together.

2. This is evident from the use of the verb elsewhere in Scripture. In Hebrew and Greek it can apply to a physical joining of things together (e.g., Job 19:20; Ps. 22:15; 2 Sam. 23:10; Lk. 10:11; Acts 8:29). However, in terms of human relationships, it means “to join with,” “enter into a close relation with,” “associate with on intimate terms,” “make common cause with,” “be committed to in loyalty.” For instance, it denotes clinging to someone in affection and loyalty: e.g., Ruth to Naomi (Ruth 1:14), the men of Judah to David during Sheba’s rebellion (2 Sam. 20:2), Shechem to Dinah (Gen. 34:3, “speaking to her heart”), Solomon to his foreign wives (I Kings 11:2, “in love”), the prodigal making common cause with his employer by being “joined to” him (Lk. 15:15); it was unlawful to have this kind of relationship – to adhere – to a foreigner (Acts 10:28).

3. Thus we see what is entailed by the word when it is used in the Old Testament for Israel adhering to the Lord in love and submission (e.g., Deut. 10:20; 11:22; 13:4; 30:20; Jos. 22:5; 23:8; Jer. 13:11). When the Psalmist says that he “clings” to God’s testimonies (Ps. 118 [119]:31 LXX), he refers to his support and commitment to them – not somehow to a physical relation with them. Likewise, Paul bids us to “cleave to that which is good” (Rom. 12:9) – the other side of abhoring evil. New converts “cleaved” to Paul (Acts 17:34) by taking up his cause. Believers are described as “joined to” the church (Acts 5:13; 9:26), which obviously speaks of their making common cause, supporting, and being loyal to the perspectives and purposes of God’s people.

4. Likewise, a husband and wife are to “cleave” to each other by being committed to and seeking to do what is in each other’s best interests; they are to be united, not simply in body, but in loyal support of each other’s lives. They are positively to adhere to the genuine needs of each other. This is the diametric opposite of abhorring each other’s life and trying to kill each other.

5. Accordingly, if we examine the husband’s marriage obligations, Scripture teaches us that he is to “dwell together with” his wife “as a weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). He is obligated to show consideration and protection for his wife in light of her physical vulnerability, treating her as a fragile container. Failure to supply the necessities and protections of life, not to mention physical abuse of this “weaker vessel,” is clearly forbidden.

6. The gravity of a man refusing to supply what is necessary for the physical life and protection of his wife is made evident by the stern words of Paul: “if anyone does not provide especially for his family, he is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). When one remembers the evaluation and destiny of unbelievers according to the theology of Paul, these words have incredible intensity and severity. Someone who exposes his wife and family to physical harm by deprivation of their basic necessities is (somehow!) in a worse moral condition or under greater condemnation than an unbeliever. If this sin of omission brings someone into such a dreadful evaluation, one can imagine how much more positive abuse – or sins of commission against the physical life and well-being of his wife and family – would do so.

7. Rather than taking steps to kill their wives, husbands are morally bound by their marriage covenant to give up their lives for the sake of their wives: “Husbands, love your wives, even as also Christ loved the church gave himself up on behalf of it” (Eph. 5:25).

8. The obligation entailed here has very obvious outward and physical manifestation. Husbands are required by their marriage covenant to love their own wives “as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28). Just as they would not do anything detrimental to their own physical well-being or life, so they have strict moral orders not to do so to their own wives. They are forbidden to “hate their flesh” (Eph. 5:29), which clearly rules out depriving them of sustenance and protection or showing them physical violence. By direct contrast, Paul teaches in the same verse that it is the duty of husbands to “nourish and cherish” their wives’ flesh.

9. Accordingly, when a husband deprives his wife of nourishment, physical covering and protection, or (more) when he actually beats her and threatens her life, he has done far more than fall short of “an ideal mate” – like someone who lies to his wife or sins in other ways. This kind of sin has a special intensity. He has violated an essential obligation of the marriage covenant, refusing to adhere or cleave loyally to his wife’s well-being and life.

10. If in the other two cases of covenanted obligations of marriage (sexual fidelity, living together) violation of the terms of the covenant grants the offended party the moral right to seek dissolution of the legal bond (by divorce), we should reason that it does so also in the case of the covenanted obligation of “cleaving to” each other. To deny that implication without sound and Biblical reasons for doing so would be to indulge special pleading and preconceived notions – a kind of arbitrariness which must not characterize Christian theological thinking. (But doesn’t the Biblical teaching that “only fornication” is grounds for divorce argue against this implication? See again D,E,F above.)
Author: Greg Bahnsen


Part 5: Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s Theses on Divorce and Spousal Abuse

K. The above conclusion (Part 4) is explicitly substantiated by the law of God at Exodus 21:10-11, demonstrating (a fortiori) that spousal abuse violates the marriage covenant and, is such, grounds for divorce.

1. God’s law stipulates in the case of a slave who is taken as a wife, her husband “shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her conjugal rights.” This refers to the obligations of the marriage covenant, as we have seen above (G, H, I, J, K). So then, “if he does not provide these three things unto her, then she shall go out for nothing, without money” (Ex. 21:10-11).

2. Her “going out” denotes an end of all legal obligation to him. She has the right to dissolve the legal bond of marriage (as should be clear from what we have seen above), but she also has the right to dissolve the bond of her slavery – thus leaving “without money” for manumission. To suggest that her relief is the dissolution of only the marriage (remaining his slave) or only the slavery (remaining his wife) would be to trivialize the provision, for in that case she is not given relief from her offender after all. She must either continue in relation to him as a neglected wife or slave – which is contrary to the aim of providing her with a resolution and redress of the situation.

3. That aspect of this provision in God’s law which deals with deprivation of conjugal rights has already been discussed above (see H.1-6). It “defrauds” the marriage covenant to refuse sexual relations to one’s spouse. What this portion of God’s law also reveals is that, likewise it defrauds the marriage covenant to deprive one’s wife of her food and clothing – the nourishment and protection necessary to life (see J). Both offenses are thus grounds for divorce.

4. This is not merely a matter of inference. God explicitly says this in His law, thereby informing us that these offenses strike at the heart of the marriage covenant and must be deemed “fornication” or “indecency” (see E and H.7 above) – the only ground for divorce (see D above). If God is satisfied that it is morally appropriate for a wife to divorce her husband on the basis of deprivation of her physical sustenance and protection, we must be morally satisfied as well. (The suggestion that God tolerated this as evil in the Old Covenant, but does not do so now, is reasoning which is exegetically and logically faulty as well as theologically and ethically dangerous; cf. A above, the holiness of God and His law, and the implications of a double standard or a culturally relativized one in morality.)

5. Scripture should be interpreted in such a way that principles which apply to lesser cases are understood to be all the more applicable to greater cases. For instance, if God requires proper support of one’s ox, how much more of one’s pastor (1 Cor. 9:9-10). If one did not escape when refusing God’s word spoken on earth, how much more of God’s word spoken from heaven (Heb. 12:25). If we are to do good to all men in general, how much more to those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). This hermenutical principle is especially to be acknowledged in interpreting the laws of God, many of which are stated in terms of lesser circumstances so that we might not only (1) see how much more they apply to greater circumstances, but also (2) see just how far the protections and provisions of God’s moral order extend (over against our all too sinful tendency to minimize moral obligations and not see the ethical significance of those lesser cases). For instance, a mother bird is not to be killed along with her young (Deut. 22:6-7). Is this a special protection for birds, or are we to apply the underlying principle to even greater cases? Scripture itself shows us that we are to apply it all the more to more significance animals, like ox and sheep (Lev. 22:28). It would be obstinate to say, now, well this protection applies only to birds, oxen, and sheep (since they alone are mentioned).

6. If the sin of omission which threatens the life of one’s wife (depriving her of food and clothing) is grounds for divorce according to God’s word, then how much more would the sin of commission – physical abuse of one’s wife – qualify as a legitimate ground for divorce. In this case the a fortiori thrust of the inference should be readily acceptable.

7. It should also be acceptable in terms of the slave-wife status of the person protected in Exodus 21:10-11. If in the lesser case (a wife with the lower status of a slave) spousal abuse is grounds for divorce, how much more would it be in the greater case (a wife with the higher status of a non-slave). This is the normal way in which we would treat the law’s provisions (cf. supporting oxen and supporting the preacher). It is a fact that slaves had less privileges and protections within society than did free men and women. This being the case, we should reason that, if even slave-wives went out free from the marriage due to physical deprivation (or abuse), then surely the same privilege and protection was afforded to non-slave wives.

8. It is clear that Paul did not consider the requirement of Exodus 21:10 to have been narrowly restricted to slave-wives. In terms of the “conjugal right” which is provided for the slave-wife, we can readily see that Paul deemed it more broadly as the right of all wives (I Cor. 7:3). It would be arbitrary special pleading to say that, however, the other provisions of Exodus 21:10 are only sanctioned (in terms of the marriage covenant) for slave-wives, not all wives in general.

9. Our human tendency might easily be to think that husbands are strictly required to provide food, clothing and sexual relations to their non-slave wives, but that in the case of slave-wives, they may treated in a less fashion. The effect of Scriptural teaching is that even slave-wives have the right to divorce, if they are deprived or abused. The law shows us just how far the divinely intended legal protection of wives extends – even as far as slave-wives.
Author: Dr. Greg Bahnsen


The Will of God Dictates Divorce for Those Unequally Yoked In Marriage

In writing on the topic of the will of God R. C. Sproul made two points that this writer finds of great interest for the born-again who are bound by marriage to someone who has not experienced the new birth in Christ Jesus.

R. C. Sproul’s First Point Regarding the Will of God

First, Sproul said that God has three distinct wills: God’s sovereign decretive will—all that God has decreed since before the foundation of the world. God’s preceptive will—all that God has commanded His children to do and not to do. Finally, God’s will of disposition—that which pleases God.

Insight into these three distinct wills is seen in 1 Timothy 2:4 where Paul explained to Timothy that it is God’s desire for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” It is God’s will of disposition that desires all men to be saved—God takes no pleasure in sending men to their eternal torment. Yet God’s sovereign decretive will has determined that the road to destruction will be much broader than the road to salvation. And God has decreed this outcome because men are pleased to practice lawlessness rather than to submit to God’s preceptive will, which commands all men to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.

R.C. Sproul’s Second Point Regarding the Will of God

Dr. Sproul’s first point on the three distinct wills of God is foundational for proper knowledge and understanding of the second: “God’s sovereign ‘permission’ of human sin is not His moral approval.” Apply this to the discussion of unequally yoked marriages. God has commanded through His preceptive will against all unequally yoked relationships including and especially marriages. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that God is very displeased when His children yoke themselves to unbelievers. The life and death of Jehoshaphat is an excellent example of God’s heart and mind on the faithful joining themselves to or with the godless. A prophet of God asked Jehoshaphat (an eminently godly king of Judah who married off his son to the godless daughter of Ahab and Jezebel), “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord” (2 Chron. 19:2)? This was a rhetorical question—the answer is an emphatic “BY NO MEANS, MAY IT NEVER BE!”

