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Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce

Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce

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

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

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

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

In Martyn Lloyd Jones’ Own Words

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

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

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

Jesus’ Single Principle in Matthew 5:17-48

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

Sadducees’ and Pharisees’ interpretation of the law:

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

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

Christ’s principle in five segments:

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

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

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

The Six Examples

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions Drawn from Matthew 5

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

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

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

Matthew 19: Jesus’ Second Occurrence Speaking on Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Spirit of God’s Law Governing Divorce

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

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

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

Our Lord’s statement makes three distinct points:

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

WHAT   2. Moses permitted marital divorce.

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

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

Because of The Hardness of Men’s Hearts

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

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

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

From The Beginning It Has Not Been This Way

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Believing Spouse, Blessed House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Continuing to answer the oft asked question: “Can a Christian divorce an unbeliever?”

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians with words too powerful to be ignored, Paul commands every believer to get out of all unequally yoked relationships.  Note: He does not simply prohibit becoming bound together with unbelievers but he prohibits being bound together with unbelievers.

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

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

But for the marriage relationship, Paul’s instructions on the topic of Christians in unequally yoked marriages found in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter seven are universally misunderstood so that they contradict what Paul says here.  This too is a sin, yet it has been effectively obscured by one simple phrase being applied to this text.  This phrase is among the most damnable phrases ever to be formed by the tongues of otherwise godly preachers who would never knowingly speak against the Word of God.  But out of an ignorance of the truth they open their mouths and proclaim the following, “We know that Paul’s command in II Corinthians 6:14, against being bound to unbelievers, does not apply to existing marriages because of what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 7 verses 12-16”.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones begs to differ as he taught that 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 is directly applicable to marriage and only to marriage, so certainly he strongly disagreed with the commonly held view.  But he is just one preacher.  Why is Lloyd-Jones assumed to be correct while the multitudes are considered wrong?  The interpretation of the multitudes creates a contradiction in God’s Word, and Lloyd-Jones understood this and was willing to take a stand against the throngs so that he would not be guilty of this critical error.  The contradiction does severe damage to both texts.  I remember the exact occasion, it was in an adult Sunday School session, when I quoted Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “Bad company corrupts good morals.”  My assistant pastor literally said the words, “but it doesn’t have to” as he was defending his unbiblical argument.  My dear friend forgot the four words preceding this biblical truth, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.'”  Whether it is the truthful statement that “bad company corrupts good morals” or the command, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” we must not contradict the Word of God by saying, “but it doesn’t have to” or “not true for every believer”.  Sadly, with such illogical reasoning, some have argued that since Paul does not mention marriage in this passage it cannot be applied to unequally yoked marriages.  Such logic would necessarily mean that the passage does not apply to any relationship since no specific type of relationship is mentioned.  Lloyd-Jones understood this passage to apply directly to marriages because it is marriage above every other relationship that binds two people together to become one complete person.

So the proper understanding of 2 Corinthians 6:14f, in the light the ubiquitous presence of such commands in the Old Testament, is this overarching rule or command that God prohibits his children from being bound together with unbelievers. One cannot simply exclude marriages but should, as Lloyd-Jones has done, argue all the more so in marriages.  Sooner or later the believer must fearfully obey God’s command and importune the unbeliever for release.  As Christians they must do so in the most loving and kind way, but importune for release they must.  Therefore, since God’s ubiquitous command in the Old Testament, which has been carried forward into the New Testament by Paul, cannot properly have any normative exceptions it is Paul’s teaching in First Corinthians 7:12-16 that must be understood in such a way so as not to contradict the unassailable command in the second letter.

Now the time has come to take note of a sharp contrast between the biblically ubiquitous command of 2 Corinthians 6:14 and the entirely unique doctrine in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.  We understand that Paul’s teaching here is unique because he introduces these instructions with the phrase, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…” (1 Corinthians 7:12; Bold mine).  Paul makes it clear that the instructions he is giving here are not from the Lord’s direct teaching during the time when Paul was taken up into the third heavens, nor did he find these instructions anywhere else in the scriptures.  Nevertheless, Paul’s instructions, introducing a new doctrine, are inspired by the Holy Spirit, which means that they are divine in origin.

