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

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

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

Let Us Begin

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

The Complexity of the Issue Requires Greater Perspicuity Currently Lacking

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

Indistinctness of the Object

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

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

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

The Imperfection of the Systematic Theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Likelihood of an Inadequateness of the Vehicle of Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We read of them in the epistle of Jude:

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

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

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


Are You Crazy? Wont Your Understanding of God’s Command to Divorce Ruin Lives?

Whenever God’s word calls us to repentance we can expect consequences regardless of our obedience or disobedience to God’s commands. Part of true repentance is confession of any wrong doing to those to whom we have wronged, which would include making restitution if it can be made. True repentance and confession would also include accepting any consequences that may be due us for whatever we have done. For example, a murderer cannot come to a saving faith in Christ while continuing to hide a murder for which he has never been caught. We are all commanded to repent and believe. True repentance will very often carry with it consequences that will not be pleasant. However, we can expect even greater consequences if we refuse to repent and believe. The UNREPENTANT are those who are still lost in their trespasses and sins. They are still under the wrath of God. They have yet to be washed by the blood of Christ Jesus. It would be better to be imprisoned for the rest of one’s life for a murder that was actually committed than to spend eternity in hell. Therefore the consequences of obedience might be very painful, but they are not as painful as the consequences of disobedience.

When people realize that my understanding of God’s word on unequally yoked marriages is that God commands His children to “come out from them” they will anticipate the considerable cost and pain brought about by their obedience and many will choose to disobey. I am not arguing that this kind of disobedience proves that someone is not truly in Christ Jesus, but I am saying that obedience to God is always less painful than disobedience.

As soon as I was convinced of God’s teaching on unequally yoked relationships my immediate response was to divorce my wife of over 25 years. We had raised five children together, we had buried one of those five children together, and we had been yoked together for one third of an expected lifespan. So as you can see, I know something about the cost of obeying God in coming out of an unequally yoked marriage. But I also know of the tremendous blessings that God pours upon those who will obey Him no matter how high the cost. My first marriage was long and miserable because light and darkness do not mix. Obedience meant the end of that misery though the pathway was long and hard. Obedience also meant the beginning of a life of fellowship with my new wife who is the equally yoked spouse that I had been praying for my whole life; however, this abundant joy is ever so slightly tempered by the regrettably shameful response to my divorce and remarriage of much of the church. The difference between taking Satan’s path of being stuck in an unequally yoked marriage and taking one of “the ways of the Lord” in being equally yoked is indescribable—a person would have to live it to fully understand. I can think of nothing else I could have done to bring about so much joy and sanctification in my life, yet I am always thrilled for my brothers in Christ who will never have to experience it for themselves because their initial marriage was to a believer. If you did not already know it, one of “the ways of the Lord” is to be equally yoked in your earthly relationships.

Now for the heart of this article: People will argue that to obey God’s commands regarding unequally yoked marriages will tear families apart. I would go one step further and say that many who truly come to Christ will be torn from their families, and it is Jesus who told us to expect as much. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children of farms for My name’s sake, will receive a hundred times as much, and will inherit eternal life” [Many modern translations have left out ‘wife’ perhaps partly because it was too inconvenient for their position on divorce] (Matthew 19:29). Living in a dark world while putting your faith in the One who is the Light of the world may not be easy, but the benefits are out of this world. Every true believer will lose treasured relationships and belongings, but Jesus has assured them that they will receive a hundred fold for what they have left behind and they will inherit eternal life.

Note: The argument about tearing families apart is a poor argument for a couple of reasons. First, family is among the most common of all idols. People are prone to worship their families. Anything that prevents people from coming fully to Christ is an idol. Anything that they embrace so tightly that they cannot leave it in order to embrace Christ is an idol. Secondly and more importantly, although we should always weigh the cost of discipleship we should not use the cost of obedience to determine our willingness to obey any of God’s commands. The determining factor for obedience should never be ‘what is it going to cost me’, but it must always be ‘is this what God has commanded?’ If God has commanded it, then it must be obeyed no matter the cost. It is tremendously tempting in all endeavors to seek that which is most expedient—bringing about the best outcome that we are seeking for ourselves. But we are unreliable when it comes to knowing what is really in our best interest, which is among the reasons why the bible instructs us to be righteous. Righteousness means doing whatever is right for the sake of doing what is right regardless of the cost. When we do that which is right, then we have also acted in our own best interest even when we are too blind to see it that way.

Having said all of that it is still profitable to reply more directly to the concern that families will be torn apart when we obey God by leaving unequally yoked spouses. The argument is foolish for a couple of reasons:
First, as I said above Jesus told His followers to expect such sacrifices. Secondly, the temporal costs of disobedience are far worse. Consider at least five reasons for this:

To begin with, under the current teaching that divorce is not allowed for those unequally yoked, the divorce rate for believers perfectly mirrors that of unbelievers. The frequently held belief that God forbids divorce has not prevented these marriages from ending in divorce. In fact, it seems obvious that such a position would and has raised the divorce rate considerably among believers as they are not appropriately discouraged from entering forbidden marriages. Two categories of marriages in the church are responsible for the vast majority of all
“Christian” divorces. The first is the marriages where both parties are not actually “in Christ” even though they claim allegiance to Christ in some way. The second are unequally yoked marriages where only one of the two are actually “in Christ”. The number of Christian divorces would have been a mere fraction of the percentage of worldly divorces if we properly understood God’s commands to not be unequally yoked. Put another way, the church is all too often indistinguishable from the world because it has failed to fully obey God in keeping His children separate from the godless deceivers who are following the example of their father the devil.

Secondly, a very significant amount of damage is done to believing spouses through their union to an unbeliever. This is in large part why unequally yoked relationships are forbidden. In addition, the children are greatly damaged by the unbelieving spouse as well. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Bad company corrupts good morals”. In my own unequally yoked marriage my wife taught all of our children how to undermine their father. Perhaps the worst influence she had upon them was that she taught them how to be effective liars. She showed them how to use deception to avoid obeying their dad. They grew up being taught how to be disobedient and up until the current date I cannot be sure that any of my four living children are actually in Christ. But I thank God that none of them have rejected Him as yet either. When children are disobedient because of their unbelieving, rebellious hearts and a parent has modeled disbelief and rebellion, then it is very difficult for them to suddenly obey God’s call to repent and believe. A sovereign God has no problem saving them, but they have many more obstacles to overcome in their sanctification than does the children from equally yoked believing parents. However, a very good question is: Will God save the children from unequally yoked marriages? God uses secondary causes to bring about His will and having two believing parents is a common reality for many who are in Christ Jesus. Therefore this temporal cost may have an eternal one as well for the children of an unequally yoked marriage.

Third, under the current understanding young people have little incentive to avoid unequally yoked marriages. The warnings that should be in place to protect them from a horrible self-destructive choice are nowhere to be seen. They are usually told that ‘trouble may come of it’, but how can we expect that puny warning to stop young people who are so often foolishly, feverishly ‘in LOVE’? The message to young people is that you may want to give this marriage a second thought, but if not then God, the body of Christ and all of your loving family and friends will support you all the way. REALLY? God is going to support them as they willfully disobey His command? That is not a teaching found anywhere in God’s word. So what should the message be? Dear young person, if you move forward with this forbidden marriage, then God’s blessings cannot be expected, the church’s ordination, approval and participation will not be with you and your parents and loving family and friends will be looking forward to the day that you dissolve this evil union through repentance at which time all will stand with you in Christian solidarity as in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. In other words, all true believers must cease standing by encouraging a fellow believer as they publicly enter into a sinful relationship. The headstrong young person must either be shown that they themselves are not in Christ; hence it would not then be an unequally yoking and/or that they are choosing a forbidden marriage over obedience to God. After all Christians are slaves to righteousness, so we must insist upon righteous marital unions. If they enter into a forbidden marriage, then let them do it alone. A party can always be thrown later when the unbelieving spouse comes to a saving knowledge of Christ if they are fortunate enough for that outcome, but the far more common outcome will be brokenness and despair. All of which can be avoided if we only taught young people the truth.

It is of utmost importance that this be understood: if the message is consistent, which it has not been, then young believers will not even play with fire in the first place. In other words, they will not even expose themselves to unbelievers in dating or close friendships so that they do not ‘fall in love’ with an unbeliever. This has worked for centuries for everyone who is taught the truth about staying pure.

Forth, today most Christian churches are filled in large part with unbelievers. I am unsure whether or not a false gospel was the cause or effect. I am more sure that untold numbers have been brought threw the doors by their believing spouses. You might think this is actually a blessing, but you would be wrong. Sure we want unbelievers to hear the gospel, but Christ instructed us to take the gospel to the world. The gathering of the saints is supposed to be just that—the gathering of the holy ones of God! A book could be written on this subject, but let it suffice to say that the church is as contaminated and thus ruined with the unsaved spouses as would be heaven if God were to let one unrepentant sinner in heaven for every transformed saint. I recently attended dozens of churches in my city to examine the landscape of Christianity. I discovered the very reality that I most feared: most of our churches today are populated entirely with unregenerate people. Not only was the gospel not present in these churches but neither was anything distinctly Christian. Putting up with unequally yoked marriages has caused our churches to first become unequally populated and then decimated entirely.