Therefore every regenerate man or woman of God who is married to an unbeliever can be assured that they are outside of God’s preceptive will for He has prohibited unequally yoked marriages scores or even hundreds of times in His word. They are also outside of God’s will of disposition—God is not pleased as bad company always corrupts good morals. It is true that they are in God’s sovereign decretive will (as is every single living being), which is to say that God has allowed them to sin in this godless marriage, but as R. C. Sproul said, “God’s sovereign ‘permission’ of human sin is not His moral approval”.

Most today fail to recognize unequally yoked marriages as godless marriages because the church, in a monumental failure to understand God’s heart and mind on this subject, concocted a man-made doctrine for marriage that defies reason.  The pernicious nature of this doctrine is concealed by its Roman Catholic name “holy matrimony”.  The church concedes the biblical teaching that unequally yoked marriages are outside of God’s preceptive and dispositional will.  Yet inexplicably the church has granted “holy matrimony” the power to sanctify unequally yoked marriages.  Does the reader understand what “Holy matrimony” has done to God’s prohibition, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”?  The man-made doctrine of “holy matrimony” means that divinely forbidden marriages mystically confer God’s moral approval of divinely forbidden marriage.  This is like the serpent telling Eve “You certainly shall not die”.  It is entirely illogical, utter nonsense.  Why the church failed to follow the godly examples of Ezra and Nehemiah who entered into covenants with God to have all the people divorce their godless spouses will forever be a sad chapter for Christ’s church. The church desperately needs to discover its error and correct their doctrine on divorce for the unequally yoked.

It is awful when God’s children fall into sin, but it is infinitely worse for them to continue practicing the sin. Disobedience demands repentance. God never gives His moral approval to a sinful path simply because men stubbornly refuse to get off that path. God’s children must always walk in the ways of the Lord. God has made it abundantly clear that marriage between two believers is the way of the Lord. Making a covenant with God to divorce your godless spouse is the biblical and reasonable course for those living in an unequally yoked marriage. Remaining single or remarriage to a genuine believer are both biblically depicted as getting back in line with the will and ways of God.

Believers who choose to remain unequally yoked are only in God’s will by way of His sovereign decrees, which mercifully provides an allowance for their sin. However, they are disobeying God’s command (Preceptive will) against such unions, and all godless unions fall short of the mark of pleasing God (Will of disposition).  It is an undeniable truth that those who remain unequally yoked are outside of the will of God.  This does not mean that these are unregenerate as they would not be unequally yoked if they were not saved by grace, but they are living in disobedience to the will of God by being unequally yoked in marriage.  Christ said, “If you love me, then you will obey my commandments.”

For the unequally yoked believer divorce brings God’s child into compliance with God’s preceptive will while, at the same time, allowing them to be more pleasing to God (His will of disposition). Divorce in such cases would also be part of God’s sovereign decretive will; so then, divorce places the unequally yoked believer fully inside of the will of God—all three distinct wills. Finally, God’s prodigal child is back under the Father’s preceptive will and His dispositional will—a joyful place to be, and the place where all of God’s children belong.

THE SWORD OF CHRSIT: Separated From All That Is In the World–No Exceptions

Jesus 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.

Marriage was given for man, not man for marriage. Remaining unequally yoked, by following the church’s man-made doctrinal teaching that the marriage covenant supersedes God’s commandment against being unequally yoked, extends the years lived with nothing more than God’s permission to sin. And as we have discovered: “God’s sovereign ‘permission’ of human sin is not His moral approval” The path of remaining an unequally yoked child of God remains morally reprehensible to God. Precious Lord Jesus, open the eyes of your church on earth to see the errors of their ways, and show them the path to both corporate and personal repentance.

Biblical view on divorce


In a Nutshell: The Biblical View of Divorce for the Unequally Yoked

What does the Bible say on the topic of marital divorce for the unequally yoked believer? Separation of light from darkness is among the most ubiquitous commandments found in God’s revealed word. In the Old Testament God forbid marriages to “the nations”. Israelites were not to marry foreign women and they were not to give their daughters in marriage to foreign men. This command was specifically provided in a greater context of remaining separate from the nations in general. Often such forbidden romances were the cause of bringing Israelites together with the nations, but other factors caused Israel to fall into this sin as well such as security, financial gain and misguided obedience to God’s command to love one’s neighbor.

Idolatry always immediately accompanied the sin of intermingling with the nations through marriage, which is clearly why God forbid these unions. God frequently used the themes of marriages to “strange women” (foreign) and adultery with the same in order to depict Israel’s worship of foreign gods that drove Him to jealousy. God intended Israel to remain pure and undefiled from the nations, but Israel could not help herself but to become entangled with the nations through marriage which always led to idolatry. Ultimately God divorced both Israel and Judah for their adultery/idolatry.

If it is God’s will for the righteous to divorce the unrighteous, then why did God say, “For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16)? Any quote taken out of context can be shown to say anything anyone wants it to say. In context the priests of Israel were “putting away”, not divorcing their wives and they were acting in this treacherous way so that they could marry daughters of foreign gods. They were already equally yoked to Jewish women and they were putting them out without so much as a divorce decree and marrying gentile women. This passage should be used to defend divorce for the unequally yoked and to defend marriage within the family of faith, but instead blind guides have shrewdly allowed this passage to be seen as a sledge hammer against divorce for their blind followers who prefer platitudes over reason and biblical truth.

Again, God’s command was to be pure and undefiled by remaining separate from the nations with great emphasis on marriage. What happens to the people who transgress the command of the Lord? The best cure seen in the Old Testament is Ezra and Nehemiah’s covenants to divorce the unbelieving wives and children. Repentance is the only recourse once a sinner has embarked upon a path of sin. God’s ways do not include unequally yoking light to darkness. That which has been done, must be undone. A promise or covenant to remain on a path of sin must be broken. The people of God must importune their godless spouses for release (Prov. 6:1-5). In so doing God’s people are not breaking the marriage covenant because their godless partner has already broken the conditions of the covenant. How you ask? By refusing to obey God’s command to repent and believe in the Christ.

God instituted marriage so He has the right to set its conditions, and He has clearly prohibited His children from being in unequally yoked marriages (2 Cor. 6:14-7:2). The duration of a marriage covenant ends upon the death of either participant or the death of the covenant itself through the broken conditions. Those who restrict the access to divorce more narrowly than does the word of God deny the second manner of duration. In so doing they deny both scripture and reason as all covenants have conditions that, when broken, release the innocent party from the covenant and often call for damages to be paid by the violator. Unintentionally these legalists render the conditions of the marriage covenant void since they cannot activate the second manner of duration.

When people enter into the covenant of marriage they have no expectation of a biblical interpretation that removes the very conditions of the covenant that were included for their protection.  Having this done is like being found guilty of a crime not committed and being sentenced to life in prison.  Or it is like forcing the victim of rape to marry her attacker because he was the first man to have relations with her.

Getting back on track, unequally yoked marriages exist under an unlawful, broken covenant and the believing spouse is no longer bound.  He/she is free to remarry in the Lord; however, they must also pay a price for their release. The price is paid not to God, but to the godless spouse.  It is not godly to simply abandon those who have been made dependents. Provisions must be made until other means have been established because part of true repentance is making restitution for harm done to others. Although the unbelieving spouse has broken the covenant by refusing repentance it is the believing spouse who has entered into an unequally yoked marriage thus breaking God’s prohibition.

Even when the believer entered the marriage unsaved and subsequently became saved they must fulfill the duty of making restitution for their divorce because they are the one bound by God’s law to obey His prohibition against unequally yoked relationships. This does not prohibit the believer from receiving child support from the unbelieving spouse, but the believer should do everything in their power to make restitution. Taking their spouse to court to get everything they can out of him/her is prohibited by scripture and unconscionable behavior for God’s children. It would be foolish to think that repentance from this sin is easy.

Most seem oblivious to the reality that family is worshipped (made an idol) and has been for a very long time. God instituted marriage and family, but blood does not run thicker than faith. The marriage covenant has been treated in a mystical fashion as though it were worthy of worship itself. Motherhood has also been idolized by the church from the beginning in part because of an unbiblical view of Jesus’ own mother, yet Jesus Himself when he was told his mother and brothers were looking for Him said, “’Who is my mother and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward his disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother'” (Matt. 12:48b-50).

At the beginning of the 21st Century, America’s young adult population intensely craved praise and adoration because they have been made to feel entitled by a culture of high self-esteem that places too great a value on the family’s children. It was Jesus and not the popular culture today who had a proper understanding of the place and value of family members. On the subject of divorce for the unequally yoked man of God, Jesus included wives in the list of family members that the believer should leave behind if they are not obedient to the word and will of God (Luke 18:29, Matt. 19:29, Ps. 69:8-9). And Jesus said these believers would receive “many times as much, and will inherit eternal life” for their willingness to leave godless wives and family members in order to faithfully follow Christ.

So how should we interpret Jesus’ words in the gospels that are used to argue that He does not allow divorce for those married to unbelievers? In the light of the previous paragraph we must understand that such a position would infer that Christ contradicted Himself. Secondly, context is everything. The overarching context of our Lord’s teachings was the Old Testament itself.  Jesus taught Jewish people who understood that mixed marriages were forbidden.  Whenever Jesus taught about divorce it was assumed by our Lord and by His listeners that the marriages in question were between two of God’s people.  This was the context of everything Jesus said about marriage and divorce.  The Jews called the gentiles dogs at the time of Jesus’ life and ministry…they never would have considered marrying them.  The Jewish people hated the Samaritans for marrying gentiles.  The Samaritans grew out of the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim and they first became carnal and later intermingled with gentiles. During the life and ministry of Jesus Jews were not entering into mixed marriages, so the issue had no need of dialoge or clarification by Jesus.

What of Paul’s words to the Corinthians instructing them to remain with an unbelieving spouse who wants to stay in the marriage?  His words were intended as a temporary injunction for the new believer in Christ Jesus.  Christianity had just begun.  Some practical issues were popping up such as what was to be done when a person experienced regeneration by God’s Spirit while their spouse had not yet experienced this new life.

This concern exists in every generation of the church as married couples who are not in the Lord encounter the gospel and only one of the two receive regeneration.  Paul is instructing the believer to remain in the condition in which you came to God.  His tone and phraseology make it clear that his instructions were for the immediate timeframe. With the passing of time God will either regenerate the unbelieving spouse or the unbeliever will harden to the gospel at which time it will be clear to the believer that light and darkness must be separated once again (Genesis 1:3 and ubiquitous throughout God’s word).

