Category Archives: biblical

Has the Church Inadvertently Institutionalized Unequally Yoked Marriages?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Continue from Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus said,

“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life” Luke 18:29.

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

Biblical view on divorce


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians makes his view on unequally yoked relationships abundantly clear when he says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Bilial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? Therefore, ‘COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE’, says the Lord. ‘AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN’; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

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

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

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

Biblical view on divorce


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapman‘s Five Covenant Characteristics

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

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

Blog Author:

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

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

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

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

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

Chapman:

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

Blog Author:

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

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

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

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

Chapman:

3. Covenant relationships are based on steadfast love.

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

Blog Author:

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

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

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

Chapman:

4. Covenant relationships view commitments as permanent.

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

Blog Author:

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

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

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

Chapman:

5. Covenant relationships require confrontation and forgiveness.

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

Blog Author:

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

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

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

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

Defining Covenants

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

The three primary components are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The DURATION can also share the aspect of BENEFIT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Did This Happen and To Where Has It Lead?

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

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

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

Biblical view on divorce


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

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

Unbiblical Doctrines Created From the Forced Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biblical view on divorce


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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