Category Archives: Biblical view on divorce

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.


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”.


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.


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 (not to be confused with immoral) 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.


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


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


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)


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?”


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

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

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

Let Us Begin

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

The Complexity of the Issue Requires Greater Perspicuity Currently Lacking

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

Indistinctness of the Object

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

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

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

The Imperfection of the Systematic Theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Likelihood of an Inadequateness of the Vehicle of Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We read of them in the epistle of Jude:

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

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

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


Repent of Your Unequally Yoked Marriage

Richard Owen Roberts wrote, “The ruinous nature of every sin necessitates repentance”. Unequally yoked marriages are supreme examples of the truthfulness of this statement.
Being unequally yoked with an unbeliever is not merely an awful cancer that has befallen a believer, rather it is a sin that has been committed and is being retained every day that God’s beloved chooses to remain in the relationship. Not until he ends (repents of) the relationship will the ruinous nature of that sin stop the havoc and destruction that it is causing in his and others’ lives.

Is Being Unequally Yoked a Sin?

To answer this question we will consider the will of God.  God actually 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 he has revealed to us in His word.

R. C. Sproul speaking on the will of God said that “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.

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 “God’s sovereign ‘permission’ of human sin is not His moral approval.”

Therefore, it is safe to say that being unequally yoked is a sin and as such it is necessary that God’s children repent of it.  Repentance will not be without great difficulty, but much good will come from repentance of this sin including perhaps an unintended benefit: What stronger message could be sent to those in the church yet to marry than that they too will be called to repent of an unequally yoked marriage if they disobediently enter into one?

Currently the message to young believers is confusing at best. In essence, the church is saying, “You’d better not marry that unbeliever, don’t you dare do it, it’s terribly unwise, God forbids it, you’ll be miserable” but young person after young person follows their foolish desire and marries them anyway.  And what is the Christian response? “You have disobeyed God and his word, you have ignored warnings from your pastor and perhaps your parents…so congratulations!?  We’re so happy for the two of you. Where will you be going for your honeymoon?”  With such a treatment of this significant issue we cannot expect young people to take the “warnings” seriously, and as things currently stand they are not.

What other sin can be willingly entered into while the whole church stands by praising and congratulating the sinner?  The message that the church is sending is befuddling, bewildering and unsettling.  Little wonder that so many marriages are founded upon the sin of being unequally yoked.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16a Paul says, “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?”  This passage is not ambiguous as I read it, but pastors like to say that it does not apply to marriage.  By what authority do they make this claim?

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached a sermon titled, “Things To Avoid” in which his second point was “Avoid Enervating Atmospheres.”  Under this heading he used Paul’s very passage in the preceding paragraph as a biblical example of an enervating atmosphere.  Of Paul’s text the great pastor said: It “Applies, of course, to marriage and marriage only.  That’s why the Christian is not to marry an unbeliever.  He’s putting himself in the wrong atmosphere, which is bound to sap his spiritual energy and vitality.  It’s inevitable.  The very fact that he’s thus associated with and bound to someone who hasn’t got spiritual life and understanding–he’s the one that’s going to suffer–not the other.  So we are told not to be unequally yoked together to unbelievers.  Very well now I must leave it at that–I’m just giving you principles that suggest that you work it out for yourselves.”  I do not know whether Lloyd-Jones would agree with me that divorce is an appropriate method of repentance for the unequally yoked Christian.  My only intention is to show that he says the very opposite of those who claim that this unequally yoked passage does not apply to married couples.

Is it not understood that a marriage is a relationship?  Since, in this text, Paul is speaking of relationships between believers and unbelievers one only needs to determine if a relationship is involved to apply this text.  The reason people immediately dismiss this passage regarding marriage is because to do otherwise would force them to acknowledge the fact that God not only allows certain divorces but rather He commands certain divorces as in the more than 100 cases in Ezra’s final chapter.

The Second Corinthians’ passage clearly shows the New Testament’s agreement with the ubiquitous Old Testament passages prohibiting unequally yoked marriages, and it is in the imperative tense signifying a universal command to all believers not to be in unequally yoked relationships.  God being under no obligation, even explains His reasons: Believers who enter into relationships with unbelievers can expect no partnership, no fellowship, no harmony, no commonality and no agreement in such relationships.