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians makes his view on unequally yoked relationships abundantly clear when he says, “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 Bilial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? 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” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

It should be Paul’s second Corinthian letter that clarifies the first in part because it is subsequent thus having the former letter in mind, and secondly because the second letter’s statement is so much more universal, forceful and straightforward. Unfortunately, stubborn men have used the former letter, that provided a temporary injunction so that time could be given for God to soften or harden the spouse’s heart, to interpret the second letter.

Reprehensibly, many preachers apply 2 Cor. 6:14-18 to single people considering marriage but not to the married. This cannot be said more emphatically; men who utter the words “We know that this passage does not apply to the marriage relationship” when speaking on the last five verses of 2 Corinthians 6 are greatly sinning, and they are doing so in order to support their own misguided bias against divorce. These men dare not call God a sinner for divorcing Israel and Judah, yet they prohibit His children from following, to the letter, the very example God Himself has set.  Their sins of stubbornness and a judgmental spirit raises an holy anger within me for two reasons: It lessons the glory of God’s holy name by missing the mark God has set, and secondly, it has, for centuries, caused so much needless pain to brothers and sisters in Christ who were in need of God’s merciful provision of divorce when unequally yoked.

The bottom line is that God wants His children to be in relationships with one another. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1)!  Any believer who yokes themselves to unbelievers whether in marriage or any other relationship can expect God’s wrath instead of God’s blessings.  “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD and so bring wrath on yourself from the LORD (2 Chron. 19:2)?  God wants all of His children to walk in His ways. Being unequally yoked is not a way of the Lord.  So dearly beloved of the Lord, walk in the ways of the Lord God Almighty.

Biblical view on divorce


What Is God’s Intent With: “Till Death Do Us Part”

The greater part of the church has viewed the duration of a marriage covenant in a fundamentally flawed way, which has steered believers into thinking that God always forbids divorce. This critical flaw needs to be recognized and corrected before the church properly understands God’s will as revealed in scripture on marital divorce and in particular as it relates to God’s children who are unequally yoked in marriage.

Before we get started observe and remember Merriam Webster’s definition of “covenant”: 1. a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement : compact
2. A written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.

Brief observation: A commonly held but difficult to define belief is seen in the writings of many who hold a prohibitive view on divorce.  This belief or understanding could be called, “The Mystical Covenant of Marriage” because it mystifies the marriage relationship almost morphing it into something entirely different than the agreement between two people, which is its actual meaning or function.

The common belief regarding the marriage covenant has many forms, but in the final analysis it is the belief that a marriage covenant is so much more than an agreement between two or more parties. The belief has an ethereal aura about it as its possessors never reveal what exactly is meant by “so much more” than an agreement, but one thing is clear: Marriage covenants, as these people envision them, do not follow the laws of a covenant. Marriage covenants have taken on magical qualities instead of righteous, moral and legal qualities that normally govern covenants. It would seem that those who hold to this idea want to raise covenants to a higher plane were it is not required to stay within the bounds of scripture and reason. Of course, no such plane exists—covenants do not have mystical qualities. Reason and scripture are sufficient for all to comprehend truth.

Placing a concept into the unknown, untouchable realm is a ploy of those who want to go beyond what God has revealed in His word. If someone thinks a covenant is more than an agreement, then they should spell out the details plainly for one and all to see. But of course, this cannot be done because a covenant is merely an agreement between two or more parties.  Like any other agreement, marriage covenants must logically function as covenants are intended to function. The expected fallout for ignoring the moral, righteous and legal aspects of marriage covenants is tremendous injury to God’s people, which is precisely what has taken place for centuries–expressly it is God’s people who have been so terribly injured by this man-made injunction against divorce for those saints unequally yoked in marriage.

One brave soul who holds the mystical understanding of covenants attempted to demonstrate how marital covenants operate by rules that no other covenants are bond under. Gary Chapman’s five points below will illustrate how covenants are viewed as mystical. To be fair Chapman is comparing the idea of a marriage contract with what the bible calls a marriage covenant. Obviously many people enter marriage with the idea that they can always get out if they so choose anytime they desire. Christians must not overreact in their response to the sins of the culture.  Making divorce unattainable to those for whom God has provided it is every bit as sinful as breaking marriage covenants whenever one pleases for any reason whatsoever.

The reader will see that Chapman’s points defy scripture and reason, which demonstrates a desire to establish the marriage covenant as a mystical union that cannot be broken for any reason. We will first show Chapman’s points and then briefly rebut each one.

Chapman‘s Five Covenant Characteristics

“A covenant, like a contract, is an agreement between two or more persons, but the nature of the agreement is different.  The biblical pattern reveals five characteristics of covenants.”
1. Covenants are initiated for the benefit of the other person.

“Many of us can honestly say that we entered marriage motivated by the deep desire to benefit the person we were about to marry. Our intention was to make them happy. However, when needs aren’t met, spouses can revert to a contract mentality.”

Blog Author:

Chapman first states that a covenant is an agreement, but the nature of the agreement is different.  This statement is illogical.  If a covenant is an agreement, which is precisely what it is, then its nature must be that of an agreement as well.  Chapman’s logical failure here and elsewhere is that he begins with the premise that God hates divorce and His children can never get divorced and then builds backwards to defend his premise.  Therefore his premise is both the foundation and the conclusion to his argument, which in this case is also contrary to reason.

Chapman states that “people enter marriage covenants to benefit the other person.”

Certainly some measure of this had better be true, but the reality is that covenants are enacted for the benefit or protection of both parties, and each enters into a covenant primarily to protect themselves.  This is not selfish, but wise.

Covenants are not required to act in ways that will benefit others.  Neither does it require a covenant to continue being a victim to an abusive person.  People regularly engage in both of these behaviors without a covenant in place.

Although each partner in a covenant should be considering seriously the promises they are making they must not lose site of the promises being made to them because those are the promises that their own good performance cannot guarantee.  The covenant is a binding agreement between two or more parties.  Two equal parties should expect to benefit equally if the covenant is operating correctly.  This balance is what makes the relationship flourish and keeps the covenant going strong.  The purpose of a covenant is to protect both signatories from deceptive or wicked behavior from the other.  However, no protection can be obtained once divorce has been removed from the equation.  If the innocent partner cannot divorce themselves from the wicked partner, then the wicked partner has no motivation to repent of their wickedness.

Chapman:

2. “In covenant relationships people make unconditional promises.
Covenant marriages are characterized by unconditional promises, such as those spoken in traditional wedding vows.”

Blog Author:

Chapman is simply wrong.  First of all, he refers to “marriage” here as “covenant marriages”, with which he apparently means to divide marriage into two classes: Covenant marriages and contract marriages.  God instituted marriage and it is what it is.  People either enter marriage or they do not, but two different types of marriage do not exist.  If Chapman can get his readers to buy into the notion that two types of marriage exist, then he could argue that the one that cannot be dissolved is far better than the one that can be, but two types of marriage do not exist.  In addition, his statement is illogical.  If two types of marriage did exist, then the one that could be dissolved would be far better than the one that could not be dissolved–not merely for the sake of dissolution, but for the protection of any innocent partner should the other partner be deceitful and wicked.

Now as for Chapman’s primary proposition that “in covenant relationships people make unconditional promises” he is also quite wrong.  In covenant relationships people make conditional promises.

Unconditional promises are simply untenable in a world populated by sinners.  Unconditional promises sounds like a fruit of unconditional love.  Unconditional love is very much misunderstood by most Christians.  God chose a people for Himself and His choice was unconditional, which means that he did not choose them because of anything good that he saw in them.  His choice was entirely due to his own good pleasure.  Thus it can be said that God has unconditionally loved his own children.  However, when God unconditionally loves an undeserving sinner he transforms that sinner by forgiving him of his sins, by granting him the righteousness of Christ, and by giving him the gift of the Holy Spirit who continues the work that the Father has begun in that person—a work of sanctification.

Note: Martin Luther’s first of his ninety-five theses was that everyday of the Christian’s life is to be one of daily repentance.  God does not have any perpetually rebellious children whom He continues loving in spite of their refusal to repent.  This is a picture that is uniquely humanistic.  Because men do not have God’s power to transform wicked people into saints, their claims of unconditional love from one human to another will often be detrimental to the person being “unconditionally loved”.  A sense of entitlement grows into a destructive self-centeredness that sees others as a means to serve their ends.  Becoming narcissists, they learn to view others with contempt and expect to be served and worshiped.  As can be easily seen this relationship is even worse for the person who thinks they can unconditionally love an unrepentant sinner–something even God does not do as mentioned just a moment ago.

Chapman:

3. Covenant relationships are based on steadfast love.

“In a marriage, steadfast love refuses to focus on the negative aspects of one’s spouse. Steadfast love is a choice.”

Blog Author:

Covenant relationships are based on keeping the conditions of the covenant including love.

Steadfast love sounds similar to scriptures oft repeated “everIasting lovingkindness of God”, but that’s God. If human love were steadfast, then the fall would not have taken place and sin would not exist. Covenants exist because human love is anything but steadfast. The reader must guard against being too romantic on this point. Though the heart wants to agree with Chapman the mind knows better.

Nevertheless, fallen man cannot love apart from God who is love. Do men have some great relationships? Yes, but why? Are they entirely altruistic? In a fallen world the answer is never. Not even in a fallen world where a chosen few have been set apart by/for God. Good relationships between men exist because both sides are getting something out of the relationship, which is why marriage needs a covenant that has conditions that must be met in order to secure the marriage benefits.

Chapman:

4. Covenant relationships view commitments as permanent.

“Unquestionably the biblical ideal is one man and one woman married to each other for life.  As Christians, we must not lower the ideal.  This standard can only be attained if we practice the fifth characteristic of covenants.”

Blog Author:

Chapman’s statement is so unbelievably illogical.  When a person makes a commitment he obligates himself.  Only when he keeps his obligation is his commitment permanent.  But the second he loses site of his obligation or just simply ignores it, then his commitment is worthless and void–it proves to be temporary–not at all permanent.

Therefore, covenant relationships view commitments as obligations.  If and when those obligations are kept, then those commitments prove to have been permanent.  This can never be known up front.  There is always the possibility that a marriage partner will break their commitments to which they obligated themselves.  This is why God provided marital divorce to protect the innocent spouse.  As Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matthew 19:8).  So then, Jesus is saying that prior to the fall commitments could be relied upon, but since men’s hearts became hard divorce is God’s remedy to protect the innocent spouses from covenant breakers–those who refuse to be obligated to keep their commitments.