To clarify the issue further, the immediately preceding sentence (v. 10, 11) finds Paul prohibiting divorce for two believers bound in Christian marriages when he says, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband…” (v. 10).  So Paul clearly states that the Lord directly and/or through scripture revealed to him the Christian rule that two members of the body of Christ must not divorce (short of pornia), but whether or not an unequally yoked Christian should divorce their unbelieving spouse and under what rules they must follow were not divinely spelled out prior to Paul’s passage here to the Corinthians.  Paul was equally clear that he was left to piece this issue together for himself using his knowledge of the word, his wisdom and eminent logic to come to his conclusion, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…”

So then, even with the great apostle’s candid, unguarded transparency much of the church has failed to realize that Paul was teaching the Corinthians that the same rule does not apply to both equally yoked and unequally yoked marriages.  Though this distinction is unmistakable in the text it has been almost entirely obscured, as I see it, by two monumental man-made doctrines even as our Lord Jesus argued against, “Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.  Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:7-8).  The two precepts of men that obscure Paul’s clear teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 are: Roman Catholicism declaring marriage a sacrament.  And secondly, the misappropriation of the scriptural use of marriage as an analogy for the relationships between God and Israel and Christ and His church.  Sadly, time does not allow elaboration here, but the following poem elucidates the horrible outcome:

False Doctrines Bloom from the repeated sowing of false seeds.

Seed by seed,

Garden by garden,

Pasture by pasture,

The lie spreads until it is unimpeachable.

UNDERSTANDING THE DISTINCTION HERETOFORE LOST FOR CENTURIES

In First Corinthians chapter 7 verses 10 and 11 Paul declares by divine decree that an equally yoked Christian couple is prohibited from a marital divorce (assuming fidelity/Christ’s pornia clause); if a separation occurs then reconciliation to one another is their only marital option.  Whereas in the case of the unequally yoked married couple no such divine decree exists–Paul makes this clear at the beginning of verse twelve.  Since this instruction is lacking elsewhere in scripture Paul provides it here for the Christian church.  Paul is not only inspired by the Holy Spirit, but he himself is uniquely qualified for such a task.

See article titled: What Is an Unequally Yoked Marriage?

Here in verses 12 through 16 Paul makes use of a conditional clause to instruct the unequally yoked believer as to the necessary condition to maintaining a marriage to an unrepentant person.  Paul says that the believer unequally yoked in marriage must stay married if, and only if, a specific condition is met.  The great tragedy is that the church, due to the tradition of men, has misunderstood the condition that must be met for the believer to stay in the marriage to an unbeliever.  It is monstrous to even consider that the church has historically forbidden what God permitted, even commanded, when the condition was unmet.

So then, having the letter-perfect understanding of this necessary condition is the key to knowing the heart and mind of God on this issue.  It will also bring both texts from First and Second Corinthians into perfect agreement unlike the heretical method that excludes existing marriages from God’s prohibition against being unequally yoked, which has been the fallback position of the vast majority of theologians on this doctrine.

THE CONDITION FULLY EXPLAINED

Paul’s condition, properly understood, must pacify God’s displeasure with the child who remains bound in marriage to an unbeliever, which without this condition transgresses God’s prohibition in 2 Corinthians 6:14f.  Also this necessary condition must be fully understood by ministers of the word of God before they can faithfully and accurately apply it to the thousands of believers who must navigate these dangerous waters and who desire to land safely in the perfect will of their heavenly Father.

