Unequally Yoked in Marriage
by George C. Clark and John David Clark, Sr.
"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what is there in common between righteousness and lawlessness?
Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What harmony exists between Christ and Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?"
From Genesis to Revelation, marriage between believers and unbelievers is forbidden. This is one doctrine upon which all believers should agree. God even forbade Israel to yoke together different kinds of animals, such as an ox and a mule, for the weaker animal would be overworked, unable to keep up with the stronger, and the stronger animal would be hindered in doing its work by the weaker. Using this analogy, Paul told the saints not to be "unequally yoked" with unbelievers.
It is wrong for saints to be "yoked together" with unbelievers. Jesus described believers as "not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Unbelievers, on the other hand, are "of the world." These two kinds of people should never be bound together, especially in the areas of worship and marriage. The unbeliever cannot keep pace spiritually with the believer, and the believer cannot bear the load of the unbeliever's unsanctified spirit.
Obviously, we must associate to some extent with sinners because we live in a world filled with sinners. The only way for saints to avoid all contact with sinners is, as Paul said, "to go out of the world." But when we can avoid ungodly associations, we should avoid them because the nature of people "of the world" is contrary to the nature of the people of God.
When a sinner and a saint live together, a compromise must occur, and since a carnal mind cannot be subject to God (Rom. 8:7), the compromise must always be on the believer's part.
Even if a sinner is physically faithful to his believing spouse, his deadness to the things of God will adversely affect the saint who is yoked to it. "Be not deceived," wrote Paul, "evil company corrupts good manners." God warned His children, "Make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. It will surely be a snare unto you. . . . Your daughter you shall not give unto [the unbeliever's] son, nor shall you take his daughter unto your son. For they will turn away your son from following me" (Ex. 23:32-33; Dt. 7:3-4). Even in the latest books of the Old Testament (Ezr. 9:12), we can still hear God pleading with His rebellious people, "Give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons!"
Ungodly marriages of "the sons of God" with "the daughters of men" (that is, between the righteous and the unrighteous) led to such an increase in wickedness that God destroyed the earth with a catastrophic flood. Later, Samson's godly parents pleaded with him to marry one of the virgins of Israel, but he lusted after Philistine women until, at last, his enemies found him sleeping on Delilah's lap. Not heeding God's counsel, King Solomon took foreign wives, who influenced him when he was old to turn from God, and "Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites" (1Kgs. 11:5). Thus we learn, as Solomon in his better days taught, "There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel, against the Lord" (Prov. 21:30). God said that unbelievers would turn His children's hearts from Him, and they did that to wise Solomon. Nobody is wiser than God.
Israel's attraction to foreign ways of worship and her self-willed marriages to Gentile unbelievers resulted in untold suffering and heartache for them. After Cyrus, King of Persia, ordered the temple rebuilt in Jerusalem, one of Ezra's fellow workers, Shechaniah, openly confessed, "We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange [unbelieving] wives of the people of the land; yet, now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now, therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them" (Ezr. 10:2, 3). What an uproar among people it would cause today if a man were sent from God to denounce the ungodly marriages of saints and sinners, and to demand, as Ezra did, that they put away both their wives and children! This would be no easier a task than it was in Ezra's day, for as then, "we are many that have transgressed in this thing" (Ezr. 10:13). There had to be a purging among God's people then, and the Bible plainly tells us that the body of Christ will be purged before the return of the Lord (Mt. 13:40-42).
Just as Ezra discovered that "the hand of the princes and rulers has been chief in this trespass," so it is now. The leaders of God's people are those most guilty in this transgression, which explains why so little is ever said about this subject. The hands of the men whom God's people trust most are covered with the blood of saints who fell from righteousness because of ungodly marriages – marriages sanctioned by ministers. I wonder how many more of our young women will be sacrificed to the lust of unbelieving men before the people of God demand that it stop. And how many more of our young men will be allowed to trade their fire and faith for worldly wives, before the saints cry aloud for help, as the repentant Israelites cried to Ezra (Ezr. 10:14)? There will be an accounting to God for the ungodly marriages to which ministers are lending their hand.
Young friend, do not yoke yourself in marriage to anyone who has not been born into the family of God. No words can express the grief of those who have joined themselves to those who have no heart for Christ. Their stories (and they are many) are heartbreaking. How can two hostile spirits work together in the same yoke? If your spouse's objective is carnal and yours is spiritual, what will the outcome be? Oh, how many precious brothers and sisters are defeated and confused because of worldly entanglements, marriage being one of the chief. Their pathetic and despairing spiritual condition gives somber testimony to the veracity of the word of God.
"Do you not know that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of an harlot? God forbid!" With words like these, Paul made it clear that, although believers are free to marry whom they will, they must marry "only in the Lord" (1Cor. 7:39). It is easy to hire a minister to perform a ceremony and pronounce that God approves of your marriage, but that does not make it so. Man's marriage ceremonies are as vain as all the other works of men.
Every young believer should be taught that his or her marriage is to be contracted through Christ. That is the key to God's blessing. It is the way God unites a man and woman physically, mentally, and spiritually. A marriage thus formed is unbreakable. Jesus spoke of such a marriage when he said, "What therefore GOD has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mk. 10:9).