Finally, the body of Christ’s testimony to the lost world would be far greater if they made purity within their own walls a priority. The churches testimony to the world is eviscerated by the large numbers of false professors whose behavior is identical to the ungodly while vainly taking upon themselves the Lord’s name. Believers who disobey God by joining themselves to unbelievers, in marriage and other relationships, are the primary cause. If on the other hand, the Christian message to the world was that Christians will not intermarry with non-Christians, then the purity in the body of Christ would stand out like a light shining from the top of a hill. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14a), but the greater part of the church has hidden the light under a basket weaved out of unequally yoked relationships. All of the unbelievers masquerading as God’s children make true believers indistinguishable to the world, and the glory of God’s holy name is drug through the mire in the process. God forgive us?


What Is an Unequally Yoked Marriage?

Awful marriages are far too common because people are so very rarely uncommonly good and it takes good people to form a good marriage, but an awful marriage is not the same thing as an unequally yoked marriage.  Many marriages are very mismatched because one spouse clearly works very hard for the advancement of the couple while the other seemingly makes no effort whatsoever, but a mismatched marriage is not the same thing as an unequally yoked marriage.  Occasionally over time marriage partners grow apart and feel as though they have nothing in common, but growing apart is not the same thing as an unequally yoked marriage.  In fact, hundreds of factors could probably cause difficult or bad marriage relationships without an unequally yoked marriage.  So what exactly is an unequally yoked marriage?

Using God’s word as the standard, an unequally yoked marriage exists when a married couple consists of one born-again person and one person who is not born-again.  Notice that an unequally yoked marriage is not defined as a Christian married to a non-Christian, or a believer married to an unbeliever, or a religious person married to a secular minded person, or even a person who believes in God married to an atheist.  Plenty of these kinds of marriages exist and work very well for the individuals involved because they are not unequally yoked relationships or marriages.

There are Two Human Races

Two distinct human races exist: The fallen race of Adam who are under bondage to sin and death is the first.  This race came from the side of Adam when God removed one of Adam’s ribs to use it to create Eve.  In like manner, the second human race came from the side of Jesus when his side was opened up by the soldier’s sword.  This second human race is separated from the first human race the way a palm-full of water is separated from the ocean.  God scooped Israel up out of the waters (often used in Psalms to describe the nations).  In order to belong to the second human race one must be born-again.  This is not something man can do.  God alone gives the new birth.  This second race of humanity is called the invisible church because men cannot tell who is and who is not born-again merely by looking at them or by their testimony.

To be born-again means to be regenerated by God and drawn into His kingdom of light.  From what condition are men regenerated?  Since the creation of Adam and Eve, every single human being with the lone exception of Jesus has been conceived in sin and born into Adams fallen human race.  All come into this world under the domain of darkness, enslaved to sin and death.

The Invisible Church

When, by God’s grace, a person is born-again they are no longer slaves to sin and death, but they have joined the ranks of the adopted children of God.  God has bought them with the blood of His own Son.  In so doing God has scooped them from the waters (Adam’s race) and created in them a new life…a new man.  The Spirit of God comes into them and makes them children of light, and their every desire is for God and His kingdom.  They become individual body parts of the “new man”, the church, the body of Christ, and they are growing up corporately “to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NASB).  No greater transformation can take place in man than to be born-again.

The Visible Church

The visible church is so inclusive that it takes in everyone who has any relationship to the Christian church whatsoever.  Born to Christian parents–you’re in, a non practicing Catholic–you’re in, I converted for my spouse but don’t practice–you’re in, I deny the faith daily with my godless deeds and never give a thought for God, but when asked I tell people I’m a Methodist–you’re in.  The vast majority of those who are frequently referred to as Christians, believers, spiritual or religious are not actually born-again even though they are part of the visible church.  This reality explains why many marriages appear, to the undiscerning mind, to be be unequally yoked, and they may very well be mismatched but they are still equally yoked.  As a result, many people think that they have observed unequally yoked marriages, but the reality is that neither person in those marriages is actually born-again.  Most marriages consist of two people neither of whom are born-again.  A sliver of marriages consist of two people who are actually born-again.  Both types of marriages are equally yoked couples because both partners to those marriages are in the same spiritual condition.  When people are religious or even VERY religious they assume they must be born-again, but being religious (even the Christian religion) has nothing to do with being born-again.  So then, an unequally yoked marriage exists when only one partner is actually born-again.  Then and only then have the two spiritual races been joined together in a forbidden partnership.

The number of people who mistakenly believe themselves to be born-again is quite large due to so much false teaching.  Being born-again is so rare, even in Christian circles, that very few people can actually relate to or even begin to understand what an unequally yoked marriage looks like.  In other words, they cannot see the big picture because they have not been granted the necessary regeneration or quickening by the Holy Spirit who softens the heart and enlightens the mind.

Even many who are themselves born-again fail to discern between genuine and spurious confessions, and as a result fail to recognize unequally yoked marriages because they credit many who are not born-again as though they were.  Sadly, for this same reason many who are born-again become unequally yoked to “visible church” Christians who are not born-again.  Then, all false professors who intermarry with atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. give the appearance that Christians can live in unequally yoked marriages without much difficulty, which is not the case at all according to scripture since the “Christian” in the marriage is not actually born-again.  Therefore, the marriage partners are equally yoked even as they practice entirely different religions.

This is clearly a case where men have used their experiences instead of scripture to influence scripture’s enlightenment on this doctrine.  As if that were not bad enough, the vast majority of  marriages thought to be unequally yoked were not because they were between two unregenerate people; so these experiences that have helped shape people’s perspective on the scriptural passages dealing with divorce when unequally yoked are themselves counterfeit examples of unequally yoked marriages.  So then, even though scripture and not experience should have shaped their view on the biblical doctrine for divorce for the unequally yoked, even the experiences that have shaped their view were more times than not spurious examples of unequally yoked marriages.  Thus leaning on experience instead of scripture alone has been a fatal flaw for both reasons.

Vast numbers of religious people marry partners who are not religious, and it is from this large pool that people think they have seen or are in unequally yoked marriages.  These marriages are much more common (10,000 to 1) than actual unequally yoked marriages, and they throw into confusion all understanding on the subject.  These marriages are effectually counterfeit unequally yoked marriages, which is why they cause so much confusion in understanding this issue.  It can be said of these counterfeit unequally yoked marriages that the couples just need to ride out the bumps in a marriage like any other married couple.  But the same cannot be said for a couple who is truly unequally yoked.

So What Is So Bad About A Truly Unequally Yoked Marriage?

In Paul’s words the unequally yoked married couple cannot share a partnership any more than can righteousness partner with lawlessness.  They cannot have fellowship any more than light could fellowship with darkness.  Their marriage will be as harmonious as our Lord Jesus Christ partnered with the son of destruction.  They cannot have agreement any more than could the temple of God with idols.  Unequally yoked married couples will not enjoy any commonality in their relationship to one another (from 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 NASB).

The Psalmist said of those who are not born-again, “Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?  And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?  I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies” (Psalm 139:21-22 NASB).  Again the Psalmist says, “Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us, for we are greatly filled with contempt.  Our soul is greatly filled with the scoffing of those who are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud” (Psalm 123:3-4 NASB).  And again, “They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and learned their practices, and served their idols, which became a snare to them” (Psalm 106:34-36 NASB).  Literally hundreds of biblical texts describe the enmity between God’s children and sons of Adam, but time allows for just one more:

“I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.  I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the practice of apostasy of those who fall away…A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil.  Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; no one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.  My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, and they may dwell with me; he who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me.  He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me.  Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, so as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity” (Psalm 101:2-8 NASB).

God’s children can no more be yoked to Satan’s than light could be yoked to darkness.  Just as men cannot see the face of God and unrepentant sinners cannot enjoy heaven neither can unrepentant sinners be yoked to God’s holy saints upon the earth.  If men were to look upon the face of God they would be destroyed.  When light enters a dark room the darkness is extinguished.  If unrepentant sinners entered heaven, then heaven would be quenched.  When genuine believers are yoked to unbelievers the believer is corrupted.  “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

God repeatedly commanded Israel to kill every man, woman and child when they entered into the Promised Land so that they would not intermingle with them and commit the sin of idolatry.  God’s command in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is not to BE bound to or unequally yoked with unbelievers.  Many in our day behave as though His command is “Do not BECOME unequally yoked to unbelievers”, but if you do, then you will have to live with your sin for repentance is out of the question.  This unbiblical advice has done more damage to believers and the church than we know.

We must never forget what our Lord Jesus taught us regarding the unrepentant: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20 NASB).

It is obviously foolish to insist that God’s children stay bound to spouses who hate Jesus and who love evil so much that they hide it in a web of deception that is destructive to their godly spouse and children.  Ezra and Nehemiah were godly men who insisted that their people divorce their godless spouses.  God does not change.  It is a man-made doctrine that insists God’s children remain united to the sons of Satan.  Those who are merely religious will do as they please and it really wont matter as they are instructed to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow they die.  But God’s children must not be bound together with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).  What part of this biblical command is hard to understand?