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

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

And if this all important condition is not met:

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

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

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

In like manner, a very important question must be asked of the biblical text in which Paul provides a condition that, if met, means that a Christian is prohibited from divorcing their unbelieving spouse.  Here is the question that must be asked and answered fully to be sure God’s meaning is perfectly understood: What does ‘consents to live with’ actually mean?  Since verse 15 says, “if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases”, many have made the mistake of thinking that since the word “leaving” marks the failure to keep the condition set forth, then “not leaving” must be the meaning of the condition.  Paul’s use of the phrase “consents to live with” is pregnant with meaning.   Jumping to the conclusion that “not leaving” is all that Paul had in mind is a catastrophic blunder.   To do so is also entirely unnecessary as Paul lays out in the immediate context just what this condition does actually mean.

So then, what does the condition “consents to live with” mean?  First, it must be clear what this condition does not mean.  The great Apostle does not mandate a negative condition but a positive condition, which is to say that the unbeliever cannot meet the condition simply by failing to do something (e.g. fail to leave) but he/she actually has to successfully fulfill a divine requirement (merely staying does not satisfy meeting a positive condition because it cannot be distinguished from the failure to act at all).  Thus the condition does not read: ‘If the unbelieving spouse refuses to leave or refuses divorce, then the believing spouse cannot do so either.’ No, no the unbelieving spouse must not merely be stubborn, unyielding or even virtually comatose in order to meet this condition, but rather he/she must do something.  How absurd it is to think the unbeliever can meet God’s condition by doing nothing.

So then, what does Paul’s condition mean?  Merriam Webster defines consent as being in concord in opinion or sentiment.  And concord is defined as ‘a state of agreement or harmony.  It is an agreement by stipulation, compact or covenant.’  So in essence, the old marriage covenant of two unrepentant sinners sharing their lives together has been ended by one becoming born-again (died and resurrected with Christ), and a new covenant being laid out here by Paul must take its place.  Death ends the marriage covenant, and the believer died in Christ.  It is no longer he/she who lives but Christ who lives in them.  If the unequally yoked marriage is to continue, then it must do so under a new marriage covenant set out here by Paul.

Therefore, the unbelieving spouse may consent to the new covenant, but is by no means required to do so.  Right minded people do not consent to covenants or agreements without first inquiring into the conditions of consent.  The reader will see that Paul provides the conditions that the unbelieving spouse must consent to in the immediate context.  On the other hand, the believing spouse is required by Paul’s command to abide by the decision of the unbelieving spouse.  If the unbelieving spouse consents to Paul’s conditions, then the believing spouse will have neither need nor divine permission to divorce the unbelieving spouse.  On the other hand, if the unbelieving spouse refuses or fails to consent, then the believing spouse has divine sanction and should divorce the unbelieving spouse in obedience to God’s command against unequally yoked marriage, and as Paul says here, “The brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Is this clear enough?  If the unbelieving spouse will not positively consent to this harmonious, distinctly Christian union, then the believer “is not under bondage in such cases.”  Can a Christian divorce their unbelieving spouse?  Yes, if he/she fails to give his/her consent as Paul lays it out so incontrovertibly in this text.  Note: It is the believing spouse who is not under bondage to the old marriage covenant if consent to God’s conditions are unacceptable to the unbelieving spouse.  In other words, God provides no option for either married partner to stay in the relationship if the unbelieving spouse refuses consent to God’s conditions, which are found in the immediate context and will be shown shortly.  The unbelieving partner can consent to God’s condition(s) or he/she can fail to consent and become divorced from the believer.  The believing partner can expect a harmonious Christian marriage partner or they must separate themselves from the marriage all together.  The believing spouse must follow and obey God’s word here and actively pursue divorce if the unbelieving spouse fails to consent because the unbeliever is unlikely to obey God by leaving when their own failure to consent takes place.  They, in essence, become a squatter that does not belong–expecting them to vacate their position is foolish.  In obedience to God’s command here the believing spouse must evict (divorce) the unbelieving spouse for failure to consent to live with…

The Greek word σᴜνεᴜɗoҡεῑ is translated into English as ‘consents’.  The prefix σᴜν is a marker of accompaniment and association.  The word σᴜνεᴜɗoҡεῑ means to join in approval or agreement with consent to or in harmony with the person to whom one is joining.  What has taken place in an unequally yoked marriage is that God has taken a married couple and removed one of the two people from death to life, from darkness to light, and the unbelieving partner must then consent to God’s terms by approving and agreeing with the new life of their believing spouse bringing harmony and peace into the marriage.

