Walking Together (Part 1)

Dear BPCWA worshipper, A resident at a nursing home recently told a worshipper that she was a Methodist who had been happily married to a Catholic. She said that it was just about mutual respect and not stopping each other when they went to church separately. She admitted that she knew that some Christians don’t believe that that should be so, but she said that she had been happily married throughout her life and it could work despite what some may think. What is your view of that? More importantly, what does God’s Word say?  Whether you are single or married, it is important for us to have the right perspective.

Walking with unbelievers in marriage. As Christians, we must never judge what is right or wrong by another’s experience or “end results”, even if things seemed to have “worked out” or not “worked out”. Even if something “worked out” for another (and it may even be our parents, siblings, or relatives), it doesn’t mean that it’s right. For that case mentioned above, we don’t know for sure if the Methodist churchgoer was even saved. Ultimately, what matters is that God commands every Christian seeking marriage to marry “only in the Lord.” (1Co 7:39). There is no liberty of choice here for the Christian. It is blatant disobedience to be in the bond of marriage to a non-Christian. Right from the Old Testament, before the children went into the Promised Land, God forbade His people from making covenants with the unbelievers in the land (De 7:2). Since marriage is a covenantal bond of greater importance than the covenants in the world, it goes without saying then that intermarriages with unbelievers were forbidden (De 7:3) because “they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods” (De 7:4). Israel in its history, and even today, many Christians have walked in disobedience to this command with sad results. This must be a clear warning that every single or parent must take heed to. There must be no compromise on this even if it is your own believing child who wants to marry an unbeliever, as it is blatant disobedience to God. Christians who pursue such relationships must be soundly counselled to repent. Members who refuse such counsel and stubbornly continue into marriage with an unbeliever will be subject to the escalating steps of church discipline. While it may seem unloving to unbelievers especially since it is on the topic of “love” (by the world’s standards) and marriage, we must understand that all these steps are always done in love to prevent the believer from falling into deep sin once they are in the bond of marriage. To allow a believer to sin against God’s commands is not loving (1Co 13:6). It is ultimately for the spiritual good of the Christian involved. Moreover, a marriage affects God’s kingdom’s work and the usefulness of the Christian thereafter.

Is it fine as long as I marry someone who claims to be a “Christian”? No! God commands the believer “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2Co 6:14). Firstly, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a born-again believer. So, this command would not just include marrying non-Christians, but also those who, by the world’s classification, would go under the “umbrella” of Christianity but do not believe in the true gospel of salvation. We must realise that marriage is more than just romance and having a confidante. While the people of the world may think that one can have a good marriage without the need to touch on the sensitive topic of religion and faith, such a marriage is not possible in the model of Christian marriage which God intends and ordains for His children. Faith is the foundation and its practice is the central focus of any true Christian. Hence, faith and God’s Word must be the centrality of every Christian marriage since that is what will determine our walk.

Is it fine as long as I marry a believer? Does it mean that as long as the person is genuinely saved, “she is at liberty to be married to whom she will” (1Co 7:39) since the believer is already “in the Lord”? No. This chapter in 1Corinthians uses words such as “bondage” (1Co 7:15) to refer to marriage. It would conjure the picture of being yoked together in marriage, and this yoke is for life. The same principle of being yoked together while walking together applies. Can two walk together if they are unequally yoked? The principle for any Christian marrying another is then to take heed to Amos 3:3 where God rhetorically asks, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” The answer is certainly “no”, they can’t walk together! Marriage is being “one flesh” (Gen 2:24). 

Unity of faith and convictions in marriage. One who goes into marriage takes their vows with their eyes open. Marriage is not starry-eyed courtship but it is a shared life with a common pursuit and for the procreation of godly seed. I remember being accused before by someone that I taught that Bible-Presbyterians can only marry Bible-Presbyterians. Another minister came to my defence and countered the person saying that someone who wants to marry someone from another denomination had better think long and hard about it because, after marriage, they should be in the same denomination. That was what I meant. Do I say that B-Ps should only marry B-Ps? My answer is as the Bible teaches in Amos 3:3 – if a person agrees with the other potential spouse’s beliefs and is willing to change one’s convictions, though they are from vastly differing religious backgrounds, they certainly may be married. But both have to agree to practice their faith in unity after marriage because of the one flesh principle. Some of these aspects would include, though not limited to, soteriology, infant baptism, Biblical separation, the family model, and even the practices of the church and church government. For example, marrying someone who does not share our Bible-Presbyterian faith will mean that either party will be going to another church for the rest of their lives, sitting under the weekly tutelage of a pastor with a different theological framework. While one deemed suitable for membership transfer to BPCWA who has been baptised by immersion need not be re-baptised by sprinkling upon transfer, the converse may not be so in churches that believe that baptism must be by immersion. Denominations differ in beliefs, and these will affect their practices. Even on what may be perceived as a neutral topic like evangelism, fundamental beliefs are vastly different.

May every reader, whether you are a child, a single, or a family person, understand and purpose in your heart not to bend to the world’s ideas and standards regarding the holy institution of marriage. As I solemnly proclaim at every wedding service, because “marriage is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is between Christ and His Church”, it “therefore is not to be entered into unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly, but reverently, discreetly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which matrimony was ordained.”

Yours in our Lord’s service,