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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

God has, from the beginning of time, separated light from darkness.  God’s command to “be separate from the world” is ubiquitous in scripture.  Paul makes it abundantly clear in his second letter to the Corinthian church that God has not changed His mind on the issue of separation from the world for the Christian, and this text shall be shown to the reader shortly.  Yet we live in a world where ecumenical ideologies rule the day.  Modern technologies, especially the worldwide web, have eviscerated walls that have kept people groups apart for thousands of years.  This has opened up endless opportunities for taking the gospel to lost people groups, but the same channels have exposed the people of God to foreign gods and godless cultures and practices.

Equality is always demanded by those who covet and steal, who refuse to become men and women of character who make something of themselves and of their cultures and communities.  These have inordinate desires for the wealth and freedoms of those who have themselves toiled, but they have little interest in toiling to build up themselves and their wealth.  They daily choose debauchery and then demand that their wickedness be called virtue–all in the name of equality.  They want lives of sloth and leisure while crying out that the diligent should be forced to share their earned wealth with those who “have not been so fortunate”.  They are criminal in their behavior yet demand that the very privileges they refuse to earn are viewed as rights and provided to all equally.  They usurp governments to force these demands upon those who have worked and toiled.    Putting up walls of separation has never been so unpopular.  So why does God still demand separation between light and darkness?  Why does God demand separation between believers and unbelievers?

The believer needs to be acutely aware that it has always been the grossly immoral world of unbelievers who crave equality due, in part, to a sinful sense of entitlement.  The wicked also seem to have an intuitive understanding that good and faithful people are vulnerable sin and imperfection.  Perhaps they do so because those in Christ still have sin working in the members of their bodies (Romans 7).  In his first letter Paul warned the Corinthian believers when he said, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals'” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  The equality sought by the wicked will cause an admixture of good and evil, which both God and the wicked seem to know will always corrupt the good.

For this reason God has forbidden unequal relationships entirely, so only those whose relationships preceded their regeneration in Christ Jesus should be in unequally yoked relationships at all.  However, being saved from the power of sin and death does not mean that Christians no longer sin.  In fact, upon regeneration the war between the flesh and the spirit has just begun; as a result believers regularly sin against God and frequently find themselves unequally yoked to unbelievers in marriage and in other relationships due to their ignorance of and disobedience to God’s word.

Unequally yoked marriages are the result of sin and are far too common in the modern church.  In his second letter to the Corinthians with words too powerful to be ignored, Paul commands every believer to get out of all unequally yoked relationships.  Note: He does not simply prohibit becoming bound together with unbelievers but he prohibits being bound together with unbelievers.

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with and unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.’  Therefore, ‘COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,’ says the Lord.  ‘AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, and I will welcome you.  And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.  Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  II Corinthians 6:14-7:1

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

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

Doing a careful examination of the universal command in 2 Corinthians 6:14f should make it apparent to all that no relationship between men should be excluded least of all the marriage relationship.  Sadly, some have argued that since Paul does not mention marriage in this passage it cannot be applied to unequally yoked marriages.  Such logic would necessarily mean that the passage does not apply to any relationship since no specific type of relationship is mentioned.  So the proper understanding of this text in the light of its ubiquitous presence in the Old Testament and considering the universal and descriptive language that Paul chooses must be that God prohibits his children to be bound together with unbelievers notwithstanding the type of relationship or covenant that binds them.  Sooner or later the believer must fearfully obey God’s command and importune the unbeliever for release.  As Christians they must do so in the most loving and kind way, but importune for release they must.

Therefore, since Paul’s ubiquitous, universal command in the Old Testament and repeated in Second Corinthians 6:14f cannot properly have any normative exceptions, then it is Paul’s teaching in First Corinthians 7:12-16 that must be understood in such a way so as not to contradict the unassailable command in the second letter.  In sharp contrast, Paul’s instructions in First Corinthians to believers who find themselves unequally yoked in marriage are not only unique in all of scripture but are also introduced with the phrase, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…” (1 Corinthians 7:12).  Paul transparently discloses that the idea he is postulating is not from the Lord, but rather is his own idea or understanding.  Nevertheless, Paul’s words are inspired by the Holy Spirit, which means that they are divine in origin, but they are not taught elsewhere by the Lord or in scripture.

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

So then, even with the great apostle’s candid, unguarded transparency much of the church has failed to realize that Paul was teaching the Corinthians that the same rule does not apply to both equally yoked and unequally yoked marriages.  This distinction is unmistakable in the text, yet it has seemingly gone unnoticed for centuries.  This in itself is quite telling.  It reminds me of a poem:

False Doctrines Bloom from the repeated sowing of false seeds.