Jesus on Divorce in Matthew 19

By way of reminder, this blog is not so much about divorce as it is about divorce for the believer who is unequally yoked with an unbeliever.

When discussing the topic of divorce certainly the words of our Lord Jesus should be of great interest to everybody.  One text in particular is used by those who hold to the Permanence View (no divorce for any reason).  In Matthew 19:3-9 Jesus is asked by the Pharisees whether or not it is lawful for a man “to send away (divorce) his wife for any reason at all”.  Israel’s spiritual guides were every bit as blind as their predecessors in the days of the prophet Malachi when the priests were putting out their equally yoked wives and taking for themselves wives from among the gentile nations.  At about that time Ezra and Nehemiah were resolving such wickedness through mass divorces from the unequally yoked woman that the men of Israel had taken as wives.

Nevertheless, the shameless Pharisees had the nerve to test Jesus on this same subject.  In short, Jesus’ answer was that marriage takes one man and one woman and the two become “one flesh…What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  Then they wanted to know why Moses allowed for a certificate of divorce, and Jesus said it was because of man’s hardness of heart, “but from the beginning it has not been this way.”

With such stark words it is not difficult to see why those who believe that divorce is always a sin hold such a view.  But Jesus is not finished speaking, (Vs. 9) “And I say to you, ‘whoever sends away his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery, and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery'”.

Now we can see how important it is that people making the decision to get married take it very seriously as the marital relationship is indeed intended to be until the death of one of the two parties.  Nevertheless, our Lord provides two very significant exceptions to this overarching rule.  The second exception is pretty obvious to most people although (and this is unfortunate) many who hold to the permanence view even reject the immorality exception.

We Shall Begin With the Second Exception–Porneia

Jesus made it pretty clear that porneia (Gk) or immorality was a justifiable cause for divorce and thus an exception to the “until death parts” rule.  The reason for such an exception is that the very act of sexually joining oneself to a third party fractures the marital bond.  The marriage relationship has been so tragically altered that the marriage has actually been ruined/destroyed/broken by the immoral act(s).  The two individuals that had become one flesh have had their union fractured or destroyed by the introduction of a third person.

The marriage covenant is built upon a promise to one another to uphold the conditions of the marriage covenant  until death ends the marriage.  When immorality is committed the guilty partner has broken his/her promise to uphold the conditions of the marriage covenant.  Jesus is telling us that in this event the marriage covenant has been broken, and the innocent party is no longer bound by the marital covenant.

The Bottom Line: Treachery

Here is the bottom line when it comes to God sanctioned marital divorce.  When a spouse commits treachery within the marriage the innocent party to the marriage is not only allowed but encouraged, even obligated, to divorce their treacherous spouse.

How does a husband or wife commit marital treachery?  It falls into the category of “You know it when you see it”, but the following list is a guide:

  1. By demonstrating oneself to be outside of the family of faith (unequally yoked)
  2. By having sexual relations outside the marital relationship (adultery)
  3. By habitually denying the privileges of the marital bed
  4. By abandonment
  5. By endangerment (attempted murder and real physical harm at minimum)

Jesus’ First Exception in Matthew 19 that Makes Divorce Legal

Having briefly noted porneia as Jesus’ “exception clause” in the immediate context we can now consider the first exception which interrupts the blessing of lifelong marital union.  It is in my opinion a far superior, but a less obvious (to our utter shame) exception to God’s intentions that marriage was intended to be a life-long covenant of love between a husband and his wife.   It is also seen in Jesus’ teaching in the 19th chapter of Matthew, but it is not in the immediate context of his reply to the Pharisees.

This exception is so ubiquitous in scripture that it is even the first command in the scriptures found in Genesis 1:4 “God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”  In this instance, God’s command is an implied command for man to follow after God’s example and separate light from darkness, and it is often repeated in Scripture as a direct command.  Leviticus 20:26 says, “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.”  Also Deuteronomy 7:1-4 “…You shall not intermarry with them…”; 13:6-11 “…The wife you cherish…”.

This sin of marrying unbelievers is also called “the matter of Peor” in Numbers 31:16 referring back to Numbers 25 where we read about the Israelites joining themselves with the daughters of Moab, which caused the Israelites to bow down to their gods and join themselves to Baal-peor making God fiercely angry with them.  Phinehas in his anger and jealousy for the Lord’s holiness took a spear and drove it through and Israelite and his Midianite woman (wife), and God was pleased with Phinehas.  Then God said, “Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you in the affair of Peor…”

God frequently commands His children to refrain from marrying foreigners.  By foreigners God does not mean people from other lands, different races or different cultures but rather God is referring to people who fail to submit themselves to him.  God’s people are not to be bound together with unbelievers in marriage (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Today being unequally yoked to unbelievers is almost viewed as an inconsequential condition.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The greatest treachery a spouse could commit is being unrepentant and unfaithful to God.  God does not want His children to be bound together or unequally yoked to unbelievers because bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).  In fact, such relationships to unbelievers always leads to idolatry, which is spiritual adultery.

Marriage is first a creation ordinance, which means it applies to all people.  However, as with everything else marriage is to be viewed through a different lens for the followers of Christ Jesus.  Jesus teaches about marriage and divorce from the Old Testament foundation that marriage, for the people of God, is a family of faith institution.  When Jesus says that marriage makes the two become one flesh it is assumed that God’s children would not enter into marriage with an unbeliever.  So then, whenever a believer comes to the realization that they are joined in marriage to an unbeliever, then at that time they are to separate the light from the darkness, which means in the context of marriage they must get a divorce.

Not only are these many Old Testament passages the context in which Jesus is teaching, not only is this the assumption that God’s word always has when teaching on marriage and divorce, but Jesus teaches the principle of this exception in Matthew 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Most modern translations of God’s word have removed the word “wife” from this text perhaps demonstrating a bias on the part of the interpreters (Although “wife” has not been removed from Luke’s version of the same teaching found in Luke 18:29).

I discovered the inclusion of “wife” in this text when I was reading Jonathan Edwards’ lectures compiled into the book titled Charity and Its Fruits, which all who love God should read.  Edwards quotes this verse in lecture XII, and the translation he used still contained the word “wife”.  You will also find a note in the column of the NASB Side-Column Reference Edition Copyright 1996 by The Lockman Foundation referring to wife being in at least one early manuscript.

In conclusion, verse 29 indicates that to leave a family member in order to follow and serve Jesus would be worthy of praise and not condemnation…that such would inherit eternal life–not on the basis of works, but because they clearly demonstrate a love for Christ.  The spousal relationship was included in the ancient text, so we understand that God means it when He says, “Do not intermarry with foreigners” (OT) and “Do not be unequally yoked to unbelievers” (NT).

 


Divorce Is Treated Differently

Divorce compared to taking a life (killing)

            The dissolution of a marriage and the taking of a human life are alike in many important ways.  Neither is ideal, and neither would have been necessary or good had it not been for mankind’s fall from God’s grace.  Nevertheless, both are allowances that God has provided in order to lessen or curtail the continual creep of sin and its grasp upon mankind.  Consider the following chart:

                Scenario                                                                                              Killing allowed             Divorce allowed

Self-defense:  when someone is trying to harm or kill another.                                     

Self-defense:  when a person physically beats their spouse or kids.                                                                      

War:  when an aggressive civilization attacks a peaceful civilization.                           

War:  when a saint is tied to an unbeliever who engages in spiritual warfare.                                                       

High crimes: God commanded the death penalty for many crimes.                             

High Crimes: continually, unrepentantly breaking several covenant conditions.                                                    

 

           
One would expect to find people who think and believe that it is never right to take a life.  Logically, killing people is a far more severe punishment than divorcing people (at least in the vast majority of cases), so it would make sense that more people would object to killing people.  By and large, in non-Christian circles killing is more objectionable than divorcing.  However, in most conservative Christian circles the exact opposite is true.  These Christians have little or no problem with the idea of killing people for the reasons noted in the chart, and at the very same time they are very often profoundly against justifiable divorces.  In fact, Americans across the board tend to call our soldiers who have served in wars heroic, and bear in mind that they have presumably killed foreign combatants.  War heroes are by definition killers.  Most also think of the little old lady or the young child who shoots and kills an armed intruder as heroic—especially if he was later discovered to have had a long rap sheet including many violent crimes.  When was the last time a divorcee was hailed as heroic?  Among conservative Christians, appropriate distinctions exist in the collective psyche between murdering an innocent person and the justifiable taking of a life, but no such distinctions exist for divorce.   All divorces are considered unlawful.  All divorcees are treated like unrepentant dogs.  They are all subjected to shame and discredited as having proven to be people of low character who cannot be entrusted with Christian ministry.  The prevalent attitude on divorce and divorcees can be likened to a people who treat their war heroes and their serial killers as if they were the same.  Imagine the outcry if Barack Obama suggested Americans were to take this perspective.  Yet this is the prevalent attitude directed at every divorced person.