Since we all live in a fallen world human commitments are as reliable as human love. God’s word instructs His children not to take vows because their word should be enough. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”  It is all fine and good to say a commitment should be permanent, but what should the proper response be to those who will not be obligated to keep their commitments?  It is unwise to reward such behavior.  Wisdom dictates strong negative consequences for such.  Destruction, brokenness and ultimately death and eternal damnation await these scoundrels.  How foolish it is to insist God’s children remain united to them in this lifetime.  “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate God and thus bring the wrath of God upon yourself?” (2 Chron. 19:2)

Chapman:

5. Covenant relationships require confrontation and forgiveness.

“These two responses are essential in a covenant marriage.  Confrontation means holding the other person responsible for his or her actions.  Forgiving means a willingness to lift the penalty and continue a loving, growing relationship.  Ignoring the failures of your spouse isn’t the road to marital growth.”

Blog Author:

Of the five points this is the only solid one, but Chapman applies it so very poorly.

The outcome of confrontation and forgiveness is entirely dependent upon the participants.  With two penitents a good outcome should be expected.  With one penitent and one unrepentant soul a separation should be the outcome.  And with two unrepentant souls a godless free-for-all can be the expected outcome.  Come what may, confrontation will end in one of two ways.  The offender can either repent or rebel.  Repentance brings about reconciliation.  Rebellion destroys and tears apart relationships.

Thus it is not up to the faithful partner to determine the outcome.  Forgiveness can be offered regardless of the direction that the treacherous spouse takes, but wisdom still insists that the innocent partner be removed from the evil, unrepentant partner.  A house divided against itself cannot stand.  Chapman says, “Forgiving means a willingness to lift the penalty and continue a loving, growing relationship.”  First of all, God did not lift the penalty—He paid it.  Men, unlike God cannot forgive another man of his sins so as to transform him.  Man’s forgiveness lies in his determination to not seek vengeance, but wisdom demands a separation between good and evil people.  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14).  No matter how good and godly a man is he cannot have “a loving, growing relationship” with the godless.  If you doubt this, just refresh your memory of the story of Jehoshaphat and his son in 2 Chronicles.  God’s children can be loving and kind to the children of Satan, but they cannot have growing relationships with them.

At least Gary Chapman had the bold integrity to make an attempt at explaining why so many see covenants as something mystical and more than agreements.  However, in so doing he removes the mystical nature and gives arguments that can be refuted, which is why most will not define their meaning in calling marriage a mystical union.  Nevertheless, both scripture and reason dictate that a covenant is an agreement…nothing less and nothing more.  An agreement by any other name is still an agreement, and it must follow the laws of agreements.

Defining Covenants

A covenant is an agreement.  It is legally binding both by God’s laws and by the laws of world governments.  Covenants are, generally speaking, legal documents that bind two or more people together for a specific purpose for a predetermined amount of time.  Covenants are made up of several components.

The three primary components are as follows:

1st THE BENEFIT (or promise), without which there would be no motivation to become party to a covenant. Most people are appropriately leery of signing legal agreements or covenants because they realize that the signatories will be obligated to perform whatever they agreed to well into the future. Therefore only two types of people willingly enter into covenants: first, those who perceive the BENEFIT of the covenant to far outweigh the obligations to which they place themselves under, and secondly, those treacherous scoundrels who have little or no intention of keeping the obligations of the covenant.

The 2nd primary component is THE CONDITION(S), without which the BENEFIT would not likely be obtained or realized. When a wicked party to a covenant ceases to meet their obligation of fulfilling the CONDITIONS, then the BENEFIT should stop being awarded to that party. If the BENEFIT continues to be made available to the offending party, then the innocent party becomes the foolish party as 2 Thes. 3:10 suggests:“If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat either.” This is not a divorce thing, it is a wisdom thing. It is unwise to remain in an agreement that is injurious to you (Prov. 6:1-5), it is unwise to trade with someone using a false balance and scales, it is unwise to continue being a victim, it is unwise to allow another to intentionally or unintentionally take advantage of you, etc.

The 3rd primary component is THE DURATION, without which one’s obligations would never end.  The DURATION is why there are one year leases on apartments, a three year lease on a car, a 15 year house mortgage and so on.  Some people mistakenly think that a marriage covenant has a perpetual DURATION, but they are wrong.  Some of the shortest covenants ever made have been marriage covenants, because as soon as one of the two parties dies the covenant is kaput.  Even the best marriages will not continue in heaven.

We will briefly take a closer look at these three important components of a marriage covenant.

Much of the church has fundamentally misunderstood the DURATION in a marriage covenant.  Why?

The DURATION has some aspects of a BENEFIT and some aspects of the CONDITIONS but remains its own aspect of a covenant.

**** BELOW LIES THE HEART OF THIS ARTICLE ****

The church’s fundamental flaw has been to understand or categorize the DURATION, in essence, as though it were one of the CONDITIONS.  The reality is that DURATION is a distinct aspect of a covenant as are CONDITIONS and BENEFITS.  All three are distinct from one another, but the church has tried to subject DURATION under the CONDITIONS.

In so doing they entirely discounted and even slighted the DURATION’S ability to add to the BENEFITS.  Understanding DURATION in this light caused the church to think that a divorce is itself the breaking of a CONDITION when in fact a divorce is merely recognition and acceptance that both the covenant and its DURATION have been terminated due to the CONDITIONS being violated.

The very existence of the CONDITIONS logically establishes the possibility of a second DURATION.  The obvious intended duration (“From the beginning”, prior to the fall) was forever.  Once sin entered the garden of Eden, then the intended duration was changed until death.  However, sin entering into the marriage covenant added a second possible duration, which is the breaking of the CONDITIONS of the covenant.  Taking the hard-heartedness of man (due to the fall) into the equation the DURATION of marriage covenants are 1. Until the death of one or both parties (Death did not enter the world until the fall into sin), or 2. Until one or both parties violate the CONDITIONS due to sinfulness.

Therefore, the flawed understanding of DURATION (viewing it as a CONDITION) allows churchmen to think that an innocent partner’s divorce action, in response to their spouse’s refusal to keep the CONDITIONS, is tantamount to returning evil for evil because the innocent party in so doing would be breaking the CONDTION of a life-long DURATION.  Obviously the problem with this reasoning is that the DURATION is not a CONDITION; therefore, when the DURATION comes to an abrupt end, due to the violation of the conditions, the faithful party is no longer bound by the covenant, so the faithful party does not transgress the CONDITIONS or any other of God’s laws in divorcing and marrying another in the Lord.  In this scenario the innocent partner has merely recognized a spiritual reality that the DURATION of their marriage covenant has concluded due to the violation or transgression of the CONDITIONS by their partner; a divorce is the legal acknowledgement of the spiritual reality already existing.

There is one exception in which DURATION does have the appearance of sharing the aspect of CONDITION:

So then, when does DURATION have the appearance of a CONDITION? The DURATION of a marriage covenant itself looks like a CONDITION when either party seeks a divorce without any apparent broken CONDITIONS.  This seems to be the scenario in Matthew 19 when the Pharisees are questioning Jesus about divorce for any reason at all.  Jesus rightly understood that these religious leaders were committing adultery, under the cover of darkness, and wanted to use divorce to make their sin appear to be a legal divorce action.  So Jesus called their use of divorce adultery because adultery was the sin they were committing and divorce was the rouse they had hoped to use to justify their sin of adultery.

It is very common for the breaking of marital conditions to be done under the cover of darkness, which means that nobody knows that one or more conditions of the marriage covenant have been broken.  Very often even the innocent marriage partner does not know that the covenant has been broken.  It is not until this information comes into the light that the innocent marriage partner can begin to think about what has happened and what their response must be.  In the absence of broken CONDITIONS, and hence a broken covenant, the married couple still belong to one another and a relationship with a third party (including a new marriage) would be adulterous.  In this case and only in this case the DURATION has the appearance of a CONDITION.

The DURATION can also share the aspect of BENEFIT:

And how does DURATION share the aspect of BENEFIT?  The relationship between BENEFIT and DURATION is much closer than the relationship between CONDITIONS and DURATION.  If the marriage covenant is beneficial, then the longer it’s DURATION the greater it’s BENEFIT.  This is easily seen in all godly marriages.  When a believing man and his believing wife are deeply in love with one another they never want this love relationship to end, so the longest possible DURATION enhances the BENEFIT to the married couple.  If marriages were like child raising and this deeply loving Christian marriage had to end in twenty years it is apparent how this married couple would greatly prefer a life-long covenant and view such as a BENEFIT.

As another example, heaven’s DURATION is eternal.  Nobody understands the eternal DURATION of heaven to be a CONDITION that man must keep.  Rather all joyfully recognize heaven’s DURATION as a divinely granted BENEFIT.  The CONDITION for receiving this BENEFIT for the eternal DURATION of heaven was to be chosen of God and found in Christ Jesus.

Similarly to the false doctrine of marriage being a mystical union the false doctrine on purgatory claims that the BENEFIT of heaven is not really eternal in its DURATION. Without being motivated by a false doctrine nobody in this scenario would ever confuse the BENEFIT of eternal life in heaven with DURATION (hundreds of year in purgatory first).  This shows the damage done by false doctrines when it comes to understanding biblical instructions.

Had the church properly understood that the only way in which the DURATION shares the aspect of CONDITION is when one or both parties seek to exit the covenant without any broken CONDITIONS, then they could have understood the necessity of God’s allowance for divorce when the CONDITIONS were violated.

On the other hand, because the church has failed to understand how the DURATION is much more like a BENEFIT than a CONDITION they have failed to see the wisdom of withdrawing the BENEFIT (a life-long marriage) to an unrepentant scoundrel who routinely violates the CONDITIONS of the marriage covenant.

Note: It is important to bear in mind that the second way in which the DURATION shares the aspect of a BENEFIT is that it also acts as a protection for the innocent party by breaking the covenant in the event of violated CONDITIONS.  If the DURATION does not end once the CONDITIONS are violated, then the marriage BENEFIT becomes an evil affliction, a curse and an impediment to righteousness and sanctification for the faithful spouse, which is why the DURATION is a benefit for the godly partner whether or not the CONDTIONS have been broken.  When the church has forced its members to remain in broken marriages with unrepentant scoundrels the DURATION ceases being a BENEFIT to the faithful spouse as it has been prevented, by a dogma, from functioning as a protection for faithful participants.  In this horrible state of affairs it is the wicked CONDITION violator who now receives a BENEFIT by the DURATION not being concluded or terminated.

Why Did This Happen and To Where Has It Lead?

All the research in the world will not likely uncover the precise moment and the identity of the first theologian to introduce this flawed understanding of the marriage covenant.  No doubt a great researcher could likely nail down the century it began, but no single man is likely the originator though perhaps such a man exists.  Common sense dictates that the prevailing understanding on the marriage covenant’s DURATION was necessarily, albeit subconsciously, manipulated so that it would act more like a CONDITION in order to avoid contradictions in the prevailing view on marriage and divorce.  The prevailing view existed in part because of some strong words found in a few biblical passages that caused people to jump to the conclusion that divorce is never allowed.  The following strong words in scripture have become platitudes that push the unthinking hordes into the direction of restricting divorce in every instance: “God hates divorce”, and “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery”, and “If the unbelieving spouse is willing to stay, then let him stay”.