Clearly this universal command against unequally yoked relationships should apply first and foremost to the marriage relationship.  Who in their right mind willingly enters their most important relationship, a life-long relationship with no chance of partnership, fellowship, harmony, commonality or agreement?  Tragically the church has made ambiguous what should have been abundantly clear, so that perhaps millions of believers, if their have been that many, have entered these prohibited relationships and remained in these ruinous marriages until they died.

Sadly those who forbid divorce to the unequally yoked apply this passage to those considering an unequally yoked marriage, but after the marriage has been embarked upon the passage, in their mind, mysteriously no longer applies to their unequally yoked marriage relationship. Therefore, the church has been treating equally yoked and unequally yoked marriages the same, which is very foolish because Paul did not treat them the same at all.

[See newer article titled: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 Is So Far From Contradicting 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 That Both Texts Agree on Divorce For Unequally Yoked Marriages]

Ezra and Nehemiah did not share this view either as they commanded those who were in unequally yoked marriages to divorce their godless spouses and children. Albeit at great cost, but divorce them they did and it was all in order to come back under compliance to God’s commands and will (see “The Will of God Dictates Divorce for those Unequally Yoked in Marriage).  Their reward far exceeded the cost.

No doubt many do not apply Paul’s clear command in 2 Corinthians 6 to the marriage relationship because they are biased because of Paul’s statements in his first letter to the Corinthians where in chapter seven he says that if an unbelieving spouse consents to live with the believing spouse that the believing spouse must not leave or send away the unbelieving spouse.  THESE TWO SCRIPTURES DO NOT CONTRADICT ONE ANOTHER AS THEY MUST IF THE TRADITIONAL UNDERSTANDING OF ROMANS 7 STANDS.  The reader must immediately read the article titled: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 Is So Far From Contradicting 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 That Both Texts Agree on Divorce For Unequally Yoked Marriages.

First, Paul’s comments here were “in view of the present distress” (vs. 26) and not intended as universal commands, but advice for the concerns being experienced by the Corinthians.  Concerns that have been shared by every generation of believers.  Throughout the Christian era when a married person becomes born-again they are to allow their unbelieving spouse time for the same gospel to soften or harden their heart for Christ.  During that period of time if their unbelieving spouse wants to stay then they must let them stay.  But if they leave, then the believer is not bound in such cases.  If their unbelieving spouse wants to stay but hardens to the gospel, then God has not drawn their unbelieving spouse to Himself, and it is God who has separated the marriage partners using the sword of Christ.  The believer must then divorce their unbelieving spouse.

Secondly, Paul only gives these comments after saying, “I say, not the Lord…”, which is also part of the inspired word of God, and must be understood as a major consideration contextually and practically.

Third, these comments as wrongly understood by seemingly a majority would be in direct conflict with I Cor. 5:esp.13 and I Cor. 15:33.

Fourth, Paul’s overall direction in this text is that the new believers should all stay in the condition in which they were in when they came to Christ “in view of the present distress.”  One of his examples is found in verses 20-22 where Paul uses not the spouse role, but the role of a slave to instruct them to stay in the position in which you came to Christ.  Nevertheless, in verse 21 he says, “Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.”  Paul is demonstrating flexibility in his advise as prudence will demand.  He is arguing for these new believers to sit tight and not make any big moves during the present distress, but then he demonstrates great latitude to his readers: “if you are able also to become free, rather do that.”  Paul is not using the tone of command, but of wise advice for specific situations. Both slaves (physically and financially stuck in an evil, human institution) and unequally yoked spouses (physically and contractually stuck in an evil, *human institution) are asked to remain in the same state in which they came to Christ, but Paul takes a moment to note the possibility of prudent decisions to be made as the believers move on from the “present distress”, as they mature in their faith and as providential opportunities dictate a more God honoring course.

Finally, it is the second letter that would clarify or further explain the prior letter and not the other way around.  In the first letter Paul offers his apostolic counsel to the concerns of the Corinthian believers, but it is in the second letter where Paul gives an apostolic command to his readers: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.”  And one only needs to understand marriage to be a relationship to understand that it applies to marriages. In fact, most would agree that marriage is the relationship most commonly understood as yoking two people together.  And Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, that this passage “Applies, of course, to marriage and marriage only”.

*Note: Of course marriage is a divine institution, but polygamy, unequally yoked, incestuous and homosexual marriages are not included in the divine institution; therefore, unequally yoked marriage is a human institution.