           

Whenever the world has a more balanced perspective on a moral issue than does the church it is likely that believers, in relation to that issue, have fallen into the Pharisaical pattern of legalism/judgmentalism.  It was the Pharisees who cleverly sought out ways to discredit God’s prophets and Christ’s disciples.  Unchurched Americans currently recognize the need for some divorces.  They also, by and large, have the wisdom to recognize when someone has been a cad and when someone involved in a marriage/divorce has been a saint.  Yet many in the church cannot discern one from the other because of their animus or prejudice against divorce in general.  The outcome of this in the church is that during a divorce process God’s children turn against their brothers in Christ in order to support the very godless men and women who have made the life of their regenerate spouse a living hell by choosing day after day and year after year to remain unrepentant.  It is like a man who has been slowly poisoned to death for months by his godless wife.  Finally suspecting her actions he calls his church to come to his aid at once.  Two men from his church arrive and hold him down while his wife gives him the final and fatal dose.  That is how it feels when a necessary ending, a justifiable divorce begins and God’s people attack the brother or sister involved.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above Your fellows (Psalm 45:7).

Men of bloodshed hate the blameless, but the upright are concerned for his life…An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, and he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked (Proverbs 29:10 & 27).

           

Seven reasons exist for this regretful reality, but the reader should first be careful to take a few moments in order to fully grasp how odd it is that those who actually take life from somebody are given greater latitude and license by most believers than are those who remove themselves from the bad company of an unrepentant sinner to whom they were married.  This is indeed lamentable.

Reason 1:  God Simply Did Not Speak Fully on Divorce

            First, consider the primary and foundational reason for this strange state of affairs:  The Scriptures are considerably clearer on God’s commands in the case of putting to death certain classes of people than they are in His commands on divorce.  Because God has not spoken extensively on divorce it is left to God’s children to decipher the biblical teaching on the subject.  This inevitably leads to differences of opinion.  Once a considerable segment of Christians determine that divorce is wrong, then they are often prone to dogmatically argue that the Scriptures are God’s revelation of His commands, and it is not man’s place to question what God has commanded (frequently neglecting to mention their interpretive role in difficult cases brought on by a lack of scriptural clarity).  In other words, if God said it (and if they have determined its meaning), then it must be true regardless of the fact that other God fearing Christians differ based upon their own understanding of God’s word.  Often, even when other trustworthy men of God understand God’s revelation on a topic differently these believers rarely seems to temper their dogma and enthusiasm for it—in fact it often ratchets it up a notch.

 
          
Conservative Christians agree that God is our highest authority, and the Scriptures are God breathed, so then the Scriptures supersede logic.  However, are God and His Word illogical?  By no means!  Or do we, when our interpretation of a doctrine in Scripture is illogical, withdraw our cognitive exertions and throw up our hands saying, “I guess God did not want to be logical on this point!”?  Of course not.  However, this seems to be the stance of Permanence View Christians on this issue. Logically, killing people is more severe than divorcing people.  The Permanence View Christians believe that Divorce is always wrong but do not believe that killing people is always wrong.  Does this mean that God and His word are illogical?  Of course not!  God has not created this problem—it is man’s mess.  It is the illogical view of some of God’s children to say that on the one hand people can be so evil that they must be killed while insisting on the other hand that those same evil people must NOT be divorced.

           

It is acknowledged that the Permanence View crowd would then argue that it is not the actions of evil people that God prohibits and deems worthy of discipline or even death, but the actions of God’s people.  In other words, God holds Christians to His standard, not non-Christians.  But let us look at the reason for God commanding death to evil people in the first place.  God’s children are commanded to take whatever course is necessary to eliminate every hindrance to their walks with Him, including killing when appropriate, as we see in the Israelites’ conquest and settlement of the land of Canaan.  God’s people were commanded to take over the cities of Canaan not by peacefully strolling into each town with convincing arguments and good politics, but by force—being told to “totally destroy” (Judges 1:17, NIV) the Canaanite cities upon which they were advancing.  The Hebrew word used for destroy here means “the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them” (NIV).  “Irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord” connotes an irreversible event meant to completely remove any trace of what existed there before, especially in this case, the remnants of idolatry and paganism from the previous ungodly Canaanite occupants.  This included killing every inhabitant in those cities mainly because they would be the main vehicles of idolatry to God’s people. 

This is not something with which a holy people are to treat lightly, the threat of corruption and sin warrants decisive, harsh, gutsy action on the part of the believer in order to protect themselves from letting anything come between them and the Lord.  Thus, if death and complete destruction is allowed and even commanded for God’s people in order to protect them from being pulled into sin by evil and idolatrous people around them, and death is a more severe consequence than a divorce, we must be allowed to divorce an unbeliever when they are a hindrance to our walk with God.  Indeed if God expects us to do whatever it takes to stay close to Him, including the killing of other human beings, then it would be illogical for God to decree that anything less severe than death off limits.

           

So why have so many godly saints drawn this illogical conclusion?  The answer to that question is the entire purpose of this chapter.  It is being argued that seven reasons are responsible for the unbiblical conclusion that God forbids all marital divorce.  The first reason above is that God has not spoken with the kind of clarity necessary to avoid disagreement on the subject.  It must be said at this juncture that mature believers SHOULD be less affected by the following six reasons, but the whole Christian culture through the centuries has opened all Christians up to the effects of these influences.  They can be and are resisted by those more mature in their walk, but the influence they bring is always substantial.

 
          
The other six reasons are: 2. divorce is a fringe issue, 3. the majority unwittingly fall into a presuppositional approach to the Scriptural teaching on divorce, 4. a misplaced zeal in regards to marriage among the saints, 5. group think, 6. jealousy, and 7. judgmentalism.  Some of these reasons are discussed at great length elsewhere in this work, but some explanation is necessary here.  Note: these final six reasons that influenced this unbiblical conclusion do not each stand separate from one another but are rather interwoven into the fabric of the divorce issue as it has evolved over the centuries.  Said another way, these last six reasons lend support to each other as they influence minds against using divorce as a tool for good—they do not have an influence over the seeker of truth separately but concurrently.  Theologians cannot examine the topic of divorce under the influence of just one of these reasons without being influenced by one or more of the others.  The most spiritually mature are able to lesson some of the influence from these reasons, but it is evident, regrettably so, that it is very difficult to do.

Let Us Consider These Major Influences upon the Seeker of Truth on the Topic of Unequally Yoked Divorce.

Reason 2:  Divorce Is a Fringe Issue

           
Statistics claim that half of all marriages end in a divorce.  That does not sound like a fringe issue, but it clearly is for most of God’s children.  Divorce may touch most people one way or another through the broken marriage of a relative or friend, but for many it never really strikes too close to home.  Single people need not concern themselves with it, married people who chose well need not concern themselves with it, and many more people who although they do not have great marriages nevertheless have good enough marriages so that their conscience is not pricked to work on their marriage enough to be in a position to contemplate whether the tool of divorce should be considered.  Divorce is a fringe issue because it is not for example: God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, man, sin, grace, sovereignty, justification, sanctification, obedience, faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, elders, evangelism, soteriology, eschatology, and so on.  God and His word are so wonderful that men have much to study and meditate upon long before they come to the subject of divorce and remarriage.

           

In addition, it is a very complicated issue to study—those who have never tried might be surprised to see just how difficult it is to study the issue of divorce.  The average mind does not possess the capacity to compile, consider and comprehend together all the facets of the divorce and remarriage doctrines.  An individual would need to be highly motivated to break down all the factors involved and really grasp the concepts discussed in scripture on this subject.  Taken together this means that most will not do their homework on this subject.  The topic is simply too fringe for most believers to invest the time necessary to understand this complicated subject.  This is the foundational culture that paves the way for the third reason that so many conservative Christians wrongly take a stand against their brethren who need God’s provision of divorce.

Reason 3:  A Presuppositional Approach to the Scriptural Teaching on Divorce is Unavoidable

             
By the time God’s people get around to studying the issues involved in divorce and remarriage they have long since been predisposed to be against the whole idea.  Generally speaking Christians are pretty happy and content in their anti-divorce leanings, but all too often they become smug and take a holier-than-thou attitude.  Many Christians do, in fact, exhibit an offensive satisfaction with their own situation especially so as it relates to divorce.  Imagine beginning a study on the subject of divorce and remarriage.  What leaps to mind immediately?  For many it is the short quote: “God hates divorce”.  This quote from the Old Testament book of Malachi is discussed at great length elsewhere in this work, but it is clear what influence this quote would have on a student at the onset of their study.  Two additional scriptural quotes from the nineteenth chapter of Matthew would likely be in ones mind at the onset of a study on divorce: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate”, and “Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

           
These short memorable quotes are only part of the anti divorce and remarriage mindset in Christianity.  Everything about Christianity pushes its followers away from divorce—just as everything in Christianity pushes its followers away from killing people.  God commanded Saul as well as other kings to kill every man, woman and child in the countries that the Israelites were clearing out so that they could possess the Promised Land.  Why?  Why kill everyone instead of just killing the soldiers?  If the Israelites would have failed to kill everyone, then they would have been contaminated by the sinful cultures of the godless people they refused to kill.  In the same way, if Christians fail to separate themselves from Godless spouses, then those spouses will contaminate their children, their relatives and their friends not to mention the contamination to them.  This was the very reason that Ezra commanded the divorce of all the men who took foreign wives.  See the chapter on Ezra in the section on Scriptural support for divorce and remarriage.

