Unequally Yoked

There are Christians who are married to unbelievers, and whenever we study marriage, 2 Corinthians 6:14 comes up where Paul wrote, “Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers.” So, is it sinful for a Christian to marry an unbeliever? Would it be sinful for a Christian to remain married to an unbeliever? If the answer is yes, then divorce would be required. Romans 6:1-2: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” Jesus said, “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Remission of sins requires repentance. Peter commanded, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you...unto the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins.” Repentance requires fruits worthy of it (Luke 3:8), and as Jesus told the woman taken in adultery, the charge is to “sin no more” (John 8:11).

Ezekiel’s call to repentance was, “Return ye, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions,” and “Cast away from you all your transgressions” (Ezek. 18:30-31). The believers in Ephesus confessed and put away even the vestige of their sins (Acts 19:18-19). John said those who continued in their sins “repented not” (Rev. 9:20-21). And Jesus allows divorce only when one spouse is unfaithful to the other (Matt. 5:32, 19:9). So, the warning Paul gave the Corinthian saints was regarding the misuse of their liberty in Christ.

Christians have the liberty to marry unbelievers, but it is a liberty that should never be abused. Alliances with unbelievers can be dangerous. This is the warning urged on the saints at Corinth: “for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:14-16).

The warning remains as strong today as it was then. Peter addresses the wife married to an unbelieving husband, saying in 1 Peter 3:1-4: “In like manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, even if any obey not the word, they may without the word be gained by the behavior of their wives; beholding your chaste behavior coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

A godly woman married to an unbeliever must make a full appeal to her husband, with both her inner and outer attire as it were, on behalf of Christ as His faithful disciple. The same would be true for a man unequally yoked to an unbelieving wife. The danger of an unequal yoking demands it. However, to the unmarried the appeal of God must be viewed as a call to look first among saints for a spouse. Spiritual beauty must be a priority. The things written afore-time include the conditions that led to the flood when God destroyed man and beast and creeping things and the birds of the air. We read that “Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

One thing Moses mentions as a contributor to man’s wickedness was that “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose” (Gen. 6:2). The implication is that the spiritual beauty of the daughters of God was not a priority for the sons of God. Many warnings were given to Israel of old that they were not to marry the idolaters of Canaan. The danger was that their hearts would be turned away from God (Exod. 34:12-16; Deut. 7:1-3).

Marriages and the homes built around them are most successful when both husband and wife know, teach, and abide in the doctrine of Christ. For those who are unequally yoked with an unbeliever the exhortation is to remain faithful. Try to lead your spouse to Christ. But to the unmarried the exhortation would be to look among the sons and daughters of God rather than to ask, “Must I marry a Christian?”

Marriage has many purposes in God’s design: procreation (Gen. 1:28), connubiality (1 Cor. 7:2), and the spiritual welfare of each member of that family (1 Cor. 7:16; Prov. 22:6). Therefore, it is wise to seek a spouse whose goal in life is to walk with God, one who will help you walk with God, and who will help your children walk with Him also. It is wise, as one once suggested, ask yourself, “Will he or she read the Bible with my children?”

A poem, written anonymously to the best of my knowledge, seems to fit with the desire we should all have in marriage. It is written in the voice of a husband, but the sentiment could easily be reversed.

I wish for you what I have had, a wife that’s good and true. 

Her beauty grows day by day; I know you see it too. 

It is a beauty born of God; her heart to Him is true. 

And on my knees, I thank Him daily; I wish this for you too.