Seed by seed,

Garden by garden,

Pasture by pasture,

The lie spreads until it is unimpeachable.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE DISTINCTION HERETOFORE LOST FOR CENTURIES

In verses 10 and 11 Paul declares the divine decree that an equally yoked Christian couple is prohibited from a marital divorce (assuming fidelity/Christ’s pornia clause); if a separation occurs then remarriage is only allowed to one another.  Whereas in the case of the unequally yoked married couple no such divine decree exists.  However, scripture does provide Paul’s logical understanding, which is that the unequally yoked married couple must stay married if, and only if, a specific condition is met.  Here lies the linchpin of the complete understanding of God’s will on the issue of divorce for the unequally yoked Christian.  Having the letter-perfect understanding of this necessary condition is the key to knowing the heart and mind of God on this issue.  It will also bring both texts from First and Second Corinthians into perfect agreement with one another unlike the heretical method of attempting to exclude existing marriages from God’s prohibition against unequally yoked relationships (The believer must realize the irrational thinking that argues it a sin to date or plan to wed an unbeliever, but following through with these sins into actual marriage to the same unbeliever is suddenly a virtue—am I missing some obscure doctrine on the wrath of God being assuaged by entering a covenant that commits one to a life of sin—God forbid such utter foolishness.  Psalm 83:5 says, “Against You (God) they make a covenant.”  Would God be angry if any of these were to repent of such a wicked covenant?).  Forgive the brief rabbit trail.

THE CONDITION FULLY EXPLAINED

This all important condition must of necessity temporarily pacify God’s displeasure with a rebellious child who stubbornly remains bound in marriage to an unbeliever, which transgresses God’s prohibition in 2 Corinthians 6:14f.  Also this necessary condition must be fully understood by ministers of the word of God before they can faithfully and accurately apply it to the thousands of believers who must navigate these dangerous waters and who desire to land safely in the perfect will of their heavenly Father.

Bear in mind that simply stating the condition, as is about to be done, is not enough.  Completely defining the condition and providing examples of how it looks in real life is equally necessary.

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

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

And if this all important condition is not met:

Paul says in verse 15, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us/you to peace.”

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

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

In like manner, a very important question must be asked of the biblical text in which Paul provides a condition that, if met, means that a Christian is prohibited from divorcing their unbelieving spouse.  Here is the question that must be asked and answered fully to be sure God’s meaning is perfectly understood: What does ‘consents to live with’ actually mean?  Those who merely want their way…who do not care to discover the biblical truth will say that this phrase says precisely what it means, that it is so forthright that nothing else is needed to understand God’s heart and mind on His meaning here.  But those who read on will discover just how much more can be gleaned when God’s words are exalted and honored so much that the proper care is taken to fully seek the mind of God.  Then the benefit will be had by the man or woman of God.

The condition that the great Apostle Paul says prohibits divorce for the believer from their unbelieving spouse is that the unbeliever consents to live with the believer.  What does “consents to live with” mean?  First, it must be clear what this condition does not mean.  The condition does not read: ‘If the unbelieving spouse refuses to leave, then the believing spouse cannot divorce the unbelieving spouse.’  This is what too many assume is being said; ‘Even if the unbelieving spouse behaves in an hard-hearted, stubbornly rebellious, treacherous manner and he/she wants to hang around and see if they cannot impede or discourage the Holy Spirit’s attempts at sanctifying the believing spouse in their new life in Christ, then the believing spouse must remain powerless and cannot divorce their treacherous spouse in order to have peace in the home’.  So simply put, the unbelieving spouse is not suddenly put in a position to rule it over their newly believing spouse simply because God redeemed them from their life of sin and death.

The phrase “consents to live with” actually means the very opposite of this traditional understanding.  The word consent, like most words, has changed over the centuries in how it is used and understood.  Today it often means little more than to give ones assent or approval; to agree, which is perhaps one reason this text is easily misunderstood.  But the ancient understanding meant a great deal more.  Merriam Webster defines consent as being in concord in opinion or sentiment.  And concord is defined as ‘a state of agreement or harmony.  It is an agreement by stipulation, compact or covenant.’  So in essence, the old marriage covenant of two unrepentant sinners sharing their lives together is no longer valid, which is why the unbeliever is freely offered the opportunity not to consent to the new covenant that has significantly higher conditions that must be met.  If the unbelieving spouse cannot or will not consent to this harmonious distinctly Christian union, then the believer “is not under bondage in such cases.”  Note: It is the believing spouse who is not under bondage to the old marriage covenant if consent to God’s changes is unacceptable to the unbelieving spouse.  In other words, it is not an option for either married partner to stay in the relationship if the unbelieving spouse refuses consent to God’s conditions, which are found in the immediate context and will be shown shortly.  So then, a stubborn and obstinate marriage partner who will pick fights with the believing partner at many of life’s junctions is not permissible.  The unbelieving partner can consent to God’s ways or they can leave.  The believing partner can expect a harmonious Christian marriage partner or they must remove themselves from the marriage all together.

The Greek word σᴜνεᴜɗoҡεῑ is translated into English as ‘consents’.  The prefix σᴜν is a marker of accompaniment and association.  The word σᴜνεᴜɗoҡεῑ means to join in approval or agreement with consent to or in harmony with the person to whom one is joining.  What has taken place in an unequally yoked marriage is that God has taken a married couple and removed one of the two people from death to life, from darkness to light and the other person must consent to God’s terms if they are going to continue on with God’s holy child.  The unbelieving spouse is free to leave the marriage because the terms of the relationship have been divinely and from the viewpoint of the unbelieving spouse so cataclysmically transformed that he/she may not be willing to consent to something so vastly different than what was originally agreed to when the marriage formed.

