Ripped Out of Context: Unequally Yoked

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A. We are continuing our study of verses most commonly taken out of context. This series is designed to help us see how we can make mistakes as we study and read the Bible so we can learn to study verses and chapters of letters/books within their context so we can get the message that the author intended for the original audience… So far we have seen that if we read just a few sentences above and below some of the passages we have looked at so far, we can come to a completely different meaning than the original author intended.
B. We will continue to build on this principle today, plus one other principle… making sure we don’t bring passages into conflict by our interpretation…
C. Today’s verse that is commonly misused is , “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” There are a few instances where this verse is commonly misused, but I would like to talk about one specific area where I have heard it misused the most. The majority of times I have heard this verse quoted out of context is when well-meaning brethren or believers are showing that Paul teaches that a Christian must not marry a non-Christian.
D. There are a few reasons why reading this passage this way is a misuse of the passage…
A. Paul does not mention marriage or husband and wife relationships in this epistle, let alone in this chapter. I find it a little odd that one would come to the conclusion that Paul is forbidding marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian in this verse when the topic of marriage is not even talked about in the book… He wrote the book to deal with specific issues between him and the church in Corinth, and marriage is not one of the issues addressed… We will talk about his reasons for writing in a moment as we examine the context.
B. The passage does not say, “do not BECOME yoked together,” but do not BE unequally yoked… There is more here in this passage than not entering a relationship, but also the idea is here that you need to leave a relationship that is an unequal yoke! So if Paul is talking about marriage here, he would not only be saying, “Don’t marry unbelievers,” but he would also be saying, “Leave your marriages with unbelievers.” The context would bear this out also. He talks about “coming out from among them” in verse 17. He commands to leave whatever relationships the unequal yoke is present in… Most who would use this passage to say that Paul is condemning marrying a non-Christian usually don’t want to take the passage to this conclusion, but based on the these used, this is a position you would be forced to also…
C. And if Paul is talking about marriage here, there would be a conflict or a contradiction between what he teaches here and what he teaches in . We have talked about making sure we are careful as we interpret scripture to make sure we don’t bring one passage into conflict with another, causing a contradiction… This shows that our understanding of one or both of the passages may be incorrect…
1. "To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him." ()
2. Paul shows in this verse that being married to an unbeliever is not sinful. He says do not divorce your unbelieving spouse… If were talking about marriage, then Paul would be contradicting this statement… The passage in is pretty straightforward in regards to a marriage with a believer and an unbeliever, so understanding Paul to be talking about marriage in is incorrect. We can see this based on this conflict that arises before we even look at the passage within its context…
A. The context of the book and the surrounding context:
1. Paul is dealing with challenges to his apostolic authority in the letter. There are some questioning Paul’s style and his adequacy as an Apostle. Some may have been challenging that Paul was not a legitimate Apostle because of His suffering, his weakness in speech, the fact that he wouldn’t take any financial support from the Corinthians, among other things... The false apostles led Paul to lose credibility in the eyes of some in Corinth…
2. He, throughout this epistle, tries to show the Corinthians that God is indeed at work in his ministry, and that his suffering as Jesus did was a sign of it… He tries to show the glory of the message and to de-emphasize the messenger, contrary to the false teachers who were arrogantly lifting themselves up in importance… And the focus of chapters 11-12 is Paul defending His authority as an apostle…
3. It is within this context we have Paul pleading with the Corinthians at the end of chapter 5 all the way through the beginning of chapter 7 to open their hearts to God’s representatives, himself being one of them… They were allowing these false teachers to take them away from the truth, and at the end of chapter 5, he pleads with them to be reconciled to God…
B. V14
1. In verses 11, 13, and 7:2 (before and after, Paul says to the Corinthians, “Open up your hearts to us.” He wanted them to stop listening to these men who were leading them away from Christ to another Christ, to an idol…
2. It’s in this context, Paul says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” or “Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” He is showing them exactly who they are joining themselves with. Not with Christ. Not with His representatives. But with unbelievers… With idolaters… And they need to get away from them so that they can grow in their holiness…
3. So Paul is not saying, “Do not marry an unbeliever.” He is saying, “Stop joining your hearts to these men who are teaching you false things and leading you away from Christ into idolatry. As they listened to these men and followed them, they were joining in with these false teachers in their work. They were having fellowship with them instead of Paul and the other apostles… This is what Paul is showing them in this verse within its context…
4. So with these things said, I do want to make sure I am not misunderstood about the point that I am making. What I am saying is that I don’t believe this passage prohibits marrying a non-Christian… I am NOT saying that it is a good thing (or a wise thing) to do so…
IV. BUT, THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT I WOULD RECOMMEND MARRYING UNBELIEVERS! There are many things that we need to think about before considering doing this, and seek the wisdom of others (no matter who we are marrying) … We should seek wisdom from God’s word and from others even if we are thinking of marrying a believer. Just because someone claims to be a Christian does not mean they are a good person to marry!
