James P. Needham
Winter Park, Fla.
QUESTION: Concerning 2 Cor. 6:14, And Marriage.
"Does 2 Cor. 6:14 teach that it is sinful for a Christian to marry an unbeliever ?" ---Ohio
This passage reads: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?" (The thought continues through v. 18, but since these verses were not mentioned, I shall not quote them). Whether this passage teaches that marriage between believers and unbelievers is sinful is a long-disputed question. That it does not teach that such marriages are sinful per se is quite obvious for the following reasons:
(1) The Holy Spirit sanctioned marriage between believers and unbelievers in I Cor. 7:13-16, "And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." It is sometimes argued that this passage considers a case where one companion in marriage becomes a Christian after the marriage, and the other does not. In the first place, this is not at all certain. And secondly, any relationship one Christian can remain in, any Christian can enter into. This passage shows that marriage between believers and unbelievers is sanctioned by God, that is, by his declaration that the children of such a marriage are "sanctified" (legitimate), and that the parties should remain together.
Hence, if the Holy Spirit is telling us that it is sinful for a believer to marry an unbeliever in 2 Cor. 6: 14, He tells us that such marriage is sanctioned in 1 Cor. 7:13-16. Hence He sanctions what He says is sinful! Who can accept that?
(2) If this passage teaches that marriage between believers and unbelievers is sinful, it also teaches that every such marriage must be dissolved. Verse 17 (same context) says, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you..." If it be a sin to enter such a marriage, it would be a sin to continue it, thus, every Christian who married an unbeliever must "come out from among them, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing!' (companion) in order to be received of God. And this brings up some other questions: If this be the teaching of these verses, would the parties to such a marriage be free to remarry? What would be the proper action in cases where the unbeliever has been converted since the marriage? Was the marriage valid, or must they have another ceremony said? If not, did not his or her conversion also constitute a marriage ceremony?
The reader should not draw false conclusions from what has been said. To say that God Sanctions marriage between believers and unbelievers is not to say that He encourages such. The teaching of the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments discourages such marriages. Since this is the case, we would be ill-advised indeed should we encourage such. Nor should one conclude that such marriages are never sinful. Any time a Christian places himself in any relationship that leads to his apostasy, he has sinned. We must "walk circumspectly" the circumstances. He who places himself in circumstances which lead him astray from God's word has not obeyed this injunction.
Many years of observation have proven that in the majority of the cases of marriage between believers and unbelievers, the child of God either apostatizes or is markedly weakened. In view of this, how could anyone ever encourage such marriages? We should do everything that is right to discourage Christians forming such relationships, pointing out the possibility of its consequences, hut not saying that the marriage is sinful per se. We most certainly must not wrest the scriptures in our enthusiasm to prove a point (Cf. 2 Pet. 3:16). Without a doubt, marrying an unbeliever is one of the most dangerous things a Christian can do. That point should not be forgotten, and it should be constantly impressed upon our young people, and their parents. We are losing more church members through this channel than through any other known to this writer.
(NOTE: We are receiving a large number of questions. We want to be fair in answering them, so we are doing so on a "first come, first served" basis. Questions will be answered according to the order in which they are received. This will explain the long delay in answering some questions. Thanks for your overwhelming response to this new feature. JPN)
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV: 17, pp. 12-13
March 5, 1970