           
In a related fashion, to kill is to cause the death of another.  Divorce, like death, is a separation brought upon man by sin.  Both can be necessary and even good when man’s present state is considered.  Of course separation is not ideal but neither is the world in which man lives.  If Christians are not separated from one another by death, then they will never reach the greatest state for a man—to be with the Lord and clothed with a new heavenly body.  “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (Psalm 116:15). The same is true for divorce.  If Christians are not separated from their unequally yoked spouses, then they would never reach one of the greatest states on earth, which is to have constant fellowship with a spouse—iron sharpening iron on a daily basis with the one person with whom we spend most of our time.  Note:  It is important that the reader understand that God must move each believer in their own conscience toward such a hard road.  Divorce will be unbelievably hard and painful for most, but when it is entered into for the right reasons believers should at least have the support of their local church family.  Presently they are often pushed out of their local church family when God has moved them toward separating from a godless spouse.

Reason 4:  Misplaced Zeal for Marriage Over God Honoring Relationships

           
Many Christians feel that because they do not need a divorce that nobody should be able to get a divorce.  Christians who have good, godly spouses still struggle with and in their marriages.  So the mindset is, “if I can struggle through the rough spots of my marriage, then so can those who are opting for divorce—they are taking the easy way out.”  Really?  Are you under the impression that a divorce is easy?  Does a major broken relationship sound easy?  Would you like to lose everything you have been building for years? Does it sound easy to have to start all over again?  Do you think going through a first year of marriage again is easy?  Are you under the impression that loving and raising step-children is easy?  Does having another mother-in-law sound even remotely easy? Take a moment to thank God right now for your believing spouse, then stop thinking that your unequally yoked brothers and sisters have the same problems that you have in your marriage.

           
People can be very cruel about things they do not understand.  One of the reasons that we are not suppose to judge one another is because we cannot see the things hidden in the darkness and we do not know the motives of men’s hearts.  True believers are led by the Holy Spirit and are commanded to follow their own conscience.  Each believer alone knows the manifold details of their own life that are hidden to all other’s eyes except God’s.  Since no one knows the things hidden in the darkness in another person’s life, no one should be the judge of another.

           
An equally yoked marriage is not the same as an unequally yoked marriage.  God never intended his children to be in unequally yoked marriages.  Some people become believers after their marriage and find themselves in an unequally yoked marriage–Paul’s intended audience for 1 Corinthians 7:12-14.  More frequently, marriage often takes place between two young people, and young people are naturally inexperienced.  Inexperienced people often make stupid mistakes and take sinful paths through life.  Young believers in Christ are not immune to poor decision making.
 
Young believers in Christ, all too frequently, get married to somebody who fails to exhibit clear signs of being a growing Christian.  The person claims to be a Christian.  They were raised in a “Christian home”.  So they must be a Christian.  Right?  Once a young Christian has “fallen in love” it is next to impossible to talk sense into them—because they are stupid.  Some young Christians marry someone they are not even in love with because they had sexual relations with that person and they believe the two have already become one, and the only way to make right the sin(s) they have committed is to marry the person.  STUPID!  It may be an honorable thing they are trying to do but it is out of ignorance.  God does not want His children to be in unequally yoked relationships.

           

How exactly do many Christians have a misplaced zeal?  It is misplaced when their zeal is for the institution of marriage rather than for the God honoring relationships.  When some Pharisees questioned Jesus as to why His disciples were picking the heads of grain on the Sabbath, “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath came into being for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27).  The same could be said for marriage.  Marriage came into being for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of marriage.  Marriage serves men primarily by making their relationships more honoring to God and secondly, more fulfilling for mankind.  When a marriage cannot achieve those two objectives, then that marriage should be dissolved, so that the two partners can find a relationship that is capable of achieving those objectives.  The marriage is not an end in itself.  It is a means to an end.  Once the institution (the means) ceases to move a couple toward the objective (the end) and it actually pushes them away from the objective, then the institution for that couple has become so broken that it needs to be dissolved.  It needs be pointed out that the institution of marriage has not failed in such cases.  The people involved have failed to use the institution as it was intended to be used.  But when their failure cannot be rectified, then divorce should and must be allowed, even encouraged, as in Ezra’s day.

           

Many Christians think that because Christianity is the champion of marriage that divorce cannot be good or appropriate.  When I was a young boy I remember my parents having a discussion.  My mother thought that if she died my father could best honor their wonderful marriage by not remarrying because a second marriage would necessarily diminish the grandness of the first marriage.  My dad countered by saying that if their marriage was so great, then his getting remarried would be a testament to the greatness of his first marriage.  What my mother failed to realize was that people do not exist to serve the institution of marriage and make it great, but rather marriage exists to serve mankind and to make life more fulfilling.  Had my mother died young and my father refused to remarry in order to honor my mother and their marriage, then my father would have lived the remainder of his years without the relationship that God intended for man even before sin entered into the world.

           

Marriage is about great, God-honoring relationships between men and women.   When two Spirit-filled Christians marry they, by definition, are two people who experientially repent from sin on a daily basis.  This means that they should never have to get a divorce.  Whenever sin enters into the relationship if both are saved, then both have the capacity to repent effectively removing the sin from the relationship so that it can remain great and God honoring.  When a Christian finds that they are married to a non-Christian (even when the non-Christian claims to be a Christian) the marriage cannot be nearly as great or as God-honoring.  That being said, some unequally yoked marriages are better than others, but the reality is the same.  One of the partners does not live for the glory of God, and this will always have a negative effect upon the relationship.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.”  Therefore, “COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord.  “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN”; and I will welcome you.  II Corinthians 7:14-17

           

Part of the misplaced zeal for the institution of marriage is seen in the sound advice regularly given to young Christians, which is “Do not even date an unbeliever so that you will not ‘fall in love’ and find yourself in an unequally yoked marriage.”  Sound advice, but it has already been established that young people are very often stupid.  Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers do not say, “Do not get bound together with unbelievers”; he said, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers”.  For the misplaced zeal crowd, every stupid young Christian who foolishly married an unbeliever is all too easily thrown under the bus of worshipping the institution of marriage.

           

In a discussion with a man who held the permanence view of marriage and divorce he said, “Marriage is the second most important thing in the bible after the glory of Christ.”  His meaning was not just intended as his personal viewpoint; he actually believed that of all the biblical doctrines marriage between a man and a woman was the second most significant.  Sadly no elaboration was offered at the time, but this demonstrates the kind of zeal that exists for the institution that was intended to serve mankind.  The author presumes this man was actually referring to the analogy of marriage as it relates to Christ as the groom and the Church as the bride.  Certainly some argument can be made that the restoration of God’s fallen creation ranks very high in biblical doctrines, but it seems quite a leap to say that the institution of marriage apart from its analogous usage sits in this lofty place.

Reason 5:  Group Think

           

The part of the Christian church that takes the bible seriously and holds it up as the ultimate standard of truth and as the highest earthly authority for believers (the true body of Christ) is, regrettably, largely guilty of groupthink when it comes to the issue of divorce and remarriage.

Wikipedia on groupthink:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. It is the mode of thinking that happens when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, structural faults, and situational context play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process.

The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking. As a social science model, groupthink has an enormous reach and influences literature in the fields of communications, political science, social psychology, management, organizational theory, and information technology.

The majority of the initial research on groupthink was performed by Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale University. His original definition of the term was, “A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive ingroup, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.”

Irving Janis’ main principle of groupthink states:

The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making ingroup, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions against outgroups.

           

By these definitions no group could be more susceptible to groupthink than the body of Christ.  The Permanence View of marriage leaves no room for realistic appraisal of alternative views.  God’s holy word does not need alternative viewpoints, but the understanding of His word does indeed often need open mindedness to be certain that God’s message has not been distorted or missed altogether.  The danger of groupthink is very real.  Independent critical thinking should still be an ideal for believers; however, it seems that groupthink has put the church in a corporately sinful position of killing their wounded.  When it comes to divorce the Permanence View leads the way on irrational thinking and dehumanizing actions against the divorced.  At a time when a believer is most in need of the church’s support they are attacked and treated like an outsider.  One of the authors of this book has lost both a teenager to cancer and a marriage to an unbelieving spouse of over 25 years to divorce and be assured that they are comparable in terms of the pain that each event causes in one’s life.  By and large, the church circles around the parent of a dying child, but they are the ones shooting the arrows at the brother or sister going through a divorce.  This is not consistent with the spirit of Christian love and it must be addressed within the body of Christ.

           

On the subject of divorce and remarriage the body of Christ has experienced group pressures towards consensus that have lead to concurrence-seeking tendencies.  The sinful reality is that conservative Christians have taken a more restrictive position on divorce and remarriage than has God’s Holy Scriptures.  Often it has been said that it is better to err on the side of caution.  The permanence view has done that and it has been very destructive in the lives of thousands if not millions of people.  To err is to stray from the truth or to make a mistake.  On this significant issue it is better not to err at all.

Reason 6:  Jealousy

            Webster’s definition of what it means to be jealous is so significant that it must be provided for the reader:

1

a: intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness

b: disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness

2

: hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage

3

: vigilant in guarding a possession <new colonies were jealous of their new independence

 

           

Simply unpacking these definitions is all that is necessary to show jealousy’s role in pushing Christians toward a stronger stance against divorce and remarriage than what is warranted in God’s word.