A. Here are some things to keep in mind regarding some of the things that may be true about marrying a non-Christian.
1. Different standard/authority on morality, religion, marriage, divorce, parenting, money, etc… Marriage is difficult as it is. Even when you are married to a faithful Christian, you still have two people who are struggling with selfishness, pride, and sin. There will be conflicts that you need to work through… This is hard work for two people who have the same standard! Then you introduce the idea that the non-Christian does not look at scripture as an authority… This makes marriage a lot more difficult. I have talked to quite a few people who have married non-Christians or even weak Christians who fall away, and their marriages are a lot tougher because their spouse does not submit to Christ’s authority… They are going in two completely different directions and make decisions based on different standards…
2. Different mission… your goal is to live for Christ, to make disciples, be hospitable, go to worship services, etc… May marrying a non-Christian get in the way of you being able to fulfill your responsibilities to Christ? Will they like you going to all of the worship services and Gospel meetings and studies the brethren have? Will they be ok with you being hospitable to your brethren? Will they be ok with you giving to the church the amount you would like to give? Will they get in the way of you teaching your children the truth, either by their teaching or their example?
3. Can’t provide spiritual leadership/help… We are given a picture of what marriage should be in scripture. In , you see that it is meant to foreshadow the relationship between Jesus and His church. You see a husband who is devoted to nurturing and helping his wife spiritually – a husband that knows what it truly means to love and sacrifice for the imperfect one you love… You see a wife who desires to love, respect, and submit to the authority of her husband… Christ gives us a pattern here in His relationship with His people that we as His church should strive for… Is this illustration we have of marriage something you are willing to sacrifice.
a) Ladies, if you desire to marry a non-Christian, are you willing to fulfill the role of the spiritual leader in your home? Are you willing to be the one who trains and teaches your children according to scripture?
b) Young men, if you desire to marry a non-Christian woman, are you ok with the possibility of her not submitting to your authority in the home or not supporting you in the decisions you make in teaching your children the truth?
4. Can’t seek the Lord together… I know how difficult it is to not be able to talk to those who you are closest to about Christ because they don’t want to hear it. I have had this issue with my family. I so badly want to see them go to Heaven and come to Christ, but they often don’t want to talk about it. But just imagine not being able to, not only not having the support and help of your spouse in your marriage, but to not even be able to talk to them about what the focus of your life is! You may not be able to pray with your spouse or have family devotions/studies with your spouse present. You wouldn’t have the person closest to you to help you have accountability with sins you are struggling with…
B. Based on some of these thoughts, I wouldn’t recommend Christians marrying some Christians, let alone dating non-Christians! We need to ask tough questions of ourselves when we are choosing someone to marry. If the person you are dating is a Christian and does not desire to pray with you or get into scripture with you when you are dating, what would make you think that the habit would magically appear after marriage… Or if they are leading you to compromise in your beliefs or your morality now, what makes you think that they will just start caring about your soul after you are married… Honestly, most people put their best foot forward when they are dating… and often aren’t changed by getting married…
C. Our examination of someone we are considering to marry needs to be less superficial. Yes, they may be a nice person and attractive and do some nice things for you and whatever… But will they help you, and your children if the Lord gives you any, to get to Heaven? Or may they hinder that from happening by their example?
A. There are many reasons why we can see that it is not wise to marry a non-Christian. There is not a need to misuse a verse to show this… But it can be done, even when we are trying to use a verse to stop someone from doing something that may hurt them spiritually…
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