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

Now, as stated earlier, the immediate context (Verses 14-16) shows how Paul lays out God’s conditions to which the unbelieving spouse must give consent in order to maintain the marriage relationship to a child of God.  God’s first condition to which the unbeliever must consent is to become set apart from the world and toward conformity to the believing spouse even as the believing spouse has been set apart from the world and toward the holiness of God.  Verse 14 says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband…”

A Sanctification Similar to Cornelius In Acts 10: Fearing God While Yet Unsaved

Sanctification is, by nature, a cooperative behavior or activity.  The unbelieving spouse does not receive a superstitious blessing of sorts for merely squatting in the home of a child of God or for merely having their name on a marriage licence.  In order to remain married to the believer the unbeliever must actively cooperate with their believing spouse in this sanctification.  It is very much like the God-fearers: Gentiles who attended the synagogue and followed the teachings of Judaism but who were not full-fledged Jews because they were not circumcised.  So then, a failure on the part of the unbelieving spouse to consent here does not equate to leaving and divorcing, which would actually be the outcome of a failure to consent.  Failure to “consent to live with” here means that the unbelieving spouse refuses cooperation with the believing spouse to become a God fearing couple–he or she refuses to live like the God-fearers lived.

By conforming to the holiness that the Holy Spirit is bringing into the believers life the unbeliever is admitting that God’s ways are greater than man’s ways and will to the best of their ability not impede but rather reflect the changes brought about by the Holy Spirit in the believing spouse.  The vast majority of Evangelicals who very regrettably hold an Arminian view of the gospel (though repudiated twice as heresy by the church fathers) will misdiagnose the spiritual condition of the unbelieving spouse thinking them to be in Christ.  But that simply is not the case because they lack “a faith of the same kind as ours”.  Their will is favorable to the Christian religion and they desire the blessings of heaven yet they lack saving faith and the changes that accompany it.  So then, consent here means that the unbelieving spouse will work at conforming to the godliness their believing spouse is exhibiting rather than being bad company that corrupts the good morals of their believing spouse.  They desire the grace of God necessary to follow the ways of the Lord, which makes them Christian moralists, but they will not cry out for God’s grace of forgiveness and the  righteousness of Christ for they love their sin more.

God’s second condition to which the unbeliever must consent is to help bring up the children in the fear and admonition of the Lord “for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy” (Vs. 14).  So then “consents to live with” means that the unbelieving spouse will not interfere or steer the children in any direction other than being raised in the fear of the Lord.  The unbelievers words and deeds must be consistent with Christian virtues, again following the pattern set out by God fearing Gentiles.  Perfection cannot be obtained by the believer or the unbeliever, but both must be working toward the goal of seeing the children all submit themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and the glory of God in their salvation.  Often the unbelieving spouse is in a dead religion such as Catholicism or is an atheist and their desire is to raise their children in their own belief system or with no guidance whatsoever.  Paul is teaching believers that such behavior does not meet the condition “consents to live with”.  Thus, divorce and remarriage in the Lord or remaining single are the only obedient options for the believing spouse.

In fact, once an unequally yoked marriage exists the only way for the children to be holy is for the unbelieving spouse to meet all the conditions of consenting to stay.  If the unbelieving spouse leaves (a bad outcome to be sure), then sadly the children may be raised in both homes or they could be raised only in the home of the unbelieving spouse.  If the unbelieving spouse refuses to consent but also is allowed to stay in the marriage (an even worse outcome), then according to Matthew Henry the unbelieving spouse will have an undue influence upon the children as both have unrepentant hearts.  In addition, the children will live in a house divided.  Either way the children will be unclean.  So then, the only “sanctification” in the life of an unbeliever that can make their children “holy” is if they consent to conform to the sanctification they see in their believing spouse.