1a:  intolerant of rivalry

            Christians fear that the merry-go-round marriages of the Hollywood celebrities and the allowance of homosexual marriage have and will continue to cause injury to the institution of marriage itself.  The fact is that these behaviors speak to the moral character of the people acting them out.  The institution of marriage serves to highlight the depths of a societies decline in such instances, but marriage itself is not under attack.  Christians have confused a states license to wed with God’s institution of marriage.  They are not the same.  One unites a man and a woman into holy matrimony with God as their witness—no piece of paper is necessary for God’s union of a man and a woman.  The other allows Americans over 1,000 potential benefits from the Federal, state and local governments.  Americans have gotten into the habit of doing them both (usually together), but scripture does not command them both.  The body of Christ should not discourage the separation of church and state because it always ends up poorly for God’s people when the state gets involved in the church.

1a: 

Intolerant of Unfaithfulness

           

Everyone who goes through a divorce is labeled unfaithful even though many divorced individuals have been the picture of faithfulness in the midst of very difficult circumstances.  Nevertheless, those who have never been in unequally yoked marriages consider all divorcees as unfaithful in some way, shape or form and they are intolerant of them to one degree or another.  Divorced Christians feel very much like an oppressed group within conservative Christian circles because of the intolerant attitudes of the larger, more powerful group.

2:  hostile toward one believed to enjoy an advantage

           

Most people experience enough bumps, bruises and dips in their marriage that they see a divorce and remarriage as an advantage that they do not have.  The mindset here seems to be, would not all of us like to have another opportunity at finding the perfect mate?  It is hoped that many of God’s children are thinking, “No, I am completely smitten with and thankful for the lover God has given me.”  Nevertheless, many do see a second try as an advantage and an unfair one at that.  The attitude of many seems to be, “I’m going to stick out my marriage until death do us part, and I will not be anything but hostile to you for failing to follow the prescribed course.”

3: vigilant in guarding a possession

           

Long marriages are celebrated and that is appropriate except that it seems a bit odd the way in which we laud those who have made it to their fortieth or fiftieth anniversary.  It is as if we are saying, “Goodness gracious, how marvelous you must be to have stayed in an institution that is akin to a concentration camp for all those years for the sake of prudence—hurrah for you.”  The reality should be that any person fortunate enough to be blessed for fifty years with the union of a person with whom they love and cherish more than anyone else should be extremely thankful to God for the blessing.  They need not be lauded as if they have done something hard when the reality is that it was fifty years of pure joy.

           

This is kind of the point.  It is the person who finally comes to the end of a long struggle with an unequally yoked partner that should be lauded for giving it everything they had for several years.  Men and women who themselves have been transformed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit and who have been enduring unequally yoked marriages for years and have been praying for God to bring change, and fighting against the godless influence of their unsaved spouse, and working at returning good for evil on a daily basis—these are the godly characteristics of brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who have come to the conclusion, after years of struggle, that God is answering their prayers and providing them a way out…a way out that is different from their hopes and dreams of God regenerating the heart of their unsaved spouse.  Those fortunate enough to have gotten marriage right the first time around should not be the ones taking shots at these beaten down children of God, rather they should be doing everything in their power to help them make the transition as Ezra did for these same types of people in his day.  Oh what a blessing for all of God’s saints to see a beloved brother united to a beloved sister after years of difficult struggles with vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.  Is the pain of these unholy unions not enough?  Should these beloved ones of God be suffering at the hands of their own spiritual siblings?  Must they face the ungodly judgment of their fellow heirs with Christ Jesus—the very judgment that has been forbidden by God in the Scriptures?  Jealousy is indeed among the reasons that the conservative church is pushed in the direction of being more restrictive than even God’s Holy Scriptures when it comes to divorce and remarriage.

Reason 7:  Judgmentalism

           

Two biblical commands, one against judging others and the other commanding the rebuke of fellow believers, come together in something of a paradox.  It is the view of the Permanence View believers that any and all divorces are sins; therefore, they believe that they are obeying God by rebuking those getting a divorce.  Scriptural qualifications for rebuking are: You must first be in Christ Jesus yourself, you must be mature in your knowledge of the scriptures and finally you must genuinely love those you are rebuking.  The PVC errors on the second qualification.  They hold one of several biblically demonstrable views (it should be discredited as being more restrictive than scripture), and they in legalistic fashion hold everybody else accountable to their debatable viewpoint.

           

In addition to the qualifications for rebuking the scriptures provide four precautions as rebuke is faithfully carried out.  Those precautions are: Show all impartiality, have the scriptures alone be the standard of measurement, when in doubt give the benefit of the doubt and finally rebuke sins of omission as well as sins of commission.  The PVC fails to be impartial because they are so biased toward their own viewpoint.  It is always tempting to rebuke those who cross us or disagree with our views.  It is tempting to use rebuke as a weapon to get our way.  Rebuke must be used to edify a brother and never to tear him down.  The PVC completely tears down anyone who has gotten a divorce.  They completely destroy the reputation of anyone who dares to divorce, and they continue the attacks upon their reputation for decades after the divorce action.  Virtually every other act that the PVC deems sinful can be completely expunged from a person’s record over time, but not so for the divorcee.

           

Over thirty years ago a close friend who has spent his life as a missionary on the African continent said, “You can murder an innocent person and go to prison and upon the completion of your prison sentence you can become an elder (pastor) in the church with a crowd pleasing testimony, but if you ever get a divorce you will never be allowed to serve and you will be relegated to a second class Christian until the day you die.”  If God’s clear statements in scripture supported this disarranged representation, then so be it.  But the qualification passages in Titus and Timothy’s letters are neither clearly nor universally seen as disqualifying anyone who has been divorced.  The position of the permanence view crowd is in violation of the second precaution for rebuke—the soul standard must be the scriptures.  If the scriptures are not crystal clear, then do not add to them by coming up with your best guess as to what was intended.  No personal interpretation should supplant the scriptures as the standard for everybody else. For this reason and many others judging one another is one of the worst and easiest sins into which we often fall prey.


Repent of Your Unequally Yoked Marriage

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

Is Being Unequally Yoked a Sin?

To answer this question we will consider the will of God.  God actually has three distinct wills: God’s sovereign decretive will—all that God has decreed since before the foundation of the world. God’s preceptive will—all that God has commanded His children to do and not to do. Finally, God’s will of disposition—that which pleases God.

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

R. C. Sproul speaking on the will of God said that “God’s sovereign ‘permission’ of human sin is not His moral approval.” Apply this to the discussion of unequally yoked marriages. God has commanded through His preceptive will against all unequally yoked relationships including and especially marriages. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that God is very displeased when His children yoke themselves to unbelievers.

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

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

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

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

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16a Paul says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?”  This passage is not ambiguous as I read it, but pastors like to say that it does not apply to marriage.  By what authority do they make this claim?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


What is a Covenant? (authorship unknown)

Many of the biblical covenants contained identifiable components comparable to ancient secular agreements. Bradshaw lists the following (1998):
1. Title or preamble, which identified the parties and their relationship to each other.
2. Historical prologue, which explained why the suzerain demanded allegiance from the vassal.
3. Stipulations and law. All secular covenants were conditional, and were nullified through failure to observe the specified conditions (Busenitz 1999, p.180).
4. Deposit in the temple (the heart of society) and periodic public reading.
5. List of witnesses. God Himself was the principle witness in Biblical covenants (Estes 2003).
6. Oaths, ceremonies, and symbols. Every covenant had its accompanying sign. The covenant with Noah had the rainbow, Abraham was given circumcision, and the Mosaic covenant was observed by the Sabbath day (Deffinbaugh 2006a).
7. Sanctions. If the treaty were to be broken the suzerain could declare that act as the agent of the deities and attack the vassal kingdom. Biblical covenants contained blessings and curses which functioned as incentives.

Covenants Between God and Man

When God entered into a relationship with man, He held absolute unilateral sovereignty. He initiated, defined and confirmed each covenant, not on the basis of human merit but solely according to His own grace and mercy. People were “recipients, not contributors” (Van Groningen 1996). There was no “bargaining, bartering, or contracting” with God (Robertson 1980) and yet in all, man retained his power to choose to keep or reject, to obey or transgress. In short, God was wholly responsible for covenantal security. Man’s part was merely to accept and obey (Busenitz 1999, p.179).