If divorce is forbidden, then marriages cannot be covenants (Malachi 2:14) because covenants have CONDITIONS that will terminate the DURATION and thereby the covenant.  In order to mesh the forbidden view of divorce with God’s word the marriage covenant had to undertake a metamorphosis.  This transformation of the marriage covenant, no doubt, seemed quite natural as men juxtaposed the marriage covenant with God’s unilateral covenants, which gave the strong impression that man could in no way interfere with either type of covenant.

However, a great distinction exists that was conveniently ignored. God’s unilateral covenants were different in that God promised to keep the conditions for both parties to the covenant.  This clearly does not apply with bilateral marriage covenants between a man and a woman who are both fallen.  Of course the problem is that this metamorphosis only took place in a “man-made concept” about marriage–it is not real.  Because this man-made concept gained wide acceptance, sadly, it has had a huge impact on God’s people.  Most think that the impact has been positive, but it has been, in fact, very negative.  It is always negative when men miss the mark established by the word of God.  It matters little whether they miss the mark on the side of excessive liberty or on the side of restrictive legalism the mark has been missed…man’s will and not God’s has been observed.  And a path of destruction many centuries wide lays in the wake.  May God forgive us and help us hit the mark that He has set before us.

Biblical view on divorce


Reforming Church Dogma on Divorce

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of discovering God’s revelation on the dissolution of broken marital covenants is that it sets us at odds with so many godly saints who have gone before over the centuries. Great courage can be taken as we consider what the reformers went through as they worked at reforming the greater doctrines of justification, soteriology, divine revelation, the body of Christ, etc.

Nevertheless, I must confess that concerns arise as to why so many have seen this issue as they have seen it. Do they see something that I cannot? Do they accept a command of the Lord God that I refuse? Why do they, almost universally, see one thing while a minority see quite another? Whenever we find ourselves going against centuries of orthodox thinkers the burden of proof is ours and not theirs.

Consider the probability that the answer lies in the fact that Christians have proven to be very susceptible to the downside of dogma. A dogma is a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted. It is unquestionably a fact that the church has advanced as dogma the idea that divorce is a sin—not just a sin but a chief sin—a sin that would never be committed by God’s children. Hence, those who dared divorce were ostracized from the church, which is death for a part of the body to be severed and removed from its source of life (the treatment of all reformers). The result has been untold numbers of severely injured lives due to unequally yoked marriages that needed to be ended but could not be due to this dogmatic approach to divorce.

This problem is not one of the past only, but continues into the 21st century. The time has come for God’s children to doubt and question the dogma on divorce and remarriage and consider anew God’s teaching without this dogma forming a presupposition that prevents them from seeing all that God has revealed.

Biblical view on divorce


Unraveling the Linchpin: 1Corinthians 7:12-14 (part 2)

The perspective (presuppositions) one has when they arrive at the seventh chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church largely determines how they will interpret this text regarding divorce for those unequally yoked. Nowhere in the word of God can a passage be found that says anything like, “thou shalt not divorce thy spouse”. If such a passage did exist, then Paul would have merely appealed to the commandment of God rather than saying, “if the unbelieving spouse consents to live with you then you must not send them away.” In this biblical passage, Paul provides wisdom for a particular circumstance rather than appealing to the commandment of God (since no commandment exists). Even though God’s word lacks a prohibition against divorcing when unequally yoked, men over the centuries have fabricated an hateful bias against all who divorce. Godless men possess this hateful bias and sadly it runs very deep into the Christian church as well. Furthermore, among the most ubiquitous commands in all of scripture is the command, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers…therefore, come out from their midst and be separate” yet no discernible bias against the unequally yoked exists in Christianity or the world of the ungodly. Consequently, and not at all surprisingly, those who maintain this hateful bias readily interpret Paul’s words in the most restrictive way possible so as to remove the possibility of divorce even for those unequally yoked in marriage.

Unbiblical Doctrines Created From the Forced Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7

A presupposition or bias almost always prevents proper interpretation. The pressure to interpret this text so as to maintain its agreement with this bias tends to open the way for some very unbiblical doctrines.  Here are a few for the readers consideration:

The first unbiblical doctrine from 1 Corinthians 7 fabricated by the anti divorce bias could be called Sanctification by Association. “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.” Ezra and Nehemiah did not understand unequally yoked marriages in this light at all…nor does God. Undeniably they recognized God’s command for His people to be separate from the world. Consistent with God’s command they realized that bad company corrupts good morals and failure to heed this particular command always ended in idolatry. The question begs to be asked: Why are these biblical and wise concepts no longer the foundation for interpreting New Testament texts such as this one?

The answer leads to the second unbiblical doctrine coming from 1 Corinthians 7 because of the forced interpretation caused by the presupposition against all divorce.  An hateful bias has crept into the church from the world, and this bias is so entrenched in men’s hearts that they can no longer see clearly on this issue.  The church has, in many ways, surpassed the world in this hateful bias.

Being able to condemn those who must get divorced strokes the egos of those who do not divorce.  On the other hand, remaining separate from the world is most difficult and costly on almost every front. Most Christians strut about like arrogant roosters so proud having never gotten a divorce while failing to recognize just how intertwined with the world they have become. Those who possess the righteousness of Christ should be striving to be pure and undefiled children of the living God untouched by the world and in no way unequally yoked to the children of wrath.  The anti divorce bias prevents them from seeing God’s bigger picture.

Third, in accordance with the interpretation forced upon Paul’s text by this bias, Paul’s text would seem to be arguing that unequally yoked relationships actually improve or enhance the likelihood that God will save the unrepentant partner. If this form of evangelism was effective and if it fit with the gospel, then we would expect God to command His children to be bound together with unbelievers, which is the opposite of what He actually commands. The gospel makes allowance for exactly no merit whatsoever on man’s part. What Paul is actually saying is that believers must give the unbelieving spouse time to be exposed to the same gospel of grace that saved the believing spouse–“remain in that condition in which you were called”.

The apostle Paul of all people understands the gospel.  Sinners cannot improve themselves in any way so as to make themselves more appealing to God’s grace.  Neither can God’s elect children prepare the lost so as to make them more appealing to God’s grace.  God regenerates only those whom it pleases Him to save.  Do we really believe Paul is teaching unequally yoked believers to remain in those marriages in order to enhance their godless spouse making them more appealing to God for salvation?  Those who believe this do not understand God’s word.  Not only does this idea contradict the gospel, but it also contradicts all the scriptures that tell us how much the wicked hate the righteous.

Consider a few biblical passages: “He who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked” (Proverbs 29:27b), “Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes…The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. He plans wickedness upon his bed; he sets himself on a path that is not good; he does not despise evil” (Psalm 36:1, 3 and 4), “Do not drag me away with the wicked and with those who work iniquity, who speak peace with their neighbors, while evil is in their hearts (Psalm 28:3) and “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord” (2 Chronicles 19:2)? It is a romantic but false notion that makes Christians believe their godliness will draw the unrepentant to the cross. The Puritans were perhaps the greatest group of believers since the apostles and the world uses them as an example of pure hatred and self-righteous, judgmental hypocrisy. The worldly do not love or like God’s children: “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).

A forth false doctrine that springs from the presumed view of 1 Cor. 7:12-14 states that these believers are not slaves of righteousness so much as they are slaves to their unrighteous spouses. Holding this presumed view must mean that when a believer enters into a covenant with an unbeliever God wants the unbeliever to own the believer as if he/she were a slave. Even our Lord’s exception clause (pornia)  is trumped if the adulterous unbelieving spouse wants to stay. According to this interpretation of the text, as long as the unbelieving spouse wants to stay he can commit adultery with hundreds of other women and his believing wife has to let him stay in the marriage covenant and the marriage bed with her. As long as the unbelieving spouse “consents to live with him/her” the believer must accept any and all behavior without recourse. Of course this contradicts Proverbs 6:1-5, Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 12:49-53, Psalm 89:39, Psalm 101:7-8 and 1 Samuel 15:26 to name a few.

Finally, this hateful bias has obscured a godly view of 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1. The presumed understanding of 1 Cor. 7 must mean that God does not really mean it when he says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”. Untold thousands of men of God have used 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 to teach those who are yet unmarried not to enter into unequally yoked marriage but then turn around and claim that this same passage does not apply to the marriage relationship. If Paul said, “Do not get bound together with unbelievers”, then maybe they would have a point albeit illogical. Nevertheless, the passage says “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”, and this direct command of scripture must not be trumped by a misunderstood interpretation of Paul’s teaching in his first letter to the church at Corinth.

The correct interpretation of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 will fit the rest of scripture perfectly. This is one way we allow scripture to interpret scripture. The proper interpretation has been discerned once it fits the immediate context without contradicting biblical passages that are more frequently and completely communicated.

Therefore it seems appropriate to interpret Paul’s comments as wise counsel for new converts. He is not upending the bedrock principle of separating light from darkness. He is simply telling the Corinthians to apply wisdom as they enter their new life in Christ. They do not need to rush into divorces or undo circumcisions or run away from their slave owners, but simply allow time for God to work out His will in these matters. Perhaps your spouses will receive God’s grace too. Perhaps they will be hardened by the gospel at which time a more mature believer would understand that they are under the command to be free from such godless alliances. As an aside, Paul’s temporarty injunction would include the wise counsel that unequally yoked marriage partners should abstain from having children until God shows them their future paths (together or separate).

Paul is saying, do not act hastily, do nothing to injure another, and by all means do nothing against the law of God or the laws of men. In time God will reveal His will for each one so that they know what changes to make and how they must act. What seems so confusing for baby Christians will soon be very clear if they would just live one day at a time seeking to obey every command of the Lord as they are revealed in the pages of scripture and as the Holy Spirit moves in each ones heart.

What Paul is not saying is that believers must stay unequally yoked in marriage. If Paul believed this, then he never would have said what he said in the second letter to the Corinthian believers at the end of chapter six…it would be a complete contradiction.

Biblical view on divorce


Matthew 19:8 What does, “Because of your hardness of heart” really mean?

Matthew 19:8 “Because of your hardness of hearts Moses permitted you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.”

Also read the more recent article titled, “Paul’s commentary on Matthew 19:8“.

