OUGHT BELIEVERS TO MARRY UNBELIEVERS?
THE SUBSTANCE OF SEVERAL SPEECHES
This was the subject of several addresses at the tea meeting held in the Temperance Hall, on Whit-Monday, May 18th.—Brother Roberts (who presided) said there was a general impression to the effect that the objection to marriage with the unbeliever was founded on the expression of Paul’s in 1 Cor. 7:39, that widows were at liberty to marry again “only in the Lord.” It would be found on investigation that this was a mistake. Paul’s expression taken in its special connection was certainly a strong indication; but the objection to mixed marriages stood on a much broader ground. It was involved in the broad principle that the consecration required by Christ at the hands of his people was so complete as to exclude friendship with the present world. It was put negatively as well as positively. “Ye are not of the world,” “Come out from among them.” “The friendship of the world is enmity with God.” The restriction was disagreeable and inconvenient, but could not be evaded by such as were resolved to be obedient.

This larger rule covered the question of marriage: for the greater always included the less. An unbeliever was a part of the world, understanding by the “world” those whose affections were not set on things above, but on things that are upon the earth only. How could a believer of the scriptural type—(one whose affections were set on things above—on God, Christ, their law, the inheritance, &c.—the whole economy of divine things and principles as distinguished from merely natural things)—take the world into the closest of friendship in husband or wife, without being disobedient, and without being polluted?

Coming to definite indications on the subject, the mind of God had in all generations of mankind been expressed adversely to intermarriage with unbelievers. Mention is made of such marriages before the flood. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair: and they took them wives of all they chose.” A deluge of pitiless waters swept away the result. When God afterwards chose a nation for Himself, the law He gave them was very specific on this point: “Thou shalt not make marriages with them.” The “reason annexed” was a moral one. “They will turn away thy heart from following me.” Israel disobeyed this law as they disobeyed the other laws. Judgment and captivity was the result. When they came back from Babylon, one of the first things they did was to go astray in this matter and make marriages with the people of the land: in connection with which we have the picture of Ezra casting himself down before God in an agony of shame, confessing their sin and imploring mercy. The severe remedy of putting away the strange wives followed.

Coming on to ecclesial times, we have the same law of separation enjoined. “Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Though marriage is not mentioned in this command, its application to marriage cannot be denied if it is admitted to apply to any kind of yoking: for it cannot be that the apostolic interdict should apply to unimportant yokings and not apply to an important one. No yoking is so important to man or woman as marriage. A man is more influenced by his wife than by any human being, and a wife by her husband: it is inevitable. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools shall fall.” This applies to all degrees of association, but most powerfully of all to the closest—surely.

The Bible view of marriage is that the parties are “one flesh”—which is according to experience. How then could man or woman, aiming to be holy to God both in body and spirit, safely or innocently make themselves one flesh with another that was not so? The apostolic allusions always contemplated husband and wife as both being “in the Lord.” Peter advises personal harmony that “their prayers be not hindered.” There could be no question of this sort if one of them were an unbeliever. He speaks of them as “heirs together of the grace of life.”

It is urged by some as an objection that Paul in 1 Cor. 7. permits a brother or sister to remain with unbelieving wife or husband. In truth, this permission bears the very opposite significance. It was in answer to a question on the subject, propounded to Paul by the Corinthians in writing (as the first verse shows). The question was, what are believers to do who, becoming enlightened after marriage, find themselves in association with unbelieving wife or husband. Now, had Paul’s teaching admitted of mixed marriages, how could such a question as this have arisen? The very fact that the Corinthians found it necessary to ask Paul’s guidance in such circumstances is a proof that they recognised that the right thing for believers was to be married to believers only. The answer is, they were to remain together if agreeable. But husband or wife being dead, “they were at liberty to be married to whom they will, only in the Lord” (verse 39.) Thus common sense and Scripture unite in pointing out the right line of action.

Some are disposed to get away from Paul’s judgment in the matter on the score that he had “received no commandment” on the subject, but spoke “by permission,” and gave his judgment as “one who had received mercy of the Lord to be faithful.” A little reflection ought to save them from this mistake. Do they think the Lord would have “permitted” Paul to give a wrong judgment in the case? Paul refers to “faithfulness” as the inspiring motive of his advice: this shows that his judgment was something more than the expression of an opinion; it was the faithful exercise of a prerogative, the weight of which he seeks to bring to bear in the concluding remark, “and I think that I have the Spirit of God.” Here is a man steps forward and says, “I have the spirit of God. God permits me, as a faithful man, to give this judgment on the matter you ask me about.” Is it possible that enlightenment fully awake could hesitate to submit implicitly to such a judgment?

