The Antithesis and Marriage
An issue that does not want to die in the churches is the matter of mixed courtships and marriages, i.e., dating and marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. Few consistories, if any, are spared this problem. So alive is this issue that the consistory of our sister church in Kelmscott felt compelled to make an eight point decision in which it states that it "… is of the strong conviction that mixed courtships are contrary to God's revealed will and should be terminated" (Press Review: "Mixed Courtships," In Holy Array, vol. 39, no. 2).
Strong language. Are mixed courtships contrary to God's revealed will? Should they be terminated? Yes they are, and yes they should be.
The testimony of the Scriptures is unanimous in this. God has placed a wall of separation between believers and unbelievers. We call that wall of separation "the antithesis." This does not mean that we may not do business with unbelievers. This does not mean that we must live in communes withdrawn from the world. What it does mean is that although we live in the world we may not become part of the world. Above all it means that we may not join an unbeliever in the primary relationship of life, marriage. Above all the antithesis means that we may not cleave to an unbeliever, we may not weave a life with an unbeliever, in marriage.
Let's take a walk through the Bible and discover this once again.
In Genesis 3:15, after Adam and Eve fell into sin by obeying Satan, God said to the devil,
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.
God drew the line of separation. God established the enmity, the antithesis, the line between followers of the devil and the children of Eve. This line cuts between believers and unbelievers, children of the church and children of the world. We must maintain this antithesis. The history recorded in the Bible shows what happens when God's people do not maintain the antithesis and marry unbelievers.
Genesis 6 is the first record of the devastating consequences of intermarriage. People of God paid no attention to the line God had set between them and people of the world. They married whomever they desired. The result was that the whole human race, except for Noah and his family, ended up rebels against God. God was sorry that He had created man. He wiped man off the face of the earth with the universal flood.
In Deuteronomy 7:3, 4, as the people of God stood at the entrance to the Promised Land, Moses forbade the people from marrying Canaanites. Moses said that if the people would allow intermarriage, the inevitable result would be that the Israelite young people would turn away from God and begin worshipping the gods of Canaan. The final result would be the judgment of God.
History proved Moses right. After God had established Israel in the Promised Land and after Joshua and the generation of his time had died, the new generation intermarried with the Canaanites still left in the land. They ignored the antithesis. Judges 3:6 says: "… and they took their daughters to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons; and they served their gods."
The inescapable result of marriage between the people of God and the people of the world was that the people of God ended up serving heathen gods. Of course! They had lost the battle when they ignored the antithesis. They were defeated the moment they compromised and embraced in marriage someone on the other side of the line God had drawn.
The sin of intermarriage has never been far from God's people. We read about it again in the last two chapters of Ezra. The Jews had spent 70 years in exile in Babylon. God had driven them away from his land. This was God's judgment against their sin of idolatry largely due to intermarriage. After 70 years God allowed them to come home again. Before long, many of the men had taken wives from among the heathen people who were living in the land. Ezra called them to repentance. They were a "holy race" which may not mix with "the peoples of the lands" (Ezra 9:2). The people recognized what they had done as sin before God.
The N.T. is consistent with the O.T. in this. The people of God are no longer restricted to one race, the Jews; however, God still has His people whom He calls holy. We are a chosen race, a holy nation, God's own people (1 Peter 2:9). Believers form the holy race. And the people of that holy race may not marry unbelievers.
In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul writes: "Do not be mismated with unbelievers." There is no more basic mating than marriage. Marriage is the primary relationship in life besides the one we have with the Lord Jesus Christ. A believer cannot marry an unbeliever because they have nothing in common.
You will submit the argument: "Who knows? Maybe I'll win her for Christ. Maybe God will use my relationship with her to bring her to the church." The problem with that argument is that it is based on "maybes." We don't build relationships on "maybes." We don't build relationships upon what we hope the hidden will of God might be. We build relationships on the revealed will of God, the Bible. And the Bible forbids believers marrying unbelievers.
You will say: "But I can name you a dozen examples of cases where a believer married an unbeliever, and the unbeliever became a Christian. And today he's a strong member of the church. Some are even elders." So can I. Praise God for His sovereign mercy and grace! But we can both mention a dozen examples where it went the other way. Again, we do not build upon the unknown. We build upon the clear teaching of the Word of God.
Don't overestimate your ability to stand strong in the Christian faith while married to an unbeliever. Nehemiah, a contemporary of Ezra, pointed out to the people that King Solomon, a king endowed with the wisdom of God like none other, was led into the gross sin of idolatry by heathen wives. The command of Paul is appropriate: "Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."
My young brothers and sisters, please maintain the antithesis in your lives. The line of separation which God has placed between you and the world demands that you make serious choices. You must make choices about how you are going to dress, what kind of work you are going to do, what you do for entertainment, who your friends will be. It certainly demands that you make a careful choice whom you will marry.