Consider the illogical argumentation of the majority view: Moses, speaking on behalf of God, permitted divorce, which is incorrectly thought by many to be a sin in and of itself.  And we are led to believe that God acted in this fashion because adulterers were insisting upon their adultery?  Seriously, are we to believe that God gave hard-hearted, treacherous sinners his blessing?  The religious leaders to whom Jesus was speaking were seeking release from their marriages so that they could have physical relations with women, other than their wives, without being guilty of adultery.  Are we to think that Moses’ permission for divorce was for the same reason and that God acquiesced to such an evil request?  Preposterous!  God demands righteousness from His people…adultery in the Old Testament was grounds for stoning to death.  If Israel insisted upon committing sin and refused repentance, then they could expect His wrath manifested through death, captivity or severe living conditions until they repented.

Nevertheless, many seem to believe that this is precisely what Moses did, and then they believe that Jesus is here undoing it and reverting back to the way God intended marriage from the beginning.  Such a viewpoint, if it were correct, would make it difficult to take seriously the immutability of God among other major concerns.

Since this understanding of our Lord’s words cannot be correct, then what did Jesus mean with His use of the phrase: “Because of your hardness of heart”?  The first test of Christ’s true meaning is that it must be consistent with the rest of Scripture.  Since the fall of Adam men have had hard hearts.  As the hard-hearted nature of mankind is born out in marriage, God has responded with a license for divorce.  God through Moses did not provide this license to placate the wicked but to protect the innocent marriage partner.  God’s permit for divorce was not for adultery as stoning was the O.T. punishment for adultery.  God’s gracious protection is from continual, regular defilement from the wicked spouse.  This includes many wicked behaviors all of which qualified one as a “treacherous” spouse.  Secondly, it is also possible that forcing a godless, treacherous spouse to stay in a marriage they no longer want will push them toward much worse abuse and even often the murder of their innocent spouse (e.g. King Henry VIII).

Once a spouse’s hard-heartedness erupts into treachery against their marriage partner either party can petition for divorce because the divorce action is not that which breaks the covenant, but rather it protects the innocent marriage partner from further treacherous actions by the guilty spouse who has already broken the marriage covenant by failing to keep the conditions of the covenant (First, to love and to cherish and secondly, forsaking all others–fidelity).

In response to a question from hypocritical reprobates, which was designed to trick Jesus into a sinful response, Jesus was addressing a treacherous sin that men of means and position were regularly practicing.  These scoundrels came up with a scheme that would allow them access to other women without getting the reputation of being adulterers.  Their scheme attempted to make unlawful, unbiblical divorces lawful, which would then open the path for them to take a new woman as their wife.  If the scheme worked, then they could repeat the cycle as often as they desired.

Jesus informed them that their scheme was transparent to God.  Calling that which was unlawful lawful did not suddenly make their adultery virtuous.  Quite simply, these men were committing adultery and using God’s concession of divorce as a diversion to hide their sin.  Jesus realized that it was adultery for three reasons: First, their motive was adultery (they desired relations with women who were not their wives).  Secondly, they did not have a treacherous spouse who had broken the conditions of the marriage covenant; hence they were living under an intact marriage covenant.  Finally, Pharisees were lawyers and lawyers regularly find ways to manipulate the law to suit their needs; they use words as weapons against the truth creating gray from black and white in order to justify a client’s or their own behaviors.

Sadly, their wicked use of God’s gracious concession for divorce has caused lifetimes of unnecessary misery for untold numbers of people throughout the last twenty centuries.  Their conversation with the Lord Jesus has played a big role in the misappropriation of the biblical teaching on divorce as most seemingly misunderstood Jesus’ message in its proper context.

Recognizing the Pharisees’ adulterous hearts Jesus pointed out that getting an illegitimate divorce paves the way for adultery and not a second marriage.  Because these Jewish leaders were attempting to use that which was legal and righteous (legitimate divorce) as a cover for that which was forbidden and evil (adultery) many have interpreted Jesus’ remarks to be a comprehensive teaching against divorce.  Sadly, this interpretation has created a prohibition where God made concession for legitimate divorces.  And God gave this liberty of divorce for the innocent partners of treacherous spouses who have already broken the marriage covenant through the breaking of it’s conditions to love and to cherish and to remain faithful, forsaking all others.

So then, with devastating results much of the church has used Matthew 19:8 to abrogate Moses’ law that permits legitimate divorces.  And they have done so in the light of Jesus saying, “…until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).  Indeed it is wrong, as Jesus was pointing out, to call an unlawful divorce lawful, and it is equally wrong to call a lawful divorce unlawful (Deut. 24:1, 2 & Jeremiah 3:1). Having done so has resulted in untold multitudes of believers suffering needlessly under the tyrannical abuse of a covenant-breaking spouse.  Brothers and sisters enduring lifetimes of unequally yoked relationships because of a man-made law that struck down the law of God given to permit divorce between a saint and a treacherous spouse.

Both scripture and logic have been turned upon their heads as the conditions and promises in the marriage covenant have been eviscerated.  The conditions of covenants are divinely intended to protect the marriage partners so that marriage will be a blessing and not a curse, and the church cut them out making millions of marriages curses rather than blessings destroying not only the lives of untold numbers of saints but also the proper understanding of bilateral covenants.  This illogical and unbiblical interpretation exposes the godly or innocent marriage partner to the very harm for which God’s Mosaic license intended to shield.  And to add insult to injury, the treacherous spouses are protected by the church’s misinterpretation of our Lord’s words.

The covenant breaker maintains dignity as they cannot be put out of the marriage for having broken its conditions, they maintain financial protection, and they maintain access to their innocent partner, access to their children, access to all relations and friends. They use deception to ruin the good name of the innocent spouse; forget not that this evil is done from the innermost position of ‘spouse’ giving it credibility to those outside the marriage.

The hardhearted spouse shamelessly uses cruelty, manipulation, deception and slander to attack the innocent spouse and to hide their own sin.  Their wicked behavior causes friends and family to view the problematic marriage as a ‘he said, she said’ private matter between the married couple thus leaving the innocent partner (saint) without any support.  Most people will not know what or who to believe and they will cast aspersions upon both the innocent and guilty parties in the marriage. Everything about this interpretation is injurious to the innocent party, while the guilty party comes off looking better than had the truth been fully disclosed in open divorce proceedings.  All of this intentional confusion and chaos plays into the hands of the wicked spouse who is the only beneficiary of the church’s misinterpretation of Jesus’ position on God’s concession for divorce.  And frequently this position does not even benefit the wicked spouse who would be happier in this life if matched with a person of like mind.  Therefore, not only is the glory of God’s name injured, God’s law not followed, but none benefit–all are injured by the continuation of a godless marriage.

The church’s shameful reversal of God’s concession for divorce forces unequally yoked believers to wrestle with pigs in the mud and expose themselves to bad company. It prevents them from following so many wisdom passages in Scripture such as:

“The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Prov. 14:1).
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20).
“Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge” (Prov. 14:7).

“Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord?” (2 Chron. 19:2)
“A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left” (Eccl. 10:2).
“He cuts off his own feet and drinks violence who sends a message by the hand of a fool.” “Like one who binds a stone in a sling, so is he who gives honor to a fool.” “Like an archer who wounds everyone, so is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by” (Prov. 26:6, 8 and 10).
“Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words” (Prov. 23:9).
“A foolish son is destruction to his father, and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping” (Prov. 19:13).
“Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you” (Prov. 9:8).
“Peter said, ‘Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.’ And He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife (yes, the marital relationship is included in the Holy Spirit’s separating saints from familial relationships) 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’” parenthesis mine (Luke 18:28-30).
“For I (Jesus) came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” parenthesis mine (Matthew 10:35-36).

Oh, dear members of the body of Christ, I pray that God will help each of you rediscover God’s concession for divorce to all believers who are unequally yoked to unbelievers in their marriages.

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


Mark Twain Quote

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”


Unraveling the Linchpin: 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 (Part 1)

Two biblical themes collide in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 and both must be maintained if the passage is to be understood properly. The first theme is God’s intention that marriage is sacred and was, in the beginning, intended to continue until the death of one of the two participants. The second theme, which is ubiquitous in the scriptures, is God’s command to be separate from the world. Using this passage as the linchpin for the argument that the marriage covenant supersedes the command against unequally yoked relationships fails to serve either biblical theme well, but those who do so are so bent on protecting their understanding of the sanctity of marriage that they fail to see what their argumentation actually does to this text and to God’s children who find themselves unequally yoked in marriage.

Anticipating man’s fall, God instituted marriage to slow mankind’s decent into sin particularly in the following three areas: Unequally yoked relationships (which historically always led God’s people into idolatry), fornication/adultery and homosexuality. The depravity of unequally yoked marriages and homosexual marriages destroys God’s intention for marriage as both of these illegitimate marriages accelerate and deepen a man’s decent into sin.
The presumed view of 1 Cor. 7:12-14 is that Paul is teaching Christians that they can neither leave nor put away (divorce) their spouse on the basis of their unbelief (unrepentant wickedness). To understand this text as a command for believers to remain yoked in their marriage relationships to unbelievers is a contradiction to hundreds, if not thousands, of biblical passages that command God’s children to be separate from the world. In fact, this understanding contradicts many of Paul’s own teachings to the very same Corinthian believers. For instance, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians ends with these words: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.” Paul uses the Greek word “anathema” which connotes an imprecation (to call the curse of God upon), and to excommunicate and denunciate. To denounce someone includes giving notice of the termination of an alliance or covenant with that person. It is inconceivable to think that Paul is commanding believers to remain in a lifelong marriage to a person who is an anathema to all Christians. Either the unbelieving spouse must believe and fear God or the believer is obligated to denunciate them via divorce and remain single or marry in the Lord. A passage in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1) is an even stronger contradiction of the presumed view.

So what did Paul mean when he said if the unbelieving spouse wants to stay with the believer, then the believer must not send them away (divorce)? The answer to this question is the key to upending the linchpin argument in support of maintaining unequally yoked marriages. Briefly stated, Paul was writing to new believers, as all regenerate people were new believers in the first century, and he was explaining to his Corinthian audience that as God has recently regenerated you from your spiritually dead state bear in mind that He may soon regenerate your spouse as well, so do not follow the ubiquitous commands of scripture to separate yourself from godless people until you have had enough time to determine whether or not your unbelieving spouse is going to harden or soften to the gospel. If your unbelieving spouse softens to the gospel, then praise God because He will have removed you from the sin of being unequally yoked in your marriage. If your unbelieving spouse hardens to the gospel, then you are under the command not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers, which Paul provided these same Corinthian believers in 2 Corinthians 6:14f.  Following Ezra’s biblical pattern you then must make a covenant with God to divorce your unbelieving spouse.  Then you follow through in the most loving and kind way possible taking every opportunity to do right by your unbelieving spouse and the children you brought into this godless relationship.