Now the immediate context (Verses 14-16) will show how Paul sets out God’s terms to which the unbelieving spouse must give consent in order to maintain the marriage relationship to a child of God.  God’s first term or condition to which the unbeliever must consent is to become set apart from the world and toward conformity to the believing spouse even as the believing spouse has been set apart from the world and toward the holiness of God.  Verse 14 says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband…”  Believers’ sanctification requires them to cooperate with the Holy Spirit (neither quenching nor grieving) as He convicts them of sin and leads them to holiness.  In the same way, unbelieving spouses must cooperate with their believing spouses and conform to the holiness that the Spirit is bringing into the believers life.  In doing so the unbeliever is admitting that God’s ways are greater than man’s ways and will to the best of their ability not impede but rather reflect the changes brought about by the Holy Spirit in their believing spouse.  Consent here means that the unbelieving spouse will work at conforming to the godliness their believing spouse is exhibiting rather than being bad company that corrupts the good morals of their believing spouse.

God’s second term or condition to which the unbeliever must consent is to help bring up the children in the fear and admonition of the Lord “for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy” (Vs. 14).  “Consents to live with” means that the unbelieving spouse cannot in any way undermine the necessity for the children to be raised upon the knowledge of the word of God.  The unbelievers words and deeds must be consistent with Christian virtues.  Perfection cannot be obtained by the believer or the unbeliever, but both must be working toward the goal of seeing the children all submit themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and the glory of God in their salvation.

God’s third term or condition laid out in the immediate context is that the unbelieving spouse must consent to a peaceful and harmonious Christian marriage.  Paul says in verse 15, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.”  Clearly if the unbelieving spouse cannot consent to living in peace with the believing spouse, then the believing spouse is to live in peace after divorcing the unbelieving spouse.  Either way peace in the life of the believer is God’s expectation.  Paul traditionally opens his letters with a greeting of Grace and Peace.  He certainly did so in both of his letters to the Corinthian believers.  Paul does so because grace is the source of the Christians’ faith, and peace is the end or purpose of the Christians’ faith.  Peace is so much more than the interval between two wars or between fights.  Peace is the union after a separation or reconciliation after a conquest or quarrel.  Peace is the wall coming down because a separation is no longer necessary—the two have become one.  Once peace becomes a priority the need for the grace of God becomes evident.  When the unbelieving spouse consents to strive to be one with the believing spouse he/she will feel their overwhelming need to cry out to God for grace.  Man cannot have peace with others and he will not even be at peace within himself if he has not first been reconciled to and at peace with God, which necessitates the need for God’s grace.  The unbeliever must consent to a peaceful and harmonious Christian marriage.

God’s final term or condition given in the immediate context is that the unbelieving spouse must consent to the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.  “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife” (Vs. 16)?

When the unbelieving spouse consents to live with the believing spouse in all of these ways, then the believing spouse is free from the guilt of being bound together with an unbeliever as God prohibits with such strong language in II Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  More often than not, the unbeliever who consents to these four conditions will soon be a recipient of the grace of God as was their spouse before them.

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

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

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

Unbiblical Doctrines Created From the Forced Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biblical view on divorce


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.

To be born-again means to be regenerated by God and drawn into His kingdom of light.  Since the creation of Adam and Eve, every single human being with the lone exception of Jesus has been born in sin.  All come into this world under the domain of darkness enslaved to sin and death.  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 created in them a new life.  They are indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit who 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 vast majority of those who are frequently referred to as Christians, believers, or religious people are not actually born-again, which is why so many marriages that are thought to be unequally yoked are not.  As a result, many people think that they have observed very strong unequally yoked marriages, but the reality is that neither person in those marriages are actually born-again.  A marriage is equally yoked when both partners are not born-again or when both partners are born-again, but a marriage is unequally yoked when only one partner is born-again.

The number of people who mistakenly believe themselves to be born-again is quite large do to so much false doctrine.  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 of the Holy Spirit who enlightens the heart and mind.

Some born-again Christians fail to discern between genuine and spurious confessions and this group of Christians also fail to recognize unequally yoked marriages because they credit many lost people with being born-again.  All of these false professors gives the appearance that Christians can live in unequally yoked marriages without much difficulty, which is not the case at all according to scripture.  This is clearly a case where men have used experience to influence their understanding of scripture. Sadly, the vast majority of the marriages thought to be unequally yoked are not (these marriages are between two unregenerate people), so the experiences that have helped shape our perspective on the scriptural passages dealing with divorce when unequally yoked are themselves counterfeit examples of unequally yoked marriages; thus our experiences that have helped us shape our biblical perspective for those truly unequally yoked are themselves unreliable.

We see so many religious people in marriages with partners who are not religious thus thinking themselves to be in unequally yoked marriages.  These marriages are much more common 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 marriages that the couple just needs 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 have a partnership any more than can righteousness and lawlessness.  They cannot have fellowship any more than could light with darkness.  Their marriage will be as harmonious as our Lord Jesus Christ with ungodliness.  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 Satan, 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 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 foolish 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?