God’s third condition laid out in the immediate context is that the unbelieving spouse is consenting to a peaceful and harmonious Christian marriage.  Paul says in verse 15, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.”  Clearly if the unbelieving spouse cannot consent to living in peace with the believing spouse, then the believing spouse is to live in peace after divorcing the unbelieving spouse.  Either way peace in the life of the believer is God’s expectation.

Paul traditionally opens his letters with a greeting of Grace and Peace.  He certainly did so in both of his letters to the Corinthian believers.  Paul does so because grace is the source of the Christians’ faith, and peace is the end or purpose of the Christians’ faith.  Peace is so much more than the interval between two wars or between fights.  Peace is the union after a separation or reconciliation after a conquest or quarrel.  Peace is the wall coming down because a separation is no longer necessary—the two have become one.  Once peace becomes a priority the need for the grace of God becomes evident.  When the unbelieving spouse consents to strive to be one with the believing spouse he/she will feel their overwhelming need to cry out to God for grace.  Man cannot have peace with others and he will not even be at peace within himself if he has not first been reconciled to and at peace with God, which necessitates the need for God’s grace.  The unbeliever must consent to a peaceful and harmonious Christian marriage.

God’s final condition provided in the immediate context is that the unbelieving spouse will consent to the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.  “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife” (Vs. 16)?  Consent here refers to something short of salvation.  This final aspect of the condition does not mean that the unbelieving spouse must be saved, but it does mean that they must not reject the gospel as the only way to come out from under the wrath of God.  They fail in their “consent to live with” if they become an enemy of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So then, once the unbelieving spouse consents to live with the believing spouse in all of these ways, then the believing spouse is free from the guilt of being bound together with an unbeliever as God prohibits with such strong language in II Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  We certainly have hope that the unbeliever who consents to these four conditions will soon see their sin for what it is and cry out to God for forgiveness at which time they would join their spouse as a recipient of the grace of God–two saints joined together in marriage is indeed a beautiful relationship.

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

A final clarification is necessary here.  The careful reader may note that Paul does not use a language suggesting that these four clauses are conditions of the unbelievers consent to stay, and we would agree.  Paul is providing the four clauses to show Christians what the effects or outcome of the unbeliever’s consent will look like for the believer.  The only way to arrive at the outcomes Paul describes in verses 14-16 is for the unbelieving spouse to consent as we have demonstrated in this article.  These holy effects as seen in the marriage and the family define and explain the conditions of consent without which such outcomes would not be realized.

Heavenly Father, I ask that you will open the eyes of those who cannot see and revive your church in our day.


How the Church Missed God’s Permission (Mandate) to Divorce When Unequally Yoked In Marriage

Unity for the sake of unity is neither a biblical idea nor a rational ideal.  Churches and marriages are two beautiful examples of unity.  Church unity is seen in Paul’s final chapter to the church at Rome as Paul sends his greeting to twenty-six members of the church by name.  Paul encouraged them to express their unity by greeting one another with a holy kiss (Vs. 16).

Nevertheless, in the very next verse Paul turns to a negative aspect of unity.  “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Romans 16:17).  In the midst of demonstrating the beauty of church unity in his greeting to all the saints in Rome he urges the churches to put out of their assemblies those who reject the teaching of the Lord and the apostles and thereby destroy unity in the truth.

The desire for unity springs up out of an environment of disunity.  Sin not only introduced sickness and death into the world but it also introduced separation.  There will be no cries or movements for unity in heaven.  Unity is a virtue when people unite around that which is good or righteousness.  For instance, all who are in Christ Jesus will be united in heaven, the allies came together against the axis of evil during the Second World War, regenerate believers come together to start biblically centered churches, and vast and disparate populations come together to rescue their neighbors who have been wiped out by natural disasters.

