Unequally Yoked

Deuteronomy 7:3–4 (ESV)
"You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly."

2 Corinthians 6:14–18 (ESV)
“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? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

In both of these Scripture verses—one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament—we see God’s warning on marrying outside of the nation of Israel (in Deuteronomy) and one against marrying outside of one’s faith (in 2nd Corinthians). While they might seem to be warnings on two different things, they are actually warning about the same subject.

The warnings given in Deuteronomy have nothing to do with race or racial purity. Critics use this Scripture and others to claim God is being racist here—a proposition wholly unfounded. It is in the intermarriage of other religions that is the heart of the issue in Deuteronomy, not interracial marriage itself. After all, the very lineage of David, the Messianic lineage of Christ, includes Ruth, from the land of Moab.

God is warning Israel not to intermarry with a people who worship other gods out of fear of turning the household to such false beliefs. God ordained Israel to be a nation set apart for His purpose and therefore commanded that they remain pure. To be holy means to be set apart.

Paul is essentially saying the same thing in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. As believers in Christ, we are to be set apart for His glory and to become yoked in marriage to a non-believer or a believer of another religion (i.e, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc..) results in the same issue Israel would experience—loss of identity in Christ.

To be yoked means to be influenced by the conduct of the other and the direction of life they are choosing. While we may influence a non-believing spouse into believing, there is no guarantee of this occurring and thus the household will forever be entangled with unequal direction. At stake becomes your own relationship with Christ.

Settle the issue before you marry. If the non-Christian will not change prior to the wedding, he or she will certainly have no incentive to convert after. Place your relationship with Christ before all others here on earth. Give Jesus top priority in your life. Your Christian faith should be the central precept governing all decisions of your life, especially those of marriage and family. If you have children, you are accountable to God for training them up in the ways of the Lord.

This 1877 sermon excerpt from D.L. Moody sums it up best:

“Many a young lady has given herself away to some scoffing infidel, and will have a miserable life. It will not be long before her husband will trample her feelings under-foot, just as he does God’s Word. He won’t care much about your feelings. He may profess to love and care for you, but he will prove untrue to you by and by. It is a good deal better for us to do right. There was a lady in Chicago that came to me in great distress, and says: “What shall I do? I am engaged to be married to a young man who is not a Christian.” I said: “I cannot give you any advice about that; he has got your heart; your course is very plain. I should tell that young man faithfully, just your feelings; just give him the Word of God, and say that it tells you that you, who are a professed child of God, cannot marry him while he is unconverted, for it says: ‘Be ye not unequally yoked.’ ” She did so. The young man gave her up, but it was not a week before he was in the inquiry-room. He said he had a great respect for that young lady. She took her stand, and he said he had more respect for her and for her God.

O, my friends, I know this doctrine isn’t just what you like, but it is a good deal better to have the truth and to know what God would have us do. They that go contrary to the Word of God, He will go contrary to. Let us just ask ourselves this question: “Am I unequally yoked with unbelievers? am I yoked up with some unbeliever?” Perhaps somebody may say here: “I have been converted since I got married.” The Word of God guards that; you are not to leave your husband. I am talking to those that have not formed the alliance, and if you will read your Bibles carefully on this point, you will find that God gives us no uncertain sound. Yet some of you think that by marrying you might save that person. I had rather be saved than be living in hopes of being saved. If the young man you want to marry won’t accept God before you are united, you can feel pretty sure he won’t afterwards. If he won’t reason with you, take your word, and allow you to talk to him about Christ before marriage, I haven’t much hope to believe that he will after you are married. You will find a good many say: “He is a narrow, bigoted man; I believe if I am united to an unbeliever, I can lift him up toward God.” I suppose Lot reasoned so about Sodom. But it lifted him down instead of up. Instead of our lifting the world, we find the world pulling the Church of God down.”