The Nature of God’s Covenants

“God’s covenants contain two especially important components: terms and duration. Although humans may reach covenants or other agreements through their own devices, God’s covenants with people are usually unilateral. He alone determines the terms and conditions; humans choose whether to accept them.
“For example, after God clearly defined aspects of the covenant He was making with the nation of Israel, including the blessings for honoring it and the consequences for ignoring it (Leviticus 26;Deuteronomy 28-30), both parties – God and the people of Israel -accepted it. Through this process God and Israel entered into a covenant relationship, a binding commitment to honor and fulfill their respective roles.
“A second important concept for us to understand about God’s covenant with Israel is its continuing relevance to our day. In reaffirming the covenant with the generation of Israelites who were poised to enter the Promised Land, Moses explained that they were doing this “that (God) may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today” (Deuteronomy 29:13-15). The covenant clearly applied to Israel’s descendants as well.”[1]

Given, on the one hand, the unilateral nature of divine covenant and its gracious and promissory nature, while on the other, the presence of stipulations the question of the conditionality or otherwise of individual covenants is a difficult one, and there is diversity of opinion. John Murray understands the answer to be in the relational aspect of the covenant which when present “implies mutuality” so that the conditions “are simply the reciprocal responses of faith, love and obedience, apart from which the enjoyment of the covenant blessing and of the covenant relation are inconceivable. In a word, keeping the covenant presupposes the covenant relation as established rather than the condition upon which its establishment is contingent” (Murray, 19).

The Six Parts to A Covenant

A basic understanding of what a covenant is will help as we study the covenants of the Bible and how they relate to us. There are several covenants mentioned in the Bible and most of them have six basic parts in common, they are the parties, promises, conditions, duration, sign and dedication.
Let us look at how each of these parts of the covenant fit together.

The Parties
A covenant is an agreement or treaty between two people or groups of people.

The Promises
Each party declares his promises to the other party.

The Conditions
Each party is responsible to fulfill his promises. If one fails to keep his promise (breaks the covenant), the other is no longer bound to the covenant.

The Duration
The length of time that the covenant is binding upon each party.

The Sign
Often there is a visual object used as the sign of the covenant. When the parties of the covenant look upon the sign, they are reminded of the covenant. This may be an object (such as a ring in a marriage covenant) or the covenant contract itself.

The Dedication
A dedication is performed, often in the form of a ceremony. This often involves the shedding of blood.


It Is Lawful to Leave a Broken Covenant.

People want simple answers to their questions.  Yes or no, does God’s law allow for marital divorce?  Yes or no, is it lawful to exit a broken covenant?  The problem with simplicity is that it can be limiting or overly restrictive.  Simple answers are insufficient for complicated problems.  And very often biblical doctrines and the application of those doctrines are just too complex to reduce them to simple answers.  Sadly, the people who want nothing more than simple answers can rely upon sloppy theologians who make a living providing simple answers.  Frequently, the outcome of simple answers for the body of Christ is division.  For example, those whose simple answer is that marital divorce is always a sin create a division with those who think divorce is permissible and with those who truly understand the purpose for the components of a covenant.

When one spouse breaks one or more conditions (a component of a covenant) of the marriage covenant their marriage partner is no longer bound by the covenant because it has been broken. For example, when a married man is addicted to pornography and he refuses to get professional help so that he can escape the addiction, he is breaking the covenant’s condition of fidelity to his wife. He is guilty of infidelity by preferring lurid images of strange women to his wife.  In so doing he has broken his marital covenant with his wife.

Now those who define “until death do us part” as a divine prohibition on divorce would say this situation is unfortunate for this woman, but she still must remain faithful even with a broken marriage covenant and a husband who is perpetually committing infidelity. They claim that she would be committing a crime against her husband and a sin against our Lord if she were to break the marriage covenant by divorcing her unfaithful husband. They claim that her vows are broken by her divorcing her husband—vows made in the presence of witnesses and before God.

Where to begin, those who hold to this unbiblical and illogical position should bring forward as evidence the vow that says I shall remain faithful to this covenant regardless of my spouse perpetually breaking the conditions of the covenant. The purpose of the conditions are to assure that both parties are protected from this kind of deception. Covenant conditions exist so that both parties will be assured of receiving the benefits (another component of a covenant) for which they enter the covenant in the first place.

The purpose of a covenant is to convey one or more benefits upon one or both parties to the covenant.  A bilateral covenant (such as the marriage covenant) conveys benefits on each party—otherwise the parties would not bind themselves in a covenant.  A covenant obligates it’s participants.  People do not unnecessarily obligate themselves.  However, people will obligate themselves if there is a desired benefit for doing so.  Keeping the covenant’s conditions allows both parties continued access to the benefit(s) promised.  So when it becomes manifest that either partner to the covenant is breaking one or more conditions of the covenant, then they have effectively broken the covenant itself and are guilty of withholding the promised benefit(s); therefore, the injured covenant partner is no longer bound by the covenant (as it has been broken) freeing them to enter into a new covenant with someone who is willing and able to keep the covenant conditions.

Some will argue that as believers in Christ Jesus we should follow God’s example and forgive our spouses even when they break the conditions of the marriage covenant?  This of course restricts divorce more severely than Christ Himself who gave us the exception clause: “except in the case of pornia” (a term with broad meaning but surely encompassing adultery).  In addition, God forgiving covenant breakers is a false argument because it is not what God does.  God sends unrepentant sinners (covenant breakers) to eternal damnation—“away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thes. 1:9).  God only enters into relationship with covenant keepers.  Of course it is God who keeps the covenant on behalf of His beloved children, but the covenant between God and His children is perfect as God is perfect and its conditions and blessings are all intact.

Not only does God give his children the righteousness of Christ, which maintains their good standing in their covenant with God, but God also places His Holy Spirit within them to cause them to walk according to His statutes and he empowers each of them to observe his ordinances (Ezekiel 36:27).  So the reality is that each of God’s chosen children are keepers of all of the conditions of the covenant that God has welcomed them into for His glory and for their salvation.  As a result both parties of the beloved’s covenant with God will receive the blessings for which they entered the covenant.

God is and will be fully glorified and shown to be worthy of all praise and His chosen vessels of mercy will receive salvation and an eternity as the children of God.  God guarantees both ends of the covenant.  Neither party must languish in and serve a broken covenant providing blessings to their spurious partner while being defiled and derided by that same person, which is precisely what the anti-divorce crowd insists upon for the innocent spouse.  Many Old Testament passages depict God decrying Israel’s (God’s bride) unfaithfulness.  Through captivities and exiles God disciplines his bride trying to get her to be faithful but his efforts were to no avail.  Ultimately God divorces Israel for her unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 3:8, Isaiah 50:1)).  Then God takes a bride who remains faithful because she wears the white garments washed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  The righteousness of Christ keeps her faithful.

God would not remain in a broken covenant with wicked Israel or with the more wicked Judah because God knows that light and darkness cannot come together just as there can be no partnership between righteousness and lawlessness.  As Christ has no harmony with ungodliness or destruction and the temple of God cannot be in agreement with idols, neither can a believer share a life in common with an unbeliever.  Most in the church have made the tremendous error of causing man to serve the marriage covenant rather than allowing the marriage covenant to serve man.

Those who claim that divorce is always a sin would argue that Christians must follow the law of love and endure their unfaithful partner with long-suffering because their reward in heaven will be great.  Their reward in heaven will be great because Jesus has won it for them.  Having long-suffering for the brethren is not at issue in a marriage to an unbelieving spouse.  Believers suffer the imperfections of one another because it is the loving thing to do and because each one remains imperfect as long as they are in the flesh, but believers are commanded to separate themselves from the unrepentant because bad company corrupts good morals, because a believer and an unbeliever have nothing in common, because Ezra’s godly example demands as much, and because God did so to Israel.

The damage done to the believer who is frightened by “Christian” superstition into remaining in an unequally yoked marriage with the threat of God’s eternal wrath is awful indeed.  Remaining in a broken marriage covenant forces the innocent spouse into an unrighteous arrangement.  Their wicked spouse has broken the conditions of the covenant effectively negating the benefits promised to the innocent spouse while the innocent spouse is expected to keep providing the benefits to the wicked spouse without an end in sight.

These wicked spouses are even more evil than the person who claims to have purchased a new house, who has taken possession of the house, who has placed their name on the deed, who has promised to pay for the house, but who has failed to pay a dime and has no intention of ever paying for the house that they are effectively trying to steal from the original home owner.  In fact, if this person then gutted the house of all it’s woodwork, marble and granite, heater, air conditioner, the chandeliers and lamps, the windows, the appliances, and even striped the electrical wiring, the pluming and the landscaping plants before they were finally evicted, then this illustration to the wicked spouse in an unequally yoked marriage would be more precise.

Matthew Henry highlighted an additional evil when he said that the children in an unequally yoked marriage will receive an undue influence from the unbelieving spouse because the children come into the world slaves to unrighteousness, which causes them to feel a greater kinship with their unbelieving parent.  In addition, the believing spouse will be discouraged in their own sanctification efforts, and the children will be encouraged to sin without consequence, seeing that their unbelieving parent is more often than not rewarded for taking tremendous advantage of the believing spouse.

Another sad reality of the position that says the dissolution of an unequally yoked marriage is always a crime against man and a sin against God is that it gives the appearance of turning the unbelieving marriage partner into the innocent victim while at the same time slandering the name and reputation of the believing spouse who has kept the conditions of the marriage covenant often for years or decades without receiving God’s intended benefits, which were promised by the unbelieving spouse, but withdrawn. The obedient child of God is turned upon and torn to pieces by the very people (other Christians) who should be most supportive as in the days of Ezra.  Another case for the axiom that “Only Christians shot their wounded”.