I strongly urge the reader to read the article titled:

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

Christ’s continued blessings,

Joe


Marriage Was Not Intended to Be a Tool in the Hand of Oppressors

When our Lord said, “What therefore God has joined together let no man separate” He was addressing the men of Israel’s desire to oppress their wives by throwing them away for any reason. Sadly the permanence view of marriage people have taken our Lord’s words and used them to oppress the same people for whom Jesus was protecting.

Some wives and children become oppressed when their husband and father suddenly dies or abandons them. Without a provider they quickly become destitute and their options become very bleak. With nobody to take care of them they often fall prey to the worst elements of this world.

But some spouses are oppressed because they are held captive in their marriage to a wicked person who delights in doing evil. That person abuses them and nobody from outside the home can help because the marriage relationship protects the abuser. And abusers are good at tormenting their “loved ones” right up to what the law allows so that they cannot be arrested and/or legally removed from the victims lives. Worse yet Christians stand by with the threat of the damnation of the oppressed victim if he/she dares to seek for a divorce to free themselves from their oppressor.

Our loving Father in heaven has made provisions both in Israel and in Christianity to care for the widow and the orphan. Christians are commanded to protect them and care for them. It is a sin to sit back and do nothing while a fellow saint is homeless, starving and unable to care for themselves.

In the very same way God has made a provision for those who are oppressed inside of their marriages. It is so unlike the character of God to hold His children captive to a lifetime of misery at the hands of a godless marriage partner. Those who withhold divorce as a way of escape for those oppressed by godless marriage partners are more like Muslims, who use sharia laws to oppress their women, than they are like Christians.

The two great commandments would have God’s people loving Him with all of their soul, mind and strength and would have them loving one another as they love themselves. It is not like God to make laws or institute ordinances that force the oppressed into a lifetime of sin and misery. God’s lovingkindness provides mercy and grace to the oppressed.

Most often God’s lovingkindness comes through the mercy and grace of a blessed marriage to a loving, Christian spouse. But when people, because of their hardness of heart, through the use of deception oppress a child of God, then God’s lovingkindness is seen in the mercy and grace of the dissolution of illegitimate marriages freeing the believer to remain single or marry in the Lord. When marriage itself becomes something of an idol, then in their worship of it God’s people lose sight of righteousness and God’s everlasting lovingkindness.


Allowing the Institution of Marriage to Hit Its Mark

Most people in our modern society could not name the divine institutions much more know God’s purpose in them. In short, God provided man with institutions that would support man in his fallen state. The institutions were particularly designed to lesson or slow mankind’s descent into greater depravity. Knowing that man would fall into sin God instituted marriage between one man and one woman. It was to be a covenant between them to join as one and operate no longer as individuals but as a team. The sinful behaviors of homosexuality, adultery/fornication and unequally yoked relationships were certainly direct targets of God’s institution of marriage. From man’s vantage point these three sins appear to be assaults upon the institution of marriage, but God intended marriage to be a preemptive strike upon these three sins. Some have begun to worship the institution as some in Jesus’ day worshipped the Sabbath. At that time Jesus told them that the Sabbath was for man and not man for the Sabbath. Men do not serve marriage, but marriage serves man by slowing his descent into greater sin. Thus it is to our advantage to honor it and keep it holy. That attitude allows God’s institution to have His desired effect upon the fallen race of mankind.

These three sins of homosexuality (including gay marriage), adultery/fornication, and unequally yoked marriages will be briefly discussed in ascending order. Much noise is being heard from some Christian circles decrying the legalization of gay marriage in an ever increasing number of states. It is claimed that the institution of marriage will be destroyed by these laws. Many seem to be ignorant to the fact that rampant adultery in the United States has already dealt a much greater blow to God’s institution. The biggest blow of all has been the ubiquitous occurrences of unequally yoked couples into holy matrimony. As God instituted marriage to slow the descent of humanity into these three sins, any culture that embraces these sins will be a culture that rejects the institution. Likewise, any culture that begins to reject the institution will rapidly fall prey to unequally yoked alliances, adultery and homosexuality.

First, homosexuality is pretty rare (less than 2% of mankind is even tempted with this sin), and the desire for homosexual marriage is even more unusual. Therefore the bible does not speak about homosexuality with any great frequency. The condemnation of homosexuality in God’s word is very straight forward. In addition, homosexuality is portrayed as a particularly abominable sin because it is an unnatural behavior. Knowing the rebellious heart of man God rarely mentions this sin because so few are drawn toward it and frequent condemnations would actually increase interest levels in depraved creatures. Thus, homosexuality does not get mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

Secondly, adultery differs from homosexuality in that it is numbered among the Ten Commandments. Because the sin of adultery is much more prevalent it is very frequently discussed in scripture. Fornication and adultery together describe the sinful behavior of having multiple sexual partners regardless of whether or not the sinner is married. Prior to marriage the temptation to have sexual relationships without the obligation of marriage is great. In fact, in many cultures this is so commonly practiced that even so-called Christians do not see it as a sin. Once married, some will enter into extramarital affairs whenever they desire, but many people will first divorce their spouse to free the path to having sexual relations with another person. These are merely two paths to the same destination. Jesus informed these people that they cannot avoid committing adultery by simply getting a divorce first. Divorcing a spouse without biblical grounds is not a legitimate divorce, which means remarriage is equivalent to adultery.

The third sinful behavior affecting marriage is that of being unequally yoked in marriage, which is to bind together in marriage a believer with an unbeliever. This sinful behavior is mentioned in scripture far more frequently than are adultery and homosexuality combined. It could easily be said that the prohibitions against this sin are ubiquitous in God’s word. One of the reasons the scriptures mentions this sin so frequently is that it is so very commonly committed by God’s people. It is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments because it is one of the foundational themes of God’s Law. In other words, it is not one of the ten because all of God’s commandments speak against this sin. The very first commandment in scripture is implied and it is in Genesis 1:4, “God separated the light from the darkness”. We are commanded throughout scripture to do likewise.

As sexual relationships outside of marriage have begun to become “acceptable” within many Christian cultures, unequally yoked marriages (indeed all unequally yoked relationships) have long been acceptable within most Christian cultures. The acceptance of this sin by God’s people has been so broad that for centuries even the church leaders have misinterpreted scriptural teaching on it. Much of the church has correctly taught that it is sin to enter into unequally yoked relationships (including and especially marriage), but they have failed to teach that it is sinful to be in unequally yoked relationships. The inconsistency of this position has proven to be disastrous for the church. All that is necessary to see the monumental flaw in this way of thinking is to ask the question: Is the real sin against God in the entering into such relationships or is it in the being in such relationships? The answer is, of course, both are sinful. However, it is not the entering of such relationships that does so much harm to God’s children, but the being in them. It is not the entering into them that is a continuation in sin, but the remaining in them.

Since unequally yoked marriages are prohibited in scripture the church should be consistent in its encouragement against any participation of this behavior for all of God’s children. Sadly that is not the case. The church has traditionally been strong on warning and even not participating in the joining of unequally yoked couples into marriage, but it has held the exact opposite view after the marriage has taken place. The claim is that marriage is God’s holy institution and man cannot separate what God has joined together. Even the church will not participate in joining a believer with an unbeliever in marriage, yet most church fathers make God a participant in unequally yoked marriages because He instituted marriage. He instituted the state as well yet the Psalmist does not ally God with evil kings. “Can a throne of destruction be allied with You, one which devises mischief by decree? They band themselves together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death” (Ps. 94:20-21). God instituted marriage in part to prevent His children from unholy alliances, so why do so many think that the same institution would intransigently or grimly bind them immutably in the very same sin? It is cruel and ungodly to remove the opportunity for repentance. The more consistent position for the church would be to proclaim that it will not participate in such marriages, God will not be a participant in such marriages, and as long as the unbelieving spouse remains unregenerate you will be called to repent of your unequally yoked marriage as proof of your own obedient walk in Christ Jesus. Repentance can often be very costly as it would undoubtedly be so in such cases. But the rewards of repentance are far greater. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29, also Luke 18:29-30). The blessing of an equally yoked marriage will alone far outweigh the cost of the painful divorce from an unregenerate spouse.

Again if we understand that the institution of marriage was conceived by God expressly to slow man’s descent into greater sin, then we must use the institution in such a way so as to achieve that goal. God gave us the institution to prevent alliances with unbelievers, fornication and adultery, and homosexuality. If we use the institution of marriage to embolden men to commit these sins, then we have missed the mark altogether. We have done this in two ways: most recently through homosexual marriages, and for much of the Christian era through the refusal to allow the dissolution of unequally yoked marriages. Repentance through the dissolution of such relationships can end the sin of being unequally yoked to an unbeliever, but when it comes to marriage most of the church fathers have decided that it is a sin to dissolve unequally yoked marriages. In so doing we have begun serving the institution of marriage rather than allowing it to serve us.

The problem should be quite clear. It is a sin mentioned throughout scripture to be (remain) in an unequally yoked marriage, and it is said by most of our church fathers to be a sin to dissolve the same? This is a logical fallacy, and it must not continue. It is obvious that God has prohibited unequally yoked marriages. Therefore the prohibition to dissolving them must be a man-made doctrine and inconsistent with God’s word. Clearly in the purification of the people of God Ezra and Nehemiah saw the necessity and prudence of divorce for all those married to unbelievers. They even made a covenant with God to divorce all the wives and their children who were not believers (Ezra 10:3). The simple-minded approach of marriage is good and divorce is bad has not served the church well. Sadly, many modern Christians cannot even fathom making a covenant with God to dissolve hundreds of marriage covenants. They cannot fathom this action because they have come to serve the institution rather than let the institution serve men toward repentance.

It is equally clear that the New Testament continues this teaching. Paul says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). Many theologians and pastors use this text to tell young people not to enter unequally yoked marriages, but they change their view after the wedding has taken place. They say, “Clearly this text does not refer to marriage relationships.” This is for many the most godless statement that has ever proceeded from their lips. How dare they utter such nonsense? One need only look at the text and immediately determine that it must apply to the marriage relationship. How could it not?

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols (2 Corinthians 6:14-16a)?

A believer being in a marriage to an unbeliever is like putting lawlessness with righteousness or light with darkness or Christ with Belial or the temple of God with idols. Note that four of Paul’s five examples of unholy unions are impossible, which is to say in the strongest terms that the fifth example is not possible either. Think about these two examples: righteousness and lawlessness cannot have a partnership, and light and darkness cannot have any fellowship. These things cannot be done. It is not possible. Paul is not saying in this passage that these things ought not to be done, but he is saying these things cannot be done. Paul is warning believers to avoid unequally yoked relationships as you would avoid the wrath of God, or the eternal fires of hell because a believer being yoked to a child of Satan will only give the appearance of being legitimate to the world. In reality, the two yoked together have no partnership, no fellowship, no harmony, nothing in common and they cannot have agreement. They are serving two different masters, they have different ends, different goals, different marching orders, different values, different desires, etc. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

This is precisely what Jesus was teaching in Matthew’s tenth chapter verses 34-39, “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” (Vs. 35-36). At the end of Matthew chapter nineteen verse 29 (also Luke 18:29) Jesus says, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Most modern versions of the bible have removed the word “wife” from the Matthew passage (but not from the Luke passage) because it does not fit the man-made doctrine against divorce for unequally yoked marriages, but Jesus said it. And it fits the rest of scripture. When Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” can this be any less true of a spouse? Jesus instructs His disciples to separate themselves from the world because such unions will destroy them.