Unity can also be a vice or a sin when people unite for evil or unrighteous purposes often as a response to having grown weary of disagreements and arguing without end.  Examples include ecumenical movements in religion, the axis of evil (Germany, Japan and Italy) during the Second World War, and the unity of the Democratic Party and major media outlets, higher education institutions, and Hollywood.

If unity is to be a virtue in a fallen world, it must exclude wicked people.  Therefore universal unity for righteousness cannot be had as long as unrepentant sinners continue in their rebellion against God.  So then, Paul’s advice to, “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” is a necessary component of righteous unity.

Not surprisingly, churches for over two thousand years have followed Paul’s advice.  They have both put people out of the church and they have split apart and become two churches when those who cause dissension and hindrances contrary to biblical teaching have become a faction within the church.

J.C. Ryle taught as much:

“Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion.  They weaken the cause of Christianity…But before we blame people for them, we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved.  False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism.  If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved.  In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin…The old saying must never be forgotten, ‘He is the schismatic who causes the schism’…Controversy in religion is a hateful thing…But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.”  (J.C. Ryle quote in Evangelicalism Diveded by Iain Murray).

A marital divorce between a believer and an unbeliever is to a family what a schism between faithful Christians and heretical Christians is to a church.  In both instances the blame must be placed where it is deserved.  Unequally yoked unions (marriage or otherwise) should be added to false doctrines and heresy as things that are worse than schism.  As Ryle recommends praise and virtue for those who would separate themselves from heretical teaching I cannot see any reason not to recommend the same for those who would separate themselves from heretical, unbelieving spouses.

It should be easy to see that all Christian unity must be centered on Jesus Christ as he is revealed in Scripture.  Secondly, the word of God is the very source of truth, and all teaching must be measured by the word of God and eminent reason.  Along both of these lines the permanence of marriage view comes into conflict.  This flawed view on marriage thinks marriage and not Jesus to be the source of Christian unity…regarding the unity formed by a marriage.  An unequally yoked marriage cannot find its unifying source in the Lord Jesus because half of the partnership denies Christ’s authority and advocacy.  Secondly, the permanence of marriage view fails to take into account the fall and subsequently all of God’s laws to govern the fallen.  Though it be true that the mandate of the permanence of marriage did indeed precede man’s fall into sin, but after the fall took place the permanence view fails to account for vessels of God’s wrath, unequally yoked marriages, God’s command against unequally yoked marriage, and bad company/communications corrupting good morals.

In other words, vessels of wrath were not in the picture when God declared that marriage would be permanent.  Now that they are in the picture does God still want vessels of mercy to be permanently bound to vessels of wrath?  God’s word clearly teaches and mandates that God most definitely does not want believers bound to unbelievers in any relationship.

This has become a rather significant problem as the rest of man’s affairs are dealt with by God’s laws that were given to govern a fallen mankind, but many treat marriage differently and refuse to allow it to be governed by God’s law.  Because of this, the institution of marriage has been, for all practical purposes, exalted above the laws of God.  It is as though marriage alone continues as God had originally intended prior to the fall even though wicked people would now be in those marriages and marriage would clearly need to be subject to God’s moral laws.

So then, rather than achieving perfect harmony in marriages this view has created disharmony in perhaps millions of Christian marriages and churches.  All of this disharmony is a direct result of the permanence view being held above the laws of God—it has been treated as unassailable even to God’s moral laws.  If marriages were properly understood so as to be subject to God’s laws, then unequally yoked marriages would be dissolved as soon as the believer became convicted of the sinful union.  And church leaders would be calling upon their members to repent of unequally yoked marriages rather than urging them to seek unity between light and dark, righteousness and lawlessness, Christ and ungodliness, and the temple of God and idols.  It is heartbreaking to think that for centuries the permanence view of marriage has been coercing saints bound together with unbelievers to “help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord”.