By seeking a divorce the obedient child of God is following God’s command not to be in any unequally yoked relationship (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Ezra 10: 3, 11; Judges 3:6-8; Deut. 21:10-14; Psalm 89:38-45), yet he will be portrayed by many in the church as the offender against God and man, while the true offender snickers as they are lofted as the poor victim.  The godless spouse often goes beyond snickering to libeling their believing partner in order to bring undeserved discredit to them.  Anti-divorce Christians happily join forces with the godless partner in order to shame and pressure the believer into repenting of their decision to divorce their unrepentant, unbelieving spouse.  Of course doing so would require them to break with scripture, reason and their own conscience, which does not seem to bother those who hold this shameful man-made doctrine of no divorce ever.

So then, is it lawful to leave a broken covenant?  The answer found in God’s word and by eminent reason is an emphatic yes.  It is a fools errand to remain in a broken covenant.  Having said that, the answer found in most Christian circles is no.  There advise is that you made your own bed and now you must lie in it.  Let the reader decide whether or not they prefer the approbation of God or the praise of men.  But as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord…all of us.


Legal Marriage Vs. God’s Institution of Marriage

Marital union in any of the United States of America is not necessarily the same as marital union from a biblical point of view; one is merely legal in nature and the other is both spiritual and legal. When a man and a women desire to marry one another they will go to the state in which they reside and apply for a marriage license.  In order to receive this license they must meet certain criteria.  Examples would include: neither can be currently legally married to someone else, both must have identification proving their identity, they must be one male and one female (Supreme Court changed this as of June 26, 2015) and they must pay a licensing fee and then wait a short period of time while these facts are verified.  Marriage by a government agency represents the legal aspects of a marital union.

However, marriage predates civil governments.  The first covenant in the history of man is the Covenant of Creation (God’s Covenant of Redemption is the first covenant, which predates creation including humanity).  Marriage is part of the Creation Covenant. God instituted marriage when He said that Adam needed a suitable mate, so He created woman from the rib of Adam indicating that a women is suppose to come alongside of a man and be his helpmate—ideally for life.  A spiritual marriage is also legal under God’s law, which is not recognized by all men even though all men will be held accountable to God’s laws.  Therefore, it is possible to enter into a biblical marriage (legal under God’s laws and spiritual) without getting civilly married in one of the fifty states–after all people have been getting married for thousands of years without a license from the state of California.

Consider a couple of biblical examples: In Genesis chapter 29 Laban tricked Jacob into becoming married to Leah when it was actually Rachel that he intended to marry. Laban’s deception could not have worked if they would have had civil ceremonies prior to the spiritual union that takes place when a man and women become one through sexual union. A week later we learn, from verse 30, that Rachel also became Jacob’s wife, and all that was necessary to make their seven years of love a marriage was for them to join in sexual intercourse—“So Jacob went in to Rachel also…”

A generation earlier Isaac married Rebekah by having sexual relations with her the same day that he met her. Genesis 24:67 says, “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” These spiritual marriages were not preceded by civil ceremonies nor did these patriarchs obtain a marriage license of any kind, yet they were real marriages that lasted until the death of one of the two partners.

Let it be very clearly stated that these examples are not biblical evidence advocating sexual relations early in a relationship.  Rebekah was brought to Isaac for the express purpose of becoming his wife.  He had already agreed to the process and she had agreed to the process that God was using to bring them together as husband and wife.  They did not have physical relations on their first date; they came together in order to become husband and wife.  Their commitment to marriage preceded their sexual union, which consummated the marital covenant.  Sexual relations outside of marriage is fornication or adultery and must not be committed by the children of God.

Today in the United States of America many would likely argue that believers in Christ Jesus cannot be “Spiritually Married” without being legally married by the laws of one of the fifty states.  The reality is that a marriage in the eyes of God does not require a license from any human government.  If a man and a woman unite themselves one to another first by commitment and then by sexual relations they are in fact married in the eyes of God. Churches should welcome them into the family of God for worship, fellowship and for sharing in the work of the church.  So why would a Christian get legally married under the laws of a government?

Being legally married in the United States endows one with over 1,000 benefits not afforded to the unwed. For example, they may file joint returns on their income tax forms, they may hold property together and it automatically passes to the survivor in the event of death, they have access to one another’s health records, they may receive social security benefits from their spouses income, the state will oversee an equitable distribution of property in the event of a divorce, and on and on.

To 501(c)(3) or not to 501(c)(3) That Is the Question.

Just as individuals may obtain marriage licenses from states, in the same way, churches in America usually get what is called a 501(c)(3) that allows them to be tax-exempt religious organizations.  Sadly most church leaders seem to be ignorant of the fact that churches are automatically exempt and do not need to file an application for a 501(c)(3) with the government.  Nevertheless, most churches get a 501(c)(3) upon formation just as most Christians get a marriage license from the state of residence upon marrying.

The purpose of getting a 501(c)(3) is not so that a body of believers can be a church.  A group of believers who form a church without a 501(c)(3) are considered just as much a church.  Not only are most churches unaware that a 501(c)(3) is redundant and unnecessary, but most people seem to be ignorant to the fact that marriage licenses are not necessary in order to enter God’s institution of marriage.

FYI: The 501(c)(3) designation is necessary for charities, para-church organizations and nonprofits, to gain the same tax advantages automatically afforded to churches.

If marriage licenses are not necessary for a true marriage, then why does anyone get them?  Tax exemption for churches and legal benefits for marriages can be very valuable for numerous reasons.  It is almost unheard of to marry in the United States without first getting a marriage license because of the over 1,000 state and federal benefits enticing the utilization of state licenses.  In fact, those benefits are so coveted that homosexuals are waging very successful battles to win the right to be legally married in the United States (though the prize they most cherish is total cultural acceptance of homosexuality [including morally] as a normative lifestyle).

Note: The very same churchmen that refuse to recognize a spiritual marriage between a man and a woman if their marriage has not also been made official with a state sanctioned license will also reject a marriage between two homosexuals who have obtained the very same state license. Did you catch that?  This alone should demonstrate the obvious fact that spiritual marriage in the eyes of God and state sanctioned marriages are, in fact, two separate entities—one instituted by God and the other observed by the nations.  The fact that Christians almost always obtained these two at the same time must not cause believers to lose sight of the fact that they may also be obtained separately.  Christians should be far more reluctant to co-mingle that which is from God with that which is by man because that which is by man will eventually become profane and the admixture will ruin the gifts of God.

Just as a genuine body of believers does not need a 501(c)(3) to form a legitimate church neither does a godly man and woman need a marriage license to form a legitimate marriage partnership.  As individual states continue a rapid declension into morally corrupt entities, Christians may one day cease going to them for licenses to marry.  It is not God’s institution of marriage that is being profaned by the inclusion of homosexual marriages into their marital statutes, but it is the moral authority of the state that is being profaned.

Governments descending into socialism begin to make laws that discourage Christian morality and ethics.  The citizens of these governments begin to avoid marriage all together.  Socialists/communists hate Christianity  because Christianity and capitalism compliment one another just as atheism and socialism/communism compliment one another.

As governments slide toward socialism they begin to motivate their citizens to behave more and more irresponsibly.  The millennial generation has rejected legal marriages in numbers that far exceed previous generations.  This is because government benefits would be lost to single parents if they were to become legally married.  So millennials still live together like a nuclear family, but they bypass the institution of marriage.  Because they think that marriage via a state license is the warp and woof of marriage they consider themselves single, which means that they are not spiritually married either.

When the day comes that the states begin to drop all marital benefits or more likely extend them to everyone (effectively ending the demand for legal marriage) the very Christians who claim legal marriage is necessary will at that time make our argument and they will do so using God’s word as their source of truth (as we do now).

Legal marriages in the United States have been so expedient for believers and unbelievers alike that believers never concerned themselves with the possibility that the secular governments would someday become unrighteous in their dealings with God’s ancient institution.  It appears that is changing.

Update: The Supreme Court took the gay marriage issue out of the hands of the states by legalizing it in all 50 states on June 26, 2015.

Post Script:

Do not misunderstand our meaning in this article.  The state, like marriage, was instituted by God.  Members of the body of Christ must submit themselves to the authority of the state unless its laws encourage or demand breaking God’s law.  One of the critical functions of the state is to protect, uphold and support the institution of marriage.  This includes making laws governing marriage and its dissolution.  We believe that although the state makes laws governing marriage it is nonetheless
God who instituted it; therefore, a man and a woman may enter into the marriage covenant in accordance with God’s laws with or without the cooperation of the state.

Once married they must submit themselves to the laws of the state regarding marriage and its dissolution, but they are bound first by God’s laws regarding marriage and its dissolution.  Thus they must first have biblical grounds for divorce before they get divorced.  Merely getting a divorce under the laws of the state does not free the believer from God’s laws governing marriage and divorce.  The result of a legal divorce without biblical grounds would be a legally divorced person who is still married to their spouse in the eyes of God, which is why Jesus said those who get a divorce will be guilty of adultery.

On the other hand, a believer can be caught up in a drawn out divorce preceding while already spiritually divorced from their spouse.  Clearly in the later case the believer will be treated by the state as though they were still married, and they will need to abide by the state’s laws regarding marriage.  Therefore, believers who become spiritually divorced should pursue legal divorce as soon as it is made available for them.