Since so much of the church has deemed it sinful to divorce based upon the grounds of being bond together with an unbeliever, then the logical conclusion must be that they do not think it a sin to be unequally yoked. How can this claim be made in the face of so many biblical passages forbidding unequally yoked relationships? Here is the logical argument upon which so much of the church rests their case:
A marriage is legitimate when it is in conformity to biblical precepts. So it must have one man and one woman, they must both be faithful believers and they must both be free to marry (not already married). Illegitimate marriages would involve polygamy, homosexuality, incest, two lost individuals, unequally yoked individuals, and one or more individuals already married to someone else.

However, it is argued that God makes allowances validating certain marriages that are not otherwise legitimate. These are polygamy (concubines), both unbelievers, and unequally yoked couples. Thus these marriages are valid in that they are founded upon truth or fact, capable of being justified and having legal force. Therefore some marriages are valid even though they are not legitimate. As the argument goes these marriages are valid and the believer is not sinning by being unequally yoked and secondly as a valid marriage, it cannot be dissolved unless the grounds for divorce meets a legitimate biblical condition for divorce.

Assuming that these concepts are biblical it seems logical that if an illegitimate marriage is validated by an allowance that God makes for a believer embarking on a sinful path, then God would be abundantly pleased to make an allowance for this same believer to repent of his sinful path by dissolving their illegitimate marriage to a child of Satan in order for them to enter into a marriage that is both legitimate and valid with a fellow believer in Christ Jesus (after the biblical example of Ezra and Nehemiah). Forgive the repetitiveness; nevertheless, because so many Christians seek to serve the institution rather than being served by the institution a divorce and remarriage is considered sinful when in fact a divorce and remarriage would be the very act of repentance that the institution of marriage encourages for the believer who has bound himself to an unbeliever in holy matrimony notwithstanding the common misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians chapter seven (see two articles on 1 Corinthians 7 in this blog). Again, God instituted marriage to curb the sins of godless alliances, fornication and adultery, and homosexuality. Christians have been using this same institution to force their fellow saints into lifelong alliances with the sons and daughters of Satan. Where God instituted marriage, in part, to prevent alliances with unbelievers thus keeping His people holy, Christian leaders have been forcing people to remain in these godless alliances to keep the institution of marriage holy. God forgive us and help us get this straight once again.

Secondly, even if an illegitimate, unequally yoked marriage were valid in that it has happened and is now a reality, the churches’ position must be that the believer will be called to repent and come out from this unholy union. Scripture compares these unions to a partnership of righteousness to lawlessness, a fellowship of light with darkness, harmonizing Christ Jesus with ungodliness and destruction, and joining in agreement the temple of God with idols. Dear brothers and sisters, these things cannot be—they are impossible. Therefore an unequally yoke marriage cannot be. The body of Christ is to work toward cleansing all of its members from such uncleanness.

When our father Adam could not find a suitable helper God fashioned a woman and the man and woman joined to become one flesh. Suitability is so important that without it you do not have a help mate—you do not have someone who corresponds to you. What made Eve suitable? She was a human made in the image of God(like Adam), her female body corresponded to Adam’s male body, and she was without sin (like Adam). They were two halves of a whole.

In the same way, what makes for a suitable help mate for God’s elect children? The same list: They must be humans made in God’s image, they must correspond to one another as members of the opposite sex and they must both possess the righteousness of Christ. If even one of these necessary attributes were missing then a suitable help mate could not be found. Two out of three isn’t bad right? By no means! All three are necessary for God’s elect children to be obediently walking in His ways. Being unequally yoked to an unbeliever is not one of the ways of the Lord. To be walking in a way other than God’s ways is sin. We need to repent of all sin and turn back and walk the way of the Lord. Christian marriages must be two halves of a whole. Both must be in Christ Jesus for their marriage to bring honor and glory to God.

In conclusion, consider the example of Judah’s good king Jehoshaphat. His story is among the most mournful in all of the bible. He was among the very best of Judah’s kings, but he failed to understand the importance of this one truth. He kept yoking himself to his godless brothers in Israel. He was such a godly man that we might suspect his motive was to help wicked Israel turn to God. After a second incidence of Jehoshaphat yoking himself to the godless Israelites God’s prophet asked Jehoshaphat a rhetorical question, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD and so bring wrath on yourself from the LORD (2 Chronicles 19:2)? A few short years later Jehoshaphat, who by all accounts was obediently serving God well, allied himself once again with the king of Israel and this time the LORD’s wrath came upon him mightily. The very same godless souls that he was helping and loving were the ones who destroyed him and his whole family. His kingdom became their kingdom. The wicked woman (Athaliah) whom he took for his son in marriage was none other than the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. She oversaw the murder of Jehoshaphat’s family, she destroyed his legacy, and she took his place on the throne ruling Judah for nearly seven years doing much harm to God’s people in the process.

God’s people are commanded to advance the gospel. God’s people are prohibited from being bound to unbelievers. God’s people cannot hope to effectively advance the gospel while practicing the sin of being bound to unbelievers. Bad Company corrupts good morals. Dating evangelism is a horrible idea. Unequally yoked evangelism is even worse. Only when two godless people are already married and subsequently God saves one of them are they to follow Paul’s advice in 1 Cor. 7 and see if the Lord intends to save the as yet unbelieving spouse. But believers who have knowingly or ignorantly yoked themselves to unbelievers cannot expect a different outcome than Jehoshaphat’s.

The primary reason God has forbidden unequally yoked marriages is because they will destroy the believer as surely as Jehoshaphat’s unholy alliances destroyed him. He did everything else just as God commanded, but he continued in the pattern of yoking himself to the godless Israelites. The believer who continues in an unequally yoked marriage will be destroyed. Only those who have languished in an unequally yoked marriage for years and have finally been set free can clearly see how much destruction was being done to them and how completely it inhibited their walk and ministry. If a believer appears to be doing well in their walk with God while being unequally yoked, how are they any different than Jehoshaphat? Their destruction is coming. Their unregenerate partner will have the greater influence upon their children, and that will only be the beginning of the destruction they will experience if they do not obediently repent of their godless union to an unbeliever. None can bring idols into the temple of God and expect God’s favor.

Valid or not, unequally yoked marriages should be repented of as soon as humanly possible. When the New Testament provides infidelity and abandonment as the two grounds for legitimate divorce it was understood that the marriages being dissolved were thought to be equally yoked relationships because unequally yoked marriages had long since been forbidden and were unthinkable. God does not change. Unequally yoked marriages are still forbidden according to the word of God. “Do not be unequally yoked to unbelievers.” “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD and so bring wrath on yourself from the LORD?”


Christians Should Love Those Injured by Divorce

When one of God’s regenerate children decides to divorce their spouse because they are a child of Satan, God’s beloved child can expect to be assaulted by those in the church as well as those in the world. The assault from the church will come in the form of accusations that he/she is a covenant breaker. They will be accused of creating a schism in their marriage/family and in so doing they are causing injury to their spouse, their children, their extended family members, their church, their friends, their coworkers, their neighbors and their very culture. To create a schism is to break the bond of fellowship that existed previously. We will come back to this case in a few moments, but consider a parallel charge leveled against the reformers in the 16th century.

The Roman Catholic church referred to the reformers as persons guilty of schism and heresy because they preached a different doctrine, they stopped obeying Romanism’s laws, they held separate prayer and worship meetings, and they were practicing baptism and the Lord’s Supper differently. The charges were not received lightly as being a heretic would infer that one is not in Christ Jesus. God’s word proclaims that dissension is reason enough to not inherit eternal life. Those who, by making dissention in the church, break its communion and are labeled heretics and schismatics. John Calvin agrees that communion is held together by two bonds, agreement in sound doctrine and brotherly love. Calvin understood Augustine to see a clear distinction: heretics corrupt the sincerity of the faith with false dogmas, and schismatics, even sometimes agreeing in dogma, break the bond of fellowship.

The fellowship or conjunction of love in the body of Christ is entirely dependent upon the unity of our faith. Ephesians 4:5 says, “there is…one God, one faith, and one baptism.” In other words, the unity that the body of Christ enjoys must be under the headship of Christ. Truth matters. Truth and love cannot be separated one from another. Calvin says, “…apart from the Lord’s Word there is not an agreement of believers but a faction of wicked men.” Hence the one guilty of breaking the conjunction of love is the one who does not cling to the truth of God’s word. The Roman Catholics elevated papal decrees to an equal status with the word of God (or above it). The Roman Catholics sold indulgences. They venerated Mary the mother of Jesus. They created purgatory. They sold saving grace that they claimed was a stockpile from Mary, Jesus and special saints who had so much merit that not all was necessary for them to get to heaven. They collected and raised funds with relics from the past such as the head of Saint John. It was the Roman Catholics who ceased believing and obeying the word of God, so men of God had no choice but to reform the church, and when that failed they had to leave it behind and form a genuine fellowship of believers who were willing to believe and obey God’s word.

A marriage and a family are not so different from a church. Marriages and families are expected to form a conjunction of love in Christ. When one of the married partners refuses to believe and obey God’s word, then the godly spouse is obligated to reform them or leave them behind so that the believing spouse may enter into a partnership with another obedience servant of Christ. If they are faithful and they are forced to divorce their disobedient spouse, they can expect to be accused of creating a schism just as the reformers before them. But to have created a schism in a marriage is to assume that the marriage actually had a bond of fellowship in Christ. When that is not the case, then it is imperative that the believing spouse sets out to reform their unfaithful spouse and be prepared to divorce them if they will not be obedient to God as He commands, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever” (2 Cor. 6:14)?

Even today in evangelical churches when a split takes place because one faction is no longer obeying God’s word those who faithfully recognize such a breach and act upon it are labeled as heretics and schismatics for breaking apart the church. Very often those who refuse to accept anything short of a genuine body of believers are looked upon as the trouble-makers. One need look no further than the homosexual movement within the liberal protestant churches to see who is being hailed as nasty and divisive.

Unfortunately all divorces are treated the same by most of the church, and the divorced are looked upon as covenant breakers. This means that the believer in an unequally yoked marriage can expect those in the church to attack them when they should stand behind them and support them. At lease these brethren will be able to relate to the reformers and what they experienced at the hands of the Roman Catholic church.