Tag Archives: Till Death Do Us Part

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, 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, 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. From the beginning it has not been this way.

Note that point 2 tells us WHAT God did.  Point 1 tells us WHY he did it.  And point 3 tells us WHEN he did it.  Unfortunately, the church takes points 1 and 3 and uses them to nullify point 2 effectively restricting believers’ access to God’s 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”.  It seems pretty clear that the church 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?  And where 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 is fixing or reestablishing God’s original intent.  The facts are that Moses did not err and Jesus had no intention of restricting appropriate cases for divorce.

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 is this simple: Moses permitted you to divorce.  Why would God instruct Moses to permit marital 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.  Jesus needed to correct the permissiveness of 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.  Unfortunately, the church interpreted Jesus’ words as if to say that Moses mistakenly permitted divorce to benefit the hard hearted, necessitating Jesus rectifying Moses’ err and removing one of God’s laws, which of course Jesus promised to never remove a single stroke of God’s law.

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 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 Moses’ permit for divorce in cases where hard heartedness became treachery and a broken covenant.

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 and his fall was 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 of them with the 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 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.


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 obscured by one simple phrase being applied to this text: “Paul’s command against being bound to unbelievers does not apply to existing marriages because of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7 verses 12-16”.

However, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 that it is directly applicable to marriage and only to marriage, so certainly he disagreed with the commonly held view.    Sadly, some have argued that since Paul does not mention marriage in this passage it cannot be applied to unequally yoked marriages.  Such logic would necessarily mean that the passage does not apply to any relationship since no specific type of relationship is mentioned.

So the proper understanding of 2 Corinthians 6:14f in the light of its ubiquitous presence in the Old Testament and considering the universal and descriptive language that Paul chooses must be that God prohibits his children to be bound together with unbelievers notwithstanding the type of relationship or covenant that binds them.  Sooner or later the believer must fearfully obey God’s command and importune the unbeliever for release.  As Christians they must do so in the most loving and kind way, but importune for release they must.

Therefore, since Paul’s ubiquitous, universal command in the Old Testament, which has been carried forward into the New Testament by Paul cannot properly have any normative exceptions, then it is Paul’s teaching in First Corinthians 7:12-16 that must be understood in such a way so as not to contradict the unassailable command in the second letter.

Take note of this sharp contrast between the biblically ubiquitous command of 2 Corinthians 6:14 and the entirely unique doctrine in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.  We know that Paul’s teaching here is unique because Paul introduces his 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 more, the immediately preceding sentence (verses 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…” (I Corinthians 7:10).  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 couple should divorce and under what rules they must follow were not divinely spelled out prior to Paul’s letter 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 foresaw, “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: First, the papist’s 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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapman‘s Five Covenant Characteristics

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

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

Blog Author:

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

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

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

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

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

Chapman:

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

Blog Author:

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

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

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

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

Chapman:

3. Covenant relationships are based on steadfast love.

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

Blog Author:

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

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

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

Chapman:

4. Covenant relationships view commitments as permanent.

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

Blog Author:

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

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

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

Chapman:

5. Covenant relationships require confrontation and forgiveness.

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

Blog Author:

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

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

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

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

Defining Covenants

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

The three primary components are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The DURATION can also share the aspect of BENEFIT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Did This Happen and To Where Has It Lead?

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

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

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

Biblical view on divorce


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?”