Believers who realize that they are in unequally yoked marriages soon discover that keeping one’s vow is pitted against God’s command prohibiting unequally yoked relationships.  And being loyal and obedient to one’s spouse is pitted against the command to come out from the midst of the world and be separate.  And staying married to an unrepentant vessel of wrath prepared for God’s destruction is pitted against God’s command against helping the wicked and loving those who hate the Lord (2 Chronicles 19:2).

Hopefully the reader sees the elephant in the room (preceding paragraph)?  This is one ginormous elephant!  Follow closely: What (in context) preceded the fall of Adam and Eve into sin?  Answer: Marriage.  And what was God’s intention for marriage before the fall?  Answer: Marriages were permanent pairings (two halves of the one whole).  And finally: What (in context) did not exist before the fall?  (Clue: look at the previous paragraph).  Answer: Vessels of wrath, unequally yoked relationships and God’s moral command to separate from the wicked.  That is correct!  None of these things existed at the time when God intended marriage to be permanent.  Needless to say, God’s original intention of permanence in marriage is still a reality in equally yoked marriages between two believers in Christ.

So then, should saints, with their heads buried in the sand, continue in God’s original intention for marriage acting like no wolves in sheep’s clothing are prowling about?  Or must we follow God’s moral law that was given to govern this fallen world…the very Law that blazes vessels of God’s wrath in a light as bright as the sun, and strictly prohibits marriage to them?

It would seem that the permanence of marriage defenders want to carry on as though the fall never happened.  If only, they must be thinking, we could follow God’s pre-fall plan.  Then we would have no need for church divisions and marital divorces.  That would be nice because divisions and divorces are so very ugly and messy.  Oh, and we would not need repentance either, or faith, or Christ’s atoning sacrifice, hope, unity, truth, honor, forgiveness, the indwelling Spirit, hospitals, graves, tears, locks, keys, weapons…the list of things for which we would have no need is endless.  Yes, well if “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, then we all could have a great big party.  But we have to live in a world that has fallen.  A world that is governed by God’s moral law.  A world in dire need of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.  A world with necessary divisions and divorces to separate the vessels of mercy from the vessels of wrath.

The church through the centuries has permitted local bodies of Christ (churches) to divide years after the people involved have covenanted together to form a place of worship, and they have done so because of Paul’s command to “turn away from them.”  In other words, whenever dissenters rise up within the church to take an unbiblical view/direction the church is allowed to put them out and covenant only with the obedient children of God.  Marriages must not be treated differently for the members of a marriage require the very same protections so obviously needful for members of a church.  Both churches and marriages should be safe havens for God’s saints…places that edify and build up…that support the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification.

Dealing with vessels of God’s wrath is not pretty (nor is surgically removing a tumor), but it is necessary because of dissension within the body of Christ.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  This has not merely been an allowance from the Lord but it is a mandate.  Yet many in the church have blindly and mistakenly worked very hard to restrict believers caught up in unequally yoked marriages from faithfully obeying God’s laws designed to protect believers from the contagion of unrepentant sinners.

Why have they done this?  They have acted in this way because in their mind marriage has been exalted above the commandments of God.  Luther, Calvin and the Puritans declared that marriage was a civil matter, but far too many believers continue to follow the Roman Catholic bastardization of marriage by treating it like a sacrament.  Holy matrimony is a man-made monstrosity (no offense intended to those who like me are blessed with an equally yoked marriage).  God is holy.  God’s word is holy.  But everything else in this world must be subject to the laws of God because of the sinfulness of man.

God instituted one man and one woman for life, but he did so when the fall had not yet taken place.  From the time of the fall until the present day the institution of marriage has been subject to all of the laws of God that govern the affairs of fallen men.  God’s law not only forbids unequally yoked marriages, but also homosexual, polygamous, and incestuous and marriages.  The church should have treated unequally yoked marriages the very same way it treats the other three forbidden marital unions.  Having failed to do so, the church now finds itself upon a precipice; it will soon fall one way or the other.  In allowing one of the four forbidden marital unions the church has no one to blame but itself as it begins its decent down this slippery slope.

