An unequally-yoked marriage (or spiritually uneven marriage) is when a believer (Christian) is married to an unbeliever, whether it occured before the marriage or during the marriage.
Here is what God’s Word has to say about an unequally-yoked marriage:
II Corinthians 6:14-15 states, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliver?”
The apostle Paul is maintaining a position that believers are to be “set apart” for God – whether in marriage, business, or socially. In marriage God cannot be glorified when one is a believer and the other is a non-believer.
In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 22:10 says, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” This word picture is what Paul had in mind when he was referencing being “unequally-yoked”. The ox and the donkey have completely different physical characteristics and natures. They cannot work together equally to complete a task or produce satisfactory results. The ox is larger and heavier. The donkey is more stuborn. Their natural instincts and temperaments are incompatible.
Likewise, in a spiritually uneven marriage, a couple cannot obtain spiritual intimacy (oneness), neither can they serve God effectively nor completely.
God’s Word lays out basic principles regarding an unsaved spouse.
The Apostle Paul begins in I Corinthians 7:10-11 speaking to married couples who are both believers.
Then in I Corinthians 7:12-16 he writes to Christians who are married to unbelievers: “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
But if the unbeliver departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”
Paul assures us that even if one spouse is unsaved, God still blesses and protects the children through the sanctification and grace extended through the believer in the marital union. He also assures the believer that if their spouse cannot tolerate their faith and wants to leave the marriage, it is best to let them depart and preserve peace in the family. If the bond is broken through divorce then the Christian is free to remarry a believer without guilt.
The apostle Peter also addresses this issue in I Peter 3:1-4, “Likewise you wives be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your beauty be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, of wearing gold, or of putting on fine apparel; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
Peter’s point here is that in submission to your husband, even if he is unsaved, you are ultimately submitting to God, thereby trusting in His character and sovereignty. To fear the Lord is to respect and reverence Him.
As you live out your Christianity in everyday life you are a witness to your unsaved spouse. Your true beauty and attraction will come from your inner qualities found in the Lord, and not just from outward physcial beauty. Grooming your inner woman through Bible study, prayer and quiet time with God yields results that will be noticed by your unbelieving spouse.
(There are however occasions where it is advisable to seek out a licensed Christian marriage counselor for Godly wisdom and counseling services. Biblical submission is often misunderstood, and I am in no way condoning any form of spousal abuse including emotional and psychological manipulation or physical harm.)
It is virtually impossible to really know if your spouse is a Christian. No one knows the heart of another except God. However, God’s Word is clear about a “true conversion” versus an empty confession.
There are certain evidences of a real heart, soul, and spirit conversion. A true spiritual re-birth experience has unique circumstances for every believer – but they will all embrace Christ and His work in their life. It may be dramatic or it may be quiet and subtle. It may be immediate or it may be a gradual process.
There will be a clear difference in a “saved” person’s demeanor and disposition with regards to the old nature and the new nature. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” There will be a desire to be with God’s people, in God’s Word, and in God’s presence.
I wrote a Blog post about this important subject here: http://bit.ly/Bonafideconvert