God does not countenance the marriage of a believer to an unbeliever. In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul says that Christians must marry only “in the Lord.” That phrase means within the common faith that Christians hold toward Jesus Christ, that faith which identifies them as a part of the body of Christ. Thus they can be said to be “in Christ,” or “in the Lord” together. Nothing in Scripture in any way relaxes the clear-cut commandment that believers must not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Christians may marry only in the Lord; that is, only within the faith.
In the one thing that matters most of all, the believer and the unbeliever are tragically divided. No marriage can paper over that division! If they marry, it will always be like a canyon between them. The more the believing spouse grows in the love of Christ, the wider and deeper the canyon will grow.
So what did the Holy Spirit intend by His command not to be bound together with unbelievers? Bound together translates a participial form of the verb heterozugeo, which means, “to be unequally yoked.” Paul drew his analogy from Deuteronomy 22:10, where the Mosaic Law commanded the Israelites, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” Those two animals do not have the same nature, gait, or strength. Therefore it would be impossible for such a mismatched pair to plow together effectively. Nothing in the context would lead to the idea that he is referring to earthy issues of human endeavors. In Paul’s analogy, believers and unbelievers are two different breeds and cannot work together in the spiritual realm. He called for separation in matters of the work of God, since such cooperation for spiritual benefit is impossible. The false teachers were eager to blend the people of God with the pagan worshipers, because that hinders the gospel. That is what this text forbids.
There aren’t many things more stupid than Christians relying on a forbidding text to keep young people from marrying non-believers without offering rich, warm, inspirational biblical theology about Christian destiny, mission and maximum joy. By the time some young man or woman is speaking of marriage to a non-believer it’s already too late to quote a verse of Scripture (Jim McGuiggan).
Second Corinthians 6:14-15 warns [Christians], “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” This, like all of God’s other commands, is not a cruel barrier to our happiness, but a loving restriction that preserves us for God’s blessing. The blessings that we are hoping for come from God alone. Therefore, we must start with obedience to His Word. Only a relationship in which both partners are Christians can possibly result in the kind of love that only God can give (Richard and Sharon Phillips).
If marrying an unbeliever is outside of God’s will, then dating one must also be off limits. You cannot date someone who is spiritually dead and simultaneously please Christ (Rick Holland).
When we claim to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and then willfully choose to unite ourselves with an unbeliever in the most intimate personal union on earth we profane the holiness of God. We act as though our emotional drive for human intimacy is more important than affirming the preciousness of God’s holiness and nearness.
Brownlow North, the Scottish lay evangelist of the 19th century, has a sermon on this subject in which he calls this sin, the sin of spiritual intermarriage, the worst sin, the most catastrophic sin of all the sins identified in the Bible that can be committed by a Christian man or woman. In his own words: “In reading my Bible I find no sin there recorded, if we except the sin of our first parents, which has brought greater curse upon the earth, or which is more positively forbidden, both in the Old and New Testament” (Wilt Thou Go with This man? p. 112). For, you see, that sin corrupts the stream of believing life and may lead to the damnation of thousands, as it did many times in the Bible.
Mixed marriages violate the nature of the intimate relationship that marriage creates. Marriage creates a family and God’s people are to serve Him in their families. Families are the primary unit of spiritual nurture in the covenant of God because they are the instrument by which and the setting in which children are not only born but raised. Families have a great deal to do, in the economy of God’s grace, with the transmission of the faith from one generation to another. They must because of the nature of the relationship between parents and children: the intimacy, the constancy, the dependence, the trust, the example, the instruction that happens in a family and, especially, in a godly family. To take an unbeliever to wife, to bring into that family circle, in the key role of wife and mother, a woman who does not love God or know his salvation, who does not reverence his Word and law, is to violate the very purpose of a family and render it incapable of being and doing what it has been created for… He made the family, the godly family the instrument of his grace in the children’s lives. But a spiritually mixed marriage injects poison into the children’s milk.
After all we just learned in these verses that contrast believer and unbeliever, why a believer would even consider marrying an unbeliever is beyond my wildest understanding. How can you ever expect to come to agreement on how you worship God and spend money and raise the children? How can you want to devote your life to someone who won’t share with you the Person in Jesus Christ that means the most to you? How can you want to be “one flesh” with someone who is an enemy of your Savior?
As Christians, we are told to be evenly yoked, specifically, to marry another believer. There are many talented, sacrificial, hard-working, and kind unbelievers out there. But the reality cannot be overlooked. The unbeliever in biblical terms hates your Savior. There is no neutrality with the Lord. How could you ever what to spend the rest of your life with someone how hates the One you love the most? How could you ever come to agreement on any key worldview issues. It’s impossible. Wait for God’s best!
God’s plan is for a man and a woman to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), a relationship so intimate that one literally and figuratively becomes part of the other. Uniting a believer with an unbeliever is essentially uniting opposites, which makes for a very difficult relationship.
Do not incorporate into the society of the wicked, or be too much familiar with them. The wicked are God haters; and “shouldest thou join with them that hate the Lord?” (2 Chronicles 19:2). A Christian is bound, by virtue of his oath of allegiance to God in baptism, not to have intimate converse with such as are God’s sworn enemies…The bad will sooner corrupt the good, than the good will convert the bad. Pharaoh taught Joseph to swear, but Joseph did not teach Pharaoh to pray.