Is marriage a gospel ordinance? Does Ephesians 5 relate to unequally yoked marriages?
Many people talk about marriage as if it is a gospel ordinance and they use Ephesians 5 to back up that idea. But marriage happens in many frameworks all across humanity. Even Satanists have marriage ceremonies!
People who claim that marriage is a gospel ordinance fail to notice how Paul applies Ephesians 5 solely and exclusively to believers. It cannot be applied in any other context by definition. It can only be done in a marriage where both parties are saved. It is not possible to argue from Ephesians 5 that it applies in any other context of unequal marriages. Paul clearly intends Ephesians 5 to be for believers and believers only:
vs 23: Christ is the head of the church;
vs 24: the church is subject to Christ;
vs 25: just as Christ also loved the church;
vs 26: Christ sanctifies and cleanses the church;
vs 27: Christ presents a spotless church;
vs 29: …just as the Lord does the church;
vs 30: “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.”
vs 32: “I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
So this cannot be about the gospel at all, but only about what happens after one is made alive in Christ.
This has absolutely positively nothing to do with unequally yoked marriages.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul counsels about staying in an unequally yoked marriage if the vows are not otherwise being violated. Who knows how God may work in the unbeliever there, if he / she is willing to allow the believer to live out their faith without persecuting them for it? But I do not see any such application in Ephesians 5.
Marriage cannot be a gospel ordinance because it is bilateral
Human marriage is involves vows made between two human beings so it is bilateral (bi- meaning two). The gospel promises are made by God to fallen human beings and God is the only one who keeps those promises. Fallen human being can believe and receive the promises by trusting in the Promiser though faith, but even when they do that, even when they are born again, the fact remains that the God is the author and finisher of our faith. So the gospel is about a unilateral covenant (uni- meaning one). God makes the promises, God fulfils the promises, God quickens a fallen human being’s spirit to life and makes them alive in Christ. And God inevitably works in the believer to produce the Christ likeness which is demonstrated in fruit in the life and character of the believer and evidences salvation.
God promises that no one who is in Christ will be lost.
As I said to you, my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give to them eternal life. And they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to take them out of my Father’s hand. And I and my Father are one. (John 10:27-30 NMB)
Thanks to an ACFJ follower who wrote some of the wording in this post.
Taken Captive by the Philosophies of Man – by Jeff Crippen