For some time now millions of so called Christians have been embracing homosexual lifestyles and marriages.  Why?  Homosexuality and soon polygamy are going to be considered mainstream in the churches because of the untold numbers of believers who are unequally yoked in their marriages.  Their wicked spouses demand that they “love” (by love they mean to advocate for and to celebrate) the homosexuals who for no fault of their own prefer homosexual relations.  The Supreme Court of the United States of America has acted like a legislative body and written a law legalizing homosexual marriages just as they legalized the murder of unborn babies in 1973.

Wake up O sleeping church before it is too late.  Is it not obvious that our children are being lost to a modern Sodom and Gomorrah?  Now is not the time to look back as did Lot’s wife to her eternal ruin (She was looking back to the world that she loved).  Repentance begins with obeying the commandments of God and separating light from darkness.  Repent of your unequally yoked marriages.  Separate yourselves from your defiled churches.  Repent of your failure to protest the false doctrines that have crept into the church.  Repent of your love for this world and its ways.

Paul, speaking the very words of God told the Corinthians to, “Come out from their midst and be separate says the Lord.  And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.  And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

The corporate sin of the church on this issue is massive.  It is such a complicated issue that churchmen have thrown up their hands and surrendered.  They have sat down when they should have stood up.  They have left the people of God to figure out for themselves what the churchmen could not comprehend for themselves.  And to add insult to injury, the one law regarding this matter that they enforce is a manmade law that entraps God’s children in divinely prohibited marriages for the entirety of their earthly lives.  It has been a travesty of major proportions.  It is time for churchmen to learn the biblical truth and stand up once again.

This failure is due largely because of the insistence to follow God’s original intent for marriage when marriage is and must be subject to all of God’s moral laws that govern sinful people.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Paul’s Commentary on Matthew 19:8

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

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

How we understand Paul’s commentary:

Paul teaches a clear chronological progression:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Church Divorce Rates Mirror the World: What to Think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul said,
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord. And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But What of 1 Corinthians 7

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

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

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.’  Therefore, ‘COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,’ says the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17a).


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

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

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

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

How Could This Passage Not Apply to Marriage?

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

Then Paul argues:

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

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

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

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

Paul asks, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  Then he reminds believers that “we are the temple of the living God”.  Should a believer bring idols into the temple of God by being married to an unbeliever who by default worships idols?  May it never be!  Paul then quotes the scriptures, “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord.  And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.  And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me.”  Says the Lord Almighty.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRST, MARRIAGE BALKANIZED FROM DOCTRINE OF SEPARATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECONDLY, TREATING SYMPTOMS SUPPLANTED CURING THE CONDITION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Does God Actually Hate Divorce?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Has the Church Inadvertently Institutionalized Unequally Yoked Marriages?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Continue from Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus said,

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

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

Biblical view on divorce


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biblical view on divorce


Reforming Church Dogma on Divorce

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

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

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

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

Biblical view on divorce


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

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

Unbiblical Doctrines Created From the Forced Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biblical view on divorce


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mark Twain Quote

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


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

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

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

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

I strongly urge the reader to read the article titled:

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

Christ’s continued blessings,

Joe


Allowing the Institution of Marriage to Hit Its Mark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Christians Should Love Those Injured by Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.  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 and 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 Visible Church

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, 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.  The only equally yoked marriages are when both partners are not born-again or when both partners are born-again.  An unequally yoked marriage exists when only one partner is born-again.  Then and only then have the two 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 of the Holy Spirit who enlightens the heart and 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.  All of these false professors give 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 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 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 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 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.

 


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 is 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 and 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 of 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.  Perhaps the reader has heard the saying that “Only Christians kill 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–you made your bed and now you are going to have to sleep 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.