Brother Rollason (Nuneaton) thought Solomon’s case was enough to show the folly of marriage with unbelieving wives. Although he received more wisdom than all men, he did not lead his wives right, but they led him wrong. As Nehemiah said (Neh. 13:26), “Did not Solomon, King of Israel, sin by these things: yet among many nations was there no king like him who was beloved of his God, and God made him King over all Israel, nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.”

Brother Hands (Nuneaton) thought the command was sufficient to “Come out from among, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:17). An unbelieving man or woman was one not cleansed from sin by the obedience of the truth, and was therefore, scripturally speaking, part of “the unclean thing” which we were commanded to touch not. It was a great help to have a godly wife or husband; and therefore the command to have only such was good as well as binding.

Brother Mosley (Great Bridge) considered there was guidance on the subject in the very first reference to woman in the Bible: “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make an help meet for him.” It was usual to read the words “help meet” as if they were one—“an helpmeet.” But they were two—an help meet—that is, an help suitable for him. The question then would be, was an unbelieving wife an help suitable for a man striving to do the will of God? On this there could not be two opinions. In all the cases he had known, cases where the law of God had been disregarded, nothing but evil had come of it. One case he had distinctly before his mind in which the brother had seen and confessed the great mistake he had made. As for those who strove to get away from or to weaken, Paul’s advice in the matter, he understood there was a peculiar force in the words of Paul translated, “and I think I have the Spirit of God.” He was informed that the sense was as if Paul had said “And I think I ought to know.” They must all allow that Paul, having the guidance of the Spirit, and sent forth by Christ as an instructor of the brethren, was one who ought to know, and that their duty was to submit to his judgment, not forgetting what Christ said concerning the Apostles: “He that heareth you heareth me.”

Brother Jakeman (Dudley) had known about six cases of disobedience in the matter: and in every one of them the result had been evil. Instead of brethren bringing unbelieving wives into the truth, unbelieving wives had taken brethren away. He thought Christ’s words to the ecclesia at Pergamos had something to do with the matter: “I have a few things against thee because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel.” It would be found that the stumbling block in question was intermarriage with the Moabites. Balaam could not bring a curse on Israel, but he suggested to Balak that a good way of getting God to curse them was to induce the Israelites to inter-marry with the Moabites. The trap was successful, and many thousand of Israel were slain because of the transgression—the plague being stayed only by the extreme action of Phinehas. The readings of the day had something to do with the question. In 1 Thess. 4:7 Paul told the brethren they were called to holiness: how could a man or woman be holy in making themselves one with a person in a state of unholiness? Is. 8:20, also said if any man spake not according to the law and the testimony, it was because there was no light in them. If this was to be said about speaking, much more about acting.

Brother J. Deakin (Tamworth) thought the question was settled by the answer which must be given to the enquiry of one of the prophets: “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” A believer and an unbeliever united in marriage must pull in two opposite ways.

Brother W. Deakin (Tamworth) referred to the marriage of the Lamb as bearing on the subject. We were told there was preparation for this marriage: “The Bride hath made herself ready: to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white.” This was the righteousness of the saints. So that if they would take Christ for example, they would marry only in the Lord.—Brother John Todd (Birmingham), strongly supporting the scriptural view, spoke also against the idea of marrying in hope of the unbelieving partner accepting the truth afterwards. Let the obedience of the truth be first.

Brother J. J. Powell (Acock’s Green) related the particulars of a case in which a sister, under promise of marriage to an unbeliever, had bravely adhered to the right course with the best results afterwards.

Brother C. C. Walker (Birmingham) confirmed the arguments of previous speaker by referring to the case of Eve as illustrating a wife’s influence over her husband: to Abraham’s solicitude as to Isaac’s marriage as showing the scruples of the father of the faithful: to Abigail and Jezebel as showing the good and bad results of the two kinds of matrimonial alliance: to the marriage law for the mortal priests in the age to come as indicating the old care on the subject, and so on. He said that when the truth came to him, he was unmarried; and he should as soon have thought of committing suicide as of marrying out of Christ. It was indeed a moral suicide for a man to do such a thing. Some thought the stringency of the Bible marriage law was weakened for believers by the fact that Christ had taken the law out of the way: but, as pointed out by another brother, the spirit of the law remained for believers although the letter of it had been nailed to the cross. Paul plainly said (Rom. 8:3–6) that the object of what had been accomplished in Christ was “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in those who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.” Thus he said, “love was the fulfilling of the law,” because love would lead a man to abstain from what the law forbade and to do what the law enjoined. So it might be said that holiness to the Lord would lead a man to refrain from making marriages with those who had no affinity for that state.

 
Source: The Christadelphian : Volume 28, pp. 262-264.

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